Book Review: COWS by Matthew Stokoe

cows

Title: COWS

Author: Matthew Stokoe

Release date: Originally 1997, rereleased April 10, 2013

It’s interesting how your TBR can conspire against you to bring similarly themed/content books together. Recently I read ‘Tender is the Flesh’ by Agustina Bazterrica. This was followed by the ‘Twisted Anatomy’ anthology through Sci-Fi and Scary. Meanwhile, I was also diving into ‘COWS’ by Matthew Stokoe. All three featured similar moments of wretched repulsiveness, while all three had great depths of philosophical ideas buried beneath the grotesque content.

‘COWS’ has become a cult classic, much in the way ‘A Serbian Tale’ has for the movie watching community. I’d been recommended this a few times by different people. I’m not sure if it was because they wanted to see my thoughts on it or if they wanted to know if I had the fortitude to dive past the garbage that floated at the top of the water and see the story that lay on the ocean floor, but either way, I finally realized I wanted to dive in and truthfully, while this book is DEFINITELY not for everyone, I was stunned with the story Stokoe delivered.

I’m going to do my best to stay spoiler free, but I wanted to just say – this is a book that if you need any sort of trigger warning, you’ll not make it very far into it. Have you watched 2 Girls 1 Cup? What was your response? If it was anything other than ‘what is the art behind this’ you’ll be best to pass. Things that occur – animal abuse and torture, self mutilation, matricide, infanticide, beastiality, scat play and ingestion and homicide just to name a few.

What I liked: ‘COWS’ is a story that follows our main character, Steven, who longs for acceptance in a world he’s unable to participate in. He sees the dream on TV. Wife, kids, house, pet, happiness. And from that, he desperately wishes to find a way to achieve it and leave the horror that is his current existence behind. His mom, referred to as the Hagbeast, is mentally and physically abusive to him and constantly tortures his pet dog. When Steven gets a job at the local slaughterhouse, a door is unlocked in his brain and he begins to find the pieces he needs to put the puzzle together towards the ideal life he so desperately craves.

Look, there is a lot to try and get past in this book. Each person featured in here, and the Guernsey cow, are damaged and mentally destroyed. Stokoe has covered them in a layer of mud that won’t wash off and each character struggles to act ‘normally’ while battling this unseen poison that has infected them. The most obvious example of this is Steven’s love interest. She can feel this ‘thing’ festering under the surface, always growing and grabbing a hold on her insides and the depression it creates, where she understands that one day it’ll kill her, is horrifying to watch. Stokoe does a masterful job of showing various forms of mental health issues and how Steven, while suffering through his own issues, keeps trying to find hope and positivity. That one day, he’ll have a home that is filled with happiness and some aspect of his life will have meaning.

The closest thing I’ve read to this would be Danger Slater’s ‘I Will Rot Without You.’ I’ve heard others mention Duncan Ralston’s ‘Woom,’ hell, even Duncan has said he’s not read the book but people say it’s similar to ‘Woom,’ but I didn’t fully make that connection. Maybe because ‘COWS’ read as more of a Bizarro book and ‘Woom’ reads as a horror story centering on a man’s lingering trauma.

What I didn’t like: As insane as this may sound, I had no issues with the subject matter. Maybe it’s from being a clinician in my real life who deals with amputation and open ulcers frequently, or maybe it’s from having a four year old and a dog and dealing with their messes, I found it was more of a metaphor for the characters lives that Stokoe used those elements.

For me, I wasn’t a big fan of the Cripps character. While he was important for Steven’s development and self discovery, I found his character to be too-over the top for the rest of the story.

Why you should buy this: It’s interesting to me that the book I kept thinking of while reading ‘COWS’ was ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl. ‘COWS’ itself is just that, a young man who longs to break free from the chains that he’s been born into and find happiness and meaning, if only it is an idea of what it should be and should look like. Stokoe has crafted a story that does have significant depth and had me really thinking and it is an engaging piece of fiction, if you can get past that layer of filth and look for the treasure chest resting at the bottom of the sea.

This one will absolutely not be for everyone, but I see now why it’s gained such a long and warranted life in the dark fiction community.

I personally am glad I took the chance and read it. Stokoe has done a superb job of putting this one out into the world.

5/5

Book Review: The Snake by John Godey

the snake

Title: The Snake

Author: John Godey

Release date: January 1st, 1978

‘The Snake’ by John Godey is a book that completely came onto my radar by random. Through Instagram, I’ve become friends with Dustin, aka postorgasmicstressdisorder. Through Dustin, I’ve connected with James aka The Black Wyvern Bookstore, here in Edmonton. James is someone who helps you find books as well as sells books. He’s a fantastic guy and a great resource. So, through all of that, for Christmas 2020, I wanted to surprise Dustin and get him a few books from The Black Wyvern. One such book was ‘The Snake.’ He raved about it. So, I grabbed the Kindle version and wow. I’m glad I did.

What I liked: John Godey is actually the pen name of Morton Freedgood. He passed away in 2006, but as Godey had a long career of writing and releasing mystery and thriller books. His most famous or well known release is perhaps ‘The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,’ which was made into a movie in 1974 and remade in 2009, starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta. His chosen genre of mystery/thriller is on full display here with ‘The Snake.’

The premise is simple. A man is mugged and killed in Central Park late one night. Carrying a box, it falls and breaks open. Within – an eleven foot Black Mamba. Thus begins a race to find the snake, as more and more people inadvertently come into contact with it and don’t survive.

I think one of the things I loved most about this book was the fact that it was released in 1978. It’s hard to think back on how simple life was back then versus now. Hell, I wasn’t born for three more years. But think about it. No internet. No cell phones. Information wasn’t readily available or shared online. Faxes needed to be sent. Phone booths were the nearest “cell phone” option. Because of that, ‘The Snake’ becomes elevated as the easy logistics that we’d resort to in 2021 just didn’t exist.

The story follows along as a herpetologist is brought on board to try and find the snake, but as the body count mounts, public pressure overcomes anything he suggests. Godey does a splendid job of making the herpetologist a caring, well-educated character. One who waxes about man’s role in vilifying the snake but also how through man’s own deforestation, climate change and misinformation on snakes themselves, have worked to increase contact and deadly actions.

The scenes with the snake are truly unnerving. I’m a massive reptile fan, but whoa momma did Godey make them nerve wracking and tension filled.

The conclusion is what you’d expect to happen, but even when we get there, you’ll see how well Godey has wiggled in unexpected results. I gotta stay spoiler free but I was smiling at the end.

What I didn’t like: I’d say my biggest annoyance here was the love story that seemed to be tossed in between our herpetologist and a reporter. Godey tried to give it some ‘meant to be’ sub plot but it was incredibly weak and when the two characters were together the dialogue was brutal and laughable.

I also wasn’t a fan of the Church that was involved. I understood why, what with the evil symbolism of the snake and how the Church worked to get people amped up, but overall, until the ending it was a distraction.

Why you should buy this: This book won’t be for everyone. It’s set in 1978 and as such some ‘older’ un-PC language exists. As well, if a book that can be completely summed up as “a snake in Central Park” doesn’t excite you then I’d suggest you’ll DNF this.

BUT. BUT.

If that line of a snake in Central Park in 1978 fires you up and makes you intrigued? You’re in for one heck of a fun time and a book that I’m simply shocked wasn’t made into a movie. I had a blast with this one and if you’re looking for a fun story with some fantastic scenes filled with dread and tension, ‘The Snake’ will deliver.

4/5

Book Review: The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

end of the world

Title: The End of the World Running Club

Author: Adrian J. Walker

Release date: June 27, 2014

Sublime.

‘You’re bonkers, Stred!” the other readers yelled from across the silent digital library.

‘Reading an apocalyptic-end times novel while a pandemic rages is bonkers! He’s lost the plot,’ they shouted in unison.

Have I?

I don’t think so, but who ultimately knows. I’ve certainly passed on reviewing some books lately due to the direct plot of a pandemic virus wiping out humans. But this book, this came with high praise.

There are a handful of reviewers who I implicitly trust and one of them is the Grimreader. Adrian (not the author!) has been recommending I read this since we first connected four or so years ago. I bought this a couple years ago and it slowly worked it’s way up my TBR. When it arrived, I decided not to push it aside. I knew it wasn’t a book based around a Covid-19 type virus, so I had faith going in that this would be an emotionally charged, survive at all costs books.

I was bang on.

What I liked: One of the things I absolutely loved about ‘The End of the World Running Club’ was that we got to see the before, during and after. Many ‘incident’ books focus on the during or the after and allude to the before. This one starts off the morning of and we get to see the events play out.

I found Walker’s writing to be so engaging that I rarely wanted to set this book aside. Ed, our main character, starts off with many faults and I adored that we got to see how he tackled these issues head on as the story unfolded. The cast of characters that Walker introduces are all superbly well done, minor-main characters to a degree, with each one feeling alive and real. When bad things happen you ache and hurt.

The ending on this was perfect. Perfect. In the author interview included in my edition, Walker discusses the various reactions and interpretations of the ending, but in this particular readers brain, the ending worked so well. I loved where Ed ended up and how we know what his next steps would be, should he pursue them.

Saying that – there is a sequel and frankly, I’m not 100% I can bring myself to read it, should it become available on Kindle here in Canada. I would love to see what comes next, but at the same time this book was such a fantastic experience, I don’t know if I want to see what comes next. I think how it ended was spot on and I loved it.

What I didn’t like: There’s a section about three quarters in where the group ends up in a town and is essentially captured by the woman in charge. I really didn’t like this section. It was necessary and showed how some were responding to the events in the world, but I just wanted to see if they could make it in time and this felt like a barricade or barrier that was far too obvious of a plot point.

Why you should buy this: Look, I know even those who read horror regularly are avoiding end-of-world scenarios right now, but this book is a survival drama centered around the aftermath of a cataclysmic meteor event. I was absolutely riveted and was rooting for this group of survivors as they made heart wrenching decision after heart wrenching decision. This book worked to remain rooted in realistic circumstances and there was very few coincidences which allowed for events to happen without the typical necessary suspension of belief.

Walker really delivered with this one and I’m so glad I decided to dive in and discover this world. While I may not look into reading the sequel at this time, I’ll definitely be looking at buying his newest book ‘The Human Son.’

Loved this one.

5/5

Book Review: Friday Night Massacre by Michael Patrick Hicks

Friday Night Massacre

Title: Friday Night Massacre

Author: Michael Patrick Hicks

Release date: TBA (possibly late January 2021)

Cathartic.

That’s what I truly got from reading Michael Patrick Hicks latest ‘Friday Night Massacre.’

Hicks must have been laughing maniacally while sobbing hysterically while writing this. Or at least that’s what I pictured reading this. Having been friends with and followed Michael for a number of years now, he’s never once been shy about his disgust over the direction the United States has taken since electing Trump back in 2016.

As well, Hicks is no stranger to writing political based fiction. See both ‘Revolver’ and to various levels, his Salem Hawley Series. Additionally, Hicks is one of the supreme rulers of delivering unsettling, gore-filled bursts of violence. There are very few out there who’ll describe stuff so vividly that you feel repulsed that you just read it, but even more repulsed that it fit so well with the story. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who has read book two of the Salem Hawley Series what they think of when you say the word eggs.

I am going to caveat the rest of this review by stating two things.

First. I’m not American. I’m Canadian through and through (and not from the UK as many people seem to have believed). As such it’s an interesting piece of writing to read when you’re detached from the news flow when you live on the ground in that country.

Second. I’ve always been completely shocked that Trump was elected and that time and time again the powers that be have allowed things to just seemingly slip by. I’m not going to go into great details about all of Trumps exploits, I simply don’t have the time, but history will not look kindly on the last four years.

I am truly and completely done with hearing and dealing with Trump stuff. Even living in a neighboring country, so at times this book was a tough go.

What I liked: ‘Friday Night Massacre’ can be split into two distinct stories. Which is what I had to do to really enjoy how it played out. The first plot line is following Secret Service as they struggle to contain an incident involving the President and the First Family in the White House. The second plot line is more of a non-fiction told through fiction narrative where Hicks gets to really share his incredulity over just who has been president for the past four years. We get a decent replay of all of the completely insane moments that have occurred and we get to see the rising up of White Extremist Terrorist groups following the orders from their Commander-in-Chief.

The Secret Service section was fantastic. We get to see how Agent Hutchinson tries to rationally assess and subdue the unexpected event and how he works hard to push aside the more strange and complicated part of what is happening to follow his training and his superiors orders. Now, I know this last sentence is a bit odd, but I need to stay spoiler free. I went in knowing very little about the actual incident that has occurred and I think it’d serve you well to try and take the same approach.

Throughout this, Hicks has really done his due diligence in researching the Secret Service ways and as always his afterword shared some really invaluable resources. I’ve found with every Hicks book you’ll end up wanting to do a deeper dive online after purely from the links he provides.

As I mentioned before, the gore and violence in this are over the top. A press conference at the beginning really sets the table for the fact that nothing is off limits and I suspect if you get through that part unscathed, you’ll be willing to take every single body part that Hicks throws at the reader from then on.

What I didn’t like: Ok, Ok, well this isn’t specifically ‘Trump’ as the President, there is not mistake that Hicks based this abomination off of that figure. Because of this, I really didn’t enjoy the “look back” sections where a character would remember all of the hideous and despicable things that the President had done during his election bid and then during his presidency. I’m 100% completely over anything to do with that family, I actually have been since he referred to another Congresswoman as Pocahontas and mocked a disabled person, but there are some longer sections here where events are noted and cataloged and it did become a bit much.

Why you should buy this: Well, if you are an individual who needs a cathartic read where some of your unspoken fantasy punishments can be realized in the fictional world, look no further. Like I said, Hicks treatment of the Secret Service in this was fantastic and I wish he would’ve set this in a 100% completely fabricated world where I wasn’t connecting the orange President with the orange President. With the precision, military-like care Hicks takes to move this story along, it is a very fast read and one that has a ton of action and viciousness in it, which definitely elevated the story. In a way this reads as a bit of a spiritual sequel to ‘Revolver’ and if you loved that novella then you’ll dig this one.

Rating this for me is tough. I’d honestly go with a 1 star purely for the annoyance of the president character, but that’s not fair to the story or Michael. For a visceral reaction and angry response towards this group of characters, which is what I think Hicks was hoping to evoke, then this is an easy 5 star review.

Overall, this is going to hit each and every reader individually. Michael is used to having slanderous reviews where people call him all sorts of names for his beliefs. I’m not going to ever be one of those reviewers, but I will say Hicks will easily enrage readers here. And as that is some of what he was hoping to do with this, well, he’s knocked this one out of the park.

5/5

At the moment the book isn’t yet up for preorder, but I’ll be sure to update this section once it’s available. Big thanks to Michael for sending me a digital ARC.

For more information, visit his site here;

https://www.michaelpatrickhicks.com/friday-night-massacre

Book Review: Bad Pennies by John F. Leonard

bad pennies

Title: Bad Pennies

Author: John F. Leonard

Release date: December 1, 2017

Here we are. December 31, 2020. The shortest longest year of our lives and I’m going to wrap up with a book I should’ve read when it came out. Over the last few years I’ve devoured everything that Leonard has produced, absolutely loving his Scaeth Mythos and the world he’s created.

All the while I’d neglected to see where it all started.

Insane right?

What I liked: ‘Bad Pennies’ follows Chris Carlisle on a typical day of his dreary life. Only today is unlike the rest. Today he witnesses an accident and comes into position of a wallet that seemingly has magical powers.

From here Leonard shows how coming into possession with a Dead Box artifact causes ripples that flow outwards from the persons life, as well as how the artifact completely penetrates the holders mind.

I loved seeing how the Scaeth came to be and while we don’t get a complete origins story, we do get enough to put the pieces together. Leonard writes characters that you immediately feel like you’ve know for years and this one was great to see how Chris’ story ARC played out.

I also loved seeing how now having read his other work, the Scaeth has wormed its way into the surrounding areas and after reading Leonard’s story in ‘Diabolical Britannica’ earlier this year, I’m excited to see what the next chapter will hold.

Additionally the world between the walls, the Rat King and the Thing White Man all really elevated the surrounding ‘complimentary’ aspects of all things in this Mythos.

What I didn’t like: It was a minor thing, but throughout the first 3/4 we get some random police interview reports and while it worked to further the story and the incidents that occurred, the format wasn’t completely necessary. It would’ve easily been facilitated the same way as if it had been a flash forward.

Why you should buy this: This was the first chapter in an ever growing and evolving world that Leonard has created and this entered some truly Barker-esque plains of imagery. Leonard has long been a favorite author of mine and now having finally went back and started at the beginning, it has absolutely elevated everything that I’ve read that followed this. I highly recommend this as a book to dive in and start seeing this amazing world that he’s brought forward and the truly grotesque creation that is the Scaeth.

Stunning work.

5/5

Book Review: The Camp Creeper and Other Stories by Dave Jeffery

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Title: The Camp Creeper and Other Stories

Author: Dave Jeffery

Release date: October 31, 2019

Dave Jeffery has quickly turned into an author that I look forward to hearing a new book is coming out soon!

I’ve read a number of his works but I could’ve sworn I’d already read this release. Yesterday (December 28th, 2020) my dog had dental surgery. As night came around, he wasn’t doing so well coming out of anesthetic, so I wasn’t falling asleep. Looking through my Kindle, I came across this. A one sitting read that I could plow through and knew it’d be a great read.

I didn’t even know today, the 29th, was Dave’s birthday! What a double bonus.

What I liked: The Camper Creeper and Other Stories features three quick blasts of dark fiction, all featuring very different story ideas.

The first story is The Camp Creeper. We’re introduced to a summer camp that has a legend where something creeps each night. Of course we get a kid who won’t listen and has to just see what the truth is.

Jeffery had me guessing with this one until the very end. The story was quick but it felt like I knew the characters and it really made the tension ramp up.

The second story was a brutal tale of outback survival with Guess What We’re Having For Dinner. A group of hikers is lost when something in the dark starts hunting them. This was great. I loved the setting and how even in a short page count we see them start to come apart at the edges.

The last story was Cross Your Heart. This was a story revolving around the reality of a young child’s death and what happens on the first anniversary of the events. This was a really bleak story. I really liked the young kids and the way they each exhibited their own regrets from that day.

Jeffery is a master at short story fiction as well as novella and novel length works. This is a great grouping of three dark pieces.

What I didn’t like: I loved the first two stories but did find the ending of the third to read a bit jumbled. I had to reread it a few times to catch what I missed, but that truthfully could’ve been me getting more and more tired.

Why you should buy this: Jeffery is a fantastic author and this is another example of his ability to really craft great dark fiction. Demain’s Short! Sharp! Shocks! Series is full of fantastic collections and Dave’s is easily one of the best of the bunch.

5/5

Book Review: Fear by Ronald Kelly

fear

Title: Fear

Author: Ronald Kelly

Release date: Originally published September 1, 1994, rereleased November 23, 2011

One thing I’ve come to realize when you take the time and energy to review books regularly, is that some books will come your way in the oddest of circumstances. Take ‘Fear’ from Ronald Kelly. This came onto my radar after a Twitter tither erupted when Mr. Kelly tweeted that from a veteran horror writer it appeared harder to find people to review their work. I personally didn’t understand what the issue was (and I’m not trying to rehash or reopen any arguments) but I took a look at Mr. Kelly’s Goodreads page and was immediately intrigued. I snagged 4 or 5 of his works almost immediately. But as my TBR always leans at angles beyond what even gravity says is possible (in actuality I read on a Kindle!) it took me a bit to get to ‘Fear.’

What I liked: I’d previously read some of Ronald’s short stories in anthologies and loved the way he wrote. His characters and settings live and breathe and bring the reader to that time and place. So, knowing that I was excited to dive into ‘Fear.’

While reading this, I thought of an essay Ronald had posted on Facebook. One of the things mentioned was that he found new books to often push past character development and plot setup in order to dive into the action and get right to the point. I can honestly say my own writing has done just that before, and he makes a valid point. It’s also one of the reasons we see older books typically 2-3x longer than new releases. I’m not going to consider novellas as part of this equation as the very nature of novellas is short and sweet.

Saying all of that was for a point. ‘Fear’ follows our young main character Jeb Sweeny, who lives in Mangum County. This is one county over from Fear County, where the laws of nature and man are different. Initially we get two plot points that start the story off. Jeb’s father Sam is slowwitted. He fought in WWII and suffered a brain injury which has resulted in a form of amnesia where he can’t remember anything. Jeb and Sam live with Jeb’s grandmother, a woman who is doing her best to care for her son and grandson, even as she is slowly felled by Cancer.

All of this comes to a head when a snake-like creature makes its way into the county and begins to slaughter animals and kidnap children.

From here, Kelly takes Jeb, Sam and an African American male named Roscoe into the heart of Fear County to try and fix the three issues in Jeb’s life.

While this book was released in 1994 originally, it is all too topical with the looks at race that are portrayed and Kelly has crafted some fantastic characters. As for the snake creature, these scenes themselves play out as some of the most frightening scenes I’ve ever read. It may be partly my life long obsession with snakes, but man did Kelly deliver when describing the events and the creature itself.

The foray into Fear County was fantastic and seeing the oddities that they encounter was fantastic and was a great look at the underbelly of the South. The language used is not PC in the least which elevated the tension and the truthness of the story. Without the specific uses of certain words, some of the scenes would’ve felt canned and flat.

One thing I will note – Kelly’s crafting of the characters and their back stories really made for some emotional kicks later on when bad things inevitably happened and there was a few times I felt myself getting close to tears.

What I didn’t like:  Two minor things. I was a bit annoyed at how long the trip into Fear County took in terms of book real estate. The entire time I was thinking ‘GET BACK FASTER!’ You knew things were happening and that the snake creature was on the prowl. Just get back! Haha! The second thing was the continual gullibility of Jeb. He frequently walked into back situations and while at first it was just a character thing where he’s a young trusting kid, but by the 2nd and 3rd times you really began to want to give him a smack!

Why you should buy this: This novel was pretty close to perfection. We get solid back story, story arcs for each of the three main characters and resolution for all three of the narratives that we get introduced too. Along the way, we meet some great secondary characters and the events that occur all worked to ramp up each and every part of the story.

Ronald Kelly is truly a master at the craft and shows why he’s been in the game for as long as he has. He seems to have found a new gear as of late with his output, which bodes well for long time fans as well as those like myself who’ve just finally made the plunge.

5/5

Book Review: Les Vacances by Phil Sloman

les vacances

Title: Les Vacances

Author: Phil Sloman

Release date: Originally released 2018, rereleased April 29, 2020

Yup, I know what you’re thinking. Posting a review on Christmas Day. Bit much, yeah?

The truth is, I was going to wait until tomorrow, but I got a block of free time right now and wanted to dive in and get this posted while I had it fresh in my mind. A bonus – a lot of folks get Amazon cards as gifts for Xmas, so I figured maybe my review can sway a few folks to snap a copy of this.

Truthfully, this book wasn’t on my radar until a few days ago. I’d not even heard of this release, as shameful as that sounds, but Dave Jeffery has been posting his Top Ten reads of the year list, one each day, and this one was featured the other day. If Dave loves it, I wanna dive in.

What I liked: ‘Les Vacances’ is a very fast story (I read it in about 45 minutes) about a married couple who, having gone to the vacation spot for a number of years, decide to mix things up. Where usually they’d head to the English countryside, Frank suggests that they stay at a small villa in France. Lizzy reluctantly agrees and off they go.

Sloman has a way with words. I believe it’s listed at 60 pages and not a single word or paragraph his wasted. We get whisked away to the French countryside and arrive at a small farm.

As you’d expect – this is horror after all – things go horrible wrong soon after. They discover some grave stones, Lizzie sees some things and before you know it you’ve finished reading this thing. And then all of the depravity sets in and you can’t fathom what’s just occurred. It truly is like a car crash. You see it happen, you can’t believe it and then a few hours later more insane details pop up.

I really enjoyed the setting here and while Sloman gives us a small peck on the cheek of  history, we can connect the dots as to how horrible this little village truly is.

What I didn’t like: God, I hope Duncan Ralston doesn’t read this. Because I HATED the character of Lizzie and he’s convinced I always hate one of the significant others in each book I read. NOT TRUE RALSTON. But, in this case, I did! I just didn’t enjoy how Lizzie immediately resorted to thinking Frank had the hots for the hostess and how irrational she acted from the second they arrived. The set up suggested she was excited to go, but then it came off as she never wanted to go and that Frank wasn’t the love of her life. Irksome but definitely needed to show how the area hooked its tentacles into the psyche.

Why you should buy this: As I said, this is a very fast, brutal read. If you enjoy my own works, you’ll dig this. But more than that, Sloman is a very talented writer and he’s crafted a story that could easily be taken as a relative of something Adam Nevill would create. The setting in here is divine and the way the finale rolls out was spot on. Sloman has really delivered the goods with this novella and you really should dive in and see just how creeped out this book will make you.

5/5

Book Review: The House That Jack Built by Dale Robertson

jack

Title: The House that Jack Built

Author: Dale Robertson

Release date: June 6, 2018

I would wager that almost from day one on Twitter, when I started out promoting my own writing instead of my athletic pursuits, Dale connected and started supporting. I could’ve sworn I already had this book, it was listed on my TBR, but when I finally (and it took me a shamefully long time to get to it) arrived, I found it wasn’t on my Kindle. So, I snagged it and dove in.

This thing hums along. Robertson really crafted an engaging and exciting story here.

What I liked: ‘The House that Jack Built’ tells us the story of three pre-teens, Seb, Tommy and Regan, who want to make a name for themselves at school. The way to do that? Go to where the legend of Old Man Jack started and spend some time at night in his old house.

Robertson starts this off with a very familiar trope but manages to rework it enough for it to feel fresh and vibrant. I was drawn in immediately and the writing was fantastic.

Of course, things don’t go as they should. This is a horror book after all.

In order to conjure/call forth Jack, three scary stories must be told. So, each of the students tells a story, each one unique and enjoyable, and then they wait. Robertson did a great job of telling the three stories in different writer voices, which also allowed us to feel more connection with each of the kids.

As the story moves on, we get some incredibly creepy moments and Dale doesn’t let up until the ending arrives.

What I didn’t like: Truthfully, I didn’t like the character of Regan one bit. Some of it was purposeful on Dale’s part, some of it was my annoyance at the way the character interacted and some of their dialog, but in the end this made the finale of the story really grind my gears. Some of you will really dig it, but I felt it was a bit too straightforward and apparent.

Why you should buy this: This was a really fun time and a great take on a tried and true story plot. Robertson injected a lot of enjoyment in this, which kept me engaged and on board the entire time. I truly had a blast and I think this one should definitely be checked out.

4/5

Book Review: A Song for the End by Kit Power

a song

Title: A Song for the End

Author: Kit Power

Release date: October 30, 2020

Why did I not have this on my radar sooner?

I remember seeing this a bit when it was released, but for some reason I never took a closer look into what it was about. It maybe due to my recent misses when it comes to music/horror themed releases, but this sounded great.

I snagged a copy recently and threw it to the top of my TBR. If it wasn’t for a few other books I have on the go, I would’ve easily read this in one sitting. It was captivating and a refreshing take on apocalypse themed stories.

What I liked: The story is told in rapid fire fashion. We start off with a seemingly innocent band practice coming to a end. All of the members believe they’ve finally written a hit song, just none of them can really recall how it went or what the lyrics were. The song gets uploaded to the bands Youtube page and from there, things go full out.

Power delivers this story with delight. Once you listen to the song you have to tell the truth or your brain will explode. That’s right. You even so much as attempt a lie and hemorrhaging occurs. So, the majority of the story is a race to stop the song from spreading as the government tries to isolate what is causing this pandemic.

I really enjoyed all of the characters, except one, which I’ll mention in a bit. The rest were all spot on and I loved how as the reality of ‘telling the truth’ sets in, we see the ramifications become apparent to each and every individual.

This was a really great, fresh take on anything pandemic/apocalyptic related. We see the fall of civilization occur, in real time, as the spread of the song online takes hold.

Now, I do want to say – the word pandemic is one a lot of people want to avoid in literature right now. There really is no other way to describe what is occurring in the story. It isn’t a virus based story, but when the infection of the song takes hold and spreads, that meets that definition of pandemic and Power does a great job of keeping the action frantic.

What I didn’t like: I truthfully loved 99% of this book. The only thing I didn’t like was a single character. Our main characters significant other. When our main character, Bill, calls her back finally to tell her what is happening, that interaction annoyed the hell out of me. He tells her the song causes this to happen. He warns her. Yet we still read along as she turns on a computer and wants to hear it herself. AAHHHH!

Why you should buy this: Are you looking for a really quick, burst of fun with a unique and exciting premise? Here you go. This was such a blast and one that I’m glad I dove into. Power really engaged the reader throughout the entire page count. This was one that I was hoping I’d dig going in but found I loved it once finished, and that’s always a massive bonus.

Definitely worth checking out and sits nicely alongside Scott Coles ‘Crazytimes’ and Carl John Lee’s ‘The Blood Beast Mutations’ for best, unexpected fun novellas this year!

5/5