Monday, October 22, 2012

The Collector by Daniel I. Russell

  • File Size: 584 KB
  • Print Length: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Continents Publishing, Inc. (April 24, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007XGVM1A

Note: e-Version passed on free for review. 

First off, I didn't realize this was a series until now (LOL) as I don't make a habit of reading a series until book two or three is out, especially if the series is interlocked like Game of Thrones. But in saying that this was a good first book. It set up the characters in a fun and interesting way, we learn about the three houses in this Cul-de-sac (is that a British or Kiwi word? Nope, it's a French stolen word. It means small dead end street and the people that reside there. We have the usual two hoods, teenagers who think they are the coolest and badest mothers in the world, and they love to score decent weed, rob old ladies and do a spot of breaking and entering. We also have the abused wife, husband has a bad day at work as a high school teacher, comes home and pounds the living daylights out of his wife's body, trying not to go for the face (keyword: trying). Then he takes off somewhere and returns the following evening, feeling much better and apologizing. And finally we have the old lady who lives at the end of the street, who has a thousand books, many on magic and hocus pocus. Her grandson worries about her living out here all by herself, and being very rich, he decides to bring granny home to live with him. 

One night an Earthquake happens, but only in the road and a tiny crack appears. It widens and pulling himself out, the Collector shows with his pet, Montgomery. From this point forward the book becomes kick-ass good. 

The start of the book is a tad slow as the characters are introduced and their stories told but even then the writing is crisp and the reader doesn't get bored with the drama slowly unfolding. But when the Collector makes a showing, looking for the Mana, the book kicks into high gear and you won't be able to shut off your eReader. 

This is the first of Daniel's books I've read and I'll be looking for book 2.
4 Stars

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Hidden Valley by Leigh M Lane

The Hidden Valley
Leigh M Lane

  • File Size: 357 KB
  • Print Length: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Cerebral Books (August 2, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008S6KDQY

Leigh sent me an email and asked if I could review her latest book, having read and reviewed her others, I was keen to delve into this tale. It's an interesting experiment: A collection of flash stories grouped together to form a whole. 

As with Leigh's work, she seems to like to experiment with her style but one thing remains constant, her story telling skills are always present. And some of scenes in The Hidden Valley are a tad mind blowing (in a good way), I won't say what they are as this reviewer never gives anything away. I don't want to spoil your surprise. 

So what do we have here? In this tale, Leigh has spun a yarn of a family on the brink (or tipping edge) of destruction. The wife (Carrie) has had an affair, the daughter (Jane) has major demons, the son, John is a stoner and was getting into some major trouble and the husband Grant is losing everything he built yet desperate to keep his family as a whole unit and struggling to find the man he was before his wife's threesome. 

So they pack up everything, including the cat and move from Vegas to a small town on the other side of a fog covered mountain. But there's something in the fog. The cat senses the bad thing and tries to communicate this to the owners. Naturally they can't understand his whining and once at their new house, he takes off. I enjoyed Maxwell's (the cat) adventures the most. 

The book is told from five points of view and I feel all these povs are needed to get the full picture. It is a massive story which a host of sub-characters like the Rock Lady, the pregnant girl, the hippy and people who literally vanish from existence never to be mentioned again--as if they'd never been there. 

Leigh's writing is crisp as always and her characters (apart from the parents) are very well drawn. I'm sure I know John and his stoner buddies and Jane is also a person I may have passed in the street. 

Overall, as a novel of horror, it is excellent. As a collection of flash tales combined to make a whole, not so well done. Flash stories must have a beginning, a middle and an end. Several of these did not have an end. As standalone flash tales, a few fail. BUT as a whole novel, the concept works well. 

4 stars

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Christmas to Remember by Matt Shaw

A Christmas to Remember by Matt Shaw
A choose the story book
Kindle Edition

I haven't read one of these kinds of books for a long time, not since I was in high school. so when I discovered this book on Amazon, I grabbed a copy and was rearing to get into it.

These books have always gotten to me, only once had I reached the proper ending of the countless 'Choose your own adventure' books (as they were called in NZ). This book took three reads to reach the happy ending but there are several dead ends along the way. I think there are only three possible endings in this short book. Hats off to Matt Shaw for compiling such a tale.

One of the links was a tad annoying as it was the panic link, from two completely different sections of the tale. This link went directly from the current scene to him standing in the kitchen. A little confusing when he was in the bedroom with the ex wife.

Ah, the ex-wife. He hates her, her boyfriend and he wants revenge. That's the basis of the plot. The BF is already chopped up and baking in the oven. The ex-wife also comments on how great dinner smells (LOL). The kids are staring at the amount of presents under the tree. There is no star on top of the tree, he is saving that for the ex's head.

The writing style is not really to my taste but Matt does write well and a lot of people will enjoy this book. I enjoyed it, I just like more meat in sentences I read.

Speaking of meat, this book is not for you if you are adverse to horror.

3 out of 5 stars

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cold Skies and other tales of fear by Paul McAvoy

Cold Skies and other tales of fear by Paul McAvoy
PDF Kindled Version

Short story collections are difficult to review for me. Sometimes there are stories that shine and other times there aren't. Short stories are usually a mixed bag. This is one of these collections -- almost. Why almost? As a reviewer and a writer myself I can be highly critical of what I read and the words I use to review. I like to find the best in a book and lay it out for the reader, but I don't hold anything back. I believe a reader should be well informed before a purchase.

In this case, Paul McAvoy has over edited his tales leaving only skeletons of what could be great stories. The opening story is one of the best in this collection but it lacks a decent ending and the tale seems rushed. There are also instances where a gerund should have been used and not the plain verb form. This is constant throughout the entire collection. The word 'dead' is spelt as 'led' which can be off-putting and very confusing. Also floor is used when the character is outside 'I was under the car. I got up off the floor and...'. Many writers do this. It is wrong. (I recently had a Facebook discussion about it.)

All the stories in this collection are great ideas (even read one I had done several years ago -- there are no new ideas only new spins) that would have been great just the delivery--the execution--was wrong. There was no meat and no flow to most of the tales and not much of an ending in several of these. Naturally this is just my opinion, several of these tales were previously published.

The fear in these stories did not resonate with me (except the first).

1 star out of 5.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Concrete Grove by Gary McMahon

The Concrete Grove by Gary McMahon
Publisher: Solaris (2011)
paperback edition 2011

The Concrete Grove starts off by kicking you in the teeth and then dragging you along for a ride through the gloomy lower class society of Concrete Grove where strange things are afoot. Drugs are sold openly on street corners, a loan shark takes repayments in cash, in kind and in soul, and a fourteen years old girl has discovered a doorway to another place between realities and the 'power' of that place liked what it saw. 

Gary has given us a council estate that most of us know well or have seen and he paints it dark, gloomy and inserts supernatural horror of ageless otherworldly entities into the mix.

We have 4 main characters. A solo mum doing her best for her daughter, said daughter is having fainting spells and weird dreams, Tom is an average guy not from the Grove but after helping the daughter (Hailey), he discovers an interest in Lana (Mum). Monty Bright is a loan shark who lent Laura some cash, and now she can't make the repayments and he is sending the 'boys' over to have a chat with her. But Monty is hiding a secret. He has been searching for a special place in the Grove, a place so well hidden it is impossible to find, but he is not giving up and has a feeling Hailey has a special bond with The Grove.

Sound complex? It's not really, McMahon keeps the reader on track and page turning with characters whom act (almost) like a real person would act (there were a few places where I made a face) and the story lines come together creating a climax that explodes from the page in rip-roaring speed.

What's bad: Not much. I feel too much time was spent on Tom and his wife.
What's good: The characters are fleshed out. They are people you may know or have noticed on the street from time to time.The drama and interactions between the characters and the story playing out before them is all engrossing.

Over all, this is an excellent first book in a trilogy, there are a few unanswered questions that may be answered in the coming books. I have Book Two sitting on my desk, Silent Voices, just waiting for my eyes to devour.

4 out of 5 stars



Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dark Path by Luke Romyn

The Dark Path by Luke Romyn
Kindle version
  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Author Luke Romyn (January 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0987214934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0987214935
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches 
I did not know what to expect when I downloaded this onto my phone. I'd never heard of Luke Romyn before apart from the tweets about his book and other tweets saying how great the book was. So, I had to find out for myself.

The story is about Martin Roberts, a cop whose split second inaction causes the death of his best friend. The Russian mob is involved and for revenge, Martin agrees to go to court and put the mobster away for life. The FBI move them to a safe house. The stress naturally gets to them and after a fight, Martin leaves the house to cool down. When he returns the unthinkable happens. On the verge of death himself, a voice in his head tells him to get up, but Martin just wants to die, so the voice in his head takes his place and blocks out all of Martin's Memories. This new man's name is Vain and he becomes an assassin. And a good assassin at that. But he makes a mistake and gets captured, and his path changes from that moment onwards.

This is a rocking thriller that moves fast and hard, where the main character is put through tests of his characters and will. He is pushed beyond his limits but keeps going.

The only thing I didn't like much was the overuse of adjectives but that is easy to skip over, because the story pulls you along and drags you into the pits of Hell and Madness and Revenge.

4 out of 5


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Becoming - a novella Allan Leverone

The Becoming -- a novella Allan Leverone
  • File Size: 203 KB
  • Print Length: 90 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Rock Bottom Books; 1 edition (April 26, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007Y9IFCK
This tale starts off nearly a hundred years in the past and then shoots to modern times. A hundred years ago a coal miner simply disappeared. The mine was closed up after that upon the government discovering that safety rules did not really exist and several miners have gone missing. For the past 90 years no one has set foot in it...until now. 

Enter Tim McKenna, a 12 year old who wants to explore the forbidden mine. He was bored since moving to this town and with few friends he needed some excitement. At school one of the teachers talks about the mine and that gets his heart pounding. But none of his new friends want to go. They are locals, they had heard the whispers about the mine--whispers about creatures or ghosts. And although no one really believes it, everyone avoids the mine.

Tim is determined. He fakes being sick and kicks off from school. He has his bag packed with essentials he thinks he needs and off he goes.

What fate awaits him? It may not be what you think.

This is an interesting and fast paced book. I actually wanted it to be longer, but I feel the author ended it where it needed to end. The writing is smooth to read and the story never goes off track or dwells too long in the back story. It is a novella, after all. And it is a good real.

4 out of 5 stars from me.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Zombie Generation by Drake Vaughn

The Zombie Generation by Drake Vaughn

  • File Size: 561 KB
  • Print Length: 239 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1475216378
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Dead Orb Pres; 1 edition (April 7, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
Warner is alone...kind of. The end of humanity was broadcast live with game shows when the zombies arrived. But these are a different kinds of zombies and they are called buggers. They love brains and alcohol. The last human sees figs, has a girlfriend called Pam and has the best safe house in the history of zombie thrillers.

This is a newish take on the tired zombie genre and the way Warner survives is believable during the coming end. It's a book filled with exciting happenings and things pick up when Warner encounters three survivors.

This book has a problem: long passages that need to be spruced up to add tension in the sections were not much action is happening. I understand the need for back story and why Warner suffers figs (figments of people or things) but did we need the long expositions?

Overall this book is entertaining and well worth a couple of bucks in e-format and your time.

3.5 / 5

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ghosts can Bleed by Tracie McBride

Ghosts can Bleed
Tracie McBride
Dark Continents Publishing
145 pages, Paperback

Ghosts can Bleed is a collection of dark stories and some poetry thrown in the mix. 42 tales. Some make you think, some make you smile (evilly), and there are a few in there that didn't strike my fancy. Overall, this collection hits the awesome mark quite high.

My favorite tale is: Fridge Wars.
Baptism runs a close second.

All the stories are different to what you would expect, not traditional in the slightest as there is a mix of fantasy, horror and weird. More weird than the rest (like Fridge Wars).

Some books you just can't help but like and this is one of them. All the stories resonate with the reader and you are quickly pulled into the world Tracie has created.

Not much can be said without giving anything away but I did like the tid-bits of info at the top of some of the stories, these are always fun to read, especially how a story came about.

Get yourself a copy and you'll be in for a heck of a ride.
4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Finding Poe by Leigh M. Lane

Finding Poe
Leigh M. Lane
Product Details File Size: 287 KB
Print Length: 210 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Cerebral Books (March 18, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English

I bought a copy of this a few days before being asked to review this by the author. Having read Leigh's other book I was keen to jump into this one. And jump I did.

The overall story is great but we don't meet Poe for quite awhile. Karina's husband Brantley, had become embroiled in a scandal and the only thing he can do is to move them to America and take up position in a light house. Things go weird after that. Brantley starts to go into a bout of madness, searching for a treasure that does not exist. He sends Karina to go shopping on the mainland and his directions get her lost in the forest. Here she learns the light house has a curse, acquires a dog that follows her around, meets some strange people also looking for treasure.

Back home, Brantley seems to have changed and became a nice guy again for all of a few hours, then he decides to kill Karina. After she escapes and finds a letter address to Poe, that's when the trouble starts.

Leigh had written this tale with a Poe(ish) style or flare. There are several references to his stories and poems, tho subtle they may be to the casual reader. The writing pulls you right in and you are held captive by the unfolding tale. I do have one complaint though: I felt there was a lot of unneeded repeated dream sequences and the madhouse experience seemed to drag on. I think Leigh was adding to the Poe experience as I recognized several of the references but I felt those pages were not needed and removing them might have made a tighter story. Despite that, the writing is fluid and enjoyable and well worth your time.

4 of out 5 starts for me.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I am Wolf by Joann H. Buchanan

I am Wolf by Joann H. Buchanan
Publisher: World Castle Publishing (January 21, 2012)
Kindle Version
YA fiction

I really got into this story of a troubled teen sent off to live with his grandfather. He's not sure why he has to live away from his friends and the lovely city but he is forced to go and feels that his parents are getting a divorce, which is why he was sent away. The truth on the other hand is a different story. Jonah is about to change for the first time. His bloodline is that of a wolf. He meets his pack, friends he had in his childhood when he used to live out here in the sticks. They are all wolves.

All is good for awhile until a lone hunter, Ralph, (well and truly mad) kidnaps the little brother of Jonah's girlfriend at the behest of Gracie (an imaginary woman that is his perfect woman). Ralph is one of the best characters in this novel. He really comes alive and jumps off the page. A few flashbacks paint him in a darker light but one cannot help but know this kind of person, if not in real life, but from society in general.

The pack track him down but it is Jonah and Alaynee who face him and it is here that Jonah makes a terrible mistake that results in an unnatural. A violent and dark creature.

I really liked I am Wolf until it bogged down in traditional Indian lore and though I have no problem with that (even liked some of it), it went on way too long to the point I started to think it was filler and nothing more. Why? Because Jonah, who created the unnatural, has a link to him and knows where he is headed and asks his pack if they will follow him. They do, naturally. And that is where I turned off my Kindle.

The first half of this book and Jonah's assimilation to his new world was awesome reading. The horror of the unnatural was also great and Joann H. Buchanan did a great job of world building and character building and I'm sure I turned off the Kindle a tad too early but I had lost the fire, the mystery that fueled the tale for me.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mile 81 by Stephen King

Mile 81 by Stephen King
Kindle version

Mile 81 is King returning to monsters. It kind of reminds me of The mist, in that this monster could create tentacles. The monster came in the form of a car and it parked at a deserted rest stop.

Sleeping in one of the abandoned buildings at the rest stop is Pete Simmons, a 10 year old who went to this place when his older brother went off with the "big kids". He was meant to stay out of trouble but in the old building he finds half a bottle of whiskey (?) and after three swallows is feeling kind of drunk and decides to take a nap.

During his nap, three people are eaten by the car. He wakes up to see the parents of a six year old and her little brother get munched up and as he is the older of the kids, he feels inclined to step up and defend them.

There is a lot of character description here (as with all of Kings work) but I felt kind of ripped off when I read pages about a character only to see him/her get munched on. But was good to read King back in his old stomping ground of Stand By Me, Christine and From a Buick 8.

This is a good and fast read and enjoy chapter one of King's newest book (at the time) 11/22/63.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Death metal by Armand Rosamilia

Death metal by Armand Rosamilia
Kindle Edition 2011

Some people are gifted and success can come easily to them. Others like to leech off these people and others waste their gifts away. In a drug haze at University, Daniel and his friends are introduced to Death Metal, Black Metal, and the rest. They all dig it as they pop acid and roll joints.

One night, Daniel starts scribbling lyrics and decides to firm a band of only one person: him. He is a musical genius and can play all the parts and can splice them together. With his best friend acting as his agent, they hock their goods for recording time in a studio. Things are not looking good with their first album and Daniel has ideas for 10. He completes 7.

During the wait for a contract, Daniel takes up writing and his stories start to sell instantly.

Years later, Daniel has left all that behind him. He is now a successful novelist and off the drugs, totally clean. Then his daughter is kidnapped. The kidnappers only want one thing.

This is a well written book and a dead fast read. I really enjoyed it. Armand tells a great story with a fantastic ending and the action in the book jumps from past to present. These characters are people you might know, heard of or were part of in your youth.

The writing is tight and there is no filler. The pages are crammed with needed words tot ell an awesome tale. The ending will leave your mouth hanging open. I didn't see that coming.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

World-Mart by by Leigh M. Lane

World-Mart by by Leigh M. Lane
Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 403 KB
  • Publisher: Cerebral Books (October 13, 2011)

Leigh M. Lane has created a world that is all too real a possibility (in fact it is starting to happen already). We are introduced to a normal family, husband--working in a job he doesn't really like, wife--doing the same; two kids, son and daughter at prestigious schools. 

They live in a world where everything is controlled by corporate and energy sources are low. No lights after 8pm, the only heat comes from a small flame in the middle of a snow filled winter.  

As a family they are doing okay until the mother touches a virus tainted business card and the virus takes hold quickly. She is taken to hospital where she dies and the family are given a small box of ashes. They are naturally grief stricken and the husband is given 2 days off work, compliments of the corporation. 

But the mother is not dead. She is being held against her will as a Deviant. Deviants are the other humans who did not join the corporation. Corp has reprogrammed Humans (corp controlled people) to be weary of Deviants (non-corp controlled people) because they have smaller brains and blue eyes and are not human. 

Mother escapes with the help of deviants and joins their battle against the corporation.  

This is a great book that shows the destruction of a family unit. The downward spiral is amazing to witness. The differences between the classes is profound, there is no blurring of the lines. And behind all this is a massive secret that Corp is desperate to keep hidden. 

I really did not want this book to end. 
The writing is tight and crisp and to the point. 
A great find.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Deadlocked by A. J. Wise

Deadlocked by A. J. Wise
Publishing House: Unknown
Short Story
Kindle Version

Dave is your everyday guy, working in a large office as a salesman. He is married with kids, two little girls. A slice of bio terror starts the zombie outbreak but (and realistically) no one is aware at first. People are going nuts on the street. All Dave wants to do is get home to protect his wife and children.
That is his only goal throughout this tale and the hell he goes through will—at times—surprise you. There was a lot in this tale that I didn’t see coming. And that can only be a good thing. 

A. J. gives us a story where the main character is weakened, he has a problem and that gives him a real three dimensional feel that has you rooting for him as he makes his way home.

There’s not a lot I can say about Deadlocked as it is a short story, but it is a ripping yarn. I liked the end where the author explains his reasons for a vicious scene involving a bus load of kids and then he tells us his plans to make the short story a serial using other people’s point of view, like the wife, Laura. 

That’s a good idea but as I've already read the ending, I wonder how he can make it something more. I would like to see if A. J. can pull it off, keeping it fresh, even though the ending is known.

I must not say anymore for fear of giving anything away.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Extreme Undead Collection by Armand Rosamilia

Extreme Undead Collection by Armand Rosamilia
Kindle Edition 2011
(c)Rymfire Undead (December 29, 2011) 

Highway to Hell is probably one of the best novella zombie tales I have come across in a long time. We were introduced to zombies that liked to rape, sodomize and kill. And we are introduced to this within the first couple of paragraphs. 

This tale kicks you in the gonads and keeps kicking all the way to the last line. everything went right for the writer and reader in this tale, the set up was fast and the story was going in a fast pace and kept on going without slowing down. This was awesome. 

"Darlene Bobich: Zombie Killer" - the collected short stories of Darlene Bobich leading up to the novella "Dying Days" - Darlene Bobich, Florida sun and zombies... what better combination? 
The collection of shorts in Zombie Killer took awhile to come together as a novella and it wasn't until Dying Days that I was really into this character. The stuff this girl goes through is not for the faint of heart. She blows away her father, a host of others, heads to the mall and finds most of her 'friends' and co-workers holed up in a make-up shop in the mall. The ending of this tale is awesome and I love how the author just rolled past the incident and kept his focus on Darlene. Dying Days tops this off with on the best endings, middles, and beginnings I have seen in a long time. 

I would buy the collection for those two novellas and tales alone. 

But wait, there's more:

Zombie Tea Party is a mix of short stories, some hit the mark several more don't. Some end unexpectedly and others I skipped through. To be honest, the stories I skipped were mostly because I didn't like the characters or felt no reason to follow them through each page to the ending. Others will love these tales. 

Nearly 100,000 words in all and 80,000 of them and frigging awesome and well worth the time and low cost monetary investment. Zombie lovers will rock out on this collection.  

warning: extreme sexual situations, extreme violence... extreme undead...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Blasphemer by John Ling

The Blasphemer by John Ling
Kindle e-book
Kia Kaha Press (December 27, 2011)

I am a lover of horror and thrillers and sometimes SF. I have read a lot of thrillers in my time from Grisham to Child to Eisler, and I have to say John Ling's The Blasphemer kicked me in the teeth. This is one of the fastest and best books I have read in a long time.

The story is tight and flows. The characters are fresh, apart from two that are a tad cliched but that can't be helped in today's world of reality TV. The 'Kiwi-speak' was spot on and brought a smile to my lips read a language I knew so well.

This would make an excellent movie.

As a side note the author has a few articles in the back explaining what he has discovered in the research for this book, and although the book involves extremists it doesn't focus only on the negative side like so many books and movies do. It's an equal balance. There is one scene that sticks in my mind, it involves a woman breaking free of her religious barriers and an explosive cocktail.

This book is NOT to be missed by any lover of the thriller genre. But note: it is not a character driven novel, it is plot driven and it works well this way, though we do witness one character slowly starting to make a change, questioning his job choice and getting very paranoid.

Grab this book for you kindle and thank me later. You'll love it.

(my highest ever rating for a book)