Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Horror Library Volume II"

As promised, today I am posting a review of a TRUE horror anthology, published by a small Indie publishing company, Cutting Block Press. While Cutting Block Press has several anthologies currently in print, my favorite of the bunch has to be this one, Horror Library Volume 2.

Horror Library Volume 2 is a collection of short horror stories, each gorier and more disturbing than the last. In total, there are thirty stories in all, with titles ranging from Filth Eater (by Glen Krisch) to Preacher Mike and the Black Cross Revelation (by Kevin L. Donihe). My favorite part of this collection is that it remains true to the genre of horror, with very little fantasy (no paranormal romance here). Many of the stories are gruesome, while others offer a subtler, more psychological form of terror. Regardless of the form in which it is served, however, the horror in each handpicked story is disturbing and satisfying.

Frankly, I am generally more of a novel (or at best a novella) fan; in most cases I simply do not enjoy short story anthologies as much. I rarely feel as though I get enough out of a short story to be completely satisfied with my reading experience. That was not the case with Horror Library Volume 2; each story was clearly chosen carefully, and each was a thrilling and entertaining read in and of itself.
Among my favorites of the bunch were I am Meat, I am in Daycare (by Cameron Pierce) and Apple (by Marc Paoletti). The stories were extremely different from one another, but each was my horrific cup of tea. I am Meat, I am in Daycare is nothing short of a totally disturbing surreal reading experience, strange and unpredictable. It begins with a daycare provider agreeing provide services to a disturbed man, who brings in a hunk of meat that is his son. Things quickly spiral to new heights of weirdness. It was old-school Bentley Little-ish in its surrealism, which I loved.

Apple was a different form of horror entirely, focusing more on the psychological aspect of horror, and (as the name implies) demonstrates that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Generation after generation of sociopathic killers are born and bred, with devastating results for those they are contracted to kill. After all, it is nothing more than a job.

All in all, I really loved Horror Library Volume 2, and I really have to give some respect to the folks over at Cutting Block Press. They have set up a very efficient system that allows readers to purchase their books, as well as books from their affiliates, directly from the site. Excerpts of each individual story are available for review, which is also a big plus. I have to give this one a 4 ½ star review, and I would encourage anyone with a penchant for true horror to pick up any of the volumes of this stellar anthology series.

Finally, I would not be doing this book (or series) and kind of justice if I failed to mention the truly exceptional cover art. It really is fantastic, and sets the tone for the book in an incredibly dramatic fashion, and between stories I can’t stop myself from looking at it again and again.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New and Improved Reviews on the Way!!

To my followers and you newbies, I must confess that I have allowed my blog to drift away from its original purpose -- to review ACTUAL horror and Fantasy books, to the exclusion of all others.

So, what does this mean? After a brief (weekend or so long) hiatus, I will be back with reviews of books that I feel actually fit the bill. Meaning blood and guts horror and graphic and disturbing fantasy.

I am already in talks with several authors, publishers and publicists to review their newly released or up and coming work. Many of these books are Indies, and they contain the kind of content that most mainstream publishing houses shy away from. In addition, I have found a local Indie bookstore where I have found an absolute treasure trove of old-school horror that is just waiting to be recycled.

So be ready for some real horror. As more and more of my contemporary faves have begun to let me down with their pandering releases, I have simply decided that it is time to look elsewhere for reading material that meets my expectation so that I can write reviews that are suitable in the eyes of my readers, both old and new.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

To Tempt the Wolf by Terry Spear

Before I go any further, I should warn readers that To Tempt the Wolf is the third book in a series. If you are one of those people who can’t handle starting a series in the middle (you know who you are – and you can count me among your peers), you may want to read Heart of the Wolf and Destiny of the Wolf before diving into this volume. That being said, I didn’t actually know that this was the third book in a series when I started reading it, and it was as though I was reading a standalone book. I didn’t feel as though I was missing anything (which can sometimes happen), and while I will now go back and read the first two installments in this series, it really isn’t necessary to the enjoyment of this particular novel.

To Tempt the Wolf is a paranormal romance centering around werewolves, if you want to categorize it that way. However, it is also full of adventure and mystery, and should appeal to faithful readers of numerous genres. It is the story of photographer Tessa Anderson, who has had an inexplicable lifelong obsession with wolves. Scene one finds Tessa photographing a blazing California wildfire, and questioning her sanity for doing so. Her concentration, however, soon turns to taking pictures of a wolf that she spots lurking closely around. As she continues to take its pictures, an inkling of recognition begins to grow, and she has the funniest feeling of déjà vu, as though she has photographed this same wolf before. As she is taking pictures, the wolf charges her, and she barely makes it to her car before being attacked.

After returning home to her newly inherited cabin on the Oregon Coast, Tessa stumbles upon a naked man while collecting firewood on the beach. He is injured severely (near death); apparently as a result of his injuries, he is suffering from amnesia. The only memory he has is his name, which is Hunter. Despite the degree of his injuries, Hunter immediately realizes that Tessa is being stalked. Living alone in a fairly isolated area of Oregon, she is an easy target, and Hunter is determined to eliminate the stalker. And to help get her brother (who has been falsely accused of murder) released from prison.

While the task at hand may sound simple enough, winter is fast closing in on this desolate little stretch of land that Tessa calls home, bringing with it all of the fury one would expect from an Oregon winter. In addition, repeated threats are made against both Hunter and Tessa, and Hunter (bless his heart) doesn’t know who he is, where he’s come from, or who may have left him for dead. All in all, it made for a read that was at once charming, steamy, romantic, adventurous and mysterious.

While I am (admittedly) a paranormal romance buff, I also tend to prefer Vamp society to that of the Were’s. That being said, I loved this book. I will be hitting up in the very near future to procure volumes 1 and 2, and after reading them, I will be eagerly awaiting the release of volume 4, Legend of the White Wolf, in early 2010. Easily a 4 ½ star read –thoroughly engrossing and entertaining.

***BTW, Congratulations to Eleni!! She was the winner of my To Tempt the Wolf giveaway, and her copy of the book should be in the mail even as I post this. Thanks so much to the wonderful Danielle at SourceBooks for making it happen!!***

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

As promised, here is my review of the recently released Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. As those of you who are familiar with my blog, and who may have read my recent reviews of Pride and Prejudice sequels probably already know, the addition of “vampire” to the title of any book significantly raises my excitement level. There’s just something about the dark side of fiction that really piques my interest, and seeing this take on a classic work of fiction really makes my day :)

So, to say that I was excited when I was offered to the opportunity to review Amanda Grange’s newest release is an understatement, and I must admit that that when the book arrived in the mail, I was waiting impatiently to get my fix. I have to start off by saying that I loved the pacing and the tone of the book; it was very much in sync with Austen’s original, which is something that I always look for when reading sequels written by new or alternate authors.

As most of you must already suspect, in Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, our old friend Mr. Darcy is harboring a deep, dark secret. (Can you guess what it is?) The book begins just before Pride and Prejudice left off – briefly chronicling Lizzy’s wedding day, and then moving on to her wedding night and subsequent wedding trip. One of the things that struck me about this book was the lack of intimacy between Lizzy and Darcy. While it is rather shrugged off in the book, most new brides would (I believe) have been more put off by such a lack of attention by their new husband. While it was certainly a different time then, Lizzy was a different kind of girl, and I felt that she was uncharacteristically shy in this aspect.

As Mr. Darcy, Vampyre progresses, we follow the newlywed Mr. and Mrs. Darcy across Europe as the former struggles against his curse and works diligently to hide it from his new bride and the latter faces one bizarrely frightening encounter with long-lost Darcy relatives after another and works stridently to ignore the fact that her beloved husband has not yet visited their marriage bed.

While I can’t really say much more about Mr. Darcy, Vampyre without becoming a spoiler, I will say that I rather enjoyed it from cover to cover. While there were some things that I would have changed, that is true of virtually any book I have ever read. My biggest problem of all was with the way the book ended. Of course, I can’t really get into that here. However, if you read the book, you will probably know exactly what I am referring to. All in all, this was a 3 ½ star read as far as paranormal fiction goes, and a 4 star Pride and Prejudice sequel. Depending on your literary cup o’tea, you will probably find this one quite enjoyable :P

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pride and Prejudice Sequel Review Montage

This Wednesday, I am going to be posting a review for the hyped Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, which is a Pride and Prejudice sequel with just the right kind of twist to be featured on this blog. For this reason, I am also posting today’s review montage of additional new Pride and Prejudice sequels that have either been recently released, or will be soon.

First on list is the delightful Darcy and Anne by Judith Brocklehurst. This novel is actually the tale of Anne. Not Anne Bennet, but Anne de Bourgh, Lady Catherine’s niece and the one Catherien had expected Darcy to wed. That is, before Elizabeth came along.

In Pride and Prejudice, Anne was portrayed as dowdy and a thoroughly unacceptable match for the introspective and moody Mr. Darcy. She was more of a footnote or an afterthought, especially considering that every reader was pulling for Darcy and Elizabeth’s love. In Darcy and Anne, we are introduced to the vibrant intelligent woman that was only alluded to before.

The fact of the matter is that Darcy’s betrothal and marriage to Elizabeth really leaves Anne hanging, and at Lady’s Catherine’s insistence, he tries to find a solution to the issue his new engagement has created. Indeed, both Catherine and Anne set out to visit the newly wed Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, they are inadvertently separated. It is only at this point that Anne truly begins to assess her situation and station in life – in addition, it also when Anne meets Edmund Caldwell. He possesses the physical and personality traits that Anne is looking for in a husband. However, his social status is simply unacceptable for an heiress such as herself.

Alas, such is often the case in Regency period romance novels, and as can be expected, the kinks are ironed out in the end. And, as an added bonus, Lady Catherine is knocked down a peg or two; something that all P&P fans love to read. Additionally, this novel has a delightful tone and pacing that are in sync with Austen’s own, which is sure to enchant true lovers of the original and Austen’s work in general. All in all, this was a four star sequel, and it is guaranteed to satisfy those who recognized that Anne (even if she had been a dowd) was deserving of her happily ever after, too.

The second book in Jane Austen sequel that I am reviewing today is My Cousin Caroline by Rebecca Ann Collins. This is book 6 in the acclaimed Pemberley Chronicles series, and it tells the tale of Caroline Gardiner (Elizabeth’s cousin) and Colonel Fitzwilliam (Darcy’s cousin).

This book takes a different turn than many of the Pride and Prejudice sequels; rather than simply detailing the courtship between Caroline and her Colonel, My Cousin Caroline actually showcases a much broader timeframe. From the time she meets her husband through the raising of her children, Caroline’s life is detailed. And what a life she leads.

Unwilling to be a subservient and docile wife, as was the norm in Victorian England, Caroline becomes an outspoken supporter of reformist policies. Her spirit and dedication, despite the risks to her reputation and the fact that her behavior is scandalous, make Caroline a very likable heroine, and I fell in love with her and her story. This book was a four and half star read, and it will certainly appeal to fans of Austen, P&P sequels and spirited, outspoken women alike.

Finally, I reviewed Loving Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan. Unlike the previous two books, which told the tales of romances that blossomed between the supporting Pride and Prejudice characters, Loving Mr. Darcy is a continuation of Elizabeth and Darcy’s own love story. This was actually the second book in the Lathan's Darcy Trilogy, and I would recommend that anyone interested in this volume read book one, Two Shall Become One.

In Loving Mr. Darcy, we join Darcy and a pregnant Elizabeth, who had some pregnancy related drama unfold in the first book. She is now recovering from said drama, which causes her new husband to hover over her obsessively, which actually encompasses a good portion of the book. Additionally, this book really focuses on the daily lives of the characters we all know and love, focusing on a couple special events such as Elizabeth’s birthday and Pemberley’s Summer Festival.

All in all, I have to say that Loving Mr. Darcy was my least favorite of the three books I reviewed, primarily due to the pacing and what I viewed as focusing on every minute detail of the Darcy’s daily routine. However, if you are a fan of books that detail the daily lives of your favorite characters (and I know many people are) then this is the book for you. However, for me, it rated only 2 ½ stars.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"His Father's Son" by Bentley Little

I have been waiting for Bentley Little’s latest – His Father’s Son – for months. I love Bentley Little, I have a collection of some of his rarer works, including the infamous Murmurous Haunts (I was lucky enough to score a signed copy a while back), a couple of ARC’s of his earlier books, a couple of signed hardcover copies of his books, and even an early promotional copy of The Store that is actually printed on standard 8 ½” x 11” copy paper, complete with a cover and promo letter from the publisher/publicist. So, to say that I am merely a fan is a bit of an understatement. I liked the guy before he was cool. I have issues of The Horror Show Magazine (and several others) from the 1980’s, having trolled for them on Ebay because he contributed to them.

His Father’s Son is the story of your middle aged everyman, Steve Nye. He is dealing with a situation that many of us have or will have to face during the course of our lives – the mental and physical deterioration of a parent. In Steve’s case, his father just snaps one day, physically assaulting his mother. The attack is completely out of character, and Steve’s father is diagnosed as suffering from a degenerative form of dementia and is committed to a psychiatric facility.

During one of Steve’s visits, his father appears to be perfectly lucid. It is during this period of lucidity that he says the words “I killed her.”

After hearing what he perceives as his father’s confession, Steve begins an investigation into his father’s past that makes him question everything he has ever known about his father, his family and himself.

The way this book is written, I really can’t say much more about the plot without being a spoiler.

There are dozens of little reasons that I have become such an avid Little fan. However, there have always been three big ones that have never varied or wavered. 3) He is among the most prolific writers I have ever read. It is a delight to troll around for obscure magazines and anthologies that he has contributed unique short stories to. You always find something different, but it always has a distinct Bentley Little flavor. 2) His flair for the surreal. Regardless of the specific plot or subject matter in a given book or story, you can count on Little to warp the very fabric of reality. All of his work has a certain level of wrongness to it, which is what makes it such great horror. 1) The man is deals in real, unapologetic horror. Nothing is taboo or off limits.

With all of the above being said, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with His Father’s Son. Maybe I have read too much of his stuff, because I kept thinking of how this story line should have gone down as I read. Unfortunately, it was fairly predictable (in my opinion), and it lacked a lot of both the surrealism and the depth of the majority of Little’s previous novels. His short stories even. I had a very hard time getting into the book, which is almost unheard of for me, although after the first few chapters it did hold my attention fairly consistently.

Unfortunately, I was left feeling shortchanged. I kept waiting for something to happen, and it never really did. There were instances of short stories being intertwined throughout the novel (Steve Nye happens to be a writer), and it was only throughout these several short chapters that I was able to really feel Little’s true nature leech into the story. It was almost as if this book was thought up by a publisher or something, and the integrated short stories were Little’s metaphorical middle finger.

All in all, the book was a big letdown for me. I have read a lot of criticism of Little’s work, and it always contains suggestions that would make his writing more mainstream and less out of the box and controversial. Frankly, I am a Little fan because of the blatant sex and violence and carnage that his books are (unapologetically) crammed with. I feel as though this was a pandering release, put out there to placate the whiners. I hope that his next book is a return to his surreal and totally unique flavor of storytelling, written for his fans - not everybody else. Three stars.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"To Tempt the Wolf" by Terry Spear Giveaway!!

To all of you fans of the darkside, be it Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Gothic or some other yet-to-be definded genre, you know who you are and you know what you like :)

I would like to offer all current and future fans of the darker genre's the opportunity to win a copy of Terry Spear's To Tempt the Wolf. Just comment here or on Terry's guest post to be entered. Please leave your email address so I can contact you if you win. I have one copy to be given aways, thanks to the good people at Sourcebooks, and the winner needs to have a U.S. or Canadian mailing address. No PO boxes.

Contest ends 11:59 PM MST 9/11/2009.

Thanks all, and good luck!!!

Guest Blog: Terry Spear

Terry Spear Guest Blog, author of To Tempt the Wolf
Horror and Fantasy Book Reviews; September 4, 2009

Join Me on the Dark Side—or Wolf Side, Rather

Thanks so much to Horror and Fantasy Book Reviews for having me!

The first time Heart of the Wolf finaled in a contest, the final judge, a NY editor, said it was a unique twist on a horror story. I understand what she meant—werewolves = horror.

But no way do I think of horror stories when I’m writing about my werewolves, who, when they are in their wolf forms, are like wolves, except, maybe a little bigger. They’re not monster-like wolf kind-of creatures.

Ever see pictures of two wolves playing when they look like they are ready to kill each other? Ever see one bare its very big, very sharp canines at you? The way it narrows its eyes? It wrinkles its nose? It growls deep and low?

To me, the wolf is majestic in part. Yet, it can look really scary without any of the monster effects thrown in.

But no longer is the werewolf just the bad guy, someone who kills during the full moon, but doesn’t remember having shapeshifted to do so during the night. No longer does the werewolf hate who or what he is.

No clinical psychology couches for my werewolves. They’re very well-adjusted. Born to the role, they’re content to live in secrecy and survive among the rest of mankind. For those who are not so fortunate to have been born to the role and suddenly become one of their kind through folly or choice, reactions will differ based on the personality of the individual. But no one mopes about being a werewolf. Not when being one has so many advantages.

In the old werewolf stories, a single werewolf often ran around in the woods attacking people. But in my stories, a big part of the world is showing the pack dynamics within a pack and with other packs.

And although there are lots of bad guys and murder and mayhem, suspense and mystery and adventure in my wolf tales, humor and romance are a big part of the stories, too. So I emphatically say my werewolves are not horrific in the least. Well, the bad guys can be pretty bad. But the good guys can be downright loveable. If man’s best friend is the dog, then a girl’s best friend is a werewolf.

So join me on the Wolf Side and learn about a new age of werewolves.

And thanks again for having me! If you want to join me, here are a few places you can find me:

Terry Spear
“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male.”

To Tempt the Wolf—In Stores September 1
In this third in the series, wildlife photographer Tessa Anderson must prove her brother innocent of murder charges. But when she discovers a gorgeous naked man barely alive on her beach, she's got a new world of troubles to deal with, not least of which is how he affects her with just a look, a touch, or a whispered word.
Hunter Greymore is a lupus garou, a grey werewolf. Hoping to keep a low profile at Tessa's cabin on the coast, he's drawn into her life—and into her bed. His animal instincts war with his human half, but in the end, the only thing he can do about this fascinating, adorable woman is to leave her forever —unless she becomes one of them.

About the Author

A retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, award-winning author Terry Spear has an MBA from Monmouth College. An eclectic writer, she dabbles in the paranormal as well as writing historical and true life stories for both teen and adult audiences. Spear lives in Crawford, Texas. Her 2008 Sourcebooks Casablanca release, Heart of the Wolf was named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly. Destiny of the Wolf and To Tempt the Wolf are in stores now, and more are on the way: The Legend of the White Wolf (February 2010) and Seduction of the Wolf (August 2010). For more information please visit

"The Plight of the Darcy Brothers" by Marsha Altman

First, I would like to apologize to my followers and occasional visitors alike for my extended hiatus. I have had some personal issues that prevented me from attending my blog as I should have, and I hope that they have been resolved to the point that they do not impact this outlet again.

Over the next few days, I am going to be reviewing several Jane Austen sequels. These are books that have been authored by modern writers and which continue the story of Jane Austen’s books, primarily the big one – Pride and Prejudice.
Today’s review is of one of these sequels; The Plight of the Darcy Brothers by Marsha Altman. In addition to being a sequel to the original Pride and Prejudice story, this particular volume is also a the follow-up to The Darcy’s and The Bingley’s, which tells the stories of three couples. Two of these couples are familiar to any Austen or P&P fan – Darcy and Elizabeth and Charles and Jane. The third couple is a creation of Altman’s; Caroline and Daniel.

In this installment, there is much scandal afoot as the least likely of all the Bennet sisters finds herself in deep and irreversible trouble. Mary has fallen in love while abroad in France, and that love resulted in a pregnancy. As this book is set in Regency period England, unwed pregnant women were far from the norm, and were socially ostracized. As were their families. So, it is no surprise that Mary is a little apprehensive about returning to mother England and her family and having to face the inevitable music.

This particular Jane Austin Sequel was full of mystery and drama, with plenty of action and adventure abound. While the level of action may or may not appeal to fans of Austen and the numerous books that have been dedicated to following up on her masterpieces, they do add a bit of dimension to this particular volume that is often lacking in period romance novels.
There are several secrets to be revealed, involving several different key players. Of course, amongst the most important to the story is the identity of the father of Mary’s illegitimate little fetus. However, that is not the only surprise that is in store for readers.

All in all, this particular volume should entertain and enchant Austen lovers, but it is recommended that The Darcy’s and the Bingley’s be read first, as a prerequisite. Doing so will prevent confusion, as this tome builds on that book as well as the original. Overall, this was a 3 star book for me; enjoyable but not the best Austen sequel I have ever read.