Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Offspring by Bill Pinnell

Terrifying family secrets have plagued Hughie Decker for as long as he can remember. Now, just as his life and career have finally begun to make strides, a seemingly innocent story from his hometown newspaper leaves Decker with no choice. He must return to his boyhood home to confront the horrid truth that destroyed so many lives.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book. It was the cover that caught my eye first, looking like it leans towards horror, before I noticed it was sitting there in the general fiction section. A glance at the author's name told me nothing, it was not a name I recognized. The short synopsis didn't give away much either, but I picked it up anyway and began to read. Within the first few pages when I met a character by the name of Irene who was Hughie's mom that had run off years ago with a book salesman... there was no turning back for me.

I think I would put this more in the historical fiction category than general fiction. It spans several decades as Hughie Decker, now a grown man, stands on the spot he hasn't visited since childhood and sees clear as day the events of the past. As Hughie travels back to his childhood home and contemplates events of long ago days we are introduced to several more characters from the past Including his best friend Kenny, Hughie's father Lem who never did get along with the cowardly sheriff and his brother Tom who never could win his parent's love.  I'm not going to go into details about the plot because I enjoyed discovering it for myself and will leave it for you to do the same.
4 out of 5 stars

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Outsider by Stephen King

An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

The police and DA's office think they have an easy open and shut case guaranteed to lock Terry Maitland away, but for every bit of proof they have, there is mounting evidence that he could not possibly be the killer. This turns into a whodunit of epic proportions but with a deeply disturbing supernatural element to spice things up even further. For me personally, the last decade or so of Stephen King books have been pretty hit or miss. This one is a hit and I mean right out of the ballpark. There were literally no points in the story that dragged. If anything it barreled along at a break neck speed leaving me barely able to catch my breath from one shocking development to the next.
5 stars

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gothic Horror Stories : The Best Horror Classics

Gothic Horror Stories: The Best Horror Classics is a selection of the finest short fiction by the all-time horror masters. Featuring short stories from the best writers of the horror genre, including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Alexander Pushkin, W. W. Jacobs, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Every horror story is a visit to a nightmare world. What's interesting is that these are nightmares we enter by our own will. Mountain City Books is a publisher specialized in anthologies of the best short stories throughout history. Our mission is to offer hard-to-find titles at affordable prices.

This anthology contains 5 classic horror stories.
The first is "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It was easily my favorite in the bunch and is about a woman who seems to be unraveling on a forced "vacation" for the good of her health by her doctor husband.
Next is "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs, a classic which has evolved into many incarnations in  books, TV, and movies. You have probably read it or seen it in some form or another. It is a cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for, as we have always been told you just might get it!
The third story is "The Squaw" by Bram Stoker. I confess to never having read any of Stoker's works beyond Dracula, and while this story pales in comparison it was an ok read. To sum it up I would say it was to due with vengeance. The fourth story is "The Queen of Spades" by Alexander Pushkin and I will admit to skipping through bits of this one because I just couldn't get interested in it. Last but not least is "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe in which a man attempts to come to the aid of his childhood friend who has told him he is feeling quite ill and uneasy in his gloomy and mysterious home.
4 out of 5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy for review

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Moor by Sam Haysom

It begins with a ghost story around a campfire. Teenagers out on a walking trip, trying to act brave in front of each other.

But as the walk gets underway and the boys begin to fall out, odd things start to happen.

Noises in the night. A severed rabbit’s foot outside someone’s tent.

Soon, the boys begin to disappear.

As panic sets in and a storm approaches, the remaining boys must band together to face a darkness not even the local ghost stories could help them predict.

The book begins with newspaper clippings spanning several years that show why Rutmoor National Park may well be a place to avoid. Over the decades there have been quite a few deaths and disappearances. Sometimes bodies are found.. sometimes people just vanish without a trace.
The story moves back and forth between the present day, when someone (I was not sure who at first) recollects a camping trip in Rutmoor over a decade ago and the events of that trip when he, along with a small group of 13 year old boys and one of their dads were spending a weekend walking through Rutmoor and camping there. The story is occasionally interrupted by further news clippings concerning mutilated pets. This all added to my confusion a bit and I wasn't sure I wanted to keep bouncing back and forth between the present day and that long ago weekend. It wasn't until I was over 20% through the book that it began to pique my interest, and what had begun as a slower build up than I normally enjoy held me captivated. I'm glad I stuck with it. I think you will be too.
4 out of 5 stars.

I received an advance copy for review.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Trail of Blood – Murder Short Stories

Trail of Blood – Murder Short Stories: The Best Horror Classics is a selection of the finest short fiction by the all-time horror masters. Featuring short stories from the best writers of the horror genre, including Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Franz Kafka, William Hope Hodgson, and Ambrose Bierce. Every horror story is a visit to a nightmare world. What's interesting is that these are nightmares we enter by our own will.
 Mountain City Books is a publisher specialized in anthologies of the best short stories throughout history. Our mission is to offer hard-to-find titles at affordable prices.

This book contains 6 classic stories by various authors. The first 2 are  Edgar Allan Poe tales "The Tell-Tale Heart" which has always been one of my favorites and the slightly lesser known "Hop-Frog" which I also enjoyed
The third is "From Beyond" by H.P. Lovecraft. I have never really been a Lovecraft fan but I know many will love this story.
"The Moonlit Road" by Ambrose Bierce was the only story I had never heard of before. In it a man recalls the day he learned of his mother's death, and then we hear the circumstances from both parents point of view. "The Goddess of Death" by William Hope Hodgson is a chilling tale of a small town living in fear of a statue that is said to come to life and murder the residents. "The Penal Colony" by Franz Kafka is the longest of the stories and just not suited to my taste. This is a decent collection for those who are just discovering the classics or those who would like to revisit them.
3 out of 5 stars
I received a complimentary copy for review.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Jurassic Florida by Hunter Shea

Welcome to Polo Springs, a sleepy little town on Florida’s Gulf Coast. It’s a great place to live—if you don’t mind the hurricanes. Or the flooding. Or the unusual wildlife . . .

Maybe it’s the weather. But the whole town is overrun with the little green bastards this year. They’re causing a lot of damage. They’re eating everything in sight. And they’re just the babies . . .

The mayor wants to address the iguana problem. But when Hurricane Ramona slams the coast, the town has a bigger problem on their hands. Bigger iguanas. Bigger than a double-wide. Unleashed by the storm, this razor-toothed horde of prehistoric predators rises up from the depths—and descends on the town like retirees at an early bird special. Except humans are on the menu. And it’s all you can eat

When I saw this cover and read the description I was hoping it would be along the lines of Hunter Shea's Mail Order Massacre trilogy. (which I loved) This one was just not as fun for me. Even though I just this minute finished reading it I can not even remember the name of a single character. I think of them as the old man, the teenage mayor, the family, and the gardening lesbian couple. This was just an ok read for me. It lacked the humor and the terror I was expecting.
3 out of 5 stars

I received an advance copy for review.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

Camden, NJ, 1948. When 11 year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth's, she has no way of knowing that 52 year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he’s an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute―unless she does as he says.

This chilling novel traces the next two harrowing years as Frank mentally and physically assaults Sally while the two of them travel westward from Camden to San Jose, forever altering not only her life, but the lives of her family, friends, and those she meets along the way.

Based on the experiences of real-life kidnapping victim Sally Horner and her captor, whose story shocked the nation and inspired Vladimir Nabokov to write his controversial and iconic Lolita.

While not a "true crime" this compelling work of historical fiction based on real people and events broke my heart in a million pieces. In 1948 when 11 year old Sally Horner was abducted and held captive for 21 horrific months, news did not travel so quickly then as it does today. There were no amber alerts to cell phones, no world wide web on which to upload pictures of the missing and their captors, no national sex crime registry in which to keep track of the location of known child molesters. So although some characters are the invention of the author it is all to easy to imagine the real Sally losing all hope as her captor is able to keep her in his control for nearly 2 years staying one step ahead of the police and running to another state every time they get a lead on what state she might be prisoner in. This must be only a glimpse into the true heartache and suffering of Sally and her family which the author so deftly brings to life. With that I would like to leave you with this actual newspaper clipping of the real Sally, that you may think of her as you read.
5 out of 5 stars

I received an advance copy for review.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Chasing Ghosts by Glenn Rolfe

The Cobbs were ignorant woods-people that died off and left nothing to fear. Locals in Naples, Maine think they know this story. But are they wrong?

Luke Howard and his mom move to Naples and Luke’s eager to make new friends. When Jason and Davey invite him out to the abandoned Cobb place for a game they call “chasing ghosts,” he’s ready and willing. However, the boys will come to discover that some vacant houses are better left to die alone.

Meanwhile, a punk band set to play in a rented cabin out of town feel eyes upon them. Somebody’s watching, but not their usual audience. When their lead singer strays too far from the group and disappears, his band mates set out in the darkness to find him.

Police Chief Walt Henderson is about to discover that there’s more going on out in the woods of his town than he ever imagined.

Chasing ghosts is more than just some children’s game.

If you are into slasher in the woods type horror this one's for you.
There's another party at the Marston cabin in the woods tonight. Everyone is welcome, but be warned, all this loud music and activity has attracted the attention of someone else hiding in the woods. Someone who likes to party in a much deadlier way. This was a quick read and the action starts nearly immediately.

I received an advance copy for review.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Retreat by Mark Edwards

A missing child. A desperate mother. And a house full of secrets.

Two years ago, Julia lost her family in a tragic accident. Her husband drowned trying to save their daughter, Lily, in the river near their rural home. But the little girl’s body was never found—and Julia believes Lily is somehow still alive.

Alone and broke, Julia opens her house as a writers’ retreat. One of the first guests is Lucas, a horror novelist, who becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Lily. But within days of his arrival, the peace of the retreat is shattered by a series of eerie events.

When Lucas’s investigation leads him and Julia into the woods, they discover a dark secret—a secret that someone will do anything to protect…

What really happened that day by the river? Why was Lily never found? And who, or what, is haunting the retreat?

From the bestselling author of Follow You Home and The Magpies comes his most terrifying novel yet.

Lucas Radcliffe is struggling to finish his horror novel. Well more accurately he is struggling to get any of it done. He returns to the town of his childhood and checks in to a newly opened writers retreat owned by Julia, a sad and lonely woman who has lost her family 2 years prior. There are only a few other writers staying at the retreat and it seems peaceful and comfortable enough other than the strange noises and occasional singing that can be heard coming from what should be an empty room. Lucas can't really focus on his novel as he gets more involved in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Julia's daughter and the supposed town witch in the woods who will steal a child every 35 years.
This was an intriguing mystery that hooked me right away, although as it drew closer to what I thought would be the conclusion it did slow down a bit. Ultimately it delivered a satisfying ending.
4 out of 5 stars

I received an advance copy for review.