Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Daylight Cycle Continues

With a dwindling food supply, a lawless gang, and the encroaching dead threatening their existence, Dakota Travis and his best friend realize they may no longer be safe in their abandoned apartment building. They flee into the wasteland that was once South Dakota to find safety. There, they encounter the last remnants of the United States military and take shelter within a converted asylum. But their safety is anything but guaranteed. Now, surrounded by the undead, tensions run high between these two friends and the soldiers. Food is in short supply, and shelter may only be temporary. The commanding officer is quickly succumbing to insanity, while his right-hand men rule indiscriminately with iron fists. And once Corporal Jamie Marks begins to make advances, Dakota realizes the undead may be the least of his worries, especially amongst men who already hate him.

SUNRISE by Kody Boye is the second book in The Daylight Cycle series. At the end of the first book, Rose crosses paths with a new group of survivors in Idaho. Sunrise is essentially the backstory of how the new group formed, the challenges and discoveries of their multi-state journey and how Rose eventually joins them. The second book also includes the introduction of what may be a second transformative virus, as well as a new player in the field of zombies and men.

Dakota is a young gay man realizing some people are still close-minded and hate-filled, even with the undead hunting all of them. The author does a great job showing how prejudice and bigotry can be more of threat to survival than any virus or supply shortage. The dynamics between the characters is extremely well-developed. Once again, Boye shows his skill at portraying the intensity and pain of the trauma each survivor carries within them, from both the outbreak and their personal histories.

These characters are not the perfectly adept characters one might usually find in an apocalypse series. These are some very damaged individuals trying desperately to function as a cohesive group, hoping to eventually call themselves a family. Their attitudes and inner reflections are some of the most realistic and poignant portrayal of apocalypse survivors I've ever read.

Having lived in South Dakota for a number of years, I cringed a little at some of the details provided by the author, but the novel is too good for me to drag the author over a few liberties taken with the SD references.


I don't normally care what other reviewers have to say about a story, but I've read some homophobic comments from others which are misleading and one that is absolute BS. Let's get the BS out of the way: stories with a man and woman falling in love don't come with warnings (except maybe for sexual content), so I don't see why an author has to warn readers about two gay characters falling in love. THERE ARE NO SEX SCENES. The only intimacy between characters are when any of them reveal their feelings for one of the other survivors, whether it's a civilian crushing on a soldier, a gang-banger wondering if he's worthy of a second chance, a father mourning the loss of a child or a friend worried sick about another friend.

As for the accusations of this being "gay propaganda" -- NEWSFLASH: gay people exist in the world and they are just as likely to become survivors in a zombie apocalypse as anyone else. I can't help but wonder if some of the readers bashing this storyline bothered to read the first book in the series. The Daylight Cycle is not so much about zombies as people from different walks of life attempting to put aside their differences in order to increase their chances of surviving as a species.

Honestly, if you need your characters to be the same cookie-cutter "safe" types to avoid offending your ideas about what is appropriate, you probably shouldn't be reading horror fiction.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

When Everything Goes Wrong

A vast, subterranean system of caves has been discovered in Antarctica. Dr. Leo Berkman, a leading expert in the field of Crypto-zoology, is brought in to help study the strange lifeforms found within the caves. Strange tracks in the snow and an attack on one of Delta Base's rovers points to there being more within the caves than anyone expected. And soon, Dr. Berkman and the crew of Delta Base will find themselves in a desperate battle of survival.

BLOOD IN THE SNOW by Eric S. Brown follows a team investigating an elaborate cave system. They immediately discover new species, which distracts them from both internal and external threats to their project. Unfortunately, everyone is focused on their own personal agendas, further weakening the group's chances of survival.

Brown throws everything into this story: betrayal, cryptozoology, metaphysics and an old fashioned apocalyptic bomb. There is no lack of action or drama, but I felt more could have been done with Berkman's storyline. I would have also enjoyed seeing Berkman's discovery develop into something more. With everything going on at the base, the author could've easily written a full-length novel.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Price of Lust

THE STAIN ON THE LAKE by Matthew J Morrison is a bizarre tale about a dark village secret. The narrator describes falling in love with a stranger hired to worked at the local pub, only for her to fall in with the village playboy. At first, I thought this would become the confession of a murder by a scorned admirer, but, after the revelation of the village's history, I realized the truth is far more twisted.

While the story held my attention, the ending is a little disappointing...so much is left unresolved. I would have enjoyed more action and less narration, and I wish the Aunt had been more forthcoming. However, it's a great version of succubus folklore.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Pressure to Succeed

What if education could be extended into the womb? Would we get brilliant, well-balanced babies? Monsters? Or a frightening/hopeful combination of both?

DR. PAK'S PRESCHOOL by David Brin is told from the POV of a wife and mother, impregnated through an experimental procedure. The experiment does not end with conception, but is continued throughout the pregnancy as the fetus is conditioned to think and reason on extraordinary levels. However, there is a price to be paid for such intelligence, leaving the mother to question her own conditioning within Japanese society.

While most of the story has a sci-fi dystopian theme, as the Japanese government uses extreme methods of genetic manipulation to close the gap with America in the area of computer programming, the ending is mix of fantasy and theology. The result is a metaphysical turn of events, which may seem too convenient for some readers.

I've learned this story is being marketed for a film, and I think the premise would make for a very controversial movie.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sundays With Scribner: Glad I'm An Insomniac

NOT ME by Joshua Scribner is absolutely frightening, and not far from real life possibilities. Anyone disturbed by the amount of hate in society, as well as the overreach of the government, should definitely read the horrifying near-future Scribner has choreographed.

This is one of the stories we'll likely look back on and say, "Joshua Scribner called it." As I've said time and time again, people have the capacity to be the worst kind of monsters.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Hardcore Karma

THE VAULT by Rebecca R. Pierce centers on a sick depraved man named Brent, who has spent his entire life as a POS, hurting others in unspeakable ways. After violating the trust of someone unforgiving and determined to exact revenge, Brent is forced to learn the lasting consequences of his choices.

However, Brent has no remorse and must learn the hard way. Unfortunately, when a man claiming to be the Devil shows up, Brent makes no effort to change his attitude. The author delivers a very brutal form of karma, which Brent absolutely earned.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, May 10, 2019

Bushwhacked

When young lovers Nick and Maggie decide to escape the city to spend a romantic weekend camping deep in the idyllic countryside, the excursion begins well. However, it soon degenerates into a maelstrom of terror when one of them comes face-to-face with a centuries-old civil war soldier. The couple are forced to flee into the wilderness, where they become engaged in a mortal battle for survival against a group of long-dead Confederate bushwhackers.

DEAD OF NIGHT by C.M. Saunders starts out slowly, with the couple discussing Prince and reflecting on how they met, none of which is necessary. The story doesn't really kick off until Nick has to take a late night piss, which would have made a better starting point.

I didn't necessarily care about the survival of the couple, but I didn't want the bushwhackers to win, so I found myself rooting for the campers, after all. Picture Wrong Turn, but with undead soldiers, instead of inbred hillbillies, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

The ending is a bit of a surprise, and I'm kind of hoping Saunders will turn this into a mini-series. I'd love to know why the bushwhackers won't stay dead.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Deadly Rental

A lost child.
A marriage shattered beyond repair?
John Baxter doesn't think so, which is why he has planned this weekend getaway with his wife. He expected a lot of shouting, a lot of tears, but in the end, he hoped to have a stronger foundation upon which they could start rebuilding what they had once had.
What he wasn't expecting was the home invasion…
…and the hell that awaited them beneath the rented cabin.


WEEKEND GETAWAY by Tom Deady is another offering from Grinning Skull Press, one which gave me nightmares (no joke). While I read the story in a brief amount of time, I had to put my Kindle down more than once for relief from the intense scenes inside the cabin. I felt the pain of Deady's characters too clearly, and the thought of living through a weekend like this is a terrifying thought.

The book description doesn't even come close to describing the terror John Baxter has to face in his misguided attempt to save his marriage. Knowing he survives, as he reveals to his grandson why he is missing a finger through flashbacks, offers little to no comfort. I am impressed with the multiple turn of events in the basement...Deady knows how to keep his readers captivated.

I've never heard of Tom Deady before reading this story, but I'm looking forward to reading more of his work.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Procrastination Is A Killer

HOT WIRES TO HEAVEN: A LIGHT SOCKET LOVE STORY by Antonio Simon Jr. is a flash fiction piece centered on a man harassed by an empty light socket. I love unreliable narration, always creates a shock. (Pun absolutely intended.) The ending is gruesome, but not as graphic as I expected.

Not a bad short, but the author has written much better stories.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Poof!

LORD OF THE DOLOROUS TOWER by Matthew W. Quinn is a short story about two villagers seeking an adventure. I'm assuming the story takes place in another world, but I thought it possible Quinn created a dystopian setting thousands of years into the future.

Most of the story is told through dialogue and inner thoughts, with very little action. I did enjoy the inclusion of magic, giving a fantasy element, but the ending is abrupt. Quinn leaves readers with all kinds of questions.

I think the author should consider turning this short into a novella to add more action, as well as further character development.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, May 6, 2019

Tumbleweed Time

NOBODY JONES by Abe Evergreen is strikingly similar to Nobody Smith, minus the science fiction. As a result, the story is about as interesting as a horse rolling in mud.

I would have preferred to find out more about the bounty hunter's sixth sense or learn something supernatural about the horse, but I guess this is why I don't normally read western stories.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Sundays With Scribner: Volume 2


More new releases from flash fiction author Joshua Scribner...

WAKE UP! is a shocking short centered on a man desperately trying to protect his family, but Stan doesn't realize what is happening. Very thrilling piece.

TASTE centers on an undercover detective named Mearl, who seems to share a similar type of intuition with a homeless man. The interactions of the two men are fascinating, making this short story an entertaining supernatural crime drama.

WHAT'S YOUR NAME reveals one hell of a secret! The ending came too soon, even for flash fiction. I wish Scribner would turn this one into a longer story. The premise is a mind-blower.

Joshua Scribner is the author of 13 novels and over 100 short stories, spanning horror, sci-fi and suspense. He currently lives in Michigan, and publishes new stories every month.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Lovecraft Mixed With Marquis De Sade

With mounting debt, and her career not going in the direction she'd hoped for, Jessica Ann took a modelling job at the Larsen's lavish party.

What should have been an easy evening soon takes a nightmarish turn when she finds herself embroiled in an insane plot to awaken The Old Great One...


OCTOPUS by Matt Shaw has been thoroughly ripped on for being torture porn. While the author has always been somewhat controversial, one has to remember horror comes in many forms. Also, when a story is described as "an extreme horror novel," readers should considered themselves warned. Just in case I'm not making myself clear, Shaw is for seasoned horror fans, not tourists of the genre.

With that said, while the story IS fiction, the most horrific part is knowing many of the events within the pages occur in the real world. Perhaps that is what makes people so uncomfortable with Shaw's storytelling: he reminds people of the ugliness and brutality of human nature. Throughout Octopus, Shaw mixes relationships, desperation and depravity in equal measure. The pace crawls in some places, becoming more frantic in other scenes, with the goal of luring readers into the mansion with Max and Helena.

The ending is not what I expected. Actually, I didn't know what to expect, aside from the level of terror only Shaw can deliver. If Lovecraft had a child with the Marquis De Sade, he'd probably be a lot like author Matt Shaw.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, May 3, 2019

Cursed Crap

When a mysterious box of gold doubloons shows up at his door, Garrett Unger has no idea that time and space will begin to distort, leading him to join forces with pirate Sullivan Cox against an ancient Aztec god.

FIRST GOLD by Jerry Gerold is the story of a family curse handed down from one generation to another. The writing style is very haphazard, leaving readers to question how much is happening inside Garrett's head, as opposed to reality.

The confusion could easily be meant to portray Garrett's frame of mind, but the suspense is lacking and the battle scene reminded me of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. I wouldn't call this horror at all...maybe a supernatural drama, at best.

I've read several of the author's stories, as well as the Reclamation series, and this is Gerold's worst work.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Haunted Outhouse: Full of Crap

When a suburban family plans a week of fishing on a tiny island in a huge lake in the North Woods, they expect to relax and reconnect. What they don't expect is to share the island with a third child, one who is not theirs. In this subtly chilling ghost tale, the real world and the other world merge into one.

HARP ISLAND by Colleen McManus Hein disappointed me immensely. The setup is long and dragged out, and the ghost doesn't make an appearance until nearly halfway through the story. There is very little interaction between the living and the dead, and the author does absolutely nothing with the ghost. Not to mention the lack of depth with the family characters. When I reached the end, I wondered what the point had been.

The story should've begun with the family arriving at the island, and the author should have provided some sort of background story for the ghost. Even some local folklore provided by the fishing guide would've been a huge improvement. I really don't understand why Hein labeled her story "a ghost novella" and not use the ghost in any way, other than snapping tree branches.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

What's Worse Than Roaches?

An invasion of ants in a TV producer's home leads to full scale war.

BATTALION by Keith Knapp should come with a trigger warning. I have a serious bug phobia...I read it anyway, expecting something like They're Creeping Up On You by Stephen King. Knapp (who already pushed aside King's cat, General, with a new heroic cat, Buckshot) has created something much worse than roaches crawling out of a corpse. I swear I could smell the freaking Raid spray as I squirmed through this story.

If my shoulder starts itching, I'm going to need serious therapy...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sequel to The Wish Doll

In this, the sequel to "The Wish Doll" we meet John Bender, a veteran detective who thinks he has seen everything. But now he has this new case, a murder, and the suspect, Todd Forrester, has already admitted it to it-but now he claims it was all just a work of fiction. The story he tells is truly a bizarre one, he claims a "wish doll" grants wishes-at a price. 

John thinks he is full of it. He's seen head cases like this before. Or has he?


THE WISH DOLL: THE NEXT CHAPTER by Austin Grisham is the sequel to The Wish Doll, so don't read any further unless you've read the first story.

I didn't expect this story to be much different from the first one, but Grisham surprised me with one hell of a gut punch. I sincerely felt the ground drop away as I read the ending.

At this point, I think Grisham needs to do whatever is necessary to make The Wish Doll a movie. Horror fans are going to love this new sinister demon!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, April 29, 2019

Who Is Responsible?

Todd had always wanted to write professionally, but despite numerous attempts could never sell any of his stories. Frustrated, on a whim he decides to try using an exotic artifact, a "wish doll", to give him a story that a publisher will accept. What he doesn't realize is what he will have to do in return...

THE WISH DOLL by Austin Grisham is a short story which brings up the question, "Who is the real monster?" Readers will have to decide if the wish doll makes bad things happen, or if the people using the wish doll are the true source of evil. While a dark tale of caution, GRisham made me laugh with the ending (in a good way). I can't wait to read the sequel!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sundays With Scribner

I'll admit, I'm trying to catch up on all of the short stories by Joshua Scribner, so you'll be seeing a lot of the author in the Lair this spring...

PICTURES FROM THE POOP DECK is a flash fiction short that is a combination of Christine and Alexa. The exchange between characters is clever and suspenseful, but the ending hit me like a reckless driver.

Scribner has definitely upped his writing style this year.

IT STINKS! is another flash fiction thriller from Scribner. I don't know what inspired this story, but it's absolutely fantastic storytelling! The thought of a man developing such an unusual type of superpower is mind-blowing. The ending is a great climactic finish!

ONES AND ZEROES took me by complete surprise. When I hit the twist, the story became quite a wild ride. I thought this would be a purely psychological short, and I enjoyed the plot so much, I'd love to see a full-sized novel featuring Nick at his new job.

This story has raised my expectations for future Scribner stories. The author is going strong in 2019!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Careful What You Wish For

Weird things happen at Jupiter Falls. Terrifying ghosts haunt the forest. Mystical beasts walk freely at night. As everyone tries to deal with several supernatural incidents, a strange man has arrived to terrorize them.

THE LIGHTS OVER JUPITER POINT by Joe Jones is a short story featuring a mix of theological and supernatural elements, creating a rather horrific night for all involved. Not only did the author keep me captivated throughout the story, but Jones also impressed me with the turn-of-events at the very end.

If you're looking for a story with terrifying characters, I recommend this one for a quick horror fix.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, April 26, 2019

Tale of the Haunted Monastery

THE ROAD TO KYOTO by Rebecca R. Pierce follows four samurai with four sisters forced into an abandoned monastery by an unexpected snowstorm. As soon as they enter, it becomes obvious there are spirits within, but they do not know if they have been welcomed or trapped.

Pierce has created a thrilling mix of folklore, horror, mystery, and romance. I love the story, but the POV switches between all eight characters are not marked at all. While I was able to follow the changes, some readers might struggle a bit with the storyline.

I want to recommend this tale to readers ages 14 and up, but some of the violence is graphic and sexual in nature. However, the content isn't as bad as what one might find in some TV shows or movies, or even the nightly news. Just consider yourselves warned, and proceed with caution.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Living Are Worse Than The Undead

GYPSY by Mick Franklin is a flash fiction story about a gypsy woman who has lived a horrible life, surrounded by people who brought her nothing but pain and misery. She manages to change her fortune, only to have everything torn from her in a zombie outbreak.

While not the horror story I was expecting, Roxy is an exceptional character. I would read an entire novel about the woman. Seems a shame to only give her a few pages to tell her story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Better Off Dead

After completing a research mission six thousand light-years away, the SSC Adara and its crew are ready to return to Earth. However, their interstellar journey does not go as planned and the ship crashes on an unknown planned. Andri and his fellow survivors must find a way to get back home.

THE LAST BITE by Darren Rodriguez is a great sci-fi thriller, but the story would flow so much better with the help of an editor. The POV is first person, but lacking the emotion you'd expect from someone in that particular situation. Everything is explained, kind of like a lengthy synopsis, rather than allowing the reader to experience the nightmare as a science fiction adventure.

If the author included the POVs from the other survivors, and offered more background information about the planet and native species, I believe Rodriguez would have enough for one hell of a novella. *POSSIBLE SPOILER* My theory is the predatory aliens hunt other species traveling through wormholes. However, I'm still trying to figure out the connection to the Protela planet.

In any case, Rodriguez has the potential to become a fantastic sci-fi author if he puts more effort into character development and the details of the setting.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Island Dystopia Should Have Its Own Mini-Series

PHILOPHOBIA by Sin Ribbon is a short story about a man attempting to resurrect his wife. I had no idea how the fear of falling in love tied into the story, especially since I expected something along the lines of a modern day Dr. Frankenstein. When the true horror is finally revealed, I felt completely unprepared for Fetter's secret.

Ribbon does a great job setting up the terrifying twist with a narrator who lays out Fetter's past like a small town, backwoods legend. I'm so intrigued with the town itself, Ribbons could probably create a few more stories with the townsfolk, particularly with Mrs. Becca's church and Lisa Common.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, April 22, 2019

Music Monday: Billy Idol



"If your world doesn't allow you to dream, move to one where you can."
~Billy Idol

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

MUSIC MONDAY returns with none other than one of the coolest gents to blend storytelling and music, Billy Idol. By now, it should be obvious I consider myself an 80s child, and Idol's albums have been the soundtracks for a lot of great memories from my youth. I'm happy to say, the artist is still providing a killer sound for all my literary journeys with his album, Kings & Queens of the Underground. I missed this gem in 2014 because my local DJs have perpetual hard-ons for GNR and Metallica, but I've played the crap out of this album since I discovered its existence.

Unlike some aging rockers, Billy Idol has managed not to trash his vocal chords, and his lovely voice sounds just as sultry and powerful as ever. With this album, his lyrics reflect his personal growth, while the music retains that rocking beat which made him iconic. I'm particularly pleased to hear Steve Stevens has paired up with Idol once again. Took me quite a while to stop playing Save Me Now on repeat, but I did eventually listen to the rest of the album.

KQU is a far better album than Cyberpunk and Devil's Playground. Even though all the songs have something to offer Idol fans, my favorite tracks, Save Me Now, One Breath Away, Postcards From The Past, Nothing To Fear and Love And Glory, left me feeling like I had traveled to a world of leather, sweat and a damn good time.

My reading recommendations to accompany this album: the anthology DEADSVILLE (13 tales of horror), the anthology TIMES OF TROUBLE (time travel sci-fi), and the novel PROJECT HINDSIGHT (mystery-thriller).

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 7 of 7

MAMA'S TEA by Joshua Scribner is only a few pages, but manages to be a very sinister piece of flash fiction. Two brothers drink their mama's tea, after her death, for the "courage" to follow through with their mother's special instructions. The suspense flows through this family horror as the tea flows through the boys.

Not much is revealed about Mama or the ingredients in her tea, but Scribner gives the readers enough tidbits to make the imagination run wild. I'll probably crap myself, if I hear someone whisper "pumpernickel" in the dark.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 6 of 7

BACK ROADS by Joshua Scribner is a flash fiction about a guy driving home from college during a snowstorm. Every time Carter sees a cross on the side of the road, a new "passenger" joins him inside his vehicle. It's unclear if they know the driver is aware of their presence, but he can hear them plotting to attack, which causes Carter to drive rather recklessly.

There is more than one supernatural twist to this story, and while this short is entertaining as-is, I wish Scribner had given more background on the characters involved. Seems such a shame to use such an original idea on only a few pages.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, April 19, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 5 of 7

MARY'S CORN by Joshua Scribner is a flash fiction piece about a corn field being used in more ways than one. The supernatural aspect is so interesting, it's a pity there isn't more to the backstory.

This is a perfect story for people who complain about not having enough time to read.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 4 of 7

CELLMATE by Joshua Scribner is centered on a prisoner who realizes his fellow inmates will inflict all manner of pain and suffering, once they discover the reason he has been imprisoned.

However, during his first night, he's visited by a ghost. The ghost wants to escape, but needs to hitch a ride within a physical body. The two work together to create a distraction before they attempt to flee.

The ending caught me off guard, but I'm not that impressed with the rest of the story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 3 of 7

SEROTONIN by Joshua Scribner features a mix of an Old World legend and New World folklore. I can't go into detail about the characters involved, but I think readers will appreciate the battle of wits in this creature feature.

Whenever I read stories like this one, I'm reassured the author is indeed a horror fan just like the rest of us. While the ending is swift, Scribner managed to surprise me.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 2 of 7

NOTHING HAPPENED by Joshua Scribner is told from Marsha's POV as she struggles to understand the source of her boyfriend's nightmares. Chase doesn't have skeletons in his closet, but the ghosts on his property are bad enough.

The ending is a terrible shock. I feel sorry for the little girls.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, April 15, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 1 of 7

IN YOUR HEAD by Joshua Scribner is a flash fiction story about a little boy who finds an escape within his mind, but Collin isn't alone inside himself. Someone has been watching and waiting.

This is a family drama with a supernatural twist, and, even though it's only a few pages, Scribner digs deep into the feels with this tale.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Human-size Cow Pie

Justin managed to get the day off work. He has plans to make the most of it. Drugs, booze, hookers - total degradation. There's just one problem. Those damn flies!

FLIES by Andrew Lennon is a short story about a schmuck who is a jerk to everyone around him...and he keeps seeing flies. Lennon has a talent for creating unpleasant characters, while keeping readers interested in the fate of those characters.


While the ending is a bit predictable, I still got a kick out of seeing Justin's day fall apart. I'm not sure what the deal is with the guy talking to "Kevin," and that irked me a bit, but I still enjoyed the quickie with Justin.

STRANDS by Shaun Hupp is a bonus flash fiction piece about arachnophobia.

LITTLE ANGEL by Norman Turrell is another bonus story about a new father adjusting to a nightly ritual.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Monster vs. Monster

It’s Halloween. For the residents of Denison Street that means face paint, costumes and swapping horror stories. Or at least it used to be. 

Last year Logan Conway went missing while Trick or Treating. The police have no clues, no suspects and no leads. 

Some say The Reaper Man did it. 

Others say he’s an old wive's tale. Logan’s mother, Jane, disagrees. So much so that she’s invited The Reaper Man back again.


TRICK OR TREAT by Jamie Stewart is an interesting twist on a classic monster. The story is told through the POV of two different mothers, one with a living son, one with a dead son. The discovery flashback is gruesome and heart-breaking.

This is more a revenge story than anything else, and Jane does not disappoint. I love how she took on the role of another classic horror character in order to make her final stand.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Writing On The Wall

The mother of an eight-year old autistic boy, Sonya has fought an uphill battle for survival in her hometown of Sofia, Bulgaria, but has managed to take care of her son against almost impossible odds. The safe haven she had found in her marriage to the successful advertising executive Anton, has started to falter after he has lost his job and she has become the sole supporter of the family, and she can only watch as her ambitious husband gambles their savings away in a desperate attempt to become rich.

When Anton responds to an ad on the internet and gets a job as the caretaker of a luxurious mansion in a rural part of the country, Sonya sees this as an answer to her prayers. As soon as they arrive at the mansion, however, Sonya starts to get an anxious feeling about the whole thing, especially after meeting the eccentric owner. 

They quickly learn that their new home is anything but ordinary when a message inexplicably appears on a wall, promising them riches if they perform a simple act. They perform the act out of curiosity and a reward is instantly delivered. When a second message appears – raising the stakes and increasing the promised reward – Sonya begins to realize that they are dealing with very sinister forces, intent on some scheme for which the three of them are the perfect victims. 


I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS by Kresten Forsman is a novella about a small family chosen to live in a mysterious house. The circumstances which brought them to the estate are sketchy at best, but the couple are having financial difficulties due to the husband's gambling addiction, so it's an offer they can't afford to refuse. The mother is struggling to keep peace in the marriage, despite the malicious messages appearing in the house, for the sake of her autistic son, but she soon finds herself forced to make a life and death decision.

While the supernatural elements involving the house are thrilling and suspenseful, much of the story is unnecessary filler. While Sonya's background is somewhat relevant, the constantly explaining of this and that brings the pace of the story to a crawl. This plot would have worked much better as a short story.

The ending is somewhat abrupt and leaves the reader with many unanswered questions about the owner Iavan, as well as the history of the house and the village. Overall, more drama than any kind of horror.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Shout At The Devil

BLACK WATER by Haldan Black is a supernatural horror short about a boy fighting the devil. The author attempts to mix voodoo with folklore, but the story is such a sloppy mess, I can't even believe this is the same author who wrote A Good Boy.

Some of the issues: underdeveloped characters, overused stereotypes, and no follow-up on any of the decent parts. Black should've have just picked one angle, such as the train track ritual and focused on that, instead of bringing in so many elements and haphazardly tying them together.

A Good Boy was written after Black Water, so at least I can say the author's writing has improved.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Scraping At The Mind

WITHIN by Joshua Scribner is a flash fiction piece about a hypnosis session. Even though the story is being told through the patient's observation about her past self, I felt her terror as she begged to be allowed to leave. Even though she obviously survived the traumatic event, the suspense building up during her childhood memory is absolutely nerve-wracking. The final confrontation is extremely creepy.

This is a perfect example of Scribner's talent for turning little details into big nightmares.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Coming of Age, Literally and Figuratively

Opopanax flowers are not supposed to turn your mother into a demon.

OPOPANAX LIGHTHOUSE by Jerry Gerold has very little to do with Connor's mother turning into a demon. The story seems more like an excuse to write a sex scene with young characters. They backstory with the flowers might have been interesting, if the author had bothered to invest more effort into telling the tale. Lot of potential, but Gerold lacks focus in this one.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, April 8, 2019

A Cat Named Buckshot

A newly married couple suffers a near-fatal car accident on a dark and twisty road. Injured and lost, the newlyweds find they must rely on a cat to get them to safety.

THE CAT ON ALPINE ROAD by Keith Knapp begins with a gruesome car accident, which triggered an awful memory of a roll over (I was lucky enough to walk away from). Funny how something so straightforward and realistic could be more traumatizing than any other horror I've read lately.

This short is full of suspense, and the cat, Buckshot, is magnificent. If you love the cat, General, from the movie Cat's Eye, you'll enjoy Knapp's story. I LOVE the ending.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Sunday, April 7, 2019

A Good Idea Down The Toilet

Mel has special abilities some would even say "super powers". She saved Ten people from a collapsing building. The eleventh person died. Now Mel is in prison. These are harrowing but also exciting times. We have found proof of life outside of Earth. While she witnesses this from prison, something goes horribly wrong and she writes about it. This is her short memoir.

I DON'T BELONG HERE by Edgar Ribon is an extremely isolated account of some sort of invasion. Absolutely nothing is revealed, not even Mel's powers. Between the lack of details and Mel's erratic journaling, this flash fiction piece has very little cohesion. The author had a good idea, but the presentation ruined any chance of being entertaining.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Worse Than Potholes

Every road has its price; every choice has its consequences: a professional kidnapper gets more than he bargained for when his latest abduction leads to terrifying supernatural encounters on the Florida Turnpike.

TOLL ROAD by Antonio Simon Jr. is a short story about a kidnapper battling supernatural creatures after his latest job goes horribly wrong. There is a lot of action and the ending surprised me in more ways than one, but there's also a lot of unnecessary details. If the author removed the filler and cut it down to flash fiction, the horror scenes might have more of an impact.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, April 5, 2019

Soul Searching

SHEPHERDS ON THE HILLS OF ETERNITY by Gary Jonas is a fantastic metaphysical story! I thought I would be reading a vampire story...I suppose in some ways it is, but the author has put an interesting twist on this particular predator.

I think all readers will be able to relate to Steve's thoughts and feelings, as he faces an inner struggle on multiple levels. The ending is thrilling, and I wish the author had written an entire novel to include Brother Benjamin's personal history.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Book of Skin

The Battle of Lepanto left the Ottoman Empire's navy in ruins. Although Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha has overseen the replacement of every lost ship, he fears economic trends are against the Empire. 

Seeking an advantage over his Latin foes, the pasha seeks knowledge man was not meant to have, a quest that brings him face to face with the Great Old Ones...


THE BEAST OF BOSPORUS by Matthew W. Quinn is a Lovecraft-styled story, set in the Ottoman Empire. The alternative history is thrilling and horrific, and I wish this had been a novella instead. The flashback within the story is fantastic foreshadowing of the otherworld nightmare Pasha plans to unleash.

Life is what happens when you make plans, but death is what follows when your plans come undone. If you enjoy the Cthulhu mythos, I highly recommend this short!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Space Cowboy

NOBODY SMITH by Abe Evergreen is a short story about a smuggler trying to scrounge up the money to leave a backwater planet and make his way across the galaxy. Evergreen does a great job laying out the sci-fi setting, without dragging out the descriptions.

Even though the author doesn't reveal much of anything about Smith, I love the character's ingenuity. In fact, I wouldn't mind reading another adventure about Nobody Smith.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

No Self-Respect

Means To An End: 
When one restless spirit meets an indifferent one: Tammy's boss, Vic, is a married guy who likes a little variety. Tammy's husband is never around. Vic may get more than he bargained for. Tammy may be in denial about her true nature, but who knows the truth for long?


The Stupid Train:
Lou's hurt, angry, and probably not the sharpest tool in the shed. One night he decides to even things out with those who betrayed him.


MEANS TO AN END AND STUPID TRAIN by Stephen A. North is another double feature by the author:

Means To An End is one of those stories which makes you wonder what in the hell the author was thinking when he wrote it. I was expecting some sort of twist, but the story is limp like Vic.

The Stupid Train is a story I read once before, but I don't remember the first impression I had. This time however, I felt nothing for Lou. He spends far too much time standing in the yard, throwing a pity party for himself. The author could've cut out most of it, and made this a flash fiction piece instead. The ending is so abrupt, I'm wondering, again, why North wrote this one.

Neither story is as good as North's other short stories, and I would hate for someone to form their opinion of the author's talent based on this duo. I can only assume North was working out some demons when he wrote these two.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, April 1, 2019

Music Monday: Thrice


"Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends."
~Alphonse de Lamartine

"The high arts of literature and music stand in a curious relationship to one another, at once securely comfortable and deeply uneasy - rather like a long-term marriage."
~Will Self

This week's Music Monday feature is THRICE, an American rock band from California...specifically, their album, To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere. The album was released in 2016, after a four or five year break. Unlike their previous albums, this one centers on more sociocultural perspectives, so it should come as no surprise, this became my go-to album for novels with community drama, political warfare and the struggle to hold onto one's humanity.

I have no idea how I stumbled upon this album, but Black Honey is the first track I heard, and, to this day, I'm not sure what impressed me more: Dustin Kensrue's vocals, the heavy sound or the dynamic lyrics. Other tracks, such as Stay With Me and Salt and Shadow, are the perfect songs to accompany the scenes in a story in which characters move heaven and hell for their loved ones.

One novel, accompanied by my choice of Thrice, is The K2 Virus by Scott Rhine. The author keeps the emphasis on humanity and the power of friendship, as the story follows the path of a deadly virus. I also listened to this album more than once while reading through The Living Dead Boy series by Rhiannon Frater. The series focuses on a young boy trying to keep his loved ones alive after an apocalyptic event. The kids in the books, with all their hang-ups, prove that age has nothing to do with using common sense, and the contrast between the children and the adults adds the right amount of drama.

Check back next week for another music recommendation for reading!

As always,
AstraDaemon