Tag Archives: horror

Move or Die: Paranormal Ghost Stories

51ikOIWfyYL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_As usual I didn’t pay anything for this book but I’ll still be abundantly blunt below.

The nutshell on this one is that it’s a collection of four short stories (about 25 minutes total reading time) that focus on the rather grizzly paranormal. You’ve got some zombies, a poltergeist and an impish carnivorous spirit.

To the positive, the author covers a wide range of villains and portrays them very well. The book is solidly written and the stories move along at an extremely rapid pace.

To the negative, the whole thing lacks depth. Considering the reading time the price on Amazon is outrageously high. These are less stories than the are very small vignettes into particularly gruesome situations. It’s as if they were dashed off in a day and sent to publication. They’re so short that there’s no time for any real tension to build for the reader.

In summary, there’s potential for this author but this particular collection seems a bit small to be sold on its own.

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Interview with Jonathan R. Rose, author of the new horror novel Carrion

My Video Skype interview with Jonathan R. Rose, author of the grimmest book I’ve read in a while, Carrion, a post-apocalyptic zombie scenario told from the perspective of the zombie.

He talks at length about the aspects of his home in Mexico that made their way into the book and his deeper message in the book about what it really means to be human…

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Carrion Jonathan R. Rose

As is often the case, I received this book free for the purpose of review. Despite that kindness I give my absolutely candid thoughts below.

The nutshell summary on this book is that it follows a single zomboid individual as he travels through the remains of a great metropolitan city appeasing his insatiable appetite for human flesh.

To the positive, the book is one of the most profoundly grim pieces of writing I’ve come across in a few years. The author has painted us a desolation that is unforgiving and an antagonist who does anything and everything to slake his thirst for blood. Rose’s descriptions are vivid, evocative and detailed. Also, unusual for a book of this sort the text is fairly clean with only a handful of editing errors.

To the negative, even with all the grim detail, the story fails to create real emotion because it is, often almost cartoonish. No matter how vividly described, a situation that is not sufficiently realistic will tend to sap away the tension needed to build a real crescendo. In this case, so many plot issues such as the “monster’s” perpetually broken ankle that doesn’t really seem to do much to slow him down and the complete ineptness of his adversaries keep breaking up the pace of the story. Add to that the distraction of the author’s odd choice of metaphors at times and what could be ticklishly horrifying turns into something much less.

Further, I’m not entirely sure I found the author’s point in this book beyond merely playing with gratuitous violence. The anti-hero plods through the story devouring the populace but I didn’t really see any overarching point to the thing aside from a very generic good versus evil theme.

In summary, the author’s work has tremendous potential and for a first novel this one is exceptional but still fails to come into full flower as a novel. It has many great elements for those who adore an unabashed blood and guts fest but those with more complex appetites will find themselves still rather hungry.

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The Stumps of Flattop Hill by Kenneth Kit Lamug

They dared Florence to enter the haunted house on top of the hill. She is frightened, but Florence musters the courage to go inside. As she makes her way up to the top she finds many ghastly things along the way. Will she make it back out or be turned into a stump forever?

The Stumps of Flattop Hill is a macabre tale of a little girl who enters the town’s legendary haunted house in the face of fear. A dark tale for children in the tradition of the Brother’s Grimm, it calls to mind the provocative illustration style of Edward Gorey. Scary and entertaining, this book challenges the idea of what children’s books can be.

Visit the book on Amazon.com

Textually, this one was a bit of a challenge. I read it through once and then started recording. The video is one continuous recording and by about half way through I was starting to think I was going to make some terrible flub but I think I made it. Any rate, enjoy and go buy the book if you’re so inclined

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Book Reviews: Scream Vacation (The Raven Archives) by Dr. I. Seymour Youngblood (*****)

As is the usual preamble I received this book free in exchange for a review. Also as usual I’ll be completely honest despite that kind consideration.

The Amazon blurb describes the book this way:

Carter’s spring break is a total bust. His family was Orlando bound until his twin sisters, Maren & Macee, sabotaged his dream vacation with their dorky ghost-hunting obsession. Now, he’s stuck in some “haunted” backwoods cabin in the middle of nowhere all because his sister’s favorite show is filming there during spring break. But what Carter always made fun, his sister’s love of the supernatural, turns out to be no laughing matter on their SCREAM VACATION.

Firstly, this is a book aimed at youth so I give it a slightly different going over than I would an adult book. I look at three basic questions and the first of those is to ask if there’s anything inappropriate for the age group. It has been my sad duty to give many books for adolescents poor scores because they had sexual or drug content but in this case the book is clean as a whistle. There is some mild pre-teen rebellion but there’s nothing to be scared of if your kid brings this book home. There’s not even any violence to speak of.

The second thing I look for is rather the opposite of the first and that’s to find positive lessons or morals in a book. This book does reasonably well at that since the main character does come to understand his family a bit better and after all is said and done they’re a closer group than they started out. This doesn’t really seem to be the focus of the book but it’s there.

Lastly, I ask myself if the book is entertaining and in this case the book scores high marks. I’m an adult and I found it amusing so kids will probably devour it. It is, of course, rather simplistic and from an adult perspective nothing new but these are kids we’re talking about as the target audience and it will be right up their proverbial alley. I can see this series doing really well.

In summary, this is a real standout in the realm of independently published books. Aside from a very few editorial errors this is an exceptionally professional, responsible and entertaining book for the young people in your life. Highly recommended for kids that like to be scared but not too scared.

Want to help us out? Go visit the review on Amazon and vote it helpful. Every vote helps us get more books to books to review for you. Want to help the author? Go buy the book! Most of the time these books are from independent authors who are just starting out. Get in on the ground floor of the next Stephen King. Lastly, if you’re in the Indianapolis area and want to have a look at some of these books for yourself then just drop me a line and I’ll be happy to pass them along.  Free to me, free to you.  Just promise that you’ll read them, review them and pass them on to someone else.

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Book Reviews: Dead of July (***)

As is usual, I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. Despite that kindness I give my absolutely candid opinions below.

The high-level summary of this book is pretty straightforward. Our main character finds herself in a new city and almost immediately embroiled in trouble just because she tried to help out a child in need. What ensues is a mixture of violence, suspense and the paranormal.

On the positive side, our author has taken great and obvious care with her work. Seldom has an independently published novel come across my desk that is so well edited and free of grammatical and spelling problems. Thompson also has a knack for creating characters that pop with realism; these are the sort of folks I’d like to invite out for a drink sometime. They are candid, real and well-formed almost as if the author knows them in real life. I also enjoyed the way the author wove the supernatural and mundane aspects of the world together. Yes, our protagonist has contact with the spirit world but it’s not the center of the story but put forth as a sometimes casual aside. This attitude lends a great deal of believability to the supernatural aspects of the story.

To the negative, I asked the author specifically what genre she was targeting because at times the book seems to drift between suspense and memoir. She replied that it was intended to be suspense and that didn’t surprise me but it did reveal that she has a fairly steep hill to climb from a writing standpoint. The novel is written in the first person and includes a wealth of very specific anecdotes that in no way add to the suspenseful aspects of the novel. That, coupled with the first-person point of view, tends to squash any attempts at really building tension from one page to the next. We know a lot about the character and we can relate to her. She’s very real to the raeder but it’s hard to build much suspense when the protagonist seems to spend so much time doing unrelated unsuspenseful things.

In summary, I like what the author’s done with this book and it has great potential but it does need some tightening up. As a reader we can see the action very vividly but the story does seem to lack the dark and grimy aspects necessary for a true suspense novel. I’d suggest that potential readers perhaps bookmark this author and wait for future installments when she has had a bit more of a chance to perfect her craft as I am confident she will. You may not be on the edge of your seat with this novel but you may well be with the next one.

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The Bird Eater – A wonderful bit of horror. Free on Kindle Firsts this Month! (5/5)

As usual I received this book for free. This time it was from Kindle Firsts. I’m glad I did because it was a breathless four hours on the sofa.

To describe this book in a nutshell, it’s one of those wonderfully ambiguous horror novels that mystify you with their gruesomeness as you’re reading and leave you with a big question mark at the end. The novel is fairly gory in bits but not outrageously so and those with a passionate fixation for kindness towards birds would be well advised to steer clear because they are among the primary victims of unpleasantness.

To the positive side, this book strikes a good balance between inspiring horror and providing background. The first chapter is vivid, cruel and horrifying in the extreme but after it gets you hooked things do settle down into a more standard pace. The author is clearly very practiced and proficient at descriptions of things that most of us just don’t want to think about. I came away with some very clear mental pictures of this evil that are likely to haunt my dreams for a while.

The only negative I could really come up with is that while the over-arching story is fairly unique, some of the specific mechanisms that the author uses to get there are pretty standard. I can’t really mention… any of them… because I don’t want to spoil anything but I think you’ll know them when you see them. Despite this tiny, and I do mean tiny, negative, the effect of the author’s writing is still exceptionally strong.

In summary, this is one to curl up with when you have 4 hours to sit and blast through the whole thing in one go. I did it bright and early on a Saturday morning but the results in the middle of the night would be soul-shaking. Highly recommended for those who don’t mind a bit of gore and who don’t mind NOT having an iron-clad answer to the question of “So what exactly happened…?”

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Re-Cycle – Pretty Terrifying even with the Subtitles (4/5)

We picked this movie mainly because it had the word ‘phantasmagorical’ in the description. Any movie that uses that word is almost guaranteed to be worth watching. On the whole, it was a good pick.

The story is anything but straightforward, but in a nutshell, an author gets sucked into a world built of her own discarded ideas and has to find a way to escape. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers but this is one EXCEPTIONALLY creepy movie both in concept and in execution. It sustains this creepiness without a great deal of violence and not really any gore to speak of; it’s a deeply psychological terror.

On the positive side of things, this movie is visually stunning to the Nth degree. I found myself wishing that we’d been able to see this in the theatre instead of on a television. This would be one to sit near the front in the center of the theatre for. Even on the small screen this one has a yawning depth of visuals. Also, as I said above, the story is extremely nerve-wracking but doesn’t have to splash blood on you to do it.

To the negative, the story fades a bit towards the end. The movie veers into what would appear to be a visual polemic against abortion; while the scenes around this topic are exceptionally horrifying and effective, one does get the sense of being lectured to a bit. Near the very end the special effects seem unnecessarily forced and don’t really add to the story in any way. At times when the movie tries to be an action flick rather than a psychological horror things just don’t work out in its favor..

To sum up, an extremely disturbing and well-executed movie about the place where all those discarded objects and ideas in our lives go. Highly recommended if you want to be terrified out of your mind and want to exercise your eyeballs. Those seeking a more erudite offering may be a bit disappointed. Good escapist horror mostly unencumbered by detailed storyline.

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Real Illusions by Robert Swartwood

Real IllusionsReal Illusions by Robert Swartwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I almost always say, I received this book in a GoodReads giveaway. Despite that kind consideration my candid opinion follows.

The simplest thing I can say about this is to simply compare it to the old Creepshow comic books but in short story format. Most of the stories adhere to the standard formulas of “something unexpected trying to kill you” or “people/things travel between dimensions” or “human comes in contact with some powerful artifact and funny things happen.” I suspect that you get the idea.

From a qualitative standpoint this book is fairly typical of the genre. I’d not think any of the stories out of place if they were to appear in a fantasy or sci anthology of the 60s. While the author’s tales aren’t especially novel (there’s nothing here that made me say, “wow! That’s new!”) I’d say the execution and writing is reasonably tantalizing and had the desired emotional effect. At times I was pretty potently creeped out, which I suspect was exactly the point.

As with all self-published works I’ve ever read, there were a few times that I wanted to take out a highlighter and mark up some minor error. These things are never perfect, but issues were few and far between and largely ignorable. Also, the author’s longer works seemed to over-tease a bit using phrases like “Things would never be the same again…” repeatedly within the same story, making the reader sit up a bit and wonder if he’d skipped to another story somehow. Despite that small glitch, Swartwood really shines in the longer form stories. The author’s shorter stories get efficiently and quickly to the point but leave the reader rather breathless wanting a more developed narrative.

In summary, the author has provided for us a nice, well-written collection of creepy campfire tales. There’s nothing especially deep here but I don’t really think that was the intention. This is well-crafted pulp thriller-gore and nothing more, but even that said it’s a worthwhile trip for fans of the genre.

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