Writer of Horror Fiction

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Review of Craig Jones’ “Son of Blood (The Secret of Skerries)”

Son of Blood (The Secret of Skerries) introduces the reader to Martin and his son, who live off the coast of Ireland on a small island with an ancient castle.  The island sits across from the quaint town of Skerries, where the local town folk know of the man and his teenage son, as well as their secret.  Martin has committed himself as protector over the town and is friends with the town’s mayor, who has gained power and wealth due to Martin’s steadfast loyalty and unique talents of keeping undesirables out.

Martin is a vampire.  His son is one too, although he has not fed on the living, and Martin hopes that Christian will never do so.  More than anything, Martin wants to protect his son and has kept him from interacting with the townspeople throughout his life, but much like his father, Christian has fallen for a pretty girl from the town and wants to be more than just the mysterious freak who lives on the island across the way.  The fact that the girl he is interested in is the mayor’s daughter who has friends who despise Christian and his father poses a serious threat him and his father’s peaceful relationship with the town.

Son of Blood could be deemed a young adult paranormal romance with a healthy horror twist to it.  I’ve read some of the author’s other works and he doesn’t shy away from the gore, giving his vamps not only a desire for blood, but flesh as well.  These vamps are far more traditional bloodsuckers than what we have seen as of late in this genre, and Martin, for all his love for his son and desire to shelter him away from the curse that has taken him is truly a monster and a remorseless killer.  He claims to feed on only those who would not be missed, like the destitute and homeless, as if he is doing society a favor by eradicating them, but mixed in with those unfortunates are others who have loved ones who acutely feel their loss.

Martin and Christian’s relationship is by its very nature, strained, but despite the fact that Martin knows he is cursed by his affliction, his only real desire is to do everything he can to make sure Christian does not suffer that same fate.  Of course, that means keeping his away from those who his son might be tempted to feed upon.  Naturally, since Christian has grown into a teenager who has been kept isolated all his life, he is compelled to make connections with others his own age, and in particular with Sinead, the mayor’s daughter, who is as intrigued with him as he is with her.

The story moves at a brisk pace and is an easy read.  The main characters-Martin, Christian, and Sinead, are fairly well developed.  Unfortunately, some of the other minor characters are not as fleshed out.  Owen, the bullying friend of Sinead who despises Christian and thinks of him as a freak, is more or less a stereotype of most teen bullies we’ve seen in other tales, though the forces spurring him to hurt Christian offer up a bit of a twist.

Overall, this is an entertaining tale geared toward an audience who long for vampires with a bit more traditional heft and bite to them than what has been unleashed on the world over the past few years in the young adult genre.  While a teen romance drives this story, it is a far darker tale than we’ve seen and more than likely will grow darker still with future volumes.

Son of Blood (The Secret of Skerries) can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Son-Blood-Secrets-Skerries-Book-ebook/dp/B00MWCPE82/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-3&qid=1412733720


Review of Stan Timmon’s “Ammon’s Horn”

Ammon’s Horn sounds like some kind of a mythological creation and while it a term derived from Egyptian mythology, it refers to part of the hippocampus for the purposes of this tale.  It is an area of the brain that is impacted as someone is affected by the ‘noids, or a form of extreme paranoia.

The story introduces us to Danny, a police profiler in Chicago and Gemma, his star reporter fiancé as they start suspecting all is not well in the world.  Multiple reports start filing in of otherwise normal people committing sudden brutal acts of violence and then remembering little to none of them, often shortly before they commit suicide.  Digging deeper leads to a suspicion that these events aren’t just happenstance-a full moon or temporary madness, but something that is getting worse and spreading across the country, creeping from the east coast west toward California, where the President has retreated.  When Gemma reports on it, plenty of people deny its reality, thinking it more groupthink paranoia rather than some sort of brain ailment having an external cause.  She dubs the term ‘noids after a taxi driver, gripped by madness, almost runs over a pregnant woman and said he did it because he was all ‘noided out.

The story follows the initial run ins with the ‘noids that Danny and Gemma suffer through before they travel west at the urging of a mysterious government agent who knows a great deal about what is really happening and what dark secrets are behind this strange plague that has gripped the population.

Ammon’s Horn takes a very different slant on the end of the world, apocalyptic scenario, with its monsters and anyone around them not really knowing what they are; if they are infected or knowing if or when they might snap.  Someone infected with the ‘noids can wreak tremendous havoc and then not remember what happened, leading to even more mayhem when it grips them again.  This story has the flavor of a Stephen King thriller, with deeply drawn main characters that come to life on the page in vivid detail.  The acts of violence are brutal and sudden, perpetrated by people who are, to a great extent, innocent as the brain inside their heads begin to deteriorate and play vile tricks on them.  Danny and Gemma are interesting, well thought out characters, with Danny’s own paranoia at what is happening all around him keeping him guessing as to his own state of mind throughout the story.

This was a well written, intriguing tale with some very compelling twists and turns including a jaw dropping ending that forced me to re-read it more than once to make sure I understood what had just happened.  There are hints and clues throughout that will likely lead to a variant of reader’s paranoia about what is truly happening and who is to blame for the sickness that seems to have gripped everyone in its path.

Ammon’s Horn can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Ammons-Horn-Stan-Timmons/dp/161868096X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1411316061&sr=8-1


Review of Joseph Souza’s “Darpocalypse”

Darpocalypse, the second book in The Living Dead Series by Joseph Souza, jumps ahead from the prior book in time and introduces us to mostly brand new characters who did not appear in the prior novel.  Dar, the suicidal teenager, is the only one who remains.  She has become the merciless leader of the Boston Commons compound where a group of survivors live thanks to her quick thinking in urging a city engineer to fence the area in before the surge of undead swept over the city.  Gritz, a Delta Force colonel, is the lone survivor in a failed mission to stop a nuclear power plant from going critical as the undead overwhelmed the area.  He has been put on a new mission by the President to get to Boston to find the “ghost” that is in the compound and bring them back to Washington DC to save the city from annihilation.  Annabelle is a washed up rock star performing for Dar on stage in Boston to entertain the survivors, and also goes out into the dead city to gather supplies because she is immune to the infection and more importantly, is a ghost who can walk among them.  Mike Brabas is a man on death row waiting to be executed until the dead rise, and then accidentally discovers that he too is a ghost.  Now his delusions of grandeur and terroristic tendencies have him pointed toward Washington D.C. with every intention of creating a new world order with him as its leader.

Darpocalypse is a total shift from the first book in this series.  It moves from first person to third and many of the things that happened and were significant elements of the first book have been pushed aside.  No longer do any infected animals appear here, although the infected humans still go through a transformation where they appear to have transcended into some sort of state of grace momentarily, speaking about the chosen or regrets they had in life, before transforming yet again into the ravenous monsters that zombie fans know and love.  The nuclear fallout pushing south from Maine appears to have had no impact on Boston either.  Dar still has visions of heading west to find her father and the first scroll-the journal her uncle wrote that might have the scientific information to save everyone who remains, though that is secondary to her efforts to rule what remains of Boston with an iron fist.  Thom, her father and narrator from the first book, has supposedly set up camp out in Washington State with a ghost of his own, though he is not a part of this book at all.

There were few redeemable characters in the first book except for some secondary ones.  This book also provides us with its share of the despicable, but mixed among them are far more likable people, which made it easier for me to root for someone.  In the first book, I found that very hard to do.  Annabelle, the former drug addled and suicidal ghost of Boston has found life in this deadly world, with her new found talent that allows her to hunt for supplies and be Dar’s right hand helping the people of Boston.  She cares for everyone and wants nothing more than to insure the survival of the camp.  Colonel Gritz is a bit too much of a super soldier-the perfect human weapon-but he is also someone who wants to do what he can to insure both the survival of the human race and save his country from the brink of annihilation.  Of course, Brabas is a despicable sociopath through and through, but the one character who I truly despised in this story was Dar.  I loathed her in the first book and didn’t think it possible increase my aversion to her any further, but the author somehow managed to turn up her loathsomeness to an eleven.  To be fair, as I mentioned in my review of the first novel, there is nothing wrong with despicable characters.  This is no indictment to either what the author has written or the story itself.  Admittedly, Dar in her cruel and disturbing way, is doing what she believes necessary to keep the people she is responsible for safe.  But in doing so, she is far closer in personality to most villains that live in tales of apocalyptic despair than any sort of hero.  She throws anyone who defies her into a pit filled with zombies to fight for their lives, along with anyone who enters her stronghold-they must all prove they can survive against the undead.  She picks and chooses who lives, and cows anyone who even looks at her cross-eyed into complete and utter submission.  Slivers of humanity sneak through on occasion-with her young son and when she reveals her desire to keep the whole of her community safe, but that only assures the reader that she is not some sort of demon, but still a human being.  A vile, hate-filled, wretched human being who is willing to sacrifice anyone who will stand in her way, which she believes is the only way to keep others safe.  Add to this the inexplicable fact that everyone, and I do mean everyone, bows down before her in a state of awe and fear when she is clearly some sort of megalomaniac who should be put down like a rabid dog makes her an even more disconcerting character.

Darpocalypse is a solidly told story that veers closer to the traditional zompoc tale than its predecessor, though it retains a few select supernatural elements that insure it stands apart from the rest.  Yes, the author has created perhaps one of the most despicable heroes in any zompoc book I have ever read, but he has wrapped an intriguing story around her that compels me to pick up the third book to see how this wild, intriguing saga concludes.  And if I wish for Dar’s ugly, brutal demise the entire time I am reading it, so be it.

Darpocalypse can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Darpocalypse-The-Living-Dead-Volume/dp/1618680838/ref=tmm_pap_title_0


“Zombies Galore” has been released!

I shared not too long ago that a short story of mine had been sitting in limbo for years.  Originally intended for an anthology that was never published, it went through several gyrations with other potential homes and publishers.  Long story short, my self-help guide for the Apocalyptically-challenged has arrived and appears in the “Zombies Galore” anthology, just released this week by Knightwatch Press.  It appears with several other tales of zombie goodness that are definitely worth checking out for those who craving for the undead is only equaled by the undead’s craving for living flesh.  Well, and even those who aren’t quite that hungry.  My contribution is a guide book rather than a short story, though it will regale the reader with exciting bits and pieces of stories of survivors who learned how to cope with both the flesheaters and warmbloods who tend to make themselves pests during the end days.  So go on an check it out.  I have posted two cover images below, because there are separate links for the kindle and paperback versions of this book.  Just click on one or the other and it will shoot you over to Amazon where you can acquire this wondrous tome of zombie gory-goodness and guidance through the treacherous parts of the undead apocalypse.  And here is a list of the contributors so you can see what you are in for:

So give it a try.  I think you’ll come back for seconds.

Zombies Galore

Zombies Galore-Kindle Link

Zombies Galore Paperback link

Zombies Galore Paperback link


Review of Shane Gregory’s “The King of Clayfield”

The King of Clayfield introduces us to a man who is the curator of a small museum in the town of Clayfield, Kentucky the day the Canton B virus comes to town.  The virus essentially fries the brain of people affected by it, turning them into what amounts to zombies.  But unlike most zombie apocalypse tales, the author made this plague a bit more varied with the effects of infection.  It is airborne, which means that if you are near someone who is infected you can also become infected regardless of bites.  An odd way to combat the potential infection is by drinking alcohol.  It seems to prevent the virus from taking hold of your brain if you get intoxicated.  There are different stages to the infection, with those who die from it coming back and acting more like traditional zombies.  Those who are initially infected behave like they are somewhat human, with sexual urges and established pecking orders-they are primitive and violent, but definitely not undead cannibals.  Those who die behave more like the traditional undead we are more familiar with.  Getting bit doesn’t seem to insure death, though it is uncertain whether anyone who dies, regardless of the cause, returns.  It was certainly an interesting, a complex set of variables that the author introduces.

The story is told in first person and the narrator makes it clear how unprepared he is to survive during the course of the book.  In fact, it is a running theme-from the first survivor he meets to everything he goes through, it is a reminder of how little those of us used to modern conveniences know about growing food, staying warm, getting water, hunting, and defending ourselves.  He even jokes that he should collect someone who is Amish on a supply run so they can teach him how to function in a society without electricity and running water.  The narrator meets up with several other survivors in his trek through his hometown and surrounding area, including a woman he went to high school with who becomes his closest companion as they face down challenges from both the living and the undead.  They search houses, collect supplies, deal with other survivors both friend and foe, all as they are focused on sticking to Clayfield rather than trying to find another place deep in the countryside to hide out from the growing population of the infected and undead.

The characters, for the most part, seem believable.  The main character comes across as somewhat passive at first and while he is forced to toughen up, he seems to acquiesce to the wishes of Jen, his newfound friend, for most of the story.  Jen was not a very likable character.  She is territorial and pushy, and the narrator seems to accept this as a matter of course, even when she does her best to push away Sara, a younger survivor who they find and that Jen perceives as a threat to her place in their small group.  Jen is erratic and foolish at times, taking risks that are plain stupid.

The story is an easy read and again, the characters are believable-reacting in ways that are plausible given their dire circumstances.  They were a mixed bag though, and no one leaving me with the urge to root for them.  Some of the minor characters, like Brian, were interesting, but weren’t along for most of the ride.  Jen is incredibly annoying, and how the main character responds to her more annoying still, but this isn’t to say it isn’t completely plausible.  The author does an excellent job making them plausible characters, just not altogether likable.  There are two sequels, so the main character, who ranges from timid to rash in his thinking and acting may become someone who I can root for in those novels.

The King of Clayfield can be found here:  http://smile.amazon.com/King-Clayfield-Shane-Gregory-ebook/dp/B006I9GYZ2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1409105570


Review of Glenn Bullion’s “Dead Living”

Dead Living by Glenn Bullion starts out as a traditional Day Zero tale with several survivors narrowly escaping a hospital being overrun by the undead.  The story skips forward several years a couple of times to re-introduce us to the baby born on that fateful day who has grown into a young man with a special gift.  The undead, for some reason, do not realize that he is alive…or at least they have no interest in attacking or eating him.  Aaron has survived in the midst of the undead, in Baltimore, which is crawling with them, for many years after everyone he knew was lost to him.  As an adult he manages to cross paths with Samantha, another survivor who was abandoned on a supply run into the city by the rest of her team when she got separated from them.  Samantha is aloof, cold, and distrusts just about everyone, but after Aaron saves her she feels compelled to do the same for him and invites him back to the small community she resides in a good distance from the city. 

As the two new-worlders of the zombie apocalypse get to know one another they grow attached, though Aaron feels the need to maintain his secret talent from Samantha, for fear that she and the others in her community will think of him as a freak.  But his ability grants him the capability to wander freely amongst the dead, and that is a talent that his newfound group of friends are going to need to survive both the undead and the living, who, as always, are the real threat to survival. 

Dead Living was an easy read and took an interesting idea of the undead being indifferent to someone and ran with it.  Aaron’s gift gives him a tremendous advantage and his burgeoning relationship with Samantha has given him a reason to use it for more than just a way to hide away from the rest of the living, but to also help others.  The author adds another undead tidbit with the ‘thinkers’, who are the rare but very dangerous undead that can figure out simple things, like how to maneuver objects or turn doorknobs to get access to the living.  Naturally, the undead are an overriding threat (and when a thinker is around, they are doubly dangerous), but it is the living, including slavers who roam the wastelands looking for weak survivors to capture, that are the most dangerous element of Aaron and Sam’s world. 

The story does require a good deal of suspension of disbelief, especially when it comes to certain technologies that still work over two decades after the world has collapsed.  While it might be plausible that someone, somewhere is making bullets and producing gasoline, it seemed a bit of a stretch that there are still stores of such commodities still being found on scavenging runs.  It felt at times that the world was more like two to three years down the road from the first undead attacks rather than twenty three with what has come to pass for everyone still around.    

The relationship between the main characters is well developed and their newfound relationship is well paced, though Aaron’s fascination and thoughts about how beautiful Samantha was got a bit repetitive after a while.  For the most part, their growing affection for one another didn’t feel forced or uncomfortable though-it had a very natural appeal. 

The zombie gore is kept to a minimum in the story and instead the focus is on the challenges Aaron and Sam have in both relating to each other and to the world around them.  Aaron’s secret keeps things interesting, but Sam’s slow willingness to become more vulnerable around Aaron also keeps the story moving in the right direction.  Overall, a fast, entertaining read that will appeal to those who enjoy the human dynamic more than a heavy dose of zombie gore in their apocalyptic fiction. 

Dead Living can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Living-Glenn-Bullion-ebook/dp/B00B0MLXDK/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1408842194


New Zombie Anthology with yours truly in it coming soon: Zombies Galore!

Several years ago a good friend of mine over at the now defunct Library of the Living Dead Press was looking to create survival guide that would be chock full of semi-serious and totally comedic advice on surviving the zombie apocalypse.  I decided that it would be my responsibility to create a guide that would be the end all of self-help zombie slaying manuals.  So in plagaristic fashion, I decided to swipe from one of the best known self-help guides available to create my very own “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Zombie Slayers” replete with cited examples of said successful zombie slayers personal tales of victory over the undead.  This wasn’t so much a short story as a down and dirty guide to not only zombie slaughter, but how to live high on the hog during the apocalypse.

Unfortunately, the tome that this wondrous guide was supposed to be a part of never was published and as such my guide book sat dormant for several years.  Then some other good friends of mine who had published “Zombies Gone Wild” (which one of my shorts of a more comical sort appeared in entitled “What’s Eating You?” about zombies with eating disorders) wanted to create a follow up to that delightful little anthology.  Unfortunately, that particular antho was shelved as well, leading me to believe that fate, or some giant zombie loving super being was doing their super mightiest to prevent my guide from ever seeing the light of day.

But fear not!  “Zombies Gone Wild, Part 2” has been transformed into “Zombies Galore” and is being published by Nightwatch Press.  In fact, it is getting a big unveiling on August 30th.  Now I can’t attend this unveiling, but rest assured that I will be sharing more information on where you can find this delightful book that will be filled with my helpful guide as well as many other exciting tales of zombie gore and glamour.  So stay tuned.  But for now, check out this announcement to whet your appetite:   http://exlibrislarsen.com/2014/08/20/zombies-galore-anthology-launch-set-for-august-30-in-walsall/


Review of Matheus Macedo’s “We With Daisies Lie”

We With Daisies Lie is a short story/novella about one man’s journey during the first few days and months of the zombie apocalypse.  Told in first person, it sticks with tradition, bringing nothing new to the table as far as the undead are concerned.  Whether you get bit or not, when you die you turn and the undead are slow moving.  The main character meets up almost immediately after the dead start to turn with a group of three younger kids led by a bully.  They search for places to survive and they overcome several incidents with the dead while dealing with turmoil within the group.  The living continue to be a major threat later in the story as the character grows stronger and more equipped to handle himself with the undead.  With new friends in tow, he tries to lead them to his grandparent’s farm and the fallout shelter they had made during the cold war, which is filled with enough supplies to last them several months.

The author makes a solid attempt at developing his small group of characters, though the length of this tale does limit most of them from being more than archetypes.  The main character and Emily, the girl he grows attached to, are the most fleshed out.  There were some good components to this tale, including the brief conversation the main character has with an ex-girlfriend on the phone after things go haywire.  She is surrounded by the undead in her sky rise apartment in New York City with no way to escape.  The blunt suggestion the main character makes was startling but at the same time made all the sense in the world.  Emily’s work on a poem was a nice touch as well.  There was also something that stretched believability related to an incident surrounding a stab wound to the gut.  I won’t provide further details, but suffice it to say it was a stretch buying what happens.  Otherwise, the story is a pretty straightforward analysis of how people cope with unbelievably horrible circumstances and what they must become to survive.  There were some typos and missed words here and there-the story could have done with another editing run through, but overall, it is a quick read with definite entertainment value.  The author shows solid promise here and I look forward to checking out his other works.

We With Daisies Lie can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/We-Daisies-Lie-Matheus-Macedo-ebook/dp/B00M4M32IY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408377720&sr=8-1&keywords=we+with+daisies+lie


Review of Stephen Kozeniewski’s “Billy and the Cloneasaurus”

 Billy and the Clonesaurus tells the tale of William 790-6, a clone who lives in a town filled with other William clones, in a world filled with even more William clones.  As with every other William clone, he is to be slurried, or decommissioned, on his first birthday, and replaced by the next iteration.  When an accident happens at the slurrying plant with William 789 and 790 is given another day to live, he spends it with his replacement and starts to resent the idea of his imminent departure.  Happenstance allows him to once again escape being decommissioned when his new iteration is tossed into the ‘whirling blades of death’ that are used to slurry clones instead of him and he is free to live for another year.  But Will, as he and every other clone call each other, finds himself a bit more curious than the average Will about the world surrounding him and the reasons every other Will does what they do for the corporation that controls everything.  790 sells dental insurance, and every other Will does everything necessary to make life possible for everyone else in town.  There are Wills who pick up the trash, there are Wills who run the gas stations, etc.  They hang out in their off hours drinking the same beer in the same pubs, watching the same Rugby games every weekend.  They are all the same level of docile worker doing whatever needs to be done to make the company profitable, and they have no reason to question why there are no animals and no one else left on the planet but other Wills, like themselves.  But 790 is starting to get curious, and after hearing another Will talk about a delivery run to another town and spotting something off in the distance on the side of the road that looks like a windmill, he feels the urge to check out this anomaly and see what is going on beyond his guarded, safe existence.  This leads 790 on a journey of self-discovery-learning why clones exist, why it appears that the exact same events are reported on at the same time every year, and what might have come before they came into existence.

Billy and the Clonesaurus is a dark comedy that tasted a bit like the movie Brazil in its own demented way.  It is grim future that 790 lives in, and as William 790 starts to call himself Billy as a form of minor rebellion against the status quo, he begins to realize the depths of the mystery surrounding him and the rest of the Wills of the world, or so he believes.  Escaping the town he lives in is only the beginning.  Beyond that, he has several shocking revelations and dreams of something better…something approaching freedom, not only for himself, but for every other William. 

While it may be hard not to laugh at the idea of such an obscene world, the thoughts of something like this occurring are also cringe-worthy and provide for good nightmare fuel.  As more layers of the deceit that have been heaped on 790 and the rest of the clones are peeled back, there are plenty of reasons to feel both revulsion and depression, because while the world that Billy lives in is filled with clones, the depths of the depravity he faces is very much a human characteristic. 

I’ve read the authors other works, both of which dealt with the undead.  While this story shares little with those other books, it has the same razor sharp edges to it that don’t show very much remorse when you get cut by them.  This is a trip into the Twilight Zone with a nod to the Simpsons with the story’s title.  It’s probably not a tale easily digested by everyone, but one worth checking out if you like your futures grim, dark, and yet surreal and just a tad bit looney. 

 Billy and the Clonesaurus can be found here:    http://www.amazon.com/Billy-And-Cloneasaurus-Stephen-Kozeniewski/dp/192504789X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0


Review of Jack Icefloe Jackson’s “Romance For Men: Pandora’s Box”

Romance For Men: Pandora’s Box introduces the reader to the author and main character, Jack Icefloe Jackson, who is, without a doubt, one of the most vile, depraved, wretched human beings ever to exist on this planet.  He is also irremediably raunchy, sleazy, and worse than the worse excrement to ever walk upright.  With that said, this story of his exploits is satire at its most debase and hilarious.  Not meant for the squeamish or anyone with taste, this book explores Jack’s adventures as a newly assigned agent for the United States Government responsible for saving the world.  You see, Jack has a unique set of skills that no man has ever had in the history of the universe.  Jack is short, fat, bald, and gross.  He also has a penchant for throwing dynamite at anyone who annoys him.  All this plus the fact that he treats every woman as nothing better than a resting place for one of his, uh, appendages, makes him scum.  But his seemingly unnatural talents makes him the one person who can unlock the code to Pandora’s Box, which threatens to destroy the world if left unsatisfied.

Yep, I managed to avoid actually saying anything too offensive in the above paragraph that is even remotely on par with the graphic nature of this book.  So let me be clear.  This book is sick, disgusting, and with the right frame of mind, hilarious.  Jack is a parody of a parody of the concept of men as pigs.  This is satire mixed with sarcasm mushed together with huge dollops of parody.  Read it with this in mind and you may survive the reading, though chances are you won’t make it out unscarred.  You might go blind too, or at the very least suffer from a rash that even the strongest penicillin won’t be able to get rid of.  

This is a quick read, laugh out loud funny, although you will probably be far too embarrassed to do so anywhere near anyone of the female persuasion.  Letting a woman you love or even remotely care about know you are reading this book might get you banished from nooky-land for the rest of eternity.  So my friends, tread carefully when you read this tome of wondrous knowledge.  Oh, and make sure you wash your hands after you do so, because you are gonna feel dirty after touching this book…even if you get it on the kindle.  You may have to sterilize the device to get it to work again properly.

Romance For Men: Pandora’s Box can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Romance-For-Men-Pandoras-Volume/dp/0990381315/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1407946592&sr=8-1


Review of Jonathan Moon’s “Hollow Mountain Dead”

Hollow Mountain Dead is not Jonathan Moon’s first foray into the cross-genre mix of western and undead fiction, though I believe it is his first full-fledged novel on the subject.  He had a book filled with varied short stories along with a novella that took place in the old west that was a rollicking good horror story, but I can’t quite recall what the name of that book was, though I am certain I reviewed it somewhere back in the mists of time.

Mr. Moon has created quite a few different horror tales as well as dipping into bizzarro and other speculative genres.  This story, along with his past story that takes place in the mythical American old west, have a taste of harsh reality to them.  The darkness isn’t just within the monsters that pour forth from the gaping hole in the side of a mountain, it is embedded in most of the characters we are exposed to-even in the ones who do their best to become heroic when hell comes for a visit.  Only a select few seem redeemable here, though it is clear that most are as human as their harsh environment allows them to be.

A greedy, powerful mining magnate has cracked open a mountain with his crew of toughs and army of Chinese immigrant workers who are treated like slaves.  When he digs too deep, an old Indian warns him to stop and turn back, but greed casts a powerful spell on him and that is when, literally, all hell breaks loose.  A seeping gas bellowing out from seams within the earth turn those who are exposed to it into flesh eating monsters.  But this is not the only menace, because there is something further beneath the earth that is reaching out to those on the mountain, corrupting and luring them into evil.

The undead spread, wiping out a homestead and heading toward one of the two towns that sit on the mountainside while the few who managed to escape wave after wave of undead flee the mining camp.  Members of the Madoosk tribe have been tasked with stopping the evil have been preparing for it for ages and are ready for it, but they never expected hundreds of miners would get infected or that the plague with spread so fast.

The story moves at a fast pace and there are a multitude of characters.  While there are some flashbacks, much of the story is told with the urgency of present tense.  The undead are somewhat traditional in their tactics and how they spread, though the supernatural bent here brings some new elements to the table, including new ways to kill the undead that the Madoosk reveal.

As I mentioned, there are a great many characters on display, though that narrows to the select few who are tasked with defeating the undead after the first few waves of carnage pass.  There is plenty of gore for those who love that aspect of the zombie genre.  The feel of the old west is palpable on each page.  Many characters die, both throwaway and those more central to the plot, most in very brutal ways.  Again, there probably only a select few characters that most people will like or identify with because of who they were prior to the undead invasion, though a small few will grow on you.  Historically, Mr. Moon has been pretty relentless with his horror fiction, with no apologies for the slaughter and sprays of blood and gristle that oozes and spills forth from his pages.  This book is no exception to that rule.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.

In the end, a door is left open for more Hollow Mountain Dead with the ending of this tale.  This book was brutal, relentless, and vicious, and I am looking forward to checking out what comes next.

Hollow Mountain Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Mountain-Dead-Jonathan-Moon-ebook/dp/B00LLPU8YG/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1407427523


Review of Dean Giles “Alien Apocalypse Payback”

Alien Apocalypse: Payback concludes the three short story/novella arc of the Alien Apocalypse serial.  Leon Weber has faced down the alien enemy and figured out its weakness, has saved his son and discovered that not all of the alien’s offspring are inherently evil.  With a desperate plan in mind, he wants to defeat the alien once and for all, or die trying.

Like the other installments in this tale, the odds are stacked against the slim bits of humanity that still remain, especially as the alien entity continues to evolve and works at creating genetic mutations to do its bidding and find the few humans remaining so it can feed.  But Leon has discovered one of its very few weaknesses and has a slim chance to exploit it.

This was a satisfying series.  The author has created a rollicking science fiction tale that is dark and filled with despair and yet could easily be translated into a good old fashion alien invasion movie for the masses.  It was a fun and easy read and I would recommend checking out all three installments since all three are fairly cheap on the kindle and are a fun, if quick, ride.

Alien Apocalypse: Payback can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Alien-Apocalypse-Payback-Dean-Giles-ebook/dp/B00LBEQ7EW/ref=la_B005AQTGUY_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406760050&sr=1-9


Review of Lee Brait’s “Oil To Ashes 1: Picnic”

Oil To Ashes 1: Picnic is a short story that I picked up free for the kindle.  Set in the not-so-distant future, we are introduced to Linc Freemore, who works for a company dedicated to the war effort.  A war that appears to be occurring between the United States (or perhaps, more generically, the “West”) and the oil rich countries of the Middle East.  The U.S. is actually being bombed in this war and gas has reached around $10 a gallon.  Linc is just trying to finish a project so he can get a day off, but his day starts off dealing with some gang violence and saving some school children who are almost ran over by a runaway car that was shot up.  Gangs have grown more courageous and willing to assault just about anyone, and later that same day Linc discovers that first hand when he comes to the rescue of a girl on a rural road who is being chased on foot by another biker gang.  Linc’s cowardly coworker flees, forcing him to take action and improvise ways to keep the girl safe and to stay alive.

The story is short, sweet, and to the point.  Better yet, it was a free introduction to the Linc Freemore saga and it appears that the second short story is also available via the kindle.

This short tale was a fun introduction that can somewhat stand on its own, though the author made sure to give you reason to want to check out what is next.  Linc is probably more than what he appears to be given his willingness to jump into a fight and become the hero.  A simple corporate schmo he is not.  The bits and pieces of the near-apocalyptic world the author has created is interesting and fairly plausible, which in some ways makes this story somewhat tantalizing.  A precursor to the world of Mad Max and company, where fuel is rapidly disappearing along with civility, law, and order?  Perhaps.

Oil To Ashes 1: Picnic can still be (at this time) picked up for free at http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Ashes-Freemore-Apocalyptic-Science-ebook/dp/B00F6KB7I8/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406757781&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=oilt+to+ashes


Review of Stephen North’s “Dead Tide Surge”

Dead Tide Surge is the third book in Stephen North’s Dead Tide Series, and I have previously reviewed the other two installments, Dead Tide, and Dead Tide Rising.  I read both prior to their re-release by Permuted Press and so I do not know for certain if there were significant changes, specifically a transition from present to past tense being used by the author.  This is the first of this series that I have read that was not in present tense.  While the transition didn’t change the story or impact the characters or dialog, the immediacy felt with present tense falls away a bit here.  That isn’t meant as a criticism.  The majority of stories are written in past tense for a reason and there is value to crafting a tale in that format.  Most people find it less jarring and more aesthetically pleasing.  While this may be true, I can say that the present tense versions of the first two books in this series were more than satisfactory for me-the pacing was fast and the short chapters that shuffle the reader from one character to the next was abrupt, but in a good way for someone who enjoys a bit of disruptive force being used in the stories they read.  Despite the tense change, the short, sharp chapters remain.  Reading the Dead Tide series is like getting shot at by an automatic weapon, with perhaps a dozen different story lines crashing against one another and keeps the reader on their toes.  Certainly not a style that everyone enjoys, but it has allowed the author to manage the experiences of an ensemble cast scattered around the Tampa Bay area who are all dealing with the onslaught of the undead and it keeps them all top of mind as they appear on the pages with great frequency.

Dead Tide Surge starts up as abruptly as its predecessor left off, so if it has been a while since you read Dead Tide Rising, it may take a few chapters to catch on to where each character, or groups of characters, ended up by the end of book two.  But it has been nearly four years since I read the prior installment in this series and was still able to recall the bulk of what the characters who have survived to this point have been through.  My only hope is that I don’t have to wait several more years for the next installment.  Originally, I presumed this would be a trilogy, and at some points in this book it appeared as though some of the many story lines were drawing to a conclusion.  The author did a good job of adding enough surprises so that while some characters meet their demise, others have plenty of reason to go on fighting to survive through at least one more book.  Some of the many strands of this very complex web do cross paths and I could believe that the fourth book could be the final stand of this series, though who is to say?  Plenty of the characters have not interacted with one another as of yet.  The author will have to determine if everyone will be together on the same page before all is said and done.  My gut tells me Mr. North isn’t quite sure himself how things will end up-will there be hope or will it all end in blood and despair?

With all the tightly interwoven plot elements here, reading the first two books is pretty much mandatory to understand what is going on here in book 3.  And if you enjoy tales of zombie gore and violence that is character driven (driven by a large cast of characters, that is) then it is worth picking up the trilogy.

Dead Tide Surge can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Tide-Surge-Book-3-ebook/dp/B00KPKGCFC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1406668944


Review of Shana Festa’s “Time of Death: Induction”

Time of Death: Induction introduces the reader to Emma Rossi, a nursing student living in southwest Florida when the zombie apocalypse begins.  While the prologue is told in third person and gives a hint as to who patient zero might be, the rest of the tale is told in first person from Emma’s perspective.  She works at the hospital that is first hit by the advent of the dead rising, but her shift ends before things get crazy.  Still, through the combination of a violent storm and the fast spread of the virus things crash down all around her at home, with her husband Jake and their little dog Daphne fleeing for their lives as their home is overwhelmed by the walking dead.

After a series of narrow escapes, Emma and Jake manage to hook up with a group of soldiers who have claimed a Target superstore as their barricaded base of operations.  But it is clear that while the location appears to be secure they are far from safe as the world around them crumbles in the blink of an eye.  When Jake disappears on a supply mission and things start to fall apart at the store, Emma is forced to race through one harrowing and tragic event after another.

While Time of Death: Induction doesn’t introduce any new elements to the zombie genre-the zeds here are slow moving, traditional Romero zombies and not the ‘infected’ or have any differing abilities, the author has created a solid, fast moving story of personal survival.  There is plenty of gore and death, and the addition of the little dog the main character wants to keep sheltered and protected will add a sense of impending dread for anyone who is an animal lover, since Daphne seems to get herself into more sticky situations than the main character.

The pacing of the story is fast, with the main character and various other survivors she is with dealing with one traumatic event after another as the body count continues to rise and hope becomes fleeting.  The writing is smooth with no significant editing concerns.  The author provides Emma with a strong voice-she is easy to identify with and appreciate as a regular person thrown into an untenable situation where she is forced to make one difficult decision time after time.  The story is heavy on the undead being the main challenge for the survivors rather than human confrontations, with the exception of a rather brief but intense interaction with some desperate outsiders to Emma’s group.  Beyond this, there are some arguments but they take a back seat to basic day to day and minute by minute survival against the undead.  While Emma and Jake are fleshed out characters, the secondary players were less detailed, which is often a challenge faced when a story is told in first person.  We don’t get to know many of the other characters too well before many are obliterated in the apocalypse.  This isn’t a stiff criticism but more of an acknowledgement that this is Emma’s tale and the story sticks closely with her worldview and perspective throughout.

This is the author’s first novel and this appears to be the first of a series or trilogy.  Shanna Festa has created an exciting, enjoyable tale of desperation and survival, and I look forward to checking out the second book when it becomes available.

Time of Death: Induction can be found here:      http://www.amazon.com/Time-Death-Induction-Volume-1/dp/1618682725/ref=tmm_pap_title_0


Review of Patrick Rutigliano’s “Surviving The Crash”

Surviving the Crash is a series of three novellas set in an alternate universe where the stock market crash of 1929 adds the additional horrific feature of the world also crashing into darkness.  Strange, alien creatures out of nightmare have come to earth and rule the night, devouring those who are foolish or unfortunate enough to be caught out after the sun goes down.  Hiding in the bowels of the buildings that have survived the destruction of these monsters isn’t enough to keep them at bay-they hunt by night and set traps to lure the living into darkness by day.

George is a man ready to end it all.  He’s barely hanging on, and about to jump off the ledge of a building he wanders into when he meets up with Francis.  Tough and defying all feminine stereotypes, Francis is a woman who is called upon by the local mobsters, who now rule New York City, when they need a dirty job done.  Francis calls George’s bluff on killing himself and gives him a place to crash while he sorts himself out.  George, who is a World War I vet, knows how to handle himself but he’s never met anyone quite like Francis.  And when she is called upon by the biggest crime boss in town to do another job, George decides to partner up with her.  Their assigned task is to begin the process of killing the monsters that rule the city with a little help from some of the mobster’s goons.  It’s an impossible job-a suicide mission-but is right up Francis’s alley.  Especially since she has no reason to trust the man she’s working for and suspects he has reasons beyond the desire to protect the city and those who still live in it.

Surviving the Crash is essentially one novel broken into three distinct, chronological chapters.  Francis is the tough as nails heroine-tougher than any of her male counterparts by far, which could have come off as contrived if it weren’t for the fact that the author does such a good job of making her a both believable and thoroughly likable badass character.  She is human and shows occasional vulnerability that George can see, though no one else does.  He is her confidant. To everyone else, including the creatures which hunt and terrorize the human race, she is something to be feared.

Each tale takes things up a notch, transforming this story from becoming a run of the mill apocalyptic tale with some unique monsters to fear to something far more exciting and suspenseful.  There is a bigger picture, and Francis and George will find out what part they play in the last stand humanity may ever make.  The author does a good job of developing his characters, allowing Francis and George to grow and change thanks in part to their relationship and their interactions with the people and creatures of the dark world in which they live.  I believe the author could have crafted multiple tales that somewhat mirrored the first novella-a series of serialized adventure tales-giving us more of the same.  That might have been fun.  Instead, he chose to increase the tension and the profound significance of Francis’s journey, which culminates in a very dark and enjoyable ride straight into the depths of hell.

Surviving the Crash is both an entertaining adventure tale and a chilling horror saga.  I loved the characters and feared for them.  The world they live in is dark, dank place filled with plenty of reasons to give up hope and despair.  But with a heroine like Francis on our side, it seems clear that there is always reason to hope.

Surviving The Crash can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Crash-Patrick-Rutigliano-ebook/dp/B00KWPO5CC/ref=la_B006WSAVUS_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403213430&sr=1-13


Review of Brian Moreland’s “The Vagrants”

The Vagrants is the latest work from Brian Moreland, an author who I have come to rely on to create tales of creeping horror and gore that also has intelligence about them.  His work is well researched for a taste of authenticity and despite the supernatural phenomena that occurs on the pages, there is a sense of believability to his characters.  The Vagrants has a similar flavor to it and the author has once again chosen to introduce us to a new geographical environment-this time the urban sprawl of Boston, where the crosshairs are on the homeless.

Daniel Finley is a journalist who has decided to spend several months living amongst the homeless population of the city, behaving as one of them to see what it is really like and to craft a novel that will expose the hidden plight they suffer through.  At first, his experiences are normal, as far as being homeless goes-he lives under an overpass among a group of people with a variety of tragic tales-some of which are junkies and dangerous, though most are simply down on their luck people who still have hope that they can turn things around.  But then a traveling self-proclaimed ‘prophet’ comes to the underpass with his zombie-like followers and starts converting the homeless to his cause.  He speaks of the end of days and the destruction of those who do not serve his dark gods.  Daniel is almost pulled into the hypnotic tribe of his followers but manages to escape Mordecai’s clutches.

The novel he writes is a success but it seems that everything Daniel looks as he resumes his normal life off the streets, he sees Mordecai’s followers, calling for him to join them.  That, along with the disappearance of a professor who is as intrigued by the homeless as Daniel and several other strange events occurring in his life lead to a confrontation with Mordecai, with gruesome results.

This is a shorter work than the rest of the tales the author has produced (except for a short story that introduced The Witching House) and perhaps that was why I was left wishing for something more.  The supernatural element here is creepy, as the author tends to do extremely well, though it is a bit more clipped and mysterious-there is little in the way of a the ‘big reveal’ we’ve been treated to in the past.  Still, the story has the same dark, gritty, razors edge flavor that Mr. Moreland’s larger works have, and leaves room for a more detailed tale down the road.  For fans of his work, it will entertain like all the rest.

The Vagrants can be found here:   http://www.amazon.com/Vagrants-Brian-Moreland-ebook/dp/B00K1WUCIC/ref=la_B002BM3020_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403149249&sr=1-5


Review of Nathan Robinson’s “Ketchup on Everything”

Ketchup on Everything is a bit of a surprise of a novella.  I went into it not knowing anything about the story except for the brief blurb of a description, and came out of it with some mixed emotions.  It begins innocently enough, with a man traveling the countryside in his RV stopping at a roadside diner to grab a cup of coffee.  He seems to be talking to his wife in the vehicle before he steps inside, but it is a one-sided conversation that leaves the reader puzzled as to whether she is there or not.  Elliott seems like an affable, pleasant man, though there is a sadness about him that is only hinted at during the introduction to this tale.

Through flashback, we discover that Elliott’s young son disappeared years before.  He was playing in the family’s garden and all the sudden was gone.  The author makes the process of facing first the horror and dread of this experience quite vivid and real-especially for someone who has children and cannot escape the fear that your child could go missing.  From there it becomes a helpless, mind-numbing agony of frustration the more time passes without knowing what has happened.   The idea of an innocent child that you love more than life itself vanishing without a trace is something hard, if not impossible, for most of us to fathom.  Nathan Robinson allows the reader to ride along with both Elliott and his wife, who take too different roads in coping with the loss of their son, for the years of torture they suffer through.

By the time we return to the present, past the flashbacks, the sense of having lived in Elliott’s shoes makes what happens next all the more intriguing, though perhaps not as intense as the first part of the story where there is both pain and an undeniable hope that somehow, their lost boy will be found.  This is not a criticism of how the story comes to completion, just a tribute to the writing that leads up to that part of the story, which adds an interesting twist on Elliott’s sad and tragic tale.

Ketchup on Everything can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Ketchup-Everything-Nathan-Robinson-ebook/dp/B00JANUJXQ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1403144275


Review of Rebecca Besser’s “Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death”

Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death is a compendium of grim short stories, each with their own interpretation of the title of this work.  No one is safe here, with a rogue’s gallery of villains that range from the tragic to the demonic that all lust for blood, flesh, and the demise of all who cross their paths.

I read the paperback version of the book, which note that there are 4 bonus tales vs. the electronic version.  I will provide a brief synopsis of each tale without providing any spoilers.

Deadly Mistakes tells the tragic tale of a man out for revenge after a clerical error at a law office that lets a murdering monster free to slaughter his wife.

Turn of Events turns the tables on the traditional sad tale of domestic violence.

Stalkers Beware provides some new ideas of how to deal with all those pesky groupies if you are a rock star.

Hope of a Future takes a look at a bleak apocalyptic future where hoping for even the most simple things can make things even more grim.

Game Gone Wrong mixes science fiction with the very prevalent fear of the government watching your every move, and doing whatever it takes to find out what you know.

Mystery Meat is a simple tale of a meat packing facility trying to find out where several bins of prime cuts of meat came from that no one knows about…with morbid results.

Father’s Revenge is a succinct, blunt tale of a father’s revenge when his wife betrays him, as seen through the eyes of his daughter.

Innocent Blood starts out much like the previous tale, but with the desire for revenge going dreadfully wrong.

On Account of Bacon speaks of how unspeakable tragedies can occur for the most innocuous reasons…or in this case, thanks to a delicious breakfast meat.

Evil Mountain asks the question ‘what do you get when a werewolf, vampire, witch, zombie, and dragon walk into a poor, innocent villager’s hut?’  Nothing pleasant, I can tell you that much.

The Heart of Heroism tells the tragic tale of Billy Jack, a mentally handicapped man-child who simply wants to be a superhero and gets his chance when the zombie apocalypse starts up in the tenement he lives in with his overbearing father.

Historical Significance is a traditional ghost tale with a demonic twist.

Memories starts out asking the question ‘Have you ever heard a rabbit scream?’ and goes deeper down the rabbit hole from there.

Overall, this set of macabre tales are solidly written, though some are stronger and more compelling than others.  Each share a very fatalistic perspective, though they range from the gore splattered to the sinister.  Hope of a Future, Innocent Blood, Evil Mountain, and The Heart of Heroism were my favorites of the lot, while a couple of the very short tales didn’t do it for me, like Turn of Events and Father’s Revenge.  When the author works with more than a page or two, she is able to craft characters that are real, vivid, and accessible.

Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Pathways-Murder-Rebecca-Besser/dp/0615858163/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1401418967&sr=8-2&keywords=twisted+pathways+of+murder+%26+death (paperback) and here: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Pathways-Murder-Rebecca-Besser-ebook/dp/B00E1LPQZS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401418967&sr=8-1&keywords=twisted+pathways+of+murder+%26+death (kindle).


Review of Rachel Aukes’ “Deadland’s Harvest”

Deadland’s Harvest starts off where 100 Days In Deadland left off, with Cash and company doing their best to survive in the wooded park where they have taken up residence.  This after the mayhem that closed out the first book and wiped out Camp Fox, the National Guard base where most survivors in the area had migrated to after the dead rose.  Clutch is still alive, but working on learning how to walk again after the injuries he suffered in the mayhem at the end of 100DiD.  The survivors are fewer, but the human dangers from the first book are no more, making the undead once again their main concern.

On a mission to save a group of refugees stuck in a building surrounded by zeds, Cash and Clutch discover that there are hordes of the undead roaming the countryside, moving south toward their current safe haven.  After flying a surveillance mission it becomes clear to Cash that these hordes are massive, with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of the undead in them and they are wiping out everything in their path.  Nothing remains except rubble and desolation.  And soon they will trample the park and anyone who remains there.

The survivors make a decision to seek the assistance of a riverboat captain, who has taken on other survivors on his boat that floats on the Mississippi river, out of clutching grasp of the zeds.  This leads to new complications and more human conflicts as the two groups struggle to coexist with one another while at the same time the hordes continue to advance on their position.

Deadland’s Harvest maintains the fast pace of its predecessor and the narration has a natural flow and feel to it.  While Cash has become a seasoned survivor who has been hardened by the trauma she faced in the first book, she has formed a family bond with Clutch and Jace, and will do anything to keep them safe.  While this story is told in first person, the author manages to continue to let the secondary characters tell their own tale and grow as the story progresses.  Avoiding many of the pitfalls that challenge the middle book in a trilogy, Deadland’s Harvest does a solid job of standing on its own, though with an intriguing promise of what is to come in the final act in this three part saga.

Kudos to the author for using the idea of massive hordes of the undead moving and migrating together, like other creatures who are avoiding the cold of winter.  I do wish there was greater detail on the hordes shared, as the concept was an intriguing one.  Also intriguing is the theme the author has carried over from the first book, which is to use Dante Aligheri’s works to set the stage for her story.  100DiD traversed the nine circles of hell while DH examines the seven deadly sins.  The final book promised to explore the seven virtues.  The reader need not know anything further about Dante to appreciate the story, just the fact that this is a solid zombie action tale.

Deadland’s Harvest can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Deadlands-Harvest-Deadland-Saga-Volume/dp/0989901815/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1400809307&sr=8-1


Review of Steven Pajak’s “Mad Swine: Dead Winter”

Mad Swine: Dead Winter does not pick up where Mad Swine: The Beginning left off.  In fact, this sequel provides a review of the events that happen directly after the abrupt ending of the first book with a relatively quick synopsis by the main character more than a couple of months later.  I stated in my review of the first book that it cut off abruptly with a cliff hanger ending that left me very curious as to what would happen next.  Unfortunately, the focal point on this story does not start out with, or even focus on, the war between the neighborhoods, only its aftermath, which makes me puzzle over whether the author wrote about the battles that occurred and either he or someone in his circle of advisors suggested he cut it and focus on the long term survival of the community that the main character, Matt Danzig, is leading through the apocalypse.  I would have liked to have read the story of the actual battle for Randall Oaks.

This criticism does not mean that the actual story that the author wrote here doesn’t have its own positive qualities.  In and of itself, the tale told here is solid, and in fact some elements of this book work better than the first.  The lack of ammunition and the desire to stay quiet and not draw the attention of the infected leave the survivors with more challenges and less ability to utilize the arsenal that the main character and narrator had at his disposal in MS:TB.  This makes for a more pure and raw survival story of average suburban folks vs. more of an armed military camp scenario that there was a taste of in book one.  Matt’s personal relationships are explored with more depth and there is a bit of romance thrown in as well for him after the trauma of losing his wife and children in the first book.  He is, understandably, reluctant, but the sense that everything could fall apart at any minutes does pervade his and everyone else’s reality in Randall Oaks.  The struggles with the bitter cold of winter and diminishing supplies are the main nemesis for the citizens of the community, with the infected playing a close second.  The competing neighborhoods are no longer a factor in this tale, but the urgency to figure out how to make it to spring without freezing or starving is crucial.  The infected, which were explained to not be the undead in the first book, continue to have all the traits of the undead in this one.  Where they slept in the first book like regular humans, they seemed to have moved past that stage here, where the virus or plague has further transformed them.  Another interesting and threatening aspect of their existence is revealed that seemed quite creative.  The theory that the undead will freeze in bitter cold comes somewhat into play, with the undead going dormant in the cold, but even more interestingly, when they get buried under snow they will still become alert when a living human presence is nearby, which makes for some very interesting ambush scenarios.

Overall, I think the author’s story telling skills have grown with this sequel, though I can’t deny my disappointment that I was not treated to the battle of the neighborhoods that the first book appeared to promise was on the horizon.  As a standalone, this tale definitely has its merits, and its focus on Matt more as a man struggling to lead people against nature and inhuman monsters is compelling, though it serves, like so many second books in a trilogy, as a transition between the sudden and abrupt actions of the first book and the potential threats that promise to inhabit the third book.  The hope is that both the personal struggles that Matt suffers through in the second book and the heated action and excitement of the first book will join forces in book three for a very compelling conclusion.

Mad Swine: Dead Winter can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Swine-Dead-Winter-Volume/dp/1618680463/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1399223763&sr=8-1-fkmr0


Review of Jason Bovberg’s “Blood Red”

Blood Red introduces us to Rachel, a 19 year old college student living with her father and step mom. Waking up one morning, she finds her step mother passed out on her bed with some sort of red glow emanating from inside her skull. For all intents and purposes, she appears to be dead, though her skin feels strange and when Rachel gets near the source of the red glow, it burns her. Racing across the street, she discovers much the same thing has happened to her boyfriend and his mother. There are other corpses out on the street-it is as if their lives were all snuffed out in the same instant, replaced by the strange red glow. Realizing her father is not home, Rachel takes off on a hunt for him, hoping and praying that he is somehow still alive. Her journey leads her to other survivors like herself-confused, frightened, and many gruesomely injured after trying to revive their loved ones and coming into contact with the red glow. The local hospital is filling up with the ‘dead’ and dying, along with the few bewildered survivors who remain behind. Planes are dropping out of the sky and out of control fires are destroying much of Rachel’s Colorado town. But even worse, as the day goes on, it appears that something is happening to the corpses. They appear to be slowly waking up…but they are also being transformed. Not into zombies, or even remotely close to the people they were before. They are becoming something far stranger, and far more horrible than anyone could ever imagine.

Blood Red is possibly one of the most unique zombie novels I have ever read, if it even can be categorized as such. The creatures that inhabit the pages of this first of a trilogy are far different than the traditional dead walkers who crave human flesh. The author has introduced something new and incredibly creepy to the mix that needs to be read about to fully comprehend. Providing details may be deemed a spoiler, but since he has created something entirely new, I will leave it in his hands (and words) to describe his creation, spoilers or not.  

Despite the uniqueness of this tale, the driving force behind what will compel most readers to check out this story remains much the same as with other apocalyptic fiction tales, which is the quest to survive and to comprehend what is happening in a world that has fallen into chaos. Rachel’s journey is both heartbreaking and disturbing. Like many characters that inhabit the pages of novels where the impossible becomes reality, she finds a way to not only cope with her situation, but strives to understand it. With a level head on her shoulders, she becomes somewhat of a leader-discovering things about the strange new threats that surround the meager pool of survivors still inhabiting her town. She is vulnerable yet strong-a character who feels real and genuine. The key characters that surround her felt much the same-solid, using whatever coping mechanisms they have to deal with the situation, for better or for worse.

While some readers may be turned off by the present tense format of this story-it is a style rarely used, I found it to be of minimal to no distraction. The author was able to put you in the action and keep the pace and tone aggressive, to match the immediacy and intimacy of Rachel’s situation. Blood Red was different, intriguing, and I was left very curious as to what will happen next.

Blood Red can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Red-Jason-Bovberg-ebook/dp/B00JK1UW4E/ref=la_B00JJ36NNW_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398292709&sr=1-2


Review of Stephen Kozeniewski’s “The Ghoul Archipelago”

The Ghoul Archipelago is a story that jumps around a bit at first, giving the reader the impression that the story is speeding ahead through time with each new batch of characters introduced.  It does take a bit of reading before we get to see how all these loose strands the author is introducing weave together.  The vast majority of the story takes place in the South Pacific in the first few weeks and months after the rise of the undead.  We are introduced to an assortment of characters whose stories will intersect in time, and who are coming to grips with the end of the world in their own various ways.

Reverend Sonntag, leader of a group of missionaries, sees the rising of the dead as a sort of second coming-the transition to the next world, with the undead as something we should either worship or have the desire to become.  Rand Bergeron, a billionaire behind an extremely successful virtual reality sex device, sees business opportunities to be developed with the few select societies in the South Pacific that haven’t been annihilated by the undead.  “Howling Mad” Martigan and his crew of smugglers are simply trying to survive the pirates who’ve found a way to use the undead to their own advantage while at the same time getting their cargo to the ruthless gangster who they are sure has survived the end of the world and who will destroy them if he doesn’t get what he is promised.  Surviving members of the U.S. Navy and Marines, led by a power hungry politician who claims he is now the President of what remains of the United States, have their own designs on taking over the region where the story takes place.

The reader is given bits and pieces of the various character’s tales at first until their paths begin to intersect.  There is no main character here.  Instead, it is a rather large ensemble with a few key players who the author does a strong job of developing into anti-heroes and villains.  Sonntag’s zealotry, Bergeron’s greed, and the military’s quest for control and order clash significantly with Martigan and his crew of quarrelsome crewmembers and a stowaway with an intriguing side story.  Outside of a few members of Martigan’s crew and a hard luck survivor who goes by the name of Tuan Jim, many of the characters here aren’t very likable and it is hard to say that anyone is a real hero, though the crew of smugglers, who go from one living or undead mishap to the next, grow on the reader as they suffer through one unbearable travail after another.  In particular, Butch, the stowaway, and Hannibal Mo, the chief engineer, are the characters who I found myself rooting for the most.

This is a well told tale despite its slow start, with some unique game changers for the zombie sub-genre.  Bergeron’s experimental approach when it comes to utilizing his virtual reality technology with the undead is something that everyone seems to want to take advantage of, in ways both repulsive and terrifying.  The undead are, on the surface, fairly traditional, though with the advent of this new technology, they are taken in some very new and disconcerting directions by the author.

Overall, a very solid entry into the zombie genre, with enough twists and new ideas to keep those who are looking for a new perspective on the classics to have fun with the story.  The characters drive this one, and there are some good ones with some crackling dialog.  A standalone novel, The Ghoul Archipelago is worth checking out for fans of adventure, horror, and of course, the undead.

The Ghoul Archipelago can be found here:    http://www.amazon.com/THE-GHOUL-ARCHIPELAGO-Zombie-Novel-ebook/dp/B00FTP5URO/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top


Review of Sean Schubert’s “Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2)

Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2) is the sequel to Infection, the first book in this trilogy, which will be completed with Mitigation, which has already been released.  The author returns to where he left off, with the two bands of survivors who were racing against death through the first few days and weeks after the first zombie rose up combining forces and doing whatever they can to find and to maintain a safe haven.  We are also introduced briefly to a military leader and the failed efforts to prevent the undead from crossing a bridge north of Anchorage, granting the monsters access to the rest of the vast state.

Neil, who led one of the groups in the first book, takes on the mantle of leadership in this book, while Dr. Caldwell, who was the leader of the other group, stepping aside and becoming more of a consultant, or moral guide for Neil.  As this new entity travels in and around Anchorage, their numbers grow and diminish thanks to other survivors they happen across and the hordes of undead they must face off against.  Of course, the newcomers and old members of the team alike add conflict and provide new challenges for Neil and the others.  Officer Malachi Ivanoff, the loose cannon police officer in the first book, finds a new friend in one of the newcomers the group comes across, and ample reasons to continue down his path of destruction and mayhem.  Other relationships hinted at being formed in the first book continue to grow and face challenges.  In general, Neil’s group, like a living organism, adapts and modifies itself to suit its challenging environment.

While the objective, as is the case in most apocalyptic tales, is survival, the story meanders for the most part, with no specific objective outside of finding food, water, and a safe haven.  The author, to his credit, makes Alaska-both Anchorage and the surrounding natural beauty, play a far more prominent role here than in the first book.  In Infection, the city of Anchorage had the feel of Any Town, USA.  There was nothing unique about this environment the undead had invaded.  Containment shares more of the unique flavor of the largest and northern-most state in the U.S., especially when the survivors step outside the confines of Anchorage and are forced to wander a bit into the wilderness.  The isolation of Alaska is both a blessing and a curse.  While the military has failed to contain the undead in the Anchorage area, there is no hint at outside intervention, either from Canada or the rest of the United States, despite the fact that the story takes place several weeks after Anchorage has been annihilated by the undead.  The characters conjecture about where the military might have made a stand and where potential larger bands of refugees might be located, but there are few tangible hints as to what is happening in the wider world around them.  It would be safe to guess that the third book in the trilogy should provide greater insight into the global picture though it seems there should have been more here.

The characters in Containment, as was the case in Infection, are well developed.  We get to know the original characters even better and the same treatment occurs with some of the new people with whom they cross paths.  Unfortunately, the level of introspection each character goes through slows this novel down a great deal in multiple places.  The action often comes to a screeching halt while either a character ponders the meaning of what is happening, a bit of their history is revealed, or in the case of a few devious characters, what they are plotting.  Still, this is a classic tale of survival in the undead apocalypse and the reader is given the opportunity to get to know these characters in depth and detail that has strong appeal.

Containment, though slow at points and with a plot that meanders a bit, provides the reader with a set of characters that are well-rounded and have a great deal of depth.  Neil and the rest of the group are easy to identify with-they are not heroes or skilled survivalists but ordinary folk trying to find their place in a world filled with the undead. It will be interesting to see what happens to them in the conclusion of this trilogy.   

Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2) can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Containment-Alaskan-Undead-Apocalypse-Book/dp/161868048X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1395493625&sr=8-2