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review 2017-11-14 18:45
Childgrave by Ken Greenhall
Childgrave - Ken Greenhall

 

CHILDGRAVE is a beautifully written quiet horror story, with a sketchy small town lurking in the background. By the time the secrets of the town are revealed, it's too late for the reader to turn back.

 

As I get older, I find myself more and more drawn to quiet horror. I can do without gore and torture and all that if I have a tale that's well written and atmospheric. I also need compelling characters and CHILDGRAVE has that in spades. The main character, Jonathan, is a widowed photographer. He, his daughter Joanne, and his housekeeper Nanny Joy, are so well drawn I feel as if I know them personally.

 

When Jonathan's photos of his daughter seem to show specters in the background, while at the same time Joanne seems to have developed some new invisible friends, Jonathan is intrigued. Are the two events connected? Who is Conlee, the name of Joanne's new invisible friend? Lastly, what is Chilegray and how is connected to Conlee? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I'll get it out of the way now-this is a slow moving story. What kept me interested was the quality of the writing and the characters. Jonathan is a quirky man. He has few friends and little interest in fashion or modern day trends. His housekeeper Nanny Joy loves jazz and Jonathan's daughter, but is concerned about the appearance of Conlee and the specters in the photographs. Jonathan's agent Harry is hilarious and his girlfriend, Lee, is interesting as well. NYC of the 70's is the main setting, and it was fascinating to read about the city during that time of social upheaval and change.

 

I was inexorably drawn to the conclusion which leads the reader to a small town hidden in a valley. "Evil in a small town" is one of my favorite tropes and Greenhall knew how to deliver it in a chilling and shocking- yet believable way. You find yourself wondering what you would do in such a situation and I continued to think about it all night long...hours after finishing the book. I can't say that I blame Jonathan for the choices that he made.

 

While CHILDGRAVE isn't the psychological, fast moving story that both ELIZABETH or HELL HOUND were, it was excellent in its own quiet and compelling way. Slowly drawing the reader down into the valley where secrets are kept for generation after generation, Greenhall deftly brings things to a head and left this reader wishing for more.

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can get your copy here: CHILDGRAVE

 

*Thanks to Valancourt Books for providing this e-book free, in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2017-11-09 22:30
Sweet Aswang by Anthony Hains
Sweet Aswang - Anthony Hains

 

I have to admit that I had no idea what an Aswang was when Anthony Hains asked if I would like a review copy of this novella. I'd previously read his book THE DISEMBODIED and enjoyed it, so I said yes. I'm glad I did!

 

Two eighth-graders, Chloe and Spencer, have one thing in common-diabetes. Rather than spending all their time talking about boys or girls, they have to spend a lot of it calculating carbs and insulin dosages. One night they are each awoken by mysterious noises outside and the next day they discover that a nearby family has been slaughtered in the night. What killed this family and mutilated their bodies? Did the mysterious noises have anything to do with the murders? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

Even though YA is not really my thing, I thought this novella delivered the goods. We have a mysterious, scary creature, a few likable kids with some real problems, (diabetes is no joke), and lots of action in the last half, which was fun. The mythical abilities of an Aswang are wide and varied and as such leave a lot of room for imaginative storytelling; which is one of the reasons that made me wish this tale didn't end so quickly.

 

SWEET ASWANG was a lot of fun without getting too seriously bogged down with medical jargon or sappy teenagers stealing kisses on the front porch after dark. With a fast moving plot and a cool creature like the Aswang, this book was over before I knew it and I was sad to be finished.

 

Recommended!

 

You can get a copy here: Sweet Aswang

 

 

*As noted above, I received this copy free, in return for my honest feedback. This is it!*

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review 2017-11-07 19:00
Deadbomb Bingo Ray by Jeff Johnson
Deadbomb Bingo Ray - Jeff Johnson

Mark my words readers, Jeff Johnson is an author to watch! I haven't yet read anything from him that I haven't enjoyed, and as such he's one of my go-to authors.

 

In DEADBOMB BINGO RAY, we have a tall, handsome "fixer" who earned his nickname during an unfortunate incident at a casino. He earned his reputation the hard way and everyone knows who he is and stays clear.

 

That is, until he finds himself on the radar of one Tim Cantwell, a man he's already taken down once. Unfortunately, Cantwell did not learn his lesson the first time around and now he's looking for revenge. Throw in the beautiful Mary Chapman, a black man named Skuggy, DBR's secretary Agnes, her son Cody, and the new love of his life, Abigail, and you have a memorable cast of characters. Will Cantwell be successful in his bid for revenge? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I need to get one thing straight with you-DEADBOMB BINGO RAY is NOT a hero. He is not a good guy. What he is is a thinker-capable of masterminding schemes and plans that make Lex Luthor look like a drooling idiot recently escaped from the asylum. Oh, and he sometimes kills people.

 

What makes this story so entertaining is the characters. Even though DBR isn't a good guy, you cannot help but admire the style with which he goes about his nefarious deeds. His home sounds beautiful, he rescued a Pomeranian, and, (like most of Johnson's main characters), he cooks. His secretary Agnes hates Woody Allen so much,(because of the situation with his step-daughter), she tells everyone she meets that she's going to kill him. She also loves dogs. Ray's friend and sometime assistant, Skuggy, is an hilarious mystery of a man with long fingernails and colorful language, who likes Newports. All of these characters are so vividly drawn and real, they seem to come to life with little to no effort on the part of Johnson. He makes it look easy.

 

There is plenty of material here that will offend people; as previously stated DBR is not a good guy. People die. Some animals die. That's part of the gritty reality of this neo-noir world and that's who these people are. At least when they are committing crimes, they do it stylishly.

 

One more thing I want to mention is the inclusion of song titles/bands throughout the novel, many of which I weren't familiar with. I did not listen to all of them, but when I had the opportunity and the means to do so, I did. I felt like these songs helped to set the mood of what was coming next and I also thought it helped to achieve an almost movie-like experience while reading.

 

These are all the reasons I said at the start that Jeff Johnson is an author to watch. Every book I've read from him so far is totally different from the rest, but they all have one thing in common and that is STYLE. I like it and hopefully you will too!

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can get a copy here: Deadbomb Bingo Ray

 

*I received an e-ARC of this book via Edelweiss and Turner Publications in exchange for my honest review. This is it. *

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review 2017-11-02 17:51
The Devoured by Curtis Lawson, narrated by Jason Sprenger
The Devoured - Jason Sprenger,Curtis M. Lawson,Curtis M. Lawson

 

THE DEVOURED is an insane read. Insane, I say!

 

A man leaves his wife and child to fight in the civil war. His wife, (and therefore his son, Emmett), are of native American heritage and while the man is gone, his wife becomes ill. Emmett, big for his age of 16, decides to seek out his mother's father, a Shaman, (from whom she's been estranged), to request a cure for her illness. Can she be cured? And if so, will she be cured? Lastly, what is the price for that cure? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

This book seems to have elements of everything. By that, I mean it has a western feel to it, along with some Norse mythology, (Thurs, giants, Utgard, at one point there was a large tree- Yggdrasil?), witches, cannibals, and I don't even know what else. You might think that there is just too much going on, but somehow Curtis Lawson pulls it all together within the framework of a man trying to save his family.

 

I especially liked the characters of the old man, (I'm not sure if he was ever named?), and his companion, a young black boy named Hank. At first, I liked Emmett, but his turn down a dark road changed that by the time it was all over.

 

It took a while for everything to gel for me, because there was a lot going on, but when it did, I was impressed by the skills on display. Lawson's knowledge of history and mythology is impressive. I was feeling slightly off balance due to all the different aspects of the tale, but I finally stopped worrying that I was missing something and just let the story sweep me along. And that it did, right up to the brick wall that is the denouement. It was just the type of ending that I love!

 

I listened to this book on audio, which was narrated by Jason Sprenger. I've never listened to his narrations before, but I thought he was excellent. His voicing of the different characters was very good, but his main voice was the BEST, reminding me of Sam Elliott at times.

 

Overall, this book was just plain FUN! A mixed up combination of genres, mythology, American history and more, I can't think of another book or author, (well, maybe Tim Curran?), that can blend such things successfully. Curtis Lawson did so, and did it in spades.

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can get your copy here: The Devoured

 

*I received a digital copy of this audiobook from the author in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2017-10-31 19:32
Halloween Carnival Volume 5, edited by Brian James Freeman
Halloween Carnival Volume 5 - Lisa Tuttle,Kevin Quigley,Norman Prentiss,Richard Chizmar,Brian James Freeman

In this, the last entry of the Halloween Carnival series, Hydra hands us a great group of stories that couldn't possibly be more different from each other. This is a good thing!

 

Richard Chizmar's DEVIL'S NIGHT, impressed the heck out of me. The only thing of his I've read is his collaboration with Stephen King. Now I'm going to have to read more of his work. 4*

 

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle was a neat little story with no explanation. The characters were very well drawn for such a short tale and I found myself thinking more about them after I finished the story. This one grew on me, but after the fact-if that makes any sense. ?Look, all I know is I'm not entering any houses with tower rooms, okay? 3.5*

 

THE HALLOWEEN BLEED by Norman Prentiss was a twisty little tale, with half told secrets taking place between a learned man and his eager to learn interviewer. Little does he know that he isn't as smart as he thinks. 4.5*

 

SWING by Kevin Quigley. This was a sad and poignant tale and I enjoyed it. I just didn't see what it had to do with Halloween? 3*

 

PORKPIE HAT by Peter Straub. Let me preface this by saying Straub's Ghost Story was my favorite novel for a few years-I just loved it so much. Shadowland and Floating Dragon followed and I liked those too, and don't even get me started on how much I loved The Talisman. But since then, not much of his work has appealed to me. Until now. I ADORED this story. It has jazz, musicians, a student/reporter/nobody, and a subtle back story packed with racism, double standards, adulterers fear and loathing. I loved how PORKPIE HAT unfolded like some kind of origami animal and I just had to have some peace and quiet to read it in its entirety. For me, this was the star of this collection. 5*

 

I didn't have time to read all of the Halloween Carnival entries, but of the ones I did read, this is my favorite. I like all kinds of dark fiction stories and I loved the variety here. I didn't think even one of them was a clunker, but of course your mileage may vary.

 

Highly recommended!

 

*Thanks to Hydra and NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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