Monday, March 28, 2016

Reviews for the Week of March 28, 2016

NOTE: Please see bottom of main page for submission info. Thank you.

Celebrating 13 Years of Horror Fiction Fandom...

TOLERANCE: A WEST HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRE NOVELETTE by Hal Bodner (2016 Grinning Skull Press / 53 pp / eBook)

Bodner returns to his West Hollywood Vampire series (if you've missed the novels BITE CLUB and THE TROUBLE WITH HAIRY, correct that as soon as possible) with this quick and hilarious tale that asks the question: just how far should we go as a society to tolerate the customs and traditions of certain people? Or in this case ... monsters.

When young children go missing from the streets of West Hollywood, Coroner Becky O'Brien and Captain Clive Anderson decide to take a break from their investigation and find themselves having lunch at the Yo-Ogert-T, a trendy restaurant known for its tasty bar-b-q. While there, they run into everyone's favorite gay vampires, Chris and Troy. During their conversation, Clive suspects they know something about the disappearances, and they surely do.

We're then introduced to another creature in Bodner's ever-growing series (and I won't spoil anything here), who happens to own the restaurant.

By using unusual dietary and cultural traditons as metaphors for all-too-real social issues, TOLERANCE is as funny as it is serious, highlighted by Bodner's slick prose that's as rich with nearly non-stop innuendo and belly-laughs as his two aforementioned novels.

A fine distraction as we fans of the series eagerly await the unwrapping of the next novel, MUMMY DEAREST...

-Nick Cato

EXPONENTIAL by Adam Cesare (2014 Samhain Publishing / 218 pp / trade paperback, eBook, audio book)

Thanks to assigned reading in school, my daughter to this day grumbles about “Flowers-for-freakin’-Algernon.” Wouldn’t it, you might think, be a more fun, entertaining, and satisfying read if the experimental lab mouse turned into a giant protoplasmic blob-monster and went on a rampage of destruction?

Well, folks, your wait is over! THIS time, when the none-too-bright janitor smuggles a furry little friend out of the secret facility, he finds out all too quickly that he made a mistake. A big mistake. A mistake getting bigger all the time. Not that the janitor lasts long enough to realize the full implications of what he’s done.

But that’s okay, there are plenty of other hapless victims for Felix (no longer little, furry, or precisely a mouse anymore, for that matter) to crush and absorb in his ongoing quest to feed and grow. Poor thing … as giant protoplasmic blob-monsters go, you kinda gotta feel for him.

The rest of the cast of people-characters are a great mismatched lot; many of them meet messy ends and several find their paths converging at a bar in the middle of the Nevada nowhere, in hopes of hunkering down to survive or make a last stand.

The writing’s breezy, skillful, and clever. The story moves right along, the critter’s an inventive variation on expectations, the gory carnage is great, the action moves along, the banter’s good.

FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON meets TREMORS … what’s not to love?

-Christine Morgan

BLOOD FOR THE SUN by Errick A. Nunnally (2014 Spence City / 232 pp / trade paperback, mass market paperback, and eBook)

Nunally's debut novel is an entry into the werewolf vs. vampire subgenre, yet despite the predictability of some scenes there are plenty of surprises and a genuinely likeable lead character. That'd be Alexander Smith, a werewolf who helps the Boston Police Department deal with unusual cases. This time he's asked to help with a child murder that seems to be the work of cultists. A nasty global conspiracy starts to unfold...

While Alexander's werewolf-side helps his investigative skills, he's continually fighting to keep his wolf nature at bay, mainly due to his love for adopted daughter Ana (who happens to be a vampire), and he's constantly dealing with a memory loss so severe he can't even remember why he came to Boston in the first place.

As much as I enjoyed Nunnally's lively cast (which includes other creatures familiar to readers of urban fantasies), and the child murder plot set-up is fine, it's the brutal fight scenes that make this one sing. Some of the one-on-one brawls are quite tense and as life-like as it gets.

I liked BLOOD FOR THE SUN quite a bit, especially the comic book-like plans of the vampires. Nunnally has a knack for making the coexistence of the supernatural and the normal gel very well. My only gripe is this BEGS for a sequel, as there are a few unanswered questions, but I'll assume the author has another one coming as that seems to be the norm for dark fantasy tales of this ilk.

A fun, exciting read fans of horror, mysteries, and action will enjoy.

(Note to Spence City: I'm a huge fan of the mass market paperback size, but PLEASE make the font a bit larger next time! Thank you.)

-Nick Cato

THE COMPLEX by Brian Keene (2016 Deadite Press / 232 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

Longtime fans and readers will be treated to a bundle of kicks out of this one, which brings together elements from several previous books as well as real-life references, familiar names and places and faces … aaaaaand then pretty much obliterates them in blood-gluts of violent mayhem.

But, don’t let that stop you if you happen to be a new or casual reader. There may be a few spots that’ll have you puzzling, wondering what part of the joke you’re missing … maybe, though, those will send you looking for more books, and then when you connect the dots, you’ll experience that buzzy moment of ah-HA!

And even if not, hey, you still get a wild, nonstop blast of a read.

The denizens of the Pine Village apartment complex are just in the middle of another ordinary day – new tenants moving in, stoners playing video games, crazy cat lady spoiling her furry babies, happy newlywed couple, award-winning horror grandmaster author …

Then the naked crazy people show up with the murderous rampages. One moment, business as usual. The next, total chaos. No warning, no explanation, only desperate scrambling for survival.

Action and Easter eggs, guts and gore, a lot of extremely unsexy nudity, even some explosions. Moments that will make you cheer, moments that will make you cringe, moments that will make you shake your teeny fist in distraught rage.

-Christine Morgan

NOCTUIDAE by Scott Nicolay (2016 King Shot Press / 108 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

The book description is pretty spot on with what actually goes on here:

“NOCTUIDAE follows a trio of hikers into the savage heart of an Arizona canyon. Far from any sign of living civilization, and with no way to call for help, the trip goes from wrong to worse when one of the hikers turns up missing. The remaining two find themselves stranded in a shallow cave, suspicious of each other and desperate to survive until sunrise, praying that whatever’s out there won’t hear them.”

But, what we're not told is there's something much more hidden inside the cave. The author manages to keep the reader on the edge of their seat while reading a number of tropes found in many other books and movies today. Think titles doused with FEAR and SURVIVAL. But, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing that demerits the overall creativity of this book. No, the author spins his take on the story to pull you in, pulling off top-notch writing that keeps you reading, and once you’re there wanting more—it’s there. It’s there in your face in the form of a giant, flying beast with bubbles and beautiful multidimensional time travel that has the power to alter time and space, leaving the characters left to ponder life’s shallow existence in more ways than one.

-Jon R. Meyers

THE HOUSE THAT DEATH BUILT by Michaelbrent Collings (2016 CreateSpace / 314 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

The newest white-knuckle thriller from the wildly prolific Michaelbrent Collings is another one-sitting read, zooming right along at a take-no-prisoners pace.

You know how it is when a bunch of bad guys break into some place, expecting a smooth heist, easy job, and big score? Only, then, it all goes horribly wrong, and you’re not sure just how much you should sympathize with or delight in their sudden perilous plight?

This is one of those stories, a vicious and delicious vengeful rude awakening, a shoe’s-on-the-other-foot wicked turnabout.

The heist team consists of mastermind Rob, the crazy and crazier brother-sister duo of Tommy and Kayla, and talented safe-cracker Aaron. They’ve each got their reasons for doing what they do, whether it’s for the money, the challenge, or the thrill. They’ve also had a run of bad luck following a botched job, and a sweet opportunity falling into their laps might just be the one to get them back on track.

So they think. So they hope. So they expect. Boy, are they in for a surprise. These homeowners have been waiting for a chance like this. Out of nowhere it’s all dogs and deathtraps, and the thieves have their hands full just trying to escape with their lives.

Oh, and as for the sympathize/delight? I admit, I was cackling pretty maniacally. Then again, when I was running dungeon crawl games, I’d sometimes leave my copies of Grimtooth’s Traps sitting out just to watch my players sweat.

-Christine Morgan



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