Sunday, October 24, 2010

Three Bedrooms, Two Baths, One Very Dead Corpse, (Kennsington Books), by David James

I wasn't sure what I was getting into with this: a light, almost cozy murder mystery featuring a female protagonist who's a 40 year old real estate agent.

Consider me enchanted. Mr. James has waltzed effortlessly into the mind of his main character, Amanda, with a depth and accuracy that had me wondering about his own gender. Amanda is a well rounded character with a strict Catholic upbringing from which she still suffers guilt and the occasional child-like retaliation, a too good to be true ex husband, and a new listing which boasts the added feature of a corpse in the living room.

While never a major suspect in the murder, the bad press causes Amanda to become an amateur sleuth in order to clear her name. Alex, her best friend - and gay ex-husband - comes riding in on the proverbial white steed to assist her investigation.

Amanda's search is logical, and she's always a few steps behind the police, which is refreshing. Far too many books seem to feature brilliant amateur sleuths who are leaps ahead of bumbling detectives. Her hi-jinks range from subtle to completely outrageous, but at no time feel unbelievable. Amanda's voice is fantastic, a well rounded, flawed human being that this reader would be happy to journey with again.

This story is about as sweet and fluffy as an adventurous murder mystery can get; you won't find a gritty underworld as such, or a great deal of gore. (Though the underhanded workings of real estate are presented brilliantly, and not every character is a good person.)

There are no great human revelations or discourses on the nature of man, no hidden depths; this is a book of pure fun and light reading. Perfect for the morning train commute, relaxing on the beach - though I wouldn't recommend it as a bathroom reader or an insomnia cure, as the characters are engaging and the mystery itself is a real page turner.

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Rachael Saltzman is a writer and filmmaker from New York with a love for horror and thrillers. Visit her at

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dark Harvest, (TOR Books), by Norman Partidge

You know what time it is. The nights are longer, the air cooler and crisp, and the leaves turned. Harvest has passed and the fields are lined with dry but still standing and endless rows of corn. The pumpkins are bloated and blazing orange, and everything seems harder, somehow...the ground, the black asphalt roads out by Old Man Prichett's farm, and maybe even you.

It's the end of October. Halloween night. The world feels pulled tight at the edges. Like a thin flap of skin stretched over something that wants to get out. Something bad. Things feel thinner this time of year, and of know. You've done this before.

It's Halloween. A time for stories about monsters that go bump in the night and nightmares that leave cold sweats in their wake. You've been here. Did this last year. So you know what to expect. It's Halloween, after all. Monsters are monsters and good guys are just that, ready to put down the monsters or die trying, which they so often do.

Except you don't know.

You haven't been here before.

Because this is Dark Harvest.

By Norman Partridge. So it's not the same as before. Not at all.

It's completely different. From everything you know.

Dark Harvest is simply the most original Halloween tale you're going to find this year. It's time for the October Boy to rise into unnatural life. Time for every sixteen year old boy in town to brave the Run. Deprived of food and locked in their rooms for days, these boys hunger for fame and fortune and violence all that comes with slaying the October Boy.

Thing is, Peter McCormick wants none of that. Maybe he's got an uncommon imagination, can dream of life past this place. Maybe he's just different. Anyway, he's got a few surprises in store for the October Boy and this town. If he's got to play the game, he's going to play it different. His way. And that's just fine.

Because tonight the October Boy's got a few surprises of his own. Things are going to change, and nothing's going to be the same here. Ever again.

People talk often in horror reviews about an author having "a unique voice". Usually that's a cover for poor craft and style...but this is the real deal. Stylistically speaking, Dark Harvest is one of the most finely crafted novels I've read in years. It manages to blend a first, second, and third person present tense narrative into seamless storytelling perfection. And, along the way it's simply a great story, with some unexpected heroism to boot. This is the new standard Halloween stories should be judged by. Pick it up in time for Halloween. You won't be disappointed.

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Kevin Lucia is the Review Editor for Shroud Magazine. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. He's currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles, and he's currently working on his first novel for Shroud Publishing, due 2011. Visit him on the web at

Solitary: The Solitary Tales, (David C. Cook), by Travis Thrasher

I became of fan of Travis Thrasher's when I first read and reviewed an advance copy of The Second Thief. Hooked, I found myself anxiously awaiting the next Thrasher release, year after year. Sometimes first in line to buy a copy, and many times lucky enough to have the pleasure and privilege to receive a copy, like with Solitary, to read and review prior to, or just around the actual release date.

In the vein of John Saul, Thrasher plunges readers into the heart of teen angst, amidst haunted backwoods towns. Chris Buckley is sixteen. His parents have separated. While his father opts to remain in Illinois, Chris and his mother is return to her hometown, Solitary, North Carolina. They live in Chris' uncle's home. There's plenty of room since the uncle went missing months ago.

While bullies and unseen allies taunt and tempt Chris in school, it's against everyone's advice that our young, new-to-school teen befriends the troubled and mysterious Jocelyn Evans. It doesn't take Chris long to realize that, aside from falling goo-goo-gaa-gaa for her, it is Jocelyn's secrets that threaten - if left uncovered - to destroy him.

Some unseen evil seems to hold the town hostage, paralyzed with fear, leaving everyone unable to act, react or to even prevent the inevitable. People in Solitary go missing. It's a fact. Chris' hunt for answers brings him nothing but trouble and threats. Not empty threats, either.

With a missing uncle, a crazy aunt, a radical church, and a mother who falls short of coping with the hand she's been dealt, it is Chris and Jocelyn against Solitary. The trouble is the town of
Solitary incorporates more than just the people that live within its boundary limits. The ghosts, and monsters just might be caused by more than wisps of air, and random bumps banging in the night.

It is up to Chris to sort out the things he knows from what can be surmised to what he just hopes can't possibly be true--or possible. It's now a race against time and there is no mistaking that life and death actually hang in the balance. . .

Solitary, the first in a supernatural young adult series, has put me over the top. Quick, compelling chapters. Deeply drawn, well-crafted characters. Tight, gritty, noir-style dialogue - and by the end, all I want is more. So many questions raised. So much yet to be answered. And, unfortunately, too much time between future installments. If you've never read Travis Thrasher, which I'd find hard to believe of true fans of suspense, Solitary is an excellent place to start. Just be ready to put aside anything else that needs getting done, because once you begin reading, I believe you will have a hard time stopping until you've read the last page.

Visit Buy it today.

Thomas Phillips grew up with a reading disability and did everything he could not to read. It wasn't until he was in seventh grade that he finally read a book cover to cover. Now a voracious reader and prolific writer, he uses his accomplishments as a motivational backdrop for speaking at school assemblies. When he's not writing, he plays his guitar, is active in his church, coaches his children’s' Little League teams, and plots his next story. The Molech Prophecy is his most recent suspense novel.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Rain Wilds Chronicles: Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven (EOS/HarperCollins) by Robin Hobb

With Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven, award-winning fantasist Robin Hobb returns to the richly drawn world of her bestselling Liveship Traders series. Now she takes the reader deep into the dangerous and mysterious Rain Wilds on a quest for the mythical city Kelsingra, the ancient home of dragons and their Elderling keepers. More importantly, she draws us deep into the lives of the outcasts that take this journey for reasons both secret and public, benevolent and vile.

Alise Kilcannon Finbok, bound by contract into a loveless, soul-crushing marriage of convenience, takes an opportunity to leave the niceties of Bingtown life to study newly-hatched dragons far into the acidic jungles of the Rain Wilds. Thymara, shunned by Rain Wilds society due to her bizarre physical aberrations wrought by the strange environment, seizes a chance to prove herself on the expedition to find a new home for the deformed, yet still expensively destructive, creatures. Sintara, a newly hatched dragon queen, is hobbled by physical deformities that belie the proud memories of her majestic birthright.

Change is the driving theme of this series. Alise struggles against the dictates of her marriage and the shackles of her weak sense of self to blossom into an assertive young woman who knows what it is that she wants from life. Thymara comes of age in hard circumstances; her stubbornness is tempered into a firm resolve that will serve her well as a band of similarly disfigured outcasts form their own community. Sintara, as well as the other malformed dragons of her tangle, begins to grow and develop into a true dragon, wrestling against the need to be "kept" by humans and her desire to change them...though knowing that as dragons change their human companions, they too, are changed. The hardships of the journey, shifting alliances, unearthed betrayals, and kept secrets will ensure that everyone who undertakes the journey, human and dragon alike, will find themselves changed irrevocably: there can be no return to what they knew before.

Dragon Keeper, volume one of the presumed trilogy, sets the stage for the conflicts that are mostly resolved in volume two, Dragon Haven. In fact, Dragon Keeper is very much a first act; were it not for the high quality of the writing, it would not stand alone without the resolutions presented in the next volume. Dragon Haven ties up many of the loose ends, and like a good second act, introduces new conflicts that lurk in the shadows of the next volume. Hobb's strength has always been her ability to create compelling characters to inhabit her richly detailed worlds. The Rain Wilds Chronicles is no exception.

Visit Buy Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven today.

Shedrick Pittman-Hassett is a full-time librarian and part-time writer trying to do that the other way around. He has written reviews for Library Journal and has also had two articles published in the award-winning Knights of the Dinner Table magazine. Shedrick currently resides in Denton, Texas ("The Home of Happiness") with his lovely wife and the obligatory demon-spawn cats. When not writing, gaming, or watching cheezy kung-fu flicks, he can be found in a pub enjoying a fine brew.

Apexology: Horror, (Apex Book Company), edited by Jason Sizemore

Apex Magazine, headed by editor Jason Sizemore, showcases twenty-one stories of dark science fiction and horror in Apexology: Horror anthology. Since 2005, Apex magazine has been recognized for bringing to the forefront quality fiction in the genres it supports, and no less here in their digital only edition.

There's an eclectic mix of stories that touch on diverse times and cultures, as well as more familiar and seemingly benign settings. Unexpected characters grace the landscape, but some are familiar, classic creatures such as vampires and werewolves.

Stand-outs in this volume include the first story, "It Tasted Like the Sea," by Paul Jessup, an eerie tale reminiscent of the Bluebeard fairy tale, and "Kusatena Uroyi" by Gill Ainsworth, which keeps the reader guessing what purpose a "white man in black skin" has in an exotic, African setting.

Some delve into uglier territory of what the human spirit can be reduced to in the heartrending story of young love, "Cerbo En Vitra Ujo." Horror even hides in a beehive hairdo in "The Spider in the Hairdo," and the anthology closes with a sinister story of sibling rivalry in "Big Sister/Little Sister." "The Dark Side," and "Disturbing Things" delightfully showcase psychological horror and the nature of subjective viewpoints to great effect.

There's many more great stories within to be discovered, rest assured, you won't find any twinkling monsters here.

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Martin Rose lives in New Jersey, where he writes a range of fiction from the fantastic to the macabre, holds a degree in graphic design, and enjoys blurring the line between art and life. More details are available at

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Gathering of Crows, (Leisure Fiction), by Brian Keene

Brian Keene, whose work spans over twenty novels, thirteen collections, and four comic book series, has heavily influenced dark fiction since his career began. Ever since this two-time Stoker Award winner stepped on the scene, horror hasn’t been the same. And that’s a good thing. His latest novel, A Gathering Of Crows proves that the man still has his magic, and much more.

An ancient evil has descended upon the small West Virginia town of Brinkley Springs. One by one, the inhabitants realize that not only has the power gone out, but even their electronic gadgets—dependent on batteries—are dead as well. Even the natural sounds that accompany the night are gone. As well as the wind that carries their din. Once the screams start, and the gunfire begins, power and iPods are the least of the town’s worries.

Keene seamlessly takes us from person to person, and victim to victim, as those that serve an ancient deity begin to carry out Its orders: murder. Through break-neck, suspenseful pacing, we find people we truly care about. Trapped, they must rely on each other for safety as they scramble about the chaos seeking refuge.

Someone else has come to town, however. Someone Keene’s fans will remember from previous novels: ex-Amish magus, Mr. Levi Stoltzfus. Levi is a man of many skills, trades and magical disciplines. He's a faithful servant to The Lord, our God. As the body count climbs, Levi must mount a defense whilst uncover the nature of these beings, and more importantly, who they serve.

Battle lines are drawn, and people like Donny—a vet from the Iraq War—and Axel Perry, an old man who’s life is Brinkley Springs—refuse to stand idly by and watch their town be murdered. But when faced with that which is shadow, and its touch, death; will they stand by Levi and the few who support him? If they do, can Levi find the courage and magic within himself to face enemies that shadow his power?

A Gathering Of Crows is a well written, highly-imaginative, unique treat that, at some times becomes downright terrifying. Keene’s trademark voice and ability to give the reader realistic characters is at an all-time high. What truly makes this novel shine is how easily Keene combines these elements into a chill that tickles the imagination and reminds us: magic is real. And it exists in this book.

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Reviewed by Ben Eads.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dark Matters, (Bad Moon Books), by Bruce Boston

Bruce Boston's work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including Asimov's SF, Amazing Stories, Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, Weird Tales, The Pedestal Magazine, Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, and the Nebula Awards Showcase, and received a number of awards, most notably the Pushcart Prize, the Asimov's Readers' Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Rhysling Award, and the Grandmaster Award of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. He holds the distinctions of having appeared in more issues of Asimov's SF than any other author, and of coining the word "cybertext." His newest collection of dark poetry, Dark Matters, covers the full speculative range, from science fiction horror to dark fantasy, taking the reader on a nightmarish jaunt into the shadows.

For fans of traditional horror, Dark Matters contains such poems as "A Stray Grimoire," in which "your moving hand may pause/and descend upon the spine/of a book penned to decimate/the tenets of your mind," or "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Vulture," Boston's riff on Wallace Stevens, in which the speaker is "of a single mind,/Like a colony of vultures circling/A lone man in the desert" and the vulture itself "dreams/Of being shiny as a raven,/Iridescent as a peacock,/Spotless as a swan/Upon a pellucid pond." Boston's pages are plagued with assassins, torturers and zombies, ghosts and the voices of the damned, enough to keep the appetite of any horror enthusiast sated.

Boston's work also appeals to fans of science fiction. In his poem "The Oblong Observatory," "All the swayed myths/of the century's ascension/are misbegotten" and we "gather beneath/the grave gray ruins/of this oblong observatory/that reeks of the gods/of our unfailing obsessions." In "Robovamp," the "clich├ęd image/of a teenage boy's/rough libido at play" searches out men and "drains their life force/to power her own,/to fuel her fine form/and feed her stark mind." Boston is able to pepper his book with enough science fiction to keep fans of that genre equally satisfied, but makes the poems themselves dark enough to not stand out against the others in this collection.

Boston also delves into dark fantasy between these covers. In "The Faithless," "A great gray beast/of incertitude/comes stumbling/through the centuries/churning up corpses/and mud." In his poem "The Sizing of Curses," small curses are as "hard to track/as rats within the walls," but still "bite/and maim the child in its crib,/then fade like bloody smoke," whereas master curses slay "enemies abed/and scorch their lands with light." Fans of dark fantasy will find much in which to sink their teeth in the pages of Dark Matters.

Fans of Boston's previous work will also find comfort in this collection, as a few of his "people" poems punctuate these pages. In "Harvest People," "Sweet corn, tomatoes,/pepperoncinis and peaches/would live up to/their savory reputations" and "wine flowing/from our vineyards/would be a sense delight/in any vintage." Pleasant as these visions seem, Boston also conjures a world populated by Assassin People, in which "the slightest/indiscretion could/lead to a contract/on your life." and we "wake up/
each morning,/if we woke up at all,/with blood on our hands."

For those who have not read a collection of Bruce Boston's, now is the time to begin, and Dark Matters is an excellent place to start. For fans of Boston's previous work, Dark Matters continues his legacy of solid writing and will not disappoint. It is a spooky and chilling collection ready to shiver its way down the spine of readers, leaving only its tracks to haunt their dreams.

Visit Buy it today.

Joshua Gage is an ornery curmudgeon from Cleveland. His first full-length collection, "breaths", is available from VanZeno Press. Intrinsic Night, a collaborative project he wrote with J. E. Stanley, was recently published by Sam’s Dot Publishing. He is a graduate of the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Naropa University. He has a penchant for Pendleton shirts, rye whiskey and any poem strong enough to yank the breath out of his lungs. He stomps around Cleveland in a purple bathrobe where he hosts the monthly Deep Cleveland Poetry hour and enjoys the beer at Brew Kettle.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

WANTED: UNDEAD OR ALIVE Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies Of Evil , (Citadel Press), by Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman

Stoker Award-winning author Jonathan Maberry along with International Thriller Writer member Janice Gable Bashman have joined forces to create WANTED: UNDEAD OR ALIVE, a book which focuses on the endless struggle between good and evil. Concentrating on both the mythical evil of vampires and werewolves and those who hunt them to the real evil of serial killers and their nemeses, FBI profilers, this book is a fascinating mixture of everything from superheroes to pulp horror to current day ghostbusters.

With chapter titles ranging from "It Didn't Start with Van Helsing" (covering vampire legends prior to Bram Stoker's famous creation) and "Who You Gonna Call?" (the ghost-hunting trade) to "The Roots of Good and Evil" (a brief overview of the nature of good and evil and why we are so fascinated by it) and "Spandex to the Rescue"(comic book heroes and villains), Maberry and Bashman have managed to cover nearly ever "monster" of legend as well as the heroes (or superheroes) who try and defeat them.

And every chapter has commentary from such luminaries as director John Carpenter, actor Doug Jones, author Peter Straub and the legendary Stan Lee. The chapter covering "Real Evil" was particularly chilling with its Serial Killer Hall of Fame. There are also chapters covering "Skin Art" (former "Rue Morgue" editor-in-chief Jovanka Vuckovic's tattoos are prominently covered here), role-playing games, horror games that became films such as "Resident Evil" series, the "Bloodrayne" series and "Silent Hill". There are even appendices covering the Top 100 Villains of All Time (care to guess who is Number One), Spirit Superstitions and the Top 40 Genre Movies of All Time (with categories of Top Ten Vampire, Werewolf, Demon and Ghost Films).

This is a great reference for all horror-lovers. Maberry and Bashman have done a commendable job trying, in 366 pages, to explain the eternal battle of good versus evil and in a way modern day readers can understand. The book also includes 40 illustrations and an 8-page color insert with art from, among others, David Leri, the covers of Marvel Horror Comics, Patrick Don Maitz and Peter Mihaichuk.

Definitely check this book out.

Visit Buy it today.

Growing up in the Gothic South, Elaine has been obsessed with horror in almost all of its formats since she was a young child. She has contributed movie reviews, interviews and book reviews to such websites as Bloody-Disgusting, Severed Cinema, Icons of Fright, Horror, Really Scary, Fatally-Yours, HorrorReanimated and “Rue Morgue” magazine. Today she is the main literary critic for Dread Central and loves all of the amazing books she receives to review.

Kill the Dead: A Sandman Slim Novel, (HarperCollins), by Richard Kadrey

I need to start the review of Kill the Dead with something as basic as, I loved this novel. Loved it.

Now. I need you to stay with me for the rest of the review. Because, as you begin to read, you may not fully believe the above statement. But trust me. I will pull it off.

The extreme basic concept of Kadrey's book continually forced comparison between Kill The Dead and Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series -- the similarities nagged. Where the main character in Kadrey's novel has Kasabian --a fully functioning head, just a head, Dresden has Bob -- a spirit that lived inside a skull. Both Bob and Kasabian are limited to the homes of the main characters, are witty and a bit annoying, but also helpful and used as a sounding board, more or less -- where they tap resources to help their main characters solve puzzles.

While Dresden uses magic to operate a private eye business out of his home, he continually encounters vampires, ghosts, witches, goblins, etc., etc. Jimmy Stark (Sandman Slim), the main guy in Kill the Dead, is a nephilim (part angel, part human), who uses magic, and works for the Vigil to help solve crimes that seem to include vampires, werewolves, goblins and zombies.

Both Dresden and Stark are similarly outlined and shaded in characters, and the story lines easily blur between authors. However, and this is where I take you back to my first sentence, I loved Kadrey's novel.

Stark, who was sent Downtown for eleven years--Downtown being Hell--is, throughout the book, searching for Mason, the evil man who sent him there. In the meantime, he has jobs to do. While working for-hire for the Vigil to keep the streets free and clear of monsters, he takes to moonlighting. His new client is none other than the Devil himself. Lucifer.

Lucifer is in town. A soul he owns is a movie producer. A motion picture is going to be shot--detailing Lucifer's existence. While on earth, Lucifer wants a body guard to protect his human form. Enter Jimmy Stark, a.k.a. Sandman Slim.

At the same time, Drifters start showing up. Drifters are a breed of zombie. One of the actresses for the Lucifer film--Brigitte, a "Czech gypsy porn star zombie killer", teams up with Stark to fight the walking dead.

Together, with the help of a host of unique characters (friends), Stark and Brigitte, must uncover who released the zombie-drifters into the general public and prevent a serious health outbreak, while protecting the Prince of Darkness, and keeping themselves alive before the complete unraveling of humanity itself!

Taut chapters. Quick, tart dialogue. Gritty noir writing. Kill the Dead is an engrossing read. It is both captivating and compelling. It has forced me to place an order for the first book in the series, Sandman Slim, because I need to know what happened before to lead Stark to where he is now!

Visit Buy it today.

Thomas Phillips grew up with a reading disability and did everything he could not to read. It wasn't until he was in seventh grade that he finally read a book cover to cover. Now a voracious reader and prolific writer, he uses his accomplishments as a motivational backdrop for speaking at school assemblies. When he's not writing, he plays his guitar, is active in his church, coaches his children’s' Little League teams, and plots his next story. The Molech Prophecy is his most recent suspense novel.

The Blackness Within: Stories of the Pagan God Moccus, (Apex Publications) edited by Gill Ainsworth

Do you like sex? Do you like food? Then Moccus may very well be the god for you. An ancient Celtic god of fertility, he's guaranteed to stoke your passion and get them twigs a-growin'. He may be a bit bristly and rotund, but the fiery look in his eyes will tell you everything you need to know. That said, you might want to keep in mind that the crops will need to be fertilized with something and Moccus doesn't care much for the cute and cuddlies of the world, except as something to fill his belly.

Fresh off of one of the best religious horror anthologies out there (Dark Faith), Apex brings us a collection of stories based around the big pig himself, and I couldn't be happier. These tales sprawl across the past, present and a disturbing future under the reign of a Yeatsian Second Coming where the rough beast slouching to Bethlehem has hoofed feet and a squat, flat snout. The whole is a merger of brutal dark fantasy, olde timey religion and an occasional bit of science fiction that left my pants uncomfortably moist.

Some high points include S. Clayton Rhodes' "The Messiah of Mincemeat", which intercuts its story of burgeoning violence and retribution with recipes that show the dark underpinnings of our oh-so-civilized eating habits. Mark Grundy and Conrad Zero wax Serling with "The Free Poor" and "Big Game". Then there is "Abattoir Blues", by Geoffrey W. Cole, a tale of hypocrisy and capitalization of religion that makes no bones of its comments on more traditional faiths. But Maxwell Peterson's "Daughter of God" takes the cake, working the style and tone of the oral tradition so closely associated with these old gods to marvelous effect.

However, not all of the stories came thundering down from the mountaintop. Opener "The Secrets of Fatima", by human ball of destruction Steven L. Shrewsbury, has its fair share of well portrayed sex and violence, but comes across as too random and scattershot to have any lasting effect. Similarly, Michael Keyton's "Bad Meat", while carrying a respectable Books of Blood-era Barker atmosphere, lacked the emotional center necessary for the viscera to properly bleed.

While there are a few stories here that fall flat, the overall effect of this collection is quite powerful and there is no doubt that it meets the high standards that come with the Apex name. If you spend a night or two with this little friend, I doubt you'll look at pork the same way again.

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Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Born to Bite, (Avon), by Lynsay Sands

Lynsay Sands gives us the latest in the Argeneau family with Born to Bite from Avon HarperCollins, a vampire paranormal romance set in Sands' native Canada. Since 1997, she's been penning best-sellers in the paranormal/historical romance field, injecting story with suspense, humor, and sex.

Sands wastes no time, introducing us to Armand Argeneau and Eshe D'Aureus, immortal, good-looking, and in dire need of a reason to take off each other's clothes. Sands provides us with the reason: Eshe is an Enforcer, a law officer in the vampire world, and she is there in an undercover capacity to investigate the deaths of Armand's previous wives. Armand is told Eshe needs a place to hide out for several weeks, and takes her in as a favor to his brother.

However, in the Argeneau vampire world, vampires are known to find "life mates," an instant connection between two vampires that supersedes all other concerns, awakening their senses, their desires, and their animal appetites. While Eshe is determining if Armand is a cold-blooded killer, neither can resist their hot-blooded urges.

Born to Bite is the fast-food variety of fiction, a guilty pleasure geared for the female demographic that can be gobbled down in seconds. Sands is noted for interspersing humor throughout her novels, but most attempts fall flat here. The main characters fail to stir a sense of urgency or emotional response in the reader, and the writing style is all action, lacking the attention to character detail that can make genre fiction so enjoyable when done well. Justin Bricker is the most likable character beside the main players, because, like the reader, he has no choice but to tolerate the poor jokes and boring sex scenes.

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Martin Rose lives in New Jersey, where he writes a range of fiction from the fantastic to the macabre, holds a degree in graphic design, and enjoys blurring the line between art and life. More details are available at