Monday, January 30, 2017

White Death - by Jack Castle - A taut little thriller set in the Arctic

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

White Death begins with a disaster at the annual Iditarod dog-sled race, but quickly moves to the Arctic Imperative Conference where Dr. Kate Foster is speaking to the assembled group.  Although the speech does not go as planned, it does lead to a grant and an opportunity to join a research team at Dead Bear Island.

Dr. Foster arrives at Deadhorse airport at the same time as a team of investigators sent to look into a multiple homicide at the very destination she was heading to.

When one of the secondary characters says, "This is like in that horror movie where the monster from outer space picks off the scientists in Antarctica one-by-one.  Man, I loved that movie."  We all know exactly what he was referring to.  In some respects one may think White Death is derivative of The Thing, but actually the similarities are few.

As the mystery unravels, the terror mounts, and the death count rises.  Things are never quite what they seem in White Death.  One thing I did enjoy with this book was the way the author kept it real. It took very little suspension of disbelief to enjoy Jack Castle's latest thriller.

The facts page which precedes this work of fiction is well worth your time.  More thriller than horror, but certainly recommended.

White Death is available in both paperback and e-book formats from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

From the author's bio - Jack Castle loves adventure.  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. It was this last experience which actually inspired White Death.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Haven - by Tom Deady - An epic coming of age story with terrific twist

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

After nearly seventeen years in Braxton State Prison, for a crime he didn't commit, Paul Greymore is a free man.  Free to return to the lakeside town of Haven.  Greymore may be free from the prison walls, but will he ever be free from his past?  Not if Cody Crawford, the local Chief of Police has any say in the matter.,

At it's simplest, Haven is a wonderful coming of age story, filled with excellent characters I grew to love and hate over the course of the 500 pages that make up Tom Deady's debut novel.

Of course there's Paul Greymore, disfigured in a childhood accident involving the spilling of boiling water on his young face.  Father Neil McCarthy who believes in Paul's innocence.  There's a bevy of teens who provide the story's heart and soul.  Denny and his best friend Billy.  Billy's slightly older sister, Julie.  Julie's bad-boy boyfriend, Dale, who happens to be Sheriff Crawford's son, as well as his cronies.

Deady provides layer after layer of narrative, there's a certain charm in his storytelling with one carefully crafted scene after another.  Some writers have a way of making the reader so comfortable with their words that it's like watching a movie in your mind.  Haven  is like that.

I don't always read the story synopsis before reading a book.  Sometimes I'll go into it cold, either because I like the author, trust the publisher, or have heard from others who like the book.  This is the way I went into Haven thinking it was just a nice little coming of age tale, and then...bang.  Wow.

There are some wonderful moments in Haven.  If you're looking for a read that will deliver hours of enjoyment.  You can't do much better than Tom Deady's debut novel.

Limited to 750 signed copies and already sold out, Haven is published by Cemetery Dance Publications.  Hopefully it will see a wider release down the road so everyone can enjoy this work.

From the author's bio - Tom was born and raised in Malden, Massachusetts, not far from the historic (and spooky) town of Salem.  He has endured a career as an IT professional, but his dream has always been to be a writer.  A passionate Red Sox fan, Tom and a friend created Surviving Grady at the start of the 2004 season. Ten years and three World Series championships later, he still blogs about the Sox. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Blue Demon - by David Bernstein - Powerful and of the best novellas of the year

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

David Bernstein is rapidly becoming a MUST READ author for me.  His stuff tends to be raw, gripping, compelling, and above all imaginative. Sometimes played for fun, but more often for vengeance.

Blue Demon was Dan's favorite cartoon growing up, so much so he purchased the complete 3-season DVD collection as an adult and introduced it to his nine-year-old son, Cal.

Blue Demon was a deity that could be called upon to defend people in need, to right injustices and to make sure the people of the land were watched over and protected.

What if the Blue Demon  wasn't just a cartoon show?  What if it was based on a real legend? Time to check your disbelief at the door because uncle David is going to take you there.

What starts out as a warm-hearted story about a father and son bonding over a cartoon character quickly turns sad and dark, much like life.  Despite it's somewhat simple and seemingly silly premise, Bernstein presents the reader with an expertly-crafted tale that delivers when it counts.

Definitely recommended.

Blue Demon is published by Sinister Grin Press and is currently available in paperback and for the Kindle. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - David Bernstein is originally from a small town in upstate New York, but now resides in NYC and misses being surrounded by chainsaw-wielding maniacs and wild backwoods people who like to eat human flesh.  He's grown used to the city, though hiding bodies is much harder there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Fungoid - by William Meikle - Willie puts the fun back in fungus

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Fungoid is a terrific little "What if?" story sprinkled with enough factoids to up the believability factor.

Things escalated quickly for the rapid response team in the port of St. John's.  It's already all over town—and we have no idea what it is or how to stop it.

The story unfolds at a blistering pace as Meikle continues to raise the stakes in his latest terror-filled read.

As fantastical as the subject matter was , the characters each played to their individual strengths and were completely believable in their actions.

The situation is dire and the prospect for mankind's survival is bleak.  The question has to be asked—and might be answered here, right in front of our eyes, "Is this the way the world ends?"

I've yet to read a Willie Meikle story I didn't enjoy.  Recommended.

Fungoid is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Darkfuse publishing.

From the author's bio - I am a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with twenty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries. I live in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company and when I'm not writing I drink beer, play guitar and dream of fortune and glory.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Fathom Flies Again - by James Walley - More inspired lunacy in the sequel to The Forty First Wink

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy  

If you read The Forty First Wink, the debut novel by James Walley, then you've more than likely been waiting for the second book in the trilogy, and why not. Book one was so much fun. Wally writes with a whimsical flair I find nowhere else in my ever-growing library.

Everyone is back for this new adventure, including Marty and Kate, the cloth pirates Timbers, Whipstaff, and Oaf, as well as Peeper and his cauldron of clowns. New to this adventure are a giant leprechaun and a glowing and talking koala, named Benji. If you're still not sold, let's add the obligatory pie fight just to make things even wackier.

The writing style is as comfortable as a warm glove on the coldest day of Winter and there is a certain Douglas Adams feel to Walley's writing...

Far, far away, though not altogether that far really (certainly not over the rainbow).

Mixed in with the hilarity is an occasional bit of sage advice...

"Always enter a room expecting for a fight. If you get one, you're prepared. If you don't, at least you'll look impressive."

Admittedly, The Fathom Flies Again is little more than a selection of silly antics, but it's also a lot of fun as I frequently found myself chuckling at the outrageous goings on in this book.

If you like to laugh, read this book. Also recommended for younger readers. If you have young children, it's one you might even enjoy reading together.

The Fathom Flies Again, from Ragnarok Publications, is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - James Walley hails from the mystical isle of Great Britain and is an author who prefers his reality banana shaped.  His debut novel, The Forty First Wink, released through Ragnarok Publications in 2014, scuttles gleefully into this bracket, with a blend of humor, fantasy and the unusual.  Fathom Flies Again is book two in what looks to be a trilogy like no other, except there will be three books like every other.  When not writing, James is partial to a spot of singing, the odd horror movie or ten, and is a circus trained juggler.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Nighthawks - by Jeremy Flagg - Book 1 in the Children of Nostradamus series

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

Nighthawks: Children of Nostradamus Book 1 is a complex and fascinating read.

Eleanor Valentine is a psychic to the first woman president, Cecelia Joyce, but when she attempts to assassinate her boss it leads to her death and to "The Culling" of all mentalists.

The mentalists are not the only ones with powers beyond those of mortal men. There are The Children of Nostradamus.  Where the Children of Nostradamus have hundreds of recorded abilities, there are certain things we all have in common.  We have a natural immunity to all illnesses.  We have higher endurance, we heal quicker...

In addition to the Children of Nostradamus, some of the other players in the story include the Outlanders and the Paladins.  And for me this is where it got to be a bit much.  I get the feeling we'll learn more about the other groups in future books and yes there will definitely be more in the series.

In the meantime, book one is a superhero story with a bit of humor and better than you might expect. In many ways it has the feel of a graphic novel without the artwork and the way they got the name Nighthawks was inspired.

Although I wasn't blown away by book one I certainly will return to the world of the Nighthawks and can recommend you check this one out, as well.

From Limitless Publishing, Nighthawks is available in both paperback and e-book formats.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the authors bio - It started with single comic book. My mother was determined to make a reader out of me. Shunning traditional literature at a young age, my mother placed X-Men Classic #69 in my lap and for the first time I was exposed to the phrases, "Mutants," "BAMF," and "SNIKT." From that moment on, I imagined my enrollment at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.

I came to writing late in my professional career. For a short period I majored in Creative Writing but eventually turned to Graphic Design for my career. It wasn't until 2006 that I participated in my first NaNoWriMo writing an epic science fiction novel. Later I would use the opportunity to write Suburban Zombie High and my first draft of Children of Nostradamus. Now I am the NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison to the Massachusetts Metrowest Region. I also belong the New England Horror Writer's Association where I'm known as the sarcastic zombie author.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Abram's Bridge - by Glenn Rolfe - Starts as a charming ghost story and builds to a devastating climax

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Abram's Bridge is a quick little novella which may just leave you breathless.

Glenn Rolfe is quite skilled at painting a picture with his words. Crossing over the uneven wooden planks, his Huffy BMX bike bumped, riddled and rattled like the chains of the Ghost of Christmas Past.

It was while out riding his bike by Abram's bridge that Li'l Ron heard a girl's voice and discovered Sweet Kate exuding an impossible blue-tinged luminance.

When he hears Kates's story, he makes solving the mystery of her untimely death his mission and he's determined to learn the truth about what happened in his otherwise sleepy town and set her spirit free.

The clues are easy enough for the reader to unravel and it's not to difficult to see where the story's going before it gets there, but there are still a number of nice surprises as what begins as a charming little ghost story quickly builds to a devastating climax.

By the end of the read my adrenaline must have been flowing as much as Li'l Ron's.

A terribly entertaining tale and one I can easily recommend.

This re-release of Abram's Bridge is a Macabre In Production, an imprint of Crossroad Press, is available in both e-book and Audible formats.

From Glenn Rolfe's bio - Glenn is an author, singer, and songwriter from the haunted woods of New England.  He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the works of Stephen King and Richard Laymon.

Monday, January 9, 2017

All That Withers - by John Palisano - John's first collection - Many of the stories have a Lovecraftian vibe

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Three of the stories in this collection have been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, with one taking home the prize in 2016.  That story is the first in this collection of weird and wonderful tales from John Palisano.

The twenty-three stories in All That Withers border on the fantastical.  Many have a Lovecraftian feel, although the author has created his own mythos and otherverse.  This collection is anything but ordinary.

Happy Joe's Rest Stop - This story of a rest stop from hell won the Bram Stoker Award for Excellence in Short Fiction.  He heard screams.  Some sounded human.  Some sounded formerly human.  Some sounded like they were from hell.  What a great way to kick off the collection.

Splinterette - Lost in a whiteout just yards from his property, a man experiences something quite unbelievable.

The Geminis - There's love and then there's love.  A story of love and music with a Lovecraftian vibe.

Available Light - A story of Walter and his "brother," both affected with Xeroderma pigmentosum.

Long Walk Home - My favorite story so far.  A tragic love set in an apocalyptic Jersey shore community.  A wonderfully complete tale.

My Darkness Travels On Sunshine - An aspiring filmmaker with herself as the subject of a documentary takes a turn toward the unknown.  There's a single sentence in this story that really stood out for me.  "Come back when you're ready to talk about the darkness, sunshine."  I just loved the dichotomy between darkness and sunshine.

The Haven - I can't even begin to describe this story, so I'm not even going to try.

To the Stars That Fooled You - Hands down, my favorite in this collection.  The scene between Alex and Phil in the record store in Greenwich Village alone is work the price of the book and then the scene with Sid and Nancy just sends it into the stratosphere.

Mother You Can Watch - A quick stop at the Bates Motel.

Outlaws of Hill Country - Another wonderful tale with a killer opening line.  The night before Halloween, the Long Fellow sucked Jenny Lou Harrison's soul right out through her fingers.

Welcome to the Jungle - It's tough being a struggling actress in Hollywood.

Wings for Wheels - Asbury Park, Thunder Road, an up-and-coming musician.  Is this ringing any bells?  Great story.

Secret Sea - Some things are washing ashore on the beach outside of the Harpoon House.

Eternal Valley -  A rather strange tale of something that lurks at the mouth of the Wabash river.

The Curious Banks of the Wabash River -  There's definitely something about the Wabash river.

The Tennatrick - What if the California wildfires weren't being caused by drought or arson? "What is that thing?" Jen said.  "It's huge," Brian said.  The animal reached the bottom and stood a few car lengths away.  A long sectioned head rose ten-feet high.  Seven eyes glistened.  Some were red, some were blue, while others were black.

Vampiro - A new look for the California border patrol.

X is for Xyx - A breakup leads to an attempted suicide and that's when things get weird.

Sunset Beach - A wonderful day at the beach turns dark with monsters from the deep.

I Know This World - A very personal kind of horror.

Forever - A wonderful story of  life after death from a pet's point of view.

Gaia Ungaia - It's a thin line between bad dreams and reality.

Perrollo's Ladder - Prior to reading this story, I had never heard of criaturas.  I suggest looking them up on Google images.  These are the things nightmares are made of.

All in all, All That Withers is a solid collection.  If you're ready for something different, you're ready for John Palisano.  Definitely recommended.

All That Withers is currently available as a paperback from Cycatrix Press.

From the author's bio - John Palisano's nonfiction has appeared in Fangoria and Dark Discoveries magazines.  In addition to his short stories, he had a pair of books with Samhain Publishing, Dust of the Dead and Ghost Heart.  His novel Nerves was published through Bad Moon Books.  Night of 1,000 Beasts is coming soon.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Dread and Breakfast - by Stuart R. West - Snowbound horror at a bed and breakfast

5 of 5 Stars      Review copy

Dread and Breakfast begins with violence and barely gives readers a chance to catch their breath.

When Rebecca takes her daughter Kyra and leaves her abusive husband for her sister's home the last thing she's thinking about is the weather.  When her car slides off the road in a snow storm she's lucky Office Gurley happens by and rescues them from the intensifying storm. They end up at a cozy bed and breakfast called the Dandy Drop Inn.

Other's stranded by the storm include a mob accountant who made off with a small fortune and a mob hit-man who'd looking for the accountant, then there's the newlywed couple who was spending their wedding night at the inn and the charming owners, Jim and Dorothy Dandy.

The writer takes all of the stereotypes and turns them upside-down.  The characters have depth and are so twisted it just leads to a number of genuine surprises along the way.  Little Kyra is absolutely adorable and in many ways is the star of this story.

By the midway point things are unraveling at a frenetic pace in this horror farce.  The circumstances for all of these people being tossed together could easily have seemed forced, but West's writing made it all seem like the most natural thing in the world.

For a thrilling read on a cold winter's night, I can certainly recommend Dread and Breakfast, published by Grinning Skull Press and available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Stuart R. West is a lifelong resident of Kansas.  Stuart writes thrillers tinged with horror and horror tinged with thriller, both for adult and young adult readers.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales - Daniel Braum - A collection from a most distinctive voice

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales is Daniel Braum's first published collection and it features a dozen of his distinctively different stories.  Some have appeared elsewhere over the last few years, others are new to this compilation.

In looking for the perfect word to describe the work in this volume, I decided upon divergent, defined by Merriam-Webster as "differing from each other or from a standard."  It's true, these tales are unlike anything thing else I'm reading today. Bold, adventurous, strange, and totally enjoyable.

Music of the Spheres - I can't imagine the rest of the stories being much better than this . A musical genius lives on in an epic masterpiece which, if completed, could tear apart the universe.

Hurricane Sandrine - Another thoroughly satisfying story with an island feel and the threat of loss that comes with every hurricane.

Mystic Tryst - A bit surreal, as are a number of the stories in this collection.  At it's most basic, this is a story of divorce and returning the spirits of exotic salt water fish to their home waters.  I really liked this particular line from the author.  The diner patrons looked lost and lonely, right out of the lyrics of "Eleanor Rigby."

A Girls Guide To Applying Superior Makeup and Dispelling Commonly Found Suburban Demons  -  What a title.  A story of camping out on Halloween night to get tickets for a rock concert and growing up in the process.

Across the Darien Gap - One of the things I enjoyed about this collection was how every story had its own ambiance.  Here, a group of travelers on the run, trying not to look like what they are.  Things don't go well, but that makes the story.

Spark - A mix of pyrotechnics and a flaming affair and a great opening line to boot.  I'm not like the Red River guy.  Not at all.  He was a sicko firebug and a murderer, and they did right for sending him on a one-way trip to spark city.

The Ghost Dance - A descendant of Crazy Horse, taking a stand, and the birth of the white buffalo.

The Green Man of Punta Cabre - The tale of a priest doing his best to push away the old gods, corn infested  with genetically modified seeds, and a miracle stalk that births something special.

Jellyfish Moon - A wondrous tale of an exotic annual festival and a love rekindled, but can any of it last.

The Night Marchers - The title story about protecting the final resting place of the Hawaiian kings.

The Moon and the Mesa - A beautiful story of life, death, love, and the desert.

The Sphinx of Copsey Avenue - Probably the strangest story in the collection and one of my favorites.  Like many of the locations in this collection, Copsey Avenue is a place where the real and unreal coexist.

In summary, I can pretty much guarantee the stories in The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales will be unlike any you've read before and will leave you wanting more.


The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales is currently available as an e-book from Cemetery Dance Publications.

Form the author's bio - Daniel Braum’s fiction has been classified as fantasy, science fiction, and horror but he prefers the good old fashioned term of just “fiction”, which when he was growing up simply meant a story were anything could happen.  His stories seek to illuminate the human condition as characters encounter something unexplainable or supernatural and often very dark before achieving some insight, resolution, or ray of light. He is currently finishing the final revisions on his first novel, a supernatural thriller set in Belize. He lives in Long Island, New York.