Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Marching to Their Deaths

THE GOAT PARADE by Peter N. Dudar is a mix of crime drama and supernatural horror creating a mystery-thriller with the flames of Hell licking at the pages. Ol' Scratch is playing chess with several souls, and the board is Portland, Maine.

The characters consist of the people you would typically find in a big city, but their backstories are unusual and twisted. As they cross paths with one another, they soon realize they are up against the Devil himself.

While the storyline moves at a slow pace for much of the novel, the slow burn building up makes for a devastating scorched-earth ending.

If dark horror appeals to you, I also recommend another Grinning Skull Press novel, SINS OF THE FATHERS.

As always,

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Revenge vs. Justice

DAGANA: THE LAST MERMAID by Kody Boye is a cryptid-thriller for YA or new adult fiction readers. During Christmas break, Jessica's parents are both found dead, their bodies savagely mutilated by some unidentifiable creature. Unfortunately, the beach is not closed and more people die.

The transition from teen to adult is difficult enough, but with the murders and the nightmares overwhelming Jessica, she begins having panic attacks. In addition to the multiple deaths, she is also dealing with a new relationship, as well as some violent mean girls tormenting her at school. After having her fear confirmed by two others who have witnessed the sea creature, Jessica feels she is the only one who can make the waters safe again.

While I did find Jessica's thoughts and feelings well-developed, I think Boye missed a great opportunity to create a more complicated and unpredictable storyline. The author could have revealed the source of Dagana's fury through her own POV, forcing readers to decide for themselves who is or isn't a victim. If anyone could pull off such opposing viewpoints from two characters, it is Boye.

If you're looking for a different coming-of-age story, this novel will definitely pull you into the darkness.

As always,

Monday, May 18, 2020

Werewolf or Wendigo?

THE MOON WAS SOAKED IN WINE by Fredrick Niles is a tale about consumption. Wasted on wine, a guy searches through the woods for his missing girlfriend, and discovers a secret about her. While somewhat predictable, still entertaining.

I also recommend NDA by Niles, a twisted warning about revealing insider info.

As always,

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Wild Ride

UNDYING LOVE by Michael J. Evans begins with an erotic scene between husband and wife. Once the author has his readers all hot and bothered, he reveals the true nature of both the husband and wife. I'll give you a hint: marital counseling isn't going to help them.

While somewhat entertaining this is not a great example of the author's work, so I recommend reading MUTATION to have a better idea of what Evans is capable of delivering.

As always,

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Lovecraftian Puppet Masters

THEM by James Watts begins with a foreword by another author, Chris Miller, and I love it. I think horror fans who enjoy novels by Stephen King and Brian Keene are going to dig what he has to say. The author did well to choose Miller as a wing man for this novel.

As for the story itself, Watts combines family drama with supernatural horror to create a nightmare homecoming for Ray Sanders. The small town culture is the perfect setting for the interactions between the residents and the Odomulites. As Ray discovers his town's secret and his family's involvement, the POV begins to rotate between key characters.

The story is filled with all kinds of gruesome action, and the descriptions had me gagging and retching my way through the book. I think it might be a while before I go down into my the meantime, I highly recommend this one to all horror fans.

As always,

Friday, May 15, 2020

Product of Hatred

THE WORST KIND OF MONSTER by Shaun Hupp is told through the POV of a child living with a father who is all kinds of horrible. The author does a great job of building suspense and drama throughout this short. The direction of the story is not surprising, but the ending is absolutely heart-breaking.

Please make sure to read the author's notes placed before and after. Some monsters really are the worst.

As always,

Thursday, May 14, 2020

No Rest For The Wicked

NO REST by Joslyn Chase is a collection of fourteen short stories, with author notes for each one. Unfortunately, the notes are placed before each short, so I skipped them altogether, not wanting to risk having the stories ruined for me. (I read the notes after I finished all of the shorts.)

I've never read anything by Chase before, so I had no idea what to expect, but I was not disappointed. The author is a great storyteller. Ranging from crime drama to mystery-suspense, these shorts feature the best and worst of human nature.

This anthology is making my TOP 2020 list.

As always,

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Historical American Tragedy

On a quiet Philadelphia morning in 1906, a newspaper headline catapults Alma Mitchell back to her past. A federal agent is dead, and the murder suspect is Alma’s childhood friend, Harry Muskrat. Harry—or Asku, as Alma knew him—was the most promising student at the “savage-taming” boarding school run by her father, where Alma was the only white pupil. Created in the wake of the Indian Wars, the Stover School was intended to assimilate the children of neighboring reservations. Instead, it robbed them of everything they’d known—language, customs, even their names—and left a heartbreaking legacy in its wake.

The bright, courageous boy Alma knew could never have murdered anyone. But she barely recognizes the man Asku has become, cold and embittered at being an outcast in the white world and a ghost in his own. Her lawyer husband, Stewart, reluctantly agrees to help defend Asku for Alma’s sake. To do so, Alma must revisit the painful secrets she has kept hidden from everyone—especially Stewart.

BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY by Amanda Skenandore is based on the experiences of a member of the Ojibwe Tribe, who survived an Indian mission school in the 1950s. Told between past and present timelines, this is not just historical fiction, but a coming-of-age story blended with drama and suspense. The murder of a corrupt federal agent leads to the discovery of severe criminal wrongdoing, which in turn reveals the many lies fed to Alma as a child. As she struggles to balance her memories with the truth she uncovers, Alma must reconcile the life she wanted with the life she now has.

As enthralling as this story is, one of the students should have had their own POV in addition to Alma's. Minowe could have provided both past and present timelines in contrast to the first woman's perspective. While this novel brings attention to a period in American history rarely found in any classroom textbooks, the tragedy would have been best served by a Native American voice.

In any case, this is a novel I strongly recommend to all readers who enjoy historical fiction.

As always,

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Down to the Bones

PIRANHA by Eric S. Brown takes place in North Carolina. A plane carrying a military experiment goes down in a river, and a nearby small town becomes the feeding ground for a new kind of predator. After a mutilated body washes ashore, during a rain storm, the townsfolk soon find themselves caught in a flash flood filled with deadly creatures.

This novella is very much like a SyFy movie, but with the savage brutality Brown regularly unleashes on his fans. The action is gruesome, and the suspense will eat away at you. This is not your dad's underwater nightmare...this is a new reason to fear the water.

Not only do I recommend this story, I also recommend THE CAVE by Eric S. Brown.

As always,

Monday, May 11, 2020

Out of Bounds

VIRTUAL INSANITY by Charlie Dalton follows four friends to a virtual reality facility for a bachelor party. While the setup takes some time, the descriptions help readers experience the game along with the players.

Unfortunately, not much happens after George uncovers a secret inside the facilities. The ending is rushed, and I would have preferred to see a confrontation involving Jenny.

For a better Dalton story, I recommend Typhoid Mary.

As always,