Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sarah Killian: Serial Killer (for Hire!) - by Mark Sheldon - I had high hopes for this novel, but they remain unfulfilled

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I want to love every book I read, I really do. Regrettably, it's just not possible and there are times when you pick up a title that grabs your interest, but doesn't quite live up to your expectations. Sarah Killian: Serial Killer (for Hire!) is such a tome.

Here's the synopsis from the book's Amazon page...

"Sarah Killian is not your average thirty year-old single woman. Foul-mouthed, mean-spirited, and a text-book-case loner. Also, she is a Professional Serial Killer. Sarah works for T.H.E.M. (Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers), a secret organization of murderers for hire headed up by the mysterious Zeke. But a wrench is thrown into the clockwork of Sarah's comfortable lifestyle when, on her latest assignment, she is forced to take on an apprentice, Bethany--a bubbly, perky, blonde with a severe case of verbal-vomit. In short, Bethany is everything Sarah is not. Will Sarah be able to adjust and work with her new apprentice, or will she break her contract with T.H.E.M. and murder the buxom bimbo?"

I loved the idea of a foul-mouthed, mean-spirited, loner being forced to train a bubbly, perky, blonde. And there was some genuine tension there, but it wasn't enough to overcome my disappointment with some key elements of the story.

T.H.E.M. (Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers) recruits actual serial killers and uses them to fulfill client requests. In doing so, the serial killers are authorized to not only kill the target, but to eliminate innocents, as necessary, in order to create the illusion of a serial killer being responsible.

There were a couple of twists, but they seemed a bit forced. And then there was the one thing that bothered me more than any other. The lead character would substitute the word porcupine for God over and over again. Things like, "For porcupine's sake." or "porcupine-forsaken." Her reasons for doing so are never explained. I assume she didn't like God and that's OK, after all she's a serial killer, but keeping those idioms and replacing "God" with "porcupine" drove me to distraction.

There were some very imaginative bits, some clever word play with acronyms which I can't share and keep this review to a PG rating.

Unfortunately, although there is nothing in the story that couldn't happen, I found the overall narrative to be less than believable.

Sarah Killian: Serial Killer (for Hire!) is not great literature, but it's not meant to be. For me it's just an OK story.

Published by Crystal Lake Publications, Sarah Killian: Serial Killer (for Hire!) is available in both paperback and e-book formats. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge and if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Mark Sheldon is the author of the twelve-part book series, The Noricin Chronicles. Mr. Sheldon lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Betsy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I Am Providence - by Nick Mamatas - Murder at a Lovecraft convention

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I can't say I read a lot of Nick Mamatas, but what I have read, I've certainly enjoyed.

Nick's most recent work is dissimilar from anything I've read before. Set at the fictional, annual Summer Tentacular, "Providence's premiere literary conference about pulp-writer, racist, and weirdo Howard Philips Lovecraft," the book is an inside look at the craziness such an event would give rise to.

The attendees at said conference seem to be based on a combination of real writers and an amalgamation of the writers and fans who frequent such a happening.

The story is told from two separate points of view, that of first-time attendee and recently published Lovecraftian writer, Colleen Danzig and the other, her roommate, a writer know as Panossian who spends most of the book in the morgue, lying on a slab.

The goings on in I Am Providence  may seem strange to the average reader, unless you've ever been to a social occasion like this, then it reads more like a documentary.

Overall, I enjoyed this tome from Mamatas, and the scene where several of the characters are digging in the woods in hopes of finding the remains of Lovecraft's cat was hysterical.

There were some great lines, too, one of my favorites, "Like Richard Matheson told me, 'Nobody likes a name dropper.'"

Ultimately, however, I Am Providence is little more than a murder mystery and I found myself wanting something more.

Published by Night Shade Books, I Am Providence is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Nick Mamatas is the author of six and a half novels and several collections. He is also an anthologist and editor of short fiction. His fiction and editorial work has been nominated for the Bram Stoker award five times, the Hugo Award twice, the World Fantasy Award twice, an the Shirley Jackson, International Horror Guild, an Locus Awards.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Reach of Children - by Tim Lebbon - A British Fantasy Award winning novella, now available for the Kindle.

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

This brilliantly written novella was originally published as a signed, limited edition, hardcover in 2008.  The publisher subsequently went out of business and it is now available from Venture Press for the Kindle.  Yay!

I love it when great works that would cost a small fortune on the secondary market find a new home where everyone can enjoy them.

The story begins with the death of Daniel's mother.  "Dan, I'm sorry son, but she's gone."  "Mummy?" Daniel said.  And he turned to his father, and they hugged each other as the world grew cruel around them.

There is an element of horror to the story, but mostly The Reach of Children is about grief and the ways both Daniel and his father deal with their loss.

The reveal for the reason behind the title is touching and struck a cord with me. You'll know it when you read it.

This is a story I highly recommend.

Published by Venture Press, The Reach of Children is now available for the Kindle.  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 Reach of Children for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Tim Lebbon is a New York Times-bestselling writer from South Wales. He’s had over thirty novels published to date, as well as hundreds of novellas and short stories.  He has won four British Fantasy Awards (including one for this very novella), a Bram Stoker Award, and a Scribe Award, and has been a finalist for World Fantasy, International Horror Guild and Shirley Jackson Awards.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Con Season - by Adam Cesare - A new kind of immersive horror con

4 of 5 Stars  

Keith Lumbra is a filmmaker, if you can call titles like Teenage Cumsluts in Torturland film.  He's on his way back from a horror con where he was selling his wares when he gets pulled over by the cops, or at least he thinks they're cops.

Rory and Teeks are putting together a completely new form of con.  Where, instead of having fans line up to get their pictures taken with their favorite horror actors, a limited number of fans, who pay top dollar, would get to interact with a select group of B through D list celebrities at a camp where a slasher is taking them out one by one.

On the surface, it sounds like a really cool idea, but believe me, the talent has no idea what they're in for.

It was tough writing that synopsis without dropping spoilers left and right.  I've probably said to much as it is.

The writing in The Con Season is crisp and the pacing is excellent.  There was a brief disconnect for me between the story's opening and where things come together with the setting up of this new interactive, high-end, horror con, but in the end Adam Cesare delivers a uniquely original tale.

The Con Season is currently available for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Or, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can borrow it for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From his bio - Adam Cesare is a New Yorker who lives in Philadelphia.  His work has been featured in numerous magazines and anthologies.  He writes a monthly column about the intersection of horror fiction and film, called PAPER CUTS, for Cemetery Dance Online.  His previous books include Mercy House, Video Night, The Summer Job, and Tribesmen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Stay Crazy - by Erica Satifka - A paranoid schizophrenic with depressive tendencies tries to save the world from an interdimensional being

4 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

I really didn't know what to expect with Stay Crazy.  An unfamiliar author and a story which didn't drop neatly into one of my preferred genres, but I'm very happy that I took a chance on this one.

Em is a paranoid schizophrenic with depressive tendencies. She is being treated for her illness, but like many people she struggles with staying on her meds.  When she starts working part-time at a local big box store, she is contacted by a being from another dimension who attempts to recruit her to fight an entity intent on destroying everything.

I know what you're thinking.  She's crazy.  But what if the threat were real, who would believe her. When suicides among her co-workers at Savertown USA become a regular occurrence, Em begins to wonder if the voice in her head is something more than her particular brand of crazy.

It's tough to categorize this story, "weird" would probably be the best one word description. Just the right amount of crazy, with a touch of quirky.

I did laugh-out-loud more than once while reading Stay Crazy.  For a debut novel its really a well-written and fun story.

Published by Apex Book Company, Stay Crazy is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Erica Satifka is a writer who enjoys rainy days, questioning reality, ignoring her to-do list, and adding to her collection of tattoos. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarksworld, Shimmer, Lightspeed, and Intergalactic Medicine Show.  Erica is originally from Pittsburgh.  She now lives in Portland, Oregon with her spouse Rob and an indeterminate number of cats. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

In Perpetuity - by Tim Lebbon - "Find me the proof of love," the keeper said

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Have you ever had a child go missing?  Even for a moment, it's a terrible feeling.  For me, it was right after Fourth-of-July fireworks on the beach in Ocean City, NJ.  Looked away for a split second and my then eight-year-old grandson was gone. The things that go through your mind.  Very scary. Fortunately, my story had a happy ending, we found him sitting outside of our Motel room some thirty minutes later.

Four-year old Sammy's father wasn't so lucky.  Enter a man known only as The Keeper, he'll gladly return Sammy to his father, on one condition. "Find me proof of love."

What follows is a rather surreal tale of the father's quest to find the very thing that will return his precious child.  He's not alone, along the way he meets other on their own quests, like the man with a sack full of heads, seemingly still alive.

Tim Lebbon manages to pack a novella length story with a wondrous world filled with sundry characters.  There are no wasted words here and the visions which show Sammy at various stages of his life, if his father can complete his mission, are profound.

In Perpetuity is a quick read and I found it to be equal messures of disturbing and enjoyable.

Published by Venture Press, In Perpetuity is currently available only for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this novella at no additional charge and if you are An Amazon Prime member you can borrow it for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From his bio - Tim Lebbon Tim loves writing, reading, triathlon, real ale, chocolate, good movies, occasional bad movies, and cake. He was born in London in 1969, Tim now lives with his family and their dog, Blu, who is the size of a donkey. In other news, a movie's just been made of Tim's short story Pay the Ghost, starring Nicolas Cage and Sarah Wayne Callies. There are other projects in development, too.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Floaters - by Kelli Owen - The best stories have a element of truth, Floaters is such a story

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Two quotes at the start of Floaters set the tone perfectly for the story which follows.

America is not a young land: it is old and dirty and evil.  Before the settlers, before the Indians...The evil was there...Waiting — William S. Burroughs

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful. — Mary Shelly, Frankenstein

Kelli Owen's new book starts out looking like a police procedural involving flood-waters causing a river-side graveyard to lose a number of its residents, including several Native-Americans.  It's all fairly straight-forward, until BAM...tentacles.

In the words of Detective, Carly Greene, "Old Indian legends and myths and monsters and oh my god, I need a drink."

They say, the devil is in the details and Kelli has provided plenty to chew on in Floaters.

There's the strained relationship between Detective Greene and Parker, a reporter for the Evening Telegraph, masterfully addressed, not forced, but allowed to come through naturally in Kelli's writing.

Another gem of a character in the story is Granny Two Fingers, the matriarchal leader Detective Greene is working with to decide what to do with the bodies belonging to the tribe.

In her post-story notes, Kelli Owen mentions that much of Floaters is based on facts. Floaters are real, as is the story of the graveyard releasing a number of bodies when flood-waters rose, but the rest is the work of an overactive imagination.

Floaters is available in both paperback and e-book formats.


Kelli Owen was born and raised in Wisconsin and now lives in Pennsylvania. Kelli has attended countless writing conventions, participated on dozens of panels, and spoken at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

They Say a Girl Died Here Once - by Sarah Pinborough - One of the best books I've read...ever

5 of 5 Stars   Review copy

I promise not to give anything away in this review.  They Say a Girl Died Here Once is so special, I'd hate for any reader not to have the same thrill of discovery I enjoyed reading this volume.

Seventeen-year-old Anna works as a waitress and lives at home with her mother, Clair, and her sister, Caroline, who is ten.  Anna's grandmother, Evelyn also lives in the house.

About her situation...

It was a dead end job in a dead end town and they were all dead end people.


Four stages of womanhood stuck together by life, but with nothing in common.

This is one of those stories which reveals its secrets slowly.  There's the secret about Anna's past, the one about the dead girls, Lila and Marcie, and Anna new friend, Melissa, certainly has her secrets.

The rest you'll need to discover for yourself.  I will say, I found They Say a Girl Died Here Once to be quietly disturbing, yet beautifully written, spellbinding, powerful stuff  It's not a "fun" read, but it is a powerful story which builds to a pulse-pounding climax.

In my modest opinion They Say a Girl Died Here Once is as close to a perfect horror story as you'll find.  One of my favorite reads...ever.

Published by Earthling Publications, They Say a Girl Died Here Once is this year's book in their highly regarded Halloween series.  Limited to 500 signed hardcovers and 15 lettered editions.  I would like to thank Paul Miller and Earthling Publications for the chance to read an electronic ARC of this book.  I like it so much I immediately ordered my own copy.  I have to have this in my permanent collection.  You can order your copy direct from the publisher here.

Sarah Pinborough's bio - Sarah is a critically acclaimed adult and YA author based in London.  She was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story and the 2010 and 2014 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novella, and has been short listed for Best Novel four times.  Sarah is also a screenwriter who has written for the BBC and has several original television projects in the works.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Chasing Ghosts - by Glenn Rolfe - A bloody disgusting read...I loved it.

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

If you are a frequent reader of horror you'll likely recognize the names in Glenn Rolfe's dedication for Chasing Ghosts.

Dedicated to Richard Layman, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, and Jonathan Janz.  For all the guts you guys give me to tear out someone else's.

And then Glenn proceeds to do just that.

Jesse Gerard knows his father is stepping out on his mom, When Jesse storms out of the house, his father asks where he's going.  His response is, "Chasing Ghosts."  Jesse joins up with his friends Davey and Luke.  What follows is not so much about what they find out by the old Zachariah Cobb place, as what finds them.

Chasing Ghosts is a disturbing bloodbath, with some moments of extreme gore, and is an emotionally draining read, but it sure was a nice diversion.

Recommended, but not for the squeamish.

Published by Sinister Grin Press, Chasing Ghosts is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From Glenn Rolfe's bio - Glenn is an author, singer, and songwriter from the haunted woods of New England.  He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the works of Stephen King and Richard Laymon.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Jedi Summer with The Magnetic Kid - John Boden - A nostalgic remembrance of the Summer of '83

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

From the foreward by James Newman...

Jedi Summer is a snapshot of one special moment in time.  It is an unconventional coming-of-age tale like nothing I have ever read before.

James Newman really sold me on the story that follows.  Be sure and read his foreward, it's nearly as entertaining as the novella which follows.

The tale is told in a series of vignettes of events which occurred from the end of school through the end of Summer in 1983.  According to the author, some of these things really happened and others are just stories.  It's left to the reader to determine which are which or if it even matters.

The narrative is told by Johnny and it's about his friends and his little brother Roscoe, sometimes referred  to as "The magnetic Kid."

John Boden has a way with words.  A few favorites include...

My stomach lurching and my Cookie Crisp threatening to vacate the premises.

She laced every interaction with enough honeys and sweeties to pacify a diabetic.

Growing up was a shitty thing to do to someone.

The events of the Summer all center around waiting for RETURN OF THE JEDI to make it's way to the small local theater.  An effective sub-plot to add a certain cohesiveness to the overall adventure.

While I would have enjoyed more from the Summer of '83, I certainly enjoyed this quick read.

Jedi Summer with The Magnetic Kid is published by Post Mortem Press and is available in both paperback and for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you may read this book at no additional charge, and if you are an Amazon Prime member you may read it for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

According to his bio, John Boden lives a stone's throw from Three Mile Island with his wonderful fasmily.  A baker by day, he spends his off time writing, working on Shock Totem or watching M*A*S*H re-runs.

Dark Matter - by Blake Crouch - Brilliant mix of sci-fi, horror, thriller, and romance

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Admittedly, I missed The Pines trilogy when it came out, but I did  watch and enjoy the first season of Wayward Pines and made a note of Blake Crouch's name at the time, so when I saw he had a new book coming out this Summer it immediately went on my "must read" list.

I was immediately taken in by the author's writing style.  Clear, concise, narrative.  Fully realized characters.  And a thrilling story to boot.

Jassen Deesen is married and still very much in love with his wife Daniella.  His son Charlie is fifteen and a good kid.  When Jason leaves the house to celebrate his college roommate's recent success in the world of Physics, this is how Blake Crouch describes the scene.

I don't look back.  I don't say goodbye.  And this moment slips past unnoticed.  The end of everything I know, everything I love.

And I'm hooked.  What follows is an amazing jouney that is wildly imaginative yet totally believable. The actual quantum physics involved are a bit over my head, but simplified to the point where even I could follow along.

There are several unexpected twists along the way and underneath all the science and mystery is a love story for the ages.

If the mutiverse exists because every choice we make creates another fork in the road, which leads into a new parallel world, just think of the possibilities.

Despite its 354 pages, Dark Matter was a quick read for me as the pages just flew by.

I couldn't give this book a higher recommendation.  Sure to make my top 10 list for 2016.

Dark Matter from Crown Publishing is available in hardback, paperback, e-book and audible formats.

Blake Crouch is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. His international-bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy was adapted into a television series for FOX that was Summer 2015’s #1 show. He has written more than a dozen novels that have been translated into over thirty languages and his short fiction has appeared in numerous publications including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Crouch lives in Colorado with his family.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Terminal - by Amber Fallon - Think Airport meets War of the Worlds

4 of 5 Stars

Pulp is not dead.  You can relive those thrilling days of yesteryear just by picking up this debut novella from Amber Fallon.

Dirk Bradley is so happy about finding the man of his dreams that he's actually at O'Hare International Airport with Dylan, waiting to travel home to share his good fortune with his estranged parents. But, then...

I don't want to reveal what happened, that would be too much of a spoiler, but I can tell you it happened fast and it was catastrophic.

In the words of the story's protagonist, it "would make a great Sci Fi Channel movie-of-the-week."  I know it's now SyFy, but that's the quote.

You can tell The Terminal  is a first published work, but the story is solid and it's an enjoyable read, in a pulpy sort of way.

Published by Fresh Pulp Press, The Terminal is available in both paperback and e-book formats.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this book at no additional charge.  Also, if you subscribe to Amazon Prime you can read it for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Amber Fallon is a new voice in horror worthy of your attention.  She is also an IT Nerd, Gamer, and Geek. Amber resides in the great state of Massachusetts

Hollow House - by Greg Chapman - Much more than just a haunted house story

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Here's how to set the tone for your book.  One of the best opening lines I've read this year...

The stench of putrefaction leaked from the Kemper House into the air over Willow Street for three days before any of the neighbours noticed it.

Hollow House is much more than a simple haunted house story. What lurks inside 27 Willow Street affects everyone in the area in one way or another.

This is a dark and gruesome tale, with an ever-increasing creep factor as we learn more about The Kemper House and other buildings designed and built by architect, Eric Kemper.

Ben Traynor is a star reporter for the local rag and happens to live right across the street from The Kemper House.  He's the one that uncovers its history and his relentless investigation just might cost him his life.

In telling his story, Chapman manages to capture teenage angst to a T.  Sibling rivalry, parent/child relationships, they're all here and they all ring true.

With Hollow House, the author has taken a tired trope and breathed new life into the haunted house story form, leaving the reader with a captivating and enjoyable read.

Certainly recommended.

Hollow House is published by Omnium Gatherum Media and is available as a paperback and for the Kindle.  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 Hollow House for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Greg Chapman is a horror author and artist from Australia and in the last 5 years he's had 5 novellas published as well as a short story collection.  Hollow House is his long awaited first novel.  It's about time, Greg.