Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Higher Expectations For Known Authors

Darkness Rising
by Brian Moreland
113 pages
$3.44 Kindle Version
Marty Weaver, an emotionally scarred poet, has been bullied his entire life. When he drives out to the lake to tell an old friend that he’s fallen in love with a girl named Jennifer, Marty encounters three sadistic killers who have some twisted games in store for him. But Marty has dark secrets of his own buried deep inside him. And tonight, when all the pain from the past is triggered, when those secrets are revealed, blood will flow and hell will rise.


Darkness Rising by Brian Moreland disappointed me. When I read his novel, The Vagrants, I couldn't wait to read more by the author, but his novella lacked the level of creativity that I'd come to expect from Moreland. Marty's special "talent" is extremely original, but the majority of imagery within Darkness Rising reminded me of various horror movies pieced together - kind of like Frankenstein's monster.

The novella is well-written, and, perhaps, readers that are new to Moreland will enjoy this story more than I did, but I feel I would be doing a disservice to the author if I said this was a great example of his talent...it's not. He can do so much better than this, and I sincerely hope that he pushes himself harder on his next project.

(Authors who have been reviewed by me in the past actually have it harder than newbie authors because my expectations are higher, especially if I am a fan. That said, I hope Brian Moreland doesn't put me on his shit list.)

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, September 28, 2015

Profound Love In Literature

Suddenly, Love
by Aharon Applefeld
240 pages
$12.99 Kindle version
Suddenly, Love by Aharon Appelfeld is a very intimate accounting of the love that develops between an elderly man and his much younger caretaker. There is almost no physical contact of any kind between the two characters and limited conversation, and, yet, what is left unspoken speaks volumes. Although it is a work of fiction, the historical elements add a depth to the characters which brings the two to life on a very personal level.

I'm truly surprised by how captivated I was by this unusual relationship. I don't have a specific reason for choosing this story to read, other than wanting to read something that stands out from the typical mainstream romance novels. The setting is mostly contained to Ernst's apartment and the narration tends to favor Irena's POV. However, as Ernst share his writing with Irena, the literature within the literature is deeply moving...a profound sharing of souls.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday WTF: Misleading Readers

Fog Island Mountains
by Michelle-Bailat-Jones
176 pages
$6.99 Kindle version
Fog Island Mountains by Michelle Bailat-Jones is described as a reinterpretation of the Japanese folktale tradition, and I strongly disagree. This is not story-telling, this is just telling, and a bad telling at that. The story revolves around the diagnosis of terminal cancer to Alec, husband and father, but more is revealed about the motions the characters go through, than their actual feelings, which is really disappointing considering the gravity of the situation. Perhaps it is the haphazard writing style: the POVs are told through a narrator and they change often and without any warning, and the relationship of the narrator to the other characters is never made clear.

My main purpose in reading any fiction book is to be entertained in some way, regardless of genre, and that didn't happen. I have no idea what the author was trying to achieve by writing this book, nor do I know what target audience she had in mind.. The award given to this novel is given to stories with the topic of serious illness, but do not take that as an indication of the quality of the writing. I normally love stories with foreign settings, but I could find nothing to enjoy about this family drama.

I feel that absolutely nothing is resolved between any of the characters. Many issues are introduced, such as sibling conflict, unplanned pregnancy, infidelity, and, of course, terminal illness, but the author never stays with any one topic long enough for the family dynamics to make an impact, one way or another. I feel like the author was introducing characters to fill the pages, rather than using them to propel the storyline.

I wish this story had lived up to the description on the back cover.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tuesday Terror: Finders Keepers

The Keeper
by Luke Delaney
560 pages
$6.50 Kindle version
Within the first ten pages of The Keeper by Luke Delaney, readers will find themselves ensnared within a shocking and terrifying suspense thriller. The simplistic way in which Louise Russell is snatched from her home by Thomas Keller, only to wake up naked in a cage, is more nerve-wracking than a brutal and bloody assault...because monsters rarely look like monsters and they strike when their victims are least likely to expect to be attacked. Knowing that time is running out for Louise is almost as painful to bear as the torture inflicted upon her by her captor.

The main POVs come from Detective Sean Corrigan, the perpetrator Thomas Keller and the victim Louise Russell; there are a few other minor POVs that offer a great deal of insight into the main characters. However, Delaney doesn't reveal the source of Keller's behavior until the very end. Readers must follow the bread crumbs along with Corrigan.

There were sections of the book where the descriptions seemed to be dragging on, and the conversations between characters seemed a bit forced, but the novel held my attention from beginning to end. The epilogue made me realize that Corrigan is a character from a series; unfortunately, this detail has been left out of the marketing in the US.

I don't understand why publishers think they have to use different book covers and descriptions for the UK & US. This author would probably do much better in the US if the marketing mentioned that this is part of a series. I had no idea this is "Book 2" until I went to the Amazon UK site.

If you were an author of a series, wouldn't you want readers to know that fact?

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Suspense: Stranger Danger

The Perfect Stranger
by Wendy Corsi Staub
421 pages
$6.99 Kindle version
I've never read anything by Wendy Corsi Staub before, but I enjoyed this story enough that I am now interested in reading her previous novels. The concept of bloggers being stalked and killed because of what they posted publicly was very intriguing to me. In this case, the bloggers are a support group of breast cancer survivors, and some of them may have provided too much personal information online. When one of their group is murdered, a few decide to meet in person for the funeral, but, after being questioned by police, they suspect it may have been one of them.

I wasn't sure who the killer was and I was even less certain about the motive. The mystery kept me interested, but there were far too many slow moments to call this a thriller. However, the group of women are something else: distinct characters, well-developed personalities and easy to match up to their online personas, introduced to us through occasional blog entries between chapters. I thought the multiple POVs were a great way to keep the storyline going, but the changes were a little haphazard at times.

I've been told this is not Staub's best work, but I thought it stood out from many other mystery novels, and I liked the real-life drama in this fictional setting. If you're looking for something different, it's not a bad way to pass a few hours.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday Night In Hell

At Hell's Gates
Bound By Blood
Volume 3
574 pages
$2.99 Kindle version
At Hell's Gates donates proceeds to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. This third volume focuses on the dark side of family:

LITTLE LOST LAMB by Patrick D'Orazio is a suspense story about a religious foster couple accepting a challenge.

THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT by C.T. Phipps is a post-apocalyptic tale about a diabetic father rescuing his wheelchair bound daughter from a cult.

MONSTERS by Sharon Stevenson recalls a father-son moment in an apocalypse.

THE RIDE by Sean T. Smith is a drama about breaking a vicious cycle of violence.

THE OLD MAN AND THE SEESAW by Stephen Kozeniewski is one of the freakiest zombie stories that I've ever read.

SPENCER FAMILY TRADITION by Stevie Kopas is the most disturbing family tradition EVER.

ROAD TRIP by Curran Geist is a fantastic sci-fi story filled with horror and is one of my favorites.

A MOTHER'S HEART by S.G. Lee is a twisted adoption story with a dramatic ending.

BEAUTIFUL SAVAGE by Devan Sagliani is an interesting perspective of a zombie outbreak.

PLANETOIDS, PRIVATEERS, AND OLDER THINGS by S.P. Durnin is a sci-fi story that would impress Lovecraft...with a touch of humor.

DAMAGED by Tim Marquitz is a story about domestic abuse with a supernatural twist.

THE MOTHER TONGUE by Terry Maggert is a vampire story with a religious theme.

THROUGH MOURNING by Brian W. Taylor is about a father missing his daughter.

NIGHTMARES DO COME TRUE by Suzanne Robb is a fantastic and horrific twist on werewolf lore.

LOVE THAT BINDS by Mikhail Lerma is a father-daughter moment in the apocalypse.

THE COFFIN IN THE REEDS by RJ Kennett warns that some things should be left unopen.

IN MINT CONDITION by David Sakmyster is a classic suspense story that is another favorite of mine.

ARM-RINGS AND HACK-SILVER by Christine Morgan is a tale about dysfunctional Norse family.

BLOOD TYPE by Paul Mannering takes the vampire genre to a new, scary place.

NEIGHBORS GOOD AND FAIR by Douglas Draa is a novella about a folklore nightmare.

FROM DARKNESS WE COME by Kerry Alan Denney is a frightening kidnapping.

DOMINIC by Shana Festa is a terrifying zombie short.

SACRIFICE by TM Caldwell is a great fantasy story about demonic possession.

A MATTER OF PERCEPTION by Lesa Kinney Anders is one of the best in the collection, with incredible narration from a young boy.

WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN by Sarah Lyons Fleming is a hellish homecoming.

THE MOTHER IN THE LAKE by Chris Philbrook has a Lovecraft element and is one of the most chilling stories in this anthology.

SUGAR AND SPICE AND SOMETHING NOT SO NICE by M. Lauryl Lewis shows how awful a dog bite can get.

NO MAN LEFT BEHIND by Timothy W. Long features a battle of epic proportions...great story to end on.

At Hell's Gates: Bound By Blood is an excellent assortment of both new and established horror authors who twist and distort several sub-genres to create numerous versions of Hell. This includes quality storytelling without the stereotypical genre gimmicks, and horror fans will enjoy this creative effort for a worthy cause.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, September 7, 2015

Monday Mayhem: I Call Bullshit

Zombie Gods of Death
by Greg Tom
The story begins five years in the past with Tony Young in combat overseas. A zombie outbreak occurs during the battle, and the government covers it up. It is immediately apparent that this story needs professional editing. The settings aren't described well, the dialogue seems forced and the characters leave a lot to be desired.

The plot interested me: a group of terrorists called the Shinigami are deliberately infecting college students, and a group led by Tony Young attempt to stop them. The story is actually told from the POV of a student named Ian Zombie, who is more of a leader than Tony. Rather than develop the relationships between survivors of the college outbreak, the author jumps weeks at a time to keep the story going. There isn't much action, even with terrorists and zombies, and what does take place is a bit ridiculous. For example, they are constantly jumping into water, during the school year in Michigan; I live in Michigan, and I assure you the water is COLD, but no ever gets hypothermia.

There are far too many "too good to be true" moments for this to be a convincing outbreak scenario.
The ending is left open...maybe a series in the works. If that is the case, I hope the writing style is drastically improved.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Suspense: Ammon's Horn

Ammon's Horn
by Stan Timmons
270 pages
$5.99 Kindle version
(I read this once before, but couldn't find the review I wrote for it, so I decided to re-read this novel.)

Gemma is a reporter in a relationship with a cop named Danny; the two of them connect several murders and multiple acts of violence to a virus nicknamed the "Noids. The virus attacks part of the brain, making the infected think their fears are very real. The virus mutates and becomes airborne, quickly overwhelming the eastern seaboard in the U.S., triggering a westward exodus. Danny and Gemma drive to California, to join the Fear Factory, hoping to find answers and an antidote within the secret organization.

Mostly told from Danny's POV, with a few glimpses of Gemma's POV, as well as other victims, readers will begin to wonder if one (or both) of the main characters is under the influence of the virus. The twist at the end is so subtle, it's elegant. I couldn't predict the ending - even the 2nd time around, since I had first read this a long time ago.

I haven't read Stan Timmons before or since this novel, but his permanently on my list of talented authors who know how to create a thrilling horror-suspense story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Saturday Shorts: Sinister and Dark

Sinister Weekend by Richard Mist is a good effort, but needs work. The main characters speak in what seems like a very formal and unnatural way, especially for a family. The family is so over-the-top polite, I started wishing for something bad to happen to them, just to break up the monotony. The author must be a huge Leave It To Beaver fan.

I did enjoy the ending - it is worthy of five stars, but I can only give this story three because the dialogue is so horrible and the characters are unbelievable.



Dark Affliction by Clark Anderson is a little more satisfying. I think the characters could have been a little more developed, but the suspense build up is great! I kept wondering what else would happen in the house. Unfortunately, little is revealed about the history of the house, especially the murder victims.

The epilogue is terrible and didn't really fit in with the rest of the story. It might have been less awkward if both main characters were gay. As a result, I felt the story didn't have any real resolution.



Stop back next weekend for more Saturday short stories!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Secrets Can Kill

A Line of Blood
by Ben McPherson
416 pages
$12.99 Kindle version
For Alex Mercer, his wife, Millicent, and their precocious eleven-year-old son, Max, are everything—his little tribe that makes him feel all's right with the world. But when he and Max find their enigmatic next-door neighbor dead in his apartment, their lives are suddenly and irrevocably changed. The police begin an extremely methodical investigation, and Alex becomes increasingly impatient for them to finish. After all, it was so clearly a suicide.

As new information is uncovered, troubling questions arise—questions that begin to throw suspicion on Alex, Millicent, and even Max. Each of them has secrets it seems. And each has something to hide.


A father and son discover their dead neighbor while searching for their missing cat. At first glance, it appears to be a suicide, but the police investigation suggests it may have been a murder. There are multiple suspects, each with a damning motive. As the investigation progresses, several secrets are revealed about the Mercer family living next door to the deceased. With each revelation, McPherson draws readers further into the tragic life of Alex Mercer. Told from Alex's POV, this family drama digs into the betrayal and revenge that threatens to tear apart everything that Alex thought he knew about his relationships.

Alex is desperate to save his marriage as the truth about his wife comes to light, and, for the life of me, I have no idea why. I hated Millicent for the hell she brings upon Alex and their son Max. However, I also disliked Max for the disrespect and disobedience that he wields throughout the novel. I couldn't fathom how Alex managed to get through even one day, considering the amount of abuse he takes from his wife and son. Despite my issues with the Mercer family and their decisions, I felt the character development was superb! I had to keep reminding myself that these were just fictional people, but I couldn't put the book down...I read the story in one long sitting.

Between the suspense and frustration, I couldn't tear myself away from a single page. Ben McPherson knows how to hold his readers captive. One of the best novels I've read all year!

As always,
AstraDaemon