Monday, August 27, 2018

The Siren and The Specter by Jonathan Janz

When David Caine, a celebrated skeptic of the supernatural, is invited by an old friend to spend a month in “the most haunted house in Virginia,” he believes the case will be like any other. But the Alexander House is different. Built by a 1700s land baron to contain the madness and depravity of his eldest son, the house is plagued by shadows of the past and the lingering taint of bloodshed. David is haunted, as well. For twenty-two years ago, he turned away the woman he loved, and she took her life in sorrow. And David suspects she’s followed him to the Alexander House.

When David Caine accepts an offer to stay in a supposedly haunted house for a month, to prove or disprove whether it has earned it's title of most haunted house in Virginia, he is unaware of many details about the area. He is not expecting sexual deviants for neighbors. He is not expecting the house to hold ties to his own past, and he is not aware that the Alexander house holds horrors of epic proportions.
This is more than a haunted house tale. The horror is not only in the supernatural aspects but in the evil that mere mortals commit. It got under my skin, not just with  delicious spine tingling fear that all horror lovers crave, but with sadness, and disgust, and sometimes rage. The test of any good book (for me) is whether it can make me feel something. The Siren And The Specter is a masterpiece of horror.
5 out of 5 stars.

I received an advance copy for review.

Available on Amazon

Author's website

FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launching in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

The world’s fate lies with a comatose young girl; an android wants to remember a human she once knew under Martian skies; men at sea learn that the ocean is a realm far different from land, where an unforgiving god rules; a school security guard discovers extreme English class; and a man understands what the behemoth beneath the sea commands of him.

The Sea Was a Fair Master is a collection of 23 stories, riding the currents of fantasy, science fiction, crime, and horror. There are tales of murder, death, loss, revenge, greed, and hate. There are also tales of hope, survival, and love.

For the sea was a fair master.

I am not the world's biggest fan of flash fiction. I do love short stories but have often found the extremely short flash fiction style just leaves me hanging, scratching my head and saying that's it? It's over?
That was not the case here, where most of these stories  have a satisfying conclusion or had me saying Aha! I see what you did there. If you are looking to snack on some crunchy bits of bite sized fiction I can recommend this well written anthology, chock full of sorrow, fear, dark humor and horror.

4 out of 5 stars
I received a complimentary copy for review.

About the author

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Mortician's Wife by Maralee Lowder

The honeymoon of Ada, a shy and innocent young girl and Horace, a dashingly handsome, charismatic, mortician, gets off to a rough start. The marriage goes down hill from there. Although the marriage continues to be unconsummated, Ada holds out hope that one day the love she has for her husband will destroy the emotional wall that continues to separate them. Unfortunately, before this happens, her father, a celebrated physician and owner of the local hospital, faces ruin, both financially and legally. It is then that Ada realizes the only reason Horace married her was because of her family's high standing within the local community. That is when all hope of sharing love with her husband vanishes, as he begins abusing her. Having no one to turn to, Ada quietly accepts her husband's abuse, until, after years of living in fear, Horace does the unthinkable. When he takes away her only reason for living, she shes him for what he as become--a monster of the highest order. When she learns the depth of his depravities, she comes to the realization that it is up to her to keep not only herself safe from him, but also any others who might come within his distorted vision. What she decides she must do will surprise most readers, and abhor others. She feels it is her duty to humanity to protect them from the man she once loved. Unfortunately, what she cannot possibly know is, that although she may have saved others from the living man, she has released an even more dangerous evil, his everlasting angered soul.

The story begins when Emily is a little girl and gets her first glimpse of Ada on a long ago Halloween night. Emily is out trick or treating away from parental supervision for the first time. Everyone knows to stay away from the creepy old mortuary and the crazy old witch lady Ada, but lonely Emily finds a kinship with her and for a brief time they become friends. Years later they reconnect when Emily is a grown woman and Ada is now in her 90s with deteriorating health and needs someone to help her with her daily needs. Gradually, Ada tells Emily her life story and how she came to be living above the mortuary and why she refuses to leave. It is a heartbreaking tale that ends a bit abruptly since it is the first in a series.

4 out of 5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy for review

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Painless by Marty Thornley


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Creature by Hunter Shea

The monsters live inside of Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and a host of autoimmune diseases have robbed her of a normal, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of their dream Maine lake cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic, a place to heal. But they are not alone. Something is in the woods, screeching in the darkness, banging on the house, leaving animals for dead. Just like her body, Kate’s cottage becomes her prison. She and Andrew must fight to survive the creature that lurks in the dead of night.

I have been a fan of Hunter Shea for a few years now. I believe I have read most if not all of his work. I can usually count on his books to remind me of lazy Saturdays as a kid reading through my horror comics or watching the creature double feature on my old TV that got 3 channels back in the 80s. I've often described his books as "a fun read."
Creature is a whole other level of horror than I was expecting. It's much more dark and serious. It feels real. If you have ever suffered chronic pain you are going to find an instant kinship with Kate. It will take you back to your darkest days. If you have not known this kind of pain you will at least feel sympathy for her and her husband Andrew, who due to her debilitating illnesses has had to become her caretaker yet somehow remained a real husband. Kate and Andrew despite everything have remained madly in love. Not that fake romance novel type love either, I mean the real kind where you sometimes get on each other's nerves to the point that you can't stand to be in the same room together but before you walk out you still make damned sure they have everything they need, and you know you're coming back. Andrew would do anything for Kate, and it is in that spirit that he takes her to a lake house for the summer where he hopes she can find some relief and some happiness before her next horrible round of doctor appointments in the fall.  This was a 5 star read for me.

I received an advance copy for review.

Publication date September 6, 2018 available for preorder now.

FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launching in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

RED HARVEST by Patrick C. Greene

Every year at harvest time, something strange and wonderful happens in the sleepy farm community of Ember Hollow. It comes alive. Truckloads of pumpkins are sent off to be carved into lanterns. Children scramble to create the creepiest, scariest costumes. Parents stock up on candy and prepare for the town’s celebrated Pumpkin Parade. And then there is Devil’s Night . . .
But this year, something is different. Some of the citizens are experiencing dark, disturbing visions. Others are beginning to wonder if they’re losing their minds, or maybe their souls. One newly sober singer with the voice of a fallen angel is tempted to make a deal that will seal his fate. And one very odd boy is kept locked in a shed by his family—for reasons too horrible to imagine . . .
Whatever is happening to this town, they’re going to make it through this Halloween. Even if it kills them . . .

I love any and all things Halloween related, so give me a rock and roll horror story set in a town that is pretty much the Halloween capital of the planet and I'm all over it. I loved Stuart and his relationship with his punk rocker brother Dennis, who is recently sober and has moved back in with Stuart and his mom while they are all still struggling with the loss of Dad. Halloween is always a huge deal in this town but this year holds the promise of a possible recording contract for Dennis and his band, who tour around in a tricked out hearse.
As the town is preparing for their annual celebration  there is someone who aims to  put a permanent stop to all the fun, and someone else who has far different ideas about how to celebrate.
While I did have a couple of minor issues with the plot and would have rather the reasoning behind certain happenings had been just a little different I did enjoy this book and thought it was a lot of gory fun. I will definitely be back for the next installment of these Haunted Hollow Chronicles.

4 out of 5 stars
I received an advance copy for review.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Zombie Who Cried Human by Brian James Freeman

The Zombie Who Cried Human is the first book a new series from Brian James Freeman and Glenn Chadbourne, who are blending classic fables with modern storytelling techniques to entertain children and adults of all ages.

Little Boy Zombie lives on a big farm just outside of ZomBeeTown with Mama Zombie, Papa Zombie, and Rex the Zombie Dog.

One day, while Mama Zombie and Papa Zombie are away, Boy Zombie is left in charge of the farm. But when he gets bored, he decides to play a prank on the citizens of ZomBeeTown. He yells toward town, "Humans here, humans here!" And everyone comes shambling to the farm to help.

When they discover they've been tricked, Boy Zombie is warned by his elders: "Don't cry 'humans' when there are no humans!"
But will he learn his lesson in time?
In this fun adaptation of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, zombies are the norm, and humans are raised to be sold at market. While Mama and Papa are away, little boy zombie recalls the time that wild humans descended on the farm and the whole town showed up when Papa yelled for help. Deciding to try it for himself, he learns why it's not a good idea to cry human. The illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne are marvelous.

I received an advance copy for review.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach by Ramsey Campbell


As a long time fan of Ramsey Campbell I was so excited to get a copy of this book just before I left for my own vacation. The subject matter seemed to make it perfect timing. Ray and Sandra are a happily married couple who embark on a family vacation with their adult children, grandchildren and the spouses of their kids. Things get off to a bit of a rocky start and with such a large group of people spending so much time together it's hard for everyone to get along. Ray and Sandra are hoping to make this a vacation to remember while keeping a secret from the rest of the family. The locals also seem to have some secrets, and between their strange customs and unusual folk lore the family is a bit on edge. This was a slow burn, building up to an experience of unbridled weirdness.
I received a complimentary copy for review