Sunday, January 20, 2019

Review: The Isle - by John

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 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.