All posts by Gavin

KendallReviews chronological Stephen King read through.

I was 2 when Stephen King’s debut novel, Carrie, was released in 1974. King has had a book published pretty much every year since with his latest Sleeping Beauties out 26th September. I’m a horror fan, I run a blog dedicated to reviewing horror. So why is it I have only read 4 Stephen King books?

I recall the first King book I tried to read was IT back in 1986, I was 14 or so.  I remember the book being a beast with over 1000 pages, it was also incredibly ‘wordy’ with pages of exposition. It felt to me at the time that King was saying in 5 pages what I felt could of been said in 1. I gave up on IT after a few attempts to read it.

I wanted my horror more immediate, and found myself drawn to  the likes of James Herbert, Richard Laymon or Shaun Hutson. These authors satisfied my wish for quick punchy, gory tales that were a quick read. I wanted my horror fiction like the movies I was watching at the time. As the years passed, I have dipped back into the King Bibliography and read Carrie, Cycle of the Werewolf, The Tommyknockers & Skeleton Crew enjoying them all, but never venturing any further.

Of course, thinking about this now I’m hanging my head in shame. There is nothing wrong with the quick fix approach to horror fiction, Herbert in particular has a raft of quality novels under his name. I honestly cannot say why it’s taken me so long to finally decide to do this, it’s something I’ve toyed with for years.  My tastes in horror literature have broadened since I first picked IT up with incredibly eloquent writers like Clive Barker & Adam Nevill, among others, filling my bookshelves.

So here I am, in the incredibly fortunate position of being a first time reader for books long deemed classics. The chronological read through will begin once I have read and reviewed the upcoming Stephen/Owen King collaboration Sleeping Beauties.

There have been some superb blogs doing exactly the same as I am about to take on, and I wouldn’t dream of even trying to compare what I’m doing to them. This is my journey, I’ll post updates as and when, with reviews and thoughts as I read my way through 43 years of Stephen King.

Of course, I won’t be reading King exclusively, I’ll be interweaving his work with the books I review for the blog. I think it’s going to work well…I really can’t wait to start, I’m looking forward to when I can call myself a Constant Reader.

What Monsters Do – Nicholas Vince (Kendall Review)

In browsing the shelves of the KendallReviews library trying to feed my current obsession for anthologies, I decided to pull out a little book by Nicholas Vince entitled What Monsters Do, a 104 page book with a stunning cover, containing ‘Seven Short Stories of Psychological Horror’.

From novel takes on the classics  (Werewolves, Ghosts and The Mummy) to monsters of the authors own creation, What Monsters Do is a thoroughly intoxicating read that will both shock and delight you in equal measure.

Family Tree reveals the chilling reason why two brothers have not seen each other for 25 years. It’s a fantastic start to the anthology showing Vince not only has the chops to horrify you, he can also get you so emotionally involved with characters that the ending really does offer a punch to the gut. Tunes From The Music Hall is set in Victorian times. A tale about forbidden love told from a very unusual perspective. An incredibly passionate story where the real monster is not from supernatural realms. Green Eyes is a chilling piece of fiction! I really enjoyed how it was written, almost riddle like, making you think, leading you by the hand to its shocking conclusion. Death Is But The Doorway is great fun. The Mummy sub-genre is given a good kick in the arse with a rip-roaring tale of curses, missing people and death-dealing statues. And in Nan, a character that I loved! Nursery Rhymes is possibly my favourite tale in this book. I found this brilliantly dark. Humans are very much the monsters here in a tale of rejection, jealousy and revenge. There’s a true open-mouthed shock moment in this story, that in lesser hands could have ruined the story. Powerful stuff!  The Worst Day tells the story of a father who needs to protect his recently deceased sons name. But in doing so, ghosts from his past show he may not his sons best interests he’s trying to preserve.  The Beast In Beauty is wonderfully poetic at times, mixing sub-genres and adding very real-life issues into the story to produce something that is incredibly mysterious and keeps you thinking long after the book snaps shut.

What Monster Do is a 104 page treasure, you’ve really got no where to hid in so few pages and 7 stories. A weaker tale would stand out like a sore thumb but credit to Nicholas Vince, i’m struggling to pick a tale that has been hit by that dreaded hammer, what I can do is suggest you go and pick up this book now. It demands to be read!

Star Rating (out of 5): 4****

Monsters Exist – Edited by Mr. Deadman & Theresa Braun (Kendall Review)

I’ve always enjoyed reading anthologies, particularly those with a theme. Monsters Exist ticks that box nicely by having 14 tales all about Monsters. I was not familiar with any of the authors prior to reading this book, something which may be of benefit as I would then have no expectations based on previous reading experience.

There are not many anthologies I’ve read that have had a 100% hit rate. In fact from memory there are 2, Clive Barker’s Books of Blood and my current book of the year, Richard Chizmar’s A Long December. Monsters Exist is incredibly close to having all its tales hitting the spot, and I really do mean incredibly close. There were so many positives crammed within it’s 148 pages, it was a blast discovering what Monsters Exist!

Monsters Exist opens with Master Vermin by Wallace Boothill, a tale about rats in Baltimore. I loved how this had me shuddering at a couple of superb ‘yuck’ moments and then totally surprised at it’s somewhat epic ending. Theresa Braun’s Legend Trippers takes us into one of my favourite sub-genres, the urban legend. Here we have a tale about the Goatman who lures its victims in front of an oncoming train. It’s a great story that was well paced. S.J. Budd gave us a tale about a woman who climbs into the back of a taxi who’s driver has a dark secret in The Murder Of Crows. I really enjoyed the writing and the ending was very satisfying. Wicked Congregation by Gary Buller is one of the standout tales in the anthology for me! A shocking tale of fairies and human sacrifice. Echoes of Adam Nevill in the story’s setting and an ending that would grace Tales Of The Unexpected at its peak. I have to add, there’s a line in Wicked Congregation that really stood out for me ‘Every 20 years they take a little of our future so we may keep the rest’ Fantastic writing! Playing Dead by S.E. Casey is a dark tale about the devil monkey where you’re never quite sure what’s real or not. Superb! Mr. Deadmans Lake Monster has sublime characterisation and punchy dialogue. Just what would it take for Gary to believe in the Goat Man? Another standout tale is Calvin Demmer’s Never Sleep Again, a clever use of the old monster under the bed trope. I for one won’t be dangling hands or feet over the edge of the bed…or futon! I let out a sigh of relief at one point during Philip W. Kleaver’s The Voice From The Bottom Of The Well, the author had me convinced Johanna was going to do something quite terrible only for the rug to be pulled out from under me. I really enjoyed this tale with its smile inducing ending. Eclipse At Wolf Creek is another well written urban legend tale, this time involving the Mothman. To be honest, I may have found Sylvia Mann’s descriptions of poor old Grandma the most disturbing part of the story. No. 7 by William Marchese has moments of excellence with a tale of ‘super’ soldiers crossing paths with a bunch of kids. I did struggle with the tale to be honest, and even reread it in case I had missed something. There’s a cracking story here, the author himself holds his hands up in this honest post that things could have been better. I’d be very interested to read any rework that appears in the future. A variant on the Bigfoot legend is the next tale in John Palisano’s Criatura. This is a deliciously gory story that I had great fun reading. There’s a wonderful sense of humour in the writing, with the line ‘maybe because it was sticking out and is the easiest target’ earning a genuine laugh. If spiders aren’t your thing  then Bitten by Christopher Powers is going to make for an unpleasant reading experience. To add to your pain these spiders are the size of dogs, and in one scene (that had me proper squirming) the description of a spider ‘probing and pushing into an ear deep enough to cause blood to seep out’ is wrong on so many levels. Christopher Powers, I salute you! Kelpies by Leo X. Robertson is an unusual tale about a man lured into the water by a mysterious seductress. Any fellas may think twice about any ‘momentary wavering’ after reading this excellent piece of dark fiction. Lastly, in the final tale Bloodstream Revolution M.R. Tapia writes an engrossing tale involving Chupacabras in the time of the Mexican revolution. I thoroughly enjoyed this conclusion to Monsters Exist especially as it convinced me that it is actually humans that are the true monsters.

As I said at the beginning of this review, I was not familiar with any of the authors prior to reading. Now that I have finished the book, I’ll be looking out for each and every one of them in the future. Monsters Exist is a superb read with a variety of styles that works as a collective. I couldn’t recommend it enough!

Star Rating (out of 5): 4****

Monsters Exist is edited by Mr. Deadman & Theresa Braun and published by Deadman’s Tome

The Truants – Lee Markham (Kendall Review)

An interesting twist on the vampire myth as the last vampire learns that his partner since the Stone Age has killed herself. Rather than face eternity alone he decides to commit suicide by waiting for the sun to claim him. His plans are thwarted however when he’s stabbed as the sun rises, his suicide remains successful, yet he retains a degree of consciousness as his soul is now being spread through each subsequent victim that falls to the blade. He must get the knife back and reclaim his soul, the problem is, someone doesn’t want him to get it back.

The Truants is a tale of the social underclass, of knife crime, drug abuse and poverty  with a clever new interpretation of the Vampire mythology woven between the rat infested tower blocks. It’s beautifully written, almost poetic at times, there were several passages that literally stopped me reading for a moment it was so powerful. The way Markham details the grief of a murdered childs mother were stunning, the vile descriptions of poverty and abuse in a small flat where drug addled parents fester whilst their dirty, lice ridden child is in another room desperate for love and attention is simply heartbreaking.

The story is certainly not an easy read, but the elegant way in which it’s written pulls you through the blood and filth.

The Truants is a remarkable piece of work that demands to be read.

Star Rating (out of 5): 4****

The Truants is written by Lee Markham and published by Duckworth Overlook

Clive Barker News! Hellraiser Anthology: Volume 2 Announced!

Clive Barker’s Seraphim Comics has announced Hellraiser: Anthology Volume Two, a sequel to the cult hit graphic novel released in April.

Hellraiser: Anthology Volume Two will be released in September, debuting at Son of Monsterpalooza in Burbank, CA and available a week after via www.realclivebarker.com, both as a hardcover graphic novel and a digital download.

The anthology will feature stories written by returning Hellraiser comic scribes Ben Meares, Christian Francis, Mark Alan Miller, David McKendry & Rebekah McKendry and Matt. Murray, as well as newcomers to the series Zac Thompson & Lonnie Nadler (The Dregs) and Ken Winkler. Artists include returning Hellraiser alumni Daniele Serra (who provides the cover along with a six-page story), Riley Schmitz, Jim Terry and Nick Percival, along with newcomers to the series Mark Torres (Zombies Vs. Robots: Undercity, Judge Dredd), Hector Casanova (The Lurkers, Screamland), Christian DiBari (Hoax Hunters, Magdalena), Simon Gough (GI Joe: Snake Eyes), Devmalya Pramanik (Nightbreed) and Nino Cammarata (The Black Cat).

Additionally, the graphic novel will feature a prose story detailing the origin of the fan-favorite Cenobite the Chatterer, written by the Chatterer himself, Nicholas Vince. The tale will feature pen and ink illustrations by Clive Barker.

“I’m beyond excited to finally share a story I drafted in December 2012,” Vince said in regards to his contribution to the anthology, titled Prayers of Desire. “It’s worth the wait, as it’s found it’s spiritual home beside wonderful illustrations by Clive and amongst superb storytellers.”

The anthology is edited and compiled by Ben Meares and designed and lettered by Christian Francis.

“I think, with the first anthology, we managed to put out a book that reminded people why Hellraiser works so well in comics,” Ben Meares, Editor-in-Chief of Seraphim Comics said. “It’s a wildly versatile mythos, and with this second volume we get to explore with even more variety the possibilities within the world that Clive has so graciously allowed us to play in. Volume Two will feature more stories, more pages and more creators than Volume One. I’ve been absolutely floored with the kinds of original, fresh and brilliant stories everyone involved has contributed.”

“I’m so thankful to everyone who helped make the first volume such a smashing success despite us trying our hardest to offend everyone, “ said Mark Alan Miller, Vice President of Clive Barker’s Seraphim, Inc. and contributing writer. “It’s so much fun to have the opportunity to do it all over again.”

Release Dates:

Son of Monsterpalooza, Pasadena, CA – September 15-17, 2017 (Hardcover only)

www.realclivebarker.com September 24, 2017 (Hardcover & Digital Download)

The Last Days Of Jack Sparks – Jason Arnopp (Kendall Review)

Author Jack Sparks is an arsehole, he really is incredibly unpleasant. A man looking out for himself who has no qualms who he pisses off and how, as long as he gets what he wants. He courts a social media world, and sees online followers as some badge of honour. Having written books on gangs and drugs (where he ended up trying every drug imaginable…for research purposes obviously), Jack is now looking for a new challenge, this time he is looking to debunk the supernatural world.

Now, spoilers can be a real pain, but bizarrely I can tell you that Jack Sparks dies in this book, yes, you read that correctly! As the title suggests, we follow Jack through his Last Days. Days fuelled with drink and drugs, sex and violence, guilt, estrangement and unrequited love, oh, and the supernatural.

When a video appearing to show a ghost is mysteriously uploaded to his YouTube account. Sparks travels from Italy (where he has already claimed an exorcism he saw to be an elaborate hoax) to Los Angeles (via Hong Kong), as he investigates the clips origins.

The story is mostly told in Jacks hand. Due to his demise, Jacks brother Alistair finished the book by contributing notes and corrections, as well as some extra interviews with people that Jack had met throughout the investigation. This offers a very interesting aspect to the story as sometimes the information gathered by the brothers contradict each other. What’s fact or fiction?

This is a dark book, it’s also incredibly funny, actually, it’s genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. What it wasn’t, for me anyway, was scary. The humour mostly nullifies the scares, there are certainly moments of tension and unease throughout, but I was possibly expecting more scares. Arnopp does a great job in keeping you alongside Sparks. On several occasions I actually started to like him only for him to go and do, or say. something abhorrent. He’s an unreliable narrator that you just can’t help liking (sometimes).

Following Jack can make you feel somewhat grubby, you will question a lot of his actions and motives, but it’s a journey well worth taking especially as it will bring you to a truly spectacular conclusion. A conclusion that left me slack-jawed and thinking about the book long after I had finished.

I really do recommend you join Jack Sparks for his Last Days!

Star Rating (out of 5): 4****

Dork Diaries – Rachel Renée Russell (Freya, Guest Reviewer)

Nikki Maxwell gets a diary for her Birthday. She isn’t interested at all, but eventually goes on to writing in it. She joins a new school – Westchester Country Day (WCD) and meets a new mean girl, a new crush and new BFFs, Chloe and Zoey. The three of them are total dorks, doing funny and wacky things. There’s an author meet and greet happening in New York in a while and Nikki, Chloe and Zoey need to prove to Mrs Peach that they are good LSAs so they can go.

They all sign up to be Library Shelving Assistants (LSAs) to help Mrs Peach (the Librarian) in the Library. They have tons of fun reading all the magazines and books; testing out perfume samples and catching up on the latest gossip about their favourite celebrities.

I absolutely LOVE this book. It adds the frosting on the cake by making it a diary entry. It adds all of Nikki’s personal feelings, why she doesn’t want certain people to know things, like how she feels. I especially love how good she is at art – she shows off her artistic ability by drawing in her diary, showing readers her style and copying her designs of temporary tattoos she drew on the CCPs (Cute, Cool and Popular) and dorks.

Overall, I would rate it 10/10.

The Chocolate Box Girls ‘Cherry Crush’ – Cathy Cassidy (Freya, Guest Reviewer)

This book is about a girl called Cherry, who lives with her Dad. Things soon change when they move to Somerset where a new Mum and four new sisters await. Her Dad had a chocolate-making business, and her Mum runs a B&B with her daughters.

I absolutely love this book! The way it’s written, the story…everything! I really like Cherry Costello – the way she has such a big imagination and I find the stories inside her head interesting. Most of the time, when a character is feeling different, I feel different (in a good way).

Overall, I would rate it 10/10.

A Long December – Richard Chizmar (Kendall Review)

A Long December is a massive 519 page book consisting of 34 short stories, and one novella.

I was aware of the name Richard Chizmar through his work with Cemetary Dance, but was not familiar with his writing at all. After a friends recommendation and seeing that Chizmar was about to release a book co-authored with Stephen King I took the plunge.

A Long December covers a range of genres, including mystery, thriller, horror and crime. Some of the stories have a very strong Twilight Zone vibe, and the collection as a whole would make for an excellent TV anthology. To write a mini review of each story would spoil the journey any future reader would be about to take, it’s the uncertainty of what genre and mood of each tale that adds to the whole experience.  I really wanted to savour each tale, but it was such an enjoyable read it became a case of ‘just one more’ until I had finished the beast of a book in quick time.

There is a fairly common theme to a lot of these stories, namely the horrible things that go on behind closed doors and drawn curtains. But it’s of great credit to the author that he lets you get emotionally connected to some of these characters before revealing their secrets…secrets which left me reeling at times, having to put the book down and just take in what I’d read.

Chizmars writing style just demands you to keep reading. In A Long December I have a collection of stories that I’ll return to again and again, and in Chizmar an author that has now moved into the ‘must buy’ category.

34 short stories, 1 novella, 519 pages, a rollercoaster of emotions AND NO FILLER!

A truly brilliant collection, I just wish I’d discovered Richard Chizmar the author earlier!

Star Rating (out of 5): 5*****

Gwendy’s Button Box – Stephen King & Richard Chizmar (Kendall Review)

This 164 page novella, covers a decade in the life of Gwendy Peterson, a body conscious 12-year-old  trying to address her suffering at the hands of cruel bullies and prepare herself for the step up into middle school and adulthood. Her life’s thrown a curve ball when, after finishing her daily exercise routine of running up the ‘Suicide Stairs’ she meets a mysterious man, who offers her a button box.

This box has a power, the power to make you better, to make you faster, stronger, smarter, even more beautiful. On the flip side, the box with just the press of a button, could change the world. This novella follows Gwendy as she grows and matures with the box and how her choices change her life and the people around her.

I found this a thoroughly enjoyable quick read, but it’s not without flaws. I felt the story needed fleshing out more. There is a larger book hidden away in here. I understand that not spoon-feeding the reader and leaving them something to think about once the book snaps shut is sometimes a good thing, but for me there were too many questions left unanswered. There is not quite enough meat on a very interesting  set of bones.

Saying that, it certainly didn’t spoil Gwendy’s story, as I followed her with a delicious sense of unease and tension.

I really do hope we get to find out more about the button box in the near future.

Star Rating (out of 5): 4****