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Ms. Theresa M. Derwin (Birmingham, UK)
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Mutated (Dead World Book 4)
Mutated (Dead World Book 4)
Price: £2.69

4.0 out of 5 stars Dead Good, 25 Oct 2014
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The fourth book in the Dead World Series by McKinney starts with Ben Richardson trapped in an oven in an abandoned pizza joint in St Louis, looking for food, when a few zombies turn up. But a few can soon become a swarm. However the three zombies are distracted by a woman who calls out to them, and not having seen a person for a very long time, Richardson decides to investigate. Thing is, for some reason he's sure he knows her. But from where? Then it hits him; it's Sylvia Carnes, English Professor.
Eight years ago hurricane Mardell tore apart the city of Houston, and from the soup of the floodwaters the zombies rose, not dead, still alive somehow but infected with a deadly virus. Carnes had been a member of a group that believed in helping the infected. So with forty students she went into the quarantine area of San Antonio to look for a cure. And Ben Richardson accompanied them.
Now, in a dead St Louis, Richardson watches as Carnes joins a group of four other survivors seemingly on a mission. He watches as they are suddenly attacked by a large number of zombies. Obliged to help Richardson moves toward them but is soon shocked to see four trucks pull up towards the group. The Red Man emerges from one of the trucks. And to Richardson's astonishment, the zombies don't attack.
From the off, McKinney's writing is punchy, fast paced and engaging. He draws his characters with effect in just a few pages establishing hopes, dreams, fears and relationships then gets straight into the action. And for the gore hounds there are plenty of moments to enjoy as zombies rip out innards and the blood flows. McKinney has also created variations in the zombies, stages one to three, with one being the slow dumb shamblers and three being the intelligent fast movers. We have a particularly strong female character in Niki Booth especially her awareness, and McKinney's acknowledgement, of how predictable men can sometimes be. He also makes some wry observations about some of the inherent differences between men and women using Sylvia and Ben as examples. And as for Niki, she has a mission. She is intent on finding a cure for the necro filovirus and might just know where to find it. Amidst the gore we also have debates about humanity and about the zombies, philosophical discussions and reflections on poetry; it makes for an unusual yet powerful read.
It's also nice to have the return of regular characters from previous novels in the Dead World Series, such as Nate Royal and Ken Stoler. With Richardson, as he records the experiences of those in this dead world, it's all about sharing those stories and rebuilding from it. He still sees his primary role as a reporter as being of vital importance as the novel begins, but as it progresses it's clear he's tired of it all and doesn't intend to finish his book. For some survivors, like Nate, the apocalypse has given them a new life, something worth clinging to.
With a cast of engaging characters and a terrific ending, this is one to read.


Dead Romantic
Dead Romantic
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Dead Good, 17 Oct 2014
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This review is from: Dead Romantic (Kindle Edition)
Dead Romantic does exactly what it says on the tin. Bringing together heartwarming romance, grief, obsession and chance encounters, this novel tells the story of Egyptologist Cleo Carpenter, who is so obsessed by her work at the Wellby Museum and her project I to an Egyptian child mummy, she forgets to live her life. But this practical, work focused life us turned upside down when she falls into traffic, hits her head and is saved by a ghost, Alex, who wants her to find his grieving brother Rafe and teach him to live again. On her own journey of self discovery, Cleo discovers Rafe is the romantic stranger she met ten years ago at a snowy train station, sharing a life altering kiss. Witty, intelligent, and with engaging characters, Dead Romantic is quite simply, dead good


The Last Plague
The Last Plague
Price: £2.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 23 Sep 2014
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This review is from: The Last Plague (Kindle Edition)
Cracking apocalyptic read, tautly written, fast paced and moving


Cold Blooded: Book 3 in the Jessica McClain series
Cold Blooded: Book 3 in the Jessica McClain series
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars SPOILERS DARLING for Cold Blooded, 30 July 2014
After finishing the second book in the Jessica McClain series and waiting with baited breath (oh about three seconds) I hastily dived into book three, Cold Blooded, and for newbies to the series there's quite a bit to catch up on but Carlson helpfully drops in reminders of the action throughout the first few chapters. But for those who took time between reads or are new to the series and starting with this one, here's a recap.
SPOLIERS AHEAD: Jessica McClain is the only female werewolf in an all male werewolf pack. She was never supposed to change, it wasn't supposed to be possible but when she hit 26 years old, change she did, causing uproar in the supernatural community. A pack of wolves led by evil witch/goddess Selene tried to kidnap Jessica, but she is dragged off to hide in a cabin with werecat assassin Rourke, and to her shock, Rourke is her true mate. By the time the second book starts, Rourke has been captured by the temporarily defeated Selene and Jessica must set out to rescue him, along with her brother Tyler, friend Danny, human cop Ray who poked his nose into her business to often, and too vamps loaned to her by the Vampire Queen in exchange for a 'favour' at a later date. By the time the third book arrives, werewolf James has gone AWOL, Jess is reunited with her mate, but a new problem presents itself as secretary and witch Marcy has disappeared. Caught up so far? Great! Then I'll begin.
Jessica and her entourage are being hunted by the demons so she can appear in the 'Underworld Court'. With very few options, they head for New Orleans to the Vampire Queen, with newly converted Ray in tow. Jessica has a debt to repay to the Queen for her help with the two vamps in the previous book. As with the two previous novels, Carlson's voice as Jessica is strong and distinctive, sarcastic and witty. She gathers followers and loyal soldiers everywhere she goes because of this strength of character. Unfortunately for her enemies, they are constantly underestimating her.
As for the vampires, they're not sparkly and they're certainly not very humane, even if Naomi and Ray show more personality than others. It's a refreshing change to read of nasty vampires again, after they've been domesticated in so many ways in the past.
As is typical of this series, it is action packed and great fun with surprises along the way, and this novel also ends with a humdinger of a cliff hanger, leaving the reader waiting with baited breath for the fourth instalment.


Hot Blooded: Book 2 in the Jessica McClain series
Hot Blooded: Book 2 in the Jessica McClain series
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Hot Stuff, 14 July 2014
SPOLIERS FOR BOOK ONE AHEAD; Jessica McClain has had a very bad week. Not content with finally shifting against all odds and becoming the only female werewolf in an all male werewolf pack, she has attracted the ire of a Vampire Queen and been wrapped in a death spell, returned home to find cop and nemesis Ray Hart tied up in her closet after witnessing werewolf Danny change, reluctantly bound herself to an unknown species of werecat who is now her mate, and been jumped by a dirty, smelly little imp who has accused her of being the True Lycan of legend; one who will rule all of the supernatural world and vanquish all evil. And as if that isn't enough, to save Ray Hart's life she has blackmailed/threatened him into coming along on a road trip to rescue her mate Rourke from evil witch and self proclaimed goddess Selene accompanied by a pair of creepy vampires. Yep, Jessica is surely having another bad week.
After a gripping cliffhanger in book one, and more tension abounding in this, book two of the Jessica McClain series, our heroine is going to need all her wits about her to save her mate and fight for her place as a 'normal' werewolf in her Pack and the supernatural hierarchy. Jessica doesn't want to be leader of all supernaturals and she's pretty sure the legend of the True Lycan has been leaked amongst the various supernatural Sects to put the cat amongst the pigeons, so she only has one option left. She's going to have to fight; goddess witches, werewolves, naiads, vampires, giant scorpion-spider-type-things and possessed goats with flaming red eyes; yep, they're all in here.
Jessica's passion is made obvious throughout the book, and it is this which stands her apart from other supernatural creatures. It is also this aspect which garners her support from her circle and from some of the vamps.
Carlson writes with incredible wit and fervour. The action is fast-paced and the novel itself incredibly easy to read. If it's possible I enjoyed this more than the first novel Full Blooded, and as with that novel, Carlson ends on a terrific cliffhanger leaving you wanting more. I'm addicted to this series.


Full Blooded: Book 1 in the Jessica McClain series
Full Blooded: Book 1 in the Jessica McClain series
Price: £5.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Full Blooded Furry Fun, 30 Jun 2014
[...]

Jessica McClain is the only female werewolf in an all-male werewolf race. Except for Jessica has never changed - it's not supposed to happen. Yet one night she wakes up in body wrenching pain to find her body going through the change, so she tries to grab the serum left for her to halt the process by knocking her unconscious, the serum she wasn't meant to need. Through mind-to-mind connection, Jessica is able to communicate with her twin brother Tyler and her Dad, which is quite handy considering she wakes up naked and injured unsure where she is after her first change. Her new found status as a full-blooded wolf was about to rock the supernatural status quo with major ramifications, particularly as her father Callum is Pack Alpha. She wakes up again after passing out to find herself back at the Compound she'd moved out of seven years before. In the real word she is now Molly Hannon, working with Nick as part of a detective business. The Compound has a number of 'Essentials'; humans who know about the supernatural community but keep it quiet, doctors, nurses, lawyers and the like. It's up to Callum to protect his daughter and keep her change a secret from the Pack. According to the Cain Myth, Jessica would bring the downfall of the Pack.
Carlson's debut novel is a rollicking read, fast-paced and immense fun. Her authorial voice, especially as wolf and woman is very strong, the whole piece having been written in first person, or what C E Murphy has referred to as "first person snark"; an accurate description. Carlson mixes more supernatural stuff into the novel, with Jessica's business partner Nick being a werefox and their secretary Marcy being a talented witch. The case she returns to work to also involves an imp that's a little too friendly with the local females.
As Jessica struggles with her new status she finds her appetite and senses increased as well as her interior wolf battling her for control. It all makes for an interesting supernatural novel fraught with tension and laced with plenty of humour. A nice addition to the werewolf sub genre of modern Urban Fantasy.


The Darkness Within: Final Cut
The Darkness Within: Final Cut
Price: £2.47

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark SF Horror, 14 Mar 2014
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First published as an audio book, this 2014 is an extended edition, which, according to author Sam Stone contains more gruesome and graphic elements. In the introduction to this edition, Stone relays how the concept of ‘Zombies on a spaceship’ grew into this short novel an expanded version of the novella The Darkness within.
Madison Whitehawk is Chief Engineer on board the ship freedom bound for New Earth and has Native American heritage. Looking out at the planets thinking about the fact that Earth would die soon and humanity had played a big part in making it happen, Madison is reflective. The colonists on board had all been chosen for their DNA, intelligence and ability to breed. First Officer Simon Chrichton calls Madison to his office to talk about the problems with equipment, but can’t help the simmering tension he feels when he sees her at the memory of a kiss they’ve once shared. But will it lead anywhere? For all of the colonists and crew on board, the expectation is that they will form a pairing and mate to ensure the future of the colony. For Syra Connor, her pairing with Ben Walsh is not ideal, but compared to living in her London ghetto it’s a preferable choice. Priddy the engineer has a problem with the colonists; their higher status, nicer quarters, and for some, their arrogance. After the initial set up where quite a bit of the background and some key players are introduced, the action switches to a year later. Joe Banks is outside the ship taking rock samples to see if anything might be harmful to the colonists. The glittering piece of ore leads to unexpected danger for the ship, its crew and passengers.

Part SF, part horror, although this territory has been done before, Stone’s exploration of the male and female relationshipsand transference of power is interesting here. Syra is initially trapped in her pairing with a man she doesn’t like to be around and who treats her like his property, but she accepts it to begin with because it is better than the life she had. As for the zombies, they aren’t zombies in the traditional sense but are more zombie-like than anything. There is definitely a virus loose on board the ship that starts with Banks, and when things start to kick off, Stone relishes in her descriptions bringing the gross and sickening action to a head. There is a certain feeling of claustrophobia about the text. Though generally confident and a strong character, Madison wears her overalls almost like a suit of armour, or camouflage to protect her and rebuild her confidence when things start getting hairy. It’s also refreshing that the characters are not all white, middle class.
There are list of ‘eew’ moments here! I do believe this is the darkest thing Sam Stone has written. A good solid, visceral dose of SF horror.


The Ravine
The Ravine
by William Meikle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More of Meikle's Mayhem, 21 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Ravine (Paperback)
Written by prolific author William Meikle, The Ravine is a period Western horror in Meikle's inimitable style.
Captain David Stevens has been on tour of duty for nine months now and is getting antsy for action or home. Hoping for rest that was unlikely, Stevens was sent out to investigate something strange happening in the west badlands. On his mission, he sees a vortex whirling black in the distance but it is no natural phenomenon; the vortex sucking the platoon deep inside. When they emerge from the vortex it's night and one of the men is dead. And the night sky, which Stevens should've known, is unfamiliar to him. And then the group of soldiers hear a scream, and find their dead friend being tortured by a winged ten foot creature enrobed in blackness. So begins a dark journey into the old west blending the best of horror with the vibe of The Valley of Gwangi.

Further down stream, on a trail in the ravine herding cattle, when Joe, Doyle and Joe's son Tommy find water, it appears to be a life saver for them and their town, but there is something strange about the water and the fish that swim there.

As always, Meikle's writing is emotional and incredibly visual. The story itself is wonderfully apocalyptic and dark, perfect for fans of old school horror and adventure. And some of the descriptions Meikle uses are gross enough to cause nausea in the reader, and the monsters in this novel are almost Lovecraftian in their perversity and reminiscent of Carpenters The Thing


Addicted to the Dead
Addicted to the Dead
Price: £3.18

5.0 out of 5 stars Mind Altering Zombie Madness, 10 Jan 2014
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Featuring an introduction by Joe McKinney about violence making sense in horror, he talks about the relevance of Night of the Living Dead and race relations of 60s. America. McKinney describes Addicted to the Dead as shocking and in some senses extreme but the discussion of addiction relevant to current society. He declares it to be the cutting edge of zombie fiction, an in some ways he isn't far wrong.

The novel starts with main protagonist Calico (a black man with pink skin birth marks/blemishes) dragging an addict girl by her hair, as she begs 'like they always do', then dumping her on a film set of what appears to be a 'Corpse Snuff' film preceded by the girls violent rape. Then the girl wakes up - dead. As the assailant continues to rape the dead girl he bites a piece of her flesh and starts to eat. This then is the violent and graphic beginning of Addicted to the Dead.

In the next 'scene' masses of people are queuing at the store for their daily dose of meat, squirming, wriggling pieces of dead flesh, that ironically, will prevent the eater from rising after death but will also cause addiction if eaten too much. Everyone apart from young Paco's family is queuing for their dose of meat from Ted Fleet.
In this new world there are hardly any children and young Paco wants to know why. But a TV program informs him it's because the meat makes people infertile. Paco would buy the meat if he could so he wouldn't have to worry about what happened to him after he died, but his family can't afford it and hunt instead. Paco learnt all about the addicts from the TV. The right meat means you won't come back from the dead.
Primarily, my issue with the concept is that eating dead wiggling zombified meat actually prevents the eater from coming back from the dead, which I couldn't quite get my head around to start with, but as the novel progresses so does the logic.
"Eat your portion of Ted Fleets Dead Meats every day, year round, and keep your body in the ground."
When Pacos Dad finds a shambler in the woods and prepares it for his family, Paco is the only one who doesn't eat the meat, so is the only one left alive whilst his family turn into shamblers themselves, but something is different about Sophia.
McKenzie's depiction of addiction is on the money but without the inherent sympathy; Calico is not a nice guy. Or at least he appears to be to start with, until you realise he is very much the anti-hero with his own code of honour and morals.
The text is quite harsh in places as Calico us a hard aggressive character and his opinions are less then savoury. If harsh language and crude sex offends you this is not a book for you. The text is lively and visceral.
I was also uncomfortable with the portrayal and representation of female characters in the novel who seemed shallow and addicted to sex and there are quite a few scenes of female masterbation, rape and gang rape. Saying that, Calico's daughter Beauty is a strong female character.
The image of meat addicts who are living but eat the dead is an interesting inversion of the zombie horde. The city itself is a post apocalyptic nightmare, all tortured and decayed buildings swarmed by shambling addicts. McKenzie also has a knack for ending chapters on cliffhangers then swapping perspective to keep you hooked. There's an enjoyable noir gangster vibe to the novel. Unfortunately the ending itself leaves the reader a little short changed, because although you can guess the ending is bloody, the question of Calico and his daughter Beauty is not fully resolved.
However, this is a challenging book that certainly breaks new ground in the zombie genre. Well worth a read.


The Sleep Room
The Sleep Room
Price: £3.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superior Supernatural Thriller, 8 Nov 2013
This review is from: The Sleep Room (Kindle Edition)
F R Tallis is a prolific writer, but not as F R Tallis - as Frank Tallis, Clinical Psychologist and Crime Writer. However The Sleep Room his second horror novel, ventures into supernatural territory. Set in 1955 this novel features young psychiatrist James Richardson setting off to rural Suffolk to take a job at Wyldehope Hall for the charismatic Dr Hugh Maitland. As part of his role he ends up running a controversial project involving sleep therapy, where highly disturbed patients are treated by keeping them asleep for 21 hours per day for up to five months.
The sleepers at Wyldehope are all women with a past and Maitland is reluctant to disclose their history; these are women rejected socially and carrying the burden of deep secrets, which Richardson gradually finds out through a series of hidden patient reports. But why won't Maitland divulge their secrets to the doctor treating them?
The reader can tell from the outset that Tallis is a mystery writer who loves sharing a problem to solve because at its heart, this is a tale of mystery and suspense.
The novel is written in the first person, a clever technique given the end denouement, which when done right, avoids narrative 'holes' and can be very effective. Tallis' medical knowledge is evident throughout the text, in the dialogue, and in the analysis and diagnoses. The tone of the book feels very upper middle class, largely due to the fact it is a 'stiff British upper lip' period piece, imbuing it with an old style horror/haunted house vibe. Something isn't quite right at Wyldehope and Richardson is determined to find out what. Are the patient's fears and delusions actually hallucinations or are they real?
Despite the grim nature of the novel, and the occasional visceral parts, there is also humour, particularly as we meet a David Icke style inpatient who believes his actions are being manipulated by a reptilian civilisation. After all, given Tallis' credentials, who knows if he met Mr Icke?! The scene with the patient Mr Foster is written with wry amusement.
Tallis peppers the narrative with clues to enable Richardson to reach a conclusion. With its period setting and ghostly aura, this feels rather like The Woman in White.
Altogether, this is a superior supernatural novel and a real page turner. Gripping stuff!


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