Book Review: August’s Eyes by Glenn Rolfe

augusts eyes

Title: August’s Eyes

Author: Glenn Rolfe

Release date: August 17, 2021

Over the last few years, I’ve read a number of Rolfe’s works and have fast become a fan. When I read and reviewed ‘The Window,’ I stated that it was amazing to read a novel that while reading it, you know you’re experiencing a book that will become a classic in the genre. I still believe that.

His last release, ‘Until Summer Comes Around,’ was a throw-back, coming-of-age vampire story. Vampire stuff has lost some of its appeal for myself, but it was Rolfe’s writing strengths that made that book enjoyable for me. I was excited for ‘August’s Eyes’ when it was announced. Big thanks to Netgalley, Flame Tree Press and Rolfe for approving this.

What I liked: ‘August’s Eyes’ opens up with two friends experiencing a horrible moment in a town’s history. Fast forward and we’re now following John, one of the two youth from back then, grappling with the ripples of that moment all those years ago.

Glenn does a great job of introducing the characters and giving them great depth (especially our teenager, Pat who had been dealt a tough hand) as well as making the small town of Spears Corner feel alive and real within a very short time.

Rolfe also introduces us to John’s dreams. More specifically Graveyard Land and his two friends there; August and One Eye. These two play an important role and, while August was fairly obvious to myself early on, Rolfe did a great job of teasing out their real identity and the place in John’s past that they hold.

One thing I always love with Glenn’s writing is that he always has characters that you feel like you’ve known your whole life, even within a few paragraphs of them arriving. No matter if they are good, bad or straight up creepy, Rolfe is a master at writing those folks who populate his books.

There’s a ton of emotion packed into this novel and the ending is both tragic, but fitting. One that’ll leave many readers gasping for air.

What I didn’t like: While the Indigenous storyline that plays out in the novel is necessary and really well done, I still don’t know if it completely worked for me. Or, more specifically, I can’t decide if it had a payoff moment for me.

As well, I found the epilogue to be a bit much and a bit too sweet. Not sure if it was a late addition, but it took some of the edge off of the ending for me. Some people will absolutely love it and theoretically it could set up a future sequel, but it was a bit deflating for myself.

Why you should buy this: Rolfe is really humming along and while this doesn’t read like some of Glenn’s traditional books that he’s released in the past, this one shows a really nice progression in how Glenn’s telling his stories and frankly, when a really great writer continues to better themselves with each and every release, the readers are in for a treat.

A book that’ll be a favorite of many readers this year, ‘August’s Eyes’ definitely delivered a fantastic read from start to finish.

5/5

Book Review: Daniel by Marcin Lechna

Title: Daniel

Author: Marcin Lechna

Release date: August 9, 2021

Even though I’m technically closed for review requests, I’ll still get the occasional one that’ll come through that meets my “exception” criteria. New authors or books with limited reviews that sound right up my alley.

So, when Cristina from Authors Large and Small contacted me about ‘Daniel’ by Marcin Lechna, I was intrigued. Marcin has an interesting background and because this was a book first written in Polish and translated to English, it had me wondering what I’d be getting into. Much like foreign horror movies, foreign (to me at least) horror stories don’t follow the formula or the norms. And while this synopsis seemed to lean more to speculative science fiction, I wanted to see what type of experience Lechna had created.

What I liked: ‘Daniel’ is a story about a man, named Daniel, who wakes one day in a white room. It’s sparse and seemingly has no exit. There is a computer which turns on to one singular website where Daniel can click on a few things, but otherwise he’s essentially trapped.

As the days go by, Daniel comes to the conclusion that this place is a puzzle and he must figure out the clues to allow for his escape.

Lechna has written a very unique story here, where there are limited set pieces but a lot of questions and what-ifs. Someone must be watching him. How else can things arrive? Someone must be visiting him. How else can things appear to move?

The prose is great, minimal but impactful and as Daniel goes through his character arc, the subtle shift in writing works really well.

What I didn’t like: It just so happens that this book was sent to be reviewed by the one reviewer who has written a book that is mildly similar with my debut novel ‘Invisible’ that came out almost 5 years ago. If you’ve read that book from myself, you’ll see some of the clues that I did that ultimately made the ending not as impactful as it could’ve been.

For those who haven’t read my book (shame! ha!) the ending will either work for you or it won’t. I think that’ll wholly depend on how much you’ve bought into Daniel’s realizations etc.

As for any worries regarding translation issues, I found none here and nothing felt clunky and there was no odd instances of dialogue.

Why you should buy this: The story was crisp and felt futuristic enough to create questions while reading that can really steer your experience reading this in a number of directions. Lechna does a great job of making Daniel a likeable/relatable character. The story offers the reader that ability to ask themselves ‘what if I woke up in a white room with no exit? What would I do?’ This really heightens the tension.

As for a rating – I’m leaning towards a 3.5/ maybe a 4, but as always – reader experience will vary!

The book launches August 9th, 2021 and looks to be only available currently for pre-ordering through Marcin’s website. If and when this gets added to Goodreads or Amazon, I’ll update this page!

Otherwise you can find out details and ordering links here;

Daniel

Book Review: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

a head

Title: A Head Full of Ghosts

Author: Paul Tremblay

Release date: June 2, 2015

** 2015 Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel **

Look, I know a lot of you think I’m only reading Paul Tremblay so I can keep the upper hand over George aka Book Monster aka Sshh_ImReading on Twitter in our ongoing battle of who is a bigger super fan. George for Tremblay – Steve for Andrew Pyper. I think at this point, I hold the upper hand (Sorry, George!) because I’ve now read two of Paul’s releases, the first being the excellent ‘The Cabin At the End of the World’ and now this one – and George will have to correct me here… but I don’t think he’s read a single Pyper release yet. Wow. I know.

But, the truth is – ‘The Cabin…’ was outstanding and George suggested my next Tremblay book should be ‘A Head Full of Ghosts,’ so here we are.

Now, this book was released back in 2015 and won a number of awards and was nominated for a number of awards. This is a book that even if you’ve not read it, you’ve heard of it. Saying all of that – I still had no idea what to expect going in.

What I liked: ‘A Head Full of Ghosts’ follows a family as their daughter, Marjorie either becomes possessed or has a psychotic breakdown. Much like ‘Come Closer’ by Sara Gran, that aspect will be wholly left in the hands of the reader. Depending on how you read the novel and how you want to perceive what’s happening, you’ll fall into one of those two categories and for that Tremblay really did craft a spellbinding gem.

I loved the ambiguity of what is actually happening to Marjorie. The book itself follows Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry and how she’s coping with the incident 15 years later. We get bits and pieces through an informative blog, Merry herself sharing the events, as well as through bits and spurts of what Merry filmed herself. The ‘possession’ was chronicled in a TV show that was part fiction/part dramatization called aptly ‘The Possession’ and what I absolutely adored was how Tremblay also adds in the real world aspects. What occurs when the show begins to air and the community and neighbors see what’s happening behind the closed doors of the house. This was a fascinating aspect and one that I’ve not come across too much in other releases.

There are some truly frightening moments in this, which I think really increased the reader’s experience, no matter which side of the fence you fell on.

Lastly – the ending moments of the show, the aftermath (which we find out in broken down detail in the blog) and the final interview between Merry and Rachel, the woman writing a retrospective on the events, was stunning and will rock even the hardest of readers.

I actually spent a lot of the first 25% wondering if Marjorie herself didn’t exist and this was purely a multiple personality type story, but once I got off that train and accepted her existence (I know, I know), the puzzle pieces Paul gave to us, one piece at a time, was superb.

What I didn’t like: I did find the dad’s abrupt acceptance of religion a bit jarring. It felt like just suddenly he started to pray and wanted a priest to be involved. Maybe I missed something, but that felt like it was a quick character turn.

Also, I hated how poorly Merry was treated throughout. It was necessary to the story but I felt so bad for this character – which was exactly what Tremblay wanted.

Lastly, and this is incredibly minor, but two real life authors are mentioned as fictional characters, with one of those authors books being named as a movie, and that was a bit off for me. It took me a bit out of this “fictional” world. Very minor and I chuckled at it, but I found it strange none-the-less.

Why you should buy this: One incredibly spot on thing that Tremblay did was use the blog within the book to actually compare the book to previous possession/exorcism based novels, which allowed for any similarities to actually be used as part of the confusion around the possessed versus psychotic story line. It was genius. Where you may be a bit put off if you purely read this and thought it was too much based around ‘The Exorcist,’ well, it wasn’t and here’s why. Genius.

Overall, this book was incredibly creepy and unsettling in every aspect. The ending left me with a hole and an ache in my heart with how Merry was used and manipulated. This was such a great character study on trauma and even PTSD, but it wasn’t until I was finished that I fully understood that.

Tremblay delivers a stunning look at a family falling apart in ‘A Head Full of Ghosts.’ I’m certainly glad to have read this and I’m looking forward to diving into ‘Disappearance at Devil’s Rock’ next.

5/5

PS – George (insert tongue sticking out emoji here!). I’m up 2-0!

Book Review: Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie

Title: Suffer the Children

Author: Craig DiLouie

Release date: May 20, 2014

Wow. Just wow. What did I just read. Seriously.

In July of last year, I came across a complete paperback set of The Dark Tower series on Facebook Marketplace. I immediately went to pick it up and while chatting with the man (aka capitalbookreview on Instagram) we shared some books we’d read that were page turners. He asked if I’d read ‘Suffer the Children’ by DiLouie and I was pretty sure I had. Turns out – I hadn’t. Turns out – I didn’t even own it. So, I snagged the Kindle version. I was going to dive into it asap, but lo and behold, I was approved for DiLouie’s ‘The Children of Red Peak.’ I read that and reviewed it in November of 2020 and you know what – as I said then, I repeat now – I loved that book and hated that book. It gave me such a visceral response to it that I wanted to both throw my Kindle across the room (I WOULD NEVER DO THAT! MY PRECIOUSSSS) and drive to DiLouie and shake his hand.

As things go, my TBR is packed, so it took me a bit to get to ‘Suffer the Children.’ When the book came up as the next to read on my list, I didn’t even hesitate. At worst, DiLouie would do it again, craft a story that had me engaged yet furious with reading it, at best – it would be a stunning read. As luck would have it, this one delivered in spades. I didn’t even read the synopsis, I couldn’t recall what it was even about, all I knew was that capitalbookreview had raved about it and at one point the synopsis had left me stunned.

What I liked: DiLouie. What a jerk. You know why? If I would’ve re-read the synopsis, the air from the room wouldn’t have been sucked from it when the hammer drops.

The story opens up simply enough. Regular folks doing regular things. Living life and going about their routines. Then all of the children in the world suddenly die. In the case of one of our main couples, Doug and Joan, Joan has managed to find a time to go see a movie with her friend. Doug takes the two kids to a birthday skating party. While the kids skate around, something starts to happen. The kids drop one by one. And so it begins.

The entire opening of this book was horrific. I was reading it with tears in my eyes and my mouth open. The world came to a stand still. Now, what? What was next? As the world began to comprehend the new reality, DiLouie decides to take it one step further. As the characters begin to say their goodbyes and bury them in mass graves, the kids all come back. Returned to “life.” Herod. A strange, mysterious disease that brings them all back, but only for brief periods of time. I really enjoyed the layered science that Craig uses within, explaining how this disease has infected the kids.

By the time the parents all realize the ‘how’ of getting more time with their kids, changes have begun.

I’ve said it before, I’ve kind of lost all interest in the vampire trope. I’ve never found them scary or all that interesting, but DiLouie does something unique here and reinvents it. Interesting to read this during a Global Pandemic, though. The riffs on society and how people change and became so selfish, so fast really resonate, even though this book came out seven years ago.

While, this book is a ‘vampire’ story, that’s such a minor part of it. You won’t find kids growing fangs or the sun coming up and garlic everywhere. Instead, what you’ll find are doctors struggling to make sense of what’s happened, parents deciding to do whatever it takes to get one more pint of ‘medicine’ and kids losing themselves and transforming. Just a harrowing descent from everyday life to the acceptance that mankind is running out of time.

What I didn’t like: Two things. The first is a specific character. Ramona. She really ground my gears from her introduction until the very end. She was done really well, but if I met her in real life I’d make sure to never talk to her ever again. The second was just how accurate some of the book was. I know that sounds odd, and I loved this book, but the similarities to the world right now and a few things made me angry, remembering how things were with toilet paper shortages and people becoming more selfish and more entitles.

Why you should read this: I’m always a fan of a book when it completely reinvents a popular/common theme and DiLouie’s take on the vampire lore was fantastic. It made me remember how much I loved the show ‘The Strain’ with dealing with real people and real decisions. This wasn’t a secret society battling blood suckers who are super powerful. These were parents struggling with the sudden deaths of their kids and trying to figure out how to keep bringing them back. Very emotional, heart wrenching story and I can see why this was nominated for a Stoker.

Outstanding book and one I’ll not soon forget.

5/5

Book Review: Vaudeville by Greg Chapman

vaudeville

Title: Vaudeville

Author: Greg Chapman

Release date: May 19, 2021

It’d be fair if you were seeing this review and found yourself confused.

Yes, I did recently read and review Chapman’s collection ‘Vaudeville and Other Nightmares.’ And yes, the title story is in that collection. But, now, the title story – a novella – is getting a stand alone release and fans of Chapman know just how fantastic that is, that more people will get their eyes on Greg’s work.

Greg kindly sent me both to read and review and I devoured the main novella and the collection over the course of a few sittings.

What I liked: ‘Vaudeville’ itself is a tense, tight read that is only about 50 pages or so. The story follows a young boy, Anthony, struggling to continue on after his father took his own life in the woods near the family home. His mother has stopped paying attention to him and high school hasn’t been so kind. So, one day, Anthony goes to the woods, searching for answers and finds Mr. Crispin, the leader of the ghoulish gang that inhabits the forest.

Chapman really has created a creepy story, but it’s the truly creepy characters within this that I found most unsettling. Crispin has two other ‘pals’ in his act and everything about this trio was unnerving. The entire time I wished I could yell for Anthony to run home, to stay away, but you know a bargain will be made and consequences will occur.

Greg did a stunning job of bringing the forest and these characters to life and Anthony may be one of the best young characters I’ve ever read. The depth giving to him is amazing and his hurt is palpable.

The ending, or finale, was spot on and as much as it hurt, it was exactly what the story required.

What I didn’t like: The story itself follows a plot line that’s been done before, but that doesn’t hurt it at the end of the day. You know how this will end, but you won’t be able to look away. For me this isn’t a criticism, but for some you may feel like you’ve read similar before.

Why you should buy this: I’ve said it so many times, but Greg Chapman is an author you NEED to be reading. His stories are so amazing and he can flip a switch between emotional depth and blood curdling carnage. Greg is one of my favorite authors and time and time again he delivers dark stories that stay with the reader long after you’re done.

‘Vaudeville’ is a fantastic novella and if you’re someone who loves dark stories that surround circus/carnival themes, you’ll absolutely love this.

Up for pre-order now!

5/5

 

Book Review: Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells

rogue

Title: Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)

Author: Martha Wells

Release date: August 7th, 2018

At this point in sci-fi/action literature, Martha Wells has established herself as one of the greatest living authors and you can reserve a place on each award ballot for whatever her latest Murderbot entry is.

I, of course, am playing catch up in the series. Book 5 has just came out a few weeks back and Tor announced Wells has signed on for three more books in the series. It was originally Patrick Rothfuss who turned me onto this series with his review of book one, but seeing so many folks loving this series, I’ve been excited to dive in.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect with book three, and after book one I’ve stopped reading the synopsis’, so I dove in, wondering what our sarcastic Murderbot would get up to.

What I liked: Book three continues the story of Murderbot trying to get to the bottom of what happened to them many years ago. This is explained in more detail in book one and discussed in book two, but in book three they decide to try and help out the Doc who aided them in book one by trying to find more clues about those events.

Wells has created an iconic character with Murderbot (they even have their own active Twitter feed!) and as always we find them struggling with their desire to get their own answers and ultimately be able to watch tv programs while knowing they ultimately want to help those who’re in danger or following directions that’ll get them killed.

In this one, we get another story line where Murderbot has to tolerate another robot/machine character and it’s here where Wells really excels with the internal workings of Murderbot and how much they despise pleasantries and inside jokes.

The story has a ton of action and acts as a fine stand alone but also pushes the over-arcing plot of the series, which sets up book four really nicely.

What I didn’t like: Ultimately, this was a bit ‘more of the same,’ where we know Murderbot is going to have to protect the humans as they do have a conscious and as much as Wells keeps trying to show us that Murderbot doesn’t care about humans, three books deep tells us otherwise. I’m hoping book four reduces that aspect a bit and we see Murderbot make bigger bounds towards embracing their empathetic side, but I doubt it, ha!

Why you should buy this: If you’re invested in book one and two, you’ll want to keep following along and while this wasn’t the highlight so far of the three books I’ve read, this was a really great follow up and a fun read.

Murderbot is a unique character in that they are, at their base, a killing machine, but it’s a bit like watching Robocop have parts of his human identity burst through and aid in overriding their directives. Book three was a fun time and I’ve excited to jump into book four shortly.

4/5

Book Review: The Ravening by Chris Kosarich

the ravening

Title: The Ravening

Author: Chris Kosarich

Release date: March 20, 2021

I’ve read a few of Kosarich’s work, but when I saw the synopsis and cover for his latest ‘The Ravening’ I was excited. Off all of his releases so far, this was the one that was certainly going to be directly up my alley.

What I didn’t expect was a seemingly throwback to my youth when you’d rent a VHS based on the cover and the potential for nudity and be rewarded with a fantastic film and tons of gore, death and skin.

Kosarich nailed this one, what a fun ride.

What I liked: The story is fairly standard fare for a horror book. An isolated resort gets cut off from the mainland when an accident crumples the bridge. At the same time a massive tropical storm barrels down on them. Of course, this is a horror tale, so ‘something’ is awakened in the water near the resort and begins to infect and rip apart humans as it spreads.

Kosarich, as I mentioned, as made a perfect B-Horror novel. I don’t mean that in a negative way or disparaging in the least, but it’s the most precise way for me to describe just the gloriousness of what you’re in store for.

I really loved the way the characters wove between their jobs, their responsibilities but also their personal issues. Kosarich makes even the lesser characters feel real and as the storm arrives and the ‘thing’ arrives, you’ll feel sad as they fall one after another.

Lastly, I just want to mention, Kosarich has added an additional layer to the story with a mysterious group and some strange things that he mentions will be expanded upon. I won’t go too deep into this, as I want to remain spoiler free, but I’m intrigued to see what comes next.

What I didn’t like: While the characters were well done, there were still some that really ground my gears and felt superficial with their desires/wants. Most of them were minor overall to the plot, but a few had bigger roles and I was annoyed whenever they’d resurface.

Why you should buy this: Of the work I’ve read of Kosarich’s, this is easily the best thing he’s done. I loved the direct opening of this book and how he delivered a cinematic story that really felt like a classic horror slasher. This was a ton of fun and I think folks who enjoy a lot of Unnerving’s recent Rewind or Die series will really enjoy this.

5/5

*At the moment it appears to be only out in ebook, but I have seen Chris share a full cover wrap so I’d expect the paperback to arrive shortly

Book Review: The Damned by Andrew Pyper

the damned

Title: The Damned

Author: Andrew Pyper

Release date: January 1st, 2015

I don’t often make it a habit to re-read books, but as time marches on and I get further from the books that first introduced me to Andrew’s work, I knew I had to dive back in. I’ve spoken many, many times of discovering ‘The Demonologist’ and purchasing both ‘The Damned’ and ‘Lost Girls’ immediately after finishing ‘The Demonologist.’

It’s an odd thing though, isn’t it – re-reading. Seeing different things pop up that you’ve some how missed or that now connect you to the book in a way you never expected.

When I read this, six years ago in Abbotsford, I was married and we didn’t have a kid yet. In October that year, we’d move to Calgary, as I pursued my Olympic dreams of competing for Canada in Bobsleigh and by August of 2016, our son would arrive. I was a completely different human. And maybe that’s why I really liked this book, but didn’t love it? Maybe that’s why some of the more emotional moments that reading now absolutely crushed me, didn’t have the same weight back then? I can’t say. While reading this for the second time, I came across a scene that left me so rattled, just bathed in sorrow that I had to put the book down for the rest of the night as the tears that came wouldn’t allow the Kindle screen to be visible. I actually messaged Andrew the next day about the scene. I can’t believe I’d forgotten about it, as I know it’ll never leave me now, but again – that may be because of where I am now versus where I was then.

What I liked: In my recent review of ‘The Demonologist’ I mentioned Andrew’s look at grief and searching for a missing loved one over a five book arc. ‘The Damned’ falls into the fourth of the five books, released in 2015 and just two years before the final chapter of this saga, ‘The Only Child’ arrived in 2017.

‘The Damned’ follows Danny Orchard, international best-selling author about his memoir where he died and came back to life. The reason this particular memoir exploded – he died trying to save his twin sister, Ash, from a house fire and he brought back proof of the afterlife. What proof? While he was in The After, the name given to the place between life and death, he found his mom and she gave him her watch that she was buried with.

I typically don’t like getting too personal in reviews, but with ‘The Damned’ I’m going to. So, apologies, as normally I try to just focus on the book itself. In ‘The Damned,’ when Ash and Danny were born, Ash died and was brought back to life, the doctors and nurses saving her. Danny alludes to the fact that throughout her entire life, Ash has been ‘evil,’ that something lies just below the surface that maybe she brought back with her from over there.

I’ve discussed it before, but I typically don’t share it that often, but when my son was born, both him and my wife were pronounced dead. They were both officially gone for six minutes before they were both able to be revived. Efforts had been stopped but for some unknown reason, the anesthesiologist suggested they do something for my wife and something for my son and both worked. It’s a moment in my life that was crushing as I signed papers for organ donation etc, but also a moment of sheer amazement and disbelief as suddenly the ER Nurse burst into where I was waiting and told me to follow her as they were back. Now, I don’t believe either of them brought anything back over from the other side, reading this part in the book was very surreal. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten that this book had this story line.

The main plot point of ‘The Damned’ is that Ash continues to haunt Danny, working hard to prevent him from any happiness in his life. This ramps up when Danny meets Willa and her son Eddie and they become a family unit quickly.

If you’ve read any of Andrew’s writing before you know how devastatingly descriptive he can be. Simply turn of phrases have dagger-like impact on the reader and with ‘The Damned’ he doesn’t hold back.

One thing that I felt reading this was this was one of the few works that really seemed to wear the research books on its sleeve, and not in a bad way. ‘Proof of Heaven’ by Eben Alexander is a focal point of this novel. In Alexander’s non-fiction, real book, he describes what happens when he died and when into his after. Andrew offers up a number of philosophical questions throughout this one, but they seem to be rooted in the idea of what may await us when our time on this planet is over.

The book itself also reminded me of Richard Matheson’s ‘What Dreams May Come.’ Caveat here – I love the movie and as of yet, I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the book. But this idea of finding one’s loved one and trying to make things right follows along well with Pyper’s five book narrative.

The last research/inspired by book that I’m suggesting (and this is 100% a hypothesis on my end) is Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Pyper has spoken before of how, no matter what you think of King/King’s writing etc, one thing you can’t take away is how he’s changed the horror world. King is to horror as Kleenex is to tissue paper. Within ‘The Damned’ I found a few suggestions (and again this may have been me looking too deeply into it) that this story was offset just slightly from the path of the one true beam. We even get descriptions of similar parts ie: a beast chase (which is even the beast featured on book 4.5 of the series), a train/monorail type vessel, the singular narrative of following a pull etc. Time and time again, I wondered if this was Andrew, not so much writing a book to be thought of as a Dark Tower book, but his own personal tribute to that fictional world.

The ending of this is superb. The book gallops along from start to finish, but I think this is the one book (out of the five narrative I’ve proposed) that ends decidedly on a different note than the other ones, but it is spot on perfect.

As for the scene I mentioned earlier that absolutely devastated me – if you end up reading this either because of my review or because you’re a Pyper fan – when you get to there, you’ll know. I almost wish I’d never read that chapter, so soul crushing it is.

What I didn’t like: With all the books I truly love, it’s often hard to find things I dislike, but I want to stay fair and objective. When it comes to ‘The Damned’ I think the character of Ash will be very polarizing for readers. A character you either loathe or absolutely wish wasn’t involved at all. She is the perfect character to pull Danny along – his twin and the ‘better’ version, but she was absolutely infuriating.

Why you should buy this: ‘The Damned’ manages to be both a fantastic thriller where our character Danny searches for the answers that’ll set him free, but also a possession-type tale where his twin sister comes back to haunt him and inflict trauma on him and his new family. Pyper is an absolutely stunning writer, and honestly if you’ve not figured out I love his work, I don’t know what else to say ha! My second go-around with this book really surprised me, especially with just how much of the book I’d not remembered and how much of it I connected with in a new and very emotional way. This is one of the very best by one of the very best and if you have it on your TBR, do yourself a favor and bump it up. Stunning work.

5/5

Book Review: Vaudeville and Other Nightmares by Greg Chapman

vaudeville collection

Title: Vaudeville and Other Nightmares

Author: Greg Chapman

Release date: March 10, 2019

Big thanks to Greg for sending this my way. Truth be told – the title novella in this collection, ‘Vaudeville,’ is getting a stand alone release shortly. So after chatting with Greg, this was a two-birds-one-stone review set up!

As you probably already know, I’m a massive fan of Greg’s work and ‘Vaudeville and Other Nightmares’ is another prime example of why you should be reading both is short and long fiction.

I’ll have a more in-depth review of the title story once Greg shares the cover for it, but for now I’ll focus my review on the collection as a whole.

What I liked: The collection opens up with the stunning novella ‘Vaudeville.’ As I indicated, I won’t say much about it here, other than it was a fantastic piece of dark fiction and reminded me of a lot of the dark fantasy stories/cartoons I used to watch growing up. Very similar feel to those.

Of the stories within, the other two that really stood out and were my favorites were ‘Deluge’ and ‘The Only Son.’

‘Deluge’ starts with this line; When the sky turned red, the people of Fairhaven ran screaming into the streets. Hooked. The story goes places you can kind of expect with that opening line, but with Greg’s deftly controlling the narrative expect darkness and brutality. My minor gripe with this one was I wished it had been novella length as there were a number of places that could’ve been expanded or increased that would’ve really been great to see.

‘The Only Son’ is a story that’ll stay with me for a long, long time. This would make for such an outstanding one-man play and has some of the most haunting imagery that I’ve ever read. This is a bread and butter Chapman storytelling and worth the admission price alone. I can’t say too much about the story as I don’t want to spoil it, but just expect a heartbreaking introspective piece that is purposefully vague.

Throughout, Chapman delivers some eerie and frightening pieces, which shows his scope of conjuring emotional responses to stories you didn’t expect to hit you in those ways.

What I didn’t like: Honestly, I’m so burned out on anthologies and collections that if I wasn’t reading this one to specifically review the main novella, I would’ve passed. Collections can be draining as not all stories will click. In this one, I only had one story I wasn’t overly a fan of, but as with all experiences, that one story may well be your favorite.

Why you should buy this: ‘Vaudeville and Other Nightmares’ is a fantastic collection and comes with some amazing illustrations, which always shows how talented Greg is. If you’re looking to experience his writing over a number of ideas, this collection is a great place to start. I’ve loved everything Greg has released that I’ve read. Look for my in-depth look at the ‘Vaudeville’ novella soon, but until then, definitely give Chapman’s work a go!

5/5

Book Review: Unplugged by J.B. Taylor

Title: Unplugged

Author: J.B. Taylor

Release date: April 14, 2021

Funny thing about social media is you’ll randomly connect with some of the most awesome people through the most random of ways. I think it was either a sarcastic making fun of Duncan Ralston or Edward Lorn Twitter thread where myself and J.B. Taylor connected (I might be wrong but joking about something was definitely how we connected). From there is was the usual level of goofy interactions, funny gifs and memes on each others tweets etc and hilarity ensued.

It wasn’t until I posted a review of one of Martha Wells’ Murderbot books that J.B reached out. Many folks think I purely read horror (which isn’t true of my reading or my writing) and he asked if I’d take his debut novel for a spin.

He labelled it sci-fi/dystopian/cyber punk which had me intrigued. I’ve not read a lot of cyber punk, but what I have I’ve enjoyed, so I agreed and dove in.

What I liked: ‘Unplugged’ follows Zendaya in a world where blind devotion is given to a mysterious figure and the earth has been scorched. The story itself follows along at a break-neck pace with layer upon layer unraveled.

I really enjoyed how this one followed a fairly standard mystery set up. Not to say that’s a bad thing, but little details and hints are dropped and it’s up to the reader to try and connect these clues at the same time Zendaya does.

There is some truly fantastic imagery in this book, cinematic in scope and this setting is what really propelled the story along. Knowing that not everything you see is what truly is there.

Taylor has a really easy way of writing, even when we get some deeper sci-fi moments and the way things occur throughout really pulled me along, made me want to know just what the heck is going on.

What I didn’t like:  Hard, classic sci-fi moments are tough for me. There are moments of this where we get a lot of description on how something works or how the tech operates and I have to consciously work to not tune those parts out as I know it’ll play a role later on. For the most part these moments are minimal, but it was something that cropped up.

Why you should buy this: If you like visiting imaginative new worlds where nothing is what it seems and you just never know what the next chapter will bring – this one’s for you. I really had a blast with Taylor’s ‘Unplugged,’ a very strong debut that introduced us to memorable characters and a stunning playground that they lived in.

4/5