Friday, October 26, 2012

Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales

I met Fran Friel at KillerCon in Vegas this year. And she's a very special person. She's also a fantastic author. If you'd like to learn more about her, you can head over to The Author Spot and check out the interview I did with her for today's post.

But let's get right to the book. Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales is Fran's first short story collection. Mama's Boy was originally published as a novella. The collection made it to the final ballot for The Bram Stoker Awards in 2008. The original novella was a finalist in 2006. Those of you who are horror fans will know what an amazing accomplishment that is!

Synopsis: Nothing good comes of the closest ties in Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales, the new collection from Fran Friel and Apex Publications. Things can go especially awry when the tie in question is the one binding mother and son. This collection contains 14 tales, including the Stoker Award nominated novella "Mama's Boy."

The synopsis is short and sweet and doesn't give away anything good. And there's a whole lot of good in this collection. My personal favorite is probably the darkest story in the book: "Special Prayers." This story is about Mama, from "Mama's Boy." And gives us a glimpse into how she got to be the way she is. It's everything a horror story should be; shocking, dark, horrific and yet encapsulated into only four pages.

My second favorite story was "Fine Print." It's a longer story, and maybe a little slow moving for some, but for me, the pace was just right. There were a lot of details to soak up and I enjoyed having the time to do so, with no rush to the conclusion of the story. The story paints a picture of a world where clairvoyant dreamers are used to a very bad end.

The book is filled with other stories, some very short, and poems, plus the novella which lends the book its name. There's not a single story or poem I didn't enjoy. And many of them left me rolling the idea around in my head for days afterward. "Don't look under the dryer." "How glad am I that I don't have a Siamese twin?" "Potatoes!"And many other strange thoughts that you'll only appreciate after you read the book. Which I highly recommend you do.

The introduction is written by Gary A. Braunbeck and captures the essence of Fran and the book very well. If you enjoy short stories, if you aren't afraid of the dark, and if you've ever wondered what lives under your dryer, look up Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales by Fran Friel. Then read at your own risk. You can purchase the book here.

This blog is not technically part of the Coffin Hop. But since I'm feeling generous today, any comments left on this post will get you an entry into my contests over at The Author Spot.

Happy Reading,

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cure by Belinda Frisch

It's not often that I read zombie fiction, even though I'm a die hard fan of AMC's The Walking Dead. I love to talk about zombies and the impending apocalypse. But it's so hard to find zombie fiction that doesn't fall flat or suffer from "same zombie s**t, different day." You know what I mean? But when Belinda posted a bit of her novel on her website, I checked it out. And I was hooked. So I was more than happy to read it and do a review. You can find the book, Cure, at It's also available in print.

Welcome to the Nixon Healing and Research Center, playground for the maniacal Dr. Howard Nixon whose cancer research has him dabbling in the undead. When he kidnaps the wrong test subject, Miranda Penton, a rescue team releases more than the captive women. It unleashes a lethal infection which turns its victims into mindless, flesh-hungry mob. Inseminated with a zombie fetus, Miranda wrestles with an uncertain fate while trying to get away with her life.

The virus is spreading and must be contained. The center is going into lock-down. The group's get away is threatened by a homicidal security guard and a raging storm. The town of Strandville is ground zero for the zombie apocalypse and Miranda must escape because the fate of humanity lies with her unborn child.

What happens when you inject zombie sperm into healthy women of child bearing age? (And who would do that?! Dr. Nixon must be a descendant of Dr. Frankenstein) Well, the results are as disturbing, horrifying, and disastrous as you imagined. Add in an interesting cast of characters: likable good guys, a strong female heroine, and some vicious and deranged villains and you've got yourself one hell of a novel.

The novel starts out with a bang--we jump right into the action--and it never relents. I read this book in one sitting because I couldn't stop saying to myself, "just one more page." The next thing you know I'm resembling a zombie myself the next morning. This book is very well written, fast paced, and complexly plotted, with excellently developed characters. Combine that with a cliffhanger ending, and you'll be asking when the next book in the series comes out.

I would recommend this book to any fan of zombie fiction, zombie movies, or anyone who likes a fast paced read with just enough scientific explanation to make you wonder, "what if?"

You can read an interview with Belinda Frisch over at The Author Spot.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Dark Reality by Billie Sue Mosiman

I met Billie Sue through-- wait for it, you know it's coming-- Facebook. And let me just tell you that she is a dear, sweet woman. And even though she's been writing horror for 30 years, won multiple awards, and then launched a successful self publishing career, she remains friendly and approachable, eager to help her fellow authors. And that is why I wanted to read and review one of her many works. I also interviewed her and you can read that over at The Author Spot. Make sure you do stop by over there so that you can soak up some of Billie's wisdom.

It happens to be Billie's birthday tomorrow, but instead of waiting for us to shower her with gifts, she decided to gift us instead. She has a large variety of books, novels, shorts, and collections available for kindle for free until June 5th. Why yes, I will wait while you go get you some! Back? Good. I decided to read and review Dark Reality, a short story. On with the review~

Book Synopsis:

From the mind that gave you Edgar nominated Night Cruising and Banished, comes a tale of terror where an alternate reality keeps intruding.

Have you ever walked into a room and felt you had left something in one place, but now it is in another? Have you driven down a street or road you know well where houses and buildings and stores seem a little different from your memory of them? Have you ever felt reality slipping...just a little bit?

In Dark Reality, Lane believes his brother died in Iraq as a Marine, but one day he's back again and several things about the world are different. Buildings in town are changed. The woman his brother was married to is now Lane's girlfriend. And there's a gun in a cabinet that before never existed--neither the cabinet nor the gun. Lane needs to stop his world from shifting reality around him. And he needs, desperately, to keep his brother alive now that reality has given him a second chance...

My Review:

Honestly, I loved this story. The concept of alternate realities is by no means new, but the idea that you could just shift, without any warning, is new. And that's what happens to Lane. Subtle things begin to change-- a missing beer bottle here, a new cabinet there-- and Lane's the only one who knows that things are wrong. But he takes it in stride (what choice does he have, really?) and tries to save the life of the brother, who in his original reality is dead. But can you change the course of fate? Is fate universal to all realities? Interesting questions posed by the story.

I wish the story had been longer. That would be my one complaint. Maybe we could have answered those questions, instead of leaving me to ponder them, kind of obsessively. But then again, I always think the mark of a good book is if I'm still thinking about it days later. And I am.

So I'm giving this one five stars. I really enjoyed it. And I wish Billie Sue a happy birthday tomorrow and many more to come. And I recommend you grab this story while it's free and then collect the others.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

And the winners are...

Blaze McRob and Wendy Howard. Bryan and Ruth will be sending you fine folks their respective books in the format of your choice! I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did! Thanks for playing along!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Base Spirits by Ruth Barrett

Hey hey hey! It's still blog hop time! That means that today is yet another chance for you to be a winner. And today's prize is donated by the lovely Ruth Barrett, who's book, Base Spirits, I'm reviewing today. One lucky winner will receive an eCopy of this book, format of their choice. For those of you who didn't follow this blog yesterday, please do so today in order to be entered to win. Also, you must leave a comment. For those of you already following, please leave a comment in order to be entered to win. And if you'd like a bonus chance at winning, head over to my other blog, The Author Spot, and follow me there. If you are headed over there and you wish to read an interview with the lovely Ms. Barrett, click this link. Now on with the review!

'Murder has took this chamber with full hands
And will ne’er out as long as the house stands.’
~A Yorkshire Tragedy, Act I, Sc. v

In 1605, Sir Walter Calverley’s murderous rampage leaves a family shattered. The killer suffers a torturous execution… but is it truly the end? A noble Yorkshire house stands forever tarnished by blood and possessed by anguished spirits.

Some crimes are so horrific, they reverberate through the centuries.

As an unhappy modern couple vacation in the guesthouse at Calverley Old Hall, playwright Clara, and her scholar husband, Scott, unwittingly awaken a dark history. Clara is trapped and forced back in time to bear witness to a family’s bloody saga. Overtaken by the malevolent echoes, Scott is pushed over the edge from possessive husband to wholly possessed…

Inspired by a true-life drama in Shakespeare’s day, this is itself a play within a play: a supernatural thriller with a historical core.

Only one player can survive.

I can't say enough good things about this book. It grabbed me from the beginning and sucked me in to the story. Ruth Barrett weaves an incredible tale of suspense and horror and tragedy. The events of the past are rendered in truly aching detail, it's obvious she's done her historical homework. Your heart will ache for the players in this tragedy of days gone by.

The modern part of the book is also painstakingly real. From Clara's fear and feelings of isolation, to her husband's jealous and possessive rages, the emotions ring clear and true. The book really picks up speed and rushes torwards the inevitable trainwreck where past meets present in a tragic climax.

Honestly, there wasn't anything I didn't enjoy about this book. Since I'm hesitant to give out five star reviews (they're flung out so willy nilly these days that who really believes them?), I'm definitely giving this one a ringing four star recommendation. Anyone who enjoys history, ghosts, possessions, England, or horror in general, is going to enjoy this book. I don't know how many people know who Barbara Erskine is, but her novels are what this book put me in mind of. And I'm a huge Barbara Erskine fan. Which makes me a huge Ruth Barrett fan.

So, enter the contest, win this book! And if you don't win-- you should just buy it. Well worth your time and money.

Happy Reading,

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whispers from the Dark by Bryan Hall

Hello boys and girls! It's blog hop time again and this time it's Vamplit Publishing's Bloody Hearts Valentine Blog Hop. Click on the picture in the sidebar and it will take you to a list of all the participating blogs. And you know what participating blogs means? Contests! Contests to win all sorts of great prizes. To enter my contest, become a follower of this blog and leave a comment (if you are already a follower- a comment will suffice). Bryan has graciously donated an eBook (format of your choice) of Whispers in the Dark to my contest winner.

I met Bryan through Facebook and he asked for a review. You know me- I never turn down a collection of short stories, or any book, EVER. So, of course, I agreed. Bryan also agreed to an interview, so you can read more about this fascinating author over at The Author Spot. Did I mention its also part of the blog hop, so there is a contest for free books there as well? I thought that would get your attention!

On with the review. Synopsis says: What if your hometown hid a terrible secret?

What if the vintage LP you brought home was more than just a record?

What if your neighbor's pond held an evil only you knew about?

What if your dying daughter's only hope lay in a strange shack deep within the Appalachian wilderness?

This collection of fourteen short stories from the author of Containment Room Seven asks those questions and many more. You won't find vampires or zombies here - only pure, dark, unrelenting terror on every page.

"...This guy is scary good!" - Joe McKinney, Stoker nominated author of Quarantine, Flesh Eaters, and Apocalypse of the Dead

"A horror master's sense of scene and scares." - Jonathan Moon, author of Heinous

"... dark, fast and fun...a compelling read." - Nate Kenyon, award-winning author of Sparrow Rock, The Reach, and StarCraft Ghost: Spectres, on Hall's novel Containment Room Seven

Now the problem I find with short story collections is that you are most probably never going to like all the stories in the book. Even in a King collection, I find a story or two that misses its mark. (I know-- blasphemy!) And that was the case with this collection.

The first story, Secrets Beneath, was worth the price of admission. It's a unique take on the small town with closely guarded secret tale. It reminded me, in a good way, of 1950's horror movies- I could almost see it in black and white. But the story is original, has good depth, and some tragic consequences.

Another tale I liked was Throwing Stones. It had a creepy build-up and a surprising ending, not what I expected at all. One more hit was The Swim. This one had a moral and a lesson to it. And Kudzu, was another tale I enjoyed. And then there were a few I wasn't so fond of. All in all, there are fourteen stories in the book. A decent number for the price and we all know that opinions are subjective.

Formatting bugaboos aside, and I'm not counting them because I couldn't even tell you how to format properly and I think it's just something we eBook readers are going to have to learn to overlook, there are few content issues I had trouble with. A little bit more "telling" than "showing." There were a few stories that were good idea, they just failed to develop to my satisfaction.

So I'm giving the book three stars. The reason for this isn't because it's a bad book. It's more so that I have something to upgrade his next book to. Because I believe this author has a lot of promise and with a little work, he's going to be great. So I will eagerly await his next work, to see what he's learned and how much he's improved.

Don't forget to enter to win a copy of Whispers from the Dark for free! That first story is calling your name...

Happy Reading,

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Conduit by Gordon Bonnet

I met Gordon via Twitter (Ha! You thought I was going to say FaceBook, didn't you?). I'm not sure who followed who first, but I quickly became a fan of his humor and wit and then of his writing. So when he posted a link to his published works, I offered to do a review. He kindly asked me which book I would like and gifted my choice to me. It was tough to pick. All of his works interested me, but I finally chose The Conduit because it had a big old creepy house and hinted at a scary family history. I was not disappointed!

Synopsis: Ryan Linahan lived an ordinary life as a high school biology teacher, until Great-Uncle George Parker died. While helping his family to go through all of Great-Uncle George's belongings, Ryan discovered a box full of old letters that revealed that the Parker family had some serious skeletons in the closet -- skeletons that were about to come back to life.

Upon finding a genealogical link between the Parkers and the Meadows and Fry families, who had left behind a legacy of dark reputation and ill will in the small, rural Pennsylvania village where they lived, Ryan becomes obsessed with finding out what it was his ancestors were actually guilty of. And his obsession leads him to become ensnared in events that, though they happened in the 19th century, are far from over, and in the end may reawaken evil that was thought to be dead and buried for over a century.

Sounds good, right? It was. The plot was intricate. It touches on Native American legends, demonic possession, conspiracies, inherited evil and madness. And yet, it all makes sense and doesn't lose the reader. The characters were sympathetic and easily likable. The added bits of history, found in the letters, old newspaper articles and other genealogical records was icing on the cake. There is some switching of pov- you get different characters with different chapters- was well done and not confusing as 'head-hopping' sometimes can be. The writing style flows well and the story plays out nicely, while the end satisfies. No lose ends here.

I'm going to give it four stars. It is well worth the read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good scary tale with some history thrown in. I'm looking forward to reading more of Gordon's work.

You can find out more about Gordon over at The Author Spot today, as he kindly consented to an interview. You can find out more about him and his published works at his blog. And you can buy The Conduit on

Happy Reading,

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Robber by WJ Rosser

I met WJ on Facebook(Is there anyone else to meet people these days?) and I liked his literary writing style. So when he put The Robber: Selected Works up for free for a few days, I jumped at my chance and downloaded it. Now, normally I read and review horror, so this isn't my usual fare. If you're looking for skeletons or demonic possessions you should probably come back another day. It's not that I read only horror. I read a little bit of everything, but since I work with mostly horror authors, I find myself reading and reviewing more of it than anything else. However, I like a good mainstream literary yarn as much as the next girl.

So I crawled into bed with my Kindle and started this collection. And a short time later I found myself in tears. That doesn't happen often. But the first story in the collection was so moving, that I couldn't help myself. I got caught up in the story from the very first paragraph. Rosser has an unbelievable talent for immersing you immediately in the character's lives. The interplay between the characters is so real that they could be the couple next door. They are genuine, slightly flawed and absolutely believable. His writing flows well and pulls you along the storyline.

Of the three stories, the title story, The Robber, was easily my favorite, despite the tears. Winchester 30/30 begs the question, how well do we really know our parents? And Genny, is a wonderful slice of one man's life and struggle with temptation. Also included in the collection are two poems which I also enjoyed.

I would recommend The Robber: Selected Works for anyone who enjoys literary fiction. For those who enjoy little vignettes of other's lives, those who liked their heartstrings tugged, and honesty in fiction.

You can find out more about WJ Rosser and his alter ego, Jeremy Wright, over at The Author Spot, where he has kindly consented to an interview.

Happy Reading,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ancient Eyes by David Niall Wilson

When "Bram Stoker Award" winning author David Niall Wilson messaged me, I almost fell off my chair. I had read many of his short works in places like Cemetery Dance magazine and other anthologies, but I'd never read any of his novels, so when he offered me the chance, I took it. I chose Ancient Eyes because it was a new one, and the synopsis appealed to me.

Synopsis: There is an ancient evil lurking in the mountains of California. One peak over from Friendly, California, there is another, darker place. In that place there are two churches. Displaced from a time and place far distance, an ancient carving watches from an alcove above the door of a broken down, nearly forgotten church. When the evil it embodies reaches out and snags the soul of Silas Greene, roots creep down into the mountain and out into everything they touch. There is another church on the mountain. It is made of stone, carved into the stone of the mountain, and also all but forgotten.

A message goes out to Abraham Carlson. "He's Back. Come home, boy." When young Abraham returns to the mountain, and to that stone church, a battle is rejoined that should have ended decades in the past. When the cleansing began - and was never completed. The only question is, does Abraham have the strength...or will he, and everyone he loves, fall into the depths of those evil, ancient eyes...

The best word I can use to describe the novel is intense. It pulled me in every night when I sat down to read. David is a master at description and character building, without being overly verbose or repetitive. The characters and setting he created were easily imaginable and at once, familiar. I was drawn along into the story and really wasn't sure how it was going to end. Was good going to win? Or is evil unstoppable? I won't spoil it for you by saying, but I will tell you that the ending is very satisfying.

I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed David's style of writing. It was lyrical and compelling. I had no trouble dropping right back into where I'd left off and I didn't want to put the Kindle down each night (unfortunately falling asleep and dropping it on your head is rather painful) and only did so when my lids began to droop. The story is an old one- good vs. evil, light vs. dark, but he never crossed the line into preaching at the reader. The religion of the good was well done without being overdone and the evil was broodingly malevolent, without being unbelievable. At the heart of the novel are the battles we all face: the struggle between good and bad within ourselves, and the struggle to keep our roots without letting them hold us back.

It may have been the first novel of his I've read, but it will not be the last. I'll hungrily devour more. One last word of warning- if you don't like snakes, prepare to be extremely uncomfortable, because there are a lot of them in the book (obviously representing temptation and evil). I hate snakes. Loathe them. But I made it through with only mild squirming.

I rarely give 5 stars- but this deserves them.

Happy Reading,

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Harbor by Al Lamanda

I read The Harbor, by Al Lamanda, because of something I saw on Facebook. In one of the groups I belong to, Al (can I call you Al?) had posted a message he'd gotten from a woman requesting a refund. Her reason? She thought the book was too scary. What better praise for a horror writer, I ask you. So I immediately downloaded the book to my Kindle. Holidays finally finished and I realized that I had about 30 books to read. Where to start? Well I'm always looking for a good scare, so I started The Harbor.

I finished the book last night. It took me three nights to read, as I have a reading period from about 10pm to midnight every night. Last night I stayed up until one to finish the book. Yes, I was that hooked. And after I put the light out, I was still thinking about the premise of the book. And, I'll admit, I was a bit uneasy lying there in the dark. That's the ultimate praise I can give a horror novel- if it makes me uneasy after I put out the light, then it was well done.

I went to today to see what other reviewers had said. Most were favorable, but there was one two star. He pointed to flaws (typos, wrong words, ect.). I did notice those things (I can't take off the editor glasses when I read), but they weren't bad enough to distract me from the story itself. He said the writing was bad. I disagree. Each to his own, but I feel pretty qualified to judge storytelling skill. And he pointed out that there was a lot of cigarette smoking and eating in the book (I wondered why I was so hungry!) and there was, but it fit the storyline. I don't even smoke, but had I been a character in this book, I think I would have started.

The basic story is about a small island off the coast of Maine which seems to have a habit of erupting into bloody, unsolved murders every so often. It happens again and Sheriff Mark Blaine wants to get to the bottom of the problem. There is a host of other characters in the story, but Blaine is ultimately my favorite. He's a flawed character and it lends a depth of vulnerability that really makes him likable. The murders are sufficiently gory and the plot speeds along. The central premise of possession and evil is well explained and plausible. I don't think the religious aspect was overdone at all. I liked that explanation of why some were possessed and some were granted absolution. And oddly enough, with all the gruesome axe murders in this book, it was the one accidental death that left me the most horrified. Now you have to read it, just to figure out what I'm talking about!

Overall, I'd recommend this book. The story was a good one, the characters well developed, the premise sound and the action swift. It left me thinking about it long after I'd put the book down. I'll definitely read more of this author's work.

Happy Reading,