Friday, June 30, 2017

Watch Your Back

Happy Hour by Andrew Ridings is a somewhat brutal flash fiction piece about an evening at the bar gone wrong. I didn't feel much sympathy for the main character, Anderson, so I was a little disappointed with the ending. The bartender is pretty awesome though.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Mr. Pinkerton

How I Started The Apocalypse by Brian Pinkerton was far more serious than I expected. In fact, I most likely would not have read a book with this title and cover art (based on the cheese factor), but I’m a big fan of Severed Press, so I gave it a chance.
Having read several other zombie novels featuring thinking undead, I didn’t have a problem with the main character being an intelligent zombie – I was curious how it would tie in with the title, and ended up reading it in one sitting. I thought his POV was pretty interesting, considering he had memories of his former life as well as his demise, so his struggle with reanimation was an unusual twist on the theme of self-discovery.
I especially liked the extra storyline running parallel to the main plot: not only do you have a guy endeavouring to accept that he is a zombie, but he finds out his death wasn’t an accident, and he wants revenge.
I did think some of the characters were a bit unrealistic, but they didn’t ruin the story for me, and I liked the rotating POV between the zombie and the agent hunting him.
(I’m intentionally being vague in this review because I don’t want to post spoilers.) I’m assuming the book is intended to be a stand-alone, but the ending was kind of teaser that had me wondering if the author was leaving his options open...turns out that Pinkerton did turn this into a zombie trilogy.
If you’re looking for something a bit different for your zombie lit collection, I recommend this one.
As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Prom Isn't Worth Your Soul

The Shopkeep by Zach Miller is a short story with a neat-o nod to Stephen King. I thought I was going to dislike the story because I couldn't stand the banter between the characters and I found the setup to be on the lame side. HOWEVER, the monsters are frightening and the ending left me wanting more. I think Zach Miller is a freaking tease for writing such a terrifying concept and using it in a short story instead of a full-length novel.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Front Desk Service

Hotel Z by A.C. Hutchinson is an unusual zombie story, and I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it. I have come across a few characters with a similar fetish, but Hutchinson is the first author that I've seen embrace the sickness and run with it. The ending is very tongue-in-cheek...I guess depravity knows no bounds. If the author wanted to expand on the concept of the hotel, I think he has an entertaining novel waiting to be written.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, June 26, 2017

Scary Stuff

You Are Just A Guest by James T Kelly scared the crap out of me. I made the mistake of reading this story late at night, during a thunderstorm. The format is spectacular: the wife blogs, the husband tweets, and, through both, readers learn what is happening inside the old house. The ending is truly frightening. I would love for the author to do a follow-up short story from the POV of one of the friends.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Stranger Danger

Thanks For The Lift by Donna Dillon is a fantastic horror story that is perfect for an evening campfire. I had no idea what form the terror would take, which kept me hooked from beginning to end. The fact that the story centers around two young brothers increases the ill-feelings tenfold. I can't get over how many emotions Dillon is able to stir with just a few pages. I hope she keeps writing in this genre.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hill Country Secrets

Just A Friend by Pamela Humphrey is a short story set in what appears to be a setting from a full-length novel coming out this summer (2017). I would describe it as drama, and if you've ever lived in a small town, this scenario might be familiar. The ending is extremely abrupt, and I wish the author had written just a few more pages...and maybe included another slap.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, June 23, 2017

Falling Up

Clouds by Matt McAvoy is a shocking revelation. I was expecting a supernatural story, but the reality is far more terrifying. This story is a situation that we've all seen in the headlines at least once in our lives, but I doubt any of us have ever thought of this perspective. McAvoy is creative in the most horrifying way.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Throwback Thursday: The King of Clayfield

The King of Clayfield by Shane Gregory is told from the POV of a guy who works at a museum, seemingly out of touch with what’s going in the world, thus getting caught off guard by an outbreak in his town of Clayfield, Kentucky. Not really having a life, the main character decides to wait for the government to come to his rescue, rather than make a run for it, as he tries to gather enough supplies to last long enough to be saved.
First of all, let me just say that I didn’t think this was a bad survival story (although I have no idea why the guy is called “King,” especially with all the pouting and whining he does – “Princess of Clayfield” would have been more fitting)…that being said, I hated the main character, and his group of survivors. I hated them so much, I’m not sure I will bother to read the sequel. I think it’s safe to say I hated all of the characters. I would have been much happier if they were all dead by the end of the book. The author did a great job making his characters realistic, but they all happened to either have personalities that I couldn’t stand, and/or they did some of the dumbest stuff that I’ve ever read in a zombie outbreak story.
For example, the main character, who was telling the story, kept going on and on about his ex-wife. Thankfully, he kept his ex-wife thoughts to himself because I’m pretty sure one of the women in his group would have smacked him upside his head eventually. As for an example of the stupidity, one of the women in the group apparently considers herself the morality police of the infected, and is constantly shooting at them, when she could be doing something more productive with her time – like getting away from the approaching hordes. It also seems to take the survivors FOREVER to figure out the dead were reanimating…in fact, some of them never seemed to fully catch on. Even if there weren’t zombies everywhere in Clayfield, I’m surprised a group like that could survive ANYTHING.
Even with all my criticisms of the story, there were a few things that I did enjoy. I thought it was an original idea to have the survivors stay put in Clayfield, instead of trying to get out of town. I thought the behavior of the infected was fairly creative as well; to begin with, the infected Living go mad with the virus, resorting to very basic, animalistic instincts, including alpha males and forced copulation. Once they actually die, the infected rise up as the undead. Last, but not least, was the “treatment” for infection: getting drunk. (No shit. You read it right. All the straight-edge people were the first to go.) However, the premise poses an interesting dilemma: how to get rid of infection and not get so wasted that you can’t fight the zombies…and what happens when you run out of alcohol?!
Some technical issues: the POV starts with present time, and then the rest of the book serves as one major flashback, only the POV never goes back to present time. Also, the ending seemed kind of abrupt, with a few loose ends – even with a sequel available, there’s no excuse for ending a story like that.
I think I would have enjoyed the story more if there was at least one character that I could root for, instead of wishing death on them all. In any case, I was entertained, just not as much as I had hoped for…but that’s just me; other zombiephiles might not mind the characters and their personality flaws.
As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Random Coincidence

When I review stories, sometimes they're requests by authors that I've reviewed in the past, but, most of the time, they are just random selections form my latest Amazon search: Kindle store>Literature & Fiction>Last 30 Days...then I have to scroll past countless porn titles with bikers, cowboys and vampires - oh, my!

When I saw the cover for Look by Bart Hopkins Jr., it reminded me of the cover for Coffee Break Murder Blues, and it wasn't until after I read the story did I realize it was the same author...I guess, on a subconscious level, I am a Hopkins fan. I should've recognized the writing style, but I was too wrapped up in the plot.

Look is a flash fiction piece with a surreal setting. I don't know if it is the cover or the description, but I thought it might be a smut story. (No, that's not why I chose it.) It's actually one hell of a POV from a stalker. I found the line about ten thousand dollars so intriguing, I would have read an entire novel based on that offer the captive makes to her captor.

I think I might have to read more of the author's work...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lost In A Moment

Still Life by Alex Maher reads like a prequel to one hell of an apocalypse story...there is a lot of potential within these few pages, but it's wasted on flash fiction. The ongoing news report in the background is a fantastic hook, but too much time is spend with the birds. The albino twist is a nice touch, but, unfortunately, it's only a mere mention. I hope Maher considers an attempt at a full-length novel.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, June 19, 2017

Blackout Boogeyman

Stay Awake by K. Michael is not what I expected. The author does a great job of using suspense to hook readers, and the morbid reality of the situation is heart-breaking. Due to his drinking problem, Stephen is unable to protect his brother Jason from the thing in his spare room.By the time Stephen realizes the source of his demon, the damage is already done.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Suspense: The End of The Road

The End of the Road by Craig DiLouie is not much like his other work, but this story is captivating nonetheless. At first, the broken down vehicle with 20-somethings seems a bit cliche', especially when they come across a dying town in the middle of nowhere with some rather unsavory hillbilly characters. However, the disturbing residents and their repulsive behavior soon reveals the kind of nightmarish scenario DiLouie is known for.

Ford comes up with a solid plan to get his friends out of the cursed town, but it's one day too late. The fate of the group almost reads like a prequel to one hell of  novel, if DiLouie chooses to revisit this storyline.

One thing I will never understand is why anyone would think to drive a crappy vehicle in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone reception and no backup plan...but if fictional characters showed some foresight, I suppose we wouldn't have the horror genre.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Saturday Scribner: View and Burn


Joshua Scribner is one of my favorite short story authors. He is a master at making the most out of just a few pages. I decided to check out a few of his flash fiction pieces this weekend...

A Better View is one of those stories that could stir up a debate about domestic abuse. Scribner knows how to make one hell of an impression.

Infinity's Burn is also only a few pages long. I'm not sure if Scribner intended to create a new version of Hell, but this story is a truly horrifying concept.

Blindness needs to be given an award. I'm definitely recommending this story to everyone with eyes. I'm truly amazed at the ideas that come out of Scribner's head.

If you haven't familiarized yourself with this author, get to it...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Fright: Unnerved

Unnerved by Debra Flores is a crime drama with a touch of the supernatural. Although the buildup is somewhat slow as the author strategically introduces her characters into the storyline, readers will feel as though they are a part of the events as they happen. I thought I knew what to expect, but Flores caught me off guard with her flair for quiet terror. The very end is the absolute perfect way to tie up the story...pun intended.

I've never read anything by Flores before, but she is definitely staying on my radar now. I hope she keeps the writing style that she has...it's hard to find authors who can use suspense so deftly in such a small amount of space.

You don't even have to be a fan of the horror genre to appreciate the downfall of Adam...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Meta-Horde

Meta-horde, by Sean T Page and John McCuaig, is definitely a book that zombiephiles will want to add to their collections. If not for the POVs of the characters from time to time, this novel almost reads like a history book. Between fighting a meta-horde of over a million zombies, and dealing with Vatican nutjobs, the situation seems beyond hopeless, but many of the characters refuse to give up, and that’s what makes the story quite interesting. I had to read this in one sitting because I really wanted to know why people would bother to keep fighting under such bleak circumstances.
The survivors are living in fortified settlements across Europe (often historical structures such as castles), and the zombies – having run quite low on their food source – now move in large hordes composed of thousands, which are building up to millions after overwhelming the settlements one by one. A group of scientists that have been studying the movement of the undead have an idea of how to break up the horde, but their plans are thwarted by some religious fanatics who believe that the zombies are part of God’s will.
If you somehow missed this novel when it was originally released, get a copy now.
As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Weird Wednesday: LMAO

Coffee Break Murder Blues by Bart Hopkins Jr. is a sweet little piece of flash fiction that both reviewers and authors should read. Ironically, I was involved in a discussion about the pros and cons of authors reading reviews, so this find is perfect timing. Maybe I shouldn't laugh at a serial murder, but, such is life in the horror community.

In just a few pages, Hopkins hooks the reader, provides some entertainment and somehow manages to make his characters developed just enough to give the impression there is more story to be had. I think Hopkins needs to write something else with Jordan.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tuesday Titus: Hailey's Shadow

Hailey's Shadow by Lori Titus has many unexpected turns and twists, particularly for a short story. We first meet Hailey when she is a little girl, tormented by shadows that speak to her. Time fast forwards to Hailey as a young woman, locked up in an asylum, being interviewed by a man named Adam. He soon realizes there is more to her pyromania than a mental illness, but his epiphany comes at a price.

Titus has this way of frightening readers with monsters, without ever fully revealing the her wicked creations...what she does show you will haunt you long after you finish the story.

You can learn more about this horror master and her terrifying talent in my interview with Lori Titus from June 2015.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Murder: Counting Chickens

Counting Chickens by R. H. Dixon is a tease of a story...the scarecrows had me hooked, with mounting suspense, until the shocking reveal...and then, the end. ARRRGGH! What an abrupt ending. Dixon should pick this story up again and continue with the mystery of Stonybridge. There's so much material to work with, within these few pages.

Nothing quite like a good ol' fashioned suspense story to begin the week...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunday Series: The Nightmare Virus

Desperation by Charles Hash is the first of a planned mini-series called The Nightmare Virus. The desolation and misery drips off every page. The monstrosities are terrifying. I'm not sure why anyone would want to survive. There is also a surprising amount of detail about this fallen world. When I first read this in 2015, it made me wish Hash would write another story based in this apocalyptic nightmare.

He did.

Slow Burn is the second story in The Nightmare Virus world. Readers are introduced to five survivors who managed to make it out of the city. It takes place about two years after the initial fall of the world. The problem with traveling in a group is that there is always the one person who has to ruin everyone's chance to live to see another day. I'm reminded of the crazy church lady in The Mist.

I can't wait for Hash to continue the series...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Saturday Short: Restroom

Restroom by Paul Levas is a flash fiction piece about a brother trying to help his younger sibling with a bladder issue. Something sinister seems to have taken an interest in Kyle's problem. As a result, a day at the carnival turns into a nightmare.

Not only is the story predictable, but there is more than one loose end. I wish the author had spent more time on the storyline details. Even though the characters are children, it is difficult to feel anything for them.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday Fright: Jerk Alert

Ol' Jeb by Lissa Dobbs is a straight-forward story about a rotten old man named Jeb. He's a wife-beater and unpleasant to everyone in general, with a huge sense of entitlement. His son foolishly allows Jeb to move in with his family.

Jeb bullies his son, beats his daughter-in-law and threatens to physically harm his two granddaughters...he evens considers rape an acceptable way of getting what he wants. However, he doesn't realize that his granddaughters have a secret and they are determined to get rid of their grandpa.

While the writing style is simple, I found myself hooked just the same, wanting to know Jeb's fate. Too bad the ending didn't last longer.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Psychic vs. Infected

Mute by Jeffrey Hale, released by Grand Mal Press, is very unusual. Both the story and the format are something very different for the zombie genre, although it’s up for debate whether or not the Mutes/Mimes qualify as zombies. They are definitely infected, bloodthirsty and a threat to mankind.
What I like about the format is the memory flashes provided by Leo, an empath with psychic abilities. His flashes of other people’s memories are like short stories within the main novel. Also, as the story progresses, readers will see that these are not just random memories, but pieces in the puzzle that Leo is trying to put together after being institutionalized for five years while the world fell apart.
It appears to be the first in a series. With the cliffhanger at the end, I am dying to find out what happens next (no pun intended). If you’re looking for something that stands out from the rest of the horror genre, pick up this book.
As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Weird Wednesday: Flash Ready

Take A Picture by Andrew Salomon has an interesting plot about a blind man fighting creatures sensitive to light. Unfortunately, it doesn't have much action and little to no suspense, so it's hard to feel anything about the main character. I also thought this was more a flash fiction piece than a short story. However, I do like that the author took a chance writing a story about someone with a disability in an apocalyptic situation, and if that detail intrigues you, by all means give the story a chance.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tuesday Terror: Time For A Cut

Close Shave And A Haircut by Cameron Hatheway has one hell of a strange "savior." When Sergio is saved from violent loan sharks, the story twists in more ways than one. I like that Hatheway included some background info on the "abomination." You wouldn't think someone living in a dump would be so sensitive about a haircut.

Read it for yourself.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, June 5, 2017

Monday Murder: Mirror

Mirror by Laurisa White Reyes is full of suspense and terror. Even though I was fairly certain what would happen, as the nightmare unfolded, I freaked out. Although I told myself, "I wouldn't do that...I'd just run," I'd probably be torn between my instincts and my logic. Leaving everything behind, abruptly, is easier said than done.

A lot of stories features evil mirrors, but this one stands out...in more ways than one.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sunday Suspense: Lifted

I recently read Hoarder by Patti Larsen in May, and decided to read her story Lifted to see if she is consistent with her storytelling. No..not at all...Lifted is far superior to Hoarder. Jenny's shoplifting experience is so original and shocking, I would love to see Larsen do more with this particular storyline...maybe more short stories centered around the store, Curious, or a full-length novel about the store's owner.

This is the kind of story Stephen King himself would enjoy.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Saturday Short: Meal Ticket

Meal Ticket by Kevin Millikin originally appeared in the Coscom Entertainment anthology, Bigfoot Terror Tales Vol. 2, Edited by AP Fuchs and Eric S. Brown. The story follows three hunters chasing down a wounded sasquatch. They thought this hunt would be an easy fortune, but they don't realize their prey has something worth fighting for.

I've read my share of stories in the Bigfoot subgenre, and this one simply failed to frighten me in any way. The action is fast-paced, but it just isn't enough.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, June 2, 2017

#FurbyFriday

Furby by Madison Louise is a short story about an evil Furby. It's a nice change from the usual demonic doll, but there isn't enough suspense to call it a horror story. Shelly is such an annoying character, I wish Angel had killed her off.

I don't know any adults I would recommend this story to, but kids might find it amusing.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Chris Ringler

Noches De Corazones Negros (story is written in English) is my favorite anthology by Michigan's own Chris Ringler. The author has a real talent for flash fiction, and knows how to change up his writing style, so each story stands out in its own terrifying way. 

Some stories feature real-life horror, while other have a supernatural element to them. The mini-series of flash stories centered on some trapdoors and creepy crawlies was a great way to divide up the sections.

Here is a brief rundown of stories:

Feb 8 - evil minions out of control
Little Mean Things - felt sorry for the creature
Weapon - STD revenge
Hero - vigilante fails
Apr - sequel to Feb 8
My Dark Things - tied into the trapdoor stories
With Love, Pestilence - Edgar Alan Poe-ish
Redscore - righting a wrong 6 yrs later
Lesser Demons - GREAT Halloween tale
SafeWord - loved the twist with predator & prey
Oct - continues trapdoor series
Consumption - crazy ex-girlfriend
Vile - most disturbing story in collection
Oct - last entry of the trapdoor mini-saga



I also encourage readers to check out Ringler's This Beautiful Darkness.

As always,
AstraDaemon