Phineas Cavanaugh is a hack Necromancer living near Seattle who scrapes by tracking down lost souls or by occasionally helping the police out with a murder investigation. He left his guild pretty much in shame a few years back and has had a hard knock life ever since. Things start to get interesting when he is hired to seek out the lost soul of an elderly woman’s dead husband and a demon tries to devour him in a park while on the job. At the same time the police call upon his services to track down a vicious shape shifter who seems to know Phineas and might just be hunting him as well.
Things get worse from there as Phineas’s old mentor is attacked and brutally murdered at his guild and he is called upon to return to his old stomping grounds to figure out what has happened by attempting to speak to his departed friend’s soul. That is when all hell breaks loose, literally. Phineas is thrust into a mystery where old enemies and friends are drawn into the fray with him smack dab in the middle. He has to figure out what is going on and what part he is supposed to play before demons and the dead alike tear their way into our plane of existence and destroy everything that Phineas cares about.
At The Behest Of The Dead is told in first person and one can’t help but be reminded of noir detective potboilers with its urban sensibilities and snarky attitude. Phineas is a self-effacing schlub with a good heart even if he does work with the dead and rubs elbows with demons and other questionable sorts. It has a bit of Simon Green’s Nightside going for it, as well as Glenn Cook’s Garrett Files. Urban fantasy with as much irreverence as mystery, with a bit of romance tossed in for good measure. And Phineas, like other hard luck P.I-types, seems to attract the attention of the ladies despite perhaps looking and acting like he has been ridden hard and put away wet most of the time. Even though he has rough edges (or maybe because he does), Phineas is a likable sort, making his tale easy to read and entertaining.
Tim Long stretches himself beyond the zombie apocalyptic genre he normally haunts with this one, although he gives a winking nod to his roots with a few zombies showing up, though they are not anywhere near being a critical part of the telling of this tale. He has crafted an interesting world with the magical elements fantasy fans will appreciate while putting his own slant on things, making this world his and his alone. The characters are interesting and diverse enough to make them stand out and I can imagine some pretty intriguing adventures in their future. A fun read that has excellent potential as the start of an enjoyable series of books.
At The Behest Of The Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EZCXA9M/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
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!
Blood Verse is Patrick James Ryan’s first published work and is an anthology of horror tales interspersed with poems. Each poem follows the same format of rhyming couplets-there is no free verse poems in the mix.
As is usually the case with most anthologies, you reach into the goody bag and aren’t sure what you will get each time, especially when there is no set theme. That is the case here. Certainly, each tale has a horror bent to it, but they range from the supernatural to the more ‘regular’ every day type tales of serial killers and grim misfortune. Kudos to the author for giving the reader a diverse set of shorts and poems with some unexpected and entertaining twists.
The good: the author does a solid job of backing up his stories with decent research that allows him to provide us with a book rich in diverse locales and plotlines. It’s clear that effort was put forth to give each tale some heft and a solid background that makes them feel more real. Though not every story has that ‘blink with surprise’ type ending that readers often expect, when they do happen here many were quite satisfying and enjoyable. There are some genuinely entertaining stories on these pages that I enjoyed a great deal. I know the term ‘fun’ is not always associated with horror, but I had fun reading them.
The challenging: I’m not going to say the ‘bad’ because that wouldn’t be fair to the author, because while some of the shorts found here didn’t resonate with me, they were still solidly crafted. I could see the potential in most of them and I admire the author for putting together a very diverse compendium of tales and taking some risks here and there. They just didn’t all hit the mark for me. One of the reasons is that there is a healthy dose of tell vs. show mixed into several of the stories. It is a challenge all authors face-attempting to avoid making the yarn they are spinning feel more like a newspaper account of what is happening. They instead want to give the reader a feeling of immersion, as if they are experiencing everything alongside the characters. The author does accomplish that immersion in many cases, but in some instances it wasn’t there. There were also some typos throughout, noticeable but not a major distraction.
While some stories just didn’t click for me (Pain and the Boxer, Desert Death, Hair as examples) others were very entertaining (Bus Stop, Road Rage Bigot, Walking the Dog, Elevator…among others) and that is what reading an anthology is all about: finding those gold nuggets that make reading a mix of different tales well worth the time, which Blood Verse succeeded in doing for me. Chances are, if you are a horror fan, you will find a few solid nuggets in this book as well.
Blood Verse can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0988659034/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
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
Cthulhu Unbound 3 consists of four novellas, each with their own slant on Lovecraft’s mythos. Overall, the writing and storytelling is solid and the stories are what you both desire and expect of tales told about the realm of dark gods and menacing monsters.
Unseen Empire by Cody Goodfellow is a western that takes place primarily on and beneath an abandoned Indian reservation in Oklahoma, where a half-Indian tracker must go beneath the earth to find out what happened to the people who suddenly disappeared from the reservation. As he and the detachment of U.S. soldiers go deeper into the underground lair where they suspect the Indians have fled to, the reader is treated to several flashbacks of the main character’s past life and it slowly becomes clear what dark forces he is being compelled to face within the dark depths.
Mirrorrorrim by D.L. Snell focuses on an odd therapy group and its even odder therapist. The main character has blank spots in his memory and another member of the group, a woman who he is drawn to, shares a very strange connection with him. They fit with one another like pieces of a puzzle, or like the title suggests, mirror image parallels.
Nemesis Theory by Tim Curran introduces the reader to a maximum security prison and a select group of inmates who are beginning to realize that they are on a crash course with a gruesome nightmare that none of them will be able to avoid. Death and far worse is creeping closer and closer to them all every night, from far out in the galaxy. If you are familiar with Tim Curran’s work, you know he is a maestro when it comes to describing gore in loving detail and this story is no exception.
The R’lyeh Singularity by David Conyers & Brian M. Sammons is a tale of espionage and the efforts of two spies to stop greedy governments and corporations from tampering with inter-dimensional ‘goodies’ they have discovered on earth, as well as preventing the end of all humanity when darkness tears through a rift at the bottom of the pacific ocean where a mega-corporation is drilling…not for oil, but for something far more menacing and alien.
I enjoyed each story for their unique spin on the Cthulhu mythos, with my favorite being the last member of the quartet. The story was high energy spy thriller that integrates the horror of the Cthulhu mythos effortlessly. My one critique of this story is that there were a noticeable amount of typos that weren’t as prevalent in the other three stories. It was a minor distraction but worth mentioning. The other three stories were equally entertaining, for different reasons. Tim Curran does an excellent job in his tale building the dread levels to an almost unbearable level for the inmates in his doomed prison, with both mysterious events and visions riddling them with newfound terrors on a daily basis. D.L. Snell has created an intimate tale of technology gone amuck and strange interpersonal relationships, while Cody Goodfellow’s plunge into the old west and an underground city of the damned felt like a diabolical quest that I was cursed to complete alongside the main character.
For fans of Cthulhu and Lovecraft, this is a solid contribution to the mythology and one worth checking out.
Cthulhu Unbound 3 can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009O3XFBA/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
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
Tim Curran’s Cannibal Corpse, M/C is a wild ride into a post-apocalyptic wasteland with John Slaughter, Pittsburgh Chapter President of the Devil’s Disciples, leading the way. He is the last of the free members of his motorcycle club, one of the 1%ers that commits everything they have and everything they will ever be to the patch they wear on their sleeve and what it represents. The world has ended, or so it seems, and the dead have risen from the grave. Strange rains filled with mysterious red worms have infected much of the population, turning them into something that resembles zombies, though this crop of the undead are pretty unique. They crave human flesh, but they continue to have some semblance of the minds they once had. They are evil, semi-demonic puppets that not only devour but gleefully torture the living. The western half of the U.S. is a wasteland of the dead now, with what remains of the country under government control a sliver of what it once was. The dead rule, along with the barbaric living militias like the Red Hand and the mutants that were created after nukes were dropped to stem the tide of the dead. Into this wasteland heads John, who has too many people chasing him and too much desire for the freedom of the open road to remain in civilized territories. At least until members of the military catch up with him and put him on a mission he can’t refuse. They’ll free some members of his club that are in prison to ride with him into the wastelands where they need to save a biologist who may have a cure for the plague that has caused the rain of worms to fall.
Cannibal Corpse, M/C is definitely not your typical apocalyptic zombie tale. The author seems to know quite a bit about biking culture and John’s rough demeanor and loyalty to his friends kept this one entertaining from start to finish. John is almost fearless, almost ruthless, almost like his club’s name would hint at: a disciple of the devil. He kills without remorse, he is brutal, and he is vicious, but there are hints of his humanity as well that sneak through during this story that made him an interesting character and someone who you can find just palatable enough to root for when he is dealing with the hell on earth that surrounds him. While the story starts out as more or less an adventure tale that takes place on the open road, it becomes something more dark and sinister with every page. I didn’t expect the twists and turns that came about, especially in the second half of the story, but found them intriguing nonetheless.
Where things bogged down for me with this saga was in the hyperbole the author uses to describe things, especially in the latter half of the book. Not only is the gore in Technicolor 3D, which is in and of itself not a bad thing (in fact, for the gore hounds out there it is probably a big plus), but many of the details of the story are over described in lurid detail, distracting from the narrative in some ways. I don’t consider this to be a major issue with the story, because it still read fast and easy and I was compelled to finish this intriguing story, it just felt like the descriptions went further than necessary in several instances.
Despite this minor gripe, this was a fun, entertaining apocalyptic tale. If you like your zombies traditional, this one probably is probably going to be hard to swallow, but it is worth checking out even for the zombie “purists” out there, because Slaughter is a fascinating and entertaining anti-hero and a one bad mutha.
Cannibal Corpse, M/C can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1618680587/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Death In The Times of Madness is Michael S Gardner’s compendium of short stories, many of which have a zombie slant to them, as that is his first passion in writing. He’s also published a novella and novel that are zombie-centric too. There are some stories here that diverge from that path though, giving the reader a bit of diversity, though the author ‘sticks with the scrip’ and doesn’t move too far off from what a zombie fan will enjoy. From tales of personal woe to stories that are far grander is scope, the author explores some interesting topics and provides the reader with some moments that really resonate.
Of course, not every story packs the same punch and not all of them were hits in my opinion, but overall, this collection showcases an author who has grown as a writer over the past few years, with his ability to craft characters and stories getting sharper and stronger with time. Some of the tales have no message, just provide simple entertainment, while others pack more emotional heft and lingered in my mind after their completion. Overall, this is a fun, easy-to-read collection of mostly zombie tales that shows the talents of an independent author who continues to get better with every story he writes.
Death In The Times of Madness can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1481228196/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
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
The Harvest Cycle is an Apocalyptic tale which takes place fifty years since the first harvesters appeared, boiling up from the sea to claim as many human lives as they possibly can for a far distant god who wishes to consume the dreams of mankind. The creatures-fast, silent monsters with claws that can slice through anything, including the skulls of its victims, have come many times since then, driving the remains of humanity into hiding far beneath the surface of the earth. Those that survive have chosen to either surgically remove the part of their brains that the harvesters are compelled to devour, or they decide to remain uncut retaining their ability to think creatively and to dream by those who have lost so much with the mutilation of their brains (and souls as well). In addition to the horrors of the harvesters, humanity must also avoid the ‘synths’ or robots that were once loyal servants to humanity that realized during the first harvest the endless nightmarish hell that awaits those humans in the afterlife whose brains are devoured by harvesters. They are on a mission of mercy to kill all of humanity to save them from this horrible fate.
The story begins when a group of dreamers, led by a hopeful visionary along with a woman who is psychically linked to the nightmare god who created the harvesters and craves humanity’s dreams, go on a quest with the hope of somehow destroying the harvesters. Pursued by a police officer named Jack DiVinci, one of the soulless survivors who has a secret that allows him to still be creative and dream, as well as a squad of robots on a search and destroy mission.
David Dunwoody’s latest novel mixes elements of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, Asimov’s robots (with the authors unique twist on the Laws of Robotics…or more specifically, the zeroth law that Asimov added last: A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm), and a slight hint of noir with Jack DiVinci, a man who believes what he is doing is saving the human race, despite his own doubts on what it means to be saved.
This is one of the more unique visions of the apocalypse that I’ve ever read, with plenty of madness and mayhem to go around, plus plenty of gore and a high body count to boot. Dunwoody has this knack for making a story gruesome, horrifying, and yet totally accessible. He has no fear when it comes to pushing the reader’s buttons-not just with who he is willing to torture and maim, but with how the universe he creates works. It isn’t always pretty, and sometimes it feels like I was being beaten senseless by the brutality of what happens in this tale, but there is beauty here too-hope that humanity can somehow overcome its own vile failings and perhaps persevere against impossible odds.
I haven’t been disappointed by anything I’ve read by David Dunwoody as of yet, and The Harvest Cycle is no exception. This is potent tale that mixes supernatural horror and science fiction with a fluid grace that few authors can pull off with such skill.
The Harvest Cycle can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1934861324/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
If God Doesn’t Show is a modern take on Cthulhu mythos by H.P. Lovecraft and the efforts of a cult to bring about his return. We are introduced to Thaddeus Archer, a secret service agent who is dealing with a wife who is struggling with mental illness and a teenage daughter who resents him for having her mother locked away in a mental institution. Things change when Casey, his daughter, is abducted by the same mysterious cult which desires the Old Ones return. Time passes and Thaddeus gets close but cannot find his daughter, and his obsession causes him to get demoted after several agents die in a bloody raid on the cult.
Then in an instant, everything changes, and the world shifts as the cult prepares to open the way for Cthulhu to return. But before he can come, the rift into the void brings with it shadows-dark creatures that makes puppets of the dead and sometimes even the living, with their only goal of destruction of humanity. But these creatures, or even the doomsday cult who accidentally let them into our dimension, are not the only forces at work trying to destroy humanity. Thaddeus will have to work not only with the few other survivors at his side who have escaped the initial onslaught of the shadows, but a man who has lived through many lives and has struggled with darkness and evil in every one of them if the former secret service agent wants to save his daughter and prevent the Old Ones from rising up from the mysterious island that now floats in the pacific ocean.
If God Doesn’t Show is an interesting take on the Cthulhu mythos, filled with action from start to finish and topped off with plenty of darkness and intrigue. What starts out as a personal tale of one man on a hunt to find his daughter abruptly changes into something far more earthshattering in a grand and dramatic fashion. We are introduced to Blount, the character who has been reincarnated time and time again, about halfway through the book. He is positioned as a possible savior of humanity, destined to struggle with all forms of evil in each of his lifetimes. When we are introduced to him, he is on a mission with a group of government operatives heading to the strange island in the pacific that has a dark, impossible city buried within its jungles.
The two main characters spent most of this tale rushing toward the same objective and the pacing is fast and intense. While I found myself rooting for Thaddeus, Blount is the far more interesting character, surrounded by the supernatural and flashing back to past lives filled with battles against darkness. Their separate treks are both filled with mystery and energy, though that energy dissipates somewhat toward the end of the story, with what I could best describe as an extended epilogue. Giving away more details would be providing spoilers, which I like to avoid, but I felt as if the story lost a bit of its momentum going into the home stretch.
The authors provide excellent details surrounding the mixture of Lovecraft and Christian elements, though there were some questions I had that were left unanswered about the cult and their choices of sacrifice, though those quibbles were fairly minor. Overall, this was a fun read-a nice spin on the Cthulhu mythos with a few twisty elements tossed in for good measure. Of the two main characters, Blount was by far the more intriguing and the brief flashbacks to his past lives were intriguing tidbits that I would have liked to have seen more of. Perhaps this story doesn’t call for a sequel, but it might be interesting visiting some of Blount’s past lives.
If God Doesn’t Show can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1618680560/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
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
Infatuation: The Story of Snow Queen by Nathan J.D.L. Rowark is not a story that is all that easy to describe. In fact, for my period of reading at the beginning of this saga I wasn’t sure I quite understood what was going on in this fantastical tale of love, lust, and revolution, and wondered if I ever would.
The story begins with the introduction of Kay and Grace, a brother and sister who are in the Garden of Remembrance when a flight of snow bees separate them. This is a place where loved ones return from death in London, and where Kay will find his destiny in the arms of the icy Snow Queen, who will cause his demise but also receive his undying devotion.
We are granted a very slim understanding of how all these elements come together at the beginning of this tale-why there are these snow bees, which are both necessary to this world but are also a great menace to it-and why the dead come back to life.
Infatuation takes place in the far future, in a world where implants have tied the living together and granted them a form of immortality. Bodies are stowed away and the essence of a person can be transplanted into a new body after death. All of this is controlled by a mysterious religious leader who keeps everyone within the city under his control through the use of a pervasive social network.
When Kay and Grace get separated in the garden, they go on their own journeys-Kay with his new found love, the Queen, and Grace, in her efforts to find her brother, even though he has sacrificed his body for a new, dead one so that he can endure the touch of his icy maiden.
The story gets more complicated from there, but as with any intriguing story, much is revealed in time, and in the case of this tale, that is both a literal and figurative statement. The adventurers travel back and forth in time, with the meaning as to why this is happening to them not quite clear at first, or even throughout much of this tale. This story is a maze of alternate existences and discoveries of one mystery after another that intertwine Kay, Grace, Eternity (the Snow Queen), Reneta, the strange scientist who seems to be at the heart of much of the main mystery within the saga, and both her husband and son, who have rebelled against her and the religion-fueled government.
Describing this storyline in clear, precise details would be next to impossible, but at its heart, this story is about two souls destined for one another, despite so many seemingly good reasons for them not to be together. Nothing is as it seems in this story, which each chapter revealing a new twist and new surprise, both from the past, the present, and on into the future of the characters. This is a complex and layered mystery, which can be daunting at certain points, but once certain aspects of the tale were revealed, it kept me intrigued and fascinated to the very end of its pages.
Pigeon holing this story in a particular genre would be impossible. It is an amalgam of science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, and adventure, with a frosty haze layered over all of that. Admittedly, there is plenty here to confuse, and I more than likely missed a few key details in my initial reading that may require further review to understand all its elements, but I grasped more than enough to feel satisfied with its ending, though as with any tale where time travel plays a part, there is no real beginning or end, just different cycles in time and the hope that things can be changed, perhaps for the better, as they repeat themselves.
This is a tale for someone who is willing to stick with a story to the end-someone who likes it when an author doesn’t reveal more than is absolutely necessary at any given point. It is for someone willing to embrace the fantastical and magical mixed in with the technological while it has an almost a fairy tale-like sensibility.
Infatuation: The Story of Snow Queen can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00946F0L0/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
I announced about a week ago that No More Heroes, an anthology filled with all new superheroes and villains, was available over at Creatspace. I’m thrilled that it is now on Amazon as well. While it appears only in paperback at this time, I’m sure that it will be available in e-book format very soon as well. This project was a labor of love, as my past posts have explained. A fully developed and detailed world of new good guys and bad guys with all new super powers and abilities to cause mayhem and destruction. Definitely worth checking out for those who are looking for something new and different. You can read my tale of bad guys and good guys: “Slow Goth and St. North” there, along with a great lineup of other stories about plenty of other baddies and do gooders.
Check it out by clicking on the image of below.
The Revenants, book two of the I Kill Monsters series, picks up where Fury left off. Boone has been imprisoned by a vampire lord who is intrigued by the power of his blood and has hand picked him to complete a mission with several of his men.
Much like the first book in this series and the other books I’ve read by Tony Monchinski, the story hovers around New York City, though we depart that area to head over to Europe for a time, and Rainford, the Dark Vampire Lord, takes the reader and Boone on a journey to the distant past, where he relates the story of his history in Russia and the love of his life during his youth as a vampire. While Boone finds the telling of this tale as he is imprisoned annoying at first, he is sucked into it much like the reader is, seeing things through the eyes of Rainford while he recounts his tragic tale. But rest assured, this is no sappy romance with Rainford playing the role of tragic hero. As is the case with Fury, vampires are relentless, vile creatures who have no regard for the living and in many cases no regard for their fellow undead.
The story has numerous plotlines going, all intertwined in different ways, though sometimes it is hard to see the ultimate connections. As the author has a sizeable series planned, it is clear his plan is to reveal things in dribs and drabs here, and not divulge the meaning behind different portions of the overall story too soon. Vampires, Furies, and now Revenants are revealed as supernatural creatures here, though it is clear that the Revenants here are not the typical zombies we are used to seeing in books and movies these days, but a more traditional form of enslaved dead. The world as a whole doesn’t realize they exist, but the author is pulling back the curtain to show us more and more of the dark underbelly of the world.
Tony knows how to spin a complex tale, but therein lays the challenge with reading a book like this. It was exactly two years ago that I completed the first book, and the extensive secondary stories took some time to come back to my mind after such a long absence. Reading a complicated tale with sizable time gaps between each chapter makes it tougher to remember all the critical details from the previous book. But that is not a gripe related to the storytelling or the story itself; it is just a desire for the author to produce these books faster. Because both have been compelling reads, and I am already anxiously awaiting the third book in the saga.
This one has been years in the making. I held on to the hope that this one would come out, sooner or later, even though the original publisher let it languish for quite a time, then promised to release it, but let the contracts lapse. Then one of the editors, Wayne Goodchild, did his absolute best to find this book a new home. But it was a rather unique concept, one which bound all the authors together under the same umbrella, but also meant that a new publisher had to buy into the concept of a whole new realm of superheroes and villains being created. Yep, this alternate universe has an entirely new set of good guys and bad guys, and a very intriguing concept behind it. A cataclysmic event causes most of the superheroes on the planet to get evaporated, allowing the villains to take over…but a new group of superheroes have revealed themselves, ready to provide the resistance the world needs to save itself.
Fortunately, Matt Nord, who had a personal investment in this project, wanted this book to be released as badly as Wayne did, and thus, like a Phoenix, it has risen from the ashes. Now all we can ask is that you check it out…on createspace, and when it becomes available on Amazon and elsewhere.
The editors crafted a back story that was tremendous and should be included within the book. Dozens and dozens of evil villains and superheroes, ready for their stories to be told. My tale provides the origin of a angst ridden teen known as “Slow Goth” and his superhero mentor, “St. North”. Naturally, the story is called “Slow Goth and St. North”. I was pretty thrilled when my tale was accepted into the book, and fought along with Wayne and Matt to see this project to completion. The original vision was to not only see this project to its conclusion, but to hold out hope that it would be successful enough that we could craft more tales in future volumes…giving this world a real complexity, with as many of the bad guys and good guys used and involved in an ongoing saga. It remains to be seen whether or not that will happen, but for now, I hope you have the chance to check out No More Heroes! Just click on the cover to get sent over to Createspace.
On November 20th, 2009, a catastrophic event dubbed The Cataclysm wiped the world’s greatest heroes and villains off the face of the planet and created a death toll stretching into the millions.
Though most of the world survived, it is now in the grip of the super villains who avoided The Cataclysm. It may not have been quite the victory they expected, but it is the outcome they wanted: all the heroes are dead and the world is theirs…
Or so they believe…
Right now, my new novella, THE DARK MAN, just came out! But before we get into that, I want to thank Patrick D’Orazio for being so awesome as to let me commandeer his blog for a day. Thanks dude, you are freaking awesome.
In case you haven’t actually heard of the book, the following is the books short synopsis:
The human mind holds within its infinite reaches many of the greatest mysteries in the universe. Some are vast and wondrous, while others are chilling and nightmarish. Some mysteries are better left hidden in the dark corners of our minds, never breaking free of our subconscious.
Six high school students set out to explore these depths by sharing a mind altering substance on a night meant to be filled with both wild hallucinations and crazy antics. But the fun and games come to a shuddering halt when a strange man appears. This isn’t just any stranger. He is the Dark Man. Haunter of dreams and purveyor of nightmares. Dressed in a black suit and top hat, his pale skin and twisted grin promise a very deranged night of entertainment.
I originally came up with the Dark Man when I was a stupid little teenager. Bet you couldn’t ever guess how. Either way, I know of a lot of people who have actually come into contact with this person while on such substances. Needless to say it had to be written about. The fact that more than a handful of people have seen the Dark Man in real life is creepy enough for me. Whether or not the content of the Dark Man stands true in this book is another thing entirely. So, to answer that age old question: what inspired the book; well there it is. I’ve been there and done that and don’t recommend ever going back.
If splatterpunk, grindhouse action is what you crave in a good horror read, then I would definitely recommend picking this one up. It’s a fast paced death to the finish. And with that, I think that covers it for me.
Thanks again to Patrick for letting me hop in and say hello.
The Dark Man is a good old fashion bogey man tale, with flavors of teen horror flicks that many of us grew up on sprinkled in for good measure. A group of teens decide that they’re going to party hearty one night with some illicit drugs while some want to see if a myth about a stranger coming to visit when other groups of teens have done the same thing in the past is real, or will be something that can be used to scare the pants off of the girls in their little group. And when they all start tripping and the Dark Man does pay them a visit, they’re forced to figure out what is real and what is hallucination as their unending nightmare begins.
This is a simple and effective horror novella that doesn’t try to create new worlds or new beasts for us to try and wrap our minds around. Instead of crafting outside worlds of doom and unspeakable horror, it reaches inside the mind, where our primitive fears of the dark and unknown lay tucked away but always within easy reach. The Dark Man is a fun tale in the sense that it doesn’t require the reader to suspend disbelief or accept the implausible. Instead, it uses what is inside us already to freak us out and send us to bed with nightmares about what is hiding underneath the bed or inside the darkened closet.
Shadows in the Mist was the first novel written by author Brian Moreland, written several years ago but that has been re-released this month by Samhain Publishing. I’m not sure what modifications were made to the original tale, if any, with this new version.
While most of this story takes place in the Hurtgen Forest in Germany in late World War II, part of it is told through the eyes of Sean Chambers in the present day. He is the grandson of Jack Chambers, the main character. Jack was a Lieutenant during the war and led his men into battle from Northern Africa all the way into Germany. His last mission in the Hurgten still torments him to this day. When Jack gives Sean his war diary and asks him to hand it over to his friend, General Briggs, who is stationed in Germany, a Rabbi who served with Jack on that last mission catches up with Sean and urges him to forget his grandfather’s request and let sleeping dogs lie. The mission was top secret and it would be better for everyone if it stayed that way. Compelled by his grandfather’s request and ignoring the ominous threats of the Rabbi, Sean and the General return to Hurtgen and to a church Jack referenced were the real mystery lies buried. This is also where Sean begins to read his grandfather’s war diary so he can better understand what happened all those years ago.
The rest of this tale returns us to the battles in Hurtgen that Jack and his platoon suffered through. Jack had been dubbed the Grim Reaper by some, since so many of his men died under his command, though it is clear that he has been given some of the most dangerous assignments in the war and that he has done all that he can to protect the soldiers under his command. We are introduced to the six men in his platoon who, along with Chambers, dub themselves the Lucky Seven because they alone have survived through every battle together. Promises are made that they will be sent back home after years in the field, but the officer who makes that promise to Chambers dies before he can send that request to HQ and his new commanding officer insists they complete one last mission-a secret one with a group of commandos looking to push the Germans out of the Hurtgen for good. As the men reluctantly join this group of gung ho secret operatives, including a Lieutenant who shares an ugly past with Chambers, they discover that the mission has much darker goal than they’ve been told-uncovering how the Nazi’s are using supernatural means to create super soldiers.
This is the second novel I’ve read by Brian Moreland and much like his other effort, Dead of Winter, it provides the reader with a well researched and thought out story providing historically accurate and intriguing details, but doesn’t suffer from being over-stuffed with “technical” minutia that might distract from an otherwise intriguing supernatural adventure tale. Certainly, the idea of the Nazi’s discovering artifacts and texts of a religious nature which provide them with an advantage in their quest to become the master race is not a new one, but the author has drawn from historical events to craft his story, which gave it the right touch of authenticity and made it feel all the more plausible and entertaining.
I enjoyed this novel-my overriding appreciation for it comes from Jack’s tale as divulged in his war diary. The characters-in particular the Lucky Seven and Jack’s hated lieutenant rival-were all entertaining and solidly developed individuals. But as I like to do with each book that I review, I like to point out where the story might have missed the mark for me. With Shadows In the Mist, it was with the present day portion of the tale. It just felt like it was missing something. Early in, Sean is warned about the dire consequences of digging into the past and discovering what Jack and the Rabbi who was with him during his mission worked so hard to cover up in the Hurgten, and then Sean does continue digging, then Jack’s story is revealed, and then we return to present day and …well, I don’t like to divulge spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that, except to say that the rest of Sean and General Brigg’s story left me expecting more. My honest belief is that this book could have stuck to Jack’s tale from World War II exclusively and it would have been a great stand alone tale.
Even with this issue of mine, this is a fun, entertaining supernatural adventure novel that was well done and a lot of fun to read. Definitely worth checking out.
Shadows in the Mist can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Mist-Brian-Moreland/dp/1619210665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347167908&sr=1-1&keywords=shadows+in+the+mist
Peter Clines is fast becoming one of my favorite new writing talents out there. He has written two of the best cross genre zombie tales and his Junkie Quatrain is the zombie story Quentin Tarantino should direct if he ever wants to take a swipe at the undead. 14 takes a different turn, leaving the undead behind and providing the reader with a mystery-thriller that is like a gift wrapped in countless layers of paper that you have to dig through with relentless determination to reveal the truth underneath.
Nate is a working class stiff living near Hollywood who is getting by on data processing temp work that barely pays the bills when his roommates decide to head off in different directions, leaving him searching for a new home with barely the funds necessary to get an apartment. A minor acquaintance suggests a place near Hollywood that has dirt cheap rent and covers the utilities. It seems almost too good to be true, but as Nate settles in and meets several of his neighbors, he begins to notice several strange things about the place. Certain light fixtures don’t work the way they should, apartments are locked up tight with no one living in them for ages, there is an elevator that has never worked, and a storeroom in the basement that is sealed up tight as a drum. Strange cockroaches scrabble across the floor, each apartment has a different floor plan, and it doesn’t appear as if any power lines are coming into the building. On top of it all is a building manager who urges everyone to avoid asking questions and just be grateful for the cheap place to live, which adds even more fuel to the fire and causes Nate and his new found friends to begin investigating everything strange about the place.
Finding out everything he can about the Kavach building becomes Nate’s overriding obsession and he leads what amounts to a Scooby Doo mystery squad of other neighbors on the hunt for the truth. And the truth, slowly revealed in bits and pieces until the whole mystery begins to unravel in faster and faster chunks kept me intrigued throughout. I liked how the story ties in alternative literature, supernatural elements and historical tidbits that gave the story plenty of heft. It is a grand, wide-spanning tale that makes Nate’s obsession make sense and kept me guessing every step of the way, especially as more and more is uncovered about the strange old place. There were plenty of twists and turns and the reveals as the story goes along that were quite satisfying.
Peter Clines has stepped away from the undead and superheroes to provide his audience with something new and fun that I enjoyed a great deal. The characters all had depth that made them feel genuine and real, Nate was a likeable lead and the way he connects with everyone else in the apartment complex was natural and their relationships believable. The creepy elements of the story were well thought out each one is approached with style and wit. A good read for anyone who likes mysteries with a supernatural bent to them. 14 is a blast.
Mad Mannequins From Hell tells the story of Burton Vilmos, an former movie special effects makeup artist who makes his living these day murdering people for his website. They pay him to do it, and of course, it isn’t them actually getting killed, it is all just gory fun. But when he runs through one of the scripts he came up with for his son, and takes a book his close friend got from a mysterious shop owner to do a séance-like ritual for the scene, all hell breaks loose. In particular, Beelzebub rises up along with a slew of mannequin-possessing demons that terrorize Portland at Christmas time. Max, Burton’s son, disappears and Burton makes it his mission to find him and put a stop to the mess he’s created. Along the way he finds three unlikely allies in a trio of battle nuns, has to avoid a couple of odd-ball cops (one of which is a midget in a Mexican wrestling mask), and of course, a ton of mad mannequins, who are skewering and draining the essence of everyone they come into contact with.
This is a bizarro tale, with plenty of wild, otherworldly elements and it works quite well as a snarky, humorous horror story with some unlikely heroes and villains instead of the more traditional stereotypical character types. The pace is brisk and it was a breeze to get through, with a lot of twisted and devious forms of mayhem being perpetrated by the demon-possessed mannequins, which had me smiling. A great deal of the story reads like a laundry-list of scenes of mayhem not directly attached to the main character. For a time, after the mannequins rise, we get scene after scene of destruction. Some of them work, some don’t, but my real complaint is that it leaves less room for the battle nuns in the book, who were by far my favorite characters. Perhaps that comes from my Catholic upbringing and schooling. I knew plenty of nuns in my youth and while most of them scared me (and intrigued me), very few had the allure of these three demon-slayers. Their weapons and … assets were quite impressive. I would have liked to see more of them in action, and perhaps there is another story the author might share that reveals their saga in greater detail.
Despite these minor grumps, this was a fun, entertaining read. It brought both smiles and grimaces to my face in equal measure, which is always a good thing.
Mad Mannequins From Hell can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Mannequins-Uncanny-Valley-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B0089RDMY2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1342363717&sr=1-1&keywords=mad+mannequins+from+hell
The 5000 Fingers of Bob is a strange and creepy tale set in south during the Great Depression and tells the story of five men plotting the death of a local man they’ve dubbed Bob, even though they don’t know his real name. They call him Bob because that’s what he calls everyone around town. He is a man-child, a mentally handicapped man who is huge, eerie, but appears to be harmless on the surface. But when one of the men finds him leaning over his daughter’s bed one night and throws Bob outside, only to find giant back inside, he suggests to his friends that they kill Bob, or do something else to (at the very least) dissuade him from doing any other disturbing things. There are other rumors of Bob showing up in one place and then disappearing, and of things happening around him that are horrific, like the death of someone’s dog that is graphic and grotesque.
Things go wrong as the men continue to hatch their plot to put a stop to Bob and as they carry it out. While the truth is somewhat muddled, it is clear that there is more to Bob than meets the eye. This is a short story, and as such the author leaves out details that might reveal more about the nature of Bob and the supernatural shadowing effect that seems to surround him. That serves the purpose of keeping things a mystery, even as more is revealed about the man who seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once.
A good, creative short story. I do wish there were more details laid out there, but the author’s ability to set a scene and pull you into it as a reader gives this little tale a potent punch.
The 5000 Fingers of Bob can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-5000-Fingers-Bob-ebook/dp/B007FYBBQG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340113984&sr=8-1&keywords=the+5000+fingers+of+bob
Not too long ago, I was approached by an author friend of mine with a request to help promote their new fantasy novel on my blog, which I did, happily. I tend to write reviews of horror novels, but I thought that since I am a big fan of fantasy as well I would also read her book, and not just promote it. So here is my review of her book, which I would say fits nicely in the realm of young adult fiction, with both fantasy elements as well as a bit of horror-with werewolves and vampires playing a prominent role.
Charming Incantations: Enticed tells the story of Lisa, a young woman whose parents were tragically killed in a fire, which thrusts her into a world she never knew existed: one with supernatural creatures that expect her to do her part as the surviving heir to the human representatives on a council that works to keep the world safe from darkness.
While the story provides a prolog explaining the alliance between the six races: human, werewolf, vampire, shape-shifter, witch, and banshee, the first chapter of this tale bypasses Lisa’s initial realization of what she must do or any revelations she has that there is an entire world that has been hidden from her. Instead, her tale begins with her knocking on the door of the meeting place of the six representatives of the six races. There she meets the five other generals, or leaders of the armies that hold back the evil known as goblins from taking over the world. One of them, Romulus, the leader of the werewolves, will take her in and protect her from danger until she can be trained to protect herself and take over her duties as a leader.
Lisa faces a great deal of challenges, not the least of which is the fact that she is falling hard for Romulus while she is trying to grasp this new world that surrounds her. She fears these supernatural races but must come to terms with them all so that she can insure that her status as protector of humanity comes to pass.
This tale is part romance and part fantasy adventure. There is magic here, and I am sure there will be passing comparisons to Twilight, but this is a tale on a far grander scale. Lisa is learning about this new world as we learn about it, and is forced into battle even though humans are deemed the weak link in the alliance. She cannot raise her own army of humans because the secrets of the other races must be kept, so the burden is even greater for her than for her counterparts. In some ways, this is a coming of age tale as well, with Lisa doing her best to find her place in a world that is scary, exciting, and quite dangerous.
This is the first book of what I believe will be a series, but this story can certainly stand on its own as a tale of a young woman coming into her own in a world filled with both dangers, delight, magic, and mayhem.
Charming Incantions: Enticed can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Charming-Incantations-Enticed-Monique-Snyman/dp/0987874721/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336631184&sr=1-1
Another project I worked on and am very excited about has come to fruition and is now available over on Amazon. Read The End First has the unique premise of showcasing 24 different tales of the end of the world, each based in a different time zone. Because of the nature of the project, this was an invite only anthology, and each author had to pick a particular time zone and write a story that would make sense given their location on the globe. My particular story takes place in Bethlehem and is entitled “What Rough Beast.” You’ll just have to guess at what the story is all about.
So check this one out, there is a great list of authors involved, including Stephen North, Suzanne Robb (who edited it), Michael S. Gardner, Rebecca Snow, A.J. French, Craig Saunders, John McCuaig, David Dunwoody, Wayne Goodchild, Adrian Chamberlain, D.A. Chaney, Hollie Snider, William Todd Rose, and many more that I apologize I can’t remember right off the top of my head.
So click on the cover and head on over to Amazon to check out your very own copy of Read The End First.