SEPTEMBER, 2013 REVIEWS
(NOTE: The "smell ratings" at the end of some reviews rate the actual SMELL of the book and have nothing to do with the story. Smell Ratings: 5 = excellent, 1 = odorless, 2-4 = you figure it out. Book Key: hc = hardcover / tp = trade paperback / mmp - mass market paperback / rarer forms described.)
Carl (author of the Werewolf Apocalypse series) delivers this grindhouse-style tribute to the euro-exploitation horror films of the 70s and 80s. And while there are a lot of "homage" type novels and novellas out there, this one throws several tropes into a bloody blender and spews forth a concoction that will challenge you to put it down.
Laura Pennington is the new student at Dolly Elliot's School for Girls. It's the place for the worst of the worst, a place where rich parents send their unmanageable teenagers where no one will find them. Located in the middle of a London forest, we learn it was once a convent with a a dark past, and is now home to ghosts that the staff and students see ... but when one student is admitted to a psychiatric ward and becomes possessed by a dead nun, new teacher Sarah Stallworth learns the dark secrets of the School and eventually teams up with a few of the girls to try and put an end to a most unholy reign.
With gruesome killings, demonic babies, possessed nuns, a fine cast of juvenile delinquents and a colorful staff, and in true euro-film style, a weird, wild conclusion that adds a fine dose of dark humor.
THE SCHOOL THAT SCREAMED recalls not only grindhouse cinema but also the early days of VHS-renting when everything and anything was available for your lurid enjoyment. Fans of this stuff don't want to miss it ... just stay far away from any mirrors while reading!
VORACIOUS by Wrath James White (2013 Sinister Grin Press / 136 pp / tp & eBook)
A fast, effective, sure-fire, dramatic weight loss treatment? Oooh! Involving a retrovirus? Umm … And pygmy shrew DNA? Well … But you lose HOW much weight HOW fast? Dang … But it turns you into a ravenous, cannibalistic, psychotic eating machine? Huh …
Gotta admit, it’s a tough choice. Obvious though it seems, there’s that little whispery voice of temptation … easy and effortless quick-fix … maybe if there was a temporary option, or reversible …
I remember some quiz going around a few years back, asking how much IQ you’d sacrifice for various degrees of weight loss, or, conversely, how much weight gain for an increased IQ. I never could give a satisfactory answer to that, since, really, my personal dream goal would be to weigh my IQ anyway.
Evil. It’s just evil. Our culture, our social pressures, obsessions with thinness and standards of beauty. Evil, and awful, and destructive, and damaging. The lengths people will go to – and have gone to – in hopes of attaining some perfect, elusive ideal. No matter how dangerous, or even deadly. Evil.
It makes, however, for one damn riveting read. Maybe not the healthiest one in terms of fostering the ol’ self-image, being a vivid reminder of how gross and disgusting it is to be fat, but also how gross and disgusting it is to be vain.
VORACIOUS opens with supermodel Leilani Simms, whose best years are already behind her at age thirty-six. Desperate to maintain her figure, she sought the help of a new and pricey clinic that promises results. Results are what she gets, all right. Results that have her, within a few days, reduced to a scrawny montrosity who’s already cleaned out the larder but is still starving for more. Much to the misfortune of the family cat … and her fiance …
Turns out Leilani is by no means the clinic’s only customer. Others – the rich and famous, celebrities, politicians – have made their own discreet visits. The characters range from sympathetic (the chubby daughter of a movie star) to reprehensible (the movie star mother of the chubby girl). At first, it’s all they ever dreamed of, the pounds just evaporating. But, before they know what hit them, they’re chowing down on their nearest and dearest, or attacking people live on television.
Bad. Very, very bad. Bad enough? Not hardly, when Wrath James White is at the helm. The hunger pangs are written so as to be physically tangible, the carnivorous wallowing in flesh and blood and entrails is vivid to say the least. And that’s still not all!
Because, see, the thing about viruses is that they’re adaptable … they’re voracious themselves … they mutate, and transmit … so then you’ve got an epidemic … and one that, thanks to our screwed-up mentalities, some people are going to actively WANT.
READ THE END FIRST edited by Suzanne Robb (2012 Wicked East Press / 278 pp / tp & eBook)
READ THE END FIRST is an anthology of the apocalypse. Every story tells about the end of the world, no exceptions. Each story takes place in a different time zone, but begins at midnight in that specific time zone.
The best stories include "The Midnight Moon" by Gregory L. Norris that follows a young man pondering life as the moon crashes into Earth; "Like A Man" by Stephen North about monsters from below, genetically related to humans who have come to kill everyone on the surface; the very original "The Earth Died Screaming" by William Todd Rose about something—maybe a virus?—that caused everyone, everywhere to involuntarily drop to their knees screaming, eventually dying from starvation and/or the elements; "Blood and Soil" by Hollie Snider which is a truly scary story about environmental terrorists bent on killing everything and moving to a colony on Titan; "Testament" by Michael S. Gardner about a serial killer during the zombie apocalypse; and "Hammered and Nail" by Emma Ennis about an aggressively contagious form of tetanus with no cure.
Other notable stories include the very creepy "Stormfront" by Henry Snider about sick birds of all types attacking and infecting humans; "What Rough Beast?" by Patrick D’Orazio about two people hidden in the Church of the Nativity to be God’s prophets during the End Times; "Best Intentions" by Rebecca Snow about a man travelling to the past in the hopes of saving his people, but things go horribly wrong; and the heartbreaking and frightening "Not With A Bang" by Brooke and Scott Fabian about a family spending their last hours alive together before a destructive ant-matter wave destroys everything.
All of the stories are smartly written and suitably frightening. Suzanne Robb did a great job selecting for this large anthology. Also included is a great introduction by Graham Masterton titled "Armageddon Oudda Here!" and an essay by Joe McKinney titled "Modern Apocalypse: An Introduction" in which he compares apocalyptic literature, including the Bible and WB Yeats. If you like stories of the apocalypse, or stories with no hope then READ THE END FIRST is definitely one for your collection.
MOUNTAIN HOME by Bracken MacLeod (2013 Books of the Dead Press / 134 pp / tp)
Joanie Myer is a retired veteran who served her country in Afghanistan and Iraq. She's a master sniper and just wants to live the rest of her life in peace at her isolated Idaho home. But someone else doesn't want her there and builds a diner right across the street in an attempt to drive her away.
But unfortunately for him, Joanie doesn't budge.
MOUNTAIN HOME is a seige/revenge thriller that gets in your face before the second page ends and never lets up. MacLeod slowly reveals what makes Joanie tick, and the suspense level is nearly non-stop.
Among the people Joanie has trapped, waitress Lyn goes from quiet worker to taking over the situation while somehow managing to help others in the process. We like her from the moment we meet her and cheer her on every second afterwards.
MacLeod's debut novel is a quick, well-crafted tale that reads as if it were written by a seasoned vet (full pun intended). Joanie Myer would surely give John Rambo much to worry about.
Great Stuff Here.
THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE by Eric Red (to be released 11/5/2013 by Samhain Publishing / 280 pp / tp)
THE COLONY by Michaelbrent Collings (2013 CreateSpace / 244 pp / tp & eBook)
REDHEADS by Jonathan Moore (to be released 11/5/2013 by Samhain Publishing / 312 pp / tp)
KUTTER by Jeff Strand (2010/2013 (Cargo Cult Press LE hardcover, Amazon digital / 139 / 111 pp)
I’ve read a lot of books about serial killers and the one reaction I never expected to find myself having was “D’awwwww!”
Yet that’s what this one does. It’s bent. It’s adorable. It’s profoundly, twistedly, endearingly disturbing. It’s the timeless story of a guy and his dog. Sure, the guy has this bad habit of torturing and murdering women in his basement, but does that make him a monster?
Okay, well, yes. Yes it does. But that’s beside the point.
Charlie tries to be controlled about it, restricting himself to one victim every two months, choosing and disposing of them carefully, leaving no trace. The rest of his life is pretty much just marking time between victims. He’s got a humdrum job, co-workers he avoids, no friends, no family. He doesn’t care. All he cares about is the thrill of the hunt, the catch, the extended period of torture, the kill.
THE OTHER PLACE by Ken Knight (2013 Author House / 180 pp / tp)
BAD SEEDS edited by Steve Berman (2013 Prime Books / 349 pp / tp & eBook)
BLOOD ON THE PAGE: THE COMPLETE SHORT FICTION OF BRIAN KEENE VOLUME ONE by Brian Keene (2013 CreateSpace / 264 pp / tp & eBook)
SEE YOU NEXT MONTH!