Ravenous – Ray Garton

imageA woman is brutally raped and her attacker is taken to the morgue. When the sheriff goes to the morgue to see if he can identify the dead assailant, the body isn’t there. Soon a naked man is spotted running out of the hospital’s ER doors. The sheriff sends his deputy after the man and the deputy ends up brutally murdered in a disemboweling that is determined was done by a large, unseen, wolf-like animal. At the scene of one killing, a mysterious man shoots a “killer” leaving a mysterious, half-changed body that resembles both a human and a wolf. The strangers informs the sheriff that “he’s got a werewolf infestation” in his small Northern California town of Big Rock and that its spread as a STD.

I have to give Garton an A for creativity. I love how he updates the lycanthrope mythology and interweaves it in a tightly written thrill fest. The main characters are distinctive and no one is above being the next victim.The blood pours from the pages as the carnage piles up. The werewolves are vicious and show no mercy. This is my first read of Garton’s work and I highly recommend it.

4 1/2 silver bullets out of 5
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imageSome kind of unknown and useen animal is killing the area ranchers cattle. The sheriff is stumped. Experts from the university have never encountered anything that like it. The ranchers are tired of finding their livelihood dead in the pastures the next morning and are losing patience waiting for someone to provide them answers. Keith is one of them. He’s had his run-ins with the sheriff and the local band of punks. He was considered a loose cannon before he lost his wife. Now, without her calming influence, Keith has turned to alcohol to help him face his demons and get him through his day. On a night half drunk and slumbering on his porch, he’s awakened by a high pitch squeal in his pasture. What he finds, attacking one of his cattle, is pure fury and stinks of the grave.

Burden Kansas is my first read from Ryker and I can’t say enough about it. The characters are perfectly flawed and realistic. The small town rural setting reminds me of the lonliness and tone found in the movie Near Dark. The pacing is excellent. The relationships between the characters are realistic and add wonderful depth and layers to the story. Ryker’s vampires are how they should be – fast, furious, and definitely do not sparkle. Great, great story that has caused me to download more of his work before I was even done with this one.

5 bloody fangs out of 5
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Blood And Rain – Glenn Rolfe

imageI feel that you need to be prepared properly to enjoy Blood And Rain, the latest offering from the up-and-coming Glenn Rolfe. Glenn is yet another author from Maine to throw his hat into the horror genre ring. Now before you Stephen King purists out there yawn and let out a “Ho Hum”, you need to check your ego at the door. While the state of Maine has given us horror addicts King, Ketchum and others, Rolfe proves that there must be something in the New England water that breeds creativity. Blood And Rain is a werewolf tale that is how werewolf tales are meant to be told. Fast, furious, and balls to the wall.

Gilson Creek, Maine is that kind of small town that we all know and love. Its familiar and comfortable, like we’ve been there before, maybe even lived someplace like it ourselves. It’s slow paced, blue-collar and everyone knows each other. But not all has come up roses in this idyllic town’s past. In 1997, a set of killings during a full moon cycle caused the residents to check their calendars and lock their doors everytime the moon is full. The sheriff at the time proclaimed it was from a wild animal attack, probably a mountain lion, even though a mountain lion hadn’t been witnessed in those parts since 1936. Soon afterwards, he resigned as sheriff and promptly checked hiimself into a mental hospital amidst a breakdown. The deputy at the time, Joe Fischer, is now the new sheriff and a new batch of killings has started up again after all these years and wouldn’t you know it – the moon happened to be full. Gilson Creek isn’t unlike any other small town. They all have their secrets. But for Gilson Creek, their secret is back and its spilling blood. A lot of it.

Blood And Rain is not Charles Dickens. But Blood And Rain is a wild midnight ride with the lights off, your hair on fire, and the music cranked to 11 and should be viewed as such. Rolfe is new and it shows. This story has some warts – the pacing can be off a touch, you’ll change POV without warning, but this book is fun. A real page turner. I flew though it at breakneck speed and its been a while since a book has captured me like this one. The blood is spilled by the gallons and the carnage is brutal. Rolfe’s werewolves enjoy ripping limbs off. I’ve seen blurbs that compare him to Stephen King and Richard Laymon. I’d have to agree and disagree. Rolfe tells a tale that captures your attention like King without all of the wordiness. He also spills the red stuff like Laymon without the rediculous silly characters and dialogue. As you can probably tell, I’m now a fan. I think you will be too.

I received an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review.
5 bloody appendages out of 5
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The Grief Frequency – Kealan Patrick Burke

imageGuilt. It can eat you from the inside out until you’re hollow inside. Paul learns first-hand the power guilt can have over you when he convinces his wife that they should attempt to drive home instead of waiting for a storm to pass. As luck would have it, Paul loses control and his wife is killed in the accident. What ensues is wave after wave of immense grief that is escalated over the breaking point by his father-in-law, who piles it on by blaming Paul for killing his daughter.

Burke really creates a dark and morbid atmosphere here. I can’t imagine what this poor guy had to be going through, but Burke does a great job at putting the reader in his shoes. His descriptive ability and vocabulary in Grief Frequency is indeed impressive. I’ve always thought Burke could be an upper echelon writer. The problem I’ve had with some of his other efforts has been the suspension of disbelief. I simply had a hard time buying what his characters were doing. In Grief Frequency, he puts it all together and it packs an impressive punch to the midsection.

4 1/2 mangled guard rails out of 5
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Valley Of The Scarecrow – Gord Rollo

imageA homage to the slasher films of the 1980s with a few twists and turns. A body is found inside the walls of an old Iowa theater in a hidden sealed room. Now in an assisted-living facility, Kelly’s grandfather has been harboring a secret from his childhood past for all these years. A forgotten small town deserted since the 1930s, buried in the thick woods of rural Iowa. The old, dilapitated church still boarded up after all this time and inside still remains the Reverend Joshua Miller where he was last left by the towns people – lashed to the church’s old wooden cross. His body mumified from decades of intense, dry heat and intertwined with old, dried cornstalks that have grown up through the rotting floor. The townspeople long gone to their graves thinking that the evil that took over Reverend Miller and caused them to turn against the town’s founder was dead too. But evil never dies. It simply waits for it’s time to be resurrected again.

I loved the premise of Valley of the Scarecrow. The Iowa setting was different than most stories and I loved the back history of what happened in Miller’s Grove in the 1930s. It gave the slasher story a unique place to grow from. Thats a hard thing to do from a tired horror genre. Rollo weaves the interestiing characters and events from the past into the present day storyline. He succeeds for the most part, but still falls in some of the traps that make the slasher scene a worn out one. You have the group of college age kids – the oversexed boyfriend and girlfriend, the awkward artistic type, the slutty bimbo, the token black guy, and the normal, all-american girl that you know is going to survive until the end. The other thing that kept sticking out like a sore thumb is that Rollo kept having his midwestern characters say the word Bloody all the time – bloody hell, I can’t see a bloody thing, it might be worth a bloody fortune, etc. I’m from the midwest and I’ve been to Iowa. I have yet to run across any native Iowan that says the word bloody to describe anything that doesn’t have blood running down it. Also, a couple of the characters come across a stash of Agent Orange that their dad happened to have stockpiled. OK, I needed this to be a little more fleshed out. Where the hell would he get a banned military defoliant that was never legal to use in the states? It would be like pulling a fully operational tank out of the barn without explaining how they got their hands on it. But other than that, the story was rather enjoyable. If you can overlook a few of the flaws, there are enough creepy moments to make it worth the read. Rollo does a good job at wrapping the material he has all together.

3 1/2 dessicated scarecrows out of 5
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