Thursday, May 23, 2019

Review: Impossible James - by Danger Slater

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Remember how strange, confusing, yet beautiful the Talking Heads song, "Once In a Lifetime", was the first time you heard it?  Well, I just got a similar vibe from Danger Slater's new novel, Impossible James.

This Wikipedia entry sums things up nicely...

"Jimmy Watson Jr. was an American inventor, chemist, and former head of research and development for Motherlove Incorporated, often cited with the discovering the mathematical formula from which both the anti-entropic drug Infinitassium, and the transglobal biological disaster The Gray Tide, were both synthesized. He is widely considered responsible for the end of the world [citation needed]."

From the wildly perverse mind of Danger Slater comes a novel I won't soon forget.  To say a DS story is wacky would be a gross understatement.  Impossible James was like a tonic for the soul.  OK, maybe not for your soul, but certainly for mine.  It's so difficult to put a finger on Slater's writing style.  It's almost as if Douglas Adams had an Evil twin.  Trust me, that's no more preposterous than the story I just read.

Danger Slater is an acquired taste.  His writing is not for everyone, but if you're willing to let go of all your preconceived notions of what a book should be, you might find yourself enjoying this unusual world.

Unabashedly strange.  Unbelievably weird.  Totally recommended.

Published by Fungasm Press, Impossible James is available for pre-order in both Paperback and e-book formats.  Actual release date if June 15, 2019.

From the author's bio - Danger Slater is the Wonderland-award winning author of I Will Rot Without You, Puppet Skin, He Digs a Hole, and other titles.  He lives in Portland, OR and has a cat named Bubbles.  To his knowledge, he’s never been cloned.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: Spicy Constellation & Other Recipes - by Chad Lutzke

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Between these pages lie a dozen stories from the wonderfully disturbed mind of Chad Lutzke.

The One Who Took - "On the paper towel, she carefully placed four pieces of what was unmistakenly jerky, then said, 'Gentlemen, this is human.?'"  Could you, would you?  An excellent introduction to Lutzke's new collection.

A Stranger Dream - An almost sweet story of a couple thrown together during the search for the latest in a series of missing college girls.  Did you notice how I said, "Almost?"

The Secret - No other writer does creepy with so much warmth.  Case in point.  The Secret.  It begins with this terrific opening line...

"Rebecca was the only one to notice her father was dead."

What I Wouldn't Give - Here, Lutzke has a bit of fun with an old trope.   Selling one's soul to become a guitar god.

Reaching People - Not gonna tell you what this one is about as its charm lies in hitting you from your blind spot.

Spicy Constellation - The title story is about a drug-induced killing rampage inspired by pieces of pepperoni falling from the ceiling.  You kinda had to be there.

Chocolate-Milk Mistake - The perfect title for this kidnapping tale that goes oh, so wrong.

Four-Finger Discount - A great opening line is so important.  This one's a killer...

"Life gets downright stale in your olden years, when it's just you, your books, and the scenery."

When It Rains... - Another wonderful story in a collection that just gets better and better.  When you spend your days and nights intoxicated there is bound to be a few surprises.  Just ask Dylan.

A Weekend Tradition - A well-constructed tale of brothers who are convinced their youngest is a vampire.

TV Casualty - A mediocre rock band needs to bolster its bad-boy image.  My least favorite story in an otherwise stellar collection.

Catch Him - Children mourning their father in their own special way,  I discovered in the author notes that this is Lutzke's personal tribute to the late Dallas Mayr, aka\Jack Ketchum.

BTW, I don't know about you, but I love author notes and the ones at the end of Spicy Constellation & Other Recipes are enlightening.

Lutzke is one of the most comfortable reads for me.  If you read a lot, you know what I mean.  We just seem to be on the same wavelength, most of the time.

Chad Lutzke has, in a relatively short time, become one of my favorites authors.  Pick up anything with his name attached and I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy the read.

100% recommended.

Spicy Constellation & Other Recipes is available in both 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 - Chad Lutzke lives in Michigan with his wife and children.  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 other books include: Of Foster Home & Flies, Stirring the Sheets, Skullface BoyThe Same Deep Water As You, and Out Barn with John Boden.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Review: The Haunted Forest Tour - by James A. Moore & Jeff Strand

4 of 5 Stars

Take Jurrasic Park and replace the dinosaurs with monsters of every conceivable shape and size and you have some idea of the plot for The Haunted Forest Tour.

A forest sprouts up in the middle of the desert in New Mexico.  The forest is populated with deadly creatures which defy the imagination.  Along comes a visionary who manages to turn the forest into a profit-making enterprise.  Rails are laid and Trams begin running through the forest.  The same way they do through some wildlife reserves.

Everything was fine until one fateful day, when it all went off the rails, literally.

At first look, one might expect The Haunted Forest Tour to be a comedic romp, particularly with Jeff Strand's name attached.  Not so.  Although there is some humor, (again, Jeff Strand).  The Haunted Forest Tour is unrelenting horror.

"The woods were almost quite.  Almost, because Lee had heard several things moving nearby.  Big things, little things, wet-sounding squishy things and at least one thing that was big enough he could see the silhouette moving through the trees at a height of at least thirty feet.  The good news, so far, was that none of them had come looking for dinner."

Just when you think things aren't making any sense, it all comes together, and a way out finally appears for the remaining survivors, but can they escape before being devoured?

"'It all makes sense,' Mark said. 'Well, no, no, it doesn't make sense at all, but there's something going on, and this is the only solution that makes any sense whatsoever, even if it makes no sense. Am I making sense?'"

I recommend The Haunted  Forest Tour (for readers - not as an attraction,).

The Haunted Forest Tour is available in paperback, audio, and Kindle formats.  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 authors' bios...

James A. Moore is the author of over forty novels.  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.

Jeff Strand is a four-time nominee (and zero-time winner, but c'mon, he lost to Stephen King TWICE!) of the Bram Stoker Award.  He is a two-time nominee and one-time WINNER!!!! of the Splatterpunk Award.  His novels are usually classified as horror, but they're really all over the place, almost always with a great big dose of humor.   He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and one gigantic freaking cat.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Endsville (Outlaw Arcana - Book 1) - by Clay Sanger

5 of 5 Stars     (Review Copy)

Clocking in at 457 pages, Endsville (Outlaw Arcana - Book 1) could certainly be considered epic and that would be an apt description of Clay Sanger's dark urban fantasy crime novel.

The book's cryptic opening sets the stage for the carnage to come...

"No one loves a crow.  Scavengers.  Thieves.  Liars.  Harbingers of death. Loyal to and beholden to no one but their own kind.  Drawn to the chaos and carnage so they can pick gold from the bones.  Good, bad, indifferent.  A crow does what a crow does.  Nothing commands a crow.  Not men.  Not kings.  Not gods.

The House of the Crow lives up to its namesake."

As you may have guessed by now, The Crows are a crime family, led by Victor St. John and his wife, Fiona.  Not all blood, but all brothers and sisters.  Notable among the family are Gabriel St. John, Captain of the Crows, and his sister, Delilah...

"Delilah was a sorceress, by trade and profession. No petty dabbler.  No one-trick pony.  Through her mother’s lineage, she came from a long and storied tradition.  Most practitioners in the City of Angels spoke Delilah St. John’s name in low and reverent tones."

Mr. Dante Washington, head of another criminal organization calls upon the special services of the Crows when a large sum of money in his possession goes missing.

Sanger's the real deal.  A talented writer with a wonderful gift for description...

"He saw the photo of a man, plain and dull, some middle-aged white guy dressed in a gray suit that reminded Gabriel of a Texas rancher on a Sunday afternoon.  He wore a thin goatee and a long brown ponytail.  Dude had glasses that belonged on a cartoon character.  He looked like he sold lawn equipment at Home Depot and collected butterflies on the weekend.  Maybe he had lived with his mother until she died, after which he had inherited the house and all her Precious Moments figurines.  Gabriel didn’t know him from Adam."

I haven't read a crime novel in a while and this is a good one, made better by the special skills possessed by various members of the brood.  Let's call Endsville a solid mix of crime and urban fantasy.  Kind of like a Dresdin Files novel, but grittier, darker and filled with the most amazing fight scenes.  So different from anything I've read in ages.

Don't look for any "good" guys in Endsville.  They are all criminals, but that's OK.  It's all about the story and it's a good one.  One of those reads where it's not so much about the destination.  It's all about the journey.  This is epic urban fantasy.  So many wonderfully fleshed out characters.  Blood and guts everywhere.

100% Recommended.

Published by Crossroad Press, Endsville (Outlaw Arcana - Book 1) is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Clay Sanger is a professional technogeek by day and a writer of fantasy, science-fiction, and horror the rest of the time. A life-long lover of all things wild, Clay spent much of his early adulthood wandering the four corners of the country in search of the weird and wonderful, the dark and the light. As chance would have it he found them. After meandering far and wide he returned to his native Ozarks where he lives with his dazzling wife, their sons, and a menagerie of mythical creatures both real and imagined.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Review: Black Wings - by Megan Hart

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Briella is a bright child, some would say gifted.  That being said, she does have trouble making friends,

"Along with a loathing for personal hygiene and lack of friends, Briella had taken up lying.  Much like her father, she wasn't really very good at it."

Briella's father, Tommy, was making an effort to be in her life, even though her mother, Marian had left him years ago and was now in a relationship with her step-father, Dean.

As if that's not complicated enough, one-day Briella befriends a raven on the way home from school.  She names the bird Onyx, and this is when the wheels start to come off and things get more than a little strange.

Black Wings is a wonderful, real-life-like story with a touch of the fantastical.  Wildly original.  The challenging relationship between Briella and her mother was spot on, very believable.  Black Wings is a story that is simple, yet elegant.  Simultaneously charming and dangerous.  Intriguing and entertaining, right up to the unbelievable ending.  I loved it.


Published by Flame Tree Press, Black Wings is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Megan Hart has written in almost every genre of romantic fiction, including historical, contemporary, romantic suspense, romantic comedy, futuristic, fantasy and perhaps most notably, erotic.  She also writes non-erotic fantasy and science fiction, as well as continuing to occasionally dabble in horror.  Black Wings is one of the later.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Review: The Playing Card Killer - by Russell James

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Wow.  First read for a brand new author for me and I absolutely loved it.  There truly is no greater thrill than finding a new writer whose work keeps you guessing from start to finish.  OK, I can think of one or two greater thrills, but you get the point.

Brian is off his meds and having the most disturbing nightmares.  He's seeing the murders being committed by a serial killer who's been dubbed the Playing Card Killer by the press.  His girlfriend, Daniela, is less than happy he's gone med free, as a matter of fact, she's done unless he reconsiders his decision.

For a while, the reader is lead to believe, Brian is actually the killer and that's what the police believe when he shows up with what he's
seen in his dreams.

That's enough.  To tell you more would spoil all the surprises.  Buy this book now and add it to your TBR pile.  You can thank me later.  And you will.

The story itself was rather simple, but the execution in writing took the tale to a higher level.  A masterfully crafted, horrifically powerful story.   Expect the unexpected in this deliciously twisted tale.

The playing card KIller is fast-paced and brilliantly plotted.  And then there are my five favorite words in the entire book...

"It was time for revenge."

I whole-heartedly recommend this near-perfect thriller.

Published by Flame Tree Press, The Playing Card Killer is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Russell R. James was raised on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and Dark Shadows, despite his parents' warnings.  Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn't make things better.  He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

After flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales, including horror thrillers Dark Inspiration, Q Island, and The Playing Card Killer.  His Grant Coleman adventure series covers Cavern of the Damned, Monsters in the Clouds, and Curse of the Viper King.  He resides in sunny Florida.  His wife reads his work, rolls her eyes, and says "There is something seriously wrong with you."

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Review: Will Haunt You - by Brian Kirk

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I finished reading Brian Kirk's latest novel over a week ago and put off writing my review to allow this story time to gel in my mind.  Or, maybe ferment is a better word.  The whole concept of Will Haunt You is a bit of a mind-altering experience.

I've taken the liberty of paraphrasing the story's synopsis, it does a better job of explaining the premise than I ever could...

Rumors of a deadly book have been floating around the corners of the dark web.  A tale about a mysterious figure who preys on those who read the book and subjects them to a world of personalized terror.

Jesse Wheeler—former guitarist of the heavy metal group The Rising Dead—was quick to discount the ominous folklore associated with the book.

But Jesse is wrong.  The legend is real—and tonight he will become the protagonist in an elaborate scheme specifically tailored to prey on and resurrect the ghosts from his past.

Jesse is not the only one in danger, however. By reading the book, he has volunteered to participate in the author’s deadly game, with every page drawing him closer to his own personalized nightmare.  The real horror doesn’t begin until he reaches the end.

That’s when the evil comes for him.

There's even a warning at the beginning of Will Haunt You.  One that flat out tells you if you continue reading the author won't be responsible for what may happen to you.  Nice.

This is one of those stories where the line between what is real and what is imagined dissolves rather quickly.  I found Will Haunt You to be like a season of Channel Zero on SYFY.  Only, instead of having the reaction of "What did I just watch?" it was "What the hell did I just read?"

While undoubtedly Brian Kirk's best work to date Will Haunt You left me a bit perplexed.  Let me put it this way, while I really enjoyed the ride, I had no idea where I was when I arrived at my destination.  About Halfway through, I noticed the first letter in each word of the title spell the word WHY.  Why, indeed.

Recommended, but be prepared for the weird.

Published by Flame Tree Press, Will Haunt You is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audible formats.

From the author's bio - Brian Kirk is an author of dark thrillers and psychological suspense.  His debut novel, We Are Monsters, was released in July 2015 and was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award® for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.  During the day, Brian works as a freelance marketing and creative consultant.  He lives in Atlanta with his beautiful wife and rambunctious identical twin boys.