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.]

Jason

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Undisclosed [Book Review]

https://youtu.be/Qiu1-C3aU-Y

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?"

"Extraterrestrials."

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."

Jason

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Skitter

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!

Jason

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. 

Review:
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!

Jason

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...

Review:
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.

Jason

Monday, May 1, 2017

Ararat

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.

Review:
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!

Jason

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.

Review:
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!

Jason

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.

Review:
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,

Jason

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!

Jason

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!

Review:
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]

Jason

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.

Review:
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.

Jason

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...

Review:
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.

Jason

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.

Review:
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!

Jason

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:
TAKE OFF YOUR MASK!

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.

Review:
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!

Jason

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...

Review:
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!

Jason

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

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!

Review:
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!

Jason

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.

Review:
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!

Jason

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.”

Review:
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.

Jason

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

Review:
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.

Jason