Top 10 Reads of 2019

10. The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

War and global destruction has once more befallen Earth and we find ourselves in the desert dictatorship community of St. Louis, Missouri. It ain’t pretty when the book starts. It’s even uglier at the end – but in a good way, I suppose you could say. Meanwhile, a dozen residents of St. Louis, led by a mute stranger who has recently escaped the death penalty, decide to make a run for it and take their chances beyond the wall of “The Sanctuary”. Cross country adventure ensues. This, along with the status of St. Louis after their departure, is our plot.

9. Ghost Mine by Hunter Shea

Ghost Mine takes us out to Hecla, Wyoming where mysterious shenanigans are taking place. President Teddy Roosevelt wants this place checked out and hires two of his former Rough Riders for the task.

As with all of Hunter’s work, it doesn’t take long for our adventurers to be flung into the fray and fighting for their lives against the strange and powerful entities that populate the book.

8. The Gordon Place by Isaac Thorne

Lee Gordon just wants to live his life, unfortunately, he wants to do it at the expense of his son having a life, too.

The beginning was a little slow for me, but once things started happening it was an enjoyable read that kept me turning pages. The dog was pretty creepy and all the main characters were well-rounded, believable, and relatable. That’s really important to me when it comes to enjoying a book – even though Lee was about as repugnant a person as can be – you knew where he stood and what he stood for. Not overly scary and the gore factor is pretty low. I’m not into gore so that was fine by me. But, there was enough going on outside of that to keep me interested. I wasn’t expecting that ending at all, either.

7. All Hallows by W. Sheridan Bradford

All Hallows follows the old and cantankerous witch, Maren Glover as she tries to make her way home on Halloween Night. All of them are sorely tempted by a high bounty placed on Maren’s head. But, Maren, old and road-weary as she is, keeps her handy-dandy bowling bag of tricks always on hand and she isn’t about to go quietly or easily into that sweet night.

The first half is slow, but then the narrative quickens. The dialogue and characters blossomed and were a delight. They drove all the action forward at a wonderful pace. It became a book I couldn’t wait to have time to sit down and get back into. Had the first half been written like the second half, I would have easily given it a higher rank without a second thought.

6. Devoured by Jason Brant

Are they zombies? Are they vampires? Are they lab experiments pumped up on Incredible Hulk steroids that never run out of anger? I’ve no idea at this stage and frankly, it doesn’t matter.

What really matters is getting the hell out of their way and praying to God they never find you. Just ask Lance and Cass, strangers who have found each other while running for their lives and themselves in the middle of the mayhem, doing everything in their power to survive in the madness that has become Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Fast-paced, gory, and yes, even mildly funny.

5. The Taking by Dean Koontz

H.P. Lovecraft meet H.G. Wells. From day one, page one, I did not want to put this book down, but work and sleep required it in stretches way too long. Told from Molly’s perspective, we are draw minute by minute into the weird and terrifying realm of an alien invasion.

I was anxious and horrified. I was completely and utterly entertained. I loved every aching, ugly, terrified minute of those twenty-four hours. By far, the best Dean Koontz book I’ve read.

4. Reaping The Aurora by Jason Palmatier

The final book in the Erenthall series is chock full of battles both large and small, concluding with a war that could be the last this Fantasy world ever sees. The very fabric of reality sits in the balance and it’s up to Kara, her friends, and war-weary allies to try and fix it. Time is running out. Complete annihilation could happen at any time – it’s this premise that pushes Reaping The Aurora towards its monumental conclusion.

I really enjoyed this trilogy and am looking forward to exploring even more of his work.

3. Those Who Came Before by J.H. Moncrieff

Not I expected and it kept me engaged all the way through. The creature in question isn’t one that’s written about in fiction all that often and it was nice to have something different. The characters were engaging and realistic. The backstory was really interesting and fed into the current events going on perfectly. Writing style was easy to read, no filler or fluff. Moncrieff jumped right into the story and didn’t dilly-dally around with anything.

2. Eight Minutes, Thirty-two Seconds by Peter Adam Salomon

The Apocalypse is here. Two people have survived.

They have no idea what happened, how they ended up in this vast network of corridors and rooms. They don’t even know their own names. They simply go by L. and M. What they do know is that they can access the former lives and memories of six other people, people from the world that was, but only for eight minutes and thirty-two seconds at a time and they have to die in order to do that.

Where is everyone? Why are they the only two left? And why are there so many rooms and locked doors and so many supplies as if the place were meant to house thousands?

Read this 200 page novella in two days! BAM! Read every spare minute I could find. If you’re into books about the Apocalypse, you’re going to love “Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds”.

1. In The Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson

Over the past forty years literally hundreds of other vampire novels and short stories have crossed my path. Most of them have been quite forgettable. Andy Davidson’s In The Valley Of The Sun is not one of them.

First, it’s original. The word vampire is never used and the effects of becoming one of the undead doesn’t adhere to the traditional.

Set in West Texas, we follow the wretched and lost life of Travis Stillwell, a deeply disturbed and traumatized Vietnam Vet. Even before he meets up with Rue, he’s not a particularly pleasant fellow. After they meet, well – it goes from ugly to absolutely monstrous.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book of this length (almost 400 pages) in less than 10 days and that’s always a good thing. Loved this book to pieces and would recommend it as a MUST READ to anyone who loves the vampire genre as much as I do.

Book Review – All Hallows by W. Sheridan Bradford

Defined as ‘literary horror’ by the author, “All Hallows” may be a bit off-putting to some readers. However, for those who like their horror richer and deeper than the usual blood and guts slasher quick reads out there, this novel may be exactly what you’re looking for.

All Hallows follows the old (nay – ancient) and somewhat cantankerous old witch, Maren Glover along as she tries to make her way home on Halloween Night. There is some pre-amble to this stroll through town, which may seem somewhat out of place, until you get further into the book then it all falls into place and makes sense. She encounters other creatures of the night, other witches, an eleven-foot-tall werewolf (But don’t call her that, that only makes her angrier and do you really to make an eleven-foot-tall werewolf even more pissed off at you? No, no you do not.), and a vampire just to name a few. All of them are sorely tempted by a high bounty placed on Maren’s head. But, Maren, old and road-weary as she is, keeps her handy-dandy bowling bag of tricks always on hand and she isn’t about to go quietly or easily into that sweet night. And, oh, does she love her sweets! Maren is a wonderful character. I couldn’t get enough of her absent-minded, somewhat disorganized old lady ramblings throughout the book. All the characters in this book are described with a flourish that keeps them each memorable and unique.

My only complaint about the book is that I think the author went a little overboard with the lengthy wording and word choices in the first half. In a couple of instances, there were sentences that covered almost an entire page.  Yes, a single sentence drawn out with enough commas and semi-colons to drive my high school English teach mad. This is typical of the old Gothic Horror novels that I so love, so it wasn’t terribly off-putting to me in that regard. This, along with wishing I had a thesaurus on hand, made the first half of the book a bit of a struggle. That being said, once I reached the halfway mark, everything changed! The narrative quickened. The sentences and paragraphs shortened. The dialogue and characters blossomed and were a delight. They drove all the action forward at a wonderful pace. It became a book I couldn’t wait to have time to sit down and get back into. Had the first half been written like the second half, I would have easily given it a higher rank without a second thought. It was all worth it in the end and I’m hoping Mr. Bradford puts out more work soon – very soon. Please!

BUY IT HERE: ALL HALLOWS by W. Sheridan Bradford

Raven Rating: 4 out of 5 Caws.

The Raven Scale:
1 Raven: Yuck! Don’t eat that.
2 Ravens: Bread crumbs, but it’ll keep us alive.
3 Ravens: Oh, hey! Peanuts, popcorn and cat kibble!
4 Ravens: Lunch time pizza place dumpster. Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit, Fellas! Fresh Road Kill!

Book Review – The Taking by Dean Koontz

As much as I love to read, sometimes it’s a real struggle. The inability to connect to characters is all too often a big problem. Maybe the plot just doesn’t feel logical or the ending is abrupt and unsatisfying. Or, I try a genre I don’t normally read and realize why. Happily – The Taking is no such book. Happily – The Taking blew me away!

Molly and Neil Sloan wake shortly after midnight to the sound of heavy rain. They quickly realize, along with the rest of the world, that this is no ordinary storm. It glows and glistens in unearthly ways and falls from a purple-tainted sky. Like it or not, the Sloans can’t stay in their home. They must venture out into an alien-infused landscape to find out who – or what – is taking over planet Earth and if salvation is possible.

H.P. Lovecraft meet H.G. Wells. From day one, page one, I did not want to put this book down, but work and sleep required it in stretches way too long. Told from Molly’s perspective, we are draw minute by minute into the weird and terrifying realm of an alien invasion. They arrive quietly, unseen and unheard, but with alarming efficiency and speed. By the time Molly and her husband and the other residents of Black Lake, California realize things aren’t right, it’s way too late – but, they still have to try. The main body of the story takes place over the course of just barely twenty-four hours and I felt as if I walked with Molly and Neil for every minute of it. Even better, I thought I had a pretty good idea how it was all going to end … I was wrong.

I was gripped. I was compelled. I was anxious and horrified. I was completely and utterly entertained. I loved every aching, ugly, terrified minute of those twenty-four hours. By far, the best Dean Koontz book I’ve read to date and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of his work.

Raven Rating: 5 out of 5 Caws.

The Raven Scale:
1 Raven: Yuck! Don’t eat that.
2 Ravens: Bread crumbs, but it’ll keep us alive.
3 Ravens: Oh, hey! Peanuts, popcorn and cat kibble!
4 Ravens: Lunch time pizza place dumpster. Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit, Fellas! Fresh Road Kill!

I’m Writing As Fast As I Can.

It’s been a pretty busy first two months of 2019.

front_cover_smallStories are getting finished, polished, and presented to the world. The big news is that at long last, “The Murder” – Part 2 of The Witch’s Backbone – is set for release March 5th. Part 1 – The Curse ended on a bit of a cliff hanger with the kids hurdling down a steep hill in a bike race and … well, I really shouldn’t say too much about that, but if you’ve read Part 1, you’re sure to be in for even more surprises in Part 2. It picks up exactly where The Curse ends.

The Witch’s Backbone: Part 1 – The Curse

TWB_Barnesville_FrontFor those who haven’t had a chance to read Part 1, starting today and running for one week only, you’ll be able to grab the Kindle edition of The Witch’s Backbone Part 1: The Curse for a mere 99 cents! So… gather up your pennies and scramble over to Amazon before time runs out! I’ve never made it so important to readers that they read a set of books in order. I’ve always preferred stand alone novels, but … this is that rare exception. All are or will be available in both eBook format for Kindle and paperback editions on March 5th.

The Witch’s Backbone: Part 2 – The Murder – eBook preorders

BecauseSpiders_CoverAlso brand new out there is my first ever short story in eBook! “Because, Spiders” is a quick 30-page read about a little girl who shares my dreaded fear of spiders. And, it’s a mere .99! There will be paperbacks available as well so never fear those who aren’t into eBooks. (I’m not and I always appreciate the author who knows not everyone does that eBook thing.) Depending on cover art and how the paperback proof looks the first go round will determine when it’s available.

Because, Spiders for Kindle.

 

 

 

HororTreeLogo  REDCAPEWIHM

Also in February I’ve done a few little things for WiHM (Women In Horror Month). First, I wrote a guest post for The Horror Tree about one of my favorite subjects, the origins of Gothic Horror and the women who created it called “Digging Up My Writing Roots”.  I landed a spot on Red Cape Publishing’s list this year that features 27 other Women In Horror writers. Go check out that list! Looks like a lot of great reads to be had there. https://redcapepublishing.com/blog/

Screenshot_2019-02-22 BLURB - YouTube

Last weekend I was interviewed by Ben Walker for his YouTube channel BLURB. Ben does a lot of Bizarre Book Reviews and apparently some Bizarre Author Interviews. Yes, I just called myself bizarre – and quite proudly so! And, judging by what I’ve watched of Ben’s show – he’s not exactly normal, either. I’m sure he’d take that as a compliment. Don’t have an exact date on when it will be released other than in March, but I’ll be sure to post more when it’s finalized. I have to add that there’s a huge confession on my part that takes place during the interview. I can’t believe I put that part of myself out there for the whole world to know. God, help me. Ben also posted a book review for my psychological horror novel, Dark Hollow Road that you can find here.

Bizarre eBook Review – Dark Hollow Road

Of course, in between all of this, I’m writing – or trying to. For years I’ve had a couple of characters, Texas-born-and-raised twins, Choice and Liberty Hill, slogging around in my head just itching to be brought to life. It’s called “The Inheritance” and is being written with traditional Gothic Horror tropes in mind, but with a modern west Texas twist. Along with creepy twins, you’ll find have some totally pissed off Apache spirits, a hint of badass biker mayhem, an isolated Texas ranch, and the chance to inherit $33 million. What could possibly go wrong?

Well – I think that’s MORE than enough news for this month.

 

Top Ten Reads Of 2018

Top 10 Reads of 2018

Managed to squeeze in nearly 30 books for the 2018 reading season. Now, as the year comes to a close, it’s time to whittle those down to my Top 10. It wasn’t easy. I read a lot of great books, some mediocre ones, and frankly, some crap. We’re going to skip the crap and get right to the good stuff.

Threading_PalmatierNumber 10:
Threading the Needle by Joshua Palmatier –

“Second book in Joshua Palmatier’s epic fantasy trilogy, set in a sprawling city of light and magic fueled by a ley line network.”

These are thick, serious, epic Fantasy tomes, kids, with a somewhat Sci-Fi feel to them – neither of which is really my favored genre. However, Palmatier has a knack for drawing me in and making me forget that. Being such hearty books, Book 2 comes in at 487 pages, there are also a lot of characters which I sometimes had a hard time keeping track of. Josh does get a bit rambling in this series, which is why it didn’t make it higher on the list, but still a compelling series of story lines and characters to move those plots along just fine. Those who are into Fantasy will certainly enjoy this and the other two books – (I’m currently reading Book 3) – along with Palmatier’s other titles and trilogies.

WarTruth_NugentNumber 9:
The War For Truth by Jason J. Nugent –

“The situation grows dire. Queen Anastasia orders the destruction of the Forgotten and turns her attention to the colonies. They must be forced into submission. Her reign depends on it.”

The final book in Jason’s YA The Forgotten Chronicles series wraps up the storyline perfectly. Again, another author who has really helped me to appreciate the Sci-Fi genre in ways I never imagined possible. Though there’s future tech, Jason keeps it simple enough so I don’t get lost in the jargon, and focuses on the characters, their relationships, and their trials and tribulations – as any good book should. This is a YA series, so it may not be for more hardcore readers of the genre, but for me, a novice, I truly enjoyed the ride Nugent took me on with these books.

SkyWoman_JDMoyerNumber 8:
The Sky Woman by J.D. Moyer –

“Car-En, a ringstation anthropologist on her first Earth field assignment, observes a Viking-like village in the Harz mountains. As Car-En secretly observes the Happdal villagers, she begins to see them as more than research subjects (especially Esper, a handsome bowhunter).”

This will round up my 2018 foray into the Sci-Fi genre.
Another great, character driven read mingled with a touch of fantasy. I loved that there was a well-rounded, strong, female lead in this. She really carried the story through. I do have to admit that when it came to the more technological aspects of the book, I did a touch more skimming than I normally do, but I wanted to get back to what was happening on Future Earth! Very well written and the most enjoyable Sci-Fi book I read all year.

SevenMasterpiecesNumber 7:
Seven Masterpieces of Gothic Horror : Clara Reeve, Matthew Lewis, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Shelley, Horace Walpole, and Sheridan Le Fanu. –

As a Horror writer, I think it’s important to know from where my preferred genre arose. I’ve been a fan of Poe, Stoker, and Collins for years, but hadn’t gone to the very beginning.  Horace Walpole and Clara Reeve are considered the creators of Gothic Horror, publishing within twenty years of each other, Walpole in 1764 with The Castle of Otranto in 1764 and Reeve in 1778 with The Old English Baron (both included in this anthology). Some of the stories I was less than impressed with, while others really kept me engaged all the way through. I’d consider this essential reading for any fan of Gothic Horror.

mouthdark_waggonerNumber 6:
The Mouth of the Dark by Tim Waggoner –

“Jayce’s 20-year-old daughter, Emory, is missing, lost in a dark, dangerous realm called Shadow that exists alongside our own reality. An enigmatic woman named Nicola guides Jayce through this bizarre world, and together, they search for Emory, facing deadly dog-eaters, crazed killers, homicidal sex toys, and – worst of all – a monstrous being known as the Harvest Man.“

A desperate father’s search for his missing daughter takes him into a bizarre underworld that isn’t too far removed from our own. I loved this book. It’s dark, suspenseful and fast-paced, unique and delightfully original. This one was of those books I went to bed thinking about and woke up eager to dive back into.

Shoel_BrantNumber 5:
Sheol (West of Hell #3) by Jason Brant –

“After escaping the decimated town of Gehenna and the mighty Tartarus River, Karen finds herself trapped in a prison in the city of Sheol. Knowing that an army of the dead is marching across the desert behind her, Karen must find a way to escape the sadistic Evans, and rally the citizens of Sheol for one last stand against an enemy of biblical proportions.”

It’s the Wild West with all the usual dangers plus zombies. LOTS of zombies. I guess this was the year of trilogies for me as this is the final book in Jason’s West of Hell series. Very quick and enjoyable reads – along with a bit of humor tossed in to help lighten the flesh-eating mood. Looking forward to getting into another Brant series next year.

MailOrder_SheaNumber 4:
Mail Order Massacres by Hunter Shea –

“Sea monkeys. 3-D specs. Hypno-coins. Ant farms. Kryptonite rocks. Miniature submarines made from cardboard. All available for a buck or less from the back page of comic books. And we blew our weekly allowance on these rip-offs, only to be disappointed when they turned out to be total crap.”

These three short stories were a riot! Hunter is an ace at injecting humor into the most dreadful and horrific of scenarios. People of a certain age, who grew up reading comic books and longing for those novelty items advertised at the end, will find these especially fun. This book was my husband’s first foray into the demented world of Shea. Hunter twists those innocent days into living nightmares while laughing all the way to the often deadly end.

SecondChild_SaulNumber 3:
Second Child by John Saul –

“This lush, secluded Maine seaside resort is the summer playground of the super rich, but one hundred years ago, something disturbed their play. Horror came to this village. And though no one knows it yet, the horror has never left.”

I read quite a few John Saul books back in my teenage years and this is my second revisit to his writing this year. Though a bit disappointed in the first book, Second Child was a super compelling read. It’s really a YA book and not overly scary, but the weird behaviors of the characters and their circumstances kept my attention like few other books have done in 2018. Once I started, I just had to keep going. I had to know what was going on and how it would all end.

Sharkwater_MeyerNumber 2:
Sharkwater Beach by Tim Meyer –

“Beneath the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the biggest predator on the planet hunts, craving the flesh and blood of every creature it can sink its teeth into.”

You may think you’re reading a book about killer sharks, you may be right – but you’re also very wrong. These are no ordinary ginormous, human-chomping creatures of the deep. Great, gory, sometimes humorous adventure awaits you if you decide to dive into this one. I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to give the twist away but you’re in for a big surprise when you get to it.

creature-coverNumber 1:
Creature by Hunter Shea –

“The monsters live inside of Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and a host of autoimmune diseases have robbed her of a normal, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of their dream Maine lake cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic, a place to heal. But they are not alone.”

Hunter has quickly risen to become one of my favorite modern-day Horror authors. I can’t say enough good things about his work. He tackles ghosts and demons along with a myriad of crytids that want nothing more than to rip out the throats of those who dare seek them out and hunt them down. “Creature” – though written with the same enthusiasm and excellence as Shea’s other books – is different.  The story and characters brought me to tears at the end, literally. The usual Shea humor is held in check. This is serious and I was reeling when I got to the final pages while simultaneously reaching for a box of tissues. AMAZING book. I can’t recommend it and the author enough. READ IT! You’ll have zero regrets.

That wraps it up for this year. I’m already over 150 pages into another Joshua Palmatier novel and I see Jason Brant in the TBR pile for 2019 from here.

Hope you all have a wonderful Holiday season and that the new year fills your life with more good books than bad. Keep it Horror-able, folks!

Book Review – “Creature” by Hunter Shea (2018) Flame Tree Press

I started reading Shea’s work several years ago and have been Hooked On Hunter ever since. From ghost stories to crazy, blood-thirsty cryptids, he packs it all into a fast-paced read that I don’t seem able to get enough of. But, I’d hear that if you’re a fan of Shea’s monster books, you’re in for something very different with “Creature” – and you won’t be disappointed.

Andrew Woodson rents an idyllic lakeside cabin in the woods of Maine as a place for his chronically ill wife Kate and he to get away from all the doctors, hospitals and medical procedures – if only for a few months. But, it doesn’t take long before they realize there’s something in the woods beyond happily twittering birds and a chattering squirrels. There’s something big out there, really big and really, really pissed off.  At first they think maybe it’s just a moose or a bear and briefly convince themselves it’s a deer. But, can any of those creatures throw huge rocks onto the roof or slam so hard into the walls of their vacation home as to knock items off shelves? When Kate’s brother and sister-in-law arrive for a visit, things only get worse.

As mentioned, this isn’t your ordinary Hunter Shea novel. Oh, there’s monster mayhem, but what that monster is and why it’s gone completely insane remains a mystery until the agonizing end. There’s a lot of pain in this book, physically and emotionally. It’s a story of fighting for your life, be it against a possibly terminal illness or a mysterious monster stalking you and your family. How do you fight back against something you can’t see, or when you don’t even know what that something is?

I was warned, but didn’t believe, that I’d be crying at the end of this one. I was.

5 out of 5 Ravens

The Raven Scale
1 Raven: Ew. Yuck. Don’t Eat That.
2 Ravens: Bread Crumbs, A Bit Dry & Flavorless, But It’ll Keep Us Alive.
3 Ravens: Peanuts, Popcorn, And Cat Kibble! Nom-nom.
4 Ravens: Pizza Place Dumpster After Lunch! Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit! Fresh Road Kill, Dudes!

Book Review – The Siren and The Specter by Jonathan Janz (2018) Flame Tree Press

I love me a good ghost\haunted house story. This wasn’t good. It was GREAT!

Professional paranormal skeptic, researcher, and author, David Caine, is given the chance of a lifetime when his best friend from college invites him into the infamously haunted Alexander House. Chris and his wife Katherine have given David full access to the place for a month. David is positive he can squash all the rumors that the place is haunted by an 18th century maniac by the name of Judson Alexander. Numerous murders and suicides are the catalyst behind the supposed haunting. David has faced such presumed evils before and written several best-selling books on the subject, debunking one alleged haunting after another.

Almost immediately, the Alexander House starts to flex its muscles and even this total non-believers starts feeling, seeing, and hearing things he simply can’t explain no matter how hard he tries. His nearest neighbors aren’t much help. Ralph Hooper, a friendly old man who lives in a small house nearby, is convinced the place is cursed. While the Shelby family, further down, is far more interested in porn, kinky sex, child abuse, and booze than what’s going on in their local haunted mansion. The longer David stays, the more intense and maddening the situation becomes, driving him closer and closer to the brink of belief.

There are some pretty intense scenes here that pulled me deep into the book and made the characters relatable. I cringed when I met the Shelby parents! Great, well-written tale of the afterlife with an ending that made my jaw drop just a little bit.

5 out of 5 Ravens

The Raven Scale
1 Raven: Ew. Yuck. Don’t Eat That.
2 Ravens: Bread Crumbs, A Bit Dry & Flavorless, But It’ll Keep Us Alive.
3 Ravens: Peanuts, Popcorn, And Cat Kibble! Nom-nom.
4 Ravens: Pizza Place Dumpster After Lunch! Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit! Fresh Road Kill, Dudes!

Book Review – The Mouth of the Dark by Tim Waggoner (2018) Flame Tree Press

His mother did try to warn him that the world is a dangerous place.

Emory Lewis is missing and her estranged father Jayce means to find her. He’ll be the first to admit he’s never been the greatest father in the world, but it’s time to change that. Little does Jayce know that in order to find his only child, he’s going to have to enter a lecherous and disturbing underworld of inhuman creatures and madness where almost anything goes.

I loved this book! Waggoner sucked me in from page one and didn’t let go until I’d reached the end. There were so many weird, unexpected twists that I was forever wondering what could possibly be next. I hated having to put the book down and do other things. There was never a dull moment and never a time when I got lost or confused or didn’t understand motives or actions. Despite it all, Jayce pushes forward, desperate to find his daughter. I liked Jayce and found his struggle and desperation believable. Nicola, a woman who understands the dark realm Jayce had stumbled into and agrees to help him, was also likable. Waggoner did a great job of making you trust her and not trust her at the same time; the same could be said of all the characters we meet throughout Jayce’s adventure.

Highly recommend this book. These aren’t your typical monsters with the typical motives and Jayce Lewis is anything but your typical father.

5 out of 5 Ravens

The Raven Scale
1 Raven:  Ew. Yuck. Don’t Eat That.
2 Ravens: Bread Crumbs, A Bit Dry & Flavorless, But It’ll Keep Us Alive.
3 Ravens: Peanuts, Popcorn, And Cat Kibble! Nom-nom.
4 Ravens: Pizza Place Dumpster After Lunch! Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit! Fresh Road Kill, Dudes!

Book Review – Thirteen Days By Sunset Beach by Ramsey Campbell (2018) Flame Tree Press

Though not entirely oblivious of Ramsey Campbell’s name and work, I am hard-pressed to recall what stories or novels of his I’ve read in the past and I know I have. Likely way back in the 80’s when I easily devoured a novel a week and paid little attention to the author’s name. When I saw this book on the list of titles I’d be getting with the other Flame Tree Press ARCs I requested, I was pretty excited to refresh my memory on Campbell’s work.

As a fan of the genre and the monstrous beings that inhabit it, I quickly picked up on what Ray, his wife Sandra, and the rest of their family were about to encounter on the Greek island of Vasilema during a two-week-long family vacation. Over the course of the holiday, Sandra – who is dying – finds herself feeling rejuvenated while her teenage grandchildren act like dark and brooding teens forced to endure quality family time in a family that seems hell-bent on squabbling among themselves.

I struggled a quite bit with the dialogue, the main reason I gave it 3 instead of 4 stars. At times it didn’t seem to flow as naturally as it could have and I kept wondering if maybe I was having a hard time because of a difference between British layout vs. American. One too many times I found myself puzzled over who was speaking or thinking what was being said by a particular character didn’t come across as being age-appropriate.

Other than that, Campbell handles the subject matter well and in such a way that other readers, maybe not so familiar with it, will find themselves deeper into the novel before they realize where the danger lurks. Despite knowing, I was still pulled in wondering when these people would come to their collective senses and take some precautionary measures to protect themselves and not leave poor Ray floundering all alone with his suspicions. How is Ray ever going to be able to convince them that there’s more going on that just make-believe stories and local legends? Is he going to be able to protect his wife, children, and grandchildren from any of it? Will they be able to get off the island before it’s too late?

I found Thirteen Days By Sunset Beach a very unique take on the genre – something that is increasingly hard to come by. For that reason alone would recommend it to others who are looking for something outside the normal hum-drum way of presenting it.

3 out of 5 Ravens

The Raven Scale
1 Raven:  Ew. Yuck. Don’t Eat That.
2 Ravens: Bread Crumbs, A Bit Dry & Flavorless, But It’ll Keep Us Alive.
3 Ravens: Peanuts, Popcorn, And Cat Kibble! Nom-nom.
4 Ravens: Pizza Place Dumpster After Lunch! Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit! Fresh Road Kill, Dudes!

Book Review – The Sky Woman by J.D. Moyer (2018) Flame Tree Press

In all honesty, when I saw the cover, “Ugh, I’m going to have to slog through Science-fiction”, I wasn’t really looking forward to reading this book. But, being as when I received the ARC from Flame Tree Press and said I’d write up a review for my blog, I felt an obligation and I try and keep my word no matter how difficult it may be. Turns out, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be at all.

Car-En is on a mission, an exploratory mission to Earth in the 28th century. She, and others like her, have explicit order not to intervene with what now passes as intelligent life on the planet. Of course, how dull a story would it be if Car-En followed directions? She soon finds herself involved with the inhabitants of the small village of Happdal who are suffering from what appears to be radiation poisoning as well as the threat of invasion from another nearby settlement. Car-En just can’t resist the urge to help them in some small way. That small way is going to land Car-En into a heap of life-threatening trouble.

Moyer has created an incredible and detailed vision of Earth’s future that I found original and refreshing. He also kept the technical aspect of traditional Science-fiction down to a manageable and easy-to-understand level, Science-fiction for Dummies, in a way. That’s a wonderful thing in my book as that’s my biggest problem with the genre. I have a very hard time picturing future technology. The majority of the story is told from Car-En’s perspective and as she’s on Earth where all our modern gadgetry and beyond is a thing of the very distant past, it really helped me get into and understand what was going on. It was all very much like a Fantasy novel in that respect.

The residents of Happdal are of Nordic descent, adding a very mythical and down-to-earth element to the plot and characters. It makes you feel as if you’re in the ancient past and distant future all at the same time. They were well-rounded and realistic and I instantly cared about what was happening in the village and with its residence. Car-En’s curiosity became my own as she watched from various hiding places. It helped a great deal that the lead here was female, too. It made her much more relatable to me.

All in all, The Sky Woman is a great and very satisfying read no matter if you’re into Science-fiction or not.

4 out of 5 Ravens

The Raven Scale
1 Raven:  Ew. Yuck. Don’t Eat That.
2 Ravens: Bread Crumbs, A Bit Dry & Flavorless, But It’ll Keep Us Alive.
3 Ravens: Peanuts, Popcorn, And Cat Kibble! Nom-nom.
4 Ravens: Pizza Place Dumpster After Lunch! Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit! Fresh Road Kill, Dudes!