November 05, 2003
Stolen (Women of the Otherworld, Book 2) by Kelley Armstrong

Stolen (Women of the Otherworld, Book 2) by Kelley Armstrong: an absolutely stunning book that grabs you and never lets you go.

Elena, the world’s only female werewolf, is looking into the possibility that a human knows that werewolves exist and aren’t merely myth. She then discovers that it’s not only werewolves that aren’t myths but also vampires, demons, witches, and more. While trying to deal with this, she’s captured by an egomaniacal billionaire and ends up in his own supernatural menagerie.

I had enjoyed the first book in this series, Bitten, so I was prepared to like this one. However, I was surprised by how exciting it was and how much I loved it. I literally could not put this book down and stayed up reading way later than I should have.

From page one this book starts out with a deadly hunt and never lets up on the tension and excitement until the book is over, especially once Elena is kidnapped. Her fury and fear are so real that I could only begin to imagine how it would feel to be in somone’s personal zoo.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Bitten was good, but Stolen is one of the most exhilarating novels I’ve read all year. It really sinks its teeth into you, if you’ll pardon the pun.

November 01, 2003
The Halloween Man by Douglas Clegg

The Halloween Man by Douglas Clegg: another great novel by horror master Clegg dealing with devil worship in a small New England town.

At the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to Stony Crawford just as he’s kidnapped a small boy - a boy with amazing powers - from a compound of religious zealots in Texas. I was immediately prepared for Stony to be a bad guy and was surprised to find out that this wasn’t necessarily the case.

A large section of the novel is told in a flashback to the year that Stony was fifteen and in love with a beautiful girl, Lourdes Maria. During this flashback we learn who Stony truly is and why he had to kidnap the boy. Without giving too much away, the novel deals with “devil” worship, small town secrets, and the hidden nature of Stony.

I enjoyed this book a good deal, though for a while I wasn’t sure I knew where it was going. Luckily, the murky part of the plot cleared up and it was all the better for being a bit unclear. Clegg’s characters are very strong and the poignant way that he wrote about first love between Lourdes and Stony made me long to see them happy together.

At first I thought that I liked The Hour Before Dark (the last book I read by him) more, but the more I think about The Halloween Man, the more I like it and now I’m not sure that it might not be the better of the two. Highly recommended.

September 20, 2003
The Hour Before Dark by Douglas Clegg

The Hour Before Dark by Douglas Clegg: a suspenseful, genuinely creepy horror novel that has to be one of the best in the genre that I’ve read in years.

At the very beginning of the novel, Gordie Raglan is brutally murdered in the smokehouse that sits on Hawthorne, the property he owns on Burnley Island, just off the coast of Massachusetts. The murder is so savage and strange that no one - police, forensics experts, or even the media - can begin to figure out what has happened.

Nemo, the oldest of Gordie’s kids, is called home by Brooke, his sister who was at Hawthone at the time, and Bruno, his brother. Brooke, understandably, is acting odd, but Bruno and Nemo begin to wonder if maybe she has become completely unhinged by their father’s slaughter.

Complicating everything, is memories that Nemo has of playing The Dark Game with his brother and sister in the same smokehouse where their father was murdered. One must never play The Dark Game after night has fallen, but the three of them did just that once. Nemo has to try and put the pieces that is slowly surfacing of his and his sibling’s lives to determine who really is the murder and what secrets have been buried long enough.

The book had me wondering about the outcome for almost its entire length. I figured out one important plot twist (as I think most people will), but it still didn’t lessen the impact of the Raglan family truth or of the novel itself.

Very well written, highly enjoyable, and even reminiscent of Stephen King’s earlier works. Recommended for those that love their scares with more psychological nuances than straight out gore.

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August 20, 2003
Flowers from the Moon and Other Lunacies by Robert Bloch

Flowers from the Moon and Other Lunacies by Robert Bloch: the first posthumous collection of his work since Bloch died in 1994. These stories are from the late 1930s through the early 1960s. Many of them have not been anthologized before, so this is a chance to see one of the masters of the genre from his early days.

I’ve always enjoyed Robert Bloch’s work (he’s probably best well-known for being the author of Psycho and the story Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper) and was delighted to get this anthology of his early work. For the most part, I enjoyed the stories, though some of them seemed fairly obvious in their ending. Seventy years ago, though, I bet they really packed a punch.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good short story both for the excellent writing and the novelty of seeing older stories that influenced many of today’s writers.

My particular favorites from this collection included Death is an Elephant, Question of Identity, Death Has Five Guesses, The Bottomless Pool, Flowers From the Moon, He Waits Beneath the Sea, Be Yourself, Black Bargain, A Bottle of Gin, Soul Proprietor, Satan’s Phonograph, The Man Who Told the Truth, and The Night They Crashed the Party.

August 14, 2003
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman: when I was in high school I read the most amazing short story ever that was about a murdered angel. It was in this great little anthology that I somehow misplaced and was never able to find again. About five years ago I came across the short story again in one of the ever-excellent Years Best Fantasy and Horror collections. Over the years the story has stayed with me, though never the name or the author. Imagine my delight when, while coming to the end of this amazing collection, I find it contained within.

Neil Gaiman has always been a favorite of mine through both his short stories and his novels (especially American Gods), so I can’t describe how happy it made me that he wrote one of the best short stories that I have ever read (the title, by the way, is Murder Mysteries).

I simply can not recommend Gaiman, especially this collection, highly enough. Everything that he writes is pure magic. There’s heartbreak, there’s happiness, there’s sorrow, and there’s joy, but the most important this is that his stories always ring true.

Pick this up as soon as you can. It is not to be missed. Forgive me if this review seems a bit disjointed, but I am so excited that the title of that missing anthology was mentioned and I have been able to find it again.

Favorite stories of mine from this collection are Chivalry, The Price, Don’t Ask Jack, The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories, Queen of Knives, Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar, Bay Wolf, Mouse, Desert Wind, Babycakes, the aforementioned Murder Mysteries, and Snow, Glass, Apples.

August 07, 2003
Red by Jack Ketchum

Red by Jack Ketchum: justice is meted out by a wronged pet owner in this novel.

Jack Ketchum is know for his graphic and disturbing novels. I’ve only read one other of his novels - The Lost - and I definitely found it to be disturbing. Nothing positive happened in that book at all. With Red, however, I found it not to be nearly as heavy and really enjoyed reading it.

The Red in the title is Av Ludlow’s old dog. While out fishing with Red, three boys come along and try to rob Av. When he doesn’t have any money on him, they kill Red. The rest of the novel is about Av’s quest for justice for Red’s murder and the escalating violence that this leads to.

I certainly couldn’t recommed this for all readers. It’s definitely not a light book and the subject matter could be upsetting to a lot of readers. If you like horror novels, though, it’s a damn good one. There’s also a novella included called “The Passenger”, about a kidnapped defense attorney, that I really enjoyed as well.

July 31, 2003
The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates

The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates: normally I love anthologies and enjoy reading them greatly, but this one was an exception.

I’ve mentioned before that while I don’t mind “vague” stories - stories where you don’t really know what’s going on, who the people are, or why they’re there - full books of them always are tedious for me to make my way through. Unfortunately, most of the stories is The Collector of Hearts were of the vague kind, so I didn’t really enjoy the book and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

There were some good stories in it - notably “The Sky Blue Ball,” “Death Mother,” “Schroeder’s Stepfather,” “The Sepulchre,” “The Sons of Angus Macelster,” “The Affliction,” “Unprintable,” “Valentine,” and “The Crossing.” Mostly these stories had less of a vagueness to them and I felt it easier to connect to the characters.

All in all, not a bad book, but not really recommended unless you’re a fan of the short story or of her.

July 27, 2003
Books of Blood (Volumes One to Three) by Clive Barker

Books of Blood (Volumes One to Three) by Clive Barker: I hadn’t reread any of Clive Barker’s books in quite some time, so when a co-worker and I ended up discussing some of his short stories, I had to immediately re-purchase the Books of Blood and immerse myself back into Clive Barker’s world.

These stories are extremely visceral and it’s easy to see why the term “splatterpunk” was coined with this type of writing in mind. His stories are very graphic and seem to have an underlying theme behind them - even though something horrible may be incredible horrible (a pig that speaks with a dead boy’s voice, for example), these events are still awe-inspiring in the truest since of the word and the way that the human mind reacts to them can be widely different than one would expect.

To me, Barker’s stories herein (and in most of his other work), the world exists with a veil that can be drawn away at any time. When I got done watching The Matrix for the first time, I was struck with the similarities between that world and the worlds that Barker creates.

Truthfully, I didn’t enjoy all of these stories as much as I did when I read them probably a little over ten years ago. However, many of them were still as strong and as moving as they were then. The best of these are “The Book of Blood,” “The Midnight Meat Train,” “In The Hills, The Cities” (probably my favorite story of his ever), “Dread,” “Hell’s Event,” “Jacqueline Ess: Her Last Will and Testament,” “The Skins of the Fathers,” “Son of Celluloid,” and “Rawhead Rex.”

If you like your stories strong and disturbing this collection is for you. If not, may be best that you skip, but you’ll never know until you try.

May 02, 2003
Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris: third book in the Southern Vampire series.

This one was a little bit more involved than the last two books have been and you can see Sookie, Bill, and Eric develop. It’s still a lighter read than the Anita Blake series, but lots of fun and lots of potential to become an awesome series.

April 15, 2003
Cerulean Sins by Laurell K. Hamilton

Cerulean Sins by Laurell K. Hamilton: eleventh novel in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series.

As far as the series goes, this one wasn’t necessarily up to par, but I still enjoyed it. Plus, after being so invested in the characters and the plots, there’s no way that I wasn’t going to read it.

All in all, a good read, but not the best of Laurell K. Hamilton’s work.

February 24, 2003
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Fourteenth Annual Collection by Ellen Datlow (Editor) and Terri Windling (Editor)

The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Fourteenth Annual Collection by Ellen Datlow (Editor) and Terri Windling (Editor): I’ve never reviewed one of these books before, but if you’re a horror or fantasy lover, all fifteen volumes of this collection is a must for you. One of my happiest days as a bibliophile is when I found the last volume I needed to complete the collection online at Alibris. I even sent the found of the company an e-mail because these books are so important to me as a reader.

These books are very large - around seven hundred pages. Not only do you get over 500 pages of the best stories of the year, you also get a summation of fantasy for the year (reviews of books, poetry, and music offerings, mostly. A great place to find books that you might have missed otherwise. I have found some excellent works that had slipped below my radar through these reviews), a summation of horror, Fantasy and Horror in the Media (an excellent way to find a good movie), comics for the year, and an obituary section.

You will never find anthologies as fine as these and this volume was no exception. They simply sparkle with magic, contain horror to chill you to the bone, and every other emotion in between. Most of the stories that I carry around with me in my heart always, have been read in these volumes.

My favorite stories included Incognit, Inc. (Harlan Ellison), Le Mooz (Louise Erdrich), Granny Weather (Charles de Lint), Greedy Choke Puppy (Nalo Hopkinson), Achilles' Grave (Ben Pastor), Down Here in the Garden (Tia V. Travis), Riding the Black Horse (Elizabeth Engstrom), Mr. Dark’s Carnival (Glen Hirschberg), The Cavemen in the Hedges (Stacey Richter), The Penny Drops (Ian Rodwell and Steve Duffy), Buttons (Claudia Adriázola), The Artificial Cloud (Justin Tussing), The Pottawatomie Ghost (Andy Duncan), George is All Right (Howard Wandrei), The Abortionist’s Horse (A Nightmare) (Tanith Lee), The Heidelberg Cylinder (Jonathan Carroll), Gone (Jack Ketchum), The Flaying Season (Jeffrey Thomas), Bone Orchards (Paul J. McAuley), and Hallowmass (Esther M. Friesner).

I simply cannot recommend these books enough to all readers, not just those of horror and fantasy.

January 31, 2003
Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris: second book in the Southern Vampire series. Another fun, quick read involving Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic barmaid from northern Louisiana, and Bill Compton her vampire boyfriend. This time they have to go to Dallas to uphold a bargain that Sookie made with another head vampire and things really ignite. The relationship between the dead and the living is explored, giving the book a bit more depth.

While these books aren’t as deep or probably as perilous as the Anita Blake series, there still a lot of fun and I highly recommend them.

January 30, 2003
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris: first book in the Southern Vampire series. Immediately upon starting this novel, I found Harris’s voice irresistible. You can tell she’s from the south and there’s just something so comfortable about her. I loved how easy it was to get into this book.

It’s your typical Louisiana telepath meets nice vampire and they fall in love story. The characters are great, especially if you’re from the south. I really love Sookie. She’s sweet, smart, and you can’t help but adore her and her plucky spirit. It’s a quick read and I was strongly recommend this book, particularly if you enjoy books in the mystery or horror genre.

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, Book 1) by Kelley Armstrong

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, Book 1) by Kelley Armstrong: excellent novel by first time author Kelly Armstrong. It deals with Elena, a woman turned werewolf, who has distanced herself from the only family she’s really ever had - The Pack. She has to return home after some alarming circumstances arrive, threatening the carefully crafted life she’s made for herself.

I really enjoyed this book and feel that it was a great book, especially considering it was penned by a first time novelist. The characters were real and very interesting, especially the conflict between Elena and Clay. Very good book, with a nice new twist on the werewolf concept.

January 25, 2003
October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween by Richard Chizmar (Editor) and Robert Morrish (Editor)

October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween by Richard Chizmar (Editor) and Robert Morrish (Editor): A Halloween anthology with a twist. Not only do you get great Halloween stories, but authors and illustrators recall their favorite Halloween memories as well. I particurally loved Jack Ketchum’s memory - what a wonderful idea! Some of the better stories include ones by Jack Ketchum, Dean Koontz, and Peter Straub.

The Collection by Bentley Little

The Collection by Bentley Little: I read Bentley Little’s The Walking about two years ago and was very disappointed. It received hype all over the place, but I could just never get into it. I picked The Collection up on the off-chance that maybe his short stories would be better and they definitely were. I was impressed with almost every story in the book and it was well worth the $3.50 I paid for it in a used bookstore. Favorite stories from the book include Bob, Life with Father, The Sanctuary, and my favorite, The Washingtonians.

Narcissus in Chains by Laurell K. Hamilton

Narcissus in Chains by Laurell K. Hamilton: tenth book in the Anita Blake series. This book had me on the edge of my seat and I couldn’t figure out where Hamilton was taking the series. As always, the writing was excellent, though it was strange to see Anita departing from her usual ways due to a big change in the book. Also, while the ending was good, I found it really sad and wished that things could have been different. I really enjoyed it, but now I’m annoyed that the next book doesn’t come out for another five months and I’ll have to wait about a year on top of that for the paperback version.

From a Buick 8 by Stephen King

From a Buick 8 by Stephen King: while I started out really enjoying the book, by the time it ended, I felt like I still wanted something else. While that is a point in the book itself that is made, I could have just used more. It’s still a good read, but not on par with some of his other works, Bag of Bones for example.

Obsidian Butterfly by Laurell K. Hamilton

Obsidian Butterfly by Laurell K. Hamilton: ninth book in the Anita Blake series. This book featured one of the most interesting, and mysterious, people in Anita’s life - her friend Edward. I loved how we got to learn more about his life and who he really is. Very exciting and very interesting.

Blue Moon by Laurell K. Hamilton

Blue Moon by Laurell K. Hamilton: eighth book in the Anita Blake series. Great book focusing on the unfinished business that Anita has with her ex. I was glad to see where this book went, but when it ended, it only increased my uncertainty on how things can end with the three major characters.

Burnt Offerings by Laurell K. Hamilton

Burnt Offerings by Laurell K. Hamilton: seventh book in the Anita Blake series. This is definitely the best book to date in the series. It starts off with massive amounts of trouble headed for Anita and doesn’t let up until the very end. This book was so good, it was all I could do to put it down. The most action (and sex) filled yet. Absolutely a must-read.

The Killing Dance by Laurell K. Hamilton

The Killing Dance by Laurell K. Hamilton: sixth book in the Anita Blake series. Another winner in the series, but this book was a little bit different that the ones before it. All the books’s sexual tensions come to a head and the ending of the book was no where near what I would have expected. I couldn’t put this one down either. Read these books now.

Bloody Bones by Laurell K. Hamilton

Bloody Bones by Laurell K. Hamilton: fifth book in the Anita Blake series. Really good book where the tension between the leads is getting even more intense. I literally could not put it down I wanted to find out what was going to happen so badly. I am getting more and more into these books with each one and can’t decide how they’re going to end up. Wonderful, wonderful books.

The Lunatic Cafe by Laurell K. Hamilton

The Lunatic Cafe by Laurell K. Hamilton: fourth book in the Anita Blake series. Yet another excellent book in the Anita Blake series. So far, each book I’ve read has been better than the last. This one threw some great tension between characters in, really letting you focus on the people in the story. I can’t recommend these books enough.

Circus of the Damned by Laurell K. Hamilton

Circus of the Damned by Laurell K. Hamilton: third book in the Anita Blake series. This book has, so far, been the best of the series. It deals mostly with Anita’s struggles with a very powerful vampire (I won’t say more and give it away.) I finished it in about a day. I guess you could say I devoured it.

The Laughing Corpse by Laurell K. Hamilton

The Laughing Corpse by Laurell K. Hamilton: second book in the Anita Blake series. This book starts off pretty much right after the second one and is even better, giving a hell of a climactic ending.

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton: first book in the Anita Blake, vampire hunter, series. My friend Jeanna gave it to me for my birthday knowing how I like both horror novels and mysteries. I enjoyed it immensely, reading it in two days. The series is about an animator, a woman who can raise the dead, and who also happens to kill rogue vampires. The only thing I wish these books would do is give me the background information on why and how vampires became accepted in society

The Best of Cemetery Dance: Volume II by Richard Chizmar (Editor)

The Best of Cemetery Dance: Volume II by Richard Chizmar (Editor): another collection of short stories from the magazine Cemetery Dance. Pretty good, but not as good as the first collection. The best of the collection are “Eater,” “Vacation,” “A Taste of Blood and Altars,” “Almost Never,” and “Comes the Night Wind, Cold and Hungry.” Interesting side note, but the page numbers actually start where the first collection left off. I hadn’t seen that before.

The Best of Cemetery Dance: Volume I by Richard Chizmar (Editor)

The Best of Cemetery Dance: Volume I by Richard Chizmar (Editor): a great collection of short stories from the magazine Cemetery Dance. I had always wanted to subscibe to it, but before I started making real money, couldn’t afford to. This book made me go over to their website and sign right up. Excellent stories, especially “Chattery Teeth,” “The Box,” “Haceldama,” “The Pig Man,” “Weight,” “The Rabbit,” and “Savior.”

Necroscope IV: Deadspeak by Brian Lumley

Necroscope IV: Deadspeak by Brian Lumley: another installment in the Necroscope series. This book had some interesting twists in it. Plus, it was set in Greece (my boyfriend is half Greek), so I enjoyed the new location for the book. I liked this one better than the second book, but the third book, so far, has been the best of the sequels.

The Death Artist by Dennis Etchinson

The Death Artist by Dennis Etchinson: some good stories (The Dog Park, for instance, has always been a favorite of mine), but for the most part I found too many of them to be kind of vague and I didn’t really like them. While I don’t mind an ambiguous story every now and then, a whole book full of them wasn’t really to my taste.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet : Horror Stories by Richard Matheson

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet : Horror Stories by Richard Matheson: another collection of Richard Matheson’s short stories with an introduction from Stephen King. I had most of the stories before, but there were some good ones in there (The Holiday Man, Wet Straw, and The Children of Noah) that I hadn’t read before.

Necroscope III: The Source by Brian Lumley

Necroscope III: The Source by Brian Lumley: third book in the Necroscope series. It introduces some new characters and a very interesting therory as to where vampires come from. I liked it quite a bit.

Necroscope II: Vamphyri! by Brian Lumley

Necroscope II: Vamphyri! by Brian Lumley: second book in the Necroscope series. Not as good as the first one, but it was worth reading.

Everything's Eventual by Stephen King

Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King: King’s latest collection of short stories. Includes some really great one (The Man in the Black Suit, Everything’s Eventual, The Little Sisters of Eluria, The Road Virus Heads North). 1408 has got to be one of the scariest stories I’ve read in a long time. Unfortunately, I had read most of these in other sources, but it was nice to have them all in one place.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson: excellent collection from on the great horror writers. The title novella is especially good

Necroscope (Necroscope Series, Volume 1) by Brian Lumley

Necroscope (Necroscope Series, Volume 1) by Brian Lumley: first book in the Necroscope series. Very interesting book about Harry Keogh, a necroscope or one who can talk to the dead. This is a classic in the horror genre and I really liked it.

The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red by Joyce Reardon (Editor) and Steven Rimbauer (Afterword)

The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red by Joyce Reardon (Editor) and Steven Rimbauer (Afterword): kind of a prequel to the Stephen King six hour movie that came on ABC. It wasn’t written by King and I really didn’t find it as interesting as I would have hoped.