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Blackout – Tim Curran

imageWant to know how to do sci-fi/horror right? Something that takes you back to great cinematic offerings from the hey day of 1980s? Look no further than Tim Curran’s Blackout. Claustrophobic, eerie, familiar surroundings and people, and like a master magician, Curran only shows you what he wants you to see when he wants you to see it.

Blackout is told from the point of view of Jon. Jon lives in your average middle-American neighborhood in your average middle-American town with his average middle-American neighbors. They all feel like people you know in a place you’re familair with. After a neighborhood barbecue with a few too many beers, Jon crawls in bed with his wife Kathy only to be woke up later by weird strobe lights. He’s fighting off a hangover and his wife is missing with the front door wide open. And here we discover that all is not right in ordinary, average middle-America. The power goes out all over and it is pitch black as far as the eye can see, which is only a few feet in front of your face. Strange black hose-looking cables descend and hang from the sky with no explanation. With all of the neighbors trying to figure out what is going on, Jon and their world is turned upside down.

Such a great, great story. Curran’s tale evokes memories of Twilight Zone with Invasion of the Body Snatchers in a delicously retro story that is, at the same time, all original and unique. How he isn’t more of a mainstream name commanding his place on the NY Times Best Seller list, while dreck like Nicholas Sparks and Sandra Brown are, is beyond me. Almost a third of the way into 2015 and Blackout is now my current favorite read of this year.

5 out of 5 stars
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

TWITTER – @KenMcKinley5

The Nightmare Girl – Jonathan Janz


Another top-notch offering from Jonathan Janz. The opening scene of The Nightmare Girl ranks right up there with Gage getting hit by the semi in Pet Sematary as one of the most gut wrenching moments in horror fiction for any parent to visualize. When Angie is losing it at the gas station and beating the hell out of a defenseless toddler, Janz succeeds in making the reader see red. Immediately, I loathed and despised the white-trash mom. I wanted to reciprocate the beatings she was dishing out and then I realized “It’s just a story”. Thats powerful stuff.

The tale then unfolds to reveal the chain of events that happen to Joe and his family for stepping in at the gas station that day. It is revealed that Angie and her mom are more than bad news. When CPS takes away her child due to her abuse, she brings down a whirlwind of hell on the crowd of people that stepped in that day. She also saves the worst for Joe. You see, Angie wasn’t just some pile of ordinary white-trash. She and her mother are a part of a cult full of lunatic fanatics and they are hell bent on making Joe and everyone he loves pay for what he did.

Janz succeeds in creating tension filled scenes one after another culminating in a blood bath at the end. The villians in The Nightmare Girl are some of the best I’ve read in quite some time. You immediately can’t stand them. There’s no gray area here. You want to see them pay and pay dearly. With that being said, the only downside that I saw was Joe’s wife. I really had a hard time feeling sympathetic for her. She seemed like she was way too much high maintenance and I found Joe to always be kissing her ass when he really should’ve been standing up for himself. But, that’s just a small thing for me and really didn’t detract from the wonderful and POWERFUL story Janz creates here. Be ready to have your emotions super-charged when you read The Nightmare Girl. Good stuff!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

TWITTER – @KenMcKinley5

Writing Your Book – The Thousand Word March

Good stuff, from Mr. Shea.

Hunter Shea

I’m about to let you in on a secret that will help you write that book that’s been dying to get out. The best part is, you can do it without having an existential crisis.

It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything about writing in the trenches in this genre I love so much. Back when I was locking myself away in my room, tapping out words and getting nothing but rejection or worse, silence, I never dreamed I’d be in the position I’m in today. Sure, I did it with the goal of legitimate publication (whatever your own definition of that may be), but I just never thought I’d have a year like this one with three books coming out and writing four more for three different publishers for next year.

I’m not a full time writer. Writing doesn’t have health benefits, and if you’ve stopped by the…

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The Remedy – Asher Ellis

imageThe Remedy is the debut novel from Asher Ellis and, upon first glance, seems to be a watered-down derivative of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Brian Keene’s Earthworm Gods, and numerous 80’s slasher films. The plot appears to be taken directly from Slasher Movie 101 – get a group of partying hard college students, throw in the one friend that is a reserved braniac (and just so happens to be hot in a non-bimbo kind of way), have them score a bunch of pot that they now have to get across the Canadian border which they decide that the first hitchhiker they meet would make a great candidate to help them. He actually decides to help them without thinking twice. He happens to know the one hiking trail that gets you across the border without any danger of meeting up with the border patrol. So the group splits up, one group hikes in the woods with the stranger, the other drive across to meet them at a rendezvous point. Guess what? Something bad happens in the woods. OK, who didn’t see this coming? But thats where The Remedy gets hard to lump into any category. Ellis actually does a nice job with the material. The writing is clear and I enjoy his writing style. The problem is the well-worn material he’s trying to sculpt into a story. Some will say its a homage to the above influences. Others will look at it as another rehashing of some very familiar territory. I would argue that its somewhere in the middle. If you’re looking for orginality, keep on looking. If you’re wanting to take a tromp down Slasher from the 80s Boulevard without much thinking involved, The Remedy isn’t a bad way to go. For myself, I enjoyed it for what it was but I’d really like to see Ellis bite off a little more in the material department. I think we have a good author here lurking in the shadows just waiting to bust out.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The preceding was based on an eARC obtained through Netgalley as made available by Full Fathom Five Digital.
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

TWITTER – @KenMcKinley5

Carrie – Stephen King


The first novel by the master of the macabre himself. We’ve all heard the story of how Carrie almost never saw the light of day until his wife pulled it out of the trash and told her husband that it was good and that he should finish it. Low and behold, a star is born. Carrie is told through a somewhat different kind of format that has been used with varying degrees of success by other authors. King actually lets us know what happens in the end long before the last few pages through “interviews” and “testimonials published from the Carrie White hearing papers”. Many times this format of storytelling can be chunky and plodding, slowing the story down. This isn’t the case in Carrie.

Carrrie White is the awkward odd ball character that all of us knew back in high school. Although Carrie takes place long before I was in high school, some things never change. No matter what generation, there is always a hidden rule that many high schoolers follow and that is “Eat or Be Eaten”. You either follow what the group you hang out with does or they’ll turn on you. This is what happens one day while Carrie White is taking a shower in gym class. Due to her crazy mother’s strict religious raising, Carrie is caught unaware when her first period starts while in the middle of the shower. Not knowing what is happening to her, she begins to freak out. Thats when the other girls, led by the classic bitch of all bitches, Chris Hargensen, begin teasing and taunting her in a most vicious way. To say this comes back to bite the girls is an understatement. Another girl that was involved, Sue Snell, feels guilty about the way she blindly followed her group in their prank and decides that the way she can make ammends and feel better about herself is to get her wildly popular boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom. When Chris gets suspended over the little incident, she begins plotting her revenge on Carrie. The problem is Carrie isn’t like that awkward lump of flesh we all knew in high school. Carrie has an ace up her sleeve that has been held dormant for many years and now that she’s entered womanhood, it won’t stay dormant any longer.

Carrie has many great things going for it and you can’t ask for a much better freshman effort. King’s description of the over the top prank in the shower scene will evoke memories of being bullied in high school by virtually all the readers. Religion gone wrong in her mother will also leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth. With so many school shootings in the past handful of years, the ending scene makes you cringe. Even though Carrie doesn’t have an AK-47, it still leaves you feeling hollow watching innocent high schoolers bite the dust for being at the wrong place and the wrong time.

King rides many emotions that drag you kicking and screaming back to your high school days and makes you ask yourself “what if?” and thats where Carrie shines. You’ll also see a pattern King uses in his later writings where he compares reading someone’s mind to taking books off the shelves of a large library and reading them.

4 out of 5 stars
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

TWITTER – @KenMcKinley5