Sunday, September 30, 2018

Reality or Delusion? You Decide.

An ancient evil born in the fire at the dawn of time with an insatiable hunger for violence and dread. Cursed with a weak physical form in our plane of reality HEINOUS seeks out hosts to do his bidding and feed his need for brutality and atrocity. Gavin Wagner is a decent kid from a happy home-not exactly the kind of person you think of as an instrument of evil. Gavin spends his time hanging out with his friend, smoking ganja, and wandering around the woods. After making a sinister discovery in the woods Gavin becomes the newest host for HEINOUS, a monster unlike any other. Gavin is forced to witness the despicable visions of former hosts as the demon instructs him to destroy those he loves most. Gavin struggles for control as Heinous unleashes him on a wild spree of terror with only one possible outcome.

Heinous by Jonathan Moon is not shocking, frightening or gory, and that left me a little confused about what the author had planned for this story. There is an incredible build up of the madness and suffering that Gavin felt and thought before he committed his atrocities - under duress, as he claims, but when it comes to the actions of Gavin, Moon sort of glosses over the monstrous carnage...with the exception of his dreams. So, I can't be sure if that was the author's way of showing the reader how Gavin was deluding himself.

I did find Heinous interesting because the author uses a lot of psychological symbolism that will have you questioning the sanity of the main character, Gavin Wagner, from the very beginning. The one attribute of Heinous that is somewhat scary is the thought that some people reading this book might be able to relate to Gavin's predicament with the source of his sickness: blaming a force beyond his control, and not being able to tell anyone about it.

I especially enjoyed the way Moon divides up the book by alternating between Gavin's dream sequences and Gavin's descriptions of major events in his life (I've only seen this style in one other book). Moon moves beyond foreshadowing, and paints a macabre picture of the struggle between the subconscious and the conscious that could eat away at anyone's sanity. Moon runs with that particular theme, and creates a desperate climax towards the close of Gavin's story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, September 29, 2018

STAAAHHP

Chad has a secret. They’ve been best friends for a while now, but if the hesitation in Chad’s voice is any indication, that could all be over. Trying to figure out what’s wrong may drive him crazy, but soon they will meet, and Chad’s secret will be revealed.

This book also has a secret. See if you can figure out what’s unusual about this story before you get to the end.


CHAD by P.T. Phronk isn't the worst fiction I've ever read, but it's terrible compared to the author's other stories. If you've never read Phronk before, don't start with this story or you might be turned off completely.

I hope the author returns to his previous writing style.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, September 28, 2018

Reveal Thy Self

Susie Monroe hides in an old house with her brother, Billy. Billy is a shadow man who wears many faces. But none of them are his.

PUT ON A HAPPY FACE by Terry M. West is a chilling short story, featuring a very creative twist on a popular sub-genre. (Trying to avoid spoilers.) The horror within is low-key, yet extremely sinister. However, the bond between Susie and her big brother Billy is touching, nonetheless. With the exception of one scene, events are retold through Susie's POV, which creates the perfect build-up of suspense.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Ghouls Are The New Zombies

Imagine having dark dreams that permeate your life. One man goes in search of help with a online ad. What he finds out changes his outlook forever. When he finds out ghouls are real it might be his salvation.

The Shimmer Effect by Randy Norton is a very original short story with a fascinating twist on the history of ghouls. While the story is told from a man suffering from night terrors who encounters the ghouls, I think the author should seriously consider writing a full-length novel, or a novella, at the very least.

The horror genre needs more of Norton's creatures. I think his ghouls could be the new zombie.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Quite The Clinger

When his sister dies, Lane seeks his revenge. He achieves satisfaction, but must pay the price. Prison is an extra scary place for him. There are many out to get him, and it seems one of those people has poisoned his body somehow. How will he fend off his enemies when he gets weaker every day?

Feed Me by Joshua Scribner is one of the creepiest, most satisfying horror shorts I've ever read! Even after reading the description, I never guessed what Scribner would deliver. It's like he pulled the story right out of his arse.

This is the kind of story which keeps me addicted to horror.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Feeling Wrecked

A mother becomes suspicious of her daughter’s preschool teacher.

Is Teacher Dalton who she appears to be, or is something more sinister afoot?


Astrid by JT Lawrence is an excellent short story drama about mother who starts to question everything about her daughter's preschool. I knew the author had something painful in store for readers when the husband also seems distraught, but the ending still caught me off guard.

I recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a good suspense-drama.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, September 24, 2018

Trigger Warning For Sexual Assault

It is everywhere, watching while you sleep, waiting while you lie in bed. Evil, without shape, yet with any shape, it takes its form. The Black is living and endless, malignant and eternal, and it takes what it wants.

The Black by R.P. Healy should come with a warning. There are two rape scenes, one being quite graphic. The violence could trigger some readers. However, the story reminds me of the movie, The Crossbreed, but set in modern times. Again, I have to stress, Healy needs to invest in an editor.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Cellars Should Be For Wine Only

Some houses should be left alone.


In 1972, twenty-five people were brutally murdered in one of the bloodiest massacres in Texas history. The mystery of who committed the killings remains unsolved.

Over forty years later, Sarah Donovan is dating an exciting man, Dean Stratton. Sarah's scared of just about everything--heights, tight places, the dark--but today she must confront all her fears, as she joins Dean and another couple on an exploring adventure. The old abandoned Blevins House, the scene of the gruesome massacre, is rumored to be haunted.

The two couples are about to discover the mysterious house has been waiting all these years, craving fresh prey. And down in the cellar they will encounter a monstrous creature that hungers for more than just human flesh.


The Witching House by Brian Moreland begins with a short story prequel, The Girl From The Blood Coven, which reveals details about the night of the Blevins House massacre. This served as the perfect set-up for the novella.

From the moment the four friends set out on their road trip to the haunted house, I found myself screaming in my head. The characters bring several unpredictable elements into the story: Otis has blood ties to the house, Dean withholds information from his three companions, and Sarah mentions her own ties to witchcraft.

The flashbacks are well-placed...enough to horrify readers with each revelation about the nature of the massacre, without ruining the terrifying battle for survival. Not knowing if any of the characters had a chance in hell filled me with dread. The ending had several surprising turn of events, but left one loose end. Sequel, perhaps?

As always,
AstraDaemon


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Stepping Through The Door

Everything is going well for Matt Bannister, a lead engineer in the latest rover mission launched from nasa to explore the possibility of life on other planets. 

However, after the death of his wife leaves him to look after their young son Tommy on his own, one fateful night gazing at the stars threatens to derail everything Matt has, from his job, his son, his reputation, and even his sanity.


Rocket Man by Christopher Patrick is nothing like what I expected. I thought this would be a science fiction story, but it's really a suspenseful family drama about a man grieving the loss of his wife. Told through both Matt's POV and Tommy's POV, their memories reveal a mysterious letter left behind by Lisa, emphasizing the importance of the telescope she gifted to her husband.

Matt's discovery, via the telescope, triggers an act of desperation, resulting in the estrangement of father and son. Tommy, however, has found a way to remain by his father's side, and both are committed to making the journey, even though it requires leaving behind the life they once knew.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, September 21, 2018

Island of the Damned

Roak Island was a quiet little place, a picturesque paradise, despite the dark legends of its past. It was the sort of place that Colonel Vaughn and his elite squad of operatives never would have imagined being deployed on. 

When all communications with the island are lost, he and his men find themselves sent in to discover what has happened there and why everyone on the island has suddenly gone silent.

They will soon discover that some legends are real.


Bigfoot Island by Eric S. Brown is a brutal novella about the ill-fated mission of a special ops team. Once again, Brown portrays the North American legend as a ferocious predator, nearly unstoppable. This might upset some cryptozoologists, but it makes for a fantastic horror-thriller. Especially with the cold disregard the author shows for his own characters.

I'm impressed with how many different stories Brown has written about this species, without seeming redundant. The mix of action and quiet moments cranks the suspense, until readers get an adrenaline rush just from reading. The ending is an unexpected gut-kick.

If you enjoy folklore mixed with terror, I recommend the stories of Eric S. Brown to all horror fans.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Kid's POV

Eight-year-old Alan doesn’t like going to school, but when a global pandemic leaves him orphaned, cold, starving, and lonely, he has no choice but to set out on a dangerous quest to return to his third-grade classroom. 

SCHOOL’S OUT, an all-new post-apocalyptic novella by Grandmaster Award winning author Brian Keene, was suggested to him by his son, marking their first official collaboration, and is suitable for all ages.


School's Out by Brian Keene is a horror novella that I can recommend to my friends AND their kids. The focus of the story is all about Alan's level of critical thinking during a pandemic, which has taken his parents away from him. He often references YouTube videos and his parents to make decisions.

During his time alone, Alan faces everything from caring for himself and his cat to stranger danger and feral dogs. Not to mention that Alan is also on the autism spectrum. Throughout the story, I felt the boy's feelings, thoughts, and actions were believable behavior from a grade-schooler facing multiple hardships.

My own son, at age 8, had grown up with a mom writing for horror websites, and a dad performing stunt choreography in dozens of horror movies. My son also acted in a zombie movie (his character even survives to the end), so the topic of "what if" in an apocalyptic situation is something my son grew up with.

It sounds extreme, as well as morbid, but planning for a worst-case scenario prepared my son for common emergencies. Additionally, the "what if" discussions made it easier to address the serious topics in the news headlines. I highly recommend this story as a way to have your own "what if" discussion with your kids. Their responses might delight and surprise you.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Deadly Secret

Two friends. An ocean of scotch. Something unnatural is revealed in the middle of the night. After all, that's what friends are for.

Frederic's Little Secret by Phil Rossi is one of the creepiest short stories I've ever read. A perfectly horrific reason not to get completely plastered with friends late at night and share personal secrets. The only real way to keep a secret between two people is if one is dead.

Even when Frederic reveals his major relationship issue to his friend, Eric, I had no idea where Rossi would take this story. Eric's drunk paranoia cranked the suspense to a terrifying level. I felt his fear.

Never read Rossi before, but I'm definitely going to read more of his work.

As always.
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Puzzling

An investigative reporter desperately tries to locate a scientist who may have made a shattering breakthrough in the world of biological science.

Feed The Fire by Sean McDevitt is a captivating short story, but I feel incredibly ignorant after reading it. I feel like I witnessed something amazing, yet I'm unable to comprehend what has been put forth by the author.

The fate of Dr. Corentz reminds me of some Norwegian folklore. Unfortunately, I can't make the connection to the doctor's scientific discoveries.

What am I missing, Mr. McDevitt?

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, September 17, 2018

Missing More Than Pages

"The Book" is an unfinished short story by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft, believed to have been written in late 1933. It was first published in the journal Leaves in 1938, after Lovecraft's death.

In the story fragment, the narrator is given an ancient book by a strange bookseller, and when he takes it home and examines it, weird and sinister events ensue.


The Book by H.P. Lovecraft should be approached as a flash fiction piece. The narrator describes losing himself within something he read, soul and all. Even though the book is missing pages, what remains is enough to twist his perception of space and time. This story could very well serve as the precursor to the original Evil Dead movie: a guy saying and doing things he shouldn't have, incomplete as it were.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Refusing Rejection

A man awakes to admire his maniacal handiwork.

Last Night I Killed The World by Drew Griot is a flash fiction piece which accurately portrays a terrifying combination in the minds of violent people: entitlement and justification.

I'm impressed with how much Griot is able to tell in just a few pages. I had a pretty good idea what the narrator's life was like, and the ending was unexpected. Nothing as frightening as someone who resorts to murder in retaliation to rejection.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Sixty Second Short


Eight-year-old Kacey Matthews slept quietly in her bed. Everything seemed fine until the worse case of night terrors hit...

Night Terror by Brent Casey is short and shocking. Kacey thinks she's dreaming about something under her bed, but her mother is the one living the nightmare. The ending is a twist within a twist.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, September 14, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday

Ninety Dollars by Samuel Swauger is a very brief flash fiction story about a child wanting revenge for the death of an infant sibling. The aunt claims it was an accident, but seems rather unmoved by the tragedy.

I had to read the story twice because of the line, "Aunt Nina wanted to cook dinner for once." Not sure if the author intended the accident to be that sinister.

As always.
AstraDaemon

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Scrap The Ending

Human resources director, Lucy Matheson, is an expert at terminating staff members. But when she fires the most feared and notorious employee at Edmon Enterprises, a curse is set into motion, turning her nightmares into a reality for all eternity.

Again by Kristina Rienzi is pretty good for most of the story, until the abrupt ending. I think Rienzi should rewrite the ending to include more of Lucy's POV. I doubt Lucy realized what had really happened, and I think the author should've included Lucy finally realizing the nature of the curse, rather than just blurting it out at the very end.

Also, it would have been interesting to learn more about Tatiana and/or her Volger family history.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

No Action, No Horror

Dr. Lawrence Cornwell is trapped in a blue velvet chair. The past and future spiral around him as he struggles against his deep sickness for a solution.

This is his final battle, and he has everything to lose.


The Darkness That Swallows Time by Tommy B. Smith is a short story about a character from another story, so maybe it's necessary to read one before the other to grasp the full effect. Unfortunately, as a stand-alone, this short doesn't have much to offer. There is no action, no horror, just a man dying of illness.

Perhaps, if this story had not been listed under horror on Amazon, I would have had entirely different expectations, and maybe then I would not be so disappointed.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Sucked Into The Story

Gunter von Strauss owns a small bookstore. He carries something for everyone’s taste. 

He also carefully inspects each book, making sure they are safe to read. 

Who knew that choosing the wrong book could carry such a consequence?


To Read Or Not To Read by Vincent Hobbes is a fantastic story which is certain to appeal to avid readers. While the setup is a bit longer than necessary, the ending is horrific, in a good way.

I've read a couple other stories by this author, and this one is by far the best of the three. I wish Hobbes would write more stories like this.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, September 10, 2018

How Long For The World To Fall Apart?

Jack is a loving father.  And as a perfect husband, he must please his wife who doesn't want to spend 7 hours in a car when they could use a T-Gate and reach their destination in exactly three seconds.
Except that Jack doesn't like T-Gates... But he loves his wife, so...
What wouldn't a man do, for the love of his life?
A short story without pretension other than to entertain you for a little while...


Three Seconds by Kane Banway is the best piece of science fiction I've read in 2018. In fact, I don't think I've been this horrified and fascinated since I read A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury. Banway took a common scifi theme of teleportation and turned it into a pre-apocalypse of the human race.

The foreshadowing is excellent, but nothing could prepare me for Jack's terrifying discovery or the tragedy which befalls his family. The ending is anything but happy. I say this about a lot of stories I love, but this needs to be made into a movie. ASAP.

Of all the possible apocalypse scenarios to affect the human race, this is absolutely the most frightening, in my opinion. Even if you're not a fan of this genre, make an exception and read this story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Wrong Turn Becomes Wrong Direction

While traversing the backwoods of Minnesota, a young man and his friends are abducted by a cannibalistic old woman and subjected to unthinkable horrors...

Fresh Meat by Christopher Kai is a flash fiction horror story about a young man named Joseph, who takes an ill-fated road trip with his friends, Angela and Charles. Most of the story is told from Joseph's POV, until the very ending, which is revealed through a news clipping.

At first, I thought I was reading yet another story with a Wrong Turn theme, and I was very nearly disappointed with Kai, as I've come to expect more from his storytelling. However, the author delivered one hell of a surprise which left me floored.

Not only do I recommend this story, but I also recommend The Peruvian Doll by Kai.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Misogyny In Mythology

Set in Ancient Greece, a young woman turns into legend through an unfortunate event.

Ruined by Kiersten Knighting is the telling of a popular Greek myth through the eyes of a rape victim. Considering how victim-blaming has been rampant throughout history, I think it's great to see someone give a voice to this iconic person. Knighting does an excellent job giving the character a voice, as well as drawing attention to the bias of the original myth.

This story is far better than the author's other attempt at addressing social issues in The Solution.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, September 7, 2018

Healy Is My Nemesis

There's a new show on TV. There are more talents than just singing and dancing. Talents of the flesh, talents of death and dying.

The Dead Show by R.P. Healy is a mix of Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, Into The Mouth of Madness, and A Serbian Film, which is a slight step up from Healy's story, Backwood Babies. However, don't expect to find any quality writing. I imagine Healy either writes while high on meth or worshipping Cthulhu, or some such mess.

I have to admit there is some potential buried under all the sickness, but Healy really needs to invest in a professional editor.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Reflection and Regret

As a thirty-eight-year-old woman, Ellie still struggles with her past.

Returning to her childhood home for her abusive mother's funeral, she discovers an even deeper emotional scar that has nothing to do with her reason for being there.

Failing to make that one decisive choice during her formative teenage years continues to haunt her. The pain, once buried, returns to the surface with a flood of emotions that threatens to drown her.

Through a reflection on the past and a timely meeting with an old friend, Ellie discovers what it really means to come home.


Homecoming by Dave Cenker is a tear-jerker. While Ellie's flashbacks provide insight into her nature, Dillon remains a fragment of her life, rather than a person with his own thoughts and feelings. I would have preferred a bit more closure towards the end...perhaps Ellie and Mrs. Darby could have formed a new mother-daughter connection to help each other through their grief.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

He Said, She Said

Whose body lands up being unzipped by fish on the ocean floor?

Court, Marry, Kill by JT Lawrence is a story about an abusive relationship, told from alternating POVs between the abuser and the victim. It is fascinating to see how differently the two characters view all their interactions. It is also upsetting to see how Curtis is able to get away with isolating and hurting Monica. The ending reminded me of the movie Enough.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

When The Advert Is Longer Than The Story

What do we expect of our heroes? What do we do with them when they’re finished serving us?

Invader Space by Bill Housley is a tiny glimpse into a decision to wipe out another species for their planet. I wish the author would have elaborated more on the species faced with genocide, rather than tag on a lengthy advertisement for a novella.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, September 3, 2018

Translation Issue


A morning incident changed the lives of the siblings. A very ghostly moment with thrills arrives in Sam's family and all he knew about his only sister's peeping habit, that morning.

My Peeping Sister by Bhaskar Medhi is a difficult read because the story appears to a be poorly translated English. I also don't understand why such a short story is in need of multiple chapters. I think this could have been a compelling family drama with a paranormal aspect, if the author hired a professional editor to fix the issues. I sincerely hope Medhi will consider revising this story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Personal Hell

A horror story set in Lancaster, England where the shadows are alive and no light can survive.

Darkness at Dawn by Tommye Turner is a short story full of terrifying surprises. The story reminds me of a mix of Hellraiser and Jacob's Ladder. Turner is obviously no stranger to the classic elements of horror. With a little more character development and one or two flashbacks, I thin the author could turn this into a novella.

I'd love to read the story through Meg's POV, just to see how the Darkness affects others.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Karma Goes All The Way Around

On his graduation night something terrible happened to Ray Barber. Twenty years later he has returned to his home town of Haven Hills with only one thing on his mind.
Revenge.


Blades of Ray by Peter Mckeirnon is a visceral novelette. Raymond's calm demeanor is the perfect contrast for his swift and brutal interactions with the bullies from his childhood. He experiences flashbacks between his dirty deeds, revealing Raymond's traumatic past. Ironically, as he crosses paths with each of his targets, it appears Life has already dished out punishments to Raymond's tormentors. However, it seems Raymond would prefer them dead.

The ending is a little too nice and neat, but at least there are no loose ends. I would have preferred more drama than bad memories and Raymond's kills...still a good story. (I also thought the title is a clever play on words.)

As always,
AstraDaemon