Posts Tagged ‘review’

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BOOK INFO

Length: 232 Pages

Publisher: EyeCue Productions/The Sinister Horror Company 

Release Date: July 25, 2016

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

I have heard a lot of great things about Duncan Bradshaw’s work and the independent publishing company he helped found, The Sinister Horror Company, so I was excited to join the blog tour for his latest novel Hexagram. Hexagram is an interesting novel because it is made up of six distinct stories that take place over many centuries. The novel starts off with a prologue of sorts that is ironically titled, Journey’s End. This opening features a father and his young daughter making a perilous climb up the side of a mountain, racing to the summit for something. There is green vapor swirling around the top and as their energy starts to fade, they wonder if they will ever reach the top.  Behind them, they can hear sounds of torment and claws down below which helps them press forward. When they reach the top, they see other groups of people who made the same journey watching the stars too.

This beginning is kind of confusing, but at the same time, I couldn’t imagine it starting any other way. It helped me invest in the story because I had so many unanswered questions swirling in my head like “Where are these people from?” and “What is the significance of the journey?” It mentions they had to survive a journey and six trials to get there and I would have loved to hear about those sections! The little girl asks her father which star is hers and he replies for her to be patient, it is yet to be born. With that, Bradshaw begins to take readers on a windy, joy ride that spans centuries and offers a look at a variety of different situations and people. The easiest way to talk about Hexagram is to take a look at each individual sections, so I broke down what I liked about each section and then added my thoughts on the novel as a whole at the end.

Cuzco, former Inca Empire March 4, 1538

The first story opens with a man named Matias, who is wasted and on his way to his barracks after a night on the town. Stumbling home after a night with Palla, he runs into a group of mysterious priests who knock him out. When he wakes up, he is tied up in a cave with the priests preparing him for some sort of ritual. He is restrained and after they anoint him with a greasy liquid, the horrific ritual begins. Bradshaw displays a lot of great detail in this ritual scene and readers can feel the terror Matias experiences in the cave. Bradshaw makes readers cringe with simple, descriptive lines like, “Further waves of pain washed over him as nodules of bone were scored and clusters of dense nerve endings severed”. It is lines like these that prove Bradshaw definitely isn’t going to shy away from violence and there are plenty of gruesome scenes here that will appeal to readers who don’t mind a little blood and gore in their horror.

In the midst of the sacrifice, there is a battle of ideologies that unfolds between two priests in the religious order, Poma and Amaru. They share the goal of raising the sun-god Inti, to use against the conquistadors, but they have differing opinions on what tactics to use. Poma only wants to sacrifice pure Inca people, but Amaru insists his way is faster,  and will also get them revenge against those who have come to their land and destroyed everything they hold dear.

Rodrigo Quintaro is the leader of conquistadors and he is shocked when his men find Matias, completely hollowed out, hanging from a belfry at Santo Domingo. Despite there calls for blood and vengeance, Rodrigo does not want to go on a war path as he only cares about one thing – his quest for El Dorado and grabbing up as much gold as he can. Unfortunately, it is this greed that leads Rodrigo and his men into a deadly showdown that sets off a chain of events that will last for centuries.

While Hexagram may sort of seem like a mash-up of a few genres, there is no denying this is a horror novel. One of my favorite scenes in this story is when one Incans were sacrificed and should have been dead, she sits bolt upright and screams. Had this been a movie, I probably would have rocketed out of my seat! There are also some truly awesome fight scenes between the conquistadors and priests as they go back and forth trying to kill each other off. This is a great story to kick off the collection and there is hardly a dull moment.

Presidio Santa Maria de Galve Pensacola, Florida 1716

This story is written in a confessional style format from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who is accused of horrific crimes. He was the captain of a ship that was tasked with retrieving treasure from the new world, but the ship went through a terrible storm that killed a lot of his men and left them stranded in the new world. While this story ultimately picks up steam later on, I thought it started off kind of slow.

After a few days spent adjusting to their surroundings, the stranded sailors took to living in caves and there is now only 37 of them out of the 112 that originally worked on the ship. They are barely clinging to life when they begin getting attacked by the Native Americans, who impale the head of one of the crew on a spike to send a message. The crew has been living in caves and the fear of suffering more gruesome displays of violence begins to drive them crazy. The natives psychologically torture the narrator and his men and when they finally come face to face, the leader of the native presents them with the scalps of his men, setting the stage for war. The war ultimately leads the narrator to find information about the rituals introduced earlier in the novel and allows this knowledge to consume him.

This story marks one mans descent into madness and depravity as he begins to enjoy the carnage he inflicts. This seems to be what the knowledge does, slowly driving people over the edge. That is what makes this version of events so chilling is this man went from an average sailor to someone whose very sanity has melted away and caused him to commit horrific acts.

While this story did start off a little slow, once the sailors clash with the natives, the story really kicks into high gear. The fighting in this story is savage and features some of the bloodiest scenes in the novel. I mean, there is literally a scene where Native American warriors repel down a ridge on the entrails of their enemies! Bradshaw also uses military strategy to help bring these battles to life.

Kolb’s Farm, Cobb County, Georgia Civil War 1864

This is the story of a Confederate soldier named Rusty, who is wounded in a horrific battle at Kolb’s Farm that sees most of his friends and fellow soldiers torn to shreds. As he lies injured on the battlefield, he can’t help but think of the memories of his childhood spending time on the Chattahoochee River. This section is fairly short, Bradshaw captures them perfectly with vivid descriptions that capture a sort of tranquility that shows that he is capable of more than just blood, guts, and destruction (though he his damn good at portraying that stuff too!)

As he lies there, Union soldiers look for survivors and make sure everyone is dead. Just when Rusty fears he may be discovered, the soldiers take off after hearing sounds of another fight in the distance, sparing Rusty’s life at the last-minute. Rusty is saved by a mysterious stranger in a robe. He is taken to a basement in a nearby church and finds that there is a whole group of these people who wear robes made out of a coarse fabric, almost like a burlap sack. He falls in love with a woman named Molly who is the one that primarily takes care of him. While he is recuperating, Molly explains that she belongs to the Church of the Saviour’s Star. The gold thread and the fact that there are hexagrams embroidered on their robes, makes me think they are somehow connected to the Incan priests at the beginning of the story.

However, as Rusty is recovering, he begins to have his suspicions about the group and their motives. Especially when the other patients who were all around him go missing. When Rusty finally uncovers the truth, it may be too late.

Rusty is one of my favorite characters in the novel, probably right after Pastor Gimball (who we will get to later). There is a moment when facing imminent death, Rusty fights back and displays an incredible amount of bravery. He has been through hell since the opening pages of this story and no matter how bad things get, he never stops fighting.

One thing that I didn’t initially pick up on but I did with this story is that Bradshaw uses real places and events as the backdrop for his stories. He manages to put his own unique spin on them with the mythology he has created around the star-dust and other aspects of the Hexagram universe. I was also impressed with his ability to perfectly capture the bloody and brutal violence of the Civil War.

The Clarence Pub, corner of Great Scotland Yard and Whitehall, London, United Kingdom 1888 

I have always had a fascination with the Jack The Ripper case, so this was a story that caught my attention instantly.

This story opens with an investigator named Norton who was assigned to the Jack The Ripper Case meeting a colleague at a local bar. Norton gives Swanson a bit of info that not many other investigators have figured out. Norton thinks that the killer has been killing for over twenty years, but only recently has the killer slipped up leading him to attract police attention. Norton also claims to know the identity of the killer, but he insists that to get the information, Swanson must listen to his recounting of his investigation.

Norton earned a legendary reputation after solving the huge Tower Hill case, but left the big city for a quieter life in Salisbury, Wiltshire. That all changed in April of 1885 as he was handed a murder case. A local worker happened upon an open stables and when he went to check on what was going on, the killer burst past him. Inside were seven bodies, all of which were missing their internal organs. The fact that there were that many victims led Norton to believe that there was more than one perpetrator. As Norton begins to unravel the web of secrets regarding the murders, he makes a startling discovery that has ramifications not just for his career, but his life.

I loved the characterization of this story. The way Bradshaw handles the tense history between Swanson and Norton is excellent. In between Norton’s recounting of the case, we learn bits and pieces about their professional relationship. Swanson was a drunk who almost screwed up the Tower Hill case and this information plays a vital part in how Norton tells his story. I was also impressed that despite the contained nature of this story – two investigators talking in a bar and going over memories of a shared case – that this was one of the most gripping stories in the collection, which is a testament to Bradshaw’s writing.

Also, this story may be the one that had the most cringe worthy scenes for me. The part where Norton finds some of the victims will absolutely make your stomach churn!

Gimbaltown, New Providence, Bahamas December 8, 1981 

This story was another one of my favorites from Hexagram. Pastor Gimbal is the leader of Gimbaltown and he rules the community with an iron first. He is wired to notice any slight deviation from his plans and even something as minor as buying a generic brand of soda is liable to have deadly consequences. On the eve of Gimbaltown’s biggest moment, Gimbal is even more unhinged than usual. As events and bodies keep piling up, Gimbal continues to lose control and leads to a confrontation that lives on in infamy.

Bradshaw does an incredible job with the characterization in this one, particularly with the larger than life Pastor Gimbal. While he is definitely a terrifying, awful person, he is one of the most memorable characters in Hexagram.  He is capable of extreme violence  but he also comes up with some fairly humorous jokes. While some of them did get me to laugh, they only ramp up the tension because it contrasts just how detached he is from the violence he commits. The dialogue  throughout this story is fantastic, pitch-perfect and  totally believable. There is obvious nods to Jonestown in this one, yet again Bradshaw is able to put his own spin on it by introducing the star powder.

Salisbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom

This section follows two twin sisters Esther and Stella, who attempt to carry out the ritual that started centuries ago and somehow ends up in their home. Esther is a gifted artist and she uses those skills in her job at the local funeral home to make bodies look alive. While Esther takes pride in her work, she has an ulterior motive for working at the funeral home. It isn’t long until Esther and Stella feel pressured to speed up their plans and they go from under the radar to being super stressed out and facing trouble at every turn. As the pressure begins to mount, Esther and Stella are faced with a choice that could decide the fate of mankind. What choice will they make?

Esther and Stella are as close as most twins are, but they definitely have a tendency to bicker with each other. The sisters share a dark secret and the scenes portraying their relationship are great for a variety of reasons. Despite their real jobs, they seem to be relatively well-adjusted. However, as they are working they talk about it nonchalantly with a detachment that left me wondering how long their lives have been like that. There is also a cool twist that I honestly suspected, but the way it was handled helps to this final installment in Hexagram and it really helps the collection finish strong.

Overall Thoughts on Hexagram

One of the things I liked about Hexagram was the style choices Bradshaw made through out in regards to telling the story and formatting. Since each story has a distinct cast of characters, setting and overall tone, it is important that they are differentiated and Bradshaw does an excellent job in that regard. It is hard to describe, but if you read books from the 19th century or early 20th century, you will notice they have a distinct tone that is different from modern writing. The stories that take place in earlier  time periods such as the Ripper story or the story of the man whose crew shipwrecked, Bradshaw is able to perfectly capture the cadence of that style of writing and it really helps strengthen the stories and book as a whole. I also like the various modes of storytelling he utilizes. There are stories that are set up in a traditional format but then there is a story that takes the form of a confessional, a story largely between two characters and utilizing flashbacks, and a story that uses bits and pieces of police documentation.

I also really enjoyed the way Bradshaw was able to connect all the stories together. I will be honest, when I first started reading Hexagram, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I thought the connecting thread would fall apart and that the novel would come across as feeling disjointed. However, I think Bradshaw does a great job connecting all of the stories without having to shoehorn in summaries or explanations to make it work. I don’t want to point out all the little connection pieces, but I thought it was brilliant how Bradshaw continued to link all of the stories together. They all share a common narrative thread (the star-dust and a few other surprises) but there are also little nods to previous stories that are littered throughout Hexagram almost like Easter Eggs.

There are some unanswered questions that swirl around Hexagram, but they feel more like deliberate choices than glaring omissions. Talking about them too much would spoil the novel, but let’s just say I would love to find out more about how the knowledge is passed on through the generations and if there is something supernatural at work behind its constant presence. There are enough hints that I was able to form my own opinion and back story in my head, but I can’t help but think there could be a really good story in there somewhere!

Although I had some reservations about Hexagram at the beginning, I am really glad I kept reading because I was rewarded with a richly layered story that was fresh and unique. I am sure Hexagram will appeal to fans of horror and other speculative fiction genres. If you like copious amounts of blood and guts in your horror, you definitely won’t be disappointed with some of the stories in Hexagram. This may have been my first exposure to Duncan Bradshaw’s works, but I am sure it won’t be my last!

Rating: 4/5 

LINKS

Duncan P. Bradshaw’s Official Website

Sinister Horror Company’s Official Website

Purchase Hexagram: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sinister Horror Company, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

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Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Hexagram!- #Hexagram #IncanRituals #HookofaBook

Hexagram Synopsis

Their lands plagued by invaders, the Inca resort to an ancient ritual. By harvesting star dust from people, they hope to accumulate enough to raise the sun god, Inti, and reclaim their lands.

Yet when the collection is interrupted, it sets in motion events which will rattle human history.

Six stories. Six different time periods. One outcome.

We are all made of stars.

When an ancient Inca ritual is interrupted, it sets in motion a series of events that will echo through five hundred years of human history. Many seek to use the arcane knowledge for their own ends, from a survivor of a shipwreck, through to a suicide cult.

Yet…the most unlikeliest of them all will succeed

Praise for Hexagram

“Hexagram is a visceral journey through the dark nooks and crannies of human history. Lovecraftian terror merges with blood sacrifices, suicide cults and body horror as Bradshaw weaves an intricate plot into an epic tale of apocalyptic dread.” – Rich Hawkins, author of The Last Plague trilogy

“A rip-roaring boy’s own adventure yarn. This novel contains multitudes, and the sheer scale and breadth of the story is exhilarating. A glorious, unhinged thrill ride.” – Kit Power, author of GodBomb!

Praise for Duncan Bradshaw’s writing

“Duncan Bradshaw has a fantastic writing style. He gets you engrossed in the characters from the very outset. His mix of comedy and horror and real life are superb.” – Confessions of a Reviewer

“The true genius of Duncan P. Bradshaw is the rollercoaster ride of words and expressions.  I have never seen an author go from the depths of dark and gore to laugh out loud all within the same paragraph.” – 2 Book Lovers Reviews

“Remember, you’ve now willingly plunged yourself into the mind of Duncan Bradshaw. You’re completely at the mercy of his strange imagination and all the eccentric oddities that his curious mind can conjure up.” – DLS Reviews

“Bradshaw is able to weight the horror set pieces with a dry humour and plenty of laugh out loud moments.” – UK Horror Scene

“One of the first things that I did after reading The Black Room Manuscripts, was to go out and buy Class Three by Duncan Bradshaw. I just found his writing in Time for Tea to have this gleeful kind of undertow to the carnage he wrought on his tea drinkers and wanted to see what his writing was like in a longer format.” – Ginger Nuts of Horror

Duncan Bradshaw Biography

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Duncan P. Bradshaw lives in the county of Wiltshire, nestled around the belly button of southern England, with his wife Debbie, and their two cats, Rafa and Pepe. During the day, he is a mild mannered office goon, doing things which would bore you, if he was forced to tell you. At night, he becomes one with a keyboard, and transforms his weird and wonderful thoughts into words, which people, like you, and me, can read.

Why not pop over to his websitegive him a like over on Facebook, or read his ravings on his blog.

Want to Feature Duncan Bradshaw?

If you’re a member of the media or a blogger and you’d like to feature Duncan Bradshaw or Hexagram, then please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com

consequences

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Self-Published

Length: 245 Pages

Release Date: April 11, 2016

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

John Quick’s Consequences is based on a real-life serial killer legend from his hometown so that coupled with the synopsis for this one had me intrigued and I jumped at the chance to join this tour! Everyone has some sort of story or urban legend from when they were growing up, so it was a real treat to see an author take that inspiration and bring it to life in a novel.

John Quick’s Consequences opens with a bang, detailing a horrific crime in 1971 at the Grayson family home on the outskirts of town, near the local airbase. Judy Grayson is on the way home late from a party, worrying about how her dad is going to react after he learns she defied his wishes. She arrives home to find all the lights off in the home and the front door open, something that almost never happens. As she begins to explore the eerie darkness that has taken over the home, she gets a sense that something is not right. Everything seems fairly normal until she finds a large pool of blood. She checks all the rooms of the house before noticing the back door was open. Once she goes out there, she sees something so terrifying and brutal that it alters her life and leaves a lasting mark on the town forever.

Over 40 year’s later we are introduced to a group of teenagers, seven friends who are getting ready to graduate and want to plan one last big blowout before they all go their separate ways. The first location for the party is at Jacob’s  lake-house they planned on fell through, so Austin and Jacob come up with the bright idea to sneak out to “Crazy Freddy’s” house and have their blowout there instead. They figure this would be the perfect place to hold the party since the legends surrounding the house  would not only allow them to impress the girls, but ensures that they will have the place all to their selves. However, once they get out there, it is obvious someone or something is out there watching them. An innocent disagreement between two of the friends sparks a chain of tragic events that will forever alter the lives of those teenagers and place them in the crosshairs of a sadistic killer that will stop at nothing to get his revenge.

One of the things that I really loved about Consequences was that it was written in a style that is reminiscent of vintage slasher films. If there is one thing I love as much as horror literature, it is a good horror movie. Between the  brutal opening scene that sets the tone for the novel and the killer begins picking off victims one by one, Quick does a great job capturing the style of vintage slasher films. There is also some great tension because after their initial confrontation, the killer obviously gets away and they are left wondering if he is coming back for them. That brings up a level of psychological torment that has them constantly looking over their shoulder and it also serves as a catalyst for the growth of the characters.

The characterization in this novel is also very well done. Christopher, one of the main characters of the novel, is your average teenager, never really getting into any trouble and he pines after his childhood friend Hannah, who he has been friends with since the 2nd grade. Since she’s moving to California, this summer is Christopher’s last chance to say something to her. Quick nails their complex relationship perfectly, especially early on when they are still trying to figure their relationship out. Anyone who has ever fallen for a close friend, can definitely relate to these scenes of self-doubt and mixed messages. Even as their relationship begins to change and grow throughout the novel, it happens organically and is totally believable, never once feeling forced or overly cheesy.

I also liked Special Agent Jack Cochran who works for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. He struck me as being genuine and a really good investigator. Though I couldn’t help but feel bad for him at times because Chris and his friends put him through hell. I mean the poor guy is just trying to do his job and they really cause him some headaches! All kidding aside, I loved their interactions together and I only wish there was more of him in the middle parts of the book.

While Quick does a great job with all of his characters, I thought Alexis had the best arc and she was by far my favorite character. At the beginning of the novel she’s portrayed as being an outsider with low self-esteem that is looked down on by everyone. It isn’t until an honest moment with Tyler that she begins to think that maybe people are wrong about her and she can do whatever she wants, regardless of people’s impressions about her.  As the novel progresses – aside from a short period where she was consumed with grief – Alexis begins stands up for herself and exhibits more strength than any of the other characters combined. She takes charge of the group when they realize the killer is targeting them and without her masterful internet sleuthing skills, they wouldn’t have stood a chance in their quest for answers. Simply put, Alexis morphs into a complete badass!

Quick’s killer in Consequences is definitely a force to be reckoned with and unleashes tortures so vicious and horrific, it will definitely make you squirm! There is a scene at a lake house part way through the novel and what he does to the poor person he snares in his trap was scary as hell and one of the sickest things I have read in a long time. I don’t want to give away too much about this killer’s methods or his history, but Quick makes him more interesting than your run-of-the-mill horror psycho. He has a code that he follows, or at least tries to follow. Although he is obviously deranged, he possesses intelligence that allows him to blend in as we see him cruise past checkpoints without a problem and even feels comfortable talking to the officers. He also has incredible patience, often waiting in the same spot for hours while tracking the characters. I liked that he was introduced early on and that his identity was left a mystery for a while, but you learn very quickly the sort of violence he is capable of and that he is definitely not someone you want to cross.

The only issue I had was with some of the backstory for this character. Once his identity is revealed and you learn more about him, it is easy to see why he wants to hurt Chris and his friends. However, there are still a lot of questions that make his thought process unclear. He consistently mentions “Luck” being on his side, by where did this fascination come about? Also, without spoiling his identity, there is little mention of what made him first become a killer. There are some clues, but it would have been nice to get just a little more insight into his background to see what turned him into a killer.

The dialogue in this story is fantastic. It really rings true for the most part, especially when you read some of the opening lines of the father figure or “Crazy Freddy” as he is affectionately known. Judy recalls him saying to “close the damn door” and that she wasn’t “raised in a goddamned barn”. Lines like that give you a sense of what this man is like and you can practically hear his voice in your head. There are also a few more graphic ones that indicate he’s abusive and controlling. Quick does a great job of bringing this character to life with little moments and believable conversations, especially when the friends all gather around to talk about their hopes and dreams.

Quick’s debut novel is a really fun summer read that will appeal to any horror fan, but particularly those who enjoy a good slasher story. This book stands out on its own, but as I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think of Kristopher Rufty’s Desolation, so if you enjoyed that I think you will love Consequences. Consequences hints at a very bright future for Quick, who has already signed to Sinister Grin Press for his follow-up novel. One of my favorite things about covering dark fiction is discovering new authors, so I am glad I was invited to join this blog tour. Quick is a talented new author and I think the wait for his follow-up will be unbearable!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

John Quick’s Official Website

Purchase Consequences: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Books-A-Million, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Consequences tour graphic v2

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Consequences!- #Consequences #summerofterror #crazyfreddy

Consequences Synopsis

It was a summer of blood and terror…

For seven friends, graduation night was supposed to be a time to celebrate the end of their high school careers and the start of their real lives.

But when an accident while partying at the local haunted house results in tragedy, they find themselves being hunted by a maniac for whom the stakes are decidedly personal.

Thirty years ago, Crazy Freddy hung his family up with barbed wire and skinned them alive. Now, the survivors can only hope for such a kindness as they are forced to accept that for everything they do, there will be CONSEQUENCES.

Praise for Consequences

“The character work here is pretty impressive, particularly for a first-time novelist.” – Michael Hicks, Author of Let Go

John Quick takes you inside the mind of a psycho path in this thriller. I read it in only two sittings because the pacing kept me turning the pages. Very well written, I enjoyed the dialogue very much, especially the young people being hunted by the killer. It felt believable and well developed.” – Michelle Garza, co-author of Mayan Blue

John Quick Biography

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John Quick has been reading and writing scary and disturbing stuff for as long as he can remember, and has only recently begun releasing some of his creations upon the world.

 His debut novel, Consequences is available now as a paperback or digital eBook. Watch for his next novel to come from Sinister Grin Press in 2017. He lives in Middle Tennessee with his wife, two kids, and three dogs that think they’re kids.

 When he’s not hard at work on his next novel, you can find him online at: http://johnquickauthor.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook and Twitter.

Would you like to feature?

If you would like to review Consequences or feature John with an interview or guest article for a media publication, blog, or author blurb, please e-mail Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com .

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press

Length: 220 Pages

Release Date: June 24, 2016

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

My first introduction to Kristin Dearborn’s work was her DarkFuse novella Woman In White from earlier this year. I was blown away by that story which was the perfect mix of atmospheric tension and plenty of gruesome scenes that would appeal to just about any horror fan. In addition to that, I loved how Dearborn was able to take a familiar and well-known legend and morph it into something unique. After I read Woman In White I knew I had to read more of her work, so I was excited to dive into Stolen Away which is a tale of demonic evil and a mother’s fight to protect her children at all costs.

Stolen Away opens strongly with a single line that is a nightmarish scenario for any parent, “The baby was gone”. That is the first thought that pops into Trisha Callahan’s mind after waking up in the sweltering heat of her apartment. No matter how many times she tells herself she was crazy and that it was impossible, she just couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that something isn’t right. As she gathers her bearings, she hears her daughter Kourtney’s screams piercing the heavy air of the apartment. After a few moments of frantically searching for a way to open the locked door of Kourtney and Braydens room, Trisha finally busts into the room and sees a sight that would make any parent’s heart drop – an empty crib. After finally calming her daughter down, Trisha gets her to tell her what happened and what she says causes Trisha’s world to fall apart – a monster took him.

Not knowing what to do after Trisha descends into a haze of confusion, Kourtney calls her father, Joel Preston. He heads over to find out what happened pissed because of how is ex is acting and worried about the two mobsters staking out his house. When he arrives, it is obvious that there is a lot of painful memories between them. Although they fight, Joel calms down long enough to help take care of Trisha and get her to tell him what happened. As they are debating what to do, a deranged man shows up in their doorway with a gun and makes ominous mention of demons and the fact that Brayden is missing. Before they can ask him any questions as to how he knows about Brayden, he kills himself in front of them. After this horrific incident, Joel and Trisha decide they have no choice but to hit the road to avoid explaining their impossible story to police officers and to search for answers regarding Brayden.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that they have to track down a demon in order to rescue Brayden, Joel’s own past rears its ugly head as mobsters Andretti and Barlow attempt to blackmail them if they don’t get the $1 million Joel owes them. After recounting the story of Brayden’s birth to Joel, they try to track down people who may have been there that night. They quickly realize that Trisha isn’t DEMON’s first victim and probably won’t be his last. As they put the pieces of the puzzle together and get closer to the truth, they team up with some interesting characters that have ties to DEMON’s world and journey into the jaws of hell to try to rescue Brayden and stop DEMON once and for all.

There are a lot of things I love about Stolen Away, but what impressed me the most about this book was the incredible characterization. Dearborn utilizes flashbacks from both Joel and Trisha’s lives throughout the story to demonstrate the hardship they have had to endure so far in their life and their struggle to better their lives. When the crazed gun man shoots himself in Trisha’s apartment, we learn that Trisha had seen death before when he best friend OD’d when she was just 15-years-old. Joel is a former dealer and hell, one memory Trisha has is of Joel bring a half-pound of meth home. What I loved about this story and Dearborn’s portrayal about these characters is that they are very real. A lot of times, the heroes or main character of a novel often seem fairly squeaky clean, but it is clear that both Joel and Trisha have a lot of baggage in their past and decisions they are not proud of. However, throughout the course of the novel we get to watch them grow from this period of hardship as they bond over trying to rescue Brayden and attempt to get their lives back on track even as chaos swirls around them.

While the characterization is strongest for the main characters Trisha and Joel, Dearborn also rounds out the cast of Stolen Away with some pretty interesting minor characters as well. There is the violent mob enforcer Barlow, who has the crazy idea that he will be able to wrangle a demon and make it bend to his will. My favorite though would have to be Tabatha, who works in an occult store and has special skills and knowledge that she uses to help Trisha and Joel. She has a vast knowledge of the occult and is a total badass that can see right through DEMON’s bullshit.

One of the things that I liked was that even though Joel seems to accept Trisha’s explanation of a demon coming to collect her son without question, their pasts add a wrinkle of tension to the story when it comes to the characters around them. Sure, in most horror novels that involve demons or some other supernatural entity, it often takes the characters a large portion of the novel to convince others that what is happening is real. But by giving the two main characters checkered pasts – a history of drug use and arrests – it helps drive the narrative. Joel and Trisha mostly rely on each other and only get help from people who had similar experiences. Who would listen to such an outlandish story from two people who have a troubled history and in Joel’s case a record? Had an encounter with DEMON not happened right before her very eyes, I doubt Joel’s mom would have believed their story.

Dearborn puts an original, frightening spin on the demon story while still maintaining traditional possession themes. Stolen Away is unlike any other story I have read because it’s not simply a possession story, but something far more sinister in my opinion. There is a lot of familiar demon characteristics that come into play especially when they meet Sydeny, a woman who offers her assistance in the battle against DEMON. She tells them that normal bullets wont work and the only way to hurt him is through iron bullets and salt. She also gives them a theory about the demon children and how Brayden could possibly grow up if they get him back. There is also the sacrifices and crossroads aspect of demon lore woven into the story as well.

Also, Dearborn nails some really great and chilling possession scenes in this book. The first time that Trisha’s body is taken over by DEMON, that whole sequence is just incredible. While it definitely has the hallmarks of classics like The Exorcist, there is enough of Dearborn’s own originality and tiny details there that makes the scenes really pop. I don’t want to spoil too much of it because coming across these scenes is half the fun of reading Stolen Away, but during the exorcism there is a scene that utilizes Trisha’s tattoos that I thought was brilliant. There is also some scary creature’s other than DEMON at work. Let’s just say that I will never look at retriever’s the same way again after reading Stolen Away! 

While Stolen Away is a pretty dark story, there are moments of humor that just adds to the enjoyment of the novel and make Joel and Trisha even more realistic characters. When they learn that salt weakens DEMON, they run into a 7-11 and buy all the salt in the store. Joel then ponders if it has to be iodized or if it had to be rock salt. That sort of obliviousness and silly questions is how most normal people would react to a situation the defies everything they know about the world and their own personal beliefs.

There are only a few moments in this novel that didn’t really work for me. There is an interlude focusing on Trisha’s friend Cherry that details the aftermath her interaction with Demon. I liked the section by itself and it is an essential component to the story because we see the impact DEMON has on these women’s lives. However, we go a long period without seeing Cherry again, so it sort of disrupts the flow of the story a little. I did like the juxtaposition between Cherry and Trisha though in how they handled the situation, because Trisha could have easily taken the same path. The mob story line seemed like a cool addition to the story and an added threat for Trisha and Joel to deal with, but it kind of fizzles out as the novel progresses. Barlow does make an important appearance in the novel’s second act, he also has a long absence like Cherry and seems like a weird addition to the story at that point.

Despite those minor issues, I still think Stolen Away is a brilliant novel and will definitely rank high on my “Best of” list at the end of the year. Woman In White was my introduction to Dearborn’s work and while I love that novella, I think Stolen Away is even better. I am a huge fan of Dearborn’s work and after reading these two awesome books I am kicking myself for not being aware of her stuff sooner. I highly recommend Stolen Away and I can’t wait to see what sort of dark stories she unleashes next!

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Kristin Dearborn’s Official Website

Raw Dog Screaming Press’ Official Website

Purchase Stolen Away: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Raw Dog Screaming Press, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Stolen Away tour graphic (3)

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Stolen Away!-  #StolenAway #DEMON #KristinDearborn

Stolen Away Synopsis

Trisha will admit she’s made a few mistakes in her life but that checkered past is behind her. She loves her kids, even if it’s tough being a single mom. But her loyalties are put to the test when her infant son disappears in the middle of the night, and his big sister says a monster took him.

Now Trisha has to face the full truth behind the one-night-stand that produced Brayden in all its scaly torridness – Brayden’s father wasn’t human and isn’t interested in sharing custody. However, even though DEMON has pulled this stunt many times before, he made a mistake when he chose Trisha. The one thing she won’t do is give up her son without a fight. Along with her ex-boyfriend, Joel, Trisha is dragged back into the seedy underworld in a desperate fight to reclaim her son, only this time she’s got a lot more to lose.

About the cover

The cover was created by Italian artist Daniele Serra. He is a winner of the British Fantasy Award and has worked with companies such as DC Comics, Image Comics, Cemetery Dance, Weird Tales Magazine and PS Publishing. Recently his work was featured as interior art in a scene of Stephen King’s The Cell, with Samuel Jackson looking it over. Visit his web site to see more of his art: http://www.multigrade.it

Praise for Kristin Dearbon

“In Stolen Away, Kristin Dearborn writes with a confidence and ferocity that demands you keep turning pages. Where lesser writers would flinch and look away, Dearborn tells the tale the way it should be, with cruelty and fascination for both her characters and the story. Kristin Dearborn isn’t just a writer to watch, she’s a writer to watch out for. If she’s swinging, you might want to duck, because she hits hard!—Bracken MacLeod, author of Mountain and Stranded

“Kristin Dearborn’s fast-paced horror thriller, Stolen Away, will possess readers as they strap in for a demonic thrill ride of sin and redemption.”—Stephanie M. Wytovich, author of An Exorcism of Angels

“Gripping nonstop suspense and unsettling horror that blazes the pages from start to finish. You’ll swear Stolen Away was written by a seasoned veteran of best-selling novels. Expect to want more after reading the second novel by Kristin Dearborn, an author whose work will shoot her straight to the top of reading lists.”—Rena Mason, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Evolutionist

“Kristin Dearborn catapults readers into an intricately layered world that is bleak and terrifying but never so damned as to be without hope or redemption.  If the devil, so to speak, is in the details, then this book raises hell, exploring not just demons internal as well as external, but also all the beautiful, heart-wrenching, contradictorily complex, powerful little things that define human experience. This book earns a prominent place of the bookshelf of any fan of demonic fiction.” —Mary SanGiovanni, author of The Hollower trilogy and Chills

“Horror born straight from a nor’easter, Dearborn’s Woman in White is a great read for a winter night—with a monster I’ll never forget.” Christopher Irvin, author of Federales and Burn Cards

“Kristin Dearborn’s Woman in White is a rip-roaring monster tale with sharp-eyed characterization and something to say about the power dynamics between men and woman. Thought-provoking and entertaining as hell!” Tim Waggoner, author of Eat the Night

“Great stuff! Suspenseful, quickly paced, unpredictable and wonderfully evil tale. Kristin Dearborn’s best yet!” Jeff Strand, author of Pressure

“Dearborn has a wonderful sense of the macabre, along with the ability to balance the spookier aspects of her work with well-rendered, solid characterizations…Sacrifice Island is a blazing fast read, with engaging characters and a compelling narrative.” The Maine Edge

Sacrifice Island is a fresh and interesting take on a tried and true horror setup.” Examiner

Kristin Dearborn Biography

kristin dearborn

If it screams, squelches, or bleeds, Kristin Dearborn has probably written about it. Kristin has written books such as Sacrifice Island (DarkFuse), Trinity (DarkFuse), and had fiction published in several magazines and anthologies. Stolen Away was recently a limited edition offered from Thunderstorm Books, which sold out.

She revels in comments like, “But you look so normal…how do you come up with that stuff?” A life-long New Englander, she aspires to the footsteps of the local masters, Messrs. King and Lovecraft. When not writing or rotting her brain with cheesy horror flicks (preferably creature features!) she can be found scaling rock cliffs or zipping around Vermont on a motorcycle, or gallivanting around the globe. Kristin’s latest DarkFuse release is Woman in White.

Find more about Kristin online at kristindearborn.com or Facebook.

Want to Feature Kristin Dearborn?

If you would like a copy of the book for review or to conduct an interview with Kristin Dearborn, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at Hook of a Book Media: hookofabook@hotmail.com.

oor-cover

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Alien Agenda Publishing

Length: 44 Pages

Release Date: July 16, 2016

Ever since Glenn Rolfe sent me a copy of his debut novel The Haunted Halls, I have been a huge fan of his work. It has been an awesome following Glenn’s career and seeing him develop into one of the best and most entertaining horror writers out there today. Not only is he a talented author, but he is a super nice guy and a huge promoter of the horror community. Trying to choose a favorite work of Glenn’s is nearly impossible because of the versatility he has displayed thus far in his career, and there is something different I love in each of his works.

Glenn’s last two releases – the full-length Blood and Rain and this year’s novella Things We Fear – were some of my favorite horror reads and I know Things We Fear will be on my “Best of” list at the end of the year. After finishing Things We Fear in March, I thought for sure I was going to have a long and agonizing wait for the release of his upcoming Chasing Ghosts. So it was an unexpected treat when Rolfe announced the release of Out of Range, a collection of three short stories that revolve around aliens. If you are a longtime reader of this blog, then you know I have a love/hate relationship with aliens, so this was a book I couldn’t wait to get my hands on!

Out of Range opens with a pretty cool foreword from fellow horror author Hunter Shea. It talks about all the things that fascinate people about aliens, UFOs and the unknown even though the prevailing thought is that aliens would destroy us in seconds flat. Despite the fact that aliens scare the hell out of me, I am still fascinated about talking about them and the possibilities their existence poses. While some may not enjoy the foreword, I thought that it set the mood for this collection perfectly and really connected with me as a fellow fan of all things alien. As I was reading, it definitely helped build my excitement to see what sort of extraterrestrial horror Rolfe has conjured up for this collection. The passion of that foreword and the fact that it is evident throughout these three stories is what made this such a blast for me to read.

Out of Range kicks off with Not of this World a terrifying story that channels the spirit of John Carpenter’s The Thing and mixes in a dash of Alien. Author Jonathan and his wife are expecting their first child and it should be the most joyous moment of their lives, but something is not right. Despite the fact that her husband told her that her nightmares were just a byproduct of her nervousness over the pregnancy, Gina is convinced that there really is something wrong with the baby. While Jonathan is supportive of her, the tension of her fears is beginning to put a strain on their marriage. The baby’s due date comes and goes and that’s when the movements that were unlike anything she expected began to happen. Jonathan was away at Cincinnati to sell books at a horror convention and Gina is convinced that she is in grave danger.

Jonathan is trying to call his wife from the convention and she doesn’t answer, though she always normally does. He frantically tries every number he can think of with no luck, so he decides to skip out on the convention early and races home to be with his wife. When Jonathan arrives home, he witnesses a horror beyond his imagination and is in a race for not just his survival, but the survival of everyone in his community and possibly the world.

This was the perfect choice to start off the collection as it is full of adrenaline-pumping scenes and the alien in this story is by far the most frightening creature in the collection. I don’t want to give too much away, but the scenes of the aliens arrival were definitely pretty creepy and definitely had me on the edge of my seat. It’s arrival is gruesome and violent and channels the blood-soaked characteristics of The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain. The descriptions are simple, yet devastatingly effective: “Shredding flesh, popping and ripping ligaments…” Out of the three stories, I would say this one is definitely the most frightening just in terms of the alien’s abilities and carnage it unleashes in such a short time span. It is a devastating and heartbreaking piece because the alien ruins the lives of the people it comes across and there are some truly bleak moments that really stuck with me about this story.

The Astronauts is a story I was honored to host on The Horror Bookshelf last year for a few weeks and I am glad to see it get a wider release in this collection. The story revolves around the mystery of what the narrator is hiding following the arrival of a mysterious race of beings known as The Astronauts on Earth.  The Astronauts try to prohibit any mention of the past or memories and employ a series of barbaric tortures to ensure compliance to their demands. The narrator, along with the other survivors. are all huddled up in squalor and filth. It used to depress them, but they have come to reluctantly accept their situation. Despite their shared predicament, he doesn’t trust any of them with his secret. The secret he is hiding is something that he feels would cause The Astronauts to kill him, so secrecy is key. However, The Astronauts possess formidable powers and keeping that secret will prove to be an almost impossible task.

The Astronauts are sort of a half way point between the other stories in terms of the level of danger they pose to the characters. The being in the first story is driven by an animalistic rage and hatred. The Astronauts of this story are cold and brutal, but they have a much more human-like intelligence. They band together in groups and formulate plans. What I loved about this story was that despite the bleak surroundings and his knowledge of what these beings are capable of, the narrator remains defiant.

While I enjoyed all of these stories for different reasons, the titular story of this collection is definitely my favorite. The aliens in this story announced their arrival by cutting the Internet. They only broadcast a single message to announce their presence and it was viewed on devices all across the globe. They only utter three sentences “Your world is not yours. We gave it life as we gave you. We are coming home.” After that single message, everything went silent and people are just sitting around waiting for them to return. The story views the invasion through the eyes of a single family, particularly the narrator Nick. He is staying with his sister Lindsay and attempting to help her raise her kids Jack and Wendi. His 16-year-old niece Wendi makes a discovery that sends chills down Nick’s spine and makes him fear the worst when she tells him what she has found.

This story is more subtle in its set-up. It is little moments – hisses in radio static, the loss of instant communication the Internet offers – that builds a sense of dread. Then there is the fact that the aliens delay their arrival. They make their creepy announcement and then there is nothing. Life carries on as usual for the most part and there is something even more ominous about that then if these beings had descended upon Earth blowing up everything in sight. That sense of an unknown future really gives you the chills and allows your imagination to run wild.

Part of the reason this one gets the nod as my favorite is that it incorporates some of the things that both fascinate and terrify me about aliens and there are some really memorable scenes that I think alien fans will really enjoy. Also, this story it has a powerful emotional core that adds a great layer to the story.

Out of Range is a brisk read at only 44 pages, but not a moment is wasted by Rolfe, who grabs the reader’s attention right from the beginning. I remember after I tore through this book on release day thinking about how each one of these stories would have made for a fantastic full-length novel. These stories work as stand alone stories and probably will stay that way, but I can’t help but wish for a continuation of the story Out of Range. If you are a fan of Glenn’s terrific novella Boom Town or just have a fascination with aliens, this is a collection you definitely want to add to your shelf. Out of Range is a quick, fun summer read that has gotten me excited not just for Chasing Ghosts, but also the sequel to Boom Town that is currently in the works!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Glenn Rolfe’s Official Website

Purchase Out of Range: Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK) 

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.

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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

 

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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.

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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.