Thursday, September 21, 2017

Horror Review: Wrath of the Ancients by Catherine Cavendish

My third encounter with the dark imagination of Catherine Cavendish in as many years, Wrath of the Ancients is a book that (rather fittingly) has the feel of a much older story. Like the darkest stories of Poe, Stevenson, and Doyle, it is a slow-burning tale of claustrophobia, madness, secrets, and myths. It may feel oddly structured to some readers, especially with the way it so abruptly departs from Adeline's story to explore other owners of the house, but it all pays off in the end.

This is a story that starts deep in a lost Egyptian tomb, and ends deep within a secret Victorian basement. It is a story of death, obsession, and occult powers . . . a story where nothing is to be trusted, not even your senses. Although slow-burning, it does have its share of scares, with some great scenes of supernatural horror that grab you by the throat and overwhelm you with the putrescence of death.

Where the story kicked into high gear for me was in the second half, when Adeline confides in someone outside the house and they embark upon an enthusiastic purging of the basement and its haunted horrors. There is so much action and drama in that arc, so much advancement of the overall mysteries, that you appreciate the lull that follows as a chance to catch your breath.

If there is one downside to the novel, it's that it relies a little too heavily on coincidences. The fact that Adeline is such a perfect candidate to see Dr. Emeryk Quintillus' final wishes carried out is an excusable one, but there were a few later on (particularly one involving a train) that stretched the old willing suspension of disbelief to a near-breaking point. Really, though, that is a small quibble in an otherwise highly entertaining work of period horror.

If you have yet to read Catherine Cavendish, then Wrath of the Ancients is a perfect place to start.

Kindle Edition, 176 pages
Expected publication: October 24th 2017 by Lyrical Underground

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale
Expected publication: October 31, 2017 by Subterranean

Before Bubba Ho-Tep, there was Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers.

Part of a secret government organization designed to protect civilians, Elvis Presley and a handful of hardcore warriors set out to save the world from an invasion of hive-minded, shape-shifting vampire-like creatures from a dark dimension who have taken up residence in a New Orleans junkyard.

Besides Elvis, among these righteous warriors is a hammer-wielding descendent of John Henry of railroad fame, a Blind Man who sees more than those with sight, Jack, a strategic wizard, and Elvis's right hand man and journal writer, Johnny, all thrown in with Raven (real name Jenny) a female recruit who is also a budding pop star, and like Elvis, high on the charisma chart.

Their leader is none other than Colonel Parker, Elvis's cutthroat manager, and a warrior himself, directly in contact with President Nixon, or possibly one of his doubles.

It's an unnerving peek into a secret world, and a possible delusion. It's what happened before Elvis, aka Sebastian Haff, found himself in an East Texas rest home, mounted on a walker, fighting an Egyptian mummy and worrying about a growth on his pecker.

Strange monsters, wild fights, sex with a beautiful ghost, a drug-induced trip into another dimension, and all manner of mayhem ensue, along with a Mississippi riverboat ride on a giant paddle wheel, and of course, there will be 3D glasses, fried peanut butter and 'nanna sandwiches, and a few hard working zombies.

Bring the kids, but plug their ears and blindfold them. This is one wild and nasty ride to the dark side, but with laughter.

The original Bubba Ho-Tep is a brilliant piece of storytelling, and one instance where the movie was just as good as the book, so I'm eager to enjoy a Halloween revisit with the character. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Horror Review: Shadows & Teeth Volume 3

If you remember when horror was dark and supernatural, free of pop culture nods and knowing smirks to the reader, with twist endings that absolutely eviscerated your imagination, then Shadows & Teeth Volume 3 is sure to be right up your alley - your dark, foggy, cobblestone, garbage-strewn alley.

Guy N. Smith's Cannibal House was a great twist on both haunted houses and cannibalistic slashers, starting and ending with creepy discoveries.

Nathan Robinson's Tree Huggers was a fun story that put a gory new spin on the concept of horror in the woods, complete with a brutally cold ending.

No Thanks, by Antonio Simon Jr., was probably my favorite story in the collection. The telling of it was fantastic, the pacing perfect, the black humor on point, and the very concept of "no thanks" simple, yet brilliant.

R. Perez de Pereda's Bernadette was an unexpected pleasure, a well-told story of a medieval priest, a deal with the devil, and a young woman who refuses to stay dead.

David Owain Hughes' Picture Not So Perfect was a slow-burning sort of tale, one with a tragically human element, an interesting twist of expectations, and a monstrous finale that has more than a few surprises.

Cruciform, by S.J. Deighan, was another favorite - a story of occult secrets, dark rituals, and the unfortunate consequences of summoning a demon to do your bidding.

A solid collection with only a few stories that didn't really work for me, Shadows & Teeth Volume 3 is a perfect read for fans of slasher flicks, splatterpunk, and Twilight Zone endings.

Published June 15th 2017 by Guy N. Smith


About the Author

Born in Cuba in 1941, Ramiro Perez de Pereda has seen it all. Growing up in a time when then-democratic Cuba was experiencing unprecedented foreign investment, he was exposed to the U.S. pop culture items of the day. Among them: pulp fiction magazines, which young Ramiro avidly read and collected. Far and away, his favorites were the Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard. Ramiro, now retired from the corporate life, is a grandfather of five. He devotes himself to his family, his writing, and the occasional pen-and-ink sketch. He writes poetry and short fiction under the name R. Perez de Pereda. He serves Darkwater Syndicate as its Head Acquisitions Editor—he heads the department, he does not collect heads, which is a point he has grown quite fond of making. Indeed, it’s one reason he likes his job so much.


About the Book


Date Published: June 15, 2017
Publisher: Darkwater Syndicate, Inc.

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Out of the shadows and meaner than ever, volume three of this award-winning horror series packs international star power. Featuring ten brand-new stories by the legendary Guy N. Smith, the prolific Adam Millard, master of horror Nicholas Paschall, and others, this collection is certain to keep you up at night. Take care as you reach into these dark places, for the things here bite, and you may withdraw a hand short of a few fingers.


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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Blade of Empire by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Blade of Empire by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
Expected publication: October 24, 2017 by Tor Books

They thought the war was over. They were wrong.

Runacarendalur Caerthalien has been a master of battle for hundreds of years, but he found himself on the wrong side—the losing side—in the last war. Betrayed by his brother, trapped in a prophecy he does not understand, Runacar flees the battlefield.

Yet Runacar is no coward. In a twist he could never have imagined, the Elven War-Prince finds himself leading a new army into battle—a force of centaurs, merfolk, gryphons, minotaurs, and talking bears who can perform magic. For centuries they have been trying to reclaim their lands from Elven invaders. With Runacar at the helm, they just might manage it.

Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory’s first collaboration, the Obsidian Mountain trilogy, introduced readers to a brilliant, continent-spanning fantasy world of high adventure and epic battle. Civilization shimmered with magic while in the nooks and crannies of the world, dragons and unicorns hid from people who believed them to be nothing more than legends.

The Dragon Prophecy, set thousands of years before that story, illuminates a time when long-lived Elves rule the Fortunate Lands. It is a time of dire prophecy, of battle and bloodshed, of great magics unlike any the Elvenkind have seen before. It is the story of the end of one world and the beginning of the next.

The Obsidian Mountain Trilogy is a definite favorite of mine, and Lackey/Mallory make a great team, so this is a must-read for me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

#Horror Review: Reich by Donald Allen Kirch

A year after Hitler committed suicide, a rather cliched message-in-a-bottle was found on the beach in Copenhagen, suggesting he actually died U-boat collision that winter. Donald Allen Kirch's WWI vampire thriller, Reich, takes this obscure bit of WWII history and runs with it, adding a monstrous twist to the interesting alternate history scenario.

Hitler has been called a monster before, but never quite like this. In Kirch's tale, he is an old-fashioned vampire - supernatural, demonic, and unrepentantly evil. In public, he puts on a good face, hiding his true nature from the world, yet allowing it to drive his political ambitions. Outside the public eye, however, he lets his monstrous self loose, including yellow eyes, elongated fangs, a thirst for blood, and garygoyle-like wings protruding from his back.

The bulk of the story revolves around Hitler's secret passage to Norway aboard a German U-boat. As if life aboard a WWII submarine weren't dark, claustrophobic, and dangerous enough, imagine being trapped under the ocean with a hungry monster. What makes for such an interesting story, however, is the way in which Kirch portrays the German soldiers. He starts the story with a high-ranking soldier who sacrifices his life in an attempt to assassinate the Führer, and then carries it through with a U-boat captain whose first loyalty is to his country and his people, pairing him with a second-in-command who believes in Hitler's propaganda, but who is a good man at-heart.

The story develops slowly, with only a few glimpses of real horror, allowing the characters (and their conflicted loyalties) to carry the story. Meyer is a heroic figure from the start, and Starger develops nicely throughout the story. Add in a Norwegian clergyman, Donavon, and his daughter, and you have all the ingredients for a good vampire hunt to end the story - complete with a climactic battle aboard the Nauecilus.

Alternately creepy and thrilling, Reich was a far stronger story than I expected, and one that does justice to the novelty of the concept.

Paperback, 2nd Edition, 178 pages
Published September 7th 2017 by Why Not??? Publications 

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the author in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Monday, September 11, 2017

#Horror Review: Florida Gothic by Mitzi Szereto

Florida Gothic is a dark little tale, a quiet, intimate, vintage slice of horror. Even when it's at its bloodiest, it's like watching a grainy slasher flick with the sound turned down low, with just the shadows flickering about you. Having only experienced her erotic side, this was something of a change of pace for me, but Mitzi Szereto delivers.
Ernesto enjoys his little routines, his rituals. They make sense of his day, give him a purpose. But death puts an end to that.
Though it doesn’t put an end to Ernesto.
After Ernesto dies, he begins to like other things. Dark things.
Like the best horror stories, Florida Gothic is dark, creepy and violent, but it is also quirky and kind of smug. It is an altogether deceptive story, one that slithers along with the languid pacing of an alligator in the Florida heat, but which bites just as hard and just as fast. With its different points-of-view, it almost gleefully spoils the fate of its villains, letting us in on their moment of demise, before switching back to Ernesto and letting us anticipate what we already know is coming.

Similarly, while the initial deaths come quickly, unannounced and unexpected, Szereto draws out the fear and the dread of Ernesto's final victim. This is a story of dark, damaged people, of mortal men with human failings, and of one man for whom death is only an opportunity. For anybody who has ever dreamed of vengeance, ever wanted to use their dying breaths to repay an unforgivable cruelty, this is the perfect read. More than anything else, this is a book of consequences, a story where justice is rarely served, but where fate catches up. In fact, the final twist is one of the best scenes in the book, even if we know it is coming.

Part Poe, part Serling, and part King, Florida Gothic is a dark, powerful, entirely satisfying read.

Kindle Edition
Published June 2017 by Strange Brew Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the authorvin exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.