Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Mixed Bag of Blood by David Bernstein - A horror collection from one of the best

5 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

I've read several works by David Bernstein in the last few years and I've mentioned once or twice that no one is safe in one of his stories.  It's nice to know I'm not alone in this observation. Author Kristopher Rufty echoes that sentiment in his Introduction to A Mixed Bag of Blood, saying "Nothing, or no one, is safe in Dave's worlds."

There are some very good stories in this new collection of ten horror tales from a writer who knows how to push all of my buttons, scary, gory, gross, and at times humorous.

The Trojan Plushy - The collection starts with a tale of sweet revenge.  When the man responsible for the death of Brad Raling's wife and daughter gets off on a technicality, he reaches out to a witch seeking vengeance.

The Booglin - A delightfully disgusting tale of an intelligent booger.  Dave's imagination was working overtime on this one.

Eaten Un-Alive - A thoroughly enjoyable "what if?" story of what happens when the zombie apocalypse dries up the food supply for vampires.

It's Nice Not To Have To Share - A special set of twin sisters who share everything...until.

Invasion - The aliens are here and they plan to use cockroaches to get rid of humankind. This one is exceptionally gross.  "Hundreds of cockroaches scurried out of, and across, his body.  His left eye tickled from within, as if someone were brushing it with a feather. Immense pressure built behind the eyeball before it burst like a water balloon, the glutinous fluids inside running down his face, a cockroach crawling free."

Samurai Zombie Killer - The title says all you need to know about this unusual take on the zombie mythos.

Small Town, Big Trouble - A small town is terrorized for years by a bigfoot like creature. When the town guardians decide to take action, lookout for the twist.

Bad Cutlery - Knives don't kill people, people kill people, but knives can certainly talk them into doing the deed.

Potty Mouth - Peter has a bit of a potty mouth and his mother, who happens to be a witch, has had it. You won't believe the punishment she comes up with in this stomach turning gem.

STD - Not for the easily offended and certainly not for the kids.  This cringe-worthy story was enough to cause me to consider a life of celibacy.

If you like to be grossed out by your horror and don't mind suspending your disbelief for a few hours, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy this demented collection of horror from David Bernstein as much as I did.

A Mixed Bag of Blood is available now in both e-book and paperback from Sinister Grin Press.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge and if you are an Amazon Prime member you can borrow the book for FREE from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.


David Bernstein is originally from a small town in Upstate New York.  He now resides in NYC and misses being surrounded by chainsaw-wielding maniacs.  David writes all kinds of horror, from hair-raising ghost stories to gore-filled slashers and apocalyptic tales of terror.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Sadist's Bible - by Nicole Cushing - Can you really get to know a person online?

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The Sadist's Bible is a new novella from Nicole Cushing.  Nicole is rapidly becoming one of my go-to authors for a solid story.  In the last year, I've enjoyed both her novel, Mr. Suicide, and her collection, The Mirrors.

I love a great opening line and they don't get much better than "Do u really think u ready to die?  I don't want u chickening out." This is part of a conversation which takes place on The Buddy System, an online place to find a suicide partner.

This is the place where Ellie meets Lori and where they plan their "escape."

Nicole Cushing writes about real people, not necessarily people like me, but real people none-the-less.

The Sadist's Bible is extremely sexual.  Ellie has spent nineteen years in a stupid marriage and would like to have a same-sex fling before ending it all.  Lori is willing, but she's also just plain crazy.

At times the story made me uncomfortable, and this is a good thing, writing should have some kind of impact on the reader.

At some point on the way to their liaison , Ellie turns off the highway and ends up deep in the Twilight Zone and the climax (yes, I used that word intentionally) is rather surreal.

Admittedly, The Sadist's Bible  is not for everyone.  Adult themes abound, but still an enjoyable read.

The Sadist's Bible is available as an e-book from 01Publishing.

Nicole Cushing is a Shirley Jackson Award finalist who's written a number of stand-alone novellas and dozens of short stories. Nicole has been referred to as the literary equivalent of the love child between Jack Ketchum and Poppy Z. Bright.  Raised in rural Maryland and now living in southern Indiana, Nicole counts master storyteller Edgar Allen Poe as having had a big influence on her as a writer.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

first communions: a collection of dark fiction - by Geoffrey Girard

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Although most of the stories in first communions: a collection of dark horror have been previously published, this is my first exposure to the writing of Geoffrey Girard.  I'm so glad I got to read this varied and mostly entertaining collection.

Translatio - This as not my favorite story in the collection, but even it had it's moments.  "Fleshy tentacles had shot out, snatched some middle -aged mother and an old man into the air; one of the woman's shoes flung out over an adjacent roof.  Then, the balloon creature had fed, and blood rained again from an overcast sky."

Collecting James - A rather disturbing story of a most unusual and somewhat perverse collection.

For Restful Death I Cry - A future where medical advances have kept folks alive well past what would be considered a normal life expectancy.  What happens when it becomes a healthcare norm to disconnect them all?

Dark Harvest - One of a number of favorites for me in this collection.  A Dark Lord. Revenant. Witchman.  A story which rarely gives the readers what they expect or what they want, but it is genuinely entertaining.

Not Fade Away - A strange, yet enjoyable story of a teen-aged girl working in a nursing home, yet it's so much more.

Unto the Lord a New Song - A wonderfully original story.  One of the best I've read this year.  Yeah, it has zombies, but it's the uniqueness of the tale that makes it so special.

Release Me - The stories get better and better.  This one, a classic gothic ghost story with a touch of Lovecraft.

Psychomachia - A story of working in the coal mines in the early twentieth century.

Universal Adaptor - An interstellar musical diversion.

Misdirection - A wartime battle of magic-men.

What You Know - Loved, loved, loved this story of a Third grade writing assignment gone horribly wrong.

H.E. Double Hockey Sticks -  My favorite title in the collection and it's prefect for this story of demonic twins on a Fifth Grade hockey team.

Where the Shadow Ended - The story of a young chimney sweep who gets caught up in his work.

Dead in the Water - Pirates who encounter a ship of the dead.

Crawl - I love the opening line. "In a large dirt field, three boys hunted for tarantulas."  Another excellent tale.

First Communions - The title story and a wonderful coming-of-age tale to wrap up the collection.

It took me some time to adjust to Geoff Girard's style of literary horror, but overall the tales were original, fantastical, twisted, dark, and ultimately enjoyable.  The stories vary in themes and writing styles.  Some I liked more than others, but it's a good bet you'll like the ones I didn't and vice versa. There really is something for everyone.

At the end of the book you'll find Story Notes for each of the works in the collection.  I always enjoy these little peaks into the writing process and where the story ideas come from.

first communions: a collection of dark horror is published by Apex Books which is appropriate since many of the author's short stories have appeared in Apex Magazine over the years. This collection is available in paperback and e-book formats.

Geoffrey Girard writes thrillers, young adult novels, and short speculative fiction.  First appearing in Writers of the Future in 2003, Geoffrey has since sold more than sixty short stories.  His novels include Cain's Blood and the Stoker-nominated Project Cain.  He is the Department Chair of English at a private boy's school in Cincinnati where he teaches literature, horror, and creative writing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Demon With a Comb-Over - by Stuart R. West - The title may seem a bit silly, but this is a helluva great story

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Demon With a Comb-Over is a novel that combines the world of stand-up comedy with a compelling tale of horror.

Here's the setup..

"Talk about a tough crowd.

"Take Charlie Broadmoor's life.  Please.  Charlie sucks at stand-up comedy. He gets by, though.  Things are okay.  His life is decent.  Until the night he makes fun of a demon's comb-over. Big mistake.  What kind of demon wears a comb-over?  The sensitive kind.  The kind who's not going to let an insult slide.  A demon who's going to take Charlie down.  As in down to Hell.  And he intends on dragging everyone Charlie cares about along for the ride."

On the surface, the premise may seem a bit absurd, but in the hands of Stuart R. West, Demon With a Comb-Over turns out to be a helluva great story.

The demon Charlie Broadmoor makes fun of in his act, turns out to be Kobal, the demon Prince of mockery.  Go ahead and Google it.  I'll wait.  He's a pretty nasty guy.  As a result of his error in judgment, Charlie now has an enemy who wont stop until he destroys his life.

Demon With a Comb-Over  is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Riverdale Avenue Books.

A completely entertaining mix of comedy and horror.  Recommended.

Stuart R. West is a life-long resident of Kansas.  He has ten published novels, both thrillers and horror for both adult and YA audiences.  After twenty-five years in the corporate world, he now writes full time.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Psycho - by Robert Bloch - Holds up well after more than 50 years

Psycho     5 of 5 Stars

Why did is take me nearly 57 years to get around to reading Robert Bloch's Psycho?  Maybe it was because I was a mere seven years old when it was first published and I was still reading such classics as Fun With Dick and Jane and it would be a number of years before I learned of the fun to be had with a good horror book and by then it just became lost in the all the new material released in the intervening years.

So what made me decide to read this essential work now? Well, this Monday will see the release of Robert Bloch's Psycho: Sanitarium, a new novel written by Chet Williamson. Set in the years Norman Bates would spend in a mental institution following the events in Bloch's original Psycho.  Thus, now seemed like an excellent time to catch up.

By now, everyone knows the story, even if they've never read the book or seen Alfred Hitchcock's film adaptation.  So it's really not necessary to provide much of a synopsis here.  Let's just say Psycho was pretty perverse for its day and writer, Robert Bloch did a wonderful job in expressing the relationship between Norman and his mother Norma which lead to his being the person he is in the book.

Reading Psycho has even given me a new appreciation for the A&E series Bates Motel which I've enjoyed for four seasons now.  While not exactly a retelling of the book or the movie, it certainly captures the underlying themes of the author's original story, particularly the way the Bates family put the "fun" in dysfunctional.  Norman Bates is a wonderfully complex, broken man, and is one of my favorite flawed literary characters of all time.

As a result of reading Psycho I'm looking forward, more than ever, to Chet Williamson's new work of which Publisher's Weekly says, “Horror author Chet Williamson ably succeeds in the tough task of creating a sequel to Robert Bloch’s masterpiece, Psycho; a prequel to the less effective Psycho II; and a solid story in its own right…The novel shines. Whenever Norman gets the spotlight, the novel feels like a lost Bloch work.”

The original Psycho is available through The Overlook Press in every format imaginable.


Robert Bloch was an American fiction writer, primarily of crime, horror, fantasy and science fiction, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Best known as the author of Psycho.  Bloch wrote hundreds of short stories and over 30 novels. He was one of the youngest members of the Lovecraft Circle. H. P. Lovecraft was Bloch's mentor and one of the first to seriously encourage his talent.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Freedom is Space for the Spirit - by Glen Hirshberg - A beautifully told fantasy

5 of 5 Stars

First, allow me to comment on the cover.  It's what made me purchase this novella, that and I recently read Good Girls by Glen Hirshberg which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Kudos to Greg Ruth who really captured the essence of the author's work with his art.

Freedom is Space for the Spirit is far from horror, more fantasy than anything, but it is definitely one of my favorite reads so far this year.

After receiving a telegram, calling him back to Russia, Thomas returns to the place of his youth, a place of so many memories, so many friends left behind.  "The names chimed in Thomas like bells rung for the dead, even though he had no reason to think any of them had died.  They just stopped being who they were, same as he had.  Grown up, given in, gotten married, gotten tired, gotten sane."

Called back to St Petersburg by his former friend and mentor, what Thomas finds is far from anything he expected.  Free bears. free as in roaming the streets, riding on buses, left to wander, they had become a part of the landscape.  What does it all mean?  For me, it means an extremely enjoyable read.

Freedom is Space for the Spirit  is currently available as an e-book from Tor Books or read it for FREE at


Glen Hirshberg has won three International Horror Guild Awards (including two for Outstanding Collection), and his novella, The Janus Tree, won the inaugural Shirley Jackson Award in 2008.  He also has been a Bram Stoker Award finalist and a five-time World Fantasy Award finalist.  He lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife, son, daughter, and cats.

The Fountain of the Dead - by Scott T. Goudsward - A possible cure for being bitten by a zombie...and the race is on.

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Now that The Walking Dead has finished its sixth season, what's a zombie fan to do?  Writer Scott T. Goudsward has the answer with a new novel.

It all begins with a young family strolling through Boston Common following a night out at a Wiggles concert when a meteor shower goes from being beautiful to deadly.  Years later the dead walk and pockets of survivors try to make the best of this new world.

Micah, the young boy from the opening sequence is older now, with a new mom, and he hasn't spoken since that fateful day nearly a decade ago.  He communicates using a portable whiteboard and markers.  He is also his community's unofficial historian, keeping journals of the events in their village.

A new arrival claims to know of a cure for anyone bitten and in danger of turning.  He, himself, exhibits bite marks and seems fine.  A trip to Florida to find the source of the cure is a dangerous undertaking.

Fountain of the Dead does have something many stories in this sub-genre lack, a cause and a possible cure.  Much the same way The Walking Dead has evolved to seeing threats from other survivors be as much of a problem as the zombies, our group has to deal with a number of dangers from outside their little community.  Don't get too attached to any one character, it seems as if they are all expendable, something I really like in a novel of this type.

Look for a genuine 'Oh, wow" moment at about the halfway point.   When our travelers get to Georgia some one comments "We're just stopping to refuel right?  I've hear bad things about Georgia. Supposed to be one giant walking graveyard."  Wait, was that sly reference to The Walking Dead where the show is actually filmed?

Another thing I liked about this tale as that all of the trials and tribulations seemed utterly real and not too contrived.

Fountain of the Dead is published by Post Mortem Press and is available in paperback and e-book formats.


Scott T. Goudsward is the author of numerous short stories, screen plays and novels. He has had an avid interest in the horror genre since seeing the horror classic, Friday the 13th, when he was only 13. By total accident he hails from the same odd New England town--Haverhill, MA--that produced Puritan axe murderess, Hannah Dustin, beloved Abolitionist poet, John Greenleaf Whitter, and TV host, Tom Bergeron, and heavy metal rocker/movie director, Rob Zombie.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

He Who Walks In Shadow - by Brett J. Talley - A fine followup to That Which Should Not Be

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

He Who Walks In Shadow is a sequel, of sorts, to That Which Should Not Be. Although this book works as a stand-alone novel, I world recommend reading the first book before reading this newer volume in order to get the complete effect.

This time the story is told through journals, correspondence, news articles, and such.  With a story woven together from so many disparate sources it would seem the result would be disjointed or at least confusing, but Talley manages to pull it all together in a riveting tale that blends Lovecraftian horror with the sensibilities of films like Indiana Jones, National Treasure, and The Da Vinci Code.

Brett J. Talley is an excellent writer who can really paint a scene with just a few words. "Forward we pressed, as bullets passed and men died and the ground grew sodden with the tramp of a thousand feet and the gentle rain of blood."  And then there's a dream sequence involving a high-stakes game of chess that was just brilliant.

At it's core He Who Walks In Shadow is a story of supreme sacrifice which I found to be completely entertaining.

Published by JournalStone, He Who Walks In Shadow is available in hardback, paperback, and e-book formats.  By the way, kudos to Becca Klein for a stunning cover.

Definitely recommended.

Brett Talley received a philosophy and history degree from the University of Alabama before moving to witch-haunted Massachusetts to attend Harvard Law School.  Brett loves every kind of fiction—from horror to literary to historical to sci-fi—as long as there are fantastic characters with a compelling purpose.  Brett writes when he can, though he spends most of his time working as a lawyer so that he can put food on the table.  That is, until the air grows cool and crisp and fall descends.  For then it is football time and Brett lives and dies with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

the greatest zombie movie ever. - by Jeff Strand

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

When reading a new work from Jeff Strand, I'm frequently reminded of the popular line from Forrest Gump, "My momma always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'"  Will I get something in the horror genre, something delightfully demented, strange, or even charmingly romantic like his Kumquat novel from a couple of years back.  Or will I just get chocolate all over the pages of the book?

What we have with Strand's newest novel is a YA story of some high school buddies who set out to make the greatest zombie movie ever.  It's a herculean task fraught with challenges, like money, casting, money, equipment breaking-down, money, romantic entanglements...oh, and did I mention money?

They are so desperate for funds they wind up going to Justin Hollow's grandmother, who turns out to be a bit of a loan shark.

the greatest zombie movie ever. was a lot of sarcastic fun and is a book that is genuinely suitable for all ages.

In some ways the book was similar to the familiar trope of "Let's put on a show," made popular by Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland back in the 30s.  It's a thing, google it.

I actually had a zombie dream while reading this book, well not while actually reading the book, although if I could find a way to read while sleeping, I'd be all in favor of that.

the greatest zombie movie ever. is available now from Sourcebooks Fire in both paperback and e-book formats and recommended for grades 6-12.

Jeff Strand moved to Fairbanks, Alaska when he was six months old. He grew up in the cold, where he 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 in a wide variety of genres.

Because he doesn't do cold weather anymore, he lives in Tampa, Florida with his wife and a deaf cat.