Monday, May 28, 2018

A Rose By Any Other Name

Before the attacks, Rose’s life was simple.

Before there was mass violence in America, she was a university student in Liverpool.

Before her roommate was savagely attacked, she wanted to make the world a better place.

That was before the zombie outbreak.

Now, Rose and her best friend Lyra are forced to flee their flat and find refuge onboard a yacht with a group of armed survivors. Although safety seems likely on the open sea, it’s only a matter of time before a new outbreak occurs.

First Light by Kody Boye is Book 1 in The Daylight Cycle Series. The story is told from Rose's POV, giving readers the personal experience of survival across two continents and one ocean. Her quest to feel safe takes her farther away from everyone and everything she's ever known, and Rose suffers a great deal mentally and physically, even when she isn't fighting for her life. The author does an excellent job of detailing the main character's progressive PTSD, as well as the way her inner struggle complicates her interactions with other survivors.

Rose is someone I can respect, but Lyra is another story. I am not happy with the way she takes credit for keeping Rose alive, even when Rose is obviously capable of taking care of herself. Granted, the two young women needed each other to stay alive in their initial escape from Liverpool, but Rose appears to have a better grasp on their new reality than Lyra does. It's almost as if Lyra attempts to punish Rose for becoming independent and deciding to join the militia at Fort Hope.

Even though I am impressed with Rose's journey, literally and figuratively, I am concerned with her current attitude. I'm afraid she's going to create more problems for herself, if she doesn't get a grip on her emotions. Hopefully, she will find comfort in the key information revealed at the close of the first book.

As always,

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Only Took Me Four Years

SPOILER WARNING: This review is for the fourth book in a series. I've tried to avoid revealing key details, but if you click on the author's name, you will find an interview with Harbinger as well as brief reviews of the first three books.

I've finally managed to read all four books in the Undead Rain series by Shaun Harbinger. I began the series in 2014, so I had to reread the first three. I've read hundreds of zombie stories over the years and I've seen a lot of repetition within the genre. However, this series has always managed to stand out, due to Harbinger's unique twist on the undead.

Wildfire, the fourth book in the series is the best one yet. I am so impressed with this series, I would love to see it become a television show. Alex is an outstanding character who has adapted both physically and mentally to his new reality. The hybrids are a thrilling way to amp up the danger factor. Last but not least, the effects of the vaccine on the various virus mutations creates several possible outcomes for all involved. Harbinger has thought of everything: horror, suspense, drama, mystery and even a touch of science fiction.

I feel sorry for Alex. While he still struggles in certain situations, he never half-asses anything, yet he's the one who often bears the brunt of everyone's frustration and anger. Anyone can be a hero when everything is going your way and everyone loves you, but Alex insists on doing the right things in the worst circumstances, often with others undermining him...a hero is the purest sense.

Even when he discovers the fate of his family, Alex decides to keep fighting. I'm excited for the fifth characters, a change in setting and the promise of a terrifying battle of species. I hope Harbinger doesn't go soft in the end.

As always,

Thursday, May 24, 2018

When The Cold Does Bite

A military team is dispatched to locate the source of a strange radiation in Antarctica. They find far more than they bargained for and quickly become locked in a battle for survival with monsters straight out of legend.

Attack of the Yetis by Eric S. Brown is snow-covered carnage in the form of Yetis vs. soldiers. However, Brown creates his own version of this popular creature of legend, with a surprising mix of horror and science fiction. There is no joy to be found in these pages, only action and death...but the battle scenes are amazing.

I'm hoping Brown might consider writing a sequel to this novella, or maybe even a prequel. I have so many unanswered questions about these Yetis.

As always,

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Cost of Free Will

Three weeks after Daniel moved to Hampton Falls, his friend Jack mysteriously goes missing. The last place he was seen was outside Old Man Winters house on the outskirts of Town. Ten years have passed and Jack is still absent from their lives. 

A sequence of events guide Daniel towards this house again as if this brick and mortar wants to give up its secrets. What he discovers will unlock the truths to his past, present and future. He must gamble between the love of a family he knows and the family he never had. Choices have to be made, but who can he trust?

A relic stored within the bowels of the basement wants him. It’s a mirror, and it will steal away his soul until it can take no more. Daniel will be tested by the evils that reflect back at him; he will loath what he sees, but his heart will beat like a man sick in love. He will learn how to use the energy it emits, but with its abuse come dark prices.

Can Daniel control the darkness that pulses through the mirror? Or is it merely manipulating him? Whatever happens, he must never leave the mirror unattended, must guard the relic against the evils that want to pass through from the other side. 

Can Daniel trust the children?

Most of Me by Mark Lumby is a cautionary tale about free will and the consequences of choices. Daniel once again finds himself in front of the ominous house from his childhood. As a boy, he wisely chose to keep his distance, but, as an adult, he makes the unfortunate mistake of stepping through the red front door. In a similar manner to such movies as Insidious and Occulus, Lumby builds suspense by hinting at the real horror with key details cleverly scattered throughout the story.

Although I am a fan of Mark Lumby, I am a little disappointed with the quality of the novel. I don't usually get hung up on typos, but there are so many mistakes throughout the entire book, I have to address the sloppy editing. I am concerned readers new to the author's work will be turned off and not bother to finish the story. The ending is mind-blowing and completely shocking, but I know a lot of horror fans that won't bother to finish the book.

I really hope Lumby hires an editor to polish this novel. He has an excellent writing style, but all the errors weaken the delivery. I suggest readers begin with Lumby's short stories and, perhaps, they will be forgiving about the poor editing and enjoy the complicated storyline.

As always,

Friday, May 4, 2018

Fighting Tooth And Nail

Aatu is eighteen years old, a respectable landowner, and about to marry the girl he loves. The south coast of Finland provides everything his little village requires.

It’s a peaceful life, until a band of ex-Crusaders land on the shore. With the harsh winter and lean times approaching, they cannot be allowed to stay for long. When their priests disturb things best left alone, Aatu fears a minor annoyance will become a disaster.

Aatu’s people turn to the old ways to fight the enemy, to teeth and claws instead of swords and spears. Though they are outnumbered and unused to fighting, Aatu is about to discover that wild wolves are not the most fearsome predators in this land, and even the most peaceful people can become ferocious in defense of the ones they love.

By the Light of the Moon by Blake Smith is a mix of historical fiction and the supernatural, although the author does take huge liberties with the historical part. I'm reminded of both movies Pathfinder and Kingdom of Heaven, with an original version of a familiar creature included. The story is not as predictable as one might think.

In addition to surprising readers with some rather dramatic scenes, Smith fleshes out her characters with details about personal relationships, as well as family history. By the time the end battle is over, readers will be left breathless and torn.

I will be adding this story to my Top 2018 list.

As always,

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Just Burn The House Down

Jimmy Turner is terrified. Very frightening things are happening in the neighborhood and he can’t figure out why. The Maggots Underneath the Porch is a powerful coming-of-age novella circa 1975. In the midst of a mid-West group of teens who are collecting baseball cards and beer cans, experiencing the cultural impact of JAWS, playing little league baseball, blasting guitar God rock music on ghetto blasters, a ravenous abomination is about to unleash death and mayhem on their unsuspecting rural community! Will any of them survive? And how many in the town will become victims before its carnage can be stopped? Beware the lurking danger that festered and formed amidst the rotting filth of The Maggots Underneath the Porch!

The Maggots Underneath the Porch by Patrick James Ryan is not that difficult to imagine happening in real life, for a variety of reasons. Ryan does an amazing job of describing ongoing events, creating an interest in the characters and layering one tragedy on top of another. The result is a horrific outburst, forever altering young Jimmy's life.

Unfortunately, after the major horror is revealed, the story ends shortly after. I am disappointed with the small amount of action. I lost count of how many times I physically gagged while reading this story, but I pushed through the graphic details, expecting "mayhem" to be unleashed all over the town. Instead, the story remains centered on Jimmy's household. There also wasn't as much carnage as I was led to believe.

I wish Ryan had put as much effort into the ending as he did with the rest of the story, but, for the record, the author kept me both engrossed and grossed out to the very last page. Even if this story doesn't sit well with some readers, I encourage horror fans to try some of Ryan's other stories.

As always,

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Supernatural Science Fiction

Six strangers find themselves on a subway train that seems to have no destination. Defying logic and reason, this train has no beginning and no end. These six strangers will find themselves pushed to the limits, overcoming fear and suspicion of their fellow passengers as they attempt to explain the unexplainable circumstances of being trapped on an endless train while trying to find a way off before it's too late. It's a train ride they'll never forget, if they survive.

The Last Stop by Matthew Hanover is a weird tale about a group of people trapped on a moving train. The reactions of the passengers are believable for that situation, with realistic dialogue and intense interactions between the characters. The various theories tested by the group kept me hooked, even though the setting is a single train car. The references to The Twilight Zone is a fantastic touch.

If the author can be this creative with just a short story, I'd love to read a novel written in this style.

As always,

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Some Kids Will Put Anything In Their Mouths

A therapist meets with a very odd little boy.

Don't Bite by Joshua Scribner is a flash fiction piece about a little boy with a dark secret. The story isn't as straight-forward as you might expect. While the ending is somewhat predictable, the reason for the boy's actions is a surprising take on a bit of folklore.

This story reminded me of the time I bit a bully in the first grade. We lived in Alaska at the time and we were on the school playground, so we were pretty bundled up.

The kid was about three years older, in the third grade, and bigger than anyone else on the playground. He terrorized everyone, not just me. That day he had cut in line in front of me, and I finally snapped...grabbed his arm and chomped down. I bit him so hard, even with his poofy jacket and all his layers, I left teeth marks on his skin. He cried. I gloated.

I had to take a note home, explaining what I did. My dad asked me why I bit the kid. I told him how I had been bullied for months and had enough, but I knew I was too small to take the boy in a fair fight, so biting was the logical choice in my 5 yr old mind.

My dad told me not to bite anyone else and taught me some self-defense moves...

As always,