Archive for the 'Horror' Category

Review: Starers by Nathan Robinson

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Starers_Nathan_RobinsonThis one is from my personal library, recommended by someone on my Bookapalooza thread, and let me tell you: Starers by Nathan Robinson is one seriously creepy book! A little horror, a little family drama, maybe a little religion – and a lot of creepy suspense. This was a great one-sitting read.

Dylan Keene is heading home from a night at the pub, his deadbeat brother in tow. Standing at the bus stop across the street from the house is an old man. Dylan doesn’t give him much thought – but he’s still there the following morning. Even more disturbing is the fact that he’s not alone, there are other people out there, staring at the Keene household.

And it doesn’t stop. As the day wears on, more and more people gather to stare at them, leaving Dylan, his wife, Kirsty, his daughter, Lucy, and his brother, Lennon. The Starers don’t react to anything. They are in various stages of dress (and undress). There are accidents, but they don’t move. They don’t eat, they don’t sit down, they don’t even blink – they just stare at the Keene’s house…and every time they look outside, there are more of them.

Creepy enough for you? Honestly, the thought of being locked in the house with my family is bad enough, but creepy staring people on the lawn? No thanks!

There are a few issues with this one. It could use a bit of editing, I think – I found some of the phrasing awkward and grammar issues make me grit my teeth. Still, I had great fun with it, trying to guess what the ending would be. One of the best things about getting books for my Kindle is that for very little money, I can pick up some really cool books – this is definitely one of them.

My copy of Starersis from my personal library.

Review: Rage Against the Night, short stories by Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub and more

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

rageFolks, it pays to troll the Daily Deals and links on Amazon’s Kindle pages. That’s where I picked up Rage Against the Night, edited by Shane Jiraiya Cummings, with stories by all your favorites — Stephen King, Ramsey Cambell, Peter Straub, and more. The book is a fund-raiser for Rocky Wood, author, president of the Horror Writers Association and an expert on the work of Stephen King. Rocky has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and all proceeds from the sale of Rage Against the Night will go to Rocky.  When you can buy a great book at a low price and have the money go to a terrific cause, how can you pass that up?

“In this anthology, you will find stories of brave men and women standing up to the darkness, staring it right in the eye, and giving it the finger. These are stories of triumph, but triumph doesn’t necessarily come without cost. “

It’s truly a great tribute. There are terrific stories here! One of my favorites is “Afterward, There Will Be a Hallway” by Gary A. Braunbeck. It’s the story of Neal, a man who takes care of the things that people leave behind, their personal effects. It has a profound effect on him and it connects him to the dead and their world. In the theme of this collection, it is a sad story, but one that is also full of hope.

“Blue Heeler” by Weston Ochse is another great story, about a young boy’s unusual and (mostly) unseen friend. Unraveling the mystery behind his friend’s strange imprisonment will expose secrets that will break his family apart. “Like Part of the Family” by Jonathan Mayberry is a fun take on the classic detective story. Even though I could see the twist coming, I loved getting there.

I could go on and on, telling you about every story in the book, but you’ll have more fun discovering them for yourself.  My copy of Rage Against the Night came from my personal library.

 

Review: Four Summoner’s Tales by Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, Jonathan Maberry

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

four summoners talesFour Summoner’s Tales starts with an interesting premise. If you could truly raise people from the dead, of course, there would be people willing to pay you to do it, to bring their loved ones back. But wouldn’t there also be people willing to pay you not to do it? Could you blackmail that trophy wife, whose 90-year-old husband just left her a fortune? Could you hold a country hostage, threatening to bring back a despotic leader? Four great authors were presented with the idea and their stories made for great reading.

The stories are set in different time periods and locations – a remote, 19th century village; a modern-day Texas border town, under siege from the Mexican drug cartels; war-torn Afghanistan and London in the early 1700′s. In each story, the Summoners have a slightly different motive, although profit and revenge figure prominently. Some revel in their ability, while others find it compelling but troubling.

My favorite of the stories was “A Bad Season for Necromancy” by David Liss. Liss is a terrific author – I loved The Whiskey Rebels – and this story is set in merry old England. A social-climbing young man masquerades as a gentleman, and he uses his ability in a very unusual way. It seems to me he could have just as easily used it for paying customers, to bring back their loved ones, but he wanted revenge.

The most difficult for me was “Alive Day” by Jonathan Maberry, set in Afghanistan. A black-ops team stumbles into what is basically a temple to an ancient goddess, and they are completely unprepared for what they find. I found it a little difficult to follow, and I didn’t feel the connection to the premise as clearly. It was still an interesting story, but it didn’t fit as well, at least for me.

This was a very quick read – I finished it somewhere over the ocean, between Detroit and Amsterdam. (It’s amazing how much of my reading is done on planes.) It’s a perfect fit for those who like a touch of the supernatural, without the trappings of zombies, vampires and shape-shifters, too common in many books today.

My copy of Four Summoner’s Tales was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge. For more information and a Google Preview, check out SimonandSchuster.com.

Review: Blood and Other Cravings, edited by Ellen Datlow

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

I was very excited to receive this collection of stories. This is the third Ellen Datlow collection I’ve read, the second that I’ve reviewed, and I think she does a great job of choosing really interesting stories that all play to a theme. Blood and Other Cravings isn’t your typical book about vampires. These aren’t necessarily creatures that suck your blood and hate garlic, but they are creatures who steal something essential from you. They draw something — energy, will, love, vitality — from you and leave your diminished. They aren’t terribly happy stories, not surprisingly. Two of them were so cruel that I found them deeply disturbing. But all in all, this is a very good collection.

It’s always tough to review a book of short stories. Where do you begin? What if you love some stories and hate others? This is pretty easy review, though: most of the stories were quite good. I didn’t love the collection as much as I did Naked City, but I think that is partly because of the subject matter. Talking about something that sucks the life out of you — even if we’re not talking about your blood — is not cheery. But the stories aren’t all doom and gloom, they just aren’t as funny as in some of the other collections.

I particularly enjoyed “X for Demetrious” by Stephen Duffy. It is based on the true story of a man who was found dead in his apartment, surrounded by lines of salt, bottles of…waste, and cloves of garlic. It is a distressing look at a mind that is caving in on itself. I was also thrilled to see a story from Kathe Koja — I reviewed her novel Under the Poppy last year and loved it. “Toujours” is not a vampire story, but it is a story about losing the thing that sustains you, having it taken away from you. It fits right in, in its own way.

I also really enjoyed “Blood Yesterday, Blood Tomorrow” by Richard Bowes. I could easily understand the appeal of the mementos of “Myrna’s Place” and other, similar establishments, the feeling that you knew a little something that the world at large did not know. I have always found there is nothing quite as enticing as being in the inner circle, knowing the secret stuff that others can’t guess at — very, very alluring. And if you can profit from that, why not?

There were two stories that I found very disturbing. These were stories of cruelty that haunted me for a bit, a look at being the vampire that was not at all appealing. The first was “Mrs. Jones” by Carol Emshwiller. A lonely woman makes a discovery that lets her get something she desperately wants and also gives her a mean little triumph over her equally lonely sister. But what she is willing to do to get it! It brought out all my protective instincts. The second story was “Mulberry Boys” by Margo Lanagan. It’s a little difficult in the beginning, purposely so, to sort out exactly what is going on, but once you do…shiver. Again, you can’t help but feel a deep sympathy for the poor fellow, with his gentle protests. I found it much more distressing than the stories of more forthright violence.

Overall, this is an excellent collection. There are stories that look at the theme from a variety of angles. There’s a bit of humor (“The Baskerville Midgets” by Reggie Oliver) and a couple of good scares.

My copy of Blood and Other Cravings was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

Review: Jokers Club by Gregory Bastianelli

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Jokers Club is a quick read with plenty of twists and turns. Geoff is a failed writer with a brain tumor, returning to his hometown for a reunion with old friends (who, for the most part, were more tormentors than friends). His friends start dying and weird things start happening, but its uncertain whether these are real or caused by the tumor.

The Joker describes Geoff’s writing as “contrived” and he is definitely on to something. To me, it seemed like a mash-up of other work. At first, I thought it sounded far too much like It by Stephen King. As I kept reading, it seemed more like The Dark Half, with a little bit of the movie Identity stirred in. None of it seemed new or fresh to me.

The book isn’t a lost cause; I think a good editor could have helped Bastianelli pinpoint some weaknesses, areas where the story could be improved. It requires a lot suspension of disbelief. Would the people — some of them in desperate personal and financial straits — travel hundreds of miles to hang out with childhood buddies? Could it be possible that the sheriff, the local loony and others around town really haven’t changed a bit since Geoff left home? And even if there is a twist at the end that probably explains all of this, am I likely to hang on until the end if the rest of it seems unrealistic and not terribly compelling. While there are some interesting bits, too much of Jokers Club seems recycled.

Jokers Club came to me through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

Review: Pitch Dark by Steven Sidor

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

It’s Christmas Eve and Vera Coffey is on the run. What she brings to the little town of American Rapids is certainly not holiday cheer. She has something with her, and the people following her will do anything to get it back.

In Pitch Dark, Steven Sidor sets an extremely creepy stage. A small town in the middle of nowhere, a blizzard, and the eve of a holiday, when no one expects bad things to happen. These are nice people — Vera, Adam, Wyatt, Opal and Max — and they have no idea what’s coming for them. Vera had a fight with her boyfriend and ran. She meets Adam on the road, heading home to see his parents for Christmas. Wyatt and Opal’s life together has already been scarred by violence; they thought running the Rendezvous Motel would give them the peace and quiet they wanted.

Pitch Dark is a quick read — mainly because you want to get through it and see what happens. The tension builds as bits and pieces of the story are revealed. There are old stories, truth and fiction, and there are connections you don’t immediately see. There is organization and method behind this, a terrible, dark intelligence. It sounds crazy at first, like the visions Opal has been having, but sometimes even crazy stories have a bit of truth in them.

This is a great little thriller – a perfect read for Halloween week. (It’s certainly not a Christmas story, no matter when it’s set!) It was easy to get caught up in the story, to start to worry about the characters and whether they’ll be okay, and to wonder about the mystery and the madman at the heart of the story.

Steven Sidor is the author of three dark thrillers Skin River, Bone Factory, and The Mirror’s Edge. Check out StevenSidor.com for more info on his earlier books and for a special prequel, A Chunk of Hell, available for free on his website.

My copy of Pitch Dark was provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

 

Review: The Night Eternal by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Oh, was I excited to get this book! I loved the first book in the series, The Strain – recommended it to everyone who was tired of sparkly vampires. The Fall was a little less successful (often the case with the middle book in a series), but still a very good read. I have been anxiously awaiting the final installment, in part because I figure the movie can’t be far behind.

The Night Eternal begins two years after The Fall ends. The Master has orchestrated the end of the human race and instituted a new vampire world order. There are still humans around; after all, the vampires could not survive without them; but most of them are completely subjugated. The size of the vampire population is closely controlled, so that it does not outstrip the available humans, and some of the surviving humans are similarly monitored. (Let’s just say that having B-positive blood is not a good thing.) The Master has used his psychic connection to the vampires he created to control the human population, which lives in nearly perpetual darkness thanks to the nuclear holocaust of the last book.

Ephraim Goodweather, Nora Martinez, Vasily Fet and Gus Elizade are still fighting the good fight. They have ways of undermining the Master and at the same time, they are working to discover the secret of the Occido Lumen, the book that holds the secret of the Master’s origins. In The Fall, the Master destroyed the other Ancients by destroying their birthplace, the site where they first rose as vampires. The book holds clues, but they are subtle and complex, and they will not reveal themselves easily.

Ephraim is not much good to his colleagues these days. He is obsessed with the fate of his son, Zach, who was captured by his mother, a vampire working closely with the Master. He is unstable and unreliable, but still part of the key to the mystery.

Del Toro and Hogan do an interesting job of weaving vampire mythology and Old Testament stories to create a really original vampire canon. Their vampires are unlike any others in recent memory. And they are not afraid to take the story to the extreme — in The Fall, they call down a nuclear holocaust — to see the story through. This third book is full of plot twists, unlikely allies and surprising enemies. In some ways, the book went far further than I expected, and I love a book that can truly surprise me. This is full of action and suspense and heartbreak; it’s a terrific end to the series.

All the same, I have to say that I hope this isn’t exactly the end. I thought from the very first scene in The Strain that this would make a great movie. The Strain has so much atmosphere and is so visual that you can almost see the movie in your ahead. (Exactly the sort of novel I would expect from such a great director.) There’s a lot of great material here that I believe would be great on the big screen. At least, a girl can dream…

My copy of The Night Eternal was a review copy provided free of charge by the publisher.


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Guest Post: Jake Bannerman, Middle Finger Salute

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Okay, today we have a guest post that is not polite, not politically correct and not afraid to state a controversial opinion — what a great way to end the week! Just as I would caution people that Jake Bannerman’s book, Pitchfork Diaries, is not for the faint of heart, I would warn you that this guest post is not for the easily offended. I love a passionately-held opinion, so this was a lot of fun for me to read and I hope you enjoy it.

Jake Bannerman, author of Pitchfork Diaries
Middle Finger Salute

Today I would like to address the ongoing subject of people claiming or complaining or whimpering or dropping on their knees praying to Jesus about my writing being too graphic or too violent.

I happen to have a few different views on this subject.

Number one. I did not ask you to pick up my book and read it without there being provided with a synopsis or the availability of reviews for you to read and research in advance. And if the term EXTREME HORROR did not tip you off obviously it doesn’t surprises me that you would be one to bitch. YOU are the reason America sucks. YOU are the old lady who spilled coffee in her lap and sued McDonald’s. YOU are the teenager who didn’t wear a condom and ingratiated yourself to my tax money to pay for the baby you have no right to have. The information is obvious: coffee is hot, unprotected sex causes pregnancy, and if you did not know those things YOU HAVE NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION!

Number two. Sometimes we don’t take reviews or synopses seriously and do you want to know why? It’s because people will say whatever they need to say to sell their product. It’s an age old game; snake oil cures the sick, grows hair, and eases arthritis. Whatever it needed to do at the right time and place for the con artist to make money. Yes, it is true MEN are the worst offenders because we have noproblem telling you we can and will satisfy you just to have the opportunity……… Oh hell, I wasn’t supposed to divulge what’s in the Secret Guide to Being a Man.

Number three. Ok this is where Jake gets controversial… Guess what?? Violence, graphic sex, murder, rape, blood splatter, necrophilia, chain sawed abortions being fed to nuns, decapitating the pope, and flying planes into buildings and killing thousands is, and I hope you’re ready for this – IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT!!!!! Check the statistics on movies. People do not stray away from violence or sex or murder; have you seen the NEWS lately? Ever heard of NASCAR? How many times do you think people actually watch a race to see cars drive in circles???? NONE, NONE, AND NONE. We watch for the wrecks. Oh no, you say NOT ME. Really? The porn industry is larger than Hollywood in terms of income because NOBODY is interested in sex? How fucking silly do you think I am?

So what do I say when people say I am too graphic, too violent and too sexual? I say yes I am! I am a human being created by a God who programmed me with lust, sin, anger, and the desire to be interested in every damn one of them! It’s called the Pleasures of the FLESH and I indulge in every one of them every fucking chance I get. Just remember that the bible says the wages of sin are death…Wait, death and sin? HOW VIOLENT…


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Review: In the Dunes by John Leahy

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

This story comes at a perfect time. As I posted earlier today, my current book is Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy, full of stories about fae and other wildfolk, most of them taking place in urban environments. In the Dunes, a story/novella by John Leahy, runs along similar lines. Two good friends, on a golfing vacation in Ireland, find out that you ignore the warning signs at your peril, because you don’t really want to know what’s in the dunes.

Reviews like this are tough! The story is only 46 pages — not a lot of material to work with — and I would hate to spoil any of the surprises. It’s got a couple of themes I like to it: the silent, knowing townspeople, the perfectly innocuous nature of the warnings, a very surprising turn of events and time to lament your mistakes. After all, it’s no fun if you don’t have some time to savor the inevitable bad end!

My one criticism is that Leahy needs to work on writing in an Irish brogue. One character’s accent is spelled out for us, but it isn’t thick enough to seem truly Irish, and the spelling didn’t seem to match the pronunciation in my head. Perhaps he needs to hang out a bit in an Irish pub and try to translate what he hears. It’s an excellent excuse for a trip to Dublin!

Leahy has a few published stories to his credit and I hope he continues to write. This is a fun, spooky little bit of fiction and it should be nestled in amongst some other similar tales. That would make for a very pleasant bit of reading.

For more information on John Leahy, check him out on Facebook.

PUBLICATION CREDITS:
2011 – Novellette In The Dunes available under publisher Lillibridge Press
2011 – Novella Harry Wall’s Man available under publisher Melange Books.
2011 – Short story SpiderGirl167 available under publisher Racybunny.com. Writing under pseudonymn Mia Ryan
2010 – Novella Indomonu available under publisher Damnation Books.

Review: The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Friday, October 1st, 2010

The news reports talk about riots, civil unrest, perhaps some sort of viral epidemic. They have to say that — who would take them seriously if they started talking about vampires?  In The Fall, the second book in Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain trilogy, nothing less than the future of mankind is at stake.

The people massing in the lowest levels of the World Trade Center reconstruction site are not gang-bangers, vandals or victims of some exotic flu. They’re vampires. They’ve caught an age-old infection, an aggressive contagion, one that doesn’t even require a bite. This epidemic is spreading like wildfire, crippling New York City as well as other major cities across the globe.

Ephraim Goodweather is no longer the CDC’s golden boy. He has been discredited, accused of murder, and he’s in hiding with mysterious pawn shop owner Abraham Setrakian. Eph wants to fight this with science, wants to believe that he can count on the the Powers That Be to come to their rescue, or at least to take them seriously. Instead, Eph, Setrakian and their pal, exterminator extraordinaire Vasily Fet, are on their own, or very nearly so. They may find that they have some truly unexpected allies.

There are a couple of interesting developments since the last book. Eph’s son, Zack is being targeted by his mother, Kelly. Newly-turned vampires have a primal need to gather their Dear Ones and bring them into the fold. With all that Zack has seen, he still can’t quite believe that his mother is a danger to him. Eldritch Palmer, multi-billionaire businessman may be working with the vampires, but he definitely has his own agenda. And even some of the vampires may not be what they appear to be. This is an ancient conspiracy, and we finally learn a little about what is driving The Master and his relationship to the other Ancients, as well as learning that Setrakian knows far more than he has revealed so far.

These are not sparkly, happy vampires. These are ugly, disgusting creatures; no sex appeal here.  Goodweather, Setrakian and Fet are literally fighting for the survival of the human race. This fast-paced thriller keeps you turning pages, building suspense even as it begins to reveal its secrets.

My copy of The Fall was an Advanced Reader Edition, provided free of charge. The Fall hit the bookstores on September 21, 2010. For more information on the trilogy, check out The Strain Trilogy.com.