Tusk and Sedation Dentistry are two horror short stories with dentists as their main characters. Tusk has us sitting down next to the young, beautiful neighbor of an older dentist who enjoys regaling her with tales of his adventurous youth. You see, he has countless trophies from trips abroad adorning his office walls. But one particular trophy, an oddly elongated tooth, has caught her eye and she is insistent on hearing how the good doctor came across this strange artifact. Though reluctant, the dentist begrudgingly shares his journey of dark discovery.
Sedation Dentistry is like the sickly sweet dessert after devouring a darkly delectable meal. Weighing in at only a couple of pages, this tidbit reveals how tremendously horrifying dentistry might be. Spending every day starring into the deep, dank abysses that are people’s bacteria infested mouths and then being forced to stick your fingers inside those vile maws must be a nightmare for some. Even worse must be the secret fear that those horrible ivory pillars could come slamming together at any second to grind the flesh off the bones of your fingers…
These two ‘toothsome tales’, as the author describes them, are a quick, painless read, poured through faster than it’ll take you to go through your next six month checkup. Tusk leads us into a chultun-an underground chamber on the Yucatan Peninsula where our dentist friend is hunting for treasure with a couple of comrades. This dark lair shares some disturbingly similar characteristics to the open, steaming holes that are the mouths he deals with as a dentist, including the sharp, pointed teeth. Sedation Dentistry fooled me in the first couple of sentences, with its description of a cavernous, plague infested mouth that was as ominous as the caverns found in Tusk.
Quick easy reads for those chomping at the bit for a taste of horror.
Tusk and Sedation Dentistry can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Tusk-Sedation-Dentistry-Stephen-North-ebook/dp/B074PTDDJD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504145557&sr=8-1&keywords=tusk+and+sedation+dentistry
The Sanguinarian Id introduces us to Hael, a child found abandoned and left for dead in the woods outside of an asylum in England in the late 1800s. Taken in by the doctors there, they are fascinated by this little girl who remembers little of her past and appears to be supernaturally resilient and strong. They search for but fail to find anyone who knows who she is, which is completely satisfactory to Dr. Strauss and especially Dr. Mendelson, who run the asylum. They have spent much of their time experimenting and torturing their mostly female patients and have devious plans for Hael as well.
This story combines elements of gothic horror with a journey of self-discovery. Hael doesn’t truly understand what she is, but begins to grasp the truth while doing her best to escape her nightmare existence. Despite her efforts to escape the clutches of the mysterious and purely evil Mendelson, it appears that their destinies are firmly intertwined long term.
The first part of the book takes place in Hael’s childhood years, and the author has given it a strong flavor of gothic horror like we get from the classics of the era: Dracula and Frankenstein. The latter half of the book leaps forward a half century when we are thrust into the middle of World War II Germany, where Hael continues her lifelong quest for redemption and revenge.
The story is intriguing, pulling us deeper into the dark underworld Hael both lives in and tries to make sense of-she has been abused, beaten, terrorized, and violated throughout her life. In turn, she has worked to extract revenge on those who have done this to her and those she cares for, while trying to find some sense of self. She lives both in the real world painted black with despair and misery the Nazi’s have unleashed, and in the supernatural world-a world filled with pure blood and half-blood vampires and other monsters far worse.
This is the author’s first novel and in many ways is an impressive bit of storytelling, especially for someone who is barely into adulthood. The depth of research and understanding it must have taken to develop this world and underworld filled with supernatural characters and creatures must have been substantial. The author has developed a vibrant, bloody, dark, grim world and a character that successfully manages to give the reader someone to both respect and care for, while also fearing them and the dark acts they are capable of doing.
There is a fair bit of tell vs. show in this story and the dialog, at points, is a bit awkward. The main character’s use of the word “bitch” on multiple occasions as an insult to her male enemies in the World War II era felt a bit out of place, though that is a minor complaint. There are some awkward turns of phrase here and there while some of the story transitions are abrupt. We go from knowing little to nothing about the monsters that inhabit this world early on in the story, to Kael having extensive knowledge of them later on. We did not get to join her on that journey of discovery and it felt a bit like an opportunity lost.
Despite these quibbles, this is a strong first entry in this potential series of books and a very promising start to the career of the author, who will continue to refine her writing style and sharpen the dialog with the more stories she creates. Her foundation in storytelling is solid and I look forward to seeing more from L.M. Labat in the future.
The Sanguinarian Id can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Sanguinarian-Id-L-M-Labat/dp/1937769445/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Hunter of the Dead does its best to shed new light into vampire mythology with a story spanning the ages from the early days of vampires and the inquisitors who wage a constant war with them to today, when a strange monster, shrouded in mystery, has come forth, slaying both vampires and inquisitors alike.
The story passes through multiple time periods, flashing back into the history of characters both significant and petty, while the main story focuses on events occuring in present day Las Vegas. Cicatrice, the strongest immortal in the world and leader of the most powerful house of vampires, is locked in a war with all other rival houses, including house Signari, led by Father Otto, Cicatrice’s greatest rival. Cicatrice has just found his true heir, Idi Han, a freshly turned but incredibly powerful young vampire who shows remarkable skills and control over her powers. We are also introduced to Nico Salazar, night manager of a convenience store who is thrust into the world of night dwellers when his store gets attacked by a strange, vampire-like creature and only by luck and the assistance of an employee does he manage to survive. It turns out that his ragged compatriot is Carter Price, an inquisitor who looks like he’s been run through mill a few too many times to be classified as much of a vampire slayer.
There is a lot going on in this story, with the authors own unique take on the world of vampires and immortality being shared on its pages. Kozeniewski does bring some fresh takes to the genre, with his own brand of dark humor steeped in heavy doses of gore drenched horror. The main characters are solidly developed-in particular Idi Han-the young vampire whose powers are growing at a far more rapid rate than normal, along with her resentment toward being seen as some sort of savior of her kind. Also intriguing is Carter Price, the washed out, rough and tumble inquisitor that likes to go it alone in a profession that typically requires massive teamwork to survive given how much power immortals wield.
This story is jam packed with characters and flashbacks that lend a healthy appreciation for the history of the immortal bloodlines and the wars they’ve waged with one another and humankind. The advantage with that is that the story moves at a very fast clip-there is very little downtime in its pages. Unfortunately, this also means that some of the flesh on its bones I would have liked to have seen within the pages is hard to find. This is a tale that could have been further developed with a much larger work, or perhaps sliced into multiple novels about the diverse characters populating its pages. The Hunter, a malignant and yet fascinating monster, could have garnered for more pages and storyline here, but so to could have Idi Han, Cicatrice, and Carter Price. It is clear that there is more to tell with each of them and given that the author has left the door open for a sequel (or a series of books), perhaps we will see a great deal more of each of them in later works.
Overall, the writing here, as is typically the case with Kozeniewski, is rock solid. He knows how to weave a creative, darkly funny, and diabolical tale. Perhaps it isn’t much of a criticism that his story could have been more fleshed out-after all, leaving the audience wanting more isn’t the worst sin in the world.
Hunter of the Dead can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Hunter-Dead-Stephen-Kozeniewski/dp/1944044310/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491760206&sr=8-1&keywords=hunter+of+the+dead
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
Son of Blood (The Secret of Skerries) introduces the reader to Martin and his son, who live off the coast of Ireland on a small island with an ancient castle. The island sits across from the quaint town of Skerries, where the local town folk know of the man and his teenage son, as well as their secret. Martin has committed himself as protector over the town and is friends with the town’s mayor, who has gained power and wealth due to Martin’s steadfast loyalty and unique talents of keeping undesirables out.
Martin is a vampire. His son is one too, although he has not fed on the living, and Martin hopes that Christian will never do so. More than anything, Martin wants to protect his son and has kept him from interacting with the townspeople throughout his life, but much like his father, Christian has fallen for a pretty girl from the town and wants to be more than just the mysterious freak who lives on the island across the way. The fact that the girl he is interested in is the mayor’s daughter who has friends who despise Christian and his father poses a serious threat him and his father’s peaceful relationship with the town.
Son of Blood could be deemed a young adult paranormal romance with a healthy horror twist to it. I’ve read some of the author’s other works and he doesn’t shy away from the gore, giving his vamps not only a desire for blood, but flesh as well. These vamps are far more traditional bloodsuckers than what we have seen as of late in this genre, and Martin, for all his love for his son and desire to shelter him away from the curse that has taken him is truly a monster and a remorseless killer. He claims to feed on only those who would not be missed, like the destitute and homeless, as if he is doing society a favor by eradicating them, but mixed in with those unfortunates are others who have loved ones who acutely feel their loss.
Martin and Christian’s relationship is by its very nature, strained, but despite the fact that Martin knows he is cursed by his affliction, his only real desire is to do everything he can to make sure Christian does not suffer that same fate. Of course, that means keeping his away from those who his son might be tempted to feed upon. Naturally, since Christian has grown into a teenager who has been kept isolated all his life, he is compelled to make connections with others his own age, and in particular with Sinead, the mayor’s daughter, who is as intrigued with him as he is with her.
The story moves at a brisk pace and is an easy read. The main characters-Martin, Christian, and Sinead, are fairly well developed. Unfortunately, some of the other minor characters are not as fleshed out. Owen, the bullying friend of Sinead who despises Christian and thinks of him as a freak, is more or less a stereotype of most teen bullies we’ve seen in other tales, though the forces spurring him to hurt Christian offer up a bit of a twist.
Overall, this is an entertaining tale geared toward an audience who long for vampires with a bit more traditional heft and bite to them than what has been unleashed on the world over the past few years in the young adult genre. While a teen romance drives this story, it is a far darker tale than we’ve seen and more than likely will grow darker still with future volumes.
Son of Blood (The Secret of Skerries) can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Son-Blood-Secrets-Skerries-Book-ebook/dp/B00MWCPE82/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-3&qid=1412733720
Ketchup on Everything is a bit of a surprise of a novella. I went into it not knowing anything about the story except for the brief blurb of a description, and came out of it with some mixed emotions. It begins innocently enough, with a man traveling the countryside in his RV stopping at a roadside diner to grab a cup of coffee. He seems to be talking to his wife in the vehicle before he steps inside, but it is a one-sided conversation that leaves the reader puzzled as to whether she is there or not. Elliott seems like an affable, pleasant man, though there is a sadness about him that is only hinted at during the introduction to this tale.
Through flashback, we discover that Elliott’s young son disappeared years before. He was playing in the family’s garden and all the sudden was gone. The author makes the process of facing first the horror and dread of this experience quite vivid and real-especially for someone who has children and cannot escape the fear that your child could go missing. From there it becomes a helpless, mind-numbing agony of frustration the more time passes without knowing what has happened. The idea of an innocent child that you love more than life itself vanishing without a trace is something hard, if not impossible, for most of us to fathom. Nathan Robinson allows the reader to ride along with both Elliott and his wife, who take too different roads in coping with the loss of their son, for the years of torture they suffer through.
By the time we return to the present, past the flashbacks, the sense of having lived in Elliott’s shoes makes what happens next all the more intriguing, though perhaps not as intense as the first part of the story where there is both pain and an undeniable hope that somehow, their lost boy will be found. This is not a criticism of how the story comes to completion, just a tribute to the writing that leads up to that part of the story, which adds an interesting twist on Elliott’s sad and tragic tale.
Ketchup on Everything can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Ketchup-Everything-Nathan-Robinson-ebook/dp/B00JANUJXQ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1403144275
Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death is a compendium of grim short stories, each with their own interpretation of the title of this work. No one is safe here, with a rogue’s gallery of villains that range from the tragic to the demonic that all lust for blood, flesh, and the demise of all who cross their paths.
I read the paperback version of the book, which note that there are 4 bonus tales vs. the electronic version. I will provide a brief synopsis of each tale without providing any spoilers.
Deadly Mistakes tells the tragic tale of a man out for revenge after a clerical error at a law office that lets a murdering monster free to slaughter his wife.
Turn of Events turns the tables on the traditional sad tale of domestic violence.
Stalkers Beware provides some new ideas of how to deal with all those pesky groupies if you are a rock star.
Hope of a Future takes a look at a bleak apocalyptic future where hoping for even the most simple things can make things even more grim.
Game Gone Wrong mixes science fiction with the very prevalent fear of the government watching your every move, and doing whatever it takes to find out what you know.
Mystery Meat is a simple tale of a meat packing facility trying to find out where several bins of prime cuts of meat came from that no one knows about…with morbid results.
Father’s Revenge is a succinct, blunt tale of a father’s revenge when his wife betrays him, as seen through the eyes of his daughter.
Innocent Blood starts out much like the previous tale, but with the desire for revenge going dreadfully wrong.
On Account of Bacon speaks of how unspeakable tragedies can occur for the most innocuous reasons…or in this case, thanks to a delicious breakfast meat.
Evil Mountain asks the question ‘what do you get when a werewolf, vampire, witch, zombie, and dragon walk into a poor, innocent villager’s hut?’ Nothing pleasant, I can tell you that much.
The Heart of Heroism tells the tragic tale of Billy Jack, a mentally handicapped man-child who simply wants to be a superhero and gets his chance when the zombie apocalypse starts up in the tenement he lives in with his overbearing father.
Historical Significance is a traditional ghost tale with a demonic twist.
Memories starts out asking the question ‘Have you ever heard a rabbit scream?’ and goes deeper down the rabbit hole from there.
Overall, this set of macabre tales are solidly written, though some are stronger and more compelling than others. Each share a very fatalistic perspective, though they range from the gore splattered to the sinister. Hope of a Future, Innocent Blood, Evil Mountain, and The Heart of Heroism were my favorites of the lot, while a couple of the very short tales didn’t do it for me, like Turn of Events and Father’s Revenge. When the author works with more than a page or two, she is able to craft characters that are real, vivid, and accessible.
Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Pathways-Murder-Rebecca-Besser/dp/0615858163/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1401418967&sr=8-2&keywords=twisted+pathways+of+murder+%26+death (paperback) and here: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Pathways-Murder-Rebecca-Besser-ebook/dp/B00E1LPQZS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401418967&sr=8-1&keywords=twisted+pathways+of+murder+%26+death (kindle).