Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blood Feud by Cullen Bunn

Blood Feud is my literary wasabi. That’s right, literary wasabi! It cleanses my palate between books. I have read this fantastic short story at least five times in the last month. It is just so good. I’m amazed that Cullen Bunn was able to pack so much hilarity and horror into 22,000 words.

Imagine an easy going American Folktale with a hefty dose of blood, spiders and the undead. All of this takes place in a backwoods town filled with some genuine "good ol’ boys". Creating these Ozark Hillbillies is where Bunn really shines. He is a master of developing honest and engaging characters. Sure, the story was fresh but what made reading Blood Feud a special experience were those amazing characters. They really helped propel the story and provided some of the funniest moments I’ve read in awhile. The comedic timing was perfect and the one-liners were spot on. I was honestly laughing out loud. Heck, Bunn was even able to give a bull a strong and humorous personality. Isn’t that the mark of any great genre writer?

Blood Feud is the perfect novella. It heaps on the blood, the laughs and the action leaving the reader completely satisfied in the end. I think I’m still in awe that a vampire yarn told through the eyes of a country bumpkin would work so amazingly well.

Pick it up for an insanely low price here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Snow by Ronald Malfi

I am a Dad. I have two lil’ guys at home and they are my entire world. I guess this is why I am a sucker for a good story about a Dad overcoming all obstacles to be with his son. In the case of Snow, those obstacles just happen to be some of the most inventive monsters I’ve ever encountered.

The story is a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Todd Curry is trying to get home to his son for Christmas. Unfortunately, a blizzard in Chicago grounds his flight. In an attempt to atone for previous sins Todd NEEDS to be there for his son on Christmas. Instead of waiting out the storm, Todd assembles a few other stranded passengers and together they rent a Jeep and make their way home. Once on the road they encounter a very strange man who claims to have lost his daughter. This stranger leads the wayward travelers to a seemingly abandoned town where there is something just a little “off”. This is really where they story picks up its pace and never really slows down.

Malfi is relentless with the horror and action without ever losing focus of the story. I guess somebody a bit more traditional than me might say that this one was “a real thrill ride of a page-turner” and I would have to agree. What sets Malfi apart from most of his peers is his expansive imagination. Most authors would be content with creating a new type of monster. Not Malfi. He has no less than 5 variations of the monsters that inhabit the pages of Snow and all of them are gloriously frightening. Of course this creativity would all be worthless if Malfi didn’t have the literary chops to describe the creatures and setting with such brilliance. Lucky for us Malfi is a true master of his craft and all of his talents are on full display in Snow.

Malfi has officially been added to that group of authors that I can see myself obsessing over in the very near future. Forget Dickens and adios Clement C Moore. I think I have my new literary Christmas tradition right here!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dweller by Jeff Strand

When looking back on my life I can pinpoint some pretty important literary moments that changed the way I looked at the whole process of reading. I can clearly trace my development as a reader through titles like It, The Silence of the Lambs, Swan Song and Boy’s Life. I remember the magic associated with all of those experiences and recently, I became painfully aware that it had been years since I last felt “changed” by a novel. Well, that all changed as I read the final page of Dweller.

At its simplest Dweller tells the story of an outcast who finds comfort and companionship in a large jawed, razor clawed monster that resides in a cave in the woods. It has elements of pure horror and dark humor but what really sets the novel apart is the sheer innocence involved. I guess its tough to imagine a story that handles murder, alcoholism, and isolation being terribly innocent but (like all good fairy tales) it takes the macabre and reevaluates it through the eyes of a child. When I read Strand I am reminded of those early King novels where he was able to channel youth and childhood in such an authentic way. The main difference between a book like It and Dweller is that King is able to describe the children while Strand makes you FEEL like a child.

I have been talking to everyone I know about this book and the description does it no justice. I’ll talk about how it traces the life of a boy and his best friend (who happens to be a forest dwelling monster) or how the story can be dark and funny at the same time. Of course, none of my descriptions do any justice to the masterpiece that Strand has created. The magic lies in Strands writing. He weaves words together in such a way that your brain begins thinking like a child again. This makes such a fantastic story so believable. For a few hours Jeff Strand successfully made this jaded 30-year-old feel like a child again and that is quite an accomplishment.

Do yourself a huge favor and pick it up here and head on over to Jeff's site for some good ol' belly laughs.
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