Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book Review: Occasional Demons by Rick Hautala

✰✰✰✰½ This wicked tome from the author of Bedbugs contains almost 500 pages of terror. The stories are arranged for optimal reading pleasure; however, the reader can choose to read the stories out of order as well.

The book is divided into 3 sections with the stories flowing very well from one to another. The first section contains a creepy assortment of 18 stories that will give you chills even in the dead of summer. There's a story for every horror fan including the blood absorbing book that just keeps coming back for more, a music studio famous for its last recording of various musicians, the voice from the sea, a visitor from the future, an unforgettable lake, a knife that kills, soulless babies, a compost heap with a mind of its own, and many more.

The second section contains stories that are an offshoot of Mr. Hautala's fourth novel,
Little Brothers. It also contains fabricated "Indian myths." I especially enjoyed 3 stories from this section including: Chrysalis, Deal With the Devils, and Oilman. I couldn't sleep for a week after reading those three gems.

The last section includes stories written in collaboration with others including his sons. My favorite story from this section is
And the Sea Shall Claim Them. Most of the short stories in Occasional Demons have appeared in other publications, but there are a couple that appear here for the first time.

The Bottom Line:
Many more hits than misses make this short story collection a winner. I for one enjoyed almost every single short story included in this collection. As always Glenn Chadbourne's illustrations are fantastically creepy. Horror fans will absolutely love this collection; this is a must-have item if you collect horror. However, sensitive readers should proceed with caution.

Occasional Demons by Rick Hautala. Illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne. Advance Uncorrected Proof published by Cemetery Dance in 2010. 496 p. ISBN: 1-58767-095-X

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Review: Blackwork by Monica Ferris

✰✰✰ Amateur sleuth Betsy Devonshire returns for the 13th installment of the Needlecraft Mystery series, which is appropriately a Halloween tale. The town of Excelsior is making preparations for the Halloween parade when one of the town's more unsavory characters, Ryan McMurphy, ends up dead without a mark on his body. People immediately point to Leona Cunningham, owner of a microbrewery and a practicing Wiccan, as the murderer.

When Leona steadfastly proclaims her innocence and asks Betsy for help, Betsy just has to get involved. The problem is that the victim wasn't exactly well liked. Betsy must carefully sift through the long list of suspects before solving the murder.

The Bottom Line:
Blackwork is a quick, easy, and fun weekend read. You can pick this one up and get right into it without having read the previous books. Ferris' portrayal of the gay character Godwin is a bit too cute and stereotyped; hopefully, this will change in the future. Nonetheless, Blackwork is an enjoyable read. This book is recommended for mystery buffs and crafters who enjoy reading cozies.

Blackwork by Monica Ferris. Published by Berkley Prime Crime in 2009. 256 p. ISBN: 978-0-425-22990-3

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review: Zombie Felties by Nicola Tedman

✰✰✰✰ A little bit creepy and way too cute, these zombies are just begging to be raised from the dead. This craft book includes an introduction to the craft, a section for projects, and an index. The "Starting Out" section explains everything you need to complete these projects from the tools to the stitches to beading techniques. There are even ideas for adding fun embellishments. Each project includes a supply list, full-size template, and step-by-step directions with corresponding illustrations. All templates are the correct size and do not need to be scaled up or down. Also, included is a coffin template to make a home for your new zombie pal.

The book includes great full-color photographs and illustrations throughout. My favorite zombies include Pirate Zombie, Zombie Fairy, Zombie Bride, Pumpkin Head, Zombie Undertaker, and Vampire Zombie. However, don't underestimate these itty bitty critters. They look deceptively simple to make, but as with any new craft it takes some practice. Luckily, each has a difficulty rating from one to four skulls, and I highly agree with the authors' recommendation to start with an easy project.

The Bottom Line:
Crafters can choose from 16 creepy, but adorable zombies and learn the ins-and-outs of a new craft trend. No machine sewing is required and novices and experienced crafters alike will enjoy learning something new. The projects are clever and tiny; however, the small size might add to the difficulty of assembling these cuties. Recommended for everyone who is looking for a cute way to get into the Halloween spirit. Also, this book makes a nice addition to libraries as it fills a unique niche.

Zombie Felties: How to raise 16 gruesome felt creatures from the undead by Nicola Tedman & Sarah Skeate. Paperback published by Ivy Press in 2010. 80 p. ISBN: 978-0-7407-9764-4

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Review: Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier

✰✰✰½ Lucy Stone is back for another spooktacular Halloween mystery. The fun begins when Lucy and her friends visit Solstice, the charming new shop in town. They each receive a psychic reading by the mysterious and sultry Wiccan owner Diana Ravenscroft. It's all in good fun or so it seems until parts of Lucy's reading start to come true.

First, there's the charred dead body in the clearing. Then Lucy's new neighbor, Ike Stoughton, begins a campaign against Diana and witchcraft. When the murder victim turns out to be none other than a friend of Diana's, Lucy finds herself caught in the middle and must reluctantly help this Wiccan in distress. Can she solve the mystery and set things straight before the angry citizens of Tinker's Cove have their way? Or will Lucy herself succumb to the evil lurking in the quaint town?

The Bottom Line:
Whether you've been following the series from the beginning or this is your first one, you'll enjoy this quick read. Recommended for fans of cozy mysteries; the Lucy Stone mysteries are always good fun.

Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier. Hardcover published by Kensington Books in 2010. 304 p. ISBN: 978-0-7582-2929-8

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Book Review: Neverland by Douglas Clegg

✰✰✰✰½ Terror smolders beneath the surface of this Southern Gothic horror tale. It's late summertime, and the Jackson clan is heading out on vacation like thousands of other families. Ten year old Beau Jackson narrates the tale of the family's last annual trip to his grandmother's ancestral home, known as The Retreat, on Gull Island, Georgia. Upon their arrival, Beau discovers that his cousin Sumter has already staked a claim on the abandoned and "off-limits" shack out back. Sumter transforms the shack into a clubhouse and claims that a god named Lucy lives there and must be worshipped.

As the days pass, Sumter conjures up his own world called Neverland where he gradually and craftily leads the other children astray. As Sumter's dark sanctuary grows, Beau and his twin sisters are sucked into the evil abyss with acts of stealing, animal sacrifices, and other gruesome rituals. Beau and his sisters go along with Sumter's demands for a time. However, the innocent Beau faces a turning point when he must learn to differentiate between what is real and what is imagined in the supernatural world of Neverland.

Before the end, a sinister family secret will be revealed. As the horror escalates, readers won't be able to put this one down. The last 100 pages send you speeding toward a collision course with a stunning and horrifying conclusion.

The Bottom Line:
Originally published in 1991, Neverland is a fantastic coming-of-age story that's hard to put down. This twisted tale of horror is guaranteed to send chills up your spine. It's Southern Gothic horror at it's best and sure to be a classic. The characters are authentic and the imagery will evoke childhood memories of past vacation nightmares. The dark and eerie illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne along with the ragged edged pages of the book heighten the gothic spookiness of the tale. This book is highly recommended for adult fans of horror. Some readers, however, might be troubled by the depictions of animal sacrifices.

Neverland by Douglas Clegg. Illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. Paperback published by Vanguard Press in 2010. 304 p. ISBN: 978-1-593155414

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Book Review: The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman

✰✰✰✰½ The line between where imagination ends and reality begins can become blurred especially when someone suffers a tragedy so early in life. Such is the case with Henry the artist who paints against the darkness. He's been painting against the darkness for so long that he can no longer remember how it all began. However, when he finds himself all alone in an isolated farmhouse, he must finally face the demons that he has tried so hard to suppress through his painting. With his inner fears surfacing and manifesting in a physical form, Henry must rediscover his father's words of wisdom in order to survive.

The Bottom Line:
Horror fans looking for a quick fix of terror will enjoy this little novella. The chapters alternate between the past and the present; it's a style that has a powerful effect and works well for this story. Additionally, Jill Bauman's artwork enhances the eeriness of the book. It's a real page-turner with a twist ending that's both terrifying and a little sad. While The Painted Darkness is a bit reminiscent of Stephen King's The Shining; it is suspenseful and thrilling in its own right. Highly recommended for anyone who loves horror. I am definitely looking forward to reading more from author Brian James Freeman.

The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman. Illustrations by Jill Bauman. Advance Uncorrected Proof published by Cemetery Dance in 2010. 175 p. ISBN: 978-1-58767-208-8 Note: I received a complimentary Advance Uncorrected Proof from Cemetery Dance Publications in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.