Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: A Gathering of Ravens: A Novel - by Scott Oden

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The story in Scott Oden's, A Gathering of Ravens. takes place a thousand years in the past.  It is a mix of legend, history, myth, magick, and the growing influence of Christianity.  It's not the kind of fare I would usually read or review, but I'm so glad I picked this up.

An epic tale from an orc's point of view.  From the synopsis of A Gathering of Ravens...

To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcnéas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. He is Grimnir, and he is the last of his kind—the last in a long line of monsters who have plagued humanity since the Elder Days.

At its root, the story is about Grimnir's quest for revenge against the Half-Dane Bjarki.  A Gathering of Ravens is filled with wonderful characters, even secondary players like Blind Maeve are imbued with life in this wonderfully layered tale.

With sudden vehemence, Grimnir carved his seax through the Saxon's throat. He slashed once. Twice. And on the third blow vertebrae crunched as the dead man's head came free. Grimnir straightened, holding his prize by its long hair.

If you like stuff like that, A Gathering of Ravens is definitely a tale worth your time. Treachery, double-crosses, epic battles, and unexpected compassion.  All leading to the climatic Battle on the Plain of Tarbh.

...carved the blade across (his) belly and ripped him open from right to left, viscera tumbled out, loops of red and purple intestine, sacks of organs; blood splashed the roots of the tree, and the stench of bowel rose from the cavernous wound.

Recommended.

A Gathering of Ravens: A Novel is available in both hardcover and e-book formats from Thomas Dunne Books, a division of St. Martin's Press.

From the author's bio - Scott Oden was born in Indiana but has spent most of his life shuffling between his home in rural North Alabama. a hobbit hole in Middle-earth, and some sketchy tavern in the Hyborian Age.  When not writing he can be found walking his two dogs or doting on his lovely wife, Shannon.





























Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Monstrumführer - by Edward M. Erdelac

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

If you read Edward M. Erdelac's story, Andersonville, about the most sadistic rebel prison of the Civil War, with a supernatural twist, you likely have some idea where he's going with this new novel combining the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland with Frankenstein's monster.

Once again, this gifted storyteller plays with historic events and imbues his tale with elements of horror, as Josef Mengele endeavors to improve upon the work of Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

Jewish twins, Jotham and Eli, are taken to a concentration camp. It was interesting to see how the twins went in different directions once in the camp.  Jotham managing to become the golden boy as a messenger for Dr. Mengele and Eli falling in with the resistance.  The story of their life at Auschwitz was absolutely devastating.  As twins they are somewhat luckier than others as Dr. Mengele wants them for his experiments, but what they see outside of their barracks is unreservedly horrible.

Horribly emaciated, rail thin, naked bodies, haphazardly piled together, spindly limbs intertwined, oversized, shaven heads with skeletal faces, eyes rolling.  It was like a refuse pile of imperfect marionettes heaped in the corner of a toymaker's workshop.

The author excels at combining real life events and horror into a complex, well-constructed story.   At times this is an unpleasant read, but all of the characters in the concentration camp are masterfully drawn, making Monstrumführer a creative and entertaining work which left me with much to ponder.

Recommended.

Monstrumführer is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Comet Press.

From the author's bio - Edward M. Erdelac is the author of the acclaimed Judeocentric/Lovecraftian weird western series Merkabah Rider, Buff Tea, Coyote's Trail, Andersonville, Perennial, and now Monstrumführer.

In addition to short story appearances in dozens of anthologies and periodicals, he is an independent filmmaker, an award winning screenwriter, a game designer, and sometime Star Wars contributor.

Born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, he now lives in the Los Angeles area with his family.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Review: We Came Back - by Patrick Lacey

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Patrick Lacey explains We Came Back in the dedication to his latest novel.

This book is about loss. It's also about monsters and cults and family. But loss is the theme if, indeed, there is one.

With that in mind, every dime Patrick earns from the sales of We Came Back will be donated to a cancer-related charity in memory of his father, Steven Joseph Lacey.

The creep factor is amped up right from the start and continues throughout.

Suddenly, the best and brightest students at Lynnwood High School are showing up for class looking pale, dressing in black, and letting their grades slide dramatically.  Other students and faculty soon begin referring to them as the Lynnwood vamps.

Alyssa, Frank and Mona Tanner's daughter, has dropped her long-time boyfriend and taken up with an older goth guy, Busty Brown.  Her ex, Justin Wright, lost his father to cancer and now his girlfriend to this loser.  Alyssa lost her brother in a car accident. The characters in We Came Back all seem to be dealing with loss in one way or another.  Even the villain has experienced great loss.

We Came Back is a page turner that's fun to read and features real people in dire circumstances and let's not forget the monster.

When Justin and his best friend, Art go undercover as reporters, I got a big kick out of the names Justin came up with...

She nodded. “You must be the reporter from the phone. Mr. Raimi was it?” Justin nodded and felt Art’s eyes bore into him. “That’s right ma’am, and this is my assistant, Art Craven. Say hi, Art.”

Ever notice how rumors make everything seem worse, not that things aren' t bad enough in Lynnwood.

“There is a fine line between real and unreal. Sometimes the two become confused."

We Came Back may not be perfect, but it's certainly a fun and breezy read.  Fully recommended.

We Came Back is available in both paperback and e-book formats and is published by Sinister Grin 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.

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Savage Jungle - by Hunter Shea

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Fresh from their adventure in Scotland,  Natalie McQueen, and her brother Austin are called upon to aid Henrik Kooper in his quest to find the lost city Gadang Ur and the elusive Orang Pendek.  Go ahead and google it.  You'll find it's every bit as much of a thing as Bigfoot, Yeti, The Jersey Devil, and The Loch Ness Monster.  All cryptids Hunter Shea has written about in previous books. As a matter of fact, Savage Jungle is a sequel to his book Loch Ness Revenge.

Ah, yes Loch Ness Revenge, it's where Natalie and Austin called upon the services to Mr. Kooper knowing that one day they would join him in revenging the death of his father in the rain forests of Sumatra.  In Savage Jungle that debt has come due and it just might costs them their lives.

He didn’t know what they were. They appeared human, but they also bore a strong resemblance to apes or orangutans. Except they walked perfectly upright, with broad shoulders and small heads. 

The Orang Pendek were fast and brutal and most of all, intelligent. 

“If I decide to write a book about this, no one will ever publish it. It’s just way too out there.” 

The writing is crisp and clean. It's a breeze to read   Unrelenting horror with just a touch of humor. You've got to read Savage Jungle just to see how the movie Cool Hand Luke plays a part in the story.  No one does monster horror better than Hunter Shea.  A wonderful roller-coaster ride full of surprises.

Although Savage Jungle is a sequel, it works as a stand-alone novel.  Needless to say, I loved the hell out of this book.  Recommended.

Savage Jungle is published by Severed press and is available in both 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.

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.

Hunter is an amateur cryptozoologist, having written wild, fictional tales about Bigfoot, The Montauk Monster, The Dover Demon and many new creatures to come.  Copies of his books, The Montauk Monster and The Dover Demon, are currently on display in the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME.

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.



Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction - by Kenneth W. Cain

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction features twenty-five stories. In any collection of this size, there are bound to be some hits and some misses along the way.  Fortunately, there are more of the former leading me to suggest this work be added to your personal TBR list.

The book begins with The Chamber - A visit to a place of unspeakable horror brings back nightmares, but not of what the reader might imagine.  A most interesting and somewhat Lovecraftian beginning to the collection.

If you enjoy your horror with a touch of Lovecraft, I believe you'll appreciate this body of work from Kenneth W. Cain more than you would otherwise.

Not all of the stories in Embers have creatures with tentacles.  For example. Valerie's Window is a zombie tale where the heroine is dealing with something much worse than the mere undead.

If you miss the tentacles, you don't have to wait long.  They're back in A Window To Dream By, a short story with a killer opening line...

Despite her tentacles and lack of human arms and legs, Seth had an inexplicable attraction to the woman.

Rather than doing a synopsis of every story, here are a few of the highlights.  I really enjoyed To Save One Life in which a spider named Boris plays a rather important role.  Of Both Worlds - If you're perceived as a monster, you might as well be one. And then there's Water Snake - huge snakes capable of swallowing a fully grown human.  Well-told and frightening.

I might not have loved every story in this collection, but I would certainly return for a second helping of tales from Kenneth W. Cain.

Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Crystal Lake 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 - Kenneth W. Cain first got the itch for storytelling during his formative years in the suburbs of Chicago, where he got to listen to his grandfather spin tales by the glow of a barrel fire. But it was a reading of Baba Yaga that grew his desire for dark fiction. Shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and One Step Beyond furthered that sense of wonder for the unknown, and he’s been writing ever since.   Writing, reading, fine art, graphic design, and Cardinals baseball are but a few of his passions. Cain now resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Review: Feral - by James DeMonaco & B. K. Evenson

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Ever read a book with all the right ingredients, one that's well written, has characters you care about, tells a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, yet leaves you feeling disappointed?

That's exactly how I feel about Feral, the new novel from the powerhouse team of James DeMonaco and B.K. Evenson. From the moment I saw the eye-catching cover, I was excited about this new take on a post-apocalyptic world.

There are certainly some positives to take away from my reading of this book. For one thing, it's not about zombies, although the antagonists do exhibit some zombie-like characteristics like their relentless pursuit of the survivors.

Another example is the detailed explanation of exactly what caused the breakdown of civilization.  I also liked that the fact that only men were affected by the genetic virus and women were left to rebuild society while fending off attacks from the Feral men, leading to some strong female characters.

To say Feral is fast-paced hardly does it justice, think Fast and Furious on speed.

When the virus attacks the results are devastatingly quick and require decisive action just to survive..

...it's enough to give me the strength to roll over onto my back and lift the Glock and fire.  And again, and again, and again.  Four shots in all. all but the first shot straight into the skull of the monster that used to be my father.
My biggest problem with Feral was its predictability.  Every bit as predictable as the last few seasons of The Walking Dead.  For most of the book, I knew exactly what would happen. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the read, just that I might have liked it more if there were a few surprises.

Feral is told from a number of points of view, mostly in the first person from the perspective of various characters and occasionally third person when the narrative dictates.  It can be a bit disconcerting, but it wasn't a huge distraction.

If you're looking for a safe, steady read Feral delivers.  Just don't expect any bombshells.

Feral is a Blumhouse Books original published by Random House LLC and is available in paperback, e-book, and audio formats.

From the authors' bios...

James DeMonaco is the writer/director of the Purge series of films.  The Purge (2013), The Purge: Anarchy (2014), and The Purge: Election Year (2016).

B. K. Evenson is an American academic and writer of both literary fiction and popular fiction, some of the latter being published under B.K. Evenson  His fiction, often described as literary minimalism but also drawing inspiration from horror, detective fiction, science fiction and continental philosophy, makes frequent use of dark humor and often features characters struggling with the limits and consequences of knowledge..

Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: Crow Shine - by Alan Baxter - Alan's first collection of dark fiction

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The first short story I ever read by Alan Baxter was "In Vaulted Halls Entombed" which featured a group of soldiers chasing terrorists into a cave in Afghanistan only to see them trapped by something their training never prepared them for.  Since that time, I always get excited when I see his name attached to an anthology.

With Crow Shine, I don't have to wait for his next short story, I merely need to turn the page.  Nineteen wondrous, magical shorts.  Some new for this collection, but many published before. They were all new to me, making this work all the more enjoyable.

Crow Shine - The title story is that of a legendary bluesman, his special shine, and his grandson who takes it all in.  Great storytelling.

The Beat of a Pale Wing - A chilling story of the mob...and magic.

Tiny Lives - A charmingly original tale of an old man who can breath life into clockwork animals...at a price.

Role the Bones - Luck and Chance, what's the difference?  And are you willing to roll the bones?

Old Promise, New Blood - The age old story of what happens when a deal with the devil comes due.

All the Wealth In the World - How cool would it be it you could buy time?

In the Name of the Father - A sensational story of a young Priest in the Outback, although he's not exactly what he seems.

Fear Is the Sin - A beautiful, lyrical story of a theatre troupe and their controversial sensual performance.

The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner - This is the result of a mashup between a swashbuckling tale of piracy on the high seas and H.P. Lovecraft.

The Darkest Shade of Grey - My favorite story in the collection and one of the best shorts I've read in recent memory.  He was supposed to be the rough, tough, take no shit reporter, getting to the bottom of everything.  All he ever got to the bottom of lately was a bottle, and then he started right over at the top of the next one.  This was one of the longer stories in the collection and when it was over, I still wanted more.

A Strong Urge to Fly - A clever tale I found to be both charming and creepy.  Could easily be subtitled Mrs. Oates' House of Cats and Contradictions.

Reaching for Ruins - What can you do when the plants run amok?

Shadows of the Lonely Dead - Intelligent horror and another terrific tale.

Punishment of the Sun - As a reader, I never quite learned what was going on in this story, but that didn't make it any less creepy.

The Fathomed Wreck to See - The tale of a siren and choices.

Not the Worst of Sins - If there's a moral to be found in this story of vengeance in the wild, wild west, it's never trust a ghost.

The Old Magic - The perils of an extraordinarily long life.

Mephisto - A short yet powerful story of a legendary magician.

The Darkness In Clara - When Michelle's lover commits suicide, she returns to the town where Clara was raised, looking for answers.  A wonderful story to finish this collection.

All of the stories contained in this body of work are inventive, original, and above all entertaining. Each tale has it's own unique voice.  If I didn't know they were all written by Alan Baxter I would think this was an anthology instead of a collection.

Totally recommended,

Crow Shine is available from Ticonderoga Publications in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog.  He also teaches Kung Fu.  Alan lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review: Mars Girls - by Mary Turzillo

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

This will teach me to stray too far from my preferred genre of horror.  I should have taken heed when I saw this listed on Amazon as "A YA Science Fiction Adventure Novel." Alarms should have gone off, something along the lines of "Danger, Will Robinson,"  complete with wildly waving robot arms.

But Mars Girls was being released by Apex Publishing, a company that has provided me with many great reads over the years and I do enjoy expanding my reading horizons from time to time and the book's synopsis read really well.

Synopsis: Like any normal 8-mear-old Mars girl, Nanoannie is looking for some excitement! She wants to go to clubs, wear the latest Earth fashions, and dance with nuke guys. But her life is not exciting. She lives on her family’s Pharm with her parents, little sister, and a holo-cat named Fuzzbutt. The closest she gets to clubs are on the Marsnet. And her parents are pressuring her to sign her contract over to Utopia Limited Corp before she’s even had a chance to live a little. When Kapera— a friend from online school— shows up at her Pharm asking for help, Nanoannie is quick to jump in the rover and take off. Finally an adventure! What Nanoannie and Kapera find at the Smythe’s Pharm is more than the girls bargained for. The hab has been trashed and there are dead bodies buried in the backyard! If that wasn’t bad enough, the girls crash the rover and Kapera gets kidnapped by Facers who claim her parents are murderers! Between Renegade Nuns, Facers, and corp geeks, Nanoannie and Kapera don’t know who to trust or where to go. Kapera only wants to find her parents so they can get to Earth Orbitals and she can be treated for her leukemia. Nanoannie wants to help her friend and experience of little bit of Mars before selling her contract to the first corp that offers to buy it. Life isn’t easy when you’re just as a couple of Mars Girls.

Sounds utterly fantastic, right?  That's what I thought.  It does take some getting used to the lingo, but that's not a big deal and it's easy enough for the reader to catch on.

Some Martian-born girls got so used to their home habs that they never wanted to leave. Scared to leave. Happy corp slaves. Not Nanoannie. She liked the open sky.

I really had to elevate my suspension of disbelief to get through Mars Girls, something I'm usually ale to do without a second thought.  After all, I enjoy reading horror and as a reader of such, I do that all the time, but some things in this story made little or no sense to me.

“I see you’re looking at my Face bindi. Would you like one someday?”

This was in reference to the little face on Crystal Spirit’s forehead.  Bindis are face jewelry, common in the Indian culture.  In this story, the face bindi is actually a small face on the face of a Facer, a cult that worships the face of Mars and plans to journey to the home planet of the builders.  It's a really far-fetched idea that adds little to the overall story and makes the assumption that the reader is already familiar with the face of Mars.

At some point in reading Mars Girls, I began to think the story and characters sounded very familiar. A bit of research shows this new novel is based on characters introduced in "Mars Is No Place for Children" which won the Nebula Award for best novelette in 2000.   A story which obviously had a lasting impression on me for it to resonate all these years later.

Despite the elements which did not work for me in Mars Girls, the story was not without its charms. Parenting is pretty much the same wherever you live...

Escudo’s voice came on. “Little lady, you are in big trouble. No more net dates for you. No fooling around with guys in virtual clubs . The only boyfriend you’ll have is your cat. You are grounded, and I mean underground. Confined to your room, you hear? Until the end of Summer-May. No entertainment except for on-line school!”

Although Mars Girls was not for me you mileage may vary particularly if YA Science Fiction Adventure is your thing.

Mars Girls, from Apex Publishing, is available for pre-order in both paperback and -e-book formats and is scheduled for release on June 13, 2017.

From the author's bio - After a career as a professor of English at Kent State University, Dr. Mary A. Turzillo is now a full-time writer. In 2000, her story “Mars Is No Place for Children ” won SFWA’s Nebula Award for best novelette. Her novel An Old-Fashioned Martian Girl was serialized in Analog in July-Nov 2004 . These two works have been selected as recreational reading on the International Space Station.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Guest Post: Why I Wrote Mars Girls - by Mary Turzillo

This weekend it's all about Mars.  First up, a guest post from the author of MARS GIRLS, Mary Turzillo...

Why I Wrote MARS GIRLS
by
Mary Turzillo


When I was a kid, I had a terror of things I read about in books. Ball lightning. Tidal waves. Giant slugs. A walking severed hand.

But I was really frightened when I first heard of supernovas. I read where the sun would someday go supernova and we would all burn to a crisp. (Later, I learned that humanity would be extinct for others reasons, but that’s irrelevant.)

The idea that humanity would all die out because our planet was burned up by our sun was just too awful for me. So I became interested in the idea that humans could leave this planet and colonize other planets. Maybe the majority of us would die, but humanity would go on and spread throughout the universe.

In its original form, this was a childish idea. For one thing, our sun is too small to go supernova. This was but one way the pop-science books of my childhood misled me.

But my idea of humanity escaping Earth has some validity nonetheless. Humanity could perish in so many ways besides the not-actually-inevitable supernova: plagues, pollution, runaway greenhouse effect, nuclear winter — the possibilities are endless. And I want to think at least some of us, progenitors of a future human race would survive.

In my mind, we had to leave the Earth and colonize other planets. It didn’t matter if most humans died, at least the human race would go on.

I’m not the only person who has this idea. It’s almost a religious belief, this love of our own race. So—Mars would be a good beginning for humanity’s home away from home.

Many years later, my husband, Dr. Geoffrey Landis, introduced me to a visionary scientist-entrepreneur-engineer, Dr. Robert Zubrin, the founder of the Mars Society, an organization that is leading the drive to colonize Mars and author of multiple books including The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must (1996). After some fascinating conversation, Zubrin told me that he thought that I could be instrumental in the drive to colonize Mars.

I took that challenge seriously.

My Mars stories show that the colonists’ lives are not without problems. After all, obstacles are what make fiction interesting.

So I began a series of narratives about people born on Mars, doing science for humanity, and solving the problems of their extraordinary lives. My Nebula-winning “Mars Is No Place for Children” is about a little girl, Kapera Smythe, who searches for the original Mars Pathfinder rover. That Rover has a name: Sojourner. It’s named after an African-American freedom leader, Sojourner Truth. So I chose to make Kapera African-American, or rather African-Martian.

The other girl in my story, Nanoannie Centime, is a little older, and her path shows the social issues of being a Martian colonist: the fact that her life is lonely (no date-worthy boys) and that she is destined for a life of very hard work.

Enter the other Mars colonists, the Facers. These are people who, like me, believe that humans should colonize the universe, including an exoplanet they believe they have identified as humanity’s true home. They make serious mistakes, however, which leads to problems for Nanoannie and Kapera.
I had a lot of fun creating the Face-on-Mars religion, which is an extrapolation of the ideas of Richard Hoagland (The Monuments of Mars: A City on the Edge of Forever, 1987) and others. I hope you enjoy—and at times even admire—their crazy ideas.

Kapera and Nanoannie also have the problem that Mars is a long way from Earth’s police, and the law doesn’t always protect the innocent.

My husband, Geoff Landis, has his own award-winning Mars novel, Mars Crossing (2000). He has shepherded me through the minefields of Mars research. I watched in an auditorium in Pasadena as Jet Propulsion Lab engineers described the descent and landing of Mars Pathfinder. I got daily updates from Geoff while he was working on Spirit and Opportunity, the two Mars Exploration Rovers. I’ve attended many many presentations at Mars Society conventions.

In short, I’ve tried to make my fictional Mars as accurate as I can: no cheating. Just what engineers and scientists can do to enable people to live and work and explore Mars.

I created take-charge characters and a turbulent society for Mars Girls. I’m planning two more Mars novels, and I hope they’ll inspire readers to push forward the exploration and colonization of that amazing planet that you sometimes see in the night sky, reddish in color and so bright, our next home. And maybe you’ll go there. As astronaut Buzz Aldrin says, “Get your a## to Mars!”
                                                                                                                                                       
From the author's bio - Mary Turzillo's 1999 Nebula-winner, " and her Analog novel, An Old-Fashioned Martian Girl, have been read on the International Space Station. Her poetry collection, Lovers & Killers, won the 2013 Elgin Award.  She has been a finalist for the British Science Fiction Association, Pushcart, Stoker, Dwarf Stars and Rhysling ballots.   Sweet Poison, her Dark Renaissance collaboration with Marge Simon, was a Stoker finalist and won the 2015 Elgin Award.   She's working on a novel, A Mars Cat & His Boy, and another collaboration with Marge Simon, Satan's Sweethearts.   Mary lives in Ohio, with her scientist-writer husband, Geoffrey Landis, both of whom fence internationally.

Geoff and Mary ponder the question: what would it be like to fence in zero-G? and: What about if we were cats fencing in zero-G?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review: The Sound of Broken Ribs by Edward Lorn

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Edward Lorn is a writer who pulls no punches. He writes with the anger I often feel, but regretfully have no outlet for.

I've often mentioned in my reviews that I'm a sucker for a great opening paragraph and The Sound of Broken Ribs delivers with the following....

In forty-five minutes, she’d be fighting for her life. But, for now, Lei Duncan I was typing The End.

But first, let's talk about the bad day Belinda Walsh had awoken to.  It began with a persistent knocking on her front door.  Her initial thought was' Dan’s dead. Jesus Christ, my Dan’s dead. Before long she wished he was.  An eviction notice?  Failure to make payments on the rent?  When she calls her husband at work to ask him what was going on, he hangs up on her and promptly disappears. This left Belinda beside herself with anger, fit to be tied, seething with rage.

When she got behind the wheel of her car...

She hit the woman in the spandex tank, blue-and-white yoga pants, and highlighter-yellow sneakers doing roughly forty-two miles per hour. That might not seem like a lot of speed, but it was enough to change both women’s lives forever.

And that's just the beginning of The Sound of Broken Ribs.  This is a visual tale, definitely rated R for sex, ultra-violence, and language.  That being said, there is a great depth to Edward's characters and their actions are totally believable.  So many unexpected twists and turns.  Like a full season of Fargo without the accents.

Recommended and one of my favorite reads of 2017.

The Sound of Broken Ribs will be available as a signed, limited-edition release through Thunderstorm Books. You can pre-order your copy at http://thunderstormbooks.com/thunderstorm/book/the-sound-of-broken-ribs/  There should be an e-book release at a later date.

From the author's bio - Edward Lorn (E. to his friends) is a reader, writer, and content creator. He's been writing for fun since the age of six and writing professionally since 2011.  He can be found haunting the halls of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Goodreads.  E. lives in Alabama with his wife and two children. He is currently working on his next novel.







Monday, June 5, 2017

A very personal guest post from Edward Lorn, author of The Sound of Broken Ribs

Today's guest is Edward Lorn who talks about how his personal experience led to his writing The Sound of Broken Ribs.  Here's Edward...

The Inspiration of Pain

Pain can be crippling and depressing, but it can also be inspirational.

Hello, everybody. My name is Edward Lorn, but everyone calls me E. Pleased to meet you. I’m here today (thanks to Frank Errington) to talk about my inspiration for my upcoming Thunderstorm Books release, The Sound of Broken Ribs. Now that the boring intro is out of the way, let’s talk.

To date, I’ve had five back surgeries. The previous four were almost exactly three years apart from each other, always in the Summer, starting in 2005, then repeating in 2008, 2011, and 2014. Finally, in January 2016 I found a doctor that fixed the issue instead of simply treating the symptoms. Due to all this, I live day-to-day with pain. It’s an old friend who’s not going anywhere. My pain has thus far inspired two of my novels Cruelty and The Sound of Broken Ribs. The latter, the one we’re here to talk about today, I feel is my best work to date.

The Sound of Broken Ribs is loosely based on personal experiences I had while recovering at home from my last surgery. Some early reviewers have mentioned that they were reminded of Stephen King’s 1999 accident, wherein he was run over by a speeding van while taking his daily walk. I see the similarities, of course, as I’m a lifelong King fanboy, but Lei’s accident in the book actually stems from my own experience, right down to the neon yellow shoes. You’ll understand more about the shoes when you read the book.

After my fifth (and hopefully final) back surgery, I started walking every day, without fail. I began by shuffling through the house with a back brace until I could manage going down my porch stairs, of which there are seven. Seven steps might not seem like a lot, but before my surgery, I’d been bedridden for three months. Once I was able to get up and down the steps without assistance, I started walking to the end of my driveway—about fifty yards. Then the end of my street—about a quarter mile. Then onto the surrounding country roads. Out in the middle of nowhere. Where my phone gets zero reception. Anything could have happened to me. And one day the worst case scenario almost did.

I live in the southern United States and am surrounded by the sort of people who do not take kindly to my wife being African-American. We’ve had threats and have seen some harassment, but for the most part, as long as we keep to ourselves, they leave us alone. Things settled down quite a bit when the neighbor’s oldest boy moved out, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

I had just wrapped up a novel and felt up for a walk, so I saved my work and got dressed. I’d made it about two miles from the house when I noticed my shoe had come untied. It’s damn near impossible for a fat man (I’m 350lbs, last I checked) who’s a month post-op to tie his own shoes, but I managed the task by dropping to one knee. I was in the process of doing so when a truck swerved off the road and onto the grass at the side of the road, barely missing me. I fell backward into the tree line and just laid there for a while, counting my lucky stars.

Did the driver of the truck intend to hit me? I haven’t a clue. But I do know three things:

          1. Given my size, I am really fucking hard to miss. Especially in my highlighter-yellow sneakers.
          2. I wasn’t on a curve. This was a straightaway. Nothing could have obstructed their view of me.
          3. I saw the same truck later that day. My neighbor’s son was driving it. I was out on the porch when he pulled in and headed up the hill to his house. He waved at me. I didn’t like the look of the smile on his face.

Having no proof of what I expected might have happened, I decided against calling the police. After all, it could have very well been an accident. Who knows? Certainly not me. I’m just glad it ended the way it did because it could’ve ended very badly.

This whole incident got me thinking about the driver’s motivations. I couldn’t help it. That’s how my brain works. Then another thought came to mind. Perhaps contact was never the purpose. Maybe the driver of the truck was simply trying to scare me. (Yes, I know this could have all been an accident with no ill-will intended whatsoever; things happen. He could’ve been on his phone and drifted, or… any number of things. But I’m an author of terrible things. My brain automatically dives into the deep end of suspicion when things like this happen.)

The final inspiration for the book came when I started imagining the driver as an otherwise decent person, someone who’d had a horrible day and wanted to scare or hurt someone as a way of sharing their pain. Perhaps they’d just lost their home… their spouse… the life they’d worked so hard to build... Such a mindset is certainly plausible, if not completely understandable.

And that’s where Belinda Walsh’s character came from.

In the end, Lei and Belinda balanced perfectly when stacked against one another and the book basically wrote itself. The best ones always do, I feel. Here you have a woman who has everything reduced to a maimed and crippled mess on the side of the road by a woman who has just lost everything—the emotionally damaged dealing physical damage to another soul to quell their inner pain. It’s where the book went after the accident that I never could have expected. I can’t say this enough: I’m super proud of this one.

I think that’s enough for today. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to read this diatribe. Many thanks to Frank for having me, and I hope everyone enjoys The Sound of Broken Ribs.

If you’re interested in the limited edition hardcover from Thunderstorm Books, you can pre-order it here: http://thunderstormbooks.com/thunderstorm/book/the-sound-of-broken-ribs/

Take care of one another,
E.

                                                                                                                                                 
From the author's bio - Edward Lorn (E. to his friends) is a reader, writer, and content creator. He's been writing for fun since the age of six and writing professionally since 2011.  He can be found haunting the halls of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Goodreads.  E. lives in Alabama with his wife and two children. He is currently working on his next novel.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Life Removed: A Novel - by Jason Parent


5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Not exactly what I was expecting from Jason Parent, but WOW, what a great read.

“Are you looking for some company?” she asked, knowing they wouldn’t be talking to her for any other reason. “Actually, we were looking for you.” The man’s smile and his voice’s velvet tone oozed with charm. 

Eliza, one of the victims of a serial killer like none other. Assigned to the case are Detective Bruce Marklin, a man no one liked, and his partner, Detective Jocelyn Beaudette.

“They sawed through all four victims’ chests and removed their hearts like scooping the pulp out of a jack-o’-lantern."

Office Aaron Pimental is the author's main protagonist.  In his guest post on my blog yesterday, the author asked, "Can you become emotionally invested in a character whose morals are questionable or absent altogether?"  For me, the answer would be a resounding YES!.

“Well, that gives us a hooker, an attorney, a diddler ex-con, and— what did the fourth guy do again?”“Antiques dealer and appraiser . Yeah, if these four are somehow connected, their employment doesn’t seem to be the common link.” 

The horror builds slowly until it ultimately becomes oppressive.

As the blade entered his chest , Peter’s eyes flew open involuntarily. The metal seared inside him, his every nerve ending screaming their torture into his brain. The blade pierced flesh and bone until its hilt rested against Peter’s chest. He felt it tugging at his insides. His ribcage put up some resistance before it yielded. He squealed as his life slipped away. Numb with shock, Peter stared up to see his killer was still smiling. 

At its core A Life Removed is a gritty police procedural, yet so much more.  It's a compelling read with a wicked twist.  Stomach churning at times and one of the best books I've read this year.

Given the right circumstances, anyone could be a hero… or a killer, the distinction was only a matter of perception. 

From Red Adept Publishing A Life Removed is currently available only as an e-book.

From Jason's bio - In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he callsNew England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso.

When he's not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in a knot or takes somebody's head off - he misses the appeal). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Guest post from Jason Parent, author of A Life Removed

Today,  a guest post from Jason Parent as he talks about a world without heroes...


In a World Without Heroes: that’s the tagline on the back cover of my latest novel, A Life Removed. It’s also the original name for the book. Knowing that between the novel’s first and last pages breathes a dark, perhaps distorted (while others might say realistic?) view of the world—one potentially without heroes in the traditional sense—would you want to step inside?

While this is probably the darkest thing I’ve ever written, set in a mirror world where the monsters are as real as those you see on the evening news and chock full of uncertain narrators and faulty protagonists, I did leave room for one traditional hero to give those who need someone genuine to cheer for a reason to keep on reading. Are you one of those people?

If you are, I’m not saying there’s any reason you shouldn’t be. A 2017 Bram Stoker nominee and immensely talented author posted recently (paraphrasing) that if he can’t become emotionally invested in a character within the first couple of chapters, he stops reading. I find this is true of many if not the large majority of readers, myself included.

But can you become emotionally invested in a character whose morals are questionable or absent altogether? Is a flawed protagonist necessarily a weak protagonist? For me, it’s a question of “identifiability,” and if that’s not a word, I’m claiming it as one.

I looked it up. It’s a word.

Anyway, I’m not talking about the anti-hero, who has easily become the preferred protagonist for many horror fans over the drink-your-milk, take-your-vitamins kind of hero: the real Han Solo, who shot first and didn’t stick around to ask questions later; the real Indiana Jones, who is misogynistic, brings guns to a swordfight, and is not afraid to run in the face of danger; or the real Rick Deckard, who may or may not be a replicant if you’ve watched that somewhat incoherent Director’s Cut.

Harrison Ford fetishes aside, modern-day antiheroes are much, much worse. And they’re usually pitted against an adversary that’s even more condemnable.

But the most oft-quoted book for the kind of protagonist I’m talking about is Holden Caulfield, who by every sense of the term, is a cantankerous son of a bitch. I loved him. But these dickhead leads were around way before then. MacBeth was one of the biggest douchebags in all of Shakespeare’s work, yet he’s still called a “tragic hero.”

But let’s bring it to the 21st century and the best-selling novels of Gillian Flynn. In her first three books, her “heroes” are beyond flawed. If you’ve read Gone Girl or seen the movie, can you name anything truly likable about her main character besides perhaps her resourcefulness or ingenuity? The book spent eight weeks on the New York Times Bestseller’s List.

Dark Places, one of my favorite books, doesn’t have any likable characters. The novel presently has a 4.1 star-rating and over 9,000 reviews.

Of course, there are people who liked Libby Day and Amy Dunne, myself being one of them. But for those people who couldn’t stomach them or the rest of Flynn’s flawed cast of characters, what kept them reading if they just didn’t care about anyone? A strong plot? Fine writing? Or do we all have a little darkness (or maybe a bit more than that) in our own hearts and the damning recognition of our own flaws—our weakness, our cowardice, our self-interest, our greed, our bitterness, and maybe even our self-loathing—that we can identify with these characters, walk in their shoes, even as we strive to be more than them?

The simple truth, however, is this: there are exceptions to every rule, and who constitutes a “hero” is in the eyes and mind of the beholder. And if the characters are true to life, they should be heroes on some days and heels on others, for even the best among us has sinned.

Worse still, there are people like me. What does it say about us when we applaud Hannibal Lector for wearing his victim’s face to escape or squeal with joy as Jason Voorhees slams a sleeping-bag-bundled co-ed against a tree?

Fuck it. I’m squealing with joy just thinking about it. That shit is funny.
                                                                                                                                                     
From Jason's bio - In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he callsNew England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso.

When he's not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in a knot or takes somebody's head off - he misses the appeal). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Twice Upon An Apocalypse - ed. by Scott Gouldsward & Rachel Kenley

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

From the Introduction from GaryBraunbeck

The idea of taking a traditional fairy tale and setting it in Lovecraft's universe seems so inspired that it has to already have been done, right?

Placing these stories with their black-and-white morality into a world where virtue, ethics, courage, decency, and goodness are at best cruel jokes freed the writers from having to worry about the moral core of their chosen fairy tale being compromised, because here, here that moral code is D.O.A., the characters just don't know it yet., so the core remains unaltered.


The Pied Piper of Providence William Meikle Based on The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning

A somewhat predictable story as many of these will be. But good fun in the hands of Willie.

Old lady Malcolm was the first to see them when, on descending into her cellar late in the evening, she was attacked by six large rats which bit her most grievously before she managed to fight them off with a broom.

The town fathers are willing to pay whatever it takes to rid the community of this growing problem, but when it comes time to "pay the piper" they, like many politicians, find a way to weasel out of their deal with odious consequences.

The Three Billygoats Sothoth Peter N. Dudar Based on Three Billy Goats Gruff by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen

So much fun.  True to form with a bit of whimsy

Little Maiden of the Sea David Bernard Based on The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson

But the Little Maiden was stubborn, and would swim to the surface and hide among the rocks, gazing upon the lights of the village that the hybrids said the air-breathers called Innsmouth.

An absolutely delicious tale.

The Great Old One And The Beanstalk Armand Rosamilia Based on Jack and the Beanstalk by Joseph Jacob

What Jack finds at the other end of the beanstalk...

They sang out, words I had never heard, and wished I could forget.

I know not what they meant.  But such was the chill I received when I heard them, and stared into the evil cloud-like entity they clearly worshiped.  That they will be forever be imprinted on my psyche and the words spoken in my nightmares until the day I die.

In the Shade of the Juniper Tree J. P. Hutshell Based on the Juniper Tree by Philipp Otto Runge

A new author and an unfamiliar tale for me, but a terrifically horrifying story.


The Horror at Hatchet Point Zach Shephard Based on Rumpelstiltskin by the Brothers Grimm

Another new author for me with a story true to the original, but with that Lovevraftian twist.

I loved his words...

The perfect night they’d been waiting for was upon them: the clouds were dark sacks full of writhing pythons, the wind a banshee’s breath. Hatchet Point cleaved oncoming waves in a spray of black water, while distant lightning illuminated the foaming sea.

The Most Incredible Thing Bracken MacLeod Based on Det Utroligste (The Most Incredible Thing) by Hans Christian Anderson 

I was not familiar with this Hans Christian Anderson tale, but researching it, I found Bracken to true to the original with the wonderful twist of the contest to determine the most incredible thing being a tv show along the lines of America's Got Talent.  Clever.

Let Me Come In! Simon Yee Based on The Three Little Pigs by James Halliwell-Phillipps

Yet another fun spin on a classic tale.

The Fishman and His Wife Inanna Arthen Based on The Fisherman and His Wife by the Brothers Grimm

Great opening for a Lovecraftian infused story...

From the way the Director-General's anterior tentacles writhed on his desk, like earthworms dropped onto hot beach sand, I suspected this conversation wasn't going to go well.


The Little Match Mi-Go Michael Kamp Based on The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson

The story had little in common with The Little Match Girl and delivered little in content.

Follow the Yellow Glyph Road Scott T. Goudsward Based on The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

I automatically love any story set in this realm created by L. Ftank Baum.  My only complaint was, I wanted more.

Just follow me.”“But I’m following a talking cat down a strange road in a place I don’t know.” The cat stopped and turned to look at Dorothy with golden eyes. “I don’t explain. I tell the lost ones to follow me, and I lead them through the maze before something comes out of nowhere and lops their head off with a giant bloody axe.”

Another fine story

Curiosity Winifred Burniston Based on Bluebeard by Charles Perrault

True to the original in most ways with the expected Lovecraftian twist.

The Ice Queen Mae Empson Based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson

I found this story to be as chilling as The Snow Queen.  Of of only a few fairy tales that actually scared me as a kid.

But no bee in any book I’ve read has wings that glow in the dark, or six pincer-like legs with saw-toothed claws, thick with white hair. In the space where a bee would have a head, a tangle of antennae writhe like tentacles.


Once Upon a Dream Matthew Baugh Based on Sleeping Beauty by the Brothers Grimm

Wow.  Great story, nothing like the fairytale you heard as a child.

After the two feasted on the Queen’s carcass, the King took little Cthulhu to the balcony of the tower and presented her to the people.

Bloody disgusting.  I loved it.


Cinderella and her Outer Godfather C.T. Phipps Based on Cinderella by Charles Perrault

An appropriately twisted telling of this oft-told tale.


Donkeyskin K.H. Vaughan Based on Donkeyskin by Charles Perrault


Sweet Dreams in the Witch-House Sean Logan Based on Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm 

A wonderful twist on this classic tale.

He saw his sister tear off a piece of the eave and chew, but it was not creamy chocolate that dribbled down her chin, but the brown blood of l a rodent carcass.


Fee Fi Old One Thomas Brannon Based on Jack the Giant Killer by Joseph Jacobs


The King of the Golden Mountain Morgan Sylvia Based on the King of the Golden Mountain by the Brothers Grimm


The Legend of Creepy Hollow Don D’Ammassa Based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving 

A well-told story with a true Lovecraftian flair.

Knowledge held in secret has no utility. When someone tells me he has learned some truth that transcends what we know of the physical universe, I can safely assume he is either lying, delusional, or a fool.”


Many the stories were played for laughs and weren't very terrifying at all, with a few exceptions.

Sometimes you just need to read for fun, not great literature, not groundbreaking prose, just to enjoy the read. This is such a book.  I'll never be able to hear these children tales as I've heard them all of my life.

Twice Upon An Apocalypse is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Crytal Lake 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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sharkwater Beach by Tim Meyer

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The story begins at S.Q.U.I.D, a subaquatic research facility that's located in international waters for a reason.  What they're up to isn't exactly work they want to be scrutinized by any government.

It's not long before things go horribly wrong...

A man wearing a shredded lab coat sprinted toward the elevator, spurts of red gushing from where his arm had previously been. His appendage had been ripped raggedly at the elbow. The scientist was panting like a dog on a hot summer day, struggling to keep his lungs full of air. He kicked up splashes of ocean water as he made for the elevator. 

Jill McCourty is on the date from hell when she gets a disturbing phone call from an old professor she once had a fling with.  Next thing you know she's being forced to confront her past and is living out a nightmare of humongous proportions.

What follows isn't exactly a spoiler, after all, both the cover and the title of Tim's new book give this much away.

The size of the tooth took up both palms. “Big-ass shark? Is that a new species or something?”“Didn’t come from a Great White. Their teeth are much smaller.”“No kidding.” A Great White tooth was three inches maximum. This was almost four times that. “If this thing is real, we’re talking Megalodon territory.”

This is the second novel this month with a part of the story from the POV of intelligent sea creatures, the other being J.H. Moncrieff's Monsters In Our Wake.  It's a fun aspect of the story and adds another dimension to what is happening and why.

The encounters with the super shark are everything you could want them to be with more than one "Oh wow!" moment.

Sharkwater Beach is pure B-movie madness.  Lots of blood.  Loads of fun. And wonderful B-Movie dialog...

“Okay, bozo. I’m done. Take me back. I’m getting out of here. You have more drama in your life than my grandmother’s soap operas.”

Sharkwater Beach is published by Severed Press and is available in both 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.

From the author's bio - Tim Meyer dwells in a dark cave near the Jersey Shore. He’s an author, husband, father, podcast host, blogger, coffee connoisseur, beer enthusiast, and explorer of worlds. He writes horror, mysteries, science fiction, and thrillers, although he prefers to blur genres and let the stories fall where they may. Among other titles, he’s previously published the short story collection, Worlds Between My Teeth.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Guest post from Tim Meyer, the author of Sharkwater Beach

Today's guest post is from Tim Meyer, the author of Sharkiwater Beach.  Think Jaws on steroids.  Watch for my review tomorrow, but for now, here's Tim...

TEETH

All right, I admit it. When I was younger, I was afraid of sharks. Okay, scratch that – I still am. Why? Well, because they're sharks. They're 100 million-year-old killing machines. They're enormous, some of them. They have teeth. Great whites have about 300. Did you know that? Scary. Imagine a person with 300 teeth? That's scary, too. But back to sharks. They're terrifying. The worst part? You never see them gliding up on you from the murky bottom, gaping maw ready to bite, rip, and feed.

I can trace my fear back quite easily – JAWS. I watched the movie on television when I was about eight, and even though it had been edited for content (probably), Quint's death scene still managed to warp my fragile little mind. The sheer terror of that scene shook me, sank its teeth into me. I can still vividly remember watching the gouts of blood spilling from that beloved character's mouth as the massive white shark chomped down on him. The scene spawned many nightmares, and in a way, it's responsible for prompting me to write a novel about a giant shark terrorizing a small group of people.

I read the book Jaws a few years later, then discovered all of Peter Benchley's novels. I read his works before I became obsessed with King, McCammon, Barker; my other heroes. Benchley's books were plain fun, the perfect “beach read,” and as someone who grew up on the Jersey Shore, you can imagine how much time was spent with my butt in the sand, catching some sun with a book in my lap.

Jaws influenced my new novel Sharkwater Beach, but so did other Benchley classics like Beast and White Shark. White Shark, while probably not his most known or best written novel, was a big one for me. The summer when I was twelve, I must have checked it out of the library every other week. Don't know why, but that one stuck with me and it gets a big nod in Sharkwater Beach.

But Sharkwater Beach isn't like a Benchley novel. Not really. A big shark, fishermen, and a few marine biologists are where the similarities end. It's unlike anything I've written before. A beta reader told me it was like “Jaws meets Aliens,” and I couldn't have said it better myself.

So, sharks. Yes, these ancient sea beasts are terrifying. But that's also what makes them fun. It's the teeth, I think. And we all know books that bite are the most fun.
                                                                                                                                                     
From the author's bio - Tim Meyer dwells in a dark cave near the Jersey Shore. He’s an author, husband, father, podcast host, blogger, coffee connoisseur, beer enthusiast, and explorer of worlds. He writes horror, mysteries, science fiction, and thrillers, although he prefers to blur genres and let the stories fall where they may. Among other titles, he’s previously published the short story collection, Worlds Between My Teeth.

You can follow Tim at https://timmeyerwrites.com where he has great content and features author interviews and you can sign-up for his newsletter!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Northern Frights: An Anthology by the Horror Writers of Maine - Edited by David Price

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

With an introduction from Holly Newstein, Northern Frights: An Anthology by the Horror Writers of Maine embraces the weird from the northernmost of the 48 contiguous United States.  Wait, I just googled a map of the US to verify that and it's not true, but it is up there and it is a place where weird things tend to happen.

Northern Frights: An Anthology by the Horror Writers of Maine features twenty-two stories that are captivating, intriguing, scary, and above all, entertaining.

The Old Guide's Tale Peter N. Dudar

A trio of loading dock postal workers, regular guys, and the story, or rather, the legend of Sebago Lake.

For John, the bigger his audience, the bigger the stories would get. I suppose with age comes the license to embellish. After all, when you're old enough to start forgetting things that happened in your life, you may as well make the stuff you do remember as unforgettable as possible.

A wonderful start to the anthology. I was immediately drawn in by the excellent story-telling.

Giant Wompstah April Hawks

I guess you could say this is the story of genetics gone bad.  The real victim being Larry the Lobster.

Purgatory Junction Jeremy Flagg

A well-told ghost story of the hazing of a teen-aged girl made to spend the night in an abandoned railroad station so she can sit at the cool kid's table.

I read this lying in bed preparing for sleep. Not recommended as it made me afraid to turn off the light.

Catharine Hill Leslie J Linder

A new author for me and a great take on the hitch-hiking ghost trope.

Often, she would thumb a ride from some traveler. She didn't really plan to go anywhere. She just wanted to check out the latest fashions and listen in on modern trends. She always asked them to turn on the radio. But if that failed, people who picked up hitchers were generally prone to nervous chatter. When she'd had her fill, she simply disappeared from the vehicle.

The Bad Trip Thomas Washburn, Jr.

The title says it all.  A bad trip (as in 'shroom trip) that led to a horrible conclusion.  Another new writer I enjoyed immensely.

Teacher's Pet John McIlveen

A student/teacher taboo that's too good to be true.  John is one of my favorite new writers. His debut novel Hannahwhere is well worth your time, as is this delightful short.

Screaming Through Sea Glass Juss Stinson

A ghost story of sorts and a damn fine one at that.

Mira's Shop of Peculiarities Harold Hull

A truly terrify tale. One of the best shorts I've ever read.

Slowly, an eye opened on one of the tiny heads. A quiet, scratchy voice uttered, "Help me." Then the eyes of the head beside it opened and the same words came out. The third shrunken head soon joined in and now there was a harmony of desperate voices begging James for help.

Seeing Is Believing Wicker Stone

An effective tale of an inherited horror.

The Wait Holly Newstein

I don't get to read nearly enough of Holly Newstein's writing

The Janitors Come Out at Night Martin Campbell

The janitors at this High School are not recruited as much as they are made.  A fun little tale.

Agony Chamber Morgan Sylvia

When you worship at the altars of the gods of pain the rewards can be great, but so are the costs.

In my dreams, they tell me to kill, and they promise me that, if I serve them well, one day I, too, can become a god. All I have to do is kill. Not rapists or murderers or child molesters, but innocents.

Window of Darkness Duane E. Coffill

The creature's face was revolting. Slimy green mucus dripped from its ghastly jaw as it gazed at Mark and Marie with mesmerizing red eyes.

Needs rimshot to accompany the story's ending

Death Lights (A Lee Buhl Story) Glenn Rolfe

From the same world as Glenn's novel The Haunted Halls

Death Lights. Evil spirits that promised to take the living in exchange for bringing back the dead. They were tricksters, but far from your average poltergeist. They were not to be f*cked with. Fools thought they could control the conjured spirits, thought they could wield the power. It never worked that way.

Rare Birds Katherine Silva

Cool ending to a story about an amateur ornithologist.

In the Woods Dale T. Phillips

One of my favorite stories in a collection full of great tales

Noseeum Road, didn't ya?" "Yes, I did. By the way, I was curious. What's that road name mean? Some Native American name? I heard you've got some of those folks around still." The storekeeper chuckled. "The name's from some damn little bugs we get up this way. We call 'em no-see-ums because they'll bite ya, and you won't even see that they're there."

Cool dialog, too.

"You ain't telling me you're a Yankees fan, are ya?" "No, I don't follow baseball." The man rolled his eyes again. "Well, better that than loving the Yankees. Then we'd have to shoot ya for sure."

Sleep Tight E.J. Fechenda

The Ricci family purchases a house with a history.  A history unknown to them.  Their young son Ethan is continually awakened by a man a the foot of his bed.  A great ghost story from another author I get to read for the first time.

The Black Beast of Andover Joshua Goudreau

Another new author for me and a killer monster tale to boot.

Lovely Little Nash Leon Roy

A disturbing story of a fun trip gone dreadfully awry for friends Dorothy, Jackie, Frances, and Ruby who have their day interrupted by their love of a classic car and a signed contract.  No one ever reads the fine print.

Liars and Lies Angi Shearstone

A man is suspected of witchcraft, but the truth is so much darker and so much better.

Confession James Graham

A confession leaves a Priest with a crisis of conscience.  Another well-told tale with a great kicker.

The Phippsburg Screecher Lynda Styles

"If you're staying in the Basin, watch out the Screecher don't get ya."  A really good monster yarn.
.
In the Root Cellar GD Dearborn

A wonderful way to close the anthology with a tale of alien invaders.

With an anthology this large, there are bound to be some stories you love and almost alway there are a few clunkers.  I happy to say, while I didn't love every story, there were none I didn't like and overall Northern Frights: An Anthology by the Horror Writers of Maine was a terrific reading experience.

Northern Frights: An Anthology by the Horror Writers of Maine is published by Grinning Skull Press and is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Scallywag - by Stuart R. Brogan

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Harry Davant made a poor decision taking the alley shortcut in the rain.  Two-bit criminal Callum Benson saw the old man's choice as an opportunity, but what happens next surprises everybody, including this reader.

To tell you more would be to give too much away. It's best if the readers get to discover all of the twists and turns for themselves.  I will say this Scallywag is a joyride filled with real characters and believable situations.  Stuart R. Brogan is a master at raising a reader's blood pressure.

If you've already read Stuart's debut novel Jackals and you're looking for another quick fix of his fast-paced, high-energy, writing style, you should pick up Scallywag right away.  BTW, if you haven't read Jackals, do yourself a favor and pick it up today.  It's the best debut horror novel I've read this year.

As for Scallywag, it's a wild and twisted ride which I whole-heartedly recommend.

Scallywag is published by Midgard Books and is available in both 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.

From the author's bio - Stuart R. Brogan is a former nightclub bouncer and proud Heathen who loves nothing more than expanding people's minds with Pagan related Non-Fiction or blowing people's brains out with fast-paced, gut-wrenching Horror and Thrillers.

Stuart currently resides in Glastonbury, UK with his long-suffering wife and man eating Shih-Poo dog "Poppy" where he co-owns a kick-ass Viking/Asatru shop, fiercely named "Shield Maiden."


Friday, May 12, 2017

Reset: The Dowland Cases - One by Kirk Dougal

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Richard Jefferson Dowland, Jr., 39. Divorced, no children. Goes by Rick but a whole generation of people know him as RJ. Graduated from UCLA with an undergrad in Computer Science at the age of twenty. Co-inventor of the first fully-immersed computer game, The Kindred. He personally registered twenty-nine patents related to computer- human interfaces and games. 

Rick is now retired from the gaming industry and finds himself working homicide.  When a serial killer starts killing immersive gamers his boss and the FBI ask him to go back in and become a deep sleeper again.  Something he swore he'd never do.  It's an addiction, a habit he managed to kick once and has no desire to revisit.

Deep sleepers, the guys that stay inside for weeks or months, they pay someone to take care of their body while they are buried inside. Gamers call them peepers, or peeps for short.

For a reader, Reset: The Dowland Cases - One provides instant gratification.  The in-game action was fast paced and believable.  The story itself was as immersive as a good video game. With Rick having to go into more than one game it gave the author a chance to experiment with various writing styles in the same novel, including crime noir in the game called The City.

Examples...

The plug-in air freshener tried but there wasn’t enough potpourri in the world to cover up the smell rising from the body on the bed.

I took a drink of the gin and wondered immediately if the bathtub had been clean when it was made. 

The canary on the mic had a color of blonde hair not found in nature and a dress slit almost high enough to see Cleveland. A few flat notes into the next song and I understood why the dress needed to be so distracting.

She stood close enough for me to hear the whisper of her blouse against skin as she breathed. Her perfume wafted into my nose and threatened to cloud my thinking.

So much fun.  Of course there are many red herrings along the way, but in the end it all makes perfect sense and the set up is there for book two in the series.  In the end Reset: The Dowland Cases - One is a tale that left me wanting more in the best possible way.  Highly recommended.

Reset: The Dowland Cases - One is 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.

From the author's bio - Kirk Dougal has had fiction works appear in multiple anthologies and released his debut novel, Dreams of Ivory and Gold, in May of 2014.  His YA dystopian novel, Jacked, was published in 2016.  He's currently at work completing the sequel to Dreams, Valleys of the Earth.

Kirk is currently working in a corporate position with a group of newspapers after serving as a group publisher and editor-in-chief. He lives in Ohio with his wife and four children.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Monsters In Our Wake - by J.H. Moncrieff

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The cover and title of J.H. Moncrieff's latest novel Monsters In Our Wake gives the reader a good idea of what they're in for, but this work is far from your typical sea creature trope.

When the novel you're reading begins from the perspective of a giant sea creature who's home is being threatened by oil drilling you know you're on to something different.

When the creature takes action to protect its territory, the result is a disabled ship and a stranded crew.  I always enjoy stories with a limited cast of characters, cut off from the rest of the world, with something out there.

“Nah,” George said, pointing at Flora, “I think she’s crazy. But I’ve seen horror movies. I know how this goes. You crackers always make the black man go first. I’m not an idiot. I’m not going to fix any generator, I’m not going to investigate the scary noise, and I’m definitely not going in the water.”

Monsters In Our Wake is not my first creature from the deep book, but it certainly is the most original and a helluva lot of fun.  It does require readers to check their disbelief at the door, but if you can do that I think you'll enjoy where this deep sea adventure takes you. Recommended.

Monsters In Our Wake is available from Severed Press in paperback, e-book, and Audible 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.

From the author's bio - J.H. Moncrieff writes psychological and supernatural suspense novels that let her readers safely explore the dark corners of the world.   Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.

The first two novels of her new GhostWriters series, City of Ghosts and The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts, will be officially released on May 16, 2017.

When not writing, J.H. loves visiting the world's most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Guest post from J.H. Moncrieff

Author J.H. Moncrieff takes over my blog today to talk about her unusual  sea creature novel Monsters In Our Wake.  I'll have my review tomorrow.

Never in a million years did I expect to write about sea creatures.

Not that I don’t have an affinity for them. I’ve always wanted to spend a day sitting alongside Loch Ness, hoping Nessie will make an appearance. And I love the legends of the nøkken and other creatures from my Scandinavian heritage.

Still, writing about monsters was never something I considered until Severed Press told me they were looking for a sea creature story. It was a challenge I couldn’t resist.

However, telling the same old story—where a bunch of macho dudes and maybe one female scientist (who happens to be supermodel gorgeous) blast the monsters into infinity—didn’t interest me in the slightest. If I were going to write a sea monster story, it would have to be something completely different than people were used to seeing.

Since I have a huge sympathy and love for animals, I thought, “Why not tell the story from the creatures’ point of view?” So I did. And I had a lot of fun with it. Yes, there is violence and gore and dark themes, but Nøkken in Monsters in Our Wake is also sarcastic, witty, and urbane. I’d hoped that bringing his side of the story to life would help provide a new perspective. Whenever an animal attacks, we talk about the people affected, but rarely do we discuss how the animal’s territory is dwindling, its food supplies dying, and the part we play in these tragedies.

The result was a very different book. Different from anything I’d ever written before, and certainly different from your typical sea monster saga. So much so, I was afraid Severed wouldn’t want it. But they did, and I figured they understood their audience well enough to know what would be accepted and what wouldn’t. I also hoped the people who loved more mainstream monster stories wouldn’t notice mine—that it would be a mere ripple in an ocean of books.

Then Monsters became an Amazon horror bestseller. Suddenly, a lot of people were finding my book, and not all of them were happy about it. The backlash began, and it focused on one thing—the creature’s point of view. Either readers loved this unique aspect or they hated it. And when they hated it, they really hated it. One woman didn’t make it past page two. A man advised others not to read anything else I’d ever written, even though Monsters is unlike the rest of my work.

I knew I was taking a risk by swimming against the current, and that not everyone would appreciate it. What I didn’t anticipate was how angry they’d be, or what a polarizing book Monsters would become. Knowing this, was it still worth trying something new and smashing a time-honored genre convention? Definitely.

At the end of the day, I’m not writing for people who want the same old, same old. I don’t like remakes, and I have no interest in writing one. It’s important to have a variety of books and voices available. Imagine how boring the world would be if everyone was the same! I get why diverging from a trope irritates some people; I have my comfort food for the brain too. That’s what series are for—you know exactly what you’re going to get with each and every book.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to seek out readers who appreciate the unexpected, the ones who complain there’s never anything new under the sea.

J.H. Moncrieff writes psychological and supernatural suspense novels that let her readers safely
explore the dark corners of the world. She won Harlequin's search for the next Gillian Flynn in 2016.

Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.

The first two novels of her new GhostWriters series, City of Ghosts and The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts, will be officially released on May 16, 2017.

When not writing, J.H. loves visiting the world's most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.

To get free e-books and a new spooky story every week, check out her Hidden Library.

Connect with J.H.: Website | Twitter | Facebook