Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Last Hellfighter [Book Review]

Let's go ahead and add this book as yet another contender for Best Book of the Year.

Genre - Horror/Vampire/History
Year Published - 2018
Published by Darker Worlds Publishing
Length - 394 pages
Written by +Thomas S Flowers

Plot Summary:
In the year 2044, reporters from the Public Relations Ministry gather at the home of Benjamin Harker, the last surviving member of the Harlem Hellfighters.

At the age of 144, he is the oldest recorded man alive. Hidden among them, Clyde Bruner is looking for a different kind of story.

Across the United States, despite the Great Walls and patrol drones built to keep America secure, something has found its way in. And now towns are vanishing during the night.

Entire populations, gone. Only to return after the sun sets, changed, unholy, and lethal. And whatever this evil is, its spreading west. 

According to a bedtime story Bruner’s grandfather told him when he was a boy, Benjamin Harker has seen this before. He’s faced this scourge. Fought this evil. Survived them. Killed them.

From the trenches of the Great War to the jungles of Vietnam to the sands of Iraq, Harker will search his past to save our future. But as each city light extinguishes across the country, is there no time left to stop what's coming?

Review:
Before I review the book, how about the cover? I love this cover - it gets my vote for best book cover of the year. Simple yet terrifying! (for the curious, the cover is by author +Michael Bray)

Thomas S. Flowers (author of Lanmó, The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, and Planet of the Dead) has created a riveting story reminiscent of my favorite book of 2016 - Brett McBean's The Awakening. (Reminiscent as to the style of storytelling)

Rich in character development, this is a character-driven story. Being completely honest, I will say that the "horror" within the story is minimal, but when it is there, it is pulse-pounding! (If the Intro to the story doesn't rivet you to the edge of your seat, I don't know what will.)

I thoroughly enjoyed how Flowers takes us back and forth in time, through the memories of the main character, Benjamin Harker. They are kick-started with music from the era that he is remembering. (Brilliant)

Another unique aspect that Flowers has come up with (aside from the surprising revelation of King Tutankhamen) is that his nosferatu/vampires feed off of the mass bloodshed of war. (a very interesting concept)

Flowers has written a truly immersive story that puts you directly into the setting and into the shoes of the characters. Superbly done!

Rating: 5/5 Skulls

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Black Lotus Kiss [A Brimstone Files Novel]

"The sky was made of dried blood and the sand was crushed teeth. Fingerbones outlined a pathway and pointed toward an onyx tower, surrounded on all sides by a sea of churning mercury. The tower was made of scales that breathed. . ."

This is an example of what you are in for when reading +Jason Ridler's latest installment of his Brimstone Files series.

Just like the first novel (Hex-Rated) this one is a rip-roaring read! Seriously, I have no idea where time disappears to when reading these stories. One minute you are on page one, and the next you are already fifty pages in.

James Brimstone is, without a doubt, my favorite P. I. (I so cannot wait until the next book is released!)

5/5 Skulls

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Bane County: First Moon [Book 3 - Book Review]

Bane County: First Moon [Book 3]
Genre - Horror/Mystery/Werewolf
Year Published - 2018
Length - 462 (digital) pages
Written by +J R Rice

Plot Summary:
Bane County is an Ongoing Saga . . .

Mystery, Suspense, an edge-of-your-seat Thriller with characters you’ll fall in love with. An old-school, heart-pounding, coming-of-age Horror series with 100s of 5-Star Reviews.

Autumn had been a very troubling time for the residents of Bane County, and the arrival of winter and the holiday season was a welcome diversion. Over the past three months, twenty-six people had gone missing in the neighboring wildlife refuge, believed to have fallen victim to a vicious rogue bear. 

Bryce McNeel and Jackson Campbell knew the truth about the missing people and worried that the horrors of autumn wouldn’t end with the coming of winter. In truth, they both sensed that something far worse was on the way. 

With a massive winter storm bearing down on Bane County, Bryce and Jackson feared they’d be fighting more than just the wintry cold. There could be things more chilling than ice and snow in the approaching storm. 

Far to the west, another kind of storm was brewing. A storm of unspeakable horror the likes of which had never been seen. The evil that had been living in the dark forests of Bane County for centuries was now free, and the world would never be the same again.

Review:
First Moon picks up the morning after Returning Moon [Book 2] ends. (As always, I highly recommend reading the prior books before reading this one.)

Bane County is definitely one of my favorite series of werewolf books. I look forward to each new installment. One of the reasons that I enjoy this series so much is that each book varies in tone. While each book has horror elements, each book can also stand within a separate genre. (Book 1 - "Coming-of-Age", Book 2 - "Action-Adventure", and Book 3 can also be classified as "Mystery/Suspense".)

Another reason that makes this series stand above the rest is the Science behind the creatures. (Though I will say that this book runs the closest to lycanthropic mythology, though with a great scientific twist.)

This particular book in the series seems like it does have some extra padding to it. (Which I can easily forgive, since this is part of an on-going saga. I am sure part of holding things back is ultimately for what is yet to come.) With that said, I will say that Rice knows how to dangle the action/suspense/mystery just like the proverbial carrot, while at the same time building the sense of ever impending doom. (Once the outright horror hits its stride, it has a 30 Days of Night vibe to it, which is awesome!)

Rating: 5/5 Skulls

If you enjoyed the first two books, you will definitely enjoy this one as well! If you have yet to read Book 1 [Forgotten Moon], what are you waiting for?!?

Book 4: Hungry Moon will be released mid-2019.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Black Monday Murders: Volume 2 [Graphic Novel Review]

The Black Monday Murders: Volume 2 (issue #'s 5 - 8) is even better than the first volume! A much faster pace with an ever darkening storyline. There is also quite the bomb drop towards the end! I am definitely looking forward to Volume 3 in September.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Hard Bounce [Book Review]

If you have seen the multiple quotes that I have posted over the past several days, (over on Google+) then you can pretty much guess that I thoroughly enjoyed this book! If you enjoy Pulpy-Noir style Crime Fiction, then I highly recommend this book. (Though I will warn you that some of the subject matter can be intense and there is a ton of foul language!)

My wife is the one who actually came across this book, at a Library Sale, and she read it before me. The amazing thing is that she enjoyed it just as much as I did! (While she was reading it, she kept telling me it was right up my alley... this is definitely my favorite book that she has recommended to me.)

Here is the book's synopsis:

Boo Malone lost everything when he was sent to St. Gabriel's Home for Boys. There, he picked up a few key survival skills; a wee bit of an anger management problem; and his best friend for life, Junior. Now adults, Boo and Junior have a combined weight of 470 pounds (mostly Boo's), about ten grand in tattoos (mostly Junior's), and a talent for wisecracking banter. Together, they provide security for The Cellar, a Boston nightclub where the bartender Audrey doles out hugs and scoldings for her favorite misfits, and the night porter, Luke, expects them to watch their language. At last Boo has found a family.

But when Boo and Junior are hired to find Cassandra, a well-to-do runaway slumming among the authority-shy street kids, Boo sees in the girl his own long-lost younger sister. And as the case deepens with evidence that Cassie is being sexually exploited, Boo's blind desire for justice begins to push his surrogate family's loyalty to the breaking point. Cassie's life depends on Boo's determination to see the case through, but that same determination just might finally drive him and Junior apart. What's looking like an easy payday is turning into a hard bounce--for everyone.

I am also including the author's information as I had never even heard of ThugLit magazine. (the back of the book states, in big-bold letters, "the debut novel from the Creator of Thuglit")

Todd Robinson is the creator and chief editor of the multiaward-winning crime fiction magazine THUGLIT. His short fiction has appeared in Blood & Tacos; Plots with Guns; Needle Magazine; Shotgun Honey; Strange, Weird, and Wonderful Magazine; Out of the Gutter; Pulp Pusher; Grift; Demolition Magazine; and CrimeFactory. His writing has been nominated for a Derringer Award, short-listed for Best American Mystery Stories, selected for Writer's Digest's Year's Best Writing 2003, and won the inaugural Bullet Award in June 2011.

I was super excited to find out, as I was posting this review on Amazon, that there is another book after this one. Ordered! 😃

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Black Monday Murders [Graphic Novel Review]

The Black Monday Murders is a noir crime, occult mystery comic book published by Image Comics. It is written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by Tomm Cooker.

This comic was brought to my attention a few weeks ago by +John Ward. [Thank you, John.]

I just finished reading the graphic novel (Vol. 1) which compiles the first four issues (the comic began in 2016). I had to wait a while as the comic was on back-order. It was worth the wait though and I have gone ahead and ordered Vol 2. (issues 5 - 8). Vol. 3 is due out in September.

As soon as you crack open the cover, you are thrust into this story's reality as it states, "Image Comics Presents. . .
A Story of Human Sacrifice".

To quote a line from later in the story, "the history of Wall Street is written in blood... it's an industry built on human sacrifice."

What I found fascinating about this story is the way that it draws you in. You are introduced to the elite of financial families and a detective looking into the murder of one of their own. The story jumps back and forth from past to present which keeps things interesting. Definitely recommended if you enjoy this type of genre!

Just a side-note:
This comic is rated M for Mature Readers (for obvious reasons). The bloodshed is about as graphic as what you would expect. As far as language/nudity, there is minimal in Vol. 1, though after discussing this comic with John, he mentioned that Vol. 2 does get a bit more graphic, so keep that in mind if you decide to read this for yourselves.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road [Anthology Review]

Releasing today:
Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road
Genre - Horror/Anthology
Year Published - 2018
Published by +Crystal Lake Publishing
Length - 267 (digital) pages
Edited by D. Alexander Ward

Plot Summary:
It’s dangerous out there. . .on the road.

The highways, byways, and backroads of America are teeming day and night with regular folks. Moms and dads making long commutes. Teenagers headed to the beach. Bands on their way to the next gig. Truckers pulling long hauls. Families driving cross country to visit their kin.

But there are others, too. The desperate and the lost. The cruel and the criminal.

Theirs is a world of roadside honky-tonks, truck stops, motels, and the empty miles between destinations. The unseen spaces.

And there are even stranger things. Places that aren’t on any map. Wayfaring terrors and haunted legends about which seasoned and road-weary travelers only whisper.

But those are just stories. Aren’t they?

Find out for yourself as you get behind the wheel with some of today’s finest authors of the dark and horrific as they bring you these harrowing tales from the road.

Tales that could only be spawned by the endless miles of America’s lost highways.

So go ahead and hop in. Let’s take a ride.

Line-up:
Introduction by Brian Keene
Doungjai Gam & Ed Kurtz — “Crossroads of Opportunity”
Matt Hayward — “Where the Wild Winds Blow”
Joe R. Lansdale — “Not from Detroit”
Kristi DeMeester — “A Life That is Not Mine”
Robert Ford — “Mr. Hugsy”
Lisa Kröger — “Swamp Dog”
Orrin Grey — “No Exit”
Michael Bailey — “The Long White Line”
Kelli Owen — “Jim’s Meats”
Bracken MacLeod — “Back Seat”
Jess Landry — “The Heart Stops at the End of Laurel Lane”
Jonathan Janz — “Titan, Tyger”
Nick Kolakowski — “Your Pound of Flesh”
Richard Thomas — “Requital”
Damien Angelica Walters — “That Pilgrims’ Hands Do Touch”
Cullen Bunn — “Outrunning the End”
Christopher Buehlman — “Motel Nine”
Rachel Autumn Deering — “Dew Upon the Wing”
Josh Malerman — “Room 4 at the Haymaker”
Rio Youers — “The Widow”

Review:
Are you planning one last road trip before Summer ends?  Then be sure to grab a copy of this book before you head out, as it contains 20(!) stories that are sure to entertain you while on the road.

It is difficult to pick a favorite from this collection, though I will say that Bracken MacLeod's Backseat has stuck with me the hardest. (In the heat of summer, you will feel the bitter cold of this winter tale!)

Other favorites include Joe R. Lansdale's Not from Detroit, Robert Ford's Mr. Hugsy, Lisa Kröger's Swamp Dog, Jonathan Janz' Titan, Tyger, Josh Malerman's Room 4 at the Haymaker, and the closing story, Rio Youers' The Widow. (Story placement matters in an anthology, and this last one is a doozy of a story!)

Some other honorable mentions:
Michael Bailey's The Long White Line (a very "Twilight Zone" type of story), Kelli Owen's Jim's Meats (I would have liked more of this story), Nick Kolakowski's Your Pound of Flesh (this one has a good twist), and Rachel Autumn Deering's Dew Upon the Wing.

There are plenty more good stories within this collection, the above were just the standout stories, for me. So, before you hit the road, grab this book and enjoy your travels. Like D. Alexander Ward stated in his dedication to this anthology: the roads are legion and there are such strange sights to see!

Rating: 4/5 Skulls