Friday, August 25, 2017

WTF Did I Just Read?!!

The Assignation by Edgar Allan Poe is one of his stories that I've never read. I thought it would be a good idea to read a classic, but it left me feeling a bit like a troglodyte trying to decipher hieroglyphics. From what I understood, as the narrator is returning home in a gondola, a woman accidentally drops her baby into the canal, but a stranger is able to rescue the child. The woman arranges a rendezvous with the hero, but this proves to be fatal for all involved.

The ending might be confusing for those trying to figure out what happened to the narrator...I suggest paying close attention to the very beginning of the story, before the narrator mentions Venice. Even with this hint, I think readers will wonder why in the hell Poe bothered writing this story. If I remember correctly, he is referring to an affair of Byron's, but using allegory instead of being direct.

This story is also known as The Visionary. Some people think this is Poe's best work...I am not one of those people.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Road Rage Gone Wrong

The Stranger by Kathy Dinisi is basically a crappy mix of Jeepers Creepers and Joy Ride. The beginning is good enough to hook readers with a photographer trying to get home within a specific amount of time, but it goes downhill quickly after that. There isn't enough suspense to elicit any fear. There's not much to the main character either, so I didn't feel anything for her. Maybe if the author had stuck to real-life horror instead of involving the supernatural angle, I might have felt something.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Family Secrets

In the Night by Melanie Rosa is a fantastic horror story. I had no idea what to expect. I thought maybe some Purge type of stuff happened after sunset, but, when I read about the camping trip, the story took on a supernatural feel and became truly frightening. The pace is absolutely perfect, and I love how the family secret is revealed...at night.

Whenever I read anything, my brain instantly converts words into moving images with no effort from my conscious mind. Reaching the end of the story is kind of like having the power go out just as a scary movie scene is beginning. I can't help but feel the ending is a tiny bit of a cliff-hanger. I would definitely love to know more about Jack's family. Maybe the author could write a follow-up short from Alice's POV.

As I've implied before and will likely again, stories with children raise the emotional stakes drastically.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Don't Feed Horses After Dark

Badger by Simeon Gregory would have worked better as a flash fiction piece. The author spends too much time describing Anton's drive home. I also think many of the relationship moments with J.J. and the parrot are also unnecessary. Gregory should have just started the story with a news report on TV about the accident, quickly followed by Anton checking on the horses. The outside scene, especially the ending is really entertaining, and I wish the author would have focused more on the action because his descriptions of the attack are grotesque and terrifying.

This story did make me think twice about taking my dog outside in the middle of the night.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Chirping of Beds

Terror By Night written by Vishual Persaud might have been a good story if not for the horrific lack of editing. I'm not referring to typos (although there are plenty)...the sentence structure and haphazard story line left me feeling haggard, not entertained. I swear, I'm not even entirely certain what the hell this story is supposed to be about.

At first, I thought it might be about night terrors caused by family dysfunction, then I thought it might be a story about demonic possession. Unfortunately, the writing style became so chaotic, by chapter four, I no longer recognized anything resembling a story form. The ending explains why nothing makes any sense, but I doubt many readers would bother finishing this story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gut Punch

Monster Hunter by Richard McCrohan caught me off guard. I didn't know what to think of the old man...I didn't know what to think of Danny. I knew there would be a catch, but I still wasn't prepared for the ending. The author does a great job of using suspense to lure readers in and lock the door behind them.

This story is proof that horror doesn't need to be graphic to be terrifying.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Midas of the Old West

American Alchemy: Gold by Oliver Altair grabbed my attention with the form of a personal letter dated June 1, 1850. The letter paints a gruesome landscape of greed, deceit, sorrow and revenge. I had absolutely no clue what the author had planned, and being so unpredictable made the story that much more entertaining. The mix of American history and ancient alchemy is as brilliant as the gold within these pages.

I would love to read more from this author in the future...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, August 18, 2017

Putting Zombies To Good Use

Compliance by K. Batholomew takes place in Ohio, after a zombie apocalypse. This story focuses on the psychological and sociological aspects of a world-wide collapse of civilization, as well as individual characters and the new world order they are living in. I think Bartholomew did a great job of expressing all the layers within this setting. This is why I've always preferred the zombie genre over the other horror genres...the zombies represent so much more than monsters.

While the writing style is more similar to World War Z by Max Brooks, the thinking level of this story reminded me of Kim Paffenroth's Dying To Live series. If you've ever wondered why zombies have been so popular for so long, I encourage you to read this story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Forget The Bookshelf, Grab A Toilet

Asylum by M.L. Irwin is about four friends who have to survive a night in an old asylum. I wanted to give it a chance, despite a warning from a one-star review, but the writing is awful...the author is obviously fond of adjectives and not much else. The characters are severely two-dimensional. I've stepped in puddles with more depth. There are interesting moments, such as a childhood flashback by Lisa and the urban legend, but both are just as poorly written as the rest of the story. The graphic rape scene seemed completely unnecessary. I really hate when authors use violence as a replacement for suspense and drama.

This story is the perfect example of what NOT to do when writing a story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Carnival of Tears

That Summer Night by Joriah Wood is much better than his story, Demon In The Lines. I think the author does better with real life horror than supernatural drama. I have to admit, I was expecting something along the lines of the movie Ghoulies (Google it), but Wood's use of suspense is the perfect way to keep readers interested, and the abrupt ending is quite appropriate in this case.

I think the author should consider writing a mini-series around the character, Madam Zazim, or maybe give the group of girls, with Miranda, their own short story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wahrer 2017

After reading The Hunter, a suspense-thriller, by Zachariah Wahrer last year, I decided to read a couple more of his short stories...

Diesel left me with mixed feelings...I expected Wahrer to be more original, but instead he begins with stereotypical characters and a mundane setting...the author almost lost me, but the airport scene truly had me on edge. I don't even think I breathed until the very last word.

Utopia Gone, on the other hand, is a science fiction piece...Wahrer's best story of the three I've read. The psychological and sociological aspects mixed with the dystopian future in space are quite interesting. I think Wahrer should consider expanding this story into a novel, or a novella, at the very least.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tales of the Executioners, Book 9

From a mini-series, set in the world of Amaranthine...

Daniel: Black Luck - Daniel and Kateesha are tasked with apprehending a murderous vampire, but all work and no play makes Kateesha bored. When she lures Daniel into neglecting their duty, he can guess his future: failure isn’t something The Guild takes lightly.

Daniel by Joleene Naylor is the latest installment in Tales of the Executioners. This story has a good mix of personal history, history of The Guild and history of the vampires in general.  The additional scenes with Clara and Malick add another layer to the mystery that is Kateesha. The ending surprised me...I think I have more respect for Daniel than most of the Executioners.

If you've been enjoying this mini-series, be sure to check the author's page for more stories set in the world of Amaranthine.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tales of the Executioners, Book 8

From a mini-series, set in the world of Amaranthine...

Cyprus: Future's Promise - Before Cyprus joined the ranks of the Executioners, he was a guard at the Stronghold in Munich, Germany, where he fell in love with Sadihra, who is the German equivalent of an Executioner.

Cyprus by Joleene Naylor features another origin story. This is also another example of a vampire being so reckless with emotions that it's hard to believe Cyprus is as old as he is. Honestly, kids in junior high show more self-control. However, unlike Lisiantha's story, there's a jagged edge to this one, and the ending can be interpreted in more than one way, which makes me wish this story had been just a bit longer.

On a side note...when Naylor first began this series, the Executioners were something to be feared, and the earlier stories reflected this. It's also laughable that there's a warning about content at the beginning of each story, but the content is pretty PG. While this mini-series isn't as melodramatic as a lot of vampire stories, I wish Naylor would focus more on the darker aspects of her characters.

Check back one more time for the most recent installment to Tales of the Executioners.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Tales of the Executioners, Book 7

From a mini-series, set in the world of Amaranthine...

Lisiantha: Home for Christmas - After a bad breakup, Lisiantha returns to her rural coven. Dreading a run in with her ex, Josh, she soon has more important things to worry about: her master made a mistake and a warring coven wants her blood. Can Lisiantha and Josh find a way to save her – and maybe rekindle an old love in the process? Even vampires enjoy a Hallmark-style Christmas special.

Lisiantha by Jolene Naylor features a female Executioner for a change. The story actually takes place before Lisiantha becomes an Executioner. Unfortunately, the author decided to make this a love story, which resulted in Lisiantha appearing rather weak. It's as if she can't stand on her own without a mate. I would expect more self-confidence from a vampire who has been around as long as she has. It's really a shame Naylor departed from her usual writing style for this story.

Keep checking back for my reviews of the remaining stories.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Friday, August 11, 2017

Tales of the Executioners, Book 6

From a mini-series, set in the world of Amaranthine...

Bren: In the Dark - Bren has a simple assignment - to deal with a coven who's killed too many locals. When he takes a victim's phone as a trophy, he becomes fascinated with the story of her death - almost too fascinated.

Bren by Joleene Naylor appears to be the sixth book, but, once again, there appears to be a discrepancy between the author's website and the book's description. The story is not really about Bren...rather, it's about the final moments of a victim killed by the coven he's tasked with punishing. I think the story would've had more of an impact if the format had been the actual text exchange between Trista, Robert and Bree. However, it is an interesting mix of social media and vampire activity.

Keep checking back for my reviews of the remaining stories.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tales of the Executioners, Book 5

From a mini-series, set in the world of Amaranthine...

Byrn: At Christmas- It's 1755. With The Guild in it's infancy, there are only so many Executioners, so when a report of mass killings rolls in at Christmas time, Byrn is sent to sort it out. He'd better do something special to appease his wife.

Byrn by Joleene Naylor features an executioner who does not appear in any of the main novels, and the Guild is fairly new in this setting. A bit more is revealed about Malick's personality, but the story is so short, not much can be said about it. The least interesting in the series, so far.

Keep checking back for my reviews of the remaining stories.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Tales of the Executioners, Book 4

From a mini-series, set in the world of Amaranthine...

Beldren: What We Deserve- The year is 1687 in the fourth Tale of the Executioners. Beldren, a former indentured servant, suffers the same fate as many others of his kind - the promised land and money never materialized, despite having done their time. When Matthias suggest they take their due, Beldren is skeptical, but what else does he have to do? It's a choice he may live to regret.


Beldren by Joleene Naylor  feels more personal than any of the previous stories in the series. As opposed to the other executioners going through the motions, Beldren shows a lot of thought and insight. For some reason, I can't quite explain, I found Beldren to be more fascinating than the other executioners.

Keep checking back for my reviews of the remaining stories.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tales of the Executioners, Book 3

From a mini-series, set in the world of Amaranthine...

Verchiel: Never Ending Question- Verchiel wakes up in an unfamiliar room with a busty woman standing over him. He can't recall who she is - or even who he is - let alone how he's become an immortal blood drinker. As he tries to discover the answers, he must also learn to control his blood lust or fight an entire village of panicked people.

Verchiel: Never Ending Question is, I think, the third book in the Executioner series by Joleene Naylor, based on the publication date, but I can't be certain because of some discrepancies between product information on Smashwords, Amazon and the author's website.

In any case, unlike the first two, Verchiel's story is set in the distant past, when he is first turned. I'm not sure if his amnesia is a blessing or a curse...the loss of memory seems to make killing easier for him, but it seems to put him at a serious disadvantage with his maker, Kateesha. There is far more bloody action in this story than the previous two. With each installment, I feel readers are given another piece of the puzzle that is to be the essence of the Executioners.


Keep checking back for my reviews of the remaining stories.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tales of the Executioners, Book 2

From a mini-series, set in the world of Amaranthine...


Ark: Echo from the Past- Ark has been an Executioner for two hundred and fifty years, and has always done his duty, but when he's handed an assignment with a familiar perpetrator, will he be able to follow orders?


Ark: Echo from the Past by Joleene Naylor is much better than the first story in the Executioner series. The flashbacks made this piece a very emotional story, with a depth not present in the first installment. I love the irony of the vampire struggling with his humanity. Not only are readers given insight about this particular executioner, but we are given a glimpse of Malick through Ark's thoughts.


Keep checking back for my reviews of the remaining stories.

As always,
AstraDaemon






Sunday, August 6, 2017

Tales of the Executioners, Book 1

Back in May 2017, I read Road to Darkness by Joleene Naylor. I decided to look for more short stories by the author, and I found a mini-series called Tales of the Executioners, set in the world of Amaranthine...

Aine: Another Complication As one of the newest, Aine gets the job nobody wants: arresting a vampire for breaking The Laws. As if everything going wrong wasn't bad enough, things are complicated when he discovers that his target has broken yet another one.

Aine: Another Complication by Joleene Naylor failed to impress me. For a vampire story, I expected some action, or, at the very least, some dark horror. Instead, this read more like a regular crime piece, aside from a mention here and there about the vampires' special talents. However, I enjoy Naylor's writing style and there is just enough to this story to get me interested in this mini-series.

Check back for my reviews of the remaining stories.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Much More Than Eye Damage

The Eclipse by DJ Umber is the perfect story to read before the upcoming solar eclipse. I've never read anything like it, and I think the author should seriously consider turning this into a novel, or a novella, at the very least. The main character's playground battle, during his early years, is the perfect way to capture readers' imaginations. The creatures in this piece are both frightening and mysterious...I have so many questions about their existence. I'd love to see more revealed.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, August 4, 2017

Dixon Returns

Night Night by R.H. Dixon is another entertaining story by an author I have reviewed here before, and it's the best revenge story I've read in a long time. The unusual weapon of choice is quite disturbing, and part of me wanted to puke. I may even have nightmares, but it is totally worth it. Dixon is definitely on my short story radar...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Horror Needs More Stories Like This

The Murder Seat by Noel Coughlan reminds me of a classic horror story along the lines of Edgar Allan Poe. The suspense is well-written, and I felt the fear and guilt that overwhelms Herbert as if it were my own. I loved it...I never knew what to expect, and the ending is a perfect tragedy.

I think if more people read stories like this one, the horror genre wouldn't have the reputation of the predictable, all-special-effects-no-plot garbage fest Hollywood has turned it into. I truly wish writers like Noel Coughlan were given more attention than sell-out Stephen King...maybe then, readers would be reminded of why they fell in love with books in the first place.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Monster vs. Monster

Best Served Cold by Aubrea Summer is surprisingly good, considering the story falls into one of those sub-genres of horror that has been done to death (being vague to avoid a possible spoiler). Any time an author can find a new way to tell an old tale, it's a pleasure to read...Summer does a good job taking a real-life threat and mixing it with a supernatural terror. The ending felt slightly rushed, especially after the way the pickup ride is drawn out, but the plot is solid nonetheless. I think Aubrea Summer should continue with this particular theme and see where her characters take readers next.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sometimes Less Really Is More

A Pound of Flesh by Fred Venturini is a horror-drama that will have me thinking deep, heart-wrenching thoughts for a quite some time. Normally, I can't stand slow build-ups, but, in this case, the set-up is crucial to the story. I was ready to write this off as a torture porn piece, but the author held off on glorifying the violence and kept the graphic details somewhat low-key. The best part is how the Venturini uses a minimalist flashback of a single moment between the husband and wife to tie everything together and deliver one of the most spectacular yet simple endings.

As always,
AstraDaemon