stone work edit

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Mirror Matter Press

Length: 120 Pages

Release Date: June 15, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Stone Work

In Roid Rage, readers are introduced to Stone, a mercenary for hire who works for anyone that pays, regardless of how messy or violent the job may be and consequences be damned. This time he is working for a sleazy drug lord named Greg Warden. Greg is a notorious in his own right for his ability to escape jail time despite his various shady dealings around The City. Greg doesn’t need Stone’s help personally, but hires him to help out his son, Bobby. Bobby seemed to lack the drive and knowledge to take on a big role in the family business despite his father’s best efforts. However, Bobby has recently shown more promise and launched his own little enterprise to take advantage of the gym next store. Problem is, a thief has been stealing Bobby’s supply and despite their best efforts, they can’t seem to catch the culprit. So, Greg decides to step in and he hires Stone to take care of the problem for his son behind his back. Despite his newfound entrepreneurial spirit, Greg simply doesn’t trust his son to get the job done.

Stone enlists the help of Megan, his partner in crime, to help guide him through the logistics of the operation. Megan is in her mid-twenties and is a super intelligent hacker that has a bit more of an idealistic world view than Stone, but is still tough as nails. She helps Stone do all of the recon and handles the tech aspects of the Warden job that Stone has no idea how to do. After a brief recap of the mission, Megan gives Stone the all-clear to enter the store.

Once Stone is inside, he realizes his mission is shot to hell before it has even started. Something has happened to Bobby Warden and as Stone’s mind races to think of a way to salvage this job, he stumbles across an unimaginable horror and learns the real reason why Bobby’s vials of steroids were going missing.

I don’t want to spoil too much about the contents of the story, but Stabile does a great job of mashing up neo-noir elements with some awesome, classic science-fiction aspects. There are some fantastic transformation scenes throughout the entire second half of the story and I had a blast reading about all of the bizarre antagonists Stabile came up with for this story. There is also some truly gruesome moments in here that have an awesome B-movie quality, and I mean that in the best way possible! Stabile creates a tense scenario where it seems like Stone and his companions are completely screwed and keeps the action going until the bitter end. This was a perfect introduction into Stone and Megan’s world!

Plumb, Inc.

Stone is hurting for money and is offered a difficult job from a man named James Kidwell with the ominous warning, “You’re not the first man I’ve sent in there.” Stone isn’t scared of death – a fact that we learn earlier in Stone Work – and the warning sails over his head when he thinks about the two hundred grand pay-day promised to him upon completion. When Stone inquires about what happened to the others, Kidwell is honest with him and explains that the other P.I.s that were sent into do the job vanish without a trace. Despite months of recon work, Kidwell is unable to learn just what it is Plumb, Inc. actually does. Kidwell turns to Stone for help because he fears he is next on the company’s hit list after investigating the company for months following allegations they were responsible for the death of his niece.

He hires Stone to infiltrate the building in an attempt to destroy all of their records and give him time to disappear before they catch him. Stone meets up with Megan later in the evening at a local diner to discuss the job and he learns is also the only place that really gives Megan any problems from a hacking perspective. She tries to hack into their servers remotely and finds it is completely guarded, so Stone has to download the virus directly to their server. The change in plan sets Stone on edge and he gets a bad feeling about the job. After laying out their plan, Stone heads to the building and meets a hysterical man outside the building who offers him one final hair-chilling warning before he enters the building – “Don’t go in there. No one goes in there at night. Don’t you know that?”

Stone enters the building and the job sees way to easy at first for the large payday he was promised, but that quickly changes as he navigates the seemingly desolate building. He begins seeing things that defy earthly explanation and as he ventures further into depths of Plumb, Inc. headquarters, he learns the horrifying truth behind the building and the people who run it.

I loved the creation of Plumb, Inc. and the air of mystery surrounding it is what drives this story for me. There are also various rumors that swirl around the complex with conspiracy theories ranging from you standard shadowy, government weapons lab all the way to the building serving as a gateway to Hell. The truth behind Plumb, Inc. is definitely something I didn’t expect! At first I thought it was going to be a little too similar to ‘Roid Rage, but there is a whole host of weird stuff going on inside the walls of the Plumb, Inc. building that helps it stand out. This story kind of reminds me of an episode of The Twilight Zone crossed with Cabin in the Woods and was probably my favorite of the stories from a content perspective.

I also liked that this story took part largely in the contained setting of the Plumb, Inc. building. When you consider all of the crazy rumors around the building and how they get your brain working overtime on what the truth is, it really ratchets up the suspense and makes the big reveal that much more shocking. I mean seriously, who would expect all of that to be housed in one nondescript office building?

Godless City opens with a conversation between Megan and Stone about why Stone recently turned down a job despite the fact that his money was low. If there is one thing I have learned about Stone and his past exploits, is that this job must have been pretty crazy for Stone to say no! As Megan tries to get Stone to open up, a mysterious small man named Keagan knocks furiously on the door and storms into Stone’s apartment with a book that he claims will change the world. The book is supposedly definitive proof regarding an aspect of civilization in The City and could shatter the society built up after the Final War.

Despite his best judgement and the fact that the book was stolen from Mayor Nelson himself, Stone finds himself listening to Keagan’s pleas for help and is starting to succumb to the allure of another large payday. Stone finally agrees to take on the job of delivering the book to one of Keagan’s contacts in the newspaper business. After agreeing to the job, Stone and Megan quickly find themselves the new target for Mayor Nelson’s sadistic killers known as the Devil Dogs. To make matters worse, they must also navigate the seedy darkness of The Alleys and keep the book out of the hands of a deadly religious cult.

I think Godless City is the strongest story in Stone Work when it comes to the world-building that goes into The City and its belief systems. This is also the story where Stabile sort of pokes at the weird alternate history that is used as a central building block of Stone Work. We also learn a bit more about Stone’s history and his involvement with shady gang leaders and other black market operators as they navigate The Alleys. There is also some really cool scenes that delve into the futuristic aspects of the book.  People have chips that give away their location and then there is the pretty cool weapon known as the “blunder ball”. The blunder ball is essentially the nastiest weapon available in The City and vaporizes a person and all of the energy that makes up their bodies, preventing them from reaching the afterlife.

I loved the relationship between Stone and Megan throughout the course of Stone Work. They seem like two polar opposites and yet they work oddly well together. Megan is a bit of an idealist, bursting with personality and Stone is a bit more pragmatic and nihilistic. Megan hates when Stone tries to relay details about his job that involve violence whereas Stone has a complete detachment about it. They also banter back and forth quite a bit and Megan is able to trade barbs with Stone just as well as he throws them.

I also loved Stone’s back story. Stones face is ruined from his past on the Wall and he frequently lurks in the shadows, especially around Megan. He says he doesn’t care about his appearance, but his tendency is to stay in the shadows and that may have to do with the subtle romantic tension between the two. Stone’s history is so horrific that even in the condensed form of the story Stone recounts in ‘Roid Rage, it is no wonder how he got his nickname. There is also mentions of how he has accepted death seemingly multiple times a week. When Stone is in between jobs, he is sleeping in alleys and eating out of dumpsters, which may explain why he is susceptible to a lot of these jobs that are crazy even by futuristic hit-man standards.

I really loved the format Stabile utilizes throughout Stone Work. Rather than have this serve as a traditional novel or novella, Stone Work is a novel of stories that serve almost like case files to the various cases Stone has taken on throughout the years. This may seem like a fairly simple structural choice, but I feel it helps make the book stand out and adds more enjoyment to the story overall. It also provides a slew of opportunities for future stories featuring Stone and Megan and possibly further looks into the history of The City. While I was reading I couldn’t help but think of a ton of scenarios that would continue Stone and Megan’s adventures. These are just a few of them that I thought about – What caused the catastrophic last war?  What happened to Stone’s family? What kind of man was Stone before he got sentenced to the Wall? How did the religion of The City rise to prominence? What are the abberations that live on the other side of The Wall? 

While I loved this approach of quick, standalone stories and how they allowed me to sort of construct all of these scenarios in my imagination to keep the story going, some of the endings/transitions between stories seemed to fall kind of flat after all of the chaos Stone and Megan go through. I must admit though, Stone and Megan have to be complete badasses to  be able to survive the seemingly impossible situations they find themselves in!

Overall, I absolutely loved Stone Work and had a blast reading it! Once I got started and immersed myself into the world of The City, I was hooked and tore through the book over the course of an afternoon. I am a big fan of Stabile’s writing and look forward to checking out what he has planned for the future. I think it goes without saying that I hope there are more adventures featuring Stone and Megan in the future!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Dominic Stabile’s Official Website

Mirror Matter Press’ Official Website

Purchase Stone Work: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Stone Work tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Stone Work!- #StoneWork #finalwar #wasteland

Stone Work Synopsis

City stands in the irradiated dunes of America, nearly two centuries after the Final War. The wall surrounding it is a buffer for the wasteland inhabitants who covet entrance, and a trap for the citizens smothering in its polluted air and drowning in its blood-filled streets.

Stone is a criminal for hire. Robbed of his loved ones and scarred almost beyond recognition, he navigates City’s darkest corners, doing some of its darkest deeds. In this collection, he’ll pursue an elusive thief, bent on raising an army of juiced up mutants. He’ll break into the office building of a mysterious corporation, only to find the executives are less into sending faxes and more into performing hexes.

In the final chapter, he’ll track a man through the Alleys of South City with the help of his tech savvy partner, Megan, and together they’ll face the sentient darkness of City’s deepest underbelly, and confront the violent potential of City’s most dangerous cults.

Part Blade Runner. Part Sin City. Stone Work is an action-packed ride through the rain-slicked streets of a dark, unforgiving urban landscape, rife with sadistic criminals, inter-dimensional abominations, and a creeping darkness that seeks to erase the last, now almost mythical traces of human goodness left in a world always teetering over the edge of its own extinction.

Praise for Dominic Stabile

“With Whiskey for Breakfast, Dominic Stabile provides a page turning mystery that kept me guessing as to who the real killers might be.” – Brenda Casto, Readersfavorite.com

Dominic Stabile Biography

Dominic_Stabile

Dominic Stabile’s short fiction has appeared in Fossil Lake III: Unicornado!, Sanitarium Magazine, The Horror Zine, Atticus Review, Far Horizons, and has been adapted as a radio play by Manor House Productions. He has held jobs as a warehouse worker, cashier, bookstore associate, textbook manager, and carpenter. He’s a born southerner, transplanted to Penobscot, Maine by a desperate desire to escape retail work. When not writing or reading, he enjoys horror, sci-fi, and noir films, westerns, and bourbon.

Read his blogs on all things horror at dominicstabile.com.

Want to Feature Dominic Stabile?

If you would like a copy of the book for review or to conduct an interview with Dominic Stabile, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Marketing and Publicity at Mirror Matter Press and Hook of a Book Media: hookofabook@hotmail.com.

mayan blue cover

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Length: 149 Pages

Release Date: May 25, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Mayan Blue

Mayan Blue is the debut from authors Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, a twin sister writing duo who have been accurately dubbed “Sisters of Slaughter”. I can’t speak for their short fiction (which I definitely want to track down), but Garza and Lason prove they are certainly not afraid to pile on the violence with Mayan Blue.

Garza and Lason open with a strong, pulse pounding introduction that is only a small sampling of the craziness that is unleashed throughout the brisk pace of Mayan Blue. A priestess is in the process of committing a ritual sacrifice in order to seal away something evil that is plaguing her village. She is in a subterranean tunnel with two local boys and all three of them bear the same blue pigment known as “Mayan Blue”. They seal a set of large stone doors with a circular seal that is etched with the story of the fall of their civilization and their blood is the only offering strong enough to seal the unimaginable terror from the outside world.

In the present day, Professor Lipton is a man who has overcome all odds by beating cancer and is now on the verge of a discovery that could re-write the history books. He finds himself in caverns that have been untouched for centuries and is alone when he makes his discovery of a disc inscribed with markings that proves his hypothesis and will silence the members of the scientific board who have doubted him for so long.

Professor Lipton’s associate Wes along with students Alissa, Kelly, Dennis and Tyler are racing to meet up with the professor and help him recover an artifact that proves the Mayans may have settled in Georgia. They drive for hours before arriving at a dead-end where they have to set out on foot. There is no cellphone signal and they are without a GPS, which any horror fan knows is a recipe for disaster.

The group arrives at their meeting point, but find that Professor Lipton’s camp is deserted. However, they discover Professor Lipton has the proof that he needs. Once they set their eyes on the disc, they are in grave danger. Wes tells the group that the disc tells of the destruction of the Mayan society and tries to scare the group with his depiction of the Mayan underworld. They all laugh it off and think of it as nothing more than a spooky campfire story. Later that night when they hear cries coming from the caves, the group thinks the professor may be in trouble. They descend deep into the earth to try to find the professor and what they uncover defies belief and rattles them to their core. They realize that it wasn’t just famine and disease that led the Mayans to flee their home, it was something far worse.

Mayan Blue is a strong debut that hints at an extremely bright future for the The Sisters of Slaughter. What makes this novel stand out is the original premise and extensive world building that went into Mayan Blue. A bulk of the story takes place in the Mayan underworld of Xibalba and they bring this world into frightening focus with nightmarish descriptions. I don’t want to describe it too much because exploring Xibalba as the story unfolds is part of the enjoyment of Mayan Blue.  There is also an added level of mythology that makes this land of fear and death a great setting for a horror story.  I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say that the simple act of setting foot in the land of Xibalba is dangerous, even if you remove the ghoulish creatures that thirst for blood and human flesh.

Garza and Lason place their characters through the wringer and they definitely prove that they are far more than ordinary people once they are faced with death. These characters step up to the challenge of survival in a place that honestly, would probably find me curled up in a corner somewhere. They undergo not only physical torture but psychological torture as well. Once the group finds themselves in Xibalba, they must undergo trials to prove their worth and attempt to buy them more precious moments of survival.

I love history, so I was impressed with the amount of research that Garza and Lason did regarding the different Mayan customs and legends. I remember learning a little bit about the Mayans in a college history course, but we never learned too much about their religion and beliefs that made up their culture. I was always interested in learning about the ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian gods, so I enjoyed learning about the various dark figures that populate the Mayan underworld. Garza and Lason did a great job of weaving these figures into a truly frightening horror story that is unlike anything I have read in a while.

The Sisters of Slaughter live up to their moniker with blood-soaked scenes of brutality and some pretty nightmarish creatures. Mayan Blue doesn’t just feature one big, bad monster but rather a whole army of them that love nothing more than to delight in the pain and torment of the main characters. Ah-Puch’s description is awesome and ripped straight out of the stuff nightmares are made of. He is the Lord of Death and his body is a bloated corpse with the head of an owl and he wears a necklace of disembodied eyes. It was refreshing to read about an entity that hasn’t really been tackled before in horror fiction and after learning more about his abilities, it is amazing Ah-Puch hasn’t made an appearance in horror sooner! While many think death would be a way to escape, Ah-Puch has the ability to continue tormenting his victims even after they have died. Then there are Wayobs, which are disturbing half-man/half-owl shape-shifting demons. I got the chills more than once reading about these creatures and the creative ways they attack their victims. Seriously, this novel is loaded with so many terrifying creatures, it is a horror fan’s dream!

Mayan Blue’s brisk pacing make this a novel that is hard to put down and there isn’t a single moment where the story seems to lag. It feels weird to call a novel like Mayan Blue a fun book to read because of all of the gruesome and hellish visions that Garza and Lason put on display, but I had a blast reading Mayan Blue! The scares here aren’t necessarily the kind that will make you jump, it is more a feeling of dread as you follow the characters journey through a seemingly inescapable hell. Mayan Blue blends plenty of action and vintage horror to create a blockbuster of a summer read. I loved Mayan Blue and it is obvious that the Sisters of Slaughter are capable of some truly brutal, creative and engaging stories. I can’t wait to see what this extremely talented duo come up with next!

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason Facebook Page

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase Mayan Blue: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Mayan Blue tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Mayan Blue!- #MayanBlue #Mayans #legends #HookofaBook #SinisterGrin

Mayan Blue Synopsis

Xibalba, home of torture and sacrifice, is the kingdom of the lord of death. He stalked the night in the guise of a putrefied corpse, with the head of an owl and adorned with a necklace of disembodied eyes that hung from nerve cords. He commanded legions of shapeshifting creatures, spectral shamans, and corpses hungry for the flesh of the living. The Mayans feared him and his realm of horror. He sat atop his pyramid temple surrounded by his demon kings and demanded sacrifices of blood and beating hearts as tribute to him and his ghostly world.

These legends, along with those that lived in fear of them, have been dead and gone for centuries. Yet now, a doorway has been opened in Georgia. A group of college students seek their missing professor, a man who has secretly uncovered the answer to one of history’s greatest mysteries. However, what they find is more than the evidence of a hidden civilization. It’s also a gateway to a world of living nightmares.

Praise for Mayan Blue

From the outset, Garza and Lason let the blood spill, plunging their small cast of characters into the depths of Mayan hell. There’s plenty of action to go around as the group is confronted with a number of horrors, from the labyrinthine and booby-trapped maze of the newly discovered Mayan temple to the angry gods and their owl-headed, sharp-clawed servants.” – Michael Hicks, Author of Convergence

“Their short works are wonderful to read. However this book proves that they can tackle longer works without missing a beat.” – Tom, GoodReads

”These two show no quarter dragging the characters–and by extension, the reader–into the depths of the Mayan version of Hell. There’s vividness to the scenes they craft that made me want to make sure I was reading in full daylight, or at least with most of the lights on.” – John Quick, Author of Consequences 

Biography

MelissaMichelle

Melissa Lason and Michelle Garza have been writing together since they were little girls. Dubbed The Sisters of Slaughter by the editors of Fireside Press. They are constantly working together on new stories in the horror and dark fantasy genres. Their work has been included in FRESH MEAT published by Sinister Grin Press, WISHFUL THINKING by Fireside Press, WIDOWMAKERS a benefit anthology of dark fiction.

The-Invasion-300dpi

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Length: 235 Pages

Release Date: May 15, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for The Invasion

My wife and I watch a ton of true crime shows – The Investigation Discovery channel is usually always on when we are watching TV – so when I read the synopsis for The Invasion I was hooked. This novel utilizes a real-life scenario and when you throw in the fact that the novel is loosely inspired by true events, I knew I was in for an adrenaline-filled read!

McBean’s The Invasion starts off with a bone chilling introduction that sets the stage for the story. Obviously you know that something terrible is about to unfold, but McBean utilizes an unassuming everyday task and assigns it a creepy quality that sets off warning bells in your imagination even before you step foot into the house located on 6 Hooper Crescent. The house is the home of Debra Hillsboro, a romance novelist who has gathered her family and friends at her home to celebrate Christmas. Debra is going through a bit of a rough patch lately as her books aren’t selling like they used to and she is going through a divorce.

Even with all the turmoil swirling around her life, her home is the one place Debra can feel safe. Debra has lived in the Carmela house for almost 30 years, spending a majority of her life and writing career in the home. However, as Debra and her guests settle in for the night, her illusion of safety is shattered when a group of six strangers break into the home and take everyone hostage. The apparent leader of the group – who calls himself Black Metal Freak –  tells Debra they are there simply to rob her and that if her and her guests cooperate, everything will be okay. However, as the night unfolds, it becomes obvious that the group has sinister ulterior motives and things only get worse when the real leader – Mr. Fear – arrives. Facing the group of intruders, Debra and her family must dig deep within themselves in a struggle to survive the most frightening night of their lives.

The Invasion is a pretty bleak and violent read and there is a lot to enjoy for both horror and thriller fans. There are a lot of things McBean does well in The Invasion, starting with great descriptions of the house, which is the focal point of the novel as both a setting and a character. The house is given a great deal of characterization and Debra even refers to it by name. Also the scene setting where we first get a good look at the house, it is described almost like a flesh and blood person.

Built in nineteen-sixty-nine, the four-bedroom single story split-level had been well-loved, but, like its resident of twenty-seven years, she was starting to look her age.

Making the house a character was a great touch and I like that based on the amount of action that occurs in each room, readers are given an equivalent amount of memories that took place there. For instance, the lounge is a central location in the novel and where a lot of violence occurs and we learn that this was Debra’s safest place. The place where she went to read, entertain guests, and even work through some of the challenging spots in her writing. McBean does a great job of weaving these memories throughout the story to bring the setting into vivid focus and to highlight how all of these years of important memories will now be completely overshadowed by a night of violence and depravity.

The house even has an intriguing history complete with has dark rumors of ritual sacrifices, human burials and cult gatherings. A lot of these rumors trace back to the creepy producer that owned the house before Debra and he seemed to be hiding something. This sort of ambiguity about the house’s past helps build the atmosphere of the novel because it raises the question of if the house is just a house or a beacon of sorts for evil. It is probably nothing more than a coincidence, but when you also take into account the hair-raising dream Debra’s brother Peter had years ago, it really makes you question things.

The events of the novel build slowly at first with quiet, indistinguishable noises that can be attributed to just about any everyday occurrence and the stress weighing on Debra and her family blinds them to the fact that something may be wrong. These simple actions – a click of a door or thinking you hear people talking in another room – aren’t scary by themselves, but McBean uses these small moments to build tension since readers know something sinister is lurking within the pages of The Invasion.

McBean wastes little time in introducing the strangers that invade Debra’s home. At first glance, these strangers seem like an ordinary robbery team. However, throughout the course of The Invasion, this group proves they are anything but ordinary. They are a nihilistic group known as the “Fear Squad” and the members use code names like Black Metal Freak, Mad Vixen, Night Crawler, Child of Osiris, and Raven Queen. The group seems to be very methodical despite their young age and overactive behavior, but their sense of entitlement to do whatever they want occasionally makes them sloppy. While their plans hit snags along the way, they make up for any mistakes with appalling savagery.

I thought the portrayal of the Fear Squad was perfect. It is interesting that the Fear Squad are all tech savvy (almost to their detriment) and that the origins of their group are born from that reliance on technology. It is clear the members of the group have impulse control problems and a sense of detachment from reality, which influences their sadistic nature. It is hard to talk about the main thing that makes the Fear Squad such an interesting group without spoiling parts of the novel, but I will just say that the group has a very interesting origin story and I think there could be a whole novel dedicated to just how the group got started. The only real complaint I had with The Invasion is that at times the members of the Fear Squad seemed kind of flat. They were well-developed as a group, but as individuals they sometimes faded into the background and were kind of overshadowed by Mr. Fear.

Mr. Fear is the mysterious leader of the Fear Squad and while the collective as a whole serves as a very interesting threat, there is something about Mr. Fear that makes him standout. He has a sort of charisma that demands respect from the other members of the group and they idolize him because they think he has special powers. Now, I don’t want to spoil too much about his claim to fame within the group, but I can’t help but wonder if there is a bit of truth to his claims. I personally think he is just a sick man who uses his charismatic qualities to control the group, but there are a few instances where he seems to exhibit the very power he claims to possess. Is he just a normal man or is there something more lurking underneath the surface?

While McBean does a great job cultivating a horrific threat with his characterization of the Fear Squad, I really enjoyed his characterization of Debra and her family. The Invasion is a richly characterized piece and getting to know the intimate details about the characters through flashbacks and their interactions with each other makes you emotionally invested in their fight for survival. They also go through a transformation as the events unfold and it helps make the characters more dynamic. Paul is portrayed as being fairly timid, a stark contrast to his bold and brave boyfriend that isn’t afraid to speak his mind. However, as the night unfolds, Paul exhibits a bravery and strength that he didn’t even know he had in him. Debra’s niece Taryn is probably my favorite character of the novel. Even in the face of paralyzing fear, she shows a lot of bravery and intelligence in her attempt to stop the Fear Squad. She is resourceful and arms herself with household items and fights back against the group with everything she has.

I also liked that the story was contained to just one location – the Carmela house. By keeping the events limited to one location and one night, McBean crafts a claustrophobic atmosphere that transports readers into the story and ratchets up the tension. I also liked the format McBean used to break up the novel. Rather than go with traditional chapters, he breaks the story up by what room the events take place in. Sometimes that makes for short, punchy chapters which are great for the pacing of the novel. It is a small touch, but I liked the inclusion of the map at the beginning of the story. It is nice to be able to flip back to the map and track the events of the story as they unfold and makes for an engaging reading experience.

The Invasion is a terrifying novel that offers a glimpse at real-life horror and some of the darkest behaviors exhibited by people. Home invasions are a terrifying crime and while we may not consciously think about it, it is a fear that is universal. Our homes are supposed to be places where we feel safe and the idea of a stranger shattering that feeling make for an absolutely frightening premise that McBean captures perfectly. While there are plenty of home invasion stories out there, McBean puts a pretty unique spin on the genre that helps this one stand out. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Brett McBean’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase The Invasion: Amazon (U.S.), Amazon (Australia), Amazon (U.K.), Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Kobo, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Invasion tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about The Invasion! – #TheInvasion #homeinvasion #cults

The Invasion Synopsis

It was supposed to be a quiet end to a long day: five close-knit family and friends settling in for some much-needed sleep after coming together for an early Christmas party.

Instead, it’s the beginning of a shocking night of brutality when six intruders break into the sprawling residence of Debra Hillsboro, a middle-aged romance novelist with a fierce devotion to her loved ones and a strong kinship with her home of almost thirty years.

Armed with smartphones and a modern brand of madness, the intruders – an internet-age cult disconnected from humanity and addicted to causing fear and mayhem – have come to the secluded property for one purpose: to terrorize, and ultimately kill, everyone inside all while filming their heinous crimes.

Outnumbered and cut off from the outside world, the terrified occupants find themselves trapped in a fight for survival as a once place of safety is turned into a deadly maze of darkened rooms and forbidding hallways. On this sweltering summer night, they must somehow find a way to escape before the cult turns the beloved home into a house for the dead.

Praise for Brett McBean

“McBean’s voice is one that should be heard – a hint of Laymon and Koontz, yet distinctly his own.” —Brian Keene, author of The Rising and Terminal

“Brett McBean is as brash and brutal as a young Jack Ketchum. He visits the dark rooms inside us all.” — Scott Nicholson, author of The Manor and The Farm

The Invasion, by Brett McBean, is a startlingly bleak home invasion story, but one that is wonderfully written. McBean relies on his characters and atmosphere to bring the biggest scares, along with the frightening threat of home invasion that many readers will bring to the reading all by themselves.” — Michael Patrick Hicks, author of Convergence

Brett McBean Biography

Brett_McBean

Brett McBean is an award-winning horror and thriller author. His books, which include The MotherThe Last Motel and Wolf Creek: Desolation Game, have been published in Australia, the U.S., and Germany.

He’s been nominated for the Aurealis, Ditmar, and Ned Kelly awards, and he won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award for his collection, Tales of Sin and Madness.

He lives in Melbourne with his wife, daughter and German shepherd.

Find out more at: brettmcbean.com

 

MOTORMAN_cover_CS

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Necro Publications

Length: 105 Pages

Release Date: May 21, 2016 

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Motorman

I have reviewed quite a few of Robert Dunn’s books so far since starting The Horror Bookshelf and have enjoyed them immensely. Dunn is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers to read because he is always changing things up and you never know what you are going to get from his brand of dark fiction. So when I was asked to join his blog tour for Motorman, I couldn’t wait to start reading!

Johnny Burris lives a rough, transient lifestyle while always looking for something better, a lesson learned from his absentee father. He loves to work on cars and motorcycles and he has a gift for being able to fix anything mechanical he sets his hands on. Unfortunately his aptitude for cars doesn’t translate over to people, particularly women. Johnny’s gift has helped him achieve a legendary reputation around town for being able to fix anything, it is like the parts speak to him. It is on one of his “get going” nights that we get a glimpse at the sort of life he was fleeing.

While working at U Scrap ’em Auto Salvage, Johnny runs into a man named Luck. As a reader, you just know that Luck’s arrival means Johnny’s life is going to change forever. Johnny spots Lenore, the woman with Luck, in the passenger seat and instantly falls in love. Luck has a proposition for Johnny- fix his beloved Buick Regal and he gets his money up front and two nights with Lenore. The job is tough at first as Johnny stumbles into many problems with the Regal. Johnny falls head over heels for Lenore in the two nights they spend together and promises her the moon in an attempt to win her over. However, Lenore betrays Johnny’s feelings and a horrible crime sends Johnny back on the road in a quest for a new start.

Hiding out in an abandoned barn out in the country, Johnny sees an amorphous, blue blob that causes an eerie silence and it frightens him enough that he stays up the entire night. The next evening, Johnny winds up in a derelict town that was supposed to be nothing more than a pit stop on his quest to lose himself in nothingness. As Johnny waits for the gas station to open, he sees some cars roll up that have the same blue tint he saw in the sky emanating from underneath the hood and realizes there may be something strange going on in this town.

After a tense run-in with Emma, owner of Em’s Garage, Johnny is given his dream job working on cars with access to a junkyard that is home to over a hundred years worth of automotive history. The job and the small room above the garage are provided to Johnny with the blessing of the mysterious “Doc”, a man who is revered by the entire town. Things seem to be going well for Johnny as he handles increasingly more difficult jobs for Doc, who has special plans in store for Johnny and his skills as a mechanic. However, as Johnny realizes the town’s secrets and what Doc’s plans are for him, he has to choose whether to finally stay put or hit the road one more time.

While Behind The Darkness will probably always be the Dunn book that scares me the most (seriously, those aliens are terrifying!), I think Motorman may be my favorite of Dunn’s releases thus far. There is a sort of timeless quality to the story and if it wasn’t for the mention of the ’90s Regal in the beginning, you would swear it could have taken place at any time. Especially when you look at the description of Nowhere, Missouri which is almost the definition of a town stuck in time. The room Johnny lives in above the garage is decorated like it is ripped from the ’50s and the gas station has a classic Americana appearance.

I love that Dunn includes a ton of detail about cars and the mechanics of how they operate. I grew up around cars and going to car shows, but unfortunately I never was able to retain any of that knowledge. Even though I am pretty clueless about cars except basic maintenance, I always had a love for muscle cars, so it was awesome to see the ’69 Camaro make an appearance. It is obvious that a lot of knowledge and a love of cars is woven throughout the story. Although there is a lot of technical car talk in Motorman, it is incorporated into the story in an organic way and it never seems like too much and helps lends a sense of authenticity to the story as a whole.

Dunn’s characterization in Motorman is pitch perfect. I loved the interactions with Johnny and Lenore. The nights that they spent together, there was a frank dialogue between the two and it highlights Johnny’s naive nature. Johnny struck me as a street-smart character, but it is obvious he has a weak spot for pretty women and that weakness causes him more than a few problems throughout Motorman. Johnny’s character is also a pretty interesting one. You can’t help but feel for him because he is a highly talented person who seems to have been dealt a crummy hand in life, but at the same time he has a dark secret of his own and is by no means perfect. I also enjoyed Doc’s character. His presence looms over the events of the novella as soon as Johnny rolls into Nowhere. At first, due to the reverence that surrounds him, you will expect some larger than life person whose appearance strikes fear into others. It turns out that Doc’s appearance is definitely not what you would expect, but it is his intellect and skill at his job that kind of makes him a little bit spooky.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot that makes up Motorman, but some of the scenes towards the tail end of the novella with Johnny and Doc were awesome! I sort of had an inkling of what Doc’s role was in the town, but the scenes still came as a shock when I read them and was a pretty interesting take on the body horror.

I also liked the atmosphere and setting descriptions throughout Motorman. Even though they are simple descriptions, they lend a sense of beauty to the rundown surroundings that Johnny is in. This is one of my favorite descriptions that shows his ability:

Twilight faded from bruised purple to urban dark. City lights sprayed upward to paint the low clouds with sodium yellow

Lately I have been really into the novella format and Dunn’s Motorman is a perfect example of why this format works so well with horror. Dunn crafts a sense of mystery that keeps readers glued to the pages and as a result, the novella rips by at a blistering pace and is easily consumed in one sitting. There are still a ton of questions I had after reading this novella. What the hell was the blue goo exactly and where did it come from? Also, how did the town end up the way it did and why there? While normally these sort of unanswered questions would irk me and feel like loose threads, the way they are handled in Motorman helps keep the story going in my mind as I come up with my own wild theories and leaves me clamoring for more. I know that is the purpose of a novella, but I wish that I could have been able to explore more of this wonderfully weird world of Dunn’s. I think Johnny’s story ends perfectly, but perhaps a Motorman prequel would be pretty cool!

Motorman is an original, fun novella that packs all the punch of a great vintage horror/sci-fi hybrid film and it is definitely one of my favorite novellas this year. Dunn has two more novels scheduled for release this year, The Harrowing and A Living Grave which is the first novel in the Katrina Williams series. Both of these novels sound incredible and I can’t wait to dive in to both!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Robert E. Dunn’s Official Website

Necro Publications/Bedlam Press Official Website

Purchase Motorman: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Necro Publications, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Motorman tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Motorman!- #Motorman #FastCarsandBlueGoo #MadScientist

Motorman Synopsis

Running from a night of humiliation and murder, Johnny Burris leaves his home in an urban junkyard fleeing into the Ozarks countryside. While he flees, mysterious streaks of blue light in the night sky drive him into a bit of nowhere lost in the hills. Johnny thinks he’s found home and good work in an odd little gas station from another time. The station isn’t the only thing strange and Johnny quickly gets pulled into a world where the cars aren’t the only things all chromed out and everything seems touched with a little of the flying blue streaks that led Johnny there.

Enticed and torn between two sisters, one an outcast for her normality, Johnny becomes the pawn of their father. The old doctor is looking for a replacement and Johnny Burris is the man with just the right skills.

But Johnny doesn’t want anything to do with the doctor’s plans so he runs, taking one of the sisters with him. But the people, and the girl, turn out to be even more than he imagined. And his whole world becomes the one choice, live as a monster, making monsters or die like a man. If he chooses to die, who will he take with him?

Praise for Robert Dunn

The Red Highway is not one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year, or that I’ve read in a long time…it’s one of the best books that I’ve ever read!  It was an incredible read, one that has so many layers that I was completely enthralled with the story. 5+++ stars!” – 2 Book Lovers Reviews

“A thoroughly gripping read. Dunn is a writer with guts and the chops to grab his readers by the eyeballs and dare them to look away.” Hunter Shea, Author of Tortures of the Damned and The Dover Demon

Robert E. Dunn Biography

Robert Dunn

Robert Dunn was an Army brat born in Alabama and finally settled in Nixa, Missouri. A graduate of Drury College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications/Film he also earned a second major in Philosophy with a minor in Religion and carried an emphasis in Theatre. This course of study left him qualified only to be a televangelist.

An award-winning film/video producer and writer, he has written scripts for or directed every kind of production from local 30-second television commercial spots to documentary productions and travelogues.

A writer of blognovels and contributor to various fiction websites his work has also included the book length prose poem, Uncle Sam, the collection of short stories, Motorman and Other Stories and novels Behind the Darkness  and The Red Highway.

Mr. Dunn now resides in Kansas City where he continues to write genre fiction and experiment with mixed media art projects using hand drawn and painted elements combined through digital paint and compositing.

adam howe cover

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Comet Press

Length: 250 Pages

Release Date: November 2, 2015

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Die Dog or Eat The Hatchet

Adam Howe is an author that has been on my radar since the end of 2015. I remember reading a copy of his novella Gator Bait and being instantly drawn in by his totally unique brand of storytelling and placing it in my top 5 novellas of the year. Howe has an early writing credit that I am sure many authors would kill to have – his story “Jumper” won the On Writing contest judged by Stephen King and appears in the paperback and ebook edition. How cool is that? After reading Gator Bait, I was excited to read more of Howe’s work so I jumped at the chance to be a part of his blog tour for Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, a collection of three novellas!

Damn Dirty Apes

Synopsis: Washed-up prizefighter Reggie Levine is eking a living as a strip club bouncer when he’s offered an unlikely shot at redemption. The Bigelow Skunk Ape – a mythical creature said to haunt the local woods – has kidnapped the high school football mascot, Boogaloo Baboon. Now it’s up to Reggie to lead a misfit posse including a plucky stripper, the town drunk, and legend-in-his-own-mind skunk ape hunter Jameson T. Salisbury. Their mission: Slay the beast and rescue their friend. But not everything is as it seems, and as our heroes venture deeper into the heart of darkness, they will discover worse things waiting in the woods than just the Bigelow Skunk Ape. The story the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape tried to ban; Damn Dirty Apes mixes Roadhouse with Jaws with Sons of Anarchy, to create a rollicking romp of 80s-style action/adventure, creature horror and pitch-black comedy.

Reggie Levine is the head bouncer (make that the only bouncer) of a backwoods strip club called The Henhouse. Reggie’s claim to fame (if you can really call it that) was his one and only prize-fight against “Boar Hog” Brannon. His boss Walt proudly displays a news cutting that says “BIGELOW BOY BRUTALIZED IN PRIZE FIGHT”, which says all you really need to know about the outcome of that match. After the fight, Levine took a job at The Henhouse and his penchant for brawling make him the perfect bouncer.

I have to admit out of all of the stories that make up Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, I think Damn Dirty Apes is my clear-cut favorite.As I read, I have a tendency to scribble down notes and highlight passages I liked so that when I go back to write my reviews, I can revisit my favorite passages. As I was reading, I noticed how much I was highlighting. Hell, I might as well have highlighted the whole book! Howe’s writing crackles with energy and the crisp dialogue, humorous observations, and action-packed scenes had me glued to the pages. I can’t remember the last time I had this much pure fun reading a story.

I also loved the twists that Howe was able to weave throughout this story. Let’s face it any story where Swamp Apes are going to play a prevalent role is going to be pretty original and full of surprises, but even with taking that into consideration, this story still had plenty of twists that kept me hooked.

Reggie Levine is also one of my favorite characters of any book I have read lately. He is not exactly what you would picture when you are thinking of a leading action hero. Sure, he was a professional fighter at one point, but his physique and training has gone downhill since losing to “Boar Hog” Brannon. That being said, Reggie’s personality is entertaining as hell and you can’t help but root for him throughout the course of this novella. Sure, he is able to dish out some punishment, but what makes you respect him is his ability to keep getting back up after taking one hell of a beating. While that loss to “Boar Hog” Brannon seems to hang over him like a specter, Reggie Levine finally gets a shot at redemption in one of the oddest fights I have ever come across and definitely didn’t see coming when I started reading Damn Dirty Apes. I know Howe is writing another story featuring Reggie  and I hope it is the first of many new adventures!

Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet

Synopsis: Escaped mental patient Terrence Hingle, the butcher of five sorority sisters at the Kappa Pi Massacre, kidnaps timid diner waitress Tilly Mulvehill and bolts for the border. Forcing his hostage to drive him out of town, it’s just a question of time before Tilly becomes the next victim in Hingle’s latest killing spree. But when they stop for gas at a rural filling station operated by deranged twin brothers, Dwayne and Dwight Ritter, the tables are turned on Hingle, and for Tilly the night becomes a hellish cat-and-mouse ordeal of terror and depravity. The meat in a maniac sandwich, Tilly is forced against her nature to make a stand and fight for survival. Because sometimes the only choice you have is to do or die…to Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet.

Die Dog or Eat The Hatchet is probably the closest thing to straightforward horror in this collection, offering an original take on the serial killer genre. Howe’s portrayal of the serial killer Terrence Hingle is excellent and he is by far one of the most deranged villains I have read about in a while. Well, maybe until the introduction of the Ritter siblings at least! Howe introduces readers to Hingle’s depravity with a chilling opening where we see his penchant for violence and his utterly warped worldview. What makes him so terrifying is that he appears harmless from a physical standpoint. That outward appearance of normalcy coupled with his intelligence and patience that he honed from a very young age make him an unstoppable monster. However, Hingle has definitely met his match with the Ritter siblings. Even though Hingle’s childhood was rough, he is sort of the epitome of a more sophisticated villain that can hide in plain sight. The Ritter siblings on the other hand are the polar opposite, they are much more crude in the way they commit their crimes. I thought it was awesome to see two very different forms of serial killers pitted against each other and the results of their chance encounter were definitely a surprise.

 

While the idea of a serial killer grudge match is what initially interested me in this novella, I ended up being more invested in Tilly’s evolution as a character. She is portrayed as a total pushover with little to no confidence when she is introduced. As the story progresses, Howe throws her right into one hellish nightmare after another that would break even the most hardened people. Without giving too much away about this story, Tilly responds in a way that definitely shocked me and marks a transformation of her as a character.

There are quite a few scenes in here that are truly horrific and definitely not meant for those with weak stomachs!

Gator Bait

Synopsis: Prohibition-era 1930s… After an affair with the wrong man’s wife, seedy piano player Smitty Three Fingers flees the city and finds himself tinkling the ivories at a Louisiana honky-tonk owned by vicious bootlegger Horace Croker and his trophy wife, Grace. Folks come to The Grinnin’ Gator for the liquor and burlesque girls, but they keep coming back for Big George, the giant alligator Croker keeps in the pond out back. Croker is rumored to have fed ex-wives and enemies to his pet, so when Smitty and Grace embark on a torrid affair…what could possibly go wrong? Inspired by true events, Gator Bait mixes hardboiled crime (James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice) with creature horror (Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive) to create a riveting tale of suspense.

I have always been a fan of both noir and neo-noir stories and films, but almost everything I have been exposed to in the two genres was exclusively urban. So it was a blast of fresh air to read a story that had everything I loved about the genre but set in the humid swamps of Louisiana instead of the traditional bustling city.  Then there is the presence of Big George, an enormous alligator that has a taste for human flesh. He has a legendary history and strikes fear in the hearts of those who are brave (or dumb) enough to cross Croker.  I don’t know why, but there is just something badass about a guy who has his own killing machine at his disposal.

While reading Gator Bait, it’s no secret what the future holds for a guy like Smitty Three Fingers. That being said watching him blunder through the same situations that got him in trouble in the big city is all part of the fun that makes up this novella. Howe is also unflinchingly honest with his portrayal of his characters and mixes racial tensions throughout the course of the novella. This isn’t purely for shock value, but rather adds authenticity to the story and his characters.

Thoughts on the collection 

While I gave my thoughts for each individual novella, there are traits in each one that make this an absolute must-own collection. One of the things I am drawn too in most books I read is the author’s characterization and the way they utilize details to bring their stories to life. Howe is a master at these components of writing and there were so many times I would just shake my head in awe at his ability to paint a portrait of a character or a scene. In Damn Dirty Apes, Howe nails the images of the biker gang with accurate and hilarious nicknames. You have Blubberguts, Smiley, Shitface and Baby Doll.  Blubberguts alone is an accurate name that conjures up a vivid description. My favorite description is that of the leader Chains who “…wore a Confederate flag do-rag, and a hoop toss of rusted iron chains around his neck, like a skid row Mr. T”.

Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet has elements of horror throughout, but it is not strictly a horror collection. Howe crams in bits and pieces of various genres to create stories that are wonderfully weird, highly addictive, and that defy easy classification. What impressed me the most while reading Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet is the originality and confidence that is evident on the pages. Howe has a unique voice and in my opinion, that is the greatest tool in his arsenal. I am sure Howe spends a lot of time working on his craft, but his writing appears effortless and it is like the stories just flow straight from his imagination with ease. My stack of books to review is reaching mythical proportions, but I am definitely going to grab a copy of Howe’s other collection Black Cat Mojo and any other future releases he puts out, regardless of genre. He is that good. I am a fan for life and would recommend Howe’s work to any reader who is feeling a bit adventurous. Highly recommended!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Adam Howe’s Comet Press page

Comet Press’ Official Website

Purchase Die Dog or Eat The Hatchet: Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Die Dog or Eat The Hatchet tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Die Dog or Eat The Hatchet!- #DieDogorEattheHatchet #DieDog #AdamHowe #OnWriting #HookofaBook

Praise for Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet

“It’s an explicit, hard-hitting, twisted funhouse ride into pulpish horror wrapped loosely in a tattered skein of irreverent, jet black humor. In short, it’s a freakin’ blast.” – Walt Hicks, author of Dirge of the Forgotten

“With Die Dog Or Eat the Hatchet, Adam Howe hasn’t written one of my favorite books of the year, he’s actually written three of my favorites. Stories that are tight, toned, and genre-confounding. Horror fans and crime fans are going to come to blows over who gets to claim Howe as one of their own, but they’re both going to be wrong because Howe’s his own thing.” – Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen and Mercy House

“The recipe for Adam Howe’s DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET is: Two parts Joe Lansdale, One part Justified, and a heavy dose of WTF. The result is a swampy cocktail darker than any backwoods hayride, stronger than the meanest Sasquatch, and crazier than anything you’ll find chicken-fried at your local state fair.”—Eryk Pruitt, author of Hashtag and Dirtbags

“Adam Howe proves with the three stories in this book that he can basically write anything. And write it very well indeed. To summarise: A three novella collection that you absolutely must have in your collection. I give this one the highest possible recommendation that I can.” – Nev, Confessions of a Reviewer

“Adam Howe’s “Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet,” is equal parts terror and fun, his dark comedic voice dances through each of the works in this collection to create engaging stories filled with bars, dames, rabid dogs, and an ape with one hell of a right hook.” – Nathan Crazybear/Splatterpunk Zine

“Once again this author has sucked me into the darkness of his stories and unleashed the twisted, disgusting and stomach churning madness that I come to expect. In fact, I would have been very disappointed if this book was not even more mind-blowing than Black Cat Mojo. And he did not disappoint. Hats off to Mr. Howe for creating this magnificent novella of pure horror. I would definitely recommend this to readers of horror and make sure you buckle up as you will be in for the most twisted ride of your life!” – Crime Book Junkie 

“I’m pretty certain that whatever genre you like to read, be it pulp, noir, horror, anything really, you will find something to enjoy here. It’s fast paced, action packed and brilliantly written. Comet Press has got a diamond on their hands! 5 stars” – Adrian Shotbolt

About Adam Howe

adamhowe.jpg

Adam Howe writes the twisted fiction your mother warned you about. A British writer of fiction and screenplays, he lives in Greater London with his partner and their hellhound, Gino. Writing as Garrett Addams, his short story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of the On Writing contest, and published in the paperback/Kindle editions of SK’s book; he was also granted an audience with The King, where they mostly discussed slow vs. fast zombies. His fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Thuglit, The Horror Library, Mythic Delirium, Plan B Magazine, and One Buck Horror. He is the author of two collections, Black Cat Mojo and Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, plus the eBook single, Gator Bait. Future works include Tijuana Donkey ShowdownOne Tough Bastard, and a crime/horror collaboration with Adam Tribesmen Cesare.

Find him on Twitter at @Adam_G_Howe.

vicki-beautiful

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Length: 68 Pages

Release Date: April 26, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Vicki Beautiful

Vicki Beautiful is the story of a group of lifelong friends who always go all out for the “big birthdays” in their lives. The titular Vicki is the oddball of the group who was obsessed with appearing perfect at all times whether it was her own personal appearance or her home. Vicki had a rough upbringing, which is why she always needs to be in control and strives to maintain perfection in all aspects of her life so that she may have the life she always dreamed of. While many people would judge Vicki, her friends Sasha and Brynn love her for it and Vicki was always known to throw legendary parties that were a direct result of her obsession with perfection. She invited her friends over for a lavish birthday feast that she prepared herself. Sasha and Brynn notice almost immediately that Vicki and her husband Ken’s behavior seems off and a feeling of unease begins to descend over the party.

It is during this birthday dinner that Vicki reveals the source of all the weirdness and the real reason she called them all together – the cancer she has been battling for years has returned and this time there is no hope for recovery and Vicki only has months to live. The friends are overcome with sadness and spend the rest of the night reminiscing and trying to make the most of the time they have left together. The next morning, the group suffers another heartbreaking blow – Vicki was found dead in a hotel bathtub with slit wrists.

The day after Vicki’s death, her husband gives Sasha and Brynn letters written by Vicki prior to her death and that is when the true nature of Canon’s debut novella Vicki Beautiful is revealed. It is almost impossible to talk about the rest of the events that unfold throughout the course of Vicki Beautiful without spoiling some of the twists that make this novella shine. However, I will say Canon has managed to craft a stomach-churning premise that really pushes the boundaries of what people will be willing to do to honor the wishes and memory of someone they care about. Vicki’s dark last request creates tension between the lifelong friends and her husband Ken as they struggle with how they will proceed with Vicki’s wishes. Once I found out what Vicki intends to have her friends do for her, I immediately thought of all the things they could have done to get out of going through with it. However, Canon creates a list of fairly plausible reasons why they simply can’t walk away, no matter how much the request disturbs them. I personally wouldn’t have been able to go through with something like this, but the explanations Canon gives at least helps readers understand why Sasha and Brynn struggled with their decision.

There was a moment while reading the beginning of the novella where I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my type of story, but once Vicki’s secret is revealed, I was hooked! I loved the sense of mystery that comes with this book. A lot of times whether it is the title, the cover art or the synopsis, as a reader you generally have a feel for what to expect from a story. Vicki Beautiful keeps its secrets successfully under wraps until the last possible moment, which makes the big reveal devastatingly effective. I generally don’t get too squeamish when it comes to horror books as I have read just about every type of horror story imaginable, but this one definitely sent chills down my spine. I think what makes it such a great story and an unsettling slice of horror is that Canon does a great job of blending moments of normalcy into a completely bizarre situation. A great example of this is in one of the scenes where the two friends have a rational discussion about the logistics of Vicki’s plan despite the nauseating nature of her final request. The whole time I was reading Vicki Beautiful, I was wondering if the story was going to go all the way to the most extreme possible outcome. I obviously won’t spoil what happens, but I loved the way Vicki Beautiful ended!

Vicki Beautiful is a disturbing novella that definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, but offers up an imaginative and original premise that I think most horror fans will enjoy. I was impressed with the talent on display in Vicki Beautiful and I am definitely looking forward to reading more of whatever sort of dark stories Canon has up her sleeve!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Somer Canon’s Official Website

Samhain Horror Official Site

Purchase Vicki Beautiful: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Vicki Beautiful tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Vicki Beautiful! –  #VickiBeautiful #WhatsYourLastWish #OneLastTaste

Vicki Beautiful Synopsis

One last taste of perfection…

Sasha and Brynn descend upon the showplace home of their girlhood friend, Vicki, planning to celebrate her surviving cancer to reach her fortieth birthday. As they gather around Vicki’s perfectly set dinner table, though, her husband shares devastating news. The cancer is back, and she doesn’t have long to live.

Her life is cut even shorter than Sasha and Brynn expect—the next morning, their friend is found dead, her flawless skin slit at the wrists. But a tub full of blood is only the beginning. Before the weekend is through, they are forced to question how far they’re willing to go to fulfill Vicki’s last wish.

A very specific, very detailed recipe that only the truest of friends could stomach…

Praise for Vicki Beautiful

I read this at one gripping session and I shall read more by this author. Excellent, original and worth every one of my five stars.” – Catherine Cavendish, Author of The Devil’s Serenade

“At times it reminded me of the cult classic “Eating Raoul” and others “The Big Chill”. Suffice to say, Canon has created an intriguing tale that will not only have you caring about characters put into an awkward, unsettling situation but also wondering how they’ll react to it every step of the way. I highly recommend this unique and entertaining story.” Matthew Franks, Author The Monster Underneath

“This is not the normal type of book that I would read, but the cover sold it to me, and I like reading new authors and genres. This book is beautifully written, the writing flows and you feel you really understand what the character’s are feeling…” Rebecca, GoodReads Reviewer

“The ending of this story was truly horrific. I am an old school horror fan, and have been indulging in the genre since I was old enough to hold a book. I also adore and enjoy the sub-genre splatterpunk, I read Jack Ketchum as a bedside book all the time. It takes a lot to phase me, but even I was turning my head in repulsion at the end. What a wonderful debut story for Somer Canon.” – Badseedgirl, GoodReads Reviewer

“A simple story, but all the more powerful for its simplicity. Four stars. The author has guts and skill.” – Outlaw Poet

About Somer Canon

Somer Canon

Somer Canon is a minivan revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of being found out as a weirdo. When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.

Vicki Beautiful is her debut novella.

Find out more about Somer and her upcoming works at her website http://www.somercanon.com. You can also connect with Somer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SomerM.

blood sacrifices

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Length: 282 Pages

Release Date: April 5, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Blood Sacrifices

I have heard nothing but great things about Brian Moreland’s books from both other readers and horror authors for a while. So when I was approached to join the blog tour for Blood Sacrifices, a collection of four previously digital-only titles, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start reading his work.

The Girl From The Blood Coven is the first story in the collection and takes place in June 21, 1972 in the pine country of East Texas. After a night of dealing with the usual traffic accidents and drunken domestic disputes, all Sheriff Travis Keagan can think about is drinking an ice-cold beer and watching the rest of the Texas Rangers game. Sheriff Keagan is enjoying a dinner at the Lazy Armadillo, a local bar and it seems like a typical, mundane night in Buck Horn. However, the night takes an ominous turn when a girl soaked in blood arrives claiming that her family was massacred. Her name is Abigail Blackwood and she lives in the towns infamous Blevins House. Abigail claims that all twenty-four of the other residents were massacred by a single entity that definitely wasn’t human. When Sheriff Keagan heads over to investigate, its dark and gloomy with lighting flashing through the sky and creates a perfect backdrop for the horror that is about to unfold. When they arrive at the Blevins House, Keagan and his officers discover a scene of carnage that stuns them. It isn’t long until Keagan finds himself involved in a deadly cat and mouse game.

One thing that immediately stood out with this story is the effortless characterization and a perfect depiction of small town life. Moreland is able to achieve both of these things through the eyes of Sheriff Keagan when he arrives at the Lazy Armadillo. He knows everyone in the restaurant by name and knows just about everything there is to know about their personal lives. These quick one sentence descriptions of the townspeople not only make the characters come alive, but give readers an accurate portrayal of just how small of a community Buck Horn really is.

I was also impressed with the spooky atmosphere that surrounds the Blevins House. The house has a reputation around town and the stories that swirl around the Blevins House are scary enough to make the sheriff feel uneasy. The house was owned by Lenora Ravenmoon Blevins, a witch with a reputation around town as a trouble maker. The house itself is pretty spooky. It is an old, three-story rock house that is set on two hundred acres of forest land, making it an isolated location that adds an air of eeriness to its checkered history.

This was a perfect short story to start the collection with its breakneck pacing that grabbed my attention instantly and left me excited to continue reading Blood Sacrifices.

The Witching House is a continuation of the events that occurred in The Girl From The Blood Coven set in the present day. While the Blevins House always had a reputation, it wasn’t until the massacre back in ’72 that the houses legend reached mythic proportions. The townspeople of Buck Horn avoid the property at all costs and the mere mention of ghosts or witchcraft causes people to cross themselves as a precautionary measure. Otis, the sole survivor of the massacre at the Blevins House returns in The Witching House and takes care of the infamous house as an adult, though he doesn’t live on the property. People call Otis crazy and wonder why he continues to maintain the property, but that’s because they don’t know the sinister truth that drives him to maintain the house.

The storyline of The Witching House alternates between Otis’ story of taking care of the house and the history behind what really happened in 1972 and the story of Sarah Donovan, who goes with her boyfriend and his friends to check out Blevins House. Sarah’s boyfriend Dean and his friends are adrenaline junkies and have dubbed themselves the Ghost Squad, since their favorite activity is to explore abandoned buildings that have a reputation for being haunted. Sarah wants to fit in and prove to her boyfriend she is adventurous, but her decision to go along with this expedition proves to be a mistake as the group finds themselves face to face with an unimaginable evil.

I loved The Girl From The Blood Coven, so I was glad that the sequel was next up in Blood Sacrifices. One thing that I enjoyed about this novella was the switch in perspectives. While The Girl Girl From The Blood Coven is told from the perspective of a local resident, The Witching House is mainly from the perspective of a group of outsiders. It may seem like a minor thing, but I thought it was cool how the Lazy Armadillo is portrayed as being a warm and welcoming place in The Girl From The Blood Coven, but that Sarah sees it as an ominous place when she stops there.

Trying to pick a favorite novella out of Blood Sacrifices is close to impossible, but if I had to choose, I would go with The Witching House. Moreland does an amazing job building tension as the group makes one startling discovery after another upon entering the Blevins House. Just when I think things can’t get any creepier, Moreland continues to up the ante with some of the scariest scenes I have ever read, especially when the group comes face to face with the entity responsible for the massacre in 1972. Moreland puts his own unique spin on the witchcraft genre and I think horror fans will love the entity he creates in The Witching House which is pure, unfiltered nightmare fuel. The novella works well as a standalone story, but I can’t help but wish there was a novel length story centered around the Blevins House!

Darkness Rising opens with a couple who are savagely attacked by a group of killers wearing animal masks, which instantly reminded me of the movie You’re Next. Opening with this brutal scene helps prepare readers for the violence and depravity that is about to unfold, but not before meeting some key characters.

Marty Weaver is a maintenance guy at St. Germaine. He is the same age as most of the students but he doesn’t go there, but he is saving his money to enroll and get his degree to achieve his dream of being a professor. When he isn’t working, he is hard at work on his poems. The poems are his outlet at expressing himself and his true passion. He is also in love with Jennifer, a student at St. Germaine that he has been tutoring. They have a flirtatious relationship, but Marty is unsure of whether to confess his feelings to her as he thinks she is way out of his league. He is picked on relentlessly by students and his co-workers and it takes every bit of self-control to keep Marty from snapping as he battles his inner darkness. The only things that help keep him grounded and offer him happiness is his relationship with Jennifer and his poems. Mentions of his dark side make the reader wonder just what Marty is hiding.

One night, Marty heads down to read poetry to the lake, a ritual he developed back when he was a teenager. It was a special place for his family and reading his poems helps him deal with his struggles. While at the lake, Marty is cornered by a sadistic trio that taunts him and makes it clear that they intend to torture Marty. This chance encounter will change Marty’s life forever.

I absolutely loved the character of Marty. He is a character that I was rooting for the entire length of this story. Marty has dealt with hardship for his entire life from being constantly teased, losing his parents and suffering horrible abuse throughout his stay in foster care as a child. I felt terrible for everything Marty had to endure, but those awful experiences help prepare him for his encounter with the trio of killers he meets in the woods. Marty is a badass despite his seemingly harmless nature, and  he fights back against his attackers with a vengeance even when faced with impending death.

I also loved the originality on display in Darkness Rising. It is a revenge tale at heart, but Moreland puts a brilliant and original spin on the genre that I definitely didn’t anticipate. Darkness Rising is a perfect blend of both real-world and supernatural horror and offers plenty of twists that will keep readers on the edge of their seats! Also, while there are plenty of examples of evil and depravity that permeate Darkness Rising, Moreland balances these with some powerful moments of hope that help make this novella a powerful read.

The Vagrants is the final novella that makes up Blood Sacrifices and was one that has been on my “to read” list for a long time. Daniel Finley is a journalist chronicling the daily lives of the homeless and has been living with them for the last 6 months. His goal for living with them and reporting on their lives is to write a book that would shine a light on homelessness. Throughout his time living on the streets, Daniel begins to form friendships with some of the people living in his camp and finds his preconceived notions of them stripped away as he spends time with them and learns their stories.

During Daniel’s last month of living on the streets, a nomadic group named “The Seekers” arrive and are led by an enigmatic man named Mordecai. Daniel begins to chronicle The Seekers instead of documenting regular homeless life. Within 2 weeks of their arrival, the Seekers take over the settlement and Mordecai converts all of the residents to members of the Seekers group. Daniel finally goes to check out one of Mordecai’s sermons and despite Mordecai’s best efforts to get him to join, Daniel resists and is left behind as Mordecai leads his group to another city.

The story then flashes forward 2 years after Daniels time on the streets and his work chronicling the homeless is being published into a book. He is enjoying success beyond anything he could imagine and has a girlfriend. After leaving a meeting with his agent to celebrate his publication, Daniel runs into a homeless man who mentions the same Judgement Day promised by Mordecai which causes Daniel’s blood to run cold.

Not long after, Daniel has a chance encounter with Dr. Rupert Holloman, a professor at Harvard who wants to use Daniel’s book to teach a class. Dr. Holloman tells Daniel of a hidden world beneath Boston centered on abandoned subway tunnels and shows him a mural in one of the tunnels that is connected to the Seekers and features Mordecai at the center of the painting. It is here that Daniel realizes from Holloman’s stories that Mordecai’s group has reached cities all over the country. Ever since that initial encounter with Holloman, Daniel is being followed by homeless who are trying to get him to join the Seekers and keep referencing Mordecai’s vision of the apocalypse.

While Daniel is back in town, he also attempts to reconcile with his father who he hasn’t seen in years. It is during this visit that Daniel learns his father owes the Irish mob boss Drake O’Malley a ton of money. These events place a lot of pressure on Daniel as he finds himself caught between the mafia and the Seekers in a situation that will push his sanity to the limits.

The Vagrants was definitely a highly entertaining novella and lived up to the hype I had built for it in my mind after reading the synopsis. Mordecai is an interesting character and there is an air of mystery that surrounds him up until the novella’s final moments. Despite his slight frame, he is a formidable fighter and is able to take on men twice his size. He also is a charismatic speaker and is able to hypnotize anyone who crosses his path, even those who initially resist him. This ability to cultivate a large cult following in such a short amount of time makes him a truly frightening character and the mystery behind his motivations kept me hooked.

After I finished reading Blood Sacrifices, I couldn’t stop thinking about how great these stories were. This was my first experience reading Moreland’s work and I was blown away by his storytelling abilities. Every novella featured in this collection displays traits of everything I love about the horror genre and is packed with action. I also loved the fact that even when I thought I knew where the stories were going, there were no shortage of surprises lurking just around the corner. Moreland also conjures up some of the most frightening antagonists/monsters I have read in quite some time, especially the witch from The Witching House. I suspect sometime in the near future some of those scenes will work their way into my nightmares. Blood Sacrifices is an essential addition to any horror fan’s library and one of my favorite collections so far this year!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS:

Brian Moreland’s Official Website

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase Blood Sacrifices: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror, or your favorite bookstore!

Blood Sacrifices tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Blood Sacrifices! – #BloodSacrifices #4TalesofTerror #BrianMoreland

Blood Sacrifices Synopsis

Blood Sacrifices houses four tales of terror by one of the masters of horror, Brian Moreland. Previously only available in digital format, these stories are compiled into one book and can now be ordered in print!

Some evils require sacrifices.

From the author of Dead of Winter and The Devil’s Woods come four tales of blood-tingling horror:

The Girl from the Blood Coven

In this short prequel to The Witching House, when Abigail Blackwood claims her hippy commune family has been massacred, Sheriff Travis Keagan and his deputies investigate. They discover there’s more than weed smoking going on at Blevins House. Much more.

The Witching House

Sarah Donovan is scared of just about everything, but she helps her adventurous boyfriend investigate the old, abandoned Blevins House, scene of a forty-year-old unsolved massacre. Little do they know the house is hungry for fresh prey

Darkness Rising

When Marty Weaver encounters three killers who like to play sadistic games with their victims, his own scarred past is unearthed. And when his pain is triggered, blood will flow…and hell will rise.

The Vagrants

Beneath the city of Boston, evil is gathering. While living under a bridge with the homeless, journalist Daniel Finley witnessed something that nearly cost him his sanity. Now, with a book published about the experience, he’s caught between the Irish mafia and a deranged cult preparing to shed blood on the street.

This is a collection of books previously published in digital format.

Praise for Brian Moreland

“For horror fans wanting a healthy dose of the small-town stuff a la Stephen King, be sure to pick up a copy of this (The Girl from the Blood Coven) memorable and frightening short story, a wonderful teaser that will whet your appetite for the main course, The Witching House, where the twisted story continues.” – DarkEva/Hellnotes

” Very much in the tradition of HELL HOUSE, THE WITCHING HOUSE is a creepy, modern turn on the haunted house story.” – Tim Potter 

“Far and away the best new piece of fiction I’ve read this year. With Darkness Rising, Brian Moreland reminded me why he’s one of my two favorite (not King, Laymon, Ketchum…etc.) authors out there (the other being Ronald Malfi). I’m a huge fan of his novel, Shadows in the Mist, but I think this novella rivals it.” – Glenn Rolfe, author of Blood and Rain, on Darkness Rising

“Brian Moreland writes a blend of survival horror and occult mystery that I find impossible to resist. I know, when I’ve got one of his books in my hands, that I’m going to be lost to the world for hours on end. He’s just that good.” –Joe McKinney, author of Dead City and Flesh Eaters

“A thrilling, wholly-engrossing read that masterfully crosses multiple genres and leaves the reader breathless. Moreland weaves one hell of a history lesson, rich with brilliant characters and incredible plot twists. Highly recommended!” – Brian Keene, bestselling author of The Last Zombie and Ghoul, on Dead of Winter

Dead of Winter is an exceptionally well crafted horror novel that tells a gripping story of dark religious doings, a horrific serial killer, and a sympathetic Inspector, in a dark and fascinating historical setting of 19th century Canada. The atmospherics are outstanding and the story offers plenty of surprises right up to its shocking and violent conclusion. Highly recommended.” Douglas Preston,  New York Times bestselling co-author of The Monster of Florence and Cold Vengeance

Brian Moreland’s fiction is taut and spellbinding, often blending varied themes to form a dark genre very much his own.  From his WWII occult thriller Shadows in the Mist, to the haunting chiller The Devil’s Woods, Brian’s work is at once versatile, original, and deeply engaging.” Greg F. Gifune, author of The Bleeding Season

The Devil’s Woods is an awesome horror novel, filled with nerve-wracking suspense and thrilling action!” Jeff Strand, author of Wolf Hunt

About Brian Moreland

Brian Moreland photo

Brian Moreland is a best-selling and award-winning author of novels and short stories in the horror and supernatural suspense genre. In 2007, his novel Shadows in the Mist, a Nazi occult thriller set during World War II, won a gold medal for Best Horror Novel in an international contest. The novel went on to be published in Austria and Germany under the title Schattenkrieger.

Shadows in the MistDead of Winterand The Devil’s Woods are his currently available novels, as well as his Kindle short-story The Girl from the Blood Coven and the novella it led into called The Witching House.  Now, he has released the full-length The Devil’s Woods. His novella, The Vagrants, was released in 2014, and another, Darkness Rising, in 2015.

He loves hiking, kayaking, watching sports, dancing, and making guacamole. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel.  When not working on his books or books for other writers, Brian edits documentaries and TV commercials around the globe. He produced a World War II documentary in Normandy, France, and worked at two military bases in Iraq with a film crew.

 Brian lives in Dallas, Texas. You can communicate with him online at www.brianmoreland.comhis Dark Lucidity blog, Twitter, or Facebook.

the-monster-underneath

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Length: 219 Pages

Release Date: April 5, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for The Monster Underneath

I remember reading some early praise for The Monster Underneath from Ronald Malfi, Rena Mason and John Everson and thinking that this was a book that I just had to read. So when Erin from Hook of a Book Publicity offered me a spot on the blog tour, I jumped at the chance!

Max Crawford has offered therapy to inmates for over 6 years at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville through a secretive government program. He has unique abilities to read minds and enter the dreams of the inmates and he utilizes these gifts in order to help rehabilitate violent offenders. His goal is to talk his patients through their crimes in the hopes that they will feel remorse for what they have done and begin to rehabilitate so they may reenter society. His identity is largely kept a secret in order to protect him and his family should some of the more violent inmates ever be released. He hardly ever meets them face to face and solely interacts with them through their dreams. The reason he gets their consent first is it makes his therapy more effective.

Max has been content using his abilities in secret at the tiny jail in Huntsville, but one day his life is changed when FBI agent Charles Linden shows up and asks for Max’s help. Linden is well aware of Max’s gifts and wants him to help get a confession from one of the country’s most notorious serial killers, William Knox. At first glance, he seems relatively harmless. He is a husband and father who is well-respected within his community and is a well-regarded English professor at the University of Texas in Austin. Despite his squeaky clean public image, he is the prime suspect in a series of murders of young women that stretched from Dallas to Arkansas. Other than the fact that his victims were all women, there was no clear motives for his crimes. The FBI has been unable to break Knox no matter what tactic they try, which is what convinced Linden to reach out to Max in a last-ditch attempt to get a confession. Max normally has the consent from inmates to enter their dreams, but Linden wants this to be a more covert operation. While this makes Max uncomfortable, he has no choice but to agree to Linden’s plan if he hopes to help get justice for the victims’ families. Max enters Knox’s mind with the goal of gaining his trust by any means necessary and once he is inside Knox’s mind, he is in a race against time to uncover the truth about the murders.

I liked the concept behind The Monster Underneath and while I have read a few books with a similar premise, this one stood out to me. Most of the stories I have read that were fairly similar involved detectives who used these abilities to either prevent attacks or to catch a killer that is still on the loose. Max’s abilities and his background as a therapist intrigued me because he strictly worked with criminals who are already in jail. Also, while he is able to enter prisoner’s minds at will, he tends to only works with inmates who have granted him permission to enter their dreams. This is interesting because when Max meets with his patients, he already has knowledge of their crimes and how they were committed. A lot of his work when he enters their dreams is figuring out why they made certain choices and trying to help them feel remorse in an attempt to rehabilitate them should they ever be released from prison.

This is interesting because when Max meets Knox, he has the same abilities and knowledge to draw on, but he is plunged into a situation that is vastly different from what he is used to. He is attempting to gain Knox’s trust without prior consent and he is using his abilities to figure out the details of a crime through a person’s dreams for the first time. Max’s previous work and knowledge allows him to identify things easier, but his case with Knox is tricky because he needs to sift through what is fiction conjured up by Knox’s mind and what may be real memories of his crimes.

I loved the way Franks handled the dream world and the sort of rules that govern them. While there aren’t too many similarities I couldn’t help but think of Russell James’ Dreamwalker while reading some of these scenes. I also enjoyed the way Franks describes Max’s abilities. Mind reading comes like second nature to him and he really has to work on keeping other people’s thoughts from merging with his own. However, the ability to enter dreams was something he had to work at. I like that it wasn’t something easy, but rather an ability he had to develop. A great example is the very descriptive scene of how Max first discovers his ability to enter dreams, which he ironically discovered while trying to read the thoughts of one of his patients at a sleep clinic he worked at during college. Franks puts a lot of detail and thought behind the description of Max’s powers and the protocols that Max establishes as a result of his experiences with his abilities. I don’t want to spoil too much of this because it is one of the many things that make The Monster Underneath an entertaining and unique read.

I also loved the interactions between Max and Knox. Their relationship is the major sense of tension throughout the novel and although Max is trying to keep Knox locked up, they develop a toxic and bizarre pseudo-friendship. As Max gets deeper and more involved in Knox’s dream reality, the lines that separate the real world from Knox’s dream world begin to blur a little bit. The case is extremely stressful for Max and for the first time in his career, he starts to doubt himself.

The only issues I had with the novel were a few instances where the transitions between chapters took me out of the story. I also had a few issues with the ending, but it didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the novel too much. Overall, The Monster Underneath is a gripping psychological thriller that I couldn’t put down!  The novel works well as a standalone story, but while I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of more books containing Max and having him possibly team up with Agent Linden again. While Linden can come off as abrasive at times, I do think it would be cool to see them work together more closely on a case from start to finish. So, I was excited to read in Wag The Fox’s great interview with Matthew Franks that there is indeed a follow-up currently in the works!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS:

Matthew Franks Official Webpage 

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase The Monster Underneath: Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), Amazon (Australia), Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror or your favorite bookstore!

The Monster Underneath tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about The Monster Underneath! – #TheMonsterUnderneath #psychologicalhorror #dreamsvsnightmares

The Monster Underneath Synopsis

Reality can be the difference between a dream and a nightmare…

Max Crawford isn’t a typical prison therapist. He uses his unusual psychic ability to walk with convicts through their dreams, reliving their unspeakable crimes alongside them to show them the error of their ways.

Max always has to be on his toes to keep himself grounded, but the FBI agent waiting for him in his private office immediately puts him on edge. The bureau wants Max to go way outside his comfort zone to enter the dreams of suspected serial killer William Knox.

To get a confession and secure the future of his prison program, Max must gain Knox’s trust by any means necessary—and survive the minefield of secrets waiting inside a murderer’s mind. Secrets that could turn Max’s reality into a living nightmare.

Praise for The Monster Underneath

“An assured, gripping, totally engaging debut, Matthew Franks will have you burning through the pages of this taut supernatural thriller at breakneck speed. If Christopher Nolan and Stephen King ever teamed up to write a novel, this would be it. Highly recommended!” Ronald Malfi, author of Little Girls

“What if you could see inside the dreams of anyone you came in contact with? Would you dare to look? Could you handle the things you’d find within? The Monster Underneath is a real nail-biter – one of those ever-spiraling stories that you just can’t put down until you reach the surprising end!”John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Covenant and The Family Tree

The Monster Underneath is an intense and clever debut in which reality is more terrifying than the nightmares and twisted dreamscapes of a madman. Author Matthew Franks is a name to remember, his stories you won’t soon forget.” Rena Mason, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Evolutionist and East End Girls

“Matthew Franks’ debut novel takes you through the darkest, twisted alleys of a killer’s mind and then drags you several steps further, beyond the status of observer and into the disturbing realm of accomplice. A harrowing tale of murder and delusion and moral ambiguity.” Hank Schwaeble, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of DamnableDiabolicaland the dark thriller collection, American Nocturne

About Matthew Franks

Matthew Franks headshot

Matthew Franks lives in Arlington, Texas with his beautiful wife and children. He studied psychology and creative writing at Louisiana State University then obtained a Master’s Degree in counseling from Texas State University. When he’s not working on his next story, he’s counseling adolescents or trying to keep up with his three highly energetic daughters. You can connect with Matthew at: authormatthewfranks.com.

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from David Bernstein, who is currently promoting his diverse and highly entertaining short story collection A Mixed Bag of Blood (review), which is out now through Sinister Grin Press. I loved reading this collection, the diversity of the stories guarantee that there is never a dull moment throughout the 86 pages that make up A Mixed Bag of Blood. David’s post takes a look at the troubling trend of characters making baffling choices in a story and how authors can write themselves into a corner. I can definitely relate to what David is saying. It happens more with the TV shows that I watch, but I am sure I get on my wife’s nerves when I say something along the lines of,  “You know, if those characters would have just done this….”. Usually its a solution that would have cut an hour-long episode down to roughly ten minutes.

Before I turn over the blog to David, I want to thank him and Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for having me on the tour!

Don’t Treat Your Audience Like They’re Morons

By David Bernstein

mixed_bag_blood_PB

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie where the characters did something so ridiculously stupid you turned off the television or chucked the book across the room? Characters making stupid decisions seem to be happening more and more. I like to call it dumbed down writing, or writing yourself into a corner. More and more writers are treating their audiences like morons and I’m tired of it.

For example, I was reading a book, and really into it, when the characters did something that I just couldn’t get past. A bad guy was holding a gun on three people. He’d been after them for most of the book. One of the three people managed to clobber him on the head with a pipe and knocked him out. His gun slid a few feet away. Now what do you think happened next? Did one of them pick up the gun? Shoot the bad guy dead? Tie him up? Nope. They simply turned and ran away. And you know what the bad guy did? He woke up, picked up his gun and the chase continued. I was like—WHAT? Why wouldn’t the people at least pick up the gun. Why leave it there? Even if they were anti-gun nuns who would never kill. Why just run away? Because the author wanted to continue the story and had written himself into a corner and said to himself that the audience will buy it because they’re stupid.

Another case: I was watching a TV show where a bad guy was holding a gun on two people. One of the two people had a German Shepherd with him. The bad guy also had a friend with him, but with no gun. One of the good guys manages to grab a shovel and knock out the friend of the gunman. The dog is sicced on the gunman and latches onto his arm and starts gnawing on him. The gun is dropped and tumbled a few feet away. So what do the characters do? Pick up the gun? Knock out the guy who is fighting the dog? Tie up the bad guys? Nope. Not only do the good guys run away, the dog owner calls the dog off and tells it to run. Why? Because the writer wanted to continue the story. Why didn’t one of the good guys pick up the gun? Help the dog? They could have called the cops while keeping the gun trained on the guy. The show should’ve ended there. And do you know what the bad guy did after the good guys ran away? He picked up the gun and shot one of the fleeing good guys. Then the chase continued. For me, this is a complete turn off. I will stop watching a TV show that does this. It tells me the writer, editor, producer and all else involved think very little of the viewers.

This may seem like a rant, and it is, but I would also like to get people to stop accepting this sort of bullshit. Make a writer work and believe that his audience is intelligent. And as writers, we shouldn’t be doing this sort of garbage. Cheap thrills to progress a story that should’ve ended at that point are silly. And if you don’t want to end your story, then don’t write scenes like the above. Treat your readers/viewers like they have a functioning brain. I’d sooner believe a man can fly or lift a house over his head before making the kind of decisions the above characters made.

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LINKS

David Bernstein’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase A Mixed Bag of Blood: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookstore!

A Mixed Bag of Blood tour graphic (1)

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about A Mixed Bag of Blood! – #AMixedBagofBlood #DavidBernstein #shortstories #horrorstories

A Mixed Bag of Blood Synopsis

From a man seeking vengeance for a dead loved one, to a monster lodged in a person’s nose, to starving vampires and samurai battling zombies, a bully meeting his gruesome demise, along with prostitutes being sacrificed, a boy who refuses to stop swearing, and the consequences of one man’s night of unprotected sex comes a dark and disturbing collection of sinister tales filled with dread, bloodshed, humor and the bizarre.

This is a Mixed Bag of Blood.

Praise for A Mixed Bag of Blood

“Dave Bernstein let his mind wander and his pen write where I know you’ll want to read. With an introduction by Kristopher Rufty, this is a reason to stay at home and read on a pleasant Saturday afternoon like I did.” –Cat After Dark

 Praise for David Bernstein

“David Bernstein delivers a fast-moving tale of desire and destruction that gives new meaning to the words, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Relic of Death twists reality and will leave you reflecting on your own personal Achilles heel long after you finished reading…” —Allan Leverone, author of Mr. Midnight

“A fascinating, unpredictable, ever-shifting tale of greed and desperation. Highly recommended!” —Jeff Strand, author of Pressure

“Fast-paced, cinematic, and excellent. Horror fans gather around, it’s time for another chilling tale from David Bernstein.”  —Keith Deininger, author of Within and Ghosts of Eden

“A harrowing, brutal thriller, Skinner is Bernstein at his best!” —Peter Giglio, author of Shadowshift

About David Bernstein

david bernstein

David Bernstein is originally from a small town in Upstate New York called Salisbury Mills. He now resides in NYC and misses being surrounded by chainsaw-wielding maniacs and wild backwoods people that like to eat raw human flesh. He’s grown used to the city, though hiding bodies is much harder there. He is the author of Amongst the Dead, Damaged Souls, The Tree Man, Witch Island, Relic of Death, Apartment 7C and the forthcoming Episodes of Violence. David writes all kinds of horror, from hair-raising ghost stories to gore-filled slashers and apocalyptic tales of terror. He loves hearing from his readers. You can reach him on Facebook, athttp://www.facebook.com/david.bernstein.3. Visit him at his website: davidbernsteinauthor.blogspot.com email dbern77@hotmail.com, or on Twitter at @Bernsteinauthor.

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from C.M. Saunders, who is currently promoting his new novel Sker House, which is available now through DeadPixel Publications. I am excited to have Saunders on the site as I loved his novella Out of Time (review) and his riveting story of psychological horror “The Elementals and I” that appeared in Grey Matter Press’ Dark Visions – Volume Two. Saunders’ post takes a look at the practice of “wrecking” and the role it played in the history of the real-life Sker House. I love history, so I really enjoyed this post and learned a lot about the practice of wrecking, which is something I didn’t even know about. Wrecking plays a significant role in the novel and I look forward to reading how Saunders’ incorporates it into what sounds like a truly creepy haunted house story!

The Wreckers 

By C.M. Saunders, author of Sker House

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Every country has elements of its history it would rather forget. A black mark against Wales would be the unsavoury practice of ‘wrecking,’ deliberately luring passing ships to their doom, which was rife during the 17th and 18th Centuries. In fairness, it didn’t just happen in Wales. It was prevalent in most, of not all, coastal areas of Britain, and probably elsewhere in the world. However, one location in Wales that will be forever linked with wreckers is Sker House, a large, isolated mansion in Kenfig, Glamorgan.

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During the Industrial Revolution, the Bristol Channel, the stretch of water Sker House overlooked, was one of the busiest waterways in the world, carrying a steady stream of vessels between Britain and the Continent. It was also one of the most perilous. As well as the strong currents and ever-shifting hidden sandbanks, the submerged bank of rocks known as Sker Point could literally tear ships to pieces. At that time, smuggling and looting were considered legitimate (if not lawful) enterprises, and shipwrecks were so common in the area that they were seldom investigated in any depth. Local landowners routinely claimed ‘Right of the Wreck’, whereby they were legally free to salvage whatever ‘lost’ cargo happened to wash up on their property. This is why some less scrupulous locals were said to engage in wrecking, which they usually achieved by tying lanterns to cattle or grazing sheep and leading them along the seafront at night. From a distance, especially to unfamiliar eyes in bad weather, the lights would look like those of ships lying safely at anchor. The captain would steer a course for the lights, only to run his ship aground. A cautionary tale often told is that of the Welsh wrecker who helped lure a passing ship onto rocks, killing everyone on board. While he busied himself looting the ship’s cargo, the bodies of the unfortunate passengers and crew were brought ashore for burial. Only then did the wrecker see the body of his own son who was returning home unexpectedly after a long voyage.

A pivotal event not just in the history of Sker, but in the practice of wrecking as a whole, occurred on December 17th 1753, when the French merchant ship Le Vainqueur was en route from Portugal when she struck Sker Point. It is generally held that then-owner of Sker House Isaac Williams and his cohorts were responsible for its untimely demise on Sker Point. No sooner had the ship hit the rocks, impoverished locals and respected nobility alike descended on the wreck like vultures and plundered it for all it was worth, stealing her cargo of fruit, rifling the bodies of dead sailors, and even setting fire to what was left of the ship in order to recover the iron nails that had once held it together.

Due to the delicate diplomatic relations between Britain and France at the time, the fate of Le Vainqueur was treated as a serious international incident. In the aftermath, no less than 17 people were arrested, including Isaac Williams himself, who was at the time an influential local magistrate. When questioned, he claimed to have stored goods from the wreck found in the cellar of Sker House there for safekeeping. Remarkably, he never went to trial, but his reputation was tainted forever and he died a ruined man. Of those who did go to trial, one wasn’t so lucky and was hanged by the Crown to set an example to others. In the years since wrecking was abolished, countless witnesses claim to have seen ghostly ships off Sker. Also frequently spotted is a solitary light hovering over Sker Point. Locally, this is taken to be a prelude to bad weather, but is eerily reminiscent of the Canwyll Corph, a well-known Welsh portent of death.

And that’s not all, whether connected to wrecking or not, over the years Sker House has gained a reputation for being one of the most haunted locations in Wales. It’s most famous ghost is the Maid of Sker, Isaac Williams’s daughter, who he allegedly imprisoned at the house until she agreed to marry the man of his choosing. Local legend insists that she never left. There have also been numerous reports of shadow figures, poltergeist activity, strange howls, and a crushing sensation of dread felt by visitors.

LINKS

C.M. Saunders’ Official Website

DeadPixel Publications Official Website

 Purchase Sker House on Amazon 

Sker House Synopsis

Dale and Lucy are two students with a fascination in the supernatural. One weekend, they travel to Sker House, South Wales, a private residence with a macabre history which has recently been converted into a seaside inn. They plan to write an article for their university magazine about a supposed haunting, but when they arrive, they meet a landlord who seems to have a lot to hide. Soon, it becomes apparent that all is not well at Sker House. An air of oppression hangs over it, while misery, tragedy and ill-fortune are commonplace. Gradually, it becomes clear that the true depth of the mystery goes far beyond a mere historical haunting. This is a place where bad things happen, and evil lurks.

Little by little Dale and Lucy fall under Sker’s dark spell, and as they begin to unravel the mysteries of the past, they realize that nothing stays buried forever.

Welcome to Sker House, a place where past and present collide.

About C.M. Saunders

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New Tredegar-born C.M. Saunders began writing in 1997, his early fiction appearing in several small-press titles. Following the publication of his first book, Into the Dragon’s Lair – A Supernatural History of Wales (2003), he worked extensively in the freelance market, contributing to over 50 international publications including Fortean Times, Loaded, Record Collector, Forever Sports and Nuts. In addition, he has written several novellas and had over thirty short stories published in various magazines, ezines and anthologies. He taught English and creative writing in China for five years, before settling in London where he works as a writer and editor in the sport, fitness and men’s lifestyle sectors. His latest release is the fact-based novel Sker House on DeadPixel Publications and he is represented by Media Bitch literary agency.