The Sea Below by William Meikle

The Sea Below by William Meikle
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Horror, Action/Adventure
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

The adventurers from THE LAND BELOW return to the cavern under the Austrian Alps.

At first it is a rescue mission, but soon Danny, Stefan, Ed and Elsa find themselves in a fight for survival.

A perilous journey across an underground sea brings them to a lost island and fresh adventures, but their attempts to return to the surface only serve to make their situation worse.

Now they must flee for their lives, with all the denizens of that strange island at their heels.

When Danny received Stefan’s missive – that their mutual friend Ed had gone back underground to the caverns and other world they had recently discovered in an old caving site – Danny doesn’t hesitate. With little money to his name and even less reason to stay in London, Danny decides to go and offer whatever help his friends could use from an old soldier. Even though his dreams were still shadowed from his previous experience, Danny has no real idea of what’s in store for them all.

I really enjoyed this short story and feel it’s an excellent, quick read for those looking for an old school action/adventure with a bit of mystery and horror thrown in for good measure. While this is a sequel to The Land Below, readers should be reassured that they absolutely don’t have to have read that first installment to really enjoy this story. Even better, half the first few chapters aren’t spent re-hashing the previous book. While there isn’t much time spent describing Danny’s journey to the cave site, nor their descent down into the underground world the story is set in, I feel this time the story really reaps the rewards of having all it’s action centered fully on the caves, monsters and adventure the men have below ground. While the book is a self-contained adventure, there is not a traditional style of “happily ever after” ending. I don’t particularly mind this with mystery and adventure books, and I certainly don’t feel like the ending is a cliff-hanger or without suitable resolution, but I do feel readers should be aware the ending isn’t a traditional tying up of all the loose ends.

William Meikle – in my opinion – is an exemplary storyteller when it comes to short, action-paced and spooky stories. His writing style really flourishes in this sense and I feel he manages with true skill to straddle a number of genres. While not horror in a traditional sense, his story has monsters and things going bump in the dark. The action is there from virtually the first page and the pace is fast and I feel it really draws the reader along at a breakneck pace. I also really enjoy how he skillfully weaves the story so it’s impossible to tell what sort of period/year these two stories are set in. There are lamps, boats, trains and pulleys, engineering feats so it doesn’t feel “really” old – but the lack of computers and phones also indicates it’s not necessarily the modern world as we know it. Then again, phones and computers won’t work so deeply underground, so given the story’s setting this lack of modern technology indicating an older time period is seriously debatable. Underground caves in the middle of the isolated countryside don’t lend the story to the internet, wifi reception or satellite coverage. While I can’t quite figure this is a truly contemporary time period, I feel this story really can’t be slotted into a historical setting either – but more a vague, hazy “in between” type of time of not right now but neither in the distant past. And oddly, I enjoy the fact this story doesn’t give answers to every question that the reader will come up with. Some things are left to the readers own imagination – and isn’t that the point of reading, really?

Readers looking for an intense, fun and slightly scary monster/adventure/treasure hunt style of story should not find themselves disappointed with this. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word and I know there will be a number of happy re-reads of this to come. Recommended.

Extinction Plague by Greig Beck

Extinction Plague by Greig Beck
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Horror, Action/Adventure, Paranormal
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Around the world entire towns are being wiped out, a trail of boneless bodies left behind.

Professor Matt Kearns, paleo-linguist, and a team of scientific and military specialists, rush to decipher the hidden secrets of a pair of ancient stones that prophesise the next great extinction on Earth. They soon discover that the ominous predictions are linked to a plague of unstoppable creatures that have risen from the centre of the Earth.

In a heart-pumping adventure that begins in the hold of a sunken German U-boat, Matt Kearns travels to the lost Nazi treasure tunnels in Poland and dives deep down to sunken caves below Easter Island. Matt is fighting for his life, the ones he loves, and the existence of the entire human race.

Matt Kearns, paleo-linguist, is back once again for another adventure. A Nazi-era German U-boat is discovered down in New Zealand, leading to a series of strange discoveries and all too soon all over the world swarms of bugs start devouring everything in sight – killing humans, animals and everything in it’s wake. Matt and the team need to first discover what’s going on, and then once again save the world.

I’m a huge fan of Grieg Beck’s but I admit I have a particularly soft spot for Matt Kearns and his adventures. Beck somehow keeps Matt’s stories a little lighter to my mind – and less heavily invested in all the military/ammo aspects of the storyline. With a Kearns adventure I know there will be not just science and thriller aspects with a solid and well woven plot, but usually there is an excellent dose of paranormal and a strong influence of a more intellectual/academic and research based side to the adventure. For me, personally, this hits a really good spot and I’ve never yet been disappointed by one of these stories.

And this book delivers in spades. From Nazi Germany to Easter Island, the Polish mountains and all across the globe Matt and the team piece together what’s actually happening and then fight to save the world from extinction. It’s a magnificent adventure and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. I particularly liked how solidly Beck wove together a number of different plotlines. It’s clear he’s put a good amount of research into each different element and while the final picture pushes the boundaries of realism, each aspect is clearly weighted strongly in reality and is both exciting and also totally plausible.

This fine line between fact and fiction is a very delicate balance and I really love how Beck seems to straddle it perfectly. That, coupled with the adventure and scare-factor is an absolute highlight for me of all the Matt Kearns stories and one of the reasons they’re an auto-buy for me and one of my favorite series.

Readers looking for a fast paced, fun adventure novel where the hero and his team race against the clock (and where the bad guys are not just a few horrible people, but the bone-eating, creepy, bug kind) this is an excellent story and one I can strongly recommend.

Illusion by Aurelia T. Evans

Illusion by Aurelia T. Evans
Publisher: Totally Entwined
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Mistletoe

Arcanium’s greatest illusion is that there’s any illusion at all…

When an old flame returns to Arcanium in the company of her own magical circus, Illumina, offering an alliance, Bell initially considers the merger an opportunity for much-needed change.

However, with Illumina comes Maya, who has lost her memories not just of Locke’s Arcanium but all her time with Bell—love, guilt, wishes, everything. Having her memories removed leaves Maya with too large a gap in her mind that she’s desperate to fill, and she knows that Bell, of all the people in Arcanium, can give her the information she’s missing.

Bell still loves Maya and spends every day trying to atone for the pain he caused her and the rest of his cast. In spite of her frustration, she’s happiest without him, without the memories that once nearly destroyed her. If Illumina is to become part of Arcanium, he has no choice. He has to keep his distance, because she doesn’t know why she should run as far away as she can from Arcanium—and from Bell.

Even so, resisting Maya is almost too much for him to bear.

Once again, we find ourselves in the world of Arcanium where Bell rules and the consequence for breaking his rules are harsh. Yet even Bell has a heart and a conscience. He has learned from his mistakes and works hard at making his circus safe and a happy place for those in it. When an old friend and lover returns to Arcanium with her own cast that includes Maya, Bell must make the hard choice of opening his doors or shutting them. His own heart lays in the choice and he could lose it all over again if he is not careful.

I was both excited and sad to see this book come out as it is the last in the Arcanium series. I enjoyed returning to this world and its characters. As much as I enjoyed this book, there were a few points where the story dragged on a bit too much, and there were characters made to stand out, it seems, just for the purpose of being annoying. It worked. This story brings readers full circle and back to the beginning. It is centered around Bell and Maya of course, and as with all the books in this series, there are major twists and turns.

This book is an interesting way to end the series and the author has made a great world with memorable characters that I fell in love with and hope to see again in the future.

While the Devil Lies Waiting by David J. LeMaster

While the Devil Lies Waiting by David J. LeMaster
Publisher: Champagne Book Group
Genre: Horror, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Historical Fiction, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

During the Civil War, the War of Northern Aggression to Southerners, General Elijah Beauregard was heralded, although not within earshot, as a demon. Known for shooting his own men for running from carnage, he had no less respect for his beloved Virginia.

She’d prayed for his demise, yet only received absolution in her own and her child’s death in childbirth. No one else, who dared live in his house, ever died in peace…nor left the premises. Over a century later, and many mysterious deaths and events, he would have his Ginny…again.

If you’re ready for a good ghost story, this is it. General Beauregard of the Civil War is creepy and scary. What makes him worse is that he is motivated to hurt people.

In this book, we jump through time and meet the general’s unfortunate victims as they stay in his house. The setting and atmosphere, the mood are superbly written. Characters—dead and alive—interact in realistic ways, and suspense is strong throughout the story.

We see some of the characters at different stages of their lives. The challenges they face keep the pace of the book quick. It is a horror story, but can anyone have a happy ending? Are the good guys hiding anything?

David J. LeMaster has written a unique tale that readers of this genre are sure to love and remember.

Bloodman by Robert Pobi

Bloodman by Robert Pobi
Publisher: Arrow Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Horror
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

FBI contractor Jake Cole deciphers the language of murderers by reconstructing three-dimensional crime scene models in his head, a talent that has left his nerves frayed and his psyche fragile. Jake returns to Montauk, New York, for the first time in a quarter of a century when his father, a renowned painter, lights himself ablaze and crashes through a plate-glass window. Once home, Jake is pulled into a gruesome local homicide investigation that echoes his mother’s murder three decades earlier.

As he sifts through the detritus of his father’s madness, Jake discovers thousands of seemingly meaningless paintings stacked in the studio – a bizarre trail of dust-covered breadcrumbs the painter left as he tumbled down the rabbit hole of dementia. Breadcrumbs that Jake believes lead to the killer.

With the help of Sheriff Dan Hauser – a man scrambling to prepare the seaside community for the arrival of a catastrophic hurricane – Jake Cole sets out to find the seemingly unstoppable force of malevolence known as the Bloodman.
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A unique and disquieting thriller that redefines the genre, Bloodman will leave you reeling long after its operatic finale.

FBI agent Jake Cole is back home on Long Island to try and clear up matters for his estranged father. Between his father’s accident and Alzheimer’s Jake wants nothing more than to sort out what sort of living accommodations would be best for the elderly man, then Jake wants to return to his wife, son and regular life back in New York and to put this – along with the memories from his past – behind him. His plans are foiled though when a stomach-churning murder of a woman and child only a few miles away has him being drawn in to investigate as the only nearby and available FBI officer.

I found this to be an amazingly written and incredibly intense read. First up though I need to insist that this book won’t be to every reader’s taste and while the first half is more Mystery/Suspense the second half leans a bit more strongly toward being a Thriller and even mildly a horror style of novel. I don’t feel personally that this is a story for the faint of heart. While not really a horror – it’s not gory or overly descriptive and certainly it doesn’t use the murders or scenes in a titillating manner nor is it descriptive with the gruesome scenes – this book did give me the creeps when I was reading it late into the night and I’m pretty sure it won’t be enjoyed by readers looking for a more straight mystery style of novel.

That said, I found this book very well written. The writing style appealed to me as being easily read and relatable, I really enjoyed the complexities of the main characters and the first half of the book really is a more “regular” mystery/FBI/police style of story. By the half-way mark when I started to get an inkling of the plot not being quite as simple as I expected, the characters not precisely as they were portrayed and I finally cottoned on to the hidden snippets of what lay beneath the surface it was far too late for me. I was absolutely hooked – both on the plot, the storyline and the characters – and even though I spent all of a minute contemplating not going further I simply couldn’t put the book down and walk away. The last half of the book was quite a roller coaster and while I regret nothing, I wish I’d read a review that had at least suggested readers maybe read this book in daylight hours and not deep into the night. I might not have listened to such a suggestion, but it’s one I would have appreciated nevertheless.

I thought this book was intense. While there are tons of serial killer vs the FBI and local police in a small, deserted town style of stories out there this book had a number of twists and turns that made it feel unique and fresh to me. This isn’t like any other book I can recall reading before. Indeed a number of the twists took me totally by surprise and even though a few of them I knew I was missing something (or I knew there was more going on that I could recognize) when everything unwound I was still gobsmacked even as the pieces all fell together. This is a wonderful story in that the author carefully leads you through the pages and then when it all clicks together you can see it all for what it is and it totally makes sense. There’s no dangling plotlines or guessing what was meant – everything is very clearly and explicitly laid bare by the end and while amazing it’s as scary as it is thrilling. I really found this story to be akin to a roller coaster, half terrifying but equal parts exhilarating and at the end you’re not sure if you want to have a lie down or get straight back on and do it all over again immediately.

Readers looking for something addictive, different and really well written should love this book. It’s a strong thriller/mystery and bordering (in my opinion) on horror but well, well worth the price of admission. I probably won’t be reading this again at night-time, but for sure I’ll be reading it again just to catch all those small things I missed the first time around. It’s an excellent story – it just won’t be for everyone.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Kim Smith

Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Kim Smith
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The cult classic TV show is now a charming picture book for the youngest fans in the Buffyverse!

In this new picture-book story brought to life with cute and colorful illustrations, young readers see what the world’s strongest vampire slayer was like back when she was a kid! Join not-so-brave little Buffy, Willow, and Xander as they investigate strange sounds coming from the closet, seek advice from their school librarian Giles, and encounter everyone’s favorite Buffyverse monsters. Charmingly illustrated by Pop Classics artist Kim Smith, this sweet, silly, and not-so-scary book borrows Joss Whedon’s beloved characters to tell an endearing bedtime story.

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This tale included the perfect amount of scariness for young readers. A little dab of it is honestly all that is needed for this age group, so I was glad that the author kept things so lighthearted and fun even when Buffy was fighting the bad guys. It fit both the source material and the intended audience well.

I would have liked to see more plot development included. So many pages were taken up by introducing the characters that there wasn’t quite as much room for the main storyline as it needed. Given the short attention spans of young children, I did wonder if they’d have some trouble paying attention during the first few scenes because of it even though things became much more interesting after that point.

One of the best things about this picture book had to do with how many different ways it could be read. A preschooler could understand it as an urban fantasy take on the important of facing one’s fears even when they involve frightening things like figuring out what that scary thumping noise is in the closet. Adult readers who are already fans of this franchise can find many hidden references to storylines and characters that will only make sense if one understands those fleeting moments on a deeper level. It was cool to see how these layers were woven together while still being able to be understood on their own.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer should be read by anyone who loved the 90s TV show by the same name and to any little ones who like scary stories.

Infestation by William Meikle

Infestation by William Meikle
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery/Thriller, Horror
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

It was supposed to be a simple mission. A suspected Russian spy boat is in trouble in Canadian waters. Investigate and report are the orders.

But when Captain John Banks and his squad arrive, it is to find an empty vessel, and a scene of bloody mayhem.

Soon they are in a fight for their lives, for there are things in the icy seas off Baffin Island, scuttling, hungry things with a taste for human flesh.

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And they are growing.

Captain John Banks and his small, elite group are tasks with what appears to be a simple mission. A Russian spy boat has called for help while illegally in Canadian waters and Captain Banks and his men are meant to investigate, gather any intelligence or weaponry they can and assist the Russians off on their way. But things immediately go downhill and the icy water hold untold monsters – and they are hungry for human flesh.

I’ve read a number of William Meikle’s stories and he is an excellent story teller. While he has some great folk and true horror stories out there, I feel what he really excels best at is the cheesy style of “big monster” tales. Think a 1950s cheesy horror movie or a bad B grade “Return of the Walking Mummy” type of story. You might need to totally suspend your disbelief for the plot – but the characters are always amazing, the mechanics of the plot and monsters are always excellent and the tale itself is usually short, sharp and a thrill to read. This story is no exception.

While totally a stand alone novel, it is here we are introduced to Captain Banks and his crew. After this story Captain Banks and some of his men (they revolve around enough to mean you don’t have to read any of these in order really) become The S-Squad which has it’s own series along the same lines of this one – ie “big scary hungry monster tries to eat everyone”. I’ve enjoyed enough of them I am now trying to collect them all and keep on top of the series, so clearly Mr. Meikle is doing a fantastic job.

Readers looking for a quick read and enjoy cheesy, old-fashioned monster flicks with a lot of atmosphere, a large monster with lots of teeth and a few scares should find this story right up their alley. This isn’t a plot-heavy story and the characters are well-drawn but not as deep as you’d find in a longer story. The camaraderie between them was something I personally really enjoyed reading and more importantly once the monsters start coming out and eating everything the characters are excellent and a lot more focused. While I wouldn’t call this horror in the strictest sense (this isn’t gory or overly descriptive of the killing) it’s a little harder/scarier than a traditional mystery/thriller and so I feel it needs a “light” horror label to it.

Refreshingly different and an excellent story – this book kept me up and made me glad I don’t live too close to an icy cold ocean/river! Recommended.

Hungry Business by Maria DeBlassie

Hungry Business by Maria DeBlassie
Publisher: Kitchen Witch Press
Genre: Horror
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Looking for love can be deadly…

You know how it goes. You go out, hoping to meet someone. You wade through your fair share of brainless automatons, lifeless bodies, and ravenous undead good at passing as human.

The more you go out, the less hope you feel and the colder your body gets. But you keep at it. All you need is one beating heart to match your own before yours stops pumping altogether. How hard can it be to find one living, breathing human in a city full of bodies?


It’s hungry business.

This is a short story and, so, a very quick read at only 20+ pages. The nameless main character is living in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and trying to find love and companionship, something that is getting harder and harder to find as more people are infected with the virus.

In a way, her reflections are almost a reflection of life in general as people reach out to find others to relate to. I remember the dating scene and am so glad not to be a part of that any more! I would describe the book as less horror and more camp (in a good way).  The image of a zombie dressing themselves up for a dinner date makes me giggle.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. There were a few “heart in throat” moments that got my blood pumping and there was a satisfying ending. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more by Ms. DeBlassie. 4 stars.

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October Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Broken Dawn by Dianne Duvall

Broken Dawn by Dianne Duvall
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

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Nick Belanger can’t stop thinking about the single mother who lives next door. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s so beautiful he can’t stare at her too long for fear his eyes will start to glow. But Kayla thinks he’s just an ordinary guy who works in security. Finding out he instead is a powerful immortal warrior who hunts and slays psychotic vampires for a living may not go over well, particularly since she has a daughter she doesn’t want to endanger.

Kayla Dorman can keep neither her gaze nor her thoughts from straying to the man next door. Who can blame her really? He is the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome with smart, charming, and honorable thrown in. He’s also a few years younger than her and surely would not be interested in a single mom who hasn’t dated since her divorce. At least that’s what she thinks until an accident nearly takes her life and Nick risks all to save her.

The dynamics of their relationship swiftly change. The friendship they’ve developed over the years deepens into love as the two spend every minute they can together, laughing and teasing, never suspecting a threat may lurk in the shadows. But that threat soon strikes, making it clear that Nick is the target and his enemy doesn’t care if Kayla gets caught in the cross fire. Though Kayla bravely rises to the occasion and is determined to do whatever it takes to help Nick defeat his enemy, Nick is terrified of losing her. Can he identify and eliminate his new nemesis before the man takes everything from him?


Sucker Punch by Laurell K. Hamilton

Sucker Punch by Laurell K. Hamilton
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Horror, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A brutal murder, a suspect in jail, and an execution planned—but what if the wrong person is about to be killed?

When a fellow U.S. Marshal asks Anita Blake to fly to a tiny community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on an emergency consult, she knows time is running short. When she arrives, there is plenty of proof that a young wereleopard killed his uncle in the most gruesome and bloody way possible. As the mounting evidence points to him, a warrant of execution is already under way.

But something seems off about the murder, and Anita has been asked for her expert opinion on the crime scene. Despite escalating pressure from local cops and the family’s cries for justice for their dead patriarch, Anita quickly realizes that the evidence doesn’t quite add up.

Time is against Anita, as the tight-knit community is up in arms and its fear of supernaturals is growing. She races to uncover the truth and determine whether the Marshals have caught the killer or are about to execute an innocent man—all in the name of justice.

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I missed a couple of Ms. Hamilton’s previous books prior to Sucker Punch because I felt tired of whole scenes being dedicated to sex. I’m thrilled that this novel has a PLOT and the author stayed focused on solving the mystery with only a few episodes to remind me how convoluted and important her relationships are within her polycule. It wasn’t heavy-handed at all and I really appreciated that.

The whole premise was to save a young man who both Anita and Marshal Newman believed to be innocent. Unfortunately, a warrant of execution was issued and time is not on their side. The legalities they were trying to work through and with was fascinating. It presented a clear case of our justice system in reality. A law is passed that everyone felt was needed but in practice falls short of actual life situations. The result is someone could die that really shouldn’t but the law is so narrow, there’s no wiggle room. Talk about frustrating and stressful! The suspense comes from wondering if they will make it in time and what will they have to do to make it so.

Of course, everyone is sure Bobby is the murderer. The secondary characters exhibit prejudices and lack of tolerance and the willingness to ignore the 10 years Bobby was a model citizen. How easy it is to accept the simple way out just because the topic makes a person uncomfortable. It seemed like most of the townsfolk just want to sweep Bobby under the rug and forget anything ever happened. But, in true Anita Blake form, she won’t give up, she keeps fighting no matter how angry she gets the local PD. I am always impressed with Anita’s character. She’s a strong woman who isn’t afraid to fight and face the monsters head on, even when monsters turn out to be evil humans. I wasn’t sure if that was the case because guess who’s back in town? Olaf a/k/a Otto. He had a case in the vicinity and I kept wondering if there was a connection.

One connection that makes for good reading is the dynamic between Otto and Anita. Fans of the series understand why that is disturbing on so many levels. In Sucker Punch, I was treated to a serious pondering of, what If Olaf actually gets his way? If you’d have asked me before reading this novel, I would have said no way in heck – that is never going to happen. Ms. Hamilton spent some time with Olaf’s character and now I have to say, I’m not too sure. And after what Edward said? Color me shocked! Another stunner is that Anita’s lion isn’t that averse to the possibility. I wonder if other readers are of similar mind about Olaf after reading this story. It sure makes for some interesting contemplation.

The ending is exciting, shocking, stunning, and quite possibly contains the most important cliffhanger question any book has ever ended with. I am not going to say who it involves because I want a reader to be just as flabbergasted as I was. I never saw that coming in a million years. One thing is for sure – I am NOT going to miss the next book when it comes out. The answer to that question is way too important to ignore.

Ms. Hamilton wraps up the case in spectacular style. It’s not what I expected but it makes a ton of sense and provides complete closure. Sucker Punch is a powerful book with a hefty story worth taking the time to read. This is the most satisfying Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novel I’ve read in quite some time and is an easy recommend.