Monday, September 28, 2015

Viral - Vector 1: Raw Feed - Toby Bennett & Benjamin Knox - First in a series of four horror novellas

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Toby Bennett was born in 1976 in Cape Town, South Africa. He holds a degree in philosophy from the University of Cape Town. To date he has written eight novels and appeared in various collections of short stories. Benjamin Knox writes fun pulpy genre-fiction, horror, a little sci-fi and anything gleefully maniacal.

Viral - Vector 1: Raw Feed is another twist on the traditional Zombie tale.  Here the outbreak has been quarantined to an area known as the Western Sector.  There are four types of the Undead.  Stalkers.  Shamblers.  Scraps, and (New!) Dumplings.

"At first it had seemed a simple progression--the infected became stalkers, stalkers degenerated into shamblers and those to far gone to even qualify as either became scraps. The dumplings were what had everyone panicked.  No one had imagined, until a few months ago, that the contagion had the capacity to gather those scraps together and turn then into a single organism."

It's now been two years since the outbreak.  Armed with a potential cure, a group of military and civilian volunteers enter the Western Sector, believing their lead tank and Armored Personnel Carriers will offer sufficient protection.  Problem is, no one expected the zombies would be that smart.

Viral - Vector 1: Raw Feed was OK.  One thing I found to be particularly annoying was the use of channel surfing to bring the reader up to speed on what was happening.  Not a bad technique, but with every click the next story would start at the beginning.  I don't know about you, but when I channel surf I never have that kind of luck.

As a rule, I don't mind novellas, but it seems to me this story may have been better served as a novel. Given its $2.99 price tag, this puts the overall cost of the tale at $11.96.  That's a bit high for an e-book.

Viral - Vector 1: Raw Feed will be available as an e-book on October 1st, 2015 with the rest of the series available on consecutive Thursdays.  Published by Macabre Ink, a digital imprint of Crossroad Press.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Spider In the Laurel - by Michael Pogach - Part Indiana Jones and part dystopian fiction that reads like The Da Vinci Code

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Michael Pogach is an English professor and author. He began writing stories in grade school. He doesn't remember these early masterpieces, but his parents tell him everyone in them died. He's gained some humanity since then, even allowing characters to survive once in a while. He is a graduate of Penn State and Arcadia University. His stories have appeared in numerous journals and the chapbook Zero to Sixty. The Spider in the Laurel is his first novel.

The Spider in the Laurel is quite impressive for a debut novel. Rafael Ward teaches at a University and he also happens to be an agent for the Relic Enforcement Command, commonly referred to as the REC. protect and defend the Citizens of the Republic against domestic threats both civil and fanatical, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United Republic, and to guarantee the purity of our nation against all artifacts of zealotry.

Relic Enforcement Command Mission Statement, 2016.

"Agents of the REC, even conscripts like Ward, were sworn for life...All Ward wanted was to be a professor again."

I generally don't care much for alternate history stories, but although that is a part of this one, it is so much more.  Alternate history, dystopian future, and a protagonist that reads like Robert Langdon in a Dan Brown novel.  I was instantly caught up in the intrigue.

Sent on a mission to obtain "the Spear of Destiny". The lance with which a Roman soldier supposedly stabbed Jesus at the crucifixion.  A weapon that conquerors had sought and killed for over the many centuries before the Republic's Edict Seven legislated that there was no power residing in the sky."

When things don't go exactly as planned, Ward is thrown into a much greater mystery where he no longer knows truth from fiction, right from wrong, or even up from down.

I found the fairy-tale which provided the book's title to be an absolute delight and I really came to like Rafael "Rafe" Ward.  He is a terrific, flawed character, thrown into situations of great peril and manages to, time and again, narrowly escape death and continue on a quest that could possibly save the world.

There were some weaknesses, like how, not once, but twice, characters were able to "guess' four-digit passwords in a matter of minutes.  (1 in 10,000, not likely).  And there were a couple of plot twists which were entirely too convenient.  These elements aside, I found The Spider In the Laurel to be a fast-paced, thrilling adventure, that was totally unexpected and ultimately enjoyable.

The Spider In the Laurel is published by Crossroad Press and is available as an e-book.

A fun read I can easily recommend.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Weight of Chains - by Lesley Conner

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I first met Lesley Conner a few years ago at the Horrorfind Convention in Gettysburg, PA.  We soon became Facebook friends and developed a working relationship through her job as managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine.  For the most part, her Facebook page is filled with mom stuff and posts about her role as a Girl Scout leader.  Having read her first published novel, I find myself asking, "Where the hell did that come from?"

The Weight of Chains takes place in France, in 1436.  As a result it did take me some time to become accustomed to the time period and the way the story was being told.

Much of the action takes place in the castle of Gilles de Rais and the nearby village of Machecoul. It's not long before were learn of Gilles' depraved nature and his disgusting peculiarities.  This results in an extremely dark and twisted tale with several "Oh, no!" moments.

The Weight of Chains is an exceptionally well-imagined story with an ending that was so worth waiting for.  Lesley Conner should be very happy with the outcome of her debut novel.

Kudos to Matt Davis for the beautiful and eye-catching cover art.

The Weight of Chains is available now in both e-book and paperback formats from Sinister Grin press.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read this one at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can read the book for FREE as your monthly selection from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Eulogies III - ed. by Christopher Jones, Nanci Kalanta & Tony Tremblay - A new volume of fresh horror

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

First there was Eulogies: A Horror World Yearbook 2005, then two years ago, HW Press gave us Eulogies II: Tales From the Cellar, and now comes Eulogies III from editors Christopher Jones, Nanci Kalanta & Tony Tremblay.

The effort here is to shy away from the common tropes used in horror.  There are no zombies, no vampires or werewolves, in this new anthology, just a wide variety of stories to make you think and perhaps to haunt your dreams.

The result, for me, was somewhat mixed, although I can't say I totally enjoyed every story, there were enough to make Eulogies III a worthwhile read.

Among my favorites in this collection were David Morrell's, "The Storm." What seems to be a familiar tale takes some unexpected twists and turns resulting in an exciting and satisfying story of a father who tries desperately to save his family from a very strange storm.

"Mr. Mumblety-Peg," from the always entertaining Tim Curran, goes for the jugular when a man who's been known by many names over the years, goes head to head with a mother's love.

Bracken MacLeod contributes a terrific little story about a carnival sideshow that features a psychic surgeon in "Morgenstern's Last Act."  I always love a good sideshow story.

Turning the creep factor all the way up to 11 is Chet Williamson with "She Sits and Smiles," an imaginative and entertaining story set in a nursing home.

There were more I really liked, but that should be more than enough to whet your appetite.  Although, I didn't care for every story, that doesn't mean you won't love them all.  Just like I don't care for brussel sprouts, you may love them.  Really, someone must love them

Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful interior illustrations from Keith Minnion, one for each story.  A very nice touch.

Eulogies III is available now from HW Press in both paperback and e-book formats.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Deadlands: Ghostwalkers - by Jonathan Maberry -

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestselling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author.  Probably best known for his Joe Ledger novels and for his award-winning YA Rot & Ruin series.  He currently resides in Del Mar, California and you can find him online at

Deadlands: Ghostwalkers is the first in a thrilling series of novels based on Deadlands, a hugely successful role-playing game (RPG) set in the Weird, Weird West.

Jonathan Maberry can spin a yarn with the best of them.  This tale starts with "One man on foot trying to escape six on horseback in a country that was made for dying."  This is where Grey Torrance makes the acquaintance of Thomas Looks Away, a member of the Sioux nation who spent a good number of years in England making for an interesting amalgamation of what you see and what you hear.

Deadlands: Ghostwalkers features mad scientists as well as dark, unnatural forces.  The Great Quake of 1868 has shattered California into a labyrinth of sea-flooded caverns and has lead to the discovery of a mysterious substance called "ghost rock" which fuels exotic steampunk inventions as well as well as a new breed of super weapons.  By the way, a side affect of exploding "ghost rock" is having the recently dead become "undead."

There are more surprises in Deadlands: Ghostwalkers and I'll leave them for the reader to discover.

There were a few times where the story did drag just a bit, but overall, the key word for this book is FUN.  A pure, unadulterated good time.

Deadlands: Ghostwalkers will be published on September 22, 2015 in paperback, e-book and audible formats.

Definitely recommended.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Led Astray - by Kelley Armstrong - Every story in the collection hits the mark

5 of 5 stars     Review copy

Kelley Armstrong is a New York Times bestselling author.  Her first novel Bitten was turned into a TV series which just completed its second season on the SYFY channel.

In Led Astray, you’ll discover stories with new characters from within and outside Armstrong’s popular novels. Here you will find two original tales from Cainsville, plus journeys to and beyond the worlds of Darkest Powers, Age of Legends, Otherworld, and more.

To be perfectly honest, prior to getting a copy of Led Astray through NetGalley, I had never read more than a couple of Kelley's stories, which may have appeared in an anthology or two along the way. Thanks to this collection, I am definitely a fan and am looking forward to reading much more of her work.

Here we have twenty-one short stories and two that are more novella length stories.  Most are tales that have appeared elsewhere, but two are completely new to this collection, including the novella, "Devil May Care", which closes out the book.

In nearly every collection I've ever read, there are one or two stories that are just not as good as the others.  That is simply not the case for Led Astray.  Every piece was well-imagined and richly entertaining.  Every last one.

With so many stories in the collection, I'd rather not list them all.  How about I give you a peek at three of my favorites.

"A Haunted House of Her Own" - Tanya and Nathan are looking to purchase a B & B. hopefully one that comes with ghost stories attached.  Be careful what you wish for.  Look for more than one twist in this wonderful little ghost story.

"Last Stand" - Kelley's take on Zombies with one of the best explanations ever for the walking dead.

"V Plates - A totally fun story of what happens when a young werewolf visits a brothel in an attempt to lose his virginity.

I was actually disappointed when I got to the last of the 434 pages in this book.  Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Tachyon Publications.

Strongly recommended.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Andersonville - by Edward M. Erdelac - Take the true story of the most sadistic rebel prison of the Civil war and add a supernatural twist and you have Andersonville

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Edward M. Erdelac is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the author of six novels (including the weird western series Merkbah Rider) and several short stories.  He is also an independent filmmaker, an award winning screenwriter, and sometimes Star Wars contributor.  Born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, he resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife, children, and cats.

In Andersonville, Erdelac has taken the story of the Civil War's most infamous prison camp and added a supernatural storyline that threatens to change the course of the war.

In the beginning, the writer plays it pretty straight, telling the tale of the horrors of the camp where more than 25,000 union soldiers, both white and black, are are treated so badly there are more than 200 deaths a day.

Andersonville  is rich with a number of fully developed characters and presents the reader with quite an imaginative story.  In less capable hands, things could have easily gone off the rails during the transition from the horrors of the rebel prison to a full-blown supernatural story, but Erdelac shows he is more than up to the task as he deftly weaves the two tales into one cohesive story.

The result is a completely entertaining experience for those who can stomach the horror of war with their dose of the supernatural.

Andersonville is available now as an ebook and is published by Hydra, A division of Random House LLC.

Highly recommended.

Shriek of the Harpy - by Sebastian Bendix - As much fun as a B movie

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Sebastian Bendix is a Los Angeles based writer and musician, as well as host of a popular midnight horror film series, Friday Night Frights at the Cinefamily. Taking that into consideration, it's easy to see how this fun little story came about.

Shriek of the Harpy is the story of blogger Muriel Sharpe who gets her dream job as a film archivist.  Her first assignment is at "The Old Nick", an abandoned movie theater in downtown Los Angeles.

Her duties were to catalog a collection of old movie reels keeping an eye out for any lost prints from years gone by. When she discovers such gems, she can't help herself and she holds her own private screening.  It's when she discovers the horror film "Shriek of the Harpy" that thinks go oh so wrong.  "...the thing remembered most by the small number of people who saw Shriek of the Harpy was the blood-curdling sound the Harpy made when it attacked its victims, the "shriek", as it were.  It was a sound so awful that it gave viewers nightmares for weeks afterwards."

Whether the events that follow actually happen or are the result of a mental breakdown on Muriel's part is left to the reader to decide, but either way, this story is every bit as fun as an old scary movie.

Shriek of the Harpy was submitted for reading to be considered for nomination for a Bram Stoker award.  The work is self-published and available as an e-book at


Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Secrets of Blood and Bone - by Rebecca Alexander -

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Rebecca Alexander is the author of The Secrets of Life and Death. She has worked in the fields of psychology and education, and has an MA in Creative Writing. She lives with her husband on the coast of England.

Jackdaw Hammond (Jack) calls herself a "borrowed timer." In The Secrets of Life and Death there was a near death experience with Elizabeth Bathory. Jack is alive today only because of her friend, Felix Guichard, who willingly fed her his blood.

A good portion of the book is spent trying to learn what side effects may come with such a feeding.  Jack doesn't feel any different, but so much is still unknown.  At one point Felix meets with Madame Ivanova leading to this quote..."For those who have crossed over from mortal life, blood is energy, joy, warmth.  It is immortality."

After Ellen Ratcliff, the owner of Bee Cottage, dies tragically, Jack and fourteen-year-old-Sadie move in.  Sadie is in a bad way, being kept alive by magic.

There's another family with a son who is dying of a muscular dystrophy type disease.  They believe the recipe for a cure is somewhere on the Bee Cottage property and will go to any length to get their hands on it.

There is also a parallel story of Edward Kelley set in Venice in the 1580s.  Edward is a Protestant, influential in the field of magic, and on a quest to learn more about Alchemy. He's also being hounded by a member of the Inquisition.

The Secrets of Blood and Bone is a literary work filled with complex and interesting characters.  It's a work of fantasy and horror with magic, witches, werewolves and vampires, of a sort. I found the book to be well-written and entertaining.  It was refreshing to read a work with substance.  It might have been even better had I read book one, but it certainly was not necessary.

There is a lot going on in this book, but it does all come  together in the end, although I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a third book in the series.

The Secrets of Blood and Bone is published by Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.  It's available now both in paperback and e-book formats.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Expiration Date - Ed. by Nancy Kilpatrick - A terrific collection of stories dealing with death

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Nancy Kilpatrick is a writer and editor.  She has published 18 novels, 1 non-fiction book, over 200 short stories, 5 collections of stories, and has edited 12 anthologies.

Her latest is Expiration Date, an anthology of brilliant stories that examine all sorts of expirings, but mainly the ones that are personal, because those are the demises that matter most to us. The collection of stories is broken into 3 parts;  Negotiating Oblivion (trying to reason with death); Resisting Extinction (trying to avoid death); and Best Before/Best After (A group of stories tied to death).

Negotiating Oblivion


"Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word" by Kelley Armstrong - Even vampires come with an expiration date.  A clever, likable story. - Kelley is the author of the Cainsville, a modern gothic series and the Otherworld urban fantasy series.  She lives in southwestern Ontario with her family.

"Banshee" by Daniel Sernine with translation by Sheryl Curtis - A delightful tale on the legend of the Banshee. - Daniel Sernine has a career spanning more than 40 years, with 39 books to his credit. - Sheryl Curtis is a professional translator from Montreal, Quebec, with translated stories appearing in a variety of popular publications.

"Riding Shotgun" by Elaine Pascale - A fascinating fantasy involving a mythical wolf and death. - Elaine lives on Cape Cod with her husband, son, and daughter. Her writing has been published in several magazines and anthologies.  Elaine enjoys a robust full moon, chocolate and collecting cats.

"The Twenty Seven Club" by J. M. Frey - After reading the story, I went back and looked at the title.  Perfect, just like this Rock & Roll tale. - J. M. Frey is an actor, author, and fanthroplogist.  This is her first horror short.

"Trinity Death" by Steve Vernon - Having the ability to jump into others minds and influence their decisions has its advantages until death enters the equation. - Steve is a hybrid author with both traditionally released ghost story collections — Haunted Harbours; Halifax Haunts; The Lunenburg Werewolf — and independently released e-books such as Flash Virus; Tatterdemon; Big Hairy Deal.

"What I Said to Richie Was…" by Ken Goldman - A charming story of a brother's love. - Ken is a former English and Film Studies teacher, who lives in Pennsylvania and the South Jersey shore. His stories received seven honorable mentions in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror and appear in over 750 publications in the U.S., Canada, the UK and Australia.

"To Dance, Perchance to Die" by David McDonald - Another perfect title.  Living in a tumultuous time in Europe, a dancer is given the gift of immortality, but what if you don't want to live forever. - David is a professional geek from Melbourne, Australia who works for an international welfare organization. When not on a computer or reading a book, he helps run a local cricket club. He is a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association, the IAMTW and the SuperNOVA writers group.

"Death Doll" by Lois H. Gresh - If you don't expire at your appointed time, it can throw off the balance of life and death. - Lois is the New York Times Best-Selling Author of 27 books and 60 short stories.  Lois has received Bram Stoker Award, Nebula Award, Theodore Sturgeon Award, and International Horror Guild Award nominations.


Resisting Extinction 


"The Long Wait" by R. B. Payne - A wonderful tale of hanging on, lovingly told. - R. B. Payne says he is assembled from stolen body parts, R. B. Payne lives in the hope of someday being human. Meanwhile, he writes. His stories are in Times of Trouble; Chiral Mad, and a graphic dog-men novel from Island Tales.

"That Brightness" by Mary E. Choo - Another story of cheating death. - Mary's work has appeared in many publications, both print and electronic. She has been on the preliminary ballots of the Nebula and Bram Stoker awards (the latter for poetry) and is a two-time Aurora finalist.

"Night Market" by Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem - A beautifully written story, but not my favorite. Left me a bit confused. - This spring PS Publishing is bringing out Steve's stand-alone novella In the Lovecraft Museum.  The late Melanie Tem’s work has received the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards, as well as a nomination for the Shirley Jackson Award.

 "Sooner" by Morgan Dambergs - Playing let's make a deal with Death. - Morgan Dambergs has had short stories published in several anthologies, including Rock ‘N’ Roll is Dead and The Big Book of New Short Horror. She hopes to one day publish a novel. She owns a small secondhand bookstore, where she happily spends her days reading, writing, and chatting about books.

"The Great Inevitable" by Patricia Flewwelling - When it comes to making deals with Death, be careful what you ask for. - Patricia is the author of the science fiction novel Helix: Blight of Exiles, and the dieselpunk series.  She writes almost anything that can be labelled dark, action-packed, and ironic.

"In a Moment" by Christine Steendam - This story actually brought me to tears.  Christine has been writing stories since she could put pen to paper and form words. Now, fifteen years later, her debut novel, Heart Like an Ocean is available and she is working on her second book. Christine makes her home in Manitoba with her husband, two kids, and horse.

"Death Drives a Cordoba" by Ryan McFadden - Great title and another well-told story, although all of this death is getting a bit depressing. - Ryan is a two-time Aurora winning writer from London, Ontario. His most recent writing credits are stories in the anthologies When the Villain Comes Home and Blood and Water.

"Prison Break" by Tobin Elliott - Another clever title - Thanks to a boy's love and belief, even a dog can escape death. - Tobin is a Creative Writing teacher, a freelance editor and writing mentor, and a writer of horror. He has one published short story and three novellas.  His first novel, will be published this year.

"This Strange Way of Dying" by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. One should make a promise unless they know what the promise is for. - Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel Signal to Noise, about magic, music and Mexico City, is out now. Some of her stories appear in the collection Love & Other Poisons, and in a bunch of anthologies.

"The Deaths of Jeremiah Colverson" by George Wilhite - An interesting twist on the battle with Death and a chilling look into one possible future. - George is the author of the horror collections On the Verge of Madness and Silhouette of Darkness, as well as nearly one hundred stories and poems in print or online.


Best Before / Best After


"The Shadow of Death" by Paul Kane - Even a man who believes he is Death incarnate must face Death. - Paul is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over fifty books. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen.

"An Inspector Calls" by Rebecca Bradley - One of my favorites in a book filled with great reads. - Rebecca puts her background to good use in this story. - She has fond memories of working as an archaeologist in Egypt and the Sudan, and once shared a dighouse with a crowd of millennia-dead Nubians. She now lives in the West Kootenays of British Columbia, with some very lively cats.

"What Would Lizzie Do?" by Sèphera Girón - A totally enjoyable tale of a ghost hunter staying at the Lizzie Borden house. - Sèphera is about halfway to her personal expiration date and still has loads to say. The author of a dozen published books, she’s also penned hundreds of short stories, blogs, articles, and horoscopes.

"Ashes to Ashes" by Amy Grech - The title says it all. - Amy has sold over one hundred stories and three poems to various anthologies and magazines including Dead Harvest, and Shrieks and Shivers from the Horror Zine. Amy is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association.

"The Greyness" by Kathryn Ptacek - This is a somewhat creepy story of a woman whose husband passes unexpectedly, leaving her with an unusual talent, or is it more of a curse? -  Kathryn Ptacek's novels (in various genres) are being reissued as ebooks from Crossroad Press and Necon Ebooks. She lives in the beautiful northwest corner of New Jersey where she keeps a lively garden. She also collects teapots and beads.

"things in jars" by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens - A strange yet entertaining little story of tent in the middle of the desert nearby a one pump gas station filled with things in jars. That'll be 25 Cents, please. - Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens are New York and Los Angeles Times bestselling novelists. Stephen King praised their thriller, Icefire, as “the best suspense novel of its type since The Hunt for Red October.”

"Right of Survivorship" by Nancy Holder and Erin Underwood - I loved this tale. After the death of his uncle, Michael O'Dare is drawn into a world he doesn't exactly believe in where he must sign a lease for the rights to the world or it will all return to the possession of the fae. - Nancy is a New York Times bestselling author and has received five Bram Stoker Awards.  This is her second short story written with Erin Underwood. - Erin Underwood is a writer and editor as well as the publisher at Underwords Press.

From EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, Expiration Date is available now in both paperback and ebook formats.

Don't miss this solid anthology.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Child Garden - by Catriona McPherson

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Catriona McPherson was born in Scotland, where she lived until moving to California in 2010.  Catriona is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.  You can find out more about her at

I must admit, I knew nothing about Catriona until I read the blurb for her new novel and saw the delightfully creepy cover from Kevin R. Brown.  The Child Garden wasn't the chilling tale I was hoping for, instead it's more of a straightforward whodunit.

Mitchell Best, or Moped as his friends called him, drowned nearly thirty years ago.  With the recent death of his classmate April Cowen, Gloria Harkness is drawn into a mystery which slowly reveals a number of suspicious deaths over the years.  All of the deaths were students at a small private school called Eden where they all were on the night Moped died.

The Child Garden is a solid piece of writing with a touch of quiet horror mixed in with this mystery tale.  There are the typical assortment of red herrings in such a novel.  My favorite was the Stone of Miharay on the property where Gloria was living.  The story was that someone was inside the stone and it was necessary to rock the stone a dozen times every day to keep that someone at bey.  Like many of the false leads, it falls by the wayside with little fanfare.

All in all, I'm glad I read The Child Garden which is available now for pre-order at Published by Midnight Ink.  The book is scheduled to be released both in paperback and e-book formats on September 8, 2015.

Recommended for mystery fans.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Broken Chain - by Lisa von Biela - A bleak look at a future with GMO foods

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Lisa von Biela worked in Information Technology for twenty-five years, then dropped out to attend the University of Minnesota Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 2009.  She now practices law in Seattle, Washington, and writes whenever she can.  Lisa has found a bit of a niche with speculative fiction where science has run amok.

In her latest novel, Lisa introduces us to Dr. Kyle Sommers and his lovely young family.  Kyle has just been accepted into the CDC's two year Epidemic Intelligence Service program.  His initial assignment is to be part of a team created to investigate the unprecedented number of seemingly random acts of violence around the country, violence that appears to have originated in the Midwest, but which has quickly spread to other areas around the country.

What Kyle discovers has far-reaching and devastating consequences for both farmers and the population at large.

No one takes an idea from public consciousness and runs with it better than Lisa von Biela. For several years now, discussions on the merits of genetically modified food has been a hot topic and Lisa's latest book will certainly not set your mind at ease.

Broken Chain is speculative fiction at its finest.  The story gets off to a quick and bloody start and doesn't let up until its terrifying conclusion.  There are a number of well-developed subplots, with plenty of intriguing characters along the way, including Kyle's precocious four-year-old, Kara. What a sweetie.

This story does not have a fairy tale ending and left this reader feeling helpless in a number of ways.  But that's a good thing.

Broken Chain is currently available as a paperback from Darkfuse publishers.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tortures of the Damned - by Hunter Shea - A terrific apocalyptic novel, sans zombies

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Hunter Shea lives in New York with his family and one vindictive cat.  Aside from writing horror he's been involved in real life exploration of the paranormal, he interviews exorcists, and has been involved in other things that would keep normal people up at night.

Tortures of the Damned manages to avoid many of the cliches found in the typical apocalyptic horror novel and the result is a terrifying read that left me wanting more.

The story starts with numerous explosions, the lose of electricity, meaning no TV and no radio.  Despite that, Daniel Padilla does his best to keep his family calm...

"'There's nothing to be afraid of .  In fact, why don't you, Miguel, and Max go in the kitchen and make us all ice cream sundaes?'

Gabby's eyes lit up. 'Really?'

Elizabeth gave him a warning look, 'Dan, it's late.'

He kissed her cheek  'They don't have school tomorrow.  I think ice cream is exactly what we all need.'"

The idyllic family, instantly likable, caught in a nightmarish new world.  Their neighbors, Buck Clarke and his girlfriend Alexiana offer to have the family join them in his bomb shelter until things blow over.

What follows is an intense horror story filled with graphic images, like that of a man having his face ripped off by a horse.  That's right, I said a horse.  Horses are grossly underused in horror fiction. And let's not forget the rats.  I hate rats.

"This was no fantasy, this was a horror movie, one of those flicks from the seventies where there was no happy ending."

I absolutely devoured this book.  I allowed myself four days for this read and finished it in two. There is excellent use of lose in Tortures of the Damned,  as well as some crass sexual situations, but I found them certainly appropriate for the story given the circumstances.  Anything less would have taken away from the realism.

Although the book was not promoted as the first of a series, there had better be a sequel especially with the heluva cliff-hanger that comes at the end.

From Pinnacle Books, an imprint of the Kensington Publishing Company, Tortures of the Damned is available now in both paperback and e-book formats.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bleedovers: A Dystopian Novella - by William Todd Rose - In the same world as Crossfades

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

William Todd Rose writes dark, speculative fiction from his home in West Virginia.  You can discover him online at

Bleedovers is a sequel of sorts to Crossfades.  Both novellas feature the same characters in similar situations, but Bleedovers certainly works well as a stand-alone read.

Chuck Grainger has a job that is at the same time both a dream and a nightmare.  His official title is Recon and Enforcement Technician, Level II.  Basically, when he's on assignment, he's supposed to guide souls who've passed on, but for whatever reason can't quite cross The Divide.

After the apparent murder of his Sleeper, a counterpart who works in tandem with Grainger, Marilee Williams, age ten, is brought in to assist in tracking down the NCM responsible.  NCM - Non-Corporal Manifestations - or in layman terms, a ghost.

If you enjoyed Crossfades, Bleedovers is a nice followup.  A solid, enjoyable story and a quick read.

Published by Hydra, an imprint of Random House, Bleedovers is now available as an ebook only.