A sequel I couldn’t put down!

In fall 2016 Suzanne Robb released Dead by Midnight, a clever supernatural mystery set in a town where supernatural beings live with otherwise normal citizens. Robb uses humorous snips from reporter Lucy Lane’s articles at the beginning her chapters to introduce readers to the various locations and people in the town. These are very tongue-in-cheek, and absolutely well written. (They are part of what helped to make Lucy one of my personal favorites.)

If you haven’t read Dead by Midnight, I urge you to stop reading this post. You’re going to spoil a great mystery with fantastic characters. Go and purchase the book (available on Kindle and traditional paperback) and start there. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

Since you’re still reading, I’m going to assume you’ve read book 1, and are now ready for the sequel.

I really envy you!

Reading a book for the first time is a special experience. Even more so when it deals with a really strange murder mystery. In Apocalypse by Midnight, Chief Elliot Jorgensen, Lucy, Zach, and Buddy are trying their best to get back to a normal life after catching the serial killer in book 1. Zach and Lucy are dating, Sheriff Elliott is drinking heavily and trying to avoid any meetings with the mysterious mayor, and Buddy is enjoying life as an undercover house pet.

Bodies start showing up in strange places around town, and it has the mayor worried. These aren’t just any citizens, they’ve all got ties to the elusive and reclusive Private Acres. Elliot and Zach have to find a way to solve the crime without letting tenacious Lucy get too close. Despite her best efforts, Lucy still isn’t in the inner circle of people who know about Fantasy Land, and those who stumble onto the knowledge have a way of meeting a mysterious end. Unfortunately, neither Elliott nor Zach are any good at lying, and Lucy finds her way into the case despite their best efforts.

As if this weren’t enough chaos, Zach’s friend Riley comes back from a trip as an unconventional vampire. He can’t stand rain or molasses, and even though he’s dating the woman of his dreams, he has certain…physical setbacks. Lucky for him Gretel doesn’t seem to mind. What she does mind is Lucy – whose curiosity is mistaken for an interest in hurting Riley. Zach and Riley are trying to get their friendship back on track, but that’s hard to do when Zach realizes goofy Riley may just be the killer.

Gretel’s brother, Hans, works security for Private Acres, but he’s not overly fond of nosy girlfriends, half-assed vampires, or witches. In fact, the only things he seems to care for are his sister, and anything sugary.

As the mystery of the bodies is unraveled, Zach, Elliot, and Lucy find themselves in a race against the clock. This isn’t any regular serial killer mystery – it’s only the beginning of a plot that will cause the apocalypse. As if that weren’t hair-raising enough, just when the group needs each other the most they begin to splinter off into factions, driven by an unnatural paranoia.

I was on the edge of my seat while reading Apocalypse by Midnight, wondering if the group would get it together in time to solve the mystery, or if the apocalypse was all but unavoidable. Not to mention – just what kind of monster leaves such a strange crime scene?! I thought I knew the habits of every kind of monster out there, but Robb has one again created a delightful surprise for the reader.

If you had asked me a couple of years ago if I was into mysteries, I would have told you no. That’s no longer the case. The By Midnight series is, in large part, what has changed my views. I’ve started branching out into other mystery books, even when there is no supernatural element. I can think of no greater compliment for an author than that reading their books has opened up new avenues for the reader. Getting me to turn from supernatural and horror stories is no small feat, but Suzanne Robb has accomplished just that. The mystery elements and plot twists in her story were so satisfying that I didn’t want the story to end, and I am pleased that she is keeping the series open to more titles in the future. (On a side note, if, like me, you can’t get enough of wily Lucy Lane after reading the series, you can follow her adventures in between books at All Things Strange and Unusual.)

 

 

Nightmares, I tell you!

I know this is probably common knowledge, considering I run a review website dedicated to horror and sci-fi, but it bears repeating. I love horror. To the point where I live it. My library walls and shelves are covered with all sorts of horror paraphernalia, and Edward Gorey lithographs hang in my living room. My movie collection is basically a wasteland if you don’t like horror. The same for sci-fi. The point I’m trying to prove is that it’s been quite some time since I’ve had nightmares based on what I’ve read. When you read about zombies and monsters and all other manner of horror all the time, it’s hard to be shocked.

I thought those days were over, to be honest. But then I started The ePocalypse: emails at the end. From the first day until the last, I had nightmares. The stories are all told in an email format, where the reader is given a collection of exchanges between people and that makes up the story. The Kindle version is 450 pages long, and as you can see with all the author names in my keywords section for this post, the talent is varied and strong. (You may see some familiar names….Suzanne Robb, Adrian Chamberlin, and Bowie Ibarra stood out for me. The ones you don’t recognize will still make an impact on you, and leave you wanting to read more of their works!)

For such a specific topic, the emails are surprisingly varied. They are between coworkers, estranged lovers, friends, enemies, families, friends, and just about anyone you can think of. As to the apocalypses themselves, they’re also varied. The standards are there: chemical warfare, biological warfare, human stupidity, disease, starvation, natural disaster, etc. Everything you would expect. Then there are some really out-there stories, that work purely because they’re so damnably absurd, but treated so realistically. There are mole people who come up from the Earth and destroy people. Disease cures gone wrong. Astronauts trapped in space trying to fight a fungus-like growth. A few religious fanatics. And my favorite, killer kudzu. That’s right….a bio-engineered and very pissed off strain of groundcover plant goes postal. It’s reminiscent of one of my favorite movies, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, wherein a plant goes bonkers and attacks a family.

This book, in Kindle format, is 450 pages long, and I plowed through it in a matter of days. I couldn’t put it down. My Kindle was literally hitting me in the face as I was struggling to read it. I was going into work with burning eyes and slurred speech. I regret nothing.

Even if this doesn’t seem like your kind of book, read it. Every single story is amazing. I never knew there were so many ways to end the world, and even though the glimpse we are given of the characters in each story is shorter than I’d like, it’s enough to feel for them. Whether it’s rage at their actions or denial, or you are empathizing with their loss. This book will tear your heart out, even as you’re shitting yourself in terror!

 

Wowza!

I was familiar with Suzanne before I was familiar with her writing. We met because we had several mutual friends on Facebook, and both of our profile lokipictures featured our Boston Terriers. (On the right, you’ll find a picture of Loki, Suzanne’s Boston, serving as her PR manager.) That got us talking, and that’s how I found out she was a talented author, and she found out I was a voracious reader with a penchant for reviewing.

Suzanne is quite the writer. I’ve read different series by her, as well as stories she’s published in anthologies. If pressed, it would be hard to come up with a favorite. That is, until she sent me a copy of Dead by Midnight. In the interest of being fair, I did receive a reviewer copy, but it was with the understanding that my review would be honest. Whether scathing or glowing.

I can honestly say that Dead by Midnight is now my favorite of her titles. I first came across the zygote of the story in Were-wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutation, Oh My! She took what she started, and drew it out not only to full length, but is planning a series. (Amazon already has Dead by Midnight listed as Volume 1.)

The story is rich and the plot is involved. Elliot is the new Chief and detective in Logansville. He partners up with tenacious paranormal reporter Lucy Lane in order to crack the case of a serial killer that’s been sending body parts in jars to the police department. Lucy names the serial killer The Moonlight Killer, because he kills during the full moon, and the body parts arrive afterward.

dead-by-midnightAlso tangled up in the plot is Zach Harris, who is a student living with a weirdo and a clingy, gold-digging girlfriend. When he’s not studying, or buying things for his ungrateful girlfriend, he’s working as a shot boy at Shakers, the local gay bar. Even though he’s straight, it’s good money, and the employees all think he’s the bee’s knees. As if Zach weren’t living life on the edge as is, one night he’s bitten by a werewolf. During the attack, he bites a chunk out of the werewolf’s ear. From there, it gets weird.

When the moon is full, Zach becomes a werewolf, while the wolf becomes a man. (Were-man?) During the rest of the time, the wolf follows him around as his pet dog, Buddy. At first Lucy believes a werewolf is the killer, but when she deduces that Zach is a werewolf, she changes her mind. Elliot has enough trouble believing Zach is a werewolf, let alone that the mayor is a vampire, and the whole town is steeped in the paranormal in one way or another.

The race is on – for Zach to clear his name, Elliot to find and stop the killer, and Lucy to find out why Zach has been acting so weird, and get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the serial killer. Time is running out, every day closer to the full moon is a day closer to the killer striking again!

Dead by Midnight is an engrossing read. The plot is complex, but not to the point of losing the reader. The characters are multi-dimensional and extremely interesting. The supporting characters are just quirky or interesting enough to be remembered, but not to the point of outshining the principal characters. (Suzanne – bring back Ramon and the rest of the Shakers gang in the next books, please!) There are a few red herrings as to who the killer is, but that’s good. I don’t like reading books where the plot is so thin you see every twist and turn as its happening. Even though I read the zygote story before, it was still a surprise for me when I discovered who the killer was. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting that character!

I’m also eternally grateful that Suzanne didn’t just end the story after the climactic fight between the good guys and the serial killer. (That’s right – no spoilers!) Sometimes books do that – they just drop off and don’t go anywhere. Suzanne followed up with the characters and set the stage for the next book. I can’t wait to see where she goes from there!

In the meantime, if you’re wanting to keep up with the adventures of Lucy Lane, reporter, follow her at her blog, All Things Strange and Unusual. If you’re looking to find out more about Suzanne, head to her blog here. When you’re on her blog, don’t forget to sign up, during which you’ll receive a complimentary short story pack including the story that would become Dead by Midnight. (I read it when it first came out, the stories are awesome!)

Once you’ve read Dead by Midnight, be sure to head on over to Amazon.com and leave a review. Reviews help writers keep doing what they love best!

Who knew Armageddon could be such fun?!

rtefWhen I first laid eyes on Read the End First, I couldn’t wait to read it.  (Seriously – look at that cover!)  I’ve been a long-time fan of Suzanne Robb‘s literary antics, and figured that anyone she teamed up with would be top-notch.  After my initial excitement, I started wondering what kinds of stories would be in the anthology.  I couldn’t figure out how anyone could come up with 24 separate Apocalypses.  As far as I was concerned, there were limited options:  a) zombies b) disease c) asteroid(s?) d) Biblical.  That’s four.  Possibly eight if you can find some variation on the aforementioned methods, but definitely not the 24 (one for each hour) that the book’s description boasted.  Nor could I figure out 24 interesting locations from which to destroy the Earth.  Little did I know that the anthology would not only surpass my expectations, but would start an interest in Apocalyptic stories of all sorts!

From introductions by Graham Masterton and Joe McKinney until the very last page, Read the End First is a labor of love.  Each story is set at a different time, and in a different place on our Earth.  Suzanne Robb and Adrian Chamberlain went to great lengths to make sure that each story was completely different, so as to make each story a unique experience for the reader.  Without getting into too much detail and ruining 24 surprises, you will find the religious Apocalypses and the zombies and the diseases.  But you’ll also find man-made disasters, natural disasters, demons, and creatures who defy classification.  There are stories in which the end comes swiftly and stories in which the end comes slowly.  Always the end comes inexorably, for both the hero and the anti-hero.

Even with a veritable host of Apocalyptic horrors, Read the End First truly shines in its portrayal of humanity.  While each author gleefully destroys the Earth in his or her own chosen fashion, they also give us a glimpse into the human soul.  The reader can only watch helplessly as the characters struggle to deal with the end of all that is familiar to them – and to us.  In the characters we find caricatures of our friends, lovers, neighbors, co-workers, and ourselves.  Who will you recognize?  The reader follows each character into their unique demise, seeing it as though through their own eyes.  There are characters who make their last peace, lament missed opportunities, and try to squeeze a lifetime of experiences and emotions into a finite moment.  Over and over again the reader is reminded that for all that is important in life, we are specks of dust in an immense and incomprehensible universe.  It’s humbling and thought-provoking and sometimes too much to take in one sitting.

On a personal note, I was very much excited to see the city of Rochester, NY utterly destroyed.  You see, Rochester is my father’s hometown, and very much like Buffalo, the city of my birth.  Don’t get me wrong, Rochester is a gorgeous city, boasting old architecture, and the birthplace of Kodak.  However, I rarely get the excitement of being familiar on a personal basis with many cities that always seem to be slated for mention.  I have never visited Los Angeles, or the West Coast for that matter, and have only spotty memories of Pennsylvania.  While it’s true I’ve been to Maine, Stephen King has created his own towns and cities there, and populated them with horrors of his own devising.  However, it’s still fun to see a town you know destroyed by a very talented writer.

The long and short of the matter is that there is no reason you can come up with that will be sufficient to explain why you didn’t buy Read the End First.  It’s a unique anthology filled with talented writers, and spearheaded by an amazing author team.  I loved every single story in the anthology, which is a rarity for me.  Usually when reading anthologies, I find there is a story or two that just doesn’t fit in.  Not so with Read the End First – a book filled with Apocalyptic wonder from cover to cover.

 

Cozy Mayhem

Suzanne Robb is back – and she’s gathered together three absurd and macabre tales.  Her latest offering, titled “Were-wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutation, Oh My!” is currently available at amazon.com for a steal of a price!  (Head over there right now and buy it – then come back and keep reading!)

Each tale is progressively more interesting and thought-provoking than the last.  My personal favorite is B.I.T.E.  It’s one of those stories where you never can figure out what’s going to happen next.  It centers around a group of people trying to stop the apocalypse – but they’re not exactly the kind of crew you would originally sign up for the job.  And well, the huge murderous squirrel-nemesis doesn’t hurt either!

The other two stories are also equally interesting, but I’m afraid that if I go into their plots, I’m going to give away all of the hidden details.  It all boils down to this : everyone should read “Were-wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutation, Oh My!” because it is an all-around fun book to read.  Before you know it, you’ll be at the end of the book searching for a hidden chapter or something to keep you going because you’re feeling withdrawal set in hard and fast.  (Or, like me, you’ll spend ten minutes paging back and forth on your Kindle praying that you really haven’t hit the end of the book so soon.  I wish I could say that I’m a drama queen and that I’m exaggerating.  I really did keep checking just in case.)

Suzanne’s stories are all character-driven.  There are moments when it’s possible to forget that the story is actually a horror story.  It reads like a one-sided conversation.  It’s engrossing and thought-provoking at the same time.  The first of the trio, The Moonlight Killer, features a (for all intents and purposes) mostly milquetoast main character.  He doesn’t really love his girlfriend, but can’t seem to be bothered to give up the free sex by breaking up with her.  It’s interesting to watch his transformation as the story goes on because in many ways it’s believable.  The people we idolize will always be regular people with a few outstanding qualities.  So too, do we see this with our main character.  Despite his heroic qualities, it is still possible to see the real person at the end – at times selfish, and at other times immature.  His flawed humanity ultimately makes him a likeable character.

Beware – if you’re not careful you might just get lost in “Were-wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutation, Oh My!” because the world Suzanne Robb presents is ultimately very much like our own…

 

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,100 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A New Face, A New Terror…

Prepare for the arival of Suzanne Robb, who brings us a new vision of zombie mayhem with her debut novel, “Z-Boat”.  It doesn’t matter whether your buy the  book in Kindle format or traditional paperback, this is a must-read book.  Especially if you’re tired of the tried-and-true formula that the zombie genre has stuck to for so long.  Robb delivers a fast-paced novel full of government and interpersonal intrigue, a submarine too decrepit for it’s deep sea rescue mission, and a host of strange characters that is sure to delight.

It’s difficult to give a basic summary of such an intricate book, but here goes!  The Betty Loo and her crew have been commissioned to go on a rescue mission deeper than they’ve ever gone before.  Along with the usual captain and crew, a few new people are assigned.  A quick check of the personnel files shows that these people are anything but ordinary – and that all is not what it seems.  As (bad) luck would have it, the second they leave the dock and begin the mission, everything goes awry in the worst way imaginable – from mechanical failures and dueling spies to accidental crew deaths.  The worst is yet to come – the sub they are going to rescue is crewed by…zombies.  Unfortunately they aren’t the shambling Romero variety either.  Robb’s zombies retain a little intelligence, and a nightmarish pack mentality.  Do they make it out alive?  Does the plague reach the surface and the unsuspecting world?  Read Z-Boat and find out!

If you haven’t read any books by Suzanne Robb, now would be the time.  She’s a promising up-and-comer who has already published stories in multiple anthologies.  “Z-Boat” is her first published full-length novel, and there is talk of a sequel.  Her greatest strength as a writer is her ability to weave interesting characters into an even more interesting story line.  She began the book with a Prologue detailing the current state of the world, a first chapter with a not-so-desperate S.O.S. call, and then went straight into the characters and story.  The zombies don’t actually appear in full force until the middle of the book, but by then the reader is so deeply immersed in the political intrigue (and, let’s face it, trying to guess who’s going to make it out alive), they the zombies are an added treat, rather than the main focus.

If you happen to enjoy nitpicking books then I should warn you that there were a few grammatical errors along the way, but nothing worth getting in a tizzy over.  They didn’t impact the ability of the reader to enjoy the story.

On a personal note, I found that once I got through the first few pages, I couldn’t put the book down.  It drove me crazy trying to figure out who was going to die, where the zombies came from, and how the crew thought they were going to make it back to the surface in a busted sub.  And just to warn any prospective readers, I actually cried at the ending.  It was really sad, but really fit the book.  I think I’d have been really aggravated if the book had a different ending.

Now, stop reading this and go buy a copy of the book for yourself!  (And your friend!)