Book Review: Helpmeet by Naben Ruthnum


Title: Helpmeet

Author: Naben Ruthnum

Release date: May 24th, 2022

“noun: helpmeet
a helpful companion or partner, especially one’s husband or wife.”

First – huge massive thank you to Michael Kelly and Undertow Publications for sending me a digital ARC of this upcoming release. The previous digital ARC I’ve been fortunate to read from the mighty Undertow Publications was the stunning ‘Armageddon House’ by Michael Griffin and that one turned out to be one of my all time favorite books. Would lightning strike twice?

I very rarely mention a books cover in my reviews, but in this case, I must. Just look at that painting. My apologies, I thought I noted what it was called, but it was from approx. 1825 and not only does it accurately depict the story you’re about to read, but also the sense of unknown dread that accompanies the reader as you crack this one open.

In the advanced praise section prior to the story, author Craig Davidson likens this to the old masters, those who’ve come before who used sparse wording and simply prose, but managed to create massive, monstrous results, IE Algernon Blackwood as an example. Folks – Davidson was spot on.

What I liked: As both a fan of reading and writing novellas, ‘Helpmeet’ delivers everything you want in a novel in a smooth sixty nine pages. Not a word is wasted here and when I finished reading this over the course of about an hour last night, I was exhausted mentally and physically. This is an experience. I would compare it to when you first discovered a horror movie when you were young. You were captivated and had to sit rapt until it was over and you had to question yourself about what you just read.

‘Helpmeet’ delivers the same (as did Armageddon House for those wondering), and it was absolutely compulsive. The story follows Louise, the wife of a well to do doctor, Edward in 1900. Edward has come down with an odd affliction, one that is causing his body to rot, decay and fall off of his skeleton. He hasn’t much time left and needs to get to his out of state property before it is too late.

Ruthnum paints a picture of a dotting wife (who also used to a nurse) caring for her husband, even when he’s been a horrible man. Frequenting brothels, stepping outside of their marriage with other nurses and generally not being there for Louise. But what would normally strain this relationship, has been pushed aside by Louise, as she decides to stick with him and help him as he becomes unable to do most anything. I loved seeing how this one unraveled and when we arrive at an ending, that completely floored me and absolutely opened up a whole world of questions and enormous possibilities, I knew Ruthnum had decided to ‘go there’ for this story. Those who’ll read this will know what I mean. Just so, so phenomenal.

What I didn’t like: Ruthnum fit in a 500 page novels worth of story here, but even after all of that, I still wish we could’ve learned a little bit more of some specific events surrounding the ending. I hate being spoiler free for this specific reason, but boy, would I have loved to learn even 5% more!

Why you should buy this: This is what writing a classic story looks like in 2022. I struggle reading the old masters, Blackwood and Machen and others, because I find their writing can often be clunky and far too often the choice of phrasing is confusing and baffling. Not with Ruthnum, and not with ‘Helpmeet.’

From the first word to the very last word, this story crawls under your skin and I was often times reminded of Iain Reid’s work with ‘FOE,’ in that you know something is off, something not right, but even when you find out what it is, your eyes practically pop out of your skull. This was pristine storytelling and I’ve very thankful to have read this one. It’ll be staying in my head for a very long time.


Direct from Undertow Publications;


Book Review: Unbalanced by Jason Parent


Title: Unbalanced

Author: Jason Parent

Release date: April 4th, 2022

The last two reads from Jason that I’ve read have been both really well done, but also completely different in totally different genres. ‘The Apocalypse Strain’ was straight up Sci-Fi Horror goodness and ‘Eight Cylinders’ was a rock ‘n rolling Cosmic Horror novella. Sure sure, both were ‘horror,’ at the end of the day, but they were so far removed from each other that it worked really well to showcase Parent’s versatility.

Which brings me to ‘Unbalanced,’ Parent’s newest and latest dark fiction piece. We go from Cosmic Horror chaos and Sci-Fi terror to a dark, gritty crime piece filled with confusing claustrophobic bits and a wholly unsettling environment.

When this was announced, I was so excited for it – which may sound weird as in the past I’ve discussed my difficulties with crime fiction/detective stories – but knowing Parent was firing on all (oh lord) cylinders (I’m so sorry for that), I knew he’d deliver.

What I liked: ‘Unbalanced’ starts off with an unsettling opening and rapidly progresses into a chaotic twisting and turning of events. Parent does a great job of keeping us guessing while also seemingly giving us everything we need on a silver platter (only to frequently slam the serving lid down).

The story focuses on two main characters, Detective Royo and Jaden Sanders. After, what appears to be, a random attempted home invasion at Sanders apartment, Royo begins to try and piece things together. It was interesting to see Sanders character bounce back and forth between with it and not with it and I’d suspect that maybe this was Parent’s toughest aspect to write.

The added developments really work to highlight the scattered plot that rolls along throughout the entire story. It’s a tough thing to really describe and stay spoiler free while also still saying – it’s one of the main reasons why you should dive into this novel.

What I didn’t like: Look, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I do struggle with crime fiction and especially the ‘years beaten down’ officer/detective trope. I did find Royo to be a fresh take on this, but there were still times when I groaned at some dialogue (not that it was bad, just expected), as there are always things you can expect to be said during interrogations etc.

Why you should buy this: Parent continues to show his versatility and his ability to craft truly memorable characters and plots. This one will stand out from the normal gritty-crime novels because of the way Parent attacks the characters and the intricately woven plotlines and themes that crisscross from page one until the very end.

Another outstanding release from Jason and one I hope you’ll all grab and immediately push to the top of your TBR.


Book Review: Hummingbird by T.C. Parker


Title: Hummingbird

Author: T.C. Parker

Release date: May 16th, 2022

Huge thanks to Parker for sending me a copy of ‘Hummingbird’ for review!

‘Hummingbird’ is only my second experience with Parker’s writing, the first being her 2021 release ‘Salvation Spring.’ I enjoyed that one, but the synopsis for this one really had me intrigued, so I was excited to dive in.

Interestingly, it was author Hailey Piper’s blurb that really connected the dots for me, when at first I was wondering if I had missed something.

What I liked: ‘Hummingbird’ is essentially a half dozen interconnected novellas that arrive at a fascinating and equally horrifying ending/reality. At first, when I was finished reading the initial set up with Jodie and her story, I was thrown a bit when a seemingly whole other story was introduced and I was wondering if I had to read something previously, or if I’d someone completely missed this character.

But things unravel, we see different sides of the coin or in this case, more accurately a square, as characters cross over, storylines intersect and reveal themselves and Parker does a great job of adding more while subtracting just what needs to be subtracted.

A bit of a tangent – but when the show ‘True Blood’ started, my wife and I loved it. The first few seasons were great and it was captivating. Then the show started to add more and more random elements and things got watered down. Parker takes that same approach – but doesn’t bog anything down and certainly doesn’t add at random. She crafts a story that spreads its wings wide then pulls them in tight to finish everything off.

What I didn’t like: As I mentioned, at first I was a bit thrown off and almost wished that the opening salvo that ends with a fantastic moment involving Jodie was the entire thing and was a novella just of that. So, I want to implore you to stick with it. I can see some readers having the same head scratching aspect that I did and I promise it pays off.

Why you should buy this: If you like interconnected small town dark fiction, this one will be perfect for you. Parker adds a ton of topical social commentary but also infuses it with a smattering of vengeance and a dusting of ‘stick-it-to-them’ that really will get readers excited. The characters are all great, even the ones designed specifically for us to hate them, and Parker makes sure that the main, overall story is highlighted throughout.

Really well done!


Book Review: The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne


Title: The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1)

Author: John Gwynne

Release date: May 4th, 2021

Typically, you’ll see 95% of my reviews focused on dark fiction – horror all encompassing. But, from time to time, I step into the worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy. My history with Fantasy is limited – I do love my big two (for me at least): Patrick Rothfuss and George RR Martin. In fact, Rothfuss’ ‘The Name of the Wind’ was a massive slump buster for me almost a decade ago when I was struggling to find joy in reading again.

Saying that, lately, I’ve kind of ignored fantasy (even if I have a release (trilogy in progress) of my own in that genre) as I’ve not known where to turn. My brother-in-law, Devon, is a huge fan of R.A. Salvatore and his Drizzt novels, but I’ve looked and struggled to figure out where to dive in. On Twitter, Steven Gomzi has been raving about Gwynne for some time, and finally, seeing this AMAZING cover and a synopsis to match, I knew I needed to take the leap and dive in. Boy, was I happy to read this book. This is phenomenal storytelling on a grand scale. I personally loved how Gwynne was able to make me feel cold and dirt-crusted the entire time. As though I was there, alongside our three main characters throughout.

What I liked: A retelling of Norse Mythology, ‘The Shadow of the Gods’ takes place roughly 300 years after the Gods have all died out, we follow three characters as they journey in the same ‘direction,’ and that direction is vengeance.

Orka is a battle hardened woman, living with her husband and son, trying to let her boy grow up in peace, something they’ve not had much of. When her husband is murdered and her son is kidnapped, she takes off in search of him.

Elvar, the daughter of a Jarl (King), has fled her life and is now a warrior, wanting to make her way and be remembered in song, instead of being sold off to another Jarl to give them kids.

Varg, a thrall (slave) who is desperately seeking the aide of a witch to show him who killed his sister, so that he can avenge her death.

Gwynne switches between each storyline from chapter to chapter and it does two things really well – builds amazing tension AND frustrates the HECK out of the reader, but in the best way possible. Time and time again, we get a solid cliffhanger that in reality means, you have two chapters to get through before you return. And guess what? In those next two chapters, you’ll get two more cliffhangers and so on and so on. It made for truly captivating storytelling and as the reality of what is happening and where the story is going unfolds, the reader will be just as battered and bloodied as the characters we grow to root for.

The battle/action scenes here are stunning. Gwynne does an amazing job of bringing the action to life and it is described in cinematic swathes of blood and metal on armor.

Much like Martin, don’t believe any character is safe, but Gwynne does a great job of keeping his cards close and many of the unexpectedly character deaths were done phenomenally.

The ending sets up events for book two, which, in this case, I’m fortunate to have the book sitting there waiting for me on my Kindle!

What I didn’t like: Well, this is a fantasy novel, so always expect a ridiculous amount of food descriptions. Not as bad as Martin, but for once I’d love to see a passage read ‘they sat down for a dinner of duck and potatoes’ and not two paragraphs worth of food descriptions.

For me, the only thing that really grated on my nerves was the description of the head/brain as their ‘thought-cage.’ It made me chuckle at first and then became an annoyance when everything else is labelled/described as hand, arm, fingers etc.

Why you should buy this: ‘The Shadow of the Gods’ is really a perfect fantasy novel. Gwynne has created (recreated?) a stunning world where people are considered ‘tainted’ if they have blood of the Gods flowing through their veins and always looming is the stories and history of what those Gods did and what ultimately happened to them. This novel works as a pure fantasy read, or a really well done socioeconomic piece on current events. One can read it either way and truly get lost in the meanings behind everything, or simply enjoy it as a blood and battle epic.

My friend Steven Gomzi was spot on with this – Gwynne is truly a master and this series is second to none.

Amazing. And again, just look at that cover! And while you’re at it, look at the second book’s cover as well!


Book Review: The Haar by David Sodergren

the haar

Title: The Haar

Author: David Sodergren

Release date: May 20th, 2022

By this point, if you’ve read any of my work, you’ll be aware that David Sodergren has been pivotal in my progression as a writer. Since my collection ‘Left Hand Path: 13 more tales of black magick’ was eviscerated by some reviewers due to horrendous editing, Sodergren has been by my side guiding my writing, editing and copy/line-editing my work. So, it should be no surprise that I’m always excited to read what David conjures, knowing how phenomenal of a job he does taking my Playdough manuscript and turning it into a Marble work of art (lol).

Do I think David’s work is grossly overlooked? Absolutely. Look at his body of work thus far; ‘The Forgotten Island,’ ‘Night Shoot,’ ‘Dead Girl Blues,’ Maggie’s Grave,’ The Perfect Victim,’ and ‘Satan’s Burnouts Must Die!’ I would call all of these Indie Horror Masterpieces. Sodergren fully embraces the DIY Self-Publishing model and the level/caliber of books he’s given us are second to none. And I’m not going to include our co-written novel ‘The Navajo Nightmare’ as I think that would be too biased, but I will say, his opening salvo that makes up the story is simply one of the best Splatter-Western stories released in that genre over the last few years.

Which brings us to ‘The Haar.’ Maybe a year ago? eight months ago? I can’t fully recall, but at some point we were discussing what each of us was working on and what releases we had coming down the pipeline and he discussed this one. He’ll correct me if I’m wrong here, but I believe back then it was being referred to as ‘Witchaven’ and he jokingly called it his monster-romance novel. He wasn’t far off. And don’t get that phrase stuck in your brain and not take a chance because I used the dreaded ‘R’ word. No, instead, Sodergren does what he does best and gives us a stunning character piece layered below a horrific plotline.

What I liked: The story follows 80+ year old, Muriel McAuley, life long resident of the Scottish fishing town Witchaven. This was where she was born and raised, met and married her husband and continued to live when, years ago, his fishing boat was found, but no signs of Billy were ever found. Now, a billionaire American is buying up all of the land and houses, building a massive golf course and resort, but some residents are holding their ground and refusing to sell. Muriel being one of them.

The story itself follows Muriel as she struggles to comprehend how this place she loves with all of her heart is being ripped away from her. She doesn’t have many years left and just wants to enjoy them in the home she’s lived in for decades.

But, if you look at that synopsis closely, you’ll see Sodergren says this is a gore-soaked folk horror fairy tale, and that’s just what we get. We get a looming fog, the haar, that sweeps in one day and brings something from the ocean. Muriel saves it, connects with it and gets to experience some of life’s moments again. Things and memories she thought long since buried, returning and reinvigorating her.

With Muriel, Sodergren has really created a truly memorable character. From the words shared in the afterword, we see the why and how, but even without that piece of backstory, you’ll fall for her and want to root for her no matter the odds.

Now, I haven’t forgotten about that ‘gore-soaked’ aspect either. Expect the brutality and bloodbath that David is known for. Think ‘Maggie’s Grave’ and you’ll have an idea, and while this one doesn’t have as much as most of his books, it works perfectly to highlight the horrors and events Muriel is living through.

The ending was perfect and the varying POV’s we get to see some of those last moments through was fantastic to really highlight the emotional aspect of this book.

What I didn’t like: The main bad guy and his son, aka The Grant’s, I think were a little underutilized in the sense that I felt they loomed but their dirty work seemed too detached. It’s hard to really say everything and remain spoiler free, so I think once you’ve given this one a go, you’ll understand.

Why you should buy this: Sodergren is the rare combo of TBR-buster and book slump-buster. You always know that even a 300 page book of his will feel like a single sitting because you’ll be so entrenched in the world and his writing flows so beautifully, that you don’t realize how long you’ve been reading.

Muriel really is the best character he’s created yet and the relationship and tenderness we get to see and experience was second to none. I’ll be raving about this book until his next one comes out, but this shows why Sodergren is so good and hopefully now, he’ll stop being overlooked.


Book Review: Below by Laurel Hightower


Title: Below

Author: Laurel Hightower

Release date: March 29th, 2022

One thing that we’ve all come to understand, is that a new novella/novel release from Laurel Hightower is a TBR buster. It will immediately go to the top, politely apologizing to the 1300 other books you have stacked beside your bed (or in my case taking up absolutely NO SPACE whatsoever on my Kindle – suckers!) as it makes its way to the top.

From ‘Whispers in the Dark’ to ‘Crossroads,’ Hightower has delivered in spades, and that’s not even mentioning her phenomenal short fiction spread across numerous must-read anthologies.

With ‘Below’ I was incredibly excited to see how she re-imagined the Mothman mythos. When I was just in high school, an older kid gave me a beat up copy of John Keel’s ‘The Mothman Prophecies’ and something like “dude, this book will change your life.” It didn’t really, but it did make me go ‘WHAT!’ upon reading it. Just what would Hightower do with this cryptid/creature?

Side note – I typically don’t mention book covers in reviews. There’s covers I’ve loved and covers I’ve hated and within those pages there’s been stories I loved and stories I’ve hated. But, I do want to add – my son is a MASSIVE Trevor Henderson fan. I’m a fan, but he is 1000% more a fan than I, and he’s only five years old. So, seeing a Henderson cover is always a fun thing for me, and it gives me great joy to show my son them as well.

What I liked: The story starts out innocently enough. A snow storm arrives as Addy is driving through a stretch of West Virginia. She stops at a dinner after a near-collision with a van. While warming up, a trucker who was also almost involved in the collision approaches her and after some back and forth, volunteers to drive ahead of her so that she doesn’t need to worry about the roads.

It’s on this drive that something appears on a bridge ahead, the truck slides and crashes through the guardrail – all in front of Addy.

Hightower does a great job of taking us from the opening to this moment, making us feel entrenched in the snow and the reality that the roads are not so great. Now, in truth, we know going in that this book is about Mothman or a variation of this creature, so the entire opening works to cause you to hold your breath, wondering just what’s going to happen. The fact that this truck careens over the side of the road and plunges down this ravine made for an unseen jump scare of sorts.

Laurel has created both a vulnerable and traumatized character in Addy, one trying to forge her own confidence and path in the world, now that she’s divorced. As events unfold we begin to see little sparks of strength and will begin to take hold and by the ending Addy is a powerful character, one that overcomes a lot to keep battling and stay alive. This becomes even more apparent when dealing with law enforcement at one point and how they try to belittle her and mansplain to her, which she isn’t having any of their crap.

I would be remiss to not mention the creature in this. I won’t say much, as I want you to experience it for yourself but Hightower gives us some phenomenal moments that will scare the heck out of you. Descriptions of things touched in the dark and appendages appearing into view will leave you shook.

What I didn’t like: I don’t really know if I bought into what was being hauled in the truck. I don’t think we get a full explanation (if we did I missed it), but if you eliminated that aspect completely, nothing would change for the story events or progression. It was cool, yes, but I just don’t know if it worked for me.

Why you should buy this: Hightower has created a claustrophobic, psychological nightmare masquerading as a creature-feature. It makes you connect and root for Addy from page one and as the story moves along, we see the insurmountable odds stacked against her. And still she fights to survive. This showcases Laurel’s phenomenal writing ability, stunning characters and of course, she tackles a re-imagining to the highest level.

Outstanding work from one of the best out there!


Book Review: Gross Out by Duncan Ralston


Title: Gross Out

Author: Duncan Ralston

Release date: April 7th, 2022

Duncan Ralston.

I’ll say upfront, that Duncan and myself are friends. I’m a huge fan of his writing and he’s been a big supporter of a lot of authors (myself included).

BUT. (And this is a big but (You’re all welcome for that joke by the way!)). BUT – Duncan can sometimes be, let’s say… controversial. Maybe – maybe sometimes he posts or tweets something and it can make a large section of the online community a bit upset. Maybe, sometimes, he’ll post something and have a blog post written about him and then be blocked.

Whether you love the guy or not, one thing can’t be denied – he has a solid, feverish fan base, and recently his novel ‘Woom’ has exploded in popularity. I for one have absolutely loved seeing it. ‘Woom’ is an extreme-horror story, but one that explores a deeply broken character and the great lengths he goes to try and connect with someone, to find what has been missing his entire life.

When Ralston mentioned that ‘Gross Out’ would continue some of ‘Woom’s’ storyline, I was a bit worried. I didn’t want him to sully those characters (and I’ll discuss that a bit later), but he assured me it would work and people would be happy.

I have to say – having now read ‘Gross Out,’ Duncan has done something that not only is incredibly topical, but I think will grow to become a timeless piece of ‘Horror Community’ fiction. Not only is this story completely Meta, the reality will be that as you read this you’ll be wondering which character is based off of which real life author/reviewer, but also one that showcases the ebbs and flows that occur almost monthly within the dark fiction community.

The irony wasn’t lost on me that I read this story while both Scares That Cares AuthorCon was happening AND the Silver Shamrock Publishing implosion occurred (both on the same weekend).

What I liked: Now, ‘Gross Out’ is based around the idea of the Gross Out Contests that will happen at many conventions. In the past these have usually caused some mild ‘fallout’ where somebody goes too far or insults somebody to a level that they can’t laugh it off. As well, there’s been a few instances where somebody has had a routine SOOOOOO over the top that formal apologies are made and some publishers cease working with that individual.

That is the schtick or the reason that this book exists. It is the annual convention and a large group of authors are attending, for panel readings, book signings, marketing and at the very end – the Gross Out Contest.

There are essentially two main plot points within ‘Gross Out’ but numerous side characters. The first main plot follows Clay, disgraced author whose previous Gross Out Contest entry went sideways and had him banned, unpublished and losing friends left and right. One person who stays by him is Moira, a British author and over the last few years, they’ve made an emotional connection.

The second main plot point is several people (Clay included) who want to get revenge on best-seller David Ennis.

Within these two plots we get a lot of side angles and storylines, but fear not, Duncan handles each and within them we get a beginning, middle and ending. We get to see how each “side quest” plays out over the course of the three day weekend and for that, Ralston shows his ability in crafting both believable characters but also incredibly engaging storylines. It’s funny, as when each chapter switches to different characters you’ll be annoyed that we’re now following somebody else, but also excited to dive back into what is now happening with that character.

The ending is horrific, kind of expected based on the lead up, but also incredibly entertaining. The final event, the Gross Out Contest, finishes everything off and we get to see how all of the other plot lines get wrapped up and even gives us a bit of an allusion to what the fall out will be. Seeing Clay and Moira’s weekend come full circle was really great and those two were easily my favorite characters.

Lastly – I’ll just touch on the ‘Woom’ continuation. Those who can’t afford the hotel at the convention itself, all stay in the hotel featured in ‘Woom,’ which was a nice touch. Secondly, Clay has an encounter with the two main characters from ‘Woom’ (I want to keep this spoiler free) and learns about how they connected and what came next. It is really well done and Ralston handles it with the delicacy it deserves and I was hoping for.

What I didn’t like:  As I said in the intro to this review, you either enjoy Ralston or don’t. If you’re a person who doesn’t, I think you’d still enjoy this book, love the commentary on the horror community in general and have a fun convention based story.

BUT (hey, another big but!) I can see this getting some people in a tizzy and offended, especially if they see themselves in any of these characters. While reading this, I actually messaged Duncan to ask if I was a particular Canadian author, and he assured me that I was not and that all of the characters are based on aspects of himself. Believe it if you will. Or not!

Why you should buy this: First – you don’t have to have read ‘Woom’ to read this. That book is summed up nicely within that part, so don’t let that deter you. Secondly, as I mentioned, Duncan has really crafted a well constructed book, one that feels both like a documentary but also a really well done satirical piece. For fans of his books, you’ll really love this one and for those who’ve not read him before, I think this is a really great spot to dive in. It shows how great of a writer Duncan is while also showcasing his humor and love of grossing people out.

Really, really great job.


Book Review: Primal Reserve by L.J. Dougherty


Title: Primal Reserve (Espionage Horror Series Book #2)

Author: L.J. Dougherty

Release date: January 17th, 2022

Recently I had the pleasure of reading the first book in this series ‘Beasts of the Caliber Lodge,’ and really, really loved it. I had that book on my TBR for a while and, knowing that the sequel was out, I wanted to jump on the second one.

Just a heads up – this is a sequel, and while you could get away with reading this without the first, there is a lot of subtext and alluding to the events in the first that you wouldn’t completely follow or know. Also, I’ll do my best to keep it spoiler free for both books, but there is something specific I’ll discuss that might not be completely spoiler free!

I was on a podcast a number of months back with Dougherty (alongside David Sodergren and Cameron Roubique) and on that podcast, L.J. discussed how the first book started as a screenplay, which he adapted to a novel as he realized he’d never get enough funds to film it. Fair enough. That also makes both book one and book two feel and read very cinematic.

What I liked: Picking up after the events of book one, Jimmy Knotts now heads to South American, in search of a Nazi called The Winemaker. Jumping onboard a river boat, Knotts and the crew head deeper into the Amazon.

Now, of course, this has a few different plot points going for it. We get the crew looking for these crazy creatures known as Yacuruna’s. Think of them like the creature from ‘The Shape of Water’ or Abe Sapien from the Hellboy world. They live in the water of the rivers and these amphibious creatures protect their territories. We also get turmoil between characters and eventually we arrive at the home of The Winemaker.

Dougherty, as I mentioned, writes very cinematically. So, expect lush descriptions of locations and ‘pan shots’ where we are introduced to where the action is going to happen. The action itself is always a ton of fun and seeing how each character reacts and does what they can to survive was great.

Lastly, the sequence that ends this particular book is really great. I always enjoy seeing the bad guys ultimately get justice served and L.J. makes sure that we get to see this all with vivid detail. You’ll be grinning from ear to ear.

What I didn’t like: A couple things really stuck out for me here, especially when compared to the first (and this is the minor spoiler thingy I mentioned earlier). In ‘Beasts…’ the sasquatch play a prominent role in the plot of the story. In fact, most of the story involves the creatures – first the hunt of them, then the escape. In this book, the creatures are completely secondary and almost totally forgotten about by the ending. As someone who really loved the cryptid aspect of book one, this one is a bit of let down in comparison. Additionally, there is an odd almost love connection that occurred early on with a creature that not only never went anywhere, but really played no part in pushing anything forward and I was disappointed that it wasn’t utilized.

Secondly, at the ending, there is an illusion to something bigger/larger overarching than the Nazi aspect and I just don’t know if that worked for me. We’ll see if it gets expanded upon in book three, but for now, I think it pulled away from the historical grounding the Nazi hunt offered the books.

Why you should buy this: As with book one, book two races along. These are spy-page turners, a mix of action, suspense and intrigue where you always know something is going to happen but you don’t know what or when. Dougherty also does a great job of making everybody a potential turn-coat which also makes for an investing read.

I’m excited to see where we end up in book three, but for now, those looking for a really engaging series to dive into, these books will be right up your alley.


Book Review: Foundlings by Cindy O’Quinn & Stephanie Ellis


Title: Foundlings

Authors: Cindy O’Quinn & Stephanie Ellis

Release date: February 14th, 2022

Found Poetry.

To me, a poetry novice (read uneducated in all of the forms of poetry!), my first experience with Found Poetry was with last years ‘Strange Nests’ by Jessica McHugh. In that collection, McHugh reconstructed sections of ‘The Secret Garden’ to create vivid poems. Reconstructed might not be the correct word or idea, but I’m not sure how else to describe it.

In Found Poetry, the author essentially ‘blacks out’ portions of lines to reveal the word or words that they need to use to create their own poem. It is really something and both staggering to comprehend and fantastic to read.

Which brings me to ‘Foundlings.’ Cindy O’Quinn and Stephanie Ellis are not only two of my favorite writers to read, but also two of my favorite people in the dark fiction community. Time and time again they demonstrate their talent as well as their kindness, so seeing them team up for this release had me super excited.

Within ‘Foundlings,’ O’Quinn and Ellis focus on the poetry of the amazing duo of Linda D. Addison and Alessandro Manzetti, both of whom are phenomenal writers on their own right.

What I liked: The book is separated in different sections. First we get O’Quinn’s found poems, then Ellis’, and in the last section we then also get to see them take it to a whole other level by crafting Haiku’s as well. Re-read that last bit. I’ll wait while you give your head a shake. That’s right. Not only do they first tackle straight forward poetry (and trust me this isn’t simple in that sense) but then go one step further and craft Haiku’s from Addison and Manzetti’s work. Stunning.

The poems within are all really, really engaging and filled with visceral images, moving passages and heartfelt moments. It makes it all the more intriguing when you remember that this was once someone else’s work and through stripping away words and portions, they’ve left us with something completely new. It’s akin to the phoenix rising from the ashes but time and time again.

Now, in most of my reviews of collections and anthologies, I often highlight a few that stuck with me or that I felt were the ‘best,’ but in this case I’m not going to for two reasons. The first is that every single piece within was really, really phenomenal. The second reason, is I don’t think it would be fair to Addison and Manzetti. I know that sounds odd, but both of those writers are living legends in the fiction and poetry worlds and I wouldn’t want to suggest that any of their original work was lesser by highlighting something written from it. It may seem odd, but for me, I just can’t bring myself to do that.

Saying all of that – I do want to highlight the level of care and thought that O’Quinn and Ellis put into this project, as well as just how fantastic those Haiku’s are at the end. To take something and craft a found poem inspired by someone else’s work is one thing, but to then restrict yourself to Haiku parameters. Wow. Just wow.

What I didn’t like: This release was really phenomenal, but for those who are potentially put off by not being familiar with Addison’s or Manzetti’s work, don’t let that stop you. Much in the way McHugh also took source material and utilized it to her own benefit, O’Quinn and Ellis do that same.

Why you should buy this: O’Quinn and Ellis are two of the most supportive people out there, so that should be reason enough to buy this. Saying that, this release is just an outstanding achievement. What they’ve done here is hands down one of the most amazing things I’ve read; both the poems and Haiku’s they’ve created, but also the amount of work that has gone into this release.

The dual foreword’s by Addison and Manzetti really show how much they’re in awe of what has been created here and that in itself should really show you what you’re in for.

Kudos to Cindy and Stephanie, this was outstanding.