Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer {and a few words about the movie}

My thoughts:
I've been pretty much saying this to everyone, but it's true...it's the end of an era.  It's hard to believe that it has only been five or six years since I read the first Twilight book, but in that short span of years, my reading has shifted tremendously.  I have broadened my horizons with more classics and literary fiction and, in so doing, I recognize the difference between great writing and writing that is less than so.  Now I'm not saying that I don't like the Twilight books because I do.  The Twilight series and the films in accompaniment have always evoked a sense of poignancy in me, I think in response to what I have lost in my own relationship.  I once felt the way Edward and Bella feel and, sadly, it's not there anymore.  Being reminded of the loss of true love one once had is a very hard thing.  Anyway, didn't mean to get so personal, but I just wanted to explain the effect the story had upon me.  I still break down in tears when I hear the Carter Burwell song from the films, "Bella's Lullaby," and I cried at the end of this book and pretty much at different times throughout the movie (I really am a highly emotional person so please don't fault me).  Moving on, I don't think that Meyer is a terrible writer, there is room for improvement (although I did think The Host was a better written book than the Twilight series) and I do think she has the potential for improvement.  Bottom line, she tells a great story and creates some terrific characters.  And in a lot of ways, the films brought out the best in some of the characters she created.  Like Charlie, Bella's dad...love him.  And Benjamin in this book and the actor who portrayed him.  And Lee Pace as Garrett....and Alistair...what an intriguingly absent character.  I think Meyer should write about them.  Perhaps Garrett summed up the entire series with the following words that he spoke in front of the Volturi (in the book):

I have witnessed the bonds within this family--I say family and not coven.  These strange golden-eyed ones deny their very natures.  But in return have they found something worth even more, perhaps, than mere gratification of desire?  I've made a little study of them in my time here, and it seems to me that intrinsic to this intense family binding--that which makes them possible at all--is the peaceful character of this life of sacrifice.....

And so, the Twilight saga is not just about a love story between a human and a vampire.  It is a story about family and lasting bonds, whether it's the Cullens or the Quileute wolves.  I truly believe that is the message Meyer intended to share.

The film:
Yes, the movie had some cheesy parts, as they all did, but it was still great to watch.  Like I said above, some of the characters/actors are just so great.  Who can resist Michael Sheen as Aro with his campy yet menacing mannerisms.  The Romanians were priceless.  Benjamin portrayed by Rami Malek was wonderful and Lee Pace as Garrett...so great.  I was intrigued by Alistair who was portrayed by Joe Anderson, but I really like him as an actor so that could be why.  And last but not least, Billy Burke as Charlie.  They couldn't have matched a better actor with the character in the book.  One final note:  the end that is not the end like the book.  Don't worry...it's not a spoiler.  You will see...it really makes the movie.

Charlie and Bella
Farewell, Twilight saga...at least we will be able to revisit you from time to time when we find ourselves feeling nostalgic.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Short reviews on some scary reads--The Passage and Breed

The Passage: A Novel
This is my kind of book.  Very horrific, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, Stephen King-esque.  All these elements make me happy when I'm reading a book.  I wish I was a fast reader and that I didn't have so many other books going because I would have devoted all my time to this book and finished it faster.  I'm not the type to read a series back to back (something I'm discovering about myself again as I try to read the entire Dark Tower series through July of 2013), but I'm also not a fan of cliffhangers and there is a big one in this book.  So, The Twelve may be on my horizon sooner than later.  Seriously though, Justin Cronin is a talented writer and he is great at delivering the scares and the desperation.  My friend, Heather, has said that The Twelve is even better.  If that's the case, then I think Mr. Cronin has a long future on my bookshelves.

About the book:
“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.” 

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

Breed: A Novel
Wow! Just...wow! I read this book faster than I've read any book in a long time.  I could not stop turning pages.  I haven't been this excited about a horror novel since probably The Ruins by Scott Smith (please DON'T judge the book by its movie), another novel I could not put down.  Novak takes an ordinary topic...married couples unable to have children and desperate to do so...and turns it on its ear. What would you do to have a child?  I know how important my sons are to me and can't quite imagine life without them, but I ask myself.  Would I have gone as far as the couple in this book?  This is one implication of the book.  Also, how strong is our animal nature?  So, not only is this one a scary page turner (and also quite funny at moments), it actually gets the reader thinking.  If you haven't read this one...you just really must!

About the book:
Alex and Leslie Twisden lead charmed lives-fabulous jobs, a luxurious town house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a passionate marriage. What they don’t have is a child, and as they try one infertility treatment after the next, yearning turns into obsession. As a last-ditch attempt to make their dream of parenthood come true, Alex and Leslie travel deep into Slovenia, where they submit to a painful and terrifying procedure that finally gives them what they so fervently desire . . . but with awful consequences.

Ten years later, cosseted and adored but living in a house of secrets, the twins Adam and Alice find themselves locked into their rooms every night, with sounds coming from their parents’ bedroom getting progressively louder, more violent, and more disturbing.

Driven to a desperate search for answers, Adam and Alice set out on a quest to learn the true nature of the man and woman who raised them. Their discovery will upend everything they thought they knew about their parents and will reveal a threat so horrible that it must be escaped, at any cost.

Thank you to the publisher for providing Breed for my honest review.

Book synopses obtained from Goodreads.com


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Be sure to check out the special Halloween guest post from Ryan at Wordsmithonia, along with a few of my favorite old school horror novels and their film adaptations, HERE.


{Guest Post} Ryan's review of Burnt Offerings and a Special Halloween List of Old School Horror Novels

I'd like to welcome Ryan from Wordsmithonia to Castle Macabre today! He is sharing his excellent review of the book (and film) Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco.  After the review, I'm sharing some other old school horror novels and their films, just for Halloween.  These were all read by me in my pre-blogging days.

What Marian Rolfe really wants, more than anything else, is to get out of New York City for the summer. She doesn't want to deal with her neighbors, the heat, or same daily routine she's been doing the previous summers. When she talks her husband, Ben, into looking at summer homes to rent, she really lays it on thick. She finds a old country estate on Long Island that seems to be perfect for them. Maybe a little too perfect, considering the price is only $900 and they are able to stay for the entire summer. Against his better judgement, Ben packs up his family, including their son David and Ben's elderly aunt, Elizabeth.

Once they arrive, the rundown manor quickly grows on them and they settle into a comfortable routine. Their idyllic oasis is hiding a ton of secrets though, secrets that may kill them all in the end.

Two years ago, around Halloween, I caught the movie version of this on TV. Since I had nothing else to do at the time, I settled in on the couch and got lost in what turned out to be a cheesy, but scary movie. Ever since then I had wanted to read the book, but trying to get a hold of it proved to be harder than I had first thought it would be. I finally found it at the flea market last year but had not time to read it until recently. I have to say, that now that I'm done, I loved it even more than I thought I would.

The overall story line itself is pretty simple. A brother and sister who own a sprawling, occasionally rundown, country estate rent it out for the summer every few years to a "deserving" family, the bigger the better. All they ask is that their elderly mother, who stays in her own room and will never be seen, be allowed to stay there. All the renters need to do is bring a try to her sitting room three times a day. What the siblings don't tell their renters, is that the house and it's grounds can only come back to life by draining the life out of them. With each act of violence, each drop of blood spilled, or with each death, the house is rejuvenated and comes back to the glory of it's heyday. What they really don't want to tell them is the wife, will by the end of their stay take the "mothers" place in that lonely room.

Now, that may sound pretty cheesy, and it is, but the way this horror wove the story together is brilliant. There are so many creepy factors, like the emotionless pictures on display in the mother's sitting room. The growing fascinating and love that Marian starts to have for every aspect of the house. The violence in the pool when Ben came close to drowning David. The mysterious illness and wasting away of Aunt Elizabeth. The fact that nobody else on the island is willing to admit that they have even heard of the house or it's family.

The atmosphere this author was able to pack into the book is simply amazing. There is a lingering sense of danger on every page, but it's a danger that lays just beneath the surface. It's not visible all the time, but it's presences is felt with every word. This is what horror should be like, not the crap that gets spoon fed to us now days. This will be a book that I read over and over again when I need something to give me nightmares.

This one is probably my favorite horror novel!
Can any soul survive?
Regarded as the Mount Everest of haunted houses, Belasco House has witnessed scenes of almost unimaginable horror and depravity. Two previous expeditions to investigate its secrets met with disaster, the participants destroyed by murder, suicide or insanity. Now a new investigation has been mounted - four strangers, each with his or her own reason for daring the unknown torments and temptations of the mansion...

It was almost as if time had not touched the village of Cornwall Coombe. The quiet, peaceful place was straight out of a bygone era, with well-cared-for Colonial houses, a white-steepled church fronting a broad Common. Ned and Beth Constantine chanced upon the hamlet and immediately fell in love with it. This was exactly the haven they dream of. Or so they thought.

For Ned and his family, Cornwall Coombe was to be come a place of ultimate horror.

Entranced and terrified, the reader of The Other is swept up in the life of a Connecticut country town in the thirties-and in the fearful mysteries that slowly darken and overwhelm it.

Originally published in 1971, The Other is one of the most influential horror novels ever written. Its impeccable recreation of small-town life and its skillful handling of the theme of personality transference between thirteen-year-old twins led to widespread critical acclaim for the novel, which was successfully filmed from Thomas Tryon's own screenplay.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

{Guest Post} The Importance of Being Gothic--Robert Parry, author of The Arrow Chest

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING GOTHIC (or at least some of the time, anyway)
by Robert Parry, author of 'The Arrow Chest'

What do you think of when you hear the word 'Gothic?' For most of us it conjures up images of old buildings with pointy arches and tall turrets, old churchyards, or Halloween and witches' hats. We also think of ghosts and of death. But who really likes the subject of death in real life! For anyone who has been recently bereaved, death is not a nice thing at all. And none of us want to think too much about our own mortality. So why do we so enjoy 'the Gothic' in literature, fashion and movies?

The Victorians, who gave us what is called the Gothic Revival of the 19th Century, were surrounded by death - the consequences of the overcrowded and insanitary conditions of the cities of the Industrial Revolution in which diseases such as cholera and typhoid cut down innocent victims of all ages in their thousands. And yet the Victorians celebrated the Gothic like no other! Was it a way of expressing their fears and grief, of making an accommodation with death? Perhaps. There are lots of good reasons for being Gothic, though, even today. Here are some of them ...

It quickens the pulse, gets us excited and scared for a moment and reminds us that our rational, day-to-day world with all its commitments and pressures is not the sole, be-all and end-all of reality.

Through festivals such as Halloween (and this goes back a long way in one form or another) we get in touch with the passing of the seasons and therefore with nature, too. 

The Gothic allows us to communicate safely with the inner self - a landscape of the imagination which reveals the darker side of the personality, including the fears and anxieties that we all need to acknowledge sometimes. 

Exploring the Gothic is a creative experience. When we have a problem to solve and someone recommends we 'sleep on it' it really means we need to get in touch with the less-conscious parts of our selves. In our dark Gothic landscape of dreams and fantasy, all sorts of original ideas and creative solutions can be found.

Some of the fashions and styles associated with the Gothic are simply beautiful in their own right. Everything from clothing, to furniture, from architecture to the design of lettering has been touched by the Gothic to good effect.

So have fun this season of the witch! I will try to remember that not everybody will be quite so enthusiastic. Those who really have had to face bereavement in one way or another can seem a bit cool when presented with too much of the Gothic. That is perhaps why it is favoured by the young, by those who have not yet had too much death and dying to contend with. It's OK. No matter what our age, we should all still take a peep inside the Gothic box from time to time. It puts us in touch with who we are, where we come from and, of course, like it or not, that place to which we will all be returning one day. And that, as the title of this little article suggests, is the importance of being Gothic.

Robert Parry is a UK writer of historical fiction with special interests in Tudor and Elizabethan history, Victorian Gothic and Pre-Raphaelite art. His debut novel, ‘Virgin and the Crab’ appeared in 2009, and his 2nd, ‘The Arrow Chest,’ in 2011. He is currently working on a story set in the 18th century – entitled 'Wildish' - which, all being well, should arrive in February of 2013. His work spans the Tudor, Georgian and Victorian eras, and combines reality, dreams and the unconscious within a well-researched and vivid historical setting.

Details, plus news, competitions and more can be found at http://robertparry.wordpress.com
Also, various articles by Robert Parry can be found at http://endymion-at-night.blogspot.com

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

FEAR Blog Tour: Dreamcast for If All Else Perished and Giveaway!

Dreamcast for “If All Else Perished” by Kiona Smith-Strickland

Nicole Reynolds is a tracking dog handler. After the zombie outbreak, she convinced her husband, Doug, that they could make a living tracking the undead, giving families closure by finding their infected loved ones and putting them to rest. She is normally a stickler for proper safety protocols – she helped invent the protocols for hunting the undead – but she has an impulsive streak.

Dreamcast selection for Nicole: Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Ghostbusters, Avatar). She has a history of playing strong, competent characters without resorting to blatant fanservice, and that smart, strong attitude is perfect for Nicole.

Doug is Nicole’s husband, a newly-retired military veteran. Levelheaded, competent, and generally low-key, he leads his team with quiet authority. Doug is tough, but Nicole is his undeniable soft spot.


Dreamcast selection for Doug: Mark Harmon (NCIS). Harmon plays exactly the kind of guy Jim is – strong but compassionate, and competent without being flashy. His attitude lends itself well to Doug’s leadership style, and he plays a very convincing veteran.

JimDoug and Nicole teamed up with Jim, one of Doug’s old war buddies. Jim is brave to the point of recklessness, but his disregard for his own safety is tempered by his struggle to keep the impulsive Nicole out of trouble when the mission goes sideways.

Dreamcast selection for Jim: Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Evil Dead 2, Burn Notice). He is Bruce Campbell - enough said.

Cora is the fourth member of the team, a German Shepherd trained in trailing and zombie detection. She is known as one of the best zombie-tracking dogs in the country. Cora is fiercely loyal to Nicole, dearly loves Doug, and hates zombies with a passion.

Dreamcast selection for Cora: Abbey the German Shepherd (I Am Legend). 

Dead Molly
The team has come to the mountains of southern New Mexico to find Molly, a college student lost on a hiking trip when the zombie infection crossed the Rio Grande. Molly’s rich parents hired the team to find her and put her to rest. 

Dreamcast selection for Dead Molly: Ellen Muth (Dead Like Me). She handles morbid, gory situations really well, and she does have experience playing a dead girl. 

Border Patrol Zombie
Along the way, the team runs across an undead Border Patrol agent, the unwitting first sign of the wave of zombies that overruns their position in the mountains.

Dreamcast selection for Border Patrol Zombie: Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Chuck). It would be fun to see him translating his usual tough-guy role into a tough-guy zombie.

Bio: Kiona Smith-Strickland is a freelance writer and the editor of Blood Magazine.  Originally from
Texas, she lives in the desert with a border collie named Duke, where she enjoys good stories and
old cemeteries. She can be found online at http://sites.google.com/site/smithstrickland.

Fear: A Modern Anthology of Horror and Terror brings together, for the first time, tales of murder, monsters and madness, by sixty of the world’s best indie horror authors.

Discover what lurks in the water at the end of the garden, learn of the unforgiving loyalty of a loving toy and meet a writer, just itching to finish his latest horror story.

Every author in the Anthology has generously contributed their work for free. All royalties from sales will go directly to the international charities, Barnardo’s and Médecins Sans Frontières.

Fear, with forewords by international bestselling authors, Peter James and Sherri Browning Erwin, is released in Paperback and on Kindle, October 3rd 2012.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Contingency Plans for the Zombie Apocalypse: An Infographic

Thanks to Leah for sharing this terrific infographic with us!

Zombie Apocalypse Survival

Zombie Apocalypse Survival

*For a larger view of the infographic, click the link above.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

{Guest Post and Giveaway} Brett Williams, author of From Murky Depths

Thank you so much, Michelle, for allowing me to be your guest. I truly appreciate the opportunity. I wish I could read as many books as you do. This year I've had the opportunity to read a personal record number of books. However, the more you read, the more you want to read. I suppose that's why you call yourself a book addict.

With so many great choices out there, it can be tough, not only to decide what to select from the ever-growing to-be-read pile, but to decide what to add to a reading list.

I tell ya, for a newly emerging author such as my self, it can be a little tough getting the attention of readers. Luckily, my new release, From Murky Depths, published by Gallows Press, has some great cover art to help draw readers in. Perhaps a little too creepy for some potential readers. But as the saying goes, don't judge a book by its cover.

From Murky Depths features a pretty scary face on it. A hybrid. Any devout Christian should not be deterred. The protagonist for Depths, good ol' boy David Miller, faces some pretty daunting challenges, that's for sure. After all, he's already dealt with massive flooding and now trolls over in his boat to help the residents of Clayton, only to find himself embroiled in an epic battle of good versus evil. Perhaps equally daunting is David's test of faith, an aspect of this tale I'm very proud of. Although religious faith plays little more than a character trait, it is a very important part of this thriller/shocker.

Writing tales that take place in rural settings or small towns is something I love. I grew up in Dexter, Missouri. I guess a part of that comes out in a lot of my writing. In fact, the fictional town of Clayton, Missouri exists right next door to Dexter, the setting of the sequel I'm currently working on.

Readers can find From Murky Depths at Amazon.

Buy From Murky Depths here!

Anyone who leaves a review is automatically entered to win a paperback copy of my novel, Family Business, coming soon from Gallows Press. Family Business is a hardcore horror/crime novel that puts the atrocities of puppy mills into human terms. The novel has been called “siction” and “torture porn.” I call it a lot of fun.

But for now, I want to get From Murky Depths into the hands of readers. So I would like to give away a paperback copy. Simply leave a comment. I'll select a random winner the next day at 7 pm CST.

Thank you again, Michelle.

Beware of what emerges From Murky Depths!

Visit Brett's website HERE


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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Movie Review--Sinister

I had high expectations for this movie, especially after seeing the previews and also finding out that it was from the creators of "Insidious" and the "Paranormal Activity" films.  It did not disappoint.  I can't remember being that scared in a horror film...not since I was a kid.  Of course, it's very atmospheric and dark, and when you add to the mix a great actor like Ethan Hawke, it makes it even better.  The story really is a great one with horrifying elements that make it much more creepy than a typical gore fest would.  The supernatural element and the history that surrounds the entity who is responsible for the terrible things that happen are what make it particularly scary.  At least when the killer is a flesh and blood person, we always have a hope while we're watching that he/she can be stopped, but in this case, all hope is lost.  That feeling gives a terrible feeling in the pit of the stomach.  Let me just say that I had so much acid churning in my stomach from the stress of it, I really could have used a pack of TUMS.  This film is what all horror movies should be.  Those of us who love the genre want to feel like this every time we see one.  Sadly, that is not always the case.  If you love horror films and genuinely love to be scared, you must see this movie! If you do see it, come back and tell me what you thought, or if you've already seen it, share your thoughts as well.

Other recent scary movies I've seen and how they stack up to Sinister:

The Possession
This one definitely had some creepy moments and it was a twist on the traditional depictions of possession, but it still did not have the wow factor that Sinister had.  Worth a watch, but maybe on DVD.

The Apparition
This one also had creepy moments, but it was was below the caliber of Sinister.  The idea of not being able to get away from what's haunting you is definitely unnerving, but it could have been a lot better.  Another "wait for the dvd" movie.

Qualifies for R.I.P. VII

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