Thursday, May 10, 2018

Trouble's Child & The Girl in the Moon [Book Reviews]

Terry Goodkind returns to the Thriller genre with a vengeance! If you have already read NEST then you know what to expect with these two stories, though if you thought NEST was intense, The Girl in the Moon increases it ten-fold!! (If you have not yet read Nest, it is not necessary to read first, though I do suggest doing so.)

Trouble's Child is a short novella [64 pgs] that is the perfect introduction to the character Angela Constantine. It is not necessary to read before reading [the full-length novel] The Girl in the Moon though it might be a good idea to try it first - if you like it, then you should have no issues with The Girl in the Moon.

The Girl in the Moon could very well be the best thriller/suspense novel of the decade! It has a real, scary premise, and it keeps you on the edge-of-your-seat!  It is darker than any of Goodkind's prior novels, so be prepared. Angela Constantine is a sick/twisted/demented heroine (until you understand her past). There are certain (gruesome) parts that are hard to read, but if you can push through the graphicness, you will be rewarded.

This book contains several intense, riveting, nail-biting, suspenful sequences. It took all of my will power, in certain parts, to not turn the pages and scan ahead. This book reads like a movie! (When you get to the Border Crossing, you will desire to see it on a big screen, rather than just in your head.) If you have read Goodkind's epic fantasy The Sword of Truth series, you will recall Richard's "Dance of Death" with his sword. Angela achieves the same feat, except with guns (think of the "Gun Kata" sequences from the film Equilibrium).

If you plan on reading only one novel this year, I would make it this one!

5/5 Skulls (for both stories)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Cimmerians [Novella Review]

Theresa Jacobs' follow-up to The Followers

Genre - Horror/Novella(?)
Year Published - 2018
Length - 150 (digital) pages
Written by +Theresa Jacobs

Plot Summary:
When Emersyn fled the big city for a quieter life in the Midwest, she left all her troubles behind – or so she thought. She quickly discovers her quaint new home has a past of its own. Ten years prior a young woman killed herself inside the front door. Since that fateful day, the locals avoided the house. Not one to believe in the supernatural, Emersyn, along with a new friend, take it upon themselves to conduct a seance for answers.
They get much more than they bargained for when they awaken an ancient evil. The same evil that haunted the past resident. 
Now they must scramble with little time to stop it. When Emersyn's past comes back to haunt her, and innocent people get hurt, she has nowhere to turn. Until a police officer inserts himself into her life, together they will do what they can to put an end to the deadly shadows forever.
Can evil this powerful ever truly die?

Review:
Theresa Jacobs has done it again! Her short story The Followers is my favorite story that she has written. (Do not worry - it is included at the end of the book. In fact, I recommend jumping to the back of the book and reading the short story before diving into The Cimmerians)

From the excellent poem that opens the book to the cliffhanger ending - this is one that should not be missed!

You will connect with Jacobs' characters right away, making the fear that they feel much more tangible. This is a tense, atmospheric story and the way that it ends leaves you wanting more!

Rating: 5/5 Skulls

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

C.H.U.D. Lives! A Tribite Anthology [Book Review]

C.H.U.D. Lives! A Tribute Anthology [Early Review]
Be advised - this is a long one!

This book officially releases on Friday.
I am sure you are aware that I have been anticipating this book's release for over a year now. Since I was able to obtain an advance copy, I thought I would share what made me so eager for this release, before posting my official review on Friday (the below will not be a part of said review).

I believe that it was last summer when author +Franklin E. Wales (my favorite indie author) contacted me that he had submitted a story for a C.H.U.D. tribute anthology. Being a fan of the film, I was immediately excited and asked if he would send me a copy of his story, to which he agreed. The title of his story was Arthur Jackson II and the Forgotten Dream Park aka C.H.U.D. Florida Style Frank's story opens in 1972 in Liberty County, FL at the Gator Kingdom Amusement Park. It then jumps 44 years later leading into present day.

We all know that C.H.U.D. stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers and fans of the film will remember the acronym also standing for Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal. Well, Frank has come up with a new one - Central Humanitarian United Defense. . .

Needless to say, Frank's story is fantastic (especially towards the end), and I became even more excited for the anthology. Now, imagine my surprise when Frank told me that his story had not been accepted. (Why, Eric S. Brown?!?)

The good news is that Frank is releasing an anthology of his own, later this year, titled The Forgotten Dream Park and Other Tales of Terror of which the above story will be a part of, so stay tuned for that!

Now, onto Friday's review of C.H.U.D. Lives!
Did it live up to the hype? Read on. . .

Genre - Horror/Anthology
Year Published - 2018 (April 27th!)
Published by +Crystal Lake Publishing
Length - the ARC that I received is 286 (digital) pages
Compiled by Eric S. Brown/Edited by Joe Mynhardt

Plot Summary:
Today’s top Horror and SF authors pay tribute to C.H.U.D. in this anthology of original fiction.

C.H.U.D. is a genre defying, cult classic film featuring monsters living in the sewers below New York. The stories in this anthology expand the world created by the film and add depth to the C.H.U.D. universe like never before. From stories of apocalyptic horror and all out monster action, to tales of underground parties interrupted by uninvited guests and evening strolls that end in death, this anthology will leave you both smiling and breathless.

Relive the fear as these original stories take you beyond the movie to events that occurred before, during, and after the scenes we remember so well.

Includes C.H.U.D. related stories by Jonathan Maberry, Tim Waggoner, JG Faherty, Mort Castle, Michael H. Hanson, Martin Powell, Ben Fisher, Jason White, Chad Lutzke, Ross Baxter, Philip C Perron, David Bernstein, Nick Cato, Alex Laybourne, Christopher Fulbright, Angeline Hawkes, David Robbins, Robert Waters, Greg Mitchell, Ryan C. Thomas, and Eugene Johnson.

With an introduction by David Drake.
Compiled by Eric S. Brown.

C.H.U.D. Lives! also features in-depth interviews with Andrew Bonime (producer) and Parnell Hall (screenwriter), as well as never before seen behind-the-scenes photos from the classic 80s horror film.

Lineup:
Introduction by David Drake
Interview with the late Andrew Bonime
“Dog Walker” by Robert E Waters
“The Dwellers” by Nick Cato
“The City Will Eat You Alive” by Ryan C. Thomas
“Date Night” by David Robbins
“Strange Gods” by Christopher Fulbright and Angeline Hawkes
“Lost and Found” by Greg Mitchell
“They Are C.H.U.D” by Alex Laybourne
“C.H.A.D.” by Michael H. Hanson
“Samsa’s Party” by Ben Fisher
“The Way to a Man’s Heart” by Tim Waggoner
“Dweller Messiah” by Jason White
“That’s Entertainment!” by Mort Castle
“Toxic Disposal” by David Bernstein
“Monstrous Me” by Martin Powell
“Step Ate” by Chad Lutzke
“Zero Hour” by JG Faherty
“The Deuce” by Philip C. Perron
“All at Sea” by Ross Baxter
“You Will Never Leave Harlan Alive” by Jonathan Maberry and Eugene Johnson
Interview with Parnell Hall (screenwriter) by Eric S Brown

This book is dedicated in loving memory to Andrew Bonime, the producer of the C.H.U.D.film.

Review:
First, I just want to say that each of these authors do an outstanding job expanding the C.H.U.D. universe! For example, Robert E. Waters who opens this collection of stories the same way that the film opens, fleshing out the story of the woman walking her dog. Christopher Fulbright & Angela Hawkes' story alludes to a cult that one of the characters in the film was babbling about. Greg Mitchell's story expands on the 6-yr-old girl and her grandfather and explains what they were doing in NY.

Tim Waggoner's story takes place in the Diner from the film. (I just have to say that I loved the character's name Officer "Lumley" - assuming in reference to author Brian Lumley?) Jonathan Maberry & Eugene Johnson's story continues Bosch's (the cop from the film) tale. These are just some of the examples. The only story that I caught that alluded to the abysmal sequel was David Bernstein's gruesome 'Toxic Disposal' (all I will say is that it involves a headless C.H.U.D.)

Just because a story isn't mentioned above, doesn't mean anything (these are just the ones that specifically tie directly into the film). There are several more great, unique stories (involving C.H.U.D. children, a reality show, [Intelligent] C.H.U.D.'s living in a mine. C.H.U.D.'s aboard a cargo ship, etc.)

The majority of the stories in this collection I rated 4 Skulls each - the one exception being Michael H. Hanson's 'C.H.A.D.' - I loved this story - it plays out like a movie in your head!

Whether you are a long-time fan of C.H.U.D. or have never even heard of it, there is something in here for every horror fan to enjoy!

Rating: 4/5 Skulls

Monday, April 9, 2018

Billy [Short Story Review]

Year Published - 2018
Length - 14 (digital) pages
Written by +Ken Preston

Plot Summary:
"Billy were six foot tall and weighed about sixty pounds soaking wet. Paint him white and light him up in the dark he would’ve looked like one of those skeletons you see on Halloween. That’s what Mr Cooper used to say, what he told everyone who came by."

So begins the story of Billy, part of a travelling Freak Show, and told through the eyes of his best friend.
It hurts to look at Billy, but Billy’s best friend believes that if everyone could only get past that hurt they would see Billy was just like them after all. But not everyone thinks that way.
No matter how hard they look, some people just can’t see the real you.

Review:
What makes this short story unique is that it is told from the perspective of Billy's (illiterate) best friend. When Jim (the best friend) describes Billy's giant head, I couldn't help but think of the hilarious lines from Mike Myers' So I Married An Axe Murderer. The way that the story is written makes it fun to read aloud. (I kept reading portions of it to my wife.)

If you are looking for a super quick read while in transit or while waiting for an appointment, this one will easily fill a twenty-minute void.

Rating: 4 Skulls

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hellraiser: The Toll [Novella Review]

I am not sure how this one slipped through the cracks, but it did. Released on Feb. 28th, by Subterranean Press, Hellraiser: The Toll tells the story of what transpired between Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart (published in '86) and The Scarlet Gospels (published in '15).

The Toll is a short Novella (73 digital pages) that flies at a breakneck pace, from the Prologue all the way through to the Epilogue. The story is by Clive Barker, but the novella is written by Mark Alan Miller(?!?) I am not sure how that works, as there is no explanation. I will say that the book is also available in Hardcover (for $40! - a bit pricey for such a short story). Even though I own both The Hellbound Heart & The Scarlet Gospels in print, being unfamiliar with Mr. Miller, I opted with the considerably cheaper $3 e-book.

Having now read the story though, I will be keeping an eye on the price of the Hardcover as the story is that good! Miller has written a completely engrossing tale, with such a jaw-dropping revelation within the story that I wrote the quote and then deleted it and then rewrote it and deleted it once more. However, I feel that it is best for you to discover it for  yourself.

I will leave you with the book's synopsis:

"Thirty years after Kirsty Cotton escaped from the clutches of the Hell Priest, Pinhead, and lived to fight another day, her life has never been the same. Every few years she fashions a new name, a new identity, and a new home for herself; She is a woman who is running from her past at all costs, which is why it comes as such a surprise when she receives a mysterious letter in the mail, addressed to the woman she’s been running from over half her life. 

Answering the letter’s query, she begins a descent down a rabbit hole to the ultimate confrontation. Her actions stir something unnamable in the ether, and throw her into a game where nothing—not even what she sees in front of her very eyes—can be trusted. 

With equal parts economy and eloquence, author Mark Alan Miller brings to life the beginning of the end as The Toll expands the Hellraiser universe, and shows that before Harry D’Amour’s adventures in The Scarlet Gospels, there was a first witness to Pinhead’s infernal plan."

ENJOY!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Appalling Stories: 13 Tales of Social Injustice [Book Review]

Genre - Fiction
Year Published - 2017
Length - 170 (digital) pages
Written by +David Dubrow, Paul Hair, and Ray Zacek

Plot Summary:
With political correctness gobbling up the culture like a fat kid on his sister's quinceañeracake, where do you go for quality, old-school entertainment? 

Appalling Stories focuses on themes and characters you're just not supposed to read about anymore, using social issues as the setting, not the plot. Inside, you'll read about a disturbing erotic resort that caters to an exclusive clientele, a violent Antifa group biting off much more than they can chew, a serial killer with a furious inch, and a lot more. The authors find message fiction as tedious as you do, and traditional publishing seems intent on shoving favored narratives down readers' throats. This anthology pushes back against PC moralizing, bringing you story above all else. Are you going to let Social Justice Warriors dictate what you can and can't read? Consider this your trigger warning.

Featuring an exclusive foreword by R.M. Huffman, author of Leviathan and Fallen, books 1 and 2 of The Antediluvian Legacy.

Review:
The authors of this collection of short stories could not have picked a more appropriate title. Appalling Stories - that is what you are going to get - No Holds Barred writing - exactly as advertised.

I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this book as this is not be a book that I would normally read. (The reason that I did so is that I am familiar with two of the three authors - Dubrow & Zacek.)
With all of that said, if this book sounds like your cup of tea, then I am sure that you will enjoy it, as the stories are well written.

The top three stand out stories to me are:

1. Bake Me a Cake (by Dubrow)
2. It Doesn't Affect You (by Hair)
3. The Bitterness of Honey (by Dubrow)

I also enjoyed (is that the right word?) Dubrow's Melanie's Becoming, which fell just short of 5 Skulls.

Bake Me a Cake is the very first story in the collection and (for me) the most shocking! If you can stomach your way through this story, the rest should come easier. I think the authors chose well making this the first story, as it perfectly sets up what this collection is all about. There is always two sides to a story... These stories are going to make you uncomfortable and angry!

As for the other stories in the collection - for the most part they are all decent - there were only two that I didn't really care for - the others were each average. The Bitterness of Honey is definitely my favorite story of the bunch!

Rating: 3/5 Skulls

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Fallen (Book Two of the Antediluvian Legacy) [Book Review]

It feels like I have not posted a book review in a while. (My wife is a big fan of the Olympics, so while we watched that together, my reading declined, slightly.) Was Fallen worth the wait?

Genre - Fantasy/Biblical Fiction
Year Published - 2017
Length - 349 pages
Written by R. M. Huffman

Plot Summary:
Humankind was commanded to fill the earth and subdue it, and they have obeyed. In doing so, many have forgotten their Creator; thus, Noah of Eden, a preacher of righteousness, has spent the last few centuries as a wanderer in the world, proclaiming the old, true ways.

His mission is interrupted when a brutal, mysterious enemy fans the embers of lust for power into flames of war. Gathering companions, he races to avert disaster where he can, while realizing that in more ways than he could have imagined the earth, and everything in it, is fallen.

Review:
Back in 2016, I was blown away when I read Leviathan (the first book in this trilogy). I am very sad to say that I did not feel the same, this time around. I am not sure if it was because of the lengthy wait, if my expectations were set too high, or simply because the first book was unlike anything else I had read at the time. Whatever the reason, this book fell short of the first one.

After an excellent Prologue, we are introduced to the city of Phempor, where Noah has been spending some time. I only mention this because I wonder if perhaps the Prince of Phempor was perhaps an ancestor of Vlad Tepes?

We then find out that it has been 400 years since Leviathan took place. Enoch, Cain's City, has now become Atlantis (how cool is that?!?) There is also a new Nephilim character, Eroch, introduced - who I love!

After the above, there just seemed to be some kind of disconnect for me. Some of the story seemed incohesive. I was wishing for a map or a timeline, and the story just did not seem as immersive.

Then, about half-way through the book, a huge revelation revealed itself, tying directly back to the end of the first book, and once you get to the part where Noah and Phiaphara are separated from their party by a wyvern attack, the book really picks up its pace!

So while the mid-portion had a bit of a misstep, for me, the latter-half, filled with great war/battle scenes, is terrific.

After flipping back and forth between a 3 and a 4, I ultimately have to give this book 3/5 Skulls.

With all of that said, I am still, very much, looking forward to Remnant! (Book 3 of the trilogy)