Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare - by Paul Tobin - A graphic novel based on the popular video game

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Zombies, garden gnomes, time machines, and Citron (the world's first bionic orange).

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is a great way to entice kinds who are hooked on video games into reading.  Colorful artwork, a fun story, and maybe a bridge to getting them to put down the controller for a few hours and read.

I love the idea, but a word to the wise, I found the Kindle version to be a bit of a strain on the eyes, with little flexibility to adjust the size of the image and subsequently the text.

Story by Paul Tobin who has written comics for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and many others. Look for his debut novel, Prepare To Die!, coming soon.

Jacob Chabot is a cartoonist whose credits include Spongebob comics, Simpson comics, and many others.

Michael J. Rainater is a freelance illustrator whose work has been featured in advertising, web design, and independent video games.  On top of this he self-publishes a number of comic books.

Steve Dutro is a noted comic book letterer from Northern California.  He has spent decades in the comic book industry working for Dark Horse, Viz, Marvel, and DC.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare will be published on February 2, 2016 by Dark Horse books and will be available in both hardback and kindle formats.

Recommended.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Even Hell Has Standards: Wrath - by Chantal Noordeloos - A stand alone sequel to Even Hell Has Standards: Pride

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

About a year ago I won a copy of Angel Manor (Lucifer Falls Book 1), a wickedly enjoyable ghost story.  (Check out my review here http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/12/angel-manor-lucifer-falls-book-1-by.html) Since that time I've been Facebook friends with the author, Chantal Noordeloos, and have frequently found her posts to be charming, witty, enlightening, and entertaining.  Recently, her publisher sent me a copy of her new novella, Even Hell Has Standards: Wrath.  Since this is the second in a series, I went out and bought a copy of the first book, Even Hell Has Standards: Pride, which I loved.  See my review of the first book here http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2016/01/even-hell-has-standards-pride-by_6.html.

Even Hell Has Standards: Wrath is a stand-alone sequel set in the same world as the first story.  This time the newly dead is Fatima Oni.  Her story is exceedingly tragic and reads like many a true story we've heard over the years.  A story of oppression, horrible abuse, affecting Fatima and her children, now and in the future.

Where I saw some levity in the first book, there was none of that here.  Instead, it's a dark, depressing, tale of a life lived in faith despite its circumstance.  How Fatima winds up in Hell and what she plans to do there is very telling.

Even Hell Has Standards: Wrath is available as an ebook from Tip My Hat Publishing.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can select this as your monthly FREE read through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Chantal Noordeloos lives in the Netherlands, where she spends her time with her wacky, supportive husband, and outrageously cunning daughter, who is growing up to be a supervillain.

There are many genres that Chantal likes to explore in her writing. Currently Sci-fi Steampunk is one of her favorites, but her 'go to' genre will always be horror. "It helps being scared of everything; that gives me plenty of inspiration," she says.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Eschatologist - by Greg Chapman - A post apocalyptic novella

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Let's start with a quick definition of the term Eschatology.  Here's what the Merriam-Webster dictionary has to say, Eschatology. plural es·cha·tol·o·gies. 1 : a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind.

The Eschatologist takes that definition and delivers a novella that embodies the very idea of religion in a post apocalyptic world.

Greg Chapman opens the story with a gripping opening line, "The after-world was a canvas of ashen ruin painted by death."

What follows is a story of family, sacrifice, and the scary idea that even in a world that has completely fallen apart there will always be a lunatic fringe.

The Eschatologist is available now as an e-book from Voodoo Press.

Recommended.

Greg Chapman is an emerging horror author and artist from Australia.  He is the author of numerous short stories and 4 novellas.  His debut collection, Vaudeville and Other Nightmares, was published by Black Beacon Books in September, 2014.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 - edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner -

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Before I get to the review of this anthology I have to comment on the exceptional cover art "Life is a Dance in the Rain" by Adrian Borda.  This piece really sets the stage for the twenty-one stories that follow in this first collection of the Best of Apex Magazine.

An Apex story can be difficult to describe, but in this collection I enjoyed nearly every one of them.  Its the best of speculative fiction, covering multiple genres with an international list of authors, some familiar, many not, but all rich with storytelling skills.

Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon the Hugo-award winning author of the comic Digger. Ursula also writes for adults under the name T. Kingfisher. Her work has also won the Nebula, Mythopoeic, C├│yotl, and WSFA Awards. "Jackalope Wives" gets the anthology started just right.  A story that adds to the mythology of the jackalope, a mythical creature from North American folklore.

Going Endo by Rich Larson who was born in West Africa, has studied in Rhode Island, worked in Spain, and at 23 now writes from Edmonton, Alberta.

Candy Girl by Chikodili Emelumadu a Nigerian Writer whose corporeal self resides in London.  Her story "Candy Girl" was nominated for the 2014 Shirley Jackson award.  A story that would be comedic if it weren't so very tragic.

If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky, a graduate of Clarion West, her short fiction has been nominated for the Hugo, the Locus, the World Fantasy, and the Sturgeon Awards.  She's twice won the Nebula Award, including in 2013 for "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love."  Whenever I see Rachel's name on the cover of a magazine or anthology I know I'm in for a treat.  I loved this story when I first read it and enjoyed it again with this rereading.

Advertising at the End of the World by Keffy R.M. Kehrli.  Keffy is a science fiction and fantasy writer currently living on Long Island in New York.  When not writing, he's busy working on his PhD, doing science, or editing Glittership.  A quirky, imaginative story of robotic advertising.

The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell who likes to explore the edge where humans and their technology are increasingly merging.  She is an active member of SFWA.  A wondrous tale of performace art and technology taken to the extreme.

A Matter of Shapespace by Brian Trent.  This story was voted by Apex Magazine readers as their 2013 Story of the Year, and he is a 2013 winner in the Writers of the Future contest. Speculative fiction at its finest.  In a future here you can be backed up to the cloud, three megacorps rule the earth.  Two have merged and plan a hostile takeover of the third.

Falling Leaves by Liz Argall.  An Australian living in Seattle, Liz plays roller derby with the Rat City Rollergirls, writes, and draws comics.  A beautiful story of a terribly awkward friendship.

Blood from Stone by Alethea Kontis.  New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a fairy godmother, and a geek.  She's known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampires, and ranting about fairy tales on YouTube.

Sexagesimal by Katharine E.K. Duckett a writer living in Brooklyn who collects  canes, bookmarks, and unusual earrings.

Multo by Samuel Marzioli who has an incredibly simple bio.  He was born and raised and that's all you need to know about that.  What would a collection like this be without a ghost story?  "Multo" is that story.

Keep Talking by Marie Vibbert an IT professional from Cleveland, Ohio.  She has ridden 16% of the roller coasters in the United States and played for the Cleveland Fusion women's tackle football team. This story was the 2014 Apex Magazine Reader's Choice Winner and deservedly so.

Remembery Day by Sarah Pinsker who, in addition to writing science fiction, is a singer/songwriter and has toured nationally behind three albums on various independent labels.  She lives with her wife and dog in Baltimore, Maryland. "Remembery Day' tells of a future where one day each year the veil is lifted and people remember the war and those who fought in it.

Blood on Beacon Hill by Russell Nichols a speculative fiction writer and endangered journalist.  He writes about race, class, and other human myths.  Raised in Richmond, CA, he now lives on the road, out of a backpack with his fairy tale freak of a wife (current location: Mexico).  This was my favorite story in the anthology.  I do lean more toward horror in my personal taste and this story of the conflicts between mortals and immortals in old Boston hit the spot.

The Green Room by Amal El-Mohtar, an author, editor, and critic: her short fiction has received the Locus Award and been nominated for the Nebula Award, while her poetry has won the Rhysling Awrd three times.  There truly are stories for every taste in this collection. Here is a rather strange story of books.

L’esprit de L’escalier by Peter M. Ball the author of Horn, Bleed, and The Floatsam trilogy from Apocalypse Ink.  I couldn't begin to tell you what this story was about, but I did enjoy it immensely.

Still Life (A Sexagesimal Fairy Tale) by Ian Tregillis the son of a bearded mountebank and a discredited tarot card reader.  He lives in New Mexico, where he consorts with writers, scientists, and other disreputable types.  A charming fantasy of a clock-maker from a very visual writer.  He had some great lines, like "Sharp enough to shear the red from a rainbow." and "Its edges were the sharpest things that could ever be, sharp as the now that separates past and future."

Build a Dolly by Ken Liu an author and translator of speculative fiction, as well as a lawyer and programmer.  A winner of the Nebula Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards.  "Build a Dolly" is a short yet powerful story of a doll with a kind of consciousness.

Armless Maidens of the American West by Genevieve Valentine an author and critic whose first novel, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the 2012 Crawford Award; her second, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, was an NPR, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune best book of the year.  Another of my favorites in this collection, the story of a particular armless maiden in the American west and a journalist who comes to attempt an interview,

Pocosin by Ursula Vernon.  This is her second work to be included in this anthology.  In this story, God, the devil, and death each seek an audience with a dying possum god.

She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow by Sam Fleming who lives in north-east Scotland with an artistic spouse and the correct number of bicycles, that being entirely too many and not quite enough.

Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Apex Book Company.

While I didn't enjoy every story in this collection.  I certainly liked enough of them to recommend it, particularly if you love speculative fiction in all its various forms.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Nausea - by Ed Kurtz - A crime noir novel with plenty of style

4 of 5 Stars

The new crime noir novel from Ed Kurtz is certainly long on style, even If I felt it was a bit lacking in substance.  I think that may come from a lead character that I just couldn't connect with. Nick Drake is a killer, a low-rent hit man who fell into his line of work, more or less, by accident.

Nausea is told in two separate story-lines.  The current timeline and one detailing the events which lead to the early years of Nick's, now, long time profession.

The writing is solid as is the way the story is told...

A few minutes later he ground the butt under the heel of his boot and narrowed his eyes at the purplish ribbon of the gathering dusk. The air was getting a bit nippy now that summer had ended; even this far from town he could smell woodsmoke.  It was an odd, familiar smell, a comforting one. He gazed at the shooting stars made by the headlights of the semis on the freeway an wished he could vomit again."

Nausea is a suitably gritty tale.  The writer does an excellent job in creating atmosphere and there is definitely a solid story here.  It just wasn't one I found to be particularly compelling. I much preferred his previous release from Darkfuse, Angel of the Abyss.  Read my review here http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/11/angel-of-abyss-by-ed-kurtz-wonderfully.html.

Nausea is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Darkfuse publishers.  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 through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Recommended.

Ed Kurtz is the author of Angel of the Abyss, The Forty-Two, and A Wind of Knives.  2015 was a year of personal tragedy for Ed.  2016 begins with a new job and a new life in Minneapolis, MN.  I wish him nothing but the best and look forward to his next novel.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Vampire of Plainfield - Kristopher Rufty- A terrifying blending of truth and fiction resulting in a read that's difficult to put down

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

In the early 1950s there was a man named Ed Gein who committed some pretty despicable crimes.  He was a real person, just as real as you and me https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Gein.

What Kristopher Rufty has done here, and in my opinion has done rather well, is take this real-life story and re-imagined it as a vampire tale.  The result is the best damn vampire book I've read in forty years.  In case you're wondering, I'm referring to the seminal work on the subject by Stephen King.  That being 'Salem's Lot.

The Vampire of Plainfield has all of the key ingredients for a powerhouse story.  A town with a secret past, a likable group of children, and a central character that does something really stupid.  Put all of this in a big pot, add heat, and stir vigorously.

Rufty's characters are all fully developed; the banter between the kids in the story is spot on.  At this point I think it's important to bring up that this a very adult story.  Even with that being said, there are some adults who are likely to think the author takes the story too far, as he deals with some subject matter that many consider to be taboo.  If you have light sensibilities you may want to read something else, maybe something with sparkly vampires.

The Vampire of Plainfield  is quite disturbing, as good horror should be.  There are a number of good "Oh, wow!" moments.  Even aside from the vampires there are some strange goings on in Plainfield, Wisconsin.  The end result is the darkest story I've read this year.  It's pretty cool when you're reading with the lights down low and suddenly gasp audibly and utter "Uh, oh."

The Vampire of Plainfield is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Sinister Grin Press.

Highly recommended, but not for the fainthearted or easily offended.  Read at your own risk.

Kristopher Rufty is the author of Angel Board, The Lurkers, Pillowface, A Dark Autumn, and Oak Hollow. He has also written and directed the independent horror films Psycho Holocaust, Rags, and Wicked Wood.

He hosts Diabolical Radio, an internet radio show devoted to horror fiction and film.

But what he's best at is being married to his high school sweetheart and the father of two crazy children who he loves dearly. Together, they reside in North Carolina with their hulk-like dog,Thor, and numerous cats.








Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Even Hell Has Standards: Pride - by Chantal Noordeloos - A novella about a serial killer's plan for being a big deal in Hell

5 of 5 Stars

About a year ago I won a copy of Angel Manor (Lucifer Falls Book 1), a wickedly enjoyable ghost story.  (Check out my review here http://frankmichaelserrington.blogspot.com/2014/12/angel-manor-lucifer-falls-book-1-by.html) Since that time I've been Facebook friends with the author, Chantal Noordeloos, and have frequently found her posts to be charming, witty, enlightening, and entertaining.  Recently, her publisher sent me a copy of a new novella she has coming out called, Even Hell Has Standards: Wrath.  Since this is the second in a series, I went out and bought a copy of the first book, Even Hell Has Standards: Pride.

The story is about serial killer, Adolf Zacherny, who dies in a shoot-out with authorities and wakes up, naked, in Hell.  This was his end-game.  With all the torment and suffering he caused in life he really believes he'll have similar role in Hell.  Actually, things don't work out as planned.

Set any preconceived notions you may have of Hell aside and allow the author to paint the landscape for you.  I found Chantal Noodeloos' world-building to be quite plausible, even if it's not the fire and brimstone many of us are accustomed to.

I found this original horror story to be both entertaining and worthy of a sequel.  As a result, I'm looking forward to returning to Hell when I read Even Hell Has Standards: Wrath in the near future.

Even Hell Has Standards: Pride is available from Tip My Hat Publishing as an e-book.

A quick read, one I can easily recommend .

Chantal Noordeloos lives in the Netherlands, where she spends her time with her wacky, supportive husband, and outrageously cunning daughter, who is growing up to be a supervillain.

There are many genres that Chantal likes to explore in her writing. Currently Sci-fi Steampunk is one of her favourites, but her 'go to' genre will always be horror. "It helps being scared of everything; that gives me plenty of inspiration," she says.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Christmas Horror - Volume 1 - edited by Chris Morey - A Holiday anthology for horror fans everywhere

5 of 5 Stars

'Tis the season...for horror?  You betcha.  Why should Halloween have all the fun?  Editor Chris Morey and the team at Dark Regions Press put together an Indiegogo campaign earlier this year and the result was a wonderfully enjoyable collection of horror stories for Christmas.

Before we get to the stories, I need to mention the interior color art which accompanies each story.  Kudos to artist Zach Mccain for his fitting drawings.

~

"Santa Explains" by Joe R Lansdale.  Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over forty novels and numerous short stories.  A delightfully wicked way to kick of the anthology as a down on his luck husband finds a Santa suit and pays a visit to his estranged wife...and then the twist.

"The Endless Black of Friday" by Nate Southard.  Nate writes prose and comics, lives in Austin, Texas, and has a cat.  This is a story which gives Black Friday a who new meaning. A tale like the best episodes of the original Twilight Zone TV series.  Perfectly executed.

"Red Rage" by Stephen Mark Rainey.  Stephen is the author of a number of novels, five short story collections; and over 90 published works of short fiction.  After reading this bloody short, I found myself taking a closer look at the ornaments on my Christmas tree, and checking then twice and then again.

"Pointy Canes" by Jeff Strand.  Growing up, Jeff desperately wanted to be a cartoonist. Then he wanted to make video games. Then he wanted to write movies. Actually, he still wants to do all of those things, but for now he's quite happy writing lots of demented novels. Jeff Strand never disappoints as he delivers horror with his wry sense of humor.  By the way, who among us has NOT sucked a candy cane until it has a pointy end?

"Naughty" by Shane McKenzie  Shane is the author of many books and he's written comics, as well.  Shane lives in Austin, TX with his wife and daughter. He's staring at you right now.  This is certainly the darkest and most violent of the stories in the anthology. Some may find its subject matter to be a bit off-putting, but if you can handle it, you'll be rewarded with a fine tale of retribution.

"Krampusnacht In Cell Block J" by Cody Goodfellow.  Cody has written five novels and co-wrote three more with John Skipp.  His first two collections each received the Wonderland Book Award.  Cody lives in Burbank, California, and is currently working on building a perfect bowling team.  Christmas is certainly no time to be locked up in a juvenile detention center.

"The Shittiest Guy In the World" by John Skipp.  John is a New York Times bestselling author, editor, film director, zombie godfather, compulsive collaborator, musical pornographer, black-humored optimist and all-around Renaissance mutant.  John brings his brand of Bizarro storytelling to this wonderful tale about bring balance to Christmas.  It truly warmed the cockles of my heart.

"Belsnickel" by J. F. Gonzalez.  Jesus was an American author, primarily of horror fiction. He has written many notable novels and has done collaborations with Bram Stoker Award winners Mike Oliveri and Brian Keene. His voice is sorely missed.  What we have here is a nice little kick-ass story of a Pennsylvania Dutch legend to remember him by.

"The Color That Stole Christmas" by William Meikle.  Willie is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with twenty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries.  A small town, a Christmas tradition complete with Reindeer and a sleigh with Father Christmas at the helm.  Sounds pleasant enough, but in the hands of storyteller William Meikel, be prepared for the worst.

I know it may seem weird, but as a lover of horror and  Christmas, this anthology really hit the spot for me.  The perfect gift for the horror reader in your life or for yourself to enjoy by the fire on those cold winter nights.

Christmas Horror Volume 1 was originally offered through an Indiegogo campaign, but is now available to the general public as well.  There is a Deluxe edition signed by most of the authors, a paperback edition, and it's also available in all of the popular e-reader formats. Visit www.darkregions.com for details.

Highly recommended.