Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Outsider & The President is Missing [Book Reviews]

I read two books while on vacation up in the mountains. Here are my brief reviews:

The Outsider by Stephen King:
It never fails to amaze me that King can still come up with such amazing stories after fifty+ novels! This one is a completely engrossing/engaging mystery with supernatural elements. It is perfectly paced! The greatest praise that I can give this novel is that after I finished reading it, my mother read it afterwards. This speaks volumes! My mother abhors horror - the only other Stephen King novel that my mother has ever read is Cujo (more due to the realism of the story). She never would have read this one, except for the fact that I explained it is 85% a "police procedural" story. So, she gave it a try and was hooked from the get-go! (there were a few times that she wanted to stop reading, but just couldn't - that is how good this story is!) One more thing - later within the story, King alludes to his "Bill Hodges Trilogy". I own them but have not yet read them. I am going to remedy that, quickly.

The President is Missing by Bill Clinton & James Patterson:
I always find it difficult to get into a new book after having finished such a great one. Such was the case after reading The Outsider. I took a couple of other books with me on vacation, but just couldn't get into them. On Tuesday morning, we had to make a run to the grocery store. While there, I picked this book up and was not disappointed! It is a fast-paced read that is smartly written. I would  have liked to have had an inside look at the writing process of this novel. Whose characters were whose? Who came up with what? Still, it was a perfect story to read while on vacation.

Now, what to read next?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Plum Island [Book Review]

If you enjoy murder mysteries, then Plum Island is for you! It is filled with great characters and is chock-full of hysterical one-liners.

I have been familiar with DeMille's name, however this is the first book of his that I have read (and it definitely will not be the last!) You feel as if you are solving the crime right along with the main character. DeMille is extremely descriptive, creating images perfectly in the mind's eye. (Yes, this book would make for a fantastic movie!) The ending accelerates like a bullet fired from a gun, barely giving you enough time to turn the next page.
Highly recommended!

Jason

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!