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Customer Reviews: 102
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Todd Russell RSS Feed (Orting, Washington)
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Mirror of the Nameless
Mirror of the Nameless
Price: $2.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting concept that would have been scarier in third person, September 26, 2013
I love a good first person narrated tale, but feel disappointed when I read one where I want to see action the narrator could only tell me about, versus show me through the eyes of another character. It seems like several DarkFuse published first person narratives would have been scarier for me if they were written in third person. That's the case for me with this one about a man off to rescue his daughter with nightmarish god creatures walking the earth destroying everything and everyone in their path. It's almost a bit like reading a Godzilla rampage tale, only without Toyko being the battle zone and mankind being the main enemy, not some other gigantic flying or aquatic beast.

Strangely, I found myself most interested and most fearful of the creature described in the mirror (and why was the mirror not presented sooner in the story?), which invoked a very Lovecraftian sense of "you know it's there, but won't see it." Nobody has done those type of stories better than Lovecraft, but the author here did an admirable job emulating the experience. At the end of the day, this has the pacing of another DarkFuse novella, Worm by Tim Curran, and a little more character depth. I didn't find the writing as descriptive or varied as Curran's story (the word 'flesh' was used roughly a dozen times in a couple pages). This sits on the boundary between an "OK" and "I liked it" read. 2.75 stars, rounded. 1,958 Kindle locations. Approximately 128 pages.


Nightmare Man
Nightmare Man
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very readable nightmare tale with good drawn good and evil characters, September 26, 2013
This review is from: Nightmare Man (Kindle Edition)
Don't know that many guys with the name of the most famous Rick Springfield song, but the main character in this horror novella, Jessie, is having trouble sleeping. He's got a familiar horror problem faced by those in all the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, only it's not Freddy Kruger scaring him while he sleeps. He keeps having nightmares of the Nightmare Man (often not capitalized as 'nightmare man'). I was watching Stephen King talk about horror films and how he felt sequels tended to ruin the horrific elements presented in the original story (somewhat timely considering he just had published a sequel to THE SHINING). The good news for this book is it feels like a fresh nightmare story, not like an unnecessary sequel.

The Nightmare Man is drawn fairly well, as is the protagonist. This is the third story by this author I've read and he clearly writes good. I've been somewhat disappointed in the endings of his stories, this one being no exception. I felt like with all the good Nightmare Man setup that the resolution of that primary arc would last longer than a page or two. I'm not going to spoil the story and say what that resolution is, but it seemed way too rushed and didn't match the pacing of the rest of the tale. It warranted more pages for this reader's money. Overall, it's a good story that I liked, but didn't love. I'm certain this author is going to write a story that I love someday because his writing is strong. My favorite stories are ones with satisfying endings and this one doesn't qualify in that department. 3.5 stars, rounded up at Amazon where the stars align a bit differently (this is an "I like it" read over "It's OK"). 1,539 Kindle locations. Approximately 77 pages.


Lilith
Lilith
Price: $4.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two-thirds of the story are action-packed. An engaging antagonist and fun setting, September 3, 2013
This review is from: Lilith (Kindle Edition)
Unique and/or interesting settings are a plus for me, and this horror story is told mostly above a Navy ship--somewhere I haven't read many stories. The first third is mostly setup, detailing the main character Hunter and his wife Lisa as they board the ship as media and introduces the title named antagonist. The writing was straightforward, nothing fancy, with enough detail to color the scene. I'm definitely no Navy expert, but the author seemed to get the terminology right. I clearly pictured being aboard a Navy ship and saw the scenes unfolding. Didn't have any trouble keeping up with what was going on and with whom, although I did start to feel the cast expanding a bit much (difficult to contain in a ship with over a thousand aboard).

Short, punchy chapters fit most of the book but seemed not as fitting for the slower first third. There are over 90 chapters which reminds me a bit of the way James Patterson stylistically handles chapters. I don't mind shorter chapters, but I've seen some say they do.

Once Lilith, the character, springs into action, it's nearly non-stop until the ending. I found the antagonist to be well-conceived and at one spot toward the end I felt compassion for her. That maybe she was more misunderstood than a simple monster. The description of the white pools from the hosts was reminiscent of when the T-1000 in TERMINATOR 2 takes damage and then re-assembles itself. At some points while reading, I almost heard the T2 score playing in my head.

As of September 2013, this rings in as my third favorite DarkFuse novel published in 2013. These are the kind of horror novels I'd love to see them do more of in the future. 3.75 stars. 3,870 Kindle locations. Approximately 330 pages.


Hell Gate
Hell Gate
Price: $4.99

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Might have made a curious episode of The Dead Zone TV Show, September 1, 2013
This review is from: Hell Gate (Kindle Edition)
Suzanne Heath, a ticket seller at Coney Island in 1909, has the gift and curse of clairvoyant powers. The father of a friend she works with is a policeman investigating the murders of people with their faces caved in and asks Suzanne to help out with her supernatural skills.

While reading I kept thinking in shades of Stephen King's The Dead Zone (Signet) (even more so the TV adaption). Only Suzanne is Johnny Smith and she isn't as effective with her powers as Johnny (more on that shortly). Suzanne's visions seem more accurate and stronger of past events than the future. Unlike King's gripping tale, there isn't as much story, pacing or spooky 'hell' as referenced in the title until halfway through the book, when things start to cook more. Most of the first half is spent with Suzanne seven years removed from the Coney Island amusement park murders, with her soul-searching and coming to grips with being a freak for her powers at a school with other young girls. Some impatient readers might jettison at this point.

Suzanne meets and befriends a black man named Cittie who follows her away to Coney Island, and she must pretend not to be with him because of the interracial social unacceptability of the era. I liked Cittie's character and wished sooner he was a more integral part of the story.

The story moves much better once we return to 1909 and back to the murders, but I have to vent about Suzanne's psychic powers sometimes annoying me. It seemed all too convenient for her visions to be cloudy when she was at murder scenes and yet touching just about anything else she'd receive clear, powerful visions. I couldn't get past what seemed to be a story contrivance versus a natural progression of the tale. As for the murders? The identity of the killer started out very much like one would expect from a mystery and I was curious to learn who the murderer was. There is a good attempt to make this a shocking reveal, so points for that.

The writing was full of long, weighty paragraphs which usually slow down my reading, however, the vocabulary was smooth and less 1900s than expected. Somehow--and this is a credit to the skill of the author--it sounds authentic for that era. Most of the dialogue was strong and seemed faithful to the times as well. I enjoyed how Coney Island as a setting was portrayed.

In summary, this teeters on the edge of "it's ok" and "I liked it." I wasn't ever scared or felt much fear for any character or situation which doesn't bode well as a horror read. It's probably better categorized more generically as supernatural fiction than horror and if I'd have gone in thinking that, I might rate this a little higher. The murders were told more than shown too much for my liking. I wished there had been more of the second half of the book in the first half, less flashbacks to the past--which I fully acknowledge is important to the story, but wish they had been streamlined to get back to the more compelling story (the 1909 murders). The title of the book made it seem like a more gritty, dark horror novel, which it wasn't for me. I hope others enjoy this more than I, because the author does seem very talented. Unfortunately it's not one I'll be recommending. 2.75 stars, rounded. 4,970 Kindle locations. Approximately 251 pages.


The Genesis Code
The Genesis Code
Price: $6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some unnecessary scenes and slower pacing for a techno-thriller, but overall a good read, August 28, 2013
This review is from: The Genesis Code (Kindle Edition)
In The Genesis Code, an odious corporate employer seeks to increase worker productivity (name a corporation who doesn't) and by sharp contrast of the Jeff Strand short story "Work/Life Balance": less home and social life equals more work. The story begins with protagonist Mark Weston interviewing and accepting a job at tech company OneMarket. Been a while since I've read a novel that begins with a job interview, but I know there's been at least a few since The Shining. Not a very exciting place to start a story, especially a thriller, but I hoped story-wise it would improve. Slowly, things did, as we began to learn more about Mark, his relationship with his wife, the pressure cooker employer OneMarket and a strange doctor and his assistant also employed there.

At times in the narrative, I was reminded of the writing style of Robin Cook. Some of what Cook does I'm a huge fan--particularly the way he weaves complex medical information into stories--but sometimes he's a bit vanilla with characterization. I liked how the author wove weighty computer terms into the narrative without draining the momentum. Cook's characters sometimes can methodically, sometimes repetitively, analyze their inner thoughts, probing too much how they feel about certain situations and 'what if's' in the story versus using action. Generally, I find character action more creative and readable than excessive character musings.

The story doesn't move as fast as most thrillers and the technology aspect, while it was plenty geek-speak infused, wasn't really that thought-provoking until the final chapter. I'm used to more amazing technology in a techno-thriller than what distills to a familiar tale of human experimentation.

The characterization was a bit dry at times, and yet overall it succeeded. I cared what happened to Mark and his wife, to the point of being irritated that one dramatic character conflict introduced wasn't adequately explained.

Despite a few bumps, there was a skilled build-up of suspense, culminating in an ending that wrapped up the central plot points and left the author room to explore a sequel in the future, if desired.

For a debut thriller, this was a decent read. Certainly showing the author has some good potential. It's my understanding this has roots as a short story (?) that was nurtured into a novel. For this reader, I think it would have made a better novella than short story or novel. It would have tightened up the pacing and done away with some of the unnecessary scenes that didn't add to the story, advance the plot or further define the characters. I would read another work by this new author. 3 stars. 4,779 Kindle locations.


Nightsiders
Nightsiders
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A scary part in the middle of this novella, August 28, 2013
This review is from: Nightsiders (Kindle Edition)
Every month an exciting new publishing house named DarkFuse releases new novellas that in the short span of six months I've become a huge fan of reading. These novellas can be read in around an hour, give or take, and I look forward to them much the way I would watching a new episode of X-Files or Masters of Horror. There's a quality and consistency to them (not every one is good, but neither is every episode of your favorite TV show). Many of them have a very Twilight Zone feel to them, like the ghost of Rod Serling inspired the minds of the authors. Being a mega huge fan of Serling, I'm so, so, so there!

With Nightsiders, this tale is all TZ in nature. It begins with a rather twisted scene involving a small animal and morphs into a tale about a London man and his family displaced by another family. Another family is living in the Mitchell family's house and it's not the Brady Bunch. One scene in this story that I won't spoil really blew me away. I shuddered after reading that part. Solid horror!

The ending got a bit too crazy and outpaced the rest of the story, leaving me feeling like more subtlety would have worked better for me. All in all, I liked and recommend this creepy yarn. 3.75 stars. 1,603 Kindle locations.


Manhattan Grimoire
Manhattan Grimoire

1.0 out of 5 stars Took almost two months to finish, August 28, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The antagonist, Mojo DeCanne (love the name!), was easily my favorite part. I like the title and cover art, too. Unfortunately, I found myself pushing through Gina's sections way too much (an unlikable, untrustworthy narrator sometimes isn't a good combination) to get to ones with Mojo. I just couldn't ever care what happened to Gina or her sister.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit struggling through this short horror novel. A book this size normally takes me between 2-3 hours to read, but this took almost two months to finish reading. Maybe I've read one too many tales where a sibling goes looking for a missing or "vanished" sibling and discovers horror. Too much retread in order to fully appreciate the author's take. And the black magic angle just seemed hokey and forced to me at virtually every turn.

I almost gave up reading on several occasions. It's too bad because I really enjoyed DeLuca's Descent (that novel at one time was in my top ten favorite DarkFuse titles). I'll give the author another chance, but no, this wasn't a good read for me at all. 1.25 stars. Not recommended. 2,601 Kindle locations.


House of Rain
House of Rain
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you're not reading Greg F. GiFune yet, I'm envious!, August 28, 2013
This review is from: House of Rain (Kindle Edition)
Gordon Cole is a masterfully woven, fully dimensional, elderly character stricken with pain and powerful memories. Gordon struggles to process a gang beating up a homeless man along with evaluating his life. Gifune is so skilled at setting up Cole that the reader is compelled to follow every word waiting and reacting like a concertgoer to a demonic heavy metal riff.

While there is very little story in this novella, there is ample characterization and atmosphere, all of which are excellent. For those who like more character-driven horror, stories which dig nail deep into the psyche of characters, this one's for you. I had been reading more plot-driven fiction lately so it took me a few thousand words to sink into this one, but then I was hooked and enjoyed the read immensely. It's not my favorite by Gifune (ironically, I'd choose another "Rain" title by him, The Rain Dancers (Delirium Novella Series)) but that's like picking your favorite color M&M. He's scary, scary good with characterization. 1,470 Kindle locations. 4 stars. Recommended.


Worm
Worm
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Major worm carnage, not much in the way of characterization, save for a dog, August 28, 2013
This review is from: Worm (Kindle Edition)
What, where? Exploding toilets with sewage and worms attack a quiet, neighborhood street and its fleshy, human inhabitants. How? The worms swim freely through sewage and can--and do--attack at will. Why? The answer to that question is muddy, which takes away from the overall story.

You can tell author Tim Curran had a lot of fun writing this B-movie inspired novella. It's almost pure non-stop action from page one until the ending. The strengths and weaknesses lie in the constraints of the format: the camera never stays long enough on the same character for the reader to get to know him/her/them and thus the horror is less felt by the reader.

Descriptions, as expected in a Curran story, are awesome. Particularly when it comes to describing the carnage the worms deliver. The ending is way too abrupt to be satisfying, almost as if the author got tired of writing about the worms doing damage and decided to quickly finish.

This one feels like it would have fit Curran's zombie collection, Zombie Pulp well (obviously no zombies here, but it has very similar pacing and action as numerous stories within the collection). I enjoyed reading it simply because the author enjoyed writing it, but ultimately it left the impression of a fast food meal: something to fill a hungry belly, not something holding long lasting merit and memory. As long as the reader isn't going to take it too seriously, it's fun and recommended. 3.5 stars, rounded up. 1,826 Kindle locations.


Snow
Snow
Price: $4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forget abominable snowmen, bring on snow monsters!, August 28, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Snow (Kindle Edition)
I got the feeling the author has been or is from the midwest where it snows like a mother. The main character, Todd, has his flight canceled and co-rents a car with another stranded passenger. Todd wants to get to his son for Christmas and the only way is to drive through a brutal blizzard. Alas, they don't make it, stopping by a small, isolated town under siege by...well, read this and find out.

This is the third story by Malfi I've read and he continues to impress me with his horror chops. He took the small town group of characters battling a monster theme and added a few nice twists, including the monster itself, which I liked. I'll be reading more Malfi for sure. 4 stars. Recommended.


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