Thursday, July 12, 2018

Review: House of Windows - by John Langan

4 of 5 Stars   

With NECON (the Northeastern Writers Conference) a week away, it's only appropriate I read a book I picked up at last year's event.

House of Windows by John Langan is a bit of an anomaly for me, a foray into the world of literary horror.  I tend to lean toward books written in the vernacular of the common people, like myself.  And then I go and use a word like vernacular, seems John's work is already having an affect on me.  I'm pretty sure that is the correct usage of affect.

 House of Windows is a story told by Veronica Croyden and is mostly about the events leading to her husband's disappearance.  It's a ghost story, of sorts.  Or at least a haunting since you could say both Veronica and her much older husband are haunted by the death of Roger's son from a former marriage.

Central to the tale is the Belvedere House name for a minor painter who had summered there half a century ago.

"We bought the house for a song and a fairly cheap tune at that."

Along the way, Langan provides occasional insight into the human condition.  I particularly liked his take on being a teenager...

"When you're a teenager—or at least, when I was, the last thing I wanted was for my parents to identify with me.  I wanted them to respect who I was, which was, of course, completely different from either of them, let me do what I wanted to, and provide food, shelter, and cash as needed.  Neither of them lived up to that ideal—not even close.  What it boiled down to was, Dad was slightly less annoying than Mom."

There were times I found myself asking, "Do I really care about any of these characters?"  But, I just couldn't pull away from the drama.

House of Windows was John Langan's first novel and it had a hard time finding a home.  The genre people weren't happy with all the literary stuff, and the literary people weren't happy with the genre stuff.

I am glad the story found a home which made it easier to get John's next work published, the critically acclaimed novel, The Fisherman.


Originally published in 2009, House of Windows, found a new home with Diversion Books in 2017 and is currently available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - John Langan is the author of two novels, The Fisherman (Word Horde 2016) and House of Windows (Night Shade 2009/Diversion 2017), and two collections of stories, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies (Hippocampus 2013) and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters (Prime 2008). The Fisherman won the Bram Stoker and This Is Horror Awards for superior achievement in a novel in 2016.  He's one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards, for which he served as a juror during its first three years. Currently, he reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine. In 2018, his next collection, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Review: The Switch House: A Short Novel - by Tim Meyer

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I first read Tim Meyer a bit over a year ago when I picked up a copy of his novel, Sharkwater Beach.  Here's what I had to say about that read...

"Sharkwater Beach is pure B-movie madness.  Lots of blood.  Loads of fun."

So, when the opportunity arose to read Tim's new book, The Switch House, I jumped at the chance to do so.

The premise of the TV show, which shares its name with the book, is simple enough.  The Shepards, Angela and Terry, switch houses with Rosalyn Jeffries and the producers film the results.

The real story comes to light after the cameras are put away and the show begins to air on TV.  Things turn a bit surreal as Angela begins to have a complete breakdown.  Is she hallucinating or is she really experiencing some kind of cosmic horror?

"Each of his appendages tore free from his body and disappeared somewhere into the surrounding realm, leaving crimson torrents in its wake.  Blood exploded from the fresh scarlet pits like a city fire hydrant in the dead heat of summer."

The Switch House defies description, but I will say it's enjoyable and a quick summer read, but that's not all.  When you're done with the main story, stick around for a few shorts.

How To Kill a Bear with a Bow and Arrow - A wonderfully twisted little tale of man against beast.  So much fun.

Siren's End - The last pub on the edge of the world...

"An Island of Women, he had said, which, to men who'd spent a great deal of time on the sea and limited hours amongst the company of women, sounded heavenly. They had set course at once and sailed west, toward the location of this great mystery."

Aperture - The dying days of the movie theatre projectionist and a bit of comic horror makes for a terrific little story.

The Switch House is coming July 26th for the Kindle from Evil Epoch 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 - 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.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Review: Waking the Dead - by Kelli Owen

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Waking the Dead is a collection of four novellas from Kelli Owen, all dealing with death, graveyards, and ghosts in one way or another.  The result is a novel-length book which just might keep you up at night or even contribute to a nightmare or two.

Buried Memories - Hypnosis and a desire to quit smoking lead to dreams and a sibling Ben has completely forgotten.

"She's real. She's important.  I've had similar dreams all centered around this Becca person in various activities, all since I began the hypnosis."

A beautiful story which poses several fascinating, "What if?" questions.

Survivor's Guilt - The story of one man's unique way of providing for his family.  It's difficult to go into much detail here without major spoilers.  I'll just share this great opening paragraph, it hooked me.

"My grave is empty.  I'm not a vampire or zombie or some other form of the undead.  I'm not undead at all.  Matter of fact, I'm not dead.  I never was.  But the woman and girl, standing in front of the headstone etched with a name I no longer use, thinks I was--or rather, I am."

What follows is a remarkable story with not one, but two unexpected twists from a writer whose work I truly admire, a writer with wonderful descriptive skills with an eye for detail.

Survivor's Guilt is original, daring, gripping and even made me shed a tear.

Grave Wax - George Morey has been digging graves in Neillsville for nearly sixty years.  When he gets a second chance at love, with his first love, he wants it to last.  Not just forever, but for eternity.

Unfortunately, his wife, Rose, is battling both Alzheimer's and Cancer.

I really enjoyed the love story woven into this novella.  It actually moved me to tears.  I know how weird that sounds.  This big guy who loves everything horror and you throw in a love story and he cries like a little girl.

Don't get me wrong, Grave Wax is more than a love story, after all, this is a Kelli Owen book, so you know there's going to be a twist, and it's a good one.

Crossroads - A Ouiji board in a graveyard, at midnight, and a plan for revenge.  What could go wrong?  Typical teenaged shenanigans and wonderful dialog from a writer who has a feel for what young people can get up to in the dark...other than the obvious.

"Seriously, I saw this movie—it didn't end well."

If you've not been reading Kelli Owen, Waking the Dead is a great chance to get acquainted.  If you're already a fan of Kelli's work and missed any of these novellas, here's your chance to get caught up.

Waking the Dead was originally a limited edition hardcover from the fine folks at Thunderstorm Books, but is now available as an e-book so everyone can enjoy Kelli's work.

From the author's bio - Born and raised in Wisconsin, Kelli Owen now lives in Destination, Pennsylvania.  She has attended countless writing conventions, participated on dozens of panels and has spoken at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA regarding both her writing and the field in general.  Her fiction leans toward thriller and quiet horror, with an occasional bloodbath and even rarer happy ending.  If you're looking for something novel-length from Kelli, you can't go wrong with my personal favorite, White Picket Prisons.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Review: Island of Bones (A Haunted Florida Novel) - by Gaby Triana

4 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

I've stepped back a bit from reading and reviewing this year.  Now that I'm retired I have so many more options for my time.  For that reason, I haven't been reading as many new authors, or maybe I should say authors I haven't read before.  I tend to read what I want to read by those I'm already familiar with.  That being said, when Gaby Triana reached out to me requesting I read and review her new book, Island of Bones, I was a bit hesitant, until she mentioned Tim Waggoner had suggested she contact me.  Tim is one of my favorite authors and I've been fortunate to read more than a dozen of his books in the six years I've been reviewing horror.  So, his recommendation was good enough for me.

"I was Ellie Whitaker, unmarried, childless, and twenty-six years old.  And I'd been dreaming.  I wasn't dreaming as myself. I was dreaming as Nana." 

When Ellie's Nana, Leanne Drudge, passed away, it was decided to return her ashes to her old home in Key West, Casa de los Cayos.  The problem was that was a long time ago and Ellie had no idea where the house even was.  Not to be deterred, Ellie set's out on her quest and battles the owner of the current property, a category two hurricane, and ghosts to return her grandmother to her ancestral home and find the truth about her history.

"Nostalgia for a place I'd never known hit me hard.  The drink wasn't helping either.  Everyone had someone to party with, and I was alone with a ghost in my purse and memories of a place I'd never been.

The author has a light touch in telling her ghostly tale and fills her story with believable characters, some charming, others disagreeable, but all richly developed.

The title, Island of Bones, comes from the English translation of the original Spanish name for Key West, Cayo Hueso.  

All told, Island of Bones is one of the better pure ghost stories I've read recently, and one I can easily recommend.

The work is self-published and is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Gaby Triana is the bestselling author of horror and YA novels, Island of Bones, Cakespell, Wake the Hollow, Summer of Yesterday, and many more, as well as 40+ ghostwritten novels for best-selling authors.  When she's not obsessing over Halloween, Christmas, or the paranormal, she's taking her family to Disney World, the Grand Canyon, LA, New York, or Key West.  Gaby dreams of living in the forests of New England one day but for the meantime resides in sunny Miami with her boys, Michael, Noah, and Murphy, her husband Curtis, their dog, Chloe, and four cats—Daisy, Mickey Meows, Paris, and Bowie.