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.


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.