Saturday, April 28, 2018

Review: My Best Friend's Exorcism

My Best Friend's Exorcism My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Abby and Gretchen were best friends until they dropped acid at a party. Now, Gretchen's been acting strangely, letting her appearance going to shit, and Abby's worried. But Gretchen will soon give her something to really worry about...

After the nirvana that was Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction, I had to give Grady Hendrix's fiction a shot.

Set during the satanic panic of the 1980s, My Best Friend's Exorcism is the story of the friendship between two girls and the possessing demon that drove a wedge between them. I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't precisely this. It feels more like a Megan Abbott book, a window into the lives of teenage girls than a horror novel.

While it's set in the 80s, My Best Friend's Exorcism doesn't beat you over the head with nostalgia. There are musical references but the culture of the time is the main 80s feature imported into the novel. Satanists are everywhere and they'll stop at nothing to take over the world!

The inter-girl politics between Abby, Gretchen, and their friends was very well done and believable. I was never a a moment when I thought "There's clearly a dude writing this." The book is compulsively readable. I wolfed it down in four sittings. I would have gotten it in two but people kept wanting to talk to me during my lunch breaks. Fuckers.

It felt more like a suspense novel a lot of the time but there were still some horrific moments that I won't go into here. I was telling my wife about one particular incident and she was pretty impressed.

It wasn't perfect, however. The editing was a little sloppy. I noticed one character called the wrong name and one instance of someone's wrists and ankles tied to a bed post but with her hands at her sides. Did she suddenly have four arms?

Anyway, those minor quibbles aside, I enjoyed My Best Friend's Exorcism quite a bit. I'll be reading more of Grady Hendrix's fiction. Four out of five stars.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Fury from the Tomb: The Institute for Singular Antiquities Book I

Fury from the Tomb: The Institute for Singular Antiquities Book I Fury from the Tomb: The Institute for Singular Antiquities Book I by S A Sidor
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Romulus Hardy, Egyptologist, heads to Egypt to go a-digging and unearths a sarcophagus and six caskets. Upon getting them to America, the mummies are stolen by ghouls and hauled off to Mexico. Will Rom ever find his mummies?

This was a Netgalley find, chosen by my love of Indiana Jones and similar tales.

Okay, I didn't technically finish reading this book but I'm finished for all intents and purposes. I'm not going to tear into the book. I'll just say what I liked and why the book didn't work for me and we can all move on with our lives, hopefully without shots fired.

The book had potential that just wouldn't quit. There's tomb crawling, mummies, vampires, a giant worm or two, gunslinging, and all sorts of other makings for a grand adventure.

My big problem with the book is that it's written in the first person. In and of itself, that's fine, and the writing was good in a technical sense. However... to put it gently, imagine how you would feel about Star Wars if C3PO was narrating it? The narrator is an Egyptologist in the late 19th century who manages to suck the excitement out of every situation with his overwrought vocabulary. While I'm sure his wordiness has some degree of authenticity, that does not a good story make. Every time I picked the book back up, I sighed, thinking "Will this windbag just get on with it?"

Now, if you enjoy this book, more power to you. It was not my particular cup of tea at this time. Two out of five stars.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: Jurassic, Florida

Jurassic, Florida Jurassic, Florida by Hunter Shea
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Polo Springs, Florida, already beset by a hurricane, is overrun by iguanas! Will anyone survive?

Hunter Shea is one of my favorite authors so this one was a no-brainer when I saw it on Netgalley. If it wasn't so short, I probably wouldn't have finished it.

It may be that I've read too many Hunter Shea books or I'm suffering from creature feature fatigue but I was pretty underwhelmed by this one. The first thing that made me roll my eyes was the mayor, an eighteen year old girl. I'm sure there are some eighteen year old girls out there that could run a small Florida town but I don't think a book about ravenous iguanas of unusual size rampaging a town is a good place for one. I didn't really care about Don, Barbara, and their kid, or the mobster in exile. The lesbian couple, Cheryl and Nicole, were easily my favorite characters. I found them way more interesting and likeable than the rest of the cast.

The action picked up in the second half but niggling things about the first half hampered my enjoyment. People made stupid decisions to advance the plot and the prose was a little on the lazy side of things. The action and the gore kept this from being a one. Surprisingly, I did not get tired of descriptions of lizards gnawing on people.

And that's that. I think I'm going on a creature feature break for a while. Two out of five stars.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review: Bone Saw

Bone Saw Bone Saw by Patrick Lacey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Liam's life isn't going great, even before the video store where he works goes out of business. But there is a bright spot: his favorite horror film director, Clive Sherman, is making a movie in his home town. However, Sherman's gory films look so realistic for a reason...

Max Booth at Perpetual Motion Machine Press hit me up and offered me an ARC of this. For some reason, I had Patrick Lacey confused with Joseph D'Lacey. Anyway, this wound up being terrific despite my confusion.

Bone Saw is the story of a down on his luck guy whose' favorite horror director comes to town to make a horror movie. Turns out the movies are actually snuff films and Pigfoot, the star of Clive Sherman's movies, is a real monster. Liam is a sadly relatable, a horror buff with not a whole lot going on. Not until he meets Michelle, a waitress with secrets of her own.

It's almost like a slasher movie version of Night Film. Clive Sherman's films look real because they are and Bass Falls is going to suffer! Yeah, I enjoyed the shit out of it. Lacey knows how to jack up the suspense and ladle out the gore. Once I started reading, I read it in two sittings. The ending was the bloody hell I knew it would be.

Bone Saw is one of the best slasher books I've read in a long time, one with surprisingly deep characters. Four out of five stars.

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Review: Keeper of the Children

Keeper of the Children Keeper of the Children by William H. Hallahan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When photographer Eddie Benson returns home from an assignment, he finds that his daughter Renni is a beggar, part of a cult run by an ex-monk. When the police won't do anything, Eddie takes matters in his own hands, ready to fight fire with fire...

After seeing this in Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction, I showed the cover to my wife. Weeks later, it showed up in our mailbox. The moral of the story is it pays to show your wife pictures of awesome paperbacks from the 70s.

Beneath the striking cover is a bizarre tale of ex-Buddhist monks, astral projection, telekinesis, and mind control. I had no idea the story would take the turn it did, turning Eddie Benson into some kind of Doctor Strange in preparation for his battle with Kheim, the monk.

With the scarecrow murder scene and the cover, I should have surmised what direction the book would take but I was still surprised. Benson's training reminded me of Doctor Strange so much I had to interrupt my wife's reading to tell her about it. She was probably curious about why I was muttering "That's so fucked up" anyway.

I was a little surprised Benson didn't run into Dormammu or the Mindless Ones while he was learning about astral travel. The ending was a mix of gore and bizarro action. It was extremely satisfying.

It wasn't a fantastic book but I liked it and there were aspects I never through I'd see in a horror novel. Hell, I'd read another book about Eddie Benson. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Review: Squelch

Squelch Squelch by John Halkin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Caterpillars escape from a lab in a small English town. Only these caterpillars are... maneaters! Can Ginny, an unemployed former TV executive, her doctor brother-in-law Bernie, and a pilot save the day or will all of England fall to the hungry caterpillars and their acid-spewing moths?

Chalk another one up to Paperbacks from Hell. What can be wrong about maneating caterpillars?

Quite a bit, as it turns out. But first I'll cover the good points.

Squelch is fun in a b-movie sort of way. A lot of creature features do the reveal too soon and wear out their welcome early, like a porno that's nothing but money shots. Squelch takes it's time, saving the really gruesome stuff for late in the book. The plot comes together fairly organically. I didn't think anyone made any crazy leaps in logic. Not for a horror novel, anyway.

Okay, here's all the shit I didn't like. Squelch suffers from "Why the fuck don't they just run away or stomp the shit out of them?" syndrome, much like the movies Child's Play, Slugs, and about a hundred others. Yeah, flesh-eating caterpillars are potentially scary but they're still six inches long at the end of the day. I kept picturing the vorpal bunny jumping at people's faces in Monty Python and the Holy Grail or the slugs in Slugs leaping at people.

The writing is kind of rocky at the beginning. Either I got used to it or it smoothed out eventually. None of the characters are that interesting and Ginny lost any sympathy from me when she started boning someone she shouldn't have. The solution to the killer caterpillar problem reminded me of something to a Simpsons episode.

While it had some fun gory moments, it felt like what it was: something written to take advantage of the horror paperback boom. It doesn't have a lot of soul to it. Two out of five stars.

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Monday, April 2, 2018

Review: Rowdy: The Roddy Piper Story

Rowdy: The Roddy Piper Story Rowdy: The Roddy Piper Story by Ariel Teal Toombs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rowdy is the story of wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper, as told by two of his children.

When I was a kid, taking the first steps into a wrestling fandom that would last decades, one of the first wrestlers I really hated was Roddy Piper. As I got older, I saw what a great entertainer he was. When I had a pile of Amazon points burning a hole in my pocket, I snapped this up.

The book starts with Roddy's birth and rough home life, leading to him being semi-homeless and a criminal during most of his teen years. This part lasted a little longer than I would like. However, it was necessary in order to explain the cloud of sadness that hung over Roddy's head for most of his life.

Once the wrestling bug bit, the book really took hold. Roddy started off in Canada, driving astronomical distances for little money before finally getting his big break in the States, wrestling in Texas, George, Los Angeles, Charlotte, and all the other territories in between before finally getting the opportunity of a lifetime in the WWF. From there, it's Hollywood, WCW, cancer, and death. Yeah, I glossed over a lot.

While his kids, Colt and Ariel, wrote the book, they show a lot of warts, like Roddy's drug and alcohol abuse. They also share a lot of road stories from wrestlers who were close to their father. Some of it I'd read before but most of it was new to me. 61 is a young age to die but considering everything Piper went through once he got into wrestling, he probably should have been dead 20 years sooner.

It's better than I expected but I still wanted more road stories and stories from behind the scenes in the WWF/E and WCW. I'm sure some had to be cut for space reasons but you know guys like The Grappler and Ric Flair could tell Roddy Piper stories for days. That's pretty much my only gripe, though. Rowdy paints a surprisingly sad picture of one of wrestling's greatest personalities. Four out of five stars.

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