Thursday, May 23, 2019

Review: Impossible James - by Danger Slater

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Remember how strange, confusing, yet beautiful the Talking Heads song, "Once In a Lifetime", was the first time you heard it?  Well, I just got a similar vibe from Danger Slater's new novel, Impossible James.

This Wikipedia entry sums things up nicely...

"Jimmy Watson Jr. was an American inventor, chemist, and former head of research and development for Motherlove Incorporated, often cited with the discovering the mathematical formula from which both the anti-entropic drug Infinitassium, and the transglobal biological disaster The Gray Tide, were both synthesized. He is widely considered responsible for the end of the world [citation needed]."

From the wildly perverse mind of Danger Slater comes a novel I won't soon forget.  To say a DS story is wacky would be a gross understatement.  Impossible James was like a tonic for the soul.  OK, maybe not for your soul, but certainly for mine.  It's so difficult to put a finger on Slater's writing style.  It's almost as if Douglas Adams had an Evil twin.  Trust me, that's no more preposterous than the story I just read.

Danger Slater is an acquired taste.  His writing is not for everyone, but if you're willing to let go of all your preconceived notions of what a book should be, you might find yourself enjoying this unusual world.

Unabashedly strange.  Unbelievably weird.  Totally recommended.

Published by Fungasm Press, Impossible James is available for pre-order in both Paperback and e-book formats.  Actual release date if June 15, 2019.

From the author's bio - Danger Slater is the Wonderland-award winning author of I Will Rot Without You, Puppet Skin, He Digs a Hole, and other titles.  He lives in Portland, OR and has a cat named Bubbles.  To his knowledge, he’s never been cloned.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: Spicy Constellation & Other Recipes - by Chad Lutzke

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Between these pages lie a dozen stories from the wonderfully disturbed mind of Chad Lutzke.

The One Who Took - "On the paper towel, she carefully placed four pieces of what was unmistakenly jerky, then said, 'Gentlemen, this is human.?'"  Could you, would you?  An excellent introduction to Lutzke's new collection.

A Stranger Dream - An almost sweet story of a couple thrown together during the search for the latest in a series of missing college girls.  Did you notice how I said, "Almost?"

The Secret - No other writer does creepy with so much warmth.  Case in point.  The Secret.  It begins with this terrific opening line...

"Rebecca was the only one to notice her father was dead."

What I Wouldn't Give - Here, Lutzke has a bit of fun with an old trope.   Selling one's soul to become a guitar god.

Reaching People - Not gonna tell you what this one is about as its charm lies in hitting you from your blind spot.

Spicy Constellation - The title story is about a drug-induced killing rampage inspired by pieces of pepperoni falling from the ceiling.  You kinda had to be there.

Chocolate-Milk Mistake - The perfect title for this kidnapping tale that goes oh, so wrong.

Four-Finger Discount - A great opening line is so important.  This one's a killer...

"Life gets downright stale in your olden years, when it's just you, your books, and the scenery."

When It Rains... - Another wonderful story in a collection that just gets better and better.  When you spend your days and nights intoxicated there is bound to be a few surprises.  Just ask Dylan.

A Weekend Tradition - A well-constructed tale of brothers who are convinced their youngest is a vampire.

TV Casualty - A mediocre rock band needs to bolster its bad-boy image.  My least favorite story in an otherwise stellar collection.

Catch Him - Children mourning their father in their own special way,  I discovered in the author notes that this is Lutzke's personal tribute to the late Dallas Mayr, aka\Jack Ketchum.

BTW, I don't know about you, but I love author notes and the ones at the end of Spicy Constellation & Other Recipes are enlightening.

Lutzke is one of the most comfortable reads for me.  If you read a lot, you know what I mean.  We just seem to be on the same wavelength, most of the time.

Chad Lutzke has, in a relatively short time, become one of my favorites authors.  Pick up anything with his name attached and I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy the read.

100% recommended.

Spicy Constellation & Other Recipes is available in both paperback and for the Kindle.  BTW, 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 - Chad Lutzke lives in Michigan with his wife and children.  He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine.  He's had a few dozen stories published, and some of his other books include: Of Foster Home & Flies, Stirring the Sheets, Skullface BoyThe Same Deep Water As You, and Out Barn with John Boden.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Review: The Haunted Forest Tour - by James A. Moore & Jeff Strand

4 of 5 Stars

Take Jurrasic Park and replace the dinosaurs with monsters of every conceivable shape and size and you have some idea of the plot for The Haunted Forest Tour.

A forest sprouts up in the middle of the desert in New Mexico.  The forest is populated with deadly creatures which defy the imagination.  Along comes a visionary who manages to turn the forest into a profit-making enterprise.  Rails are laid and Trams begin running through the forest.  The same way they do through some wildlife reserves.

Everything was fine until one fateful day, when it all went off the rails, literally.

At first look, one might expect The Haunted Forest Tour to be a comedic romp, particularly with Jeff Strand's name attached.  Not so.  Although there is some humor, (again, Jeff Strand).  The Haunted Forest Tour is unrelenting horror.

"The woods were almost quite.  Almost, because Lee had heard several things moving nearby.  Big things, little things, wet-sounding squishy things and at least one thing that was big enough he could see the silhouette moving through the trees at a height of at least thirty feet.  The good news, so far, was that none of them had come looking for dinner."

Just when you think things aren't making any sense, it all comes together, and a way out finally appears for the remaining survivors, but can they escape before being devoured?

"'It all makes sense,' Mark said. 'Well, no, no, it doesn't make sense at all, but there's something going on, and this is the only solution that makes any sense whatsoever, even if it makes no sense. Am I making sense?'"

I recommend The Haunted  Forest Tour (for readers - not as an attraction,).

The Haunted Forest Tour is available in paperback, audio, and Kindle formats.  BTW, 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' bios...

James A. Moore is the author of over forty novels.  He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President.

Jeff Strand is a four-time nominee (and zero-time winner, but c'mon, he lost to Stephen King TWICE!) of the Bram Stoker Award.  He is a two-time nominee and one-time WINNER!!!! of the Splatterpunk Award.  His novels are usually classified as horror, but they're really all over the place, almost always with a great big dose of humor.   He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and one gigantic freaking cat.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Endsville (Outlaw Arcana - Book 1) - by Clay Sanger

5 of 5 Stars     (Review Copy)

Clocking in at 457 pages, Endsville (Outlaw Arcana - Book 1) could certainly be considered epic and that would be an apt description of Clay Sanger's dark urban fantasy crime novel.

The book's cryptic opening sets the stage for the carnage to come...

"No one loves a crow.  Scavengers.  Thieves.  Liars.  Harbingers of death. Loyal to and beholden to no one but their own kind.  Drawn to the chaos and carnage so they can pick gold from the bones.  Good, bad, indifferent.  A crow does what a crow does.  Nothing commands a crow.  Not men.  Not kings.  Not gods.

The House of the Crow lives up to its namesake."

As you may have guessed by now, The Crows are a crime family, led by Victor St. John and his wife, Fiona.  Not all blood, but all brothers and sisters.  Notable among the family are Gabriel St. John, Captain of the Crows, and his sister, Delilah...

"Delilah was a sorceress, by trade and profession. No petty dabbler.  No one-trick pony.  Through her mother’s lineage, she came from a long and storied tradition.  Most practitioners in the City of Angels spoke Delilah St. John’s name in low and reverent tones."

Mr. Dante Washington, head of another criminal organization calls upon the special services of the Crows when a large sum of money in his possession goes missing.

Sanger's the real deal.  A talented writer with a wonderful gift for description...

"He saw the photo of a man, plain and dull, some middle-aged white guy dressed in a gray suit that reminded Gabriel of a Texas rancher on a Sunday afternoon.  He wore a thin goatee and a long brown ponytail.  Dude had glasses that belonged on a cartoon character.  He looked like he sold lawn equipment at Home Depot and collected butterflies on the weekend.  Maybe he had lived with his mother until she died, after which he had inherited the house and all her Precious Moments figurines.  Gabriel didn’t know him from Adam."

I haven't read a crime novel in a while and this is a good one, made better by the special skills possessed by various members of the brood.  Let's call Endsville a solid mix of crime and urban fantasy.  Kind of like a Dresdin Files novel, but grittier, darker and filled with the most amazing fight scenes.  So different from anything I've read in ages.

Don't look for any "good" guys in Endsville.  They are all criminals, but that's OK.  It's all about the story and it's a good one.  One of those reads where it's not so much about the destination.  It's all about the journey.  This is epic urban fantasy.  So many wonderfully fleshed out characters.  Blood and guts everywhere.

100% Recommended.

Published by Crossroad Press, Endsville (Outlaw Arcana - Book 1) is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Clay Sanger is a professional technogeek by day and a writer of fantasy, science-fiction, and horror the rest of the time. A life-long lover of all things wild, Clay spent much of his early adulthood wandering the four corners of the country in search of the weird and wonderful, the dark and the light. As chance would have it he found them. After meandering far and wide he returned to his native Ozarks where he lives with his dazzling wife, their sons, and a menagerie of mythical creatures both real and imagined.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Review: Black Wings - by Megan Hart

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Briella is a bright child, some would say gifted.  That being said, she does have trouble making friends,

"Along with a loathing for personal hygiene and lack of friends, Briella had taken up lying.  Much like her father, she wasn't really very good at it."

Briella's father, Tommy, was making an effort to be in her life, even though her mother, Marian had left him years ago and was now in a relationship with her step-father, Dean.

As if that's not complicated enough, one-day Briella befriends a raven on the way home from school.  She names the bird Onyx, and this is when the wheels start to come off and things get more than a little strange.

Black Wings is a wonderful, real-life-like story with a touch of the fantastical.  Wildly original.  The challenging relationship between Briella and her mother was spot on, very believable.  Black Wings is a story that is simple, yet elegant.  Simultaneously charming and dangerous.  Intriguing and entertaining, right up to the unbelievable ending.  I loved it.

Recommended.

Published by Flame Tree Press, Black Wings is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Megan Hart has written in almost every genre of romantic fiction, including historical, contemporary, romantic suspense, romantic comedy, futuristic, fantasy and perhaps most notably, erotic.  She also writes non-erotic fantasy and science fiction, as well as continuing to occasionally dabble in horror.  Black Wings is one of the later.







Sunday, May 12, 2019

Review: The Playing Card Killer - by Russell James

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Wow.  First read for a brand new author for me and I absolutely loved it.  There truly is no greater thrill than finding a new writer whose work keeps you guessing from start to finish.  OK, I can think of one or two greater thrills, but you get the point.

Brian is off his meds and having the most disturbing nightmares.  He's seeing the murders being committed by a serial killer who's been dubbed the Playing Card Killer by the press.  His girlfriend, Daniela, is less than happy he's gone med free, as a matter of fact, she's done unless he reconsiders his decision.

For a while, the reader is lead to believe, Brian is actually the killer and that's what the police believe when he shows up with what he's
seen in his dreams.

That's enough.  To tell you more would spoil all the surprises.  Buy this book now and add it to your TBR pile.  You can thank me later.  And you will.

The story itself was rather simple, but the execution in writing took the tale to a higher level.  A masterfully crafted, horrifically powerful story.   Expect the unexpected in this deliciously twisted tale.

The playing card KIller is fast-paced and brilliantly plotted.  And then there are my five favorite words in the entire book...

"It was time for revenge."

I whole-heartedly recommend this near-perfect thriller.

Published by Flame Tree Press, The Playing Card Killer is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Russell R. James was raised on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and Dark Shadows, despite his parents' warnings.  Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn't make things better.  He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

After flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales, including horror thrillers Dark Inspiration, Q Island, and The Playing Card Killer.  His Grant Coleman adventure series covers Cavern of the Damned, Monsters in the Clouds, and Curse of the Viper King.  He resides in sunny Florida.  His wife reads his work, rolls her eyes, and says "There is something seriously wrong with you."

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Review: Will Haunt You - by Brian Kirk

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I finished reading Brian Kirk's latest novel over a week ago and put off writing my review to allow this story time to gel in my mind.  Or, maybe ferment is a better word.  The whole concept of Will Haunt You is a bit of a mind-altering experience.

I've taken the liberty of paraphrasing the story's synopsis, it does a better job of explaining the premise than I ever could...

Rumors of a deadly book have been floating around the corners of the dark web.  A tale about a mysterious figure who preys on those who read the book and subjects them to a world of personalized terror.

Jesse Wheeler—former guitarist of the heavy metal group The Rising Dead—was quick to discount the ominous folklore associated with the book.

But Jesse is wrong.  The legend is real—and tonight he will become the protagonist in an elaborate scheme specifically tailored to prey on and resurrect the ghosts from his past.

Jesse is not the only one in danger, however. By reading the book, he has volunteered to participate in the author’s deadly game, with every page drawing him closer to his own personalized nightmare.  The real horror doesn’t begin until he reaches the end.

That’s when the evil comes for him.

There's even a warning at the beginning of Will Haunt You.  One that flat out tells you if you continue reading the author won't be responsible for what may happen to you.  Nice.

This is one of those stories where the line between what is real and what is imagined dissolves rather quickly.  I found Will Haunt You to be like a season of Channel Zero on SYFY.  Only, instead of having the reaction of "What did I just watch?" it was "What the hell did I just read?"

While undoubtedly Brian Kirk's best work to date Will Haunt You left me a bit perplexed.  Let me put it this way, while I really enjoyed the ride, I had no idea where I was when I arrived at my destination.  About Halfway through, I noticed the first letter in each word of the title spell the word WHY.  Why, indeed.

Recommended, but be prepared for the weird.

Published by Flame Tree Press, Will Haunt You is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audible formats.

From the author's bio - Brian Kirk is an author of dark thrillers and psychological suspense.  His debut novel, We Are Monsters, was released in July 2015 and was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award® for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.  During the day, Brian works as a freelance marketing and creative consultant.  He lives in Atlanta with his beautiful wife and rambunctious identical twin boys.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Review: Out Behind the Barn - by John Boden & Chad Lutzke

5 of 5 Stars   

I'm always fascinated by collaborations.  How they come about.  The division of labor.  Who gets the final say in arguments.  Etc...

The back story on Out Behind the Barn was particularly interesting.  John sends a short story called Maggies Farm to Chad for his insight.  Even though Chad loved the story he felt it needed more.  The case of a short story longing to be a novella.  After a couple of rejections as a short, Chad tells John he'd add 15,000 words if he had to write them himself.  Some time passes, other obligations are met and after collaborating we have the final cut and its a remarkable story.

Young Davey and Ronny have lived with Miss Maggie for as long as they can remember.  Others have come and gone, but the two boys remain.

What follows is a story which immediately draws me in.  I really enjoyed how the boys share a love of reading, particularly their fondness for Poe.

The storytelling of Boden and Lutzke is top notch, too...

"The three ate breakfast together while Maggie sat and observed. She always kept a close eye, especially when it came to her boys. If anything ever happened to them, the world couldn't hold all the tears that'd fall. She stoked these thoughts as she pretended to read the cereal box before her, then was dragged from them when Davey started speaking of a cartoon he'd watched about a land of balloon people and the terrible pincushion man who came to terrorize them."

The result of this collaboration is a sound tale which guards its secrets closely.  And the prose is often to die for...

"The sky above was a sea of motor oil and diamond buckshot, the air smokestack ejaculate and lingering diesel."

On the surface, this story may seem like a charming tale of a simpler time.  But, make no mistake, Out Behind the Barn  is a horror story.

Recommended.

Published by Shadow Work Publishing, Out Behind the Barn is available in both paperback and Kindle formats.  BTW, 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' bios...

John Boden lives a stone's throw from Three Mile Island with his wonderful wife and sons.  A baker by day, he spends his off time writing, working on Shock Totem or watching M*A*S*H re-runs.  He likes Diet Pepsi, cheeseburgers, heavy metal, and sports ferocious sideburns.  While his output as a writer is fairly sporadic, it has a bit of a reputation for being unique.

Chad Lutzke lives in Michigan with his wife and children.  For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene, offering articles, reviews, and artwork.  He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine.  He's had a few dozen stories published, and some of his other books include: Of Foster Home & Flies, Stirring the Sheets, Skullface Boy, and The Same Deep Water As You.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Review: The Haunting of Henderson Close - by Catherine Cavendish

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Catherine Cavendish is a prolific writer of horror - frequently with ghostly, supernatural, Gothic and haunted house themes.  She's very active on Social  Media and I have no idea why I've never read her work before now, but now that I've finally read one of her novels, I know I'll be back for more.

If ever a location deserved to be haunted, it's Henderson Close.  This is not a heavy-handed ghost story, but that's just fine.  There is certainly a place and an audience for this kind of ghostly tale.

"Farquhars Close was some sort of gateway to hell.  It was one of the first Closes to go and was sealed very quickly.  The story goes that a devil was walled up there and if he should ever be let loose, Edinburgh would burn."

Now we're talkin'.

This book turned out to be so much fun.  The scene with the ouija board was brilliantly written, and terribly frightening.  One of the best things about The Haunting of Henderson Close was these were real people having real experiences.  I truly enjoyed this immersive experience.

The Haunting of Henderson Close was a wonderfully complex and extremely twisted tale of a haunted area with layer upon layer of ghosts and one elusive demon who has escaped the pentagram which had once trapped his spirit.

Recommended for anyone who ejoys a solid ghost story.

Published by Flame Tree Press, The Haunting of Henderson Close is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio formats.

From the author's bio- Catherine Cavendish writes horror fiction - frequently with ghostly, supernatural, Gothic and haunted house themes.  She has numerous novels and novellas available.  Visit her page at Amazon.com for a comprehensive list.  Catherine lives with a long-suffering husband and a delightful black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt.  She sees no reason why that practice should not continue.  When not slaving over a hot computer, Catherine enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Review: Forgotten - by Kelli Owen

5 of 5 Stars    Purchased directly from the author

Kelli is one of my favorite authors and I have now read every book she's published.  I recently caught up with her at a con in York, Pa and saw this little gem I had somehow missed.

In many ways, Forgotten is one of Kelli's best works.  Solid writing, memorable characters, a compelling story, with excellent dialog.

I didn't really like the protagonist in Forgotten. But, that's OK.  Maybe I wasn't supposed to like her.  I'm sure some people will relate to her in a more positive way and that's OK, too.  I think it has to do with your own individual life story.  I think this makes for a great book in the way it can affect different people in disparate ways.

A woman's body is found in the supply closet of the women's room of a highway rest area just north of the Maryland/Pennsylvania border.  She's alive, but can't recall her name or much of anything.  Pulse-pounding from the very start.

The police investigation reveals her name and learns she has a husband and an infant, who is missing.  Of this, she remembers nothing at all.

One delicious twist after another, and when she finally remembers, things get very interesting.

If you've never read Kelli Owen before, this is a great place to start.

Recommended.

Forgotten is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Born and raised in Wisconsin, Kelli Owen now lives in Destination, Pennsylvania.  She has attended countless writing conventions, participated on dozens of panels and has spoken at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA regarding both her writing and the field in general.  Her fiction leans toward thriller and quiet horror, with an occasional bloodbath and even rarer happy ending.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Review: The Pandora Room - by Christopher Golden

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

We first met Ben Walker in Christopher Golden's wildly successful novel, Arafat, and there's even word of a third story, Red Hands, coming in 2020.  As if this is not exciting enough,  word on the street is the series has been optioned for television with Chris writing the pilot and serving as Executive Producer.

Meet Sophie Durand, the archeologist in charge of a dig called The Beneath Project.  The intrigue is evident from the very first page as Sophie suspects she's being followed on a market street in Amadiya.

Golden is a master of observation and he uses that skill in his descriptive writing style.

Assyrians had settled the area of the dig some 5,000 years ago.  Now the Muslim Kurds, Christians, Jews all lay various claims to the territory.

It's not long before the story goes from intrigue to heart-pounding action...

"...Sophie wondered how it had come to this, they were archeologists, researchers, teachers, Martin was still a graduate student, but here they were on a stretch of road in the middle of nowhere with men chasing them—men full of menace and malice and the presumption they could do anything to anyone and get away with it."

The Beneath Project has broken through to a room with ancient writings and a single jar placed on an altar.  After deciphering the text, it is believed this jar may be the legendary Pandora's Box of Greek mythology.  The writing actually speaks of two boxes, one filled with goodness, the other evil.  No one knows which jar is in The Pandora Room.

It's not long before Ben Walker arrives on the scene.  Be works for DARPA - The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  Their job is to "look into emerging science and unexplained phenomena and make absolutely certain that if it was possible someone could make a weapon out of it the United States would be the first to do so."

The Pandora Box is one of those books you can't say a lot about without giving away its secrets and they are best discovered by the reader.  The most a reviewer can do is praise the work and lay accolades upon the author.

"Evil exists...Whatever's here with us, I feel it.  I can practically taste it, whatever it is."

The words flow like a country stream.   Every bit as exciting as Dan Brown at his best.  Make no mistake about it, The Pandora Box is as much a horror story as it is a thriller.  A very satisfying read.

100% recommended.

Published by St. Martin's Press, The Pandora Room is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Christopher Golden is the New York Times bestselling author of such novels as Ararat, Tin Men, Wildwood Road, and many others.  Golden co-created (with Mike Mignola) two cult favorite comic book series, Baltimore and Joe Golem: Occult Detective.  He is also the co-host of the podcasts Three Guys with Beards and Defenders Dialogue, and the founder of the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival.  Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Review: Boomtown - by James A. Moore

4 of  5 Stars     Review copy

Carson's Point, currently home to a skinwalker, reanimated dead folk, a spectre, and other assorted oddities.  Oh, and let's not forget Jonathan Crowley.  Get ready for one of the wildest rides of the year.

What's a Jonathan Crowley novel without its fair share violence...

"Crowley grabbed the Peacemaker from his enemy’s hand, breaking the trigger finger in the process. His target yelped a second time and he flipped the weapon over until he was holding the barrel in his grip. He was too close in to fire  the  weapon,  but  it  made  a  damned  fine  hammer  for caving in his enemy’s forehead."

Violence is OK, but it's not all blood and guts...

"She looked pristine, innocent, nearly perfect.  Beautiful, really, for a ghost."

I usually enjoy a good Jonathan Crowley novel, but Boomtown felt a bit disconnected and was at times confusing.  Despite this, the story was still a fun throwback to the weird, weird west.

Somewhat recommended.

Published by Twisted Press, a division of Haverhill House Publishing, Boomtown is available as a limited edition hardcover, trade paperback, and for the Kindle.  BTW, 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 - James A. Moore is the author of over forty novels, including the critically acclaimed Fireworks, Under The Overtree, Blood Red, Blood Harvest, the Serenity Falls trilogy (featuring his recurring anti-hero, Jonathan Crowley).  He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Review: Carnivorous Lunar Activities - by Max Booth III


5 of 5 Stars     Purchased directly from the author

Don't even bother reading my review.  Just do yourself a favor and purchase this book immediately.  Carnivorous Lunar Activities could well be, the best werewolf story I'll ever read.

Frankly, that should be all the review you need but read on, if you must.

It all starts with this kick-ass opening line...

"Ted was thinking about killing his wife when his cell phone rang."

Ted's best friend in the world, Justin, calls him away only to tell him he must be shot the minute he turns into a werewolf (at midnight).  As a result, the first part of the book is the two friends reminiscing to kill time.  Thankfully, this includes the story of how Justin became infected.  And it is glorious.

Yes, Carnivorous Lunar Activities is a werewolf tale, but that doesn't mean Max Booth III lacks writing chops...

"Grass threatened to swallow his feet as he approached the back door.  Ants and other curious insects starred up at him from their jungle, contemplating the motives of a giant."

I found myself devouring (see what I did there?) every word of this short novel.  Someone needs to make this into a movie, post haste.  Carnivorous Lunar Activities is anything but predictable.  So many surprises.  One of the most enjoyable werewolf stories I've ever read.  A complete joyride, start to finish.

Totally recommended.

Published by a name synonymous with fine horror, Fangoria, Carnivorous Lunar Activities is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Max Booth III is the Editor-in-Chief of Perpetual Motion Machine, the Managing Editor of Dark Moon Digest, and the co-host of Castle Rock Radio, a Stephen King podcast.  He's the author of many novels and frequently contributes articles to both LitReactor and CrimeReads.  He lives in Texas.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Review: The Murder of Jesus Christ - by John R. Little

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

You might think John R. Little is taking a risk with the title of his new book.  Well, so should you.

First of all, we need to establish that The Murder of Jesus Christ is NOT about the story most of us are familiar with.  This is definitely a work of fiction.

It's a story told by David Abelman, currently serving a life sentence at Leavenworth.

In his life before prison, David was a renowned science photographer recently assigned to cover the launch of the spaceship, Sagan.  As luck would have it, one member of the five-person crew was his former girlfriend, Karen Anderson.  The mission was to the far side of the moon to investigate the source of radio waves.  Aliens?  Wait, it gets stranger.

David is Jewish and lost more than a few ancestors to the Holocaust.  Before his ninety-two-year-old grandmother dies, she tells him of...

"...an ancient type of magic called Shel jah, which I’m sure you’ve never heard of.  Not many people have.  It’s Jewish magic, and it’s all but disappeared now, but it was a powerful tool for thousands of years...What is it?  Shel jah provides a limited ability to control time.  Yes, time."

Can you guess where this is headed?  David does what he does with the best of intentions, but things don't turn out quite the way he expected.

I've already said more than I probably should, but really, I've just scratched the surface.  There are numerous surprises sprinkled throughout the story.

Despite the fantastic nature of The Murder of Jesus Christ, I found the work to be wholly, or should I say "holy," entertaining and incredibly imaginative.

Recommended.

Published by Bad Moon Books, The Murder of Jesus Christ will be available as a signed, limited-edition, hardcover, and trade paperback.

From the author's bio - John R. Little is an award-winning author of suspense, dark fantasy, and horror.  He currently lives in Ayr, a small town near Kitchener, Canada, and is always at work on his next book. John has published more than15 books to date.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Review: The Dark Game - by Jonathan Janz


4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Possibly the most succinct opening-line ever.  It truly tells you all you need to know about The Dark Game...

"Lucy sat in the back of the limo, blindfolded, unaware she was entering the nightmarish plot of a madman instead of a writer's retreat."

The estate of world-renowned writer, Roderick Wells.  Ten aspiring writers in all, there to learn at the feet of a master, and to compete for a two million dollar prize and a chance at immortality.

Sounds good, right?  Wrong.  Oh, so very wrong.  Before long writers are leaving the competition.  But are they dropping out on their own, are they being forced to leave, or are they being eliminated permanently?

"Rick realized why no one could find a recent image of Roderick Wells, why he never showed up to accept awards.  Because if someone did gaze at the man too long (he’s not a man) it would drive you insane, you’d get lost forever in those murky black tarns, those wells—the aptness of the name slammed into him— and once you sank into those stygian waters, you’d be lost, irretrievable.  Jesus God, couldn’t the others see what was happening?"

There are some Easter eggs from Janz's prior works, most notably where the title and subject matter of one of the writers' works is the same as Jonathan's recent novel, The Siren and the Specter.  Also, the Jack Ketchum writing advice was spot on.

The line between reality and nightmares blurs more and more as the remaining contestants come to grips with what is really happening.  The Dark Game is so twisted, but in the end, it all comes together.  Bizarre as it may be.

I'm sure we've all heard authors explain how, often as they write a character will take over the story and will take it in directions the author never intended.  Well, The Dark Game is this idea on acid.

Recommended.

Published by Flame Tree Press, The Dark Game is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories.  His ghost story The Siren and the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for Best Horror.  Additionally, his novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year.  Jonathan's main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Review: Bordertown - by Robert Ford

3 of 5 Stars     (Purchased directly from the author)

NOTE: Robert Ford has chosen to temporarily pull this novella from publication in order to make it the best it can be.

It's a familiar trope; getting off the planned route and horror ensues.

In the case of Robert Ford's Bordertown, it's a huge back-up on I-95 which causes a family trip to Disney World to be detoured.  The same goes for the newlyweds Tristan and Margo, on their way to Miami.  And Hellbent Brotherhood cyclist, simply known as Crawfish also needs a place to stay.

They are all attracted by the neon signs for Bordertown.  One could call this place a tourist trap, but one would have to put the emphasis decidedly on the word "trap."

The characters to watch out for are MABEL, at least that's the name she wears on her shirt, and self-proclaimed Sheriff  Walden.  He's certifiably cray-cray, and she ain't far behind.

This little novella was a lot of fun.  It's Bob Ford doing what he does best.  Here, he's in full-on storytelling mode as the words just flow from the page, along with buckets of blood.

So, having said all these nice things, why only three stars?  Too many errors, which should have been caught during proofreading.  So its five stars for the story and one star for proofreading  Averages out to three stars.

Recommended?  Sure, if you can look past the numerous errors.

Bordertown is available in both 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 bios - Robert Ford has published the novels, The CompoundNo Lipstick in Avalon, Rattlesnake Kisses (with Jon Boden), A Penny for Your Thoughts (with Matt Hayward), and the novellas, Ring of Fire, The Last Firefly of Summer, Samson and Denial, Bordertown, as well as the short story collection The God Beneath my Garden.  In addition, he has several screenplays floating around in the ether of Hollywood.  He can confirm the grass actually is greener on the other side, but it’s only because of the bodies buried there.



Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Review: Inspection - by Josh Malerman

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

It is a wonderful thing, digging into a new Malerman novel, no idea what to expect, no clue where his twisted mind is going to take you.

In his newest novel, Inspection, we have two identical towers in a remote area of Michigan, separated by miles of forest.  One populated by twenty-five twelve-year-old boys and the other by a similar number of girls.  Known simply as the Alphabet Boys and the Letter Girls.  The children have no real names.  They are identified by the letters A through Z.  The Parenthood is known as D.A.D. for the boys and M.O.M. for the girls.  Neither group of children is aware of the other.  They are totally unaware of the opposite sex.

"...the Alphabet Boys are being raised to become the world’s greatest engineers, scientists, and mathematicians. ARTICLE ONE of the CONSTITUTION OF THE PARENTHOOD: GENIUS IS DISTRACTED BY THE OPPOSITE SEX."

What if the truth got out?  What if the boys learned of the girls?  What if the girls discover the second tower?  Inspection is without a doubt the most original story I have read in years.  It is totally movie ready.

It took some getting used to, identifying characters by letters alone, but it did become more comfortable as the story progressed.  Inspection is my fourth Malerman book and I've enjoyed them all.  At this point, each new release is a must read for me.

Published by Random House, Inspection is available in hardcover, e-book, and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Josh Malerman is an internationally bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-nominated American author and one of two singer/ songwriters for the rock band The High Strung.  His debut novel Bird Box was published in 2014 to much critical acclaim.  Unbury Carol was published in April 2018.  He lives in Ferndale, Michigan, with his best friend/ soulmate Allison Laakko and their pets Frankie, Valo, Dewey, Marty, and the fish.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Review: Schizoid - by Matthew Tait

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

A struggling writer attempts suicide and wakes up in his "work in progress."  That work is The Mercury Man, not even a quarter completed.

"The first time Micha Tudor went to Hadley Grove he'd thought the whole experience a fevered dream."

Each time he would return to reality, he finds more added to his story.

"A few weeks ago, the number count on The Mercury Man had stood at a paltry fifteen-thousand words.  Barely enough framework or adequate structure to properly introduce his cast.  Now the word count hovered at an astonishing forty-two-thousand."

As Micha spends more time in Hadley Grove he becomes more and more a part of the story.  Mix in a serial killer known as The Mercury Man, a pair of demons, and their father, and you have the makings of a fine horror novel within a horror novel.

"Horror novels like The Mercury Man did not end with the hero cold-cocking his rival and running away with the girl...They ended with blood."

Matthew Tait has a distinctive voice and Schizoid is an ambitious novel worthy of H. P. Lovecraft.

Recommended.

Schizoid is available in both paperback and Kindle 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 author's bio - A vociferous horror columnist since 2005, Matthew Tait published his first collection of dark fiction in 2011.  Since then, he has twice been nominated for the Australian Shadows Award.  Described as writing 'the sort of horror Clive Barker must read on his days off' Matthew's fiction often treads the line between the familiar and the fantastic.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Review: Closing Costs - by Wesley Southard

4 of 5 Stars

Closing Costs is the story of Hershel Merkley, husband of Monigue, the first African-American to anchor a local newscast for a local network affiliate in Southern Indiana.  Hershel's not quite as accomplished, but as a realtor, he's hoping today will be the biggest sale of his eighteen-year career.  The Whitcomb Estate.

"Harris Whitcomb, local sheet rock spreader turned Mega Millions lottery winner, went to sleep the night of July 18th in his king sized bed inside his multi-million dollar home and was found the next morning a little lighter above the shoulders."

I just love that.  What a wonderful euphemism.

When Hershel arrives at the Whitcomb Estate to meet with his prospective buyer, let's just say things don't go as planned.  And by that, I don't just mean the sale falls through.

Seems the house is more than haunted, what with assorted demons and whatnot  It'll be lucky if anyone gets out alive.

This short novella was a great deal of fun.  Light, yet scary.  I love stories where all hell breaks loose, and I do mean hell.

Recommended.

Closing Costs is available in both paperback and Kindle 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 author's bio - Wesley Southard is the author of the novel The Betrayed, which was named one of Brian Keene's Top 15 Books of 2017, the novella Closing Costs, and has had short stories appear in numerous outlets.  When not watching numerous hours of ice hockey, he spends his free time reading and drinking copious amounts of green soda.  He is also a graduate of the Atlanta Institute of Music, and he currently lives in South Central Pennsylvania with his wife and their cavalcade of animals.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Review: Blood Standard by Laird Barron

5 of 5 Stars

"What did I have, what did I know?  Everything and nothing.  I'm not a detective, I'm merely a man with less exacting scruples than most."

That particular quote from Isaiah Coleridge tells you most of what you need to know about Blood Standard.  

Admittedly, I'm a bit late to the party in reading this work which came out nearly a year ago, but with the sequel, Black Mountain, due in a couple of months, I figured I better read this one first.

Blood Standard is very much a stand-alone novel, it's also a damn fine story.

I made a note while reading Blood Standard that Isaiah Coleridge is a wonderfully colorful character.  I suppose this is true if by colorful I mean shades of blood.

Isaiah goes from the Chicago mob to a posting in Alaska where he steps over a line.  He decides to return home and takes work on a horse farm swearing off "the life".  When the granddaughter of the owners goes missing he uses his considerable skills to get to the truth.  However bleak it may be.

I've often mentioned that the Crime genre is a second cousin to horror.  And Blood Standard is A-List material. The writing is so good...

She opened the desk drawer, retrieved a pack of Kools, and lit one.  She smoked, dropping the ashes into a ceramic dish that contained a lonely piece of peppermint candy.

Blood Standard is the equivalent of classic noir on steroids. This book will leave the reader bloodied and scarred.

Recommended.

Published by G. P. Putnum's Sons, Blood Standard is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Laird Barron was born in Alaska, where he raised huskies and worked in the construction and fishing industries for much of his youth.  He is the author of several short-story collections and two novels, and his work has also appeared in many magazines and anthologies.  A multiple Locus, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Award nominee, he is also a three-time winner of the Shirley Jackson Award.  Barron lives in Kingston, NY.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Short Story Review: Arrearages by Wesley Southard

4 of 5 Stars

Truth be told, I met Wesley Southard at a small con in York, Pennsylvania this weekend.  I purchased a couple of his books and he gifted me a couple of chapbooks.  Arrearages was one of them.  Now, I usually don't review short stories, but I enjoyed this one so much I decided it was worthy of such treatment.

"Cam woke up screaming."  An opening which certainly garnered my attention.  What follows is so much worse.

I love it when what I'm reading elicits a verbal response.  This line actually made me say, "ew."  "After he emptied his stomach, his arms gave out, and he fell face first into his own warm bile."

You see, Arrearages is a story of revenge.  The women in Cal's life have gotten together to do something terrible to him, for a change.  You see, Cam is a horrible human being and deserves everything he gets, right up to the very end when the author elicited another verbal response from me.  This time it was, "Oh, God."

Arrearages is available for the Kindle.  BTW, 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...Wesley Southard is the author of the novel The Betrayed, which was named one of Brian Keene's Top 15 Books of 2017, the novella Closing Costs, and has had short stories appear in numerous outlets.  When not watching numerous hours of ice hockey, he spends his free time reading and drinking copious amounts of green soda.  He is also a graduate of the Atlanta Institute of Music, and he currently lives in South Central Pennsylvania with his wife and their cavalcade of animals.


Review: A Penny For Your Thoughts - by Bob Ford & Matt Hayward

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I recently started reading Matt Hayward's work with his most recent book, The Faithful, of which I said, "If you're a fan of Lovecraftian horror, you don't want to miss this one.  Certainly recommended."

I've long been a fan of Bob Ford.  Read anything by Bob and I can promise you won't be disappointed.

One of the cool backstories to A Penny For Your Thoughts is that Matt lives in Ireland and Bob in Central Pennsylvania, a distance of about 3,300 miles, not to mention an entire ocean.  Thank God for the internet, without which this book would be nigh on impossible.  And that would be a shame because this book is so damn good.

A solid opening sets the stage for all the goodness to follow...

"Whenever I take the Lowback Trail, I always find something new: unknown names carved into tree trunks, discarded briefs by overeager dippers, a smoldering pit left from weekend hikers…but today?  Today I found a penny jar."

Yep.  It all started with that damn jar of pennies.  Wheat pennies, to be exact.  Pennies with wishes taped to them.  Wishes which when read, came true.  Just ask Kenny who read the one about wanting big boobies.  It seems the pennies were also reusable for new wishes.  It also seems each wish came with a price. What could possibly go wrong?

Then there's the overall writing.  There are so many wonderful bits of prose...

"Rumor had it those waters were home to a school of catfish so big they'd eat a gaggle of kids and ask for seconds."

"Place was quiet as a mouse fart."

"Sometimes you can't let a fart without a neighbor three doors down knowing what you had for dinner,"

Overall, A Penny For You Thoughts gave me that Twilight Zone vibe.  I love that feeling the reader gets when the writers are just "in the zone".  This is a story which is humorous, dark, bittersweet, and despite its outlandish plot, it somehow manages to be completely believable.

Published by Poltergeist Press, A Penny For Your Thoughts is available for pre-order.  Scheduled for release on June 1, 2019, the book will be available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

From the Author's bios...

Robert Ford has published the novels, The Compound, and No Lipstick in Avalon, the novellas, Ring of Fire, The Last Firefly of Summer, Samson and Denial, Bordertown and the short story collection  The God Beneath my Garden.  In addition, he has several screenplays floating around in the ether of Hollywood.  He can confirm the grass actually is greener on the other side, but it’s only because of the bodies buried there.

Matt Hayward is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated author and musician from Wicklow, Ireland.  His books include  Brain Dead BluesWhat Do Monsters Fear?, Practitioners (with Patrick Lacey),  and The Faithful.  He compiled the award-winning anthology Welcome To The Show, and is currently writing a novel with Bryan Smith.  Matt wrote the comic book This Is How It Ends (now a music video) for the band Walking Papers, and received a nomination for Irish Short Story of the Year from Penguin Books in 2017.



Sunday, March 24, 2019

Review: When the Clock Strikes 13 - edited by by Kenneth W. Cain

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

When the Clock Strikes 13 is an invitation-only anthology.  Steve Thompson is a fan of horror and as such he wanted to publish an anthology featuring stories by his favorite authors.  The result is a treat for all fans of the genre.

The Boy In the Pond by Mark Allen Gunnells - A paranormal investigator is hired by a family to rid them of their son's spirit trapped below the ice in their pond.  A brutally haunting tale and a superb opening for this collection.

Open Waters by Richard Thomas - A beautifully written story of a future where we take solace where we can.

Memories by John R. Little - I loved this telling of a family curse which leads to tragic consequences.

Detrition of War by Kenneth W. Cain - Nothing like a good old "creature" story.

Comes the Red Man by Tom Deady - Tom is one of my favorite writers and this is another fine story from this Bram Stoker Award-winning author.  A holy man is haunted by those who perished in a fire which consumed the tent in which he was conducting a service.

Mommy's Girl by Somer Canon - Somer is the real deal and this is a wonderful introduction to her writing.  A local beach kid meets a boy on the boardwalk during a cloud burst and things take a decidedly weird turn.

Taking Up Carpentry by Justin M. Woodward - An abusive step-father gets his due in a rather unique way.  "'Doug isn't a bad man, he's just tired a lot, and you shouldn't test him when he's tired.' On a cold night in January, my sister, Anna, found out just how tired Doug could get,"

Kill Point Club by Steve Thompson - What a fun story.  About a service where you can accumulate, purchase and redeem points to allow you to kill without repercussions, as long as you follow the rules.

Calm Down Time by Richard Chizmar - Molly works the late shift and needs to wind down when she gets home.  Watching the news she learns of a killer on the loose in her neighborhood.  Uh, oh.

Carrion: My Wayward Son by James Newman - And the award for best title ever goes to...James Newman.  This is the story of a serial killer who calls himself, THE CARRION KING.  "I'm not crazy.  Some men like to fish, some men like to build things, some men like to work on cars but there's only one thing I like to do and that is KILL!!!"

Bear by Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason - I'm a big fan of the Sisters of Slaughter and here they give us a very fine ghost story set in the desert of Arizona during monsoon season.

When Arachnids Attack by Sheri White - Why does it have to be spiders.  This wonderfully horrific tale actually gave me chills.

A Song Above by Glenn Rolfe - A post-apocalyptic tale of underground dwellers making an attempt to go topside after years below.

This anthology features many of my favorite authors and those I had not read before had some of the best stories in the collection.  I've already read a number of good anthologies in 2019 and this is one of the best.

Whole-heartedly recommended.

Available for pre-order, When the Clock Strikes 13, will be published for the Kindle by In Your Face Books on March 31, 2019.  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.




Thursday, March 21, 2019

Review: Jimmy The Freak - by Charles Colyott & Mark Steensland

5 of 5 Stars   Review copy

From beginning to end, this limited edition novella is something special.  Care is giving to every word, beginning with this beautiful opening line...

"There's something magical about it, Mike thinks, watching the fat flakes of snow appear from a sky black as the void."

What made the falling snow even more special was...

"Jimmy's face.  It was a bit like seeing a five-year old's grin plastered on a 30-something-year-old's face."

Mike, and the seemingly mentally challenged Jimmy.  The opening chapter sees the two venture into a snowstorm to visit a local convenience store where something very unusual occurs.

Jimmy the Freak is a wonderful buddy book.  There are real difficulties involved in taking care of a mentally challenged man with powers some may want to abuse.  In  some ways, though, I wondered who was taking care of whom in this delightful story

Charming, thrilling, and so original.  By the way, I've taken the liberty of giving Jimmy the Freak the subtitle Wanna Build a Snowman?  If you read it, you'll gt it.

100% recommended.

Published by Thunderstorm Books Jimmy the Freak is currently available as a limited edition hardcover signed by authors Charles Colyott and Mark Steensland.

About the authors...

Charles Colyott lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere (Illinois) with his wife, 2 daughters, cats, and a herd of llamas and alpacas.  He is surrounded by so much cuteness it's very difficult for him to develop any street cred as a dark and gritty writer.  Nevertheless, he has appeared in Read by Dawn II, Dark Recesses Press, Withersin magazine, Horror Library Volumes III & IV, Terrible Beauty, Fearful Symmetry, and Zippered Flesh, among other places.  He also teaches a beginner level Tai Chi Ch'uan class in which no one has died (yet) of the death touch.  Unlike his llamas, he does not spit.

Mark Steensland self-published his first book while in fourth grade and has been telling stories ever since--some of them true.  He became a professional journalist at the age of 18, writing about movies for such magazines as Prevue and American Cinematographer.  His award-winning films have played in festivals around the world.  His novel for young readers, Behind the Bookcase, was published in 2012.  His novel for adults, The Special, was published in late 2018 and is now being made into a feature film.  He currently lives in California with his wife and their three children.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Review: Hark! The Herald Angels Scream - Edited by Christopher Golden

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I know it's almost Spring, but this holiday-themed anthology is a great read any time of year.  Many of my favorite writers, both old and new come together to spread their own special brand of cheer.

Absinthe & Angels by Kelly Armstrong - A proper way to begin a holiday-themed anthology.  Frightenly fresh.

"'A proper reading of Dickens requires absinthe,' Michael says as he lifts his glass. 'The nectar of the muses.' Ava shakes her head. 'There’s no way anyone could drink this and still write.'"

Christmas In Barcelona by Scott Smith - Traveling with an infant,  What could possibly go wrong?  Plenty.  Well-told and ultimately horrifying.

Fresh As the New Fallen Snow by Seanan McGuire - Another wonderful tale.  A babysitter who is no Mary Poppins.  A morality play with a chilling ending.

Love Me by Thomas E. Sniegoski - A delightfully terrifying story.  Like a Christmas episode of Tales From the Crypt.

"The Creeper was what they used to call him, given his unique ability to get inside a place where the owners were home and pick it clean with no one the wiser."

Not Just For Christmas by Sarah Lotz - What do you do when your genetic pet starts sending you spam advertisements?

Tenets by Josh Malerman - An effective story.  When Adam comes to a Holiday Reunion of University classmates with a guest who is a former cult leader fresh out of prison, it's hard to tell which is worse the guests who leave or the one who asks the former cult leader what his tenets are.

Good Deeds by Jeff Strand - If you've ever been depressed by that Christmas song about the little boy who wants to buy new shoes for his dying mother, you're gonna love this Jeff Strand story.

It's a Wonderful Knife by Christopher Golden - An excellent play on words and a terrific twist.

Mistletoe and Holly by James A. Moore - Yet another solid entry in this anthology.  Sometimes Christmas wishes are best left unfulfilled.

Snake's Tail by Sarah Langan - This one is beyond strange.  A mysterious tale of disappearing children.

"The clock chimes. Two hundred thirty -six children evaporate from the crowd. First, they are there. Then, they are not. It’s a funny thing, witnessing something like that. Those people who have faith, lose it. Those people who have none, find it."

The Second Floor of the Christmas Hotel by Joe R. Lansdale - A very effective ghost story from Mr. Lansdale.

Farrow Street by Elizabeth Hand - A masterfully-crafted tale.  A change of plans leaves Melanie alone in London at Christmas time.  Reminded me of the time I was alone in Ft. Wayne at Thanksgiving, but that's another story.

Doctor Velocity: A Story of the Fire Zone by Jonathan Maberry - Maberry is a brilliant wordslinger as evidenced by this remarkable tale.

Look, you know how I was when I was younger, what I went through. I understand horror. I’ve seen things in those foster homes far worse than the fangs of any vampire or the claws of any werewolf. I’ve felt horror breathing on the back of my neck as it held me in its hands and used me, took me, ripped me apart. I know monsters. Real ones?"

Yankee Swap by John M. McIlveen - The most horrifying game of Yankee Swap ever.  I absolutely loved this ugly little tale.  So twisted.

Honor Thy Mother by Angela Slatter - The family matriarch is not happy about the prospect of moving into a retirement home.

Home by Tim Lebbon - An atmospheric piece about the end times with a rather enigmatic ending.

Hiking Through by Michael Koryta - I've been aware of Michael for some time, but have never read his work before now.  I must say, I totally enjoyed this haunting tale set on the Appalachian Trail in Maine.  On Christmas Eve, no less.

The Hangman's Bride by Sarah Pinborough  - The longest and perhaps the best ghost story to close the collection.

Hark! The Herald Angels Scream is, without a doubt, a collection which will bring joy to any horror fan and will cause any season to be the most wonderful time of year.

Recommended.

Published by Blumhous books, Hark! The Herald Angels Scream is available in paperback, e-book and audio formats.





Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Review: Junction - by Daniel M. Bensen

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Daisuke Matsumori is the star of the most popular nature show on Japanese television and has been recruited to investigate what's on the other side of a wormhole found in New Guinea.  By the way, the pronunciation is "Dice-Kay," not "Dye-Sue-Key."

"Lines were being drawn, ultimatums made, sabers rattled, and someone in the UN had seen this smoking powder keg and said to themselves, 'Why this looks like a job for a Japanese television personality.'"

Actually, the team is a broadly diverse group of characters,  each with their own agenda.  There's Colonel Syahiral Hariyadi, Colonel Gregory Pearson, Anne Houlihan of the University of Sydney, Tyaney and his wife Sing, Nurul and her husband, and pilot Mikhail Sergeyevich Alekseyev, Misha for short.

A plane was deconstructed on Earthside and reassembled on the Junction side of the wormhole.  Unfortunately, the plane crashes on its maiden voyage.  Misha manages to land the plane safely and all survive the crash, but will they survive the journey back to the wormhole, and more importantly each other?

Junction is extremely imaginative as the author has created a fantastical world full of wonders and danger on the other side of the wormhole.

"...at least a quick death smashed against the ground would be better than being very slowly eviscerated by a carnivorous sloth-flower."

If you like your speculative fiction wild and untamed, Junction is just that and much more.  Filled with unexpected twists and turns and even a touch of romance.

I don't expect this book to be among my favorites at year's end, but it will likely be one of the more memorable.

Recommended for readers looking for something different.

Published by Flame Tree Press, Junction is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book and as an audio CD.

Form the author's bio - Daniel M. Bensen writes alternate history, science fiction, and fantasy – usually with kissing, always with a bibliography. He teaches English in Sofia Bulgaria, where he lives with his wife and daughters in the Balkan Tower of Matriarchy.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Review: Limbs A Love Story - by Tim Meyer

5 of 5 Stars

From Wikipedia...

Acrotomophilia...in which an individual expresses strong sexual interest in amputees. It is a counterpart to apotemnophilia, the sexual interest in being an amputee.

And there you have it, the underlying premise of Limbs: A Love Story.  As strange as the premise is, and believe me, it's pretty damn strange.  At its heart, this truly is a love story.

Ray Bridges, for the most part, a rather ordinary guy.  He has a job he doesn't exactly love working the sales floor at a Best Tronics store.  He has a best friend, Percy Jones, and a boss he despises.  But, here's the twist, not only is Ray attracted to women who are amputees, he can't "perform" unless his partner is missing something.  Ray manages to live with his fixation until Kayla starts working at the store with him.  They hit it off in a big way and after few dates wind up in bed and, well, things do not go well.  What's an acrotomophiliac to do?

All this, plus a series of crimes where someone is abducting women and chopping off body parts.  The press is calling him the Hacketstown Hacker.

Tim's down-to-Earth writing style is perfect for a work like this.  Take this scene where Ray is getting his annual performance review...

"Getting your review at work is one of the worst experiences of the year. You’ve been there, we all have. No one would argue having your weaknesses pointed out and shoved in your face is about as much fun as having your nipples hooked up to a car battery, unless you’re into nipple stuff, in which case you might like it. (I think that makes sense.) But I’m getting off track and talking about nipples, so let me stop myself and get back to the story at hand."

At times repulsive, yet funny and charming.  Wickedly original and in my modest opinion, Tim's finest work to date.

Published by Grindhouse Press, Limbs: A Love Story is available in both 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 - Tim Meyer dwells in a dark cave near the Jersey Shore.  He’s an author, husband, father, podcast host, blogger, coffee connoisseur, beer enthusiast, and explorer of worlds. He writes horror, mysteries, science fiction, and thrillers, although he prefers to blur genres and let the stories fall where they may.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Review: Night Shift - by Robin Triggs

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Let me start by saying I wanted Night Shift to be something other than what it turned out to be.  Let's face it, a mining base in the Antarctic at the start of a six-month-long night shift doesn't your mind immediately turn to The Thing?  So, I'm expecting a monster.  I got one, it just happened to be of the human variety.

Anton Nordvelt is a last-minute replacement for head of security at Australis...

"I don’t know what they told you back in Tierra, but you’re only here because we have to have someone, you know that? You’ll walk out of here, your wallet three times as thick and your pick of jobs to walk into.  And what’ll you have to do for that?  Nothing.
There’s no crime here, none at all.  No crime, no drugs, no alcohol, only thirteen people, including you.  But because it says in some Company rulebook that we must have a commander, a doctor and a chief of security, here you are...Welcome to Australis, Mr. Nordvelt.  Good to have you aboard.”

Just a few days later there's death with more mayhem to follow.

Although Night Shift was not what I expected, that's not to say this debut novel from author Robin Triggs wasn't a story well told, because it certainly was.  It's a joy to read the words of a writer you've not read before and immediately feel you're in good hands.

There is sufficient action start-to-finish in Night Shift with an avalanche taking out the base's Comm Center and later, an explosion at the refinery. Is one of the thirteen members of the crew responsible or is there an outside entity responsible for all of the death and destruction.

Not my favorite read of the last year, but not the worse by a long stretch.

Published byFlame Tree Press, Night Shift is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audible formats.

From the author's bio - Rob was raised in Bradford before heading, at eighteen, to the bright libraries of Norfolk.  Music was his main interest at this time.  He played drums and sang whilst writing copious amounts of lyrics, some of which tipped over into the vaguely-defined realm of poetry.  He studied archaeology at Queen's University, Belfast before returning to Norfolk and starting to write seriously.  When not writing he studies the past: archaeology and the historic landscape remain passions.  He's also an exceptionally poor cricketer, turning out for The Bodleian Library's collection of misfits.  At the Bodleian, he tells tourists that yes, Harry Potter was filmed here, but no, they can't go inside.  He also works as a proofreader.  A freshly-minted father, he spends his time changing nappies, Tweeting and, when the opportunity presents itself, doing the odd bit of creating.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Review: The Sorrows - by Jonathan Janz

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I was a bit late to the party when it came to discovering the work of Jonathan Janz.  As a result, I totally missed The Sorrows when it was originally published by Samhain Publishing in 2012.

When Samhain ceased operations on March 1, 2017 many great works went out of print, including this debut from one of the most popular horror writers working today.

The Sorrows presents the reader with a wonderful cast of characters secluded at Castle Blackwood located on a private island known as The Sorrorws.  Eighty miles off the coast of northern California and the site of one of America's strangest unsolved mysteries.

There are more than a few cringe-worthy moments including this little gem...

"A hand slipped inside Chris’s boxer shorts, the scalpel tracing an almost delicate line down his penis, the sharp point pausing on the shriveled tip and grinding into the urethra. Chris groaned, the voice rasping at his ear, '…so many places I can dig.'"

The Sorrows is a wonderful example of a place exercising its influence over its occupants.  Gothic horror at its finest.

Janz's first novel shows the promise of greatness and in the years since its release, the author has matured into one of today's leading horror writers.  One whose work is looked forward to by many readers, including this one.

With all its horror and disgusting moments, The Sorrows is secretly a love story.  I dare you to prove me wrong on this one.

If you missed The Sorrows when it was first released, be sure to read it now.

Fully recommended.

This re-release of The Sorrows is published by Flame Tree Press and is available now in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and Audible formats.

From the author's bio - Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories.  His ghost story The Siren and the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for Best Horror.  Additionally, his novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year.  Jonathan's main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Review: Ten Thousand Thunders - by Brian Trent

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

There was a time when I immersed myself in Sci-Fi, long before I discovered horror and it took over my reading experience.  Every now and again, it's nice to go back and visit those days, and that's just what I did with this epic, hard Sci-Fi novel by Brian Trent.

How does one know right away they're reading a Science Fiction novel?  Try this opening line on for size...

"Fourteen-and-a-half hours after being killed in the shuttle explosion, Gethin Bryce found himself in a newly sculpted body staring at his hands."

Ten Thousand Thunders takes a wildly imaginative look at one possible future where humans are living on Mars and there's even an AI colony on the moon, but there are restrictions on further colonization and this has folks fired up on both sides of the issue.

Gethin Bryce now finds himself at the forefront of an investigation into a Lunar explosion and the destruction of the shuttle on which he was a passenger.  Not just to find those responsible, but the reasons for their violence.

It takes time to acclimate to the world the author has built in this novel.  Take Mars, for example...

"Mars, where the cities crawled with screaming toddlers or wide-eyed pubescents.  The younger generation was already… changing, too.  Martian gravity encouraged a beanpole look, with legs like stilts and long, swinging arms, graceful necks, torsos stretched like a troop of gingerbread men pinched at the waist to achieve an elongated look. Funhouse mirror people."

Although Ten Thousand Thunders requires a rather generous willingness to suspend disbelief, it more than makes up for it in story.  If anything, the work suffers from too much story.  At times I found myself having to reread portions of the book to get a better grip on what was going on.

Majestic in scope, Ten Thousand Thunders is an elaborate look at a future somewhere between utopia and dystopia.  But wait, there's more, Brian Trent is already at work on a sequel.  Despite the challenges in reading a book so massive in scope, I'll be back.

Recommended.

Published by Flame Tree Press, Ten Thousand Thunders is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and Audible formats.

From the author's bio - Brian Trent's speculative fiction appears regularly in the world's top markets, including Analog, Fantasy & Science Fiction, COSMOS, Nature, Galaxy's Edge, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, Terraform, Escape Pod, Pseudopod, The Year's Best Military and Adventure Sci-Fi, The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk, The Cackle of Cthulhu, Flame Tree's Gothic Series, and much more.

The author of the novels Ten Thousand Thunders (hard SF) and the fantasy/historical series Rahotep and its sequel The God and the Gate, Trent is also a Writers of the Future winner and Baen Fantasy Award finalist. Trent lives in New England.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Review: The Blade This Time - by Jon Bassoff

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

I recently discovered Down and Out Books has rescued the Jon Bassoff books which had been published by the now-defunct Darkfuse publishers, meaning The Incurables, The Disassembled man, Corrosion, and The Blade This Time, are all back in print.

Somehow, I never got around to reading The Blade This Time.  That oversight has now been corrected.

I am a sucker for a good opening to a story.  Take note...

"The world above was poisoned, maybe dead, and now I staggered through the abandoned tunnels, eyes adjusted to the darkness, ears pricked to the distant sound of a subway echoing against rubbled concrete.  Rats scurried along the broken tracks, gnawing greedily at the scattered garbage and each other’s tails.  Occasionally I felt one crawl beneath my jeans, slender teeth pressing against my skin, and I cursed and slapped it away."

Early on, I had no idea where the story was going, but it hardly mattered, the writing was marvelous and totally captivating.  Filled with amazing images and wonderful prose...

"...fire escapes crawling up the building like spiders."

Jon writes immersive, wildly imaginative tales, here with a stream of consciousness style...

"...the irrational thought didn’t scare me. I knew that a vicious death was exactly what I needed. Because only when we suffer, only when we scream, only when we die, are we truly enlightened. The solitary truth in this world is horror."

You'll notice, I didn't go into any detail about the story itself, no synopsis.  The reason for that is The Blade This Time is all about discovery.  I'd just like to say, it's worth reading, as are all of Jon Bassoff's books.

Published by Down and Out Books, The Blade This Time is available in paperback and e-book formats.

Jon Bassoff was born in 1974 in New York City and currently lives in a ghost town somewhere in Colorado.  He was called the “king of creepy crime-horror fiction” by Tom Piccirilli, a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award.  His debut novel, Corrosion, won the DarkFuse Readers’ Choice Award for best novel, and two of his novels, Corrosion and The Disassembled Man, have been adapted for the big screen. The Blade This Time is his fifth novel.