Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sunblind - by Michael Mcbride

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Fact: "Since 2001, more than 2,035 bodies of illegal border crossers have been discovered in the desert south of Tucson."

Author, Michael McBride, starts with that information and proceeds to weave a terrifying tale of of an ill-fated group of border crossers trying to survive the elements, each other, and an unknown predator.

Christian Rivera is a Border Patrol agent and is the one who discovers the woman in the desert with lacerations on her chest.

"The cuts form words.  Clear.  Unmistakable.  Two words side-by-side, one beneath either clavicle.  The third across the tops of her breasts.
'All dead?  What camera?'"

We meet Maya Itzel Argueta Vsairi in the Mexican town of Altar.  It is here where she makes arrangements to cross the border and enter the U.S. illegally with more than twenty others. Most of the travelers are ill-prepared for what lies ahead.  Especially when the driver of the van they are crowded into drops them off in the middle of the Sonora desert with a trigger happy guide who seems to be clueless.

As what is supposed to be a 1 day trek across the desert, turns to three and then four, the undocumented aliens are without food and water and there is something in the desert night that is even more frightening than the elements.

In Sunblind, Michael Mcbride creates a very believable story of desperation with just an element of the unknown to add another layer of horror.

Sunblind will be released by Darkfuse on September 2nd and is available now for pre-order for both the Kindle and in paperback through  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read this one for FREE once it's been released.

Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The God Beneath My Garden- by Robert Ford - A strong collection of horror shorts

5 of 5 Stars

Although, I've already read a few of the shorts in this new collection by Robert Ford, I jumped at a chance to read the rest of the 15 stories included in The God Beneath My Garden.

What can I say, I like his stuff.  I just wish there was more of it.  I'm not going to comment on every story, but I would like to say they are all good. Some are about loss, many of his characters are disturbed in one way or another, there are are a number of stories with visceral descriptions which should make you cringe, including one that was the most disturbing I've ever read.

Three of my favorites are...

"The Taste of Our Indiscretions," a little story about the price of redemption.  I so hope this is the way it will be.

"Free Ride Angie," about a hooker who would get FREE rides from cabbies (for a price), and much more.  There are many quotable lines in this story, but none of them would get past the Amazon censors.

And then there is "Georgie."  My all-time favorite short by Robert Ford.  To quote my own earlier review of this short story, "The opening paragraph just knocked my socks off.  This is only a short story. but it packs more horror per word than any full length novel I've read this year.  As a father and now grandfather, I was repulsed.  What happens is terrible, yet I couldn't put it down."

The God Beneath My Garden was released in July by Blurred Images publisher and is available in both paperback and ebook formats through

If you love horror, as I do, I strongly recommend you read The God Beneath My Garden.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Undertow - An Ethan Banning Novel - by Naomi Clark - Many P.I. deal with personal demons, Ethan Banning's demon is more personal than most

4.5 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

I am not a fan of jumping into a series of novels mid-stream.  That being said, I was well into Undertow: An Ethan Banning Novel before realizing this was book three in an established series.  But, by that time I was having so much fun, I couldn't put it down.

The previous books in the series are Ungrateful Dead  and Demonized,  just in case you want to start at the beginning.  I will say this, it's not necessary to read those books first, as Naomi Clark does a nice job in getting the reader up to speed, it's just that every once in a while, I found myself wishing I had more on Ethan Banning's back story.

Undertow: An Ethan Banning Novel is told in a first person narrative with a super-snarky attitude and very colorful language.  Ethan Banning is a Private Investigator and he's possessed by a demon who is constantly telling him what to do, sometimes out loud.

In this story, Banning and his dog, Mutt, take a job from a professor who may be able to help rid Ethan of his unwanted guest, but first he must find a missing person.  The trail leads them to Beacon's Point and an apprentice necromancer who guards a portal to the other side and there are people in this town who are trying to bring over a sea demon to do their bidding.

"Corey was young and shiny and full of idealism.  It was kinda sweet.  Me, I was...well, not young, rusted, and full of antipsychotics, so I figured my opinions on anything, never mind necromancy, didn't count for much."

It is a fine line that is walked when writing the fantastical and Naomi Clark walks it well, making the unbelievable believable.  In Ethan Banning she has created a wonderful anti-hero who often does as much harm as good, but you can't help but cheer for the guy.  At some point I'm going to have to go back and read the earlier books in the series and yes there are more adventures on the way.

Undertow: An Ethan Banning Novel is published by Ragnarok Publications and is available through

Highly recommended.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter (The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #1) - by Rod Duncan Steampunk/Alternate History with the feel of a Sherlock Holmes story

4.5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

First I'd like to make note of the stunning and eye-catching cover by Will Staehle. Very nice work.

How best to describe The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter?  Well, there are certainly some elements of Steampunk, there is an Alternate History going on, and there is the feel of a classic Sherlock Holmes story as told by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Rod Duncan weaves these elements deftly into a beautiful tale of mystery and intrigue.

The author has created a not so United Kingdom following a civil war which left England split into two separate countries, the Kingdom and the Anglo-Scottish Republic. Then there's the all-powerful Patent Office meant to protect the citizenry from technology and mechanical devices.

When she was fourteen, Elizabeth Barnabus, lived in the Kingdom with her father.  Through no fault of his own, and thanks to the Patent Office, his daughter is forced into the servitude of a Duke of the Kingdom.  Before that can happen, Elizabeth escapes to the Republic where we find her six years later helping her "brother" in his business as a private detective.

In an effort to find the missing brother of a client, Elizabeth infiltrates Harry Timpson's Laboratory of Arcane Wonders, a traveling circus of sorts.  The scene where Elizabeth wins a job with the troupe through a game of Wild Eights is brilliantly plotted.

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter is wildly imaginative, entertaining, and a complete story. However, this is not the end of the line for Elizabeth Barnabus, since The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter is just book 1 in The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series from Angry Robot Books. Unseemly Science  is due in February of 2015.  This is welcome news and I look forward to returning to the world Rod Duncan has created.

On sale in print and e-book formats from a variety of online retailers on August 26, 2014.

Highly recommended

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Secrets/Outcast by John R. Little & Mark Allen Gunnells - Book Five in JournalStone's Doubledown series

4.5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

This is the fifth entry in the successful Doubledown series from JournalStone Publishing.  The idea is to combine the work of an established writer with a relative newcomer.  This time featuring John R. Little and Mark Allen Gunnells.

In past Doubledown books, it's been the theme that's been loosely shared.  In book five, John R. Little came up with the idea of a shared prologue which introduces readers to Karen and Bobby searching a cemetery for a particular grave.  Then, keeping the characters, each writer takes the story in their own direction with intriguing results.

In John R. Little's story, Secrets, there were times the tale seemed like a charming little fantasy and then events would take a very dark turn.  Both Karen and Bobby have a very unusual gift.  There are points in time when the world just stops, freezes, for everyone except these two.  Sometimes for both and occasionally for just one or the other.  Karen uses her alone time to learn the secrets, of her neighbors and her own family.  Bobby has more destructive hobbies.

For Mark Allen Gunnells, Outcast is a story where wallflower, Karen, discovers her powers as a witch and outcast Penelope tries to guide her development for her own purpose.  At the same time Penelope's former coven tries to warn Karen of Penelope's less than honest intentions.

Some of the best lines come from Karen's growing powers, "So what, just because someone makes me mad doesn't give me the right to go all Carrie-a-the-prom.  I could have killed her." and "I mean once upon a time all I could do was make items shake a little, but now I'm Voldemort all a sudden."

Both stories are above average and make for one of the better Doubledown books.

Secrets/Outcast will be available as a Limited Edition hardcover, hardcover, paperback and ebook from JournalStone and can currently be pre-ordered now through  Publication is set for August 22 2014.

Strongly recommended.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Last Year, When We Were Young - Andrew J. McKiernan - A wonderful collection of dark speculative fiction

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I've mentioned before how much I enjoy what's coming out of the Australian horror writing community and this new collection of shorts from Andrew J. McKiernan just adds to that impression.

Last Year, When We Were Young cover's his young career from his first published short in July of 2007 though November of 2012. Sixteen stories, with only one thing in common,  they are all exceptional.

It all starts with a delightful fantasy with beautiful prose, "The Memory of Water," which opens with the line, "'The ocean, it remembers us,' David said, the heel of his foot dredging shallow trenches in the sand."

There's the powerful didactic story "White Lines, White Crosses,"  A tale of speed and peer pressure told in a haunting manner.

I loved "Calliope: A Steam Romance."  A bit of steampunk fantasy, beautifully told.  It's at this point in the collection that I'm getting the feeling I'm reading something special as McKiernan does with words what a great painter does with his brushstrokes.

There is a distinct diversity in the stories found in this collection, as evidenced in "Love Death," an intriguing story of a newlywed who turns to a necromancer to bring back his bride after a wedding day accident and the consequence that follows.

I keep thinking that I won't comment on every story, but each one is even better than the last.  One of my favorites is, "The Message," in which Marion leaves her abusive husband and takes a job answering a very special phone and taking messages.  Sounds simple, right?  I really enjoyed where this one went.

At the end of the book, the author tells where the inspiration came from for select stories.  "Back in 2006, my second son (who would have been about 7 years of age at the time) came home from school with a birthday card he'd made for me from clip-art.  It read; All the clowns in Clowntown, wish you barrels of fun on your birthday!  There was a cartoony picture of a clown on front , and the instant I read it I knew there was a story hidden inside."  The resulting story was "All the Clowns In Clowntown."  There's even a second visit to Clowntown later in the collection.

Autosarcophagy (look it up) is a big part of "The Final Degustation of Doctor Ernest Blenheim.  That's as good a place as any to end this review.

Last Year, When We Were Young is among my favorite reads for 2014.  Currently available in both paperback and for the Kindle through from Satalyte Publishing.  Plus, if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it for FREE.

This one gets my highest recommendation, I can all but guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Blackout - by Tim Curran - Totally compelling novella. Dark Fiction at it's very best

5 of 5 Stars

Blackout has one of the best opening paragraphs of anything I've read in 2014. "The story I'm going to tell you is about what happened after the lights went out.  I'm going to tell you what happened to our beautiful green world and the people that called it home.  Understand, it's not a happy story and there is no moral.  It's not that kind of story."  Wow.

The best part is that Tim Curran then proceeds to deliver a compelling story that starts like the best episodes of The Twilight Zone and evolves into a story driven by a high-powered engine running on all cylinders which turns into the kind of nightmare Michael Bay must have.

Something creepy is happening during a storm in the quiet neighborhood on Piccamore Way.  After the lights go out people start to go missing.  What happens next is scary beyond words.  To say more would give too much away.  I'd rather readers have the joy of discovering the horror themselves.

Blackout  is far and away my favorite novella of 2014.  Like a ride on Kingda Ka, the worlds fastest tallest roller coaster, it's over before you know it, but oh, what a rush.

Blackout is published by Darkfuse and will be available for the Kindle through on August 19th, 2014.  You can read it for FREE if you've subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, but at $2.99, Blackout is worth every penny.

Highly recommended.

Lifeline - by Kit Power - A novella with powerfully disturbing imagery

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

Kit Power is a horror writer from the UK whose in you face style is beginning to grow on me. In his newest novella,  Lifeline, Frank is in trouble when he is knocked from his bike and dragged into the house of a madman who wants to do terrible things to him and watch him die.  Just for kicks.

As the reality of the situation manifests itself in Frank's mind you can feel his desperation growing.  Power's description of the torture of his captive is, at times, truly disturbing and yet, at other times there's even a lightness to his prose.  ""I grit my teeth and he must see the tension in my jaw because he laughs as he pushes my chin, turning my head sideways. 'Try not to squirm too much.  I don't want you to lose an eye.'  The 'yet' is silent."

Lifeline, also includes the first chapter of Kit' s novella, The Debt, a story which features excellent pacing and is another where you can feel the rising panic of the protagonist as he slowly realizes the gravity of the situation he's gotten himself into.

Kit Power is a writer worth keeping an eye on, particularly if you like horror that doesn't hold back.

Self published, Lifeline will be available from on August 16th, 2014.  You can read this one for FREE if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.

Recommended, but not for the faint heart and definitely for adults only.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Sleeping Dead - by Richard Farren Barber - A decidedly strange novella

3 of 5 Stars

I always look forward to new releases from Darkfuse, so I was eager to get started on this new novella from Richard Farren Barber.

The story began with Jackson Smith on a crosstown bus on his way to a job interview.  He notices some odd behaviors on city transit, but nothing the bus driver hasn't seen before.  Before he can get to his interview, traffic comes to a standstill as there seems to be a jumper on the bridge separating Jackson from his destination.

Soon, there are other suicides and things quickly escalate.  To this point the story was compelling, the pace was good, and I was curious to see what would happen, but then things got bogged down in the second half of the story as Jackson and another survivor, Susan, look for others among The Sleeping Dead, while doing their best to fight off urges to end their own lives.

I'm not quite sure why I didn't enjoy this novella more than I did.  Maybe, it was just a case of bad timing with the death of Robin Williams by suicide occurring just before I read this story and then having so many characters taking their on lives in the book.  It could also be that I found myself not caring about the characters or it might be the lack of any explanation as to why all this was happening.

The Sleeping Dead is available now from Darkfuse through and you can read it for FREE if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fairly Wicked Tales - Edited by Stacey Turner - Classic Fairy tales from differing points of view

4.5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The newest anthology from Angelic Knight Press is just shy of perfection, kind of like the evil witch in Snow White looking into the magic mirror and finding she was not the fairest of them all.  But it's OK, this collection is still plenty good.

What editor Stacey Turner asked her contributors to do was to take a classic Grimm's Fairy Tale and tell it from another point of view.  You know how they say the victors write the History Books?  Well, the same thing happened with all of our favorite Fairy Tales.  To get to the truth we might need to hear the other side of the story.

Take "The Tortoise and the Hare," in the tale we grew up with, the hare was lazy, believed he couldn't be beat and as a result of diligence the tortoise wins the race.  In Jay Wilburn's, 'Hare's Tale," we learn that all hares live under the tyranny of the tortoises and the hare in this particular story was injured and barely alive when the race was run.  Makes a big difference when you see it from the loser's point of view.

Inside Fairly Wicked Tales you'll find twenty-three delightfully twisted re-tellings of many of your childhood favorites, but don't get the wrong idea, these are NOT stories you would want to read to the little ones before bedtime or any other time, not that Grimm's Fairy Tales are squeaky clean to begin with, but many of theses have adult themes.

Each of the story-tellers comes at the theme in a different way and, for the most part, they all weave wonderful new stories.  Stories where Red Riding Hood is anything but sweet and innocent; there's a particularly fun twist to Sleeping Beauty; an even darker telling of Beauty and the Beast; Snow White is a vampire; the little mermaid has a taste for sailors; the boy who cried wolf is actually a were-boy and the Big Bad (B.B.) Wolf is totally misunderstood.  And that's just a sampling of the more familiar stories reworked in this entertaining anthology.

Fairly Wicked Tales is published by Angelic Knight Press and is available now for the Kindle from

If you're a fan of Grimm's Fairy Tales, I really think you'll enjoy these Fairly Wicked Tales. 

Highly recommended.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Echoes (Book 2 in the Whisper Trilogy) - by Michael Bray - Even better than book one

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The story begins with an inside look at a once popular paranormal investigation TV series and how they "enhance" their investigations.  If ratings don't improve, it could be the end of the road for the series and it's host, Dane Marshall.  This is why the show's producer is big on the idea of having Dane convince his brother Henry to allow an investigation of the grounds at Hope House in the village of Oakwell.

The house, now a burned out shell, and surrounding woods, are purportedly home to spiritual forces which cause those who succumb to their influence to do terrible things.

Michael Bray has done a wonderful job of creating a fresh tale from the ashes of Hope House.  I particularly liked the way he crafted this new story in such a way where he did not simply rehash the original book for readers, but instead would drop tidbits from that tale at appropriate times throughout Echoes.

The author deftly uses multiple story lines to tell his tale.  There are the 5 teen-aged friends who sneak onto the property in an attempt to scare themselves silly and I got a genuine Richard Layman vibe when they were camping out, getting ready to have a seance on the property.  Then there's the angle with the fake paranormal investigator show and the brother who wants to build a hotel on the site of Hope House.

Echoes is genuinely creepy at times, gruesome at others, and always engaging.

While it's not necessary to have read Whisper, book 1 in the trilogy, it's certainly recommended.  I also found it refreshing that Echoes is a complete story in it's own right.  Although there will be another volume in the series, Echoes does not leave the reader hanging.

From Horrific Tales Publishing.  Echoes is available now as a paperback and ebook through

Totally recommended.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

SNAFU - edited by G. N. Braun - An anthology of military horror

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

My expectations were not that high for this anthology.  Although, I love horror, in all it's many forms, I've never been that big a fan of the military story.  Well, I needn't have worried at all.  SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror delivers.  Every story killed (pun intended).

Sixteen tales of terror from the battlefield wherever that battlefield may be.  Just about every war over the last millennium, and beyond, is covered in this collection.

SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror features great stories from established names like Jonathan Maberry (with a Joe Ledger novella), Weston Ochse, and James A. Moore (with a story featuring his characters Jonathan Crowley and Lucas Slate).

You'll also find some writers you may not have read before, but don't let that keep you away. Some of the best stories are from authors I wasn't familiar with.

Christine Morgan's "Little Johnny Jump-Up" is one of those stand out tales.  A ghost story set on the battlefield during the Civil War.

Brian W. Taylor has a very cool story called "Covert Genesis," about a C-17 brought out of the sky by a bright blue flash, and what the survivors face is simply terrifying.  "...Lawson's never been the most sociable guy to begin with.  Throw in alien worms who take over people's brains and you can respect his crankiness."

"The Shrine," by David W. Amendola  has German soldiers unearthing something that should be been left lone.

Between the covers of SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror are rescue missions, fighting giant alien spiders, Japanese vampires, undersea Lovecraftian horrors, enemies from the far future, bigfoot, and the undead in the form of monkeys, tigers, elephants and thousands of Indians.

There is so much goodness in SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror that a sequel with four novellas of military horror will be forthcoming with more stories from Jonathan Maberry, Weston Ochse, Joseph Nassise, and James A. Moore.

SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror is available now in hardback, paperback, and ebook through from Cohesion Press.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Beautiful Madness - by Lee Thompson - Crime noir

4 of 5 Stars

Lee Thompson writes Dark Fantasy and Noir fiction under his own name, Coming-of-Age Suspense as Thomas Morgan, and Supernatural Thrillers as Julian Vaughn.  The dominating threads weaved throughout his work are love, loss, and learning how to live again.  All three of those threads are present in his new Crime Noir novel, A Beautiful Madness.

Although, I wasn't entirely comfortable with the author's first-person narrative, by the end of the story I have to admit it was an enjoyable experience.

Thompson's characters are complex.  There are no clear-cut good guys and bad guys, everyone is drawn in several shades of gray.

I wanted to give a brief synopsis of the story without giving to much away.  Not an easy task.  It'll be safer to just copy the book description.

"A Texas Senator and his wife go missing...On the same day, their son is slaughtered by an enigmatic killer on the lawn of ex-Governor Edward Wood' s residence.  Sammy, Wood' s drug-dealing son, suspects his father of the crime.  After all, his old man snapped once before and crippled his wife with a lead pipe.  But there's something more to these events...something deeper and festering beneath the surface..."

Thompson is a an adept story-teller revealing key puzzle pieces slowly throughout his story until it all falls into place at the end.

A Beautiful Madness will be released on August 5th, 2014 through from Darkfuse Press.  It will be available in both print and electronic formats. If you're an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE through the Kindle Owner's Lending Library and you can also get it for FREE with Kindle-Unlimited.