My Reviews, 2014

I used to do a Holiday Book Blog, and have thought of doing one again, but it’s the kind of project I need to start planning for in September, which this year was overrun by sports schedules instead. Still, I wanted to at least highlight the reviews I’ve made this year. I hope you’ll find more than one of them interesting and consider purchasing one for the New Year.

Clicking the picture takes you to Amazon.

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Paul D. BrazillRoman Dalton (…technically, this was November 2013, but we’re sneaking it in)

Paul D. Brazill has created an extraordinary short story collection with his series character, Roman Dalton, a hard cop turned werewolf turned private investigator. Brazill has layered these well written and entertaining stories to read more like chapters with each one introducing new villains and heroes, return characters brimming with originality and strong voices, and compelling subplots that compliment an overall thickening plot. From Ton Ton Philippe and his zombies, to The Missionary and Otto Rhino and his Frog Boys, Private Investigator Dalton, his former partner Detective Ivan Walker, and bar friend and former Sergeant Duffy, battle it out moon after moon in the hard streets of The City.

“Drunk on the Moon” introduces us to the main character, Roman Dalton, and how he became a werewolf, and it’s also the first run-in with Ton Ton Philippe. In “The Missionary,” we discover Dalton has another enemy, this one with a definite mission, and Dalton has to pull himself together to stay alive. “Black Moon Rising” gives us a glimpse into Walker’s character and the thugs behind Operation Desert Wave and “The Brain Salad Murders” continues with Dalton’s struggles and another crackpot killer on the loose. “She’s My Witch” was one of my favorites with the return of a familiar soft-spoken voice with great timing. Then, in “Before the Moon Falls,” we’re taken back to the beginning, a clever spin in this rich, noir short story series collection.

I really enjoyed “Roman Dalton, Werewolf PI.” The writing is rich and dynamic, nothing cliché at all. I highly recommend this book to all readers of genre fiction. It’s loaded with action, conflict, sharp dialogue, vivid language, humor, and a subtle dark undertone that deepens the characters and story line. Worth every euro and more.

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Cabaret of DreadCabaret of Dread: Vol. 1, by Lily Childs

Lily Childs is one of the best new horror voices I know, and her collection of dark, beautiful tales in Cabaret of Dread: a Horror Compendium (Volume 1) are astounding examples of the classic horror I love to read.

In “The Infanta Triptych,” explore the dark of arts like never before; “Smiling Cyrus,” is better read in the light, away from attics and child-oriented objects; “Carpaccio,” “Hidden Beast,” and “Scuttle,” offer a taste of unhinged appetites; “Pretty Pinholes,” has a twist that’ll chill you long after reading; and “Staring at the Pink,” is one truly haunting ghost tale.

Shorter works like “Bestowal,” “Gone Girls,” “Consciousness,” “Up in Smoke: Absolution,” “Mind Games,” and “Wraiths and Stays,” are works to return to, gorgeous prose that should be soaked up twice.

Satiate yourself in these tales of the supernatural, the surreal, the horrific, and the delectably dark. Lily Childs’ horror is mesmerizing, time and time again.

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The Brittle BirdsThe Brittle Birds, by Anthony Cowin

The Brittle Birds is a surreal, short horror about the imaginings of two young boys and how it ultimately consumes everything around them. The Hohokw bird beneath the childhood bridge was only the beginning to Mathieu’s nightmare, and he struggled to forget that event which changed his life forever, but the Brittle Birds continued to haunt and terrorize him, following him everywhere he went and immersing themselves into his very existence.

I enjoyed this short story a good deal, the lyrical prose and frightening images are superbly crafted. A lover of the corvidae, I find few things eerier than the Hitchcock-atmosphere of black birds, especially when written in the dark and harrowing style of Anthony Cowin. Looking for that next great, chilling read? Look no further, and pick up a copy of The Brittle Birds today.

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What Came BeforeWhat Came Before, by Gay Degani

I’ve been a fan of Gay Degani’s work since reading her flash fiction online and the excellent collection of works in, Pomegranate Stories. Degani’s style is raw, powerful, complex, and elegant. She knows how to execute conflict in her characters flawlessly and deliver compelling, original stories to ground them in. In her first novel, What Came Before, I’m even more convinced Degani is a hidden treasure.

Meet Abbie Palmer, a woman seeking peace and disconnection from a past that’s been following her since she was four, a mother who knows the subtle shades between right and wrong, a wife who tethers friendship and trust to a dead cell phone, a teacher who has much to learn from a young girl she doesn’t even know, and a daughter whose mother’s mysterious past has changed the course of her life in ways she’s only now discovering fifty years later.

You’ll love Abbie Palmer and the other characters in Gay Degani’s extraordinary debut—they are as real as anyone sitting next to me. What Came Before is both a page-turning mystery composed of sharp, dynamic prose and a literary story immersed with crime and horror accelerating towards a realistic ending that doesn’t disappoint. I believe a book should take you away from your own world, make you step into others’ lives, and sway you to think and feel differently about who and what you know. That’s precisely what Degani has done, and masterfully at that.

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Falling OverFalling Over, by James Everington

I would describe James Everington’s stories like a walk through the cemetery alone, and you turn around to ground fog that has come seemingly from nowhere, and you don’t know what it means, if anything at all, but you still sense something wrong about it. The stuff of classic horror.

The first story, “Falling Over,” which sets the tone of the book, is a fine example of the alien among us. The MC knows there is something different about a classmate, and pinpointing that difference may be even more frightening than not. The atmosphere in the story is incredibly convincing and the horror so subtle, it has already sank into you by the time you sense it.

“The Man Dogs Hated,” just bizarre and equally satisfying. “Sick Leave” is as creepy as it gets with the children in one teacher’s class overtaken by something dark and unnatural. “Drone,” is thrilling as it is unsettling, and masterfully depicts how one soldier deals with guilt and the inevitable that may be coming.

What each of these stories has in common, besides originality, literal goodness, and perfect endings, is how well they are executed. You never expect what is coming next, and the flow the stories, in all the fine details, are effortless to read, something all writers know is a true talent. I would recommend this collection to anyone and everyone.

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Yakuza TerritoryYakuza Territory, by Milo James Fowler

Get ready for another exciting sequel in the next Charlie Madison adventure. In Yakuza Territory, Charlie Madison is a dead man, according to Mr. Eloquent, a member of Ivan the Terrible’s Russian gang. In order to survive, Charlie’s gonna need to be quick on his feet and even faster in wit, especially when the new enemy can plant memories and images at will.

The one person he can trust, Sargent Archibald Douglass. The one person he hopes he can trust, Katsuo Sanitoro, a member of the Emerald Tiger clan. Sanitori shares the same enemy as he, Ivan the Terrible, but since the war between the United World and the Eastern Conglomerate, there’s no telling who’s on who’s side, because the one person Charlie thought he could trust, Agent Adam, has been scrambling her way to no good.

No matter what situation Charlie Madison is in, he finds a way to approach it with a cool and humorous slant, even if he’s sweating bullets on the inside. This book is a fast and entertaining read. Milo James Fowler has a knack for creating memorable characters and throwing them in a situation that demands the impossible. For Charlie Madison, that’s just when things are getting interesting. This is a great read for anytime, anywhere, and for anyone.

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Faces in the ShadowsFaces in the Shadows, by Simon Kewin

In Simon Kewin’s, “Faces in the Shadows,” loss, love, and hope entwine these three paranormal stories together and make for a nice read by a campfire, favorite chair, grassy field, or subway commute.

‘The Wind Singing in the Wires’ tells of one mother’s hope and what can happen when you plug in belief. In ‘Her Long Hair Shining,’ one man’s ghostly talent reveals the unexpected that marks a new start. ‘Her Pale Smile’ follows two ghosts in the afterlife, and both discover just what comes after that.

These ghost stories portray a quiet reality in contrast with the clamorous needs after death, of characters whose suffering is often solved with unforeseen twists, and that the spiritual journey isn’t always taken alone. Kewin is a skilled writer, and his ability to weave the uncommon with the softer side of the human spirit will leave you haunted and wanting more.

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On Blackened WingsOn Blackened Wings, by Michelle Ann King

On Blackened Wings is a post-apocalyptic story, not of zombies, but bats!, and they are a relentless dark force threatening to consume anyone in their path.

Michelle Ann King does an excellent job of putting the reader in the characters’ thoughts. For the small group that still manages to outrun the nightmare, they continually find themselves in another, an existence in a world empty of promises.

You can feel the group’s desperation and the author goes a step further and gently pulls at the fabric of their trust in one another, while edging them closer and closer to the cliff of risks they will ultimately have to take.

If you enjoy apocalyptic stories, you’ll love this classic take. I would recommend this to anyone and everyone. It’s literary horror at its best.

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Rough Trails and Shallow GravesThe Cowboy and the Vampire: Rough Trails and Shallow Graves, by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays

The third installment of the Cowboy and the Vampire, Rough Trails and Shallow Graves, is dark road through love and sacrifice. The duo nature of this story rings throughout, in the hope and struggles that Lizzie and Tucker face, the evils of man vs. monster, and the quirky adventures of contrasting characters such as Elita and Lenny teaming up to save THE DAY, makes for a very fulfilling and enjoyable read. McFall and Hays know a thing or two about the harmonic nature of dark comedy and western gothic, and they share that magic in many surprising twists and turns in this book.

Just when Lizzie and Tucker think they have overcome the worst to face them yet after the vampire apocalypse in Blood and Whiskey, a dangerous mercenary group kidnaps Lizzie at the altar and sets Tucker off on a mission like no other. With Rurik, Elita, Lenny, and his faithful companion, Rex, Tucker searches for a new kind of monster, one who threatens not only Lizzie and their unborn child, but the rest of humanity as well with plans to uncover the youthful and healing secrets behind vampire blood and a means to market it.

The third book continues with the same adventures, witty humor, sexy scenes, and plenty of gore the Cowboy and the Vampire series are known for, but with much added darkness and despair. The characters continue to grow on you, and some in the least imagined ways. Expect to be shaken, shocked, sad, and hopeful at once. Unlike books one and two, book three takes the reader towards a conclusion no one expected, a conclusion that after all Lizzie and Tucker managed to suffer through, was inevitable and leaves the reader pleading for more.

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Dinner with SasquatchDinner with Sasquatch, by Chris Riley

I haven’t read a story like Dinner with Sasquatch in a while, and that’s what I found so refreshing about it. Chris Riley is an excellent writer. He knows just when to back off before turning a deep scene to mush, and then manages to throw in the unexpected with a graceful ease I admire, while making you laugh and smile along the way.

Meet Frank, a single, lonely widower who goes into the forest one day to contemplate life or what’s left of his. He grieves deeply for his love, Stacy, and while he’s not suicidal, it’s difficult to find any meaning worth living for anymore. That is until he’s stranded in the woods and hears strange noises coming from the forest.

While he manages to escape, he’s piqued the interest of something battling its own darkness. If the hills have eyes, then the forest has arms, and it snatches Frank up and takes him to both high and dark places, only letting go when he decides to himself.

I enjoyed this story a lot. It’s highly original, funny, moving, and very well written. Dinner with Sasquatch is a fresh take on loss, life, and love, and I would recommend it to anyone who has ever felt the need to ‘escape from it all.’ This story will do just that for you.

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The Undistilled SkyThe Undistilled Sky, by Mav Skye

Mav Skye’s “Undistilled Sky” is a brilliant narrative into a soul ravaged by the unrelenting forces of lost hope. Phoebe is a mother, but she is still a child at heart, still aches from the wounds of her past, and she knows her one true mission now is to keep her own daughter, Dessa Rae, safe from a world hardened by greed, thievery, and blindness.

Sacrifice is the ultimate price.

A very well written story, laced with magical prose, flawless shifts from dreams to the present, and the real portrayal into one woman’s waking nightmare captivated me down to the very last word.

Mav Skye writes about real characters with haunting emotion, then wraps it all up in the silk of darkness and beauty.

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Son of the ExorcistSon of the Exorcist: A Roddy Sanchez Crime Thriller, by Angel Zapata

If you’ve been searching for a story with grit, violence, humor, and awesome one-liners, search no more. Angel Zapata’s Son of an Exorcist will have you tearing through the pages faster than the people Roddy Sanchez tracks down.

It starts with Roddy Sanchez’s release from prison, and one might say he’s an unchanged man, but things are different for Roddy now. This time, he plans to make some changes, and foremost, that’s, finding out what happened to his mother and skinning the dudes responsible. Roddy faces a few surprises along the way, and he’s gonna need every ounce of hate that curdled into him over the last 12 years to pay it forward.

Angel Zapata doesn’t hold back in this crime thriller. The MC’s voice is a riot, each scene is more riveting than the previous, and the unseen plot twists keep this story bustling. I can’t wait for the next Roddy Sanchez Thriller.

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And that’s my wrap up. I already have a full plate of reviews for next year, and am looking forward to reading and reviewing all of them. Happy Holidays, everyone.

Erin

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