Book Review: Always Judge a Book By It’s Cover by Morton R. Leader

judge a book

Title: Always Judge a Book By It’s Cover

Author: Morton R. Leader

Release date: March 9th, 2020

At some point recently, I connected with Morton on Twitter. Morton kindly snagged a bunch of my free ebooks when offered a few weeks back, but it was when they replied to my sarcastic 1 star post about my book ‘Ritual’ that they just wished to see some reviews of their book, my reviewer heartstrings were delicately plucked and I grabbed a copy of their book.

I’ll be very honest here and say that this book is very rough around the edges. I didn’t see any mention or acknowledgement of an editor and at times this shines through to an extreme degree.

What I liked: The story follows Jenny, grieving for the death of her grandmother, who has left her her house. When some yard work is needed to be done, she hires a man to come get some of it finished and they connect.

It’s at this point that a lot of the book will either connect with the reader or go off the rails. They discover that Jenny’s grandma was a witch and accidentally find out that they can switch bodies, which leads to them getting it on while inhabiting the other persons body etc. Parts of this were good fun, parts of it were sophomoric and cringe worthy.

Morton does have an ease with which they write, and the story flows along well for the most part.

What I didn’t like: For me, personally, the book went of the rails with the body swapping. I’m open to reading about anything (just check my browser history), but it became a bit repetitive. This very well could have been a unique plot point used to further the story, but I just found it bogged it down.

I think Morton can definitely improve on refining a lot of what was happening here and there is big time potential with the meat of this story, once passed through the eyes of a few more beta readers and an editor.

*For those reading this – I am not going to mention the cover of the book for a book with this title. There may very well be a reason for it specifically or financially.

Why you should buy this: I won’t go into what happens after the body swapping starts, but safe to say, things keep taking a turn from there. I think if you’ve read the line that they swap bodies and explore things and that intrigues you, you’ll want to dive into it.

I’m excited to see just what Morton can come up with next and I think we’ll be seeing a writer working hard to improve their craft!




Book Review: REEK by Bradley Freeman


Title: REEK

Author: Bradley Freeman

Release date: August 21, 2014

Can’t believe I’m going to start a review by saying this (and I know he’ll print it and screenshot it blah blah blah!) but David Sodergren – YOU WERE RIGHT.

You see, ever since I became friends with Mr. Sodergren, author of such fantastic books ‘The Forgotten Island,’ ‘Night Shoot’ and ‘Dead Girl Blues,’ David has been telling me to read ‘REEK.’ At one point it was probably every other day, then weekly. But it would always be so casual. “Oh, hey, wow, I see you read another thirteen books last week, was one of them REEK?”

So, here we are. I finally got to it in my TBR. At the same time I started this, I saw the amazing Char was reading it and I was excited to see her thoughts. Spoiler alert – she had a blast.

I will admit, at one point late last year, I was a bit put off by reading so many ‘abandoned island’ books, but after taking a break from them, ‘REEK’ was the perfect re-introduction.

What I liked: ‘REEK’ has a very straight forward premise. Former famed director Kojima is trying to return to greatness. He has an idea, that will surely be a blockbuster. So, he gathers a group of unsuspecting people to come to an old abandoned island to film a documentary. You see, Pokere Island is said to be haunted and Kojima plans to film a ghost.

From that simple idea, Freeman delivers a gore-filled story. There are a number of characters in this, but instead of being overwhelmed by the volume, Freeman deftly introduces them, creates great interpersonal relationships and as the story unfolds, fills in their back story’s and why each person is experiencing what they are.

The island itself plays a smaller role than I expected, as it was more the haunted inhabitants that inflict damage, but the isolation and mythology that’s been built around it are fantastic and work well to create havoc when the chances of rescue occur.

Bradley really created some outstanding deaths in here. We’re talking top of the line video game carnage. For readers who love vivid descriptions going over all of the gruesome details, you won’t be disappointed.

What I didn’t like: Incredibly minor, but I found no reason for the police officers back story to come about. It felt forced a bit, as though he absolutely needed a reason for his actions, but I really didn’t see why we needed to have any of those details. It really doesn’t detract at all, but felt unnecessary.

Why you should buy it: Well, I mean, has Sodergren been messaging you all the time? If so – buy it. Shut him up! Ha! Otherwise, for the rest of you, Freeman has an incredibly easy writing voice to allow the reader to fall into the story. It flows and the book has short, snappy chapters. Freeman makes sure to give this book a ton of emotion, which in turns gives us some great moments and heartbreaking punch as things go from bad to worse.

If you like found footage movies and found footage books, the premise here should really appeal to you, as well, if you love the abandoned island plot, you can’t go wrong.


Book Review: The Old One and the Sea by Lex H. Jones

old one

Title: The Old One and the Sea

Author: Lex H. Jones

Release date: November 1st, 2019

What a stunning, little piece of fiction ‘The Old One and the Sea’ is.

Released through Sinister Horror Company’s Kids imprint, Lex H. Jones expertly delivers a kids story that introduces young readers to Lovecraft’s The Old Ones, specifically Cthulu, affectionately known as Oolu here.

When this was released, I saw so many folks raving about it. I ordered it on Kindle as well as a physical copy, but for whatever reason I didn’t get to this sooner. Heck, between the time this was released and me reading it, I appeared in an anthology with Mr. Jones (humble brag!).

What I liked: The book follows a young Howard, living at the ocean’s edge. He’s struggling with the reality that his father isn’t returning from war and memories of his dad are everywhere. His mom is doing her best and an older male with a fascination with the stars treats Howard kindly. Then, one night, the town is rocked by an earthquake, which results in an odd, black reef jutting forth from the depths. From this point on, Jones introduces Oolu and we get to see the creature and the boy develop an unlikely friendship while the reader gets to experience some poignant philosophical passages.

Jones has really done a great job of introducing Lovecraft’s mythos to younger readers while also crafting a beautiful story of childhood sorrow and imagination. This book left me with tears a number of times, and now that I’ve read it, I’m excited for when I can read this with my own son.

What I didn’t like: Jones created a perfect set up for the ‘why’ of Lovecraft creating and writing the mythos he does as an adult, and the epilogue was great. One thing that I found interesting (and while I understand it, as it is a kids book) was that in the epilogue there was no mention of Lovecraft’s personal beliefs tainting how he is remembered. It is very minor and when you take this purely as a kids book, completely makes sense, but if you have a slightly older reader who would look into Lovecraft following reading this, a lot of questions may arise.

Why you should buy this: If you’re looking for a fantastic bridge story to introduce your little ones to Cthulu and the Old Ones mythos, this book is perfect. Jones writes with such delicacy in here, really making for a sweet and adorable read filled with so many emotions. I should’ve read this far earlier, but now that I’ve read it, I have to say – if you have this on your TBR, definitely get to it! It was awesome.



Book Review: Jagged Edges & Moving Parts by Pete Mesling


Title: Jagged Edges & Moving Parts

Author: Pete Mesling

Release date: June 3rd, 2020

I’ve mentioned previously that I’m burned out on collections and anthologies. This is at all no fault of any author or editors, it’s the simple fact that I’ve read a boat load of both this year and reading and reviewing collections and anthologies are incredibly taxing. You take notes, rate each story, try and find interconnected characters or themes – it all adds up to mental exhaustion.

But, a part of me simply can’t stop reading them. Each short story is a new and exciting world. A break from longer reads. A brief glimpse into a horrific painting before being ripped away at the conclusion.

When Pete Mesling emailed me, I was literally updating my site to say I was closed for review requests. I’m trying to play catch up and get a few reads for enjoyment done, but Pete was very kind and considerate in his email and reply back. I’ve seen his name on TOC’s previously and combining the blurbs he’d picked up for this collection as well as the stunning cover art by Mr. Kealan Patrick Burke, I decided to fit it in.

What I liked: Pete Mesling can write. Wow. ‘Jagged Edges & Moving Parts’ is comprised of 27 short stories that cover a wide variety of themes and genres. With a collection featuring that many stories, it was refreshing that they were all fairly short in page count. I found each story ripped along and Mesling attacked each world with confidence.

With this many stories, it was tough to narrow down my favorites, so I’ll highlight three.

‘Barbicide’ was a really simply, straightforward story of revenge. A man heads to his Barber to get his haircut. He is going there to confront the man about a transgression. Mesling doesn’t hold back at all. Succinct in its vengeance.

‘The Tree Mumbles.’ Wowsa. I would say this was my favorite story in the collection. Set in Seattle, people begin to notice odd figures showing up surrounding the city, staring and speaking to the trees. I can’t say much more about this unique take on an apocalyptic/pandemic style story, just that I would love to see this expanded, or better yet, made into a movie.

‘Microphasia.’ I don’t even know how to describe this one. Beautifully poetic without being a poem. Three to four lines of a quick look at a scene, intertwined with the other lines following. This was a fascinating story near the end.

What I didn’t like: While I enjoyed that each story was shorter, I wished some of the stories were not so short, which in turn would maybe limit the volume of stories included. It’s a minor thing for me and granted, a lot of that may be directly related to my personal reading burnout, but even making one or two of them novellas would have been magical.

Why you should buy it: If you love collections or discovering a new-to-you author, Pete Mesling’s ‘Jagged Edges & Moving Parts’ would be a really fine addition to your book shelf. The stories that he’s crafted here are all really engaging and Mesling has no problem going from making the reader cry to making the reader leave a light on.

Fantastic work, and I’m glad I took this one on.


Cover reveal! Giant update! Kind of! Maybe a bit!

Hey friends! God, it’s been a long time hasn’t it?

I hope the few of you who read this will bear with me as this may end up being a longer than normal update post!

So, for a long time I was doing weekly blog posts. Every Friday, I’d update the world and the four readers of this blog just what the hell was going on with Steve. I then drifted away from that when I was releasing ‘Wound Upon Wound,’ my weekly serial novella.

Now, I’ve completely dropped it, as I’ve been doing a lot more social media posts with my book reviews/Kendall Reviews post and my daily author shouts.

I’ve decided to do a longer post here to update a bunch of stuff.


1) The Window In the Ground arrives!

Yup! She’s here! Released through The Writing Collective, this coming of age, folklore story has so far been well received, which warms my heart. Because it’s arrival was not without sorrow.

But let’s back track.

How did it come to be? Simples! Auryn, Amanda and I went for a hike at Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary which is about twenty minutes from where we live, a few years back. It was Spring time and when we came over a hill, there was a purely green section of grass off among the snow filled field that made it look like someone had been shoveling the snow off. We actually went back and hiked there this past weekend and I took a photo of where the Window was spotted. The area is really grown in now, so I’ve used added a circle to show you where it was originally spotted!

It was a beautiful day, but we were shocked at just how high the water levels still were, the water almost even with the boardwalk for most of the hike.

It was fantastic to get out there and see the area again, but also to revisit where I’d first spotted the window. When Spring rolls around again, we’ll have to go back and make sure the caretaker is still shoveling the snow off.

I mentioned the sorrow part of the release earlier.

Sadly and unexpectedly, a few days before the release, my father in law, Paul passed away. It was and is still a devastating thing that has happened and we’re trying to navigate the waves of grief as best we can.

On release day, my wife saw a few “happy release day” posts of the book and asked if I had a book out on July 1st. When I said I did, she said I should still celebrate it and the accomplishment and that Paul would be proud. So, we discussed options and ultimately decided to donate all profits/proceeds from the book to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. So far, since release date, we’ve donated $200 which is just amazing. Thank you to everyone who made release day so special.

If you haven’t snagged a copy yet;

(For those wondering/buying for the donation aspect – each ebook equals $2.03 donated, each paperback equals $2.05 donated, so both are almost identical for supporting the charity!

2) Author shouts!

I’m just going to give a quick blurb about doing this. I love doing these for a few reasons. It gives someone an unexpected smile. Social media can be absolute garbage at times, so I figured it’d be nice to pop onto a platform and see a few nice words! It can give someone an unexpected boost. I’ve had a few authors say that the random shout came at just the right time while they struggled in a section or whatever. How awesome! It can get a few new sales. New readers are always amazing, but old readers who may have missed a release are also amazing. I try to do my four square covers over a section of an authors releases. New, old, anthologies, etc, just a way to show their scope!

I’ll continue doing this for as long as I can. At first I was doing three a day, but have adjusted to one a day, to make sure I can keep sharing some love and positivity.

3) Self promo.

Good lord. I’ve actually started doing some self promo. It makes me nauseous on the best of days and down right ill most other days, but I guess I need to do some self promo and celebrate my books as well!

4) What I’m working on.

Ok – here’s a bit on every single thing I have on the go!

Scott: A Wagon Buddy Tale. Copy editing notes are done, I just need to go through and make final tweaks. This will be released end of year. Most likely November.

Cathedral of the Skinned: Sermons of Sorrow Book Two. Bogged down at the moment. I’ve been mentally questioning every single thing about the first draft. Too much of this, not enough of that, blah blah. It’ll get a kick in the arse shortly.

Book Three of the Father of Lies Trilogy. 25% done draft one. Cover art done. This is going to be deep, dark and brutal. Father is a disgusting creature/character. Expect to be repulsed. I’ve also created something unique as a giveaway for this. Sodergren has heard the plan and thought it was awesome. I’ll be doing a compendium release for this that’ll also include a novella which will essentially be a four book set then.

456 Blatchford Drive. I can’t think if I’ve actually shared the cover of this one yet? Either way, here you go!

456 Blatchford Drive Cover

This one is done draft one. Almost done draft two. Set over a bunch of decades, this is a folklore, haunted house story. As of this time, I’m still planning on making this an ultra limited “fan” release. I’m still thinking only 10 hardcovers and 20 paperbacks and that’s it. But we’ll see. I’ll keep you posted!

Mastodon. Another one long in the burner. I completely rewrote the entire novel over the course of being laid off at the start of COVID arriving. I’ve decided to let this sit for a bit before I return for draft two. I’m still processing how I want to move forward with this book. But expect a 2021 release date as of right now.

September collection. Haven’t mentioned anything about this publicly until now. I’ve mentioned it to a few people behind the scenes. Expect a cover review soon on Kendall Reviews. This features a foreword and art by my friend, the amazing Miranda Crites. Think you’ll really dig this!

TNN. Co-written with my friend, David Sodergren, this is a fantastic western horror that we collaborated on. We’d talked about doing this for some time and then just banged out a 1st draft over the course of a week or so. Expect more details at some point here, but we’ve both been content with it arriving next year.

I think that’s everything? Maybe? haha! Not 100% sure honestly!

5) Review Requests.

You may have seen it on my site here, but I am officially closed to review requests at the moment. I’m playing catch up (like many!) and I’m trying to get through a lot of amazing books I’ve bought over the last few years that I haven’t been able to get through. Saying that – if you are someone I’ve reviewed before, still reach out. And if you are very much struggling to get traction/reviewers, do message. I’ll see what I can do.


Until we meet again,


Interview: Carl John Lee, Author of The Blood Beast Mutations


‘The Blood Beast Mutations’ by Carl John Lee was an unexpected delight. Part creature-feature, part scathing political statement against the current US presidency, I wasn’t prepared for both the topical plot line but also for the human side of this story.
Oddly, Carl John Lee seems to barely exist. In the world of social media and selfies, Carl has his Twitter account and, at the time of writing this, that’s it. I searched Instagram and Facebook and struck out. He is listed on Goodreads, but that’s hardly a go-to site for personal interaction.
‘The Blood Beast Mutations’ came my way just as oddly as connecting with John Lee.
One day, I randomly had a Carl John Lee follow me on Twitter. I followed back. Then Carl commented on how much he’d enjoyed one of my books. “Thank you!” I replied back.

Then on our Kendall Reviews group chat his book came up for offer. I accepted. But then I saw that it was about to be released and was only $0.99 for Kindle (which is still is), so I bought it instead and damn what a great buy.

(You can read my review here:

But then, it got me thinking. I don’t see much from Carl John Lee. He retweets some stuff here and there, so I reached out to see if he’d be up for an interview. He mentioned he’d had a few requests, but didn’t see the need.
Until now. Not sure what’s changed, but I woke up to a message from Carl recently on Twitter that said simply “OK, let’s do it.”
So, without further wait – I present the first (and maybe only) interview with Carl John Lee.

Steve: Carl, thanks for doing this. You’ve recently released your debut book ‘The Blood Beast Mutations.’ It was a really fun, quick read. What prompted you to write it?

CJL: Well Mr. Stred, thanks for asking. You’re a persistent guy, you know that?

Well, I guess what prompted me to write The Blood Beast Mutations was my anger and frustration at the clusterfuck going on over here in the States. Every day things were — and still are — getting worse and worse. A virus raging out of control, met at every stage by incompetency and outright idiocy from the people who’s job it is to protect us. The book was a form of therapy, to stop me from going completely out of my mind.

Look, I know some people think it’s bad taste to write a book about the pandemic, but I don’t give a fuck about good or bad taste. We have a psychopath in charge who’s letting people DIE. We have whole swathes of the population refusing to wear masks out of some lunatic desire to “own the libs”. Greed and selfishness run rampant now. We live in a fucked-up world. You wanna talk about bad taste? How about faceless stormtroopers kidnapping peaceful protestors? How about the erosion of the separation between church and state? How about police brutality and the rise of fascism?
There ain’t no happy endings, not any more. But I still believe in the goodness of people’s hearts. The Black Lives Matter protests are testament to that. I wanted to focus on the good people in my book, and ask — is there a way out of this hell? And you know what, Steve? I think there is. I hope there is.

Steve: Can you share anything about your background? Where you live or what you do when not writing?

CJL: I’ve been writing my whole life. That’s what I do. I started in screenwriting, wrote a bunch of what was known as ‘exploitation’ pictures back in the 70s and 80s; biker movies, skin flicks, horror movies, shit like that. It was fun, but I retired from that when the studios took over and all the really interesting shit stopped getting made. Since then I’ve…been around.

Screen Shot 2020-08-01 at 15.01.55

(Author photo provided by Carl John Lee)

Steve: Who are some authors that have inspired you?

CJL: He’s no damn author, but Roger Corman is my inspiration. That man could take a political hot-button topic and turn it into an entertaining good time, and he always — well, let’s not get too crazy — he usually had something to say about it. The other guy is David Cronenberg, and hey, that guy has written a book. Someone said my story reminded them of Cronenberg’s early body-horror films like Shivers and Rabid, and I have no problem with that, except that Cronenberg is a goddam genius and I’m some cranky old bum with an attitude problem.

Steve: Do you have a favorite book or movie?

CJL: Like I already said, I’m an old fart, so I love classic Hollywood cinema, auteurs like Hawks and Hitchcock, then later Coppola and Friedkin and De Palma. Sure, there’s some interesting shit being made now, but man, I miss the days before studio interference and producers with their notes and test screenings and homogenized Disney-owned bullcrap.

Steve: While writing, do you enjoy listening to music? If so, what do you listen to?

CJL: When I write, that’s the only time the voices in my head shut up for a few hours, so I guess you could say I listen to blessed silence when I write. Outside I can always hear the city, and that reminds me I’m alive. And then sometimes I put on some Charlie Parker, because that shit is a direct line to god himself.

Steve: ‘The Blood Beast Mutations’ seems to be an equal split between creature-feature and political anger. Did you start off writing a political book and added the creatures or a creature book where you added the politics?

CJL: My pa always told me that the older I got, the more conservative I’d become. That old bastard’s dead now, but I wish he was alive so he could see how wrong he was. I think it’d be harder for me to write something not political these days. When I started writing Blood Beast, I had no intention of putting it out. I write most days, like I said, to stay sane. I need to get my thoughts down on paper so they don’t rattle around in my head and torture me. This one started out as a purely political piece, but I guess I’m hardwired all wrong, because the old exploitation genes kicked in again, and I found myself having, I dunno, fun or something writing it. People talk about catharsis a lot in relation to horror, mostly to make themselves sound intelligent or to justify their love of dark, nasty shit, but sometimes they’re bang on the money. I could feel the darkness seeping out of me and onto the page. It was a release. But because, deep down, I’m a sentimental sap, things didn’t turn out quite as dark as I’d expected. I’d even say there’s a glimmer of hope in there, a light at the end of the tunnel.

Steve: There’s an interesting bit in there where murder hornets arrive and um… relieve the president from his position. Where did that visual come from?

CJL: It’s just a fantasy of mine, Mr. Stred. A deep, erotic fantasy.

Steve: What’s next from Carl John Lee? Will we see a sequel? A new release? Or is this it?

CJL: Well, I’m sitting on several decades worth of scripts and notes and ideas, so expect to see a lot more from me, whether you want to or not. My dearly-departed wife introduced me to the world of self-publishing a few years back, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t remind me of the good old lawless days of movie making. That’s how I found your work. Ritual reminded me of the sort of low budget film I’d get a kick out of in the 70s, well-written and imaginative, and totally outside the mainstream. So, I guess now I’m on my own for the first time in thirty years, I got plenty of time to dust off the old manuscripts and polish ‘em up for publication. My son did the artwork for Blood Beast, so he’s gonna be busy over the next few years. I hope a few readers are willing to take a chance on me, but if not, I’m still gonna keep writing. I’m too old and stubborn to stop.


In closing, I’d just like to thank Carl John Lee for such an entertaining interview. His responses, while candid, reminded me a lot of having a conversation with my grandpa. I personally look forward to seeing what Carl has up his sleeve.

If you’d like to find out more about Carl, his Twitter page is: @CarlJohnLee666

If you’re now keen on checking out the phenomenal ‘The Blood Beast Mutation,’ you can order a copy here;