BOOK REVIEW: Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK by Paul Tremblay is the third novel I’ve read by this author and by far my absolute favorite of his work.

This is an interesting horror story. And it IS a horror story, just not in the buckets of blood, constant big baddie chasing you down the hallway sort. This is subtle horror, and it’s effective. A young teenage boy goes missing, and his mother and sister and the police work to not only find him, but as information and evidence starts coming in, try to understand and make sense of the bizarre events leading up to his disappearance.

I’ve been a fan of Tremblay’s writing style since I first tried him out with CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD. I enjoyed that book, but it didn’t make me stand on my chair and proclaim it as the next greatest novel in American literature. I read A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS afterward, and enjoyed it quite a lot, more so than CABIN, but still, not life-changing for me as I’d expected from all the rave reviews. The only times anyone spoke about Disappearance at Devil’s Rock around me, it was usually in a critical sense, as though this book were Tremblay’s nadir…and I couldn’t disagree more. I’m so glad I finally tried this one out because it was the perfect marriage of Tremblay’s style (which I’m a big fan of) with a story that flawlessly meshes with that style.

I was on the edge of my seat throughout. The suspense was palpable, but again, without there being a constant threat of some monster or psychopath looming nearby. The suspense was deeper than that, finding its source in the hearts and minds of the grieving and terrified mother and sister, in how they deal with the information they find, and how (if at all) they pass it on or utilize that information. And then it all leads to a wildly unexpected and shocking event, told from so many different perspectives that I was never totally sure exactly what really happened, and that was the point: neither did anyone else.

It was this masterful approach that makes DISAPPEARANCE work so well. Being inside the minds of the grieving, the information filtered through their skewed and biased perceptions, and for me, it all came together like a beautiful spell of dark magic.

This book has catapulted Paul Tremblay very high on my list of author’s to follow, more so than Cabin or Ghosts. I know everyone loves those books, and I liked them both a good deal, but this one…THIS ONE is the masterpiece. My jaw is still slack. When a book really blows you away, the way you feel after? That’s me.

Can’t be recommended enough, and because this horror doesn’t rely on blood or menace virtually at all, I can safely recommend it to anyone of any stripe. You’ll find yourself engrossed in a human story of tragedy with so many bizarre elements that by the end you’ll find yourself frightened.

5/5 stars. This book is phenomenal. Find it here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Haunted Forest Tour by Jeff Strand and James A. Moore

Jurassic Park with mythological monsters and demons rather than dinosaurs, astoundingly fun!

I’ve read several books by Jeff Strand, but nothing as yet from James A. Moore. I’m going to rectify that soon, as I just had one of the most bang-up fun times a person has any business having with THE HAUNTED FOREST TOUR. Basically, we have a forest spring up in the middle of the desert out of nowhere. It’s infested with monsters of ALL stripes–you name the beast, it lives here–and naturally, a few years later a corporation sets up trams to take people on tours around the forest. Now, for the first time on Halloween, a tour is set to go INSIDE the forest. What could go wrong?

All of it. It ALL goes wrong. But not for the reader, fortunately, as we get to enjoy the carnage of the poor passengers and tour guides and one tough-as-nails tram-driver. Jeff Strand’s humor bleeds through, mostly in the dialogue, with some fantastic laugh out loud lines throughout, and the action never wanes for a second. The authors know how to build suspense and keep the action coming with frenetic energy, and we get to hang on for a wild, awesome ride. The only thing missing was having Arnold Schwarzenegger stroll in wearing camo with cut off sleeves, sporting an obscenely large machine gun, and saying, “Get down!” before lobbing a couple thousand rounds from a magic “everlast” magazine and ‘thwunking’ a few explosives into the foliage through the attached grenade launcher. But, we get pretty damned close.

This is a popcorn book, and it was never meant to take itself too seriously, and because of that this story is total over-the-top fun from beginning to end. A book doesn’t need to make you think philosophically or fundamentally challenge your worldview to good; first and foremost it should entertain, and Jeff Strand and James A. Moore deliver the fun with buckets of blood and a barage of gunfire and myriad monsters, which will leave any fan of action movies and suspense/horror stories cheering for more.

Gobs of fun (and all other kinds of fun) to be had here, don’t miss this! Great summer read.

5/5 stars. Find it in print, digital, and audio here.

BOOK REVIEW: Night of 1,000 Beasts by John Palisano

A fun, lightning-paced bloodbath on a mountain in Colorado.

This was a really enjoyable romp of wild horror. Some friends go skiing in Colorado, and after an avalanche, they start seeing different sorts of animals which seem to be hybrids with humans. And they’re big and mean and have sharp teeth and claws as well.

The monsters are varied and the action literally never stops throughout, not letting you breathe. This book relies on its premise more than it does its characters to compel the reader, but it works, and that isn’t to say the characters are uninteresting. They are. It’s just that the story is king here, and keeps things clipping along at a few light-years per second, all the way to the final pages.

Like horror? Don’t miss it. If you’re not into horror, the gore and savage fights to the death may not sit well with you, but I’d say buck up and read it anyway. It’s a whole lot of fun. Find it in print, digital, and audio here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Silence by Tim Lebbon

Really cool and emotionally driven snapshot of the beginning of a new and frightening world.

I’d had THE SILENCE on my radar for some time but hadn’t pulled the trigger yet mostly because I just had so many books on my TBR list and something else seemed to be in front of it for some time. When the movie landed on Netflix, I had tentatively decided not to watch it until I had a chance to read the book. Well, my wife is a fan of horror and thriller movies, and enough people were buzzing about this one that I relented and we watched the movie. It was good. Very well made and had some great suspenseful scenes. It was inevitably being compared to A QUIET PLACE because of the similarity of theme, but I felt they were both very different stories that stood on their own, people can pick their favorites.

So, after seeing the film, I finished up a couple books I was reading and got THE SILENCE to read. VERY glad I did. The movie was good, the book is an instant classic. The family unit in the story and the shifting POV from the daughter to the father was a perfect approach to tell this frighteningly realistic take on a world overrun by monsters. The characters felt like a real family, people we care about, and they never once took a false step or did anything that seemed unreasonable or unrealistic to who they were. The dialogue was damn near perfect. And the pacing was a masterclass in building suspense.

By the end of the novel, I was grinning ear to ear. Nothing about the book knocked me out of my chair. There were no twists that came in and turned everything on its head and made my mind reel. It’s not that kind of story. But what it shows is so frighteningly real and plausible, that I started looking around in the trees and powerlines for “vesps” perched and listening. THAT is how effective the story and the writing within this book was for me.

Excellent writing, great characters, and an all too plausible vision of an apocalyptic overrun of the world by creatures never meant to see the light of day. If any of that appeals to you, don’t skip this one. If you’re looking for a balls to the wall Mad Max style horror story, look elsewhere. This one scares you because it makes it all too real.

5/5, highly recommended. And I might even say this is one to check out in movie form first, which is never my normal recommendation. I feel like I’d have enjoyed the movie less had I read the book first. As it was, I was able to appreciate each one much more for the order I read them in.

Find the book in print, digital, or audiobook here.

BOOK REVIEW: House of Skin by Jonathan Janz

What is this one, the sixth Jonathan Janz book I’ve read? I can’t remember off hand at the moment, but that sounds accurate. And if you’re waiting with bated breath for me to come across one of his works I don’t think was just absolutely terrific (all his others I’ve read have been 5-star gems for me), keep waiting. It hasn’t happened yet.

In this outing, Janz treats us to a family outcast with dreams of writing the next great American novel. His uncle Myles Carver has passed away, and though he never knew the man, Paul has inherited his estate. He moves to the house–Watermere–with aspirations to break free of the family banking business and establish himself as his own man his own way and write a great book. Only, it doesn’t really come together for him…at least not consciously.

Paul meets Julia after a time and is instantly taken with her. Her beauty is stunning and his recent breakup with his girlfriend has him longing for companionship. But when she reads the pages of something he doesn’t remember reading–a horrifying novel which is basically a retelling of horrific events in their town of Shadeland from decades past which he could NOT have known about–she throws the pages in his face in a fit of disgust and rage Paul isn’t able to understand. Their budding relationship is already crumbling, and the strange happenings in the house and the nearby woods have Paul reeling.

As local thugs harass him and he begins piecing together his family’s past–and that of Watermere–Paul comes to realize a horrible truth about the past and the unknown members of his family. Lust and passions rise as an almost immortal creature in the form of a beautiful succubus named Annabel–with connections to his uncle and to Julia–comes crawling out of the past seeking blood and rebirth.

This one read very much like a haunted house story in many parts, made all the more apparent by the main character reading through Peter Straub’s GHOST STORY early in the tale. But it’s much more than that. Weaving in snippets of the past with multiple characters over several decades, Janz knits together a tightly plotted gothic tale of lust and terror through his singular command of prose. We can feel the desperation in both Paul and Julia, as well as that of several of the sideline characters, as the horror builds with the suspense and onion layers of information from the past and the present peel back to reveal the abominable evil coming forth in the story. And man, does it pack a wallop!

As with his other works, Janz draws believable characters who make decisions that seem fully authentic and who come across likable or despicable, depending on which we’re discussing. You give a damn what happens to them, as you might a friend or relative, and he successfully has us rooting for them all the way to the bitter, blood-soaked end.

The setting was effectively creepy, the situations organic, be them absurd in moments or terrifying, and the descriptions spot on. As in all his other works, Janz once more managed to make me squirm in my seat as I read with his vivid narrative voice, though this time not so much from a description of pain, but one of gag-inducing horror (sex and maggots do NOT mate for a pretty picture!).

Yeah, yeah, I’m a fan of Janz. Sue me. The man writes excellent horror novels…no, scratch that, I’m not putting him in a box. He writes excellent NOVELS. Period. He has all the talent of King and Barker combined, and he couples this with the electric and breathless pacing that Dean Koontz is famous for in some of his earlier work, creating a voice and style all his own and utterly engaging. I’ve said it before (probably more than once), and I’ll say it again: JONATHAN JANZ IS THE NEXT BIG DEAL IN HORROR! It’s only a matter of time before we see him explode into the stratosphere and everyone from Hollywood to Bollywood is clawing for the film rights to his work. Mark my words.

And you know what? I don’t even think we’ve seen his best work yet. They say that often the best writers only get better at their craft over time, and I feel Janz in certainly in that category. This particular book is one his older ones (perhaps even his first being reprinted recently, though I’m not certain of that), but I’ve read enough to see a growth and progression to his work that is unmistakable. I can’t wait for more.

Perhaps the greatest praise I could give another author would be to predict that, long after they’ve passed from this world to the next, their work will live on, continue to be sought after for use in other mediums, and have a lasting impact on history and literature. Think of Stoker, Poe, Machen, Matheson, Irving, Bloch, and many others. Jonathan Janz will ABSOLUTELY stand amongst them. And he deserves it. Buy it in print, digital, or audio here.

May 2019 Newsletter is out!

This is just a brief notification to let anyone know who follows me here to be sure and sign up for my monthly newsletter. May’s just went out this morning. On the home page and on the contact page (and maybe a couple others?), if you scroll down toward the bottom, you’ll find the link to sign up. Then you’re all set to get the news from me every month on what’s happening in my little world. Some (many, actually) announcements will be listed here as they happen, but the newsletter has more information and links, so don’t skip out on it. It also has links to all my social media and everywhere you can follow me. Take care, and thanks for checking in!


BOOK REVIEW: Rotten Little Things by Justin M. Woodward

Another terrifically creepy outing for Justin M. Woodward!

Monica suffers from schizophrenia, but her husband Jacob and son Zack help her keep herself focused on the fact that the tall man she sees haunting her day and night isn’t really there. But one episode after another, a change of medication, and an unexpected pregnancy help to send her reeling into a spiraling well of madness from which even those who love her most may not be able to pull her out of.

This is book two in the Tamer Animals series by Woodward, which also has a crossover with his novel The Variant. If you’ve read the other books in his bibliography, you’ll feel right at home here in the south with the whispers of evil and cults and Satan worship in the woods. The imagery in this novella was stark and compelling, the characters people we could really care about and root for, and of course, it has the Woodward twists that catch us totally unawares and leave us on our backs, gasping as we race ahead for more.

An excellent entry in the series, and an excellent novella all around. Fans of Woodward will not be disappointed, and newcomers may find a new favorite to keep their eye on as he continues to release more material. I know I have, and I can’t recommend him, or this book, enough. Get it in print, digital, and audio here