Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: River of Teeth

River of Teeth River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a world where the US government DID import hippos into the Louisiana swamp to raise for meat in the 1800s, Winslow Houndstooth gets hired for a caper, no, an operation, to get the Hippos out of The Harriet, a vast marsh overrun with feral hippos. Only one member of his crew is a traitor...

When I read about this on the Facebook, I knew I had to read it. A western with people riding hippos? What's not to like? Anyway, Tor denied me on netgalley but an early birthday present from the esteemed Richard saved the day.

Where to start? The book kind of reminds me of the part in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly when Blondie and Tuco blow up the bridge. Only instead of the desert, it's in the Lousiana swamp. And they're riding hippos. And instead of Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach, the crew is a bisexual English former hippo rancher, a rotund con woman, a pregnant professional killer, a gambler, and a person of indeterminate gender. And instead of a bridge, they're using explosives to get the hippos out of the Harriet. Huh, I guess it's only superficially like the bridge scene...

The mistrust among the crew is one of the drivers of the story, along with Houndstooth's quest for vengeance. It would make a great movie. What would you call a western set in the Lousiana swamp? A gumbo western?

Anyway, it's a lot of fun. While it uses western conventions and a western plot structure, the setting and the characters make it something else entirely. Something I want to read much more of. Good thing the sequel comes out soon. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: Two Lost Boys

Two Lost Boys Two Lost Boys by L.F. Robertson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Andy Hardy's appeal comes up, Janet Moodie catches the case. Andy is on death row for raping and murdering two women with his brother, Emory. Can Janet get Andy's sentence reduced to life? And what hold does the Hardy boys' mother have over them?

Recently, the people at Titan hit me up to read Forever and a Death. I said I would and added that I'd take anything else they wanted to send my way. This showed up not too long after and I'm glad I'm kind of a book mooch.

Two Lost Boys is a legal thriller but it's also an exploration into family secrets and how people become who they are. As Janet mines Andy's past, she unearths more and more dark secrets Ma Hardy would prefer to keep hidden. I saw some of the twists coming but I was still pleasantly surprised in places.

Janet Moodie is far from the usual thriller heroine. She's middle aged and a widow, living with her dog after her husband's suicide years before. She's not Wonder Woman but she gets things done. I liked her right away.

Since the case hinges on Andy being mentally disabled and not deserving of the death penalty, lots and lots of dirty laundry gets aired. Andy seems less like a criminal than an unwitting dupe and the worst person in the Hardy family sure isn't him. After the thirty percent mark, the book had its fangs buried in my brain stem and I couldn't get it out of my mind.

Even though legal thrillers are normally as welcome as a fart in an elevator on my bookshelf, I really enjoyed this one. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Review: Black Site

Black Site Black Site by Michael Patrick Hicks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a bunch of clones search for the origins of human life through genetic experiments, they uncover something far older and more sinister...

Black Site is a sf horror novella with Lovecraftian overtones and one hell of a read. Alpha and his fellow clones were innocently dabbling with genetic manipulation when they accidentally unleash a life form from the dawn of the universe. Awesomeness ensues.

As impressed as I was with Revolver, Black Site is even better. It has that claustrophobic feeling that the Alien movies share as well as an undercurrent of insanity. MPH has crafted a brutal horror tale here. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 19, 2017

Review: Cold Cotton: A Hap and Leonard Novella

Cold Cotton: A Hap and Leonard Novella Cold Cotton: A Hap and Leonard Novella by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who would have thought Hap not being able to get a boner would get everyone into so much trouble? When a potential therapist calls Brett Sawyer's detective agency, she hires the gang to figure out who is harassing her. Things quickly spin out of control and Hap and Leonard quickly find themselves balls deep in trouble.

Cold Cotton is a Hap and Leonard novella set some time after Honky Tonk Samurai. The boys wind up being caught up in a web of greed and murder. Oh, and Hap is as impotent as a eunuch. There's also a nymphomaniac, a Rottweiler, and wall to wall witty banter.

The story is hilarious, as most Joe Lansdale books are, and very entertaining. Since it's a novella, the laugh density is pretty high and it doesn't overstay its welcome. Hap and Leonard are in fine form, although Leonard doesn't get as much attention as I would have liked. Nice to see his relationship with Pookie still going strong, though.

That's about all I'm prepared to say. I'm beginning to like the Hap and Leonard novellas better than the novels. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Review: Video Night

Video Night Video Night by Adam Cesare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every Friday night, high school seniors Billy and Tom watch a horror movie in Billy's basement. As this Friday draws near, a secret alien invasion threatens to take over the town. Can Billy and Tom save the world in time to watch The Re-Animator and keep the Video Night tradition alive?

Back when I was a horny teenage boy in that hazy time before the internet, I'd stay up all hours of the night watching movies on Showtime, trying to catch a glimpse of boob. In the process, I watched a lot of b-movies, mostly horror. Video Night brings back fond memories of that time.

In the vein of the 'teenagers against an other worldly menace' movies of the 1980s/early 1990s, Video Night is a fun, nostalgia-laden gorefest. What else can you expect when alien organisms are infecting people?

I was reminded of a whole slew of movies while reading this: Night of the Creeps, Night of the Comet, Monster Squad, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Return of the Living Dead, and a whole slew of others. It seems like the whole damn down was crawling with monsters by the end.

The ending did not disappoint and was true to the books origins. My hunger for more of Adam Cesare's work has grown significantly since I first opened the book.

It might be a case of the perfect book for the time I was reading but I can't think of a single bad thing to say about this book. I think Adam Cesare and I would have been pals had we met as teenagers. Five out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Sound of Broken Ribs

The Sound of Broken RibsThe Sound of Broken Ribs by Edward Lorn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Belinda Walsh's husband leaves her homeless and penniless, she goes out looking to ruin someone else and runs down writer Lei Duncan.  Only Lei Duncan lives and isn't in the mood to be ruined.

The Lorn hit me up to read an ARC of this and I was game.  After all, he's never let me down before.  This books kicks the Lornography up several notches.

The Sound of Broken Ribs is a horror novel about loss, revenge and pain.  If you had the chance to get revenge upon someone that wrecked you life, would you do it?  How would you go about it?

Edward Lorn's writing has always reminded me of a young Stephen King's: lean, evocative, and powerful.  Actually, this reminds me of Stephen King in another way.  Lei Walsh is run over while running along the road.

Anyway, the writing is lean and mean and the twists cut right to the bone.  Every time another twist hit me like a speeding car, I'd look at the number of pages left and wonder "What the hell else can happen to these characters?"  Sure enough, worse things were always lurking around the curve.

Lei's road to recovery and revenge was painful.  I even felt sorry for Belinda's hit and run ass.  This book is one calamity after another and almost impossible to put down.

I can't praise this book enough.  If I hadn't already anointed Edward Lorn the Future of Horror, I would with this book.  Five out of five stars.

* You can buy the Sound of Broken Ribs here.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: All-Night Terror

All-Night Terror All-Night Terror by Adam Cesare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a recently fired TV host takes the station hostage, Danny Chambers, along with the other viewers, is forced to watch the host's six favorite movies with the police waiting in the wings.

Using a hostage situation at a TV station as a framing device, All-Night Terror is a collection of six horror tales (and four bonus tales in the appendix.) It feels very much like Creepshow or one of any number of anthology horror films that came out in the 1980s.

As with any collection, some of the tales are better than others. Of the ten, Killing Time in the Off-Season, Appraisal, and Bringing Down The Giants were my favorites. Appraisal was genuinely scary. The others were just horror movie style fun.

It's not a game changer but it's a damn fun read. In the Afterword, Adam Cesare mentions that it was written to get people to try his and Matt Serafini's other works. In that, it has succeeded since I'm chomping at the bit to read Video Night. Three out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review: Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis

Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis by Scott R. Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis is a collection of Cthulhu mythos stories. The theme of the collection is enlightenment through insanity, that the cultists found in most mythos stories are the extremists and that more or less regular people lead more or less normal lives while worshiping the Great Old Ones, Elder Gods, and the like.

Like most anthologies, the stories range from okay to pretty damn good. For me, the standouts were We Three Kings, Messages, Mr. Johnson and the Old Ones, and The Litany of Earth.

While I enjoyed it, it lacked some of the punch of other Lovecraft anthologies I've read recently like Heroes of Red Hook and Whispers from the Abyss. I guess that's what happened when you take away the soul-blasting horror from beyond the stars and things of that nature.

Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis is an interesting concept but you can better spend your squamous dollars elsewhere. Three out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 5, 2017

Review: Revolver

Revolver Revolver by Michael Patrick Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In an all too plausible dystopian future, Cara Stone agrees to be on Revolver, a web show where the contestant raises money for his or her family before killing themselves on live TV. Too bad Cara has other plans...

Michael Patrick Hicks is one of those sneaky Goodreads authors that pretends to be an ordinary reader and rarely mentions his own books. Pretty slick, huh?

Anyway, Revolver is a dystopian novella reminiscent of Richard Bachman's The Running Man. Society has gone to hell in a hand basket since the women-hating, gun-loving religious zealots took over. Food riots are common and The Revolver is the only way out for a lot of people. Yeah, it's way too plausible and not as far away as one might hope. Cara ruminates on her past as the show time grows near. When the cameras role, things quickly go off the rails with Cara wielding the smoking gun.

Michael's writing packs a punch, both in terms of subject matter and word choices. Also, the suspense is agonizing. There are some powerful moments in the book and I'm at a loss at how to express myself. Fear for the future? Hell, fear for the present?

Revolver is one powerful little novella and a chilling vision of things to come. Five out of five stars.

Note: For the month of May, Michael is donating the proceeds from Revolver to the ACLU. See his website for details.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Review: Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story

Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story by Bertrand Hebert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mad Dog Vachon is one of those legendary wrestlers I've been aware of for years but don't know a whole lot about. When this popped up on Netgalley, I decided to attack it like Mad Dog Vachon himself.

Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story chronicles the life and times of Mad Dog Vachon, from his childhood as the trouble-making son of a Montreal policeman to an amateur wrestler, complete with a trip to the Olympics, to his career as a professional wrestler.

Mad Dog Vachon had a long and interesting career. Some of it I was already familiar with, mostly through Wikipedia research after he was added to the Legends of Wrestling Card Game. Yeah, I'm kind of a dork. However, a lot of it was new to me.

As I've said before, I like my wrestling books to make with the wrestling pretty quickly. Mad Dog was a pro by the 20% mark so I was satisfied. The book focuses on backstage politics and Mad Dog going from territory to territory, fairly interesting stuff. There weren't a lot of road stories but the ones that were included were epic.

Mad Dog had some serious brushes with death over the years, including multiple near fatal car accidents, blading too deeply, and assaults by fans, even taking someone's eye out with a fork in a bar fight. Once his wrestling career wrapped up, Mad Dog had a good run as a TV personality until he was hit by a car and had his leg amputated.

The parts of the book detailing his tenure in the AWA were my favorites. As with all wrestling books, I wish more road stories had been included. That's pretty much my only gripe. I'm a little sad I didn't get to experience Mad Dog Vachon during his heyday. It sounds like he was a larger than life character. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: Exponential

Exponential Exponential by Adam Cesare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a janitor smuggles a laboratory mouse home, he has no idea of the horror he has unleashed upon the southwest. Holed up in a desert dive, two meth heads, an ex-cop, and a gambler have to find a way past the ravenous beast and to freedom...

As I get older, I'm rediscovering my fondness for gore-splattered creature features. Exponential, Adam Cesare's homage to The Blob and road horror movies, fits the bill.

Exponential is an homage to The Blob and it shows. Only instead of a giant amoeba, the blob of Exponential is a gelatinous pile of dissolving organs and bone fragments. Kind of like the contents of a Taco Bell burrito.

The group of strangers stranded someplace and threatened by an unspeakable menace is one of my favorite horror tropes and Cecsare mines the vein pretty hard. I was at once reminded of Tremors, Maximum Overdrive, and a hundred other B movies from the 80s and early 90s. The characters were surprisingly rich. Kate mourns a dead child. Ken tries to do the right thing despite being a meth dealer. Nez couldn't hack being a cop anymore. Vicki runs from her childhood.

The carnage level is very high. I never felt like the characters were working with a net, which is a good thing because that net would be saturated with blood and bits of monster before long. The ending was satisfying but I'm hoping Son of Exponential shows up one of these days.

Exponential is a shitty 80s horror movie in book form. I mean that in the best of ways. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews