Book Review: “The Red Church” by Scott Nicholson

Haven’t been posting as many of my reviews here on the blog, but here’s one for a novel I thought was quite unique. Definitely worth checking out.

red church.jpgThe Red Church is a book that’s been on my radar for years, finally had the chance to dig into it, and glad I did. Instead of just uncovering a quick treasure that’s been buried underground and has maybe lost some of it’s shine, this was like unearthing a fossil only to realize that you’re standing not over a single specimen but an entire burial ground that could fill museums. Reminiscent of early King, Nicholson is a master wordsmith, and his imagery is as haunting as it is poignant. At times the religious aspects of the book felt a little heavy handed, but the final picture painted is worth every stroke of the artist’s brush.

Far from your run-of-the-mill supernatural horror story, this is one that will sit with you long after you’ve digested it. Will be looking into more of Nicholson’s work for sure.

“When you have one of those waking nightmares, when you think bad things in the dark and can’t go to sleep, you think happy thoughts. Cartoon dogs, fat clowns, things like that. Except sometimes the cartoon dogs bite and the fat clowns grow sharp smiles.”

 

Book Review: “Fingerprints of the Gods” by Graham Hancock

I’m pretty behind w/ my book reviews folks, and sort of wondering if I’ll continue to review the books I read quite as regularly. Time is sadly a commodity that’s becoming increasingly difficult to find, and I’ve got to make some hard choices here with where my investments are spent.

That being said, here’s my thoughts on one I finished last month, Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods:

fingerprints.jpgAlternate histories … lost civilizations … ancient prophecies and doomsday predictions … what’s not to love about a man’s journey researching possibilities?

What I enjoyed most about this book was that it’s focus wasn’t on convincing you of Hancock’s theories but rather encouraging people to ask questions. To consider new ideas. To expand our thoughts and beliefs of what we think we might know. Some of his findings and conclusions were admittedly far-reaching, but that’s not the point of the book.

Are there mysteries in our past that we still, in our age, are unable to solve or answer or even begin to understand? Absolutely. And Hancock’s conversationally-toned exploration is a great place to discover some of those provocations. It’s the mysteries of life, the unanswered questions, that keep a sense of magic moving through this world, opening our eyes to look beyond ourselves. The most powerful question anyone has ever asked is: What if?

Book Review: “The Halloween Children” by Brian James Freeman & Norman Prentiss

“The Halloween Children are watching me. They’re watching us all …”

halloween childrenThis novella reminded me a bit of a Jack Ketchum story. The first 2/3 of the book is spent exploring the characters – in this case a quite dysfunctional family. A constant sense of dread continues to build as questions are strung throughout the narrative like carefully placed decorations, until you reach the end which comes screaming at you like a freight train lifted from its tracks.

The narrative point of views, in flipping from Lynn and Harris’s perspectives, worked extremely well as you couldn’t fully trust either of the two narrators. The savvy reader begins to get the real picture of what’s going on by what’s NOT being said. I’ve always enjoyed the unreliable narrator motif, and it’s used here in quite a unique way that’s not fully understood until you reach the end.

But the ending — I’ll admit, a few times I grew a little weary of the bickering between the two parents, but this has one of the best endings for a book I’ve ever read. The thematic metaphors woven throughout one of the most tragic and shocking finales you’ll find … as I was reading I felt as if my jaw kept dropping lower and lower. Beautifully crafted, this is horror that will affect even the most jaded of horror fans.

A fantastic collaboration between two amazing authors, this is a book that will stay with you long after you close the final page.

“You’re all guilty. You’re all the Halloween Children.”

NOTE: This book will be released June 7th, by Random House and their Hydra imprint. You can pre-order a copy here.

** I received an advanced review copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own. **

Book Review: “Hex” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

hex.jpgA present-day witch story that cleverly combines new horror with old-school horror, Hex is a novel that is quite unique. Part “Cabin in the Woods,” part “Under the Dome,” the reader is brought into a town under self-quarantine, and the slow-burn suspense builds like watching a spark travel down the wick towards a stick of dynamite. In this instance, that wick may be a little long, but when it reaches the blasting cap, you better believe it explodes.

The last quarter of this novel is incredible, and the way Heuvelt underscores the action and horror with underlying thematic elements only adds to its mastery. Definitely a novel deserving of the praise its received and a great example of how to cull from the horror greats who have come before you while simultaneously cementing your own unique vision on a work. One of my favorite reads so far from this year.

See you in Doodle Town.

Book Review: “The End of the World As We Knew It

I rarely touch a book with your typical horror monsters in it … vampires, werewolves, zombies? Unless it’s approaching things from a completely unique angle, I’m just not that interested.

(And yes, I gave up on the Walking Dead somewhere in the middle of Season Three … Sorry, folks. I’m one of THOSE guys).

I find most of these books turn into what I’d consider “fan-fiction,” recapitulating all of the hours of reading (or watching) other <insert monster here> movies or books that the author has taken in. It’s nice that you like zombies, it really is, but if you want me to buy your book, come up with your own creation. Or give me a zombie story I haven’t seen before.

With “The End of the World As We Knew It,” author Nick Cole attempts to bring us that story.

nick coleDid it work? Sort of. I absolutely loved the first third of this novel. The writing, the pacing, the characterizations revealed through imperfect recordings. It was a blast. Then things sort of got bogged down into more familiar territory, but without any real risk or inherent danger. One of the problems with using journal entries as a means of telling a story is that the audience knows that, despite whatever circumstance our “hero” may find themselves in, they’ll survive. Else, how could they be “telling” us the story?

And that’s sort of where the book headed, with telling rather than showing. A lot of summaries of battles and dangers overcome that would have been much more interesting if we had lived through them rather than hearing of them second hand.

(As a side note, I often wonder how anyone would ever write in such detail conversations or the intricacies of events that took place in a journal. Ain’t nobody got time for that!)

Despite the way in which the story was told, what I enjoyed the most was the humanity this novel revealed. This is where Cole’s writing thrives and what elevates this story from what might be considered your average zombie tale.

For you zombie horde fanatics, this is one not to miss. For the rest of you? You’ll get enough out of this to make it an enjoyable journey. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review – “Hide & Seek” by Jack Ketchum

hide and seekA lot of people passionate about either loving or hating this one, I clearly fall into the camp of the former. I feel expectations play a big role in whether we enjoy a book, and the blurb for this one is quite deceiving … The “game” itself is only the last fourth of the novel. This isn’t “Saw,” it’s not a haunted house tale (though you could make arguments that it incorporates some of the tropes of the genre), but I found it both moving and brilliant.

Ketchum takes his time in this one, allowing the characters to drive the narrative rather than the other way around, and it works magnificently. One of my biggest gripes with a lot of books / films in the horror genre is that I don’t care enough about the characters before the blood starts flying. This doesn’t mean I need lengthy back stories or — even worse — flashbacks; quite the contrary. Often it’s through a character’s actions and/or reactions that we get to know them. But it’s also through their wounds that they become real.

For me, this was a story I didn’t want to end simply because I felt I knew these characters, and I could have spent more time with them. Ketchum’s approach only made the horror elements of this novel that much more shocking, which led to some great and/or tragic discoveries. A novella to take your time with and not race through, but highly recommended.

This novel is currently FREE on Amazon for anyone with Amazon Prime, as part of their “Prime Reading” program. Definitely worth picking up.

Book Review – “Stranded” by Bracken MacLeod

stranded.jpgI’m a huge fan of horror stories set against the backdrop of a frozen winter land. Add to the setting a story that delves into the psychological, with a simmering suspense that slowly dials up, and you’d think I would have loved this one.

Not sure if it was the characters feeling a little wooden, only playing a single note, or if the style of writing was what kept me from really sinking in, but I constantly felt on the outskirts of the story rather than being drawn into the middle of it.

Lately, it seems there’s a trend to move toward subtle storytelling, a less-is-more approach, where huge concepts instead of being fully explored are dampened. I look at Joe Hill’s The Fireman as an example, or even Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil Rock. For me, Stranded falls into a similar category. (Meaning for all of you readers out there who LOVED these books, you’ll probably condemn me for not 5-starring this wintery winterland). Some great ideas that never fully took off the ground, at least for me.

I’d definitely be up for checking out more of MacLeod’s work, this one just left me — dare I say it? — chilled. 3 out of 5 stars.