Thursday, August 16, 2018

Author Skips Through Story

A poignant short story about a young woman who longs to escape her dreary, hard working existence on a Caribbean island. With a baby daughter and irresponsible casino dealer husband, she is tied down to eking a living working tables in a local restaurant. When an opportunity suddenly presents itself, she is torn between her family and the prospect of elevating herself.

Funnels by Fay Knowles had a strong beginning and unravelled towards the end. From the description, I thought the focus of the story would be a difficult decision, a once-in-a lifetime offer or something along those lines. Instead, Knowles skips over the events following Annie's initial decision to enter a pageant and ends with a rather ambiguous scene with her husband Marco.

In addition to the sloppy writing, the characters aren't developed at all. There is barely any information about the family of three. I don't understand why someone would bother writing a story and leave out the crucial elements of storytelling.

As always,

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Should Be Titled Run

I have no home. Not anymore. I live off the land. Hunt small game to survive. Set up traps for rabbits and squirrels. If I'm lucky, I'll even catch a fox. I have to move constantly because the Hunters hunt humans. I'm smarter than rabbits, squirrels, and foxes. The Hunters are smarter than me.

Hunt by R.W. Taylor is a flash fiction story which takes place hundreds of years in the future. Another species is now top of the food chain and humans are food. Some of the scenes made me think of the Predator movies, although I did wonder if Earth had become Planet of the Rats (instead of Apes).

While the urgency of the narration kept me interested, I feel too much time is spent explaining how the survivor hunts rabbits. I wish the story had begun with the culling of the 32 humans, instead of simply picking up where the lone survivor escapes.

As always,

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Romance Story (I know, I'm just as surprised.)

Returning home from a disastrous ski trip, Jake is quick to trace Mel's hand in the welcoming touches scattered throughout his apartment. But when a closer look reveals more than she intended to show, Jake's world is turned upside down. Can he somehow prove to Mel that he's woken up at last, or has he lost the chance forever?

Love Blind by Angie Thompson is a love story, but not one of those mushy, over-the-top and unrealistic stories. Not to mention, this story is told from the guy's POV. Jake's epiphany about his ex-girlfriend, Danna, and Mel, the girl who has always been there for him, is something I think a lot of people will relate to.

We've all had the bad relationship we didn't know was bad until we got free of it, and it's easier to see others in a different light when we're not suffering from tunnel vision. Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way. Luckily for Jake, a skiing accident gave him a clear view of the women in his life.

As always,

Monday, August 13, 2018

Family Feud to the Death

Driven home by grief, Cole returns to his family after being away for five years. He soon discovers that his brother, Joe, is locked in a bitter feud with a family who wants everything he's built for himself.

As things begin to escalate and tempers start to flare, Cole finds himself pulled into a world of violence, hatred, and unchecked rage.

There are no heroes. There are no villains. There is only the worst in us.

The Worst In Us by Elias Witherow (read 2017 interview with the author here at the Lair) is a brutal family drama, with the push-down-the-stairs delivery the author is best known for. Witherow carefully lays out each step, with individual challenges and success of one family contrasted with the downward spiral of another, only to hurt readers with one impact after another, as the quest for revenge escalates between the two groups of brothers.

The author does an excellent job of balancing savagery with suspense while revealing just how far all the characters are willing to go to punish one another. There are many horrific scenes in this novel, but Witherow shows decorum and does not use the violence as a plot device. There is some misdirection here and there, enhancing the shock value when the truth behind the feud is finally revealed.

Proceed with caution, Witherow spares no one...

As always,

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday Suspense Short Story

Jack Wrexall leaves his Heybridge home on a warm summer day - only to be embroiled in the sinister machinations of fungal antagonists.

Blackwater by Byron Black is a flash fiction nightmare centered around a young man named Jack. The story is similar in style to a Lovecraft tale, with the character's sanity slipping away in a countryside setting facing what appears to be a cult, as well as other mythos elements, but Black's idea of horror has limited interaction with the events presented within.

I think this story would be better in a longer format, with further character development and more intense action. However, Black does deliver the cosmicism.

As always,

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Sci-Fi Saturday Short

The colony ship known as the Vale has been spiralling towards Epsilon Eridani for four millennia, and Barry - the semi-sentient AI set to guard its frozen human cargo - has had a long time to question the nature of his mission. There are too many gaps in his code, too many mistakes left unfixed.

Could Barry's programmers really have been so lax? Or does he have a greater purpose, some secret mission buried in his source code? He has another eighteen thousand years to find the answer. In the meantime, he's growing bored, and idle hands are the devil's playthings...

The Last Broadcast by Christopher Ruz is a science fiction short story, but the thought process the A.I., Barry, goes through is horrific. I found Barry's conspiracy theories about the Scrubbers intriguing and I wish the author had gone in that direction. Instead, Ruz chose to go with a theme which is overdone and in the sci-fi genre and result in a predictable ending.

I did enjoy the author's writing style. I'd love to read this same story, but from the Scrubbers POV and with a different ending.

As always,

Friday, August 10, 2018

Nothing Fun About It

Every family has a Funscreen on their wall. The question is... who's watching who?

When the government's new private welfare system begins rewarding unemployed viewers for watching the right kind of ads, Roger Birch welcomes a Funscreen into his home.

Like millions of others, Roger and his family soon depend on ad-viewing income for their survival.

Unlike millions of others, the events of one uncomfortable evening leave Roger aware of the government's shadier reasons for investing in Funscreens.

With HD cameras hidden behind a 60-inch glass veil, the answer was staring him in the face all along...

Funscreen by Craig A. Falconer is a scary science fiction prediction of what our future may bring, sooner, rather than later. This is also a depressing possibility as readers are shown how one family has all but fallen apart because of their dad's obsession with amassing credits for watching ads.

The stories steeped in realism are always the most horrific.

As always,

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Don't Get Me Wrong

After a mass murder, an obscure and mysterious horror movie, available only on VHS, becomes the stuff of urban legend.

Brainrot by D.W. Nathan isn't much of a written story as it is a long, dragged-out one-sided conversation with the narrator, who isn't very good at telling a story. I think it would've been better if the focus had stayed directly on the three boys, but the timeline jumps in years and the storyline becomes fragmented. The ending is a huge disappointment.

As always,

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

For The Love of Reading

Joel has spent the last five years building maps of an imaginary city to deal with his grief. Or at least he thinks it's imaginary, until someone writes to tell him they used to live there. To Joel, it's just a hobby - a way to blank his mind until he figures out how to move forward to his life. 

But then things take an increasingly strange turn - and a dark one.

Scienceville by Gary Gibson is a fascinating sci-fi fantasy short story, with traces of steampunk fiction here and there. Absolutely brilliant. The author needs to either create a short story series or write a full-length novel. The concept of Scienceville - the metaphysics behind it - is just too damn interesting to leave inside one story.

It has been decades since a story evoked these kind of emotions within me. Do you remember the first time you read some really grand fiction that wasn't part of a school assignment, and you fell in love with reading as a consequence? Do you remember the joy of having worlds revealed to your imagination through the printed word? Granted, I read this on my Kindle, but that same "Oh, I remember why I love fiction so much" feeling came rushing back.

If you've been feeling burned out on genre stories, or feeling like you've read the same themes over and over, you need to read Scienceville!

As always,

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Not all villains succeed at being evil. Not all diseases deserve the word plague. Fate can be ironic indeed. The chilling short story, The Giving Plague, follows microbiologist Forry, a self-proclaimed cynic, jealous of his “boy wonder” colleague who discovers a unique virus that could change humanity. Transmitted by blood donations, the virus manipulates humans toward altruism and charity. Forry decides that he will do anything to take credit for this discovery…until a more deadly alien virus infects the human race, forcing him to wrestle with his own inner demons.

The Giving Plague by David Brin is a sci-fi horror story about a non-violent virus outbreak which has deadly consequences years later. The science is fascinating, the fiction is horrifying, and, as any sci-fi fan will tell you, stories like this one have a way of predicting the future. How could forced altruism be a bad thing? Read on and see for yourselves...

As always,

P.S. This is one of those rare times I highly recommend reading the author's note at the end of the story.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Soggy Match

Charlie is a man who follows the rules. He is a man who is never late. He is a man who always obeys.

This is the most important day of Charlie's life, and he is running late.

The Hour of the Time by Vincent Hobbes is the second story I've read by this author and I'm thinking his writing style just isn't my cup of tea. This author seems to think being vague is somehow clever, but it's simply annoying.

Charlie doesn't like to be late, and, oh hey, there's a big mystery about what it is he's late for...and when it's finally revealed, no one will care because Charlie is annoying and this flash fiction is like a soggy match that won't burn.

As always,

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Last Man Walking

A man travelling a broken world tries to make his way through the city, only to discover the world isn't quite as dead as he first thought.

The City by A.M. Halkyard reminded me a little of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Although a flash fiction piece, this story has a surprising amount of drama, action and suspense. The man's name is never revealed and readers never learn what events led up to this post-apocalypse, other than a mention of war. Halkyard does give a reason why the man is not likely to ever trust another person, which gives an important clue about his decision-making. Overall, this is a great social commentary on human behavior.

As always,

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Vagueness Is NOT Suspense

A lone man drives into swamplands on a dark night. Far away from any civilization, he hunts for something mysterious armed only with a map. A series of curious and chilling incidences leave him wondering if he’s the one doing the hunting at all.

Tracking Darkness by Elliott S. Clark is a strange piece of flash fiction. The author spends half the story dragging out William's drive into the middle of nowhere, being extremely vague. When the reason for his journey is finally revealed, most of the action is limited to a vision, and the author remains stingy with details. With the ending being so mysterious, I'm wondering why Clark bothered writing this at all.

I think the story could've have been much better if the author had shared more of William's plan with the readers. I prefer Clark's story, Road Trip, over this one.

As always,

Friday, August 3, 2018

Chains of Mountains

Runaway male slave fleeing across the desert is pursued by an android tracker.

Android Tracker by Abe Evergreen, author of the Dark City series, is a flash fiction story about the bittersweet taste of freedom. Sometimes the grass isn't greener on the side...sometimes the grass doesn't grow at all. Facing a harsh landscape, Ten encounters one obstacle after another during his escape.

The setting appears to be in a dystopian future of our world, with a reference to constellations seen from Earth. Almost nothing is revealed about the society Ten is fleeing from, but the hyper-focus on the slave and his fears creates an overwhelming level of suspense.

The ending is an unpredictable shock. I don't think the author intended it to be at all funny, but I had to laugh...for dark, ironic reasons. Evergreen definitely knows how to create quality science fiction.

As always,

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Shallow vs. Deep

The depths are dark and treacherous for even the deadliest of predators, and what may appear to be prey may just be an even deadlier ruse.

A dark political thriller set in a feudalistic underwater kingdom. It is not a question of if, but when the madness will consume you.

Blood In The Water by Charles Hash is full of political intrigue, with characters making moves as if playing a game of chess. I had the strangest feeling of déjà vu while reading this story...I think this flash fiction drama is reminiscent of the fantasy fiction I loved so much in the 1980s. The use of non-human characters adds an extra depth, no pun intended.

This underwater family feud is very different from anything else I've read by Charles Hash. I'd like to see the author revisit this genre again. Perhaps a prequel novel revealing exactly how Agulia rose to power and the various ways his reign fractured the kingdom.

As always,

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

When The Kids Fight Back

My family told me a story of a sadistic man, shrouded in white, who terrorized the children of Roanoke Road. They called him The White Man. That street has another secret it will not reveal freely.

The White Man by S.O. Bailey is a tragic short story about the kidnapping of a young girl and the efforts made by the neighborhood children to find her. Unfortunately for the children, there is more than one threat on Roanoke Road.

Bailey has taken something similar to an urban legend and used a creative mix of suspense and innocence to create a captivating campfire tale. I only wish the author had spent a little less time on Billy and more time on the previous sightings of the White Man.

As always,

Monday, July 30, 2018

Only Eleven Years Old

Faced with his parents' divorce, eleven-year-old Lucas runs away from home in the hope that his family will get back together to find him. While walking through the empty streets, he is picked up by a mysterious woman, who offers to take care of him and provide him with a loving family.

The boy then wakes up in shackles, confined to a bed in a decrepit house in the middle of nowhere and will have to face his deepest fears in order to survive in his new home.

Madhouse by Miguel Estrada begins with one of the most sinister sentences I've ever read:

"At only eleven years old, Lucas would live through all the horrors the human being is capable of."

This novella had me wondering if I would be able to make it to the end. As a mother, anything with the suffering of children is a tough read. Knowing "Lucas would live through" gave me some comfort, but left me wondering what condition Lucas would be in after the nightmare he's put through. Estrada's ever-increasing suspense overwhelmed any attempt to predict what would happen next. I felt as helpless as Lucas...more so, in fact.

Of course, I also wondered how his kidnapping would affect his parents. Nothing could have prepared me for the final blow delivered by the author. In hindsight, Estrada left a clue here and there, but, even after reading through a second time, the final horror remains shocking and I am fearful of the adult Lucas might turn into.

As always,

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Family Secrets Unearthed

Fifteen years have passed since Alex Fisher was taken into care. Now, returning to his hometown, he’s back to attend his abusive father’s funeral. However, it’s not only the old man that’s been buried deep. 

As Alex revisits his childhood haunts, he’s troubled by nightmares and startling flashbacks, memories he didn’t even know existed. 

What really happened to his younger brother? Why did his mother leave her boys to a monster? Alex must work to unravel his past before he can truly move on with his future.

Not My Brother's Keeper by Karen A Foster is an excellent crime-drama about a young man named Alex, haunted by his childhood memories. He thought his family fell apart because of the abuse his father heaped on everyone, but flashback nightmares suggest something far more sinister. After his father passes away, leaving many unanswered questions, Alex wonders what secrets he might find in his childhood home.

The author weaves misdirection, flashbacks and suspense together to create a heart-breaking mystery surrounding a severely dysfunctional family, focusing on the personal drama of the last Fisher. I've enjoyed Foster's short stories in the past, but I think she needs to redirect her talent into longer stories such as this one. Not My Brother's Keeper is her best work yet.

As always, 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Four Ways To Hell

The Corn Wife by Cliff Wallace is a collection of four supernatural short stories...

ASHES: A misogynist is hunted down by a woman tortured and murdered by him.

FOLLOWERS: A thief is stalked and soon realizes he's made one mistake too many.

THE CORN WIFE: A woman tries a new procedure to get pregnant and her husband thinks the price is too high.

WHAT REMAINS: Two sisters inherit a home from their long-lost uncle, only to regret ever setting foot inside the place.

Ashes and Followers are my favorites, but all four tales are full of terror-inducing suspense. I recommend this collection to all horror fans.

As always,

Friday, July 27, 2018

Read A Story, Help A Hero

The Somme Offensive, 1916. Harry Doyle is a young, overawed British infantryman struggling to come to terms with the insanity of war. His main objective is staying alive, and getting back home to his family in one piece. But his hopes begin to diminish when he realises the full extent of the misery and destruction around him. And the German war machine isn't the only thing he has to worry about. Something else is preying on his friends and comrades in the trenches, picking them off one by one. Something no amount of military training can prepare him for.

Proceeds from this book will be donated to the Help for Heroes foundation.

No Man's Land by C.M. Saunders is an action-packed novella about a young man's epic battle for survival in No Man's Land, between the British and German trenches, during WWI. He is tasked with doing a recon mission to discover why previous teams disappeared without explanation.

As far as war stories go, Saunders does an amazing job of capturing the psychological aspects of trench warfare, as well as humanizing a part of history on a very personal level. However, the author doesn't stop there...Saunders introduces a supernatural element to the danger Harry must face alone. With several rumours about the German soldiers having been mentioned before Harry volunteers, the nature of the enemy he engages remains a guessing game until the end.

While this story is perfectly thrilling as-is, I am hoping the author will consider a sequel...the storyline is just too damn good to be left on the battlefield. I love Saunders writing style and look forward to reading more of his work throughout the year.

As always,

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Another One For The Top Ten List

A meek employee perpetrates a workplace massacre, knowing he can dispel away the consequences with the two most powerful words in the universe.

No Thanks by Antonio Simon Jr. is a very original flash fiction story about a man who is clearly fed up with everything about his life. His explanation of events leading up to his office shooting spree is an excellent example of a narrator who can't be trusted and, yet, Simon's disgruntled worker is very convincing.

As always,

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

New Story, New Style

In this short horror tale, an aspiring writer drives a hard bargain to achieve the bestseller he's been longing for.

Muse by D.W. Nathan is a flash fiction piece about an author and his muse, struggling to come to an agreement over a story idea. While captivating from beginning to end, I wish more had been revealed about the nature of the muse. The ending is shocking.

This is a story I would specifically recommend to other authors...and this is a thousand times better than Nathan's story, Cursed.

As always,

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Mother's Encouragement

There are two types of tree people: The Pure Ones and the Corrupted Ones. The Pure Ones take over the bodies of the recently deceased. The Corrupted Ones kill people and take them over. The two types are at war. Amelia, a Pure One, elicits the help of Momo and Tyler, survivors of Reclamation Project 1, to combat them and perhaps take care of them once and for all.

Adirondacks by Jerry Gerold is the third story in the Reclamation Project series. I was beyond excited to discover characters from both of the previous stories crossing paths and joining forces. After reading the first two stories and knowing what the Corrupted Ones are capable of, Adirondacks had me freaking out every time a struggle happened.

I think Gerold's writing style is much improved since he first began this series...a perfect balance of action and interaction between characters. I can't wait for Gerold to continue the series!

As always,

Monday, July 23, 2018

New Meaning To Tree Hugger

There are trees growing beneath the city streets, trees with human-sized pods growing from them. They need human bodies. Yours will do just fine.

Reclamation Project 2: Abandoned Subway by Jerry Gerold is part of a tree-people series by the author, but this installment functions as a stand-alone. While the story provides insight on the new species and the threat from the Corrupted Ones, it has nothing to do with the events in the first Reclamation Project with Momo.

In fact, Abandoned Subway is more like scifi-horror-erotica than the previous mystery-thriller, as the Corrupted Ones have a rather invasive way of spreading. The storyline is captivating, but I think having Amelia's POV, in addition to Duncan's POV, would have added some extra depth.

The series continues with Adirondacks...

As always,

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Short and Sweet

Sometimes life's most tragic events help you find your way. When Cecilia Marsh returns to Langley Mills, Wisconsin after the death of her father, she rediscovers a town that hasn't forgotten her. Through a tapestry of memories, she begins to understand that roots, while invisible, run very deep indeed.

Finding Home by Nicki Greenwood is a "second coming" of age story. The author has perfectly captured the sentiment of getting away to appreciate what you left behind. When Cecilia returns to her hometown, she has the benefit of 20+ years of hindsight and experiences to help her discover what she needed all along.

As always,

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Oh, Come ON!

Jason can't sleep. Every night the monster in his closet wants to eat him, but he is always rescued by his parents. However his parents are getting annoyed with the late night wake up calls to come to his aid. When his father learns that the monster that is coming for him is one from his father's own horror films, he decides to take Jason to the studio to face his fear.

When The Demons Know Your Name by Jason Davis is another example of a parent dismissing a child's fears. I know it's fiction, but I can't stand how the parents in these kids of stories seem to forget what it's like being a kid with kid problems. I love how Jason's dad finds out the hard way his son is not simply having a nightmare.

While I usually enjoy the author's writing style, the ending is very disappointing. Not only does Davis skip a large portion of events, but the narration hints at an explanation which is never delivered. After the detail put into most of the story, the vague ending is inexcusable.

As always,

Friday, July 20, 2018

Butter Those Buns

Ever wake up with the feeling that something bad is going to happen? Well, Robert has, and at first he thinks his illicit affair with one of the owners of the B&B has been discovered and everything is about to come crashing down around him. Thankfully, his secret is safe, but what The Fates have in store for him is far worse than anything he could ever have imagined.

Hungry For More by Michael J Evans is a flash fiction piece about a man consumed by guilty thoughts. He is so certain his lover's wife has found out about their ongoing affair, he fails to see what his instincts are really trying to warn him about. Too bad Robert hyper-focused on the wrong person.

This isn't necessarily the author's best work, but his distaste for people in general still makes for highly entertaining fiction. I swear Evans creates characters just so he can make them suffer and die...and I will keep reading his horror as long as he keeps writing.

As always,

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Story

You wake up in a foreign country. You can’t see, because there’s a bag on your head. You can’t move, because you’re shackled to a chair. There is a missing warhead set to explode. The people who put you here want it, and are willing to do anything to get it. This what Charlie Benson is faced with.

The Chair by Landon Wake isn't really a horror story...more like a crime-drama. As a result, not at all what I expected when I did a Kindle horror search on Amazon.

Even for a crime drama, the story is pretty dull. Just a guy getting tortured for information...the torture's not even original. The characters are all stereotypical and without any personalities that stand out.

I think the POV should've been told through one of the agents. Have one of them begin to second-guess Charlie Benson's identity.

As always,

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wicked Wednesday: Marital Issues

Marrying above your station is never easy. The money, the great house, the gorgeous wife, and the mind-blowing sex, they all come with a price tag. That was something Howie didn't realize when he entered into this relationship. But now it's time to pay the piper and the price is more than he is willing to pay. Is there an out, or will Howie find out what happens when he refuses to make the expected payment?

The First Suitor by A.P. Sessler should be considered a warning about marrying someone for a reason other than love. Sessler deftly uses little details as a trail of crumbs for readers to follow along, until they are hopelessly trapped within the story, along with Howie. Unfortunately those crumbs weren't filling enough.

While there is plenty of foreshadowing and frustration to go around, the only action in the story takes place in the bedroom. With the introduction of Nicholas and his "marital counseling," I thought Howie would become the new Elise, or maybe "Lily" would be short for Lilith, but no such luck. The author kept the storyline fairly simple, which is a shame because Sessler's work is so much better when it's complicated.

I recommend readers instead pick up a copy of The Stain in the Stairwell to see the real horror Sessler is capable of delivering.

As always,

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

When A Breakup Gets Messy

Ian Barnes and his girlfriend Sarah Haley are heading back to Ohio University after a brief trip home before exams and homecoming, only to be run off the road by Sarah's vicious ex-boyfriend Daniel Smythe.

Hunted through the woods by Daniel and two of his Pi Iota Gamma brothers, Ian and Sarah find there are worse things in the Ohio woods than murderous frat boys--the pint-sized monsters known as the Melon Heads!

Melon Heads by Matthew W. Quinn is one frightening situation after another. Daniel is a violent psycho, hell bent on ruining the couple's road trip. His plans for Sarah and Ian had me sick to my stomach. I was more concerned with the psycho ex than the Melon Heads.

While this works perfectly as a stand-alone short story, the concept of the Melon Heads would make a great mini-series or even a full-length novel. This is also the kind of story which would make a great SyFy movie.

As always,

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sci-Fi Sunday Short

Are we alone in the universe? When an alien materializes in the lobby of the Sheriff's department in Searchlight, Nevada, NSA Head Agent Dale Hunter, and his partner, Agent Jerry Rafferty are about to discover the answer.

The Interview by Steven Pajak is a science fiction short story about an alien being interviewed. During the process, "ALF" reveals the Earth will be devastated by a global war and all life will be reduced to mutated abominations.

The pace is slow, much of the story is predictable and/or cliché and I don't even recognize Pajak's writing style anymore. I think Pajak needs to stick with the horror genre...his previous work is far better.

As always,

Friday, July 13, 2018

Cold Snap

A group of College students decide to spend their Winter break up in a cabin... in the woods... in the middle of Winter... Well this is obviously going to go well...
The events that occur in this short story take place from the diary of our protagonist Alice. It might be best if they decide to stay inside though... As the winds bite...

Winter Usurpations by Cj Evans is not what I expected...I thought the danger would be a Yeti or Bigfoot, but Evans surprised me by mixing classical horror with a modern setting. This is a good story, but it could've been a great story with another round of editing to polish it up. Alice doesn't put very much emotion into her diary entries, considering the ongoing situation with her friends. Plenty of suspense, but not enough terror.

As always,

Thursday, July 12, 2018

When Even Death Can't Stop Someone

A paranormal investigator tries to help a boy deal with the ghost of his dead, but still abusive father. Of course, the investigator has a secret of his own.

By Death Abused by Gary Jonas is a flash fiction piece about the worst kind of ghost dad, still terrorizing his children from beyond the grave. I appreciate the way the author avoids going into detail about the abuse...what little is revealed is horrific enough. It's not difficult to imagine the physical and psychological trauma inflicted on Paula and Davey.

Having the story told from Davey's POV brings a perfect balance of fear and determination, as the young boy is determined to protect his teenage sister. I only wish more had been revealed about the investigator, Sherrod. I'd like to know why he felt he owed "paybacks." I'm not sure if he is trying to make up for something he did or not.

As always,

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Surprise! Dark City, New Day (Part 4 of 4)

WARNING: I strongly suggest you read my previous reviews of the Dark City series, before you read this review: 1) Dark City Dark Night, 2) Dark City Darker Night, and 3) Dark City Darkest Night which has been revised and renamed, Dark City Dark Day.

The final chapter of the Dark City stories. Jo Lamp's niece Yima has become very independent and fearless. They visit a growing community outside the Dark City and his niece meets a young man, who becomes her friend and first love. Lamp becomes the community's constable after he and his niece rescue a girl from two kidnappers.

New Day is the fourth and final installment of the Dark City series by Abe Evergreen, and full of new developments. A lot has changed for Lamp and Yima, while a few things have, unfortunately, stayed the same. While some survivors are attempting to rebuild, others are violent for the sake of violence.

Evergreen has declared this the final chapter, but I haven't had enough of the Dark City. Perhaps, the author would consider writing another series, set in the same dystopian society, but from a completely different viewpoint. I'd love to know Grit's story!

If this is the grand finale, I'm good with how Evergreen chose to wrap up this series.

As always,

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Abe Evergreen Shakes Up The Dark City Series!

WARNING: I strongly suggest you read my previous reviews of the Dark City series, before you read this review: 1) Dark City Dark Night and 2) Dark City Darker Night.

Originally in the Dark City series by Abe Evergreen, the third installment was titled Dark City Darkest Night. You can read my original review here. I felt the author had radically changed his writing style and I was left thinking the series ended as a disappointing trilogy.

Imagine my surprise when I did an Amazon search on Mr. Evergreen to see what else he'd written lately and found, not only a fourth installment, but a new third installment. Darkest Night is nowhere to be found.

The third part of the exciting Dark City stories. After saving his niece's life in Dark City Dark Night, and rescuing her in Dark City Darker Night, Jo Lamp and his niece, Yima, fight to survive in the Dark City.

Dark Day by Abe Evergreen is a thousand times better than Darkest Night. Evergreen reworked the character Yima, so she appears to be a conflicted teen, rather than a brat with a bad attitude. The result is Yima's coming-of-age in a post-apocalyptic society, emphasizing the family drama which has always surrounded Lamp and his loved ones.

Evergreen delivers one hell of a gunfight as well, when a clan of scavengers attack Lamp in effort to kidnap his niece...not to mention the author's suspenseful mix of horror and science fiction in this dystopian series. Dark Day proves to be just as thrilling as the first two stories. I can't wait to read the fourth installment!

As always,

Monday, July 9, 2018

Monday Murder

On the stage of an abandoned theater, the Mixologist sits slouched in a red, velvet-lined chair. In his hand, he holds a glass filled with a viscous, red concoction. Countless scars mar the flesh of his arms, and his mouth and cheeks are splattered with the crimson liquid.

Behind him, a body dangles by its ankles, creaking as it sways above an ornate, glass decanter. The bottle’s narrow neck captures only a fraction of the mixture draining from the throat of the corpse.

The Mixologist takes a sip from his glass and grins, already thinking about mixing up his next drink.

The Mixologist by Neefu is a flash fiction piece centered around a man who likes to drink a specific mixture of blood, but he's not as discerning as he believes himself to be. While the character, Cummings, transcends both vampire and serial killer in a creative way, the writing style is sloppy.

The POV switches between Cummings, Jonathan and Meagan, which is fine, but towards the end, the POV switches yet again and it simply doesn't fit with the previous POVs. I think it would have flowed more smoothly if all of The Mixologist had been told strictly in third-person narration.

Last, but not least, I tried to google Hyra for a proper sense of the name, but couldn't find any reference to the way it's used in the story. I think Neefu needs to include an author's note at the end. I feel the name would've had more of an impact, if I was familiar with the source.

As always,

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Speculation in Science Fiction

Do you ever get that sense of deja vu...a feeling that you've experienced something before? As computers get more and more complex, they are able to replicate the nature of reality in ever finer detail. How would we recognize if we were living in a computer simulation – a highly accurate world of virtual reality? Perhaps this isn't your first time...

Reality Check by David Brin is not a story so much as an extrapolation attempting to wake the reader up from a simulation of their own making. While providing basic elements, such as characters, theme, and setting, Brin fails to provide anything resembling a human connection, resulting in a cold, unfeeling narration, which is rather monotonous.

As always,

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Lunar Faerie Circle

Avery Rush is on an expedition into the moon's own version of the Bermuda Triangle - a mysterious region of the lunar surface where many a vessel has disappeared - though he is skeptical they'll find anything at all. But the fantastic world on the other side turns out to be full of surprises and dangers that may prove too much for this seasoned pilot who thought he'd seen it all...

OtherPlace by Michael D. Britton is a short story which takes place in the future. Space travel, everything from luxury cruises to shipping livestock, is a common occurrence. Avery, the pilot of a lunar vessel, is tasked with exploring the infamous Circle of Doom.

The mix of science fiction, fantasy and mythology had me spellbound as soon as the action began. While very little is revealed about the nature of the Circle, I still enjoyed the time twists throughout the story.

I can't remember how I found OtherPlace, but I would recommend it as YA fiction.

As always,

Friday, July 6, 2018

Blood Runs Cold

Jess is hoping to help kick her sister Tess' drug addiction by locking them together in their grandparents cabin. After a snowstorm blocks them in for a week or so, Jess' plan is so far working. One that is done behind her sister's back. But soon, Jess realizes they aren't alone in the secluded cabin like she had initially thought. Something horrifying stalks them in the snow. Something invisible.

It's Right There - Can't You See It? by N.C. Brooke is a story best read during a winter storm, rather than in the middle of summer, but it creeped me out just the same. While the snow stalker is fascinating, the story structure is a little too sloppy. There are many references to the sisters' grandparents, which don't seem to serve any purpose. I had hoped the family had some kind of history with the stalker...I expected Tess to share a flashback concerning her grandpa.

I also think bringing more characters into the story, besides Everett, is a weird choice. Mary's actions made no sense to me at all. Why did she run outside? The couples were behaving so strangely, I thought maybe they had ties to the stalker, but nope...just some random extras in the story. If the story had been limited to the three main characters, the storyline might have made more sense.

I enjoyed Voices In The Sea by Brooke much more.

As always,

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Choosing The Post-Apocalypse

It’s 2168, and twenty-two-year-old Sasha Roborovskiy’s life is in freefall after the death of his beloved grandmother. He falls into a routine of drunken ambivalence, running internet scams in his filthy Moscow apartment. When he happens upon a bizarre website on the darknet offering him a start at a new life with a research team in the lawless wastelands of America, he sees the chance he needs to turn himself around and be someone Grandma would approve of. However, the opportunity comes with a catch, and Sasha’s not sure it’s one he can live with.

One Way Ticket by Alia Hess is a prequel story to her Travelers series. Sasha lives in a heavily regulated society, where people are chipped, forced to take medication and have their every move tracked by the government. His existence seems so miserable, especially after he loses his grandmother, I don't blame him for choosing to move to a new community in the post-apocalyptic United States.

This prequel is a great way to hook readers into reading the series. Sasha is a very relatable character, wanting to improve himself and his life...and who hasn't thought about starting over somewhere new? Even with the dangers facing Sasha in America, better to risk your life doing something than allow yourself to waste away doing nothing.

As always,

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 4th Disappointment

American Horror Stories

"The Lady in Lavender"
Callie was horrifically abused by her husband in the late 1800’s. She was helpless in how to protect her children or herself and poisoned him. Because of her guilt she came back to haunt the area where she lived. 

“A Scarecrow for Maggie”
Maggie, an artist at heart makes scarecrows for the locals where she lives in Kentucky to make extra money. When she starts making money from her scarecrows, things start getting nasty.

"A Little Trick or Treat Surprise"
When Maddie takes her children trick or treating for Halloween she finds that not everyone is like the loving people in her family.

"Be Careful about the Promises You Make" 
Have you ever wondered what happens if someone who promises to come back from the dead really does?

American Horror Stories by Shana Dines is a collection of attempted short stories featuring female characters suffering various types of abuse. I say "attempted" because the lack of professional editing is painfully obvious, and, no, I am not referring to mere typos.

The first story glossed over the abuse, the self-defense, the main character herself, and even the ending with little Sara, which I expected to be the crucial point...instead, the lack of both details and suspense leaves readers with a severely underdeveloped plot.

The second story went downhill fast when it is revealed the main character married her cousin because "she really didn't know she had a choice." More time is spent listing the incest-rape encounters with her dad and brothers. I expected something paranormal, only to discover an alternate ending, which the author should have used in the first place. (If you want your characters to have a happy ending, maybe choose another genre to write.)

The third story stood out from the rest. It's more of a novelette than a short story, with a romantic theme, rather than horror, not unlike a condensed coming of age story. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unnecessary details. I don't think the entire relationship history is necessary at all. A few flashbacks might have been a better way of helping readers understand the mindset of Maddie, before her encounter with the neighborhood sicko.

The last story had me convinced the author has a fixation with sexual deviancy. Rather than invest in an editor and submit these stories in the erotica genre, Dines labeled her work "horror," even though there is little to no suspense, minimal action and a pitiful cast of characters.

If the author is serious about writing, I strongly suggest getting an editor for future projects.

As always,