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.