I have five selections.
1) Inferno was okay, not my favorite anthology edited by my favorite editor, Ellen Datlow. The concept was interesting. She wanted to edit a collection of horror stories not themed. She succeeded at this, but I just didn't find myself reading many of the stories and being really excited about them. I liked that the collection didn't include your typical horror monsters like vampires and werewolves. The stories are not bad; they just weren't really my favorites. The author selection was a good one; it included Lucius Shepard, Jeffrey Ford, Glenn Hirshberg, and Lee Thomas.
A few stories did stand out. I really liked Bethany's Wood by Jeffrey Ford, which was about a child's reunion with his "back from the dead" author mother. I also enjoyed 13 O'Clock by Mike Driscoll and The Suits of Auderlene by Terry Dowling, but my top pick from this anthology would have to be The Keeper by P.D. Cacek. I have never read any of the author's writing and found their short story about a young girl holocaust survivor very disturbing. It was the only story in the book that really lived up to Ellen's quote in the introduction, "Perhaps you will have one of those great memories that will stay with you always, a memory of something dark, dangerous, and brooding." I did with that one, but not the others. It takes a lot to disturb or scare me. Maybe, I'm just jaded after reading horror for so many years. I recommend this as light reading for horror enthusiasts.
2) Midwinter by Matthew Sturges was a good read. This is the first book in the Fae series. The plot didn't strike me as groundbreaking, though it is well written. Mauritane is a prisoner and former captain of the Seelie Army. He's recruited by Queen Titania on a secret mission to save the empire from destruction. After picking his band of travelers from the prison, a beautiful emissary from a foreign land, a nobleman, and a human physicist who is looking for a stolen human child, they set off across the dangerous Contested Lands with Queen Mab's Unseelie Army approaching the border. The characters are quite lovable, but I've seen them all before. I was expecting a little more from this one than I got. Still, I have the second book waiting to be read on my desk. I'm not willing to give up on the series, just yet.
3) The Gathering, a YA novel by Kelley Armstrong, is quite refreshing. I wish I read this as a young adult. Maya, an adopted teenage girl, lives with her family in the small medical-research community of Vancouver Island. Her father is the park ranger for the local park and Maya's grown up loving the mountain lions that roam the forest. But something strange is happening. The mountain lions are becoming bolder, approaching humans, and threatening their safety. What is the cause for this unusual behavior and what does it have to do with the strange cougar paw birthmark Maya bears? I recommend this one for young adults and adults. It's refreshing to read about something besides werewolves and vampires for a change.
4) Neverland by Douglas Clegg blew me out of the water. I cannot rave enough about this amazing piece of horror. This novel is brilliantly creepy and violent. It takes you inside the deviously demented mind of teenager Sumter Monroe who introduces his cousin, Beau, and the other cousins visiting Gull Island off the coast of Georgia, to Neverland, the creepy shack on his grandmother's property containing their god, Lucy. Lucy urges the children to lie, steal, and offer animal sacrifices. Ultimately, she demands the supreme sacrifice for any god -- a human life. But will Beau be able to stop Sumter? And who is Lucy? What dark family secret lurks inside that shed? I could not put this book down. Any fan of the horror genre must read at least one Douglas Clegg novel.
5) The Abandoned by Douglas Clegg turned out to be just as good. This is one of his Harrow novels, a series surrounding the supernatural occurrences at the abandoned Harrow mansion, a dark and sinister house. Teenagers go there to drink, party, and make out, but one summer night in June, a group of misfits gets more than they bargained for -- the mutilated body of a child's corpse stolen from the morgue is found in the family graveyard adjacent to Harrow Mansion. Some speculate it's an offering to open the gates to a world of nightmares in the Harrow mansion. In fact, if you live in the quiet town, you don't want to fall asleep. And make sure you don't wake up those sleeping soundly around you or you just might become part of the house's plot to maim, slaughter, and terrorize the good citizens of Watch Point, New York. I finished this book in less than a day and would read it again in a heartbeart.
As always, happy reading and happy writing to all!