Book Review: The Ravening by Chris Kosarich

the ravening

Title: The Ravening

Author: Chris Kosarich

Release date: March 20, 2021

I’ve read a few of Kosarich’s work, but when I saw the synopsis and cover for his latest ‘The Ravening’ I was excited. Off all of his releases so far, this was the one that was certainly going to be directly up my alley.

What I didn’t expect was a seemingly throwback to my youth when you’d rent a VHS based on the cover and the potential for nudity and be rewarded with a fantastic film and tons of gore, death and skin.

Kosarich nailed this one, what a fun ride.

What I liked: The story is fairly standard fare for a horror book. An isolated resort gets cut off from the mainland when an accident crumples the bridge. At the same time a massive tropical storm barrels down on them. Of course, this is a horror tale, so ‘something’ is awakened in the water near the resort and begins to infect and rip apart humans as it spreads.

Kosarich, as I mentioned, as made a perfect B-Horror novel. I don’t mean that in a negative way or disparaging in the least, but it’s the most precise way for me to describe just the gloriousness of what you’re in store for.

I really loved the way the characters wove between their jobs, their responsibilities but also their personal issues. Kosarich makes even the lesser characters feel real and as the storm arrives and the ‘thing’ arrives, you’ll feel sad as they fall one after another.

Lastly, I just want to mention, Kosarich has added an additional layer to the story with a mysterious group and some strange things that he mentions will be expanded upon. I won’t go too deep into this, as I want to remain spoiler free, but I’m intrigued to see what comes next.

What I didn’t like: While the characters were well done, there were still some that really ground my gears and felt superficial with their desires/wants. Most of them were minor overall to the plot, but a few had bigger roles and I was annoyed whenever they’d resurface.

Why you should buy this: Of the work I’ve read of Kosarich’s, this is easily the best thing he’s done. I loved the direct opening of this book and how he delivered a cinematic story that really felt like a classic horror slasher. This was a ton of fun and I think folks who enjoy a lot of Unnerving’s recent Rewind or Die series will really enjoy this.


*At the moment it appears to be only out in ebook, but I have seen Chris share a full cover wrap so I’d expect the paperback to arrive shortly

Book Review: The Damned by Andrew Pyper

the damned

Title: The Damned

Author: Andrew Pyper

Release date: January 1st, 2015

I don’t often make it a habit to re-read books, but as time marches on and I get further from the books that first introduced me to Andrew’s work, I knew I had to dive back in. I’ve spoken many, many times of discovering ‘The Demonologist’ and purchasing both ‘The Damned’ and ‘Lost Girls’ immediately after finishing ‘The Demonologist.’

It’s an odd thing though, isn’t it – re-reading. Seeing different things pop up that you’ve some how missed or that now connect you to the book in a way you never expected.

When I read this, six years ago in Abbotsford, I was married and we didn’t have a kid yet. In October that year, we’d move to Calgary, as I pursued my Olympic dreams of competing for Canada in Bobsleigh and by August of 2016, our son would arrive. I was a completely different human. And maybe that’s why I really liked this book, but didn’t love it? Maybe that’s why some of the more emotional moments that reading now absolutely crushed me, didn’t have the same weight back then? I can’t say. While reading this for the second time, I came across a scene that left me so rattled, just bathed in sorrow that I had to put the book down for the rest of the night as the tears that came wouldn’t allow the Kindle screen to be visible. I actually messaged Andrew the next day about the scene. I can’t believe I’d forgotten about it, as I know it’ll never leave me now, but again – that may be because of where I am now versus where I was then.

What I liked: In my recent review of ‘The Demonologist’ I mentioned Andrew’s look at grief and searching for a missing loved one over a five book arc. ‘The Damned’ falls into the fourth of the five books, released in 2015 and just two years before the final chapter of this saga, ‘The Only Child’ arrived in 2017.

‘The Damned’ follows Danny Orchard, international best-selling author about his memoir where he died and came back to life. The reason this particular memoir exploded – he died trying to save his twin sister, Ash, from a house fire and he brought back proof of the afterlife. What proof? While he was in The After, the name given to the place between life and death, he found his mom and she gave him her watch that she was buried with.

I typically don’t like getting too personal in reviews, but with ‘The Damned’ I’m going to. So, apologies, as normally I try to just focus on the book itself. In ‘The Damned,’ when Ash and Danny were born, Ash died and was brought back to life, the doctors and nurses saving her. Danny alludes to the fact that throughout her entire life, Ash has been ‘evil,’ that something lies just below the surface that maybe she brought back with her from over there.

I’ve discussed it before, but I typically don’t share it that often, but when my son was born, both him and my wife were pronounced dead. They were both officially gone for six minutes before they were both able to be revived. Efforts had been stopped but for some unknown reason, the anesthesiologist suggested they do something for my wife and something for my son and both worked. It’s a moment in my life that was crushing as I signed papers for organ donation etc, but also a moment of sheer amazement and disbelief as suddenly the ER Nurse burst into where I was waiting and told me to follow her as they were back. Now, I don’t believe either of them brought anything back over from the other side, reading this part in the book was very surreal. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten that this book had this story line.

The main plot point of ‘The Damned’ is that Ash continues to haunt Danny, working hard to prevent him from any happiness in his life. This ramps up when Danny meets Willa and her son Eddie and they become a family unit quickly.

If you’ve read any of Andrew’s writing before you know how devastatingly descriptive he can be. Simply turn of phrases have dagger-like impact on the reader and with ‘The Damned’ he doesn’t hold back.

One thing that I felt reading this was this was one of the few works that really seemed to wear the research books on its sleeve, and not in a bad way. ‘Proof of Heaven’ by Eben Alexander is a focal point of this novel. In Alexander’s non-fiction, real book, he describes what happens when he died and when into his after. Andrew offers up a number of philosophical questions throughout this one, but they seem to be rooted in the idea of what may await us when our time on this planet is over.

The book itself also reminded me of Richard Matheson’s ‘What Dreams May Come.’ Caveat here – I love the movie and as of yet, I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the book. But this idea of finding one’s loved one and trying to make things right follows along well with Pyper’s five book narrative.

The last research/inspired by book that I’m suggesting (and this is 100% a hypothesis on my end) is Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Pyper has spoken before of how, no matter what you think of King/King’s writing etc, one thing you can’t take away is how he’s changed the horror world. King is to horror as Kleenex is to tissue paper. Within ‘The Damned’ I found a few suggestions (and again this may have been me looking too deeply into it) that this story was offset just slightly from the path of the one true beam. We even get descriptions of similar parts ie: a beast chase (which is even the beast featured on book 4.5 of the series), a train/monorail type vessel, the singular narrative of following a pull etc. Time and time again, I wondered if this was Andrew, not so much writing a book to be thought of as a Dark Tower book, but his own personal tribute to that fictional world.

The ending of this is superb. The book gallops along from start to finish, but I think this is the one book (out of the five narrative I’ve proposed) that ends decidedly on a different note than the other ones, but it is spot on perfect.

As for the scene I mentioned earlier that absolutely devastated me – if you end up reading this either because of my review or because you’re a Pyper fan – when you get to there, you’ll know. I almost wish I’d never read that chapter, so soul crushing it is.

What I didn’t like: With all the books I truly love, it’s often hard to find things I dislike, but I want to stay fair and objective. When it comes to ‘The Damned’ I think the character of Ash will be very polarizing for readers. A character you either loathe or absolutely wish wasn’t involved at all. She is the perfect character to pull Danny along – his twin and the ‘better’ version, but she was absolutely infuriating.

Why you should buy this: ‘The Damned’ manages to be both a fantastic thriller where our character Danny searches for the answers that’ll set him free, but also a possession-type tale where his twin sister comes back to haunt him and inflict trauma on him and his new family. Pyper is an absolutely stunning writer, and honestly if you’ve not figured out I love his work, I don’t know what else to say ha! My second go-around with this book really surprised me, especially with just how much of the book I’d not remembered and how much of it I connected with in a new and very emotional way. This is one of the very best by one of the very best and if you have it on your TBR, do yourself a favor and bump it up. Stunning work.


Book Review: Vaudeville and Other Nightmares by Greg Chapman

vaudeville collection

Title: Vaudeville and Other Nightmares

Author: Greg Chapman

Release date: March 10, 2019

Big thanks to Greg for sending this my way. Truth be told – the title novella in this collection, ‘Vaudeville,’ is getting a stand alone release shortly. So after chatting with Greg, this was a two-birds-one-stone review set up!

As you probably already know, I’m a massive fan of Greg’s work and ‘Vaudeville and Other Nightmares’ is another prime example of why you should be reading both is short and long fiction.

I’ll have a more in-depth review of the title story once Greg shares the cover for it, but for now I’ll focus my review on the collection as a whole.

What I liked: The collection opens up with the stunning novella ‘Vaudeville.’ As I indicated, I won’t say much about it here, other than it was a fantastic piece of dark fiction and reminded me of a lot of the dark fantasy stories/cartoons I used to watch growing up. Very similar feel to those.

Of the stories within, the other two that really stood out and were my favorites were ‘Deluge’ and ‘The Only Son.’

‘Deluge’ starts with this line; When the sky turned red, the people of Fairhaven ran screaming into the streets. Hooked. The story goes places you can kind of expect with that opening line, but with Greg’s deftly controlling the narrative expect darkness and brutality. My minor gripe with this one was I wished it had been novella length as there were a number of places that could’ve been expanded or increased that would’ve really been great to see.

‘The Only Son’ is a story that’ll stay with me for a long, long time. This would make for such an outstanding one-man play and has some of the most haunting imagery that I’ve ever read. This is a bread and butter Chapman storytelling and worth the admission price alone. I can’t say too much about the story as I don’t want to spoil it, but just expect a heartbreaking introspective piece that is purposefully vague.

Throughout, Chapman delivers some eerie and frightening pieces, which shows his scope of conjuring emotional responses to stories you didn’t expect to hit you in those ways.

What I didn’t like: Honestly, I’m so burned out on anthologies and collections that if I wasn’t reading this one to specifically review the main novella, I would’ve passed. Collections can be draining as not all stories will click. In this one, I only had one story I wasn’t overly a fan of, but as with all experiences, that one story may well be your favorite.

Why you should buy this: ‘Vaudeville and Other Nightmares’ is a fantastic collection and comes with some amazing illustrations, which always shows how talented Greg is. If you’re looking to experience his writing over a number of ideas, this collection is a great place to start. I’ve loved everything Greg has released that I’ve read. Look for my in-depth look at the ‘Vaudeville’ novella soon, but until then, definitely give Chapman’s work a go!


Book Review: Unplugged by J.B. Taylor

Title: Unplugged

Author: J.B. Taylor

Release date: April 14, 2021

Funny thing about social media is you’ll randomly connect with some of the most awesome people through the most random of ways. I think it was either a sarcastic making fun of Duncan Ralston or Edward Lorn Twitter thread where myself and J.B. Taylor connected (I might be wrong but joking about something was definitely how we connected). From there is was the usual level of goofy interactions, funny gifs and memes on each others tweets etc and hilarity ensued.

It wasn’t until I posted a review of one of Martha Wells’ Murderbot books that J.B reached out. Many folks think I purely read horror (which isn’t true of my reading or my writing) and he asked if I’d take his debut novel for a spin.

He labelled it sci-fi/dystopian/cyber punk which had me intrigued. I’ve not read a lot of cyber punk, but what I have I’ve enjoyed, so I agreed and dove in.

What I liked: ‘Unplugged’ follows Zendaya in a world where blind devotion is given to a mysterious figure and the earth has been scorched. The story itself follows along at a break-neck pace with layer upon layer unraveled.

I really enjoyed how this one followed a fairly standard mystery set up. Not to say that’s a bad thing, but little details and hints are dropped and it’s up to the reader to try and connect these clues at the same time Zendaya does.

There is some truly fantastic imagery in this book, cinematic in scope and this setting is what really propelled the story along. Knowing that not everything you see is what truly is there.

Taylor has a really easy way of writing, even when we get some deeper sci-fi moments and the way things occur throughout really pulled me along, made me want to know just what the heck is going on.

What I didn’t like:  Hard, classic sci-fi moments are tough for me. There are moments of this where we get a lot of description on how something works or how the tech operates and I have to consciously work to not tune those parts out as I know it’ll play a role later on. For the most part these moments are minimal, but it was something that cropped up.

Why you should buy this: If you like visiting imaginative new worlds where nothing is what it seems and you just never know what the next chapter will bring – this one’s for you. I really had a blast with Taylor’s ‘Unplugged,’ a very strong debut that introduced us to memorable characters and a stunning playground that they lived in.


Book Review: The Last Night of October by Greg Chapman


Title: The Last Night of October

Author: Greg Chapman

Release date: April 16, 2021 (Previously released in 2013, 2014 & 2016)

Huge thanks to Omnium Gatherum. Netgalley and Greg Chapman for approving this for me to read.

I’ve hailed my love of Greg’s work for a number of years now and when I saw this pop up on Netgalley, I couldn’t resist, even knowing that if I was approved I might not get it read before release date. Once I was approved though, I had to put my other reads aside for an evening and read this. At about 70 pages, this was an easy single sitting read and for those who might be on the slower side of reading, the way Chapman hooks you with this one will force you to read this without putting it down, so be prepared.

What I liked: Like every other book I’ve read from Chapman (and his short stories) you’ll start out feeling familiar with what you’re going to read, only to see the stunning scope of ‘freshness’ that Greg’s writing infuses into every trope. The book itself actually opens with a really nice foreword by Lisa Morton, which sets the stage. She says that Chapman writes one of the most stunning Halloween based stories while also throwing the expectations of what a Halloween story should be, on its head. You know what? She’s spot on.

The story is simple enough (and familiar). We are introduced to an old man, Gerald Forsyth. Life has caught up to him, so he depends on home nurses to come and make sure his air cannisters are changed over and his oxygen supply is functioning correctly. He lives alone, just how he prefers it. He hates life itself and everything included; people, outdoors, niceness, everything. But what he hates most of all is Halloween.

Chapman does an enormous amount with the bare minimum. Gerald doesn’t want anyone coming to his house on Halloween and this is most evident when a fill-in nurse arrives and decides to open the door to a mysteriously quiet trick-or-treater.

This simple act plunges the story down the rabbit hole you know Chapman was leading us towards, but when he takes us there, Good Lord. Expect grief driven darkness to infiltrate that layer between your skin and muscle, because this one makes you squirm.

I always love how Greg makes sure everything feels real. Even the paranormal/supernatural/horror elements he’ll write about always have a sensation of ‘this is actually possible’ to them and ‘The Last Night of October’ is a prime example of this.

Learning about the ‘why’ of Gerald’s disgust towards October 31st was a really great section and elevates everything that came before it as well as what happens after.

What I didn’t like: In this case – I wanted to smack our fill-in nurse. She was inside Gerald’s house and he expressly asked her not to do specific things, which she did anyways. But, I guess, if she’d listened then we wouldn’t have discovered the rest of the story, so fine, I guess that’s ok haha!

Why you should buy this: Chapman is one of my favorite authors and he is a stunning artist as well. ‘The Last Night of October’ deserves a wider release from it’s limited offers previously and is another amazing example of how talented Greg is as a writer. It doesn’t matter the length of story, you can always expect a fantastically twisted tale and this one is no different.

One of the best things I’ve read from Greg, this one is a must read and I’m excited to see more people discover his work.


‘The Last Night of October’ is currently available for pre-order through the publisher, but I’d expect a wider launch through the usual channels around release date.

Book Review: Artificial Condition by Martha Wells


Title: Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2)

Author: Martha Wells

Release date: May 8, 2018

I recently read (and loved) book one of Martha Wells’ ‘The Murderbot Diaries’ titled ‘All Systems Red.’ In the series opener we’re introduced to Murderbot, an augmented human security being who has hacked their own governor model and walks the line between letting their personality show while remaining as machine-like as possible.

I couldn’t wait to dive into book two.

Saying that – this is a hard sequel, meaning you most definitely need to have read book one to know what is going on and as such, while I still remain as spoiler proof as possible – this review will allude to events in book one that may be a spoiler. I suggest you don’t read this review unless you’ve read book one.

What I liked: Where book one followed our Murderbot grappling with their feelings towards the crew they were purchased to protect, book two picks up following the events of book one and we see our sarcastic bot heading towards the scene of their own personal turmoil. Boarding a ship by hacking the security system and interacting with the mechanical beings that make up the various programs of each ship, before ending up in a cargo style ship.

It’s here that Murderbot strikes up a tentative friendship with the program that controls the ship, dubbed ART.

Wells does a great job of having these two characters develop a friendship and when Murderbot shares their reason for heading to their destination, ART becomes a partner/aide to help our bot get to the end goal.

Wells writes with such an ease that the story whips by, aided by the quick wit and sarcastic nature of our main character.

This entry really summed up how much Murderbot craves companionship, even if they are dead set on remaining as far away of being human as possible.

What I didn’t like: While the main aspect of this story is Murderbot and ART becoming friends, I found it was a bit of a slow slog near the start as we get to see them tentatively interact and ensure neither are there to hurt the other.

Why you should buy this: If you loved book one you’ll love book two. Wells has crafted a truly classic character and I really can’t wait to see what happens next. I’ll be starting book three soon and it looks like book six is about to be released. If you love sci-fi/horror and witty banter, this is a perfect series for you to discover.