Ursula K Raphael (AstraDaemon)
Ursula K Raphael is the real name behind the horror alias AstraDaemon at The Zombiephiles. She had many adventures in various locations before settling near Grand Rapids, MI. When she isn't writing about the undead, this homeschooling mama reviews additional genres at various sites, spends time on several hobbies, and constantly updates her preparations for any possible apocalyptic event.
In September 2011, Ursula released her first post-apocalyptic short story, The Survivor.
Where to find Ursula K Raphael (AstraDaemon) online
Where to buy in print
This member has not published any books.
Smashwords book reviews by Ursula K Raphael (AstraDaemon)
- Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys
on Aug. 07, 2011
Chinked by Aaron Garrison was one of the stories with supernatural elements, and it was bad guy vs. bad guy, leaving the reader to decide which is the lesser of the two evils.
30 Minutes or Less by Matthew W. Williamson was about a disillusioned guy using his pizza delivery job to cleanse the "evil" from society.
Silence in the Court by Chantal Boudreau was told from the POV of a female stroke victim attending the trial for a man who has been charged with murdering her daughter.
Abraham of Harlon by Harley Pitts was about an escaped convict who escapes prison, only to find himself in a worse situation.
The Caged Doll by Adam Millard is a good example of why people shouldn't take shortcuts at night.
Detour by Bennie L. Newsome serves as a warning to tailgaters, and one of my favorites.
A Twisted Garden by Joe DiBuduo & Kate Robinson was another story with supernatural elements, and little action. I suppose, since I didn’t like this one as much as the other stories in the anthology, I’m going to be buried in a garden one day. ;)
All Things Being Equal by Ian Brazee-Cannon was mostly a drawn out flashback from an asylum patient, with a fantastic build-up of suspense...very nicely done.
Red Badge by John Lemut is another story with more than one bad guy; one of the bad guys is a hitman who brags to the wrong guy.
Feeding The Hunger by Suzanne Robb featured a spectacular battle of the wills between a victim and her captor.
Dear Susan by Holly Day describes one man’s porn addiction fueling his obsession with a woman that he wants to impress.
Rat Man by Nicholas Conley was a disturbing story – one of my favorites in the anthology – but, the bad guy was simply not that bad, and I suspect that most readers will feel sorry for the main character, rather than his victims.
Eighteen by Joseph Schwartzy is told by a golfer reminiscing about his killing streak; it was also another story with a sympathetic bad guy who isn’t anywhere as evil as the bad guys in all the previous stories.
Throughout the anthology are stories that speak to the question, "What does it mean to be a bad guy?" The answers provided by the various authors are diverse, chilling, and will have you looking over your shoulder wherever you are.
- Zomblog: The Final Entry
on Oct. 14, 2011
The brief introduction by Lisa Conger (author of Death by Dad) sums up what has happened to Meredith, the current journal keeper in the Zomblog series, during the zombie apocalypse.
Zomblog: The Final entry begins January 1st, two years after Sam started his blog in the first novel of the trilogy. The Corridor (Hwy 26) between The Warehouse Complex, The Sunset Fortress and The Mansion is finally complete. It has been keeping the wandering zombies to a minimum.
While Meredith has been regaining her strength, her dog named Sam has been getting trained to detect zombies. This comes in handy when she decides to leave for Vegas. Eric Grayfeather accompanies Meredith. Most of the journal entries in the first half of the novel are brief and straight to the point, making this a quick read.
The two travelers cross paths with several survivor camps, and each one has its own strange qualities. At one point, Meredith mentions the problem with zombie wolves.
I was about 34% through the book when I realized that Meredith would never be able to redeem herself in my eyes, and then my opinion of her dropped even lower after that. I never liked her character to begin with, but I absolutely hated her by the end of Zomblog III. I would rather have The Governor from The Walking Dead as a travel companion than Meredith...Meredith is definitely my favorite female character in a zombie novel to hate on.
Despite my feelings about Meredith, I loved The Final Entry. It was a smooth way to wrap up the Zomblog trilogy. It gives the readers of view of how the US has been handling its post-apocalyptic business.
I especially loved the epilogue.
- Alien Apocalypse - The Hunger
on Nov. 20, 2011
This story is very brief glimpse of what happened before Alien Apocalypse: The Storm. Readers are shown the murder that resulted in Leon's prison sentence, as well as Elliot's personal reaction to the fate of his parents. The most interesting part is the POV of the alien entity, describing the journey to Earth and the way the entity views our planet.
While the alien POV was a nice touch, I prefer the way Leon was written in The Storm. This prequel was somewhat inconsistent with the writing style of the first book.
I still can't wait for the sequel to Th Storm. Giles is an excellent sci-fi author.
- Uncivil Dead
on Dec. 01, 2011
At first, both Union and Confederate soldiers think they are dealing with rabid cannibals, but it doesn’t take them very long to figure out they are dealing with the walking dead; it does, however, take the Union soldiers nearly halfway through the book before they realize it takes a head shot to kill the zombies…the Confederate soldiers weren’t nearly as fortunate. There is a Union doctor who tries to study the infected by tying infected to trees, but he can’t find the cause or a cure.
Eventually the two opposing forces come to the conclusion that they need each other to survive the outbreak, but it’s too little, too late. Coe kept me guessing about who might make it to the end of the book, which was refreshing -- I don’t care for predictable storylines. The virus was just as mysterious; it spread to both humans and animals, but the source was never mentioned or even hinted at. Coe wrote in such stunning historical detail that I did some research to see if there was a real Walnut Woods where troops from both the North and South went missing without explanation, but, apparently, Coe just has a very vivid imagination. SPOILER ALERT: While Coe took some major liberties with the timeline of known American History, the North still wins.
If you enjoy historical fiction and the zombie genre, you might enjoy this mix of the two, but don't expect as much gore as the more modern zombie stories.
- Midnight Movie: Creature Feature
on Dec. 06, 2011
In my opinion, this anthology is the best one that MDP has put forth so far. If they continue to increase the quality of their story collections in this manner, I think they will lead the market in horror anthologies, the way Permuted Press leads the pack in zombie novels. Even the introduction by TW Brown was much better than previous intros in other MDP anthologies. Other than the distracting little icons throughout the book, I was really pleased overall with the editing job this time around.
I have no idea how MDP selects the authors, but this was a stellar cross-section of horror writers. There were a couple of stories I would have replaced with something by established MDP authors like Michael Evans or DA Chaney, but maybe the ones that didn't appeal to me will appeal to others nonetheless. When I read such incredible original stories like these, I wonder why more people don't give the horror genre more credit for its literary accomplishments.
A Golem In Ozone Park by Jim Sylvestry was based in serious Jewish mythology and mysticism, and that really appealed to me on a personal level. Unfortunately, I felt like the author was stressing the Jewish-ness of the story more than the actual horror. I didn't think this made a very good lead-in for the anthology, but at least it was entertaining.
The Lure by Chantal Boudreau was a perfect example of what a short story should be: went straight to the terror, like a double-tap with a pen instead of a gun. If you happen to be a fan of the show [[ASIN:B002LW9IMG River Monsters]], you will LOVE this story. It will scare you senseless with the imagery.
A Zinger Must Die by David Perlmutter is a mix of sci-fi and horror with some campiness for flavor...a "cartoon race" of beings really made this story stand out from the rest with a brilliant mix of comedy and tragedy.
The Pit by Terry Alexander kind of looked like a rough draft version of a werewolf tale. The plot was pretty decent with a man trying to get his daughter back from the pack leader.
The Spine-Tingling Tale of the Crystal Golem by Tom Ribas symbolized the true spirit of the anthology, complete with the cheesiness of weekly horror movie cinema series (think black & white movies). The beginning was a great hook, but I didn't find anything really frightening in this story. The ending was actually charming.
Just The Two of Us by Anthony Bell was one of my favorites in this collection, about a boy, a bully and a monster. Kids should have to read this; pretty sure this would end school-bullying and then some...then again, kids would probably need therapy if they read this.
The Fish Boy by Eric Dumbleby was another favorite: completely disturbing and gruesome tale about why you shouldn't get drunk when you're camping by the river with your kids.
And The Dark Growls Back by Aaron Dries is a great example of a horrifying story without a fictional monster...sometimes real life is bad enough.
The Visitor by Kelley Kombrick is kind of like a Bigfoot story, but with a slow set-up, and more description than action. Nice use of suspense though.
Frightening Clichés by Bennie Newsome was an AWESOME story about swamp monsters...one of the best in the anthology!! MDP should seriously consider releasing this as an independent e-story *hint, hint* The ending was superb! I want to use lots of caps and exclamation points to tell you how much I LOVED THIS STORY!!! I would really enjoy reading a full-length novel based on the main character.
Dead Planet by Ryan Hills was a space zombie story -- a theme I've seen before... this story simply wasn't as original or fear-provoking as the anthology stories...but nice to see zombies somewhere other than Texas for a change.
Hayride by Joseph A Polega is a story that reminded me of the good ol' days when Stephen King used to write about scary stuff...LOVE THIS STORY! I thought the Mom did a great job of consoling her young son on a hayride with a brutal ending.
Fish Out of Water by Carl Barker was kind of like Jules Verne on crystal meth...incredibly intense and severely alarming.
From Rebirth to Reburial by MW Williamson was demonic adventure in horror that is a must-read in the anthology.
North by MJ Wesolowski had a great story concept that, thankfully, did not include the typical snow monsters (definitely NOT Yetis)...heavy on the descriptions, but necessary to prepare the reader for the stunning finale. I LOVED the manipulation of the timeline. The writing style worked very well for this chilling tale.
Revenge of the Zombie [...] Eaters by Craig Wallwork has a censored title, so I could post this review intact. The author wastes no time with a set-up, and jumps directly into the gore (nice touch with the tampon detail...eeewwww). BEST. ZOMBIE. TWIST. EVER...title is not an attempt to be shocking, but rather quite literal. Also qualifies as WEIRDEST. STORY. EVER. I will never think of genitals the same way again. This story needs its own genre...for now, I would place it somewhere near bizarro.
Keeping It Together by DK Mok was mesmerizing: a mix of undead...zombie vs. vampire, with lots of other supernatural stuff tossed in, but nothing traditional or glittering about this story. I enjoyed the intimacy of the POV as well. Not sure if I will ever order pizza again though...nice ending to the anthology.
If I could, I would give this 4.5 stars, but there are plenty of fabulous 5-star stories in this anthology that deserve the attention, so I'm giving this anthology 5-stars. I hope MDP sticks to this formula for future anthologies. I would enjoy a Volume Two of this particular theme. *hint, hint*
- Dead: Fortunes & Failures
on Dec. 20, 2011
In Dead: Ugly Beginning, the first book in this series, the POV switched between various individuals and groups, but the shifts were easy to follow, despite the large cast. The book had ended with a huge cliffhanger.
In the second book, Dead: Revelations, there were fewer main characters to keep track of, due to the zombie hordes, and a nut-job militia group led by a man named Shaw. The survivors also discovered more about the nature of the zombie virus, such as immunity to bites.
In Dead: Fortunes & Failures, Garrett is still torturing his “toy,” the Jennifer-zombie is still wandering around, and the other groups are facing some major changes. Steve’s group has to figure out who is murdering members of their group, and they suspect it’s one of their own. Juan’s group is attempting to fortify their island, but clash with another group that seeks refuge there. The “Geek” group joins forces with Peter’s group of escapees from The Basket, and Shaw decides to hunt them down himself. There are several pregnancies that complicate the living situation in some of the groups, and everyone is questioning how the apocalypse has changed them. Many are worried they are headed down an unredeemable path.
This is definitely the best of the three Dead books.
on Jan. 07, 2012
The series centers on a conscripted "house-family,” consisting of a Teller, a Fixer, a Keeper, a Watcher, a Finder, and a Control, who can now communicate with their minds through "the Connection." As Sam, the narrator of Fervor, meets the rest of their assigned group, several of the children begin to question the secrecy surrounding their new psychic abilities, as well as the loss of some of their other physical senses.
In Elevation, the group is split into two locations, so there are now two POVs: Sam’s and Royce’s…Royce, having been rather antagonistic throughout much of Fervor, was an interesting choice for the second perspective, but it gives the readers a personal and raw view of his inner struggles to adjust to all the recent upheavals in his life. While Royce struggles with Elliot’s plan to help more of the children escape from the island of Fervor, Sam is besieged with the emptiness of Elevation, far removed from the Connection.
Sam, along with four Controls and three of his housemates, are searching for the adult latents they are expecting help from. The group of eight refugees is divided into two small groups, unable to agree on a plan of action when the latents fail to meet them at the rendezvous point, and soon split up. After parting with the Controls, Sam makes psychic contact with a girl named Grace who is being manipulated by drugs and forced to hunt down the eight children. She soon becomes an important character without making an actual physical appearance.
Royce and Elliot hide out at the High Barrens, and recruit another house family to leave the island. One of them is a Teller, who surprisingly is able to work around her Directives, and is quite willing to leave with them. Some Controls also join Royce and Elliot, although they are reluctant to work with the others, harboring the same resentments as the first group of Controls that left Fervor.
I LOVED the new characters, and I thought the intrigue and suspense was incredible, but I had a bit of trouble trying to follow the color scheme that Sam discovers in some secret files. The colors hint at what each child’s psychic skill set involves. The first 15% of the book was a tad on the slow side for me as well, but once it picked up in momentum, the story really took off.
I can’t wait for the third installment, Transcendence, when the fugitives from Fervor will join forces with the rebel latents from Elevation to confront the scholars and their experiment with genetic manipulation.
- Cameron's Law
on Jan. 10, 2012
I read a short story by Mia Darien in the anthology, Wake Up Dead, and wanted to read more of her work. Cameron's Law didn't disappoint. As a matter of fact, it was refreshing to read a paranormal crime novel with supernatural characters that did not rely on gore and sex to propel the storyline. Darien actually took the time to write quality thriller with an abundance of nail-biting mystery and suspense.
Preternatural Expert Advisor, Sadie Stanton has opened her own agency to provide paranormal services and help supernatural citizens adjust to a more public life. She is also a vampire, and a major proponent of Cameron's Law, which gives rights to vampires, werewolves, and other species. She is assisted by a werewolf, Madison. The interaction between these two characters and others in their office pulled me into the story from the beginning of the novella. I was very eager to learn more about the fascinating world that Darien created; I have a serious appreciation for authors who fashion the settings before the characters, without relying on elaborate set-ups or spending too much time on unnecessary details.
Detective Vance Johnston is a shape-shifter investigating recent attacks on werewolves by vampires. Concerned that the unrest will undo Cameron's Law, Vance and Sadie work with the leaders of the Pack and Coven to find out what has triggered the unsanctioned violence between the species. In the process, Sadie is framed for the murders of a slayer and a shifter, but she finds help in the unlikely form of a Hunter named Dakota.
The story is followed by a Guide to the Preternatural, which includes information on the array of characters within Cameron's Law: vampires, shape-shifters/shifters/were-creatures, humans with paranormal abilities (animators, necromancers, summoners, and psychics), and lesser-known species (theriomorph, fae & daemons).
I can't wait to read more by Darien!
- When Forever Died
on Feb. 16, 2012
This book is part of the Adelheid series, and it takes place chronologically after Cameron’s Law, but it is not necessarily a sequel. This time the POV comes from Dakota, the Hunter who made a few appearances in the previous book. While I felt that the character Dakota lost some of her edge that she projected in CL, I still thought the story was a fantastic mystery-thriller filled with supernatural beings. With all the different species in the world that Darien created, I’m glad she is continuing this series, and I like how each novel can function as a stand-alone.
Darien did a great job tying Dakota’s two separate cases together with her flashbacks of past centuries, and I loved the extra angle with the reincarnated souls. The use of mythology was incredible. I thought this story went deeper with the secondary characters than the first novel in the series. I just wish the ending had been a little longer - it seemed a bit rushed…almost too neat & tidy considering all the obstacles Dakota has to overcome in this story. I would have liked to specifically see more about her reunion with a long lost character from Dakota’s distant past - even if it was an explanation of where that person had been during the centuries they spent apart.
I would love to see the next book center on the werewolf secretary, Madison...I’d like to see her POV after reading about Sadie and Dakota at the Stanton Agency…maybe even Vance too. I’ve enjoyed the main characters being strong women who don’t need a male character to rescue them, but I think it would be interesting to have a Vance’s take on the women who provide the agency’s paranormal services.
on Sep. 29, 2012
I was hoping that the third book would feature the POV of the secretary, Madison, who is a werewolf, but Darien took the series in a surprisingly new direction. Not only is the main character a human is turned into a vampire against his will, but up until now, most of Darien’s plots have revolved around strong female characters.
In Voracious, “D” is a guy who has recently been turned, and due to his new life requirements, seeks employment at the Stanton Agency. This gives readers the chance to see the main characters from the first two books in a completely objective way. However, the ladies of the Stanton Agency play very small roles in this installment. “D” also struggles with the additional problem of having recently created another new vampire himself – completely unplanned, of course.
One of the things I enjoy about Darien’s writing is the spectacular one-liners strewn throughout the book:
“…he came to the club every night looking like he’d been beaten with a glitter stick and enjoyed it.”
Her writing style adds that extra dimension to the characters, making them more realistic, even if they do live in unusual circumstances.
As always, the story is followed by a Guide to the Preternatural, which includes information on the array of characters within Cameron's Law: vampires, shape-shifters/shifters/were-creatures, humans with paranormal abilities (animators, necromancers, summoners, and psychics), and lesser-known species (theriomorph, fae & daemons).
If you haven’t started this series, do so. I also recommend this as a gift for any fan of the fantasy/horror genre – with three books already available in the series, there’s plenty to keep readers busy until the fourth book.