Review of “At Hell’s Gates, Volume 1”
At Hell’s Gates is the initial horror volume in a series anthologies produced with the proceeds going to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The overall theme of this series is general horror, but this volume leans heavily on zombie apocalypse related tales from authors with books already out on that subject matter. The stories told here are tied in with their other works, giving a short story that sometimes lies at the periphery of the world they have created or serves as an new slant on characters a reader of those works is already familiar with.
Overall, the work here is solid and the writing entertaining. This book serves more as a sampler platter of various author’s works rather than standalone tales except in a few cases, although little is lost in translation if you hadn’t read any of the books from the author’s bibliography. For example, I have read Stephen Kozeniewski’s work, The Ghoul Archipelago and his short here is based on the world we see in that novel, but I have not read anything from Stevie Kopas, but her tale of murder and insanity stands on its own quite well, though it is a part of a bigger world the author has created in her novels. The only criticism I have of the layout of this work, at least in the e-version, is that the introduction of the authors comes after the stories, when the ‘teaser’ description of the story and how it relates to their greater works should have come prior to each tale. A minor quibble, but one worth mentioning.
Anthologies are always a mixed bag, and some stories grab you more than others. That is inevitable with such a wide assortment of writing styles, authors, and story types, and such was the case here. I didn’t dislike any of the stories, but a few stood out and will remain with me for quite some time. The aforementioned author’s tales fall into that group, as well as stories by Paul Mannering, Tim Marquiz, Frank Tayell, and Jacqueline Druga. Their stories made the leap from the page into my imagine more so than any of the others. Of course, anyone who enjoys a good zompoc tale will likely find a good primer for a larger series of books by various authors to check out-with traditional slow moving zombies as well as infected and fast moving, talking zombies being found within these pages. And while some of these stories weren’t as compelling as standalones, they did intrigue me enough to perhaps take a closer look at the bigger stories being told.
With future volumes having specific themes, it is more than likely that the stories will be standalone tales of horror rather than shorts tied into a larger saga as was the case here. This is a solid start to a promising anthology series with the proceeds going to a very worthy cause.
At Hell’s Gates can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/At-Hells-Gates-Volume-One/dp/150254539X/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
Permuted Press Kindle E-Book Sale!
Well it is Friday the 13th and while many folks consider that bad luck, I think it is a great day…and the start of a great weekend. Especially for fans of great apocalyptic fiction. Permuted Press, my publisher, has decided that this would be a great weekend to promote the heck out of virtually every one of the books they offer on Kindle by having a sale that runs through Sunday. So go on over to Amazon to check things out. Just click on the picture below and you’ll be sent to the list of books for sale, including all three books in my trilogy: Comes The Dark, Into The Dark, and Beyond The Dark. Plenty of other fantastic books can be found on sale, including plenty of ones that I’ve reviewed here. So here is your chance to pick them up for either 99 cents or $2.99 when they’re regularly around $7.99. So check it out, and as they say over at Permuted, Enjoy the Apocalypse!
Review of Brian Moreland’s ‘The Girl From The Blood Coven’ and ‘The Witching House’
The Girl From the Blood Coven gives the reader a short story introduction to Brian Moreland’s novella, The Witching House. Back in 1972, a slaughter occurred at the old Blevins House in Texas. A blood drenched girl stumbles into a bar in the nearby small town and the sheriff must go investigate when she tells him “they’re all dead”. What he finds is both shocking and does a very effective job in setting the stage for the novella that follows. We are given hints at what supernatural darkness is at work within the old stone house and its gore splattered walls. They are tantalizing, disturbing hints, but left me intrigued and hungry to find out more.
The Witching House takes us 40 years into the future and we are introduced to Sarah Donovan, a timid girl who recently started dating Dean Stratton, an adventurer who loves exploring old buildings with his friends. Taking a chance, Sarah agrees to go on a trip with Dean to check out an old haunted house in rural Texas where 25 hippies were murdered 40 years earlier. Their heads were severed in many cases, and others hung themselves, but in some other instances, the bodies of the victims were never found.
The quartet enter the house with the assistance of a local guide and find that the old stone house isn’t just a creepy old place, but seems to be an almost living, breathing entity that seems bent on their destruction. Whether it is the house itself or some dark unknown menace it is clear something hungers for their flesh and blood.
I’ve read Brian Moreland’s two previous novels and was impressed by his ability to spin a horror tale. There is a certain level of dread that builds in his works that is based both on his talent as a researcher who provides his readers with a very detailed and vivid world and a knack for creating suspense with solid pacing. This story is simpler than the historical horror tales he has crafted previously-a ghost story that still has a depth to it because of the believability of the characters and the underlying secrets that are causing the horror to take place.
If I have a criticism of this tale, it perhaps has to do with the character Otis, who I wanted to understand better, especially given his ominous yet sad existence. There was more to him-I could feel it, and wish I could have gotten to know him better. This is a minor quibble though, as this tale is another solid effort from the author that did not disappoint.
The Girl From The Blood Coven can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Girl-Blood-Coven-ebook/dp/B00CI3WCEO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374729375&sr=8-1&keywords=the+girl+from+the+blood+coven
The Witching House can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Witching-House-ebook/dp/B00CJ96E78/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374728045&sr=8-1&keywords=the+witching+house
Review of Bryon Morrigan’s “The Desert”
The Desert is author Bryon Morrigan’s debut novel and tells the tale of a mysterious abandoned village buried deep in the Iraqi Desert found not once, but twice by the U.S. military. The main story takes place in 2009 and introduces the reader to Specialist Densler and the Captain he is carting around in a Humvee on the hunt to find WMD’s. They stumble onto an area where GPS doesn’t work and come across the body of a soldier and his journal. It becomes immediately clear that the solider went missing six years earlier along with the rest of “Eight Up Platoon” near the beginning of the invasion of Iraq. The Captain is excited to find the journal and possible clues as to what happened to the rest of the men, but when reading the journal it becomes clear that something strange is at work in the small village. Green mist flows out from the ground at night and there are hints of shadowy creatures wandering about. Plus they can’t find anyone else’s body.
This is a fast moving horror story that reads easy and keeps the energy up throughout. Short chapters give the story a sense of urgency, and flashbacks to the old journal entries sparked my curiosity about what was really going on. Densler’s thoughts about his Captain get a little bit repetitive-the Captain is an incompetent coward in Densler’s eyes and nothing that happens in the story disputes that belief. This served as a bit of a distraction for me, but I enjoyed this story despite this minor irritation. The author comes up with a creative batch of monsters rising up from the bowels of the earth through a dark pit in the ground, and even some pretty interesting theories about where they came from, which kept me tuned in the whole way.
I previously read the author’s follow up novel, Archeron, so I sort of got things backward. While it would have been best to read this book first, Archeron does a solid job of standing on its own, as does The Desert. I have to admit I enjoyed this, the author’s first effort, more than his second. My review of Archeron details my issues with that story, which definitely has its merits and was a fun read in its own right. The Desert was a more intriguing and provides more of an introduction to this strange new world that intrigued me. I am gathering there will be a sequel to Archeron. It is clear there is more story to tell.
Much like I stated in my other review, I give high praise to the author for crafting an intriguing mythology that give his book a unique flavor. He has an excellent knowledge of the military and that shows in his work as well, though his disdain for commissioned officers is hard to miss and is somewhat distracting. The Desert is a fun read, and while Archeron is, in my view, not quite as good, it is still an entertaining continuation of this saga, and gives me plenty of reason to want to check out the author’s third act when it comes out.
The Desert can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004XJKYKU/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Review of “Tales of the Undead: Hell Whore”
Tales of the Undead-Hell Whore is the first in a series of anthologies, with this one specifically having as its theme devilish women. The overall title “Tales of the Undead” is perhaps a bit inaccurate, since many of these stories have nothing to do with the undead, but the subtitle is certainly more of a description of what is included within its pages. In some stories, this association is obvious, while in others that association to evil women is a lot more subtle.
It is often difficult to provide a review of an anthology because almost without fail, they are a mixed bag. A consistent theme often allows for a more comprehensive overview-each author provides a story to the mix that sticks to a sometimes loose, but understood guideline. TotU-HW does have a theme, but it runs the gambit with stories of vampires, ghosts, demons, witches, Satan, human-animal hybrids, werewolves, ancient gods, sexually voracious women, and even more of a mix of swirling horrors. And that isn’t even mentioning the poems, which are as diverse a lot as the short stories.
There were some gems in this book from my perspective, including “Entre of the Damned” and “Girls are Icky”, both appreciated for entirely different reasons, and of course some stories that did not click, which I will admit is more due to personal preference rather than the quality of the work, at least in most cases. The writing styles here are quite diverse, with everything from the delicately subtle to in your face. I enjoyed “Who F&*ked Up Kelly Yesterday?” because I have a taste for bizarro horror, while I know that there will be plenty of folks who would be repulsed by this story’s audacity. There were a few stories that I felt that the writing was a bit rough, with both the story itself and the way the author telling it making it feel forced and hard to get through, but there those were only a select few out of this bunch. There were some sagas that felt incomplete to me-either telling instead of showing and letting the tale reveal itself, or in one case where the writing style seemed a bit forced and awkward- like the author was providing a summary rather than providing the reader with the story itself.
Anthologies are journeys where the road is both smooth and bumpy at different times. Rarely do you find a short story compendium where every story hits the mark. But finding a short story or poem you really enjoy and that will stick with you makes the journey through the good, the great, and the bad worthwhile. Tales of the Undead-Hell Whore is such an anthology.
Tales of the Undead: Hello Whore can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BLR40A2/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Come soon…Tall Tales with Short Cocks Volume 3, featuring a short story by moi!
Yep, I did it again. I’ve returned to the bizarro world with my offering to the folks over at Rooster Republic Press…which is their new name. It’s their new name, because they had a different name when I was in Tall Tales with Short Cocks Volume 2, not so very long ago. But I’m happy they accepted my humble little tale about family dysfunction “Hell in the Family” that appears in Tall Tales with Short Cocks Volume 3, regardless of their name. It should be available for mass consumption on February 26th, right around the time Comes The Dark reveals itself in paperback and in audio book format. So it is a great double whammy for me.
I’m looking forward to being apart of another wild and raunchy compendium of screwed up stories about screwed up things. While I can’t speak to what the other authors have contributed and what strange topics they have dived into, my story is my own take on the ever popular nerdy vampire sub genre. Well, just because you haven’t heard of this sub genre doesn’t mean it isn’t popular. Well, it might still be a bit of an underground revolution in the making, but I swear it’s gonna be huge someday!
So I’ll be sure to add links once the book is available for purchase, but for now, feast your eyes on the very shiny, purty cover of this latest edition of Tall Tales with Short Cocks.
Review of Peter Giglio’s “Sunfall Manor”
Sunfall Manor tells the tale of Edgar, a ghost who has no memory of who he once was, living in a farmhouse divided into five apartments. This novella explores the inhabitants of those five apartments with Edgar, who is mostly repulsed by all of them, with each of them lost, sad, or sick in their own ways. We spend the night with him-a night where he has decided to intervene, to manipulate things when before he remained separated from the living, content to watch their lives fall apart night after night. Tonight will also take him on a journey of discovery about them and who he once was, and also how Sunfall Manor played a part in the life he once led.
Sunfall Manor reads like a slowly unraveling mystery, though most of the answers Edgar receives are in a sudden, dramatic burst near the end of the tale. Still, there are details to be discovered about him and about those around him before that-how perceptions can change shift in an instant as more is revealed. This is a well-crafted ghost story that is filled with sadness and regret that left me with a bittersweet aftertaste after the last page-echoes of what the story reveals on its pages.
With the author promising more tales of Sunfall in the future, I look forward to finding out more about this little town in the middle of nowhere and all its deep dark secrets.
Sunfall Manor can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1938644050/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Review of Alan Draven’s “Spooky Showcase”
Spooky Showcase offers the reader a return to Alan Draven’s world of the supernatural and surreal. Bitternest is a city in Louisiana where ghosts, vampires, and other creatures exist and terrorize the inhabitants in pretty much all of the author’s novels and short stories. All but one of the tales in this book take place in Bitternest, including a novella entitled “The Paradigm” which is noir-ish detective tale that takes place back in the 80s and starts out like all the classic detective tales you’ve ever seen with the gruff private eye and the sultry dame in trouble, but dives into the deeply supernatural from there. Three short stories follow, two of which involve children and the real terrors that haunt them in Bitternest, before the reader is treated to a re-imagining of the classic Jack the Ripper saga with “Vengeance is Mine”.
I’ve been impressed with Alan’s ability to craft a real, vibrant city filled with all kinds of spooky and scary monsters since I read his first book about the strange place near New Orleans. While he does hint at future tales with Jim Coffin, the detective in his first story here, I felt that there was something missing from this particular story-a more fleshed explanation of what was happening to him was desired, though I’m sure more will be divulged in the future. Despite the desire for more, I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor of the piece. Future installments should be interesting, and I could see something along the lines of Glenn Cook’s “The Garrett Files” or Simon Green’s John Taylor series if Alan puts a bit more spit and polish on his next few Jim Coffin stories.
The short stories are all enjoyable, each with a surprise attached-that quick rabbit punch that often makes a short piece all the more enjoyable. I especially liked “The Rattling Man” with its Halloween ambiance.
While “Vengeance is Mine” is perhaps more of a homage than anything-a variation the Jack the Ripper mystery with the author’s embellishments, I did enjoy his take on what might have been with good ol’ Jack. Plenty of gore for those hungry for it, and the author used the historical elements so that they fit around the story he created quite nicely.
Overall, this was a fun read that went by fast. I look forward to more of the author’s Bitternest sagas, and will be curious to see where he takes Jim Coffin from here.
Spooky Showcase can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0981021336/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Review of Tonia Brown’s “Railroad!: The Three Volume Omnibus”
Railroad! is a hard book to categorize. Certainly, it would be easy to say that it is a steampunk tale of the old west, but that seems like a limiting description. I am the first to admit that I haven’t read a tremendous amount of steampunk literature, but I would venture to say that this book has elements that make it somewhat unique in that genre, combining fantastical elements along with the technological, turning this story into something utterly unique.
Tonia Brown, the author, wrote this tale as a serialized adventure, releasing a chapter at a time online, and then releasing each of the three different volumes separately. This book has all three volumes thus far: Rodger Dodger, The Dogs of War, and The Trouble with Waxford. The story is told from the viewpoint of Rodger Dodger, a man curious about an ad posted that is looking for a hired gun to work aboard a steam locomotive. The setting is the old west of the 1870s, and while Rodger has a mysterious past as a gunman, everything else about him seems rather normal. So when he meets up with Professor Dittmeyer, Ched, and the rest of the crew of the Sleipnir, a steam powered locomotive that requires no tracks to run on, he is as baffled as we are. And things just get stranger from there for the man with a mysterious past but a far more intriguing future as the hired gun for an wild band of adventurers.
Of course, the wondrous technology that the author describes with great delight is quite fascinating, and gave me pleasant reminders of my youth, when I used to watch repeats of ‘The Wild, Wild West.’ I do, of course, mean the classic television show starring Robert Conrad and not the atrocious movie starring Will Smith. You will find gadgets galore here, including guns that fire multiple rounds at the same time, horseless carriages that allow one to travel at speeds near a hundred miles per hour across the desert, and trains that need no tracks to make their way from place to place. But that is only the beginning. The author allows us, alongside Rodger Dodger, to enter a world filled with the fantastic-with ghosts, vampires, and genetic mutants filling its pages. As it is described within this tale, the strange, cursed, and fantastic seems to follow Professor Dittmeyer, owner and inventor of the Sleipnir Steam Locomotive, everywhere he goes. After all, he hasn’t been banned from 90 different countries for nothing.
The characters are colorful, detailed, and fun getting to know. And when it comes down to it, this story may be best described as a weird western steampunk story, but it is the characters that keep things interesting, and kept me glued to each page. A well-crafted, entertaining story that is a lot of fun, Railroad! is a trippy ride.
You can find Railroad! here: http://www.amazon.com/Railroad-The-Three-Volume-Omnibus/dp/1468185543/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335136282&sr=1-9
Dark Dispatches is now available on Amazon!
I’m pretty excited about a newly release anthology that one of my short stories appears in. I had the opportunity to write a story that was a bit different for me, though at the same time, still shared a bit of DNA with many of the other stories I’ve written over the years. This particular one was originally intended for another anthology, and fit the it to a T. Unfortunately, before that particular anthology got very far, it was cancelled by the publisher. I was ‘stuck’ with this story at that point, which was unfortunate, because I thought it was one of my better tales. It was my effort at writing a war story set in the future, but having some very traditional horror elements to it-a particular menace that I had never written a story about before, and was a new challenge for me. So when I heard about Static Movement producing an anthology entitled Dark Dispatches, which wanted tales of war, real or imagined, here on Earth or elsewhere, in any time period–past, present or future, I knew my story might have a second life. So I submitted my tale, entitled “One Shot, One Kill”, and George Wilhite, the editor, responded within a couple of days, snatching it up.
And now this tale has been released to Amazon, and I am asking you to check it out. I’m not sure how Static Movement works on ebooks, but the paperback version is now available. Keep an eye on the link for further information on the kindle release, and probably over on smashwords for other ebook releases.
I would ask that you consider getting a copy of this book in paperback-a slew of war stories that contain supernatural, alien, and plain old human warriors-all with compelling story lines. I have had the privilege of reading one of the other tales in this book already, by Richard Marsden, and I can tell you that it is excellent. Well worth the price of admission for these two tales alone…but there are many, many more!
So go ahead: click the picture, and head on over to Amazon to pick up your copy of Dark Dispatches. Thanks!
Soul Survivors Hometown Tales: Volume 1 is out!
Knight Watch Press brought together a community of writers to create stories of their hometowns and the apocalypse. Essentially, the mandate was to craft a story with one of the last living people after things fall apart or extinction event occurs. We could use pretty much any humanity annihilating excuse to see how fun, or how scary it could be under those circumstances. So my little story, “Love Thy Neighbor” takes place in Cincinnati, but the same thing could happen in any town, any city the world over. I can’t wait to get my copy of the book to check out the rest of the stories-the reviews I’ve read thus far are quite complimentary. And what’s even better is that a second volume of stories is due out early next year, with even more world toppling excitement.
So check out Soul Survivors Hometown Tales: Volume 1 over on Amazon, or where ever you can get your hot little hands on a copy! Click the picture to head on over to Amazon.
Review of Brian Moreland’s “Dead of Winter”
Dead of Winter takes place in a fort in the Ontario wilderness in 1878. Inspector Tom Hatcher has been called in to solve a mystery surrounding strange murders involving cannibalism and a plague that seems to be turning its victims into ravenous creatures that both look and act inhuman. Tom has come from Montreal, where he dealt with a cannibal of a different sort-a serial killer who murdered street walkers and devoured their flesh. He managed to capture that madman, and tossed him into prison. Now it seems a new killer is following in that maniac’s footsteps out in the backwoods. At the same time, back in Montreal, Father Xavier, an exorcist, has been called upon to cast out the demon possessing the serial killer that Tom Hatcher caught while the man rots in prison. These two men’s paths intertwine as the mystery at the fort grows deeper and more people end up dead or worse, transformed into savage monsters, both in mind and in body. It is up to these two men to discover what is behind the plague and stop it before everyone else ends up dead.
Dead of Winter is a horror-mystery that intertwines both of these elements with ease. The author also intermingles Catholic beliefs in demonic possession and exorcism with the traditional native tribal beliefs of evil and good spirits, and does so quite deftly. The interesting thing is that the way the story is told, the two elements don’t clash or conflict with one another, but seem to make sense as a natural blend. Evil is evil, whatever it is called, and you need whatever resources you can collect to combat it. The culture, religious faiths, and historical elements of the story are well researched, and my first guess was that the author must live in the region, since he knows so much about its tribes and history. So I was surprised to find out that Mr. Moreland lives in Dallas according to his bio (though I suppose that doesn’t mean he isn’t originally from Canada).
I enjoyed the detail to which the characters were developed and the depth they were given. They are revealed inch by inch, divulging enough details that they kept me intrigued without revealing too much, too soon. The reveals are intriguing at each turn and the author was willing to give the reader a surprise with a startling turn of events fairly early on in the story. Elements like that are unexpected, but welcomed despite the sense that an author has zigged when you might expect him to zag. At least for me. Characters like Tom Hatcher and Father Xavier are definitely not cookie cutter-there are plenty of reasons to both like and dislike both men, and to really feel what they are going through as they face this nightmare both on their own and with the rest of the cast of characters.
I have not read anything else by Brian Moreland, but if his other works are this well researched and well crafted, I look forward to checking them out as well. Dead of Winter is a great story that I thoroughly enjoyed.
You can find Dead of Winter here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-of-Winter-ebook/dp/B005LYIDUY/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1319692214&sr=1-2
Review of R.A. Evan’s “Asylum Lake”
Asylum Lake is the debut novel of author R.A. Evans, and tells the tale of Brady, an ex-reporter heading home to Michigan from Chicago after suffering through a personal tragedy. His parent’s old Lake House that he is returning to holds some dark memories for him, especially since both his parents have passed away since he was last there, but nothing prepares him for the strange and eerie occurrences that happen upon his arrival. There is an old abandoned mental institution on the opposite side of the lake that holds even darker memories for many people in the town he lives in, including the many patients who met their tragic end there years before.
Asylum Lake not only tells Brady’s tale, but another that takes place nearly forty years earlier along with yet another that dips even further into the past, all of them intertwined and revealed in bits and pieces as they tell of the hauntings and murders that have been a part of the town surrounding the lake’s fabric for years. This is not only a ghost story, but also a story that contains gruesome and dark elements of possession and revenge. The characters are easy to get comfortable with, and the plot is amply twisty, revealing things piecemeal so you can’t get too far ahead of yourself by presuming you know what is happening, especially as it goes backwards in time and then jumps back to the present repeatedly. It was a fun read, though my main complaint with it probably is that it felt like it should have been longer, and the ‘reveals’ could have been stretched out even more pages than they were. Don’t get me wrong. The author set the stage, created a wonderfully creepy setting, and gave it and those who inhabited it a righteously tragic saga. I just felt like the stage could have been used even more. The asylum itself wasn’t explored and the details about it not revealed enough for my tastes, though I realize the author will be coming out with a follow up book that explains more of the mysteries involved with the asylum and the people who met their tragic end there. In a way, my criticism is a compliment, because the author did a good job with what he’d created, and left me curious to find out more. So I think that means he will have a customer when the next book is released.
Asylum Lake can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Asylum-Lake-ebook/dp/B004DUN1TK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1304555104&sr=8-1
Coming soon…I hope…well, whenever it does, I think you will crack up at it!
I wanted to post the cover of an anthology that I am proud to have a story in. The challenge with the premise of this antho was to use two different monster archetypes and mash them up and make it into a comedy story about them. It is entitled Groanology: Amusing Monster Mash-Ups Unleashed!
My short story, “Hell in the Family” will appear on its pages. Shocking tidbit about it: there are NO zombies in this one! So you see, I can actually write a horror tale without the undead in it. But of course, there have been others I’ve written. But of course, by now, you all know I love writing about the undead buggers, heh.
Anyway, here is the cover, and I think it will give you a great idea of how amusing this book will end up being. More details to come as the book gets closer to release.
Daily Bites of Flesh 2011 is up on Amazon!
Hey folks, just to let you know, Daily Bites of Flesh is now available on Amazon. It does look like it is out of stock right now, but my guess is that it just will need a day or two for them to have some inventory. It is a very hefty book, with over 500 pages of horror-rific flash fiction for you to check out. And it is the perfect time of year to get someone that calendar that will give them a spine tingling tale once every day. Nothing can beat that for the horror fan!
Hit the picture to head on over to Amazon to get your copy!
Review of Lori Titus’s “Lazarus”
Luella Pembry can speak to the dead. Ghosts are all around her, and ask that she do their bidding. She is called to a place called Lazarus, where others have magical talents of their own, and the dead tend to rise, though this type of dead are zombies, and they seek to destroy the living.
Lazarus is a tightly written novella that immerses the reader in the old west, with a twilight zone bent to it. Its mix of magic and the grit of the old west keeps the reader intrigued page after page. Lori Titus certainly knows how to spin a tale that kept me wondering what was next. I guess it sounds trite to say, but this is a story with a little bit of something for everyone: mystery, romance, horror, adventure, a strong leading woman and man, deception, and solid, compelling characters.
I don’t think I’ve read a story that combined ghosts and zombies and layered on top of that mysticism before. Lori does an excellent job of combining those elements and making the story flow well from start to finish. Again, this is a novella, so perhaps my only complaint is that this isn’t a full fledged novel with more story to it-I would have liked to seen more of this little town in California and the people who inhabit it. So I guess the brevity of this tale isn’t really a complaint at all-Lori Titus has me craving more.
Lazarus can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Lazarus-Lori-Titus/dp/1453775722/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290699294&sr=1-1
Review of Jason S. Hornsby’s “Eleven Twenty-Three”
Layne Prescott is an expatriate returning home to Lilly’s End, Florida from his teaching post in China for the funeral of his father. As he and his girlfriend Tara sit waiting in the airport for their plane that will take them across the Pacific, they meet up with a Mr. Scott, who has a briefcase attached to his wrist by a handcuff in an airport bar. After they land in Florida and meet up with old friends, Layne discovers the same briefcase stuffed inside his luggage. From there, things get dangerously strange, as the world falls apart at 11:23, every twelve hours all over Lilly’s End. People go mad, tearing each other apart, and then killing themselves when there is no one else left to assault. The town is shut off by the government and lies about a smallpox outbreak keep the outside world at bay. All the while, everyone still alive inside of Lilly’s End is rapidly going mad, taking things into their own hands, while Layne and a few of his friends attempt to understand what is behind all of this and try to figure out what they can do to escape it.
That is the glossy overview of this story. Underneath that, this 300 page novel is thick with conspiracy, generation why angst, and a constant flow of confusion, deception, and things for the reader to ponder. I have read Jason Hornsby’s previous novel, Every Sigh, The End, and for a long stretch of that book I despised the main character for his self absorbed approach to life, which takes a radical turn as truths about the world are revealed around him. In many ways, I can say that there are parallels between that book and this one, although Hornsby’s writing has definitely matured with this book. It is clear that this is a Hornsby book-I could have picked it out blindfolded after reading several chapters. As another reviewer has put it, no one creates young, disaffected characters quite like this author. They are disagreeable, argumentative, self-absorbed, and irresistibly fascinating. It is hard to describe effectively, but while it is hard to feel much pity for the characters throughout a great swath of this book, in the end their misery is tangible, palpable, real, and you feel it along with them. Layne is one of those characters who would constantly confound you, but if you peeled away most of his facade, he would seem to be one of the most vulnerable people you might ever know. At least that was the sense I got.
I think after reading my first Hornsby book, I got the sense that the author and I would have very little in common, very little that would connect us. My presumption was that he was much like the characters he wrote. I had the chance to meet the author at a Horror Convention recently and I realized then that this was far from the truth. Hornsby just has a knack for writing characters that make you feel like you are biting down on tinfoil. He has a talent for that.
I will readily admit that I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, and as such, I probably don’t rate as someone who is a judge of the conspiracies that Hornsby presents in this novel, but I will say this-I felt pretty damn squeamish as more and more was revealed in this story, as my imagination was sparked and I tried to comprehend how deep and dark the rabbit hole the author had created was. Mr. Hornsby has created a novel that provides the disaffected youth he writes about with a nightmarish world that is even worse than they could ever imagine, which is quite a trick to pull off. This story was creative, wild, and forces you to pay attention to it at every step. But even if you do, there is more than meets the eye, and will give you something to think about long after you put the book down.
Eleven Twenty-Three can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Eleven-Twenty-Three-Jason-S-Hornsby/dp/1934861340/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285374627&sr=1-1