Archive for April, 2014

I am back again with the second installment of my most anticipated summer reads! It seems like I just posted the first installment,  but time seems to be flying by with summer  just around the corner and I still have TONS of books I want to write about. The last batch included novels from Stephen King, Hunter Shea and Brian Moreland. This time around I will be featuring John F.D. Taff, Tim Curran and Stephen Lloyd Jones!

eiabadvance_panelcover

John F.D. Taff The End In All Beginnings (Late Summer) from Grey Matter Press

I am a relatively new fan of Taff’s, but this one has rocketed right to the top of my list after it was announced by Grey Matter Press due to how much I loved his novel The Bell Witch and his story “Angie” in Ominous Realities. The End In All Beginnings will feature five new novellas that, according to the folks at Grey Matter Press, “explore the painful, emotional horrors of life, love and loss through the ages”. Sign me up!

blackout

Tim Curran Blackout (August 2014) from Dark Fuse

While summer usually conjures images of pool parties, barbecues and warm, beautiful weather, there is also a less pleasant side to most people’s favorite season.  I am talking about the huge storms complete with downpours, thunder and lightning. It is not unusual to lose power for long periods of time after lightening lights up the sky and the booms of thunder rattle your windows. At most, this is a minor annoyance. However, Tim Curran’s upcoming novella for Dark Fuse takes this mundane scenario and dials up the horror by throwing in tentacles that snatch people into the sky at random. I imagine that the first time a big storm rolls through town after I read this novella, I will be absolutely scared out of my mind and fighting with my wife over who gets to hold the flashlight (though I doubt that would be a good defense against airborne tentacles).

stringdiaries

Stephen Lloyd Jones The String Diaries (July 1, 2014) from Mulholland Books

The String Diaries follows a woman named Hannah as she attempts to outrun a centuries-old man who has the horrifying ability to take on the persona of any person he wants, including Hannah’s loved ones. Throw in a pile of mysterious diaries that have been passed down for over 200 years within Hannah’s family that supposedly hold the clues to surviving this monster and this has all the makings of a book that will probably rule my life from the minute I start it.

The story is said to jump from present day all the way to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century and I love books that do that because in addition to being a huge horror fan, I am also a bit of a history nerd. I know very little about The String Diaries other than what is in the official synopsis, but it kind of reminds me of Elizabeth Kostova’s brilliant 2005 novel The Historian.

Advertisements

eiabadvance_panelcover

Grey Matter Press announced today that a special Advance Edition of John F.D. Taff’s The End In All Beginnings, will be available at this year’s World Horror Convention which is set to take place May 8 through May 11 in Portland, Oregon. The collection contains five new novellas from Taff that “explore the painful, emotional horrors of life, love and loss through the ages”. They will be limited in number, so if you are attending the convention make sure you snag a copy, otherwise you will have to wait until July or August like the rest of us! Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the convention, so I guess this gives me another reason to be jealous of those who are going and/or people who get to live in an awesome city like Portland.

The titles of the novellas included are “What Becomes God,” “Object Permanence,” “Love in the Time of Zombies,” “The Long, Long Breakdown” and “Visitation”. Grey Matter Press has outdone themselves again with this one; the cover looks amazing and rumor has it each story was assigned a tarot card illustration, which is a pretty cool idea. Taff is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers (I only recently discovered his work, but so far everything I have read of his has been outstanding). I strongly encourage those who are attending to grab a copy of this, whether you are already a fan or not, because it is sure to be an outstanding collection!

Check out Grey Matter Press’ press release to learn more and see what Jonathan Mayberry(!) had to say about The End In All Beginnings.

darkfuse

Dark Fuse is currently offering six of its novellas for sale as part of a Kindle Countdown sale from now until May 1st for just under a dollar! This is an incredible opportunity for dark fiction fans to grab some of Dark Fuse’s acclaimed novellas from some of the best writers in the genre. Here is a list of the titles being offered:

Gary McMahon’s Nightsiders

Greg F. Gifune’s House of Rain

Tim Curran’s Worm

Michael McBride’s F9

Eric Shapiro’s Love & Zombies

Sandy DeLuca’s Messages From The Dead

There are a few I have yet to read, so I will definitely be picking up a few of these titles. I highly encourage any horror fan to take advantage of this deal to either round out your collection of Dark Fuse titles or check out a new author!

 

ominousrealities

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Length: 331 Pages

Ominous Realities is the brand new anthology from the awesome people at Grey Matter Press and serves up 16 extraordinarily written tales that fall within the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. I must say when I was contacted by Anthony Rivera of Grey Matters with an offer to review the anthology, I jumped at the chance. These stories, despite their variety of styles and genre classifications, all have one thing in common – giving you a glimpse at unique post-apocalyptic scenarios.

While many of these stories may not be horror in the traditional sense, there is no doubt that the futures depicted in each one of these stories is quite horrifying in their own way. What makes these stories just as scary (or scarier) than your traditional horror fare is that in most cases, these scenarios could actually happen.

William Meikle’s “On The Threshold” is the first story that details such a possibility. Meikle’s story focuses on the trials of two scientists named John and Connon as they attempt to use a high-powered lab, a wealth of resources and their staggering scientific intellect to create their own universe from nothing. Their goal seems relatively harmless – an endeavor to study the origins of a universe and whether the rules of ours would apply – all in the name of science.  Do the aims of John and Connor sound familiar? Well they should, as we are currently conducting an experiment with the Large Hadron Collider built by CERN for startlingly similar purposes. After reading the frightening experiences contained within “On The Threshold”, it raises the question: Should we be manipulating forces we do not fully understand?

Ken Altabel’s story, “Doyoshota”, is another story that while not necessarily based in our reality, draws information from a puzzling real life phenomena. I have always been fascinated with unexplained phenomena of all kinds and can honestly admit to spending countless hours trawling Wikipedia pages and falling down the rabbit hole of links contained within each article. UFO’s, hauntings , “The Bloop” and countless other cases have all captured my interest. Altabel’s story draws inspiration from real-life reports of a phenomena known as “The Hum”. This phenomenon is categorized as a low-frequency sound that is often described as a persistent buzzing. What makes The Hum so unique is that it cannot be easily explained away since it is a constant occurrence and has been reported all over the world. Altabel’s story explores this mysterious phenomena through the eyes of a University of Rochester audiologist sent to the town of Doyoshota, Nevada to investigate the potential cause of the noise along with other scientists. At first, the noises are not taken seriously and the residents that report them are portrayed as eccentric, to put it mildly. However, as the character begins to hear the hum himself and witnesses the mental degradation of the biggest skeptic – Air Force psychologist Guy Patterson – it becomes clear that “The Hum” is real. The character slowly begins realizing the origins of The Hum, and not only is it absolutely terrifying, it offers a very logical theory for the origins of the phenomena.

Gregory L. Norris’ story “Third Offense” is set in a world that seems to have been spawned from the tendency of press outlets to create content more impressed with “clicks” and “reach” than actual substance and eye implants that resemble  a supercharged version of Google Glass. Hugh A.D. Spencer’s story, “John, Paul, Xavier, Ironside and George (But Not Vincent)” is a surreal take on an apocalyptic scenario in which roving clouds of nanobots lay waste to civilization.

Although most of the stories contained in Ominous Realities fall outside of the traditional horror genre, there are a few tales that come directly from the genre. “Angie” by John F.D. Taff  focuses on the lives of Dennis and Angie, a divorced couple who are trying to survive the zombie apocalypse together. I absolutely loved this story and it was a unique take on the zombie genre that offers frightening and grim look at the realities of the walking dead roaming the streets with an emotional dynamic that is every bit as interesting. It is obvious to see they still care about each other and that love is proved in a final twist ending that was both sweet and incredibly horrifying.

My favorite story from the anthology has to be Bracken MacLeod’s stellar contribution, “Pure Blood and Evergreen”. MacLeod tells the story of Pyotr cel Tinar, a youth who is held in a prison camp after the New Republic rises to power and destroys his village as part of a cleansing process. It is not clear until later in the story that Pytor may not be what he seems, but even then you can’t help but feel horrified by the nightmarish conditions he was forced to endure. This was the first story I have read from MacLeod, but I think it is safe to say I am now a fan for life!

Grey Matter Press has done a phenomenal job with Ominous Realities and in my opinion, they are putting out some of the best anthologies in the genre. While you may not be a fan of every story, there is enough variety here to ensure that you will find something to enjoy and may introduce you to some new and extremely talented authors. This is a “must purchase” anthology for any dark fiction fan!

Rating: 5/5

Links

Grey Matter Press’ Official Website

List of stories and authors featured in Ominous Realities

Purchase Ominous Realities on Amazon

thebellwitch

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Books of the Dead Press

Length: 266 Pages

I discovered John F.D. Taff’s newest novel The Bell Witch completely by chance while browsing Amazon’s bestseller list for horror. People always say you should never judge a book by its cover, but the sinister looking cover (which I later found out was designed by one of my favorite authors Kealan Patrick Burke) is what immediately grabbed my attention. Intrigued, I decided to check out the synopsis and once I learned it was based on The Bell Witch Haunting, that was all it took to have me hooked.

John F.D. Taff’s novel focuses on the Bells, an early 19th century farm family from Tennessee who are haunted by an entity known only as the “Witch”. The entities arrival at the Bell homestead causes the Bells to fall into chaos as they are plagued by odd sounds, occasional bouts of violence and unrelenting taunts. The hauntings are limited to the home at first and the Bells think that if they just ignore the disturbances, The Witch will go away. The domineering patriarch of the Bell family, Jack Bell, refuses to allow his slaves into the house and places a ban on speaking about the disturbances to prevent others in the town from finding about the entity. However, the Witch foils these plans by making an appearance at the local church and announcing its presence to the entire town when it interrupts the church service.

While the Witch torments all of the members of the Bell family and other people who cross its path, it focuses much of its energy and hatred toward Jack. It frequently tells him and his family that its main purpose for existing is to make Jack suffer and that before it leaves it will kill him. The reason its anger falls mostly upon Jack is one of the novel’s central mysteries and is directly related to what The Witch is and why it has decided to  torment the Bell family.

As a former history major, huge fan of documented hauntings and all things paranormal, I absolutely loved The Bell Witch. Many familiar with the Bell Witch Haunting will take issue with the artistic liberties Taff has taken with the legend and feel disappointed it doesn’t strictly adhere to the events reported to have occurred. However, I applaud Taff for making the history of the Bell Witch his own because it adheres to the spirit of the legend. The two definitive texts on the legend were published 60 and 75 years after the alleged events. Who is to say those writers did not take liberties of their own? Besides, Taff’s liberties with the Bell Witch story make for a truly unique origin story for the Bell Witch.

It is also important to note that The Bell Witch is not an all out fright-fest, so if that is what you are looking for, you may be disappointed with The Bell Witch. However, if you can appreciate an atmospheric ghost story that leans more towards “quiet horror” territory, you will fall in love with this novel. That isn’t to say the book doesn’t have its truly frightening moments, though. There is a pretty creepy possession scene that horror fans will love and Taff does an incredible job of adding quick shots of terror through the Witch’s actions. The action occasionally lags, but overall The Bell Witch is an outstanding take on a uniquely American ghost story that I would highly recommend.

Taff recently announced a new novella collection for Grey Matter Press titled The End in All Beginnings and two rewritten novels titled The Exterminator and The Orpheus Box for Books of the Dead Press and to say these are highly anticipated would be an understatement.

Rating: 4/5

Links

John F.D. Taff’s Official Website

Books of the Dead Press

Purchase The Bell Witch on Amazon

orchard

Nicole Cushing’s story, The Orchard of Hanging Trees, recently landed in my inbox courtesy of Dark Fuse Magazine, a weekly magazine from dark fiction publisher Dark Fuse. I have been familiar with Dark Fuse for some time, but only recently discovered they published a weekly magazine. Now I am scolding myself for not exploring their website sooner, as the magazine sends out  content from its talented authors that range from short stories to essays about the inspirations for their work that are must-read’s for any horror literature fan.

The story opens with a scene in Hell in an orchard of trees that give birth to embryos of souls that are to spend their time being tortured by hanging for all eternity. The story is told by an unnamed narrator who is employed by Hell and yet does not see itself as a monster, despite being referred to as “Demon”. The narrator does not wish to be in its position, but is forced to take care of these trees as punishment because it failed to prevent suffering in its human life.

The narrator must tend to the trees to prolong the suffering of the trees’ “fruit” and a failure to do so results in expulsion from Hell. This may seem like a gift, but the alternative is being cast into a black void of nothingness, where everything ceases to exist. The demon is given a chance to free the souls it tortures throughout the story, but struggles with the decision.

The Orchard of Hanging Trees is an exquisitely written short story chock full of dark imagery and a twist ending that packs a punch. I did some digging on the origins of this story, and it appears it was an unpublished story written in 2012 that was posted on Thomas Ligotti online and featured on horror fiction podcast, Pseudopod.

I have never read any of Cushing’s other works, but after reading The Orchard of Hanging Trees, it is clear Cushing is a masterful storyteller and is an author horror fans need to be reading.  Her two Dark Fuse novellas, I Am The New God and Children of No One, have rocketed straight to my “must-read” list.

Links

Laughing At The Abyss – Nicole Cushing’s official site

Dark Fuse Magazine

Dark Fuse’s Official Site

 

The long and brutal winter where I live seems to have finally come to an end! Believe it or not, summer is just around the corner, and I can’t wait! I have an extended vacation from work and that means a lot more free time for reading some awesome horror books. In celebration, I wanted to start gathering some of my most anticipated reads that are scheduled to hit shelves this summer. I will be listing these in a few installments, featuring anywhere from 3-5 novels at a time, for a few reasons. The most important one being that I am constantly discovering books I want to read, so I don’t want to leave any out! Here are the first three books that made my list!

mrmercedes

Stephen King “Mr. Mercedes”(June 3, 2014) from Scribner

This list just wouldn’t be the same without a title from one of my favorite horror authors of all-time! King has two books planned for the rest of 2014 and Mr. Mercedes is the first one up. Mr. Mercedes focuses on retired cop Bill Hodges who is still haunted by the unsolved crime that happened a few months prior in which a person drove a stolen Mercedes into a crowd of people and intentionally ran them down. Hodges is drawn from retirement and his depression after the killer sends  him a letter threatening an even more horrific attack.

I have loved King’s recent steps outside of horror – 11/22/63 and Joyland were phenomenal – and I can’t wait to see the surprises King has in store with this one!

Pre-order

montauk-monster-cover

Hunter Shea “The Montauk Monster” (June 3, 2014) from Pinnacle

The Montauk Monster is the first thriller novel from horror writer Hunter Shea and after reading the synopsis, I can’t wait to get my hands on this book! I have always had a huge interest in cryptids and remember being completely baffled by the remains that washed up along  the shores of Montauk back in the summer of 2008. Theories ranged from a turtle without a shell all the way to a failed experiment from a government research facility before being determined by many to be the carcass of a raccoon.

In The Montauk Monster, Shea utilizes the failed genetic experiment angle to craft a story that seems absolutely terrifying. I mean, this book has it all! Creepy monsters? Check. Shadowy, top-secret projects from the government? Check. One thing is for certain after reading the synopsis of this book. Seeing how there is not just one but MANY of these creatures terrorizing the residents of Montauk, I will probably be afraid to ever step foot in the water again, fictitious story or not!

Pre-order

Vagrants-The72lg

Brian Moreland The Vagrants (June 3, 2014) from Samhain Horror

Brian Moreland’s new novella for Samhain, The Vagrants,  focuses on journalist Daniel Finley and the fallout from his most recent book that outs a sinister underground cult he encountered while spending six months in Boston’s underground writing an article on the homeless. The cult is after him because of his book and when you combine that with his attempt to save his father from mobsters, The Vagrants is guaranteed to be an action-packed adventure you will want to read!

Pre-order

 

thebirdeater

BOOK INFO

Publisher: 47North

Length: 278 Pages

The Bird Eater focuses on Aaron Holbrook, a character who has experienced nothing but tragedy throughout his life. His mother died when he was only sixteen months old, his aunt died when he was fourteen, and recently lost his only son, Ryder, in a car accident.  The loss of his son causes him to spiral into addiction and leads to the crumbling of his marriage to his wife, Evangeline.  His therapist suggests he head back to his childhood home in Ironwood, Arkansas as a way to work on himself and attempt to piece his life back together after the tragic death of his son.

Things seem to be slowly turning around for Aaron as he reconnects with his childhood best friend Eric Banner and first love Cheri Vaughn and begins repairing the Holbrook House, which has fallen into disrepair due to the neighborhood kids who frequently broke into the house to get a glimpse of the  ghost that is rumored to haunt the property. However, things quickly begin falling apart for Aaron. He is frequently hearing strange noises coming from within the house and begins finding piles of dead birds in the living room. Aaron does not believe in the paranormal when he first returns to Ironwood and suspects he is being tormented by the town’s residents, but when his terrifying nightmares slowly bleed into reality and he is stalked by a mysterious young boy that only he can see, Aaron begins to realize their may be some truth behind the terrifying rumors associated with his childhood home.

I have been a huge fan of Ania Ahlborn’s work ever since I stumbled across her demonic horror debut Seed on Amazon and her ability to craft an elegantly written yet scary as hell story has reached new heights with The Bird Eater. Her depiction of Aaron’s slow descent into madness due to the combination of overwhelming grief that has dominated his life and the haunting visions that come from living in the Holbrook House again is extraordinary. After experiencing so much heartache and tragedy, I couldn’t help but root for Aaron to overcome his crippling addictions and get his life back on track even as he slipped further away from reality.

The Bird Eater is a bleak and chilling tale that is an absolute must read for any horror fan. Shortly after the release of the novel, Publishers Weekly announced Ahlborn has signed a deal with Simon & Schuster’s Gallery books for three novels and two e-novellas. That is absolutely huge news and I think it goes without saying that I will be looking forward to her future works. I know the year is still fairly new, but Ania Ahlborn’s The Bird Eater has already cemented a place in my list of best horror reads of 2014.

Rating: 5/5

Ania Ahlborn’s Official Website

Purchase on Amazon

 

 

 

THE-END-NEW-COVER

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Self-published

Length: 78 pages

The End is the debut short story from author Adam M. Booth and is the first person account of Zoe, a thirty-something single mother who unwittingly becomes caught in the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse when she goes to pick up her daughter at the train station. As she is driving toward the bus station, she sees a man sprawled out in the street, dragging himself across the pavement and covered in blood. When Zoe calls for an ambulance and is only greeted by a gurgling sound, that one line of dialogue serves as a bone chilling indication of the events to come.

The End features plenty of traditional zombie thrills, complete with shambling hordes that are hellbent on nothing more than feasting on humans, but the real highlight of the story is in the author’s choice of point of view. Focusing on Zoe, who eventually becomes one of the living dead herself, allows Booth an opportunity to examine zombie mythology in a fresh way. Often times when I am reading a zombie novel, I find myself asking the same questions every single time. Are these things still considered human? Are they aware of what they are or are they just mindless killing machines that are only driven by the biological impulse to feed? Booth answers these questions in The End and rather than ruining the story by giving too much away, it makes the story even better by raising a host of other questions.

I don’t want to spoil the story by posting too many details here as The End is a brisk read at 78 pages, but Booth does an excellent job weaving in bits and pieces of Zoe’s human life with her journey as a zombie to show she was capable of just as much evil before her transformation. The ending gives a pretty unique explanation for the cause of the outbreak along with Zoe’s fate and made me wish that The End was a full-length novel so that Booth would have been able to flesh out these sections a little bit more.

Booth’s writing style is very poetic and makes for some particularly gripping scenes when he describes Zoe’s transformation and her bodies slow degradation throughout the course of the novel. However, his occasional use of quick sentences and poetry inspired structure may not be for everyone. There are also a few minor errors in The End, but none that significantly impacted my enjoyment of the story.

Booth is currently working on Alison, a gothic horror story about an isolated woman and her descent into madness. After reading and enjoying The End, I can’t wait to see what other novels Booth has in store!

Rating: 4/5

Adam M. Booth’s Official website

Purchase on Amazon

 

 

horrorbookshelf

Welcome to The Horror Bookshelf! This is a project I am extremely happy to announce as it has been something I have been wanting to do for a long time now and I have finally taken the plunge! I have always been a huge fan of horror novels and this blog is my way of giving back to the extremely talented writers who have created the books I enjoy reading and connecting with other horror fans.

I encourage you to check out the “About” page to learn a little more about what The Horror Bookshelf is all about and feel free to contact me on Twitter at .

The firsts two reviews I have planned are for Adam M. Booth’s zombie short story The End and Ania Ahlborn’s bleak new offering The Bird Eater. I hope you enjoy the blog!

-Rich