Monsters In Our Wake


Title: Monsters In Our Wake

Release date: February 15, 2017

So, after reading ‘Return to Dyatlov Pass’ and ‘The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave,’ I knew I needed more Moncrieff. ‘Monsters In Our Wake’ intrigued me, but truthfully also worried me. I personally, am not always a fan of water based horror. Not sure why, or what it is, but a big part of it I think, is due to the limited scope the stories often follow.

Don’t get me wrong – authors do some amazing work with water – but at times it can feel all the same. Crew on a ship or in a research vessel/lab. Creature attacks. They try to escape/survive. Some do, some don’t.

And while ‘Monsters In Our Wake’ does have that aspect, Moncrieff added some truly great plot points. We have a very strong female protagonist. We get a great environmental narrative and in a very appealing turn – we get an entire story arc weaved throughout from the monsters POV. It worked magically.

Here is my 5 star Goodreads review, posted April 14, 2019:

“I first discovered Moncrieff’s work through Return to Dyatlov Pass. That book was being praised in the online book community and having loved the movie Devil’s Pass, also based on the incident, I jumped on it. I had a great time with it and really enjoyed the companion piece that Moncrieff had in the Hellhole Anthology last year.

I’m a proud Canadian and when I find out an author is Canadian, I always prioritize their works. So once I found out Moncrieff was a fellow Canuck living in Winnipeg, I also snagged The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave as well as the first few books in the Ghost Writer’s series. I loved The Bear, but haven’t managed to get to the series yet.

At the time I also snagged this book, Monsters in Our Wake. On a recent trip out west for a professional conference, I decided to have a bit of a creature-feature theme for my reads and this was third up, after Master of the Forest and Antarctic Ice Beasts.

When I read Return to Dyatlov Pass, I loved Moncrieff’s character development and ease of creating tension and stress. I ultimately ended up giving it a 4 star rating because I found a few areas felt stunted and wished the book was longer. Not the case here. I message with J.H. a bit, picking her brain about some things and just generally chatting about life. When I mentioned this one was on my docket, she replied that she hoped I enjoyed because it was a bit ‘different.’ After having read it, I know what she meant!

This story takes place entirely at sea, on The Cormorant, a prototype drilling vessel. We are introduced to Flora, an oceanographer who’s been hired on to ensure ideal drilling locations. We meet the Greek Captain, the engineers Thor and Liam and then a small supporting cast of ship crew; Frank and George.

The ‘different’ part of the book is Moncrieff telling a large portion of the tale through the eyes of one of the sea creatures, named Nokken. We meet his wife and son (who reminded me of Joffrey from GOT) and learn a bit of the creatures back story.

Moncrieff does a fantastic job of stacking the odds against Flora as well as the humans in general. The crew themselves are a misogynistic bunch, quickly laying the blame on everything that goes wrong on Flora. “Its bad luck to have a girl on board,” is a tried and true sailor theme, but in this story, that’s probably the ‘nicest’ statement directed towards her. Time and time again, Flora responds and works hard to earn the respect she deserves. I enjoyed the sprinkling of back story for Flora and her son, giving her the much needed ‘why’ for her survival.

And while I found Dyatlov had a few stunted portions that detracted a bit from the flow, Moncrieff delivers here, letting every scenario play out, sometimes in all its magnificent gore-filled glory.

Moncrieff has catapulted herself into one of my “must-read” authors and has planted herself firmly behind Andrew Pyper in my favourite Canadian Author list. I can’t wait for her first release from Flame Tree Press in October, but in the meantime, I’ll be catching up by reading her Ghost Writers Series.”

Sounds good yeah?

Moncrieff delivered such a strong story that I was chomping at the bit to dive into her other releases.

Which is exactly what I did!

If you want to check out ‘Monsters In Our Wake’ you can find a copy here;

The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave

the bear

Title: The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave

Release date: May 5th, 2015

After devouring through ‘Return to Dyatlov Pass’ I knew I needed to scope out some more Moncrieff and read her work.

When I searched out her other work, this cover jumped out immediately. Look at it! How simple, yet how absolutely petrifying.

A bear, stairs and a child peaking down at it.

The story that unfolded was dread filled.

Here’s my 5-star Goodreads review, posted August 10, 2018;

“Riveting Novella!

I have previously read Return to Dyatlov Pass by J.H. Moncrieff, and after reading the blurb on this book, I couldn’t resist.

This is a creepy throw back tale, reminding you that sometimes your stuffed animals were watching you, plotting against you.

This story will make you feel helpless, unnerved, angry and unsettled; all in a fantastic way!

Highly recommend!”

There is a lot to unpack in this story. I remember just how emotional it made me. Between our young child struggling with a jerk stepfather, to the bear itself.

The possessed toy narrative is always a plot point that’ll make each and every reader feel unnerved. Growing up we all had times where a noise in the dark scared us, kept us awake. A strange shadow that our night-light illuminated and broadcast in the corners of our rooms. The movie franchise ‘Toy Story’ created a film based around toys coming to life when the humans weren’t around, but deep down, many of us had been believing that was the truth during our youth’s long before Pixar brought it to cinemas.

Such is the case of ‘The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave.’

Growing up, did you have a toy that scared you or frightened you?

I’d love to hear about it!

Otherwise – definitely give this one a read!

Return to Dyatlov Pass


Title: Return to Dyatlov Pass

Release date: March 12, 2018

In the interview I featured yesterday, I suggested that ‘Return to Dyatlov Pass’ is the gateway book for many people discovering J.H. Moncrieff. This was the case for me.

I was newer to using Goodreads and interacting with more people on Instagram and Twitter and kept seeing that amazing cover everywhere. So, I snagged it, read it and was blown away.

Of all the reviews I’ve ever posted, this is the only review I regret. Why? I only gave this book four stars and I wasn’t very confident at trying to formulate my thoughts. So, I gave it a ‘negative’ which when I think back on it, it really wasn’t. Here’s my original review posted July 9, 2018;

“Great read!

This was a fun thriller, set in a fantastic place. If you dont know any of the back story of Dyatlov Pass, dont let that prevent you from reading this!

The characters are intriguing and engaging!

My only negative about this story – it felt very rushed in places. I think if it was another 50 pages longer, to allow some of the scenes to play out a bit more, this would be a 5 star read!”


Look, ‘Return to Dyatlov Pass’ is a book I knew was a five star read. I haven’t stopped talking about it. Hell, I probably recommend this book to someone at least once a week, if not more.

The story follows a podcast host, Nat McPherson who travels back to Dyatlov Pass to try and determine what happened all those years ago. Not familiar with Dyatlov Pass? Well, Google it! There are a number of theories out there over what happened to cause nine Russian students, all very experienced outdoors people, to end up deceased.

Moncrieff has also penned a fantastic story related to ‘Return to Dyatlov Pass’ which was featured in the amazing anthology ‘Hellhole: An Anthology of Subterranean Terror.’

I think, at the end of the day, why this one resonates so well is the fascination with Dyatlov Pass coupled with the adventure/survival story that happens with Nat and her crew. This becomes a really fantastic creature-feature, one that will leave a mark and keep you on the edge of your toes. When I think back now on how much fun I had reading this, I wish I would’ve followed my gut and gave it the 5 stars it deserves and not cared what anyone else thought. For me personally, I don’t reserve rating a book 5 stars specifically for books that are revered in classical literary history. I give them for books that had me turning the pages frantically, have me on the edge of my seat or have my legs tucked up and the blankets wrapped around to ward off the monsters.

In this case, ‘Return to Dyatlov Pass’ is a book that rampages through the frozen wilderness in deepest darkest reaches of the Dead Mountain.

I highly recommend you give it a read and while you’re at it, check out Moncrieff’s great story in the ‘Hellhole’ anthology as well!


Hello and welcome!

Much like I have done two years in a row now with Andrew Pyper and Pyper-May-Nia! I decided to reach out to some other authors I love and admire and see if they’d be interested in doing a similar celebration.

My awesome friend, J.H. kindly agreed and so I decided she would be the first ‘other’ author to showcase!

So, just what can you expect?

All this week, I’ll be going through Moncrieff’s awesome bibliography and sharing her phenomenal work. Buckle up, hold on and be ready to discover a fantastic author!

Today, I’m pleased to share an interview J.H. kindly did!

JH bio photo

When you sit down to write do you have a writing process?

I light a scented candle—that’s about it. In the summer, I write outdoors on my deck whenever possible. I recently watched Dan Brown’s Masterclass, and was inspired by his process, so I’m giving it a try for the month of July. He writes from 4 am to 11 am every day. I’m writing from 4 am to 9 am, and then marketing for the final two hours. It’s early days, but so far it’s going really well.

Your GhostWriters series has been a lot of fun! Do you have them planned out as to which places are next, or do you write them based on places that interest you and spark your imagination?

When I wrote the first one, I didn’t know it would become a series. I was touring China, and struggling to come up with an idea for a book set in that country. When the idea of Jackson and his crazy scheme of staying overnight in haunted places and writing books about them came to me, I went with it. An author friend liked Kate, Jackson’s partner in crime, better than Jackson and wanted me to rewrite the entire book from her point of view. I wasn’t willing to do that, but decided to give Kate her own book instead. I’d just visited Poveglia, the world’s most haunted island, so that location was an easy choice. Same with Egypt—I wanted to set a book there soon after I got home, so I wouldn’t forget the details and the feeling of being there. With Forest of Ghosts, I had my readers vote on the location out of a selection of places I’d been. They chose Romania. I’ve traveled to every single GhostWriters location.

You grew up in Northern British Columbia. Did you have a haunted house or spooky myth from that area?

There was a house not far from mine that was rumored to be haunted. People said they saw blue lights in the window. When I was a child, I convinced a friend who was sleeping over to explore it with me. The house was at the top of a huge hill, and we were in the process of climbing the hill when my mom saw us. She’d panicked when she’d discovered we weren’t in the yard, and was freaking out. So that put an end to my early ghost-hunting experience.

Being a Canadian writer can come with its own set of challenges. From your experience have you discovered any advantages of being a Canadian writer?

I don’t identify myself as a Canadian writer per se, even though I am Canadian, and a big reason for that is that most of my readers are American, British, and European. There are a lot of challenges that come with being a Canadian writer—writers of genre or popular fiction are mostly ignored and/or disparaged by the literary establishment. It’s almost impossible to get any funding, mentorships, residencies, awards, or festival slots in Canada if you write popular fiction—those spots are reserved for poets and literary writers, so that can feel devaluing. As for advantages, our tax laws regarding writers are a lot more favorable, and we don’t have the added burden of having to pay for health insurance.

You’ve been to some of the spookiest places on Earth. Is there a place that you would refuse to spend the night at?

If there is, I haven’t encountered it yet. Aokigahara, or Japan’s “suicide forest,” would be emotionally and mentally challenging.

‘Those Who Came Before’ was a truly emotional look at wrongs towards Indigenous people. I remember you and I having some in-depth conversations about writing that book. Now that it’s been out for some time, have the emotions around writing the book increased due to world events?

The plight of Indigenous people has always been close to my heart, so I don’t think my emotions could be any more heightened in that regard. However, during the Wet’suwet’en protests that were happening right before the pandemic, there was so much open racism and hatred toward Indigenous people throughout Canada. This was heartbreaking and enraging, and I ended a few online friendships over some of the horribly insensitive things that were being posted. It’s disheartening to see that we haven’t come very far at all.

I truly loved ‘The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave.’ I think it speaks to that fear we had growing up of when the lights went out and the darkness moves. Did you have a treasured teddy bear or toy who would’ve come to your rescue when you were young?

I’m so glad you enjoyed that book. It was actually inspired by the opposite—this creepy bear that used to be my dad’s when he was a child. It was this stiff, ugly panda bear with beady eyes and a snarl on its face. Very creepy.

Your website and Hidden Library is amazing. Quite possibly the best author site out there. What was the inspiration for putting that together?

Thank you! I worked in marketing for a long time, so I know how important a good website is. I was somewhat inspired by author Toby Neal’s in the beginning, but then Elise Epp, the designer, went a completely different way, and I loved it. The Hidden Library came from wanting to give my readers an incentive for signing up to my email list. Rather than a single free book, I thought, “Why not a library?”

‘Return to Dyatlov Pass’ seems to be the book that introduces you to a lot of people. It is an amazing book and the only book I’ve ever read and reviewed that I think I’ve messed up my rating! (Steve’s note – I initially gave it a four star rating and ever since have realized it should’ve been a five star book!) When you wrote it did you expect it to be a book that became a Moncrieff springboard?

No, not at all. I’ve long been fascinated by the unsolved true mystery of Dyatlov Pass, and liked the idea of revisiting it with modern-day characters. The publisher, Severed Press, was the one who decided what the “antagonist” would be, because they know their readers best. I just put my own spin on it. I had no idea it would do as well as it has.

‘Monsters In Our Wake’ was such a unique take on creature-features. I adored that book. Fantastic female main character, water creature POV and environmental message. If you were to tackle another creature-feature which creature would you want to write about?

You are too kind. I’m working on a follow up to Return to Dyatlov Pass that features sasquatches, so I guess that’s your answer. But other than that, I’d love to write about a creature that hasn’t been featured in fiction before, or very often, and there are plenty of those. The Mothman intrigues me, but of course that’s been done.

You had an experience a short time ago in a haunted house in Winnipeg. Did you ever have a ghostly experience before? You mentioned that the incident has inspired your writing for a new book through Flame Tree Press, which is amazing. How is that progressing?

Yes, I’ve had several. My best friend passed away when we were seventeen, and she’s visited me a couple of times in obvious, terrifying ways (though I don’t think she meant to scare me). I also used to work at a haunted museum, and my house is over a hundred years old, so the odd thing happens at home too. My cats certainly think our house is haunted! Thanks to the Dan Brown project, the new novel is progressing very well. If I stick with it, I should finish the first draft by the end of July, if not before.

Dragonfly Summer recently was released through Audible, which is amazing! Has this inspired you to write more Audiobook specific releases?

Thanks. I would like to write some true crime for them, but nothing’s in the works yet.

Any J.H. Moncrieff screenplays in the works?

Sadly, no.

Thank you so much for doing this J.H.!

J.H. Moncrieff’s City of Ghosts won the 2018 Kindle Book Review Award for Best Horror/Suspense.

Reviewers have described her work as early Gillian Flynn with a little Ray Bradbury and Stephen King thrown in for good measure.

She won Harlequin’s international search for “the next Gillian Flynn” in 2016. Monsters in Our Wake, her deep-sea thriller with Severed Press, hit the top of Amazon’s horror bestsellers list, beating King’s re-released It to the top spot. Her supernatural suspense GhostWriters series has earned rave reviews from Kirkus, BlueInk, and Library Journal.

Moncrieff began her writing career as a journalist, tracking down snipers and canoeing through crocodile-infested waters. Her articles have appeared in many publications, including Chatelaine, FLARE, Writer’s Digest, and The Globe and Mail.  She also spent years working in marketing, public relations, and communications, and now teaches workshops all over the world.

When not writing, she loves exploring haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.

To find out more about J.H. Moncrieff and to visit her amazing site and discovery the Hidden Library, please visit;


Book Review: Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire


Title: Every Heart A Doorway

Author: Seanan McGuire

Release date: April 5, 2016

Every once in a while, a book comes along that you know you’ll love it purely by the cover art and the title. That was the case with ‘Every Heart A Doorway.’ I knew based on that alone I would be over the moon reading it and once I read the synopsis I was hooked.

Jen from the Ladies of Horror Fiction crew kept telling me to read this as well. After her and I buddy read ‘Where the Woods End’ together, she told me I absolutely had to get onto reading ‘Every Heart A Doorway,’ and now that I have – she was right.

What I liked: The story follows a young girl, Nancy. You see, some children spot doorways to different realms and plains, and some of them step through and spend time there. Those that return are ‘different.’ Because of this, the parents will send them to Eleanor and her school where they hope the children will be ‘helped.’

The book itself has such an easy flow to it that I found myself engrossed immediately. The story is hard to categorize. Is it fantasy? There are elements of horror. Definitely filled with drama and character relationships. Sometimes a book defies standard categories and this was one of them.

The characters in here are great. McGuire expertly gives us some outstanding children to want to know more about, especially when bad things begin to happen.

The school in and of itself was intriguing. We don’t get much description of how it actually looks, so the reader gets to interpret it as they wish. I suspect it was a standard, square-box, building type structure, but for me, I kept going back and picturing it as a massive tree that was hollowed out and the school built within. Why? I honestly don’t know, but that is the beauty of reading!

What I didn’t like: Completely minor thing, but throughout the read, I had a sense of complete timelessness. Or more accurately – no specific time period that this book was happening in. But at one point a character mentions that they saw something on someone’s Facebook page and that really killed that feeling for me. It doesn’t detract from the story, but for me personally, I really wished we hadn’t have know FB existed in this world.

Why you should buy it: This is part of an ongoing series, but book one reads purely like a stand alone. The ending will absolutely leave you wanting to know more, but as a single read – stunning. This had everything. You’ll go through the emotional rollercoaster with this one and a lot of questions are brought up, with some really great philosophical answers and discussion.

I had such a great time with this one. Now, I’ll need to talk my wife into letting my buy book two!


Book Review: The Cold by Rich Hawkins

the cold

Title: The Cold

Author: Rich Hawkins

Release date: July 22, 2019

Rich Hawkins and I connected some time ago, either on Twitter or Facebook, and we’ve bantered back and forth for some time. His books frequently get recommended to me from fellow horror lovers and I have his release ‘King Carrion’ still to read.

But ‘The Cold’ has been the one that has intrigued me the most. Two big reasons really. The first is the premise/setting. You know I love my snow based horror. Add in tentacled monsters and I’ve sold. I mean look at that cover. The second reason is Adrian Shotbolt aka The GrimReader telling me how much he knew I’d love it. Adrian is one of the readers/reviewers I respect the most and when he says I’ll love a book, I can’t wait. I have a second recommendation from him I’m about to start and I’m very excited.

What I liked: ‘The Cold’ kicks off moments after a train crash/derailment where Seth and a few others managed to survive. The reason for the train crash, at first, is believed to be the massive blizzard that has arrived in the middle of summer. As Seth tries to figure out just what happened, a memory of what he saw just before the crash comes back – a massive beast from the sky.

From here ‘The Cold’ is 100% an emotionally driven survival story. A few of the people from the train crash begin to search for shelter and other people while things arrive to rip them limb from limb. Hawkins creates a chaotic story, but I loved the depth we get to each character. Little details come about that fill in who the person was and when the inevitable carnage ensues, you’ll feel sorrow that another character has left for good.

It was BP Gregory on Facebook who commented on my post saying I was reading this, that “this is one of those stories where I really enjoy the moment I go from ‘hell yeah I’d totally survive this’ to ‘oooh boy I really really wouldn’t.’ (Saying that, I would survive. For a bit. I like the cold. It’s the running. I’m not built to run!)

That statement is bang on true. Between the apparently never ending onslaught of membranous creatures, to the non-stop deluge of snow, to the realization that life will never be the same, Hawkins has crafted an absolutely despondent story filled with glimpses of hope that get snatched away in the blink of an eye.

What I didn’t like: If you haven’t figured it out yet I loved this story. Saying that, there was one thing I noticed that kind of made me shake my head, but then just let the story go and not look to deep into it. Suspension of belief let’s call it.

It’s summer. It randomly snows. A LOT. But some how the characters end up with appropriate clothing to keep them warm enough to survive? I don’t know if that’s an English/UK thing, but here in Canada (where it gets cold!) we typically pack all our winter gear away during the summer months. Minor, but noticeable.

Why you should read it: ‘Bird Box.’ ‘The Silence.’ ‘A Quiet Apocalypse.’ In the last little bit, we’ve been blessed with some truly stunning survival horror stories where things arrive and humans try to remain living. ‘The Cold’ easily slots alongside these and should take it’s place as one of the best snow based horror stories. This was action from page one and never let up. I heard rumblings that a sequel may arrive at some point, and I’d be completely up for that. Keep in mind that salvation most likely will never come. Much like we see in the BPRD comics, when the sky cracks and the beasts arrive, the only option is to stay alive for as long as you can. There’s no going back.


Book Review: Scratches by Joshua Marsella


Title: Scratches

Author: Joshua Marsella

Release date: May 11, 2020

I can’t even remember how long ago I connected with Mr. Marsella on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook. A few years I think? Joshua has always been super supportive and encouraging towards a number of up and coming authors and when he announced his debut novella, I was so excited for him. It is a daunting task to not only write something, but then take the time and care to get a cover and click publish.

Once the book is out into the wild, you get to sit back and see what other people thought of your ideas that were banging around in your head.

What I liked: ‘Scratches’ will either excite you or it won’t. I don’t say that negatively. I say that because the story centers around a family that inherits a house that has a malevolent entity. This trope has been done a lot over the years and for some readers, mileage may vary. Add in the familial issues, both past and present and at times it’ll feel a bit like you’ve already read some of this.

Marsella does a great job of building tension. The crux of the story is that after the mother and son move into her grandfathers house, after he dies, Connor, the boy, decides to move his room to the basement. A place his mother refuses to go.

The reader knows that our grandfather fell down the stairs and was found deceased at the bottom, but Connor doesn’t. Through this, Marsella keeps up the chills as Connor continually feels like something is watching him, or hearing odd noises.

As someone who had their room in the basement for all of their teen years, I got it. I practically ran to my room from the stairs every night and slept with my door locked. Parts of this book gave me the same heebie jeebies that ‘The Nightmare Room’ by Chris Sorensen did.

I particularly enjoyed how the grandfather’s back story played into the human side of the horror.

What I didn’t like: This will sound harsher than I want it too, but Marsella didn’t reinvent the wheel here. For the most part, it is a straight forward ‘inherited haunted house’ story. He does do it well for his first release, but as I mentioned before, readers mileage may vary.

I personally didn’t enjoy a single interaction between mother and son. For the mother to know her grandfather was such a horrible human, it felt a bit forced that she continually turned a blind eye to every issue Connor brought up.

Lastly – I found the ending to be very abrupt. There was no real reveal of a how or why, just a ‘boom!’ done and then an epilogue. Maybe there is more planned to try and fill in the why, but as is, the ending is a bit jarring.

Why you should buy this: Overall, I had a fun time with this. It’s a quick read filled with creeps and when we learn more about the grandfather you’ll be nicely repulsed. If you dig haunted house reads, especially this time of year (nearing Halloween for those reading this review during the other parts of the year!), then this’ll fit in nicely.

Marsella has intrigued me to see where he goes next. Can’t wait to see what other worlds he’ll conjure!


Book Review: The Lost Memories of Freddy Frehling


Title: The Lost Memories of Freddy Frehling

Author: James Newman

Release date: January 18, 2020

Why the heck didn’t I read this sooner?

James Newman is a fantastic writer. He’s crafted some of the best works of fiction I’ve read and whether on his own, or when co-authoring with other stunning writers, I’ve always loved the emotions that are packed into his releases. We never get “just a story,” instead we live and feel what the characters do.

Maybe that is why I haven’t read this yet? My own struggle with relationships with older relatives?

Either way, when this was announced I pre-ordered it.

But then, recently I traded signed Newman books with Steve Thompson, a Newman fan in his own right. I sent him a Newman book that he didn’t have signed, and he sent me a signed copy of this one.


So, that was settled. I knew, no matter how sad this one was, I needed to dive into it.

What I liked: First off, Richard Chizmar opens this with a really nice foreword. I normally wouldn’t mention the foreword, but Richard did such a nice job of summing up the struggle many of us are going through. We get to a point where we begin to question whether our memories of childhood were what we believed they were.

‘The Lost Memories of Freddy Frehling’ is heartbreaking. Set in a world where superheroes exist, we follow to older siblings dealing with their father. He’s had a fall, hit his head while in extended care, and dementia has begun. That alone would be enough to get the water works started, but as things progress we learn more about Freddy’s past.

Newman weaves such a succinct, soul-crushing story into a short page count that I was shocked it was over so soon. This was the perfect 30 pages. We get 400 pages of story, background and all, but the emotional impact will last for many, many years. This one is on the opposite side of the spectrum from his release ‘Odd Man Out,’ but still packed such a wallop.

What I didn’t like: Honestly, the only annoyance I had was the character that was the son. His sarcastic take on things was definitely meant as a coping mechanism to protect himself and Freddy, but it reminded me a lot of a family member and it just ground my gears!

Why you should buy this: James Newman is one of the best writers out there. No matter what subject matter he tackles, he delivers a stunning story and you’ll always connect.

I can’t thank Steve enough for sending me a signed copy of this. I did read my Kindle version, as the chapbook is now slotted nicely on my signed book shelf!

This was an easy 5 star read and one I hope more people discover!


Book Review: The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling



Title: The Luminous Dead

Author: Caitlyn Starling

Release date: April 2, 2019

I remember when I saw ‘The Luminous Dead’ on Netgalley. I had recently read ‘The Last Astronaut’ and when I saw the cover I was drawn to this, excited to read another similarly themed book (to a degree.)

Sadly, as with a number of books on Netgalley, this was unable to be requested, so I patiently waited until it was released and snagged it. It slowly made it’s way up my TBR as I watched more and more people rave about it. I watched as it was nominated for the Bram Stoker award for best first novel.

And then, there it was! Top of my TBR. I dove in (which if I was in the book would’ve been frowned upon) and truthfully, I struggled.

What I liked: ‘The Luminous Dead’ follows Gyre (which I still can’t figure out how to pronounce!) who has been selected to navigate a deep cave system. The book is set in the future, so Gyre has been surgically fused/infiltrated by the suit, which means it operates on a battery and eating is simply a function now, where she inserts a canister into the feeding port and voila, food in her belly.

At first there is little interaction between Gyre and the team that is watching over her from somewhere above. We soon find out her ‘team’ is simply one person – Em, and from there Starling begins a plot point of distrust and fear between our two characters. I enjoyed a lot of the back and forth between these two. At times, it borders on a romantic link, which continues throughout the rest of the book. 

The cave itself acts as a majestic character, one that is home to these mysterious grub-like creatures, referred only to as Tunnelers. Because of this, the cave isn’t a solid set piece, instead, it often changes which made for some great tension as well as breaking up some of the monotony that started to happen half-way through.

The ending was a thrill-a-second finale, which kept me up longer than I wanted to, but was necessary, as there was no way I was going to fall asleep not knowing what happened.

What I didn’t like: I’ve seen a lot of people mention how claustrophobic and dread-filled the story was, and honestly I personally didn’t find either of those feelings anywhere. I did find chapter upon chapter that just felt unnecessary. I think the constant back and forth between Em and Gyre and Gyre’s distrust and anger towards Em and some of the decisions she’d made previously (staying spoiler free – so that’s all I can say!) became tedious and slowed the progression down. If this had been a novella length read, I think for my reader’s brain it would’ve been superb, but instead this never once had me riveted until the very end.

Why you should buy it: This one is a great study on relationships and one thing Starling did phenomenally was to create a lot with a little. This is essentially a novel with three characters: Em, Gyre and the cave. Other characters pop up here and there regarding back story etc, but otherwise Starling crafted a dramatic/border-line romance piece set in an immense sprawling cave system. If that sounds like a book you’d like to read, get on it!


Book Review: Tethered: A novella-in-flash by Ross Jeffery


Title: Tethered: A novella-in-flash

Author: Ross Jeffery

Release date: June 1st, 2020

Over the last few years I’ve had a front row seat watching Ross develop his writing. Through ‘Juniper’ and ‘Tome’ Ross has created two great pieces of dark, post apocalyptic fiction, with the third book in the trilogy coming soon.

‘Tethered’ was, from the outset, a book I was hesitant to read. Not because it’s not a ‘horror’ book or because I believed it to be bad. Purely because, as a newer father (my son just turned four) and someone who has a gruffer dad myself, I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally up for a dark dive into a strained father-son relationship.

What I liked: Told through short, quick vignettes, ‘Tethered’ is a stunning piece of fiction. We are there at the beginning, as a child is abandoned, only to grow up and become a dad. His own history of having no father is embedded deep within his soul, so just how can he be a good dad when he himself never experienced that? The chapters/pieces flip back and forth, between the father’s POV and the son’s POV, focusing on key moments throughout their lives. Ross doesn’t hold back, making both characters equally likable and dis-likable. We see how through time and situations their relationship soars and sours and I loved how this was a ‘warts-and-all’ look at interpersonal relationships.

Emotionally, this book has it all. Happiness, sorrow and everything in between. I read this in one sitting and found that the flow of the narrative was such that when the book ended I was surprised I’d read it so quickly.

Ross is such a natural storyteller and ‘Tethered’ shows just how talented he is, even when not writing something with horror-darkness attached. He did justice to a drama-filled piece that I normally wouldn’t find myself that engaged with.

What I didn’t like:  This was more personal than anything, but as someone who has been analyzing their own parent-child relationship over the last twenty years, there are moments in here that felt like a band-aid being ripped off. Some people may find that parts of this are incredibly hard to read, but much like your favorite drama on TV, these moments are necessary to the story. But, seriously Ross, you jerk!

Why you should buy it: This is a stunning, brilliant piece of fiction that at times will read like an autobiography to some of you. Ross has done a fantastic job of really capturing the father-son dynamic and it was a joy (even though incredibly hard to stomach at times) to come along for the ride.

If you are looking for a quick, character driven story that follows two great characters look no further. ‘Tethered’ was outstanding.