Saturday, December 29, 2012

January, 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.  Unless otherwise noted, all reviews are by Nick Cato)

REVIVAL HOUSE by S.S. Michaels (2012 / 200 pp / eBook)

Caleb is a young man who takes over his uncle's funeral home in Savannah, Georgia. He's a tall, pale-skinned loner in love with an overweight goth girl named Scarlet. But Scarlet has eyes for Caleb's old college buddy Avery, who has come to Savannah to continue his reanimation experiments on local pets. Taking all this in is Caleb's friend, the oddly named Four, who runs a haunted attraction tour.

When Scarlet dues after a bad fall, Avery convinces Caleb they could bring her back. Caleb reluctantly agrees and the operation is sort-of successful until Scarlet escapes with some minor brain damage (and a scalpel) into one of Four's haunted tunnels and injures one of the tourists. Now Caleb is going crazy trying to track her down, and a popular ghost-hunting TV show comes to town to see the strange tunnel-dweller for themselves.

REVIVAL HOUSE is a quirky horror tale, a cross between HEATHERS and REANIMATOR with plenty of dark humor thrown in.  Michaels develops Caleb quite nicely, making us care for this dark, gloomy freak, and while we feel bad for Scarlet, it's hard not to laugh at the thought of a fat goth girl in a dirty sheet running around the tunnels with a cage on her head.

If you have a twisted sense of humor or a taste for some horror from a different angle, check out REVIVAL HOUSE.

DEADWEIGHT by Robert Devereaux (2012 Deadite Press / 214 pp / tp)

This is an extremely uncomfortable read, packed with squicks and eews, guaranteed to elicit cringes, shudders, and outright recoilings. In other words, great stuff! If, that is, you’re into voluntary emotional scarring-for-life. 

My main obstacle was in drumming up some empathy for Karin. Sympathy, yes, in the prologue, which depicts scenes from her childhood in horrific detail … and I definitely developed a seething futile fury for Karin’s mother, despite understanding the psychology behind her inactions. 

But, skip ahead several years to a grownup Karin, and my feelings changed. I wanted to root for her at first, the Karin who’d finally had enough and struck back at her abusive husband. Who’d killed the bastard, and remarried, and seemed poised to start her life anew. 

Silly me. Despite all that, there’s Karin, visiting the graveyard every day, bringing flowers, sitting by Danny’s grave, missing the bastard, loving him, wishing for another chance, wishing they could try again only without the angry outbursts. SERIOUSLY?!??!?! 

Again, I understand the psychology behind it, but even understanding the psychology behind it doesn’t make me any less frustrated. In this sense, I was reminded of the mom from Cujo and how, much as I enjoy the bulk of the story, her character has me gnashing my teeth. Sign of a good writer, though, when someone can just GET to you that bad, argh! Devereaux certainly has that nailed.

Anyway! So, here’s Karin, grieving widow and newlywed. Who’s always known she had a green thumb, but never knew the true extent of her abilities … until the day she realizes the cut flowers that should have been dead are restored, and she can unwither them with a touch. It’s more than a green thumb, it’s healing and life energy. 

What Karin does not realize, then, is that her gift is reaching deeper into the earth. Into the grave of her murdered husband. That wish she had for another chance, without the angry outbursts? About to come halfway true. 

Revived, driven by twisted rage, Danny is not very pleased with Karin. He’s ready to take his gory revenge, not only on her but anybody else who gets in the way, or otherwise presents an opportune target.

-Christine Morgan

A BIG BOOK OF STRANGE, WEIRD AND WONDERFUL VOLUME II edited by D.L. Russell and Sharon Black (2012 Strange, Weird and Wonderful Publishing / 422pp / tp)

A BIG BOOK…. is chock full of the best horror, fantasy and science fiction short stories that had been previously published in Strange, Weird, and Wonderful Magazine.

Among my favorite stories is “The Interim Weaver” by Paul Breaux about a special weaver of bonds needed on the annual day of execution, who has the power to hold the most dangerous prisoners—in this case The Mark; “The Bus Stop” by Jeani Rector about a murderer at a creepy bus station in the middle of nowhere on Halloween night; “The Dying Time” by Sabrina West about a settlement on a faraway world where the children are “buried” for the summer, and two of those children escape the burial and discover the truth; and “Inheritance for Dummies” by R.A. Keenan about a strange inheritance involving witchcraft and ventriloquist dummies—this one thoroughly creeped me out as I have a fear of ventriloquist dummies (even more than clowns!).

Other notable stories include “A Test of Fate” about a mandatory blood test that predicts how a person will die; “A Few Minutes of Euphoria for Miss Mattibelle” by M. Francis Patterson about a woman who loves to attend funerals for the booze and gossip and what ultimately becomes her undoing; “Old Fashioned Police Work” by Matt Adams about a police force full of young recruits with super powers but the one cop who can save them all has none; “Drag Show” by Eric Garrison about a most unusual drag show attended by a woman and her husband; and “That Ain’t No Chicken” by D.L. Russell about and alien attempting to invade earth who is thwarted by the rooster Mr. Mudfoot.

As with all anthologies, not every story is going to be appealing to every reader.  I thought “Moffit Maley” by Sharon Black was a good story but a little on the boring side.  “When Hell Fell From the Sky” by Tiffany Carrier was a confusing story about either aliens or demons—I wasn’t sure which.  “The Return of Richard Vanek” by Jeffrey Scott Sims was a very promising story with a great premise—parasitic aliens attempting to invade Earth by using the body of an astronaut thought to be dead on a disabled space station.  The problem with it was that it was far too verbose.  I was being told the details instead of having things described for me.  It just wasn’t fun to read.

Overall, A BIG BOOK OF STRANGE, WEIRD AND WONDERFUL VOLUME II is a great collection full of interesting and entertaining stories.  The editors did a good job with their selections, for the most part and I enjoyed reading the stories.  It’s a good mix of horror, science fiction and fantasy for fans of those genres.

-Colleen Wanglund

NO OUTLET by Matthew Warner (2012 Thunderstorm Books / 164 pp / limited edition hc & tp)

Steve and Tanya are shopping at a mall. They have their share of marital problems that get worse when they discover they can't find any exit doors. The mall becomes an endless maze of countless stores and seemingly miles of back hallways, always shifting. When they finally accept the fact they're somehow trapped, Steve begins to wonder if they're on another planet or even in hell.

Whenever they ask someone for help or directions to an exit, security guards arrive and adminster various punishments. Eventually Steve and Tanya meet another couple who are in the same situation, but things only start to get worse and more bizarre.

NO OUTLET is like a classic episode of TWILIGHT ZONE amped up to 10. Warner creates a genuinely claustrophobic nightmare full of suspense and chills that concludes with a lot of heart.

A quick, satisfying read that works its growing sense of paranoia to the max.

AN OCCURRENCE IN CRAZY BEAR VALLEY by Brian Keene (2012 Deadite Press / 108 pp / tp)

Old West horror is fun. It’s just fun. There’s something about the combination that … yeah. It’s just FUN. 

In this case, it’s lawless, gritty, Deadwood-language, coarse and violent fun. A gang of bad guys on the run from a posse detour into a densely wooded valley with the idea of hiding out there for a couple of days. It means dealing with the lumberjacks who have a camp there, but, hey, never bring an axe to a gunfight …

The ‘jacks have a cabin, not the nicest place but it’s shelter, with some provisions laid in and a girl tied to a post, and the outlaws are glad enough to settle in. True, there’s a weird smell in the valley, but they’re none too fragrant themselves, so can’t complain much. 

They also don’t lend much credence to the girl’s story that the reek is from what the lead lumberjack told her were the ‘crazy bears’ … a pack of huge, hairy creatures living in the woods nearby. That is, until a crazy bear shows up, prowling around in the night. 

Naturally, they shoot it. Naturally, this pisses off the rest of the crazy bears. And from there, it’s gunfire and bloodshed all the way to the end. 

As a bonus, this book also includes the novella “Lost Canyon of the Damned,” an alt-Keene-history piece in which Hamelin’s Revenge takes place about a century and a half early. 

It’s zombies in the 1800s, and the few who manage to escape the dusty little town of Red Creek do so with a shuffling horde in slow but steady pursuit. They can’t keep going forever without rest, and the more their horses tire, the closer the zombies get. 

A rise of hills offers hope of refuge, but when they find a lush river valley sheltered in a canyon, they can hardly believe their luck. It’s not on any map, but it’s green, the water’s clear and cold – then it gets a lot worse than running from zombies. 

Brian Keene never disappoints, and AN OCCURRENCE IN CRAZY BEAR VALLEY is no exception.

-Christine Morgan

CANNIBAL CORPSE, MC by Tim Curran (2012 Permuted Press / 260 pp / tp)

A major pandemic of apocalyptic proportion has wreaked havoc on most of the country.  West of the Mississippi River is now known as the Deadlands, a place where corpse worms rain from the sky, turning anyone caught outside into zombies.  This is also a place where the government dropped nuclear weapons in a desperate attempt to destroy the worms and zombies.  They made things worse with the resultant radiation creating mutants that feed on human flesh.

Slaughter, a one percenter with a warrant for his arrest for murdering two cops, has decided to head into the Deadlands—feels as though something is calling him.  Along the way he is captured by the military who want Slaughter and the remaining six Devil’s Diciples to rescue a scientist being held by the terrorist group The Red Hand at what is left of the NORAD complex.  She may be the key to ending the reign of the corpse worms.  Along the way, the bikers wish to avenge the deaths of their brothers at the hands of Cannibal Corpse, a gang led by Coffin and his right-hand man Reptile.  Slaughter meets an old man who clues him into the fact that there is something sinister and supernatural going on with the zombies.  The answers to all of Slaughter’s questions will be found at NORAD.

Another amazing book by Tim Curran, CANNIBAL CORPSE, MC takes the zombie apocalypse and throws a major curve.  These aren’t ordinary zombies but in my opinion they are just as scary, if not more so.  Curran’s characters aren’t necessarily likeable people, but they are definitely interesting and sympathetic.  You will be rooting for the bad bikers when all is said and done.  I love the supernatural twist on top of the government conspiracy.  There is a depth to this story that will keep you on the edge of your seat and in the end, wanting more.  The worms made my skin crawl and the rest scared the hell out of me.  Curran always manages to elicit a visceral response every time I read one of his books, and CANNIBAL CORPSE, MC is no different.   I strongly encourage horror fans to pick this one up.

-Colleen Wanglund

BOWL OF HEAVEN by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven (2012 Tor Books / 412 pp / hc)

Benford & Niven, two masters of "hard" scifi, kick off a new series dealing with the starship SunSeeker, launched from earth for a light-years-long journey to a mysterious, newly-discovered planet that has been named 'Glory.' But when fuel concerns bring the mission into question, the ship's captain allows a chosen few to be awoken from their sleep chambers to help deal with the problem.

The crew then discover a gigantic, bowl-shaped artifact on basically the same course as themselves. They decide to gamble a shuttle and see if they can get help. Husband and wife biologists Cliff and Beth lead the expedition to the odd man-made planet that turns out to be 100-times larger than earth.

Super intelligent, ostrich-like aliens (called Astronomers) run the planet. They capture Beth and five others while Cliff and another four crew members manage to escape. Each person is a specially skilled scientist or engineer and both groups rely on their skills to survive on this oddly earth-like new world.

Benford & Niven pack this tale with an abundance of thought provoking scientific possibilities and deep philosophical ideas while keeping the suspense level high and introducing us to countless alien life forms. Some sections of the Astronomers contemplating man go on for a bit too long, but are entertaining nonetheless.

While there are many characters, the authors keep things tight by focusing on a few. I found Cliff's issues to be the most interesting; besides being thrown in charge of the expedition, he begins a "utility" affair with fellow biologist Irma and is first to friend a cat-like species of aliens who are also trying to get off the artificial planet. SunSeeker's captain, 'Redwing,' is like an old fashioned sea captain who's as tough as nails, smart in ways his scientific crew isn't, and is quite likeable despite his hard-edged ways. He keeps this futuristic story ground in the past and gives the ship a familiar feel.

BOWL OF HEAVEN is a smart, monster-filled scifi romp that promises great things to come. Book two, 'Shipstar,' can't get here fast enough.

Smell Rating: 4

MR. GRAY (THE MERIDIANS) by Michaelbrent Collings (2011 / 351 pp / eBook and tp)

This book is very much the kind of thing Dean Koontz could have written, back in the days of LIGHTNING and FROM THE CORNER OF HIS EYE, when he was on his stride and at the top of his game. It has all the elements … a good man overcoming a broken past, a strong but vulnerable woman, a child of rare specialness, a sociopathic villain with uncanny abilities, and an otherworldly mystery drawing them together in a life-or-death struggle. 

Well, okay, it doesn’t have the dog. But neither does it have the elements that drove me away from Koontz after many years of dedication. Reading MR. GRAY was like not realizing you’re thirsty for a particular beverage until you take the first drink and suddenly feel that quenching satisfaction of it being JUST THE RIGHT THING and nothing else would have done. 

The story opens with a hitman assigned to murder a cop and his family. The cop is Scott Cowley, his family are his beloved wife Amy and their adorable son Chad, and they are the picture-perfect ideal of happiness and togetherness. 

Then comes the gunfire. It goes as planned right up until the moment a stranger’s inexplicable arrival saves Scott’s life. The questions start then, inconsistencies in the evidence, the stranger’s unknown identity, the hitman’s bizarre disappearance. But none of that matters to Scott, who’s lost everything in the world that mattered to him. 

Meanwhile, young couple Robbie and Lynette Randall are about to welcome a new baby into their family. All their hopes and dreams take a shattering blow when sudden complications send Lynette into labor early. It’s a miracle she survives, and more of a miracle that little Kevin does. The Randalls face a rough road of one medical complication after another, and the challenge of dealing with autism, and have no idea that in just a few more years, things are going to get a whole lot worse. 

Because Mr. Gray, the hitman, has returned, and this time he’s after Kevin. Scott can’t stand to see what happened to his family happen to anyone else. The chase is on, and I won’t say anything else about the plot because SPOILERS. 

I will say, though, that once again this author demonstrates an excellent grasp of skill, craft, description and character – especially parents. What’s that make this? Five for five, rave reviews of every book of his so far that I’ve read. At this rate, my other faves had better start looking over their shoulders!

-Christine Morgan

DEAD OF WINTER by Brian Moreland (2012 Samhain Publishing / 328 pp / tp)

In the interior of 1870’s Ontario, colonists are disappearing.  Inspector Tom Hatcher is sent to investigate the weird happenings at Fort Pendleton and the Manitou Outpost, including insanity and cannibalism.  Hatcher was part of the team that caught Gustave Meraux, the Cannery Cannibal who terrorized Montreal.  Father Xavier is called to the asylum because the warden thinks Meraux is possessed.  Could the same thing be happening at the settlement?
Hatcher must discover the reason for the death and gruesome bloodshed occurring at this remote trapping outpost in the icy frontier of Ontario. The businessmen in charge think it’s some sort of disease, but is it that simple?  The natives believe it’s a Wendigo.  Who is right? Can Anika, a native scout, help Tom hatcher discover the truth before he also succumbs to whatever has taken hold of the settlers?

A very well-written story, DEAD OF WINTER is bloody, violent, and frightening.  Moreland manages to create a suitably claustrophobic atmosphere, even though the story takes place in the wide open wilderness.  There is a bleakness that runs through the entire novel and stays with you, much as the cold temperatures the characters are dealing with.  Character development is perfectly concise and will have you empathizing or disliking them.  I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Tom Hatcher and Anika.  It was an entirely believable relationship.  DEAD OF WINTER is a very entertaining read. 

-Colleen Wanglund

SEAL TEAM 666 by Weston Ochse (2012 Thomas Dunne Books / 310 pp / hc)

SEAL cadet Jack Walker is almost done with his training when he's taken away to join a top secret group, consisting of four others and one dog. While he feels guilty about gaining SEAL status without completing his course, Walker earns his stripes quickly enough as his elite team encounter all types of supernatural creatures and situations. Everyone in the group has a special skill, but Walker's is most unique: he's able to tell when something other-wordly is near, and Ochse slowly develops why he's able to do this with each mission.

When an ancient demon god takes over a human body, he begins a series of brutal, multiple human self-sacrifice rituals and awakens powerful spider-like creatures that could destroy the United States and even the world. SEAL Team 666 are on the case, and Ochse brings the action fast without taking any prisoners. Walker's team are the best the U.S. military has to offer, and I especially liked the relationship between Yaya (the team's latest recruit after Walker) and Hoover, their intelligent dog who provides much help along the way.

I'm hoping we get to see more of Walker's relationship with Jen; their busy schedules leave little time for each other, but even their brief meetings in this first novel have already changed the way Walker sees the world.

A cross between Tom Clancy's RAINBOW SIX (without pages of pointless tech-babble) and THE X-FILES, this is the start of what should be a fun, action-packed series. Addictive stuff.

Smell Rating: 5

ART IS THE DEVIL by John Skipp (2012 Fungasm Press / eBook)

This short story (or “quickee” in the publisher’s parlance) by John Skipp is a delightful gory romp that manages to poke fun at art scene snobbery, flash-in-the-pan celebrity hijinks, pretentious devil-worship, and the entire pop culture scene with a few deft slices. 

I mean, c’mon, when the very cover depicts a demonically possessed Charlie Sheen, you have to have a pretty good idea what you’re in for. 

It starts with Kristy and Drea, a couple hot chicks who’ve just left a gallery show when they’re approached by an old creep in a black car. The creep invites them to his own exhibit and pre-launch party. They’re not impressed, until the creep’s driver turns out to be an even hotter hot chick who convincs them to give it a try. 

So, they do. And, at first, they’re still impressed. The exhibit is really something, more carnival house of horrors than art gallery. But, once things start getting a little too real, the ladies decide it’s not much fun after all. 

By then, of course, it’s too late … 

ART IS THE DEVIL is a great maniacal-chuckle kind of pick-me-up. It might not hold up so well in a few years; we go from scandal to nostalgia pretty fast in this day and age. But, for now, it’s a zingy little treat.

-Christine Morgan

ROTTEN FLOWERS by Leslie Hopen (2012 Createspace / 204 pp / tp)

ROTTEN FLOWERS is a short story collection encompassing death, sex, religion and selfishness.

One of my favorite stories is “Peek-a-boo” about an unassuming girl and a stalker who grows increasingly hostile.  Another favorite is “The Guide to a Perfekt You” about a young man who wants to be a girl.  He is guided in murder by the goddess, who has her own agenda.

Other really good stories include “Camp Capacocha” about the bizarre lengths parents will go to receive the attention they crave; “A Different Sort of Love” about a couple and their obsession with bondage sex; “Scenesters” about four teenage girls used in an experiment to see if the original Sodomites can be brought to this plane—most of this one is told through chat room conversations between the girls; and “(Im)mor(t)ality Play” about Maxwell who lives as a hedonist and teaches others to follow suit, and then decides his own mortality.

While there are usually a few misses within an anthology, there isn’t a bad story in the bunch.  They are all very well-written with an almost dream-like quality to the stories.  Hopen also gives the reader a nice little curveball with “Foreward” and “Afterword”.  This is a self-published book that is edited almost flawlessly.  I definitely recommend snagging ROTTEN FLOWERS.

-Colleen Wanglund

BEAUTIFUL SORROWS by Mercedes M. Yardley (2012 Shock Totem Publications / 196 pp / tp & eBook)

BEAUTIFUL SORROWS made its debut at Killercon in Las Vegas back in September with 50 pre-lease copies. It sold out.  After reading it myself, I can understand why.

The first story, “Broken,” is only a few words, but tells a complete and horrifying story. 

“Black Mary” follows “Broken,” and is not only a horror story, but a very sad one as well. A girl who has been held captive and abused talks to a girl who was there before she was, and a girl that has recently arrived. Are they ghosts, or real girls?

One of the more poetic stories in the collection, “The Boy Who Hangs Stars,” reads like a fairy tale for adults. It’s beautifully written, telling a tale of a boy who hangs the stars in the sky, and the girl who loves him. 

“The ABCs of Murder” is pretty creepy. Jake is visited by his dead friend Bobby every night, who insists that Jake must kill him to put his friend to rest permanently. Jake tries many things, but Bobby keeps coming back. Jake wants desperately to get rid of Bobby, but it seems as if Bobby just can’t be killed for  good.

“Stars” will tug at your heart, and make you feel both happy and sad. A star protects Sam from the Universe’s plan to kill him. It’s a tiny little star, but its love for Sam is a force to be reckoned with.

The last story, “Big Man Ben,” tells the story of an unusual affair and its effect on Ben as he grows from teen to man. I think Mercedes saved the best for last, because while all the stories in BEAUTIFUL SORROWS were wonderfully well-written, “Big Man Ben,” wrung more emotion from me than the others. It was a love story that was doomed from the beginning. It was a very powerful story.

Full of haunting stories, BEAUTIFUL SORROWS is one of the best collections I’ve read this year, and I look forward to reading more of the author’s work.

-Sheri White

JEREMIAH BLACK by Jason Gehlert with Joe Rutigliano (2012 Black Bed Sheets Books / 306 pp / tp & eBook)

Gehlert's ambitious novel spans over a century as he throws a semi-alternate history / deal with the devil theme into the blender and comes up with a wickedly entertaining tale.

In the late 1800s, Jeremiah Black  saves his family from a serial killer, but soon finds himself in hell. The devil offers him a way not only to escape, but to become immortal...but it's a hard one: Jeremiah must not only murder his wife, but his entire bloodline. But his first task is to kill the serial killer who almost murdered his family. Hot on his trail are two inspectors, one of whom Jeremiah thinks is dead, but has become immortal himself after some of Jeremiah's blood gets into his own bloodstream. And this is all within the first few chapters.

We're then taken aboard the Titanic in 1912, then to New York City in 1996, where Gehlert continues the madness which began in London. While there, the devil begins to add more names to Jeremiah's kill list, which includes granchildren he wasn't aware of. There's another exciting encounter with Inspector Granger in Grand Central Station, and the action builds with each passing chapter.

With werewolves and Jack the Ripper thrown in for good measure, JEREMIAH BLACK is a "kitchen sink" novel that manages to work despite so much going on. I like what becomes of Jeremiah in the end, and despite some campy dialogue, fans of supernatural serial killer stories should eat this one up. Fun stuff.

THE UNDERDWELLING by Tim Curran (2012 Delirium Books / 85 pp / limited edition hc and eBook)

Boyd, in desperate need of a job, goes to work for the Hobart Mines like his father had done.  While working the graveyard shift, Boyd is given the chance to finally go underground.  He has a feeling of uneasiness that he can’t shake.  Digging in the lowest level of the mine to look for ore, the men stumble upon a shaft that leads into an odd cavern.  McNair, a paleobiologist from the local university is called in to help the miners determine if they can continue digging.

Boyd, McNair, miners Maki and Breed, and the boss Jurgens volunteer to enter the shaft and see what’s there.  They find an immense cavern….another world with a seemingly abandoned prehistoric city and a petrified forest.  Unfortunately for the men, that’s not all they find in the cavern.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Tim Curran is an amazing writer….one of my favorites.  He has a way of scaring the crap out of me with everything I’ve read and THE UNDERDWELLING is no different.  Curran has obviously done his research on mining to make the details as realistic as possible.  His character development is succinct and I found myself really liking Boyd and Jurgens.  THE UNDERDWELLING, with its deep underground setting, complete with the ever present fear of a cave-in embodies the epitome of claustrophobia and it made my skin crawl.  I read this book in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down! 
-Colleen Wanglund

BLEEDING THE VEIN by T.G. Arsenault (2012 Gallows Press / 360 pp / tp)

Navy Officer Eddie Townsend, while on deployment in the Philippine Islands, falls in love with a mysterious and beautiful woman. Under Jasmine’s spell, Eddie performs strange things in return for sex. But when Eddie realizes she isn’t human after watching her do something disgusting and horrific, he kills her to prevent her from hurting anyone else.

Now Eddie is an alcoholic, practically homeless, living in his small hometown of Shadow Creek, Maine. He keeps to himself mostly, only emerging from his shed to drink at the Troubled Waters. He notices a dense fog covering the town, as well as a foul smell permeating the air. He knows that Jasmine is back, and that she’s preying on the town.

Soon, pregnant women are being attacked and a little boy disappears. Eddie must kill Jasmine again to save the town and redeem himself in the eyes of its citizens.

I really enjoyed BLEEDING THE VEIN. The author described the little seaside fishing town so well, I could picture it clearly in my mind. Eddie’s despair and self-loathing, little Bobby’s terror, and the pain of the pregnant women were palpable.

The story of Jasmine is based on a real Filipino legend, the Aswang. A vampire-like creature that preys on pregnant women and children, it sucks the life out of its victims. 

BLEEDING THE VEIN will keep you in suspense and creep you out at the same time. As someone who has had three children, the attacks on the pregnant women struck a nerve. Detailed and gruesome, every mother who reads this will clutch her belly in sympathy and hold her child tightly, especially when Bobby is attacked.

T.G. Arsenault has a winner here. Keep an eye out - I think we’ll be reading a lot more of his work in the future.

-Sheri White

RED SKY by Nate Southard (2012 Deadite Press / 214 pp / tp and eBook)

An action/horror movie just waiting to happen, RED SKY opens with a bank robbery that takes a turn for the worse. One minute, Danny Black and his crew have everything under control, even with the new additions they had to take on. The next, it all goes to hell. 

Suddenly, instead of their well-planned heist and clean getaway, they’re in the middle of a shootout, followed by a crazy car chase. One of their own’s dead, another badly injured, and they’re burdened with a hostage they didn’t expect to have. 

Once they switch vehicles and elude their pursuers, they think they’re in the clear. If, that is, they can find help for their wounded buddy or a place to hide out. After a quick stop for gas and snacks at a middle-of-nowhere place (which also features a bizzare little roadside oddities attraction), they find themselves at the abandoned factory of Red Sky Manufacturing. 

If they thought their day had gone to hell before, that was nothing compared to what’s in store for them now. The factory’s not so abandoned after all. It’s been home to a pack of creatures for generations. The pack is hungry. The pack is eager to get their teeth into some fresh meat. 

Soon, the bank robbers and their hostage are in a fight for their lives. It’s a fun adrenaline-fueled bloodbath, though it could have used a final edit … spotted several typos that distracted me from the story.

-Christine Morgan


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