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Slade HouseSlade House by David Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, what an amazing story!
David Mitchell’s Slade House was suggested to me by friend and fellow author, Brian Kirk (We Are Monsters). I am definitely going to read whatever Brian tells me to from now on!

We get the story of two soul-sucking twins, Jonah and Norah Grayer. They’ve used psychic gifts to achieve eternal life. The only trick is to stay alive in their current state, every nine years they must feed on a human with similar gifts or abilities (psychovoltage). That empowered soul is the twins’s fuel.

Mitchell takes us through the years on many of the Twin’s 9th Year showdowns, beginning in 1979 with a mother and son, and ultimately to their biggest challenger in 2015. We eventually get the complete backstory on the Twins and how they came to their current state. That story alone is brilliant. With how deeply intricate the story is, and how seamlessly Mitchell carries us through time, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Peter Starub’s A Dark Matter. And that’s a huge compliment.

Mitchell is a master of crafting characters and giving us fine descriptive settings that make it all so vivid that we cannot help but become ensconced in the fabric of his tale. He is immensely talented and worthy of our envy. I look forward to reading many more of his titles.

I give Slade House 5 Stars!

 

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Woman in WhiteWoman in White by Kristin Dearborn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Flavored with just the right dash of The Thing and Dreamcatcher….Woman in White is one of the can’t-miss reads of 2016.”

I’ve read a few of Kristin Dearborn’s short stories and enjoyed them. I read her novella, Sacrifice Island, and I loved it. And now, I get this novella, Woman in White. Let me say this, this lady can write her ass off. She tells a story in a way that’s not overly writerly. By which I mean that she’s not throwing literary words in the readers face or writing above her head. That’s not to say she couldn’t if she wanted to, I’d bet it’s quite the contrary. The thing I like is that it’s just a great writer telling a fantastic story so that everyone can get it. The person who first comes to mind for me in this style is Stephen King. And to further equate it to people I admire…I liken her style to that of my favorite guitar player, Slash. He can fucking play, but what he does best, and better than anyone, is play within the song. He does exactly what fits the song instead of trying to show off. That’s exactly what Dearborn excels at within the framework of this fun, engaging, and terrifying tale.

From the opening chapter where a woman in white stands in the middle of a snow-covered road, and the unfortunate thing that happens to Dennis, to the cast of characters, each one as real as you and I, Dearborn is off and running and bringing the fictional Maine town of Rocky Rhodes and it’s bizarre troubles to life.

A rash of disappearances where the only thing left behind is loads of the victims’ blood, stirs up the small community. Inside this mystery, we get real people with real problems. A girl who has an abortion in this tiny town without secrets, shunned and shamed by people she’s grown up with her entire life. Her ex-boyfriend is a jealous no good asshole, and her boss at the diner is truly a hero in waiting. Officer Staghorn (what a great name!) and Lee Dudley, a forensic chemist who just so happens to be sleeping with the married officer, are sent up to Rocky Rhodes to see if they can make any sense of the missing bodies and/or the blood left behind. It isn’t long before these two are ensnared in the mayhem and the madness descending upon this small town.

The way Dearborn paints this frozen town in the grips of a Maine winter will have you chilled to the bone as much as the horrible creature haunting its population. I couldn’t help but be reminded of some of my favorite films and novels. The disappearances brought back that unsettling feeling I got the first time I read ‘Salem’s Lot. The snow and isolation, along with the fear and paranoia of what the hell is out here with us gave me flashbacks of John Carpenter’s The Thing. The overall vibe and style also reminded me of Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher (the novel, not the terrible adaptation).

I don’t do spoilers, so I won’t give anything away. Just believe me…. if you love King, if you enjoyed The Thing, you cannot miss this read! One of the best novellas I’ve had the pleasure of reading and certainly an early contender for my 2016 Top Ten list.

I give Woman in White 5-Stars!

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89: A Psychological Thriller89: A Psychological Thriller by Stuart Keane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stuart Keane is one of the up and coming British horror writers pounding out stories like he knows Donald Trump is about to become Emperor of the world and lead us into End Times. I’ve got some other Keane works on my Kindle and have read one of his other novellas, Charlotte.

He’s used to working in the gore and the frights, but for 89, Keane is taking us on a thrill ride.

It’s the story of an author named Greg Irving. Greg’s agent calls and tells him he has to do a convention in Sheffield (birthplace of Def Leppard, by the way). Greg has words to write , deadlines to meet, and hates being around a ton of people. This trip is unexpected and annoying, but when you’re writing for a big publisher, you go where they tell you.

Greg boards a bus to take the long ride to the Sheffield convention. He’s not alone on this journey. He falls asleep on the bus and wakes up next to a woman named, Jessica. He quickly discovers she’s not right in the head, has serious stalker issues, and is not fooling around.

This all leads to a pretty exciting ending where Keane does manage to sneak in a great gore-lovers scene featuring an eyeball and a windshield.

Overall, the story is a nightmare for writers. For any author that has traveled long distance, appeared at horror conventions, and read Misery once or twice, this one hits close to home.

Keane does a lot of things well. There’s a fantastic descriptive scene early on in the book involving a place called, Roxie’s Diner. There’s a few great gore scenes and sinew-by-sinew play-by-play, and I totally found the thrilling climax very edge-of-your-seat worthy.

I did feel the story lagged and lingered too long in certain scenes and that the piece could have been tightened to raise the high suspense to even loftier heavens. However, it is a quick read, it is only 99 cents! and it is a thrilling and effective story. My small issues with the book are not enough to derail 89. Oh yeah, and did you see that amazing cover art???? One of my favorite covers of the year.

I’m enjoying watching Keane hone his craft. You can tell he’s excited about writing and that he’s one hell of a hard working bloke. There’s a future for this guy and I’m ready to follow.

I give 89    3.5 stars.

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Hell's BountyHell’s Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Okay, so this book has some amazing moments, some ho-hum moments, some really cool ode to Eastwood’s Unforgiven moments, there’s some Lovecraftian bits, and then a solid ending.

The beginning is fantastic. I love Smith. He’s a sort of William Money-type. At the beginning, he’s only caring about himself. He’s a bounty hunter and he winds up someplace he probably should have figured he’d go. When we get Smith back, he’s realizing he’s been a selfish son of a gun, let people get hurt when he shouldn’t have… But the good people of Fallen Rock (and a devilish bartender that goes by the moniker, Snappy) have helped Smith see the light. He is chosen to save the world.

My other favorite character is Payday, a beautiful red-head who gets her eye cut out by the antagonist here, Quill. She’s fiery and feisty enough to crack a whip and blow your head off, but doesn’t come around to her full potent potential until Smith’s return a year after their first meeting.

Quill is a bastard, but I found him more despicable in human for than that of the beast he becomes. In his new form, Quill commands a bunch of ghouls who can be destroyed by silver. This gang of ghoulies takes on the remain humans led by Smith. An ultimate showdown between the survivors and Quill takes place and you’ll have to read it yourself to see how that goes down.

Lansdale is a favorite of many authors I follow. This is only the second of his works that I’ve read. It was good, but I didn’t feel the urgency to see how it all ended. The ending is good, I just found myself not caring as much as we got there. And it’s certainly a style thing, but Lansdale’s constant barrage of similes and metaphors got to be a little much for me. Don’t get me wrong, some of them were freaking terrific and far above anything I could do, I just felt like he didn’t need to hit me wit has many as he did. Again, a small issue for me that I’m sure most won’t bat an eye at.

Overall, I’d give Hell’s Bounty 3.5 stars. I liked it and I bet you will, too.

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