Thursday, December 27, 2018

Review: The Cabin at the End of the World - by Paul Tremblay

5 Stars

The Cabin at the End of the World is, without a doubt one of the most talked about novels of the year, with nearly equal amounts of love and hate for the latest work from Paul Tremblay.  This is my third book by this Massachusetts writer.  I loved A Head Full of Ghosts and liked Disappearance at Devil's Rock and fall squarely in the love column for this brilliant take on the apocalypse. 

I took the time to read several of the one-star reviews and they actually have legitimate complaints, I just happen to have a difference of opinion.  I actually liked the open ending.  It left me pondering the possible outcomes.  Something I'll be thinking about for some time to come.

The whole story is thought-provoking, start to finish.  Andrew and Eric are spending time at their secluded cabin in the woods.  Their little girl, Wen, is in the yard catching grasshoppers and putting them in a jar.  She knows all about stranger danger, but sometimes a child just gets caught in the moment.  That's what happens when the kind and gentle Leonard starts to engage her about the art of catching the insects.

Before we know it Leonard is joined by Redmond, Adriane, and Sabrina.  Their story about the end of the world and the part Andrew, Eric, and Wen are to play is unfathomable and the solution untenable.

The writing is wonderful...

"Too many people have smiles that don't mean what a smile is supposed to mean.  Their smiles are often cruel and mocking, like how a bully's grin is the same as a fist."

I found The Cabin at the End of the World to be an imaginative "What would you do?" story.  I asked myself that very question, again an again, as I read the story.  I could easily see this as a feature film.

Strongly recommended, but be prepared to love it or hate it.  There is little middle ground.

Cabin at the End of the World is published by William Morrow and is available in all formats.

From the author's bio - Paul Tremblay is the author of Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, A Head Full of Ghosts, and the crime novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland.  He has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book Awards and is currently a member of the board of directors of the Shirley Jackson Awards.  He has a master’s degree in mathematics and lives outside Boston with his wife and two children.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Review: The Faithful - by Matt Hayward

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The beginning of Matt Hayward's latest novel finds Jonsey Morris trying to connect with his son, the problem is Caleb has no idea Jonesy is his father.

Then there's Leo Cartwright, a comedian who just recorded his final special and his last show as he prepares for retirement.  After the show, Leo meets up with Christopher Tate who has cerebral palsy.  Christopher shares a very strange story...

"'A strange town,' Christopher continued.  'In my dreams. People are… people are odd there.  I know how crazy this sounds.  But… I think I saw my parents… I think they lived there.  It’s a dark place, that’s the only way I can put it.  Dangerous.  In my dreams I can walk, I can talk properly, I’m free.  And there’s an old man with me, a man named Jarrad.  He shows me the truth behind the town.  He shows me the people for what they really are.  They’re not what they seem to be.'  He took a beat, and Leo waited.  'At least once a week, for two years, I’ve had this vision.  It’s not a normal dream.  It’s something else.  I wanted to tell you… Because he told me it was important.'"

The town in question is Elswich, North Carolina and this is where Matt's story takes on a Lovecraftian flair.  When Jonsey meets the man in Christopher's visions, Jarrad Prescott, this is what is learned...

"'...there’s a war ready to kick off, son.  A war older than anyone could ever imagine.  One between our people and theirs.  Us and them.  A war we won long, long ago, but one they haven’t forgiven us for ever since.'  'Our people?'Jarrad smiled a smile missing half its teeth. 'Not black or white, boy. Humanity.'  'And who are they?'  'Others. I don’t think they really have a name. Not one that sits on our tongue, at least. They’re old, malicious creatures, that’s all I know. Vile things, really.'"

Although I enjoyed The faithful, I must admit I've read similar stories which were better executed, in spite of a stunning climax, thus the four-star review.

If you're a fan of Lovecraftian horror, you don't want to miss this one.  Certainly recommended

Published by Sinister Grin Press, The Faithful is available in Paperback and e-book formats.

Matt Hayward is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated author and musician from Wicklow, Ireland.  His books include Brian Dead Blues, What Do Monsters fear?, and Practitioners (with Patrick Lacey). He compiled the best-selling anthology Welcome To the Show and is currently writing a novel with Bryan Smith.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review: Sawbones - by Ed Kurtz

5 of 5 Stars

Sawbones is one of the most original stories I've read in 2018.  Set in the mid-1860s, it's the story of a man out for revenge after a flophouse fire takes the life of a woman he has strong feelings for, even though they've barely spoken.

Calling himself, Dr. Septimus Whithall (not his real name), he sets off on a cross-country journey to find and dispose of those responsible.  Not an easy task by any means...

I carefully pressed my hand against the back of my head and found moist, hot brains fully exposed to the elements.  It was sticky to the touch, and my eyes were filled with glittering white stars each time my fingers made contact.  My skull, or at least most of it, was gone.  Chipped and broken.

At times Sawbones is a visceral, cringe-inducing, and violent story.  Totally immersive in the way the tale takes the reader from the comfort of their reading place to this wonderful world created by the author.

One could hardly live in Hell and not expect to get burned.

If I've learned anything from reading the work of Ed Kurtz, it's to expect the unexpected.  If I could read only one author.  His name would be Ed Kurtz.  I need more than five stars to rate this exceptional novel.

Sawbones is something completely different and if you're up for the challenge, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy the ride.

Totally recommended.

Published by Crossroad Press and available in paperback, e-book, and Audible formats.

From the author's bio, Ed Kurtz is the author of The Rib from Wich I Remake the World, Nausea, Angel of the Abyss, and others.  Ed is also the author of numerous short stories.  His work has appeared in Needle: A Magazine of Noir, BEAT to a PULP, Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, and several anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2014.  Ed resides in Connecticut.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Review: Toy Thief - by D.W. Gillespie

3 of 5 Stars

To date, I've read all but one of the first nine offerings from Flame Tree Press and I've been quite impressed with everything I've read.  I've actually raved about the first seven books, so to experience a hiccough here at book eight is no real surprise.

This is my first time reading anything by D.W. Gillespie and I like the book well enough to read his work again, should the occasion arise.

Toy Thief is a creepy tale of two siblings and what they encounter over of the course of one summer in their young lives.

"To have a sibling, especially a close one, is to have a greatest enemy and a truest friend, but it's always been like that, hasn't it?"

It was the Summer of '91 when the toys started to disappear.  Jack and her older brother, Andy, set out on a quest to learn who or what was responsible.  The events are dark and meant to be terrifying, but the story just didn't work for me.

"Do you ever wonder how things just seem to vanish from your house even though you knew where they were? Maybe a pack of batteries shows up missing, even though you knew exactly where you put them? It might have been the Toy Thief."

I may have mentioned before, I'm mostly an analog kind of reader, same way with film and TV.  Too much bouncing around in a story and I start to lose interest.  Nothing inherently wrong with the technique, and sometimes it works for me, but this was not one of those times.

In the end, I just can't get excited enough to recommend Toy Thief.

Published by Flame Tree Press, Toy Thief is available in a wide variety of formats.

From the author's bio - D.W. Gillespie hails from parts unknown in the dark woods of Tennessee.
Supported by his wife and two feral children, he spends most days hunkered over a vintage typewriter he found in a smoking crater deep within the forest primeval.  Bearded and muttering, he writes tales to terrify by the light of a kerosene lamp.  A fan of all things dark and horrific, D.W. Gillespie has been writing horror, sci-fi, and fantasy for longer than he would like to admit.  He's been featured in many publications, both online and in print, and he's the author of nine novels and counting.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Think Yourself Lucky - by Ramsey Campbell

2 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Admittedly, I am not Ramsey Cambell's biggest fan.  I'm not certain where the disconnect comes from.  I understand he is one of the most successful English Horror writers and he has numerous accolades to prove it, but generally speaking, he's not for me.

As a result, I was expecting not to enjoy Think Yourself Lucky, and unfortunately, that turned out to be the case again here.

More than once I found myself having no clue what the author was getting on about.

I'm certain Think Yourself Lucky will sell well, after all, it's Ramsey Campbell.  But, truth be told, I didn't care for this work at all.  I didn't like any of the characters or the story.  It was a chore to turn the pages, but I read the whole book as I always do.  I refuse to write DNF in any review.  Generally, that's not a problem since I decide what I'll read and I tend to read what I like.

Think Yourself Lucky is published by Flame Tree Press and is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Ramsey Campbell is an English horror fiction writer, editor, and critic who has been writing for well over fifty years.  Since he first came to prominence in the mid-1960s, critics have cited Campbell as one of the leading writers in his field.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Review: The House by the Cemetery - by John Everson

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

John Everson writes some of the darkest horror imaginable, sprinkles it with a healthy dose of sex, and yet it's easy to believe every word he puts to paper.  His latest story, The House by the Cemetery is the quintessential October release.  The tale of a purportedly haunted house by a cemetery being refurbished as a Halloween attraction.

John wastes no time by giving us a small taste of things to come, right in the Prologue...

"Someone had slit the woman's throat.  The murder weapon lay nearby on the floor., the knife's silver blade coated in dark read.  A spray of blood bled down the wall beside her in visual opposition to the light that bled up the wall.  If was a study in opposites...the only constant was the color."

The House by the Cemetery is filled with fully fleshed out characters.  There's the flawed carpenter hired to refurbish the house just enough to make it safe for hundreds of people to pass through every night leading up to Halloween.  The paranormal investigator out to protect the spirits in the house and by extension, the patrons paying to be frightened.  The team of room designers, effects artists, and actors doing their best to scare the nightly visitors.  And then there's the witch of Bremen Coven.

Everson's love for his craft is evident throughout.  I've found myself reading a number of haunted house stories this year.  For me, it's the trope that never gets old an this is a particularly effective story.  More fun than any haunted attraction I've ever been to.  Just in time for my favorite holiday.  If you only read one Halloween story this year, be sure to make this the one.  As a footnote to any movie producers who might see this.  The House by the Cemetery would make one helluva film.


The House by the Cemetery is published by Flame Tree Press and is available in every format imaginable.

From the author's bio - John Everson is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of 10 novels of horror and the macabre, including  Redemption, the conclusion to his demonic Curburide Chronicles trilogy.  He also is the author of four collections of short horror fiction, including his latest, Sacrificing Virgins.  John shares a deep purple den in Naperville, Illinois with a cockatoo and cockatiel, a disparate collection of fake skulls, twisted skeletal fairies, Alan Clark illustrations, and a large stuffed Eeyore.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Review: Body of Christ - by Mark Matthews

4 of 5 stars

Body of Christ is a novella which grew out of a short story in the anthology Bad Apples 3.   Upon its publication, I wrote the following in my review...

"Another dark tale of a Christian mother's resistance to Halloween. Admittedly the oddest story in the anthology and gruesome at times, yet I found it completely satisfying."

In this enhanced telling of his original story, the author adds an equally strange family across the street.  After the death of her mother, Faith has that moment when she would rather have her mom's advice over any other.  Left to her own devices, the young girl develops some very odd habits around her time of the month.

I can't possibly say more about either family without taking away the joy of discovery in Body of Christ.  Let's just say if "odd" is your thing, then this quick read is definitely for you.


Body of Christ is available in paperback and Kindle, 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.

Mark Matthews is a graduate of the University of Michigan and a licensed professional counselor who has worked in behavioral health for over 20 years.  He is the author of On the Lips of Children, All Smoke Rises, and Milk-Blood. He is the editor of the anthology Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror, published in April 2017.  Matthews has run 13 marathons and has two running based books, The Jade Rabbit and Chasing the Dragon, also available on Amazon.  He lives near Detroit with his wife and two daughters.