Thursday, November 19, 2015

No Going Back

In Project Hindsight by Steven Pajak (author of the Mad Swine series), Joe gets a phone call at two in the morning from Rachel, an old girlfriend who's been missing for thirteen years. She eventually reveals that she was forced to be part of a secret government project, and the two of them are being hunted by agents sent to retrieve Rachel.

Several friendships and other relationships are torn apart and utterly destroyed because of Project Hindsight. The story is filled with drama and action, and the ending is absolutely brutal.

Steven Pajak continues to perfect his style of horror, this time focusing on the sick ambition of men and their ruthless way of taking whatever they want. Pajak continues to be one of my favorite authors.

As always,

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Casual Approach To WW2

I thought Clara by Kurt Palka was to be a story of love between an aristocratic young woman and the cavalry officer, but it is one of the most emotionless books that I've ever read...ever. Inspired by a collection of documents, the author seems more interested in showing off what he knows about that part of history, rather than showing any real talent for story-telling. It could easily have been a story about androids for the lack of human emotions.

Clara, the woman at the center of the novel, seems very cold and unfeeling throughout most of the novel. She shows more interest in her books than in her own children or husband. The character development is almost non-existent, and, despite the time period, there is little drama within. The story reads more like an essay than a novel.

I haven't been this disappointed with a book in a long time.

As always,

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Crossing Through Hell

The Dead Run by Adam Mansbach begins with a man, aptly named Mulligan, attempting to cross from Mexico to the U.S.; he blacks out and comes to with a beautiful woman tearing into his thigh with her teeth. The story then cuts away to Jess Galvan, who tries to save a young girl from gang rape, only to end up in a Mexican prison. The POV continues to move from one character to another, including Galvan's daughter Sherry Richards and Sheriff Bob Nichols.

Sherry is kidnapped on her way home; her mom is a recovering cult member. Meanwhile, Nichols finds a dead girl in the desert near the border with the "kiss of the devil" stabbed into her chest. Nichols is contacted by Ruth Cantwell, the doctor who was treating Sherry's mother after the mother and daughter escaped from a cult. It's not clear at first how the three storylines fit together, but they do converge, it makes for a great horror-thriller with a touch of the supernatural.

Aaron Seth is the cult leader with one hell of a god-complex, but he is not as frightening as the demonic forces at work in the desert. There is an abundance of action, drama and carnage, and the entire story takes place within a 24 hour time period. The Dead Run is also the first book in a new series based on Jess Galvan. I cant wait to see what Mansbach has in store for the reluctant "boy scout".

As always,

Monday, November 16, 2015

Story Within A Story

Thirty Girls by Susan Minot is a powerful novel based on real-life events that took place in Uganda, in 1996: an abduction of the girls from St. Mary's College of Aboke. The POV moves between Jane, a journalist, and Esther, a girl from St. Mary's. Jane is on the rebound from a divorce; her ex-husband died from a drug overdose. Esther has escaped from her captors and she is trying to heal mentally and physically at a rehabilitation facility.

The two women suffer pain and loss in completely different ways, but their suffering bonds the two together. The novel explores the various ways of interacting and connecting with other people in unfamiliar situations. Jane learns more about herself as she investigates the story of the girls that escaped from the rebel army, and her self-discovery is moving. However, Esther's journey makes a lasting impression - I can't imagine what it would be like to be torn from my bed in the middle of the night and be subjected to the atrocities that Esther was forced to endure.

The novel is not a political statement - it's a story about human nature and how we perceive life based on our personal experiences. I recommend this novel to anyone who needs to take a step out of their comfort zone.

As always,

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Hell's Gates Open Again For Horror Fans

At Hell's Gates: Origins of Evil is the second volume of an effort to raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. I have already read volumes one and three, and I have yet to be disappointed. Whatever method they are using to choose the stories, it's working well. There is something for every horror fan, including science fiction and fantasy subgenres mixed with classical horror elements, and, if you're not normally a fan of the horror genre, you will be after reading any of the anthologies.

This particular volume had numerous stories bordering on the bizarro genre, so, once again, the volume is unique from the other two:

PULSE BY MARK TUFO is a fantastic thriller about a bug zapper, kind of like Borne Identity meets the SyFy channel.
COOKIES FOR THE GENTLEMAN BY C.T. PHIPPS is a dark and hopeless tale about an unwanted visitor.
BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY BY EVIN AGER introduces an Army MP with a Lovecraft-type of deployment.
HISTORY'S END BY FRANK TAYELL is proof that even the smartest person can make a really stupid mistake.
A MOTHER'S NIGHTMARE BY J. RUDOLPH is a sad zombie story that will tear your heart out.
PATIENT 63 BY STEVE KOPAS is one of my favorites; this is an excellent outbreak story.
TYRANNICAL ASCENSION BY SHANA FESTA is a twisted apocalypse story that I enjoyed a lot.
INK BY JAMES CRAWFORD is another favorite of mine about the dark meaning of a tattoo.
THE MAN WITH FOUR SCARS BY STEPHEN KOZENIEWSKI is Clan of the Cave Bear meets Night of the Comet, and is one of the very best stories in this volume.
DADDY'S GIRL BY IAN McCLELLAN caught me off-guard with the twist; well-written.
THE INFECTED BY SG LEE shows how a zombie virus is born.
FORGET ME NEVER BY SHARON STEVENSON tells the tale of a starlet's dark secret to success.
MIRAGE BY SEAN T. SMITH is a story that Ray Bradbury would be proud of.
THE MILLSTONE BY LESA KINNEY ANDERS is another favorite in this collection; it's one of the best vampire stories that I've ever read.
GENESIS BY KIT POWER is an intense thriller-prequel to the novel "Godbomb!"
LOCKDOWN BY TIM CALDWELL features a zombie outbreak at a school.
COLLECTION NIGHT BY CURREN GEIST is a gut-wrenching sci-fi story...a damn good one.
THE COLD BY DEVAN SAGLIANI is one of the most unusual stories in the entire anthology.
A DIFFERENT COCKTAIL BY CLAIRE C. RILEY is about a cult meeting that goes horribly wrong for one young man.
A SONG TO SING IN BABYON BY BOBBY METEVIER & MATTHEW BAUGH is very weird...told from a demonic POV.
THE GOUGER BY PAUL MANNERING is a brutal ending to a brutal anthology.

The variety and originality of the stories makes this a perfect gift for horror fans, while contributing to a good cause.

As always,

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My #1 Pick For 2015

On September 6th, 1965, Sutter Wayne Thomas, 8, went missing from the Mecklenburg County Fairgrounds in Charlotte, North Carolina. He remained missing for eight years, and when he returned, horribly scarred and disfigured, he remembered nothing of where he had been, who had taken him, or what had happened to him. His abductor was never apprehended, or even identified.

30 years later, Sutter is a highly-successful true crime author and a public relations agent for missing children, lending his fame and fortune to the efforts for their safe return. For the most part he has adjusted to the world around him, though any lingering effects from his ordeal flare to the forefront when on the exact anniversary of his abduction, another 8-year-old boy goes missing from the exact place, at the exact time, in the exact way Sutter had.

Heritage by H. Perry Horton is the best fiction that I've read all year. The novel begins with a news article, drawing in readers while laying down the foundation of the story. The story follows the POV of Sutter - a former kidnap victim and now a public relations agent for families of missing children, Patrick - the current missing boy, and Dale - a detoxing junkie who might know where Patrick is being held. There is disturbing imagery of the tortured little boy, but the description is subtle - no graphic details of the actual violence. I am impressed with how Horton terrifies readers without exploiting the pain and suffering of the characters for shock value.

Possibly due to the number of horror/mystery/thriller books I have read, I guessed correctly which character is the perpetrator and how the person gets away with it, but it didn't ruin the story for me at all...and, even though I figured out who the killer is, I couldn't have predicted the ending if my life depended on it.

I've never been so traumatized by a fictional character before reading Heritage. I've had nightmares from stories before, but this novel is so horrifying, I couldn't even read it one sitting. I kept having nightmares that the killer broke into my house to get to my son.

Horton is an exceptional horror writer, a true master of suspense, and I sincerely think this novel should be given an award. I look forward to reading more from this author.

As always,