Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths Volume 2

People are fascinated with death because it’s a great mystery. No one knows what or if anything comes after it. We just know it’s the end of life. A few months ago I was offered the chance to read Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths Volume 1 and loved it. So I was happy when I saw there was a Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths Volume 2 available, I jumped at the chance to read it. This book is once again edited by  Karen T. Newman and includes some of the authors that were part of the first anthology. Here are a few of my favorite stories from the book:

The Unchosen by Trece Angulo is set in a fantasy world but looks at real world problems. It looks at loosing your faith and what choices you have to make when the things you believed in we’re a lie. In this world everyone worships a queen that is like a dragon. Before the queen dies it lays eggs and only certain young people are chosen to look after the eggs. In their society this is looked at as a huge honor and leads to some big responsibilities, though nothing is as it seems. I loved the ending of this story and would love to see more with these characters. The end felt like a beginning to an epic fantasy adventure.

The Burnings by Michael D. Burnside is a Science Fiction tale that looks at androids and religion. This may be set on another planet but it deals with problems we’ve had in our history. On this planet androids are used to do a lot of the work that is too dangerous for humans, but some androids have been programmed to be too much like humans. A group of religious fanatics have interpreted the bible to mean that androids should be destroyed because they’re in God’s image. What happens when the only one that can save the planet is an android and the religious zealots want to destroy it? This story brings up some great questions on the meaning of existence.

The Tally Bone by Lauren Marrero is about a woman whose husband has just died, leaving her in debt and having to live with all the lies that he told her. One day a strange man shows up at her door wanting the Tally bone back that her husband took from him. this man is not human and he has the power to help the woman or make her life even more miserable. What I really loved about this story is even when the woman sees that her marriage was not what she thought it was she still isn’t willing to part with certain things that bring back memories. I also love the line that the strange man uses on her to get what he wants. Love isn’t always perfect or beautiful. .

Another story in this book which is also about love is My Forever Love by Donna J. Munro. In this tale a man marries his true love but unknown to him the woman is from a cursed bloodline and becomes a ghoul on their wedding day. I loved how even when the woman looses her intellect she still won’t harm her husband and her husband is left with the decision to let his wife bite and infect him or follow her family’s wishes and wait for the cure. In this story true love may not be perfect but it’s still more important than anything else.

Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths Volume 2 is not quite as good as Volume 1 but there are enough good stories here to make this book a must read. You have to love an anthology that can give you well written stories no matter what the genre is and it looks at important issues in addition to death such as love, religion and redemption. Don’t let the idea that this anthology is about death keep you from reading it, there are some great stories here that will really make you think.


The Demon’s Angel

Neha was a normal high school girl living in Philadelphia and she was just like any other girl, or so she thought. Her parents died when she was a baby and she was raised by her guardian Lucas. Everything changes when she meets the new boy in school Daniel. We soon find out that Lucas is a demon, Daniel is an angel and Neha discovers she’s an angel too.

An angel raised by a demon is an odd thing considering that the two have been at war for generations. Neha is taken to heaven by Daniel to be trained to fight demons and convince the others that she didn’t know she was an angel being raised by a demon. She is seen as an outcast by the angels and has to prove she is valuable but Neha’s upbringing gives her a different opinion on the war between both sides. Will Neha figure out what her new role in the universe will be?

The Demon’s Angel by Maya Shah is a Y.A. novel in the tradition of the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books.  Neha is a girl who finds out she wasn’t who she thought she was and has to deal with a truth that she didn’t believe in. I love how complex all the characters are in this story, they are nothing like you would expect angels and demons to be. Maya Shah has taken an old mythology, made it her own vision and turned it into something original.

My only complaint about The Demon’s Angel  was that it was a little light on action. For a Y.A novel I would have expected it to be faster paced. This is a character driven book and it does a great job of establishing some fascinating characters. Neha is someone that anyone who has felt like an outsider can relate to and it will be interesting to see how she changes in future books. This is the first in a series and it lays the foundation for what looks to be a fascinating story. I liked that Heaven was a different place then you would expect and some of the angels come across as being shady, especially the lead angel Michael. It’s the same with the demons, they show that they have a good side and aren’t necessarily evil. In Neha’s world everyone is a shade of grey and she isn’t sure who she can trust.  Neha sees the world differently and I’m looking forward to seeing where her story will go as she finds out what kind of person she wants to be.

Witch Hunter: Into the Outside

Richard Fletcher is the kind of guy who you probably don’t notice if you see him. He is overweight, unpopular with girls and mostly keeps to himself. For entertainment he joined a group of witch hunters but he didn’t believe that witches or black magic was real. Then one night Richard is contacted to take a reporter and cameraman out on a witch hunt and his whole life changes.

Richard was ready to put on a show for the news crew but finds out that everything he thought was a hoax was real. Now not only does he have to save himself, he has to save the reporter and cameraman along with stopping an evil, ancient witch from preying on innocent victims.  Richard has to rely on spells and rituals that he thought were fake and find the inner strength that he didn’t know he had to survive the night.

I can’t say enough good things about Witch Hunter Into The Outside by J.Z. Foster.  The author paints a vivid picture the way he describes the settings such as the witch’s house and the forest surrounding it.  I also liked that he talks about supernatural creatures that I’ve never heard of before such as a mob of sankai and a wight. The fact that I had to look up what these creatures were shows me that J.Z. was trying to keep things original. One of my favorite scenes was when we meet the wight in a dark basement, after the perfect creepy setup we find the wight to be pretty funny, this story is full of surprises.

The best part of the book has to be Richard, he is a self-proclaimed looser and everyone treats him that way. He doesn’t see himself as a hero and doesn’t want to be one. He’s just a guy doing what he feels he has to do. I loved that the two people he was with were his exact opposites making him even more uncomfortable in the face of danger. Ted the cameraman is the athletic type with a bad temper and Beth is a beautiful reporter who is looking for her big break. In the beginning Richard tries to impress them and shows his awkwardness by how he talks and the way he holds himself. You constantly see him get put down which makes him someone you have to root for. The relationship between the three changes throughout the book. Even as Richard proves himself it doesn’t change their feelings towards him or his own feelings towards himself.  In one scene that describes Richard well he thinks how he prefers the black and white world of fantasy over the real world with all of its confusing angels.

Witch Hunter Into The Outside is the type of book that shows you how good a horror novel can be. It has great characters, a few good laughs and plenty of scares and suspense. The story is deceptively simple but the relationship between the three main characters along with the witch and his minions are complex. My first thought on the witch was that somehow it was a hoax and he wasn’t very strong. Though little by little you see that isn’t true. This is one of those type of books where the characters are so interesting that the story doesn’t matter. I’m hoping this is the first book in a series because I would love to see these characters again.


Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device

Dead Jack is a zombie private Investigator hooked on fairy dust. He lives in a world called Pandemonium where mythological creatures are real and there are very few humans. You thought your life was hard? Well Dead Jack has it harder, he’s been dead for seventy years and he has to deal with Vampires, Demons, Fairies, Witches and anything else you can imagine.   Pandemonium is a cross between New York City and Hell and anything goes there.

Working as a P.I. Jack has seen it all but he is about to walk into his biggest case yet. Along with his partner, a homunculus named Oswald, he is hired by the Goblin Queen to retrieve the goblin’s missing cats. Sounds simple enough but that mystery leads to another problem. The Duke of Pandemonium has the cats and he is planning to use them to destroy Pandemonium and escape into our world. It’s up to Jack and Oswald to go up against a group of supernatural villains to save their world.

When I look for a book to read I usually like something that mixes horror, comedy and has a mythology  to it. Dead Jack And The Pandemonium Device by James Aquilone has all of that and a  story that feels like a comic book story. That’s a compliment by the way,  this book is a lot of fun. It starts off with Jack having a fight with some mad Leprechauns which leads to a car chase, leading to a conflict on a ghost pirate ship, a battle with a vicious kraken and  a run in with a horny shark woman. As you can see there is never a dull moment in the world of Pandemonium.

When I was first getting into this book my thought was it’s funny and creative but are we going to get a story? The answer is yes, the main focus of the book seems to be to thrill the reader and make them laugh but there is also a story that has great depth. Little by little we find out what Pandemonium really is and how the inhabitants got there. We also get hints as to why Jack is where he is and what he was in our world. I also loved hearing the Duke of Pandemonium’s story, he may be insane but you almost have to feel sorry for him.. This book is written like its setting up an ongoing series and we get hints as to what future stories will have in store. A second book is due out in the near future.

If you have a love for old pulp fiction or how stories are told within a comic book series then give Dead Jack And The Pandemonium Device a try. There is also some great art included and how the story is told paints a vivid picture in your head. Most of all though this book is a wickedly funny thrill ride in a land full of surprises.


Fear And Desire

When you think of poetry you don’t think of horror, but maybe you should. Poems are all about expressing emotions and while most poems I think of are about describing something beautiful, you could also use poetry to explain something dreadful. Fear and desire are strong emotions so it stands to reason that there should be some great poems out there that are all about horror.

Fear and Desire by S.A. Gambino and Michael McCarty is a collection of poems all about the primal emotion of terror.What I liked about this book was how it covers the horror genre so well. There are some poems that are funny, some have monsters and some are about real emotion. For instance in the poem No Escape we hear about someone trapped somewhere without bars, chains or locks. They describe pain but it’s not physical and they scream but only on the inside. I loved this poem because it was psychological, it could have been about a job, a bad relationship or just life in general. We don’t know for sure but it  felt personal and really hit home for me.

Another poem that felt emotional and personal was The Mind, this one is about the feeling of anxiety and how sometimes life and all the information around you is too much to bare. One of the lines here is: “Taking in the entire world, Mind goes into a chaotic twirl. Hypersensitivity is so much to take. A mind That’s constantly awake.” Who hasn’t felt like what’s described in this poem? At this point in the book I found myself just simply thinking: “Wow!”

While there are some very personal feelings in these poems there is also a sense of fun here. In Zombie Love we hear about what love is like for flesh eaters. This one hits on love, comedy and horror. We get the description of a zombie couple eating someone and it ends with the line: “Zombie lovers rise to an upright stand and walking away hand and hand..” Another similar poem is My Cannibal Girlfriend. I love how this one says that dating a cannibal is never easy because when you kiss them you taste someone else.

Horror, desire and comedy can all go hand in hand and this book covers it all. Another poem I loved here was It Has No Name. Here we get a description of a female creature climbing out of the swamp looking for a sweet delicious man to eat. I love how lyrical this poem is and how it describes the lust of a monster for a man. Another poem that sounds like the lyrics of a song and has a great rhyme is Carnival Of Souls. This one describes a soul after death and the decent to purgatory because its to late to repent. “A Mortician’s transition Formaldehyde ride The Carnival Of Souls Where you go when you die.

I have to admit a lot of times I don’t understand poetry, I think that’s because the meaning is always open to interpretation and it’s about something personal to the author.. You have your own idea what it’s about but the writer may have had something else in mind. In the case of Fear And Desire some poems made me think while others made me smile and it also appealed to the horror fan that I am. . This is an entertaining and quick read, if you love poetry and horror you have to get it.

What Hides Within

Clive Menard was leading a dull uneventful life. He wasn’t unhappy but he wasn’t passionate about anything either. He was just going through the motions. His whole life changes though when he goes Kayaking with his friend Morgan and discovers a giant spider nest. Since that fateful day Clive got a new unwanted roommate in his head. He named the spider Chester and even a lobotomy couldn’t get rid of him. It’s not all bad though, Chester is making Clive’s life better, but at what cost?

Chester helps Clive get the girl he always wanted and a promotion at work but then things get a little weird. There is also to be a killer stalking the neighborhood, a mad bomber on the loose and the person sharing Clive’s apartment is wanted by the police.  Could all these events be connected and where did this talking spider come from? Clive has to decide if he can overlook all the things happening around him in order to keep his new improved life.

What Hides Within by Jason Parent is a murder mystery , a horror novel and a study on how people will act when their morals get challenged. We know early on that Chester has an agenda but he promises to make things better for Clive if he cooperates. Clive doesn’t necessarily like Chester but he sees the benefits to having him. One thing Chester brings to Clive is a passion for life that he has never had before. Clive’s new passion also has a big effect on Morgan who has always loved Clive, but now she can’t bear to be away from him.

. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Chester says he has to leave Clive’s skull for a while causing Clive to break down and say he is nothing without her(Yes Chester is a girl). Clive knows that Chester has changed everything and he is willing to overlook certain things but soon he has to make a decision. Chester is faced with whether he wants to be responsible and take care of his young niece and work his better job or do Chester’s bidding.  This book is all about choices, are you willing to sacrifice your morals and free will to get what you’ve always dreamed of?

What Hides Within is a good book that is well worth your time, but it does have its flaws. I found that I didn’t care about the mad bomber or the killer on the loose. There is no good explanation on why the killer did what he did except to add a little to the mystery surrounding the bomber. What I was really interested in was the relationship between Chester and Clive, so the parts that didn’t include the two of them together fell flat for me. That being said there was one great scene where Chester on his own goes to kill one of Clive’s rivals that ends up being the most suspenseful part of the book. What Hides Within has more good parts then bad. It also has some funny moments such as when Chester informs Clive on what Clive did when he got drunk and passed out at a party. I’ll be looking forward to reading more books by Jason Parent in the future.

Guest Blog Post: Jason Parent

Here’s a guest blog post from Jason Parent author of What Hides Within. To find out more about Jason’s work check out his website at:

Jason Parent’s Best Read in 2017

Closing up 2017, a lot of readers share their “Best of” lists. As a reader, my year was stacked! In a year that included a re-read of It, a first read of Ghost Story, and a half-dozen McCammon books, picking a best of list is going to be next to impossible.

But here goes anyway. These books represent the best I’ve read in 2017, regardless of their publication date, and why:

1. Best Novel by a Reigning Horror Master: Mister Slaughter, by Robert McCammon – Rich, well-crafted characters, a murderous psychopath creating more than enough horror to please even the most die-hard of the genre, and a plot that keeps on moving, rivaling the first book for best in a series without a dud among them.

Honorable Mentions: Straub’s Ghost Story; McCammon’s The Providence Rider; King’s It

2. Best Novel by a Rising Horror Master: Bird Box, by Josh Malerman – A mysterious evil; a desperate solution; an all-out perfect story. Why I waited as long as I did to read this, I’ll never know. Reminiscent thematically of The Road.

Honorable Mentions: Shea’s We Are Always Watching; Cutter’s The Troop; Schweigart’s Northwoods; Golden’s Ararat; Langan’s The Fisherman; Gifune’s Kingdom of Shadows

3. Most Enjoyable, Fun and Fast-Paced Read: Kutter, by Jeff Strand. Humorous yet somehow touching, no one does horror-comedy better than Strand.

Honorable Mentions: Curran’s Grimweave; Lawson’s Bad World

4. Best Novella: Odd Man Out, by James Newman. This was one powerful, disturbing, all-too-real and incredibly well-written story. If it doesn’t make you feel, you don’t have a heart.

Honorable Mentions: Burke’s Sour Candy; Prentiss’ Invisible Fences

5. Best Anthology or Collection: Black Pantheons, by Curtis Lawson – All of the stories in Lawson’s collection were good, but four of them were some of the best short stories I have ever read. The only other single author I can recall having that many tales that blew me away in one collection is the man called King.

Honorable Mention: Finn’s Dreaming at the Top of My Lungs

6. Most Beautifully Written Prose: Detritus in Love, by Mercedes Murdock Yardley and John Boden – This tale is beautiful melancholy, heart-wrenching loneliness, and smothering horror. Each word is perfectly chosen, every image laced with impending dread.

Honorable Mentions: Langan’s, The Fisherman; Vandermeer’s Annihilation

7. Best Short Story: Tie – Lawson’s “Demons of Manzanar,” Lawson’s “The Carousel Horse,” and Finn’s “Stranded.”

Honorable Mention: Smales’ “Carol of the Bells”

8. Best Non-Horror Novel: Theft of Swords, by Michael Sullivan – Good old-fashioned fantasy fun that follows two thieves and somewhat reluctant heroes (more so on Royce’s part). Sure to entertain.

Honorable Mentions: Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress; Fleming’s Casino Royale; Sullivan’s Heir of Novron

9. Biggest disappointments – I don’t usually focus on the negative, but as these three books have huge followings, I’ll just lay them out a give you my reason why:

a. Swan Song, by Robert McCammon – every horror reader just simultaneously spit on me. Don’t get me wrong, I LIKED THIS BOOK and would even recommend it. But the hype it gets – how many people cite to it as the best of the genre – I guess I went in with high expectations and came out tempered.

b. Final Girls, by Riley Sager – This was just one of those books that sounded like it was my thing, but when I started reading it, I soon realized it wasn’t my thing. It’s a standard horror-thriller, akin (to me) to something by James Patterson (but nowhere near as good as Kiss the Girls)

c. Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie – It was free on Audible, so I figured I’d give it one more try in my middle life. But what I hated as a kid, I still can find no appreciation for today.

All in all, I’ve had a stellar year of reading. What were some of your favorites?