Sunday, March 17, 2019

Review: Hark! The Herald Angels Scream - Edited by Christopher Golden

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I know it's almost Spring, but this holiday-themed anthology is a great read any time of year.  Many of my favorite writers, both old and new come together to spread their own special brand of cheer.

Absinthe & Angels by Kelly Armstrong - A proper way to begin a holiday-themed anthology.  Frightenly fresh.

"'A proper reading of Dickens requires absinthe,' Michael says as he lifts his glass. 'The nectar of the muses.' Ava shakes her head. 'There’s no way anyone could drink this and still write.'"

Christmas In Barcelona by Scott Smith - Traveling with an infant,  What could possibly go wrong?  Plenty.  Well-told and ultimately horrifying.

Fresh As the New Fallen Snow by Seanan McGuire - Another wonderful tale.  A babysitter who is no Mary Poppins.  A morality play with a chilling ending.

Love Me by Thomas E. Sniegoski - A delightfully terrifying story.  Like a Christmas episode of Tales From the Crypt.

"The Creeper was what they used to call him, given his unique ability to get inside a place where the owners were home and pick it clean with no one the wiser."

Not Just For Christmas by Sarah Lotz - What do you do when your genetic pet starts sending you spam advertisements?

Tenets by Josh Malerman - An effective story.  When Adam comes to a Holiday Reunion of University classmates with a guest who is a former cult leader fresh out of prison, it's hard to tell which is worse the guests who leave or the one who asks the former cult leader what his tenets are.

Good Deeds by Jeff Strand - If you've ever been depressed by that Christmas song about the little boy who wants to buy new shoes for his dying mother, you're gonna love this Jeff Strand story.

It's a Wonderful Knife by Christopher Golden - An excellent play on words and a terrific twist.

Mistletoe and Holly by James A. Moore - Yet another solid entry in this anthology.  Sometimes Christmas wishes are best left unfulfilled.

Snake's Tail by Sarah Langan - This one is beyond strange.  A mysterious tale of disappearing children.

"The clock chimes. Two hundred thirty -six children evaporate from the crowd. First, they are there. Then, they are not. It’s a funny thing, witnessing something like that. Those people who have faith, lose it. Those people who have none, find it."

The Second Floor of the Christmas Hotel by Joe R. Lansdale - A very effective ghost story from Mr. Lansdale.

Farrow Street by Elizabeth Hand - A masterfully-crafted tale.  A change of plans leaves Melanie alone in London at Christmas time.  Reminded me of the time I was alone in Ft. Wayne at Thanksgiving, but that's another story.

Doctor Velocity: A Story of the Fire Zone by Jonathan Maberry - Maberry is a brilliant wordslinger as evidenced by this remarkable tale.

Look, you know how I was when I was younger, what I went through. I understand horror. I’ve seen things in those foster homes far worse than the fangs of any vampire or the claws of any werewolf. I’ve felt horror breathing on the back of my neck as it held me in its hands and used me, took me, ripped me apart. I know monsters. Real ones?"

Yankee Swap by John M. McIlveen - The most horrifying game of Yankee Swap ever.  I absolutely loved this ugly little tale.  So twisted.

Honor Thy Mother by Angela Slatter - The family matriarch is not happy about the prospect of moving into a retirement home.

Home by Tim Lebbon - An atmospheric piece about the end times with a rather enigmatic ending.

Hiking Through by Michael Koryta - I've been aware of Michael for some time, but have never read his work before now.  I must say, I totally enjoyed this haunting tale set on the Appalachian Trail in Maine.  On Christmas Eve, no less.

The Hangman's Bride by Sarah Pinborough  - The longest and perhaps the best ghost story to close the collection.

Hark! The Herald Angels Scream is, without a doubt, a collection which will bring joy to any horror fan and will cause any season to be the most wonderful time of year.

Recommended.

Published by Blumhous books, Hark! The Herald Angels Scream is available in paperback, e-book and audio formats.





Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Review: Junction - by Daniel M. Bensen

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Daisuke Matsumori is the star of the most popular nature show on Japanese television and has been recruited to investigate what's on the other side of a wormhole found in New Guinea.  By the way, the pronunciation is "Dice-Kay," not "Dye-Sue-Key."

"Lines were being drawn, ultimatums made, sabers rattled, and someone in the UN had seen this smoking powder keg and said to themselves, 'Why this looks like a job for a Japanese television personality.'"

Actually, the team is a broadly diverse group of characters,  each with their own agenda.  There's Colonel Syahiral Hariyadi, Colonel Gregory Pearson, Anne Houlihan of the University of Sydney, Tyaney and his wife Sing, Nurul and her husband, and pilot Mikhail Sergeyevich Alekseyev, Misha for short.

A plane was deconstructed on Earthside and reassembled on the Junction side of the wormhole.  Unfortunately, the plane crashes on its maiden voyage.  Misha manages to land the plane safely and all survive the crash, but will they survive the journey back to the wormhole, and more importantly each other?

Junction is extremely imaginative as the author has created a fantastical world full of wonders and danger on the other side of the wormhole.

"...at least a quick death smashed against the ground would be better than being very slowly eviscerated by a carnivorous sloth-flower."

If you like your speculative fiction wild and untamed, Junction is just that and much more.  Filled with unexpected twists and turns and even a touch of romance.

I don't expect this book to be among my favorites at year's end, but it will likely be one of the more memorable.

Recommended for readers looking for something different.

Published by Flame Tree Press, Junction is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book and as an audio CD.

Form the author's bio - Daniel M. Bensen writes alternate history, science fiction, and fantasy – usually with kissing, always with a bibliography. He teaches English in Sofia Bulgaria, where he lives with his wife and daughters in the Balkan Tower of Matriarchy.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Review: Limbs A Love Story - by Tim Meyer

5 of 5 Stars

From Wikipedia...

Acrotomophilia...in which an individual expresses strong sexual interest in amputees. It is a counterpart to apotemnophilia, the sexual interest in being an amputee.

And there you have it, the underlying premise of Limbs: A Love Story.  As strange as the premise is, and believe me, it's pretty damn strange.  At its heart, this truly is a love story.

Ray Bridges, for the most part, a rather ordinary guy.  He has a job he doesn't exactly love working the sales floor at a Best Tronics store.  He has a best friend, Percy Jones, and a boss he despises.  But, here's the twist, not only is Ray attracted to women who are amputees, he can't "perform" unless his partner is missing something.  Ray manages to live with his fixation until Kayla starts working at the store with him.  They hit it off in a big way and after few dates wind up in bed and, well, things do not go well.  What's an acrotomophiliac to do?

All this, plus a series of crimes where someone is abducting women and chopping off body parts.  The press is calling him the Hacketstown Hacker.

Tim's down-to-Earth writing style is perfect for a work like this.  Take this scene where Ray is getting his annual performance review...

"Getting your review at work is one of the worst experiences of the year. You’ve been there, we all have. No one would argue having your weaknesses pointed out and shoved in your face is about as much fun as having your nipples hooked up to a car battery, unless you’re into nipple stuff, in which case you might like it. (I think that makes sense.) But I’m getting off track and talking about nipples, so let me stop myself and get back to the story at hand."

At times repulsive, yet funny and charming.  Wickedly original and in my modest opinion, Tim's finest work to date.

Published by Grindhouse Press, Limbs: A Love Story is available in both paperback and 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 - 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, March 2, 2019

Review: Night Shift - by Robin Triggs

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Let me start by saying I wanted Night Shift to be something other than what it turned out to be.  Let's face it, a mining base in the Antarctic at the start of a six-month-long night shift doesn't your mind immediately turn to The Thing?  So, I'm expecting a monster.  I got one, it just happened to be of the human variety.

Anton Nordvelt is a last-minute replacement for head of security at Australis...

"I don’t know what they told you back in Tierra, but you’re only here because we have to have someone, you know that? You’ll walk out of here, your wallet three times as thick and your pick of jobs to walk into.  And what’ll you have to do for that?  Nothing.
There’s no crime here, none at all.  No crime, no drugs, no alcohol, only thirteen people, including you.  But because it says in some Company rulebook that we must have a commander, a doctor and a chief of security, here you are...Welcome to Australis, Mr. Nordvelt.  Good to have you aboard.”

Just a few days later there's death with more mayhem to follow.

Although Night Shift was not what I expected, that's not to say this debut novel from author Robin Triggs wasn't a story well told, because it certainly was.  It's a joy to read the words of a writer you've not read before and immediately feel you're in good hands.

There is sufficient action start-to-finish in Night Shift with an avalanche taking out the base's Comm Center and later, an explosion at the refinery. Is one of the thirteen members of the crew responsible or is there an outside entity responsible for all of the death and destruction.

Not my favorite read of the last year, but not the worse by a long stretch.

Published byFlame Tree Press, Night Shift is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audible formats.

From the author's bio - Rob was raised in Bradford before heading, at eighteen, to the bright libraries of Norfolk.  Music was his main interest at this time.  He played drums and sang whilst writing copious amounts of lyrics, some of which tipped over into the vaguely-defined realm of poetry.  He studied archaeology at Queen's University, Belfast before returning to Norfolk and starting to write seriously.  When not writing he studies the past: archaeology and the historic landscape remain passions.  He's also an exceptionally poor cricketer, turning out for The Bodleian Library's collection of misfits.  At the Bodleian, he tells tourists that yes, Harry Potter was filmed here, but no, they can't go inside.  He also works as a proofreader.  A freshly-minted father, he spends his time changing nappies, Tweeting and, when the opportunity presents itself, doing the odd bit of creating.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Review: The Sorrows - by Jonathan Janz

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I was a bit late to the party when it came to discovering the work of Jonathan Janz.  As a result, I totally missed The Sorrows when it was originally published by Samhain Publishing in 2012.

When Samhain ceased operations on March 1, 2017 many great works went out of print, including this debut from one of the most popular horror writers working today.

The Sorrows presents the reader with a wonderful cast of characters secluded at Castle Blackwood located on a private island known as The Sorrorws.  Eighty miles off the coast of northern California and the site of one of America's strangest unsolved mysteries.

There are more than a few cringe-worthy moments including this little gem...

"A hand slipped inside Chris’s boxer shorts, the scalpel tracing an almost delicate line down his penis, the sharp point pausing on the shriveled tip and grinding into the urethra. Chris groaned, the voice rasping at his ear, '…so many places I can dig.'"

The Sorrows is a wonderful example of a place exercising its influence over its occupants.  Gothic horror at its finest.

Janz's first novel shows the promise of greatness and in the years since its release, the author has matured into one of today's leading horror writers.  One whose work is looked forward to by many readers, including this one.

With all its horror and disgusting moments, The Sorrows is secretly a love story.  I dare you to prove me wrong on this one.

If you missed The Sorrows when it was first released, be sure to read it now.

Fully recommended.

This re-release of The Sorrows is published by Flame Tree Press and is available now in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and Audible formats.

From the author's bio - Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories.  His ghost story The Siren and the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for Best Horror.  Additionally, his novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year.  Jonathan's main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Review: Ten Thousand Thunders - by Brian Trent

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

There was a time when I immersed myself in Sci-Fi, long before I discovered horror and it took over my reading experience.  Every now and again, it's nice to go back and visit those days, and that's just what I did with this epic, hard Sci-Fi novel by Brian Trent.

How does one know right away they're reading a Science Fiction novel?  Try this opening line on for size...

"Fourteen-and-a-half hours after being killed in the shuttle explosion, Gethin Bryce found himself in a newly sculpted body staring at his hands."

Ten Thousand Thunders takes a wildly imaginative look at one possible future where humans are living on Mars and there's even an AI colony on the moon, but there are restrictions on further colonization and this has folks fired up on both sides of the issue.

Gethin Bryce now finds himself at the forefront of an investigation into a Lunar explosion and the destruction of the shuttle on which he was a passenger.  Not just to find those responsible, but the reasons for their violence.

It takes time to acclimate to the world the author has built in this novel.  Take Mars, for example...

"Mars, where the cities crawled with screaming toddlers or wide-eyed pubescents.  The younger generation was already… changing, too.  Martian gravity encouraged a beanpole look, with legs like stilts and long, swinging arms, graceful necks, torsos stretched like a troop of gingerbread men pinched at the waist to achieve an elongated look. Funhouse mirror people."

Although Ten Thousand Thunders requires a rather generous willingness to suspend disbelief, it more than makes up for it in story.  If anything, the work suffers from too much story.  At times I found myself having to reread portions of the book to get a better grip on what was going on.

Majestic in scope, Ten Thousand Thunders is an elaborate look at a future somewhere between utopia and dystopia.  But wait, there's more, Brian Trent is already at work on a sequel.  Despite the challenges in reading a book so massive in scope, I'll be back.

Recommended.

Published by Flame Tree Press, Ten Thousand Thunders is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and Audible formats.

From the author's bio - Brian Trent's speculative fiction appears regularly in the world's top markets, including Analog, Fantasy & Science Fiction, COSMOS, Nature, Galaxy's Edge, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, Terraform, Escape Pod, Pseudopod, The Year's Best Military and Adventure Sci-Fi, The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk, The Cackle of Cthulhu, Flame Tree's Gothic Series, and much more.

The author of the novels Ten Thousand Thunders (hard SF) and the fantasy/historical series Rahotep and its sequel The God and the Gate, Trent is also a Writers of the Future winner and Baen Fantasy Award finalist. Trent lives in New England.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Review: The Blade This Time - by Jon Bassoff

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

I recently discovered Down and Out Books has rescued the Jon Bassoff books which had been published by the now-defunct Darkfuse publishers, meaning The Incurables, The Disassembled man, Corrosion, and The Blade This Time, are all back in print.

Somehow, I never got around to reading The Blade This Time.  That oversight has now been corrected.

I am a sucker for a good opening to a story.  Take note...

"The world above was poisoned, maybe dead, and now I staggered through the abandoned tunnels, eyes adjusted to the darkness, ears pricked to the distant sound of a subway echoing against rubbled concrete.  Rats scurried along the broken tracks, gnawing greedily at the scattered garbage and each other’s tails.  Occasionally I felt one crawl beneath my jeans, slender teeth pressing against my skin, and I cursed and slapped it away."

Early on, I had no idea where the story was going, but it hardly mattered, the writing was marvelous and totally captivating.  Filled with amazing images and wonderful prose...

"...fire escapes crawling up the building like spiders."

Jon writes immersive, wildly imaginative tales, here with a stream of consciousness style...

"...the irrational thought didn’t scare me. I knew that a vicious death was exactly what I needed. Because only when we suffer, only when we scream, only when we die, are we truly enlightened. The solitary truth in this world is horror."

You'll notice, I didn't go into any detail about the story itself, no synopsis.  The reason for that is The Blade This Time is all about discovery.  I'd just like to say, it's worth reading, as are all of Jon Bassoff's books.

Published by Down and Out Books, The Blade This Time is available in paperback and e-book formats.

Jon Bassoff was born in 1974 in New York City and currently lives in a ghost town somewhere in Colorado.  He was called the “king of creepy crime-horror fiction” by Tom Piccirilli, a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award.  His debut novel, Corrosion, won the DarkFuse Readers’ Choice Award for best novel, and two of his novels, Corrosion and The Disassembled Man, have been adapted for the big screen. The Blade This Time is his fifth novel.




Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Review: Rattlesnake Kisses - by Bob Ford & John Boden

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

This wild and bloody, limited-edition, novella is dedicated to the late Dallas Mayr who wrote as Jack Ketchum.

"For Dallas Mayr, a friend fallen but not far away."

This made me smile, right from the start.

Rattlesnake Kisses is dark.  There's no happy ending and believe me, I like it that way.

This is the story of Dallas, a hitman, and his teenage ward, just known as "The Kid."  Dallas was teaching him the tricks of the trade.

"The Kid " came from a broken home, but he had dreams like many such children...

"Sometimes, he would imagine himself on a saloon stage playing music like his daddy.  Momma had never said anything at all about him, and the Kid had never actually met his father in real life, but he knew better.  No way he could love music as much as he did without it being ribboned right into his DNA.   He thought of his daddy sometimes.  Hair slicked back.  Scuffed, but well-loved, cowboy boots on—black and dirty.  Weathered 12-string guitar with a wide black strap around his neck and shoulders, as he flirted with the waitresses and sang about heartache and loss to the crowd.  Living life on the highway, as carefree as a rambling rose.  Cool as rain in September."

Beautiful imagery right there.

Dallas currently has an interesting set of jobs where a wife takes out a hit on her husband and the husband takes one out on his wife.  This is just the beginning of this inconceivably twisted tale and yes, there are rattlesnakes involved.

Rattlesnake Kisses is a most excellent crime story filled with the beautifully coarse and colorful language you would expect in such a tale.  This is one I won't soon forget.  Recommended.

Published by Thunderstorm Books, Rattlesnake Kisses is currently available as a signed, limited edition hardcover.

Form the Authors' bio...

Robert Ford fills his days handling marketing and branding projects.   He has run his own ad agency, done a lot of freelance work, baled a lot of hay and forked a lot of manure.  And once had to deal with a  very overripe iguana.  He has published the novels  The Compound, and  No Lipstick in Avalon, the novellas  Ring of Fire, The Last Firefly of Summer, Samson and Denial, and  Bordertown,   as well as the short story collection  The God Beneath my Garden.  In addition, he has several screenplays floating around in the ether of Hollywood.  He can confirm the grass actually is greener on the other side, but it’s only because of the bodies buried there.

John Boden lives a stone's throw from Three Mile Island with his wonderful wife and sons.  A baker by day, he spends his off time writing or watching old television shows.  He likes Diet Pepsi and sports ferocious sideburns.  He loves heavy metal and old country music.  And shoofly pie. He’s a pretty nice fella, honest.  His work has appeared in  Borderlands 6, Shock Totem, Splatterpunk, Lamplight, Blight Digest, the John Skipp edited Psychos and others.  His not-really-for-children children’s book, Dominoes has been called a pretty cool thing.  His other books, Jedi Summer With the Magnetic Kid and  Detritus In Love are out and about.  He recently released a novella with fellow author Chad Lutzke called  Out Behind the Barn.  He has a slew of things on the horizon.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Review: Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked - by Crista Carmen

5 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

Very impressive for a debut collection.  A wide variety of tales, each entertaining in its own way.

The title, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, is apropos to a comment the author makes in her acknowledgments...

"Something borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked represents both my life and my writing post-recovery from addiction."

Thirsty Creatures - The first story in this collection certainly lived up to the "blood-soaked" part of the title.

Red Room -  This story alone is worth the purchase price. Ever been so drunk you don't recall taking the last pictures on your cell phone?  Have those photos ever been of a room covered in blood? This is one of the best shorts I've read this year.

Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked - A title story that doesn't disappoint.

Souls, Dark and Deep - Another chilling tale.  This one of a babysitter with magical powers.  Think of her as Mary Poppins with a dark side.

All Souls of Eve - This homage to Dicken's A Christmas Carol was bloody brilliant.  So much fun.

Liquid Handcuffs - Another wonderful tale with a twist you'll never see coming.  One of my favorite stories in a collection filled with amazing tales.

Lady of the Flies - A girl with severe mental health issues is included in the crew for a haunted corn maze. What could possibly go wrong?  An extreme tale of horror with a wicked ending.

The Girl Who Loved Bruce Cambell - If you're still going through withdrawal over Starz canceling Ash Vs. the Evil Dead (stupid bastards), you're gonna love this bloodbath of a story.

"Kartya recalled the catchphrase of the popular children’s toy that refused to be bowled over: 'Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.' With dark amusement, she wondered if anyone had tried to knock a Weeble down with a double-barrel shotgun."

A Fairy Plant In Grief - Touching and sad simultaneously.

Wolves at the Door and Bears In the Forest - Drug addiction and recovery as a single parent.  Such a tragic tale, but compelling nonetheless.

This is Our Angry Train - A strange and winding story of a train named "The End of the World."

The One Who Answers the Door - A Halloween treat is conjured up for this, the penultimate story in this excellent collection.

Flowers from Amaryllis - A wonderful tale to wrap up this collection from a terrific new voice in genre fiction.  Filled with beautiful prose...

"You trudge into the office with the enthusiasm of a cat before a bath." and "Clicking like the sound of toenails on linoleum."

This short has a beautifully hopeful ending.

I can't recommend this enough.  Crista Carmen is a gifted storyteller and I look forward to many more tales from her wonderful imagination.  Go buy it now, you won't regret it.

Published by Unnerving Press, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked is available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

From the author's bio - Christa Carmen is a writer of dark fiction, and her short stories have appeared in places like Fireside Fiction Company, Unnerving Magazine, Year's Best Hardcore Horror, Outpost 28, DarkFuse Magazine, and Tales to Terrify, to name a few.   She has additional work forthcoming from Lycan Valley Press Publications' all-female horror anthology, Dark Voices, and her debut fiction collection, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, was released in August 2018 by Unnerving.









Thursday, February 14, 2019

Review: Where the Stars Won't Shine - by Patrick Lacey

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Tucker Ashton, the subject of the book, Birth of a Monster, written by Charles Williamson...

"But I can tell you everything leading up to his disappearance.  I can tell you about the victims and the families.  I can tell you about the trail of bloodshed Tucker Ashton left over much of the country.  I can tell you about his childhood and home life, both of which molded him into the monster he became.  And that’s a term I’ll use frequently: monster.  You can call him a human if you’d like but you haven’t sat across a table and stared into his eyes.  You haven’t heard him speak of disemboweling little girls like he was recalling a fond memory.  You haven’t seen his smile when he studies photos of his crime scenes.  I hope you never do but if, for some reason, you find yourself in such a position, you’ll understand my choice of words."

Believed deceased, Ashton is planning a return engagement to the town of Marlowe, the scene of his most notorious killing spree and this time he's invited fans old acquaintances whether they want to be there, or not.

A haunting tale, one the writer fills with a sense of urgency.  Filled with unending terror.  Don't let this one slip through the cracks.

Recommended.

Published by Grindhouse Press, Where Stars Won't Shie is available in both paperback and Kindle 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 - Patrick Lacey was born and raised in a haunted house.  He currently spends his nights and weekends writing about things that make the general public uncomfortable.  He lives in Massachusetts with his fiancee, his Pomeranian, his over-sized cat, and his muse, who is likely trying to kill him

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Review: Darker Days: A Collection of Dark Fiction - by Kenneth M. Cain

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I really don't enjoy writing reviews of books I didn't exactly love.  This one is especially hard because Darker Days is the second collection I've read by Kenneth M. Cain, the first being Embers.  Frankly, I enjoyed Embers much more than this new collection.

A Ring for His Own - This story set in the Wild West is a bit wilder than most and in a very strange way.

Heirloom - Thaddeus Claremont, a PI with a love of photography, finds an old camera and that's when things get weird.

Rust Colored Rain - "The creature came within arm's reach.  Up until that moment, it hadn't looked so different from any other human being.  Then she saw just how inhuman it really was."

Prey - A quick tale of competing species...with an unexpected twist.

Passing Time - After the birth of a child, a couple's relationship slowly deteriorates.  Not my favorite story.

What Mama Needs - The drug life.

My Brother Bit Your Honor Student - I love this title.  A different kind of zombie story.

Outcasts: The Sick and Dying 1—Henry Wentworth - A wonderful argument against the making of rash decisions.

The Sanguine Wars - The future of modern warfare.

The Hunted  - Really a miss for me.  Not much more to say.

Her Living Corals - A clever story of one woman's love for a dying reef and her efforts to bring it back to life.

Puppet Strings - A warning for controlling men.

The Trying of Master William - A rather unusual ghost story set in the days of slavery in the American South-land.

By the Crescent Moon - Mike Hayborne just moved into a new rural neighborhood and his cat Chester goes missing.  When the old lady down the street warns him to watch out for the Madocs up the foggy path leading to the hills, it's not her fault when he doesn't heed her warning.

Mantid - A frightening tale of Truth or Dare gone bad.

The Underside of Space and Time - Mirror image clones and a break in the space and time continuum.

Outcasts: The Sick and Dying 2—Gemma Nyle - Gemma had seen it all.

The Griffon - Another story I wanted to enjoy, but it just doesn't go anywhere.

Adaptable - A good tale of exploration gone bad.

When They Come - One helluva opening line..."Nobody believes in monsters until they start showing up in broad daylight, their corpses lying right out in the open. Why should they? Monsters are mythical creatures, lore meant to scare children. That was Addison Parker’s experience when one first appeared just off the turnpike, across from Ghost Lake."

The Reassignment Project - Lots of senseless violence.  Oh, yeah and aliens, too.

Presage - An intriguing look at what might happen should DNA from the Shroud or Turin ever be cloned.

One Hopeless Night By a Clan Fire - An utterly strange story of a man who receives radio signals through his teeth.

Lenny's New Eyes - A story which answers the question, what would a thirsty demon give for an octoslushie.

Outcasts: The Sick and Dying 3—Anna Kilpatrick - One of the bleakest stories I've ever read.

A Very Different Sort of Apocalypse - Best premise ever.  A post-nuclear zombie apocalypse and trying to survive with a pair of stoner conjoined twins.

In a collection this large, twenty-six stories, there are sure to be a few tales that don't work for the average reader, but for me, there just weren't enough great stories to offer up more than three stars.

Published by Crystal Lake Publishing. Darker Days: A Collection of Dark Fiction is available in paperback and Kindle 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 - Kenneth W. Cain is the author of four novels, four short story collections, four novellas, and several children's books among his body of work.  He is the editor for Crystal Lake Publishing's Tales From The Lake Volume 5 and When the Clock Strikes 13.  The winner of the 2017 Silver Hammer Award, Cain is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association, as well as a volunteer for the membership committee and chair of the Pennsylvania chapter.   Cain resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Review: The Nightmare Girl - by Jonathon Janz

5 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

It's a sad thing when an author's work is no longer available because the publisher goes out of business, but it's wonderful when a new publisher sees value in putting that book back into the world.  Such was the fate of The Nightmare Girl.

This is another Jonathan Janz book I missed when it was first released by Samhain.  I'm so glad Flame Treet Press decided to add this to their February 2019 lineup.

Joe, Michelle, and their young daughter, Lily is a family that I grew to love and I would hate to see them harmed.

Janz is a wonderful storyteller.  Here he's talking about Lily...

"When she didn't nap she was more frightening than a terrorist on crystal meth."

The trouble began with an incident at a gas station when Joe intervened as a woman was beating her two-year-old son about the face because he wouldn't stop crying.  This led to charges against the mother and having her son placed in foster care. And that was just the beginning.

Some authors just have "it" and Jonathan is one of those authors.  Janz builds tension the way a construction worker puts up a new house.  The Nightmare Girl has great pacing and the scenes where  Joe exacts revenge on the "family" are violent and cathartic...

"The bit was a good one, a thick silver masonry bit, either a 5/8 or 3/4, and though its tip was wide and blunt, it bored into Axl's forehead without problem.  The skin began to swirl into bloody ribbons, the curls spinning around the bit like May Day streamers, and though Axl thrashed to be free of the drill, Joe had both the leverage and the brute strength to drive it relentlessly downward."

If you didn't get to read The Nightmare Girl when it first came out, rejoice in its re-release.  I can't give enough praise for this one. It gets my unconditional recommendation.

Published by Flame Tree Press, The Nightmare Girl is currently available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories.  His ghost story, The Siren and the Specter, was selected as a Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for Best Horror.  Additionally, his novel, Children of the Dark, was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year.  Jonathan's main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Review: Revolver - by Michael Patrick Hicks

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Originally published a few years ago as a part of the Sci-Fi anthology Chronicle Worlds: No Way Home, Revolver is a longish short story set in the near-future and draws directly from today's politically charged atmosphere.

"The price tag on my head was $ 5,000.  Easy money." - An opening line that immediately drew me into the story.  I need to know more.

While the left will likely find this piece something to rally behind, those on the right will no doubt take offense, (damn snowflakes).

The story itself is well written and follows what may be Cara Stone's final day as she prepares to appear on the far-right podcast, Revolver.  A show often reserved for members of the LBGTQ community as an alternative for jail.  You're given a handgun and you are asked to commit suicide on live TV in exchange for cash for your surviving family members. While Cara does not fall into this category, she is a down-on-her-luck, homeless, alcoholic and a drain on society.

Revolver is a sick and twisted look at where we are headed.  From the Author's note...

"This story is not meant to comfort, nor is it meant to be an easy read.  It is also not the least bit subtle, as more than a few readers have mentioned.  Revolver was written mostly in a fit of anger.  It’s not subtle and it is not meant to be subtle.  It’s meant to be disruptive and challenging to the status quo.  As such, depending on your political predilections or how well tempered you are toward heavy-handed narratives, it might not necessarily be the type of dystopian science fiction you are looking for."

With Revolver, Michael Patrick Hicks certainly stirs the pot.  As someone who leans a bit to the left politically, I thoroughly enjoyed venting a bit through this book and it's one I can carefully recommend.

Published by High Fever Books, Revolver is available for the Kindle and in Audible format.

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and its sequel, Emergence, as well as several horror titles, including his most recent novel, Mass Hysteria.  His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer, in addition to work as a freelance journalist.  In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.







Review: Victoria - by Jason Parent

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Victoria is set just a few years in the future, but it really began when Victoria Menard was just a little girl and she made a friend.  Her name was Chester.

"My friend is gone now...sort of, because I always feel her presence.  She hasn't spoken to me in many years but in a way, she will always be with me."

Orphaned at seven, her uncle dies as well and passes his affliction on to her, a spider who promises friendship and adventure.  Chester comes to live in her ear and teaches her everything she needs to know to survive and much, much more.

Jason Parent tells Victoria's story with a flippant attitude that's fun to read.  As we get further into the tale we learn more and more about Chester's kind.  She's so much more than a talking spider.  Dare I say the story takes on the cosmic overtones of an H.P. Lovecraft tale.

Victoria is older now and Chester has her searching for secrets in the Vatican.  Enter Armani Giancarlo Scarpetti who is part of a clandestine body within the Church whose sole purpose is to safeguard humanity against an ancient evil.  I loved the dynamic between Victoria and Armani.  Do they want to kill each other or find comfort in each other's arms?  One thing is certain in Victoria, you can't trust anyone...people or spiders.

At its heart, Victoria is a thriller novel with a rather strange subtext.  Although a sequel to Parent's earlier work, What Hides Within, it is not necessary to read the prior work first.

If you come in with an open mind, I think you're likely to enjoy Victoria, I know I did.  Recommended.

Published by Bloodshot Books, Victoria is currently available in both paperback and Kindle 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 - Jason is an author of horror, thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, and dark humor, though his many novels, novellas, and short stories tend to blur the boundaries between these genres.   From his award-winning first horror/mystery novel, What Hides Within, to his widely applauded police procedural/supernatural thriller, Seeing Evil, Jason’s work has won him praise from both critics and fans of diverse genres alike.  His work has been compared to that of some of his personal favorite authors, such as Chuck Palahniuk, Jack Ketchum, Tess Gerritsen, and Joe Hill.

Jason grew up near Fall River, Massachusetts, the setting for several of his novels.  He has lived in New England most of his life, currently residing in Rhode Island.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Guest Post: Jason Parent on Victoria and Coming of Age Novels

Victoria and Coming-of-Age Novels

My latest release, Victoria, is a mash-up of several genres, but at its core, it is essentially a coming-of-age novel following a rather unique teen whose life experiences go far beyond that of most kids her age in some respects and fall far short in so many others.

Victoria has seen much of the globe, been immersed in diverse cultures, learned the best and worst of what the world has to offer. But she has been denied social norms, healthy friendships, traditional upbringing, or even a place to call home.  Worst of all, since the age of seven, she has been deprived of parental guidance, reared instead by a temperamental spider living inside her head.

I am generally not a fan of coming-of-age novels, which feature young protagonists as they grow into adulthood.  They usually involve those hallmarks of teenage conflict: first love, sexual discovery, financial independence, leaving home, etc.  Sure, there have been many great coming-of-age novels from Catcher in the Rye and The Book Thief to It and Boy’s Life.  A couple other good ones for horror/thriller fans from authors perhaps not yet as famous as King and McCammon are Bay’s End by Edward Lorn and The Other Side of Elsewhere by Brett McKay.

For me though, more often than not, coming-of-age novels involve whiny teens dealing with melodramatic issues.  They also tend to focus on a whole lot of talking and not enough action.  So with Victoria, I set out to write a coming-of-age story that would appeal to me as a reader, while also hopefully appealing to fans of coming-of-age novels and fans of the universe in which the novel is based, originally appearing in my first novel, What Hides Within.

But how to do that?  First off, screw the whining.  My protagonist, Victoria, is a strong, ass-kicking teenage girl with a penchant for crime.  She’s done some pretty bad things in her short life, but compared to my antagonist, she poops ice cream (not literally).  Second, Victoria is a twist on (or a twisted version of) a coming-of-age story.  Without giving too much away and while the novel may have some of the hallmarks of the genre previously mentioned, it doesn’t necessarily follow in the path of its predecessors and is hopefully unpredictable and gloriously so.

But you be the judge.  Pick up Victoria and give it a read. At the very least, I am confident you will be entertained.

About Victoria -

Victoria Menard has had a hard life. She’s an orphan and a thief… and perhaps even a murderer. Worst of all, her only friend is a talking spider named Chester that lives in her head.

For the last eight years, Victoria and Chester have traveled the world, seeing the sights, learning half a dozen languages, and terrorizing communities indiscriminately.  Now sixteen, Victoria wants her independence. But the parasite inside her won’t let her go.

Chester has big plans, but Victoria’s brain may no longer be big enough for the both of them.  How can a girl rid herself of an unwanted guest when that guest refuses to leave?


Victoria is a stand-alone novel set in the same universe as the EPIC award finalist novel, What Hides Within.

From the author's bio - Jason is an author of horror, thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, and dark humor, though his many novels, novellas, and short stories tend to blur the boundaries between these genres.  From his award-winning first horror/mystery novel, What Hides Within, to his widely applauded police procedural/supernatural thriller, Seeing Evil, Jason’s work has won him praise from both critics and fans of diverse genres alike.  His work has been compared to that of some of his personal favorite authors, such as Chuck Palahniuk, Jack Ketchum, Tess Gerritsen, and Joe Hill.

Jason grew up near Fall River, Massachusetts, the setting for several of his novels.  He has lived in New England most his life, currently residing in Rhode Island.


Monday, February 4, 2019

Review: Violet Eyes - by John Everson

5 of 5 Stars

Let me say this before we go any further.  Spiders.  I hate spiders.  However, as long as they remain on the page I should be OK.

It's doesn't take long before John Everson has my skin crawling...

"at that moment, the spiders began to jump.  They landed in her hair and on her back and shoulders.  They skittered down her waist and leapt up from the ground to cover her ankles and shins.  They were everywhere. Like a swarm of ants over a spot of grease on a summer sidewalk.  They fell from the darkness onto her mouth and crawled around her neck to tickle the lobes of her ears.  They covered her body like a deep violet skin, and they didn’t care when she maniacally batted and slapped and crushed dozens of them with her alarm.  There were hundreds more to take their place."

Billy McAllister was the only survivor of an incident at Sheila Key which took the lives of three of his friends, unfortunately, when he returned home to Passanattee, Florida he brought some unwanted guests with him.

Rachel Riordan and her young son, Eric are new to Passanattee.  Recently divorced from her abusive husband, Anders, they are hoping to start a new life.  Enter state forestry ranger, Terry  Brackson, and you have the makings of an interesting side story.

Cringe-worthy images of horror with terrific characters, both likable and unlikable.  Violet Eyes is guaranteed to make your skin crawl.  Everson' ability to mix the real with the supernatural is nothing shy of a gift.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I already had a fear of spiders, Thanks to this book, I'm now afraid of flies, as well.

Totally recommended.

Published by Dark Arts Books, Violet Eyes is available in paperback, for the 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.

From the author's bio - John Everson is a staunch advocate for the culinary joys of the jalapeno and an unabashed fan of 1970s European horror cinema.   He is also the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Covenant and eight other novels, including the erotic horror tour de force and Bram Stoker Award finalist NightWhere and the seductive backwoods tale of The Family Tree.   Over the past 25 years, his short fiction has appeared in more than 75 magazines and anthologies and received a number of critical accolades, including frequent Honorable Mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthology series.

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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Excerpt: Something Borrowed, Something Blood Soaked

When asked if I'd like to post the excerpt from Crista Carmen's collection  Something Borrowed, Something Blood Soaked, my reply was one word, "Send."  I'm in the middle of reading this right now and I've enjoyed every story so far.  Here is just a taste of what to expect.


THIRSTY CREATURES
by Christa Carmen


The trees were fire and the sky was panicked birds and the horse was made of bone.


She knew the horse would not walk forever.  She also knew that when the horse could go no farther, she would trade her Hell on Earth for one beyond her capacity to conceive.

~

On the day the water turned to poison, she had done the bad thing again.  When her father appeared before her, she was certain it was to scold her for her atrocious, perverted ways.  But when her father opened his mouth, a river of red ran out in place of reproach.  In a revelation of horror, she remembered her father guzzling the glass of water from the faucet, and she gripped her favorite stuffed creature—a gift that she had not deserved—as the gore rushed from between her father’s lips, hiding her face in its fur so she would not have to see.

She heard the muffled thwump when her father’s body hit the floor.  By then, her brother had drunk the water too, (by then, who hadn’t?) and when he saw their father in a frothy sea of unrelenting red,
he opened his mouth to scream.  His insides came out instead of sound.

She watched as the mundane setting of their living room became an estuary of brackish blood, her brother’s red mixing with her father’s.  The book that had taught her about brackish water and estuaries and other interesting, scientific things lay open on her desk upstairs.  It would remain there now, for an eternity.  Unless the water cleared and there was anyone left to drink it.



Follow along this tour with the hashtags: #SomethingBorrowed #Unnerving #PsychologicalHorror

Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, Synopsis
     * Publishing Date: August 21, 2018
     * Publisher: Unnerving Press
     * Page Length: 282 pages

A young woman’s fears regarding the gruesome photos appearing on her cell phone prove justified in a ghastly and unexpected way.  A chainsaw-wielding Evil Dead fan defends herself against a trio of undead intruders.  A bride-to-be comes to wish that the door between the physical and spiritual worlds had stayed shut on All Hallows’ Eve. A lone passenger on a midnight train finds that the engineer has rerouted them toward a past she’d prefer to forget.  A mother abandons a life she no longer recognizes as her own to walk up a mysterious staircase in the woods.

In her debut collection, Christa Carmen combines horror, charm, humor, and social critique to shape thirteen haunting, harrowing narratives of women struggling with both otherworldly and real-world problems.  From grief, substance abuse, and mental health disorders, to a post-apocalyptic exodus, a seemingly sinister babysitter with unusual motivations, and a group of pesky ex-boyfriends who won’t stay dead, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked is a compelling exploration of horrors both supernatural and psychological, and an undeniable affirmation of Carmen’s flair for short fiction.

Biography

Christa Carmen is a writer of dark fiction, and her short stories have appeared in places like Fireside Fiction Company, Unnerving Magazine, Year's Best Hardcore Horror, Outpost 28, DarkFuse
Magazine, and Tales to Terrify, to name a few.  She has additional work forthcoming from Lycan Valley Press Publications' all-female horror anthology, Dark Voices, and her debut fiction collection, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, was released in August 2018 by Unnerving.


Christa lives in Westerly, Rhode Island with her husband and their ten-year-old bluetick beagle, Maya.  She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in English and psychology, and a master's degree from Boston College in counseling psychology, and she's currently pursuing a Master of Liberal Arts in Creative Writing & Literature from Harvard Extension School.  Christa works at a pharmaceutical company as a Research & Development Packaging Coordinator, and at a local hospital as a mental health clinician.  When she's not writing, she is volunteering with one of several organizations that aim to maximize public awareness and seek solutions to the ever-growing opioid crisis in southern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut.

Author Website: www.christacarmen.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15179583.Christa_Carmen
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/christacarmen
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christaqua
Twitter: https://twitter.com/christaqua
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christaqua/



Praise for Christa Carmen

“Christa Carmen’s 'Red Room' is a different beast altogether.  This story has some wicked imagery, a sinister and brooding atmosphere, and a terrific ending. I’d go as far to say that this is one of the best short stories Unnerving has published in the magazine." – The Grim Reader

“I was pulled in from the first story: ‘Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge,’ by Christa Carmen.  It was also one of my favorites and I have to say that the title gave me a dark chuckle when paired with the band mentioned in the story.” – Sci-Fi and Scary

"This beautifully macabre collection of urban legends and ghastly encounters is a cold whisper, a dripping ax, a shattered camera lens.  Walk carefully into Carmen's night.  But if you hear flies, run." -Stephanie M. Wytovich, Bram Stoker award-winning author of Brothel.

Would you like to feature?


If you would like to review Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked or feature Christa with an interview or guest article for a media publication, blog, or author blurb, please e-mail Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Review: On This the Day of the Pig - by Josh Malerman

4 of 5 Stars     (Purchased directly from Publisher)

Jeff and Aaron Newton, and their mother, Sherry, pay a visit to grandpa Kopple's farm.  That's when one of the pigs speaks to Jeff and convinces him he must kill one of the other pigs.  So picking up an ax, Jeff proceeds to do the deed,

"Pearl made me do it, Pearl made me want to do it."

On This the Day of the Pig is a fast-paced terrifying tale.

"The word came large to Pearl now because it was the right word, the best word, of all the words the farmer had taught him, on his knees in the barn, on his knees in the mud of the pen.  Pearl had been very patient with him, grateful, too, and it wasn't until the boy, the grandson, listened to him, to Pearl, that Pearl understood it was time.  Time to take over the farm."

Total madness and full-on terror, start to finish. Totally insane, yet wonderfully entertaining.

Certainly recommended.

Published as a signed limited-edition hardcover from Cemetery Dance.

From the author's bio - Josh Malerman is a New York Times-bestselling author and one of two singer/songwriters for the rock band The High Strung, which performs the theme song for Showtime’s Shameless.  His debut novel, Bird Box, is the inspiration for the hit Netflix film of the same name. Josh almost always writes as horror movie soundtracks play on his record player (The Howling, Poltergeist, and Zombi 2 are great, but Creepshow is best).  His other novels include Unbury Carol and Inspection.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Review: The Same Deep Water As You - by Chad Lutzke

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Wow.  Just wow.  Every time I read a new piece of fiction by Chad Lutzke, I become a bigger fan than I was going in.  His newest work is the novella The Same Deep Water As You.  At eighty-two pages, it is a work best absorbed in a single sitting or perhaps two close sessions.

The Same Deep Water As You is a series of vignettes about a group of skateboarders, their relationships, it's about love and loss.

Music is the soundtrack of our lives.  Good or bad, it tells a story.

There are many gems in this story.  Bits of wisdom, like...

"...you really don't know how to treat a girl when you're 19.  It's like trial and error and nothing gets figured out until it's too late."

"John really had changed, and I couldn't stop thinking about what he said.  I thought about it all night, especially while standing alone, pissing in the marijuana jungle."

The Same Deep Water As You has more than one of those "Oh, wow" moments, the kind that just knocks the wind out of you.  The more I read, the more I really enjoyed Lutzke's latest work.  It's hard to pigeonhole what kind of story this is.  This holds true for much of his body of work.  I guess speculative fiction would be the best way of describing what he writes.  But the bottom line is, it's just great writing.

Definitely recommended.

The Same Deep Water As You is available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

From the author's bio - Chad lives in Michigan with his wife and children.  For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene, offering articles, reviews, and artwork.  He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine.  He's had a few dozen stories published, and some of his books include: Of Foster Homes and Flies, Wallflower, Stirring the Sheets, Skullface Boy, and Out Behind the bard co-written with John Boden.   Lutzke's work has been praised by authors Jack Ketchum, Stephen Graham Jones, James Newman, Cemetery Dance, and his own mother.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Review: A Little Aqua Book of Marine Tales - by Tim Waggoner

4 of 5 Stars     Gift Copy

I recently learned Tim Waggoner almost drowned when he was just nine-years-old.  This led to a fascination with water in many of his short stories, several of which appear in this collection. from Borderlands Press.

Water Dark and Deep - A beautifully haunting tale of a woman in total control of her life...or, at least that's what she would like to believe.

Swimming Lessons - This story is short on words but long on wonderfully weird Waggoner.

Surface Tension - "Have you ever stopped to look a rain puddle?  I mean really look at it?"

Lover, Come Back To Me - Alan, who nearly drowned, in Greywater Lake, as a nine-year-old, is convinced, by his wife, Jan, to confront his fear of the lake with a canoe ride.  Obviously, things don't go well.

The Nature of Water - "Dead boys don't rise from their watery graves to pay a late-night visit to their murderers in real life."  A very good tale with a touch of Lovecraft.

Fathomless Tides - A bit surreal, at the end, but another sharp story about taking chances.

Every Beast of the Earth - Valerie doesn't drive in the rain.  In this tale, filled with stunning imagery, she gets caught in an unexpected downpour.

Just for the record, I'm a fan of Tim Waggoner.  He's one of my "Go To" authors.  He has yet to let me down.  Since this collection is sold out, if you find a copy on the secondary market, at a fair price, be sure to pick it up.

A wonderful collection of personal stories with a similar theme. Strongly recommended

A Little Aqua Book of Marine Tales is a signed limited-edition collection of stories published by Borderlands Press.  Unfortunately, this item is already Out of Stock.

From the author's bio - Tim Waggoner writes original dark fantasy and horror, as well as media tie-ins.  He’s published over forty novels and five collections of short fiction.  He’s won the Bram Stoker Award and been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the Scribe Award.  In addition to writing, he’s also a full-time tenured professor who teaches creative writing and composition at Sinclair Community College.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Review: The Isle - by John C. Foster

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

The Isle is a dark and demented look at the way life, or what passes for it, has evolved on a remote island off the New England coast.

No doubt, John C. Foster knows how to string words together...

"Dawn was a red rim of anger on the horizon as the storm gathered its strength and the wind tried to rip the door from his grip.  Waves detonated against the rocks with loud explosions of white foam, the ocean matching the swirling fury of the storm clouds overhead."

Foster is an artist who is able to paint pictures with his words and does it again and again...

"The Isle is technically only a territory.  Not part of Maine.  It’s eighty-two miles off the coast.  Isolated.  Only about three hundred people living there.  The only regular transport back and forth is a boat that delivers lobster and fish and picks up supplies."

The official synopsis for The Isle describes the story better than I ever could...

"A deadly menace threatens a remote island community and every man, woman and child is in peril. Sent to the isle to collect the remains of a dead fugitive, US Marshal Virgil Bone is trapped by torrential storms."

As the body count rises the community unravels, and Bone is thrust into the role of investigator. Aided by a local woman and the town pariah, he uncovers the island’s macabre past and its horrifying connection to the killings.

Some curses are best believed.
Sometimes the past is best left buried.
And some will kill to keep it so."

I enjoyed the way Foster would withhold secrets, reveling them at just the right moment. The story of the curse on The Isle was formidable.  In some ways, this is a literary work.  In others, it's an homage to New England gothic horror.  However, you look at it, The Isle is a helluva lot of fun.

Recommended.

Published by Grey Matter Press, The Isle is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio -John C. Foster was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and has been afraid of the dark for as long as he can remember.  The Isle grew out of his love for New England, where he spent his childhood.  He is the author of three previous novels, Dead Men, Night Roads and Mister White, and one collection of short stories, Baby Powder and Other Terrifying Substances.  His stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Dark Moon Digest, Strange Aeons, Dark Visions Volume 2 and Lost Films, among others. He lives in Brooklyn with the actress Linda Jones and their dog Coraline.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: Glimpse - by Jonathan Maberry

5 of 5 Stars (Purchased at a Book Signing directly from author)

No doubt, Jonathan Maberry has the ability to grab your attention with just a few words...

"It's like that sometimes. 
     It starts weird and in the wrong place.
     This did
     Rain Thomas went to bed on Thursday and woke up on Saturday.
She had no idea at all that someone had stolen a whole day from her until she arrived twenty-three hours and forty-eight minutes late for a job interview.
     The interview did not go well."

I'm hooked.  Instantly.  No turning back.

One of the things I really liked about Maberry's latest novel is there are no squeaky-clean characters, they all have faults, much like what you find in real life but, at the same time Glimpse has little to do with real life.  Having left her reading glasses at home, Rain is given a pair by an elderly Latino woman on the bus.  A pair which gives her glimpses of things she wouldn't see otherwise.

When returning to the work of a favorite author there's a comfort level like no other.

Rain got pregnant as a teenager and gave up her child, Dylan, out of necessity.  The decision haunts her, even in her dreams...

"I think it means those glasses are telling me the truth.  I think it means that my son is out there, that I've been seeing him.  And I think—God help me—I think he's in real trouble...I think monsters are trying to kill him."

A master storyteller weaving reality and dreams, but are they dreams, and what is real and what is imagination?

Mayberry has a knack of reaching out of the page, grabbing ahold of you and drawing you into the story.  The man has some serious writing chops...

"Rain wanted to run.  Not run home.  Just run.  Any way.  Far away.  She wanted to outrun her life."

At times Glimpse is scary as hell.  My first great read of 2019.  I loved this book although, from the other reviews I've seen, not everyone did.  I understand their complaints, but for me, it comes down to how much you are willing to become invested in the story.  This is not a novel for the casual reader

Ultimately this is a story of hope.  Sure, there's violence, blood, and pain, not to mention weird, there's plenty of weird., but without hope, it's just so many words.

Recommended.

Published by St. Martin's Press and available in hardcover, e-book, and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestselling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author.  Probably best known for his Joe Ledger novels and for his award-winning YA Rot & Ruin series.  He currently resides in Del Mar, California and you can find him online at jonathanmaberry.com.




Thursday, January 10, 2019

Review: Blood Island - by Tim Waggoner

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

OK, so Blood Island is no Jaws.  It's not even on par with Moby Dick, but it is worthy of 5 Stars for the simple reason it succeeds in doing exactly what it sets out to do.  And that is to entertain in the way a classic B-Movie like "Hell Comes to Frogtown" or "It Came From Beneath the Sea" did back in the day.

"The Mass will eat well this day. It will add the ur-tadpoles’ substance to its own and grow larger and stronger. It will save several of the ur-tadpoles to serve as Hunters until such time as it can find better – and bigger – servants. Life here at the dawn of time is extremely good for the Mass.
And it’s only going to get better."

Fast-forward 600 million years.

In an effort to capitalize on the events detailed in Waggoner's previous Severed Press novel Teeth of the Sea a film crew, led by director, Inez Perry is filming a B-Movie, Devourer of the Deep.  Little does the cast and crew realize there is more lurking in the waters offshore than the mechanical beast the propmasters have designed for this low-budget masterpiece.

Wonderful action sequences right from the start.  There are few throw-away characters.  Most of them well-developed and in mortal peril.  It's time to shut off your sense of disbelief and prepare for one wild ride.  Think Sharknado without the bad weather.

Both Teeth of the Deep and Blood Island are published by Severed Press and are available now.

From the author's bio - Tim Waggoner's first novel came out in 2001  Since then he's published over forty novels and five collections of short stories.  He writes original fantasy and horror, as well as media tie-ins.  He's won the Bram Stoker Award, been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the Scribe Award.  In addition to writing, Tim is also a full-time tenured professor who teaches creative writing and composition at Sinclair College.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Guest Post: Fiction You Can Sink Your Teeth Into - Tim Waggoner

Fiction You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

By Tim Waggoner

I’ve written a lot of horror fiction over the course of my thirty-seven-year career.  My favorite kind to write is nightmarish surreal horror, where reality is unstable, where characters’ psychological states are mirrored in the outer world, and where Entropy always wins in the end.  This kind of horror is the most artistically satisfying for me, but the most fun I’ve ever had writing horror was when I wrote my two novels for Severed Press: Teeth of the Sea, which came out in 2017, and Blood Island, which was recently released.

If you’re not familiar with Severed Press, they’re a Tasmanian small-press publisher that specializes in pulp horror of the monsters-eat-people variety, complete with lurid covers featuring toothsome beasts.  I’ve loved all things dark and wonderful since I was a kid, and I was especially fond of what I called monster movies.  I watched any horror movie that came on the TV – no home video devices or content streaming services in those days – but I enjoyed movies where some horrifying creature preyed on hapless humans the most.  The monsters stimulated my imagination.  There were so many different types, from humanoid varieties like vampires and werewolves to giant insects and irradiated dinosaurs.  The plot structure was likely comforting to me as well.  These stories were as simple and ritualized as genre fiction gets.  Monster appears and starts eating people, people discover monster exists, people battle monster while monster eats more of them, survivors find a way to defeat the monster in the end (often by learning about and exploiting its one weakness).  Somewhere in the story, people would have to deal with personal issues exacerbated by the danger and tension of the monster attacks, but this aspect wasn’t very interesting to the child-me.  I usually read comics while I waited for the monster to make another appearance.

As I grew older, I began to discover more sophisticated horror in books and film, but the creature-feature variety has always remained close to my heart.  I’d never had any ambition to write a monster-chomps-humans novel, but one day I saw a submission call from Severed Press on Facebook, and I thought to myself, “I wonder if I can do that?”  (Much of my writing career has been a result of asking myself this question).  So I pitched several ideas to Severed Press, all of which were received with less-than-wild enthusiasm.  The publisher asked if I could write a sea monster book since they sold best.  None of my original pitches took place on the sea.  I almost drowned when I was nine, and I use water a lot in my stories, but never at novel length.  I thought the sea would be too limited a setting for a monster book.  All people had to do to escape the monster was stay away from the water.  But it became a challenge, and I was determined to come up with a kick-ass sea monster concept.  The result was Teeth of the Sea.  In this novel, prehistoric monsters called pliosaurs attack the island resort of Elysium – which is crisscrossed with an intricate canal system (making it easier for my pliosaurs to hunt).

I had a lot of fun writing the book, but when I was finished, I figured that was it for me and sea monsters.  I’d found a way to tell a story with sea beasts, but how could I write another without repeating myself?  I started to wonder if I could do it again, and the eventual result was Blood Island.  This time a real-life sea monster attacks a film crew making a low-budget creature-feature movie.  And while the monster lives in the sea, extensions of itself can go onto the land in search of prey.  I had even more fun writing Blood Island, and I leaned in even harder to the cheesy B-movie vibe.

One thing I did in both novels is the same thing I try to do in all my fiction: make the story about people as much as, if not more than, the monsters.  The best horror – even cheesy B-movie just-for-fun horror – is never about the monster.  It’s about how people react to the monster (or to becoming a monster).  And even if a character makes only a short appearance in the story before he or she gets eaten, I do my best to make them as fully fleshed (no pun intended) as possible.  I try to give these characters some dignity before they’re forced to exit the stage.

If you check out either Teeth of the Sea or Blood Island, I hope you enjoy them.  And if you’d like to try your hand at writing a monster-eats-people story, always remember the people are just as important as the monsters.

Oh, and don’t forget to have fun.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Review: Scapegoat - by Adam Howe and James Newman

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

James Newman lives in North Carolina, USA, and Adam Howe makes his home across the Atlantic in England.  Thanks to the power of the internet collaborations like this one are possible.  The result is both wondrous and wonderful.

So what's Scapegoat about?  Well, I'm glad you asked...

For metalheads Mike Rawson , Lonnie Deveroux, and Pork Chop, an RV road trip to Wrestlemania III becomes a one-way ticket to hell.  While delivering an illegal shipment of counterfeit wrestling merchandise, an ill-fated shortcut through the Kentucky backwoods leads them to a teenaged girl carved head to toe in arcane symbols.  Soon our unlikely heroes are being hunted through the boonies by a cult of religious crazies who make the Westboro Baptists look like choirboys… a cult that will stop at nothing to get the girl back and complete a ritual that has held an ancient evil at bay for centuries… Until now.

The end result is equal measures of violence and humor.  Junk food horror, if you will.  Or what I like to call, "Brain Candy."

I wasn't able to attend Wrestlemania III, but I was glued to my TV to see that epic matchup with Andre the Giant colliding head-on with Hulk Hogan and with that event as a backdrop for Scapegoat, I was immediately drawn to this story.

Mike Rawson, was the one levelheaded member of the trio headed to the Silverdome...

Mike muttered something about how he'd seen enough horror movies to know nothing good ever came from a shortcut through the woods.

So much carnage, with loads of horrifying images along the way.  And be sure to stick around for the story notes after you finish the book for insight into how Scapegoat came to be, as well as a list of recommended viewing and a playlist.  These guys have thought of it all.

The end result is a great collaboration and a fun read.  Recommended.

Scapegoat is currently 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.

About the authors...

James Newman lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina with his wife, Glenda, and their two sons, Jamie and Jacob. He's best known for his novels Midnight Rain, The Wicked, Ugly As Sin and Animosity and the novella Odd Man Out.

Adam Howe - Adam Howe writes the twisted fiction your mother warned you about.  A British writer of fiction and screenplays, he lives in London with his partner, their daughter, and a hellhound named Gino.  He is the author of Tijuana Donkey Showdown, and two novella collections, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, and Black Cat Mojo.