Monday, May 30, 2016

Into the Mist - by Lee Murray - An entertaining Military/Monster novel

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Into the Mist by Lee Murray gets off to a strong start. From the fist chapter...

"Terry shook violently, his body already grasping what his mind hadn't yet understood.  Bringing his fingers to his face Terry sniffed at the wetness there. Metallic.  It wasn't dew.  Terry jerked his hands away in horror.  Cam's upper body was missing."

The story takes place in Te Urewera an area of mostly forested, sparsely populated rugged hill country in the North Island of New Zealand.  A place of many legends, stories every child knew, stories of "the taniwha—vengeful monsters that slaughtered warriors, kidnapped maidens and ate babies whole."  But, they're just stories to get children to obey their parents, right?

A combination of events occur leading to a geological task force being commissioned to investigate a possible vein of gold discovered in the forest, and a military escort essentially to provide muscle, but secretly sent to investigate the disappearance of a previous military team and several civilians.

After the strong start, the story bogged down a bit and at times seemed like a bad B-movie, the kind you'd find on the syndicated Svengoolie horrorfest, but by the time we got to the second half of the book it became a pulse-pounding action-packed thrill ride.  Actually, Lee Murray is quite adept at writing action sequences.

All in all, Into the Mist was an entertaining military/monster novel with a touch of mysticism.


Into the Mist is published by Cohesion Press and is available in both e-book and paperback formats. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this book at no additional charge and if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Lee Murray is an award-winning writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She lives with her family in the Land of the Long White Cloud where she conjures up stories for readers of all ages from her office on the porch.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Fireman - by Joe Hill - An epic apocalyptic story

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Hands-down, the best book I've read in 2016.  The Fireman is nearly enough to make me stop reading.  I enjoyed this so much, I find it unlikely I'll read anything better for a long time to come.

No, it's not a literary masterpiece, I don't for a minute think that's what Joe set out to give us.  What The Fireman was, for me, is a story filled with wonder and wonderful things.  It was a tale that evoked emotion from me.  Joy, tears, anger, were all a part of the experience.  And then there were the Easter eggs.

As you likely already know, Joe Hill is Stephen King's son.  As such, it would only be natural to draw comparisons to his father's epic apocalyptic story, The Stand.  While you needn't have read The Stand  to enjoy The Fireman, if you have, you'll likely get a kick out of a number of little bits which allude to his father's masterpiece.  One example: in The Fireman there is a character, named Harold Cross.  If you are a fan of The Stand you probably see the connection right away. There are a number of other gems like that, but I'll leave them to you to discover for yourself.

The Fireman gets to the action in the very first chapter and does not let up until the reader gets through all 763 pages.  Generally, when I'm reading a book to review, I'll make a series of notes as I go along.  Not so much with this one, I was so engrossed in the tale.  Joe Hill imbues his characters with heart and soul.  They aren't just pieces to be moved around on a chess board.  They are real people with wishes and needs, with compassion and purpose.

There's a bit of Ray Bradbury, P. L. Travers, J. K. Rowling, and Stephen King woven into this work, but in the end, it's all Joe Hill and I believe it is his best work yet.

The Fireman is available from William Morrow publishing in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and a variety of audio formats.

Joe Hill is the author of the New York Times bestsellers NOS4A2, Horns, and Heart-Shaped Box, and the prize-winning story collection 20th Century Ghosts.  He is also the Eisner Award-winning writer of the six volume graphic novel series, Locke & Key.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Kill Switch - by Jonathan Maberry - A bold mashup of H.P. Lovecraft and Joe Ledger

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Is it to early to add this to the list of my ten favorite reads of 2016?  Kill Switch, by Jonathan Maberry, is that good.  It's hard to imagine many books to be published the rest of this year being better than this new adventure in the Joe Ledger series.

If you've never read a Joe Ledger novel, it's not too late.  Kill Switch  is as good a place to start as any.  You don't need to read the other books unless you really want to.  Maberry covers all of the bases to bring the reader up to speed on Echo Team and the Department of Military Science. The DMS deals with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle—and these are big problems: terrorist zombies, weaponized plagues, and so much more.

This book starts with Captain Ledger leading a team investigating the reasons behind the sudden silence from a research facility in the Antarctic.  (As an aside, my current bedtime read is H.P. Lovecraft's The Mountain's of Madness from The Complete Fiction and Poetry of H.P. Lovecraft and I saw the connection right away.)  Thus begins a wild mashup of Lovecraft and Ledger.

One of a number of well crafted subplots involves the childhood of the most intelligent person on the planet who also believes Lovecraft, Derleth, Howard, and other authors were writing much more than stupid horror stories. "Prospero was convinced he was not human.  Not entirely.  And he was equally convinced that he was not from this world."

Prospero wants to build what he calls the "God Machine" to open a door to the world he came from so he can go home.

His attempts over the years have lead to a number of side effects, projects co-opted by his demanding father.  projects with names like "Dreamwalking", "Dreamsheild", "Freefall", "Unleanable Truths", and "Kill Switch," which when activated creates a localized, temporary, EMP.  The technologies fall into the hands of a terrorist group and events escalate to a level of unthinkable proportions.

Things that make a Joe Ledger novel so much fun to read include his sparkly dialogue, "'Hell, Farm Boy, don't go thinking you hold the patent on being sphincter-clenching scared.  I would give your left nut to be ten thousand miles away from here.'"

Maberry is also the king of the simile, "I rolled on my side as far as tubes and wires would allow. There was no muscle tone left as far as I could tell and even that simple action was like bench-pressing a Volvo."

There is a great deal of ground covered in this 544 page volume, but Maberry keeps it interesting with a number of brilliant twists.  Just when you think you know where he's going, there's another twist and it all makes as much sense as it did before, or at least until the next twist.

Once you get to the last hundred pages, I dare you to put this book down.  It's just loaded with non-stop action.

When I was done, I was ready for the Joe Ledger Special from Jake Witkowski's food truck. "A homemade bacon cheddar brat, sliced open and topped with a steak patty with grilled pepper and onions, piled high with  homemade cheese sauce, homemade whiskey BBQ sauce, and crushed Fritos."

Published by St. Martin's Griffin, Kill Switch is available in paperback, e-book, and popular audio formats.

This one gets my highest recommendation.

Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestselling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author.  Probably best known for his Joe Ledger novels and for his award-winning YA Rot & Ruin series.  He currently resides in Del Mar, California and you can find him online at

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet - by Adam Howe - Three wickedly entertaining novellas

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I really get a kick out of being blown away when I read an author for the first time. Adam Howe does exactly that with this collection of three novellas featuring a Arkansas Bigfoot known locally as a Skunk Ape, a dog-eat-dog serial killer, and a hungry man-eating gator.

In the intro to this killer collection, Randy Chandler calls Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet "A diabolical brew of humor and horror." It certainly is that and so much more.

Damn Dirty Apes - Reggie Levine is the bouncer at The Henhouse, a titty tonk, on the outskirts of town. When members of a motorcycle club know as The Dirty Apes shows up, trouble follows. But these apes aren't the main focus of the story, nor is the Boogaloo Baboon, the real star is the Skunk Ape. What is a Skunk Ape? "A shaggy-furred beast with devil-red eyes standing tall enough to block out the sun, he could crush a man in his fist like Popeye opening a can of spinach."

This story is so much fun. Well-crafted and more so for the Skunk Ape porn it features. More than once, I found myself laughing out loud. The kind of stuff I find impossible to down. There are a lot of great bits in this story. Not many you can quote in a review on Amazon, but look for the line that mentions Ric Flair. You can thank me later.

I though the final reveal was brilliant. Overall, it felt a bit like the Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose...on crack.

Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet - There is gore galore in this novella, but every bit of it was there for a reason, and it all worked for me. Stuff like, "garroted the last of the girls with her roommate's intestines." The descriptions are visceral. "watched as the vermin scuttled back from the bedroom, fur slick with blood, carrying away pieces of momma—a finger here, an ear there—like she was takeout food."

Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet was much darker than the first story. Both entirely enjoyable, but for decidedly different reasons. Where Damn Dirty Apes was a bit of a hoot, the second has a much more serious tone and successfully builds the tension with each turn of the page.

Despite the horror and the gore, the author also exhibits a keen eye for description. "The filling station was a decrepit wooden shack that looked about a termite or two away from collapsing into kindling on the side of the road." I loved that line. Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet is a triumph of visceral literature. A new genre all its own.

Gator Bait - How's this for an opening line? "I fled the city: Two fingers short and sworn off dames for life." Damn near perfect.

Here's another story that takes place out in the willywags. Adam has used that term in a couple of his stories and it's a word I want to use more often. Gator Bait is loaded with twist and turns, crosses and double-crosses. A great way to end the collection.

Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet is some of the most entertaining reading I've done this year. I can promise I'll be looking for more from Adam Howe.

Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet is available in paperback and e-book formats from Comet Press.

Adam Howe is a British writer of fiction and screenplays. He lives in Greater London with his partner and their hellhound, Gino. Writing as Garrett Adams. his short story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of his On Writing contest, and was published in the paperback and e-book versions of King's book. Adam's first book, Black Cat Mojo, is available from Comet Press. He is currently working on his first novel One Tough Bastard.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mongrels - by Stephen Graham Jones - a most unusual werewolf tale

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Mongrels is a completely different kind of werewolf story, told from the point of view of a teenage werewolf who has yet to shift for the first time.  In addition to facing the same issues teens everywhere must deal with, this one faces the uncertainty of when, or even if, he will ever change.

I love a good opening line and this one's a gem.  "My grandfather used to tell me he was a werewolf."  Tell me more.

Good literary horror is something to be appreciated, and when you combine that with werewolves, it's time to relax in your favorite reading chair and dig in.  Mongrels is not a perfect book, but it is awfully good.  Told in a series of vignettes, I found the work to be a bit disjointed, but that certainly did not keep me from enjoying this interesting take on werewolves.

There are some terribly original concepts floated in this saga, not the least of which is the idea of werewolf pee as a pesticide.  When you read the book, this will make perfect sense.


Mongrels, published by William Morrow Books, is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and various audio formats.

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of fifteen novels and six story collections, so far. He has received an number of awards.  Raised in West Texas. Stephen now lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and children.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I Hate Fairyland - Volume One: Madly Ever After - by Skottie Young - A kick-ass fairy tale for adults

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

OK.  I'm not the biggest fan of comic books, but when I Hate Fairyland came into Cemetery Dance for review, I took one look at the synopsis and knew I had to check this out.

What a trip.  Artist and author, Skottie Young has concocted a colorful, imaginative, raw blood fest that's reminiscent of the old Fractured Fairy Tales...on acid.

I love the artwork, it reminds me of the old Garbage Pail Kids cards I collected back in the day, only with more blood.

I Hate Fairyland follows the adventures of six-year-old Gertrude who one day wishes "she could be taken away to an amazing world filled with wonder, and magic, and laughter, and joy."  Be careful what you wish for.  Twenty-Seven years later, Gertrude is still trying to find her way home.

I love the way Skottie has taken everything sweet and beautiful and just turned it all upside down and inside out.  With a delightfully wicked sense of humor, it's difficult not to fall in love with Gertrude, her guide, Larrigan Wentsworth, III, Queen Cloudia, and the many other demented characters in I Hate Fairyland.

Published  by Image Comics, the complete five comic series will be available in the single volume, I Hate Fairyland Volume 1: Madly Ever After.  Rated M for Mature.

For the child that's inside every horror fan screaming to be let free, don't miss I Hate Fairyland Volume 1: Madly Ever After.

Skottie Young is a New York Times Best Selling cartoonist who makes his home in Central Illinois with his wife, two sons, and two dogs that drive him crazy.  (The dogs, not the humans.)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Robert Bloch's Psycho: Sanitarium - by Chet Williamson - An authorized sequel to the original Psycho and every bit as good

5 of 5 Stars  

Norman Bates has been institutionalized, the deaths of four people on his hands, four murders that we know about.

If you've never read Robert Bloch's 1959 novel Psycho, not to worry, Chet Williamson provides an excellent synopsis to get the reader up to speed on the events which precede Psycho: Sanitarium.  Personally, I went back and read the original work so it was fresh in my mind as I read this new volume.  I'm glad I did as this gave me a feel for the writing in both books.  If I didn't know better, I could easily see how the two could have been written by the same author.

Psycho Sanitarium takes place at a time when Fuller Brush men still fooled around with other men's wives.  It tells the chilling tale of Norman Bates' struggle to keep his mother from taking over his mind and just when it looks like she's gone, a shocker, a game changer. From here, the tale goes in delightfully new directions.  To say anything more would reveal too much and I certainly don't want to spoil any of the multiple surprises.

Psycho: Sanitarium succeeds on many levels.  The depiction of life in the asylum rings true with patients running the gamut from calm to violent and a professional staff of both caring individuals and a few that should be committed themselves.  The tone and pacing of the story matches up well with Robert Bloch's original work.  All of the characters are well developed, and the story features a number of delicious twists, all within the realm of possibility.

Published by St. Martin's press, Robert Bloch's Psycho: Sanitarium is available in hardcover, e-book, and audible formats.

I give this new book my highest recommendation.

Chet Williamson has been writing horror, science fiction, and suspense since 1981. His novels include Second Chance, Hunters, Defenders of the Faith, Ash Wednesday, Reign, Dreamthorp, and now Robert Bloch's Psycho Sanitarium.  He is the recipient of the International Horror Guild Award and has been nominated six times for the HWA's Stoker Award.  Chet is also a stage and film actor who has recorded over 40 unabridged audiobooks.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Freeze/Thaw - by Chris Bucholz -A well-constructed thriller with a touch of sci-fi.

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Every now and again I like to divert from my heavy diet of horror.  Too much of a good thing and all that.  When I read the description for the new novel from Chris Bucholz, I decided it might be a good time to read something outside my favorite genre.

Well, I'm glad I took this little side trip.  I enjoyed Freeze/Thaw more than I did Chris' first novel, Severance, the story of a deadly conspiracy about a multi-generational spaceship.

Freeze/Thaw is the tale of a desperate attempt to turn off The Shade "the common name for the array of coin-sized disks floating at Earth-Sun L1 point, where it blocked a significant percentage of the sun's light.  It had been placed there by a group of Dutch eco-terrorists almost thirty years earlier in an attempt to limit the effects of global warming.  It worked.  Though maybe, just possibly, a little too well."

Gabriel Alfil was left a quadriplegic following a hiking accident a number of years ago.  Not being able to do much else, he spent his days learning about things that struck his fancy, one of those was quantum computing, which lead to his being one of the few people on Earth with a working knowledge on the subject.  Fitted with a computer enhanced exo-skeleton, Gabe is now mobile and sent with a team to a remote lab where a number of quantum computers may hold the answer for disabling The Shade.

Most of Freeze/Thaw is about the journey and and the obstacles to be overcome in getting to their destination.  In all, it's a solid story with exceptional character development which, despite it's science fiction themes, I found to be totally believable.  It's a tale of double-crosses with a number of excellent twists.  Not exactly what I expected, but a completely engaging story nonetheless.


Freeze/Thaw is available for pre-order as a trade paperback from Apex Publishing.

Chris Bucholz is a video game, humor, and third type of writer.  His first novel, Severance, was published in November of 2014, and his weekly column on contains a mix of historical curiosities, short fiction, and spectacularly bad advice.  He lives in Vancouver, BC, with his wife and son.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Blackwater Val - by William Gorman - Well-crafted original horror

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Blackwater Val is a debut novel worthy of your attention. William Gorman has concocted a wonderfully entertaining story combining ancient curses, ghosts, witches, and evil incarnate, with an endearing six-year-old girl, who is lovingly called Katie-Smatie, as the catalyst for it all.

Following the hit-and-run death of his wife, Richard returns to the town he grew up in to spread her ashes as stipulated in her will. It doesn't take long before the reader realizes there is something off about Blackwater Val.

Young Katie is a very special little girl.

There are touches of Ray Bradbury in William Gorman's writing, but truthfully he has his own distinct voice, deftly weaving a number of seemingly disparate story-lines into a gritty and compelling tale. There is a huge twist I should have seen coming, but I was totally blindsided.  I love it when that happens.

Certainly recommended.

Blackwater Val is published by Crystal Lake Publishing and is available both in paperback and e-book formats.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this book at no additional charge and if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

William Gorman grew up listening to macabre stories and dark fantastical yarns from his grandfather, a magician and former 'mentalist' during the last great, fading days of vaudeville.  Blackwater Val is his debut novel.  In his spare time Bill hangs around German shepherds and listens to classic rock.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Sound of Time - by Jeremy Essex - A rather surreal novella

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The Sound of Time  is a quick and surreal novella.

The story takes place during the late night move of a business from its old location to its new.  As the old place is emptied out, it becomes rather creepy.  A discussion of time, and the perception of it, sets the mood for some truly bizarre events.

"...according to Albert Einstein time actually does slow down and speed up.  In fact our whole sense of what we call time is really just an illusion."

Charles, one of the employees seems overly tired and is sent home by the rest of the group.  What happens when Charles gets home and tries to get some sleep is where things get really strange.  In a dreamlike state, he makes his way back to the group repeatedly, each time only to wake up again in his own bed.

The reality of it all will likely haunt him for eternity.

The Sound of Time is available now as an e-book from Samhain Horror.

Jeremy Essex is a software developer from Ipswich in Suffolk.  When he was very young he lived in a house where a genuine haunting took place, and he started writing ghost and horror stories from the moment he could pick up a pen.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Ghost Heart - by John Palisano - A refreshing take on the vampire genre

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Get this book.  Don't even bother reading my review, just drop everything and get yourself a copy.  You won't regret it.

Here's the synopsis you'll find on the first page.

"Life fast, die young, and leave a bloodthirsty corpse.

"That's the saying of a new pack of predators infesting a New England town.  They're infected with the Ghost Heart, a condition that causes them to become irresistible and long as they drink the blood of the living.  But these vampires don't live forever, and as the Ghost Heart claims them, their skin loses color and their hearts turn pale.  When a young mechanic is seduced by the pack's muse, he finds falling in love will break more than his heart."

Ghost Heart  is filled with good writing, a solid tale that rings true and does not at all feel forced despite the subject matter.  In addition to the horror aspects, it's also a tragic love story.  All in all, a tale well told.

Ghost Heart is available from Samhain Horror in both e-book and paperback formats.

Again, I really can't recommend this book enough.  I know 2016 is still young, but this could turn out to be one of my favorite books of the year.

John Palisano's short fiction has been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award® three times and has appeared in many magazines and anthologies.  In addition to Ghost Heart, John's other novels include Nerves and Dust of the Dead.