If It’s Halloween It Must Be . . . Ghost Virus by Graham Masterton!

I’d never heard of Graham Masterton, but he looks so avuncular.  After reading the book, I took another look.  No, it’s in the eyebrows, I’m sure, those dark, heavy, menacing eyebrows.

This book was published a couple of years ago, so I don’t know if it’s still available, but it popped up rather mysteriously on my e-reader, and so what’s a reader to do.  I began to read.  A young Pakistani girl is summoning up the courage to ”burn off her face” with sulfuric acid.  Oh, my stars and garters, she does.  Goriest thing I’ve ever read.  Enough to make a toad go pale and hop off seeking the comfort of religion, alcohol or drugs.  Folks, it is bad and gets worse.

The police, DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel, begin investigating this as a possible crime of honor, a so-called honor killing for bringing shame on the family.  Now that sounded really interesting so I read on.  Turns out it’s not honor at all.  It’s coats……..and jackets and sweaters.  Promise.  Coats and jackets and sweaters.  Eventually dresses join the fray.  Hats and shoes, you’ll be relieved to know, do not, but I’m not sure about underwear.

Yes, my fellow readers, it starts with second-hand clothing and soon spreads to the suburban closets of Tooting, a district of London.  Garments are possessed and seeking bodies.  Bands of hooded overcoats roam the streets attacking innocent passers-by, ripping off heads and limbs, strewing guts, organs and spinal columns willy-nilly.  Watch your step on those slippery sidewalks.

Surely there’s an award for the goriest book with the silliest concept.  The highly coveted Bucket of Blood?  Who wants a Hugo when you can have the Flay, Splay and Spray?  Well, here’s your hands-down winner.  I mean, this book drips.  And it’s coats, clothing!  What next?  Cannabilism?  Hmm, maybe.  Wouldn’t want to leave that out.

The Tooting police have no clue how to handle this, but, eventually, they arrive at a weapon, and it’s inspired.  I won’t say what it is, but it has a motor, and you may have one in your garage to cut up fallen trees and take down limbs.  It’s very noisy, too.  So an entire hard-faced squadron marches forth carrying these……noisy things.  And then there’s Tooting.  Now I don’t know how this is pronounced in the UK, but, here, in print, it reads as, well . . . Tooting.  And adolescent humor abounds, though, perhaps, unintentionally.  Officers going after the coats are told to make this the “Tooting Chainsaw Massacre”.  (Oops, there you go, spoiler alert.)  And there’s this suggested headline:  TOOTING POLICE LOSE THEIR MARBLES.  I tell you what.  Some of us never grow up, and I shamelessly admit I was hoping for something like “Tooting PD, ma’am, here about that smell you reported.”  Sadly, that was a missed opportunity.

Now Mr. Masterton is a prolific author of horror and crime novels (excessively prolific), and, really, even here, he tells his story pretty well, but this is whacked.  The man dreamed up killer coats and sweaters smearing intestines, kidneys, lungs and uteruses (uteri?) up walls and across streets.  Then there’s Tooting.  Seriously?  It’s a technicolor extravaganza going for broke.  Man, what a magnificent set of cojones he must have, and, unlike the characters in his book, he gets to keep them.  Here’s to ya, Mr. Masterton.

If this is your thing (and really, why shouldn’t it be?), you can scare up a copy at your local indie bookstore.

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by Head of Zeus via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Helen Phillips’ The Need

Helen Phillips, this novel left me reeling.  So real it could be yesterday in my own kitchen, but then so utterly, devastatingly surreal.  Is it alternate realities, or a frazzled mother’s mind unraveling into madness, or is it a wicked human plot?  Or is it creepy with the supernatural and spooky portals to other planes?  Are the children going to die, or are they already dead?   What it is…….is a consideration, a contemplation, if you will, of a mother’s love, so fierce and so fraught with its intensity and its burden.   Tiny Ben and lively Viv (a masterpiece, the most fully realized fictional four-year-old ever), the warm funk of children sleeping, their unremitting needs, tantrums, vomit, Cheerios, yes, and the bone-deep fear of it all.   But make no mistake.  This is not a horror story.  It is a human story.  Helen Phillips, your talent is frightening.

Readers, make haste to your local bookstore (support the independents, please!) to pick this one up on July 9 from Simon & Schuster.  Or to pre-order from Amazon.com, click here: The Need

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Kevin Munoz’s The Post

I always hesitate when I see a new contestant in the dystopian/zombie apocalypse rat race.  Let’s face it.  By this point the genre has been done to death, and while I’m still an avowed fan of all stripes of horror, it takes some pretty impressive writing to make the walking dead stand out to me these days.   Enter Kevin Munoz’s debut, The Post.

What’s left of humanity exists in small, protected enclaves in Munoz’s world, after a pandemic decimates Earth’s population and oil supplies are contaminated.  The Little Five, a walled district in Atlanta, Georgia, is the setting for this tale, which on top of “hollow-heads” and “shriekers”, features murder, human trafficking, slave-trading and a white-knuckle journey to rescue a kidnapped teen.  Munoz’s sharp yet compassionate writing makes for a stand-out zombie fiction entry.  The Post just released earlier this week from Diversion Books, so curl up on the sofa on one of these cold winter’s nights and give it look!

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Diversion Books via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

The Outcast Hours

A collection of short stories (edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin) set in those lonely, eerie hours after the sun goes down, stories about those who live, work, exist during those hours, and about things that….occur…..then.   These are original, delicious, fun, thought –provoking and, yes, creepy, so have a go.   You won’t put it down until you have to turn on the lights.  Scheduled to drop somewhere between February 19 and February 22.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Rebellion Publishing / Solaris Books via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

David Mitchell’s Slade House

Slade House

My experience with David Mitchell to date is limited to The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet which I read earlier this year.  It’s shameful but I have yet to read Cloud Atlas, even though it’s sitting in my TBR pile along with Black Swan Green and number9dream.

Thousand Autumns was a dense, atmospheric historical that, while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I would not categorize as “light” reading.  Slade House couldn’t be more different.  It skips along at a goodly clip and you could easily read it in one sitting.

So this is what Mitchell’s twist on the haunted house tale looks like:  Every nine years, a small door appears in Slade Alley (itself located in a small English town), beckoning certain people to explore what lies on the other side.  What these people find is initially enticing, offering up to each person something missing but badly desired:  For the first victim, Nathan, a high-functioning, autistic boy, who enters Slade House along with his mother, it’s the promise of a friend who finally gets his quirks and differentness; for the divorced police detective who stumbles upon the alley door nine years later while investigating the disappearance of Nathan and his mother, it’s the promise of a roll in the hay with the young widow who seemingly inhabits Slade House; another nine years along, six, paranormal-obsessed college students, having heard the rumors about Slade Alley and its mysterious disappearances, want nothing more than to see a ghost or two.  Unfortunately for all these poor folks, once you enter Slade House you’re doomed to die there.  I was going to insert a “Hotel California” reference here but David Mitchell himself beat me to it, dang it!

I read innocently along, lapping up the spookiness through the first three segments of the book, then happened to stop and read a couple of reviews by some folks that, like me, had received ARCs of the book in advance of its publication.  Oops.  Turns out I picked up David Mitchell’s Slade House not realizing that it’s a sort of companion piece to The Bone Clocks, a book I have yet to read.  As I kept reading with this new knowledge, it became apparent that, while the book functions just fine as a stand-alone, I probably would have gotten even more meaning out of it had I read The Bone Clocks first.  So . . . now I’ve ordered The Bone Clocks from Amazon so I can throw it in the TBR pile with the other Mitchell books.  Sneaky, David Mitchell, luring me in with what I thought was a one-off, only to find that you really wanted me to read The Bone Clocks all along!  I did catch the blink-and-you-miss-it connection to Thousand Autumns though, and 1,000 points to anyone else who spies it.

NOTE:  Slade House is expected to be released on October 27, 2015.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Random House Publishing Group – Random House via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed from here forward are my own.

Just a few minutes here and there!

I usually have my nose stuffed in three or so books at any one time:  one physical book, one or two Kindle books and one audiobook.  Right now, I’m reading the trade PB of 52 Loaves:  A Half-Baked Adventure, by William Alexander; Colum McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking (which just dropped today from Random House) on Kindle, as well as a horror, short-story anthology, Suspended In Dusk, edited by Simon Dewar (also on Kindle); and finally, on audio, the second installment in Marcus Sakey’s near-future Brilliance Saga, A Better World, narrated by Luke Daniels (love me some Luke D.!).  I’ve just finished Furiously Happy:  A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) but wish it had been about a thousand pages longer.  It deserves, and will get, a blog post all its own.

52 Loaves  Thirteen Ways of Looking  Suspended in Dusk  A Better World  Furiously Happy

The audiobooks carry me through my one-hour long commute each day (one-way!) and the Kindle editions keep me going through endless miles on the treadmill.  The actual books and the Kindle versions compete for the remainder of my reading hours . . . or minutes or seconds!  All depends on when I can squeeze in a few more word-filled moments throughout my day.

If I had a nickel for every time someone has whined to me, in the most high-pitched, nasal tone she can muster, “I love to read but I can never find the time” . . .  Believe me, if you truly want to read you will make the time.  Besides the drive time and the gym, I also squeeze in a few pages while I get ready for work in the morning, on my lunch break, while the Hubs watches something loud and obnoxious on television (i.e., war movies, more war movies, and oh, did I mention war movies?), and lying in bed at night waiting to fall asleep.  It’s not that difficult if you put your mind to it . . . unless you have kids – then I know the challenge is truly amplified for you and your priorities are where they should be, with your kids.  Sure, I would much rather have a solid, uninterrupted hour or two (or three or four or five!) to really dig in and lose myself in whatever I’m reading but that’s not always realistic.  I’ve learned to appreciate the time I can get, when I can get it and to make the most of it!