MOUNTAIN HOME by Bracken MacLeod wasn't quite what I expected, but it was still a very solid read.
Joanie is ex-military. She's purchased a home with a view up in the mountains. Trying to move on with her life after a tragic experience during her time overseas, she runs into more trouble with a local. This is the final straw. Life's kicked her ass, now she's ready to strike back. It certainly had a Rambo/First Blood vibe in spots, which was cool.
What this book needed was more Joanie. All the scenes and bits with her past and present were compelling. I would have liked it better if the entire book was written from her POV.
I just couldn't get into the diner characters. I found myself wanting the story to move along and get back to Joanie. Unfortunately, the majority of the book is the diner and its cast and how they are dealing with being under fire.
I loved the set up and the ending of MOUNTAIN HOME and really was captivated by Joanie and her background.
I give MOUNTAIN HOME 3 stars!
THE WARBLERS (Eraserhead Press, 2017) by Amber Fallon is a novella that surprised me. After reading her novella, THE TERMINAL (Flesh Pulp Press, 2016), I thought I knew what to expect (horror, lots of action-filled horror), but with THE WARBLERS, Fallon takes a different approach.
"Don't be a fool, boy. Graveyard's full up with fools."
The story is a coming-of-age yarn from the point of view of a 14-year-old boy named, Dell. Dell's family's farm is in danger from a group of vicious birds (the Warblers) that have taken up residence behind their shed. Dell's pa decides to call for a "special" kind of help to eradicate the problem. That's the gist of the tale, but within, there are so many nice bits and beats.
"I thought of the horses in front of my uncle's carriage and how they had looked on smelling the warblers. I imagine we must've looked about the same way."
I recently read THE BOTTOMS by Joe. R Lansdale, and I picked up a very similar vibe from Fallon's story. That's a fantastic compliment to the author. I was impressed with her style, her patience, and her ability to put together such a well-rounded story, full of characters and heart.
As with the aforementioned Lansdale book, THE WARBLERS isn't really a horror story, and that's okay. It's a great piece of fiction, a wonderfully surprising novella that shows Fallon's fearless versatility.
I would liked to have seen more of the viscous birds, but I know we can't always get what we want. Oh, and the handler's (you'll know who I'm talking about when you read this book) were totally worthy of more book time, too. See, sometimes the problem is that the author creates so much goodness, we want more. That's a good thing.
I give THE WARBLERS 4-4.5 stars.
Definitely recommend this one to people who like great storytelling.
Sometimes an anthology has that lure, that pull, that innate ability to sink hooks beneath your flesh without you realizing it. While there are plenty of good horror anthologies out there, it takes a lot for one to grab hold of me like SHADOWS OVER MAIN STREET (VOLUME 2). It can seriously take me all year to make my way through an entire anthology, especially ones with a specific theme. I get to the point that I no longer care about the theme and give up, even if I admire the authors. So I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I'm a sucker for small-town tales. I'm growing an appreciation for the Lovecraftian realm in which these stories breathe and move, slithering tentacles across the brain, and welcoming you home with that gentle song from another world.
These are the ones that stood out for me:
"Shug"by John Taff - This one felt like a mix of Bradbury 's The Martian Chronicles and Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. I wasn't sure I liked it a few pages in, but it ended up being my favorite. Just a really well-told story that made its home beneath my skin.
"Something in the Water" by Douglas Wynn - This is the story that made me grab this anthology. I read a bit of Wynn's behind-the-story post via Twitter and knew I had to read it. Watch your tongue when you come to Wynn's little town. Loved it.
"Disintegration is Quite Painless" by Max Booth III - I've read a lot of Max's larger works. For the most part, they haven't been my cup of tea. They've been a bit too weird for my taste, but very well-written, and Booth's talent has never been in question. I knew it was only a matter of time when he wrote something that would blow me away. This one is a traditional/straight-forward horror tale. If you love Stranger Things, you're gonna enjoy the hell out of this one. The beginning was amazing, and even though the story went in a bunch of different directions, I loved each and every one. I can't wait to get this version of MB3 in novel form.
"1570 KhZ" by Damien Walters - No surprise that the Queen of Short Stories delivers another gem. This one features a young girl that wants to help her father. He sits in a garage listening to a strange frequency that is shifting his moods. This one is great.
"Sunset on Mott Island" by Lucy Snyder - the opening story, Snyder's piece subtly lures you in on the waves, while bringing on the impending doom. Charmingly cryptic to the end.
"Duck Hunt" by Joe Lansdale - A few of these have a rites-of-passage theme to them. I just enjoyed Lansdale's take the best. Thought I knew where it was going, but I was wrong. Fantastic.
There were really only two or three stories I didn't care for in here, but even those were well-written. This is a very impressive collection for fans of Lovecraft and/or small-town horror.
Even with the couple of so-so stories, I give SHADOWS OVER MAIN STREET (VOLUME 2) 5 stars!
Matt Hayward is an author on the rise. Checking him out online, reading interviews and such, you get the sense that he’s one of those guys writing for the love of it. I don’t sense that he’s one of those writers concerned with the numbers or one that aggressively seeks out your attention. He’s passionate and genuine, and it turns out he’s a pretty freaking good writer, too.
I read and enjoyed his previous release, BRAIN DEAD BLUES (Sinister Grin Press, 2017), a really good collection of short stories that displayed Hayward’s massive potential in stories like, “That’s the Price You Pay” and “The Faery Tree” had me eagerly awaiting Hayward’s debut novel, WHAT DO MONSTERS FEAR? (Post Mortem Press, 2017).
This novel is about a group of addicts that sign up for a rehab facility of sorts, where unbeknownst to them, the end game might not be the promise of a clean and sober life, but that of something far more sinister.
There are definitely some cool influences here. I saw a review that mentioned One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest, and rightfully so, as the author also refers to the book and film in the story itself. There’s also a bit of John Carpenter’s The Thing, as well. Both movies that I love. As with both of those films, the characters here are real, and Hayward does a great job making them stand out from one another, something that some newer writers stumble over with a larger cast.
Peter and Henry’s relationship is the best in the book. Two guys trying to kick the bottle, one older, and the other in his early thirties, their initial meeting out on the front porch is a memorable one. From there, Hayward develops them even further and it really makes the horrors to come all that much more intense.
For me, although Hayward uses the front half of the book to get you acquainted with everyone, and does a great job, it is a little slow, but you feel there is definitely something horrible just around the corner. And believe me, when you get to the second half of this one, hold on to your seat!
Hayward delivers in the horror category with lines like: “…___’s innards slopped away from his sliced open stomach, like saliva dripping from the jaw of a pit bull.”
Also, his use of Phobos (the personification of fear in Greek mythology) is righteous and wicked fun. I really enjoyed this one, and so will all you horror fiends. Great characters, great blood and guts, and a fun story.
Overall, I give WHAT DO MONSTERS FEAR? 4 stars!
“He could only watch as a pasty arm jabbed at his face. His back arched as he screamed, the spiked forelimb spearing his eye. Warm jelly oozed down his face as the orb exploded…”
BROKEN SHELLS (High Fever Books, 2017), the latest by author, Michael Patrick Hicks (REVOLVER, MASS HYSTERIA), is a wild underground creature-feature. The story follows Antoine DeWitt, a man that is slugging his way through a paycheck-to-paycheck life. Antoine has a screaming, crying baby at home with his lady, and is tired of it all. He's just been fired from work when he receives a Money Carlo winning ticket promising him $5, 000, he reluctantly decides to check out the to-good-to-be-true deal. The dealership has something for Mr. DeWitt, but it’s not exactly what he was expecting.
This is a fun and nasty little novella from Hicks. He shows his love for creatures-features, brings the gore and the terror, and his show-stealing creations (the Ba’is) are fantastic. Joe Dangle, the owner of the dealership, and his family have been responsible for keeping the creatures locked away, feeding them (bodies, of course), and keeping it all secret. Evil bugs with sharp claws that will poke your eyes out or rip your mouth apart, the Ba’is rule this story.
“Her lips stretched, her skin blanching under the strain, and then the corners of her mouth split, the flesh unzipping into a gruesome and jagged smile as her cheeks ripped apart.”
Personally, I disliked both DeWitt (who numerous times considers walking away from the stress of his wife and kid) and Dangle (car salesman + murderer =cretin), but LOVED the Ba’is and all the carnage they unleash throughout.
If you’re a big creature-feature fan (digging on works like Adam Cesare’s VIDEO NIGHT or Hunter Shea’s THEY RISE) you’re going to love this book.
I give BROKEN SHELLS 3.5! What a ride.
Wow, it only took me 5 years to get to this one....
I bought it sometime in 2014, I think, but it was released from Deadite Press in 2013.
I met Shane McKenzie at the World Horror Convention around that time. He seemed very cool, and we had a good talk about Wrath James White.
For whatever reason, I didn't start this book until last week when Jack Bantry blogged a list of his Top 10 favorite Splatterpunk books. I rummaged through my older Kindle purchases and found MUERTE CON CARNE patiently waiting.
This story was great. It definitely has its gory, harder edges, but I was surprised by how I was drawn to the main characters, Marta and Felix. McKenzie does a fantastic job setting this story up. Hell, there wasn't too much going on horror-wise in the first half of the book, but I knew it was coming, and I was at the edge of my seat just waiting for the death meat to hit the fan.
El Gigante was a wonderful surprise, as well. Yes, he's still a murdering psycho, but he really can't help it.
While MUERTE CON CARNE has a splatterpunk ending, it was a much milder read than I believed it would be. McKenzie held back when he could have let loose from the start. That kind of restraint is amazing. I think he got a better book from doing so.
I give MUERTE CON CARNE 4 stars!
Man, this is a freaking horror book! I read it originally back in 2009 when it came as part of my subscription to the Leisure Books Horror Club. I'm happy to report that eight years later, this book is still one of my all-time favorites. Great characters, fantastic story, and some of the most horrifying scenes I've ever read.
The story of Justin Collier, a Food Network star looking for the final entry to complete his new book on America's best craft beers. When he lands in Gast, Tennessee, and checks in to Ms. Butler's bed-n-breakfast, the true madness begins! Sex, violence, all of the most disturbing scenes I've ever read in a novel, and a fantastic and terrifying ghost story make Edward Lee's THE BLACK TRAIN an unforgettable trip.
Just a note here: The most impressive thing about this book might be how Lee uses these "disturbing" scenes and gets away with it. He earns the right to show you each and every nightmare within these pages. Despite the depravity of many of the scenes, each and every one serves the story and only intensifies the fear factor.
I give THE BLACK TRAIN 5 stars! I wouldn't recommend this one to anyone that might be easily offended or disturbed. Definitely more of a hardcore horror book, but one that is so much more.