Necromancer - C. Bryan Brown
Review: Necromancer starts off a bit unlike any other horror I have read. Through the first 40% of the book, it feels more like a crime drama / mystery novel rather than a gut churning horror. As someone who personally hates cop shows and crime books, I was disappointed. However, a few things kept me going. The characters developed beautifully, the personal conflicts of the protagonist felt entirely real, and the writing was clean, succinct, and poignant. Then, in the best possible way, the horror began. From midway through and onward, the horror plot lines developed and deepened into a maddening spiral of well written keep-you-up-at-night events. That's the kind of stuff I like in a horror novel. It wasn't overly graphic, yet it was certainly terrifying. The suspense built like an A-rate horror film and never let up. At the end, I ranked this book among my all time favorites and can't wait for more to read by C. Bryan Brown.
Score: 9 / 10 - For my personal taste, the beginning was a tad slow, although justified for character development, otherwise a 10 would be in order. From a syntactic standpoint, you won't find better writing, at least not in horror.
The Hand of God - Tony Acree
Review: So the devil just walked into your office. He has a contract with your brother's name on it and a timer set to 24 hours. The hitch? Deliver a woman you have never met to Satan himself and your brother will live. With unmatched characterization and a driving plot that keeps you hooked, The Hand of God will never disappoint. At the turn of every page, Acree pulls you deeper and deeper into the twisting and darkening tale. Unforgettable characters, especially Montoya, bring the action to life in every scene. The prose is very well written, the dialogue is real and enticing, and the ending is a perfect cliff-hanger. The Hand of God is everything you want to read in a supernatural thriller.
Score: 8.5 / 10 - The Hand of God will certainly leave you aching to know more and chomping at the bit to get your hands on book 2: The Watchers.
For a Glimpse Beyond the Terminus
Review: This is the second collection by Jordan Anderson that I've read. I liked the first quite a bit, but this one is better. The prose has improved dramatically, and the first story almost felt more like poetry than a novel—and that's a good thing. For my personal taste, what brings horror alive is the realism of the characters. Not every horror novel captures that, but this one does. Reading about the struggles, even the most mundane disappointments that the characters experience, made them real. That's the absolute best thing about Anderson's writing: his characters feel like people you know. My only criticism is that sometimes the prose gets too flowery, especially in story #1, and I found my mind wandering at a few points.
Score: 8.4 / 10 - For short stories, these are some of the best.
The Things that Grow With Us - Jordan Anderson
Review: It has certainly been a long time since I've gotten to read a collection of horror shorts. And actually, this was more a collection of novellas, as a few of them are a bit longer, especially the opening tale which also happened to be my favorite. I won't comment too much on the plot since horror is easy to spoil, but I will comment on the writing. Most of it was really solid. The way the stories were crafted, especially as it pertains to perspective, was masterful. Some of the plots felt a little slow or a little too cerebral to be my taste, but they were all well executed. The problem with a lot of horror, at least in my opinion, is timing and pacing. This collection struggled with pacing sometimes, but it was actually pretty rare. Overall, the stories were organized and put together, and that made the collection really stand out from other anthologies. And the very first story was the best, a fine example of Jordan Anderson flexing his literary skills right up front.
Score: 8.2 / 10 - Some parts moved too quickly or too slowly, and few grammatical pet peeves hijacked my attention here and there, but overall, Anderson has a fine product on his hands. With just a touch of polishing and a eye toward pacing, this could be a fantastic collection.
They Are Among Us - C. Bryan Brown
Review: A lot of people say the vampire genre is a bit flooded. Personally, I'm pretty sure this is the first vampire novel I have ever read. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. In the beginning, the reader follows a team of FBI investigators as they try to piece together a few clues and figure out how someone was 'flash-fried' on the top of a news building. The first half of this book was incredible - I couldn't stop reading and it kept me up far too late several nights in a row. Unfortunately, the book takes a rather strange turn in the middle. At roughly the 50% mark, the perspective shifts to one of the vampire characters and never returns to the FBI agents. I was a little blindsided by the change and I kept waiting for the perspective to go back to my favorite characters. Thankfully, the ending was really solid and unpredictable.
Score: 8 / 10 - A great book, but not perfect. Had the perspective stayed with the FBI agents, it might have been flawless.
13 1/2 - Nevada Barr
Review: When you wake up in a blood-soaked bedroom staring down at the corpses of your family members... you know you've had a rough night. But what if you can't remember any of it? The police tell you you're a murder. The judge concurs. The only one who believes in you is your brother, but everything may not be as it seems. Nevada Barr's 13 1/2 was one of the first real thrillers I had ever read. The beginning started with a brutal pool of blood but quickly slowed. Through the second third, I kept thinking: when will this pick up? Where is all that violence? Why did he kill his parents?! Don't worry though, trudging through the hundred pages of uneventful middle chapters is worth it. The ending brings back the crazy suspense and brutality of the beginning, in a rather tasteful way. Overall, the character development was great, the plot was even better, but the transitions were jarring. The mood, tempo, and timing of some chapters lined up poorly with the following chapters but wasn't so bad as to destroy the entire flow.
Score: 6.8/10 - A good suspense read that borders on horror, but nothing that will change your life. One of those books you like to read but have no intentions of lifting up again.
IT - Stephen King
Review: In all honesty, I think I expected too much from this book. I wanted something to deeply trouble me, to terrify me to the point of losing sleep, and I just didn't find it. The overall plot was fantastic, and the characters were expertly written with such realistic qualities that I felt at times they were my friends too, but the organization and general prose was seriously lacking. Especially toward the end, it was a hard book to follow. Multiple time skips made it really hard to grasp at times, and frequent typos (usually errant punctuation—maybe just the eBook edition?) combined with lengthy sections that just dragged and dragged made this book more of a challenge to read than a pleasure. And as a side note, many of the characters are frequently (if not always) referred to by their full names. I found that practice to be very annoying.
Score: 6.7 / 10 - A great story sadly mired by hundreds of pages of extraneous and uninteresting details.
Angela - Adam M. Booth
Review: This book takes a little effort to get into. Angela follows the titular character around her work and home, brewing in depressing memories and violently intrusive thoughts indicative of mania, until her scorned love becomes too much for her to handle. After she snaps, Angela's obsession with capturing and killing birds turns into a violent compulsion toward her lost love. For anyone interested in psychology and the deeply bizarre, Angela is a wildly dark ride down a bottomless pit. Unfortunately, Booth's often poetic writing suffers from a serious lack of editing. Comma errors distract from the beautiful metaphors and the sparse dialogue is almost entirely devoid of proper formatting. Thankfully, Angela ended with a gruesome bang like good horror should.
Score: 6.5 / 10 - Fans of Hitchcock's The Birds or the 1985 film Agnes of God will enjoy some familiar and disturbing psychological themes. If you can look past the lack of quality editing, you'll find a great novella waiting to be devoured.
The Stone Man - Micah Castle
Review: I like horror / Lovecraftian short stories, and these were at least entertaining. There are some cool premises, and if you like the original Lovecraft style, you'll probably enjoy this collection. That being said, there are some serious editing flaws. I felt like each page was written without a single comma, and then all the commas that were supposed to be there were simply sprinkled onto the page haphazardly. That's an easy issue any editor worth their pay would be able to fix in a breeze. Being a stickler for grammar myself, I found it really hard to get fully immersed in the stories when I kept having to reread sentences punctuated as dependent clauses that were actually independent.
Score: 5.8 / 10 - Not a bad first attempt, but certainly not ready for publication.