Archive for August, 2014

tearstone

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Belfire Press

Length: 244 Pages

Copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

David L. Day’s debut novel Tearstone is a tricky one to easily summarize in the context of a review. Rather than focus most of his attention on a single character, Day writes from numerous characters point of view. There is Tom, who returns home to Washington Heights shortly after the suicide of his father. Elana, the town’s elderly librarian who is driven largely by her faith. Shane, a disturbed child who becomes a force of evil later in the novel. Kyle, Tom’s brother who tries to drown his guilt from a dark family secret with copious bottles of booze and flings with random women who remind him of his ex, Alissa. Cassy Fielding, a deputy in the Washington Heights police force who is consumed with finding out the truth behind her cousin Alissa’s disappearance many years ago. Dorthea, a pregnant woman who seems out-of-place at first, but later becomes a central focal point of the novel after her back story is revealed.  Not only do these characters drive the narrative of the present, but Day fleshes out the novel’s back story with flashbacks from Tom and Kyle’s father Lewis, the first person to encounter the mysterious stone.

I liked that Day took a chance with the structure of his novel, abandoning a linear plot in favor of a more fluid approach. The story jumps between past and present and changes viewpoints frequently, which adds a layer of suspense to some of the novel’s central mysteries such as what happened to Alissa, why Tom fled his home years ago and the importance of Dorthea’s pregnancy. However, while this approach helped strengthen certain plot points, it hindered others. The history behind the stone and the identity of the mysterious old man who appears not long after Tom gains possession of the stone fall apart as the novel progresses. The stone is meant to be mysterious, but without much of its background explained, its presence does not feel quite as ominous as it should. Why did it appear in Washington Heights, a small town in Ohio, of all places? What is its overall purpose?

While the unanswered aspects of Tearstone hinder the novel, it is still a very entertaining story overall. I love that Day chose a small town setting and focused on the darkness contained within its residents. I am as big a fan of supernatural forces as anyone, but there is something even more unsettling about the force itself not really displaying itself as an all-powerful entity. Instead, the stone manipulates people to reveal their darkest thoughts and desires and turns them slightly crazy. The novel starts off kind of slow, but when the stone makes its appearance in town, the horror is off the charts. The residents begin committing horrific crimes, strange shadows appear in the local diner and there are a string of mysterious miscarriages. These events prove that something sinister is happening in Washington Heights and it all seems connected to the stone Tom inherited from his father.

Despite a few missteps, Tearstone is an entertaining debut and I will definitely be looking forward to reading more of Day’s work in the future (which hopefully includes more stories set in the Tearstone universe!)

Rating: 3.5/5

LINKS

David L. Day’s Official Website

Belfire Press’ Official Website

Purchase Tearstone on Amazon

savagebeasts

Grey Matter Press is currently accepting submissions for an upcoming anthology tentatively titled Savage Beasts. They are looking for previously unpublished works of dark fiction that have been inspired by music. I have been tweeting the link for this since it was announced at the end of July, but I wanted to do a post here for any of my readers who don’t use Twitter. If you are interested in learning more about the anthology or are interested in submitting your work, head on over to their website for the detailed submission guidelines.

Now, anyone who has read any of my reviews knows how much I love Grey Matter Press, so it goes without saying that I will be looking forward to this anthology. As an avid music listener and occasional music journalist , I was REALLY excited when I read that the theme was going to be centered around music. Just when I didn’t think I could love Grey Matter Press any more, they announce an anthology that contains two of my favorite things in the world. I can’t wait to read the stories that make it into Savage Beasts and figure out what pieces of music inspired the stories! I know it’s probably a long shot, but hopefully someone submits a story inspired by The Toadies “Possum Kingdom”. I always thought that song would make a killer story!

curseofthechupacabra

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Night After Night Publications

Length: 308 Pages

Copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

Curse of the Chupacabra is the follow-up to Hebler’s debut novel, Night of the Chupacabra, and picks up shortly after the devastating events in Dillmore Valley. This time around Hebler focuses on the journey of Suzanne and Jessie, two of the few survivors of that fateful night. In Night of the Chupacabra, Suzanne makes a promise to take Jessie and brothers Danny and Norman to San Francisco in order to start a new life and attempt to put the horrific memories of the chupacabra behind them. However, Suzanne is seized with doubt and thinks that she is unfit to raise the three children by herself due to her past as a prostitute and thief. Danny and Norman have already been sent to live with a new family in New York, and now Suzanne and Jessie are on their way to meet a family in Virginia City.

Suzanne is also traumatized by nightmares as a result of her previous encounter with the infamous chupacabra. Jessie is handed over to the Hutchinson’s, but any sense of normalcy is quickly shattered as the chupacabra appears in Virginia City and attacks Jessie’s new family. Meanwhile, Suzanne is introduced to a man named James Carter, an actor in the company Evelyn Diamond and the Rowdy Players. James has a mysterious past, and Suzanne must quickly decide whether she can trust this man after some terrifying incidents early in the novel. Jessie is able to escape the Hutchinson’s with her life and reunite with Suzanne, who then head off to San Francisco with the Rowdy Players, eager to put as much distance between themselves and the beast as possible. The trip west is filled with dangers as the group faces illness and the chupacabra manages to track them down, resulting in a startling conclusion.

While I really enjoyed continuing the mystery of the mystery of the mythical cryptid in Curse of the Chupacabra, its first half didn’t quite capture my attention as quickly as the  Night of the Chupacabra did. The first half leans more toward the traditional Western genre and  focuses mainly on Suzanne and Jessie with only brief mentions of the chupacabra. There are still elements of danger that play out through these early chapters, but it seemed to lack the same energy of the first novel. This also could be because the passengers on the train – the first setting in the book – don’t have the same strong personalities as the residents of Dillmore Valley. That being said, the second half of the novel where the chupacabra returns in full force is excellent and also re-introduces some familiar faces from the first book in the series.

I also want to take a moment and say that Jessie continues to be far and away my favorite character of the series thus far. She is a fiery character who displays toughness and ingenuity and has the most personality of any of the characters in my opinion. Despite being only 12-years old, I feel like she is the one most equipped to deal with the dangers posed by the chupacabra and life on the run. She is totally self-reliant and gets her and Suzanne out of plenty of jams based on her pickpocketing skills.

Curse of the Chupacabra is another entertaining installment in Hebler’s series on the monster and ends with an interesting twist that promises more exciting novels ahead. If you have not already read any of Hebler’s books, I recommend checking out the series and giving it a try starting with Night of the Chupacabra. If you have an interest in the Western/horror genre and cryptids, this is a series worth checking out. The third book, Legend of the Chupacabra, was recently released at the end of July.

Rating: 3.5/5

LINKS

Michael Hebler’s Official Website

Purchase Curse of the Chupacabra and the rest of the Chupacabra books on Amazon

stringdiaries

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Mulholland Books

Length: 432 Pages

eARC provided by Netgalley for honest review

The String Diaries – the thrilling debut novel from Stephen Lloyd Jones – is not a pure horror novel, but rather borrows a little bit from a variety of genres.  I recently listed it as one of my “Most Anticipated Summer Reads” based off nothing but the official synopsis, which was more than enough to capture my attention. I said it would be a book that would rule my life the minute I start it and my prediction was confirmed the moment I started reading .

The String Diaries kicks off with a bang as Hannah Wilde races through the night trying to make it to Snowdonia, Wales ahead of a mysterious pursuer with her husband slumped in the passenger seat quickly losing blood from a horrific attack and her young daughter sleeping in the back. The family is being hunted by a centuries-old monster and they are armed with little more than a bundle of old diaries that have been handed down throughout the centuries detailing ways to help combat their enemy. What follows is an intense struggle for survival where Hannah must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to protect her family and put an end to a curse that has spanned centuries.

One of the things I was most excited about was the sprawling timeline that makes up the novel. I love books that are not afraid to explore different settings and time periods because it allows the author the freedom to craft a rich history that can add an interesting dimension to a story.  The book starts off with a bang in the present day, but throughout the course of the novel Jones jumps around to Oxford in the 1970s and Hungary at the turn of the 19th century. Sometimes jumping around in time can create a serious continuity problem and jeopardize the momentum built up throughout the course of the novel. However, Jones transports the reader through time with ease and never loses the thread of the story by giving a brief but natural summary at the start of each chapter when returning from a switch in time. The time jumps are not simply about providing background information, although they certainly do that, they are also entertaining story lines in their own right. None of these alternate story threads feels like a bore and each one offers their own central mystery which helps keep the reader engaged.

The main adversary of the novel is another strong point in this book. I want to avoid spoilers, so the only information I will give comes straight from the publisher in their original summary of the novel: “A family is hunted by a centuries-old monster..” The idea behind the force that is haunting Hannah Wilde and her family is pure genius. The basis of the antagonist has appeared in horror before, but Jones uses a bit of Hungarian folklore that I have never seen used before and it helped add a little bit of originality to the plot. I also found it interesting that despite the pure evil displayed by the antagonist, there were times where I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of empathy for him. This small bit of humanization makes him a much more complex and interesting adversary.

The String Diaries is an incredibly entertaining book with plenty of surprises that invite marathon reading sessions. If you liked Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian or Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle, there is a good chance you will love The String Diaries! Stephen Lloyd Jones is an exciting new author worth keeping an eye on.

I have seen interviews that he has a sequel planned for The String Diaries, so that is definitely an early contender for one of my most anticipated reads of 2015!

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Stephen Lloyd Jones’ Official Website

Mulholland Books Official Website

Purchase The String Diaries on Amazon

 

Hell Hole

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Length: 282 Pages

Copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

Hell Hole is the story of former Rough Rider and current New York City Cop Nat Blackburn and his journey on a mission from his old war pal, President Theodore Roosevelt. The mission is seemingly simple: head to a little town called Hecla in Wyoming. Roosevelt tells Nat that the town was a huge source of copper and other minerals, causing it to explode in growth overnight. However, the copper veins eventually dried up and Hecla collapsed, despite rumors of gold being found in the mines. Not only did the town’s prosperity fall apart, but the residents of Hecla disappeared without a trace. Naturally, Nat thinks it is because of something easily explainable like Indians scaring off the settlers, who they see as intruders on their land. Roosevelt dashes that theory when he reports that he sent a troop to investigate and they reported that even the Indians were terrified of the desolate town. To make matters worse, shortly after their report, the squad disappeared without a trace. So, with that, Roosevelt enlists Nat to head to Hecla in order to find out what is going on and how to best extract the gold from the hills for a fledgling United States that desperately needs more wealth. When Nat and his longtime friend Teta arrive in Hecla, it becomes clear that their mission is anything but simple and there is something evil lurking in the abandoned mines of the town.

Shea blends all of the best action elements of the western genre with the sinister edge of horror to create a book that is an absolute blast to read and impossible to put down. What makes all of Hunter’s stories so enjoyable is that he does not waste any time bringing you right into the action, giving you a glimpse of the evil waiting deep within Hecla’s caves within the very first chapter. Even when we learn the backstories of the characters and the town, there is no lull in the intrigue that drives Hell Hole. By giving a lot of the background from Nat’s point of view, these little tidbits are every bit as interesting as the main plot.

The characters in Hell Hole are, simply put, awesome. Nat and Teta are two no-nonsense badasses that forged a life-long friendship during their time in war together fighting Spain. Their friendship feels very realistic and it is obvious that they would literally follow each other to hell and back. What makes them my favorite characters is that despite the adversity they face in Hecla, they not only don’t give up, they relish the challenge. There are moments where they are terrified by what they see happening around them, but instead of tucking their tails between their legs and heading home, they use the hardships they encounter as fuel in order to destroy the source of the evil in Hecla.

Not only were the action sequences  awesome and highly entertaining, but from a horror standpoint, Hell Hole is everything you could possibly want. I mean the story is jam-packed with a host of horrifying entities including extremely creepy children with black eyes, Bigfoot-esque creatures and others that I don’t want to spoil for those who have yet to read the novel. Hell Hole comes with my highest recommendation and is a great starting point for those interested in checking out Hunter’s work. This story begs to be up on the big screen, so if by some small chance any movie producers are out there reading this, give Hunter a call!

Rating: 5/5

Links:

Hunter Shea’s Official Website

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase Hell Hole on Amazon