Book Review: Beasts of the Caliber Lodge by L. J. Dougherty

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Title: Beasts of the Caliber Lodge (Espionage Horror Series Book 1)

Author: L. J. Dougherty

Release date: March 8th, 2021

I’m a reader who will always snag books when they’re highly recommended to me from some of my close book pals. One friend I have whose recommendations I always trust is David Sodergren. Even while he was reading this book he was messaging me and telling me to read it. When he was done, he raved about it to me.

I snagged it and, in between buying it and it arriving at the top of my TBR, I had the pleasure of appearing on a podcast with L. J. (and David and Cameron Roubique) and learned that it had started life as a screenplay and became a novel once Dougherty determined that the financing amount he’d need to film this as a movie wasn’t going to be easy to come by.

One thing I’ve always been personally fascinated with was the high level members of the Nazi’s fleeing in retreat to South America. It is a truly odd and intriguing moment in history and when you research their South American ties and who went their and what was built down there as well, it’ll have you going down a rabbit hole.

So with that in mind, I was excited to see how Dougherty tied a story about Nazi hunters in the 60’s with hunting Sasquatch.

What I liked: The story starts off in South America, as two Nazi hunters seek out a high ranking Nazi official who they have reason to believe lives in a specific town. Things go crazy and when they find their man, he manages to flee.

Fast forward a few years later, they’ve tracked him to the remotest of locations. With an intelligence report they trust, it appears their man is going to be attending a very exclusive, and elusive, hunting lodge in the farthest corner of Alaska. So, they create a fake back story and send one of them to the lodge as well.

It is from there that we get not only a great thriller about a hunter hunting a Nazi, but also these two (and a really fun supporting cast made up of the hunting guide, the lodge owner, the chef, the bartender, and a few other people who’re part of the weekend) hiking into the wilderness to discover that they’re hunting Sasquatch.

Dougherty does a great job of keeping the action tense and the pacing frantic. Each scene is filled with moments of sheer terror and you’ll find you’re holding your breath a lot while reading this.

The ending was great, a cinematic finale that is filled with even more action and explosions and exciting sets us up for more in this world.

What I didn’t like: For these people travelling into this place to hunt Sasquatch, I thought their reactions for the most part were a bit subdued over what I suspect most people would have. Saying that, this was set right around the time the Patterson-Gimlin film would’ve been filmed, so for many back then, they’d not have seen photos or video of Bigfoot, more stories shared or read.

One thing I did note – and I think this was because it was originally a screenplay – was the frequent usage of full branding of some items. An example of that – our MC has a specific gun, but each time he gets it or looks for it, we are told the brand/maker of the gun, which became a noticeable oddity as the novel went on.

Why you should buy this: This is a unique novel in that it will appeal to people who love James Bond thrillers as well as creature-feature action/adventure stories. We get a suspense-filled Nazi hunting plot, as well as an engaging man-in-the-wild survival plot. The story was fast-paced and it really was an engaging, page-turner.

I loved this one and will be jumping into the second book, ‘Primal Reserve,’ ASAP.


Book Review: Song of the Sandman (A God in the Shed #2) by J.-F. Dubeau


Title: Song of the Sandman (A God in the Shed #2)

Author: J.-F. Dubeau

Release date: June 16th, 2020

Back in 2019, I read the truly stunning ‘A God in the Shed’ by J.-F. Dubeau. It was a novel about a small town with a horrible past and a secret that they wanted to keep hidden from everyone else. That secret gets exposed and terrible events occur once discovered.

One constant thing I heard about the book was the ending didn’t do it for people (and to be fair this is a very common criticism about 99% of stories). So, I took it with a grain of salt and boy, did I love the ending. BUT. And this is something even Dubeau has stated – because it wasn’t made explicitly clear that was book one of a trilogy, some people found the ending to be too open ended, too many loose ends not tied up.

Now, I ask a question to you? As someone who spends a lot of time in the online dark fiction communities, I somehow didn’t even know this was out. Did you know the sequel was out?

I was so excited to find out it was out, so I snagged a copy for my Kindle and dove in.

What I liked: I’ll do my best to remain as vague as possible here, because this is a sequel and I don’t want to potentially spoil anything from how book one ended or what happens in here. But, the book picks up after the events of ‘A God in the Shed.’ We are reunited with the characters that survived and from that we learn more and more about the Sandmen Cult and how some have a direct link to those within.

Dubeau does a great job of leading us from those events in book one through the events that will ultimately set up book three. There’s a ton of action, some really dark, dark moments and it was great reconnecting with these characters and seeing how they’ve been scarred from book one and how they’re now trying to continue on.

The ending here was phenomenal – but, and I will add this here – there are a number of things not tied up and finished – as this is just the second part of this trilogy.

The epilogue was just fantastic and really worked into the magic that has been discussed and has been growing throughout the first two books. It was a great way to end this one.

What I didn’t like: Book one had a lot of characters, and as it’s been almost exactly three years since I read book one, going into book two, there were a number of them that I had completely forgotten about, so it did take me a minute to get back into the ‘why’s’ of their motives. This book might be better to be read as close to finishing book one as you can.

Why you should buy this: This was a really well done sequel that definitely sets the stage for an explosive finale. The characters are great and the god is such a fantastic creation, I love seeing how it twists and uses these characters as it sees fit.

Definitely a solid sequel and now, I personally, can’t wait to see how Dubeau wraps this one up!


Book Review: Shortcuts (Book 1) by Brittlestar


Title: Shortcuts (Book 1)

Author: Brittlestar aka Stewart J.W. Reynolds

Release date: December 19th, 2011

If you’ve read any of my reviews over the last few years, you know that I typically share how a book came onto my radar at the start. Some are straightforward, some are a bit funny and some are an odd amalgamation of random occurrences that all line up.

This is one such book that came onto my radar just that way.

Brittlestar. For many of you in Canada, who frequent Twitter, you may have seen his comedic, This Hour Has 22 Minutes style videos and tweets. A sarcastic take on everyday life. He also has poignant, introspective moments and all of that has led to him being a daily source of laughs and conversation.

A few weeks back, I came across one of his videos and thought it was hilarious. Knowing he may find it hilarious, I sent it to Andrew Pyper. He replied; “Oh yeah, he’s funny. I actually went to high school with him!.” Huh, that’s crazy right?

Well… if you’ve also followed me, you may very well know that I’m a massive super fan of Mr. Andrew Pyper and in my ongoing quest to have the most complete printed collection (DANG YOU ORACLE AND YOUR AUDIBLE ONLY RELEASE!!) I frequent Abebooks weekly, seeking out missing pieces. And on one such search, a blurb from Andrew about ‘Shortcuts’ popped up. I messaged Andrew, he said it was a really fun book, and liking the synopsis, snagged it.

BOOM! See? A random amalgamation of seemingly completely unrelated events that led me to reading this book and – it turns out – having a really run time with it.

Alright enough about that – let’s get to the goods.

What I liked: ‘Shortcuts’ follows our young main character, Simon Trekker, as he lives a seemingly normal life. That is, other than living with his aunt and uncle after his parents disappeared on a trip when he was a small child. One day, as Simon heads off to school, he randomly is transported somewhere else while taking a shortcut. Once this happens, he shares it with his two best friends and they have fun, going to different places around the world.

That is, until a rich bully from his school discovers this and things go sideways and escalate.

From here, our author gives us a really fun, action-packed middle-grade adventure story. We get thrills galore and a really intriguing backstory where we learn more about these portals, their discover and what had been originally planned for them.

I thought the characters were all fun, even a few of the stereotypical variety (but hey, this is a middle grade book) and the story played out at a really great pace.

The ending was great and the set up for a potential sequel was really well done.

What I didn’t like: I’m not going to pick apart some of the cheese in this book. The reality is, I’m a 40 year old male. This book wasn’t written for me as the target demographic, so I can let those parts slide. What I will say – this came out in 2011, so it was a bit frustrating seeing such an intriguing ending and understanding that there most likely won’t be a sequel, or if there is, those kids who loved this a decade ago, will most likely not care when it is finally released.

Why you should buy this: If you’re the parent of an early reader (say aged 7-12) and you’re either now starting to read them chapter books, or they’re reading on their own and you want a safe read; think no swear words, no sex, no deaths, no animal peril – this is a spot on perfect read for them.

The pacing is crisp, the story opens up really nicely and when all is said and done, this does finish with a great conclusion. It’s the epilogue that may give parents headaches as they beg for book 2!


ANNOUNCEMENT – LOHF Writers Grant Update

Hey all! Happy Monday!

It’s hard to believe that what started as one grant has grown so much over the last few years.
Now, in this, the fourth year that the LOHF Writers Grant will be awarded, we realize how lucky we are to belong to such a great community.

When this was first conceived, all I wanted to do was help a fantastic group of writers who constantly have to battle for visibility and credibility (which is an entirely other frustrating topic which I’ll not go into!). This became a reality when the LOHF Group came on board to do the heavy lifting.

Year One was amazing. Year Two, phenomenal. Year Three, stupendous. And Year Four, so far, looks to be on track for our biggest year yet.

We’ve had so many offers to sponsor grants and it’s truly wonderful. It’s hard to choose who will be selected, so every bit of help is appreciated. If I was a rich man, every application would get a grant, but the reality is we can’t.

The LOHF Grant Team and I are excited to focus on awarding as many writer grants as we can thanks to the generosity of this community.

After much discussion, we’ve decided to keep all sponsors anonymous. This way it allows people to help who otherwise might not have, but also to ensure we maintain the integrity of the grant selection process.
If you have any questions – my DM’s and email are always open.

Thank you all again – those who’ve supported/sponsored/applied etc!

Applications will open closer to Summer.