Wednesday, 30 April 2014

An interview with Ian Woodhead

Ian Woodhead  has an impressive catalogue of novels, novellas, short stories and anthology inclusions to his credit. As a British author all his works are based in and around the UK lending a real connection and familiarity to all his stories. 

His largest collection is the Zombie Armageddon series, a new one, a collaboration with the wonderful Christine Sutton, is soon to be released!

He is always very generous with his time and devotion to his fan base!  You can always find him skulking around Facebook where he often leads discussions on books, movies and life in general! 

Now for some silly questions.....

What is your favourite sandwich? Drink? Chocolate/candy bar? (you can just pick one if you like!)

This is a tricky one. My tastes differ daily. I do enjoy a BLT in a morning though.  The ideal drink to go with that is (of course) a nice cup of tea!

If you want something a little more exotic, then I’ll have a strawberry or banana milkshake, thank you. :D Oh, and a beer.

As for choccy bars, probably a Yorkie. I had one of those raisin and biscuit ones yesterday, oh, that was most yummy!

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I write everywhere. I still use a notepad, so it's easy to scribble in a few words whenever I get the urge. Saying that, write now, I’m expanding my first Zombie novel, The Unwashed Dead, so I’m kinda stuck to the laptop.

Who or What is your personal favourite character/novel?

Fave novel is Imajica by Clive Barker. I do love that one.

If you had a theme track, what would it be?

Anything by Rossini, I think.

If you were to write your “memoirs” who would play you and key members of your life in the televised series?

I'm not sure I'd want my memoirs shown, I prefer people to play in my imagined worlds.
And back to silly, if you could have any supernatural power what would it be?

And back to silly, if you could have any supernatural power what would it be?

Ooh, I’d love to time travel. Yeah, that would be fun. I’ll need my own Delorean though, and not one that only moves into the temporal vortex at 88 mph. No good for Brit roads. Can you imagine how many tickets you’d get? 29mph, should sort out THAT little hiccup.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Wrapped in White anthology

The introduction basically asks why do we like to be scared, especially by ghosties?  This made me think…. I love to read horror because it is escapism at the highest level for me, I can have romance, the news shows me real crime, murders and thrillers every day but sci-fi and horror are something that has to be fiction, please.

I was worried about this anthology as I don’t believe in ghosts, so how was I to be scared, spooked or terrorized? Not to worry, I had shivers, shakes and something definitely tapped me on the shoulder.  I have alwasys said I have  never been a fan of ghost stories, I don’t believe in them I say….. or maybe I do and that’s why they give me the shivers so much.

I really enjoy the little author bios but IMO they should be at the start or finish of each story so that I can run off and grab their other works.  That said the editor has done another splendid job in arranging this in just the right order to freak you out!

Daddy’s Glasses by Allison M. Dickson  

Loved the southern twang to the story. An early baby death sets the tone for this nightmare riddled story. 

So much death in one family but AMD also manages to show what happens in “real” life as families stretch, change and lose contact. 

However, when a blast from the past arrives in a little wooden box the narrator of this story gets a full front seat to the true horror of human nature.

The Curse of Kirby by Patrick C Greene

Poor Dawson he cant seem to get any peace with Butthole the cat pooping everywhere or scratching him to hell, not to mention his wonderful party hard neighbours. 

Mendelbaum, his only other sane neighbour, is also having a hard time sleeping. Then they meet Abigail and Kirby; a mischievous ghost! and a plan is hatched.

However, as is always with hauntings there are dark currents and secrets, and with PCG you can always expect some even darker comments, not forgetting the gore, always lots of gore! But funny gore!

A fantastic climactic and grin worthy ending.

The White Boy by Joshua Rex

Micheal is down on his luck, however, not all the back story is laid bare, some is hidden, this unfolds later in little scary drips. He finds Jacob, alone, cold and white.

As Michael is led through a torturous route to really finding Jacob its all quiet sad.  Well written enough to draw some serious emotions.

Unseen by James Glass

Omg! So spooky, two dimensional people and rustling. 

The end of the world is nigh according to our narrator. Really enjoyed this story as it gave me goose bumps. 

The tension of not knowing if he is going mad or actually seeing ghosts is riveting.

John by G. Elmer Munson

I was a bit confused at first. 

It started out like John was kidnapping Janelle, but then they get caught in a storm and a strange house appears. 

The time line is all a bit squewhiff in the spooky house with the freaky old lady and ever spookier noises, but all sort of becomes clear at the end. 

Weird little story.

You’ll Thank Me by Tomorrow by Michael D. Matula

Liam and Molly are trying to enjoy a little naughty week away, and the temperature is getting a little hot when the screaming starts. 

This story is very much Groundhog Day for horror lovers, as three people and two rooms rotate in varying fashions to kill each other. It’s exhausting reading in a fantastic way.

The ending is amazing and I think this was my favourite story.

Thursday Night Bingo by Kelli A. Wilkins
Betty gets midnight visitors, she is used to them. Her son Jimmy, just thinks she is gong senile. Blackie her dog saw the ghostie too, but as the story unfolds something more sinister is afoot. I really enjoyed this until the ending, it just finished to quick and too predictably for me, great writing style though.

The Witness by Bryan W. Alaspa

Clever nods to your novels BWA! 

In this little story Tabitha is the Witness to all the strange goings on in Knorr, especially the tale of the House on Kettle Street & Clara.

Well written little piece with lots of love and tension, the build up is good and then the final reveal is good if a little cliché. 

However, it did have the best line in the anthology for me: I am the witness. And I shall remain so until I become my own ghost story.

His Shrine to Santa Muerte by Michael G. Williams

Four people who regard themselves as book witches effectively. 

I did not connect with this story I found the writing style too flowery and flowing for my tastes, but thought the overall story was well thought out and deeply complex.

The Other One by Patrick O’Neill

Set out as a testimony which was an interesting way of starting a story but just reduced to a normal telling after a while.

However, I found the “old, rich and educated” flavor of the prose and the perfect little wife and child routine far to sickly for my tastes, in short not making me care about the characters at all, and little niggles regarding time lines such as the visit to the towns tiny Xmas market, they spent all day there??

That all said, there was some beautiful descriptions of places giving a sense of immersion in the story.

As the narrator keeps seeing a little wounded boy night after night, he becomes a little jumpy, however when his wife and child confess to the same vision it all gets a little spooky (I think that seems to be the theme of this anthology!).

As the coincidences and sightings occur the history is revealed and PN leaves us with a little after thought.

Inseparable by Solomon Archer, Ph.D.

The first paragraph left me feeling nauseated, such was the portrayal of devastation and lost come to physical being.

As you continue to be dragged down the rabbit hole of depression that has a dream like edge to it, I was wondering where the spooky would be in this well penned tale.

I need not have worried as the very last line sent such shivers down my spine I needed to stop reading for a while.  Brilliant.

Whiteout by Gary Buettner

Derek and Evie, she is trying to get him killed for a cheating moment but he refuses to die. 

On the way to their cabin Evie crashes and leaves Derek, blinded by the latest assassination attempt, alone in the snow.

Who is guiding him? Who is pointing him in the wrong or right direction?

I had to smirk at the ending,  I wouldn't normally like to be left that way but it suited the story.

Ain’t They Bright by Cecilia Dockins

In the world of Nursing and Medicine I found myself nodding and understanding all the pressures that CD was portraying.

Even with a busy shift it seems Hell has followed our narrator into work.

I was left a little perplexed by this story, maybe it was too close to home.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Even Hell has Standards: Pride by Chantal Noordeloos

So I originally read this as a short story, it has since been updated, lengthened and some serious eeew moments added.

Adolf Zakerny is a notorious serial killer, he has no set Modis Operandi he merely seeks to inflict as much pain as possible, and he is a master of his work, giving tribute to his Lord of Lies.

Eventually the time comes when he feels ready to share his true calling and nature with Hell, and as he plummets to his death, you may think the book has started at the wrong end of the story. However, Chantel Nordeloos excruciatingly makes us witness his rebirth, cell to sinew, bone to muscle. Every little nuance of tension is explained, like reading in slow motion with HiDef.

The road to Hell ala CN is a revolting sounding one, and he witnesses things that make you feel sick to your stomach with expectant glee. It is soon his turn, as Adolf’s sins are “weighed” and a punishment is suggested, he looks forward to meeting his new boss, but soon becomes confused when he steps into a scene from Perfect Houses.

CN has certainly done her homework on Demons and mythology. Demons loiter around Lucifer’s mansion house and she does a brilliant interpretation of making it seem like a normal work place on a regular day.

Adolf is invited to sample Hell and he enters the Redemption Labyrinth and finally finds some of the bliss he seeks.  No over the top gore description is required as CN taps into the true horrors of torture and the internal removal of hope, to make your goosebumps rise and the hairs on your neck tingle. 

After much discussion and some feather preening (did you see the title?) Lucifer has a room suited exactly for Adolf’s needs.

CN is such an eloquent author, not a word is out of place or written down without thought, this line alone really made me think; "their own preconception of sin, often most find it most difficult to forgive themselves ".

An enjoyable, yet icky, read with some thought provoking issues and images. I do hope that CN is going to expand on this a little….7 deadly sins and all that!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Jennifer Thomas reviews..... R.G. Porter

Guest blogger Jennifer Thomas turns her critial, yet fair, eye on R.G. Porter

I have to start my review by letting everyone know that, like me, while reading this you will probably jump at every noise in your house. That being said, this is an outstanding horror read.

When a group of paranormal investigators get a chance to not only save their business but to investigate what has been said to be one of the most active with spirits they jump at the chance. 

This hunt could make them famous and well known and best of all keep their investors very happy. The draw bad they face is that they are the first to be allowed to enter and they have very limited information about what has really happened in this building.

When they are locked in for the night they discover very quickly that they may be in for more than they bargined for.

The author dose a fabulous job with the character development and the flow of the story was perfect in my opinion.

Great read for any paranormal or horror fan.

I'm not a big fantasy fan or reader and very few Faerie book or stories can grab my attention and keep me wanting to turn the page the way this one did. 

From the first page I could not put this one down. The line between the faerie world and the human world was so finely drawn in this short story that I was pleasantly surprised.

Nuff is a tough guy Fae detective who is put on the case of finding the missing Dental Acquisition Agent (Tooth Faerie). While doing her nightly runs Sadie went missing and Nuff knows that nothing seems right with her disappearance from the start.

Jaz is a no nonsense scientific half fae half human who is doing her best to survive in the Fae world when no one trusts or respects her because of what she is. She knows that finding the thing or person responsible for kidnapping Sadie is not going to be easy but she knows that unlike the other Fae she has to deal with on a daily basis Nuff respects her and is her friend. 

Jaz soon learns that they are not dealing with another Fae or even human, but what they are dealing with knows a great deal and will do anything within it's powers to not be stopped.

This is a very enjoyable story and I highly recommend it to all.

This book is a great and fun read. 

The author did a wonderful job of capturing my fears of both the water and confined spaces through her main character, Dr. Victoria Cutter. I also really enjoyed the fact that the characters in this book held composure and never went off half cocked or took off screaming.

Dr. Cutter is both excited and nervous about going to the state of the art facility at the bottom of the ocean to study a new plant life that has been discovered at depths she never thought possible.

When she meets John, the Captain of the submersible that takes them to the lab she has no clue that she and this man are in for more than she could ever imagine.

When they reach the labs they find out that people are falling I'll and they don't know the cause. Dr. Cutter is determined to do whatever she can to find out and stop what is happening and John is determined to keep her safe as she does.

Great read!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

COR: Genesis by RJ Kennett

Max Newsome is our main “hero/character”, he is ex-military and studying in college; English Major – less useful than basket weaving in an apocalypse! not my words but a brilliant line in this first novel by RJ Kennett.

The opening scene of a shooting on campus is cleverly done to accentuate the shooting and not draw undue attention to the possible zombie aspect.
Now, let’s get the negatives out of the way so I can wow you with the positives at the end and make you want to read this book.

The repetitive descriptive words or phrases became annoying eventually and the phrase “can it”, said endlessly by our hero really got on my pip after about the fortieth time of saying it to people.

Max was generally an irritating character for me, his constant berating of “his failing in saving everybody” was nauseating, and then he goes on to berate poor Arthur, his non-military class mate/nerd for being selfish or stupid but is forever doing that himself.

I actually preferred Arthur, although the author continually puts Max up as the hero, Arthur had more gumption and substance for me, he has humour and honesty. Max just got on my pip, although he did perk up a bit and become what he was bragging about at the end.

When in the campus building the time line in mounting the defense and organising “lieutenants” was a little off for me, and I was sad to see some of the best characters (up until that point) killed off but I did enjoy the planning element though, some interesting things to consider. Although it was nice of the “attackers” to wait until all the preparation was done before breaking glass!

The rehash and reiteration of what has happened was a little tedious after a while, unless you are the type to read one chapter at a time, weeks apart there seemed little point of it.

The muted conversation about the infected being zombies was clever, I disagree with the other reviews who comment that “they” ignored the obvious for so long, in reality nobody would believe zombies, werewolves or vampires, so why change “reality” in a book?? Yes its fiction, yes it’s a clear apocalyptic book but that does not mean your characters cannot be real!
With the aftermath of the campus behind them, our intrepid duo go in search of loved ones and find Eva hiding out, again she is a good addition to the team, but a little too convenient that she is medically trained.

The little mishmash group soon discover that martial law has been instigated and it’s not just the campus and surrounding areas that are in trouble, as survivors are rounded up by the Army and taken to the first staging area for safety the inevitable return from the dead occurs, and the denial that follows was obvious but done in a very clever way as to detract from the zombie word again.

As they are moved around and taken to the local airport as a place of safety, it staggeringly has reinforced areas, unless I missed something major or this is normal in the USA? The Army and a new group called the COR (Central Outbreak Response – I so want a sticker saying that!) team are there to greet them, scrub them down and then start to organise some normality, along food, tents and work details.

They are joined by various other survivors, one of whom is a Reverend. I found the conversation and work detail given to him very condescending; councilor, was HE not allowed to grieve? The ensuing conversation with Max and Eva was so cringe worthy for me, surely he would know how to talk to distressed/grieving people he does not need a med student and army vet to tell him! But I thought it got a bit OTT to then rant GodSquad for a full two pages.

Some pieces of the writing were outstanding, some stilted, some uncomfy in their “childish” nature and others pieces just poop – that said, it’s a first novel and RJK should be commended. Some of the ideas were great and unique, some areas of harsh reality were just that and not contrived. The characters were full bloodied and felt rounded, I enjoyed the drip drip of back stories, not the full on confession the minute you meet someone, although more time spent differing points of view earlier in the story would have been nice, especially as I personally disliked Max. They interacted well and for the most part were not wooden.

Fact based issues should also be addressed, but these issues should have been picked up by beta readers or the editor – Rigor mortis is used on several occasions as the reason for the “undead” slowing down, yet when they are doing mass burials at the airport the dead are all stiff, well after the 24hr time period for it to occur. Also, and this is a personal bug for me, unless you have proper facilities for testing, cleaning, giving and storing then using random blood would be more deadly than suffering without it!

That aside the detached medical fascination was good, studying the recently undead “patient” and the rest of the medical comments seemed to be correct and in context.

I thought the action and the gore description took a while to get going, almost like RJK was protecting the reader but it soon heated up.

Of course the safe zone falls, in a fairly dramatic way and our little team are left on a nice cliff hanger, will I read the next one? 

You betcha! 

As for Lassie, RJK you are an arse!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Blood Apocalypse: Monster Squad by Heath Stallcup

So, this is the fourth chapter of the Monster Squad series, in this Heath Stallcup brings us to the finale of the Big Battle with the Sicarri, the oldest, scariest vampire. There will be some spoilers in this review and there is  going to be quite a bit of moaning too. 

The buildup was great as all the MS personnel are slowing bringing different “good” monsters into the fold, the strategy in planning the big battle is pretty awesome, even for a non military lay person like myself, HS does well to explain the technicalities without boring me stupid, but has enough guns, ammo and “shop” talk  please most hardcore nuts.

Some of the new inventions were pretty amazing and well thought out.

The mixture of monsters was good and I really loved the introduction of some critters like the Gargoyles, I do hope that Grimlock makes another appearance soon, but feel they could have been explained more in this book too, not just literally popped up out of the ground, do something very minor then fly away.

The Laura Youngblood storyline did not feel true or well thought out to me, would she be able to leave so suddenly? And I saw no evidence of the burn out she claimed to have. I can understand that the Tufo character needed to have a place in the chain of command but surely a squad of this size and nature could have had a hands on CO and a more background caretaker role which is all she seemed to have for me anyway.  

That said, all the humour comes from Tufo,  and his facial hair and the dead squirrel piece had me giggling for ages.

There was an immense love story wrapped up in the middle of all this with some really intense sex scenes, but to end it so suddenly also felt rushed, and I felt cheated out of a good showdown between two amazing characters.

The final battle, hmmmm…what happened? It just sort of went pop with no bang. I would have loved this section of the book to be so much bigger, all that build up to such a damp squib.

The Sicarri was supposed to be some major player, some intense bad guy. So surely he had his own Generals, if so where were they? where was all his planning?  He just came across as a broody old man with no actual power. At the pinnacle of the battle the vamps were just allowed to just basically charge into a (excuse the pun) bloodbath annihilation. There was no sense of drama for me, no suspense element, so seat of my chair edge to the battle, it seemed very one sided.

The only element of danger seemed to come from the (rolls eyes) “Jolly Hockey Sticks British Bloke” trying to kill someone on the good side.

Then there is poor Dominic who spends 99% of this book trying to remember something, when he finally does a) it was not fully explained why it’s so important b) it was destroyed as an afterthought c) did not appear to be that important to start with.

Lots of little threads of future stories were strung out but I felt that this main one, that started in book 2, just went nowhere.

The writing is, as always, flawless in my opinion and I really enjoyed reading it, I just felt that it was rushed out to quick with not enough beta reading feedback (for those of you unsure of what this is – basically a  small group of people that give their opinion on the book before it gets published, to iron out any inconsistencies, timeline or story errors).

So, am I still a Monster Squad fan… yes of course I am, 100%. The monsters are still there, the squad is basically hubba hubba, the humour is brilliant and the scope for great stories and spin offs is immense. 

Heath Stallcup is a phenomenal author and has some amazing ideas, just in my opinion he needs to slow down a little, make use of his skills and not disappoint his fan base, maybe even utilize them more.  Even the great SK has had his duds, and yes I would put HS up there with him.

Final, overall opinion; well worth a read but remember that HS is still learning his art and that all reviews are good reviews!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

White by Tim Lebbon

Tim Lebbon is a new author to me, I was offered his book by The Daily Bookworm a really great resource if you like free or low priced books, finding out about authors via interviews and trying something different!

One of the previous reviews for this book commented on its “tried, tested and tired” set up, but essentially aren’t all stories just that, what makes them stand out is the writing, the settings, the characters and the odd twist. 

I think TL managed this. He is also a master at human observation, the little details and nuances about a personality. Despite all his characters having very scanty to no background he made me care about them, want to know more; it was beguiling.

One simple line at the very start made me realise I was going to really enjoy this author’s work: we could not leave Boris lying dead in the snow.  Apply whatever levels of civilisation, foolish custom or superiority complex you like, it just wasn't done.

After the first dead body shows up this hodgepodge group of survivors begin to show cracks, then as the second of them is found punctured to death by “something” the paranoia really ramps up. 

How each character copes with it is the fundamental element of the story and TL is very adept at keeping them very separate characters.  He picks at human nature in a very precise way, showing up with the flaws and bringing out the annoying habits that would soon grate.

A very brief paragraph gives the minimal information as to how this motely group came together and why.  The world is going to Ruin as nuclear reactors have been melting down, it is obvious in the comments from the group that humankind has become more of a cancerous plague upon the planet and the speculation is that Earth, God, Nature, take your pick is fighting back, with devastating consequences. 

At times this was more like a good murder mystery with a gore/horror flavor but this novella kept me rapt for the 3+ hours. There is a wonderful element of dark humour; mutant badgers and hedgehogs gone bad… really made me giggle.

As each continuing death ratcheted up the tension, TL introduces new nuggets of the mystery to keep you guessing at who or what is doing the killing. Allowing the tension to show through his characters, where you are privy to little secrets about certain members. 

The narrator is never given a name, we only know him through the grief of his wife, taken early in the Ruin and his constant commentary on the situation; he does appear to be losing a few cogs of sanity though, which is interesting to observe.

The ending was a big disappointment to me until I thought about it for a few hours. Like a locked room mystery you never fully understand what is going on. I usually like all my horrors to have had faces, names, and a reason. But I enjoyed this “drop of a cliff” ending because of the story. It has left me feeling more spooked than an explanation.  A true shiver down the spine.

Unusually I found not one single grammatical error.