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Tag Archives: Book Reviews
Women are fascinating, and for a man, they’re also quite confusing. Because of this, one of the things I love in literature is when you’re handed insight into the mind of the opposite sex. It’s like being given a silver decoder ring, only now you have to figure out how to use it. (Yeah, there’s excitement in the unknowing, too, similar to putting together one of those monochrome puzzles.)
The story is told from the point of view of a peculiar girl named Scarborough (Scree to those who know her), who grows up on an apple orchard in Maine. Raised by her mom and stepdad, she has a rather mundane, if not comfortable, childhood. That is until a tragedy comes about (one that is ostensibly young Scree’s fault), leaving her one parent short. Scree comes to long for something other than what she has known her whole life. She feels trapped, and when her brother comes back, his girlfriend pregnant, Scree is dead set against that poor baby being confined in the same life she has been subjected to.
The girl saves up her money working at a restaurant, steals the child, and then flees, ending up in an odd yet opulent resort. It is here that the bulk of the tale takes place, as Scree is haunted by strange visions while she tries to learn to be happy, to find love, and make peace with her guilt.
This truly is a wonderful tale, completely feminine in the best of ways. Some might find the storytelling to be languid, or even meandering at times, but that’s only because Schoonover dives headlong into her character, letting the reader get to know Scree in an intimate way. We know her thoughts, her longings and fears, and since the story is told from her viewpoint, the clues as to what is actually happening are hidden in plain sight, beneath the miasma of Scree’s desires.
As I said earlier, this is an insightful novel. It might not be an illustration of all women (or girls, as the case may be), but in the specific instance of Scree, Schoonover manages to create a sort of everywoman, one who’s believable despite the fantastic situation she finds herself in. She’s a female character that isn’t simply a reflection of the men around her, one that indeed longs for love and affection yet also strives to become powerful and independent, and it is that inner struggle that drives the book’s plot. And the author also does something quite strange for a work of fiction such as this: the settings, even the previously mentioned ritzy resort she finds herself in, are presented in an ordinary, almost dreary manner. It is the character’s interactions and viewpoints that matter, what she makes of the setting rather than what the setting actually is, that gives it depth.
As you can plainly see, I adored this book…until the very end. At that point the author uses a writing convention that is tantamount to cheating in order to manipulate the reader’s view of the story being told. I hate to be vague about it, but to give away what happens in the very last section would be to give away the twist ending, which would be a shame. However, I was slightly disappointed when I came across this last bit, and felt it took a little of the power away from the tale. Which was a shame.
That being said, it didn’t dishearten me enough to alter my view of what came before. I still feel Bad Apple is a powerful and enlightening tale, and in the end, I think the author was painted into a corner by just how personal a story it is. Tell the tale in third person, and my problems with the ending disappear…yet at the same time, the intimacy of the first-person narrative is lost. It’s a no-win situation at best.
In closing, I give this book a hearty recommendation. There are worse sins an author can commit, such as telling a substandard story. And Bad Apple is certainly not that.
Marta is a bitchy ball-buster who knows Felix will do anything for her. Although unsure of Marta’s plan to cross into Mexico to film a documentary about illegal immigrants, he agrees to help her, as Marta knew he would. She is also hoping to find out what happened to her parents, from whom she was separated as a little girl.
She plans to wear a tiny camera, set into a crucifix, around her neck, which will provide feedback to Felix’s computer.
After one of their frequent fights, Marta takes off into Mexico, leaving Felix behind. But Marta, while tough, is no match for the crazy family that kidnaps her before she can cross back into America. Not only do they want her to mate with the mentally-challenged but insanely strong son, they have kidnapped others who will provide meat for their taco stand.
Marta realizes this and is horrified because she had eaten at the stand earlier that day—yet she is also craving the forbidden food when its aroma envelops the house. She also has to fight for her life against the giant son, who is a wrestler—but he doesn’t go up against other wrestlers. His opponents are Mexicans trying to get to the border, and are no match for the brutality they find themselves trying to survive.
Felix realizes Marta is in danger and does everything he can to get to her. But will he be successful or sautéed?
This is extreme horror at its best. It’s suspenseful, nasty, and completely disgusting. I loved it. Shane McKenzie doesn’t pull his punches; he lets his readers have it without one shred of remorse.
Muerte Con Carne is another literary knife to the gut from a great author.
Carol Gunderson’s ex-husband stalks her almost every day. If he’s not harassing her, then he’s got one of his creepy friends doing it. Finally reaching her breaking point, Carol convinces her sister Brenda to get out of town for a canoe trip.
But Carol doesn’t realize her ex knows where she’s going, and won’t let her get away that easily.
However, Mitch isn’t the worst that Carol and Brenda will encounter. An old man lives in a weird cabin deep in the woods. The old man has terrible thoughts, and acts upon them with the help of his unnatural dog.
When Carol and Brenda get lost after their canoe tips, they are drawn to the cabin in search of food and shelter. At first Meyer is very welcoming, and the women feel safe, knowing they will probably be rescued soon.
As the days pass, though, they realize something is very wrong with Meyer and in the cabin. And there is someone—or something—in the basement that doesn’t want them to leave.
Northwoods Deep, by Joel Arnold, is a great story, evil and frightening. The suspense will have you turning the pages, reluctant to stop reading until you find out what will happen to Carol and Brenda. There are a lot of twists and turns, and once you find yourself attached to certain characters, you may even find yourself yelling “No!” at times. The story will draw you in that much.
The last story I read by Arnold, Death Rhythm, was an ominous tale, but quiet, almost elegant. Northwoods Deep is different—nasty, scary, and relentless. I loved it.
One of the great things about reviewing is the opportunity to read new authors. You can tell if you’ve just discovered someone special to keep an eye on.
Will Ludwigsen is someone to watch. This collection of short stories is nothing short of riveting. Called In Search Of and Others because of the author’s fascination with the TV series of the same name that ran from 1976 to 1982, the stories themselves also feature people searching for answers to the questions in their mundane lives.
From the foreword to the story notes, this collection will keep you turning the pages. And don’t skip the introduction by Jeffrey Ford; it’s a great read in itself.
The first story, “In Search Of,” questions are answered—maybe some of your own—in a very satisfying way. I found it fascinating, and hoping some of the answers were true.
“The Speed of Dreams” has a little girl questioning if you can gain more time in your life through dreams. It was a really interesting premise with a breathtaking ending.
“We Were Wonder Scouts” reminded me a bit of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Surreal and creepy, the story will leave you wondering just what went on. But you are left to draw your own conclusions.
One of my favorite stories, “Remembrance is Something Like a House,” creeped me out in a great way. A house desperately needs to tell its story to a former owner, and searches for years until it finds him. It sounds out there, but after reading this, you will believe that this house did what it needed to do.
All of the stories in this collection are well-written and I enjoyed them all very much. If you like short stories, you will absolutely love In Search Of and Others. Definitely not your typical horror stories, there is a depth to these tales you don’t usually find in the genre.
If you’re looking for something that will grab your emotions, then this is what you are looking for.
The Horror Society is an online group where like-minded writers, artists, editors and other professionals meet to discuss their love of all things horror. Dangers Untold is an anthology conceived by Scott Goriscak and edited by Jennifer Brozek. This anthology does not contain the usual monsters; rather, the editor wanted unusual monsters and situations, and the contributing authors delivered.
The anthology starts with a great story, “Haunted,” by Erik Scott de Bie. A man sees his life in mental snapshots, conversations and interactions burned into his brain. He cannot escape them, or edit them; he constantly relives every embarrassment, every mistake he’s made. When his girlfriend tells him something he knows he’ll never be able to forget, he takes care of the newly-made memory in a horrific way.
If you’re afraid of flying, that fear will be reinforced big-time when you read Jason V Brock’s “Black Box.” Remember the episode of The Twilight Zone that featured William Shatner as an airplane passenger who saw a gremlin on the wing? In “Black Box,” that was based on a true story—and it’s happening again.
You wouldn’t think that cute and cuddly stuffed animals could be creepy, but you’d be wrong. In “Innards,” by Erik Gustafson, a little girl discovers that her toy animals come to life—but not in the cute, Disney kind of way. These plushy animals have TEETH.
The last story, “Man with a Canvas Bag,” by Gary Braunbeck, is gut-wrenching, especially if you’re a parent. I can’t really tell much without giving a lot away, so I’ll just say that this story is the best one in a book of great tales. It’s obvious what’s going to happen, but you’re powerless not to read it because it’s so gripping. Fantastic story.
Dangers Untold is one of the best anthologies I’ve read this year, put out by a little group a lot of people haven’t heard of yet. If you love anthologies as much as I do, this is one you definitely need to add to your collection.
Brian Sammons has reviewed Beautiful Sorrows over at the Hellnotes website.
“Pass up this feast of fancy and fear and you’ll have nothing left but famine and no one wants that. Beautiful Sorrows is beautifully done from start to finish. Consider it highly recommended.”
A fine fellow by the name of Bibliorex has reviewed Shock Totem #5 over at the Tales from the Bookworm’s Lair website.
“If the first four issues are anything like this one, Shock Totem is one of the strongest horror fiction magazines on the market today.”
Sheri White has reviewed Beautiful Sorrows, by Mercedes M. Yardley, over at the Horror Fiction Review website.
“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.”
Full Disclosure: Sheri White has recently become part of our extended staff of writers.
Sometimes in one’s life, you run across an author whose vision you see clearly, as if your minds are somehow connected across the vast expanse of the universe. The author’s voice resonates in your mind, the words he or she places upon the written page are the entirety of your hopes and dreams, your nightmares, your fears, your sorrows, your ideals, and perhaps the longing for a happy ending that you know your own life may not have in store.
For myself, that author is Ben Duiverman. The man has captured my soul, has given to me a mirror through which I can gaze and see the humanity that lies within with startling clarity. His writing is that of a fever dream, a never-ending kaleidoscope of terror, introspection, and eventual acquiescence that permeates my own thoughts each and every day.
What Happened Here? is a collection of seventeen stories, each of which ponder the universal questions that we all ask daily. Be it a question of duty, as in “The Sweeper” or “Lost Over Tokyo,” or the issue of culpability and its price, be it historical or otherwise, and its grip over our hearts, like “The Gathering Place” (the greatest story in the entire book), “The Battle of the Bulge,” “Never Late for Work,” or “An Unnatural Death,” each story resonating, building upon the next, constructing a wall of emotional bricks that, by the time you are done reading, is destined to be torn down.
There are inquiries into the depths of darkness that reside in the hearts and minds of each of us, such as “Trick or Treat,” “The Circus Is in Town,” “A Family Portrait,” and “My Domain.” And there are even those that cast a critical eye on society itself, like the deliciously haunting “Dining with Sharks.” And with “Bogeymen,” perhaps the most frightening of all the stories, the author paints (literally and figuratively) the image of the fate which may await us all, and illustrates with startling ambiguity how we very well may be the unwitting authors of our own demise. As in “A Two-Way Street” and “Cruel and Unusual Punishment,” selfishness leads to self-wrought destruction, the bane of man since the beginning of the human race.
This volume, published by the author himself, is truly a great and worthwhile read. It is a paragon of creation and subsequent deconstruction, a masterful work of art using the written word to tear down what we know of reality and to then build it once more in ways we may not have thought of before. Duiverman is a master storyteller, an author with something to say, whose own inner turmoil is laid out for the whole world to see, if we should be brave enough to take that leap along with him. Reading this was a unique and wholly rewarding experience for this reviewer, and it is my hope that any who stumble across this review will take the plunge as well.
I was quite honored when Graham Masterton asked me to review his new novel. And I’m so glad he did, because this is a great book.
This is a Sissy Sawyer Mysteries book, but don’t worry if you haven’t read any of the series before. This works very well as a stand-alone story, but it will make you want to read the other books in the series because Sissy is a wonderful character.
Sissy is a widowed fortune-teller who uses De Vane cards to help her solve mysteries. In The Red Hotel, Sissy is introduced to her step-nephew’s friend T-Yon, whose brother Everett has recently bought an old hotel in Baton Rouge and restored it to its former glory. T-Yon has been having disturbing dreams about her brother and the hotel and reaches out to Sissy to find out what is going on. In the meantime, Everett is dealing with the mysterious death of a hotel maid and other inexplicable happenings making the hotel’s grand opening a nightmare. Sissy and T-Yon fly to Baton Rouge to help figure out the goings-on and dispel any angry spirits that might be about.
The Red Hotel takes the reader along into a creepy hotel full of disappearing specters, gruesome murders, and voodoo. The malevolent spirit, Vanessa Slider, is pissed, and she is determined to see T-Yon and Everett dead. After T-Yon disappears in the hotel, Sissy must move quickly to find her before Vanessa exacts her revenge.
I enjoyed this book very much. This was my first Sissy Sawyer book, but it definitely won’t be my last. I’ve been reading Graham Masterton since I was a teenager, and this has become one of my favorite Masterton books. If you’re looking for a fun, intriguing mystery, look no further than The Red Hotel.