Thursday, December 31, 2015

Occupied Earth: Stories of Aliens, Resistance and Survival at all Costs - Edited by Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips - A terrific shared world anthology

4 of 5 Stars

Every now and again I like to step away from the horror genre and read something different.  I saw this one and thought it might be a nice change of pace.  It was exceptional. Occupied Earth: Stories of Aliens, Resistance and Survival at all Costs is a shared world anthology where the earth has been conquered by an alien race  and is now under their rule.  Each story is a slice of life and what it's like living under the authority of the Mahk-Ra.

There weren't a lot of familiar names in this anthology, at least they weren't familiar to me, they may be to you, and they certainly are to the writers themselves.

Each writer manages to tell a solid story of life in the aftermath of an alien invasion, and at the same time keep the overall mythos of the new Earth consistent throughout.  Kudos to editors Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips who, no doubt, played a big part in pulling that off.

Hunter X – Parts 1-3 by Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips 

Richard and Gary are the editors of the anthology.  Richard is a native Californian, has always been a lover of stories and storytelling. He has worked as a writer, actor, bookseller, story editor, book reviewer, movie and television Development Executive, and audiobook narrator. Gary has family roots in Texas and the Mississippi Delta, he's a native of  L.A. and was editor of the bestselling Orange County Noir.  His graphic novel about a money launderer, The Rinse, has been optioned for television

The Hunter X story is split into three parts.  It starts and ends the anthology and there's another piece about midway through the book.  In this story FBI Special Agent, Paul Hunter, and his partner, JoHannas-ra, make up the first Mahk-Ra-human investigative team.  "...a shining symbol of interspecies cooperation.  Harmony among the species and all that."  Told with a touch of humor, this story sets the stage fort the rest of the anthology.

Do No Harm by Rachel Howzell Hall and David W. Hall

Rachel Howzell Hall is the author of the critically-acclaimed mystery series featuring LAPD Homicide Detective Elouise Norton.  David Hall is the Design Director for the digital arm of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). This is his first story collaboration with his wife writer Rachel Howzell Hall.

Years after the Mahk-Ra occupation two EMTs just doing their job stumble upon a scene which will change their lives again. Just because the Mahk-Ras can do whatever they like doesn't make it right.

Pike Street Pick-Up by Adam L. Korenman 

Adam Korenman has been dabbling in writing for most of his life, but only recently began spilling the crazy thoughts down on paper. Adam is also a Captain with the Army National Guard, serving with a company of tankers in California.

Pike Street Pick-Up is a fine story of a street urchin and pickpocket who lifts more than he bargains for from a Mahk-Ra official.

Union Day by Lisa Morton 

Lisa is a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award®, a recipient of the Black Quill Award, and winner of the 2012 Grand Prize from the Halloween Book Festival.   She also knows more about Halloween than just about anyone in the world.

Union Day is a Halloween story, of sorts, set in this shared world of alien domination.

How the Game is Played by Rob Hart 

Rob Hart has been a political reporter, the communications director for a politician, and a commissioner for the City of New York.  His debut novel, New Yorked, was published by Polis Books in June 2015.

How the Game is Played shows how even with the occupation it's politics as usual.

Strange Alliance by Cliff Allen 

Cliff is a lifelong fan of the space program, and that has led to an avid interest in science fiction as a literary form.

Strange Alliance features clever storytelling and good writing.  It's about a merciless human who rises high in the ranks of the Mahk-Ra.

Hope by Matthew V. Clemens 

Matthew V. Clemens is a long-time co-conspirator with Max Allan Collins, the pair have collaborated on over twenty novels – including CSI and Criminal Minds TV tie-in books.

Hope is another well-told story of occupation and resistance and how one should never jump to conclusions.

Location, Location, Location by Howard V. Hendrix

Howard Hendrix is the award-winning author of six novels, as well as numerous non-fiction books and short stories.

A prime example of how life goes on after the occupation.  The story of an ex-astronaut turned real estate agent working to make a sale of a movie making property to the Mahk-Re.

Letting Go the Ghosts by Marsheila Rockwell and Jeffrey J. Mariotte

Marsheila (Marcy) Rockwell and Jeffrey J. Mariotte have written more than 60 novels between them. They’ve also written dozens of short stories, separately and together.

For the Occupied Earth anthology they've written a powerful story of the Taovayan native Anerican tribe continuing to make their way under Mahk-Ra occupation.  Now comes an offer for the mineral rights to their land that the Taovayan cannot refuse, but not everyone believes they should sell.

A Day in the Life by R. M. Johnson 

Richard M. Johnson is a screenwriter, copywriter, playwright, and poet. His short stories can be found in several anthologies.  He is also a performer and photographer and uses both avocations as excuses to occasionally get out of the house and into the sun.

Another solid story.  This one set in occupied L.A.

Second Coming by Craig Faustus Buck 

Craig Faustus Buck is an LA-based writer for both print and screen.  He is President of Mystery Writers of America SoCal chapter, a member of the board of Sisters in Crime LA, and an active member of the Writers Guild of America and International Thriller Writers.

This was my personal favorite story in the anthology.  Quite an original tale.  I would love to see this given a longer treatment someday.

The Devil You Know by Jessica Kaye 

Jessica Kaye is a partner at Kaye & Mills (, a law firm specializing in publishing and entertainment. She is an audiobook producer of hundreds of audiobooks, more than a few of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards.

Another well told story of Mahk-Ra and humans working together, with a nice twist.

Johnny and the Warehouse Women by Nathan Walpow 

Nathan Walpow is a prolific writer, a past president of the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and a five-time Jeopardy! champion.

A simple warehouse robbery uncovers a prostitution ring involving Mahk-Re women.  From there, things get a bit complicated.

Traitor by Adam Lance Garcia 

Adam Lance Garcia was raised on comic books, movie serials, and lightsabers.  In addition Adam has also worked as a full-time television producer and a part-time screenwriter.

A brilliant story of revenge.

Occupied Earth: Stories of Aliens, Resistance and Survival at all Costs is out now from Polis Books and is available in paperback, e-book, MP3, and Audible formats.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Madness of Cthulhu - Volume Two - Edited by S. T. Joshi - New stories inspired by H. P. Lovecraft

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

From the Intro to The Madness of Cthulhu - Volume Two - "If there is a dominant theme in this volume and its predecessor, it is that of alien incursion, the notion that 'we are not alone in the universe.'"

For me it's all about the stories and in this anthology the stories are, for the most part, excellent.

20,000 Years Under the Sea - Kevin J. Anderson - With more than 50 books to his credit, in the world of SF his is as close to a household name you can get.  I just loved the mixing of the world of Captain Nemo with the Cthulhu mythos.  A truly engaging story combining the works of Jules Verne and H. P. Lovecraft.  A perfect start to the anthology.

Tsathoggua's Breath - Brian Stableford - Brian's recent fiction includes a series of novels and novellas featuring Poe's detective Auguste Dupin, some of which confront him with the Cthulhu mythos.  Tsathoggua's Breath is the name of a glacial wind that blew from the North in a time when Greenland was no longer green.  Tsathoggua is also the name of an ancient god, invisible, known for stealing children.

The Door Beneath - Alan Dean Foster - His first published work appeared in the Arkham Collector in 1971.  Over the years his name has become synonymous with the media tie-in novel, including a number of Star Wars and Star Trek books.  At a secret lab, well below a secure location in Antartica, the Russians are performing experiments on something unimaginable.  "The sight was awe-inspiring, overwhelming, humbling, terrifying."

Dead Man Walking - William F. Nolan -  Continuously published since 1952, William is perhaps best known for creating Logan's Run.  He is the recipient of the lifetime achievement award from the Horror Writer's Association and a "living legend" award from the International Horror Guild. Philips is a writer with a book due his publisher, exposing the truth about and debunking supernatural beliefs. By the end of this one he may have to reconsider his premise for the new book.

A Crazy Mistake - Nancy Kilpatrick - Nancy is an award winning author with 18 published novels, more than 200 short stories, and the editor of  more than a dozen anthologies.  A researcher for the B-movie industry, whose job is to add credence to everything from stories of mummies to space creatures, uncovers a book in the Miskatonic University library called The Great Old Ones.  What she discovers is enough to drive her mad.

The Anatomy Lesson - Cody Goodfellow - Cody is no stranger to the Cthulhu mythos, having written short stories for The Book of Cthulhu 2, A season in Carcosa, and others.  In an earlier time, medical students turn to grave robbing to obtain fresh corpses for their final exam and unearth an empty coffin.  What lies beneath the graveyard is horrible beyond words.

The Hollow Sky - Jason C. Eckhardt - Jason is a self-taught illustrator and writer.  His non-fiction writing has appeared in Lovecraft Studies  and Studies in Weird Fiction. Investigations into an ultra-normal phenomenae on the East Antarctic Shield.  Another well-told story of the Old Ones and a plan to take back their world.

The Last Ones - Mark Howard Jones - Mark Howard lives in Carfiiff, the capital of Wales and has had dozens of short stories published on both sides of the Atlantic.  A story filled with beautiful prose.  A tale about finding your way home.  Set on the West coast of Wales, professor Patrick Neede is there to research the legendary Saint Degion, or at least that's what he thinks.

A Footnote In the Black Budget - Jonathan Maberry - I think, by now, most of us know the name Jonathan Maberry, a New York Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and freelancer for Marvel Comics.  There's no mistaking a Joe Ledger story from Maberry.  Fast-paced with words that just jump off the page.  "We were aboard an LC-130 Hercules, a big military transport plane fitted out with skis. None of us liked the fact that our plane had to have skis."  In this story the DMS team goes up against something in the Antarctic that even they have never had to deal with before.

Deep Fracture -Steve Rasnic Tem - Steve's 200 plus published pieces have garnered him a British Fantasy Award, World Fantasy Award, and a nomination for the Bram Stoker Awards. It's all about what's below the abandoned coal mines in the Appalachian mountains.

The Dream Stones - Donald Tyson - Donald is a Canadian writer of fiction and nonfiction dealing with all aspects of the Western esoteric tradition, as well as a biography of Lovecraft titled The Dreamworld of H. P. Lovecraft.  This is probably my favorite story of the anthology.  It starts with one hell of an opening, too.  "Let me make this clear, I had nothing to do with the events I am going to set down in this narrative.  I was merely an observer, and I am in no way responsible for what happened this semester, either in a moral or a criminal sense.  None of the deaths were my fault."

The Blood In My Mouth - Laird Barron - Laird is the author of several books, an ex-patriate of Alaska, now making his home in upstate New York.  This short story is set in Alaska where a bush pilot see monsters in the depths of Lake Iliamna, monsters as big as nuclear submarines.

On the Shores of Destruction - Karen Haber - Karen is a Hugo nominated editor and author of nine novels predominantly in the real of SF and Fantasy.  Something changes after the big hurricane hits Galveston.  Another fun story which features the Old Ones.

Object 00922UU - Erik Bear and Greg Bear - Erik is building his bibliography and Greg has established himself as one of the leading writers in the field of SF, having won the Hugo, Nebula, and Endeavor Awards.  These two have teamed up before as they do here to present a story of The Xenic Disposal Team whose job it is to study alien relics, determine if they are dangerous, and if so, disarm and dismantle them before they can do harm.

Although, I am no authority on Lovecraftian literature, I did enjoy many of the stories in this new anthology, and whether you're a fan of Lovecraft or not, I think you will find something you like here, as well.

Published by Titan Books, The Madness of Cthulhu - Volume Two, is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

If you're new to Lovecraft or already a fan, I feel comfortable recommending this new volume.

S. T. Joshi is a leading authority on H. P. Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, H. L. Mencken, and other writers, mostly in the realms of supernatural and fantasy fiction.  A prominent atheist having also published works in that field, as well as having had published two works of detective fiction and has written a supernatural novel centering around H. P. Lovecraft, The Assaults of Chaos.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sour Candy - by Kealan Patrick Burke - A disturbing novella that completely creeped me out

5 of 5 Stars

From the cover, right through to the very last word, there was nothing I didn't like about this creepy little story.

Take the opening line, for example, "Four months to the day he first encountered the boy at Walmart, the last of Phil Pendleton's teeth fell out."

Phil Pendleton never should have taken the day off, never should have gone to Walmart, never should have taken that piece of Sour Candy from the boy in the check-out line.

Sour Candy has an amazing twist right at the start of the novella, but it's far from the only surprising turn of events as Phil's world is turned completely upside down and inside out more than once. Eventually he's driven to the breaking point, driven to do what, at one time, he would have considered unfathomable.

This is, by far, one of the strangest stories I've read in 2015 and I loved EVERY minute of it.

Self published and currently available only in digital, Sour Candy, is a treat for your reading taste buds.  Is that a thing?  If it isn't, it should be.

Highly recommended.

Born and raised in Dungarvan, Ireland, Kealan Patrick Burke is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of five novels, over a short stories, six collections, and editor of four anthologies.  When not writing, Kealan designs covers for print and digital books through his company Elderlamon Design.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Lost in the Dark - by Joe Mynhardt - A rather tme collection of horror

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Joe Mynhardt is a South African writer of horror with more than 50 published short stories to his credit.  He is also the owner and operator of Crystal Lake Publishing, publishers of horror and dark fantasy.  Find out more at

Lost In the Dark: A Collection of Short Stories contains a dozen example's of Joe's writing covering a wide variety of horror tropes.

"The Great Wall of Rubin" - Rubin, a recovering alcoholic goes to a meeting four months sober.  His evening doesn't exactly go as planned.

"Beyond the Ornate Tree" - The protagonist is a grown man scared of Christmas.  When he has a breakthrough with his therapist and we learn why, hell I'd be scared of Christmas, too.

"Portico" - A group of friends become trapped in an abandoned observatory with a bloody past.

"The Way Back" - A fairly entertaining story of a paranormal investigator.  Inspired by watching too many episodes of Ghost Adventures.

"Always Come Back" - A twisted little tale which started as an exercise on

"Fashionable Undead" - I think this story may feature the most unusual use of zombies, EVER.  A fun read.

"Come All To the River of Death" - Joe dreamt this story in it's entirety.  The result is a mostly entertaining haunted mansion tale with a number of little twists.  I loved the subtlety of the line where the Doctor says, "I managed to save your eyes."

"Forgive Me Now" - Another story that came out of a writing challenge at about a marital spat gone awry.

"Lost In the Dark" - A young girl becomes trapped with others in a strange man's basement somewhere in a shadow infested forest where no one would dare to look for them.

"Rise, Dead Man" - A so-so story featuring grave robbing as a career choice.

"Zombie Mischief" - Pranking with zombie parts.

"The Nature of the Beast" - The collection closes with Joe's take on the werewolf tale.

Joe has a very simple writing style, I'd have to say it's capable, but not very challenging.  As a result, so are his stories. Although, not marketed as such, Lost In the Dark: A Collection of Short Stories is more suited to the YA audience and can serve as an introduction to horror for a younger audience.

Published by Crystal Lake Publishing, Lost In the Dark: A Collection of Short Stories, is available now both in paperback and e-book formats.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this book at no additional charge.  Plus, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE through the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Galefire - Kenny Soward - The first in a new Urban Fantasy series from the author of the Gnomesaga books

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Kenny Soward is a relatively new author, one of his first published stories was a short in Manifesto: UF,  an Urban Fantasy anthology edited by Tim Marquitz and Tyson Mauermann, published in September of 2013.

Since that time he's written the Gnomesaga series, my personal favorite, and co-authored two Dead West novels with Marquitz and Joe Martin.  Another highly entertaining series.

Kenny's latest project is Galefire.  This first book in a new series took a while to sink its hooks into me.  On the surface it appears to be about one of the most unlikable characters put to paper, or in this case, to digital text.  Lonnie, please don't call me "Lons", is a street runner for the 8th Street Gang in Cincinnati, a heroin addict who can't even remember the names of the wife and daughter he's left behind.  But the truth is much more complex, the author's synopsis of the story says it better than I could.  "Outcasts from another world find sanctuary on Earth, at least until the friends and monsters from their past find them..."

Galefire is one very twisted story and takes its time unraveling, but it is ultimately satisfying and features a well-written final conflagration.  Plus, there are monsters and fiends and atrocities...oh, my.

Galefire is available now as an e-book from Broken Dog Press.  It is book one in a new series, with book two, Galefire II: Fade Rippers coming in the Spring of 2016.  I'll be looking forward to it.


Kenny Soward grew up in Crescent Park, Kentucky, a small suburb just south of Cincinnati, Ohio, listening to AC/DC, Quiet Riot, and Iron Maiden. In those quiet 1970’s streets, he jumped bikes, played Nerf football, and acquired many a childhood scar.

The transition to author was a natural one for Kenny. His sixth grade teacher encouraged him to start a journal, and he later began jotting down pieces of stories, mostly the outcomes of D&D gaming sessions. At the University of Kentucky, Kenny took creative writing classes under Gurny Norman, former Kentucky Poet Laureate and author of Divine Rights Trip (1971).

By day, Kenny works as a Unix professional, and at night he writes and sips bourbon.

Kenny lives in Independence, Kentucky, with three cats and a gal who thinks she’s a cat.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2015

By year's end, I will have read 140 books.  That's a lot, even for me.  I've been doing this review blog for more than three years and in mid-July, I began reviewing for where they have published 16 of my reviews to date.  Looks like I may even have a few in the next print edition of Cemetery Dance Magazine, due out before year's end.

To  take the many great reads I've enjoyed this year and narrow that number down to ten was no small task.  Slightly more than 7-percent of the books I've read have made their way onto this list, and here they are, complete with links to my reviews...

#10 - Seize the Night: New Tales of Vampiric Horror edited by Christopher Golden

#9 - Little Girls by Ronald Malfi

#8 - Andersonville by Edward M. Erdelac

#7 - GodBomb! by Kit Power

#6 - Sacrificing Virgins by John Everson

#5 - Red Equinox by Douglas Wynne

#4 - Point Hollow by Rio Youers

#3 - Brother by Ania Ahlborn

#2 - A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

#1 - Hannawhere by John McIlveen

Honorable mentions go to...

If you have a mind to, check out one or more or all of these books and whatever you do, never stop reading.

Sacrificing Virgins - by John Everson - A consistently dark collection of short stories. Really enjoyed this one.

5 of 5 Stars  Review copy

First let me say I am ashamed I have never read anything from John Everson before.  Why didn't someone tell me about this guy.  Wow.

Sacrificing Virgins is Everson's fourth collection and contains twenty-five of the darkest, most sexually perverse writing I've ever read and I mean that as a complement.  While reading this book, a friend heard me talking about it and asked what she should read by him.  I suggested vising his website at and just pick something that struck her fancy, but I also warned that I found his stories to be among the most disturbing I've ever read. I compared it to a dark amusement park where Stephen King was the kiddie rides and John Everson was the thrill rides for the more adventurous reader.  Don't get me wrong, I love Stephen King, but Everson just takes horror to a whole new level.

As I looked over the list of stories in the collection, preparing to write this review, so many of the titles took me back to the heart of its tale and made me shiver.  That's a job well done.

She Found Spring - The collection begins with a wonderfully charming ghost story just filled with melancholy.

In Memoryum - What if you wanted nothing more than to forget, but once you forgot, you wanted nothing more than to remember.

Bad Day - I hate bugs.  This short has a new one that really creeped me out.  One of the best horror shorts I've read in some time.  Fires on all cylinders.

Nailed - Killer opening line. "Some people found their sex toys in the adult catalogues and others in seedy bookstores.  But Natalie found her garden."  I can promise it's not what your thinking.

The Eyes - Worse than bugs.  Messing with my eyes.  I won't even wear contacts because I have a hard time putting my own finger to my eye.  This story really gave me the heebie jeebies.

Sacrificing Virgins - The title story for the collection and it certainly didn't disappoint.  The tale of a rock star who made a deal with the devil.  After each performance he must have sex with a virgin, before midnight, or the deal is done.  What could possibly go wrong?

Whatever You Want - A story filled to overflowing with perverse pleasures.  One of the most brutal and memorable in the collection.

Grandma Wanda's Jelly Belly - The title says it all.  I will say this, John Everson is one sick puppy and I can't get my fill.

I love Her - A demented tale of a man and the love of his life.  The story has several choice slaughterhouse similes which are to die for.

Eardrum Buzz - Wes is beyond excited at the prospect of joining the street team for his favorite band, Eardrum Buzz.  Another story where bugs play a big part.  What if that buzzing in your ears wasn't tinnitus. Creepy.

Field of Flesh - Visceral storytelling at its best.  Not just sex and violence, but a great story with sex and violence.  Set in the same world as the author's novel NightWhere.

Faux - A very short story that begins with a weekly lunch at the zoo and leads the reader to an unexpected end.

The Pumpkin Man - A really delightful Halloween story about the Pumpkin man who comes to town every year with carved pumpkins that are pure works of art, until some kids learn of the inspiration for the carvings.

The Tapping - Proof positive that drinking and graveyards don't mix.

The White House - A very twisted story of a white house with an appetite.

Star On the Beach - There are just so many great stories in this collection..  This one involves necrophilia and even though it's rather easy to see the end coming, the execution is just brilliant.

My Aim is True - Another of the shorter stories in the collection about what it comes down to for each of us in the end.

Fish Bait - A well-imagined story and brutally violent.  A perfect title, too.

Camille Smiled - How far would you go to bring your dead child back to life?

Ligeia's Revenge on the Queen Anne's Resurrection - A wonderful short about the song of a siren.

Green Apples, Red Nails - Another Halloween tale of sorts.  Sick and twisted, like so many of the stories in this collection.

To Earn His Love - More fun at Halloween.  This one about a teacher and her special student and what she does to bring forth a demon.  I've never seen a story where someone conjures a demon and it ends well.  This is no exception.

Still, They Go - Another really good opening. "I loved her, but I wanted to kill her.  Maybe that's what saved her life.  Maybe that's what doomed mine."  One of so many favorites in this book.  A very good little ghost story.

Voyeur - A sneaky story that seems to be about a peeping Tom/murderer that turns about to be about a peeping Tom/murderer.  If you read the story, that comment will make perfect sense.

The Hole to China - A bit of a fantasy story of a young boy digging his way to China.

In the end, Sacrificing Virgins was an exhilarating read which left me yearning for more.

The collection is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Samhain horror.

Definitely recommended, if you think you can handle the hard stuff.

John Everson is an American author of contemporary horror, dark fantasy, science fiction and fantasy fiction. He is the author of eight novels and six short fiction collections, all focusing on horror and the supernatural. His novel Covenant, was originally released by Delirium Books in 2004 and won the Bram Stoker Award for a First Novel the following year.

Bedlam Lost - by Jack Castle - Comparisons to Lost and Wayward Pines are inevitable, but still an enjoyable read

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Havenport, Alaska.  A very small community with limited access in or out of town, and like the lyrics to Hotel California, "You can check-out anytime you like, but you can never leave."

As I'm reading Bedlam Lost, the first word that pops into my mind is "strange," but in a nice way.

The key players in this book share a common experience, they are new to town and the way each of them came to be in Havenport is shrouded in mystery. And just what is Latitude 61?

As a reader, I don't generally enjoy being left in the dark, but with Bedlam Lost, despite not really knowing what was going on, I found myself enjoying the storytelling.  There is an overall surrealness to life in Havenport, Alaska. And the story itself features more twists than a Philly soft pretzel.  The end result is an enjoyable read.

Bedlam Lost is currently available as an e-book from Edge publishers.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this one at no additional charge.  Plus, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.


Jack Castle's live reads more like that of a character in one of his books.  He has traveled the globe as a professional stuntman for stage, film, and television. While working for Universal Studios, he met Cinderella at Walt Disney World and they were soon married.

After moving to Alaska, he worked as a tour guide, police officer, Criminal Justice professor, and certified weapons instructor. He has been stationed on a remote island in the Aleutians as a Response Team Commander and his last job in the Arctic Circle was protecting engineers from ravenous polar bears. He has had several Alaska adventure stories published along with articles in international security periodicals.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Beast of Barcroft - by Bill Schweigart - Entertaining story of a monster terrorizing a suburban neighborhood

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

I must admit, I never heard of Bill Schweigart until I came across this book in Netgalley, but I found the title, description, and cover to be enough to pique my curiosity.   I am so glad I took a chance.  The Beast of Barcroft was a genuinely pleasant surprise.

Great writing and interesting storytelling.  The author is quite skilled in character construction and creating believable situations out of beyond believable events.

There are a number of twists as the facts slowly come to light and several "Oh, Wow!" moments.

The story begins in the Arlington, Virginia, community of Barcroft where, recently divorced, Ben McLelvie is having a bit of a rat problem due to a neighbor, Madeleine Roux, who calls herself an animal rehabilitator.  Her activities have lead to all kinds of vermin which seem to have attracted a bigger predator to the neighborhood.

As deaths mount and the story changes, Ben is put in touch with Lindsay Clark, the curator of great cats at the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo.  She has a friend who is a cryptozoologist, and that's when things really get interesting.

I'm kind of beating around the bush here because I don't want to give too much away, but I will tell you I did enjoy the read and will likely read the sequel when it comes out in February of 2016.

The Beast of Barcroft  is currently available, as an e-book, and is published by Hydra Books, a division of Random House LLC.


Bill is a former Coast Guard officer who drew from his experiences at sea to write the taut nautical thriller, SLIPPING THE CABLE. Bill currently residents in Arlington, VA with his wife and daughter, who along with their monstrous Newfoundland and mischievous kitten, provide him with all the adventure he can handle.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Blurring the Line - edited by Marty Young - What's fact...what's fiction...the lines are blurred in this anthology

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I can't help but like the concept for this anthology.  From editor Marty Young's introduction..."Blurring the Line is a mixture of fact and fiction – but perhaps some of the fact is really fiction, and some of the fiction is fact.  The lines have been blurred between the two, the division lost, and that was the whole point of this adventure."

Most of the stories do a good job of delivering on the anthology's theme, but there are a couple that  just didn't seem to hit the mark in that respect, or at least they didn't for me.  Of course, your mileage may vary.

Introduction – Marty Young – Marty Young is a Bram Stoker-nominated and Australian Shadows Award-winning writer and editor, and sometimes ghost hunter. He was the founding President of the Australian Horror Writers Association from and one of the creative minds behind the internationally acclaimed Midnight Echo magazine, for which he also served as Executive Editor until mid-2013.  In addition to the introduction, he is responsible for the various (non-fiction) pieces throughout this book that help tie all the the various stories together.

Our Doom is Nigh – Tom Piccirilli – In addition to having the opening story in this collection, Blurring the Line is dedicated to Tom who left us earlier this year.  "Our Doom is Nigh" is a very personal piece.  Whether you knew his work intimately or in passing, it's a poignant and powerful telling of the last days of a writer.

Blurring the Line (non-fiction)

Woolen Shirts and Gum Boots – Lisa Morton – Set in the early 1900s, friends Annie and Florence plan a great escape to get away from Florence's abusive mother.

Clown’s Kiss – Tim Lebbon – Clown's should say all you need to know.  A beautifully written story of an aging widower living in Wellington Pond.  One day he see's clowns living next door and an increasing number of abandoned homes, but what is the reality.  Effective use of the anthology's theme.

Seeing is Believing (non-fiction)

Empty Cars – Lia Swope Mitchell – In the author's on words. "An absurd, methodical. and hopeless search for meaning by someone who's having trouble seeing any."

How Father Bryant Saw the Light – Alan Baxter – A somewhat disturbing story of a young priest doing what he can to help a young girl frightened by the Gangle Man.

Candlelight and Circles (non-fiction)

The Good Work – James Dorr – Are witches real?  You know, the scary kind in books and stories. The young witch hunters in James Dorr's story seem to think so.

Fearful Asymmetries – Peter Hagelslag – I absolutely loved this story.  A tale that seems all to possible in today's world where there is apparent danger lurking around every corner.  At what length will our governments and big business go to keep us safe.

Big Brother is Watching (and Predicting) You (non-fiction)

1-2-3 Red Light – Gregory L. Norris – I got a kick out of how the author took a simple game we played when I was a kid and created a terrifying short story of a traffic light with a murderous disposition.  Another story that was very successful within the parameters of the anthology.

Miskatonic Schrödinger – Steven Lloyd Wilson – "What if all of the things our unenlightened ancestors insisted dwelled in the darkness really did, and that it was shining lights into the darkness that we dispelled them?"  An interesting twist on Schrödinger's cat.

Monsters Don’t Exist (non-fiction)

Old Green Eyes – James A Moore – Looking for proof of the existence of a swamp monster. A well told tale that successfully blurs the line between truth and fiction.

A Peripheral Vision Sort of Friend – Alex C. Renwick – A story of the Suscon Screamer.  An actual urban legend I've heard of before.  Interesting how such legends differ, depending on who's telling the story.  True to the anthology's theme and a solid story from a new writer for me.

The Undiscovered Supernatural (non-fiction)

Consorting with Filth – Lisa Hannett – Ghosts blur the line for me more than any other type of entity or monster.  I want to believe, but all of the evidence I've seen can easily be misinterpreted or even faked.

Hoarder – Kealan Patrick Burke – A nice, disturbing little story.  You don't see many door to sales reps nowadays.  This story may help explain why.

Human Monsters (non-fiction)

With These Hands – Brett McBean – A story of ventriloquist who wanted to love children and be loved in return.

The Body Finder – Kaaron Warren – Frank has a gift...a gift for finding ghosts.  He's found and helped many over the years, just not the one he's looking for.  A very well told story.

Building Frankenstein’s Monster (non-fiction)

What’s A Monster without Resurrection? (non-fiction)

Salt on the Tongue – Paul Mannering – Story of a young boy whose mother finds him work with another family and forbids them to feed him.  Believe me, she has her reasons.

Every Time You Say I Love You – Charles L Grant – Another story of bringing back the dead from a true master of the genre.

Honey – Annie Neugebauer – Probably the most unusual story in the anthology, yet truly enjoyable.

The Voices Told Me To Do It (non-fiction)

Distorted and Holy Desire – Patricia J. Esposito – Is the guy who performs at the club an angel, a vampire, or just a man?

Nita Kula – Rena Mason  – A dark and gruesome ending to the anthology.  A solid story from Rena.

The anthology opens and closes with passages from the New International Version of the Bible. From Deuteronomy and Leviticus respectively.  Got me thinking, having read the Bible from cover to cover, it could just be one of the best horror books I've ever read.

Overall, Blurring the Lines was a book I enjoyed reading.  Some stories were much better than others, but reading this was definitely time well spent.

BTW, very nice cover art from Dean Samed.

Blurring the Line is available as an e-book now, with a print version to follow, from Cohesion Press. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read this one for no additional charge and if you are an Amazon Prime member you can borrow it for FREE from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Childhood Fears - A four novella collection from Samhain Horror

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

In May of 2015 Samhain Publishing released four new novellas exploring things that go bump in the night, the things that scared us as kids, and in many cases still frighten us as adults. Now, those four stories are available in a single volume called. Childhood Fears.

NIGHTMARE IN GREASEPAINT by L.L. Soares and G. Daniel Gunn.  L.L. Soares is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novel Life Rage.  G. Daniel Gunn is the author of the novel Destroyer of Worlds and the pseudonym for Daniel G. Keohane, a Bram Stoker nominated author in his own right.  Nightmare in Greasepaint does not disappoint.  The start of the story is more psychological horror with a house bringing back memories of what had happened to the protagonist as a child and what he had done, but as the story develops the tension builds, much like the climb to the top of a super-coaster and then reaches incredible speeds as you plummet back to earth.  A quick and satisfying read.

THE BEAR WHO WOULDN'T LEAVE by J.H. Moncrieff.  J.H. Moncrieff has been a professional writer all of her adult life with a number of those years spent as a journalist tracking down snipers and canoeing through crocodile-infested waters.  The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave preys on our childhood fears and manages to juggle the three possible scenarios in a way that kept me guessing to the very end.  Is it really Edgar, the teddy bear, doing all these bad things, is it Josh's step-father making it look like Edgar, or is there something wrong with Josh himself.  Although the idea of an evil teddy is not terribly new, and at times you could easily predict what might come next, the result still hits you in the face like a ton of bricks.

SCARECROWS by Christine Hayton.  Introduction to Edgar Allen Poe at age twelve, hooked Christine Hayton on the horror genre and her attraction to the macabre continues to this day. Scarecrows was yet another enjoyable story in this quartet of novellas.  "Cathy isn't in her bed and I can't find her anywhere."  As a parent I find those words alone to be fear inducing. Although the story is told moving back and forth over a period of years in the late '60's, each chapter heading came with a note to let the reader know where they were in that scene. Scarecrows has a solid twist and proves that truth is stranger than fiction.

WINTERWOOD by JG Faherty.  JG is a Bram Stoker Award and ITW Thriller Award finalist. He's the author of five novels, seven novellas, and more than 50 short stories.  Winterwood unleashes the monsters.  Krampus, the Holly King, the Wild Hunt, and Gryla (the Holly King's wicked bride, the mother of the Yule Lads and the evil sister of Mother Earth.  A witch with a fondness for children.

Overall Childhood Fears is a solid read and accomplishes its goal in examining the things that scared us in our childhood and beyond.  The book is available now from Samhain Publishing in both paperback and e-book formats.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunfail by Steven Savile - Largely unsatisfying thriller that could have been so much better.

2 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I went into Sunfail fully expecting a great read.  I'm sorry to say, it just didn't work out that way.

When the author wrote, "They even had a hashtag for it on Twitter, #sunfail.  It trended for six days.  On the seventh day there was no internet." I really thought we were in for some post-apocalyptic fun.

Part of my problem with Sunfail is there were a lot of nice little scenes, but in many ways they failed to connect to one another. Even a story with fast-paced global action and the occasional James Bond quality stunt was not enough to overcome the disconnect.  The use of a number of conspiracy theories could have been great, but it seemed as if they were just thrown in and never fully developed.  As a matter of fact there were a number of seemingly important storylines that never quite paid off.

And then there was the story's end.  It just didn't work for me at all.  It almost seemed it was setting up for a sequel, but I don't think it's likely, and if it does happen I don't think I'll be reading it.

Unfortunately Sunfail is not a book I can recommend.

Published by Akashic Books, Sunfail is available in e-book, paperback, audible, and MP3 CD formats.

Steven Savile has written for Doctor Who, Torchwood, Primeval, Stargate, Warhammer, Slaine, Fireborn, Pathfinder, Arkham Horror, Rogue Angel, and other popular game and comic worlds. He won the International Media Association of Tie-In Writers award for his novel, SHADOW OF THE JAGUAR, and the inaugural Lifeboat to the Stars award for TAU CETI (co-authored with International Bestselling novelist Kevin J. Anderson). Writing as Matt Langley his young adult novel BLACK FLAG is a finalist for the People's Book Prize 2015. His latest books include SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE MURDER AT SORROWS CROWN, published by Titan and PARALLEL LINES a brand new crime novel coming from TITAN in 2016.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Made To Kill: L.A. Trilogy Book 1 - by Adam Christopher - Robot noir, yeah, it's a thing

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Adam Christopher is a novelist and comic writer, and award-winning editor. He's the author of The Burning Dark, The Machine Awakes, and Made to Kill, and Adam has also written novels based on the hit CBS television show Elementary.  His debut novel, Empire State, was SciFiNow's Book of the Year and a Financial Times Book of the Year for 2012.

Born in New Zealand, Adam has lived in Great Britain since 2006.

I spend much of my spare time reading and reviewing Horror.  I can't seem to get enough, but every once in a while I like to step outside of the genre for something a little different.  I stumbled upon Made To Kill over at NetGalley and I just couldn't resist the concept.  Robot noir, set in the 60's, with the last robot on earth, once a P.I. and now an assassin. How could I not read this.

Raymond Electromatic is a Licenced Private Detective.  It says so right on the door to his office. Only thing is, he's no longer a private detective.  He's now a hitman. What about Azimov's "Laws of Robotics"?  Seems those laws don't apply in this alternate timeline of Los Angeles in 1965.

Once you're able to wrap your head around the idea that everything you know about robots is wrong, it's kind of fun to relax and get lost in this crazy story of a Russian plot to take control of the minds of innocent Americans.

The story is conceptually strong, but did seem to be a bit forced at times.   Even taking that into consideration, I found myself enjoying this wild ride.

Made To Kill is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and through Audible from Tor/Forge, a division of Macmillan Publishing.


Brother - by Ania Ahlborn - Brilliantly conceived and executed with precision. Horror at its best

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Ania Ahlborn is the bestselling author of the horror thrillers Within These Walls, The Bird Eater, The Shuddering, The Neighbors, and Seed, which has been optioned for film. Born in Ciechanow, Poland, she lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and their dog. For more, visit the author online at

This is the second book I've read this year from Ania Ahlborn, having read Within These Walls back in April and now Brother. Both works are fine examples of literary horror and each is well worth your time as a reader.

Brother is the disturbing story of the Morrow family who live deep in the heart of the Appalachians, in West Virginia.  This is a family that has managed to take all of the fun out of dysfunctional. There is definitely a strange family dynamic at play here. Abusive parents, and siblings that are just as bad. "Folks like the Morrows didn't have much. They got by living off the land." This is a quote that goes much deeper than what it seems on the surface.

At the core of the story is Michael, the youngest brother among the four siblings.  Michael was not born a Morrow, having been abducted when he was just six-years-old.  Told he was abandoned by his family, Michael has grown into his teen-aged years immersed in the horrors of the Morrow household.

Brother is a story of complex relationships, with fully developed characters, that left me beaten and fully drained by the book's end.  As all of the secrets of this tale were reveled, I felt as if I was about to crumble, so powerful were the images in my mind.  It left me asking how much can one person take before they just snap.

I would love to see this on the big screen some day.  Another book that's certain to make my top ten list at the end of the year.

Brother is available now in every imaginable format from Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

If you love horror.  I promise you won't be disappointed if you choose to make Brother your next read.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Frozen Shadows - Wildwoman: JournalStone's DoubleDown Series, Book VII - by Gene O'Neill & Chris Marrs - Two stories of childhood abduction

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Frozen Shadows - Wildwoman: JournalStone's DoubleDown Series, Book VII is JournalStone's seventh release in their Double Down series  This is where JournalStone puts together a single volume featuring two novellas, one from an established writer and another from a relatively new voice in horror. This time, both stories deal with children being abducted and the result is another strong entry in this ongoing series.

Gene O'Neill has five published novels to his credit and more than 140 short stories.  The shorter fiction has been published in five collections.  He has been on the final ballot for the Bram Stoker Award and has twice taken home the coveted haunted house.

Frozen Shadows begins in Sutter Creek, California and has an opening that pulls the reader right into the heart of the story.

When I was six years old, I went to live with my grandparents in Sutter Creek.  Shortly thereafter, I met a beautiful girl named Bell.  Together, Bell and I would confront an evil man who cast no shadow. These three interrelated events would significantly influence the course of my life.

I enjoyed the way O'Neill developed the main characters.  Sean O'Donnell, Isabella "Bell" Marconi, and Bobby "Miracle Bob" Mericalli were the best of friends., living a pretty charmed childhood until Mr. Shadrach Black moved to town.  Although the premise of the evil that comes to Sutter Creek is of an unbelievable nature, the story is made credible in its telling.

I love a good coming of age story and there's quite a bit of that in Frozen Shadows.  It seems that, for once, good triumphs over evil, although not without a terrible cost.  Fifty years later and on the other side of the country a story makes the news and...


Chris Marrs lives on the West Coast of British Columbia. During the day she tends bar to keep her kids fed, watered, and sheltered and spends her nights writing.  To date, several of her short stories have seen publication and in the Fall of 2013, Bad Moon Books published her novella Everything Leads Back To Alice.

WildWoman also features a killer opening line...

At the age of seven, Ghoulie Julie found a naked girl whose eyes were sewn shut.

The story itself takes place over the course of nearly 30 years.  A story of disappearing children, bullying, teenage angst, poor decisions, and redemption.

When Julie was seventeen her younger sister, Clare goes missing, a tragedy which sets her on a path of self-destruction.  Seventeen years later,  her own daughter, Natalie Jade, goes missing...


Two completely different stories of childhood abduction combine for another, largely successful, entry into the DoubleDown series.  I'm definitely looking forward  to what JournalStone has in stall for us next.

Frozen Shadows - Wildwoman: JournalStone's DoubleDown Series, Book VII is available now in both paperback and e-book formats.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Seize the Night: New Tales in Vampiric Terror - ed. by Christopher Golden - Not a sparkly vampire in sight

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Christopher Golden is a very busy writer.  If a project involves the written word, it seems as if Christopher is willing to give it a go.  This includes comics, media tie-ins, YA novels, and books for adults.  Oh, and let's not forget editing anthologies.

Christopher's latest project is one such anthology.  Seize the Night: New Tales of Vampiric Terror  is built upon the premise that "once upon a time vampires were figures of terror...And they can be again."

The twenty-one authors collected in this volume have accepted that challenge and have largely succeeded in returning vampires and their ilk back into our nightmares where they belong.  Although, a couple of the stories had me scratching my head looking for the vampiric connection, each of the tales delivered the goods.  And by goods, I mean the terror.

UP IN OLD VERMONT by Scott Smith.  Scott is an American author and screenwriter with two novels to his credit.  His screen adaptation of his novel A Simple Plan earned him an Academy Award nomination. This is the sweet story of Ally, a woman who has not had a lot of luck with the choices she's made in her life.  She moves to Vermont to assist in the care of a wife with Alzheimer's in exchange for room, board, and a small stipend.  Sounds idyllic, but what happens is anything but.

SOMETHING LOST, SOMETHING GAINED by Seanan McGuire.  In 2010 Seanan was awarded The John W. Campbell Award for Best new Writer.  This is a wildly imaginative story of a young teen-aged girl who gets caught in a Summer storm while chasing fireflies. What happens next is devastating, life-changing, and brilliant.

ON THE DARK SIDE OF SUNLIGHT BASIN by Michael Koryta.  Michael is an American author of contemporary crime and supernatural fiction and has had his work translated into twenty languages.  There is a reason why Michael is a NYT bestselling author and why his work is so highly praised.  It all comes down to great story-telling.  I loved this tale of a big game hunter who refuses to listen to the advice of his Native American guide.  I really enjoyed Michael's legend building in this story.

THE NEIGHBORS by Sherrilyn Kenyon.  Sherrilyn is a popular urban fantasy writer.  Her novels have sold over 30 million print copies in over 100 countries. This short features some kids spying on their neighbors while there is a serial killer at large.  A short, yet terrifying tale.

PAPER CUTS by Gary A. Braunbeck.  Gary writes in a number of different genres, but is primarily known for his work in horror.  He is also the recipient of two Bram Stoker Awards. Gary's story opens with the most visceral writing so far in this collection.  Vampires are far from the worst of the horrors featured in this short story.

MISS FONDEVANT by Charlaine Harris.  Charlaine has been writing for more than thirty years with her later works being in the urban fantasy genre.  Most notable would be her Sookie Stackhouse novels which led to the HBO series True Blood.  Here, a group of sixth graders think their teacher is an energy sucking vampire.  Truth is, they might be on to something.

IN A CAVERN, IN A CANYON by Laird Barron.  Laird is an award winning author and poet whose work falls primarily within the horror, noir, and dark fantasy genres.  Laird delivers a well-told story of a woman, now in her fifties, still trying to understand if her father walked out on her and her siblings or if something more sinister occurred.

WHISKY AND LIGHT by Dana Cameron.  Dana began her professional career as an historical archaeologist and later turned to writing.  Originally having success with the Emma Fielding Archaeology Mysteries and more recently with her Fangborn Urban Fantasy Series. Dana is a new writer for me as a reader and I love that about anthologies.  Her story from the days of the Puritans, features legends, superstition, demons, and a young woman wanting desperately to get away from all of that.

WE ARE ALL MONSTERS HERE by Kelley Armstrong.  Kelley is a Canadian writer who's had a great deal of success in the urban fantasy genre.  She's created multiple series set in multiple worlds.  It's been two years since the outbreak that led to the onslaught of vampirism and there were still no explanations as to a cause.  "Of course people blamed the government.  It was in the vaccinations or the water or the genetically modified food.  What was the trigger?"  I love me some Kelley Armstrong.

MAY THE END BE GOOD by Tim Lebbon.  Tim has been writing for nearly twenty years, primarily in the field of horror and dark fantasy.  The story of a monk, in France, during the reign of William the Bastard.  As if the atrocities of the French Army against the people was not horrible enough...

MRS. POPKIN by Dan Chaon and Lynda Barry.   Dan has two novels and numerous short stories to his credit and has twice had his work included in Best American Short Stories.  Lynda has worked as a painter, cartoonist, writer, illustrator, and more.  She is the creator of Ernie Pook's Comeek, a syndicated comic strip which ran for more than two decades.  I found this to be a charming tale, but I couldn't quite figure out how it tied into the theme of the anthology.

DIRECT REPORT by Leigh Perry.  Leigh also writes as Toni L.P. and is the author of the Family Skeleton mysteries.  Wow.  Wonderfully told story. A totally original vampire concept.  It took a while to get there, but the payoff was worth the wait.

SHADOW AND THIRST by John Langan.  John is an American writer of contemporary horror, he's been a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award for Best Collection, and he serves on the Board of Directors for the Shirley Jackson Awards.  This story is an interesting and complex tale of a grandfather who discovers an unusual structure on his property.  After coming back from investigating it, he's a changed man and not for the better.

MOTHER by Joe McKinney.  Joe has more than thirty books to his credit.  He is a two time Bram Stoker Award winner.  And is a sergeant with the San Antonio Police Department.  Joe gives us a tale of the search for what has killed five young children in a small Texas community.  Believed to be the work of a chupacabra, turns out to be something far more terrifying.

BLOOD by Robert Shearman.  Robert is an award winning short story writer who is likely best known for the modern day Doctor Who.  A wonderfully told story of forbidden love and a trip to Paris.  I really like it, but might have liked it even more if I understood it in the context of the anthology's theme.

THE YELLOW DEATH by Lucy A. Snyder.  Lucy has more than 80 published short stories to her credit and won the Bram Stoker Award in the short story category for her 2012 short "Magdala Amygdala."  This story features some serious vampires.  Well done, Lucy.

THE LAST SUPPER by Brian Keene.  Brian is an American author, primarily of horror, crime fiction, and comic books. He has won two Bram Stoker Awards.  A fairly short short story from Brian showing how immortality isn't always all it's cracked up to be.

SEPARATOR by Rio Youers.  If you are not familiar with Rio's work, you really should correct that ASAP.  He's written two of my favorite novels from the last few years, Westlake Soul and Point Hollow are both worth your time.  Rio's vampire story was much like a perfect storm and was truly horrifying.

WHAT KEPT YOU SO LONG? by John Ajvide Lindqvist.  John is a notable Swedish horror writer. Here he delivers another entertaining story about doing what you have to do, what you're "called" to do.

BLUE HELL by David Wellington.  David writes about monsters, including a five book vampire series that follows a Pennsylvania state trooper battling a centuries old vampire. David's story for the anthology is about tradition, sacrifice, and what happens when it all goes wrong.

These are not your Count Dracula vampire stories, but thankfully they're not of the friendly variety either.  What they all have in common is that each and every story is a cut above the ordinary.

Seize the Night: New Tales of Vampiric Terror is out now from Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, and is available both in paperback and e-book formats.

My highest recommendation.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Hell Bound - by Andrew P. Weston - Similar to Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim series, but not as much fun

3 of 5 Stars   Review copy

Andrew P. Weston is Royal Marine and Police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats.  He is the creator of the international number one bestseller, The IX.  On weekends, you might find him drinking Earl Grey Tea whilst dressed as Captain Jean Luc Picard.

Hell Bound is new novel of the underverse from Perseid Press...

It's not often that this happens, I'm generally pretty good with selecting the stories I want to read, but I really didn't care for Hell Bound as much as I though I would.

Conceptually it sounds like I should love this story about Satan's Bounty Hunter, Daemon Grim, and his personal posse of trackers: Nimrod, Champ Ferguson, and Yamato Takeru. Known collectively as the Hell Hounds.  There are a number of interesting characters  as well as a generally engrossing story, but it wasn't enough to overcome the cutesy approach to Hell.

What I mean by cutesy is calling just about everything in Hell by the antithesis of its name from the world above.  This quickly became annoying and distracted me from enjoying the story, but the author continued to pile them on throughout the book.  Things like the Fiendish Bureau of Investigation; instead of a bible in each room of a hotel they have a copy of Dante's Inferno; there's a ship called HSMS Titanic (His Satanic Majesty's Ship); "there's been a lot of chatter on the white market" and on and on.

Although the story is self contained, there are more than enough loose ends to warrant a sequel, a sequel I'm nearly certain I'll be skipping.

Hell Bound is available now as an e-book from Perseid Press.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Godbomb! - by Kit Power - The most powerful book I've read in 2015

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Kit Power lives in the UK and writes fiction that lurks at the boundaries of the horror, fantasy, and thriller genres, trying to bum a smoke or hitch a ride from the unwary. 

In his secret alter ego of Kit Gonzo, he also performs as front man (and occasionally blogs) for death cult and popular beat combo The Disciples Of Gonzo,

I've been lucky enough to be reading Kit for a couple of years now. Admittedly, I have not always given him the most positive of reviews, but he's always been gracious and has continued to work diligently on his craft.  I have to say his perseverance has paid off.

I think I've just read the best book I'm likely to read in 2015.  Godbomb! is that good.  No, not just good.  It's great.  Kit has written a story that takes the reader into the heart of the kind of story we see every day on the news.  The kind of story that leaves us shaking our heads at how crazy this world we live in has become.

The story takes place in North Devon, England. 1995. A born-again revival meeting in a public building. The usual mix of the faithful, the curious, and the desperate. And one other – an atheist suicide bomber. He's angry. He wants answers. And if God doesn't come and talk to him personally, he's going to kill everyone in the building.

I found Godbomb! to be a totally engrossing read from the very first word.  The more I read, the more I thought to myself how I'd love to see this on the stage.  In a way, this book even reads a bit like a play with several key players playing major roles.  Aside from the suicide bomber and his accomplice, there's a disabled woman, an alcoholic, a dirty old man, a sax player, a sixteen-year-old girl, a woman ready to give birth any day, and each one plays a major role.

This can easily be a career defining book for Kit Power.  It's a book I think everyone should read, just so you can say you were among the first.

Godbomb! is available now in both paperback and e-book from the Sinister Horror Company. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you're in luck as you can read this one at no additional charge.  Also, if you have Amazon Prime you can read it for FREE as your monthly selection in the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

If you only ever read one book I recommend, make Godbomb! the one.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Convalescence - by Maynard Sims - A very entertaining ghost story novella

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Maynard Sims is actually a "they."  Len Maynard and Michael Sims have been writing together for more than forty years.  In addition to supernatural thrillers, like Convalescence, they also write stories in the thriller, mystery, and suspense genres.

Although short on words, coming in at only 87 pages, Convalescence is long on story.

James Bently, fourteen, is the only member of his family to survive an outbreak of tuberculosis.  Sent to live with his uncle Thomas, at his sprawling estate, it's not long before he hears what sounds like a child crying.  Later, he begins to communicate with a mysterious entity on the property.  With the aide of a house maid, sixteen-year-old, Amy, the riddle is eventually solved only to reveal a horrifying truth about what had taken place at his uncle's house.

Reading Convalescence was like stepping briefly into another time and place. The prose was lyrical and I loved the bits with James' little transistor radio, his only link to the outside world and British pop music of 1965.  All in all, this was a truly wonderful ghost story.

From Samhain Horror,  Convalescence will b available as an e-book on November 3, 2015.

If you are a fan of ghost stories you don't want to miss this one.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Mirrors - by Nicole Cushing - A strange collection of speculative fiction

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Nicole Cushing is a Shirley Jackson Award finalist who's written a number of stand-alone novellas and dozens of short stories. Nicole has been referred to as the literary equivalent of the love child between Jack Ketchum and Poppy Z. Bright.  Raised in rural Maryland and now living in southern Indiana, Nicole counts master storyteller Edgar Allen Poe as having had a big influence on her as a writer.

A few weeks ago, I read Nicole's debut novel, Mr. Suicide. a book filled with richly demented and deformed characters.  This was one of my favorite reads so far in 2015.  Highly recommended.

The Mirrors is a collection of twenty works of speculative fiction which, for the most part, have been published elsewhere, but appear together for the first time in this volume.

As I read story after story, each a bit stranger than the last, the words from Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken came to my mind. "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by..."  These are NOT the typical stories one expects to find in a collection from a horror writer. Sure, they're twisted, demented, and at times unsettling, but there's more to it than that.  Have you ever walked through a Hall of Mirrors at a carnival, the kind that present you with reflections that are misshaped and often leave you lost? Yeah, reading these tales was a bit like that.

There are stories told from the Point Of View of a bottle of morphine, of suicide, hell, amnesia, a homeless time traveler.  There's even a story with a hermaphrodite.

One of my favorites is THE LAST KID SCARED BY LUGOSI where a film buff brings the actor back to life on the 100th anniversary of the release of the iconic Dracula film.

I also loved EULOGY TO BE GIVEN BY WHOEVER'S STILL SOBER about a zombie writer attending his own funeral, planning to drink himself to death.

I often think it might be fun to get inside a writers mind to see just what makes them tick,   After reading this collection by Nicole Cushing, I'm not so sure I'd want to make that trip.  At least, not without adequate protection.

The Mirrors is available now in softcover, with e-book coming soon, from Cycatrix Press.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Incurables - by Jon Bassoff - Whether you put your faith on God or science, there is little hope of redemption

4 of 5 Stars      Review copy

Jon Bassoff was born in 1974 in New York City and currently lives with his family in a ghost town somewhere in Colorado. His mountain gothic novel, Corrosion, was called "startlingly original and unsettling" by Tom Piccirilli, a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, and won the DarkFuse Reader's Choice Award for best novel. His surrealistic follow-up, Factory Town, was called "A hallucinatory descent into an urban hell" by Bram Stoker award-winning author Ramsey Campbell. For his day job, Bassoff teaches high school English where he is known by students and faculty alike as the deranged writer guy.

Bassoff's third novel is filled with characters with few, if any, socially redeeming qualities.   The Incurables is set in the early 1950s, and Dr. Walter Freeman's nearly thirty years at the same mental institution are about to come to an end. Despite his many successes in treating the most insane of patients through a process he developed called a transorbital lobotomy, the times are changing and the institution's board is eager to move on to more humane treatments using modern medications to modify the behaviors of the asylum's residents.

Instead to changing his ways, Dr. Freeman sets out on his own with his most recent success and travels the country preaching his cure for many mental conditions. At the same time there is a father and son team of a preacher who is convinced his son is the Messiah.

If you like your horror dark and violent, The Incurables is most definitely for you.  It's a book where once you start reading, you won't want to put it down.  There are no heroes in this tale filled with delightfully despicable characters.  Personally, I found the work to be a criticism of both science and religion, and whichever you put your faith in, there is no redemption to be found.

The Incurables is published by Darkfuse and is available in both paperback and e-book formats.  If you subscribe to Amazon's Kindle Unlimited you can read this work at no additional charge.  Plus, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read this book for FREE as your monthly selection from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe: Classic Tales of Horror, 1816-1914 - edited by Leslie S. Klinger - A solid collection of stories from Poe's contemporaries

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Leslie S. Klinger is considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on both Sherlock Holmes and Dracula. He is the editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Critical/Biographical Work and nominated for every other major award in the mystery genre. He is also the editor of The New Annotated Dracula which possesses a similar in-depth examination of Bram Stoker’s haunting classic and its historical context.

In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe: Classic Tales of Horror, 1816-1914 Leslie presents twenty tales of horror from a diverse group of Edgar Allan Poe's contemporaries.  From Ernst T. W. Hoffmann, who wrote The Nutcracker and the Mouse King which became the basis for Tschaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker, to Bram Stoker who gave us the iconic Dracula.

While a few of the names in this collection were already familiar to me, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ambrose Bierce, and of course, Bram Stoker, the vast majority of the names and stories were new to me.  Although the reading was not always easy, I find the way people spoke more than a century ago to be a bit off-putting at times.  The stories themselves were as varied as their authors, with a strong showing for ghost stories.  Some of the best ghost stories I've ever read are included in this volume. Among those tales are THE UPPER BERTH by F. Marion Crawford, written 130-years ago and as effective as any story I'm likely to read this year.  Also in that category was A NIGHT OF HORROR by Dick Donovan and THE WOMAN WITH THE HOOD by L.T. Meade.

Of course there are more than ghost stories in this collection, just as Edgar Allan Poe was more than a horror writer, Leslie S. Klinger has collected a wide range of tales for this book. Mysteries, Mummies, tales of courage and revenge, of prejudice and even a companion piece to THE KING IN YELLOW by Robert W. Chambers, called THE YELLOW SIGN.  Dare I say there is something for everyone.

If you can get past the old-time writing style, I think you're likely to find some reading to keep you up at night in the pages of In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe: Classic Tales of Horror, 1816-1914.

Available in a wide variety of formats, In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe: Classic Tales of Horror, 1816-1914, is published by Pegasus Books.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Man Made Murder (Blood Road Trilogy Book 1) - by Z. Rider - Well written horror

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Z. Rider grew up in New Hampshire watching Creature Double Feature every Saturday afternoon on Channel 56. She now lives in the mountains of northeast Tennessee with her husband, two dogs, and a skeleton named Knuckles.

Her new book, Man Made Murder, starts with a compelling synopsis of the story...

When police can't track down the man Carl Delacroix believes murdered his sister, Carl takes matters into his own hands. After a two year search, he finds himself broke, desperate, and--finally--hot on the trail of the man who killed Sophie.  But the road is dark and full of monsters, and the one he's chasing has a deadly bite.

Rock band, Man Made Murder, wants nothing more than to get out of their deal with High Class records, but instead, they find their new single climbing the charts as they prepare to head out on the road again, beginning with a show in NYC.

Author, Z. Rider, deftly weaves the band's story with that of Carl Delacroix's search for his sister's killer, into a compelling story which reveals its secrets slowly.  Man Made Murder is well-written and believable, despite the subject matter.  Rider has a writing style that's visual and tight, with spurts of pulse-pounding action and presents a twist that keeps the story going just when you think you've got it all figured out.

Because Man Made Murder is the first book in a trilogy, there are numerous loose ends and a bit of a cliff-hanger to leave the reader wanting more.

From Dark Ride Publishing Man Made Murder is available now in Hardback, Paperback and e-book formats.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read this title at no additional charge, or if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE as your monthly selection from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Flux - by Ferrett Steinmetz - The absurd, yet totally enjoyable sequel to Flex

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

After twenty years of wandering desolate as a writer, Ferrett Steinmetz attended the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop in 2008 and was rejuvenated. Since then, he's sold stories to numerous publications and in March of 2014, Ferrett saw his first novel, Flex, released by Angry Robot Books.  He lives in Cleveland with his wife, and a friendly ghost.

First a bit of background.  Flex is distilled magic in crystallized form, gifted to ordinary people by 'mancers.  Along with Flex, and the powers it bestows, comes The Flux. Think Newton's Third Law, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

In this worthy sequel, Paul Tsabo is now the chief of the New York Task Force For 'Mancer Control. No one on the team knows Paul is a 'mancer himself, a bureaucromancer, which means he's adept at manipulating paperwork to perform his unique brand of magic.  Both his daughter, Aliyah, and best friend, Valentine, are  videogamemancer's.

The world Ferrett Steinmetz has created is wildly imaginative and his writing style is somewhat reminiscent of Richard Kadrey's Butcher Bird and Sandman Slim novels. Needless to say, both Flex and The Flux are wild rides which take the reader to places they've never been before, and beyond.

All of the characters are fully developed, the banter is clever, and the writing is filled with pop-culture references.  If you've already read Flex, (and I do recommend that, even though The Flux reads well as a stand alone novel), The Flux is somewhat darker overall.

If you're a gamer, you're going to love the ending to this book and good news, there are plans for a third and final book in the series.

Both Flex and The Flux are available in a wide array of formats from Angry Robot Books.

If you like your reads to be "out there", this series may be just what you're looking for. Recommended.