Book Review: Shards by Ian Rogers


Title: Shards

Author: Ian Rogers

Release date: January 27, 2021

Source: Amazon Canada Purchase

Before I start this review, I just want to post this link;


You can read this new release from Ian completely free on the website and I highly, highly recommend you do that!

I’m self admittedly late to the Ian Rogers game. I had snagged his collection ‘Every House is Haunted’ some time back in a Story Bundle package, but didn’t get to it for a bit and then when his other release ‘Go Fish’ came out recently, I snagged that and devoured it. It was amazing. Which pushed me into reading ‘Every House is Haunted’ which was also amazing.

So, when Ian announced ‘Shards’ I was excited… but also completely believed it wasn’t coming out until February. I was a bit surprised when he posted recently that it was available! I snagged a copy and read it last night.

What I liked: If you’ve not read Rogers work yet you’re in for a treat. One of the greatest short story writers out there ‘Shards’ is a fully formed and complete 300 page novel, told in approximately 35 pages. Much like why I love Calvin Demmer’s work so much, or Sonora Taylor’s short story talent (she’s also a stunning novelist too), Rogers delivers so much in such a short page count. It’s truly mind-boggling.

‘Shards’ follows a group of 5 friends to a cabin in the woods (yeah, I know but stay with me) where something bad happens. Taking a familiar narrative, Rogers does an amazing job of giving each character their own personality and traits while also showing how the events that occur that evening ripple and tangle into the survivors lives from that day forward.

The setting of the opening was simple but spot on. Rogers nails the banter between the college friends and once things take off, the reader has been pulled in so much that you’re left in shock and stunned silence over what causes it and what happens.

Rogers has a gift of giving dark corners darker shadows. I loved how this thing comes full circle and we see that the events that played out snared the survivors and how they are now connected and unable to escape.

What I didn’t like: As spoiler free as possible – I wanted to know more about what they find in the cabin and the place from where they find it. Maybe Ian will expand upon this in a follow up/prequel, maybe not, but it was so intriguing, I’d love to know more.

Why you should buy this: Well A) you technically don’t need to buy it. It is available for free on the website and I’ll share that link again. B) if you do want to buy it, it is only 99 cents. For what you get, that’s an absolute steal. And C) Rogers is one of the best writers out there. He crafts stories that are a joy to read while crushing your soul and making you want to close the book and never enter that world again. But you must. And you will.

Loved this one.



Book Review: COWS by Matthew Stokoe


Title: COWS

Author: Matthew Stokoe

Release date: Originally 1997, rereleased April 10, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Book Review: The Snake by John Godey

the snake

Title: The Snake

Author: John Godey

Release date: January 1st, 1978

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

end of the world

Title: The End of the World Running Club

Author: Adrian J. Walker

Release date: June 27, 2014


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

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

Have I?

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

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

I was bang on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loved this one.


Book Review: Friday Night Massacre by Michael Patrick Hicks

Friday Night Massacre

Title: Friday Night Massacre

Author: Michael Patrick Hicks

Release date: TBA (possibly late January 2021)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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