Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Review: Forgotten - by Kelli Owen

5 of 5 Stars    Purchased directly from the author

Kelli is one of my favorite authors and I have now read every book she's published.  I recently caught up with her at a con in York, Pa and saw this little gem I had somehow missed.

In many ways, Forgotten is one of Kelli's best works.  Solid writing, memorable characters, a compelling story, with excellent dialog.

I didn't really like the protagonist in Forgotten. But, that's OK.  Maybe I wasn't supposed to like her.  I'm sure some people will relate to her in a more positive way and that's OK, too.  I think it has to do with your own individual life story.  I think this makes for a great book in the way it can affect different people in disparate ways.

A woman's body is found in the supply closet of the women's room of a highway rest area just north of the Maryland/Pennsylvania border.  She's alive, but can't recall her name or much of anything.  Pulse-pounding from the very start.

The police investigation reveals her name and learns she has a husband and an infant, who is missing.  Of this, she remembers nothing at all.

One delicious twist after another, and when she finally remembers, things get very interesting.

If you've never read Kelli Owen before, this is a great place to start.


Forgotten is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Born and raised in Wisconsin, Kelli Owen now lives in Destination, Pennsylvania.  She has attended countless writing conventions, participated on dozens of panels and has spoken at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA regarding both her writing and the field in general.  Her fiction leans toward thriller and quiet horror, with an occasional bloodbath and even rarer happy ending.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Review: The Pandora Room - by Christopher Golden

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

We first met Ben Walker in Christopher Golden's wildly successful novel, Arafat, and there's even word of a third story, Red Hands, coming in 2020.  As if this is not exciting enough,  word on the street is the series has been optioned for television with Chris writing the pilot and serving as Executive Producer.

Meet Sophie Durand, the archeologist in charge of a dig called The Beneath Project.  The intrigue is evident from the very first page as Sophie suspects she's being followed on a market street in Amadiya.

Golden is a master of observation and he uses that skill in his descriptive writing style.

Assyrians had settled the area of the dig some 5,000 years ago.  Now the Muslim Kurds, Christians, Jews all lay various claims to the territory.

It's not long before the story goes from intrigue to heart-pounding action...

"...Sophie wondered how it had come to this, they were archeologists, researchers, teachers, Martin was still a graduate student, but here they were on a stretch of road in the middle of nowhere with men chasing them—men full of menace and malice and the presumption they could do anything to anyone and get away with it."

The Beneath Project has broken through to a room with ancient writings and a single jar placed on an altar.  After deciphering the text, it is believed this jar may be the legendary Pandora's Box of Greek mythology.  The writing actually speaks of two boxes, one filled with goodness, the other evil.  No one knows which jar is in The Pandora Room.

It's not long before Ben Walker arrives on the scene.  Be works for DARPA - The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  Their job is to "look into emerging science and unexplained phenomena and make absolutely certain that if it was possible someone could make a weapon out of it the United States would be the first to do so."

The Pandora Box is one of those books you can't say a lot about without giving away its secrets and they are best discovered by the reader.  The most a reviewer can do is praise the work and lay accolades upon the author.

"Evil exists...Whatever's here with us, I feel it.  I can practically taste it, whatever it is."

The words flow like a country stream.   Every bit as exciting as Dan Brown at his best.  Make no mistake about it, The Pandora Box is as much a horror story as it is a thriller.  A very satisfying read.

100% recommended.

Published by St. Martin's Press, The Pandora Room is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Christopher Golden is the New York Times bestselling author of such novels as Ararat, Tin Men, Wildwood Road, and many others.  Golden co-created (with Mike Mignola) two cult favorite comic book series, Baltimore and Joe Golem: Occult Detective.  He is also the co-host of the podcasts Three Guys with Beards and Defenders Dialogue, and the founder of the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival.  Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Review: Boomtown - by James A. Moore

4 of  5 Stars     Review copy

Carson's Point, currently home to a skinwalker, reanimated dead folk, a spectre, and other assorted oddities.  Oh, and let's not forget Jonathan Crowley.  Get ready for one of the wildest rides of the year.

What's a Jonathan Crowley novel without its fair share violence...

"Crowley grabbed the Peacemaker from his enemy’s hand, breaking the trigger finger in the process. His target yelped a second time and he flipped the weapon over until he was holding the barrel in his grip. He was too close in to fire  the  weapon,  but  it  made  a  damned  fine  hammer  for caving in his enemy’s forehead."

Violence is OK, but it's not all blood and guts...

"She looked pristine, innocent, nearly perfect.  Beautiful, really, for a ghost."

I usually enjoy a good Jonathan Crowley novel, but Boomtown felt a bit disconnected and was at times confusing.  Despite this, the story was still a fun throwback to the weird, weird west.

Somewhat recommended.

Published by Twisted Press, a division of Haverhill House Publishing, Boomtown is available as a limited edition hardcover, trade paperback, and for the Kindle.  BTW, 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 - James A. Moore is the author of over forty novels, including the critically acclaimed Fireworks, Under The Overtree, Blood Red, Blood Harvest, the Serenity Falls trilogy (featuring his recurring anti-hero, Jonathan Crowley).  He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Review: Carnivorous Lunar Activities - by Max Booth III

5 of 5 Stars     Purchased directly from the author

Don't even bother reading my review.  Just do yourself a favor and purchase this book immediately.  Carnivorous Lunar Activities could well be, the best werewolf story I'll ever read.

Frankly, that should be all the review you need but read on, if you must.

It all starts with this kick-ass opening line...

"Ted was thinking about killing his wife when his cell phone rang."

Ted's best friend in the world, Justin, calls him away only to tell him he must be shot the minute he turns into a werewolf (at midnight).  As a result, the first part of the book is the two friends reminiscing to kill time.  Thankfully, this includes the story of how Justin became infected.  And it is glorious.

Yes, Carnivorous Lunar Activities is a werewolf tale, but that doesn't mean Max Booth III lacks writing chops...

"Grass threatened to swallow his feet as he approached the back door.  Ants and other curious insects starred up at him from their jungle, contemplating the motives of a giant."

I found myself devouring (see what I did there?) every word of this short novel.  Someone needs to make this into a movie, post haste.  Carnivorous Lunar Activities is anything but predictable.  So many surprises.  One of the most enjoyable werewolf stories I've ever read.  A complete joyride, start to finish.

Totally recommended.

Published by a name synonymous with fine horror, Fangoria, Carnivorous Lunar Activities is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Max Booth III is the Editor-in-Chief of Perpetual Motion Machine, the Managing Editor of Dark Moon Digest, and the co-host of Castle Rock Radio, a Stephen King podcast.  He's the author of many novels and frequently contributes articles to both LitReactor and CrimeReads.  He lives in Texas.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Review: The Murder of Jesus Christ - by John R. Little

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

You might think John R. Little is taking a risk with the title of his new book.  Well, so should you.

First of all, we need to establish that The Murder of Jesus Christ is NOT about the story most of us are familiar with.  This is definitely a work of fiction.

It's a story told by David Abelman, currently serving a life sentence at Leavenworth.

In his life before prison, David was a renowned science photographer recently assigned to cover the launch of the spaceship, Sagan.  As luck would have it, one member of the five-person crew was his former girlfriend, Karen Anderson.  The mission was to the far side of the moon to investigate the source of radio waves.  Aliens?  Wait, it gets stranger.

David is Jewish and lost more than a few ancestors to the Holocaust.  Before his ninety-two-year-old grandmother dies, she tells him of...

"...an ancient type of magic called Shel jah, which I’m sure you’ve never heard of.  Not many people have.  It’s Jewish magic, and it’s all but disappeared now, but it was a powerful tool for thousands of years...What is it?  Shel jah provides a limited ability to control time.  Yes, time."

Can you guess where this is headed?  David does what he does with the best of intentions, but things don't turn out quite the way he expected.

I've already said more than I probably should, but really, I've just scratched the surface.  There are numerous surprises sprinkled throughout the story.

Despite the fantastic nature of The Murder of Jesus Christ, I found the work to be wholly, or should I say "holy," entertaining and incredibly imaginative.


Published by Bad Moon Books, The Murder of Jesus Christ will be available as a signed, limited-edition, hardcover, and trade paperback.

From the author's bio - John R. Little is an award-winning author of suspense, dark fantasy, and horror.  He currently lives in Ayr, a small town near Kitchener, Canada, and is always at work on his next book. John has published more than15 books to date.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Review: The Dark Game - by Jonathan Janz

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Possibly the most succinct opening-line ever.  It truly tells you all you need to know about The Dark Game...

"Lucy sat in the back of the limo, blindfolded, unaware she was entering the nightmarish plot of a madman instead of a writer's retreat."

The estate of world-renowned writer, Roderick Wells.  Ten aspiring writers in all, there to learn at the feet of a master, and to compete for a two million dollar prize and a chance at immortality.

Sounds good, right?  Wrong.  Oh, so very wrong.  Before long writers are leaving the competition.  But are they dropping out on their own, are they being forced to leave, or are they being eliminated permanently?

"Rick realized why no one could find a recent image of Roderick Wells, why he never showed up to accept awards.  Because if someone did gaze at the man too long (he’s not a man) it would drive you insane, you’d get lost forever in those murky black tarns, those wells—the aptness of the name slammed into him— and once you sank into those stygian waters, you’d be lost, irretrievable.  Jesus God, couldn’t the others see what was happening?"

There are some Easter eggs from Janz's prior works, most notably where the title and subject matter of one of the writers' works is the same as Jonathan's recent novel, The Siren and the Specter.  Also, the Jack Ketchum writing advice was spot on.

The line between reality and nightmares blurs more and more as the remaining contestants come to grips with what is really happening.  The Dark Game is so twisted, but in the end, it all comes together.  Bizarre as it may be.

I'm sure we've all heard authors explain how, often as they write a character will take over the story and will take it in directions the author never intended.  Well, The Dark Game is this idea on acid.


Published by Flame Tree Press, The Dark Game is 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, April 11, 2019

Review: Bordertown - by Robert Ford

3 of 5 Stars     (Purchased directly from the author)

NOTE: Robert Ford has chosen to temporarily pull this novella from publication in order to make it the best it can be.

It's a familiar trope; getting off the planned route and horror ensues.

In the case of Robert Ford's Bordertown, it's a huge back-up on I-95 which causes a family trip to Disney World to be detoured.  The same goes for the newlyweds Tristan and Margo, on their way to Miami.  And Hellbent Brotherhood cyclist, simply known as Crawfish also needs a place to stay.

They are all attracted by the neon signs for Bordertown.  One could call this place a tourist trap, but one would have to put the emphasis decidedly on the word "trap."

The characters to watch out for are MABEL, at least that's the name she wears on her shirt, and self-proclaimed Sheriff  Walden.  He's certifiably cray-cray, and she ain't far behind.

This little novella was a lot of fun.  It's Bob Ford doing what he does best.  Here, he's in full-on storytelling mode as the words just flow from the page, along with buckets of blood.

So, having said all these nice things, why only three stars?  Too many errors, which should have been caught during proofreading.  So its five stars for the story and one star for proofreading  Averages out to three stars.

Recommended?  Sure, if you can look past the numerous errors.

Bordertown 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 bios - Robert Ford has published the novels, The CompoundNo Lipstick in Avalon, Rattlesnake Kisses (with Jon Boden), A Penny for Your Thoughts (with Matt Hayward), and the novellas, Ring of Fire, The Last Firefly of Summer, Samson and Denial, 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.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Review: Inspection - by Josh Malerman

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

It is a wonderful thing, digging into a new Malerman novel, no idea what to expect, no clue where his twisted mind is going to take you.

In his newest novel, Inspection, we have two identical towers in a remote area of Michigan, separated by miles of forest.  One populated by twenty-five twelve-year-old boys and the other by a similar number of girls.  Known simply as the Alphabet Boys and the Letter Girls.  The children have no real names.  They are identified by the letters A through Z.  The Parenthood is known as D.A.D. for the boys and M.O.M. for the girls.  Neither group of children is aware of the other.  They are totally unaware of the opposite sex.

"...the Alphabet Boys are being raised to become the world’s greatest engineers, scientists, and mathematicians. ARTICLE ONE of the CONSTITUTION OF THE PARENTHOOD: GENIUS IS DISTRACTED BY THE OPPOSITE SEX."

What if the truth got out?  What if the boys learned of the girls?  What if the girls discover the second tower?  Inspection is without a doubt the most original story I have read in years.  It is totally movie ready.

It took some getting used to, identifying characters by letters alone, but it did become more comfortable as the story progressed.  Inspection is my fourth Malerman book and I've enjoyed them all.  At this point, each new release is a must read for me.

Published by Random House, Inspection is available in hardcover, e-book, and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Josh Malerman is an internationally bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-nominated American author and one of two singer/ songwriters for the rock band The High Strung.  His debut novel Bird Box was published in 2014 to much critical acclaim.  Unbury Carol was published in April 2018.  He lives in Ferndale, Michigan, with his best friend/ soulmate Allison Laakko and their pets Frankie, Valo, Dewey, Marty, and the fish.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Review: Schizoid - by Matthew Tait

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

A struggling writer attempts suicide and wakes up in his "work in progress."  That work is The Mercury Man, not even a quarter completed.

"The first time Micha Tudor went to Hadley Grove he'd thought the whole experience a fevered dream."

Each time he would return to reality, he finds more added to his story.

"A few weeks ago, the number count on The Mercury Man had stood at a paltry fifteen-thousand words.  Barely enough framework or adequate structure to properly introduce his cast.  Now the word count hovered at an astonishing forty-two-thousand."

As Micha spends more time in Hadley Grove he becomes more and more a part of the story.  Mix in a serial killer known as The Mercury Man, a pair of demons, and their father, and you have the makings of a fine horror novel within a horror novel.

"Horror novels like The Mercury Man did not end with the hero cold-cocking his rival and running away with the girl...They ended with blood."

Matthew Tait has a distinctive voice and Schizoid is an ambitious novel worthy of H. P. Lovecraft.


Schizoid 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 - A vociferous horror columnist since 2005, Matthew Tait published his first collection of dark fiction in 2011.  Since then, he has twice been nominated for the Australian Shadows Award.  Described as writing 'the sort of horror Clive Barker must read on his days off' Matthew's fiction often treads the line between the familiar and the fantastic.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Review: Closing Costs - by Wesley Southard

4 of 5 Stars

Closing Costs is the story of Hershel Merkley, husband of Monigue, the first African-American to anchor a local newscast for a local network affiliate in Southern Indiana.  Hershel's not quite as accomplished, but as a realtor, he's hoping today will be the biggest sale of his eighteen-year career.  The Whitcomb Estate.

"Harris Whitcomb, local sheet rock spreader turned Mega Millions lottery winner, went to sleep the night of July 18th in his king sized bed inside his multi-million dollar home and was found the next morning a little lighter above the shoulders."

I just love that.  What a wonderful euphemism.

When Hershel arrives at the Whitcomb Estate to meet with his prospective buyer, let's just say things don't go as planned.  And by that, I don't just mean the sale falls through.

Seems the house is more than haunted, what with assorted demons and whatnot  It'll be lucky if anyone gets out alive.

This short novella was a great deal of fun.  Light, yet scary.  I love stories where all hell breaks loose, and I do mean hell.


Closing Costs 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 - Wesley Southard is the author of the novel The Betrayed, which was named one of Brian Keene's Top 15 Books of 2017, the novella Closing Costs, and has had short stories appear in numerous outlets.  When not watching numerous hours of ice hockey, he spends his free time reading and drinking copious amounts of green soda.  He is also a graduate of the Atlanta Institute of Music, and he currently lives in South Central Pennsylvania with his wife and their cavalcade of animals.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Review: Blood Standard by Laird Barron

5 of 5 Stars

"What did I have, what did I know?  Everything and nothing.  I'm not a detective, I'm merely a man with less exacting scruples than most."

That particular quote from Isaiah Coleridge tells you most of what you need to know about Blood Standard.  

Admittedly, I'm a bit late to the party in reading this work which came out nearly a year ago, but with the sequel, Black Mountain, due in a couple of months, I figured I better read this one first.

Blood Standard is very much a stand-alone novel, it's also a damn fine story.

I made a note while reading Blood Standard that Isaiah Coleridge is a wonderfully colorful character.  I suppose this is true if by colorful I mean shades of blood.

Isaiah goes from the Chicago mob to a posting in Alaska where he steps over a line.  He decides to return home and takes work on a horse farm swearing off "the life".  When the granddaughter of the owners goes missing he uses his considerable skills to get to the truth.  However bleak it may be.

I've often mentioned that the Crime genre is a second cousin to horror.  And Blood Standard is A-List material. The writing is so good...

She opened the desk drawer, retrieved a pack of Kools, and lit one.  She smoked, dropping the ashes into a ceramic dish that contained a lonely piece of peppermint candy.

Blood Standard is the equivalent of classic noir on steroids. This book will leave the reader bloodied and scarred.


Published by G. P. Putnum's Sons, Blood Standard is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Laird Barron was born in Alaska, where he raised huskies and worked in the construction and fishing industries for much of his youth.  He is the author of several short-story collections and two novels, and his work has also appeared in many magazines and anthologies.  A multiple Locus, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Award nominee, he is also a three-time winner of the Shirley Jackson Award.  Barron lives in Kingston, NY.