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!

Bloody Good Horror Books Reviews “Dark Hollow Road”

About a month ago I sent a copy of “Dark Hollow Road” to Renier Palland of Bloody Good Horror Books seeking an honest, unbiased review. This morning, I was thrilled to see he’d posted one. This is probably the first review I’ve gotten from someone who has absolutely no personal investment in anything to do with me and I so appreciate his 100% honesty!

“Dark Hollow Road” by author Pamela Morris is a genre-specific paranormal tale with a substantial baseline. It features child abuse – not gratuitous – revenge, and redemption. The latter two elements can be misconstrued in most literary works, but Morris treats these literary elements with a gentile decadence, turning them into solid plot devices and powerful plot development. The novel, which is reminiscent of “The Blair Witch” in certain aspects, contains a deluge of paranormal and haunted house allusions. The antagonistic protagonist, Mary, reminded me of a neo-noir Carrie with similar, albeit completely different “powers”.

Morris feeds the reader a spoonful of youthful fear, i.e. Children become the go-to narrative in the novel. I’ll always refer to Stephen King’s “It” as the ultimate Jungian and totemic Freudian child horror story. Novelists have tried, and failed, to live up to the gratuitous and mind-numbingly terrifying world of “It”. It’s the magnum opus which most authors attempt to reach throughout their careers. Morris came close, but not close enough. “Dark Hollow Road” is imbued with so many paranormal and literary homages that it’s difficult to critique the novel as a stand-alone story. I found myself reminiscing about several works during the read-and-review process.

What does this mean exactly?

Firstly, it means that Morris is a masterful writer. Secondly, Morris tried her utmost best to create a familiar horror setting, yet failed at the finish line. And lastly, Morris delved into the psyches of childhood fears and childhood imaginations to create a slightly garden variety work of literature.

I wouldn’t go so far as to label it as unique or even fresh – Morris stepped into a genre-specific swamp throughout most of the novel. It’s as if she drew too much inspiration from too many areas, bundled it all together and created a horror author lovechild without knowing who the parents were. “Directionless” would be the best adjective to describe the novel.

As far as characterisation goes, Morris never misses a beat. Her characters are full, robust and weighty. This, combined with a good ear for dialogue, creates a gratifying novel with a terrifying amount of veracity. Morris knows her characters, and most importantly, they know her. Plot development, climax and denouement were all on par. Not excellent, but good enough to not be detrimental to the overall narrative. I would have liked to have seen more symbolism and perhaps a touch of social commentary. Horror novels are like measuring sticks for the societal psyche – it’s important to tell a story with enough social commentary to stop it from going blind and bland. Morris’ writing style and technique are similar to the above mentioned technicalities – good, but not great. I do believe that the novel required slightly more robust editing. It felt loose and frayed at the ends. With a proper, firm edit, “Dark Hollow Road” would have been a much stronger novel. The structuring was also off-kilter and there are quite a few set pieces that didn’t belong in the novel. It would have been more powerful without them.

I do think that Morris is a splendid author with natural control over her characters and their stories. It doesn’t always pan out while one writes the novel, nor does it float to the surface during editing. Sometimes, just sometimes, a novel can contain too much for its own good. Although this might not have been Morris’ best work, there’s definitely room for improvement. She could easily surpass Nicole Cushing if she focuses more on the directness of her novel and uses an iron fist during the editing process.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Overall, I’m happy with this and he makes some great points about hitting the editing process a little harder. It’s very difficult to edit properly when I’m at a place in my career where I don’t have access to a professional and experienced editor. Maybe some day soon that will happen. Of course, there are aspects I don’t agree with either – my writing isn’t about symbolism or making social commentary, for example. I’m just telling a story. May the reader take from it what they will. But, you know what? 4 out of 5 stars is NOTHING to sneeze at and I think that’s something to be pretty damn proud of.

Battle of the Books!

Dark Hollow Road has been out and about in the world for a couple weeks now. She’s slowly finding her way and has gotten some top notch reviews over on Amazon. Check them out! Thank you to everyone who’s posted one so far! You’re awesome.

I gotta say that the cover for this book has got to be my favorite! With that in mind, I’ve taken the plunge and entered her into Cover Wars over at Author Shout. The cover with the most votes becomes their Book Of The Week which they’ll will promote for one week on their website, shout outs, and newsletter. It’s a great opportunity for free publicity, which I could really use!

In lesser news, I’m going to be firing up the old editing brain soon and dive back into edits for  The Witch’s Backbone Part 2 : The Murder. It’ll be out and about before you know it, sometime in the fall. In the meantime, you’re going to want to read The Witch’s Backbone Part 1 : The Curse so you’re up to speed on what’s going on. Unlike the other books in the Barnesville Chronicles, The Witch’s Backbone is a real series. You’ll need to read the first one to make sense of the second.

New projects are happening very quietly in the background, but I’m holding off on revealing the subject matter to anyone until I’m further into it. Even The Hubby hasn’t been made privy to what’s going on yet! Maybe soon. Maybe.

 

 

Book Review – Rise of the Forgotten by Jason J. Nugent

The brothers, Eron and Timo (Nagi) are reunited only to be torn apart in the earliest stages of war. Eron desperately searches for his lost love, Mina while Nagi is going nearly mad looking for his wife and children. All while being hunted down by the evil ADF. Other members of Eron and Timo’s family emerge from the mayhem in the most unexpected of ways.
Having read the first book of this series, I was eager to dive into the second. I’m happy to report I found it even more delightful and engaging. Jason has rounded out his main characters very nicely in this book, giving them much more depth.
Rise of the Forgotten is a fast-paced read full of hope and despair, love, hate, suspense, death and some very unexpected twists. It’s probably the best work I’ve read by Jason so far. I am so looking forward to reading the third book in this series!

Four out of Five Ravens. 

Top Ten Reads of 2017

Thanks to GoodReads, I now have a quick and easy way to keep track of my reading accomplishments. For 2017, I set my goal at 24 books. I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I lean more in the direction of thicker tomes, 300-400 pages and I did manage to get a few of those in. However, I must thank those authors who write on the shorter end of the stick for helping me make that 24 book goal.

Of those 24, I’ve selected ten that have left the best impressions. The only order here is the order in which I read them, earliest to most recent. Maybe one or more will strike your fancy and make it to your To-Read list for 2018.

TheWillowsThe Willows by Algernon Blackwood. Published in1907, The Willows was one of H.P. Lovecraft’s favorite reads. It’s a truly creepy tale of two friends who take an intentionally wrong turn while on a boat trip down the Danube, despite the warnings of the locals. Something bizarre and malevolent dwells within the willows along the shoreline, enticing one member of the party to a near-suicide. This being, or collection of beings, it’s never quite clear what’s out there, continually stalk and threaten the travelers. It seems the willows harbor another life form, of this world, the next, or perhaps from the stars. Whatever it is, or wherever it comes from, you’d be much wiser to follow the right path than in the steps of this stories two main characters.

 

 

SinisterEntity_SheaSinister Entity by Hunter Shea : Even at the tender age of eighteen, paranormal investigator Jessica Backman has seen and experienced more than her fair share of things that go bump in the night. She’s always worked alone, until a series of emails arrives from Eddie Homes, a total stranger. Who is this clown and how has he learned so much about her? Jessica has always been very careful about keeping her privacy, but Eddie knows things he absolutely should not know. When Eddie tells Jessica that her dad sent him, she takes notice. Jessica’s father died horrifically when she was only six, and boy does Dad have a job for her and Eddie to do! Sinister Entity is the prequel to the first Hunter Shea book I ever read, Island of the Forbidden. After reading this I’m just itching to get the first book of the series, Forest of Shadows.

 

DATTOML digital coverDreaming at the Top of My Lungs by Israel Finn : There’s always a touch of envy in me for people who can pull off a successful short story. In a mere 112 pages, Israel Finn managed to keep me engaged and amused for the past couple weeks. As with any collection or anthology by even the most famous of writers, there are some stories that are better than others. There were a few in here that I didn’t quite get or felt that were lacking, but the vast majority I thoroughly enjoyed and enough so that I’d easily consider picking up more work from this up and coming author.

 

 

 

Boggy_BlackburnBeyond Boggy Creek by Lyle Blackburn : A must read for anyone interested in Bigfoot, specifically those associated with the southern United States. Blackburn gives us numerous examples from Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. (I may have missed some). Be that as it may, I was amazed there were so many sightings in all of these states. I had no idea! And not just from a hundred years ago, but within the past five years.

 

 

 

 

ShadowFabricThe Shadow Fabric by Mark Cassell : On the second day of his new job, Leo is witness to a murder. His boss, Victor, stabs his own brother, Stanley, with a mysterious dagger known as the Witchblade. But Stanley suffers from no normal stab wound. Instead he is drawn into what appears to be a black piece of fabric and is consumed. The Shadow Fabric is an action-packed and fast-paced run through the underbelly of a realm of darkness, insanity, and a secret mythos that all but the very few are aware of. Leo took my hand, gripped it tight, and yanked me along through it all right along with him. His fears became my fears. His desire to find the answers, were mine. The feelings of betrayal and hopelessness that he felt made me cling to each page, urging him to continue to fight and find the truth.

 

 

TheSelectionThe Selection by Jason J. Nugent : A coming-of-age story taken to its most basic level, survive! Every eighteen-year-old boy has to go through it. Most will not make it. Not long ago Eron’s brother Timo entered The Selection. The last thing Eron remembers is the sound of his older brother’s screams. Now, Eron must face whatever awaits him and he’s understandably terrified. It was a little slow at the beginning, but once the greater action began, I really got involved with the characters and was cheering for Eron every step of the way. Jason has done a great job creating another world, environment, and belief system that is part of, yet so far apart from Earth, that it’s unrecognizable.

 

 

 

77ShadowStreetKoontz77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz : The first of several books that feature the Pendleton Hotel, 77 Shadow Street was my first voyage into the writings of Dean Koontz. I know! Don’t judge! There’s something very wrong going on at the hotel and for those that call the place home, it’s a matter of life and death. An entity that calls itself The One is dedicated to destroying those it deems unworthy and saving those that share its apparent lack of respect for the foolish, overly-sensitive and emotional human race. Your average Joe is a waste of this things time. All must be destroyed or assimilated. This process has been going on for generations and each cycle results in a series of gruesome deaths. What is The One? An alien intelligence? A powerful demon? An over-zealous, future computer that believes itself to be God? All of the above? Whatever it is, Koontz captured it perfectly. I can’t recommend this book enough.

 

watchingWe Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea : After being hit by very hard times, fourteen-year-old West Ridley and his parents are forced to move in with his ornery grandfather, Abraham. As if living with the grumpy and less-than-hygienic old man isn’t bad enough, the old family farmhouse is falling to rot and ruin and Grandpa couldn’t care less. In fact, he seems to intentionally want to drive them out with insults and rage. But, the family has no other place to go and no money to get there if they did. Buttermilk Creek, Pennsylvania is the bottom of the barrel, isolated, creepy, and filled with more terror than even the Horror-loving West can take. We Are Always Watching is loosely based on real events that Shea has taken and run with, twisting them into his own horrible version of a nightmare, as he does with all his work. Family secrets begin to leech to the surface and the more West finds out, the more he comes to realize he and his family need to get the hell out of Grampa Abraham’s house! Like, NOW!

 

Shattering-the-LeyShattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier : I was first introduced to Joshua Palmatier’s work about ten years ago through the Throne of Amenkor series and I really loved them. He has a marvelous way of combining Fantasy and Science Fiction, two genre’s I’m usually not all that into, but Josh may make a convert out of me yet. Shattering the Ley is no exception to the amazing work Palmatier does. He creates a myriad of characters that you quickly grow to either love or hate and his visual descriptions easily draw you into the world of his creations. A wonderful, engaging read and I am super eager to get into the next book in the series!

 

 

 

GehennaGehenna & Tartarus by Jason Brant : Alright, technically two books, but you just can’t have one without the other! This Zombie Western series is gory, thrilling, and laugh out loud funny all at the same time. Who could ask for more? Gehenna was my introduction to Jason Brant’s work and I couldn’t be happier. I love a good zombie movie, but in all honestly, these West of Hell books are the first zombie BOOKS I’ve read and am thoroughly enjoying. Tartarus picks up right where Gehenna ends. Both are super fast-paced and well-written. I only bought the first two and am now chomping at the bit to get my hands on the third.

Book Review – We Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea

Book Review – We Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea

After being hit by very hard times, fourteen-year-old West Ridley and his parents are forced to move in with his ornery grandfather, Abraham. As if living with the grumpy and less-than-hygienic old man isn’t bad enough, the old family farmhouse is falling to rot and ruin and Grandpa couldn’t care less. In fact, he seems to intentionally want to drive them out with insults and rage. But, the family has no other place to go and no money to get there if they did. Buttermilk Creek, Pennsylvania is the bottom of the barrel, isolated, creepy, and filled with more terror than even the Horror-loving West can take.

We Are Always Watching is loosely based on real events that Shea has taken and run with, twisting them into his own horrible version of a nightmare, as he does with all his work. He draws you into the confused world of West’s new reality. Family secrets start to leech to the surface while the long, hot, boredom-drenched days draw West to explore places he probably shouldn’t go. The more West finds out, the more he comes to realize he and his family need to get the hell out of Grampa Abraham’s house! Like, NOW!

I enjoyed being drawn in with West. Hunter did a great job of showing us the world as seen by a fourteen-year-old boy. That, in and of itself, was pretty frightening (and funny) at time. The secrets that dripped out were just enough to quench your thirst, just in time for another bout of terror to dry the back of your throat before another promised-drop of refreshment came into sight.

It kept me guessing and entertained throughout but it lacks that certain level of explosive and long-playing mayhem I’ve come to associate with Hunter’s cryptid-based novels. This was much more subtle. A much slower pace that pulled you in one little step at a time. I like that in a novel. It’s very much a slow-burn.

One  element I didn’t like has nothing whatsoever to do with the author’s skills or genuine talent, it’s the actual formatting of the book. I’ve never read a Sinister Grin publication before so I’ve no idea if it’s their normal practice to have the text double-spaced as it is here. It almost felt like a bit of a rip-off getting this nice, hefty book only to open it and realize it should have been about half the thickness had they single-spaced it like is normally done. I felt like I was reading a manuscript, not a finished novel.

All that in mind, I’m going to give We Are Always Watching

4 out of 5 Ravens.