Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review: Sawbones - by Ed Kurtz

5 of 5 Stars

Sawbones is one of the most original stories I've read in 2018.  Set in the mid-1860s, it's the story of a man out for revenge after a flophouse fire takes the life of a woman he has strong feelings for, even though they've barely spoken.

Calling himself, Dr. Septimus Whithall (not his real name), he sets off on a cross-country journey to find and dispose of those responsible.  Not an easy task by any means...

I carefully pressed my hand against the back of my head and found moist, hot brains fully exposed to the elements.  It was sticky to the touch, and my eyes were filled with glittering white stars each time my fingers made contact.  My skull, or at least most of it, was gone.  Chipped and broken.

At times Sawbones is a visceral, cringe-inducing, and violent story.  Totally immersive in the way the tale takes the reader from the comfort of their reading place to this wonderful world created by the author.

One could hardly live in Hell and not expect to get burned.

If I've learned anything from reading the work of Ed Kurtz, it's to expect the unexpected.  If I could read only one author.  His name would be Ed Kurtz.  I need more than five stars to rate this exceptional novel.

Sawbones is something completely different and if you're up for the challenge, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy the ride.

Totally recommended.

Published by Crossroad Press and available in paperback, e-book, and Audible formats.

From the author's bio, Ed Kurtz is the author of The Rib from Wich I Remake the World, Nausea, Angel of the Abyss, and others.  Ed is also the author of numerous short stories.  His work has appeared in Needle: A Magazine of Noir, BEAT to a PULP, Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, and several anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2014.  Ed resides in Connecticut.




Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Review: Toy Thief - by D.W. Gillespie

3 of 5 Stars

To date, I've read all but one of the first nine offerings from Flame Tree Press and I've been quite impressed with everything I've read.  I've actually raved about the first seven books, so to experience a hiccough here at book eight is no real surprise.

This is my first time reading anything by D.W. Gillespie and I like the book well enough to read his work again, should the occasion arise.

Toy Thief is a creepy tale of two siblings and what they encounter over of the course of one summer in their young lives.

"To have a sibling, especially a close one, is to have a greatest enemy and a truest friend, but it's always been like that, hasn't it?"

It was the Summer of '91 when the toys started to disappear.  Jack and her older brother, Andy, set out on a quest to learn who or what was responsible.  The events are dark and meant to be terrifying, but the story just didn't work for me.

"Do you ever wonder how things just seem to vanish from your house even though you knew where they were? Maybe a pack of batteries shows up missing, even though you knew exactly where you put them? It might have been the Toy Thief."

I may have mentioned before, I'm mostly an analog kind of reader, same way with film and TV.  Too much bouncing around in a story and I start to lose interest.  Nothing inherently wrong with the technique, and sometimes it works for me, but this was not one of those times.

In the end, I just can't get excited enough to recommend Toy Thief.

Published by Flame Tree Press, Toy Thief is available in a wide variety of formats.

From the author's bio - D.W. Gillespie hails from parts unknown in the dark woods of Tennessee.
Supported by his wife and two feral children, he spends most days hunkered over a vintage typewriter he found in a smoking crater deep within the forest primeval.  Bearded and muttering, he writes tales to terrify by the light of a kerosene lamp.  A fan of all things dark and horrific, D.W. Gillespie has been writing horror, sci-fi, and fantasy for longer than he would like to admit.  He's been featured in many publications, both online and in print, and he's the author of nine novels and counting.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Think Yourself Lucky - by Ramsey Campbell

2 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Admittedly, I am not Ramsey Cambell's biggest fan.  I'm not certain where the disconnect comes from.  I understand he is one of the most successful English Horror writers and he has numerous accolades to prove it, but generally speaking, he's not for me.

As a result, I was expecting not to enjoy Think Yourself Lucky, and unfortunately, that turned out to be the case again here.

More than once I found myself having no clue what the author was getting on about.

I'm certain Think Yourself Lucky will sell well, after all, it's Ramsey Campbell.  But, truth be told, I didn't care for this work at all.  I didn't like any of the characters or the story.  It was a chore to turn the pages, but I read the whole book as I always do.  I refuse to write DNF in any review.  Generally, that's not a problem since I decide what I'll read and I tend to read what I like.

Think Yourself Lucky is published by Flame Tree Press and is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Ramsey Campbell is an English horror fiction writer, editor, and critic who has been writing for well over fifty years.  Since he first came to prominence in the mid-1960s, critics have cited Campbell as one of the leading writers in his field.





Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Review: The House by the Cemetery - by John Everson

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

John Everson writes some of the darkest horror imaginable, sprinkles it with a healthy dose of sex, and yet it's easy to believe every word he puts to paper.  His latest story, The House by the Cemetery is the quintessential October release.  The tale of a purportedly haunted house by a cemetery being refurbished as a Halloween attraction.

John wastes no time by giving us a small taste of things to come, right in the Prologue...

"Someone had slit the woman's throat.  The murder weapon lay nearby on the floor., the knife's silver blade coated in dark read.  A spray of blood bled down the wall beside her in visual opposition to the light that bled up the wall.  If was a study in opposites...the only constant was the color."

The House by the Cemetery is filled with fully fleshed out characters.  There's the flawed carpenter hired to refurbish the house just enough to make it safe for hundreds of people to pass through every night leading up to Halloween.  The paranormal investigator out to protect the spirits in the house and by extension, the patrons paying to be frightened.  The team of room designers, effects artists, and actors doing their best to scare the nightly visitors.  And then there's the witch of Bremen Coven.

Everson's love for his craft is evident throughout.  I've found myself reading a number of haunted house stories this year.  For me, it's the trope that never gets old an this is a particularly effective story.  More fun than any haunted attraction I've ever been to.  Just in time for my favorite holiday.  If you only read one Halloween story this year, be sure to make this the one.  As a footnote to any movie producers who might see this.  The House by the Cemetery would make one helluva film.

Recommended.

The House by the Cemetery is published by Flame Tree Press and is available in every format imaginable.

From the author's bio - John Everson is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of 10 novels of horror and the macabre, including  Redemption, the conclusion to his demonic Curburide Chronicles trilogy.  He also is the author of four collections of short horror fiction, including his latest, Sacrificing Virgins.  John shares a deep purple den in Naperville, Illinois with a cockatoo and cockatiel, a disparate collection of fake skulls, twisted skeletal fairies, Alan Clark illustrations, and a large stuffed Eeyore.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Review: Body of Christ - by Mark Matthews

4 of 5 stars

Body of Christ is a novella which grew out of a short story in the anthology Bad Apples 3.   Upon its publication, I wrote the following in my review...

"Another dark tale of a Christian mother's resistance to Halloween. Admittedly the oddest story in the anthology and gruesome at times, yet I found it completely satisfying."

In this enhanced telling of his original story, the author adds an equally strange family across the street.  After the death of her mother, Faith has that moment when she would rather have her mom's advice over any other.  Left to her own devices, the young girl develops some very odd habits around her time of the month.

I can't possibly say more about either family without taking away the joy of discovery in Body of Christ.  Let's just say if "odd" is your thing, then this quick read is definitely for you.

Recommended.

Body of Christ is available in paperback and Kindle, and Audible 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.

Mark Matthews is a graduate of the University of Michigan and a licensed professional counselor who has worked in behavioral health for over 20 years.  He is the author of On the Lips of Children, All Smoke Rises, and Milk-Blood. He is the editor of the anthology Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror, published in April 2017.  Matthews has run 13 marathons and has two running based books, The Jade Rabbit and Chasing the Dragon, also available on Amazon.  He lives near Detroit with his wife and two daughters.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: Killer Chronicles - by Somer Canon

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Kutztown University journalism graduates, Anais Del Valle and Christina Cunningham run the website Killer Chronicles.

"The two use their journalism degrees to research, interview and compile information in order to create what their site refers to as 'files' on the murders they feature.  So far they have 31 files on their site."

On the surface, a completely believable premise.  Somer's characters are relatable and well-conceived.  The story moves at a brisk pace and is fun in all the right ways.

The latest murder to become fodder for their website very is different and exceptionally dark.  Once we learn who is responsible, the reader will need to set aside their disbelief, but if you're a fan of the macabre, that shouldn't be much of a problem.

'The face was probably the part that upset us all the most,' Stanley continued.  'See, I’m one of only two cleaning specialists with a permit to clean places contaminated with biohazardous waste in this area.  And I’ve seen some stuff. But the way that man’s face was ripped off of his head, God, his eyelids were still intact.  His beard scruff, his eyebrows and eyelashes, even his ears, they were all perfectly intact and just spread out pretty as can be on the dashboard of that there truck.  Even the part of the skin that had the tattoo.  You could fool yourself into seeing those pieces as something other than what they were, but that face sitting there all half rotted and slimy staring up at me…I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.'

By now, you probably know I read horror for fun.  Not much disturbs me, but let me tell you, Canon managed to push my buttons, more than once.

"You never think of yourself as the type of person that would whimper if you saw something scary, but then something scary is staring at you nose-to-nose and there you go. You’re a whimperer and have little inclination at the time to give a damn."

It's hard to believe this is Somer Canon's first novella.  I'm so looking forward to reading more of her work.  It's exciting to be there at the beginning of a career with such potential.

Recommended.

Published by Bloodshot Books, Killer Chronicles 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 - Somer Canon is a minivan-revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of being found out as a weirdo.  When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Review: Cold Dead Hands - by Jeff Strand

4 of 5 Stars   

Wasting no time, author Jeff Strand manages to isolate most of his cast of characters in a walk-in freezer.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, especially when there were people outside the freezer killing customers in the Sav-Lotz grocery store.  OK, no one saw anyone killed, but not for a lack of trying.

Among those inside the freezer were, Barry, whose arm had been cut up.  Another man in his forties in a SpongeBob tee.  There was Vanessa, Dana, a kid named Pete, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson and Trevor, in his seventies.  Minnie, Syllabus, and Chad.

"I'm Chad.  Kids used to call me Hanging Chad and I thought they meant I looked like I should be a hangman."

If you're not familiar with Strand's brand of horror, be ready for a bit of humor mixed in with the scares.

Some of the things happening inside the freezer were in the "totally unexpected" category.

While this latest work from Jeff Strand is not his best, it certainly is entertaining and contains more than a few surprises.

Recommended.

At some point, Cold Dead Hands will be available as a signed limited edition novella from Cemetery Dance, but it's available now for your Kindle at Amazon.com.  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 - 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's written five young adult novels that all fall into the "really goofy comedy" category.  His book STALKING YOU NOW was adapted into the feature film MINDY HAS TO DIE, which premiered at the Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival in Belfast, Ireland.  He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and one gigantic freaking cat.