<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - BOOK REVIEWS]]>Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:49:44 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[HORROR FICTION REVIEW: THE LOST VILLAGE BY NEIL SPRING]]>Thu, 19 Oct 2017 02:33:51 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/horror-fiction-review-the-lost-village-by-neil-spring
In his debut novel Ghost Hunters, Neil Spring introduced us to the fabulous Harry Price and his intrepid assistant Sarah Grey, and their investigations into the spooky going events at Borley Rectory.  Ghost Hunters was an intense debut novel and a great addition to the classic British ghost story.  Harry and Sarah return to investigate further spooky going ons in The Lost Village, despite the events that occurred in Ghost Hunters, the once mighty duo have now gone their separate ways, can they overcome their differences and get to the root of the problem in The Lost Village

The Lost Village as with Ghost Hunters uses a real-life haunting legend as the framework to hang another gripping story from.  This time Spring uses the village of Imber situated in the middle of the Salisbury Plain, which has, as in real life, been taken over by the army to be used as a military training base, with the locals being thrown out, only allowed to return once a year to tend the graves of their loved ones.  

But something is stirring in Imber. Something which has the army spooked, lights have been seen above the village, things are moving in the mist, and something so terrible that it causes one soldier to set fire to themselves to escape the horror, something so awful that only Price and Grey can unlock the secret of the lost village.  

As with the first appearance of Price and Grey, one the main strengths of The Lost Village is the Spring's gift for grounding the novel.  The meticulous amount of research combined with Spring's deft narrative voice allows the reader to become fully immersed in not only the novel's story but also the era in which the book exists.  There is nothing worse in a period story than the inability to believe that the story you are reading is set in the period of the story.  Spring uses some techniques to ensure that integrity of the era is preserved, such as the use of period-specific language, and the subtle use of "pop culture references". These might seem like simple things, but Spring has repeatedly shown, throughout his three novels, a masterful gift for scene setting a period integrity.

While  The Lost Village is a stand-alone novel and can be in its own right, you would be doing yourself a slight disservice if you don't read Ghost Hunters beforehand.  The reason for this is excellent interplay and relationship dynamics between Price and Grey.  Imagine Holmes and Watson with a slice of sexual frisson, and you would be pretty much on track as to how this pair reacts with each other.  However, their relationship is now somewhat strained due to the events in their previous outing, and while their relationship here is still a joy to read and at times electrifying, it does help to have a more rounded and expanded account of how they came to be from the first book.  

Spring keeps the majority of the plot under tight wraps for the majority of the novel, keeping the reader second guessing and hopping from one wrong foot to the other.  Dropping breadcrumbs of hints and clues like a teasing Hansel and Gretal, Spring keeps the reader hooked through the length of the narrative.  Stylistically, The Lost Village can be classified alongside such greats as The Woman in Black  and Awakening; this is a classic British ghost, filled with subtle atmospheric dread, peppered with moments of shocking terror to keep the reader on their toes.  Spring's ingenious mix of fact and fiction makes for a fascinating read, the blurring of lines between the real village of Imber and the fictional one of this novel turns this book into a somewhat unique reading experience. 

The Lost Village  is a modern Gothic masterpiece, ghostly going on, mingling with secrets and lies, in a bleak British landscape all combine to make one thrilling and fulfilling read.  
Picture
A haunting and spooky thriller, with an unforgettable twist!

The remote village of Imber - remote, lost and abandoned. The outside world hasn't been let in since soldiers forced the inhabitants out, much to their contempt.

But now, a dark secret threatens all who venture near. Everyone is in danger, and only Harry Price can help. Reluctantly reunited with his former assistant Sarah Grey, he must unlock the mystery of Imber, and unsurface the secrets someone thought were long buried. But will Sarah's involvement be the undoing of them both?

click to purchase copy
]]>
<![CDATA[HORROR FICTION REVIEW: FLORIDA GOTHIC BY MITZI SZERETO]]>Tue, 17 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/horror-fiction-review-florida-gothic-by-mitzi-szeretoby DeAnna Knippling 
When I opened up Florida Gothic, I wanted to love it. The style is thick and full of vivid, realistic detail; the character we initially start on is pretty interesting; the setup is all right: an old man with nothing much to live for gets killed in a Florida hit-and-run accident involving a crocodile; he then comes back as a zombie.

So far so good.

Then the other characters come in. They aren't just the lowest of the low. They are the lowest of the low at great length and in vivid detail. Again, the writing is really good here. But the author keeps reminding us that we're not supposed to like these other characters, because they aren't characters but caricatures. We're not supposed to empathize with them or really even put their tawdry skins on over our own.  They're unlikable characters, fair enough, but the author can't stop reminding us of that--and doing so booted me out of the story. Repeatedly. The characters don't just do what they do, they spend pages trying to justify themselves while the author winks at the reader about how terrible the characters are. I get it already...

If it hadn't been done with such depth and vividness, I wouldn't have minded; your mileage may vary. If you enjoy watching people you constantly are reminded to hate putting themselves in a train headed for a brick wall, then this may be the book for you. But I wanted the author to go big or go home - either fully invest in their mundane evil and stop winking at the readers, or make them so over the top that it felt like a story about the little guys finding a loophole to screw over the truly big bads of the world. 

A near miss for me, but one that made me want to put the book down every time it wasn't the zombie's POV. 
click to purchase a copy.
Picture
Stuck in a twilight world between life and death… A hit-and-run driver leaves Ernesto Martinez to die by a Miami canal. Then an alligator comes along to finish the job. Being dead gives Ernesto plenty of time to think. He thinks about his wife, taken from him too soon by illness. He thinks about his daughter, the victim of a drunk driver. He thinks about his death as he watches his body slowly decompose. Most of all, he thinks about injustice. The meth head ex-con living in the Everglades. The judge enjoying retirement on the Gulf Coast. The son of a Colombian drug kingpin partying in South Beach. These men care nothing for the pain they’ve caused. But they’ll soon know what it is to feel pain

]]>
<![CDATA[HORROR FICTION REVIEW: EVERYTHING THAT'S UNDERNEATH BY KRISTI DEMEESTER]]>Mon, 16 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/horror-fiction-review-everything-thats-underneath-by-kristi-demeesterby Laura Mauro 

Kristi DeMeester has an extensive and impressive horror pedigree. Her short fiction has appeared in Black Static, Apex Magazine, The Dark and Strange Aeons, to name but a few; she is also no stranger to Year's Best anthologies. It's safe to say that this collection has been highly anticipated. DeMeester's style errs definitively towards the 'weird' end of the horror spectrum. Her imagined worlds carry a distinctive Southern Gothic vibe; they are populated by strange, unnerving characters who belong on the fringes, in the shadows. Consequently, there is a vein of stark realism which compliments the dreamy unreality of DeMeester's storytelling.

Titular tale "Everything That's Underneath" and "The Wicked Shall Come Upon Him" both shine a light on the inner mechanisms of human relationships, and the outside forces which exert themselves upon our lives, from the mundane evil of illness to the coming apocalypse. DeMeester handles both tales with a blunt and honest humanity; the horror of slow, inevitable decline complements the more visceral, immediate horror of uncanny things lurking in the shadows, and the pain of infidelity is a backdrop to something almost biblical in its strangeness.

"To Sleep Long, To Sleep Deep" is pure horror from start to finish. A tale of obsession infused from the very beginning with a palpable sense of wrongness, the ending is somehow both inevitable and shocking. "The Fleshtival" is far more unpleasant, and not always in a good way. The characters are all utterly unlikeable, and it's difficult to care about anything that might happen to them. The eventual payoff is satisfying, but it's a labourious journey, made somewhat easier by the perfusion of rich, dark imagery - something DeMeester excels at. Her prose reads more like poetry in places, which may not appeal to some, but her ability to weave complex and vivid imagery is undeniable.
"The Beautiful Nature Of Venom" treads perilously close to cliché; short, sharp and punchy, a conspiratorial tale addressed to 'you' in which the reader is aware of what is going to happen but, of course, utterly powerless to stop it. "Like Feather, Like Bone" is an early highlight - a tale picked by Laird Barron for inclusion in The Year's Best Weird Fiction, and it's not difficult to understand why. This is pure Southern Gothic and is as beautiful as it is terrible. Opening with a strange, nameless young girl eating birds beneath the narrator's porch, this is a very effective tale of loss and ultimately, of healing.

"Worship Only What She Bleeds" is another strong story, showcasing DeMeester's unique ability to write female-driven narratives which are both incredibly strange and highly relatable; the relationship between Mary and her mother is the star of the show here, played out against a nightmarish backdrop of bleeding houses and raw meat, and an ending which horrifies in how right it feels.

"The Tying Of Tongues" has a distinctly different feel to the stories that precede it; almost folkloric, a Grimm's fairy tale as seen through Angela Carter's lens. "The Marking" is a piece of deeply discomfiting body horror, and another example of DeMeester's excellent mother-daughter dynamic, and the interplay between familial nurture and destruction.

"The Long Road" takes us back to the realms of Southern Gothic with a story that is light on plot but rich in unsettling imagery. "The Lightning Bird" is another female-driven tale which touches upon African mythology and provides an interesting new lens through which we might view the mother-daughter dynamic so familiar to this collection. "The Dream Eater" is a superb piece of weird fiction, an almost Lynchian apocalyptic nightmare which verges on the nonsensical in the best possible way. Probably the best story in the collection, in my humble opinion.

"The Dream Eater" is a very difficult act to follow, but "Daughters of Hecate" is well chosen to succeed it. One of the more plot-heavy stories in the collection, it's a complex examination of motherhood both from a daughter's perspective, and from that of a prospective parent. DeMeester's stories tend towards the abstract rather than the emotional, but this proves that she has the ability to get to the heart of matters, and to find painful truth in them as well as the artistic and the disturbing.
"Birthright", original to this collection, is a clever and creepy novelette reminiscent in ways of Paul Tremblay's 'A Head Full of Ghosts'. "All That Is Refracted, Broken" takes a similar path, but ends up somewhere very different indeed - a brother-sister relationship this time, jagged stream-of-consciousness prose and an unexpected but excellent ending. I had read "December Skin" in its original publication in Black Static and it holds up just as well on re-reading. "Split Tongues" exhibits a wholly unfamiliar religious terror which, to this British reader, is alien and unsettling in a quintisentially American kind of way. The final story, "To Sleep in the Dust of the Earth", is almost a coming-of-age tale, a story in which the strangeness takes a back seat to the relationship between Willa and Lea; perhaps the most 'earthly' of DeMeester's stories in many ways, but no less eerily beautiful for it.

There are 18 stories in this collection, and the sheer density of it invites frequent pause, not least because these stories are best read with time to digest before diving into the next one. Consequently it is not an easy read. It is, however, very rewarding; it’s likely to be a favourite for lovers of weird fiction and beautiful prose alike.

Picture
Everything That’s Underneath, Kristi DeMeester’s debut powerful horror collection, is full of weird, unsettling tales that recall the styles of such accomplished storytellers as Laird Barron and Tom Piccirilli.
Crawl across the earth and dig in the dirt. Feel it. Tearing at your nails, gritty between your teeth, filling your nostrils. Consume it until it has consumed you. For there you will find the voices that have called from the shadows, the ones that promise to cherish you only to rip your body to shreds.
In Everything That’s Underneath, Kristi DeMeester explores the dark places most people avoid. A hole in an abandoned lot, an illness twisting your loved one into someone you don’t recognize, lust that pushes you farther and farther until no one can hear yours cry for help. In these 18 stories the characters cannot escape the evil that is haunting them. They must make a choice: accept it and become part of what terrifies them the most or allow it to consume them and live in fear forever.

click to purchase a copy
]]>
<![CDATA[HORROR FICTION REVIEW: ​COME TO MY BROTHER BY CHRISTOPHER ZEISCHEGG]]>Sun, 15 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/horror-fiction-review-come-to-my-brother-by-christopher-zeischeggBy Stewart Horn 
 
A gay-themed vampire novel written by a porn star may not sound appealing, but despite its many flaws, I rather enjoyed it.
 
Daniel and David were childhood neighbours, drawn together by familial neglect. They become friends, then step brothers, then lovers, and form a black metal band together. In their mid-teens they live a fabulously hedonistic life until the night Daniel disappears.
 
Four years later David has just about got his life back together when Daniel reappears and attacks him, and in the struggle David kills him. It's hardly a spoiler to say that Daniel is a vampire (and not any deader than before), and now so is David.
 
The first half of the book is completely engaging as we spend time with the boys and find out their history - I especially enjoyed the band scenes, but once the main plot kicks in it loses its way a little. An older vampire gives us a quasi-religious origin story for vampires and hatches a plan to raise an army of vampires to storm heaven and reclaim it in Lucifer's name. It's a grand and sweeping idea but never as interesting as the love story at the book's heart.
 
Homoeroticism in vampire fiction is hardly new, and Mr. Zeischegg doesn't really do anything new: it's no more sensual than Anne Rice and no more graphic than Poppy Brite. I get the feeling he wanted to shock us, but got too tied up with the romance, and the book is stronger for it. These days, extreme violence, drug use, heresy and gay sex no longer have the power. The underage pseudo-incest is a potential outrage trigger but those scenes are lightly drawn and rather sweet really, not pornographic at all.
 
If you like vampires, heavy metal, pornography and gay sex I guarantee you'll enjoy this book.
click to purchase a copy

related posts 

FIVE MINUTES WITH CHRISTOPHER ZEISCHEGG

]]>
<![CDATA[HORROR FICTION REVIEW: ​FOREVER VACANCY]]>Fri, 13 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/horror-fiction-review-forever-vacancy
 
Colors in Darkness is an online site that publishes dark fiction from authors of colour. They’ve put together their first anthology and it does not disappoint. This is a varied and entertaining read.
 
The concept is that every story is by a different author but centres around the Kretcher Motel in the 1960s. There are certain lynchpin features - such as the fountain in the lobby which doesn’t work any more and, of course, the bewitching Sybline Kretcher, the manager who runs the motel on behalf of the Devil.
 
The risk with an anthology that demands its stories all contain common elements is that the tales could end up seeming too similar, or the features necessary to give it cohesion could be shoehorned in at the expense of the story. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen here and each author’s interpretation of the commonalities is unique enough that you really do get the impression of looking at the same thing but through different eyes each time and the common elements draw the stories together so that they truly appear as parts of a whole rather than disparate and unconnected narratives.
 
For me, Sybline was a mesmerising addition each time. Her character alters depending on the situation; she welcomes some guests with warmth, others with hostility, so each author has the leeway to portray the manager in their own unique way. The introduction by Mya Lairis, in which we learn about Sybline’s character and her background, is as much a work of seamless fiction in itself as it is an idea of what is to come.
 
The Thing in Room 204 - CW Blackwell
This tale was very bold, very concise and nicely self-contained making it a good first story. However, I felt it had a random ending which rather spoilt it for me.
 
Karma Suture - Tawanna Sullivan
This story was a nice contrast to the first one, showing off the ability of the anthology to deliver diverse tales while maintaining a consistent setting. Whereas the first story was set mostly in the hotel itself, this one has a lot of detail of the world surrounding the hotel, making it an ideal second story to expand our knowledge of the hotel. I thought the ending worked well with its sense of poetic justice, however I didn’t feel there was enough back story for me to really invest in it whole-heartedly.
 
The Last Days of Jerome Brown - Jordan King-Lacroix
A nightmarish short story and, although it felt a little predictable, it was still nicely written.
 
Roost - Kenya Moss Dyme
The previous stories had been focussed with just one point of view character which had worked very well in giving the reader plenty of different perspectives of the hotel. However, this short story had four POV characters, and I felt that was just too much. The end result was rather confusing. In one instance, I couldn’t figure out who had actually killed one of the other characters. Luckily with the solid preceding stories, I was invested in the concept by now and happy to read on.
 
Salvation - Ross Baxter
In the same way that Roost tries to change the pace by packing in more POV characters, Salvation is a story jam-packed with extra information. The premise was interesting, the middle was solid (if a little heavy on information at the expense of atmosphere), and the ending was a lovely twist. However, I felt the final scenes in this tale really spoiled it: they were clichéd and felt crass after what had been a very thoughtful story beforehand. If I read it again, I might stop before I reach the very end!
 
The Honeymoon Suite: Jacob’s Reunion - Sumiko Saulson
If this story was standalone, I feel it would have been rather weak, but as part of this collection it was well-chosen. I liked the reference to real world events because it made both the story and the hotel feel more grounded.
 
A Long Way from the Ritz - Eden Royce
I really liked this story. It was subtle and kept you guessing without ever confusing you. It was nicely sinister and well-paced.
 
A Devil of a Deal - David O’Hanlon
A conversational tone in a story can either work well or entirely ruin the story: I’m pleased to say that it works brilliantly here. This is another story that manages to pack a load of back story into a few thousand words, but it is adeptly done and is directly relevant to the background of the hotel itself. I could have done without the final Lucifer-Scratch showdown but the tale ends on a note of wonderfully dark justice: whatever the outcome, the Devil always wins.
 
Hollygraham - Sy Shanti
An interesting choice of story where the use of technology contrasts well with the previous stories which are heavy on the supernatural. This had a nice build up and a fun twist, but I felt the ending was a bit of a mess.
 
Fleshtrap - Querrus Abuttu
Unfortunately for me the inconsistencies in this story ruined it for me. Sometimes it was plot issues - such as how does he know that Gordo needs reminding if he’s never worked with him before? - and sometimes it was editorial issues - such as how can you stare into someone’s eyes and take note of their nails at the same time?
 
Mister Mackintosh - David Turnbull
After the blood, gore and despair of the previous stories it was refreshing to come across a story that was vaguely happy! I thought it was well crafted and that not one scene was wasted in taking the story forward.
 
The Adjustors - Dahlia DeWinters
The dramatic irony in this is highly enjoyable. You know what is coming, but the author keeps the tension going so you’re keen to see just how it shakes down. The final scene adds an unexpected depth and poignancy to the rest of the story.
 
Need - Zin E. Rocklyn
I felt this was an odd choice to end on. It was confusing, with a character called Albert and his friend Albus, meaning you had to really concentrate on what was happening to which character. I also felt that the ending wasn’t explained well enough and I would much have preferred to end on The Adjustors as I felt that was the stronger story.
 
This anthology would make an excellent holiday read, or perhaps perfect for a commute. The descriptive links mean that it’s easy to sink into each story with familiarity, but the tales are sufficiently diverse that each one is a new experience. Overall, a very impressive collection that is sure to appeal to fans of The Hyde Hotel or The Devil’s Guests.
click here to purchase a copy
Picture
Colors in Darkness, the premiere online site for dark fiction authors of color presents its first anthology! Amid the upheaval of the 1960s, the Kretcher Motel opened in a poor, desolate part of Atlanta. It still serves its original purpose: to lure those souls who are lost, who are troubled, who are evil…to itself. Check in to view these thirteen dark tales of horror, betrayal, fear, and wickedness, all featuring characters of color. You may never want to leave. The Thing in Room 204 – C.W. Blackwell Karma Suture – Tawanna Sullivan The Last Day of Jerome Brown – Jordan King-Lacroix Roost – Kenya Moss-Dyme Salvation – Ross Baxter The Honeymoon Suite: Jacob’s Reunion – Sumiko Saulson A Long Way From the Ritz – Eden Royce Mister Mackintosh – David Turnbull Flesh Trap – Querus Abuttu A Devil of a Deal – David O’Hanlon Hollygraham – Sy Shanti The Adjusters – Dahlia DeWinters Need – Zin E. Rocklyn With an introduction to the stories by Mya Lairis.

]]>
<![CDATA[HORROR FICTION REVIEW: WHAT DO MONSTERS FEAR? & BRAIN DEAD BLUES BY MATT HAYWARD]]>Mon, 09 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/horror-fiction-review-what-do-monsters-fear-brain-dead-blues-by-matt-haywardBy John Boden

What Do Monsters Fear

Picture

Peter Laughlin is an ageing rock star,  his life has become an albatross around his whiskey-scoured neck, and he is miserable. Waking in his own filth, with nothing but numbness and misery to fill the spaces and pack the wounds with. He's just about to give up when he decides one last time, to try and get his act together.  A small advertisement for Dawson's Rehabilitation. It seems remote and straightforward and likes it might just do the trick.

Upon arrival, he meets his fellow attendees, and they're a motley crew, indeed. After they are briefed on the rules and expectations, Peter and his new friend, Henry, begin to realise something is entirely wrong with this place.  It seems like the clinic is the haunt of an ancient God. One that feeds on fear and misery and one that has heard the frantic ringing of the dinner bell. 

Matt Hayward's debut novel is a feral dog, it barks loudly and bites with vicious tearing.  It builds a cast of well-drawn characters and shows us how quickly things can swivel from bleak and tragic to downright terrifying.  The tagline of  "The Thing meets One Few Over The Cuckoo's Nest"  is entirely on point.  When the scares come, and they do come (I'm not sure I'll ever not be haunted by the image of Donald at the window!) they come with fists clenched and teeth bared. A stunning and wickedly fun debut.

What Do Monsters Fear? Is available from Post Mortem Press

click to purchase a copy

Brain Dead Blues

Picture
This one came out about a month before What Do Monsters Fear? And is the first exposure to Matt Hayward's work I had.  Before reading this, all I knew was that this soft-spoken fellow was a fellow music fan. He was a professional musician and a damn good one at that, and that I could listen to him speak for years.  But on to the stories.

The opener is a dark hard rock romp called "God Is In The Radio" wherein an ageing rock god discovers a new power and uses it to channel some even older deities. In "Critter" a strange little girl finds an even stranger monster beneath her bed.  "Cordyceps" brings a fungal invasion to a rural mountain community. "Meeting Gregory" is my favourite in the bunch, a tragic and melancholy coming-of-age reflection that is a bitter and salty thing.  "The Price You Pay" finds a pawn shop owner in possession of a unique artefact that has a specific segment of the population dying for a glimpse.

"Hunger Pains" finds a big man with a hearty appetite struggling with the end of the world. "The Faerie Tree" offers an examination of the cost of wishes and the high price of faith. "No One Gets Out Alive" is another odd coming-of-age tale about a strange town with an even stranger secret and the pair of siblings, who with the help of others set about changing things for once.

I didn't touch on every story in this collection, but I did like them all. The writing is crisp and clear. The characters are all relatable and the monsters, oh man, the monsters. Hayward understands what fear is. And that a lot of times the monsters we see and fight are just skewed reflections of ourselves. But then sometimes, they are monsters.


Brain Dead Blues is available from Sinister Grin Press.

click to purchase a copy
]]>
<![CDATA[HORROR FICTION REVIEW: FORGOTTEN  BY KELLI OWEN]]>Sun, 08 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/horror-fiction-review-forgotten-by-kelli-owen​BY JOHN BODEN 
As a fan of Kelli Owen, I look forward to seeing her every summer and picking up her most recent offering, this year her latest book is entitled  Forgotten.  And trust me when I tell you that this book is anything but easily forgotten. 

We open with Annalise Timmins is the name of the woman found battered and bleeding in the rest stop supply closet. She has no idea who she is or how she got there. She doesn't recall how she got there, her life up to that moment.  Her memory isn't the only missing piece from her life.

With the "help" of local authorities, neighbours and friends, doctors and a man who swears to be her husband, Anna finds out that the scariest stranger is the one you can become in an instant.  Forgotten is a novella that I can not say much about, the brilliance of the premise is one that relies on one going in with the least amount of information.   It is a tragic and sad but also an angering exercise in bad behaviour and not-so-great ideas.

The writing is sharp, and you get a feel for these characters.  Forgotten is a tense and uncomfortable read. But it is also a damn fine one.
click to purchase a copy
Picture
Annalise Timmins is found battered and beaten in the bathroom of a quiet roadside rest area without her car, her identification, or her memory. To her horror, she quickly learns that more than her memory is missing. Doctors and loved ones alike try to fill in the blanks for her, but she finds it impossible to believe their stories. Wouldn’t she remember these people? Wouldn’t she remember her family? As she tries to piece together the life they claim she has, she suddenly finds herself questioning which is worse: to forget… or to remember?

]]>
<![CDATA[HORROR FICTION REVIEW: MAD DOG BY J.R. PARK]]>Wed, 04 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/horror-fiction-review-mad-dog-by-jr-park​By Jonathan Butcher

A hairy, scary, shaggy dog’s tale to leave you howling for more

 
It’s always refreshing when an author – particularly an indie author – takes a risk. J R Park’s werewolf novella Mad Dog is a rollicking read that is particularly enjoyable due to its daring storytelling style. It is told through a series of interview snippets delivered by an array of convicts, wardens, police officers and more, and the book’s dizzying range of voices gives the story its bullet-fast pace and snarling, ferocious energy.

The tale charts the gruesome events that lead to a full-scale, blood-splattered riot at Darkdale Prison.

Mad Dog Mooney is a giant man – thing? - from a nightmare, and poor convict Jimmy Eades is about to learn more about Mooney than he would ever wish. From the opening page that tells us that the interviews we are about to read were conducted as a way of understanding what led to a “second serious incident in as many months”, we know that we are on a downhill plummet towards something horrific.

I’m generally a slow reader, but I ripped through Mad Dog in two sittings, compelled to keep reading whenever I reached the end of a chapter. Being an author myself, I am always impressed when a writer embraces an unusual stylistic choice and makes it work. Park moves the plot forward through a series of what, on the surface, seem like disparate observations and anecdotes from numerous characters, yet pieces the story together like an intriguing jigsaw. I felt like a magician watching a fellow illusionist perform a trick in such an engaging way that it shut off the part of my brain hungry to understand his methods.

The final quarter is well worth the wait and is so filled with action, gore, twists and revelations that I’m almost tempted challenge you to put the book down throughout the climax.

I enjoyed enormously and read it so quickly that I could give it no lower that 5 stars – however, I was not without my minor quibbles. A couple of times in Mad Dog, the characters used phrasing that did not feel typically conversational, and it momentarily took me out of the story. There were also so many different characters that, once or twice, I was slightly confused as to who was speaking. However, these sections were few and far between, and would no doubt be refined if the author revisited another book using the same storytelling device.

Altogether, if you are looking for a fun, pacey, pulpy read to satisfy those full-moon cravings, Mad Dog will certainly scratch that itch. Just buy it, and devour it whole.
click here to purchase
Picture
“You don’t need my expert opinion of the esoteric to know there was something very, very wrong with him.” - Father Matthews

Mad Dog Mooney was a ghost story. A legend that spooked even the most hardened of criminals. But when he came to Darkdale prison he proved all too real. 

The inmates are shell shocked by his arrival and rumours persist of his strange behaviour, whilst accusations of cannibalism from the media are not forgotten.
As tensions grow amongst the prison population, a jail break is planned to take place under the ethereal glow of a full moon.

Mad Dog is an oral history, a compilation of testimonies from witnesses to the atrocity that befell Darkdale prison.

]]>
<![CDATA[SECOND CHANCE BY ​GREGG HURWITZ]]>Wed, 04 Oct 2017 07:06:26 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/second-chance-by-gregg-hurwitzBy Tony Jones 

“The fightback to save Earth continues

Back in October of 2016 Ginger Nuts of Horror gave Gregg Hurwitz’s first foray into YA writing “The Rains” a five star review for its exhilarating mashup of science fiction, horror and the good old fashioned alien invasion of Earth tale. It might not have been anything new, but it was expertly told and I felt at the time a sure fire way of dragging bored teens away from their computers, social media and handheld devices. I don’t intend to regurgitate the whole review of book one, so the link is here should you want to read it:
 
“Second Chance” starts pretty much exactly where the first book ended, there is no time to breathe, regroup or hide. We are straight back into the heart of the story with the alien invaders strengthening their grip on the beleaguered remote country town the brothers Chance and Patrick Rain defend to the last supported by lots of other former classmates and local kids. Remember that anyone over the age of eighteen transforms into something no longer human and the days are ticking down for seventeen year old Patrick, the elder of the two brothers…
 
The previous review noted that not enough was resolved in “The Rains” and we certainly get all the answers and a proper conclusion in this novel. However, that aside it just does not have either the whack or the freshness of its predecessor. I get the feeling the author used up too many of the best ideas in the first book, and lacking the pace of its predecessor it is a much slower read.  I think many teens will find it dull and struggle to finish it. There is a huge difference in the excitement levels and pace if you compare the novels and this unfortunately comes up second best in almost every category.
 
Do not try and read “Second Chance” as a standalone novel, it’s just not going to work as the pair are just so intrinsically linked. Much of the plot revolves around what makes the Chance brothers different and why are the aliens so interested in them? I didn’t think this alone was enough to keep the plot interest at the highest level, but it was nice to see support characters from the previous book appear at different stages.
 
You could even question why there were two books at all? A good editor could have heavily cut book two and added in what was needed for a bigger and arguably stronger one volume novel. But in today’s publishing the sequel sells, we all know that. As of yet neither of the books has picked up an official UK release, however, Tor Teen have a paperback available on Amazon UK about now. I would recommend that you make your own mind whether you want to persevere with “Second Chance” if you enjoyed “The Rains”.  
 
This area is a very competitive market and teens can be very harsh critics, it takes thirty seconds for a fourteen year old to get bored and so this book is just way too talky to hold the attention of most. Having said that the Chance brothers are engaging characters, there are some good action sequences and the potential romances are handled very well. Also, there are a couple of key death scenes which the author delivers powerfully, the problem being many kids might have switched off before they get there. The book ends with a strong ending and proper conclusion, which I think it needed. I will be very interested to see if Hurwitz returns to YA and if he does, what he does differently next time around.
 
Tony Jones

click here to purchase
Picture
The Rain brothers fight for the survival of humanity in Last Chance, the thrilling sequel to New York Times bestselling author Gregg Hurwitz's YA debut, The Rains.
The New York Times bestselling author of Orphan X, Gregg Hurwitz, returns to Creek's Cause to follow the Rains brothers as they fight an alien threat that has transformed everyone over the age of 18 into ferocious, zombie-like beings, in this thrilling sequel to The Rains.
Battling an enemy not of this earth, Chance and Patrick become humanity's only hope for salvation.
"The Rains is one of those all-too-creepy-and-believable stories that leaves you looking in your backyard for the next strange weed to poke through the ground. Chilling!"--Ridley Pearson, New York Timesbestselling author

]]>
<![CDATA[HORROR FICTION REVIEW: PERFECT DARKNESS, PERFECT SILENCE BY RICHARD FARREN BARBER]]>Mon, 02 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/horror-fiction-review-perfect-darkness-perfect-silence-by-richard-farren-barberBY TONY JONES

“Horror is when there’s no hope left.”

 
 
Who says reviewers don’t buy books? After reading great recommendations from fellow enthusiasts it is sometimes hard not to dip the hand in the pocket…  Richard Farren Barber’sPerfect Darkness, Perfect Silence” picked up terrific reviews in both Horror Novel Reviews, written by Paula Limbaugh, and in Anthony Watson’s always excellent Dark Musings horror blog, so I could not resist splashing out on the recently released Kindle version from Hersham Horror. Both Paula and Anthony were bang to rights with their five star assessments and so I am also delighted to give this clever read the big thumbs up also.

Upon starting this novella, for a horrible few pages, I thought I had stumbled yet another zombie offering. However, I soon sighed with relief when I realised that this near post-apocalypse tale featured a deadly virus which decimates out most of the population, but otherwise was zombie free. This was a very meditative read, which moved at a slow and thoughtful pace with little in the way of action or violence. Don’t let that put you off though, as it has a lot to say about the state of the world today and was a cut above most post-apocalyptic tales. The author’s end-notes reflect upon Brexit and the position of Britain as it isolates itself from the rest of Europe. You can mull over these realities when you read this novella, equally you can leave politics aside and judge it as a fine piece of fiction. Both are equally valid trains of thought.
 
Hannah leads a clean-up crew whose sole job is to gather up and destroy the infected bodies of the vast numbers of people who have died very suddenly in a modern day plague, as many as 2000 bodies are scattered on the outlying fields waiting to be cleared, moved, then burned in a huge pit. The action takes place in an isolated town which has fences keeping surviving infected getting inside their perimeters. Because the other town members are vary of infection they are equally suspicious of Hannah and her crew who live in a separate part of the compound. Much of the story effectively balances the dynamics of Hannah, her job, with her colleagues Andy, Patrick and others. They are a tightknit group who trust each other, but on the other hand don’t really know each other that well.
 
Dr Andrew Hickman or ‘The Esteemed Leader’ is the charismatic self-appointed top-dog of the group, using motorcycle hard-men known as ‘The Caretakers’ as his muscle to control his fiefdom. The bikers also scour surrounding areas for uncontaminated survivors, who they find sparingly. The story picks up pace when Hannah questions the motives of Hickman, and what he believes they have to do to survive. This is very powerful stuff, and some very fine writing shows us that that impressive character driven scenes can have greater impact that the crash, bag, wallop of action and violence. An example would be when one of her drunken colleagues forces his way into Hannah’s bedroom, it is understated, but totally crackles with realism and humanity.  
 
The story is told from Hannah’s point of view, keeping her sexuality private from the rest of the group she dreads finding the body of her wife Sophie amongst the piles of dead. This recent apocalypse is described quite sparingly and the author says much with very few words allowing the reader to use their own imagination. Early signs of contagion begins with gum infection and eventually spreads to painful ridges on the spine, apart from that information is kept to a minimum. Much of it is a pretty grim, but powerful read, as Hannah increasing questions what they have to do to survive up until the brutal but realistic ending.
 
My only criticism is as much a query as much as anything else. At a certain point the plot reveals that the virus/apocalypse is only a few weeks old. Because of this I felt the town where the plot is entirely set was too well developed and structured. Just how did these guys get organised so quickly? Hannah and her crew often come across like they have been doing this clean-up job for years, rather than weeks. Where is the chaos of the apocalypse? Maybe I missed something, but that quibble aside this was a terrific pensive look at how normal people deal with death on a catastrophic scale and the lengths some will go to survive. But for others there are lines that they will not cross, issues which are explored brilliantly in this novella. Highly recommended.
 
Tony Jones
 
purchase a copy here
Picture
After the apocalypse, only the dead are safe. 

Once the plague has swept across the world, a small community fights for survival. Hannah leads a crew disposing of the bodies of those who succumbed to the disease. It’s a horrific job – each day spent handling the infected, decaying bodies. 

She and the fledgeling community must fight to survive in this stuttering dark new Britain. Will they find a way to live together, or will human nature and the problems of the old world push them to extinction?

]]>