Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Feeling the PRESSURE From Below

I really hate it sometimes when I devour books.

Then again, I also can't help it when a really really good book grabs my attention. Such was the case with PRESSURE by Brian Keene. I will freely admit that while PRESSURE is the first book I've read by Keene, I'd heard of him before. So, when the chance came to meet him and get my book signed at Tubby and Coo's Mid City Bookshop in New Orleans, I jumped at the chance. Needless to say, Keene is one laid back and very cool dude. While signing a copy of his newest book for me, I was signing a copy of my book, The Decembrists, for him. I hope like hell he liked reading it.

(having a fan girl moment - squee!)

Alright! PRESSURE is that lovely tale of Man vs. Nature in which Nature sometimes gets the upper hand. In this case, it does, thanks to us. This story is thus: the coast of Mauritius is suddenly falling apart and the Indian Ocean is freezing. Not just cold but beyond frigid. The sea life in the waters are frozen and dead and no one can explain it. Marine biologist and expert diver Carrie Anderson goes diving in the waters with her partner Peter to discover why the coast, affectionately known as the Mouth of Hell, was suddenly falling apart, yet only Carrie made it to the surface alive. Something is in the waters, something never seen by mortal eyes. Soon, Carrie is suddenly caught up in more than she bargained for as she races to discover the truth that lurks in the black frigid ocean.

This blend of suspense, human corruption, science and technology, and horror has been expertly crafted by Keene - as it says on the cover by author F. Paul Wilson, "Brian Keene writes like a force of Nature." So true. PRESSURE is a good fun read that will send chills down your spine and make you think twice about swimming in an ocean. JAWS is merely a warm up to PRESSURE . . . . and I love JAWS. Keene's writing is relentless in exploring just far humans will go in making the world a "better place". Although the "creature" in the book was terrifying enough, the humans on dry land were even worse.  All I have to say is: damn, damn, damn.

Thanks again, Brian, and see you soon!


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Of Flesh and Blood in The Falls

Two days.

That's how long it took me to read Syrenthia Falls by Alexander S. Brown. Two BLOODY days.

What an incredible book. I'm not saying that because he is my creepy brother. This was one of the best representations of the werewolf  myth that I've ever read. The only other book that handled werewolves rather well was The Sticks by my friend Andy Deane, lead singer of Bella Morte. Syrenthia Falls blends sex, horror, gore, suspense, and teenage angst well and literally leaves you wanting more.

The story is thus: young Syrenthia is an outcast at Havensburg High School; no one wants to talk with her or even be seen with her, yet all that changes one day when a young girl named Sarah asks if she wants to sit at her table. Friendships are made and suddenly, Syrenthia no longer feels like a freak. She feels like a winner, even though Claudia and her bitchy friends feel compelled to call her Dyke Dog every time they see her. But Syrenthia doesn't care - she has friends! Yet, when her new friends suggest camping at The Falls, Syrenthia wonders just how "cool" her friends really are. For you see, The Falls is a place of legend - only those who wish to die visit the area, for a monster lurks in that patch of wooded bliss. A monster that feeds on the flesh and blood of humans. That one night turns into a never-ending night of pain and spilled blood, as Syrenthia and her friends are "introduced" to the truth - a werewolf. Of the group, only Sarah and Syrenthia come out alive, yet things are never quite the same for the two young women. While they live with survivor's guilt, the two also share a deadly secret . . . . Syrenthia was scratched . . . and is changing. And not for the better.

("Moonlight" by artist and dear friend, Mitch Foust - I have the canvas original - staring at it right now)

I met Alex several years ago at an event and have remained good friends since then. He is one of the few authors who can completely gross and freak me out with his stories. Like I said in my previous review, it takes a lot to gross me out. Alex can do it over and over again while grinning. Alex proves he is a master of horror with Syrenthia Falls, as he creates a TRUE werewolf. Yes, I will freely admit that I do enjoy a good "bodice ripper" that involves a hunky werewolf, like Beast of Burden by my friend Alexandra Christian, yet the creatures in Syrenthia Falls are anything but sexy. They are monsters, the source of myths and legends, and they have no mercy for anything that stand in their way. Alex handles his level of gore well in this book, giving just enough to make one cringe without going overboard to the point of rolling their eyes in disbelief. We feel compassion for Syrenthia as she initially struggles with her new "gift" and how the "gift" gives her advice to handle those who have wronged her. Yet, and I have to say again that Alex handled this well, Love is the ultimate weapon. Stronger than the sharpest claws or the powerful fanged bite. Love will conquer anything.

A while ago, Alex asked me to make a tea based on the book. After much discussion and reading, the Syrenthia Falls herbal tea blend was born through my company, Viridian Tea Company. The blend is linden leaves, chamomile, lemon balm, and spearmint and from what I've been told, it's quite popular. Now that I have finally read the book, the request to make a tea makes even more sense than before. Trust me on that one.

Job well done, my creepy brother. Miss you and love you. Just no stories with my phobia in it, okay?

Damn - I forgot he already wrote it. Damn.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Beware the Shadow Assassins

Let me get this out now - this was a damn good book.

Okay, now for the review.

It's been quite some time since I read a standard medieval fantasy novel. The first time I ever read that style of fantasy was when I was introduced to the world of Dragonlance. Back then, I had a major crush on Raistlin - secretive, tortured mage who had golden skin and strange eyes. Those books made quite an impact on my life and I enjoyed them tremendously. When I began reading The Truth of Betrayal by Jason Fedora, as published by Dark Oak Press, I wasn't really sure what to expect. After all, it had been some time since I last read a fantasy novel in that setting. However, once I was introduced to Nickadeamus, or Nick as his friends call him, I knew that I was in for a treat.

The story is thus: the world known as Asterioth has a dark cloud hanging over it, taking the shape of the Dark Emperor, the nemesis of all that is good and right in the world. Nick, a powerful sorcerer, learns that Mordkom, his one time friend and former member of Barddon Drod, has stolen the Book of Forgotten Sorrows and plans to give it to the Dark Emperor. Nick and his allies must race against time in order to catch Mordkom before he hands over such a powerful book to their enemy, all the while facing shadow assassins, Wraiths and their mind worms, Death Priests, and sadly, each other. Loyalties are tested, enemies wear friendly faces, and lies become truths.

Fedora is a wonderful storyteller - he weaves the tale around you, creating a nice blanket on a cold day that you snuggle in and refuse to leave. He writes in a way that makes you truly there with Nick and his friends as they take on their foes. I will freely admit that he grossed me out twice while reading the book - it takes a lot to gross me out yet he accomplished it. Even the gross scenes still captivated me: do NOT eat Vietnamese food while reading the Wraith scene. I learned that lesson the hard way yet I still enjoyed my lunch, albeit a lot slower than before. I also have to give him mad props in creating the shadow assassins - well done, old boy! The explanation behind their power was frightening and fascinating to read.

Several days ago, Fedora let me know that he had completed the second book and had turned it in to our publisher. That was good news indeed.

Way to go, Fedora. You've made a fan out of me!

By the way - there WILL be a tea based on this book. Stay tuned for details!


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Of Secrets and Mold in Ravencroft Springs

In April of this year, I received terrible news - author Logan Masterson was dead. Although I had met him only a handful of times, I considered him to not only be a friend but also one of us within our "family" of authors. Ravencroft Springs, published by ProSe Press, was one of his accomplishments. He had also published stories through Dark Oak Press in the Capes and Clockwork anthology and Luna's Children II anthology. I highly recommend both books.

David Dunbarton, a recently divorced author, wants a change in his life. He seeks a place to settle down and enjoy the comforts of life, all the while making a fresh start away from his now ex-wife. Ravencroft Springs, a small town near Unaka Mountain, seems to fit his idea of perfect. Yet, this somewhat ghost town is filled with secrets, mason jars filled with strange items, and mold that seems to have a life of its own. Soon, David realizes that all is truly not well in the small town and that everyone has something to hide. Even the mountain itself.

The story's slow start is just camouflage for the hooks to settle themselves into you; once you are furiously flipping through pages and discovering the "secret" of Ravencroft Springs with David, it's too late to turn away. You have to face the horror or else go mad. Or do both at the same time. This story will very much appeal to those who love Lovecraft or who just enjoy a well thought out story filled with suspense. I will warn you, though - this story has no happy ending. Don't expect kittens and rainbows. Okay.

I truly hope you enjoy the madness. I did.

Rest in Peace, Logan.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

50th Anniversary of a Cult Classic!

Everybody has guilty pleasures.

From ice cream at midnight, to "bodice rippers" books, we all love our guilty pleasures every now and then. Mine happens to be "can't put down" books and Toblerone chocolate. So it was that while we celebrated our country's birthday several days ago, I picked up a copy of the 50th anniversary edition of Jacqueline Susann's cult classic novel, Valley of the Dolls. I had been a fan of the movie for years, yet I never read the book. However, as I began reading it that night, I knew that it would be even better than the movie. Two days later, I can honestly say that it was.

Meet Anne, Neely, and Jennifer - three girls in New York in the late 40s who want a different life than what society had deemed for them. While Anne had the distinguished looks and reserved New England demeanor, Jennifer had large "assets" and a body that wouldn't quit, and Neely had the golden heart of a singer who wanted to make it big on Broadway. These three women wanted a different life filled with designer clothes, men who wanted to marry them, and respect in all forms. They wanted to be the new women of the world, a different age than their parents. They had the world at the their feet and they knew it.

(yes, I really do own the original soundtrack on vinyl!)

Only one problem: the rise to success was a slippery slope, and soon they found themselves in a deep valley, one that is impossible to get out of. It is a valley made of "dolls", or pills that either woke you up and kept you from eating, or made you sleep through the night when sleep wouldn't come naturally. Just one little doll, they would all say. Just one doll and my life suddenly becomes better.

Valley of the Dolls is one of those books that must be read with much chocolate and no disturbances. Once you meet the three women and are suddenly flung into their lives, you find it hard to disentangle yourself from the webs they weave. Anne would do anything for a certain British man, even going so far as to dump two other millionaire men who desperately loved her. Neely rose to the top of her game, yet paid a price that even she could never escape. Jennifer wanted a man who would love her and not just her "assets", yet used her body as both a weapon and her ticket out of a crummy life. Lies are spoken, hearts are repeatedly crushed, wigs come flying off, and pills are freely given out. Welcome to the Valley.

Like I said, I am a big fan of the movie; when I found out that this year was the 50th anniversary of the book, I knew I had to get it. Such a worthwhile guilty pleasure that chronicles America as it surged through so many changes. Buy this book, watch the movie, and don't be tempted by the Dolls!