Ken M. - Reviews

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Berserk
Berserk
Author: Tim Lebbon
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 70
Review Date: 10/5/2014


I've always heard the saying you don't judge a book by its cover and I can say that I haven't picked out a book that way since I was a kid wandering around the adult fiction section for the first time at the local bookstore. Well that bookstore met it's demise by the wrecking ball long ago. Since then, I've expanded my reading horizons in a more systematic way. First, it was through the recommendations of like-minded friends. In the last couple of years, it's been through the recommendations of my like-minded Goodreads friends and Tim Lebbon was one of those recommended that I should check out. So, when looking through his work, I came across Berserk and it's cover with the creepy girl with grayish-green skin and evil eyes peeking... No, leering out at you. What a great cover! I had to see what it was about. I'm pleased to tell you, the story behind that cover is just as creepy.

Lebbon introduces us to Tom, a husband who is still grieving with his wife over the loss of their only child, Steven, twenty years earlier. Steven had been in the army and was apparently killed in an accident at a military base. The details of which were kept secret by the government. Tom and his wife buried an empty casket. Steven's body was supposedly never recovered. This has never set well with Tom. One night, he overhears two soldiers talking about that fateful accident in a local pub and learns that his his son was buried in a mass grave not far from there. If this sounds like an "uh oh" moment, you're right. But the "uh oh" isn't the fact that a distraught father took a shovel out to a deserted army base and broke in to do some digging. The "uh oh" is in what he dug up and the aftermath of it. Lebbon weaves a creepy and eerie (there are those two words again) tale dripping with atmosphere and good characterization. Although, watching what Tom does throughout the story is like witnessing a train wreck unfold and you can't look away, you understand where he's coming from. You feel his anguish and despair controlling his decisions. While I may have preferred a different ending, Berserk was a chillingly fun ride. A solid 4 stars.


Bethany's Sin
Bethany's Sin
Author: Robert McCammon
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 22
Review Date: 10/5/2014


Written in 1980, McCammon's second novel is not one of the author's favorites. In fact, he felt that his first three shouldn't be reprinted due to the writing not being up to par with his work after that. Robert is his own toughest critic of his work. While this may not be his best story, it's still a really good read. That's McCammon for you. The bar is raised to the heavens. He's an amazing author and Bethany's Sin is chock full of what he does best - an interesting premise, full and vibrant three-dimensional characters, and a writing style that grabs a hold of you and sucks you in.

Evan, a writer and a Vietnam veteran who has seen his share of horrors, and his wife Kay, a math professor, and their young daughter Laurie move to the charming, well-kept small town of Bethany's Sin, Pennsylvania to start a new life. Evan's dreams have made a mess of their previous attempts in other cities. You see, he has a penchant for predicting danger through the recollection of his nightmares. His wife doesn't believe that he's having premonitions and that he's actually creating the problems by reading too much into his dreams. Soon after moving to Bethany's Sin, Evan begins having troublesome visions during the night again. Not wanting to cause problems so soon after moving into their dream neighborhood, he tries to stifle his visions. Kay takes a position at a local community college and bumps into the head of the history department, Dr. Drago. She learns that Drago is also the mayor of Bethany's Sin and a woman of mesmerizing qualities. In fact, Evan notices that the village is full of dominating women that are either single or married to a submissive husband. Oddly enough, there is a museum in town that is dedicated to the lost civilization of the Amazon women.

McCammon slowly unfolds his tale developing the characters and setting up the curious scenes in the first half of the novel and then kicks it into high gear during the second half. It's definitely worth picking up.


The Book of the Dead
The Book of the Dead
Author: John Skipp (Editor), Craig Spector (Editor)
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 22
Review Date: 10/5/2014


In the 1980s, the only person that was doing anything significant with zombies was the Godfather himself, George Romero. In horror fiction, zombie stories were as dead as the zombies themselves. Then, in 1989, this little gem of a collection came along and among it's pages were some heavy hitters from the horror and sci-fi genre. If you're looking for chills and scares, keep moving. You won't find them here. But, if you're looking for good, campy fun ala Tales from the Crypt types of zombie stories, by all means, sink your teeth into this perverted bag of goodies. And I mean perverted. Many of these stories have either zombie sex or the biting off of penises in there somewhere. Two stand out tales for me that left me crying laughing were On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks by Joe Lansdale and Jerry's Kids Meet Wormboy by David Schow. Those two alone were worth the price of admission. Here's my take on each one.



Blossom - Chan McConnell

The dangers of hooking up with someone you don't know and having an exotic fetish all while the zombie apocalypse is beginning. Enjoyed the irony of this one.

4 out of 5 stars



Mess Hall - Richard Laymon

It's never good to be a serial killer and be around your victims when the zombie apocalypse happens. I've had issues with the two Laymon novels that I've read being extremely juvenile with unbelievable characters or story lines. But, this short story was the exact opposite. In fact, I loved this short story so much that I'm going to give his novels another try.

5 out of 5 stars



It Helps If You Sing - Ramsey Campbell

Door-to-door Jehovah's Witness zombies + Haiti voodoo = a bad day. Just ok. Not my favorite.

2 out of 5 stars



Home Delivery - Stephen King

Maddie Pace is the most indecisive woman you'll ever meet. Trying to determine what can of soup to buy out of all those choices on the shelf will send her running from the store without buying anything. But when the dead begin to rise on Genneseault Island, Maddie has already forced herself to cope. Good characters but felt incomplete. It seemed more like a snippet from a longer story.

3 out of 5 stars



Wet Work - Philip Nutman

Soldiers are clearing out a school during the zombie apocalypse. These soldiers aren't doing what you think they are. Nice little twist.

4 out of 5 stars



A Sad Last Love at the Diner of the Damned - Edward Bryant

The small town of Fort Durham, Colorado is experiencing the days after the dead turned. Martha is a waitress at the local diner and the focus of many of the male residents lustful attention. But, pretty Martha only has eyes for the young deputy sheriff, Bobby Mack, and the other men don't like this. They don't like it at all. And when things go to hell, they come to take what they want.

5 out of 5 stars


Bodies and Heads - Steve Rasnic Tem

Either I completely missed the point of this story or it's a mess. Elaine is the nurse in a hospital where they have patients that rapidly shake their heads back and forth (as if they're saying no, no, no) and they have to restrain them from shaking as they try to feed them. But, they don't eat or attack them and then the one rips his own head off at the end. Hey, if you "get" this story, please explain it to my dumb ass.

1 out of 5 stars


Choices - Glen Vasey

Dawson writes his thoughts down in a spiral notebook as he's going through the trials and tribulations of the zombie apocalypse. It was little more than a boring set of philosophical ramblings. A slight twist at the end that was too little too late to turn this yawn-fest around. An absolute chore to get through.

1 out of 5 stars



The Good Parts - Les Daniels

Zombie sex. Who would've thought? Pretty ridiculous even for a zombie story. But it had an interesting hypothesis on what happened to the zombies over time.

2 out of 5 stars



Less Than Zombie - Douglas Winter

A twisted spoof of Less Than Zero, zombie style. Totally rad. Totally.

3 out of 5 stars



Like Pavlov's Dog - Steven R. Boyett

An assault on an Ecosphere project in the Arizona desert with trained zombies. Nice writing style and character development.

4 out of 5 stars



Saxophone - Nicholas Royle

The zombie apocalypse was started as a result of a war breaking out between old communist block Europe and the Allies (you have to remember this book was written in the late 1980s) when the Allies retaliated with chemical weapons. The zombies can think and begin to wage their own war. Lots of interesting ideas in a story of irony about a zombie who was previously a jazz saxophonist. Good stuff.

5 out of 5 stars



On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks - Joe R. Lansdale

A bounty hunter is bringing his fugitive across the desert when they run into a whacked out cult leader who also happened to have caused the zombie apocalypse. I Loved Lansdale's writing and it actually made me LOL at least a half dozen times.

5 out of 5 stars


Dead Giveaway - Brian Hodge

Even zombies enjoy game shows, but it's all about the ratings, baby.

4 out of 5 stars


Jerry's Kids Meet Wormboy - David J. Schow

The morbidly obese kid that was the butt of all the jokes in high school squares off against a television evangelist and his army of disciple zombies. A piss-your-pants hilarious story.

5 out of 5 stars



Eat Me - Robert McCammon

Two zombies find love in a singles bar. Warped fun.

4 out of 5 stars


Cabal
Cabal
Author: Clive Barker
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 33
Review Date: 10/5/2014


Cabal is a novella by Barker that was the basis for the 1990 movie Nightbreed. It's a tale of a character named Boone who believes that he is a serial killer. During sessions with his therapist, Dr. Decker, he tries to convince Boone that he has to give himself up for the murders he committed. Boone decides that he would rather kill himself than be imprisoned for life. After a botched suicide attempt, he meets a half-crazed man named Narcissus. From him, Boone learns of a refuge for monsters that are similar to him in the northern Canadian woods called Midian. He escapes the hospital and sets out for Midian.

Barker crafts an interesting take on the monster movie-style saga where the humans are the real monsters and the shape shifters are the persecuted victims. Along the way, he sprinkles in a healthy dose of Lovecraft-inspired fantasy. The characters are interesting. But, I found myself wanting them them to be developed in more detail. I wanted to learn more of their origins, history, and capabilities. It felt like all I got was a brief tease. I guess when you're left wanting more, that's the sign of a good story. Unless Barker returns someday to fill in the blanks (like King tried to do somewhat with Dr. Sleep), I'll have to let my imagination do the rest.


Carrie
Carrie
Author: Stephen King
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 428
Review Date: 4/2/2015


The first novel by the master of the macabre himself. We've all heard the story of how Carrie almost never saw the light of day until his wife pulled it out of the trash and told her husband that it was good and that he should finish it. Low and behold, a star is born. Carrie is told through a somewhat different kind of format that has been used with varying degrees of success by other authors. King actually lets us know what happens in the end long before the last few pages through "interviews" and testimonials published from the Carrie White hearing papers. Many times this format of storytelling can be chunky and plodding, slowing the story down. This isn't the case in Carrie.

Carrrie White is the awkward odd ball character that all of us knew back in high school. Although Carrie takes place long before I was in high school, some things never change. No mattter what generation, there is always a hidden rule that many high schoolers follow and that is "Eat or Be Eaten". You either follow what the group you hang out with does or they'll turn on you. This is what happens one day while Carrie White is taking a shower in gym class. Due to her crazy mother's strict religious raising of Carrie, she is caught unaware when her first period starts while in the middle of the shower. Not knowing what is happening to her, she begins to freak out. Thats when the other girls, led by the classic bitch of all bitches, Chris Hargensen, begin teasing and taunting her in a most vicious way. To say this comes back to bite the girls is an understatement. Another girl that was involved, Sue Snell, feels guilty about the way she blindly followed her group in their prank and decides that the way she can make ammends and feel better about herself is to get her wildly popular boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom. When Chris gets suspended over the little incident, she begins plotting her revenge on Carrie. The problem is Carrie isn't like that awkward lump of flesh we all knew in high school. Carrie has an ace up her sleeve that has been held dormant for many years and now that she's entered womanhood, it won't stay dormant any longer.

Carrie has many great things going for it and you can't ask for a much better freshman effort. King's description of the over the top prank in the shower scene will evoke memories of being bullied in high school by virtually all the readers. Religion gone wrong in her mother will also leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth. With so many school shootings in the past handful of years, the ending scene makes you cringe. Even though Carrie doesn't have an AK-47, it still leaves you feeling hollow watching innocent high schoolers bite the dust for being at the wrong place and the wrong time.

King rides many emotions that drag you kicking and screaming back to your high school days and makes you ask yourself "what if?" and thats where Carrie shines. You'll also see a pattern King uses in his later writings where he compares reading someone's mind to taking books off the shelves of a large library and reading them.

4 out of 5 stars


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TWITTER - @KenMcKinley5


Color Out of Space
Color Out of Space
Author: H. P. Lovecraft
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 10/5/2014


Just when I think I've found my favorite Lovecraft story, I'll read another and my new favorite is born. Ive watched the B-movie adaption from 1987's The Curse. For a small-budget film, that really wasn't too bad. The story was even better. Lovecraft's writing was so vibrant in this tale. It felt like I could picture the meteor hitting the farm, smell the drinking water it tainted, taste the rotten fruits and vegetables that it affected, see the crazy colours in the presence's aura, and feel the dread from the characters that came in contact with it. What a perfect story.


The Colour Out of Space
The Colour Out of Space
Author: H. P. Lovecraft
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 10/5/2014


Just when I think I've found my favorite Lovecraft story, I'll read another and my new favorite is born. Ive watched the B-movie adaption from 1987's The Curse. For a small-budget film, that really wasn't too bad. The story was even better. Lovecraft's writing was so vibrant in this tale. It felt like I could picture the meteor hitting the farm, smell the drinking water it tainted, taste the rotten fruits and vegetables that it affected, see the crazy colours in the presence's aura, and feel the dread from the characters that came in contact with it. What a perfect story.


Crimson
Crimson
Author: Gord Rollo
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 36
Review Date: 1/19/2015


Crimson is a tough one to review for me. After reading Rollo's fantastic The Jigsaw Man, I couldn't wait to dive into this one. Out of all the great books that I read in 2014, Jigsaw Man was tied for my absolute favorite. The writing was crisp, the characters were three-dimensional and fully fleshed out, and Rollo made an unbelievable story completely believable. Jigsaw Man was also his second novel. Crimson was his first and it shows. Gord's fantastic writIng style is still there. But, you can tell he was still cutting his teeth. The characters didn't feel fully developed and the story had the feel of a puzzle that was put together with the wrong pieces and were made to fit even when they didn't. Don't get me wrong. There are still some great ideas explored in Crimson. Unfortunately, all of those ideas didn't make for a great, cohesive story. I'm going to chalk this up as Rollo learned many things between writing Crimson and Jigsaw Man. If the progression between #2 and #3 as it was for #1 and #2, then the third story of his should be lights out.


Dark Hollow
Dark Hollow
Author: Brian Keene
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 85
Review Date: 10/5/2014


The recipe for an effective horror story is to tell a tale whose subject matter truly frightens it's readers. Mix in likable characters who you can relate with, add a dash of suspension of disbelief, and you've got yourself the makings of a good horror yarn. Keene whipped up a batch of terror for us that I was skeptical upon first tasting it. But, after a few bites more, I couldn't put the spoon down until the bowl was licked clean. I loved Dark Hollow and I really didn't know if I was going to. He started us off with subject matter that strains on the whole suspension of disbelief. A couple women have disappeared from the small town and an old Greek satyr (half man/half goat) is behind it. That, in itself, is asking my imagination to stretch pretty far. But what Keene does next is the brilliant part. He takes the unbelievable subject matter and, not only makes you believe it, but he does so without you being aware of how he does it. That's good magic, my friends. You see, Keene mixed his unbelievable subject matter with a healthy dose of characters you can relate with. Adam, an author and the story's main character, is an everyday joe who makes his living doing what he loves. His neighborhood sidekicks all feel like people we know already. The old guy that lives with his wife and has had prostrate cancer. The wise ass that works down at the factory and rides a motorcycle. The young kid that works at WalMart and looks up to the older guys in the neighborhood. The girl behind the counter that you see every morning at the corner convenience store. Even the lovable mutt who's afraid of his own shadow. We know these characters in our own lives. At least, it feels like we do. Now, add a subject matter that frightens us. Here is where I applaud Keene. He uses the fear of a man losing his "manhood" in a way that makes you smack your forehead because you didn't think of it yourself. The fear of losing your female mate due to "not being enough of a man" is ingrained so deep down in us guys. We all feel it to some degree. That's the root of male jealousy and Keene wields it like a scalpel. Knowing just what to cut and what to leave behind. He then mixes in a well-crafted explanation of local Pennsylvanian folklore and Greek/Roman mythology to bind it all together. Well done Mr. Keene. Well done.


Dust Devils
Dust Devils
Author: Jonathan Janz
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 10/5/2014


Dust Devils is a blood drenched tale that takes a different and refreshing spin on the vampire genre. These blood suckers don't sparkle or make angst-filled boyfriends. They are mean and nasty and are coming for your wife. At least this is what Cody Wilson finds out when the undead come to his town disguised as a traveling theatre group. They cast his star-struck wife as part of the show and don't give her back. While pursuing the actors, he teams up with 12-year old Willlet Black, who has lost his whole family to the same group. High on a bluff outside of town, they learn that the travelers are much more than murderers and that they'll have to take matters into their own hands to destroy the evil that rides in those carriages that only travel at night.

Janz shows in Dust Devils that he has the chops to deliver the goods with a few new twists on an old favorite. If you like your vampires to be evil, ruthless and staining the countryside with blood and gore, you'll love this story. Jonathan steps on the throttle with some extremely gruesome scenes that aren't for the faint of heart. Along the way, he develops interesting characters that you care about. I found myself turning the pages faster as the story went along. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go put the rest of Janz back catalog on my TBR list.


Earthworm Gods
Earthworm Gods
Author: Brian Keene
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 10/5/2014


I have nothing but the highest praise for Earthworm Gods. This story captured my imagination, as well as most of my waking hours the last two days, as I poured through this thing. Pardon the pun, but I was hooked. A little history from Brian Keene found in the Afterword of this story. If you're confused, like I was, about why there is a story called Earthworm Gods AND The Conquerer Worms. According to Keene, the story was originally published in hardcover in 2005 from Delirium Books as Earthworm Gods and quickly sold out. Dorchester was publishing Keene's paperbacks at the time and, for whatever reason, decided to change the name to The Conquerer Worms. So that's why there is all this confusion for when you're trying to buy this book. They are the one and the same folks and I think Keene has a voodoo doll that looks like the numb nuts at Dorchester that decided that this clusterf@#k of an idea was a good one and sticks pins in it daily. So now Deadite Press is making the Authors Preferred version of Earthworm Gods (with the correct name) and Keene endorses this whole-heartedly. And he should. This is just a wonderful story.

Keene mines H.G. Wells War of the Worlds, H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu, his grandfather and his best friend as main characters and his own nicotine addiction to form the backbone of this tale. Such personal experiences make for realistic characters and a feeling of familiarity that permeates through the story. The tale is laid out in three parts. The first introduces us to Teddy and his friend Carl, who are in their eighties. They live on a rural mountain in West Virginia where it has rained non-stop for over a month. The world is now underwater and the only places left are the very highest peaks of the earth. No lights, electricity, communications, radio, tv, cell phones, etc. Just rain, rain and more rain. Their world is starting to wash away and an ominous white fuzz is beginning to grow on living things, deer, trees, etc. Worms start piling up on Teddy's carport and the ground is beginning to rumble as a fishy, ammonia odor is evident in the air and around large "sink holes" that begin appearing. Then all hell beaks loose.

Part 2 takes us to the coast where another group of survivors are clinging to life in the top of a Baltimore skyscraper while the world is flooded around them. Attempting to survive, they try to keep away from a crazy group of "satanists" that are performing bizarre rituals on the top of a building off in the distance. Their rituals prove to be more than they appear and not only does Keene pull out his inner-Lovecraft, he also delves into his back catalog of The Rising and City of the Dead. Good stuff.

Part 3 is a marriage of the characters from parts 1 and 2 and thrusts the reader in a rain-soaked climax. Words can't express how much I enjoyed this book. For the last two days, every free moment of mine was consumed by Earthworm Gods. Keene gets my highest praises for this one. I can wait to jump into Earthworm Gods II. My Kindle app is downloading it as we speak.


Earthworm Gods II: Deluge
Earthworm Gods II: Deluge
Author: Brian Keene
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 10/5/2014


Although sequels are rarely as good as the original, Earthworm Gods II: Deluge was close. Keene follows the same format as the first book. The first third takes us back to the flooding mountain in West Virginia where we're introduced to Henry, who is trapped in the top of a grain silo and escapes to meet up with our survivors from the first Earthworm Gods. In the second third, we meet another band of survivors in a catamaran yacht. The two parties meet up with each in the climactic last third of the book. Along the way, we're greeted to more Lovecraftian-inspired monsters and themes as Earthworm Gods II evolves from a monster movie feel to one of a Lovecraft-inspired world of fantasy. Keene also ties in LeHorn's Hollow from his book, Dark Hollow, as well as slight references to characters in his zombie novels The Rising and City of the Dead. The only downside, to me, were the characters. While Keene still delivered the goods, the characters in the first EG, Teddy and Carl, were superb. Unfortunately, I didn't connect with the characters in EG II as much as I did with the ones in the first one. That's not saying that the characterization was poor. It's more of a tribute to how good those two were in the first story. All in all, I'm liking what Keene is doing with his saga and can't wait to jump into the next one to see where it leads.


Ghost Story
Ghost Story
Author: Peter Straub
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 111
Review Date: 10/5/2014
Helpful Score: 1


Ghost Story was a ground-breaking classic written in 1979 that set the bar a mile high for any paranormal tale to come after it. Straub's story isn't a quick read. It's a slow burn through multiple layers that weave in and out of the story. That doesn't mean it's a bad thing. On the contrary, I loved the eerie atmosphere he created along with such detailed characters that weren't flat and one-dimensional. I've read a few negative reviews on here and the common theme is that it was too much or they found it boring. I feel bad for these people that they have no patience and that their short attention spans won't let such a wonderful tale slowly unfold before their very eyes. For those of you that don't want fast food horror and enjoy savoring a creepy atmospheric tale, look no further.

When I say that this story is layered, I mean thick, rich multiple layers. It's set in the small, idyllic town of Milburn in rural New York. In 1979, there is no mention of chain stores or houses that all look alike in Milburn. These are mom and pop run places and every home is as unique as the residents that live in them. A group of older gentlemen that call themselves the Chowder Society meet at a different member's home every month. The rules are that they wear evening clothes, don't drink too much, and rotate through the members on who was going to tell a story for that evening. The meeting following the peculiar death of one of their members, to break the tension, a member asked "What's the worst thing you've ever done?" To which he replied, "I won't tell you that, but I'll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me...the most dreadful thing." And so the ritual of telling ghost stories began. Unfortunately, this also brought on the nightmares that would plague the members. You see, fifty years ago they were part of a terrible accident and a young girl died and now she wants her revenge.

Straub creates such a realistic setting in Milburn that you'd swear he was from NY. Oddly enough, he grew up in Wisconsin. The atmosphere and character development is what makes Ghost Story so effective. The bitter cold of the winter blizzard. The isolationism of being cut off from one another. The eerie dread that permeates through the story as you try to decipher what is real and what is imagination. So kick back in your recliner. Have a drink by your side and let Straub chill you to the bones with this tale.


Herbert West: Reanimator (Dodo Press)
Herbert West: Reanimator (Dodo Press)
Author: H. P. Lovecraft
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 10/5/2014


First off, I have to confess that I'm a huge fan of the 1985 Stuart Gordon-directed movie adaptation. So, I'm sure I was a little biased in that I was going to like the story. But this is where, as a reader and movie fan, you have to be careful. It's easy to be disappointed with any other version than the one you originally fell in love with. Most of the time, it's the movie adaptation from the book. But, since I fell in love with the movie first, I went into this story with guarded optimism. One look will show that I gave it 5 out of 5 stars. Obviously, there was no let down going from cinema back to the original written page. If anything, it was better.

The story is a parody of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Lovecraft was paid to write the story in installments and end each installment in a cliff hanger fashion. He was also required to begin each new installment with a recap of the previous installments. According to renowned Lovecraft historian, S.T. Joshi, Lovecraft was unhappy with the story and only wrote it because he was being paid five dollars for each installment. He also states that's Herbert West:Reanimator is "universally regarded as one of Lovecraft's poorest efforts". I couldn't disagree more. The story is edgy. Especially, when comparing it to the times. It was written between 1921 and 1922. Decapitations, grave robbing, disemboweling, and cannibalism? Not you're typical fare in literature from the Great Gatsby era.

What I love most about this story and other ones written by Lovecraft, for that matter, is that you can see all the influences he had on the horror genre. The story is a recounting of a doctor who went to medical school with Herbert West and the two began experimenting on bringing the dead back to life through the use of West's research. What started with lab animals evolved into human cadavers. While the research shows promise, the results are problematic due to the lack of freshness of the corpse. This leads West on a quest for fresher specimens and ultimately down the road to the edge of madness.

Herbert West:Reanimator is an easy and fun introduction to Lovecraft, especially if you're already familiar with the movie adaptation. The writing isn't as dry and tedious as some of his others and makes for a quick read. Its a great little story to see where many of the horror icons of today got their influences from.


Horror House
Horror House
Author: J.N. Williamson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 10/5/2014


I wanted to love this story. I really did. It seemed to have all the ingredients necessary to be a great one. Thomas Edison invents a machine to talk to the dead. He takes it to a mansion in Pittsburgh where unspeakable murders took place years ago and the place has stood vacant. With evil oozing from the haunted house, no one would set foot in where the murders took place. Edison arrives and turns on his machine. The evil the machine conjures shakes Edison so bad that he hides it away where no one can find it and use it again. Turn to present day where Ben Kellogg hires young Laura Hawkes to write a book about the haunted mansion. During his research, Kellogg happens upon Edison's machine and turns it on. His action unleashes evil once more and it's up to the duo and Kellogg's parapsychologist friend, Martin Ruben, to defeat it. Sounds good, doesn't it? Have you ever read a recipe that looks like it would be delicious and then, after following it to a tee, it leaves a lot to be desired? That was Horror House.

Williamson had all the ingredients. Unfortunately, every time the story would start rolling, he'd throw a speed bump in there and it would grind to a stand still. I kept turning page after page waiting for him to unleash and let it rip. But, he never did. The present day story doesn't even take place in Pittsburgh at the haunted house. Kellogg turns Edison's machine on in his office building in Indianapolis and then the trio sit around and philosophize about it. . The writing did have its moments, but too many sputterings, an unbelievable romance and many times where you'd roll your eyes at the dialogue or the long rants of philosophy simply killed any momentum it tried to muster. I'd give it 2 1/2 stars.


The Houngan
The Houngan
Author: J. N. Williamson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 10/5/2014


A houngan is a male Voodoo priest. Van Cerf is a divorced father of a twelve-year old boy and unemployed. Van is an advertising writer who has struggled finding satisfaction in his work environment from the various employers he's had through the years. As a result, he finds himself with bills mounting and his confidence at ever finding a job that's fulfilling, emotionally and financially, dwindling. In a last ditch effort, Van calls upon an ex co-worker, who has taken a job with the DeSilvier Corporation, and discovers that she loves working there, but she tells him that they have so little turnover that they rarely ever are hiring. Undeterred, he drops in an attempt at securing an interview. In what seems to be a twist of fate, he's able to meet with one of the Vice Presidents, Doyle Munro. After answering some unorthodox questions, Van is hired. He soon learns that the president of the corporation is Horace DeSilvier, a charismatic houngan that prides himself that his company has so little turnover due to their employee-friendly "family" environment. The question is, is that really why the turnover is low or is there something more sinister involved? Is voodoo the peaceful religion that DeSilvier portrays and has introduced to Van or is there more than meets the eye?

Williamson's writing is very reminiscent of Charles L. Grant, another prolific writer from the 1980s. The Houngan is a slow burn for the first 2/3 of the story as it sets everything in place for the final 1/3. The character development is solid and you're invested in Van's plight as he attempts to discover what is really going on at DeSilvier. The ending is just ok. But, The Houngan is a solid read. 3 1/2 stars.


The Hour of the Oxrun Dead (Oxrun Station)
The Hour of the Oxrun Dead (Oxrun Station)
Author: Charles L. Grant
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 10/5/2014


You could tell Grant was starting to come into his own with The Hour of the Oxrun Dead.The writing was much better than The Curse. The atmosphere that he sets has a nice slow build up of dread. In The Curse, the female characters were amazingly shallow and annoying. While they were better in this story, the main character still puts herself in stupid situations. Oddly enough, I've read a few other authors whose novels that were written in the 1970s and they had the same type of female characters that are portrayed as shallow and dim-witted. Coincidence? I'll let you decide. The dialog was also a bit sketchy in parts and the ending wasn't very satisfying. Overall, I felt this was a step ahead of The Curse and I look forward in seeing if Grant's progress continues in Last Call of Mourning


The Jigsaw Man
The Jigsaw Man
Author: Gord Rollo
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 41
Review Date: 10/5/2014


A modern take on the classic Frankenstein story for the ages. This is my first novel by Rollo and simply put, it won't be my last. I've read some amazing books in 2014. Jigsaw Man is now not only my favorite for this year, but many other years as well. The writing is crisp and the story is one twisting turn after another. Some you can see coming. Most of them you can't. And boy does Rollo grab you by the throat with an iron-like vise of a grip. He had me believing the unbelievable every step of the way. At no point was I like "Oh that's BS. I can't buy that!". No, Michael Fox was a sympathetic character you could relate to and you rooted for him, gasped with him, and experienced his dread as if you and him were one and the same. Dr Marshall and his henchman Drake were deliciously evil without being a cardboard cut out of the stereotype. You hated them with every fiber of your being. That's impressive and hard to do. We've all read stories where the villains weren't realistic. You couldn't buy in and be completely invested. That's not the case in Jigsaw Man. I couldn't put it down. I had to see what was around the corner. And every corner I came to had something lurking that was even worse than the previous one. This story was a roller coaster ride that you didn't want to ever end. This may have been my first read by Gord Rollo, but it won't be my last. Before this review, I downloaded everything else of his I could get my hands on. If the rest of his work is only half as good as Jigsaw Man, I will consider it money well spent! Enough gushing on my part. The Jigsaw Man needs to be the next story you read. Period.


Mr. Hands
Mr. Hands
Author: Gary A. Braunbeck
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 31
Review Date: 4/2/2015


Reading Mr. Hands reminds me of the title of the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. This book has all three and it reads pretty much in that order. Lets start with the good. This is my first read of Braunbeck's material. Haing lived in central Ohio for fifteen years of my life and also hearing good reviews of his work, I was excited to dive into Mr. Hands. It starts off well enough. A strange man sitting at the end of the bar has a story to tell to the bartender, the sherriff, and a reverend. OK. It kind of reminds me of Straub's Ghost Story meets the Twilight Zone. You've got my interest, Braunbeck. Where do we go from here? Well, from there, he unwinds a story about Ronald James Williamson. a young boy who may be a little slow but has the unique gift of being able to predict a child's future on whether it will be filled with happiness or misery. Based on what he detects, ala shades of The Dead Zone, determines what course of action Ronnie takes. Happiness equals smiling and moving on. But if Ronnie detects a future fulfilled with misery and abuse for the child, he becomes judge, jury and executioner. Nobody expects the slow kid, right?
Braunbeck's writing style is fast paced and enjoyable. I'm buying into all of it up to this point. Then, at somewere around the 2/3 mark, he shifts gears and does a hard turn. He introduces us to Mr. Hands, brings back a character from the beginning of the book, and gives us a scene almost directly out of the movie Pumpkinhead. My suspension of disbelief was thrown into a headlock and beat up pretty good. I tried to get back on track to a story I was enjoying and wanted to enjoy again. I was hoping that this sudden shift would make sense and tie it all together in an A HA moment. No dice. This was the bad. Now for the ugly.
For the last 1/3 of the book, Braunbeck tells a tale of revenge that becomes more and more unbelievable with every turn of the page. He introduces us to characters and kills them off not pages later, but paragraphs later. Every character introduced is paper thin. There is no development to either like or dispise them before they are offed. Add that to the fact that the story is getting more and more hokey as we race to the finish line. At this point, I'm only turning pages out of obligation to see if there's a rhyme or reason to this mess, not because I'm enjoying it anymore. No such luck. The character of the six-year old boy is so unbelievable that I'm scoffing at every page. I have a son around his age and there is no way him or any of his peers would say or do 90% of what Braunbeck's character is doing in this one. That, my friends, is the ugly.
Its been a long time since I've been this disappointed in a book and my disappointment isn't because its a bad story. I've read plenty of stories that were worse than this one that I've rated higher and it's because they were consistently weak all the way through. This one seemed like it was going somewhere and then it completely derailed and crashed down a mountain ravine. At one point, I thought Braunbeck suffered a stroke while he was writing this and the last 1/3 was post stroke. Sigh. So disappointed. I will read another Braunbeck in the future. I haven't sworn him off. I really want to read something of his that is at the level that I think he's capable of. I'm rooting for Mr. Hands to be an anomoly and not the rule.

2 stars out of 5


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Mr. Mercedes
Mr. Mercedes
Author: Stephen King
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 78
Review Date: 10/5/2014
Helpful Score: 11


I was excited for the release of Mr Mercedes as soon as I saw the premise on King's website last year. When the book came out in June, I was in the middle of reading 2 other books. Then, I started reading the review on here and they were all over the place. This caused me to hesitate and read something else hoping that there would be a more clear consensus after some more time. No such luck. The reviews spanned both ends of the spectrum. It's great. It's terrible. It's only ok. Ugh. Finally, I got tired of listening to all the noise and decided to read it and decide for myself.

What I found was a great detective story with shades of the Dead Zone, Carrie and Psycho. Now, before those of you that have already read Mr. Mercedes start getting your pitchforks and torches ready to storm my house while shouting at the top of your lungs about blasphemy, let me explain. The story is a straight up detective story. If you're waiting for something supernatural or Twilight Zone-esque to happen, you're going to grow cobwebs waiting for it. But that shouldn't deter you from enjoying the story. It still has the interesting characters that King can do so well. Bill is the retired detective not enjoying his retirement and stews over the murder he never solved. When a letter comes through his mail slot from the killer gloating about Bill not catching him and that he should just kill himself, this is the spark that Bill needs to get "back on the case". Trying to solve the mystery of the unknown killer that happens to "live among us" is where it evoked a little déjà vu of The Dead Zone (minus the supernatural). The sheltered "weird" girl with the overbearing mother reminds me of Carrie (again, minus the supernatural). And, the relationship of the killer with his mother is very reminiscent of Psycho. Even the killer himself feels like someone we all know. The whole time while reading Mr. Mercedes, I had the feeling that I've met people like the killer and that he could truly be "among us". Is the story original? No. Do I care? No. It was an entertaining story with good characters and plot that made you turn the pages and I enjoyed every bit of it. Now does it rank up at the top of King's best work? I don't know. If you're the type of person that whines that everything King puts out these days is not The Stand or The Shining, then you'll probably find a reason to bitch about Mr. Mercedes. If you're simply looking for a good story told with King's flair, pick it up and decide for yourself. 4 1/2 stars.


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