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.

Recommended.

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)

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.

Recommended.

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.

Recommended.

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.

Recommended.

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.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Short Story Review: Arrearages by Wesley Southard

4 of 5 Stars

Truth be told, I met Wesley Southard at a small con in York, Pennsylvania this weekend.  I purchased a couple of his books and he gifted me a couple of chapbooks.  Arrearages was one of them.  Now, I usually don't review short stories, but I enjoyed this one so much I decided it was worthy of such treatment.

"Cam woke up screaming."  An opening which certainly garnered my attention.  What follows is so much worse.

I love it when what I'm reading elicits a verbal response.  This line actually made me say, "ew."  "After he emptied his stomach, his arms gave out, and he fell face first into his own warm bile."

You see, Arrearages is a story of revenge.  The women in Cal's life have gotten together to do something terrible to him, for a change.  You see, Cam is a horrible human being and deserves everything he gets, right up to the very end when the author elicited another verbal response from me.  This time it was, "Oh, God."

Arrearages is available 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...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.