Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Terrifying Teddies - Edited by Stacey Turner - From the Satan's Toybox anthology series

4 of 5 Stars    Review Copy

Having already edited two other collections in the Satan's Toybox anthology series, Toy Soldiers and Demonic Dolls, it was a matter of when, not if, there would be one featuring those soft, cuddly teddies that keep our young ones company and help to put them to bed at night.  These are NOT those bears, at least you better hope they're not.

Actually, I take some of that back, a few of the bears actually look out for their little wards, but even those teddies are the things of nightmares.

Terrifying Teddies begins with a nice wrap-around story from Rob M. Miller.  By that, I mean "Mr. Twinx" starts and ends the anthology.  It's a story that has a light feel to it, almost as light as the cotton candy young Annabelle smells outside of the ultra exclusive invitation only toy store she has come to visit.  I actually learned a new word in this tale.  It's arctophile - A person who collects or is very fond of teddy bears.

The writers in this collection are all accomplished and good at their craft, even though most of their names were unfamiliar to me.  There are some stand-out stories, but all of them deliver, coming at the theme from many different directions.

Terrifying Teddies is available now from Angelic Knight Press in both print and ebook formats and from a variety of retailers.  If you still sleep with your teddie, this one might not be for you, but if you'd rather cuddle up with a collection of scary stories, then add this one to your library today.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Cornerstone - by Anne C. Petty - Banshees, witches and ancient curses

5 of  5 Stars     Review Copy

Anne C Petty is a Tolkien scholar and specialist in Mythology and Finnish folkore.  In The Cornerstone, her first novel with JournalStone, she has masterfully blended elements of Christopher Marlowe, John Dee, The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, and Irish prehistory of the Boyne Valley tomb monuments into a beautifully compelling story.

It all starts in the 16th Century when Doctor John Dee -- mathematician, alchemist, Hermetic magician, herbalist, and adviser to Queen Elizabeth, in partnership with Monsieur C, engage Radha O Braonain, a sorceress of great depth and cunning.  With her help, the two men believe they can capture a banshee and create a magickal object to keep death at bay.

Soon the action moves to present day Atlanta, Georgia and the aging Janus Theatre, home to the Mummer's Theatrical Company, currently in rehearsal for The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, written by Christopher Marlowe.

Petty deftly weaves the action between past and present where we get to know the members of the cast and crew.  From here, I'd rather not say more, as much of the fun of this tale is in the discovery of it's secrets, hinted at or unveiled as the story progresses.

In the end, I loved how all of the major plot points came together, giving the reader a complete story, told well, with characters I came to to love or despise.  And despite the subject matter, I completely believed these events may have occurred, as written.  There is that ring of truth to the tale.

Once again, the folks at JournalStone have delivered the complete package.  A very readable story from Anne C. Petty and kudos to Vincent Chong for his artwork on the cover of The Cornerstone.

I highly recommend this one.  Even if you're not a horror fan, you may find The Cornerstone, to be something you'll enjoy on a cold Winter's night or a Summer's eve, if you're in Australia.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Burning Time - by J. G. Faherty - Good vs. Evil on a grand scale

5 of 5 Stars    Review Copy

I love a good wrap around cover.  And this one does a nice job capturing the Lovecraftian spirit of  the story within.  Design by Denise Daniel and Cover Art from M. Wayne Miller.  Nice work folks.  And exceptional storytelling from J G. Faherty.

There's an unbearable heat wave embracing Hastings Mills in upstate New York.  As if the heat wasn't enough stress on this small town of 15,000 there seems to be a spat of strange suicides, as well.  All young women, all jumping from a bridge into the Allegheny below.

Faherty has filled this tale with a number of memorable characters.  The new preacher in town, Reverend Cyrus Christian.   Billy Ray Capshaw who returns to the town of his youth looking for a quick score.  Harry Showalter, the rather crooked Chief of police.  Young Mitch Anderson and his sister/guardian Danni.  And then there's John Root the stranger in town.  Each one with a pivital role to play as the lives of those who live in Hastings Mills and the future of the town itself hang in the balance.

There's a good deal of action, right from the beginning, as the story pulls you in and continues to intensify right to the chaotic final scenes.

It's no great secret that this story involves the Lovecratian mythos.  Something I've never been a big fan of, but I must say, in the hands of J. G. Faherty, I very much enjoyed every bit of that aspect of the book.

"The time approaches, my friends.  The Old Ones prepare to wake. For eons they have waited, waited for the stars to align themselves in the heavens.  They are those who cannot die, who always have been and always will be.  From beyond space and time they will come, from below the seas they will rise, from beneath the Mountains of Madness they will emerge.  Invulnerable and unstoppable."  And this just scratches the surface.

It's been a while since I've gotten so caught up in a story.  I wanted to scream one minute and cheer the next, but there were other family members in the house, so I did my best to keep myself under control.

This is the first book I've read, by J. G. Faherty and it won't be the last.  Although for adults only, I can strongly recommend The Burning Time.  Look for it, January 18th, from the great folks at Journalstone Publishing.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Gameland - Episode 1:Deep Into the Game

4 of 5 Stars    Review Copy

OK, to bring you up to date.  The author asked if I would like to read the first book in a series he published. The synopsis sounded good and I committed.  Before I could find time to read it, I discovered a prequel called, Golgotha, which I bought and read and downright loved.  5 Stars.

Next, I discovered there were a total of 8 episodes now available in The Season One Omnibus of S. W. Tanpepper's Gameland, so I bought that for a very reasonable price and set about reading Episode 1: Deep Into the Game.

I'm really enjoying the story, but at this stage, I though it should have had better proofreading.  Especially since this is now a published series and not just an Advance Readers Copy.

Example: "...I can see that he's only trying scaring her into remembering."  Maybe "trying to scare her into remembering" would have been better.  Then there's "What would a zombie o after reanimating underwater?"  I'm sure the "o" should be "do".  There were several of these kinds of errors.  Thus, a 4 star instead of a 5 star review.

In the prequel novella, Golgotha, we learned how the Government found a way of reanimating the dead, creating what were initially called Zulus and later discovering how they could put them under computer control using L.I.N.C.s (Latent Individualized, Neuroleptic Connections), thus creating zombie fighters they could control,  known as the Omegaman Forces.

In Gameland, it's 15 years later and between climate change and periodic zombie outbreaks, times are definitely changed.  Consider the Life Service Law,  Now everyone is legally considered government property after death.  You die, you become Undead and you serve the government in some capacity until your time of servitude is ended.  Then there's Gameland, Long Island is cut off completely, "after the second flood, the Army Corps of Engineers went in and walled it off and evacuated the people still alive." Later Arc Properties converted one of the zones into a new type of gaming arcade, which they called Gameland.  Then they imported a new crop of Zombies as Players.  It costs more than a million bucks to buy into the game.

A group of 6 teenage hackers with more spunk than brains decide it might be fun to see if they can get onto Long Island and check it out.  S. W. Tanpepper is very good with dialog, I found the banter between the characters to be comfortable and convincing.  The story is fast-paced and despite the subject matter, very believable.

Episode 1: Deep Into the Game,  ends with a cliff-hanger and I want to dive right back in to Episode 2:  Failsafe, and after a few few quick reads of other works that I've committed myself to read, that's just what I plan on doing.

If you can get past a few grammatical/sentence structure errors, this one is a lot of fun.

Available in a variety of e-book formats as well as paperback.  If you think you'll like these books, get the prequel and the omnibus will save a you a few bucks.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Golgotha - By S. W. Tanpepper - Prequel to Gameland - A new take on the Zombie mythos

5 of 5 Stars

Richard Daniels is a Special Adviser to the President of the United States.  Eugene Douglas Halliwell is a, Nobel prize winning, professor of immunology at Royce State College.

The former is playing an extremely disturbing recording made by the later.  In the recording Daniels and his team at the Pentagon are accused of developing a new infectious species of virus with the codename of Qangxi.  Kuang shi  is a Chinese word referring to a creature in their mythology.  Present at the playing of this recording, along with Richard Daniels, is his interrogator, a young senator by the name of Lawrence Abrams, chairman of the senate's defense oversight committee and the Colonel, commander of the new Marine fighting force known as Omegamen.  You probably get a pretty good idea where this is going.
Golgotha, is a tightly written, fast paced, short, that quickly convinced me, that I had to read Gameland, the series for which Golgotha is the prequel.  I liked this so much, I actually bought the omnibus edition of the eight book series and I'm already well into book one, Deep Into the Game, and enjoying it immensely.

For me, discovering Saul Tanpepper, has started off my 2013 reading year with fireworks.
For information on his books, as well as links to him on Facebook and Twiiter, visit his website at www.tanpepperwrites.com.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Amery House - by Samantha J. Moore - Charming story of the world's oldest profession

4 of 5 Stars   Review Copy

First, I just love this cover from www.atrtlink.com.  A nice cover still has an impact on me.  If the cover doesn't grab me, it's often true that the story won't do much for me either.  Of course the story comes first.  You can have breathtaking cover art and not much of a story, but if the cover is lacking it's tougher to get folk like me to read your book at all.

Fortunately, Amery House, delivers on both counts.  A cool cover and a well written story,  Set in the late 1920's, it's the story of five prostitutes working and living together in New Orleans.

I can hear you now,  "Hey Frank, I thought you reviewed Horror stories here?"  Well, there is a ghost, sort of, and I was asked nicely to read and review this work, by the owner of Angelic Knight Press and the Editor of Amery House, Stacey Turner.  Having enjoyed a number of previous books from this small press, I decided to take a chance.  Glad I did.

The story teller is Nadine Frost, one of the prostitutes that end up at Amery House.  At one time, she worked Burlesque in New York City, then came the Stock Market crash and subsequent depression and a tragic turn of events she travels to New Orleans winds up working for Mr. Big, real name Percy Amery, a name that doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of others.

Moore is a very good story teller, coming up with wonderful prose, like "We weren't dancers, but we put on a show nearly every night.  We acted, giggled, and blushed on cue.  We were there to perform.  We were Showgirls in the strictest sense and so that's what we called ourselves."

As the story progresses we learn how each of the girls came to be at Amery House.  "All the Showgirls were there: Majorie Hammon the poor laundress, Allison Woodbeck the apple farmer's daughter, Margaret and Mildred Reaves the orphaned twins, and Nadine Frost the"...sorry, that would be giving to much away.

Amery House is a novella that I can heartily recommend to all readers,  although the principal characters are working girls, don't expect it to be like 50 Shades of Grey, it's just a wonderful story told very well.

Samantha J. Moore is a student, an author, and editor from Peterborough, Ontario.  She writes about strong women, anti-heroines, and stories about coming home.

You can visit her blog at samanthajmoore.tumbler.com or follow her tweets: @samanthajmoore

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dark Curtain - by Natasha A. Salnikova - Psychological Thriller

2 of 5 Stars    Review Copy

There is definitely a story in here, maybe even a good story, but I cannot in good conscience recommend Dark Curtain with so many grammatical errors.  I'm talking no fewer than 50.  Predominately incorrect tense, but other glaring errors, like using "ridicule" when the sentence calls for "ridiculous" not once, but twice.

I liked the premise well enough, "After an attack in the park, Roman loses his memory.  He tries to remember his past as any person would do in his place.  Only what he finds terrifies him.  Is he really the man his family and friends know?"  So when the author contacted me and asked that I read her work and provide a review, I said, "Sure."  What a mistake that was.  I'm not going to say I'll never read another story I'm asked to read, but I will certainly be more selective in the future.

One last comment here.  The surprise ending is a gem, but the author needs a better editor and could benefit from a professional proofreader, remember spell-check only finds spelling errors.

Note:  After publishing this review I received the following note from the author...Thank you very much Frank for your honest review. I think there was some kind of mistake during uploading process, I can't figure it out. The book was edited and proofread. The proofreader didn't find many errors, but I keep hearing from people about lack of editing. It makes me extremely frustrated. I also got three different files from my proofreader and maybe that got messed up. I reloaded the file and I hope that one is correct. Anyway, thank you for reading. Happy New Year. Natasha