Tag Archives: Sinister Grin Press

We Are Always Watching – Hunter Shea

IMG_0433

 

Hunter Shea has to be the hardest working author in the horror genre right now. It seems as if, in the past year, he’s releasing a new offering every month or two. That’s quite the pace considering the turmoil the industry is in currently. They say during hard times that the cream rises to the top. We Are Always Watching is Shea on the top. I dove into this baby during a group read and it knocked my socks off.

West and his family have stumbled upon hard times. His dad was involved in a bad car accident and is now struggling with a crippling case of vertigo. Its so bad that he has lost his job and can’t work. With their money drying up and the bills becoming insurmountable, they are forced to move in with West’s crabby and contentious Grandpa Abraham in his old and spooky house in rural Pennsylvania. Upon arrival, things get weird for West right away. Mysterious and ominous messages begin appearing including one that says, We Are Always Watching. Grandpa Abraham takes them all in stride without shedding much light on them, only saying that he has it all under control. Does Grandpa really know what’s going on or doesn’t he care because he spends most of the day getting drunk down and the VFW? With West’s mom working all day in the city, his dad a mess from his vertigo, and with no cell phone or internet access to the outside world, he has no one to turn to until one day he meets the beautiful neighbor’s daughter. She seems just as mysterious as Grandpa Abraham. Is there really someone (or some thing) that has been writing these messages or is the house really haunted?

We Are Always Watching is a tension-filled pot-boiler with some great characters that transcend the story from being a good one to being a great one. Shea really has done something here and I hope he continues to flex this new found muscle he has.

 

5 Spinning Ghosts out of 5

 

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://kenmckinley.wordpress.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

Advertisements

Exorcist Falls – Jonathan Janz

IMG_0417

 

Janz has done it again. I’ve been crowing about how great Exorcist Road was ever since I turned the last page two years ago. Much to my delight, Janz is continuing where he left off with Father Jason Crowder exercising young Casey Hartman’s demon from his teenage body. Unfortuanately, the demon didn’t go away. Neither did the Sweet Sixteen Killer. Now it’s up to Father Crowder to finish what he started and bring the killer to justice and dispose of the demon once and for all.

Exorcist Falls also contains the first story, Exorcist Road, between it’s covers. This makes it convenient for those that haven’t read it yet or who would like to reacquaint themselves with it since it’s original publisher, Samhain Publishing, closed it’s horror doors earlier this year. Janz’s writing is superb and you’ll find yourself amazed at the vocabulary this guy has. I’m not too proud to admit that I used the DEFINE feature on Kindle many times and I’d like to think of myself as well read. Not only is his word choices spot on, but his characters really make the story come to life. Danny Hartman is as despicable as they come and the demon, Malephar, is no cherub. I also enjoyed how the story had me guessing the whole way as it’s evolution was revealed one page at a time. And lets not forget the red stuff because Janz sure didn’t. There are definitely some scenes that will make even the strongest constitution weaken and cringe. All in all, an absolute blast to read and I’m happy to find out from the man himself that there will be a third installment in the Exorcist series. I’m all ready to hit the pre-order button just as soon as it pops up on Amazon.

5 Demons Controlling a Razor Blade out of 5
This ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://kenmckinley.wordpress.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

Blue Demon – David Bernstein

IMG_0415

 

The Blue Demon is a cartoon character that Dan used to watch when he was a child. The cartoon only lasted three years, but when he stumbled upon the series many years later, he immediately wanted to share it with his son, Cal. Cal loved it and this became something that father and son could bond over. The Blue Demon exacted revenge on the enemies of those it protected, at least that’s how story goes. The rumor has it that the Blue Demon legend was around long before the cartoon came out. So, when Dan happens to find a limited edition Blue Demon action figure from back in the day, little did he know how true the legend was.

Bernstein’s story reads like an episode of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories from back in the Eighties, except this one has teeth…and claws. He does a nice job keeping the story moving without becoming too hokey. The plight of Cal growing up is one that’ll tug on your heart strings and that breathes life into a story that you can figure out fairly easy what the outcome will be. With Bernstein’s wonderful characterization, you won’t care because the fun was in the journey and not the destination.

4 Amputations out of 5

This ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://kenmckinley.wordpress.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

Dream Woods – Patrick Lacey

img_0402

 

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
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://kenmckinley.wordpress.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

Renovation – Sara Brooke

img_0375

 

The Brennier family have moved from their Miami digs to small town, northern Florida hamlet of Oak Shade. Soon after Mikey and his wife Barbara move into their new house, it starts raining and the roof starts leaking. Ah, the joys of being a new homeowner. As Mikey is out looking up at his roof, a construction van stops by and two greasy, non-assuming guys hop out and offer their services. Mikey, not wanting the damage to get worse, takes the guys up on their offer. Guess he should’ve checked some references first. All hell breaks loose as soon as the guys start work. The leaks get worse, mold is found, cockroaches, and Barbara starts acting funny and smelling like the stinky construction guys. Not good.

Renovation is my first read of Sara Brooke and it comes off as the bastard child of John Saul and a bad Lifetime movie. The beginning was so painful to read that I almost quit a few chapters in. Then it started getting better to only get ridiculous at the end. In fact, the story should’ve ended at 90%, but then it started all over again for no apparent reason. The dialogue was clunky and amateurish, especially when Brooke tried to ladle on the numerous sex scenes. In, what I take was her attempt at titillation, came out embarrassing to read. The same way it’s embarrassing listening to someone that thinks they’re a great singer and they end up sounding like a cat yowling on a fence.

It’s really too bad that I can’t give a better review. There’s actually a good premise here. The story had the makings of a horror tale out of the 80’s, like what J.N. Williamson used to write, and thats a good thing. Unfortunately, instead of fleshed out characters, we were given paper-thin ones that were amazingly unrealistic, bad dialogue, and horrible descriptions of sex scenes.
2 1/2 Goat-headed Devils out of 5
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://kenmckinley.wordpress.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

http://www.amazon.com/gp/profile/A2J1JOKW56F2YT

Mayan Blue – Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason

image

 

Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason are described as “The Sisters of Slaughter” and Mayan Blue is their debut. And a confused debut it is.

Four students and their assistant professor head for the mountains of Georgia where they are to meet up with their professor who feels he’s made a great discovery that will change the way history books are written. Once near the rendezvous point, all hell breaks loose. In what they think is the professor crying out for help, Wes and Alissa go off to find him. What they discover an open doorway to a Mayan underworld located deep within a cave inside the mountain. Mayans in Georgia? I like the idea. Unfortunately, that’s about as good as it gets.

Mayan Blue had some promise. The premise of a Mayan underworld in Georgia had lots of possibilities. Instead, it ended up being one long chase scene where way too little happens. The beginning of the story starts out as a B-horror movie style story. Annoying cannon fodder characters that scream I’m going to be killed before the story even gets going. Then it opens up into the Mayan underworld with good shapeshifting characters. Then the last 1/2 to 1/3 ends up being a murky chase scene where characters are introduced for no apparent reason adding nothing to the story. Our heroes get injured so many times that you start wondering why they haven’t dropped long ago from blood loss. Too little character and plot development dampens what could’ve been a great story.
You can see the talent is there. They simply need to focus on tightening up the story, spending more time on plot.

2 1/2 Sacrifices out of 5

This ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://kenmckinley.wordpress.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

A Mixed Bag of Blood – David Bernstein

image

 

A collection of short stories from David Bernstein. Here we go:
The Trojan Plushy –

Another revenge tale that combines the werewolf with witchcraft and the Trojan Horse. Has a Twilight Zone-kind of feel.

4 out of 5 stars

The Booglin –

You’ll think twice the next time you have a booger stuck and it won’t come out. Fun, silly story.

4 out of 5 stars

Eaten Un-Alive –

Life isn’t easy when you’re a vampire in a zombie apocalypse.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
It’s Nice Not To Have To Share –

Georgia shares everything with her sister Gerri, but some things she wants to keep to herself.

3 out of 5 stars
Invasion –

Aliens plan to overtake earth by imitating a cockroach and using the neighborhood adolescent psycho.

4 out of 5 stars

Samurai Zombie Killer

A zombie contagion in the water supply of the local samurai warrior.

3 out of 5 stars

Small Town, Big Trouble –

The werewolf legend to help explain Sasquatch. I love it.

5 out of 5 stars

Bad Cutlery –

When good knives go bad. A fun possessed object story.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Potty Mouth –

This is one messed up story! I won’t even try to explain it. It’s simply something you’ll have to experience for yourself. Kudos to Bernstein for probably the most far out there original tale I have ever read! You need professional help, sir!

5 out of 5 stars

STD –

If you weren’t convinced to practice safe sex before, you will be by the time you finish this story.

5 out of 5 stars
All in all, a nice collection of macabre tales. There were only a couple that didn’t do it for me. The rest were fun and there were even some that I have to question Bernstein’s sanity or blood alcohol level. Good stuff.

Overall:

4 1/2 Bags of Blood out of 5
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://kenmckinley.wordpress.com

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley