Tag Archives: Horror Review

Among Prey – Alan Ryker

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Character development, character development, character development. What Ryker is able to do in only 65 pages, most authors can’t accomplish in 265 pages. Among Prey is told from multiple character’s POV and you’d think that it would be distracting to the story. Au contraire, it adds richness and depth here, another testament to Ryker’s storytelling prowess.

In Among Prey, we have Amber, a pill-popping worker at a build-a-doll store that meets Bobby, the 7-foot mentally handicapped behemoth that comes in one slow Wednesday morning. Where many people would be terrified at the silent hulking man, Amber takes a shine to him. That is until the day she realizes that the dolls Bobby has been building in her store look amazingly like the little girls that have been kidnapped in the area the past few months. The story wraps around itself nicely as we’re introduced to Carol, Bobby’s caregiving nurse and then Bobby’s POV. This one is a pageturner, folks. The ending may be a bit abrupt for some, but it left me satisfied that I had read a well-crafted thriller. Loved it.

5 Bruised Doll Heads out of 5
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Dream Woods – Patrick Lacey

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Vince and Audra’s marriage is more than on the rocks, it’s on life support. Audra has already left Vince once in the middle of the night and then couldn’t go through with leaving her twin boy’s, one of which is diabetic, and her husband all alone and returned. Vince is looking for anything that can save their marriage. He turns to a mysterious billboard that he sees on his way to work one morning. Its advertising Dream Woods, an old amusement park that burned to the ground when he was a kid. Apparently, it’s opened back up and Vince is encapsulated with excitement at the prospect of being able to share the awesome experience he had as a kid with his family. But is Dream Woods really open for business? Especially, after what all happened so many years ago?

 

Have you ever woke up from a dream that seemed so realistic while you were sleeping that you’re left in a fog when you awake, half in reality and half stuck in the dream, and it takes you a little bit to clear the fog out of your head? At first, the dream feels so realistic and then, after a while, you realize how silly it was and you can’t believe that you ever thought it was real. That’s kind of how you feel when you start reading Dream Woods. You have to be ready for it. Lacey’s latest isn’t a straight forward story told in the realistic here and now, and that’s what tripped me up for the first 1/3 to 1/2 of it. It should be read as a messed up fairy tale. Think of it as if C.S. Lewis wrote about an old, Disney World-esque theme park in rural Massachusetts and then Clive Barker and Bentley Little got a hold of the first draft while tripping on acid and made some revisions. As you can imagine, you have to let your imagination go and have fun with it. It’s not meant to suspend your disbelief. It’s meant to steer you into an almost comic book/nightmare type of world. If you can get past that, you’ll enjoy Dream Woods. Lacey’s story is energetic and well written. But it’s kind of stuck in the middle. It’s not straight forward enough to be taken seriously and it’s not so over-the-top that it’s a pure fantasy, and maybe that’s what Lacey intended. The characters are well rounded for a novella length story. But, Audra comes across as more annoyingly ungrateful than a lost soul trying to find herself and that makes it hard to root for her. The gore is poured on by the bucketful, but the people that are being offed are the extras on the set. You don’t get to know any of them and it becomes kind of numbing when faceless people are killed by the trainload. I go back and forth on this book. There were parts that I could really get into and then there were paths that Lacey took that I wish he would’ve went a different direction. That doesn’t mean that I think it’s bad. Not at all. But, it’s kind of like being in the mood for a traditional pizza and then getting some version with broccoli, goat cheese and pine nuts on it. While that may not be a bad thing, it’s not what you had in mind when your taste buds were all primed for pepperoni and mushrooms.

 

 

3 Blood Stained Mascots out of 5
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They Thirst – Robert McCammon

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I’m not sure how this one slipped through my fingers. I could’ve sworn that I’d read They Thirst many, many years ago, but for some odd reason I couldn’t remember much at all about it. So, I figured it was time for a re-read. Well, now I know why I don’t remember much about it – I never read the damn thing, in the first place! And oh what a treat this has been. Imagine discovering a new book by your favorite author written smack dab in the time period of when they did their best writing. That’s what They Thirst was for me! Now, McCammon lists this as one of his early books that he’s not very proud of and, yes, you can see a few things that might not fly these days. But, keep in mind, this was written back in 1981. Many things written in ’81 wouldn’t fly today! So, in my opinion, McCammon should be very proud of this one.

Andy Palatazin is the head of homicide in L.A. and is working night and day to catch The Roach, a serial killer that roams the streets strangling prostitutes. Soon, Andy will have to deal with an evil that has followed him to the states from the old country. One that makes The Roach seem like child’s play. Gayle is a reporter for the Los Angeles Tattler, a National Enquirer type of tabloid rag that Andy despises having to give any type of interview. Gayle, who is hot on the story of The Roach, longs for her big break that will allow her to work for a respected newspaper. Soon, Gayle will come face to face with a far greater story of evil. In East L.A., Father Silvera works tirelessly to keep the drug dealers out of his parish. Soon, Father will discover that his parishioners have a much greater evil overtaking them than addiction. For Wes, an up-and-coming comedian, he’s looking at a bright future with his African girlfriend, Solange, who also happens to be sensitive towards the spirit world. Soon, Wes will find that Solange’s talents are much more than parlor tricks. At the top of the hill overlooking L.A., an evil has moved into the abandoned castle that eccentric horror movie actor, Orleen Kronstein, resided in many years ago. And this evil is looking to grab L.A. by the throat.

They Thirst is a fun-filled romp of a vampire story done right. The characters and the atmosphere are perfect. Think of how the movie The Lost Boys was done (six years after They Thirst was written, mind you) and you’ll get an idea of the tone of this one. McCammon’s greatest strength is his wonderful characters that you feel like you know and They Thirst is no different. Top notch all the way. Sink your fangs into this one immediately!
5 dug up coffins out of 5
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The Lost – Jack Ketchum

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Right off the bat, The Lost starts with a bang (pardon the pun). Ray was a nutcase when he was a teenager and blew two girls away that were camping. His two friends, Tim and Jennifer, were sheep when they watched him do it and just stood there with their mouths open. They didn’t turn him in. They didn’t try to stop him. Nothing. Why did he do it? Just to see how it felt. Four years later, Ray is still just as big of a nutcase. The only difference is that he hasn’t killed anyone in those four years since. Tim and Jennifer are still the loyal sheep that follow Ray’s every move without question. The police were unable to pin the murders on Ray, but the officers on duty, Charlie and Ed, knew damn well that Ray did it. However, they didn’t have the proof the bust him. So, for 4 years, he walked a free man. But four years is a long time and Ray has never had anyone push his buttons to see what he would really do if his temper reached critical mass…until now.

The Lost is a fantastic tale told in Ketchum’s patented straight-forward way. He captures small town America. The characters are amazingly realistic and feel like you know someone exactly like them. When I say Ray is a nutcase, I mean it. On the surface, to the people that don’t really know him, he only seems like a harmless hood. But his evil is constantly simmering under a lid that is barely on and just waiting to go flying off. Those are the scariest kind of monsters. Realistic and unassuming until one day…BLAM! Ketchum does an amazing job ratcheting up the dread until the final act. If you haven’t read Ketchum yet, this one isn’t a bad one to start off with. Pick it up. You won’t be disappointed.

 

4 1/2 Bullets through the Eye out of 5
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Savages – Greg Gifune

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Greg Gifune has outdone himself yet again. He has established himself firmly as one of the finest horror authors out there and anyone that has read my reviews knows that he’s definitely one of my favorites. Simply put, I have yet to read anything mediocre by him. If he has a clunker in his catalog, it hasn’t passed my eyes yet. And that brings me to Savages which, in my opinion, is an absolute masterpiece.

A group go sailing in the remote South Pacific when a storm sinks the boat they were on. Drifting for days, one of the crew dead, a passenger missing, and the captain along with another passenger badly injured, they fight dehydration, the scorching sun, and hungry sharks to finally drift onto an uninhabited and uncharted island that no one even knew existed. With no supplies, no tools, no food, and barely any clothing on, the harsh reality of their bleak situation hits home like a ton of bricks. Just when they thought that things couldn’t get any worse, they discover that their deserted island isn’t so deserted and it’s inhabitant isn’t happy to see them.

The strength in Ginfune’s tale is it’s realistic characters and the way he ratchets up the dread as the story goes along. I’m not joking. You could literally cut the tension in this book with a knife. He also adds some fantastic top secret WWII setting in here. Damn this was so good. I’m going to stop drooling all over this one and give it to you straight – quit reading reading reviews trying to decide what book you want to buy next. Your search is now officially over. Immediately grab this one and start reading!

5 Hidden Tunnels out of 5
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Ghoul – Marc Alexander

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Ghoul was originally published in 1980 under the name Mark Ronson. Fast forward to 2016 and the same story is published under the name Marc Alexander. Why? I have no clue. But what I do know is that Ghoul one of the better pulp horror to come out of the early 1980s. It reminds me greatly of the type of slow-burn horror that J.N. Williamson or Charles Grant used to write and there are days that I miss that style. So, if you’re one that likes that kind of horror…

In the fictitious Middle Eastern country of Abu Sabbah, Julia Sword is an archeologist that discovers a sealed tomb after a landslide uncovers it in the Valley of the Jinn. Sound spooky? It’s supposed to. It seems that this valley was named after King Solomon had a problem with an evil Jinn and had the power to seal it away so that it wouldn’t cause any more trouble. Add a few thousand years and Julia is on the brink of busting open this hidden tomb thinking that it contains an unknown Egyptian mummy. Her rich father is the bankroll for this expedition and Julia has an admirer in the King of Abu Sabbah, King Hamid. It all plays like a female Howard Carter scenario. In fact, Carter is mentioned a couple of times throughout the telling. Now, throw in the Middle Eastern version of The Spy Who Loved Me James Bond type, Israeli Head of Intelligence, Moshe Leohr and the Arabian spy love interest, Leliah, as well as the evil uncle hell bent on taking over, Sheikh Ahmid. If that wasn’t enough, we have a tall drink of water love interest for Julia, named Andrew, and a Manson-like cult hanging out in the valley just waiting for shit to go down with the opening of the tomb. Last, but certainly not least, we have an attempt by the bad guy uncle to extract information out of the Israeli by hooking up a set of jumper cables to his balls. Yes, that would make me sing like a canary and throw my own mother under the bus, if that was what was needed to bring that particular torture to a stop.

While my description does sound a bit hokey, it actually works better than what you’d think. The story really does have a nice slow burn to it with a decent payoff at the end. Yes, the King is unlike anything you’d hear about in the Middle East on CNN today (or in 1980, for that matter). Things are a little too liberal and friendly to the English to be believable, but it is a fun, pulpy horror offering that screams I’m From The Eighties. Pop some popcorn, don’t think too much about the holes, and enjoy the ride!

4 Hidden Tombs out of 5

*This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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The Night Parade – Ronald Malfi

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There are writers and then there is Ronald Malfi. From the first chapter of The Night Parade, it was evident that Malfi’s caliber of writing was a notch above what I’m used to seeing from the genre. The verbiage and imagery raised the writing into something majestic. It makes me want to throw away my laptop and quit pretending that I could ever write something of this quality. OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but you get where I’m going with this.

The Night Parade starts out with David and his daughter Ellie on the run from the government. There’s an illness going around called Wanderer’s Folly and it makes people hallucinate and bleed out of their noses before they either drop dead, kill themselves or kill someone else. The CDC doesn’t know if it’s spread by air or contact or if it’s somehow imbedded in our DNA and something has caused it to turn on in some people. All they know is David’s wife, Kathy, was immune before they killed her off testing her to death and that Ellie is also immune…and they want her.

The story has a nice slow build up that ratchets the tension to the breaking point. Malfi also uses a series of flashbacks that slowly unravel the past slowly before our eyes. It’s extremely effective in teasing the reader with just enough information that only leads to a whole slew of more questions that need answering. The characters are vivid and masterfully three-dimensional where you can literally feel the tension and exhaustion that David is going through in your bones. The Night Parade has shades of Firestarter, Swan Song, and The Dead Zone all mixed within, yet at no time does it feel derivative. It has everything that I look for in a great story – strong characters, realistic dialogue, a slow build up of tension that leads to a climactic ending, and a lasting impact that keeps you thinking about the story long after you’ve closed the cover.

5 Oriole Eggs out of 5
* I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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The Night Parade by Ronald Malfi
Kensington Horror
Media Kit
Publicist/Marketing: Erin Al-Mehairi
Contact: hookofabook@hotmail.com

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Follow along the tour with these hashtags: #TheNightParade #WanderersFolly #apocalyptichorror
The Night Parade, Synopsis

• File Size: 1261 KB
• Print Length: 384 pages
• Publisher: Kensington (July 26, 2016)
• Publication Date: July 26, 2016
• Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services

First the birds disappeared.
Then the insects took over.
Then the madness began . . .

They call it Wanderer’s Folly–a disease of delusions, of daydreams and nightmares. A plague threatening to wipe out the human race.

After two years of creeping decay, David Arlen woke up one morning thinking that the worst was over. By midnight, he’s bleeding and terrified, his wife is dead, and he’s on the run in a stolen car with his eight-year-old daughter, who may be the key to a cure.

Ellie is a special girl. Deep. Insightful. And she knows David is lying to her. Lying about her mother. Lying about what they’re running from. And lying about what he sees when he takes his eyes off the road . . .

Ronald Malfi, Biography

Ronald Malfi is an award-winning author of many novels and novellas in the horror, mystery, and thriller categories from various publishers, including The Night Parade, this summer’s 2016 release from Kensington.

In 2009, his crime drama, Shamrock Alley, won a Silver IPPY Award. In 2011, his ghost story/mystery novel, Floating Staircase, was a finalist for the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award for best novel, a Gold IPPY Award for best horror novel, and the Vincent Preis International Horror Award. His novel Cradle Lake garnered him the Benjamin Franklin Independent Book Award (silver) in 2014. December Park, his epic childhood story, won the Beverly Hills International Book Award for suspense in 2015.

Most recognized for his haunting, literary style and memorable characters, Malfi’s dark fiction has gained acceptance among readers of all genres.

He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1977, and eventually relocated to the Chesapeake Bay area, where he currently resides with his wife and two children.

Visit with Ronald Malfi on Facebook, Twitter (@RonaldMalfi), or at http://www.ronmalfi.com.

Praise for Ronald Malfi

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The setting, the words, the ending. Color me impressed.” –Melissa Reads on The Night Parade

“The Night Parade has a creepy vibe and some genuinely terrifying moments. I even teared up a time or two. It’s everything I look for in a great read.” – Frank Errington on The Night Parade

“One cannot help but think of writers like Peter Straub and Stephen King.”
—FearNet

“Malfi is a skillful storyteller.”—New York Journal of Books

“A complex and chilling tale….terrifying.”—Robert McCammon

“Malfi’s lyrical prose creates an atmosphere of eerie claustrophobia…haunting.”—Publishers Weekly

“A thrilling, edge-of-your-seat ride that should not be missed.”
—Suspense Magazine

Purchase Links

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
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If you are a blogger, author, or member of the media and you would like to feature The Night Parade or Ronald Malfi in a review or interview, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com. Thanks!