Monday, December 18, 2017

Year in Review: 2017

Here are the Top Ten Books that I read this year:
[an asterisk* denotes published this year]

*Bane County 2: Returning Moon by +J R Rice​​

Dark Gold by David Angsten

*Death's Mistress by Terry Goodkind

The Dragon's Blade: The Reborn King by Michael R. Miller

*The Dramos Saga by +Franklin E. Wales​​ (even though this one, legitimately, is a short story collection, it reads like a novel, hence its inclusion in this list)

The Hell on Earth Series by +Iain Rob Wright​​ (The Gates/Legion/ and why these books are included in this year's list *Extinction)

*Hex-Rated by Jason Ridler

Nightwalk 2 by D. Nathan Hilliard

The Swarm by Frank Schatzing

*Undisclosed by Steve Alten

BONUS here are my Top Three Short Stories/Novellas from 2017:

Beneath the Ziggurat by +David Dubrow​​ (this was one of the first books that I read this year, and it remained one of my top favorites, all year long!)

The Final Reconciliation by +Todd Keisling​​

Wallflower by +Chad Lutzke​​

If you are still looking for Christmas gifts, any of the above novels, novellas, or short stories will make for excellent gifts, in my opinion!

My Top Twelve Movies of 2017:
(I am giving you 12 this year, because my top two are absolute must-see movies, if you have not seen them already - the other 10 are the ones that I enjoyed over all of the others, primarily for their entertainment value.)

#1 Movie of the Year goes to Wind River
#2 movie of the year goes to Baby Driver

Here are my other Top Ten (in alphabetical order):
Keep in mind that this year I hardly watched any art or foreign films, and a few of these get their nomination simply due to their repeat viewing value with my children...

Beauty and the Beast
The Fate of the Furious [Fast & Furious 8]
Get Out
The Great Wall (I have seen this one on more than one "Worst of '17 List", but I thoroughly enjoyed it!)
Spiderman: Homecoming
Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi
Thor: Ragnarok (this one knocked Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 off the list)
and last, but not least, Wonder Woman

Here are my Top Ten Movies [released prior to 2017]: (again, in alphabetical order)

The Accountant
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Ben-Hur (the 2016 re-make)
Hacksaw Ridge
Jack Reacher 2: Never Go Back
La La Land
The Love Witch
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Why Him?

Before I sign off, here are My Top Three New Television Shows of 2017 [in order]

The Orville (I absolutely love this show - I looked forward to it each week!)

The Good Doctor (Freddie Highmore is Fantastic!)

Training Day (R.I.P. Bill Paxton)

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you all!


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wrestle Maniacs [Book Review]

Wrestle Maniacs - not just for fans of Wrestling!

Genre - Dark Fiction (Crime/Horror/Humor/Taboo)
Year Published - 2017
Published by *Honey Badger Press
Length - 221 (digital) pages
Written by Multiple Authors

Rating: 3 Skulls

Plot Summary:
A dozen dark fiction masters bring their twisted vision to the world of professional wrestling. Twelve original stories of crime, horror, humor, and taboo. Ohhh, yeahhh! This ain’t no kayfabe, baby. This is hard-hitting wrestling fiction that grips like a Camel Clutch, and pins the reader to the page for the count of one, two…THREE!

Includes a confrontational foreword by ring legend 'Pulverizing' Pat McCrunch (as told to Jeff Strand)… An all-new story starring Nick 'The Widowmaker' Bullman from James Newman’s wrestling noir, "Ugly as Sin"… And ex-boxer turned strip club bouncer Reggie Levine ("Tijuana Donkey Showdown," "Damn Dirty Apes") returns for another action-packed misadventure.

Original fiction by:
Jeff Strand
Tom Leins
James Newman
Eryk Pruitt
Adam Howe
Ed Kurtz
Hector Acosta
Joseph Hirsch
Duncan P. Bradshaw
David James Keaton
Gabino Iglesias
Patrick Lacey
and Jason Parent


Author Adam Howe has started his own publishing label - *Honey Badger Press - "Fearless, Ferocious, FUBAR Fiction" - "grit-lit that just don't care" - and this is the first release.

I have never been a Wrestling fan, but I did not hesitate in purchasing this book - not only to support Howe's new label, but in all honesty soley for Howe's included story, Rassle Hassle (an all-new Reggie Levine story!)

As expected, Howe's story is worth the price of the book (what Adam puts Reggie through... man-oh-man!), though surprisingly it ultimately wasn't my favorite story in this collection - that honor goes to Gabino Iglesias' El Nuevo Santo's Last Fight - I loved this story!

I also really enjoyed Duncan P. Bradshaw's Glassjaw. These were the top three stories, in my opinion - each one worth getting this book.

While some of the stories in this collection are hit-or-miss, there are some others still worth mentioning - James Newman's A Fiend in Need, Patrick Lacey's Kill to be You, and Tom Lein's Real Americans were some of the other stand out stories.

All-in-all, whether you are a fan of Wrestling, or not, chances are you will enjoy a good bit of these stories!


Friday, December 8, 2017

Dark Gold

"When the world offers itself to you, when it opens like a woman's legs and begs for you to enter, there's no holding back, no stopping, no chain on the madman living inside you. . ."

Three college buddies, two ravishing shipmates, a wealthy yachtsman (and plenty of Mexican tequila) combine and combust in this thrilling tale of a search for sunken treasure - and survival against an awesome creature of the sea.

This one was recommended by author +David Dubrow​. What I love about Mr. Dubrow is that when he reviews a book (or movie) he does not shy away from being completely honest. If something is not worth your time, he will let you know, and if he deems something worthwhile, then you are guaranteed a treat! Such is the case with this book - an excellent read, one you want to take your time with, absorbing each and every word (hence the above quote).

Thank you, Mr. Dubrow, for another great recommendation!

Monday, November 27, 2017

'Seat 6A' and 'Scarecrows' [Two Short Story Reviews]

Over the weekend, author +Thomas S Flowers​ announced his forthcoming new short story collection Beautiful Ugly and Other Weirdness (releasing towards the end of January - you can pre-order your copy now for only $0.99!)

The reason that I mention this is that author +Michael Bray​ did the cover art. This reminded me that I have several short stories written by Bray, that I have not yet read (he had a big sale over the summer and I snagged quite a few of his books).

Anyhow, I chose these two at random:

Seat 6A
Genre - Horror/Short Story
Year Published - 2013
Length - 29 (digital) pages
Written by Michael Bray

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
A routine flight becomes a real life nightmare when a strange man boards flight 444. As the aircraft makes its way into a violent storm, the crew realise that the passenger in seat 6A is more than just a mere man, and must take action to ensure not only their survival, but that of the other passengers before their supernatural passenger can bring the aircraft down with everyone on board.

The tag-line for this one is "*Horror at 30,000 feet*", and that sums the story up nicely. It is a tight-written story. When a flight attendant and the black-eyed man have a battle of wills, you can feel the intensity roll off the pages, and the ending alone makes this a story worth reading!

One more thing before I move on to the next one, in case any of you are already Bray fans (this is the first story that I have read by him). At the end of the story, it is mentioned that this story is part of Bray's "Taste of Fear Series" It is stated that next in the series is a story titled The Reef, yet I am unable to find it (or any others in the series) anywhere. . .?

Genre - Horror/Short Story
Year Published - 2015
Length - 41 (digital) pages
Written by Michael Bray

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Once you're in, they'll never let you go...

When three teenagers decide to explore the local legend of the crazy old man on Samsonite farm and the army of scarecrows he has built, they soon discover that not all urban legends are false, and sometimes the biggest threat comes from within. 

For Dwayne and his friends, a battle against a supernatural creature which uses the samsonite scarecrows to do it's bidding will unfold as trust is broken and truth becomes blurred amid the unbelievable reality of the situation they are in and cannot escape from.

This one is a great short story that packs a punch!
(Even though I rated it the same as Seat 6A, I enjoyed this one even moreso.)

I will definitely be reading more of Bray!


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bane County 2: Returning Moon [Book Review]

If you have read my last couple of posts (on Google+) then you are already aware that I have been reading Bane County 2: Returning Moon. Well, I have finished it and here is my review:

Genre - Action-Adventure/Horror/Werewolf
Year Published - 2017
Length - 466 (digital) pages
Written by +J R Rice

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
For nearly two decades, life in the small rural town of Silver Canyon had been peaceful and serene. People went about their daily lives as usual, completely oblivious to the inescapable horror that loomed on the horizon.

All but a select few of Bane County’s residents had forgotten the macabre occurrences of the past. It was hard to believe that twenty-one people, missing or dead, in only three months’ time had been so easily dismissed.

Bryce McNeel and Jackson Campbell had been at the heart of those horrific events, and the tragic memories of that long, bloody season still weighed heavily on them, especially since they knew it wasn’t over.

The time was quickly approaching when a long-slumbering evil would reawaken, and the horrors of the past would revisit the people of Bane County. Somewhere within the dark cavernous depths of the wildlife refuge, something ravenous awaited, longing for its time to rise.

As Bryce and Jackson prepared themselves, they were unaware that an even deadlier adversary would come for them, and once again, they would find themselves in a battle for their lives.

This is the sequel to Bane County: Forgotten Moon. You do not have to read the first book, but I highly suggest that you do, if you have not yet done so (primarily for the background of the characters). If you have not already read my review of Forgotten Moon, I gave that one a five-skull-rating as well. With that said, Returning Moon is even better!!

Like I said in my review of the first book, this book too has excellent mass-market appeal. It is not just for fans of horror or werewolves. It is for fans of really any genre, but especially those who love great action or an intriguing mystery.

The book starts off with an incredible discovery which took place before the first book. The story then jumps ahead, approximately 19 years after the end of the first book. There are returning characters as well as new ones (specifically Iggy, Bryce's best friend, and Fate, Jackson's dog - a possible Rottweiler/Bull Mastif mix.) What I most love about Iggy is his "instant belief" when Bryce first tells him of the beast who hunts within Bane County's Refuge, and Fate is just awesome!

J R Rice is a Master at not only interweaving his different subplots, but also of superb character development. (both for the protagonists as well as the antagonists) You easily become emotionally invested with the characters and become angry when there is wrong-doing against them!

Not only is this a terrific book with a rapid-fire plot, it ends with you craving more, and the good news is that Book 3 [First Moon] is already underway! (and I have a sneaky suspicion that there are going to be several forthcoming surprises)

Make this book (or the first one) your next read. You will not be disappointed!


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Planet of the Dead [Book Review]

Here is my review of Planet of the Dead:

Genre - Apocalyptic Horror/Zombie
Year Published - 2017
Length - 178 (digital) pages
Written by +Thomas S Flowers

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
News reports speak of mass panic and violence spreading across the globe. Negligent leaders hide behind misinformation. But in an age of paranoia and suspicion, who can say what is true anymore? Struggling to survive against a sweeping epidemic that has engulfed the planet, survivors will have to make hard choices in a world that no longer makes sense. 

Live. Die. Or become one of the undead. 

In a time where our culture is saturated with zombies, Flowers manages to keep this book fresh, with superb character development, unique concepts (for example, there is a chapter written completely from a dog's perspective, and I am looking forward to finding out more about those on a space station - something I never thought about before), and surprising deaths.

From the very first chapter, this book accelerates like a bullet fired from a gun! The story is very "Romero-esque" which is a good thing, especially since the book is dedicated in his memory. I definitely like the fact that Flowers chose to keep his characters in the dark - not knowing what, exactly, is happening (for instance, one of the characters calling the zombies "*nasties*").

Needless to say, I am definitely anticipating the sequel's release [War for the Planet of the Dead], next year.

Also, just in case you are wondering why the 4-Skull rating - I had to deduct a star as surprisingly (for a Flowers' release) there were quite a few spelling errors - enough so that they sometimes took me out of the story. Other than that, a top-notch tale!


Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Swarm

The Swarm By Frank Schatzing

"The #1Blockbuster German Bestseller about an intelligent life force that takes over the oceans and exacts revenge on mankind."

This book is utterly fascinating! I do not believe that I have ever read a book filled with so much informative knowledge! (the amount of research that went into this book is mind-boggling.) Think Steve Alten on Crack The science behind everything is extremely complex, yet Schatzing makes it all completely understandable, and every bit of this story is explicitly visual within your mind's eye.

This is a book that lovers of any genre will thoroughly enjoy. There is something within for everyone.


Friday, August 25, 2017

The Dramos Saga [Book Review]

Do you like vampires? Do you like werewolves? How about zombis? What about Westerns?
If you answered yes to any of the above, then The Dramos Saga is for you!

If you are looking for something different to read this weekend, then I highly suggest The Dramos Saga - a series of stand-alone short stories - each one leading into the other, yet able to be read individually. (Trust me though, you will want to read the saga straight through!) Here is my review:

Genre - Horror/Western
Year Published - 2017
Length - 233 (digital) pages
Written by Franklin E. Wales

Rating: 5+ Skulls

Plot Summary:

They slaughtered his village in a frenzy of bloodlust and cruelty.

He followed them to America, vowing vengeance.

His name brings fear to the Undead, for they know of his wrath.

His name is Dramos and this is his Saga. 

Seven Adventures, One Saga.

13 STEPS: Thirteen steps up the gallows to the hangman’s noose.

FUNERAL COACH: A coachman chained to the seat of a traveling funeral coach.

PICKIN' TO BEAT THE DEVIL: An Irishman with a banjo has learned the secrets of the undead.

RENEGADE: Two widows slaughtered. The town blames wolves. The facts say otherwise.

VAMPIRE'S GOLD: A locomotive loaded down with gold, hired guns and something very old screams through the night.

THE VAMPIRE KING: A Vampire King must face the most formidable opponent in its centuries of existence.

BLACK WATER: A dead town by day, an undead town by night.

I have waited 5 long years for this saga to be completed, and the wait has been paid off tenfold! This book is exceptional! One of those books that you don't want to end! (which is a good thing, especially since when you think this one might be ending, it continues.)

The story opens with Dramos at the gallows, preparing to be hung. 13 Steps up to the hangman's noose - one step for each day leading up to this point.

You may guess what lies within the Funeral Coach, but I guarantee this tale will still surprise you!

In Pickin' to Beat the Devil, you will be introduced to one of my favorite characters in the saga - an Irish vampire hunter who has discovered a unique talent.

Renegade introduces another great character - Injun' Joe (and his sister Mary).

Vampire's Gold - the action plays out like a movie in your head! (You may have heard me say this before, but I feel that Robert Rodriguez would be the perfect director to bring this saga to the big screen - it would be amazing! - one of my dreams!)

The Vampire King is pretty much self-explanatory and Black Water is about a mysterious ghost town.

All of these stories are perfectly linked to tell Dramos' story. (each story, individually, receives 5 Skulls) This is a saga that should not be missed!

(note: the covers shown of #1 and #2 are off-colored only because I started this in the evening, when the blue-light filter was off on my phone. I then finished the rest the next day, which is how all of the covers look)


Monday, August 14, 2017

Hell on Earth Series (Books 1 - 3) Review

What will you do when the world ends?

I am going to be a bit ambitious with this review. Rather than one book review, I am going to give you three. (I thought that I was going to be reviewing a trilogy, however thankfully these 3 books are hopefully only the beginning. 
I present to you the Hell on Earth series (Books 1 - 3)

Genre - Apocalyptic Horror
Year(s) Published - 2015/2016/2017
Length - 346/302/285 (digital) pages
(all 3) Written by Iain Rob Wright

Rating: (all 3 books receive) 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
What will you do when the world ends? That's a question that needs answering quickly when the gates to Hell open up all over Earth.

Taking place across the globe is an apocalypse like no other, and humanity will find itself at war against a smart and merciless foe. The world must come together and fight back against the unstoppable Legions of Hell, because no one is coming to help them. The monsters are real and they will not stop. Welcome to Hell.

Follow the struggles to survive with several characters as things go from bad to worse.

Humanity is dwindling.

When the gates open, all Hell will break loose!

Iain Rob Wright is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors. When I finished book one of this series, I immediately had to read book two, and when I finished book two, I immediately jumped into book three. Now, I have to wait like everyone else for book four to be released, which can't come soon enough! Here are my brief thoughts on each book:

The Gates (Book One)
If I had to choose one word to describe Wright's endeavor with this series, that word would be Epic!. This book is completely character-driven. Some chracters you will root for, other characters you will despise. Either way, you are with each of them on their journey of survival.

Legion (Book Two)
This one starts off with longer chapters than the first book (I am a fan of relatively short chapters), though in this case, the longer chapters are okay, as roughly the first 35% of the book is filling in the blanks from the first book (which is awesome) and introducing some new characters. (Speaking of new characters, I just have to say that the Caretaker needs his own story/book!)

Both books 1 & 2 end with "Collateral Damage" which help explain the flip side of certain parts of the story. (which, again, is awesome!)

Book 2 also has two (very captivating) Bonus Short Stories by author Stuart Keane (who I will definitely be checking out!)

Extinction (Book Three)
Just to give you a time-frame - at the beginning of this book, it has been six-weeks since the gates first opened. You would think, by this time, some parts of the story would seem slightly stale. This is not the case, as Wright in no way makes this story repetitive. In fact, he introduces two new characters in this one (Beedle & Molok) who are, once again, deserving of their own tale. (and the identity of Skullface - whoa!!).

Before I sign off, I just have to say that it was hard not talking about any of the characters, as I do not want to give any aspects of the story away. I do want to say, however,  that I love the fact that at the end of book 3, Wright begins to allude to some of his other books (some of which I have not yet read). This opens the door to magnificent potential! There is so much to love about this series! I cannot recommend it enough!

Make The Gates your next read - currently only $0.99 on Kindle!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Caddis Initiative - Phase One: Infection [Novella Review]

Caddis Initiative - Phase One: Infection

Genre: Horror (tentacle/body horror/medical thriller)/Novella
Year Published: 2017
Published by Bloody Whisper Books
Length - 124 (digital) pages
Written by Cassie Carnage

Tagline: "Don't drink the water!"

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
There’s something in the water. It’s making people sick. Everything is changing. Everyone is changing. The whole world is becoming something else. Something alien. 
Something terrifying. Something deadly.

The infection is spreading and altering everything it comes into contact with; people, animals, plants - nothing is safe from its invisible grasp.

Becca Espinoza’s entire life changes overnight. The whole world is becoming something beyond her wildest imagination and worse than her darkest nightmares. 

Tentacled slime spewing horrors from beneath the sea are heaving upon the shores of New Jersey. They’re spreading a deadly infection, a contagion that kills the strong and mutates the weak into mind numbing monstrosities. 

It starts with sores that are filled with black thread-like worms. Headaches, vomiting, and fever follow. Shortly after, your body is completely infested with parasites, and you die. Those who survive this infection find themselves swiftly turning into something more than human and utterly alien to the world as we know it. 

Will Becca survive long enough to find her girlfriend and get her to safety? Or is everyone living in their coastal town doomed?

In this brutal, gore filled, fast paced, mutant creature feature novella, a butch lesbian plumber faces off with monsters created by science run amok. Inspired by old school horror and medical thriller movies like The Thing and Outbreak.

The most amazing thing to me about this story is that Cassie Carnage was asked to write it! (Thank you, Kelsea, for asking Cassie to write you a story. You must be thrilled at this outcome. I know that I am!)

I will start off by saying that Cassie immediately connects you with her characters which, with this kind of "tension-filled" story, pays off in full, as you will be concerned for each character's welfare.

Another aspect worth mentioning are Cassie's creatures - they are truly the stuff of nightmares! (If I ever hear of a fish-to-human disease, I am staying far, far away!)

With all of that said, I am definitely looking forward to Phase Two: Invasion which can't come soon enough!

Before I go, I do want to point out the $5 price tag on this one, for those who may be hesitant. That price seemed a little steep to me, for a 100+ pages novella, but I will say that you do get your money's worth!


Thursday, July 20, 2017


A contender for Best Book of the Year!

"Brown bags littered the gutters like the corpses of squashed rats. The air fluttered with the launching of a dozen different burger wrappers that danced in and out of traffic like kamikaze birds."

The above are just random sentences from the book. You can pretty much open the book to any random page, and find other sentences just as superbly written.

I am not really sure why this book is classified as Fantasy. (because of the magic?) I found it to be more in the vein of a crime/noir/pulp novel, so if you enjoy any of those, then you will definitely enjoy this book!

This book is a page-turner in every sense of the word. It is difficult to put down and will keep you reading late into the night. I am so glad that this is the first in a series. The next book cannot come fast enough! Thank you, Jason Ridler​, for sharing James Brimstone with us!


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dark Designs: Tales of Mad Science [Book Review]

Genre - Horror/Anthology Collection
Year Published - 2017
Published by ShadowWork Publishing
Length - 330 (digital) pages
Written by Multiple Authors

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Twilight Zone. The Outer Limits. Fringe.

Science without limits. Madness without end.

All proceeds from the purchase of this ebook will be donated to Doctors Without Borders.

This is a warning. What you are about to read violates the boundaries of imagination, in a world where science breeds and breathes without restraint. A world very much like our own.

Within these shadowy corridors you will discover characters seeking retribution, understanding, power, a second chance at life—human stories of undiscovered species, government secrets, the horrors of parenthood, adolescence and bullying, envisioned through a warped lens of megalomania, suffering, and blind hubris. Curious inventors dabble with portals to alternate worlds, overzealous scientists and precocious children toy with living beings, offer medical marvels, and pick away at the thin veil of reality.

You can run. You can look away. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Witness our Dark Designs.

As stated in the summary, this is a "Charity Anthology" - with all of the proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders. This is a good book with a great cause, so purchase your copy now (currently only $4).

This book is edited by both Thomas S Flowers​ and Duncan Ralston​, both of whom not only contribute their own stories, they also both offer their personal thoughts on the "mad science" genre.

This book was immediately a must-read for me, not only because of the genre, but also because it includes stories from Thomas S Flowers​, Chad Lutzke​, and Ken Preston​ (three authors who I totally enjoy!).

Rather than break down every individual story (of which there are 16 total), I am just going to tell you my favorites:

The stand-out story, for me, in this collection is, without a doubt, T. N. Kaylor​'s Death Ray Potato Bake. This story is worth the $4 alone! (I definitely plan on reading more of Kaylor's work!

Other superb stories were Jeffery X Martin​'s Underneath the Foam, Chad Lutzke​'s Discerning the Adversary (which is the shortest story in this collection), Ken Preston​'s Looking After the Parents, and Thomas S Flowers​' The Ascension of Henry Porter.

Other enjoyable stories were Daniel Marc Chant's How They Met Themselves, Chad Clark​'s Through the Slip, G. H. Finn's The Hidden War on Terror, and Duncan Ralston​'s The Burden.

The other stories are good as well - there isn't a bad one in the bunch - the above we're just my favorites.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Unacknowledged: An Exposé of the World's Greatest Secret [Book & Movie Review]

From the back of the book flap:

The Biggest Lie in History is about to be Shattered.

UFOs are real.
Extraterrestrials have been interacting with humans since World War II.
We mastered gravity control in 1954.
Free, clean energy systems could have replaced fossil fuels long ago.

In late June of 1947, three extraterrestrial craft were downed outside Roswell Air Force Base. Many more followed, revealing dozens of ET species - and a Rosetta Stone to a new physics - an energy generation and propulsion system responsible for interstellar space travel. This new system could have easily replaced oil, gas, coal, nuclear plants and with them, the entire geo-political and economic order on our planet -- only a cabal of bankers, the Military Industrial Complex, and Big Oil stopped it.

We've been lied to. And now, 70 years after Roswell, the witnesses to that lie have come forward to testify in a MUST-READ book that will shock the world.

Look for the accompanying documentary to be released from The Orchard, a division of Sony.

While definitely powerful and thought-provoking, I felt that both the book and the film we're too heavily inundated. (I base my reviews on how things flow, and when the film feels as long as the book, and the book even longer, then there is an issue.)

I do however find myself fascinated with the concept of Zero-Point Energy and the hidden, subterranean bases where Special Access Projects are performed, and for that reason, I highly suggest just reading Steve Alten's ("faction" story) Undisclosed. You learn pretty much all of the hidden truths while being engrossed in a highly-entertaining tale.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Beautiful Tears & Stained [Two Short Story Reviews]

Two (brief) short story reviews for you today:

First, some backstory - this past weekend, my youngest son split his head open while attempting a back-flip into the pool, so I of course left in a hurry and left behind the book that I was reading. While waiting in the emergency room, I started browsing short stories on my phone. (My son's injury was minor, though he did end up with 5 stitches. He was totally fine, sitting in my lap with his head on my shoulder.) The joy of reading a book on my phone is the ability to read one-handed (using the volume buttons to flip the pages).

So, I first decided on David Kummer​'s Beautiful Tears. (If you are not familiar with Kummer, he is a teenage writer with quite a few stories to his name already.)

This is a well-written story that kept me engaged throughout. Kummer definitely has talent. He reminds me of a young Brandon Ford.

Still with time to spare, I next chose Kayla Krantz​'s Stained. This too is well-written story. (I do not even remember downloading it, but I am glad that I did.)

Both of these stories are available for free on Kindle and are worth the read. Especially if you find yourself in need of a quick story like I did!

[No disrespect is meant to either author with me putting both reviews together. I just felt like they were both worth mentioning, and there isn't really much more to say.]


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Undisclosed [Book Review]

We've been lied to. . .

[From the inside/back book flap:]

"Zero-point-energy will not just replace fossil fuels; it is the game-changer that will eliminate hunger and poverty, pollution and climate change, disease and war... it will skyrocket the global economy and place every nation on an even playing field. Free, clean energy unlocks the door to humanity's evolution as a species and we've possessed the key for 70 years, only the gatekeepers refused to allow us to use it in order to protect the oil oligarchs and the military industrial complex. It is the new physics that allows us to explore the galaxy and beyond."

"Wait... Are you saying we have the means to travel faster than the speed of light?"

"Yes. Only we didn't invent it. We reverse-engineered it."

"Reverse-engineered it? From who?"


Three years ago, N.Y. Times best-selling author Steve Alten was given access to testimonials from military intelligence regarding the undisclosed TRUTH about UFOs, Extraterrestrials, secret subterranean bases... and zero-point-energy - a free, clean source of energy that has purposely been black-shelved since the events at Roswell Army Air Force Base in 1947. All is revealed in the pages of this mind-blowing thriller - a novel of "faction" written to provide a glimpse of what awaits us as a species - depending upon the path we choose.

I will let the book trailer speak for itself. All I will say is that this book will definitely be a contender for my "Best Book of the Year", come December.

Steve Alten​​​ is my favorite "faction" writer, and this book is a perfect example of why. It is a page-turner in every sense of the word!

Enjoy and remember, "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off."


Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Skitter - sequel to The Hatching

While I loved 'The Hatching', I was slightly disappointed in 'Skitter'. Where 'The Hatching' had a faster pace to it, 'Skitter' is mostly a lot of build-up for the next book, which may not necessarily be a bad thing, as I am now expecting the 3rd book to pack quite a wallop!

If you have already read 'The Hatching', then 'Skitter' definitely needs to be read, as big (literally) "things" are coming down the pipeline!


Friday, May 26, 2017

The Gatekeeper [Short Story Review]

Genre - Horror
Year Published - 2017
Length - 10 (digital) pages
Written by Kevin J Kennedy

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
If you could have anything you wanted, once a year, in return for completing a simple task, would you do it? What if that task, was to let all of the demons out of hell, for a night of fun and carnage? Meet the GateKeeper. 

This is my first introduction to Kennedy's work and a great introduction it is! A well written story.

I will definitely be reading more of Kennedy's works!


Saturday, May 20, 2017

TEETH [Short Story Review]

Genre - Horror/Short Story
Year Published - 2017
Length - 11 (digital) pages
Written by Multiple Authors (see summary)

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Franklin E. Wales originally challenged the authors at Lycan Valley Press to create a multi-authored werewolf short story during October of 2016. The idea was to compose a readable short story with the world's longest byline of co-authors.

Frank threw down the gauntlet and eleven of LVP's finest rose to the challenge. From all the research Frank did, he believes eleven authors coming together for one tale is the world's record.

Featuring work by Kala Godin, Stuart Conover, Jacki Wildman Wales, Nickolas Furr, H.R. Boldwood, Catrin Rutland, Martin Reaves, Roy C. Booth, Jo-Anne Russell, Wesley R. Irvin, and Cynthia Booth...

Simply put, this one is a must read, due to the circumstances behind it. (If you skipped the summary, that will fill you in)

The rules were that each author could write no more than a paragraph; each author must keep continuity with what came before, and each author had to wait a minimum of 24 hours before continuing the story.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well this concept worked. The authors could not have been aware of where the story was going, and yet it flowed smoothly and wrapped itself up well.


Monday, May 1, 2017


Christopher Golden is the author of a Sons of Anarchy book titled Bratva (which was released in 2014). Wondering if Golden ever wrote another SOA book, I looked him up to discover this particular book. While not as good as Bratva, I particularly recommend this one to fans of John Carpenter's The Thing!

Sadly, another SOA book was not found. 😔

Monday, April 17, 2017

Free Fall (Space Truckin' Book 1) [Short Story Review]

Genre - Sci-Fi
Year Published - 2016
Length - 29 (digital) pages
Written by Jason R. Davis

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Will was once a truck driver. When he was on Earth, his days were spent alone, traveling the highways for months until he went home to see his wife and family. Then Space Trucking became the new thing, and they didn't want pilots. They wanted men like him, the ones who were used to the isolation. 

Now he is a new breed of driver. He is a Space Trucker, and his job is simple enough. Haul the load and drop the load. Just now he is in space, and his destination; Mars.

This is a very well-written short story. Davis completely puts you into the main character's head, forcing you to feel the character's isolation and other emotions.
(I certainly cannot imagine​ being away from my family for 8-month stretches!)

I am definitely looking forward to Book 2!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wallflower [Novella Review]

Genre - Fiction (Horror)
Year Published - 2017
Length - 100 (digital) pages
Written by Chad Lutzke

Tagline: "A bleak take of addiction, delusion, and flowers."

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
After an encounter with a homeless man, a high school graduate becomes obsessed with the idea of doing heroin, challenging himself to try it just once.

Wow! What a story! Do not start this book unless you have at least an hour to spare. This story will grip you, immediately, from the prologue until the very end. (I started this book at 11 last night, figuring that I would read a chapter or two, before bed... Needless to say, I was riveted to the story and just had to finish it.)

This story is as addicting as its subject matter, and just like the habit, you want to stop (reading) but you can't!

I love everything about this book, from the cover (designed by Lutzke himself) to the Chapter Headings (very revealing in their downward spiral).

I will definitely be reading more of Lutzke's work!


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Blessed Man and the Witch (Armageddon: Book 1) [Book Review]

Genre - Apocalyptic Horror/Supernatural Thriller
Year Published - 2014
Length - 396 pages
Written by David Dubrow

Rating: 3 Skulls

Plot Summary:
How can you possibly prepare for the end of the world? The end of everything? Armageddon is right around the corner, and there's no guarantee that Heaven's going to be the victor. Hell is real, it's clawing at the edges of the Pit, and its demonically possessed servants are right now gathering powerful artifacts as weapons of war. The End Times are coming. Are you ready?

Hector Shaw isn't. A former soldier suffering from PTSD, he's been recruited to work for a clandestine security company under strange circumstances. What do they really want him for? Siobhan Dempsey isn't, either. She's only just gotten her life together when she finds that she can do magick. Real magick. Why now, and why her?

Connecting multiple characters and building to a shattering climax, this is the first novel in a trilogy focusing on themes of supernatural horror, western occultism, and Biblical apocalypse.

Okay, I first have a confession to make. I have had this book, since its publication - 3 years ago! Mr. Dubrow contacted me, back in 2014, asking if I would be interested in reviewing this book. (So, Mr. Dubrow wins for being the most patient author to wait for a review!)

At the time, I was under the assumption (my own) that this book was a Christian Fiction book. It is not! (Just because a book has Biblical elements/themes, a Christian book it does not become...) The book is chock full of graphic language and gore, so if that bothers you, this book is not for you!

Anyhow, back in 2014, I read the first 22 chapters of this book (roughly 40%), and just could not get into it. So, I humbly let Mr. Dubrow know that this book was not for me. (I do not review every book I read, unless specifically asked by the author. I would rather not bash a book/author if it can be helped.)

Mr. Dubrow graciously understood, and there were no hurt feelings. In fact, since that time, Mr. Dubrow and I have become pretty solid friends, on-line, and we were even able to meet, in person, last year.

If you follow my reviews, then you already know that I am a big fan of Mr. Dubrow's 'The Ultimate Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse' and an even bigger fan of this year's 'Beneath the Ziggurat'. (So, never discount an author's other works, if you dislike one piece of their library.)

You may be asking yourself why am I writing all of this now? Well, I decided to go back and give this book a try. I re-started it, from the very beginning, and these are my thoughts - good and bad:

I still stand by my original dislike of the book. The first half of the book , for me, seems very disjointed, causing a huge disconnect with the characters. (Too much jumping around for my taste, and I feel that it could have been trimmed down quite a bit.) However, the last chapter of the book (a good 20% chunk) was formatted differently, and seemed much more congruent and fluid.

My biggest issue with the book is the name of the character Siobhan. (Pronounced Shuh-vawn) How is that name pronounced that way?!? Every time I read her name made me dislike it even more, but that is just a personal issue. The character herself is quite intriguing, and leads into a lot of my favorite aspects of the book (*all of the astral travel).

Another aspect of the book, that I loved, was the demon Legion (who anyone who has studied the Bible is familiar with). Mr. Dubrow came up with a very cool concept, regarding the demon, and utilized him uniquely.

My favorite scene in the book, is when a character (not giving anything away) is handcuffed to a chair. He gets the ability to translate the metal in the handcuffs, transforming them into twin spiked knives. Just an amazing scene, in my head!

While there was stuff that I disliked, there was plenty that I did like (I found the YooTV concept very interesting, and as I mentioned before, I enjoyed all of the astral scenes.)

Overall, I am glad that I decided to re-read this book and push through the first half.

After reading the end of this one, I am pretty much left with little choice but to get the second book in the trilogy. (I definitely want to know what happens next!)

Until next time,


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Without Warning

The 3rd book in the "J. B. Collins" trilogy (preceded by 'The Third Target' & 'The First Hostage'), 'Without Warning' is probably my favorite of the three books (beats the first by a hair!)

What a book! Edge-of-your-seat from beginning to end! And what an ending it is! I love when an author bucks the trend - totally refreshing! You will not forget this book!


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Flies [A Short Horror Story Review]

Genre - Horror/Short Story
Year Published - 2016
Length - 51 (digital) pages
Written by Andrew Lennon

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Justin managed to get the day off work. He has plans to make the most of it. Drugs, booze, hookers - total degradation. There's just one problem. Those damn flies!

This is a fantastic short story that leads up to a viciously gruesome ending! I will, without a doubt, be checking out more of Lennon's stories!

Also included in this book are three additional short stories:

Michael Bray's 'Implants' [5 Skulls - a thoroughly engaging tale about the last survivor on Earth - completely unique!]

Shaun Hupp's 'Strands' [5 Skulls - a super short story that is a must read for fans of "spider tales"!]

Norman Turrell's 'Little Angel's' [3 Skulls - while good, this one fell somewhat short of the other stories in this book - my opinion]


Monday, March 13, 2017

The End Is All We See [Dual Short Story Review]

Genre - Sci-Fi/Horror/Short Stories
Year Published - 2017
Length - 45 (digital) pages
Written by M. F. Wahl and A. J. Brown

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
From the minds of M. F. Wahl and A. J. Brown come two horrific tales of struggle and loss you won’t soon forget.

In “Purple Haze”, a crash landing on an uninhabited planet strands Adira and the surviving members of her crew. Surrounded by a quiet world of blue grass, and purple skies, danger lurks within the beauty. Without contact to Earth and light-years from home, they encounter a treacherous enemy that threatens to destroy them from the inside out.

“Run For The Flame” brings us into a world where an ice age has engulfed everything, driving life underground. The Sanctuary holds the last vestiges of humanity, but it's walls are cracking and the ice is slowly encroaching. In their last grasp at survival, the community is forced to send their boys on an all-important run to The Flame... None have returned.

Wahl, a #1 Wattpad featured horror author and Brown, whose stories have appeared in over 200 publications, use their easy styles to draw you in, and hold you close.

Welcome to their nightmares.

This is a unique book that is a set of novelettes. There are two versions - this one, 'The End Is All We See' by M. F. Wahl and the other version, 'All We See Is The End' by A. J. Brown. They are both the same, yet slightly different, as reflected by their titles and covers. Both stories are the exact same, just flipped depending on which version you get. (If this is confusing, the authors explain in an inside letter.)

I have a feeling that depending on which story you read first may just be the story you like best. (Kind of like when Stephen King released 'Desperation' right along side Bachman's 'The Regulators')

My version, 'The End is All We See' starts off with Wahl's story "Purple Haze". The story is well written and then, out of nowhere, it takes a totally unexpected turn. Definitely a story that will stick with you, long after you have finished reading it!

After "Purple Haze" is A. J. Brown's "Run for the Flame".  This is a unique story that will have you invested in the survival of the characters!

Both stories are about the struggle to survive circumstances beyond one's control. I will definitely be checking out more from both of these authors.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Chrysalis [Short Story Review]

Genre - Sci-Fi/Horror/Short Story
Year Published - 2013
Length - 39 (digital) pages
Written by Ray Zacek

Rating: 3 Skulls

Plot Summary:
"Somalia on the Mississippi:" that is where the government sent Coffman. His mission? Strictly need to know. But that mission takes agent Coffman to an overpopulated county morgue to examine an unidentified cadaver. Of course, it is what's inside that counts...

I wish that Zacek would have let this idea percolate in his mind just a little bit longer. The concept (about a parasitic organism) is nothing new, yet Zacek made it his own, creating good characters, etc. I just wish that Zacek would have at least made it novella length, if not a full-length novel. I feel that there is a lot more to be told here.

This story has a somewhat (albeit darker) Men in Black feel, so if that sounds up your alley, give this story a shot.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

My Name is Aktul [Short Story Review]

Genre - Fantasy/Short Story
Year Published - 2017
Written by J. T. Ford

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
A panicked mother and her seven-summered son must flee their home with an aging warrior who, against his pragmatic nature, decides to act in favor of the dreams that have taken over his restless nights. 

The boy, whose fate is enigmatic yet vital, wishes merely for the voices to stop so that at last he will know his place in a life he suddenly has little control over. 

A war between the Nesai tribes and the Empire has erupted, but it is merely a small skirmish compared to the war that looms just over the horizon.

This story is a prequel to Ford's upcoming 'Hands of the Sun' quartet, with Book One being 'Autumn Dreams'.

This story gets the full 5 Skull treatment, as Ford definitely has me looking forward to this series! This is a really good, tight little story - full of suspense, mystery, and action, and Ford has left me wanting more, which is a great sign!


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Final Reconciliation [Book Review]

Genre - Horror/Novella
Year Published - 2017
Published by Crystal Lake Publishing
Length - 106 (digital) pages
Written by Todd Keisling

Rating: 5+ Skulls

Plot Summary:

Thirty years ago, a progressive rock band called The Yellow Kings began recording what would become their first and final album. Titled “The Final Reconciliation,” the album was expected to usher in a new renaissance of heavy metal, but it was shelved following a tragic concert that left all but one dead.

The sole survivor of that horrific incident was the band’s lead guitarist, Aidan Cross, who’s kept silent about the circumstances leading up to that ill-fated performance—until now.

For the first time since the tragedy, Aidan has granted an exclusive interview to finally put rumors to rest and address a question that has haunted the music industry for decades: What happened to The Yellow Kings?

The answer will terrify you.

Inspired by The King in Yellow mythos first established by Robert W. Chambers, and reminiscent of cosmic horror by H. P. Lovecraft, Laird Barron, and John Langan, comes The Final Reconciliation—a chilling tale of regret, the occult, and heavy metal by Todd Keisling.

Another spectacular read by Crystal Lake Publishing!

First let me say that while I have heard the  name Robert W. Chambers, I have never read anything by him, nor was I at all familiar with "The King in Yellow" mythos.
That having been said, Keisling has done a phenomenal job making sure none of that matters. Also, you do not have to be a fan of heavy metal to enjoy this story, but it definitely helps! ;-)

Told in an interview format, (with Tracks instead of Chapters) Keisling's visceral narrative is top-notch. He keeps you hanging with every word, and while you are riding the crescendo, you are simultaneously awaiting/dreading the build-up to the catylismic ending (and what an ending it is!)

Highly recommended!


Monday, March 6, 2017

The Dragon's Blade: The Reborn King [Book Review]

Genre - Fantasy
Year Published - 2015
Length - 438 (digital) pages
Written by Michael R. Miller

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Dragons once soared in the skies, but that was before the Transformation, before they took human form. Now, demonic forces stand to obliterate them. When left mortally wounded, Darnuir, the Prince of Dragons, can only be saved through a dangerous rebirthing spell. He is left as a babe in human hands.

Twenty years later, Darnuir is of age to wield the Dragon's Blade. As the last member of his bloodline, he is the only one who can. He is plunged into a role he is not prepared for, to lead a people he does not know. Shadowy demons ravage his new home and the alliance between humans, dragons, and fairies has fractured. 

Time is short, for new threats and deadlier enemies are emerging...

Have you ever had one of those days where there is so much to do, but all you want to do is read your book? This is one of those books where you want to read every spare moment available!

Miller has created an epic fantasy that every lover of fantasy should read! So much happens in the first 75 pages (5 chapters) that I was in awe of Miller's strong storytelling capabilities.

Aside from the characters and the story itself, what I love most about this story is the bold, strategic moves - the huge (rash?) decisions that are made, the rich history of the realm, and I absolutely love the magic system that Miller has created (very realistic in my opinion).

Even better news - Book 2 was just released last month! I am definitely looking forward to jumping back into the Realm of Tenalp and finding out what happens next!


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.

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!


Sunday, February 5, 2017

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


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.


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

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.

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


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...

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.

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!


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.

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.


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.

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.


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. . .

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!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Vacation Under the Volcano (Magic Tree House #13) [Book Review]

Today, I interrupt my usual book review post to bring you. . .

Vacation Under the Volcano (Book #13 in the Magic Tree House series) brought to you by my youngest son [age 10]

Genre - Children's Fiction
Year Published - 1998
Length - 74 pages
Written by Mary Pope Osborne

(Son's) Rating: 5 out of 5

Plot Summary:
Who wants to vacation next to a volcano?

Jack and Annie are about to find out when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to the days of the Roman Empire.
They arrive in Pompeii and soon discover that it is the very day the city will be destroyed. Now Jack and Annie must race against time to find an ancient library before it is buried in ash!

Before I write my son's review, a little backstory...

My children are allowed to stay up as late as they want to, on Friday nights, if they are reading. (Nothing else, simply reading) This drives my youngest nuts, as he does not really like to read. (My wife and I are both avid readers, and we have 4 kids - of those 4, only 1 loves to read. One is not really a reader, one is a casual reader - reads books here and there, and then my youngest who wants to read, but really just hasn't found the right book/genre/series. Until now... He is loving these Magic Tree House books!)

As always, if one of my kids wants me to read what they are reading, they have to write me a book review first.

Here is my son's review - verbatim (again, age 10):

"I think that Vacation under the Volcano is a great book! When I read this book, it is like I am really there! It is a magical book! If I were to rate this book, it would be 5 out of 5 stars. This book is great! It is like I am on an adventure! *Book #13 will blow your pants off!"

*Now you know why I had to share this review. ;-) How could I refuse after that?

So there you have it. If you have younger children who are looking for a good series of books, give The Magic Tree House series a shot!


Friday, January 6, 2017

The Ultimate Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse: Revised and Updated

Genre - Self Help
Year Published - (Revised Edition) 2016
Length - 108 pages
Written by David Dubrow (writing as F. Kim. O'Neil)

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Let's face it: most of us are not prepared to face a basic disaster survival situation, let alone a zombie uprising. What are you going to do when all the trappings of civilization are ripped away by rotting, undead hands? During a Zombie Apocalypse, the electricity stops running, water stops flowing from the tap, and the rule of law becomes the Law of the Jungle. Hordes of ravenous, cannibalistic ghouls roam the streets, seeking human flesh. It would be a miracle if you survive the first night, let alone a month. Your life expectancy has just dropped to next winter...if you're lucky.

That's where this book comes in. It provides you with not just the information you need to survive the coming Zombie Apocalypse, but the confidence such knowledge brings. After reading this book, you will learn:

• The different classifications of zombies, along with their strengths and weaknesses
• How to cope with the overall zombie-caused breakdown of society
• Combat-proven zombie-fighting tactics and techniques
• How to find food, water, and shelter in a zombie-overrun world
• Skills for surviving other apocalyptic dangers, including rogue government agencies, zombie animals, and other humans competing for scarce resources
• How to prepare a Zombie Bug-Out Bag to get you through that critical first week of the Zombie Apocalypse

This revised and updated edition contains new information, including a chapter on the very worst case of a worst-case scenario: surviving the Zombie Apocalypse in a major metropolitan city like Chicago or Atlanta!

If, like the author, you're the least bit concerned about surviving the coming Zombie Apocalypse, you need this book.

It's a no-brainer.

In case you missed my original review of the original edition, back in October, this is my revised review for this new Revised and Updated Edition, which now includes a whole new chapter on dealing with zombies within a major city, as well as additional added sections.

This book covers everything that you can think of, and I mean EVERYTHING!
(It is amazing the things that you don't think of, yet when reading this manual, stand out as vitally crucial!)

In this book you will learn about the different kinds of zombies (the viral, the supernatural, and the voodoo types)
If that isn't enough, you will be taught proven survival methods, such as finding food, water, and shelter, and many, many other skills.

This book is completely engrossing and really should be required reading!

For those of you who may have already read Max Brooks' 'Zombie Survival Guide', you may be asking yourself if you really need to read this book as well, and the answer is an emphatic YES! You will learn far more in this book and feel much more confident in your ability to survive any type of apocalypse (not just zombie).

Also, if you are a fan of David McIntee's 'We Will Destroy Your Planet. . .', then you will definitely want to read this book as well.

Before I log off and start preparing myself a zombie bug-out bag, I just want to reiterate that this book may one day save your life!

I am now passing this manual along to my oldest daughter, who is preparing to write an essay for her AP Language class. Her essay is on who she would choose in a zombie apocalypse, why, and what roles they would play. (Why didn't I have essays like that, back when I was in school?!?)
She is definitely going to be the most prepared!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Beneath the Ziggurat [Short Story Review]

Genre - Horror/Short Story
Year Published - 2017
Length - 24 (digital) pages
Written by David Dubrow

Rating: Near Perfect!

Plot Summary:
Beneath the Ziggurat takes the reader on a Lovecraftian journey through pre-Columbian Mexico, where dread lurks behind every step of rainforest and the old gods still hold terrible sway. Descend into a nightmare of brutal Spanish conquistadors, bizarre aboriginal tribes, and unspeakable alien horrors in a tale that David Angsten, author of Dark Gold and Night of the Furies lauded as “an instant, timeless, phantasmagoric classic.”

Does anyone remember, years ago, there was a book publisher that had stickers on the front of select books that stated, "Guaranteed to love this book or your money back"? (I only remember maybe 3 or 4 books having that sticker, and I remember all of them being good books.)
Anyway, Dubrow could slap one of those stickers on this story and not have to worry about losing a dime!

I started this one last night, after putting the kids to bed, and completely lost myself for the next 30 minutes or so!
This book has solidified the fact that I absolutely love a great first-person narrative!

Check out this out: (the opening page of the story - used with permission, of course)

"My hands shake, but that is due to age. As my life creeps toward its end, the fear that has gripped me for decades has loosed its fingers. See you the splashes of ink, the words that meander upon the page? As I said, it is age. I will die soon. I should have no more to fear. Matlaltemoc was the name given me on the fourth day after I emerged from my mother’s womb, shrieking as all newborns do in confusion, terror, and loss. The date was 6 Acatl 1 Ehecatl 11 Malinalli, or, as Friar Rodrigo would have it, April 15, in the Year of Our Lord 1511."

Does that not completely thrust you, immediately, into the life of Matlaltemoc?
After this, you will learn that Matlaltemoc (Mateo for short), a Tlaxcalan, Mexican Indian, is being forced on a quest set in motion by Tezcatlipoca, a dark Aztec god of terror and evil.

As I was reading this, it brought to mind how I felt when I first discovered Burroughs - the narrative is that good!

Dubrow's writing brings a kind of melodic fluidity to the narrative. (I kept reading segments aloud, much to my wife's dismay) Dubrow leaves the graphicness of certain situations to your own imagination, and the story is better for it.

I honestly do not see a way that this story could be improved - it is that good!

This is the stand-alone short story to beat this year, and I am not sure that it will be.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Simple Things [Book Review]

Genre - Horror/Anthology
Year Published - 2016
Length - 303 (digital) pages
Written by Various Authors
(Stories Collected by Franklin E. Wales)

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Simple Things is a consignment shop unlike any other. Inside you’ll find home furnishings, housewares, fashion accessories, toys, books and a number of one of a kind items. But be forewarned; all of our things have a dark and sinister side. Some cut, some bite, some steal your chance for a restful night.

Stories from Ross Baxter, Martin Reaves, Gregory L Norris, Jacki Wildman Wales, Paul D Marks, Roy C Booth & Axel Kohagen, Catrin Sian Rutland, K Trap Jones, Jo-Anne Russell, David Tocher, Frank Martin, Lori Safranek, Billie Sue Mosiman, Nicholas Paschall, Terry M West, Joseph M Monks, Sherri Sabastian-Gabriel, Robert Essig, Ken MacGregor, Roy Bishop, Robert Teun, Laura J Hickman, E F Schraeder, Anthony Servante, and V Franklin

Something that you might not know about me is that I enjoy consignment shopping (particularly antiquing). So, when this book crossed my path, I was immediately intrigued by the concept and what a brilliant concept it is!  From the very beginning "Come In, We're Open" you are welcomed by the proprietor and his selection of "Simple Things". These stories will make you think twice about second-hand merchandise!

There are several authors, within this collection, whom you may already be aware of and several new (to me anyhow) ones. Unfortunately, Wales did not write one of the stories himself (though his wife contributed a story), but he makes for a great proprietor, who briefly tells you about each item before the story begins.

The stand-out stories, for me, are:

Martin Reeves' "Madness Decanted" - a story about an unquenchable thirst... this is the first story that I have read by Reeves, and he has an excellent writing style!

David Tocher's "Feather Canyon" - a story about a small tea-tin with a single human tooth... another first-time author for me - this one may be the most horrifying of the bunch.

Billie Sue Mosiman's "Safe Haven" - a story about a 50's memorabilia coffee mug... A long time fan of Mosiman's, she does not disappoint with this one!

Joseph M. Monks' "Ashes" - a story about an incense burner... I loved this one!

Ken MacGregor's "Impure Breed" - a story about a Chinese food container... Crazy!

Some other great stories include:

Baxter's "Whisper" about a Kiddie Helicopter Ride (some of these stories have the perfect titles, by the way!)

Booth & Kohagen's "Home Sweet Hell" about a Welcome mat.

Rutland's "Book of Dreams" about a cotton duvet (comforter).

Jo-Anne Russell's "The Dentist" about a glass jar of teeth.

Safranek's "Handbags" about... purses.

Essig's "The Beauty Mark" about a black eye-liner pencil.

Teun's "Jacob's Call" about a child's toy telephone.

Servante's "Cat Eyes and Puries" about 5 glass marbles (this one has a great twist!)

All of the above are stories that will stick with you. There are still several more great stories within this collection... Including stories about an 18th century mahogany wing-backed chair, a flat-iron steak knife, an antique quill pen and inkwell, a set of hardcover books, and several other unique items.

Again, I loved the concept of this book, and it has a solid collection of stories.