Archive for June, 2014

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from author Hunter Shea, who recently released his excellent new novel The Montauk Monster through Kensington/Pinnacle. If you are like me and consider yourself a huge cryptid fan, trust me when I say this is one book you will absolutely want to add to your collection! I am a huge fan of Hunter’s work and excited to have him as a guest on the site. Check out his post below to learn more about The Montauk Monster and his thoughts on beach reads!

montauk monster

What, exactly is a beach read?

I was just at my local bookstore and saw a row of shelves under the banner: Great Beach Reads. Truth be told, most of them were geared towards female readers, with a lot of book club recommendation stickers on the covers. Do they think guys don’t read while soaking in the sun? Do we just check out the sports page in the newspaper, tuck it away, slip on our shades and watch the bikinis traipse on by?

Okay, plenty of guys do exactly that. But a great many others read actual books. So when it comes to deciding what to pack in the ol’ beach bag, how does one choose?

Beach reading to me is something light. When you have your toes in the sand and the surf is churning, you want an ice-cold Corona in your hand, not a pint of Guinness. When you’re hungry and you look into the picnic basket, some chilled fried chicken and fruit hits the spot, not a plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

The same goes with a summer beach read. Crime and Punishment is NOT a beach read (though by all means, read it – a classic that you can’t put down). The theme is too heavy, like that meatloaf and Guinness. Jurassic Park was a great beach read when it came out. It was fun and fascinating and fast as hell once the dinosaurs got loose. Any book by Tess Gerritsen is a great beach read – superbly written mysteries that will make you forget to turn before you burn. War and Peace was demonstrated not to be a good beach read in the Jimmy Stewart movie, Mr. Hobbes Takes a Vacation. Every time he sat in the sand to read it, there was a distraction, and you can’t keep track of all those Russian names unless the book has your undivided attention.

Heavy. Light. The weight of words and ideas. These are the things that form the boundaries of beach and non-beach reads.

When I sat down to write my latest book, The Montauk Monster, knowing it was going to come out in June, I had the words beach read in the forefront of my mind. I wanted to create something that provided chills and thrills, a trip on the rollercoaster by the boardwalk. And if it was going to be a beach read, why not set it in a beach town like Montauk? Throw in some monsters and government conspiracy and let the good times roll. It’s not Crime and Punishment, but that’s because it was never meant to be. It’s a beaded bottle of Modelo and a slice of watermelon, the scent of coconut heavy in the air. The Montauk Monster is best read under a beach umbrella, the gentle roll of the surf in the distance. Just be wary of what you see out of the corner of your eye.

Was that a dog coming out of the water? Or was it something else? Push your shades up the bridge of your nose and keep reading. Everyone knows monsters are allergic to sunscreen.

ABOUT HUNTER SHEA

Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea is the author of paranormal and horror novels Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal and Sinister Entity, which are all published by Samhain Horror. The June 3, 2014 release of his horrifying thriller Montauk Monster is published by Kensington/Pinnacle.

He has also written a short story to be read prior to Sinister Entity, called The Graveyard Speaks (it’s free, go download!), and a book of stories called Asylum Scrawls. His next book from Samhain Horror, titled Hell Hole, is set to come out in August 2014 and is his first western horror.

His work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales, and the upcoming anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror. His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists, and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on.

He is also half of the two men show, Monster Men, which is a video podcast that takes a fun look at the world of horror. You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at www.huntershea.com, on Twitter @HunterShea1, Facebook fan page at Hunter Shea or the Monster Men 13 channel on YouTube.

eiabadvance_panelcover

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Length: 319 Pages

John F.D. Taff’s The End In All Beginnings was easily one of my most anticipated reads of the summer ever since it was announced in late April by Grey Matter Press. The collection of five new novellas from Taff made its debut at this years World Horror Convention  months before its late summer scheduled release date, but I was unfortunately unable to attend. I thought I would have to wait a few more months to snag a copy, so I was ecstatic when Grey Matter Press made a few of the autographed Special Advance Edition copies available for order on their website.

The cover of The End In All Beginnings describes the novellas as “emotional horrors” and I think that term sums them perfectly with their focus on themes like love, life and death. The collection’s first story, “What Becomes God”, is a perfect introduction to the emotional wringer the reader is about to go through. Focusing on a boy named Brian, “What Becomes God” is a heartbreaking tale that shows the lengths a person will go to in order to try to save their friend. Taff does an excellent job of capturing childhood in this story, detailing how Brian would spend all day outside until dinner during the summer playing kickball, exploring the woods and generally spending the entire day hanging out with friends. The story grabbed me immediately because these scenes reminded me of how I spent my childhood and Taff captures that feeling of magical freedom perfectly.

Even without the dark twist toward the end of the story, “What Becomes God” is pretty terrifying. I was telling my wife about the story (before I made it to the story’s plot twist) and she said something along the lines of “That doesn’t sound like horror, I thought you said it was a horror book?” While everyone is entitled to their own opinion as to what constitutes horror, my immediate response was what is scarier than facing death at a young age and being powerless to do anything?

One of the things that makes The End In All Beginnings such a great collection is Taff’s ability to take familiar horror creatures and inject new life into them with brilliant twists. “Love In The Time Of Zombies” is an absolute must-read for any zombie fan as Taff manages to break new ground while still keeping the blood, guts and everything else people love about zombies intact. Taff also blends in some science-fiction with “Visitation”, a powerful story that puts an original spin on the traditional ghost story.

Picking a favorite from The End In All Beginnings is virtually impossible, but if I were forced to choose right now, I would have to go with  “The Long, Long Breakdown”. Detailing the life of a father and his daughter in a post-apocalyptic Florida in which flood waters have devastated the area, Taff paints a portrait of a parent-child relationship that instantly reminded me of the emotional narrative of one of my favorite novels, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. While the post-apocalyptic setting will appeal to fans of the genre, the real power comes from the portrayal of how even when society has changed forever, the dynamic between a parent and their child remains the same.

This is truly one of the best collection of novellas I have read in a while and will definitely be in the running for one of my favorite reads of the year. I feel like this collection will not only appeal to horror fans, but could interest readers of just about any genre. So, whether you are looking for introduction to the world of horror or are already a seasoned horror fanatic, you will definitely want to give The End In All Beginnings a read!

Rating: 5/5

Links

John F.D. Taff’s Official Website

Grey Matter Press’ Official Website

Order The End In All Beginnings – Special Advance Edition (These are limited and come signed by the author, so order one soon before they sell out!)

montauk monster

I am super excited to announce that I have been asked to join the blog tour for Hunter Shea’s newest novel, The Montauk Monster! This is my first time participating in a blog tour and I am honored to be joining some other great horror sites and authors on this one. The tour is already under way and I highly recommend checking out the first few posts if you haven’t already. Here is what I had to say about The Montauk Monster in the first installment of “Most Anticipated Summer Reads:

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!

I will be featuring a guest post from Hunter on June 28th and a review on July 18th, so I hope you will swing on by and take part in my stop on the blog tour. A huge thank you to Erin Al-Mehairi of Oh, for the Hook of a Book!, Hunter Shea and Kensington Pinnacle for inviting me along for the ride!

Be sure to check out the main tour page to check out all the dates and for information on a special promo for The Montauk Monster!

milkblood

Publisher: Wicked Run Press

Release Date: July 9, 2014

Length: 157 Pages

Submitted by the author for review

Synopsis: Lilly is ten years old, born with a heart defect, and already addicted to heroin. Her mother is gone from her life, and there are rumors that she was killed by her father and buried near the abandoned house across the street. The house intrigues her, she can’t stay away, and the monstrous homeless man who lives there has been trying to get Lilly to come inside.

For her mother is there, buried in the back, and this homeless man is Lilly’s true father, and both want their daughter back.

Milk-Blood is the newest horror novel from author Mark Matthews and focuses on Lily, a young girl who lost her mother and was born with a heart defect that made her stand out from the other kids. Lily lives on a street called Brentwood, a dangerous part of Detroit that is filled with abandoned, burned-out homes and drug dealers. Anyone that has ever lived in or near a big city knows what these sections of towns are like. The news often reports the real-life horror stories of murders, theft and every other crime imaginable and for a lot of us, that is the extent of our exposure. However, with Milk-Blood, Matthews places the reader right in the middle of one of these neighborhoods and offers a vivid look at the daily struggles of Lily and her family.

Lily’s father, Zach, is dependent on the grandmother’s food stamps in order to keep the family functioning. Often times throughout the novel, characters are constantly stating that they just need to make it until the first of the month and everything will be fine, for a few weeks at least. These characters are fighting for their survival on a daily basis and it requires a delicate balancing act.

After reading Matthews’ previous novel, On The Lips of Children, I remember praising the way he brought the characters to life and his strong characterization definitely carries over into Milk-Blood. Zach is an interesting character due in part to his ambiguous sense of morality. He has done a lot of horrible things, but it’s hard to paint him as an entirely bad person. His dark past has cost people their lives and yet he raises Lily – a child that is not his own – the best he can and cares for his elderly mother, fighting to do whatever it takes to keep them safe. His attempts at doing the right thing does not offset the horrors he has inflicted, but it does make him a unique and interesting character.

I also loved the way Matthews’ portrays Lily’s home-life by utilizing a brief interaction with a school counselor to really hammer home the struggles Lily faces on a daily basis. The counselor begins to ask Lily questions about her home-life, but then becomes distracted and in this brief moment we get an idea of who Lily is and how she was raised. Lily uses this interruption to formulate a response and reminds herself not to mention how they use the stove to heat the home when the heat is shut off or how her dad hits walls when he is angry.

The real-life horrors depicted in Milk-Blood are enough to scare you, but when Matthews introduces the mentally ill heroin addict Jervis and adds in a dash of the supernatural, the story becomes downright terrifying. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say the last three chapters of Milk-Blood are guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat!

A few weeks ago I called Milk-Blood one of my “most anticipated summer reads” and now that I’ve read it, it far surpassed the hype I had built up in my mind. Milk-Blood is an incredibly powerful story and is one of the most original horror novels I have read in years. I highly recommend picking up a copy when it is released early next month, you won’t be disappointed!

Rating: 5/5

Links

Mark Matthews’ Official Website

Mark Matthews’ Amazon Page

Purchase Milk-Blood on Amazon

darkvisions2

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Length: 320 Pages

Dark Visions – Volume Two is the companion piece to the 2013 Stoker Award nominated Dark Visions – Volume One and features 14 more stories that explore the dark corners of the imagination . Now, if you have already read my reviews for the stellar first volume and Ominous Realities, you already know that I am a huge fan of Grey Matter Press and the anthologies they have released. I decided to dive into Dark Visions – Volume Two the same way I approached the other anthologies in Grey Matter Press’ impressive library of dark fiction – completely in the dark and avoiding the individual story summaries that give clues as to what to expect. The main thing I love about these anthologies is each story begins in a very realistic manner, drawing the reader in with the comfort of the familiar. As you read each story, however, you just know something terrifying is lurking in the shadows and the blind journey into each story’s dark twist is an exhilarating thrill-ride.

If you would like to follow the same journey, all you need to know is that Dark Visions – Volume Two is a diverse collection of highly entertaining and well-written dark fiction that comes with my highest recommendation and will be a welcome addition to your horror library. That being said, if you are the type of reader who can’t resist flipping ahead in a book and skimming a few passages before you start reading, allow me to introduce you to my favorite stories from this excellent collection!

“Moonlighting” by Chad McKee is the story of two New York City stockbrokers who seemingly have everything they could ever want, yet they feel bored by the mundane routines of their everyday lives. That all changes with the introduction of “The Game”; a dark series of objectives that begin with little more than a location and a time. “The Game” adds the jolt of excitement the two characters have been chasing, but at what cost?

“Moonlighting” is a thrilling story that while utilizing a mysterious group, focuses more on the evil that lurks within the characters. I loved the intricacies that went into building the background of “The Game” and the group known as “The Men With No Faces”. I expected the organization as being the main source of evil, but McKee’s portrayal of the participants and their motives make the story even more frightening. Sure, they are given instructions and monitored by guards at first, but the participants ultimately make their own choices and those choices are the sources of horror that drive “Moonlighting”.

“The Elementals and I” by C.M. Saunders is a unique story told from the perspective of an executive for a  pharmaceutical company who manufactures drugs that are supposed to combat psychological illnesses. His company develops a drug called Pirifinil, a drug which was supposed to improve cognitive function and reduce fatigue. The drug had all the makings of a huge financial breakthrough because who can resist the allure of becoming a better version of themselves? However, the human trials uncover a side effect of Pirifinil that has horrifying consequences for those who take the drug.

I was absolutely riveted by Saunders’ story of psychological horror and immediately thought of all the drug commercials that list side effects that seem as bad, if not worse, than the ailments they are supposed to prevent. Saunders takes this unsettling side of the pharmaceutical industry and uses it to create a truly creepy story that blurs the line between what is real and what is being caused by the drug. There is one question that has been nagging me since I finished “The Elementals and I”: I wonder what it would take to convince Saunders to reveal The Elementals’ explanation of what killed the dinosaurs!

David Murphy’s “Water, Some Of It Deep” is an atmospheric tale that derives its strength from Murphy’s excellent characterization and depiction of the rocky friendship between the narrator and Henry. “Water, Some Of It Deep” is a chilling read because it serves as a reminder that evil is not always easy to detect, sometimes it lurks within the person you would least expect.

Grey Matter Press editors Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson once again use their uncanny ability to discover engaging stories that have a universal appeal to dark fiction readers. Keep an eye out for their upcoming releases The End In All Beginnings (a collection of five new novellas from John F.D. Taff) and the recently announced Equilibrium Overturned anthology, you won’t want to miss these titles!

Rating: 5/5

Grey Matter Press’ Official Website

List of authors and stories featured in Dark Visions – Volume Two

Purchase Dark Visions – Volume Two on Amazon