Friday, February 17, 2017

Joe Coffin (Season Three) [Book Review]

Genre - British Noir/Crime/Vampire
Year Published - 2017
Length - 316 (digital) pages
Written by Ken Preston

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
There’s a new vampire in town who wants Joe Coffin, but he doesn’t want to kill him.

Emma Wylde has a secret, and she’s not the only one.

The Slaughterhouse Mob is no longer the gangland force it once was, and Coffin’s not the only one who wants to take it back its glory days.

Lies. Secrets. Betrayals.

Joe Coffin’s world will never be the same again by the time this is all finished.

Review:
Season Three consists of Episodes 9 - 12.

As I started to read Season 3, I felt like a lot of the story was being bogged down by stuff that really didn't seem to matter a whole lot. Season One was was written in a rapid-fire manner that held true to the "episodic format", while Season Two added a lot more back-story. If I were "watching" Season 3, I am not sure that I would have continued it. Fortunately, I pushed through, and I am glad that I did!

The latter half of this book is where it's at!

Just when I was thinking that maybe it was time to retire Joe Coffin, Preston ramped up the action as well as the plot, pulling this book from an average 3 to a much better 4 skull rating!

Not to give a whole lot away, but there are still several (I repeat, several!) more ancient vampires still buried around the city. On top of that, Coffin is still trying to deal with his 4-year-old (turned-vampire) son. Some of the mystery behind Leola is shed. And yes, Mr. Corpse & Mrs. Stump are continuing their mischief and mayhem! Oh, did I mention the double-whammy ugly twists near the end?

Needless to say, I am eagerly awaiting Joe Coffin's return!

Jason

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Death's Mistress: Sister of Darkness (The Nicci Chronicles, Volume 1)

ONE OF GOODKIND'S ABSOLUTE BEST!

Once again, Goodkind has taken me on an emotional rollercoaster ride. If you are/were a fan of Goodkind's earlier works, then this one is a must read!

I, of course, would suggest reading all of 'The Sword of Truth' series (beginning with Wizard's First Rule and ending with Warheart) before reading this one, but the good news is that you don't really have to.
There are several instances that allude to the prior books, however I believe that this book could stand on its own. (If anything, after reading this one, you will want to read the others, while waiting for the next book in this new series to come out.)

Goodkind has gone back to the basics with this one, creating a thoroughly captivating and totally engrossing story - one that any adventurer/quest-lover will totally absorb!

The only thing that I didn't like about this book is its cover. (I am sorry, but the cover portrayal of Nicci is completely off-base, in my mind, as is Nathan Rahl in the background.)

That said, I have no doubt in my mind that this book will make it into my "Top Ten" list at the end of the year.

Jason

Monday, January 23, 2017

Run to Ground [Book Review]

Genre - Horror
Year Published - 2016
Published by Crystal Lake Publishing
Length - 92 (digital) pages
Written by Jasper Bark

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Jim McLeod is on the run...

…from his responsibilities as a father, hiding out from his pregnant girlfriend, and working as a groundskeeper in a rural graveyard.

He’s running from a lifetime of guilt and bad decisions, but principally he’s running from the murderous entities that have possessed the very ground at his feet.

Jim has no idea what these entities are, but they’ve done unspeakable things to everyone in the graveyard and now they’re hunting him down. There is nowhere Jim can hide, nowhere he can walk and nowhere he can run that isn’t under the lethal power of the things in the ground. If he stands any chance of survival he must uncover the link between his murderous tormentors, three mysterious graves and an ancient heresy that stretches back to the beginning of time.

Run to Ground is a tale of extreme folk horror. It opens the reader’s eyes to a terrifying new breed of gods and monsters, but be warned, within these pages you’ll find blasphemy, brutality and unbelievable depravity the likes of which you’ve never read before. Think that’s too grandiose a claim? Why not put us to the test. Go on, click the ‘Buy now’ button, we double dare you...

Run to Ground carries on the proud tradition of Jack Ketchum and Poppy Z. Brite, and is brought to you by Crystal Lake Publishing – Tales from the Darkest Depths

Review:
This is the first book that I am reviewing of the "10-book set" that I won from Crystal Lake Publishing last month.

This one was a no brainer as I was looking for a short read, (the book that I have been waiting all month for is finally being released tomorrow!) and Bark is another author recommendation from author David Dubrow, who hasn't steered me wrong yet.

I already own two of Bark's other works ('Stuck on You and Other Prime Cuts' and 'The Final Cut' - I just haven't read them yet), however this is the first book that I have read by Bark, and it definitely will not be the last!

As I said, I chose this one solely based on the author and its size, so I did not even read the above book summary, I just dove right in. Needless to say, it was a jolting dive! The story opens with a shockingly, gruesome discovery and never lets up!

Whoever says that originality is dead has obviously never read Jasper Bark!

I will say that this story goes pretty far out there and definitely will not appeal to everyone, so don't say that you haven't been forewarned.

My only real issue with this story is a minor one. The main character is named Jim Mcleod and another character is named Kit Powers (these are both real-life authors, whose names I am familiar with, but whose works I have not yet read). That being said, their names were a slight distraction which kept me from being fully rooted into the story. Other than that, this was a welcome introduction to Bark's writing-style.

BONUS:
This book also includes another story by Bark - 'How the Dark Bleeds' (a fascinating story about blood! I may have enjoyed this one even more than 'Run to Ground') It looks like this one is also in Bark's 'Stuck on You' collection. There is also an excerpt, at the end, of the 1st two chapters of Bark's 'The Final Cut'.

On top of all of the above, after reading 'Run to Ground' you learn that it is part of a story-cycle known as the "Heresy Series". ('How the Dark Bleeds' is also part of this series, as is 'The Final Cut')

This book also includes an essay by the leading academic expert on the Qu'rm Saddic heresy - Nicola Tanthur PhD.

So, whether you buy this book in print or digitally, you get your money's worth

Jason

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Skins of Our Fathers & Carnival Freak [Short Stories Double-Feature]

Skins of Our Fathers
Genre - Short Story
Year Published - 2013
Length - 10 (digital) pages
Written by Billie Sue Mosiman

Tagline: "He lived alone, fatherless and afraid, until the Girl-Thing found him..."

Rating: 3 Skulls

Plot Summary:
He lived alone as a creature in the forest until a female creature of a different sort came to him and became his friend. She was furry where he was naked and gray-skinned. She kept vigil over him when he slept at night in the cave, startling him from peaceful sleep. And then she lured him into disaster...

Review:
This is a super-fast read. (5 minutes maybe?) Not a whole lot to say about this one, other than it is a well written story (taking place when Native Americans were prevalent). I am not sure what sort of creature the main character is, but this story will make you wary of whom you should trust.

Carnival Freak
Genre - Short Story
Year Published - 2012
Length - 16 digital pages
Written by Billie Sue Mosiman

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
They came to see the freak show, but afterwards were offered a special showing for the price of one more admission. They were promised they could look upon The Freak of All Freaks, a monstrosity rarely seen by man.

Five of them dared to take the tour. All of them were hiding dark secrets.

One of them possessed the worst secret of all and wished she had left when she had the chance.

Review:
Now this is a great little short story! This one grabs you right from the get-go and doesn't let up. So step right up and read about the "secret freak", the "Freak of Freaks" and see what he has to tell you!

Jason

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sudden Death [Book Review]

Genre - Horror
Year Published - 2016
Length - 121 (digital) pages
Written by Theresa Jacobs

Tagline: "Play if you dare. Once you enter you cannot leave."

Plot Summary:
Death. There's An App For That.
When James’ roommate vanishes, he begins to investigate.
After finding his friend’s phone, frozen, locked in a mysterious game loop, James elicits the help of fellow students to uncover the mystery.
They soon discover that this is no regular game.
What they find is more than a game. Much more.
Whatever you do, don't click ‘download now’, or you’ll be next.

Review:
I first read Theresa Jacobs' "The Followers" in the anthology 'Shrouded Voices'. I loved that story, and I was excited to read what she came up with next. I became even more excited when I read that 'Sudden Death' was written in honor of Richard Laymon. (I would, most likely, read anything written in honor of Laymon!)

Alas, I was let down in disappointment.
'Sudden Death' has a great concept. I just feel that it would have been better written as a script to a supernatural/horror television show than this story.

Rather than immersing me further into the story, the dialogue of the characters (a group of college students) quickly became immensely annoying. On top of that, I felt that there was minimal character development. (Not feeling empathy for the characters was another huge disconnect.) While the story started out with a 'The Ring' kind-of vibe to it, it soon became extremely monotonous, and the plot took a ludicrous leap from point A to point B. (I cannot really explain without spoilers.)

On top of the above, this story could really use some professional editing. Aside from numerous grammatical errors, the font would randomly change color, which again, would take me out of the story.

Having previously read Jacobs' "The Followers" I know that she has some great stories in her. This one just wasn't for me.

Jason

Monday, January 16, 2017

Nightwalk 2 [Book Review]

For whatever reason my Blogger app is, once again, not allowing me to post the book cover art. 😔
(I love the cover of this one too - subtle yet horrific!)

Here is my review:

Genre - Horror
Year Published - 2016
Length - 301 pages
Written by D. Nathan Hilliard

Tagline: "Welcome back to Coventry Woods..."

Rating: 5+ Skulls

Plot Summary:
Mark Garrett is about to go home again...

Two years have passed since the disaster at Coventry Woods, and Mark has made a good effort at recovering from the ordeal. He has published a new novel, replaced his lost belongings, and bought a new house in New Mexico. Life is finally moving on. He's hidden the few scars that remain, and with Casey having left for college he looks forward to a comfortable future with his wife.

But the past is not done with Mark Garrett.

The enigmatic man in white has returned and announced the world is doomed. Another survivor of Coventry Woods has sealed its fate. The future's only hope is for Mark to go back to that terrible night, and once again navigate his way through a death infested hell. Only this time he won't be trying to escape. His mission is to intercept and kill a man he's never met.

Now the clock is ticking as Mark races against a nuclear deadline. He must save the future, while at the same time trying to minimize his impact on a past that will not hesitate to eat him alive. And as he soon discovers, any change he makes can cause unexpected complications. . .

. . .especially when he gets stuck with the last travelling companion he would have ever wanted.

Review:
I am not sure how many times I need to say this, but if you are not reading Hilliard's work, that needs to change, immediately! Hilliard consistently puts out nothing but the best! A sequel is not the easiest to accomplish, yet Hilliard makes it seem effortless.

Back in 2015, I rated Nightwalk as my favorite horror novel of the year, and now we have its sequel, which is funny, because if I were to have requested a sequel to any of Hilliard's past work, it probably would have been Spiderstalk. However, I am immensely grateful that Hilliard chose this story, as I am not sure that we have yet seen the last of the mysterious "man-in-white".

Speaking of the man in white, Hilliard has flawlessly created a reason/need for this sequel. While the above plot summary is crystal clear, I will say that Garrett is given a mission that is crucial to the survival of our planet. Garrett is given a choice - stay in the present and live his life, for possibly another 8 or 10 years, before the world is devoured, or go back-in-time, to the absolute horrors that he barely survived two years ago, and try to save the future of our world. And the kicker. . . he will only have 2 hours and 21 minutes to do so! (If you have already read Nightwalk then you know the reason for this deadline. If you have not yet read it, what are you waiting for?!?)

Hilliard has accomplished a perfect-pace with this story, while at the same time adding a dash of Final Destination for good measure. Just when I was thinking I enjoyed the different characters from the first book, bam, Garrett runs into a new group of survivors, which of course opens up a whole new can of worms.

If you follow me on Google+, you may remember a brief quote that I posted from Chapter 4 of this book, just the other day. I am going to repost it here, as I have an additional quote, from Chapter 10, to add as well, that unknowingly goes along with my first quote. Here they are:

"Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The Tyrant Lizard.
The Big T.
When you absolutely, positively want to ruin somebody's underpants, just drop them in a dark back alley with one of these bad boys and consider your mission accomplished."

". . .Then she exploded.
And by "exploded" I mean she launched into an extended, profanity-laced tirade so full of obscenities and vile invective that it would have made a biker gang slink away in shame. She cast aspersions on my parentage, and she cast aspersions on my parent's parentage. Then she continued by saying unkind things about my humanity, my intellect, my manhood, my character, my hat, my sexuality, my dog, my appearance, my demeanor, my hygiene, my place on the evolutionary scale. . ."

You get the point. I just love Hilliard's writing style. I couldn't help but share those small excerpts.

If those do not whet your appetite, then just wait until you get to the mind-boggling epilogue - WOW!

Another amazing read from perhaps the best independent author that you just may not yet be aware of.

Jason

Friday, January 13, 2017

Portent [Book Review]

Back in October, I was able to personally meet author David Dubrow (one of the nicest guys I've ever met!). We met for lunch, and while we were eating we discussed some of our favorite horror authors... When Dubrow mentioned James Herbert I had to admit that while the name sounded familiar I had never read anything by him.

Being that Dubrow is the one who recommended both Adam Howe and R. M. Huffman to me (two of my newest favorite authors), I figured that it would only benefit me to check out Herbert.

Funny thing is, every single time I go into my local used bookstore, they have a different Herbert book! So, I started collecting his books without having even yet read him. [Trust!]

I, so far, now own Once, Nobody True, '48, Haunted, The Magic Cottage, The Survivor, and of course Portent.

I, obviously, decided to start with Portent, so let me get on with my review.

Plot Summary:
Something incredible is about to happen...
First there are the lights: strange, alluring, eerily beautiful, floating up as if from the heart of the planet itself.

Then, moments later, the disasters: coral reefs exploding into shrapnel, cloud banks bursting with torrential floods, killer hailstorms, tsunamis, vicious flash fires.

From San Francisco to the Indian city of Varanasi, from the gentle Dorset hills to the Great Barrier Reef, the earth is spewing destruction and humans are dying hideous, excruciating deaths.
For climatologist James Rivers, it seems almost as if the planet is angry. Then he meets the children and learns that the horrifying truth exceeds even  his most unthinkable private terrors. . .

Review:
Generally, when purchasing a used book, I check for markings within. I must have forgotten to do so when I bought Portent. Upon opening the book, the very first page had SKIP scrawled across the top. Hmmmmm. Was Skip the prior owner's name or was the prior owner telling me to skip this book? I decided to forge ahead...

The first thing that struck me about Herbert's writing is his solid characters! He builds them up, quickly, only to kill them off!! Never have I gotten so rapidly attached to a character, only to have them not survive - crazy!

As for the book itself - it was a heavier read than I originally expected (it has a slow burn, behind the story itself), but I definitely enjoyed it and will be looking forward to my next Herbert book. (*If you have read any of the above mentioned, be sure to tell me which you liked best!)

Also, my wife loves apocalyptic movies - with the right director, this book would make for a phenomenal end-times film!

Jason