Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Book Review: Fireflies by Lacey Reah


Book review by Sarah Hayes

Linda had everything going for her: a loving boyfriend and a life that seemed perfect. That is, until the night a beautiful woman in the park seduces Linda and what would have been a sensual fling turns into a life shattering event as Linda is turned into a nymphomite. Reborn into something not human, Linda is forced to abandon her old life in order to live as a nymphomite, feeding off the energies of female humans’ blood during orgasm. As Linda masters her skills at literally sucking the pleasure from her targets, she becomes more aware of the fact that she will never be part of normal human society again.

To the newly nymphed Linda, every woman is a potential meal, another source of energy for survival – until she meets Jesse. Jesse is clever and funny and wants to create a portrait of Linda for her private collection. What was supposed to be a typical eat-and-run turns into something more when Linda decides to turn Jesse into a nymphomite just like her. But Jesse’s turning comes with a dark price; stripped of her humanity, Jesse becomes the creature Linda most fears to become and abandons her maker in her rage of becoming a nymphomite. Linda must track down Jesse in the city while also keeping herself alive, before someone else suffers the same fate as them.

Lacey Reah’s novella Fireflies is an erotic story of horror and humanity that puts a rather sexy yet terrifying spin on what it means to be human. Reah presents us with an interesting take on the basic vampire, only the blood they suck must be during orgasm or else it does not work. Instead of romanticizing Linda’s life as something strange and wonderful, the story quickly shows the reality of living solely off the blood of the aroused, carefully straddling the realms of horror and drama without becoming too gruesome. Fans of the unconventional bisexual vampire will delight in Reah’s debut into fiction.

Book Review: Blunderland by Elizabeth O’Kane


Book review by Sarah Hayes

Fin Barrett is looking for a fresh start in a new town, away from her troubled past. But when she and her new pet puppy Zipper walk through a mysterious marble arch in a sculpture garden, what she finds on the other side is another world. It is a world where cars can move at the speed of light, sparkly goo can twist the laws of physics, and stories are written down not on paper but on fabric. This is Blunder and Fin has been here before.

Not everything about the strange new world of Blunder is innocent. The Creeps are coming out of the woodworks like never before to raise havoc and attack people at random for the fun of it. Plus, while Fin may not remember her previous trip to Blunder, some of its citizens do – and not everyone is pleased to see her come back. To piece together the puzzle of her place in Blunder, Fin will have to travel to many odd places and take a look into the past to save the future of a place she barely remembers.

Blunderland is a bizzare and dizzying fall through the proverbial rabbit hole into a world that breaks all the rules simply by existing. The fact that Fin has been in Blunder before and does not remember being there is a fascinating twist on what could have easily fallen into typical wonderland territory. Some scenes are hampered by more telling than showing what is going on in the scene, but this is compensated by O’Kane’s vivid descriptions of the wild and wonderful curiosities that inhabit Blunder. She has created an interesting cast of characters in a topsy-turvy world that will pleasantly surprise fantasy and supernatural fans alike.

Book Review: Blood Orchard by S.D. Hintz

Blood Orchard  

Book review by Sarah Hayes

The headlines read of six-month old triplets kidnapped, bloodied. The small town where they live is under a literal lockdown, and the sheriff is hell bent on finding the babies’ kidnappers, merrily abusing his powers as he goes. Having recently moved into town, Coren Raines finds himself in a hellish world of panic rooms and dead girls springing out of a well smelling of oranges. The deeper he falls down the bloody rabbit hole, the more Raines learns that this town is brimming with secrets better left buried.

In 1993, a terrible team of blondes bullied the town, beating on the young and the old alike. No one ever dared touch them, as they were the sheriff’s children. They called them the Blondies, and their favorite target was one Francine Heller. When the opportunity for a bit of revenge falls into Francine’s lap, she falls into some bad company in order to make the Blondies feel the same pain she has. But vengeance doesn’t sleep and the town will soon smell of blood and oranges once again.

Blood Orchard is a visceral mess of carnage and cusses and little else. I can handle gore and violence done right; this is gore and violence done wrong. All of the horror elements fall flat due to Hintz’s continual abuse of the “show, don’t tell” rule. None of the characters involved have any redeeming factors to them. There’s a difference between having a cast of gritty flawed characters and having a cast of utterly hateable characters, and Blood Orchard seems to gleefully drop itself into the later category. I’d be more forgiving of Blood Orchard if it had a decent story or even decent writing, but no, the story is lackluster and the writing lazy. But give Hintz credit: it’s a story you’d be hard-pressed to pull away from before the book’s end. It pulls you in and demands that you finish it, like it or not, and that is a compliment that is hard to earn.

Book Review: On the Verge of Madness by George Wilhite

                 On the Verge of Madness by George Wilhite

                           Book Review by A. R. Braun

On the Verge of Madness by George Wilhite contains echoes of H. P. Lovecraft that reverberate through the short stories throughout, but with a fresh approach and lively dialogue. The nine short stories in the volume weave a colorful—and sometimes bloody—collage of the macabre, raising fear in a unique voice.

The first three tales follow the same storyline. The book starts off with a foreword by Arthur Chaldean about his nephew Victor’s disappearance after his wife went missing. Arthur found a collection of notebooks that comprised Victor’s journal, and Arthur provides the narrative necessary after each series ends, lending an air of realism to the story. When the diary begins, the expectation has been forged so brilliantly one can’t wait to find out what ensues.

In “Checks and Balances,” an alcoholic named John must face the toughest part of Alcoholic Anonymous’s twelve-step program, step eight: apologizing to those he’d hurt when drunk. Some forgive him easily, others hold a grudge, but none are waiting to tear him apart like his wife. On the way to her house, he’s tempted to crawl back into the bottle and must match wits with a sinister force offering an easy way out. In “The Gangster’s New Clothes,” a hit man finds out what it’s like to step into his victims’ shoes. Literally.

On the Verge of Madness left me mostly satisfied from beginning to end with clever storytelling and strong characters that made me care. Only one story, “A Plea from the Cradle,” didn’t blow me away and left me scratching my head. Still, way over 500 is a great percentage, and I recommend this tome to all horror aficionados.

Book Review: HUFFER by Michael Hultquist

Huffer by Michael Hultquist

Huffer by Michael Hultquist

Michael J. Hultquist’s novel, HUFFER, simply blew me away.

When “Satan” appears to Gus Gerring as a tourist wearing a Hawaiian shirt, it might have very well been a hallucination brought about by Gus’s favorite past-time, huffing paint. His girlfriend thinks so too. When he starts seeing the darkness inside of other people, a so-called “gift” from his Satan, he starts to question.

Who wants to see “what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” Not I, and not Gus either, because as his Satan’s gift makes it’s presence known in his friends and family, his mind starts spinning –and not from the paint fumes either.

I liked the novel, but it took me a while to get in to the story due to my own personal opinion of huffing paint.  Sometimes it can be difficult to overcome one’s own biases, but for this novel, it’s worth it.  Told in present tense from Gus’s perspective, HUFFER gave me the chills as though the man was telling me his story, standing in front of me. Gus feels like an unlikely hero from the start, but Michael Hultquist does an excellent job of providing a natural storytelling voice.

Book Review: Huffer by Michael J. Hultquist

                                      Huffer by Michael J. Hultquist

                                       Book Review by A.R. Braun                    

In Huffer by Michael J. Hultquist, Gus Gerring has a paint-huffing habit. He’s finds he’s been at the fumes for too many years when an entity Gus calls “Satan” shows up in a Hawaiian shirt. Soon, he’s revealing things Gus doesn’t want to know.

Gus sees strangers’ eyes turn black. Then his loved ones have the same black eyes. It gets worse when he sees the insidious secrets inside people’s minds and too much to take when he sees the hidden evil in his own girlfriend and family. With his sanity at stake, Gus wonders if this is a gift meant to enhance his life like “Satan” says or a curse meant to destroy him. The way his life’s spiraling out of control, he’ll soon find out. 

Huffer by Michael J. Hultquist is a scathing horror novel that caught my attention from the beginning and held me captive throughout the whole book, making me fear I’d get his power. The story is wonderfully woven through realistic events in Midwestern Illinois that could happen to anyone. I recommend this book without a second’s hesitation. If Huffer doesn’t freak you out, you haven’t got a pulse.

Book Review: Shadow of the Antlered Bird by David Sklar

Shadow of the Antlered Bird  

Book review by Sarah Hayes

College student April doesn’t know much about Tam – but when his life is in danger from an invisible enemy, April is drawn into his world and joins him on a road trip across the state of California to dodge death from a shadow. Tam doesn’t know anything about April, but ends up relying on her as a means of escape from the creature that wants to destroy and become him. If Tam thinks he’s finally escaped his mother’s grasp, he’ll soon find out how wrong he is.

The world of Shadow of the Antlered Bird is one of magic hidden beneath the veneer of technology. It is also a story of discovery for not only Tam and April but also for readers discovering how science and spells can seamlessly synthesize in the hands of a talented storyteller.

David Sklar’s premiere work, Shadow of the Antlered Bird, should make readers excited for his next writing projects. His writing is tightly contained yet manages to weave in great amounts of detail and imagery in a modest amount of pages. The dialogue is fresh and rolls naturally from the characters’ mouths even as the situation becomes more and more bizarre. It is a beautifully put together book of fantasy and drama told by a very human cast of characters that will enthrall every reader completely.

Book Review: She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Horror edited by Tim W. Lieder

She Nailed a Stake Through His Head   She Nailed A Stake Through His Head
Book review by Sarah Hayes

The true terror of the Bible comes to life through its unwitting characters, some knowing pieces of a greater game and some ignorant pawns in His divine machinations. Either walking in the dunes of the Middle East or swimming a stormy ocean, they are all looking for answers and trying to live normal lives. They are Ruth and Naomi, who both share the blessing and the curse of a double-edged devotion to one another. Delilah, who betrays Samson for something different than money and pays the price for it. Holofernes, whose wife beheads him every night only to grow it back much to her disgust.

She Nailed A Stake Through His Head is a collection of stories that take a darker look at the parables of the New and Old Testaments, without losing the markings that make them so Biblical, so affecting and yet so startling. Those who think the Bible is nothing but life lessons and comforting anecdotes will find themselves unsettled in a satisfying way by its frankness and explicit details. There is sex and violence and savagery of body and mind along with some very supernatural happenings, including vampires of the most grisly sort.

There is nothing tame about the stories in She Nailed A Stake Through His Head; everything from the visual imagery to the storytelling is brutal and unrestrained in its mission to show the unsung side of some of the well-known tales of the Good Book. The language is gorgeously detailed and unrelenting and it is refreshing to read a collection of stories by multiple authors that carries a consistently high level of quality. Readers who are willing to set aside their preset notions about the characters birthed in the Bible will find themselves surprised by the richness and honesty of those lives retold in She Nailed A Stake Through His Head.

Book Review: She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror (edited by Tim Lieder)

She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror (edited by Tim Lieder)

Book Review by A. R. Braun

Do you love twisted Bible tales? Then you’ll relish She Nailed a Stake Through His Head, a riveting book of short stories released by Dybbuk Press that warp the classic scriptural tales.

Not that it’s done with any disrespect, but quite the contrary. A fresh spin is put on the Old Testament, making it scream with new excitement one didn’t think possible. There’s enough satire and human disgust with the hardness of God and the world He’s created to satisfy even the most morbid atheist. Yet there’s a thread of truth that allows the pieces in the volume to rise above the typical collection of yarns.

While I found some of the stories superfluous with beatific description, enough visceral plot strength lurked in certain chapters of the book to spike my interest. Gerri Leen’s “Whither Thou Goest” gives another reason for the familial atrocity that struck Naomi, her own clutching companion now dangerous instead of loyal. My favorite was Daniel Kaysen’s “Babylon’s Burning,” the sinister reality behind what seems like a macabre show genuinely terrifying as the words writhe into your brain like blow. “Swallowed” by Stephen M. Wilson casts a Lovecraftian shadow on the story of Jonah.

The one hundred and forty-three pages of sardonic wit mixed with morbid description in She Nailed a Stake Through His Head are full of fresh ideas that shouldn’t be ignored.

Book Review: Dead Practices by Shells Walter

                                               Dead Practices by Shells Walter

                                                 Book Review by A. R. Braun

Are you a zombie addict? Then you’ll love the novella, Dead Practices, by Shells Walter.

Jerrod’s a lawyer and Rusty’s a cop but they’re not your everyday lawmen. They’re civilized zombies in the future when the world has found a way to stop their flesh-munching ways: with psychotropic drugs. Work is hard enough without digits and limbs falling off but, thanks to Super Glue, things keep rolling along . . . literally. Jerrod rides a Harley.

Their biggest problem is Ken Yearns. He’s found a way to make the zombie citizens into cannibals again, and he’s using them to commit crimes. First, he knocks off a gas station, and then a bank, while his zombie horde eats anyone to the bone who stands in the way. The worst is yet to come, however. The president is coming to town, and Yearns won’t stop until he’s conquered the commander-in-chief. Now Jerrod and Rusty have to throw down the gauntlet to stop Yearns and his horde. Can they find a way to save the president and the country from destruction?

I was impressed with Yearns and his undead cronies, especially when they went after the president. The chaos that ensued with both America’s leader and the secret servicemen gaping at the zombie army had me enthralled. Most of the book seemed a bit simplistic to me, like a young adult novel with extreme violence, but there was enough humor to keep me interested. And, at 174 pages, it’s a quick enough read for those strapped for time. I’m sure zombie junkies everywhere will find Dead Practices a joy to peruse.