Book Review: Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

come tumbling

Title: Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children #5)

Author: Seanan McGuire

Release date: January 7th, 2020

The 5th book in McGuire’s PHENOMENAL Wayward Children jumps straight into the action and at this point, if you’re reading this review, I’m going to assume you’ve read up until this book. If not – please note, some spoilers are within, but unfortunately that’s necessary when you’re this far into a series.

What I liked: After book four (and 4.5) took a diversion over to discovering Lundy’s back story, book five focuses squarely on Jack and Jill and what happened at the Moors. A door blasts open in the basement of The School for Wayward Children and we find Alexis and Jill, but that body now playing host to Jack. Things have unraveled, Bleak is feared dead and Jack wants to return and seek vengeance on what her sister has done.

The story is told through the narrative of an adventure, we get the group banding together, returning to the Moors and ultimately confronting Jill. McGuire does an amazing job of treating this entry as both a piece of the bigger story, but also an individual dark fairy tale. We get to meet Gideon and Cora discovers the Drowned Gods and ultimately we get a fantastic climax where Jack confronts Jill and the Master is put in his place. Seanan has really crafted some really amazing characters and we even get an emotional moment with Kade and a bridge.

It was great to once again visit the Moors and even though it’s alluded that we’ll never visit there again, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do return at some point in the future.

What I didn’t like: Each character plays a specific role and it was great to see Christopher have his moment connecting with one of the horses that Jack had created. But in this entry, Sumi was incredibly annoying and I didn’t think the character added anything except being a distraction.

Why you should buy this: If you’ve read the first four, you’ll definitely be checking this one out. With a sixth already out and a seventh entry arriving in a month, you have more than enough time to catch up.

If you’ve not read any of these and have stumbled upon this review – go back to the start, be sure, open the first door and welcome to these amazing worlds you’re about to discover.

5/5

Book Review: Tapping the West by Scott Messenger

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Title: Tapping the West: How Alberta’s Craft Beer Industry Bubbled Out of an Economy Gone Flat

Author: Scott Messenger

Release date: May 5th, 2020

I know, I know, this isn’t a horror book or a sci-fi book or something deep and dark with gore and evisceration, but I read throughout a lot of genres and this book came to me in a special kind of way.

You see, way back in August of this year (2021), I was invited to my very first author event. I know! Exciting. It was at the best bookstore here in Edmonton, Daisy Chain Bookstore on 124th Street, and I was over the moon to be asked to participate. There were four of us there, introducing ourselves and reading from our work, and one of those authors just happened to Scott Messenger. I can’t say why, maybe it was us being the two males on the panel, or the telepathic connection that we both shared the same sense of humor, but we clicked and we chatted for most of the night and have stayed connected through Instagram.

This book, typically, would never in a million years interest me based on topic. You see, I don’t drink alcohol. Where I grew up, alcohol took the lives of a number of residents, grabbed others by the throat and had them spiral into addiction and helplessness or simply seemed to act as a force to keep many of my classmates in the small town. Now, don’t get me wrong – I have nothing wrong with drinking for social aspects and enjoyment of taste (I do take great issue with alcohol abuse and drunk driving) but I’m someone who can have a great time without getting drunk.

But, it was Scott’s description and reading of this book that really had it grab a hold of me. It was an interesting idea. He started a blog, One Year of Alberta Beer, and it took off. And from that the history of Craft Beer in the province unfolded and soon Scott had a book on his hands.

What I liked: Funny enough, this book ended up having two things I typically don’t find myself drawn to in books I read or want to read – a lot of information on beer and humor! But, I have to tell you, Scott’s writing is a joy and it worked really well.

The book follows him as he not only visits almost four dozen breweries of Craft Beer around the province, but dives into the history of the brewing. How it came to rise as an alternative to the major brewers and how they used different ingredients to turn their liquid into a chef’s menu, allowing those who enjoy this type of alcohol to have so many varieties to sample.

Throughout, Scott really does a great job of showcasing the struggle that it took to get the industry up and going, and how it took time for them to gain any respect. To push past a “local” tag and grow into a renowned industry. I really enjoyed seeing the major players and how they pushed against the big brewers while also tentatively respecting the other micro breweries that were also entering the scene.

What I didn’t like: In this case, instead of discussing a plot point or character I didn’t care for, as someone who doesn’t drink, I was lost when Scott was discussing flavors and ways of producing the product. I got it and know the basics, but those parts were not for me! Ha!

Why you should buy this: This is a really great look at a significant historical rise in not only the Albertan Craft Beer Industry, but Craft Beer in general. As well, the thoroughness Scott has included, while making it not only readable, but enjoyable and having perfect laugh points, showcases his talent as a writer. This one would make for a perfect read for someone who enjoys underdogs vs major player books, historical fans, beer fans, or even fans of Canadian non-fiction. I will say, it was a very insightful look at how entrepreneurs persevered when everybody around them thought they’d fail.

Outstanding book.

5/5

Book Review: Coprophilia by Tim Friesenhahn

Screenshot_20211203-073157_Acrobat for Samsung

Title: Coprophilia

Author: Tim Friesenhahn

Release date: November 13, 2021

**Trigger Warnings a Plenty Here!**

Coprophilia – noun – abnormal interest and pleasure in feces and defecation.

**Normally, I’d share the cover as both the featured photo as well as the main cover up top there, but due to the extreme content, I’ve held off and will have it lower.**

Big thanks to Tim for sending a digital copy over to me. From what I understand, Amazon has banned the book, so you can get digital copies on Godless (link at the end as always with my reviews here) and I’m not too sure about physical copies.

Whenever I get a book to review, I approach it with as much fairness as I can. I want to love every single book, but the reality is you can’t. Just last night I DNF’d a book that will undoubtedly be on many people’s year end ‘Best Of’ Lists. That’s ok.

With EXTREME horror (and yes I put this in all-caps. Every horror book has extremity in it, hence the idea of the subgenre’s within) I typically approach it by looking for the ‘why’ and the symbolism.

Case in point – I’ve read Matthew Stokoe’s ‘Cows,’ and was blown away by the symbolism, the despair and the metaphoric look at how the main character was searching for acceptance, hope, love and ultimately control.

All too often in EXTREME horror, the books are written purely to disgust and repulse and fair enough. If that’s the author’s prerogative, more power to them. What it can often do, for me at least, is have the book fall flat. I can’t root for anyone, can’t hope for someone’s survival and can’t understand the ‘why’ when certain things are done or happen. No connection for this reader means no enjoyment, typically.

So it was, that I approached ‘Coprophilia’ by Tim Friesenhahn in the same manor. I personally, have zero trigger issues. I can read whatever and have no reaction, but I understand why other’s do.

The story is repulsive and disgusting, but, much like ‘Cows,’ that aspect is used to cover the reality that this is a story about two people who’ve been abused horrifically. If I had to relate this to any movies, I’d say it had elements of ‘Hostel’ and ‘The Human Centipede’ as well as dipping its toes into the same waters as ‘A Serbian Tale.’

What I liked: The story follows Paige, a man who was abused as a child by one of his father’s girlfriends and has a number of issues that he hasn’t sought professional help over. After falling for a woman and getting quickly married, those issues rear up and he flees, only to be seduced, drugged and captured by Deleyza. You see, Deleyza, this young, gorgeous woman, is out being her own ‘Dexter.’ Seeking out pedophiles and rapists, seducing them and then torturing them, until she decides to kill them. She too has been abused, and it’s through this shared connection that Paige finds himself falling for her, even as he witnesses and is involved in some horrible, horrible acts.

I really enjoyed watching how Paige internally struggled with his outward revulsion to what was happening and just how depraved Deleyza was, with his inward understanding that she was broken, just like him and that maybe together they could make things work.

As the story unfolds, Friesenhahn gives us many twists and turns, and they ultimately push Paige to the absolute limit of what he believes, but also what he can accept. The ending showcases that inner turmoil and with an epilogue added on, I’d say half of that epilogue added to their relationship and showed how they’d connected.

What I didn’t like: There were a number of issues I had and I’ll try my best to remain spoiler free but also constructive. First up – there is a very jarring POV shift shortly after the book starts. The book begins following Deleyza and showcasing her ‘why’ of her depravity. Suddenly, the book switches to 1st person POV from Paige’s perspective (where it remains for the rest of the book until the epilogue), which really threw me off. I’d believed at first it was going to be following Deleyza, so the switch to Paige didn’t feel natural.

Secondly, the coprophilia aspect also just sort of arrives. We never do get much of a back story as to why  Deleyza has this urge. We learn about the first time it happened and the underlying threat she felt by who was doing this act, but there wasn’t a connection between that act and why she fell so hard for this addiction. Unlike in ‘Cows,’ which really showcased the reason, this act didn’t have the depth of symbolism I was hoping it could have. The character being broken down and made to debase themselves with an act lesser than low, of being made to love something that we’re told from a very young age is wrong and disgusting. I think if that could’ve been sorted a bit or expanded upon, we really could’ve seen it used as a device to elevate these two characters from scum to lovers.

Lastly, I felt half of the epilogue was good to close the story off but the other half felt a bit forced. There’s this other element introduced, that hadn’t been discussed once before, it was just there near the house and it almost felt like it was added purely as a potential sequel/follow up piece, which really dampened a lot of the growth we’d seen in these characters.

Why you should buy this: If you’re an EXTREME horror fan and you frequent the Godless sight, you’ll most likely have come across this. If you’re looking for the grossest of the gross, the depravity and sickness of a story that is unhinged and an escape, you’ll most likely really enjoy this.

If you’re a horror fan who likes to dabble in the EXTREME extreme side, I think this one’ll be a miss for you.

It’s a fast read, filled with tension and a number of questions that will make you wanting to find out more. Tim’s done a great job of giving these characters depth when some of the story works to limit how much connection we have with them.

3/5

**** Here is the Godless buy link;

Coprophilia by Tim Friesenhahn

**** Here is the full cover art uncensored ****

Screenshot_20211203-075253_Acrobat for Samsung

Book Review: 30 Minutes or Less Part 3 by Matthew Vaughn

30minutes

Title: 30 Minutes or Less Part 3

Author: Matthew Vaughn

Release date: November 29th, 2021

Over the last few years, one author I’ve really connected with is Matthew Vaughn. He’s a bit of a social media nomad, sometimes posting, sometimes not, but whenever I see him popping up, we’re always interacting and frequently DMing. It’s grown from a connection to a friendship and I’m always excited to see what he has in store.

As a reader, I’m not one who typically sets my reading direction on EXTREME horror. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of folks who love the gore and violence and the detachment from reality that can come with it, but I’ve never been an overly huge fan of it. Saying that, Vaughn may well be one of my personal favorite extreme horror authors because each of his works always has character depth and emotional aspects. It’s not just gore for gore’s sake or violence without recourse.

One thing I’ve always been vocal about for my own reviews, is that I always will be honest and truthful as to how a book read for me. So, with that in mind – I want to be upfront by stating – this one does not work as a stand alone. You need to read books one and two prior to get the emotional aspects and the depth of Bella’s survival. Because of this, I’m reviewing this book as to how it fits into the series, and rating on Goodreads accordingly.

What I liked: The book picks up directly after the events in book two and we see Bella taken to a new location by the 30 Minutes or Less Killer. Vaughn does a great job of having the police arrive and finding what’s occurred back at Bella’s place, but once Bella is tossed to the basement at the new location and finds another family has been kidnapped and bound, she knows she’s running out of time.

Vaughn goes for broke on this one, with buckets and buckets of blood, tons of slashing, stabbing and carnage. If it wasn’t for the build up of books 1 and 2, this wouldn’t really be all that interesting, but there’s little hints and subtle clues that tie the three together and ultimately give us some foreshadowing about how this one’s going to end.

The finale is fantastic and Vaughn makes sure we get to see everything wrapped up and how those who do survive will never be the same.

What I didn’t like: I alluded to it earlier, but if this was a singular novella released, it wouldn’t have any depth, any character development or any connection between reader and character. Part of it is the reality of it being part 3, but in some aspects it felt a bit rushed through.

Why you should buy this: If you’ve read the first two, you’ll want to see how it finishes. I think, ideally, you’d read books 1-2-3 back to back to back and get the entire story in one sitting and seeing just how much emotion Vaughn can truly stack into an extreme horror book. An ideal ending to a fun, heart-pounding trilogy.

4/5

30 Minutes or Less Part 3 by Matthew Vaughn

Author Interview: Justin M. Woodward

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I do a few interviews from time to time, mostly over at Kendall Reviews, but when I was chatting with Justin recently and he was raving about what was coming down the pipeline from him, I knew I wanted to take a minute and ask some questions about his previous releases. Justin had taken a step back from writing, following the passing of his mom. Now, he’s ready to return and firing on all cylinders. When I first “broke onto the scene” if you will, back in late 2016, Justin was one of the first authors to really reach out and cheer me on. He was always encouraging and he even kindly read a bunch of my work. In fact, one of the very few blurbs I have on any of my covers was the phenomenal gem he gave regarding my debut novel ‘Invisible.’

Invisible NEW Cover

That blurb got people’s attention, and at some point here, when I get my act together to get that book re-edited and re-released for it’s “5th Year Anniversary Edition,” I’ll see if Justin wants to contribute a foreword.

Justin’s writing has always been top notch and I’ve always admired how varied his releases are. So, with all of that said, I managed to wrangle an interview with him. Justin currently lives in Headland, Alabama with his wife and two adorable sons. If you’ve not read any of his works previously – get on it – he’s a must read dark fiction author.

SS: Man, thanks so much for doing this, I always have a blast chatting with you. After a little bit away from the writing world, you’re about to return big time and take the dark fiction community by storm once again! Before we get into what’s coming, let’s jump back and revisit your earlier works. Let’s go all the way back to ‘The Variant.’ I personally loved this one, but I still struggle to try and categorize it. Would you suggest this as being Urban Fantasy?

JW: Thanks Steve. ‘The Variant’ is a bit difficult to categorize, for sure. When I first start writing it I was really into Palahniuk as far as writing style goes, but my story I had to tell was about my biggest fear: losing my (at the time) 2 year old son. I’ve heard it described as a sci-fi thriller, and I’ve also heard people refer to it simply as “horror.” Take your pick!

SS: What inspired ‘The Variant’?

JW: I was really into the band Coheed and Cambria and had become friends with the Drummer, Josh Eppard. He had a hip-hop group called Weerd Science where he talked about abductions by aliens and other phenomenon that supposedly happened to his family. It sparked an idea in my head along with my greatest fear. It sort of just came together.

SS: Now, in early 2018 you released ‘Candy.’ Correct me if I’m wrong, but you wrote this as a Patreon style release, right? Delivering a new chapter each week? Did you enjoy writing that book or were you stressed the entire time?

JW: Ha! Candy was a blast, and yes, I released it chapter-by-chapter every Saturday until it was finished. It was a challenge to myself for sure. I had no idea what was happening to Candy next, and it kept it exciting.

SS: Would you ever consider doing that again? Writing and releasing a book with new chapters each week?

JW: Definitely!

SS: ‘Candy’ is more of an action/adventure type book, more Quentin Tarantino than Wes Craven. Was the reception of the book what you expected?

JW: I’m very thankful for the type of response I got. I think “most” people got it, and if they didn’t, they didn’t have to continue. This was actually a pivotal time in my writing career where I found out what was important — involving and including fans in the process. It was also awesome writing as basically a female version of myself.

SS: Only a month or so after ‘Candy’ released, you had your classic novel drop, ‘Tamer Animals.’ That Francois Vaillancourt cover still is jaw-dropping three years later. What was the inspiration to writing this stunning, coming-of-age/folklore novel?

JW: There are actually a few factors that caused ‘Tamer Animals’ to come into being. I guess the first of which was the obvious: ‘The Variant’ was out in the world, and suddenly I’d been deemed a horror writer. Of course my short stories going out into various anthologies probably didn’t help that image. But I’d set my sights on “horror.” Around the same time, a band I really enjoy called “Other Lives” had an album of the same name. The singer crooned the chorus: “We’re just Tamer Animals. We’re the same as animals.” It clicked with me. On top of that, I’d just read “The Troop” by Nick Cutter and “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac Mccarthy, and I guess you could say they added to the soup that became ‘Tamer Animals.’

SS: ‘Tamer Animals’ has a very specific theme or plot that you touch upon in the afterword. When the book was released, do you think many people picked up on that?

JW: Funnily enough, I don’t really know. Even worse, by the end of the book, I think I was just as confused as Paul was about what the message really is. I think at the end of the day the themes will play on everyone’s mind differently, and that’s okay.

SS: Roughly a year later we got the ‘Rotten Little Things’ novella, which acts as a ‘Tamer Animals’ prequel. Was it fun to revisit that world?

JW: It was! Although that book is not necessarily “fun” by any stretch of the imagination. I definitely had a story to tell, something that had popped into my mind while driving one day and demanded to be written.

SS: I would suspect we’d get a sequel or another release set in the ‘Tamer Animals’ world at some point. Is that something you’d like to do? If so, have you made any progress on that?

JW: You weren’t supposed to ask this question! Just kidding. Yes, there is a third book in the works, though it’s currently paused. It’s actually about halfway done, and hopefully will see the light of day within the next couple years.

SS: After ‘Rotten Little Things’ you teamed up with Jay Sigler (author of Train Thoughts) for ‘Jerry’s Book Sucks: The Book.’ This book was really left field from TA and RLT. More humorous, borderline bizarro and more expansive in scope. Looking back at it now, how do you see that book in your repertoire? Does it hold up for you?

JW: To this day, JBS is my favorite thing I’ve ever released. I know that sounds crazy, but it was the most fun I’ve ever had doing something creative. I love the end product, even if it’s a bit out there (especially for horror fans taste). But I think the humor is smart, the messages strong, and the trip an absolute blast. I think the problem with the reception of JBS lies in the fact that some found it a string of random events with no point. Funnily enough, the sequel has been done for some time (and will see the light of day eventually) with a third planned. Every bit of that story has a point.

SS: Man, I didn’t know that! That’s awesome that you are still grinding away in that world. Since ‘Jerry’s Book Sucks: The Book’ you’ve been pretty much locked and focused on the Reality Bleeds series. I know that you’ve now stepped away from that series and left it in the hands of the other author. Was it a relief for you to step away? Did you use it as a catalyst to dive back into your projects you’d put on the back burner?

JW: Yes, and YES. Listen, I love the idea behind Reality Bleed and I think the first four books definitely hold up as an epic space horror saga. The problem is simple. For anyone out there wondering if it’s a good idea to commit to a fast-paced release series while your mom is dying, it’s not.

SS: I couldn’t imagine. Seriously, my condolences, Justin. Losing a parent is never easy.

A tough sentiment to follow, so my apologies for switching topics, but let’s look to the future. What’s next for Mr. Woodward? You’ve announced a Death Head’s Press Splatter Western is coming. How is that progressing? What else are you working on?

JW: I’m happy to say I’m nearly finished with my Splatter Western “Here Comes The Sun.” It’s dark, it’s violent, and it’s a bloody fun time (if your idea of fun includes a box of tissues and a night light). After that, I plan to finally release my first short story collection sometime in early 2022. I have at least two more I’d like to finish before the end of 2022. One being a coming of age story about a small town murder mystery mixed with plenty of emotion, the other is my first swing at a dark fantasy novel called CASTLEMANIA! Can’t wait to release that madness on the world.

SS: That all sounds great!

JW: Thanks again Steve!

here comes the sun

There we go! It looks like we’ll be getting a bunch of awesome new stuff coming from Woodward. If you’ve not checked out his work, please do so! He also has some fantastic short stories in a number of anthologies.

To find more of his work, check out the link to his Goodreads Page!

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15612928.Justin_M_Woodward

Book Review: Undertaker’s Moon by Ronald Kelly

undertakers moon

Title: Undertaker’s Moon

Author: Ronald Kelly

Release date: October 27th, 2011

If you’ve read/followed along with my reviews, you’ll undoubtedly have discovered that I love reading Lycanthrope horror. Werewolf, werewolves, all things sharp fangs, long claws, silver bullets and full moons. Inevitably though, I’ll dive into four or five in a row and I’ll need a break.

Last year, I read ‘Fear’ by Ronald Kelly, which is not only one of the best books you’ll ever read, but a book that showcases why ‘the old guard’ often times does things better than the new kids. ‘Fear’ is a prime example of that. I’ll explain in a minute.

Knowing that not only was I ready to dive into another wolf story, but also that I had this one from Kelly sitting on my Kindle, I dove in, excited to see what he’d created here.

What I liked: Kelly, even by his own admission, has had a resurgence and has stormed the dark fiction writing world once again. It has been fantastic to see. He had a writing career in the 70’s and 80’s during the horror boom then. When it went belly up, he took time off, returning full force once again roughly a decade ago. This is why I mention Kelly is from ‘the old guard.’ And what I mean by that is evident on every single page of ‘Undertaker’s Moon.’

You do not leap into the action of this story. Much like ‘Fear,’ Kelly takes his time setting things up. We get the family from Ireland who moves into the small town, they are now the new owner’s of the funeral home. We get the suddenly widowed gun shop owner, we get the horror nerd, the jock who has it all, only to lose it all, and on every single page, we smell what the streets and shops smell like, hear the tinkle of bells as doors open and close, see the friendly baker come out to sweep off the front step. Over and over, Kelly demonstrates why he’s a master storyteller and as the book progresses, this all works to the advantage of the reader.

When characters begin to be plucked off, you are devastated. When something chases someone, you can see where they are running, know why it’s a bad idea, know that it’s going to be ending in viscera and ripping and shredding.

The werewolf action within is top notch. With each incident that arrives, the pace is fantastic and the descriptions are second to none.

I really loved how Kelly laid this one out, the story crackles with small town energy and the reality that this group of unlikely survivors need to do whatever it takes to survive.

What I didn’t like: Completely minor, and I think it comes with the time period this was originally written in, but I’ve never been a huge fan of the random hobo/hitch-hiker passing through a random town who just happens to have a connection/knowledge about the beasts/events happening. In this case, it was used well, but it’s still something I’m just not a big fan of.

Why you should buy this: Kelly is a phenomenal writer and ‘Undertaker’s Moon’ has to be acknowledged as one of the best pieces of Lycanthrope fiction out there. Brimming with emotion, depth and flawed but likeable characters, this has every thing that fans of dark fiction would want and more.

Outstanding.

5/5

Book Review: Juice Like Wounds (Wayward Children #4.5) by Seanan McGuire

juice like wounds

Title: Juice Like Wounds (Wayward Children #4.5)

Author: Seanan McGuire

Release date: July 13th, 2020

‘They could have gone back then, could have started their stew and set out again by daylight, but they were children in the clutches of a quest.’

Well, would you look at this?!

This morning I posted my review for ‘In an Absent Dream,’ which is Book 4 in the Wayward Children Series. Turns out, there’s a Book 4.5 available, and the bonus – it’s available as free read on the Tor website!

This one is about 35 pages and fills in a story from ‘In an Absent Dream.’ It’s funny, because in Book 4, McGuire mentions the events with the Wasp Queen and how Mockery doesn’t return, but with Book 4.5 we get to learn the events.

What I liked: The story shares how Lundy, Moon and Mockery decide they want to go on an adventure, they want to slay a monster. Three go into the woods. Only one returns.

It’s a brisk read, filled with tension and ultimately heartache and it does a great job of showcasing just how strong of a friendship those three had. It also works to show how the Archivist is seen an this omnipotent figure within the Goblin Market. You do of course learn more about that in ‘In an Absent Dream,’ but the story really hammers home a few key elements that were loosely presented within Book 4.

I really loved how this read affirmed Lundy’s desire to live by the rules and more specifically, how Lundy feels the ‘fair value’ aspect deep in their bones. McGuire has really crafted three amazing characters here and it’ll have you bawling when only two return, the third slung over a shoulder.

What I didn’t like: This is going to sound super lame, but I wish this was a full release in the series. I think there were a number of areas that could’ve been expanded, especially what Lundy was learning within the Archivist’s books.

Why you should buy this: Well, in this case, you don’t have to buy it, it’s free! So, more accurately, why should you read this? Well, if you’ve read the first four books and plan on reading the fifth, this will be a nice fill-in story that’ll enrich that experience you had the last time you opened a door and stepped through.

5/5

You can read Juice Like Wounds here;

https://www.tor.com/2020/07/13/juice-like-wounds-seanan-mcguire/

Book Review: In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4) by Seanan McGuire

absent dream

Title: In an Absent Dream

Author: Seanan McGuire

Release date: January 8th, 2019

What started out as a series following a school of children who ended up somewhere they weren’t expecting, has morphed and transformed into a sprawling, expansive, metaphoric phenomenon that has me completely captivated.

I wanted to read these books, but I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy them. Then, my pal Jen, aka Book Den Jen, said I had to read them and that I would absolutely love them. And she was right. Then, my pal Jen, upon learning I was reading Book Four, said that this was her favorite of the series so far and that I’d love this one. And she was right. And I think this is also my favorite of the series, because of the struggle we see within our main character, Lundy.

Side note – today I released my list of top reads of 2021 NOT from 2021. I wish I would’ve waited a day, because this one would absolutely have been on the list.

What I liked: McGuire writes so sublimely that the second you return to this series you return to the sights and sounds and smells of ‘over there,’ of the worlds beyond the doors. With this, the fourth entry, we get to visit the Goblin Market and McGuire does a stunning job of educating us on fair value and debt.

The relationship between Lundy and Moon is an absolute highlight within this. It’s interesting because watching their relationship unfold, between Lundy’s coming’s and going’s made me well up and cry a few times. McGuire really showcased the reality that family isn’t always blood. But you know what? Seanan then crushes us with what happens when Lundy returns and discovers how upset and hurt her sister has been, each and every time Lundy has disappeared. It was a fascinating aspect that added an extra layer as well as really drove the story towards the heartache and emotional develops at the end.

I loved seeing the subtle sub-plots towards how a girl grows up but is forced to be molded into what society expects. Lundy was dealing with both her body changing, as she got older, but also how the vendors at the Goblin Market perceived her each time she returned. I also loved the way McGuire used the feather’s as a symbol towards change and how people perceive each other. This was highlighted when Lundy returned to her home and her father spotted them growing. Just pristine story-telling and McGuire has to be one of the all-time masters at crafting a story with the bare-minimum words used. Even just the glimpses and hints we get at the battle with the Wasp Queen had my imagination going. Phenomenal stuff.

What I didn’t like: While, to me at least, this book read perfectly, the only thing I didn’t really enjoy was how her family responded to Lundy when she’d leave and come back. It’s a hard thing to write out, especially trying to remain spoiler free, but I feel like the father could’ve done a better job of setting up a back story for Lundy’s leaving, especially with his previous history.

Why you should buy this: Well, if you’ve read the first three, you’ll be loving these books as much as I do and will be getting to this anyways. If you’ve not read any of them yet, you’re in for such a treat and truthfully, these are worlds that sparkle and shine, are covered in darkness and dirt, but have such amazing characters that weave back and forth. McGuire has created something truly remarkable with these books and this one just may be the best so far.

Phenomenal.

5/5

My top reads of 2021 NOT from 2021!

That’s right! I’m back.

Yesterday I presented my best-of list of the top collections/anthologies I read in 2021 (regardless of year).

Today, I present my top reads that I read this past year that were not released in 2021. Confusing? Sure? But my list of top 2021 reads FROM 2021 will be arriving at Kendall Reviews in the next month or so, and this gives me an extra way to celebrate more books. I’m zeroing in on my goal of reading 200 books in 2021 and honestly, there are so many amazing releases each and every MONTH! let alone year, that I want to try and spread the love as much as I can.

So, without further wait – here we go! And remember, this is in no particular order!

A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill (Released September 17th, 2019)

This book has so much going on within that it is a perfect read for dark fiction lovers. Coming of age, monsters, portals, romance and family dynamics. Hamill really knocked this one out of the park. Loved it.

Temple of Ghosts (GhostWriters #3) by J.H. Moncrieff (Released November 6th, 2017)

I’m a massive fan of all things Moncrieff and her GhostWriters Series is a ton of fun. Book three takes the action to Egypt and we get some amazing action-packed storytelling. Moncrieff seems to have really hit her stride with each thing she’s releasing and this series is a must read for dark fiction fans!

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells (Released May 2nd, 2017)

Oh Murderbot. The first entry in the fantastic The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a truly amazing sci-fi adventure novella. Full of action and emotion, this will get you hooked and you’ll be diving deeper into the follow up books, just as I have.

Dear Laura by Gemma Amor (Released July 2nd, 2019)

JFC is this dread personified or what? From the very first sentence until the grand finale I sprinted through this book without breathing. When it was done and over with I was gasping for air. What a ride. Amor is a stunning talent and ‘Dear Laura’ shows just why she’s so widely regarded.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu (Released March 6th, 2018)

We’ve all heard the stories around The Donner Party. But Katsu takes a piece of American History and inserts depth, emotions and conflict within these characters, bringing them to life. Katsu’s fictional take on the bad, bad decisions made was phenomenal and made me kick myself that I didn’t get to this book sooner.

The Human Son by Adrian J. Walker (Released April 28th, 2020)

A dystopian, science fiction story that will never leave my head. Set in the future where humans have become extinct, Walker crafts a story of rebirth, trust and family that filled me with so many emotions. This book is so well done, but what would you expect from Adrian?

Black Heart Boys’ Choir by Curtis M. Lawson (Released September 8th, 2019)

A horribly bleak coming-of-age story, Curtis M. Lawson crafted such a fantastic story with ‘Black Heart Boys’ Choir.’ This book will transport you back to high school, and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, Lawson will show you what can happen when something goes off the rails and poor decisions are made. Outstanding.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay (Released June 2nd, 2015)

The premise of this book is top notch and the “is it happening/isn’t it happening” aspect will leave you unsettled. Tremblay writes books that feel cinematic while also asking you tough questions and on occasion, delivering tougher answers. This one got under my skin.

Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie (Released May 20th, 2014)

This book will completely destroy you. That’s not being overdramatic or “click-bait”-ish, that’s telling it like it is. All of the world’s children suddenly die. Then, they all start to come back. Only they’re slightly different. And hunger. And good Lord does DiLouie make you wish you were reading this outside on a warm Summer afternoon versus in the dark with your feet dangling like a fishing line waiting for a monster to latch on.

Lastly, a four pack. You may have figured out by now that I’m a fan of Andrew Pyper’s work. This past year, I reread four of his novels and each and everyone was better than I remembered.

Lost Girls by Andrew Pyper (Released April 13th, 2000)

Two girls go missing and their teacher is the suspect. A hot-shot lawyer is assigned the teacher’s defense case. Pyper crafts a spellbinding court procedural that is really a back drop for the real story, the true narrative, about the lady at the lake and an unexpected connection.

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper (Released March 5th, 2013)

The book that introduced me to Pyper still resonates to this day. This is dark, aching and drenched in anxiety and chaos. The scene where Ullman takes some stairs to find out what is in the room at the top will leave you drenched in sweat and wishing like hell you’d paused before there for the night. So many emotions and the ending is sublime.

The Damned by Andrew Pyper (Released January 1st, 2015)

A fascinating story about a near death experience, Detroit, the connection of twins and what happens when something comes back from the other side. There’s a scene in this one with Danny and his mom that left me shattered and will most likely haunt my dreams until my time on this plain is over.

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (Released June 6th, 2017)

The plot of this story is so utterly fascinating. A forensic psychiatrist is told her new patient believes they are the living inspiration for Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. From there a dark fiction/action/thriller unfolds that connects some dots and arrives at a finale that is truly phenomenal.

So, there we are. My fav books of 2021 NOT from 2021. I’m excited for you all to see my list of the best of 2021 FROM 2021 soon, over on Kendall Reviews. Until then, what books did you read that you loved this year?

Book Review: Zombie Santa Claus: Santa Jaws Edition by Astrid Addams

SantaJaws eBookCover6

Title: Zombie Santa Claus: Santa Jaws Edition

Author: Astrid Addams

Release date: November 22, 2021

After last years fun story, ‘Zombie Santa Claus’ Addams has returned with a follow up story, which once again is released to raise some funds for charity.

This is a quick, short read, but does pack a wallop. Going in, I didn’t read the synopsis, as I’d had fun with the previous one, but I maybe should’ve. The title is a bit misleading.

What I liked: The story takes place following the events of the previous story. Zombies now work alongside living people, tempered by chips in them that make restrict their desire to rip and shred. We get to follow Claire, a single mother who works hard to support herself and her daughter, but can never get ahead. As Christmas arrives, she’s forced to make some tough decisions.

I enjoyed seeing the struggle aspect and just how much Claire loved her daughter and how she wanted to provide her with the best life possible.

I also really enjoyed the sweet moment we got between Claire and the drug dealer who helped her out when she needed it most.

What I didn’t like: There were a couple aspects that were odd for me, and I think if this 25 pager or so had been worked into novella length or novel length it would’ve worked itself out. First up, we get a very odd back story involving Claire and someone she used to live with. It filled in a gap for how she used to support herself, but seemed incredibly unnecessary. Secondly, the ending came off as rushed and from out of nowhere. It went from a Christmas morning celebration to the oddest, extreme events happening and there was no bridge between the two. It just happens and it came off as jarring.

Why you should buy this: It’s great that this supports a charity and if you’re looking for a quick, fast, brutal read, this’ll easily tick those boxes. I don’t want to be a spoiler with the misleading title, but don’t expect any beach action.

Addams does a decent job of building a character you want to root for with Claire and who knows, maybe we’ll see more of her in future editions.

3/5

Godless:

Zombie Santa Claus: Santa Jaws Edition Edition by Astrid Addams

Amazon: