Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Vyrmin - by Gene Lazuta

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Before I get to the review, just a quick comment about the publisher, Bloodshot Books.  I really admire the effort being made to find books that either had a limited print run or have gone out of print over the years and giving them new life in the digital age by releasing them in paperback and e-book formats. Earlier this year, they gave this treatment to The Awakening by Brett McBride, a wonderful coming of age story and one of the best books I've read in 2016.

All that being said, Vyrmin  missed the mark for me.  Originally released nearly twenty years ago, Vyrmin is a somewhat fresh take on the werewolf trope. Steeped in legend. the story spends much of it's 360 pages going nowhere.

The book starts with a chilling children's rhyme circa 1800...

There's wolves in the woods,
               my girl, my girl,
        There's wolves in the woods,
                  my dear.

            But come the full moon,

              see the blue moon,
      And there's wolves in the house,
                and the mirror.

The back story about Mr. Norris' five-year-old son who has something in his brain, that makes him see things...makes things happen, is compelling.  The father has taken his boy to numerous Doctors, but no one seems to be able to help.  Finally they find a Doctor who reveals the truth to the lad, but not to the father.

So far, so good.

However, when we get to modern times in Harpersville, Ohio the story seems to get bogged down, becomes repetitive, and just doesn't seem to go anywhere until the very end.

When I commit to reading a book, I always see it through to the last page, but I will admit, this time, there were moments I wanted to put it down and not pick it up again.

Don't get me wrong there are some bright spots to keep me reading...

"Everybody's got some o' the evil; and everybody's got some o' the good.  Only the saints are all one way; and only the Vyrmin are all the other."

The good news is Vyrmin is available from Bloodshot Books through the Kindle Unlimited program, so if you are a subscriber you can check it out for yourself for no additional charge.  Also, if you're an Amazon Prime member you can read the book for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

I can't recommend this one, but as I like to say, your mileage may vary.

From the author's bio - Gene Lazuta was introduced to dark stories of fear and the supernatural by his grandmother.  He's the author of ten books, (six horror and four murder mysteries.  Gene lives in Berea, Ohio with his wife of over thirty years.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Veil (Testaments I and II) - by Joseph D'Lacey - A pair of novellas set in the same apocalyptic world

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

While I admire Joseph D'Lacey's attempt at doing something different with the post apocalyptic trope, The Veil (Testaments I and II) did little to excite me.

Two novellas, set in the same world, told by different survivors and yet I was no more enlightened having read this pair of stories than I was going in.

Testament I - This story begins with a group of survivors holed up in The Station.  They call themselves the Stoppers and they are doing what they can to hold off the Commuters, so named because they still get around. They called the event that started it all or perhaps ended it all. The Long Silence.

This story, told through the eyes of Sherri Foley, is about life at The Station, her sometimes lover, Ike, eleven year old Trixie, and the ad-hoc family they've become.

Testament II - The same circumstances from another point of view.  Here the event was known as The Hush.  There was more details about what was happening in the aftermath and the ensuing fungal infestation.

This time the story-teller is Rob who wants to protect his family, Tara and Jake, and at the same time needs to get away from it all

Although I'm glad I read these two novellas, I'm not sure I can honestly recommend them to other readers.

The Veil (Testaments I and II) is available in paperback and for the Kindle from Horrific Tales Publishing.   If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge. Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Joseph D'Lacey writes Horror, SF & Fantasy and is best known for his unsettling novel, Meat. He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 2009.  H also writes children's stories with his daughter.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Creepy Clown - by Vance L. Mellen - I wanted to like this novella, I really did

2 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Early on in Creepy Clown the author warns the reader...

 This will not be a well-written book.  I don't have time to proofread it, clean it up, or censor it.. It will just flow out of my hands, like practiced magic tricks or acrobatic stunts.  I have to write it down as quickly as I possibly can and get it out before it's too late for all of us.  Before I change my mind.

Even taking the above into consideration, Creepy Clown, didn't work for me. There were some things I couldn't sort out about the timeline in the story, even after rereading some sections of the book.  Also, after I began reading the novella, the author contacted me about some proofreading corrections he had made and sent me the new copy which was about eighteen-percent shorter than what I had originally received.  This after I had already read half of the novella.  That's not what bothered me about the book, but it certainly didn't enhance the experience.

Creepy Clown is an interesting story idea.  I'm not a literary critic, so I couldn't say what its problems were  It just seemed like this was an early draft and there was room for improvement.

To add to the confusion there are two listings for this novella on Amazon.  Creepy Clown: Who We Are. Why We Are Here released on October 25, 2016 and Creepy Clown: Creepy Clowns - Who Are They? What do they want? released on November 19th, 2016, and they are different file sizes.  Very confusing.

Creepy Clown is currently available for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

As always, your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Eat the Night - by Tim Waggoner - Escapism of the highest order

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Sick.  Demented.  Delightful.  Three words which can easily sum up my reading experience with this relatively new work from Tim Waggoner.

Eat the Night begins with Joan Lantz waking from a nightmare that was so real, it was more like a memory than a dream.  A dream of a charismatic singer turned cult leader and the lyrics of a song with the refrain...

Eat the night, eat the night, eat the night, we're gonna—Eat the Night!

This is also the story of an ultra secret organization simply known as Maintenance with Surveyor's, Analysts, Intervention Teams, all serving a Calling to keep entropy at bay.  And then there's the Durg.  It wasn't merely a carrion eater.  It was an everything eater, a thing whose sole purpose was to break down existence as swiftly and efficiently as it could. It was a servant of the Gyre, perhaps in a way even a part of it, an avatar of sorts.  That meant the creature was diametrically opposed to everything Maintenance stood for, and it had to be stopped—even if killing it ultimately increased entropy too.

As is the case with many of Tim Waggoner's original works, Eat the Night is incredibly complicated and assuredly less than believable, but somehow the author manages to have it make complete sense in the end.   Although, brutally merciless at times, there are a few chuckles along the way, and the result is escapism of the highest order.

There were several moments while reading Eat the Night where I got a Douglas Adams vibe. It could be because I've been watching Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency in BBC America, or it could just be me.  Either way a Douglas Adams vibe is a good thing.

This is a quick read I can solidly recommend.

Eat the Night is published by DarkFuse and is available in paperback and e-book formats.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Tim Waggoner’s first novel came out in 2001, and he’s published over thirty novels and three collections of short stories since. He writes original fantasy and horror, as well as media tie-ins.  He’s been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the Scribe Award, and his fiction has received numerous Honorable Mentions in volumes of Best Horror of the Year. In 2016, the Horror Writers Association honored him with the Mentor of the Year Award. In addition to writing, Tim is also a full-time tenured professor who teaches creative writing and composition at Sinclair College.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Loch Ness Revenge - by Hunter Shea - More fun from the king of monster mayhem

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

More monster mayhem from a guy who's, as good as, or better than anyone currently writing in this horror sub-genre.

Hunter Shea has already given us stories about Bigfoot, The Montauk Monster, The Dover Demon and more recently The Jersey Devil and now The Loch Ness Monster.  Makes you wonder where he's headed next.

Twenty years ago, Natalie McQueen, her brother, Austin, and their parents were on vacation in Scotland, camping by the infamous Loch Ness.

"We can't go to Scotland without spending some time at Loch Ness," my father had said. "Maybe we'll even see the monster!"  Be careful what you ask for.

Natalie has spent the last twenty years searching, waiting, planning her revenge.  That's a long time to hold a grudge, but the events that occurred on that camping trip have never left her.  It's rare that a night goes by that she doesn't wake in terror from her dreams.

Loch Ness Revenge is a story which moves at a fever pace and can easily be read in an evening or two.  Hunter has a gift for silly similies, too.  Stuff like "...tension tighter than a Kardashian butt lift." It's good to have some humor in this tale or the tension could get to be too much.

Loch Ness Revenge is available in paperback and e-book formats from Severed Press. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Totally recommended.

From the author's bio - Hunter Shea is the product of a childhood weened on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. He doesn't just write about the paranormal - he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself.

In my Cemetery Dance review of Hunter's apocalyptic thriller, Tortures of the Damned, I wrote, "A terrifying read that left me wanting more. I absolutely devoured this book!"

Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he's happy to be close enough to New York City to get Gray's Papaya hot dogs when the craving hits. His daughters have also gotten the horror bug, assisting him with research, story ideas and illustrations that can be seen in magazines such as Dark Dossier.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tijuana Donkey Showdown - by Adam Howe - An outrageous romp from start to finish

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Writer Adam Howe returns to the willywags for his fist full-length novel, Tijuana Donkey Showdown.  Specifically he invites readers back to Walt Wiley's titty tonk in Bigelow town, where we get to hang out with the denizens of The Henhouse.

When I reviewed Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, I said it was "some of the most entertaining reading I've done this year."  It was and I'm so happy I got to return to to this crazy mixed up world.

Last time the legend of the skunk ape featured prominently in one of Adam's stories, here it's a well-endowed donkey and a chupacabra, of sorts.  Even actor Nicolas Cage plays a part in the shenanigans.

No need to get into plot details, they don't really matter, what does matter is that reading Tijuana Donkey Showdown is a chance to kick back and relax with a totally fun read.    It's a story filled with OMG moments, just one outrageous surprise after another.  Plus, the writer has a love of great similies, stuff like Loved leering at Billy like a Tex Avery wolf and feeding shells into the shotgun like a degenerate gambler playing the slots.

Make no mistake, Tijuana Donkey Showdown, is certainly for adults and even some of those may find the material offensive, but if that's you and you're looking for something to take your mind off the world we live in.  Look no further.

You can pre-order your copy today.  Coming December 9th, 2016 from Comet Press, Tijuana Donkey Showdown will be available in both paperback and e-book formats.

Highly recommended.

From the author's bio - Adam Howe writes the twisted fiction your mother warned you about. A British writer of fiction and screenplays, he lives in London with his partner, their daughter, and a hellhound named Gino. Writing as Garrett Addams, his short story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of the international On Writing contest.   He is the author of Tijuana Donkey Showdown, and two novella collections, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, and Black Cat Mojo. In the pipeline: the occult thriller Scapegoat, co-written with James Newman, a horror/crime collaboration with Adam Cesare, and 80s action throwback, One Tough Bastard.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Dream Woods - by Patrick Lacey - A visual tale made for the big screen, chilling in its execution

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I love amusement parks, especially the old ones from my youth.  The local ones were the best, where sometimes it seemed the rides were likely to fall apart while you were still riding them. The ones within an hour's drive from where I grew up. Lakeview Park, West Point Park, and Willow Grove Park, all in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  In it's dying days, the later was known as Six Gun Territory.  I remember they used to have a small wooden coaster, The Scenic, exciting not because of it's speed or height, but because of the way it always seemed like it could leave the track at any moment.

Today, the parks are bigger, the rides are more daring, and for the most part, safer than they were in the days of my youth. I may be in my sixties now, but I'll still ride any coaster on the planet at the drop of a hat.

Dream Woods was once one of the new generation of theme parks, with on site hotels and big thrill rides, a vacation destination second only to the Disney's parks.  That's why when Vince Carter saw the billboard with the park's mascot, Sebastian the bear, he more or less decided immediately it was just the vacation to breath new life into his family life.

But, Dream Woods had been closed for nearly twenty years and the idea of going to the park wasn't exactly an easy sell. Vince's wife Audra certainly had her doubts...

"Her mind flipped through a mental Rolodex until she came up with a few news headlines. Several bodies found in abandoned amusement park.  Strange symbols uncovered at defunct theme park.  Boy falls to his death from New England's fairy tale castle...Local hermit claims entrance to hell is beneath Dream Woods."

What happens after the Carter family checks in is worse than you can possibly imagine. Dream Woods starts strong and just keeps getting better as the author masterfully builds the suspense right up until the exhilarating conclusion.  A visual tale made for the big screen, chilling in its execution.

I actually wish the book was longer as I would have liked to have seen some of the story fleshed out even more.

Published by Sinister Grin Press, Dream Woods is available in both paperback and Kindle formats.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you may read it at no additional charge and if you're an Amazon Prime member you can read the book for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Patrick Lacey says he was born and raised in a haunted house. Which, if true, would explain a lot. He currently spends his nights and weekends writing about things that make the general public uncomfortable.  He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, his Pomeranian, his cat, and his muse, who is likely trying to kill him.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Set in the Woods by Lacey Crowe - A somewhat creepy novella

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I had some time between reading novels an decided to take a chance on a horror novella by relative newcomer to the genre, Lacey Crowe.

I was attracted to Set in the Woods by the synopsis sent to me by the author, which I'm not going to share here.  Mainly because, once you've read the synopsis, you've basically read the story.

Sure there was a bit more flesh to it than what was in the outline, but there was no real meat, no muscle.  I learned everything I needed to know about the characters in the synopsis, there was nothing to be gained by reading the actual story.  It was like when you're disappointed with a movie because you've already seen all the best parts in the trailers.

The writing itself was OK and I certainly liked the story idea, but it just didn't work for me.

Set in the Woods is available as an e-book from TWB Publishing.

From the author's bio - Lacey Crowe writes for the lovers of the darker side of fiction, whether psychologically disturbing or drenched in bloody gore.  Her previously published novel is: Apostle, a psychological thriller.  When she's not writing, she's singing soul, blues, and heavy rocks songs with her duo, Bourbon House.  She's a Canadian living and writing in America with her husband Jacob, and two step-kids.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Wicked Witches: An Anthology of the New England Horror Writers - ed. by Scott Goudsward, David Price, & Daniel Keohane - A wonderfully diverse collection of witches

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Before reviewing the stories that make up this anthology I need to mention Mikio Murakami, the artist responsible for the artwork on the eye-catching cover of Wicked Witches. Beautifully done, as is this collection of twenty-wo remarkable short stories about good witches, bad  witches, and every shade in between.

That Witch We Dread by Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert - A delightful poem to begin  this wickedly entertaining anthology.

In Agatha Craggins' Defense by John McIlveen - John is one of several writers in this collection whose work is already familiar to me.   In this tale, John gives us the story of a woman everyone in town believes to be a witch, and her young apprentice.  Expect the unexpected.

Welcome to the D.I.V. by Errick A. Nunnally - How far would you go for a chance at significant wealth?  What does witchcraft have to do with becoming a big time stock broker?  The answers lie within.

The Witch's Apprentice by Morven Westfield - A young witch who wants it all now.  What could possible go wrong?

Going Home by James A. Moore - When it comes to storytelling there are few better than James A. Moore.  This one set in modern day Salem.

White Witch by Catherine Grant - A story steeped in the witchcraft known as voodoo.  There are some gems in Catherine's prose. He smelled of rum and whiskey, like a perfume gone to rot.  And...The blade sliding through his flesh like over-ripe papaya. This piece is as good as its prose.

Baskets by Paul McMahon by Tommy thinks he's gotten Gandma Shawl all figured out, but outsmarting a witch isn't as easy as it might seem.

The Saint of Regret by Nick Manzolillo - I liked the author's imagery well enough, but I didn't quite connect with this particular story.

Witch by Trisha J. Woolridge - Another poem fitting for this collection.  Admittedly, I'm not a fan of most poetry, but I loved this story and the way it was told.

Run in the Widow's Hell by K.H. Vaughn - Every holler had a Granny Witch, a tough old hill woman who could cure warts and fevers or brew up a charm for love or money.  Runnin' moonshine is not without it's perils and the revenuers aren't the only ones you need to watch out for.

Portrait of an Old Woman With Crows by Peter N. Dudar - One of my favorite stories in the anthology.  A perfectly creepy little tale, chilling and very effective, about what happens when an art student paints a subject without her permission.

Tilberian Holiday by Izzy Lee - Although just a short story.  This one packs a punch.  I loved how it all came together in the end.  A story of the tiberi, cool pets that do your bidding.

To Dance the Witches Circle Again by Morgan Sylvia - A first person tale of witch hunts with a truly delightful twist.

Another Plane by Patrick Lacey - A well-told tale of a man who loses his wife when she tries to find her sister on another plane.

Access Violation by Jeremy Flagg - A modern day coven made up of hackers performing their own special kind of witchcraft.

T.S. Eliot Burns in Hell by GD Dearborn - The disturbing tale of a journalist's quest to get the story of his music idol's disappearance at the very pinnacle of her career.  One of the best in an anthology of great shorts. I loved the line The ancient farmhouse looked like its best days were a century gone.  It aspired to ramshackle-ness.  Good stuff.

Black Forest, Black Heart by Joshua Goudreu - A story that combines witchcraft with werewolves and even a bit of Lovecraftian mythos, all deftly woven into one great tale.

The Jatinga Effect by Doug Rinaldi - A compelling read with great characterizations, particularly the Russian co-worker Bogdan.  When sleep walking becomes sleep driving...

The Place of Bones by Barry Lee Dejasu - "Any of you ever hear of the Bone Witch?"  A group of college students take a break from their studies and head off into the wooded area behind the campus, where campfire tales become all to real.

Creaking Through Salem by Ogmios - One more break for poetry.

Blessed Be and Kick Ass by Jan Kozlowski - A powerfully moving story which made me feel empathy for the young girls involved and anger toward their abusive parents.  Well done, Jan.

Moving House by Rob Smales - A great way to end the anthology.  If you've ever had a run-in with a condo or homeowner's association, you might get a kick out of this one.

I found the stories in Wicked Witches to be diverse, engrossing, and totally enjoyable. This may seem like a narrow theme for such a large anthology, but each story had it's own unique vision keeping the collection fresh from start to finish.

Halloween may be past, but good horror can be appreciated all year long.

Wicked Witches is published by NEHW Press and is available in both paperback and Kindle formats. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you may read it at no additional charge and if you're an Amazon Prime member you can read Wicked Witches for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.