Charles Stross, "Overtime"


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: Tick Tock Terror

Tick Tock Terror Tick Tock Terror by Melanie Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always loved Edgar Allan Poe, so I was really happy to find the Poe theme of this short novel (and it was educational, too). Adolescent Conor Marlowe lives to climb. He is a part-time employee at a climbing gym, and on his lunch hours, always rides at the amusement park across the street. One of the popular rides there is based on Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum." Orne lunch period a goblinesque old man, who turns out to be the ride's manager, offers Conor cash if he'll climb the ride at 2 AM and leave something up there. Conor is over-confident of his climbing ability, but realizing something "secret" must be "illegal," he tries to demur, till the old guy threatens to report him to the police as a thief (which he isn't). So he agrees, and leaves what is supposed to be a raven carved out of ebony that was owned by Poe himself. In the process, Conor learns about trust, friendships, and not taking others for granted or at face value. He also faces danger.

TICK TOCK TERROR is a short entertaining novel aimed at middle grade reluctant readers. It has a lot to recommend it, and also includes a sample from the author's novel HIGH WIRE. I quite enjoyed it.

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Review: The Devil's Equinox

The Devil's Equinox The Devil's Equinox by John Everson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These "villains" really believe--and that's what is so scary. Not the hangers-on, those folks who just participate at Club Equinox for the orgies and BDSM and funky alcoholic concoctions and the pleasure of perversions--but the inner core, the real "bad guys," the ones who quite literally will stop at nothing to obtain the Power. Those are terrifying. Fanatics always are.

John Everson's newest novel is so powerful, so terrifying, so implacable in the evil it describes, that I could not stop reading. I'm not sure which terrified me more, the implacable fanaticism of the believers--or the ending. Just when you thought it was safe----. What a conclusion!

Austin is a Marketing Manager in a quiet, laidback, community in Central Illinois. He is married to a woman he once deeply cherished, and the father of a beloved infant daughter (approaching toddler age, but not yet walking). He and wife Angie just don't get along any more, or perhaps Angie is just contemptuous of him. At any rate, Austin makes an enormous error; drinking at his hquiet local, he tells a stranger, at midnight, he wishes his wife would die. If that resulted in the Devil taking Austin's soul, that would be one consequence, and perhaps understandable. But Austin, in his alcoholic fog and lust and thoughtlessness, embarks on a course which will damage not only him, but those he holds dear. A foolish "wish" which immediately becomes a horrifying lesson in "Be careful what you wish for."

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Review: Dark Fantasy Stories (Illustrated): The Best Horror Classics

Dark Fantasy Stories (Illustrated): The Best Horror Classics Dark Fantasy Stories (Illustrated): The Best Horror Classics by S.S. Wolff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This Anthology selects classic horror tales from some of the greats: 2 from Lord Dunsany; 1 each from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert E. Howard, H. G. Wells, and H. P. Lovecraft, a wonderful collection of the horror and fantasy of the 19th and 20th centuries. This was my first introduction to the work of Lord Dunsany, and I found him to have delved into a similar collective consciousness as my idol H. P. Lovecraft (which made his work both somewhat familiar, and yet new). This is an excellent sampler collection to try out these authors, and to sample a flavour of 19th and 20th century "dark literature."

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Review: Moon Games

Moon Games Moon Games by Shelly Frome
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's not much I love more than a Feckless Hero. However, in MOON GAMES, I was utterly delighted to discover a Feckless Heroine in protagonist Miranda Davis. This woman in her thirties is so peripatetic, so constantly off-the-track of her life purpose, I'm surprised she manages to run a business (realty) and be employed (part-time at The Tavern), and it's probably no wonder why she finds relationship issues dismaying. However, I did like her and I even empathised with her, thanks to author Shelly Frome's talented treatment. He also kept the suspense turned up high, the tension on the front burner, and the puzzles constantly intriguing, as I continually pondered: "What? What? What? Who? Why? What does each new revelation signify?" I empathized with Feckless Miranda because I was pretty much out at sea too, and that kept me turning those pages, totally intrigued and delighted.

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Review: Murder of Ravens: Gabriel Hawke Novel

Murder of Ravens: Gabriel Hawke Novel Murder of Ravens: Gabriel Hawke Novel by Paty Jager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

MURDER OF RAVENS is an intriguing mystery set in Eastern Oregon, in the mountains, along the rivers, and in small close-knit communities (read, everybody knows everybody else's business). Gabriel Hawke is a Fish and Wildlife State Trooper, of Native American descent, who loves the mountains and land, his dog, horse, and pack mule. At 52, he is long divorced, happy living alone with his animals, tracking, and solving puzzles that arise in the course of his job. Such a bizarre puzzle occurs while he is tracking what he thinks are poachers, and finds a corpse wearing a wolf-tracking collar, and standing over him, a biologist who studies the wolf population. As he investigates, Hawke learns that no one is really surprised that the man, a restaurant owner, is dead; and that there are far too many potential suspects to easily sort. But Hawke is a determined tracker, and he will find his man--or woman--before long. No crime goes unpunished, and even if the victim was unethical and immoral, murder is still a crime.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Review: The Dark Game

The Dark Game The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This morning I wrote a blog post in which I termed several novels "perfect" in my view, among them three by author Jonathan Janz, including THE DARK GAME. This novel and THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER (released Fall 2018) I think are his two best novels to date. THE DARK GAME intertwines psychological thriller, high suspense, paranormal, metaphysical, and wonderful character evolution (and devolution, as some of the characters experience decompensation, to their peril). Mr. Janz has a fine eye for the layers of personality and character usually hidden from the world. He also has an excellent understanding of the meaning of being a writer, and here I am speaking of both the act of writing itself, and of the act of presenting one's work to the world--agents, publishers, critics, trolls.

Ten writers are invited to the retreat of one of the most admired authors of our time (think Hemingway, Norman Mailer, Henry Miller status; also think of their lifestyles). The competition is for an enormous amount of prize money plus (unspoken) an in with publishers and agents: guaranteed best-seller outcome. But only one of course can win. If this seems like an act of tremendous generosity on the part of the host, Roderick Wells (whose work is studied in universities everywhere), it's really not--for Wells is a Narcissist (and more) who sharpens only his own axe, at the expense of all others. However, not all of the ten writers turn out to be patsies to be swatted like flies. We have heroes here, too, of both genders. The characters herein really rock this novel, and I think it ought to be read by every adult.

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Review: Last Woman Standing

Last Woman Standing Last Woman Standing by Amy Gentry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

LAST WOMAN STANDING by Amy Gentry is her second novel, a very edgy, very contemporary psychological thriller, totally apropos to today's exposure of the rape culture. Ms. Gentry deeply examines her characters, and in this novel, contemporary society and culture is also a character in itself. Dana Diaz is a stand-up comic who hopes to "make it to the big time," but carries a tremendous amount of baggage. As a female comic, she is often overlooked or heckled. As a female, she has suffered. Back in Austin after a failed stint in L.A. during which a male asserted his "prerogative," causing her post-traumatic stress and fear of expressing or asserting herself, Dana encounters another woman with issues, Amanda. As their budding friendship stutters along, with Dana holding tightly to her "secrets," which involve molestation and rape, Amanda begins to reveal her agenda. Sounding good on the surface, as striking a blow against contemporary rape culture, Amanda's ideas soon prove to be both dangerous and also illegal; and Dana comes to discover that she also has a dark side, just like the men who have abused women.

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Review: The Wrong Boy

The Wrong Boy The Wrong Boy by Cathy Ace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The best part of a psychological thriller for me is watching the unfolding revelations of the characters, especially when the protagonist or another character is an unreliable narrator, and either unaware of her/his shortcomings and failings and motives, or simply not confiding in the reader (or both are true). So I delighted in the twisty ways that THE WRONG BOY played out; the reader goes along thinking one version is true, then smack! another version (as interpreted by unreliable narrator), then yet another, another, and so forth. Quite satisfying to read through, holding on to one perception only to find it upended, and this continued throughout the novel. It is said that eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable; and so it is in THE WRONG BOY, the characters who are eyewitnesses of their own lives (presumably) still fail to perceive truth, and they certainly fail to pass that truth on to others, even their own family members; so that generation upon generation upon generation holds concealed secrets and psychological dysfunction.

THE WRONG BOY is an excellent psychological suspense thriller, set in a stunning location with eons of history, ingrown characters, and a background on which play out the "normal" human emotions and motives, and quite a few not so "normal."

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Review: The Open Window

The Open Window The Open Window by Glen Ebisch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THE OPEN WINDOW by prolific author Glen Ebisch is a fascinating and excellent cozy mystery. Its likable and strong heroine Kate is a former cop, literally a hero, partially disabled but high-functioning, now a licensed Realtor. Her boyfriend Daniel is the manager of the local paper. Set in a small Western Massachusetts university community, there are plenty of characters to populate the novel, and a significant level of suspense, tension, and suspicious demises. Even as a Realtor, Kate cannot put aside her native curiosity and drive to solve puzzles, so she slips in to assisting both the police and the newspaper in churning up clues to the death of a well-admired professor--a death which could have been accident, suicide, or murder. Kate is determined to find out which, and in the process encounters danger to herself and others. Yet the conclusion is satisfying and psychologically sound, the ends are tied up, and Kate's character evolution is empowering for herself and pleasing to the reader.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

24in48_Jan. 26-27 2019


Review: The Nursery

The Nursery The Nursery by Bill Thompson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've now read Book 2 and Book 3 of Bill Thompson's fantastic Bayou Hauntings Series (THE FORGOTTEN MEN, and THE NURSERY). I adore this series and deem them re-readers. (I'll be reading Book 1, CALLIE, soonest). It's wonderful to read them in order, but each can be read as a stand-alone if need be, because the characters carry over and Mr. Thompson provides enough backstory to carry on with. He also provides wonderful historical and cultural details, and his character treatments are superbs. The reader quickly becomes involved with the characters (even the "villains") and their psychology and behaviour are true to life and realistic.

Now, as for the Horror: I love it! So implacable, which is my go-to criterion for good horror. Here it is excellent. THE NURSERY stars a woman who although long dead (five decades) is still going strong, and is a very powerful and controlling spirit, facing up against a loving widowed single father and his eight-year-old twin daughters, whom the ghost covets. Characters from Books 1 and 2 also are part of this ongoing story. THE NURSERY is a thrill to read (and terrifying too!).

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Review: Forgotten Men

Forgotten Men Forgotten Men by Bill Thompson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This paranormal novel is absolutely enthralling! THE FORGOTTEN MEN is Book Two in the Bayou Hauntings series, and incorporates history, ghosts, serial killers, horrific prison conditions, the criminally insane, and pirate treasure. In 1820 a trader from New Orleans who has inexplicably gained wealth builds a grand hotel near Bayou Teche, Louisiana, and a small community forms around it, the town of Victory. Later he leaves the area, destination unknown; and the hotel is abandoned for decades, until it becomes the nation's first for-profit institution for incarceration of the criminally insane, who are brutally treated, starved, tortured, and beaten--then buried in an unnamed cemetery out back. Closed in 1907, the building remains occupied--although not by the living. Subject of adolescent dares, it also provides temporary housing for addicts and the homeless. Deputy Sheriff Landry Drake discovers a string of unsolved killings at the site, and determines to discover more, but is fired by the Sheriff. He is actually on the right track, though, as he will soon discover. There is more evil at the former Asylum than he could imagine: some deceased, some alive. THE FORGOTTEN MEN is a terrifying, engrossing, page-turner.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Review: Junction

Junction Junction by Daniel M. Bensen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an enthralling, entertaining, and educating novel! Science fiction plus contemporary comment plus deep characterization, shades of Star Trek's Prime Directive and of colonial imperialism, contribute to making this such an enthralling novel. I was thrilled from beginning to end and couldn't set it aside. An Australian biologist's accidental discovery in New Guinea of a Wormhole, with a civilization living on "the other side," impels governments of all sorts to intrude. And the selected "hero explorer" is a reality tv star whose career has been founded on wilderness survival.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Review: The Haunting of Henderson Close

The Haunting of Henderson Close The Haunting of Henderson Close by Catherine Cavendish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release date 10 Jan. 2019

Catherine Cavendish is noted for her ability to delineate characters and pull readers into their lives, making us feel with them. That's very true in her newest novel, THE HAUNTING OF HENDERSON CLOSE. Set in Edinburgh's underground, and in that area when it was still a teeming, if not thriving, metropolis, crammed with human populace, rats, and offal (and crime). Ms. Cavendish skillfully weave time-slips, ghosts, and implacable evil into the equation. In 2018 contemporary Edinburgh, Hannah, George, and Mairead are ghost tour docents, leading tours of the underground former community. Imprisoned not far from Henderson Close is an ancient evil, which reconstruction releases. The trio will discover that the evil is much closer than they had any reason to believe, as they are tasked by a ghost to solve the 1891 murder of a kind-hearted, generous, upper-class lady from the New Town, who daily toiled in the slums to bring temporary relief of kindness, clothes, and food, to the abjectly poor.

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Monday, December 31, 2018

Review: The Lucifer Chord

The Lucifer Chord The Lucifer Chord by F.G. Cottam
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've long admired the exceptional British horror fiction of author F. G. Cottam. This man knows his history as well as knowing how to craft a fine story and to make readers empathise with his characters. In THE LUCIFER CHORD, he fully strums the suspense riff as he keeps the tension boiling, while protagonist Ruthie Graham, author and researcher, "stumbles on" to a research job involving the Rock Music environment of the 1970's (and oh, does Mr. Cottam illustrate that culture superbly!). Ruthie is driven more by a quest for the truth than the substantial promised payment, and she determines to persevere despite a number of sudden suspicious deaths, what seems to be only dead ends with no hope of recourse, and a secret society ("They never forget. They never forgive.") THE LUCIFER CHORD is a non-stop read for any lover of horror, history, Britain, or conspiracy.

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Friday, December 28, 2018

Winter's Respite 2019


Ramsey Campbell
John Connolly
To Be decided.

Off to a good start!
THE HAUNTING OF HENDERSON CLOSE by Catherine Cavendish. :Horror. Release 10 Jan 2019. Read Jan. 1
EXIT REALITY by Robert  S. Wilson. SF. Jan. 1-2.
DRAGON ASSASSIN: TWIN FURY by Arthur Slade. Jan 2. Fantasy. Release Jan. 3.
THE GATES by John Connolly (because this author can raise my spirits even if nothing else does:) Horror/Fantasy/Supernatural (Samuel Johnson & Boswell Trilogy #1). Jan. 1-2.


JUNCTION by Daniel Benson. Contemporary SF.

Review: The Booking

The Booking The Booking by Ramsey Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I took some extra time before writing my review of this very special novella, because it is not straight-out horror nor fantasy. Instead, it is a metaphysical blend, even an extension, of both horror and fantasy. There aren't really any "monsters" or "terrors" here, other than those hiding in the hearts and minds of humans. Ostensibly, a young man, Kiefer by name (that is all he chooses as his identity), a former librarian and university graduate, seeks employment. As is common in the latter 20th and early 21st century, he is often deemed "overqualified," and so is nearly at his wits' end when he discovers a simple online notice: Bookshop, Technician Wanted. He calls and then visits the shop, discovering an odd owner and a plethora of books, many rather old. Then he can't find one of the keys to his girlfriend's flat, offered to him while she is away in Tuscany caring for her folks; and the owner offers him a room upstairs of the shop, in an upstairs that seems to go on forever, always laden with books.

Mr. Campbell unfolds a story that is so imaginative in breadth and depth that I cannot do it justice, other than to say, for Mr. Campbell's fans, and for any thinking person, THE BOOKING is an absolute must-read. It is part of the Black Labyrinth series, with incredible illustrations by gifted artist Santiago Caruso.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Review: Ghosts Know

Ghosts Know Ghosts Know by Ramsey Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Review from 2nd reading, Dec. 25 2018)

I originally read this novel in November 2013, so rereading it yesterday was fresh. I'm sure I got more out of it as well (smile). Mr. Campbell here again demonstrates his genius at locality, as he does in THE OVERNIGHT, which I had just finished the night before reading GHOSTS KNOW. Manchester radio personality Graham Wilde hosts a talk show on WAVES radio, a media operation about to be taken over by the Frugo conglomerate (which figures prominently in THE OVERNIGHT as well). Wilde has a temper issue, which he struggles constantly throughout the novel to control. Unfortunately, he is not the only one. He is set off by an "American psychic," about whom some of his callers rave. He and his producer/girlfriend Christine attend one of the psychic's appearances in Manchester, and Wilde unearths facts about the man calling himself Frank Jasper. From ( there, everything unspools, and I do mean everything. As with much of Mr. Campbell's fiction, a feckless protagonist who, with good reason (genetics and nurture) has serious psychological issues, is unable to discern the correct steps to take and more or less plays the Minotaur blundering through a china shop. The consequences are dreadful, of course, and not just for the protagonist.

I was so absorbed that I read this novel in one day (on Christmas).

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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Review: The Overnight

The Overnight The Overnight by Ramsey Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grand Master Ramsey Campbell is unfailingly a genius. THE OVERNIGHT is a strong and stirring example: an unputdownable, unforgettable, novel of a group of individuals close-knit not by genetics or friendship, but by the confines of their employment situation. An American expat (again, not by choice or by design, but by the demands of his employment) is shipped to a nearly-rural small strip shopping mall between Liverpool and Manchester, to manage the new branch of the bookshop chain Texts. Woody is a rather odd individual, apparently, even prior to the events of the novel. If there is one character arc in this novel which is more extensive in evolution than any others, that is Woody, American among a passel of Brits, and well aware of it. His is not the only character evolution, but it is perhaps his which preys most extensively on my mind. Among the secondary characters, possibly my favourite is the local historian who appears intermittently, both through the local history he wrote, sold in the shop, and in person and over the phone as well. His is the backdrop narrative, and he provides (parceling the history out little by little) the backstory of why that locality is as it is, and a horrifying story and outcome it is.

I cannot highly enough recommend this perfect horror novel!

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Monday, December 24, 2018

BOUT OF BOOKS_January 7-13 2019

Bout of Books Books Read: THE PLUNGE by Nancy G. West. Read January 7 THE FORGOTTEN MEN by Bill Thompson. Read January 7-8. THE CHA-CHA BABES OF PELICAN WAY by Frances Metzman. Read January 8. THE NURSERY by Bill Thompson. Read January 9.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Review: Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer

Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer by Ryan Suvaal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All my life I've considered myself a Grammar Tsarina. I despise the multiplicity of grammatical and spelling mistakes which seems to actually proliferate over time. However, I have never felt that serial killing was an appropriate, let alone, required response. Simply refusing to buy the author's books should be sufficient. However, the protagonist of this book views the situation quite differently. One day she simply "had enough," and decided to annotate books with horrid grammar, leave detailed notes--and kill the authors. Gorily. Gruesomely. But in apropos situations. Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, this short book (40 pages) is nevertheless wildly imaginative. I enjoyed the ways in which the Grammar Nazi skewered us conspiracy theorists. Quite humorous in its way. From a stirring reader's hook to a very surprising epilogue, this is not like any story you've read; or at least, not like any I've read.

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