Saturday, February 23, 2019

Review: DREAD NATION by Justina Ireland

Publisher Titan Books
Length 449 pages
Format paperback
Published 2019
Series Dread Nation #1
My Copy provided by the publisher


My Review
Zombie and survival horror in general has long be a staple in horror novels and young adult novels where post apocalyptic themes run rampant. While some books can be same-same, Dread Nation introduces a historical element to its tale of woe by virtue of the period it is set in; the dark days of American History - the civil war. 

On the battlefield the dead rise to feast on the living, bringing an end to the war but peace remains elusive. Slavery is gone but the echoes of those darker times remain in the walled committees which keep the living alive and the dead out of reach. 

It's within one of these walled communities that the bulk of the story takes place. Miss Preston's School of Combat for Negro Girls' most proficient pupil, Jane McKeene finds herself stuck in Summerland; a great place to be if you're white and tote the company line, not so much if you're Indian or Negro. Forced to fight monsters worse than the reanimated dead, Jane, and a small band of accomplices struggle to eek out a living until the inevitable happens; a breach.

My rating: 4/5 stars. I love the unique setting and Jane is a great character. If zombie horror is your thing, Dread Nation is a must read. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Review: THE SIREN AND THE SPECTRE by Jonathan Janz

Publisher Flame Tree Audio
Length 10hrs 57mins
Format audiobook
Published 2018
Series Standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
What seems like the stereotypical haunted house novel is anything but. Delve beneath the misty and atmospheric fog, and you'll soon see horrors with deep roots spawning all shapes and forms.

The Siren and the Spectre is a great book. Simple and plain. The customary bumps in the night and horrors of the shock and awe variety are spread throughout the narrative but it's the characters and their stories which make this book so enjoyable. 

The Alexander House is a fabled place of lore. Within it's cracked and crumbling facade lay tales of woe and misery. Ghosts haunt the passageways and the blood of lives lost have long ago seeped into the walls and floorboards. Yet, paranormal debunker and author David Caine agrees to spend a month in residence, either to prove the skeptics wrong, or right. 

What David doesn't bank on, is the connection to the house of horrors he has with his own personal demons. That coupled with some deeply scary scenes of pure terror and nightmare inducing action sequences, leads to one heck of a horror novel. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. I love books which are multi-faceted and go beyond the plot to bridge the gap between fiction and plausible fact. This horror from Jonathan Janz does that. A personal favorite. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Review: THE NIGHTMARE GIRL by Jonathan Janz

Publisher Flame Tree Press
Length 245 pages
Format paperback
Published 2019
Series Standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
If you read horror, read Jonathan Janz.

This year alone (2019) I've devoured 4 of his books, with The Nightmare Girl being the latest 5 star read. Not only are his books gloriously gory but they are loaded with interesting characters and entertaining plots. 

In The Nightmare Girl, we're introduced to small business owner Joe Crawford. He's a family man trying to do best by his young family, steadily earning a living in construction. He's a good natured, honest, All American kind of guy who finds himself deeply embroiled in a situation he's ill prepared for. 

A chance encounter of the crazy kind sees him intervening in a strangers' public display of family violence; the result leaves a mother charged and her child in foster care. As horrible as that is in itself, things get turned up a notch when the mother commits suicide before his very eyes, kick starting a chain of horrors culminating in a cult ritual that threatens to tear the town fabric in two.

The Nightmare Girl is a well rounded horror which doesn't fail to entertain. Much like the other novels by Jonathan Janz I've read, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

My rating: 5/5 stars. 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Review: RIVER OF SALT by Dave Warner

Publisher Fremantle Press
Length 245 pages
Format paperback
Published 2019
Series Standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher


My Review

I've been a big fan of Dave Warner since I read Clear to the Horizon (2017) and have been eagerly anticipating his next book...and it was certainly worth the wait.

Blending 1960's mob life with the Australian surf seems like an odd combination but Warner makes it work incredibly well, somehow transforming a Philadelphia hitman into a likable protagonist who reads like a typical Aussie bloke.

Half a world separates Blake's old life from his new yet his ghosts still haunt him. After loosing his brother to mob violence, Blake's gripped a new lease on life in a coastal Australian town. He runs a pub, has a love interest (of sorts), and is a member of a local band. He surfs, plays gigs, runs his business and enjoys the smell of fresh air straight from the ocean. 

However perfect the serenity, murder spoils everything. For Blake to keep himself out of the mob's reach, he must revert to the ways of a killer - and that's only half his troubles.

River of Salt is choc full of interesting and well defined characters accompanied by equally interesting backstories which all add extra layers of depth to the story. The story reads perfectly well in it's own right, yet I hope Warner returns to this setting and these characters sometime in the future. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. Noir on the beach? Yes please. If you're looking for a perfect blend of Australian and American crime fiction, look no further than River of Salt. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Review: THE CON ARTIST by Fred Van Lente

Publisher Quirk Books
Length 287 pages
Format paperback
Published 2018
Series Standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
A match made in heaven for comic book buffs and pop culture nerds who like their lives spiced with a little crime fiction. 

Set among the cosplay chaos that is the San Diego Comic-Con, famous illustrator, Mike Mason finds himself smack-bang in the middle of a murder investigation. 

The deceased happens to be the guy Mike's wife left him for some years back and the candle still burns bright for this comic-book stalwart. A chance encounter and subsequent public display of violence at bar with the deceased, prior to, you know, being murdered, firmly points the fingers of justice in Mike's unassuming direction. 

What follows is crafty crusade to clear his name involving comic book art commissions, reformed Nazi's, shady art dealers, a crazy cosplay chick, and an awards ceremony, oh, and zombies - fake zombies but zombies nonetheless. 

Special shout out to Tom Fowler who provided some really cool art to accompany the prose, depicting scenes from the text in perfect rendition. 

The Con Artist is a fun form of escapism tailor made for pop culture con goers. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Review: WITCHING HOUR THEATRE by Jonathan Janz

Length 81 pages
Format ebook
Published 2016
Series Standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
Gratifyingly gory, Witching Hour Theatre delivers on all levels of the scare scale. 

Come for the horror, stay for the story; this novella isn't just about blood spatter and deftly timed scare tactics.  The protagonist, horror film buff Larry Wilson, reads 'real' and has a surprising amount of depth crammed into him considering the page count. 

The supporting cast is fleshed out just enough to make you care about them, I felt for the cop and his wife when their respective heads were found minus bodies in theatre no.1 following a brutally messy killing spree by a couple of heinously horrifying murderers who resemble popular horror guises and I know Nicole from the candy store will stick in my memory for a time to come.

All round, Witching Hour Theatre is pure unadulterated fun; a quick fix for the horror junkie. I loved it.

My rating: 5/5 stars. Perfect for a one sitting read which will have you thinking twice about catching that late night movie.   

Friday, February 8, 2019

A Paperback form Hell! The Tulpa by J.N. Williamson

Publisher Horwitz
Length 238 pages
Format paperback
Published 1981
Series Standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Not only did the narrative, particularly early in the novel, bear resemblance to Stephen King but the story itself was interesting and pulled me down that dank, dark place of a horror rabbit hole.  

The Tulpa is a creature materialized  from the mind. In this case, a large clay-like brute in human form is the product of a dying man who prophesizes disaster when experiencing a medial episode which renders him inert in a trance-like state. The creature’s purpose seems only to kill, and kill in the most violent way possible.

Luckily, the dying man’s family has the smarts to recognize what’s happening and the conviction to put an end to it.

My rating: 3/5 stars. Despite a solid premise the story lost its way a little towards the later stages of the novel and could’ve done with editing out a couple of chapters but overall The Tulpa is still worth a look if 80’s horror is your thing. 

Pick of the Month [January 2019]


I read 16 books in January to kick off 2019. Of those the vast majority were horror, this, largely thanks to the awesome non-fiction by Grady Hendrix Paperbacks from Hell

My horror binge also included a reread of one of my favorite horror novels by Stephen King, Rose Madder. Whilst not King's most recognized novel, I think it stacks up with his best, if not for the horror and fantastical elements, then certainty from a character perspective. 

Some January reads highlights include The Omen by David Seltzer. I can't believe it took me this long to finally delve into this book. I've got the sequel but have heard mixed reviews about it. This, thought, is great. Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, and We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix


As good as the above books are, the one that really stood out was The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. There were so many elements to this book which made it such a meaty yet satisfying and easily consumable read. Can't recommend this enough. 


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Review: KILL MONSTER by Sean Doolittle

Publisher Audible Studios 
Length 9hrs
Format audiobook
Narrator Vikas Adam
Published 2019
Series Standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
Kill Monster is a horror novel with the same level of urgency and intensity as a thriller. 

When treasure hunters excavate a long lost wreck seeking bounty beyond belief, they awaken a horror which had been kept contained for over 150 years; a golem - with a grudge. 

Kill Monster is a load of violent fun bundled up in a package of aggression with a dash of dismemberment. Sounds a little brutal but that's because it is. The golem is a mean piece of killer clay hellbent on eradicating a lineage who'd done him/her (it?) wrong 150 years ago. 

Balancing out the bloodshed is some clever and witty dialogue by interesting and three-dimensional characters. Author Sean Doolittle also includes some deftly placed backstory which give context to the present day setting.

My rating: 4/5 stars. I really enjoyed Sean Doolittle's novel (not surprising given I've greedily devoured pretty much everything else he's published) and have my fingers and toes crossed for a return to some of these characters in the future.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Review: NO GOOD DEED by Victor Gischler

Publisher Macmillan Audio
Length 8hrs 40mins
Format audiobook
Narrator Daniel Thomas May 
Published 2018
Series Standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
No Good Deed is a thriller which feels like a pulp - in a good way.

A white collar office worker finds a suitcase full of women's underwear with instructions to contact the owner should it be found. When Francis makes the call, the last thing he expects is to be thrown head first into a James Bond cloak and dagger fight for his life - and that of the mysterious suitcase owner. 

There's some interesting tech concepts in No Good Deed but the action revolves around Francis and his good deed which lands him in a bad situation. 

The bullets and brawls are laced with sharp dialogue and equally sharp scenes of pure adrenaline; there's a cabby car chase which is particularly entertaining and showcases the sense of urgency omnipresent throughout the book. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. Side note - the cover doesn't do this book justice!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Review: THE DARK GAME by Jonathan Janz

Publisher Flame Tree Press
Length 304 pages
Format ebook
Published 2019
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher


My Review
A number of books have explored the use of writers and their fictional characters coming to life to wreak havoc on their creators, but none have been so diverse and plentiful in number as those which appear in The Dark Game. 

The premise of this horror is a genre staple; a bunch of people of varying socio-economical standing are invited to a house off the grid to participate in a contest which will reward the victor handsomely. If they can survive the secluded retreat that is.

The contest revolves around a writers retreat. 10 fortunate (or unfortunate) aspiring writers have been selected to showcase their talent to a renowned published author. He'll choose the writer whose work impresses him the most and award him/her a publishing deal and a cool 3 million dollars. It's a prize most of the contestants would kill for; however, this being horror and not murder mystery, it's their characters along with some nasty surprises which aim to kill them!

Full of wicked imagery and precision placed scare tactics, The Dark Game doesn't disappoint on the spooky scale.  

My rating: 4/5 stars. This was my first book by Jonathan Janz and I have to say, I'm very impressed by what I read, so much so, that I rushed out and bought 3 of his other novels. If horror is your thing, I highly recommend reading The Dark Game.