Charles Stross, "Overtime"


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: The Naturalist

The Naturalist The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE NATURALIST by Andrew Mayne

Professor Theo Cray is champion! I loved this book, and I can't wait for the next. Professor of bioinformatics at the University of Texas-Austin (Ph.D. MIT), Theo is a genius in systems and in computer programming, and the usual feckless absent-minded scientist, lacking consummate social skills. In Montana studying ecosystems, he is distraught to learn a former student has been killed in a forest, seemingly in a bear attack. Then Theo is accused; soon he's using the computer program he designed to map missing person cases in the area. He's on the track of a stone killer who will stop at nothing; and nobody in law enforcement will believe Theo, until it's too late.

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Review: Broken Shells

Broken Shells Broken Shells by Michael Patrick Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: BROKEN SHELLS by Michael Patrick Hicks

I was totally enraptured by the author's earlier novel MASS HYSTERIA, and found his newest, BROKEN SHELLS, the very definition of a page-turner. The book flew by so fast I was amazed to find myself at the end {and oh, such an end!} From the introductory page I thought I would probably be reading either a serial killer plot, or possibly (with its reference to "buried secrets") about an antagonist with ties to organized crime. Oh no, no, no. Mr. Hicks takes a legend common to several indigenous North American tribes, then TWISTS it--oh, does he twist it!-to deliver a horror that's truly implacable, and a generational legacy that prides itself--and closes eyes to the decades of blood on its hands. Like Nazi concentration camp guards and staff who "only followed orders," this family's males are sworn to "protect" the world from what inhabits the underground caverns. {Yeah, right.}

If it's an incredibly riveting extreme creature horror that effectively discerns and exposes certain contemporary ingrained societal blasphemies, look right here. Michael Patrick Hicks delivers right-between-the-eyes terror, and I love it.

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Review: Mudcat

Mudcat Mudcat by John Quick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: MUDCAT by John Quick

MUDCAT is one superlative horror novel! Everything I look for in creature horror and more! The prologue blew me out of the water {intentional analogy!} with a scene of extreme horror I could never have imagined, then rocketed right on with one intensity after another! Implacable horror--evolution gone to extremes, with interspersed subtle suggestions that the evolutionary mutations weren't Nature, but likely human-designed, or at least nudged. All this--a creature nigh unstoppable--and what's the prime motivator in every biological organism? Hunger! An organism this size gets extremely hungry, extremely frequently. When you factor in that this creature is not blindly biological, but has a functioning intelligence--nothing can stop it. All this, and CHARACTER EVOLUTION! I absolutely adore MUDCAT!

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Review: The Unknown Devil: A C.T. Ferguson Private Investigator Mystery

The Unknown Devil: A C.T. Ferguson Private Investigator Mystery The Unknown Devil: A C.T. Ferguson Private Investigator Mystery by Tom Fowler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE UNKNOWN DEVIL by Tom Fowler
(A CT Ferguson Private Investigator Mystery Book 2)

THE UNKNOWN DEVIL is a delightfully intriguing and very fast-paced thriller-mystery starring a remarkably likable protagonist {that's become a rarity} who is far beyond my usual sphere, but is eminently empathetic nonetheless. CT Ferguson is an expert computer hacker and coder, university graduate, wealthy enough not to need to work, son of wealthy philanthropic parents. He became a PI after some years in Hong Kong, his empathetic traits and desire to help others as strong as ever. Here he leaps in to rescue another coder genius, who exemplifies feckless victim perfectly. Ransomware, the Baltimore Mafia contingent, and a Mob loose cannon with anger issues and sociopathy also get mixed in, to detrimental results. But our intrepid PI protagonist continues to carry the day and simultaneously endear himself.

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Review: Key of Midgard

Key of Midgard Key of Midgard by Sarah-Jayne Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: ICE WARRIORS KEY OF MIDGARD by Sarah-Jayne Briggs

A thrilling reader's hook propels readers nonstop into an exciting and compelling tale of a group of young moderns conscripted into a battle of and for the Ages. For them, ancient Norse mythology is not myth cycle nor a subject of study. It's a real life enterprise, and these are battles they must engage in.

If you love Norse mythology, as do I, or if you just want a rousing magical fantasy thriller, check this out!

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: The Dead House: A Novel

The Dead House: A Novel The Dead House: A Novel by Billy O'Callaghan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE DEAD HOUSE by Billy O'Callaghan

I sped through this exciting and enlightening literary supernatural thriller in a day; I couldn't separate myself from the story. I was so engrossed in empathy with the protagonists: Michael, Maggie, Allison; and with the fulcrum character, Liz--and much later, with the child Hannah, who may be the target, or who may be another fulcrum character. {By fulcrum character, I am meaning the individual whose lever applied just at the crossroads crux situation quite literally changes the path and direction of the story.}

In no way am I about to imply derivativeness: THE DEAD HOUSE is perfect in its originality, and I believe its drama to be quintessentially Irish. Yet in certain portions (specifically Michael's return visit to the painter Maggie's cottage, her new paintings and sketches, and the way in which Maggie encapsulates her new view of "the way things really are"), I perceived somewhat of both a Lovecraftian tone, and of the rural prime madness of the countryside of Thomas Hardy' s moors. Then in the Epilogue, several elements combine to resonate for me with the subtle unendable terrors of Henry James' "Turn of The Screw." Yet again, these literary allusions are my perception, not derivation.

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Review: Elsham's End

Elsham's End Elsham's End by H.J. Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: ELSHAM' S END by HJ Williams

This debut supernatural mystery was also my introduction to a vastly talented author who capably weaves multiple layers of theme, plotting, character, and time frames to keep the reader wildly engrossed and eager for the protagonists to succeed, if at all possible. (With an antagonist of this strength and might, success is never assured.)

A family living outside a small English village lives a content life, for the most part, somewhat insular, but rather well off economically. Life is comfortably routine, until suddenly, it is anything but. A neighboring home burns and the family dies; eighteen-year-old son John meets his true love, opening a Pandora' s web of supernatural horror; lives are fraught, gained, and lost. The suspense is constant and total, maintaining edge-of-the-seat breathlessness throughout. I so much enjoyed it I went straight on to purchase Mr. Williams' equally engrossing second novel, THE SHADE CLAN.

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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Review: The Last Alchemist

The Last Alchemist The Last Alchemist by Erik Hamre
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE LAST ALCHEMIST by Erik Hamre

I found THE LAST ALCHEMIST wildly engrossing, surprisingly so because the foundation is ostensibly about wealth and why some have it and most don't . But like a tasty onion, this novel builds in layers upon layers upon layers. Utilizing my current favorite protagonist type, the feckless hero, we soon acquire multiple wild goose chases across Europe, many characters who turn out to be facades, Nazi history and the Nazi occult obsession, life and death and the fourth dimension. I couldn't put it down!

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Monday, January 1, 2018

Review: Alone

Alone Alone by George Kane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

ALONE by George Kane

Tautly-plotted, ALONE commences with enticing cover art and a great if gory reader's hook. The outcome for a small Australian community foreshadows the terror to visit a tiny isolated rural English village. By the end, relationships and alliances are reformed, broken, forged; the village experiences unexplainable natural disaster, lives are lost. The author superbly weaves preternatural evil with the evil resident in the human heart.

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Review: Beautiful Ugly: And Other Weirdness

Beautiful Ugly: And Other Weirdness Beautiful Ugly: And Other Weirdness by Thomas S. Flowers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What shines for me in this collection (and recalling other short stories, novellas, and novels I have read by this author, this quality is present throughout his oeuvre) is thoughtfulness. Mr. Flowers KNOWS his characters, and clearly he not only spends time writing their stories--he spends an immense amount of time and THOUGHT in identifying each, from core to their external behavior and environment in which they live, move, and have their being.

Let me proffer some examples, without revealing:
"The Ascension of Henry Porter" is ostensibly a story of curing terminal illness and setting death Into pause mode . Sounds admirable! Seems desirable! Pray you never find yourself in the implacable clutches of the evil scientific mastermind of the Alcove Corporation: death will be the least of your worries; in fact, death will be impossible. This story scared the living blazes out of me--even though I'm not likely to ever be in a similar impasse.

Then there is the eponymous "Beautiful Ugly," a story whose character depths kept me in tears, both on behalf of the protagonist, and also grieving for a society, contemporary and historical, which cannot encompass, much less tolerate or respect, the unknown. I had to pause my reading and walk away for a bit.

These are but two examples out of eleven stories, each of which deserves careful and consideration. Watch this author: he is truly going places, but unlike a shooting star, his path is ever upward.

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Review: Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story

Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story by Karl Beckstrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pure delight! I love the concepts, I love the illustrations. Gives a lot of astronomy concepts in a brief narrative list, almost poetic. I also appreciated its diversity.

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Review: Manchester Vice

Manchester Vice Manchester Vice by Jack Strange
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: MANCHESTER VICE by Jack Strange

If you're on the lookout for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners, Noir, look right here. MANCHESTER VICE is a "Noirvella" from Jack Strange, the author who brought us ZOMCAT and CELEBRITY CHEF ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, among others. This story involves a character arc in reverse, a revelation of devolution. Our protagonist loses his trust, his integrity, and eventually his humanity.

Additionally {and all to the better in my estimation}, protagonist Brad Sharpe is the protagonist for "fecklessness." This guy is so feckless as to border on pathetic! Imagine, a degree in criminology, a crime beat journalist for umpteen years; and this immature almost 60-year-old fool, relies on his noted bad temper and his capacity to commit failure after failure after failure, trusting whom he shouldn't (including himself) and just generally proceeding on a Fool's Journey.

If his failings weren't so humorous in a pitying sense, which makes him laughable, Brad Sharpe would be just..pathetic.

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Review: Meg & Rob's Witch Tricks: Book 1 - The Wicked Stew

Meg & Rob's Witch Tricks: Book 1 - The Wicked Stew Meg & Rob's Witch Tricks: Book 1 - The Wicked Stew by Daniel Shneor
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

How delightful! A spunky little witchling goes to great lengths to avoid her chores. Determining a servant goblin is what she needs, Meg and her devoted sidekick Rob Raven leap into conjuring, with unexpected but delightful results.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Winter's Respite 2018!

Sign up right HERE Winter's Respite is the entire month of January, which neatly coincides (for me) with Vintage Science Fiction month!

I've started the year with:

Vintage Science Fiction: John W. Campbell, THE BLACK STAR PASSES
His early stories, collected in 1953

Contemporary Science Fiction: Pierce Brown, RED RISING

Nordic Noir: MACBETH, Jo Nesbo

Christmas cosy: NOT A CREATURE WAS PURRING (A Paws and Claws Mystery, #5)

SPLATTERPUNK FIGHTS BACK (Charity Anthology for Cancer support)

Also planning on ELMET by Fiona Mosley; DAYS OF NIGHT by Jonathan Stone (read Brian Freemantle' s ICE AGE over the weekend; I so love Antarctica fiction); Alan Dean Foster' s THE ICERIGGER TRILOGY; ELSHAM'S END by H. J. Williams.

Yes, we have themes here: Science Fiction, Ice, and Isolation. What I've Read:

Alone by George Kent See my review HERE 2 for Vintage Science Fiction month:
"The Last Evolution" and
"The Ultimate Weapon", by John W. Campbell

The Last Alchemist by Erik Hamre See my review HERE

Elsham's End by HJ Williams See my review HERE The Dead House by Billy O'Callaghan See my review HERE

Key of Midgard by Sarah-Jayne Briggs See my review HERE

The Unknown Devil by Tom Fowler See my review HERE

Muscat by John Quick See my review HERE

"All Cats Are Gray" by Andre Norton See my review HERE

(Jan. 1-13)

What I've Read
Jan. 14-31

Broken Shells by Michael Patrick Hicks See my review HERE

THE NATURALIST by Andrew Mayne See my review HERE

FATAL FLIP (A Home Renovation Mystery) by M. E. Valid See my review HERE

Friday, December 22, 2017

Review: Relative Yuletide

Relative Yuletide Relative Yuletide by Martin Reaves
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: RELATIVE YULETIDE by Martin Reaves

What a perfect story! I loved it! I've long been fond of Mr. Reaves' writing gifts. I started chuckling at the copyright disclaimer, and didn't stop--until events got really serious (Shabam! Pow!) Mr. Reaves possesses a tremendous sense of humor, but he also holds an enormous capacity for hope. The events in this "Christmastime action movie" poise on a knife edge; and if things go wrong, disaster will result. Scary is the rationale behind this lunatic plan; scary is the responsibility the "good guys" carry to stop this tragedy.

My recommendation is: stop at nothing to read this special book.

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Review: We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone

We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone by Ronald Malfi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Lately I've been reading subtlety often, particularly in Horror--well-done, for the most part. But I'm certain I hadn't encountered the Master of Subtlety until I commenced reading Ronald Malfi' s short story collection, WE SHOULD HAVE LEFT WELL ENOUGH ALONE earlier this month [December 2017]. Mr. Malfi has stated that these stories had been written over a long period of time, and that they are non-themed. I believe there is a theme, the Theme of Subtlety, and at this the author is an accomplished master. I recommend savouring this collection especially. Take it one story at a time. If you try to read all in one sitting, your mind will be blown as effectively as the minds of some of Lovecraft' s protagonists when they sought "to know too much."

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Review: Deathlehem Revisited: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity

Deathlehem Revisited: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity Deathlehem Revisited: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity by Michael J. Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Grinning Skull Press's DEATHLEHEM Series makes Christmas just that much more horrifying. Seasonal depression and Tickle Me Elmo have nothing on the varied frights to be found herein. Reading these outstanding tales, you might be wishing Santa doesn't visit this year.

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Review: The Shadow Over Deathlehem

The Shadow Over Deathlehem The Shadow Over Deathlehem by Leslie Linder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Grinning Skull Press consistently delivers Christmas scaries in the outstanding Deathlehem series, offering untold (and often unimaginable) Christmastide looks more terrifying than Halloween! You thought you only needed to be anxious about last-minute gift-giving; now you have to worry about Krampus, walking snowmen, Santa, ghouls, and incubi.

(Individual story reviews soon).

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Review: Return to Deathlehem: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity

Return to Deathlehem: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity Return to Deathlehem: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity by Michael J. Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is the second entry in Grinning Skull Press's DEATHLEHEM series, which makes Christmas Horror a charitable event. It also gives readers frequent doses of the Spooks, some heartwarming, some horror, and a massive dose of entertainment.

"The Shortcut" by Susan Jay: the overarching theme is grief at Christmas, but the story really triggered me, not for that reason. I am distraught over the cruelty of humans, and the lying and betrayal. I won't be specific so as to protect the integrity of the unread story for new readers.

"Bloody Christmas" by Steph Minns: just when you thought all you had to worry about were serial killers, natural disasters, global warming, and pedophiles--well, there are millennia-old dangers too. They aren't pretty and they sure are implacable. Lock yourself in, lock up your children. Stay under the covers and don't peer outside.

"He Sees You When You're Sleeping" by Christopher M. Morgan: Ol' Krampus has nothing on this version of Santa....I love to read theories about the nature and existence of deities depending on believers. Sir Terry Pratchett strummed this theme excellently, as have several others. Here is a new chord in this progression. In the contemporary cultural climate, this Santa makes all too much sense...

"A Merry Little Christmas" by Rose Blackthorn: the Christmas season is all about love, light, and family--and peace. When greed threatens to wreck long-suffering Ethan' s Christmas cheer--and his future-he puts aside his "goodwill toward men" and acts decisively.

"The Wren" by Kevin G. Bufton: an incredibly sad, poignant, moving, village tale, full of history and backdrop and scenery. I want to say, "It didn't have to happen this way," but sadly, the conclusion is probably implacably inevitable. I shall not soon be forgetting this one.

"White Christmas" by DJ Tyrer: why does scary have to be accompanied by sad? Sigh. Maybe that's the nature of true horror. Implacable and unavoidable.

"A Labor Dispute" by Michael Shayne: again,
implacable and unavoidable. Mistakes piled upon mistakes lead to misery and destruction. The way the author weaves in the historical background and vivid setting is impressive. Shades of Harlan, Kentucky's 1930's.

"The Night Before Christmas" by Philip Thorogood: An exceptional tale, scary and poignant. I do love to read of Krampus and of the good-evil dichotomy of Santa and Krampus.

"Survival of the Reddest" by Vicky MacDonald Harris:
Turn "goodwill toward all" and Christmas cheer on its head, think North Pole Arctic Darwinism.

"Awash With the Christmas Spirit" by Jordan Phelps: Sometimes it seems no place is really safe at Christmas Eve or Christmas Day--not even midnight mass. This Christmas Eve service is definitely "awash," but that terror they're feeling isn't a product of the Season.

"What Child Is This?" By Joel Reeves: I think this story left me with anger more than anything; I guess I may have a soft spot after all, and I guess getting angry when evil twists good really isn't so bad.

"Minnie' s Christmas Gift" by Gregory K. Liu : I want a Hellhound for Christmas! I really feared this story was going to bring me a lot more Christmas horror than I wanted--but instead, it proceeded to be just perfect, and adorable.

"Secret Santa" by Chantal Boudreaux: a very effective short story, subtle, leaving protagonist and reader wondering "What if?"

"A Christmas Miracle" by Kerry G. S. Lipp: extreme horror version of "Be careful what you wish for," not for the sensitive.

"A Christmas Remembrance" by JP Behrens: a mother's love is never surpassed nor overcome--not ever...

"No Sugar Plum Fairies" by Steven Bigwood: Quite delightful. I confess to preferring poetic justice ("as ye sow, so shall ye reap"), you know, "just rewards" kind of thing--so this story REALLY pleased me.

"CRACK!" By Gerard Griffin : Confession: Nutcrackers are seriously scary. Give me clover-hooved, goat-behorned, Krampus any day. That stated, occasionally they do have their purpose, as here.

"Split" by Jay Wilburn: Like "A Labor Dispute," this sad tale invokes sins of the fathers being visited upon the sons--except in this case, not the father, and the victim is unfortunately not even a genetic relation.

"Nell' s Game" by Nicole DeGennaro: Oh my goodness, I love the scares and the subtlety in this one! Like a silent stalker, the scares...just...creep....up...

"Cursed Christmas" by David J. Delaney: I looked to this story to be a supernatural one, and in a way it was, but it's also strongly human good vs. human evil, as well. Quite engrossing.

"Ornamentation" by Alys Day: this story is SAD! It's like an entire yarn ball of sad Christmas stories rolled up together. I even felt sorry (kind of) for the protagonist. Sigh...

"The Trap" by Mike Pieloor: I do dearly love my Krampus tales, and in the last few years I've encountered more and more of these wonderfully Christmas-enhancing tales. I love 'em! I also love the deliverance of just desserts. {Smile}

"Killing Christmas" by Mark Parker: this final tale in this Anthology comes out of nowhere and punches, punches, punches! The reader doesn't know where to turn, and neither does the protagonist. Tautly-plotted and masterfully delivered--I loved it! Kudos to the co-editors! The perfect choice to conclude.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Review: 13 Resurrected: An Anthology Of Horror and Dark Fiction

13 Resurrected: An Anthology Of Horror and Dark Fiction 13 Resurrected: An Anthology Of Horror and Dark Fiction by Amy Bartelloni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

13: RESURRECTED ANTHOLOGY [An Anthology of Horror and Dark Fiction]

The newest, awaited, entry in the always exciting 13: themed anthology series! Get comfortable and settle in...but oh, please do leave on the lights.

"Death's Proxy" by D. Nichole Knight: grief upon grief upon grief suffuses this story, till you wonder, will there ever be surcease? Read on, because we're all going to be deeply startled. I consider this grimdark.

"Ghost of the Past" by Sara Schoen: scary, scary, scary! I loved the implacability, the buried community and buried secrets, and the almost Biblical visiting the "sins of the fathers" on the sons...and daughters. Truly frightening!

"In Mamma' s Heart" by Elizabeth Roderick: I can't express how much I loved this story! Heartbreaking, terrifying, wonderful! (And I kept thinking about Emmett Till)

"Sundown" by Cat Camille: "If it seems to be too good to be true, then it probably isn't true." As a voracious reader of horror, mystery, and true crime, I return to this proverb often. Here we are again: I suspected the intent in this story, but it is so well and capably prepared I certainly can't complain.

"Executioners" by Byron Lee Ray: they're everywhere--stone-cold killers just waiting for opportunity. But there are also executioners of executioners, vigilantes devoted to ridding the world of murderous scum. A gory, violent, unsettling, tale.

"The Game" by Samie Sands: Very unnerving, in a moralistic sense. Fourteen-year-old Gaby has grown up in the altered world of the AM13 virus, and she can scarcely remember what life before was. She lost all her family, and hardened her heart. Then she discovers that the dead ones {zombies} aren't the true evil. Exposure to this truth reveals her "purpose."

"The Ghost In Me" by Joseph Paul Haines: perhaps "the ghost is me," a visceral tour of existential despair, a 21st century version of a medieval morality tale. What happens to our soul when we are either too self-centered or too weak-willed to serve others in desperate need?

"The Harbingers" by D.A. Roach: subtle horror is the best! A great ghostly story, with heartwarming family feeling.

"House of Souls" by Amy Bartelloni: a surprising and unexpected premise, most intriguing. I applaud our young heroine, strong in character and intention despite her youth and difficult life.

"Manifesto" by Erin Lee: What has two centuries of death done for--or to--America's Founding Fathers?

"Reckoning" by Nykki Mills: Is anything more frightening than the ability of evil to manifest after death?

"Till Death Do We Part" by Joshua MacMillan: Another cautionary "be sure your sins will find you out" tale--or is it? On another level, a "love" that's stronger than death; or, when a ghost won't let go...

"Twisted" by Taylor Henderson: not scary per se, but very, very, spooky. Lynn gives up her career in New York to move to a strange little gated community where resurrection of the deceased accounts for most of the population.

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Review: The Night Before Krampus

The Night Before Krampus The Night Before Krampus by Peter Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE NIGHT BEFORE KRAMPUS by Peter Johnson

THE NIGHT BEFORE KRAMPUS is glorious! A contemporary magical fable with overtones of the Brothers Grimm, Old World fables and legends, and even classical Greek and Cretan mythology, this novel is also a medieval-style morality play and cautionary tale. In a contemporary culture that praises youth and "beauty" and the celebration of celebrity while condoning greed and selfishness and closing its eyes to serial killing, genocide, and gun violence, we all need to be reminded of the Bigger Picture: of the true nature of good vs. evil, of the possibilities of the triumph of good, and simultaneously of the microcosm that composes each human life, and of the importance of each choice we each make in discerning good from evil. Wow--this is life-changing.

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