Give them some love: Or why you should shout about your favorite author!


See this image above? Yeah, those are my Andrew Pyper shelves. And you know what? This photo is already outdated. I’m fast approaching 100 physical copies of Andrew’s work, and in this case – I’m blessed or fortunate that my favorite author happens to have had a significant amount of his work translated and published in foreign languages. This allows me to collect a dozen of a single release or more. I have two books in transit as I write this and only nine editions out there in the world that I haven’t found yet.

That’s great, you may say, but why are you posting this?

Well, let’s be frank – the world isn’t all that great lately. Bad news stacked on bad news. This has been a blog post I’ve been thinking about for a bit and with the culmination of more bad news and my desire to procrastinate on a pending story for an anthology invite – I figured this was the perfect time to devote a blog post to WHY WE NEED TO YELL AND SHOUT ABOUT OUR FAVORITE AUTHORS!

Let’s get straight to it.

Reason #1 – Everyone needs a cheerleader.


Look, the reality is, once a book is released there’s nothing an author can do about the reception of that book. You can sit back and hope for great reviews to come rolling in, but it’s a struggle to not go to Goodreads or Amazon or wherever and see how the book is doing – and – inevitably, the time you break and go – you’ll discover a new 1 star review or a DNF telling you to stop pursuing your passion.

That’s where the fans come in. Rave about the book. If you read it and love it let the world know!!

Which leads into;

Reason #2 – It’ll help other readers discover their work.

I’ll admit (and you can ask my wife this) I consider Andrew to be a bonafide celebrity. Like, this is an author whose books are International Bestsellers, who has a publishing deal with a massive publishing house, who probably has the coolest ‘contact list’ on his phone. To me, Andrew is waaaaaayyy up there in my eyes and I’m not afraid to admit it. Saying that (and much to my ABSOLUTE shock – again ask the wife) some folks haven’t heard of Andrew. It happens. There’s a lot of books, a lot of authors and a lot of genres. And, depending on when the book launches, sometimes things can get missed.

Does it annoy you that I post all my Andrew stuff? Too bad is what I say. His work brings me so much joy – and it also allows others to discover his work. Literally, every single time I post any of his books, I’ll get a DM or an IG story reply that looks like this;


Or I’ll get a message asking which book they should start with! As a super fan – this makes me so happy! To have an interaction with someone about these amazing books is always a highlight. And to recommend a book to someone and see them read and enjoy it always makes me smile!

Reason #3 – FREE PROMO!

No matter how big or small of an author someone is, promoting your own work is a necessity and for 99% of us, it always feels icky. But – when someone else RAVES about your book, you can share that review, screenshot it and post it on your stories or personally thank them for taking the time to read your work. And all of that was FREE PROMO for the author. Every little bit helps – each comment, post, picture, review, like, share, IG/Tik Tok story etc etc has the potential to get a new set of eyeballs on your favorite authors work!

Some of us even go a bit more extreme and do month long celebrations of their work, create T-shirts, get ephemera made, do a year-long-monthly giveaway, interview them and make an online archive of their work… but that’s only some of us… lol!



Reason #4 – Writing can feel very isolating.

It’s true. We often enter into this written world and stay in this singular world until it is done. Then you wrap it up in a pretty cover, format the interior and send it out into the real world, where you’re supposed to not be upset if someone rips it to shreds. It can be very taxing and you often feel like maybe what you’re doing won’t be liked by anybody.

And then… here comes a fan who raves about the book and gushes over it everywhere. And that right there can really lift a writer’s spirits. And that leads me to number 5…

Reason #5 – Authors are humans too!

As I alluded earlier, to me, my favorite author is a celebrity. This is someone I’ve had the fortune to get to know and develop a friendship over the last five years or so, and to this day I get giddy if I see I have a message from Andrew. But, he’s a regular guy, just like all of our fav authors are regular folks. And those regular folks have successes and failures and ups and downs and highs and lows and that’s when us fans can give them a boost.

No matter how successful you are as a writer, there are always those ‘what about me?’ moments. Look, I’m a massive cheerleader and supporter (I’ll discuss that more in a moment), but we all have those moments where someone announces a huge success and we think ‘why isn’t that me?‘ It can be and will be and we gotta work hard to achieve it. But, our fav authors also have those moments. Fans are there to continue to support them and give them a boost, even when us fans don’t realize they need them! Conversely, it can also be a bad review posted everywhere for all to see. The author takes that soul crushing hit but it’s only momentary because here comes SUPERFAN!

Reason #6 – Build people up/Support/Encourage.

Yeah, I know, lame ‘reason’ title, but I couldn’t think of anything else to describe it.

As I said at the top, the world is filled with crap and bad news. But we can make each day a little bit better for those around us. How? By building people up, supporting people and encouraging each other.

Take my Twitter profile as an example. I’ve someone approached having 5900 followers at the time of writing this (How? No clue, truly blows my mind. Also for some perspective – the town I grew up in had like 100 residents. Isn’t that insane? Now, 5900 are following me? Humbling) and not all of those followers follow the same other people. So, that gives me some reach and some scope. And that’s why I employ my build/support/encourage mentality. Somebody has a new book out? Like, retweet, comment etc. A book coming out that looks great? I pre-order those I want to read. I review. I encourage. My DM’s are open for any advice I can give.

But guess what? I employ that same strategy to both my fav author and to all the other people on my Twitter feed. And if that connects others and gets more eyeballs on peoples work – BINGO! Job done!

Reason #7 – Celebrate what brings you joy!

Look, we only have a finite amount of time on this planet and within that finite time we have even less time that we can devote to those hobbies that bring you joy. In my case – reading is one of my biggest loves. I read every night and it’s something I look forward to all day. So, remember, you’re allowed to love whatever author you want to love! If their work brings you joy and helps you get through some rough patches, celebrate it.

The great thing about Social Media, is that it has allowed us to connect in a way we couldn’t before. In the past, maybe I would’ve been able to mail a letter to Andrew and maybe he would’ve replied. Or somehow I managed to get an email in front of him and he might’ve replied and that would’ve been it – I would go about my life with that email/letter framed, sitting by his books (I actually have an email from Andrew framed FYI, lol!) on my shelves and I’d tell all my friends about how awesome his books are. But that’s changed and with Social Media, I get to share my love to the world and the world gets to discover his work. And that can be the same for you and your fav author.

Drawbacks – maybe a bit harsh to call it drawbacks, but calling it ‘negatives’ seemed even worse, ha! But, as with all Social Media, there will be some odd things that will occur when you celebrate your fav author all the time, and I figured I should at least put it out there so nobody is surprised.

People often dislike when others continuously post about something. I see it on the various platforms – for instance a friend of mine from my athlete days gets comments on his lifting videos saying ‘do you post anything else other than lifting.’ Why? He’s a competitive weight lifter. That’s what he loves and does all the time. Of course he’ll post it. My friend and fellow author Dave Jeffery gets frequent heat from his author posts when he celebrates other authors. Why? What does it take away from your life? Build people up, share and encourage and spread joy.

So, it should be no surprise, that I get a few messages a month where people suggest I kindly do obscene stuff to myself and suggest I post about other authors. For the record, I do post about others. All the time. So there. Take your obscene suggestions and obscene yourself.

One of the absolute highlights EVER was the day I got the notification on Twitter that Andrew Pyper was now following me. Like, I screenshot it and sent it to my wife and smiled for the rest of the day. It’s little things in life that can add up. So, if you see someone posting about an author all the time, don’t be annoyed, don’t be rude, because those books and that author have had an impact on that reader. As another example – I LOVE seeing my buddy George’s expanding Paul Tremblay wing. He’s been lucky enough to meet Paul a number of times and I know just how much George loves Paul’s work. Seeing that makes me smile and so very happy for my friend.

Us super fans, we’ll get teased, have memes made about our fandom, and be compared to a certain Stephen King book about a certain character. And that’s fine. I don’t mind any of that. It’s the rudeness that you’ll get that you need to block out and push aside while you continue to share your love of their work!

In closing;

Thank God, right?

Finally, I’m at the end and I’ll shut up about why you should rave about your favorite author?

Kind of.

Let’s recap – in summary – you should ALWAYS rave about books you love, share why people should read your fav author, tag them in your great posts (this will help others see them as well) and, don’t care what others think.

If you shout your love about one book, and someone buys that book, then shouts about that book and someone buys that book… well you get the idea.

The world is complicated, depressing and a tough place to exist in. Why not share some positivity and spread some joy, especially about books that make you happy!

Now, if you’ve read this far (and sorry for some rambling), I hope you’ll take some time to share why you love your fav author. Shout it on your platforms – FB, IG, Twitter, Tik Tok, wherever – share the joy and love of their work! And tell me! Tell me what I should read and why you love them!

Lastly – a meme;

READ (1)

And a recommendation;

My first Andrew Pyper book was The Demonologist. If you’ve not read it before, I highly recommend you give it a go;

The Andrew Pyper Archives Link;

The Demonologist (2013)




Book Review: The Hunger of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #2) by John Gwynne


Title: The Hunger of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #2)

Author: John Gwynne

Release date: April 12th, 2022

Firstly – my sincerest apologies to Mr. Gwynne, Orbit and Netgalley. I was approved for this book prior to publication and, while I was reading ‘The Shadow of the Gods’ which was Book 1 in this series. Much to my chagrin, life happened, and I was slowed down in my reading time and availability. Thus, here we are, a month and a week post release day and I’ve just finished reading it. So, I wanted to say sorry.

For those unfamiliar, I enjoy reading fantasy occasionally. More when something ticks certain boxes. One thing that has created a bit of a negative or hesitancy for me, is the fact that two of the fantasy series I love the most are still unfinished (looking squarely at you Martin and Rothfuss) and thus, when a series begins, I’ll often hold off to see if I want to devote that much time and energy to something that may never be complete. With this one, I couldn’t resist, and from recent social media postings, it looks like Gwynne has begun the process of working on Book 3.

This one picks up after the events of Book 1 and continues the stories of those characters we’ve grown to love or hate.

What I liked: Look, the reality is A LOT of stuff happens in these books. These are Sagas after all. We start at Point A and end at Point Z and a significant amount of events occur at each point along the way. This is sprawling, cinematic, engaging storytelling. But at its heart is the fear of what’s to come. In Book 2, three Gods have now been resurrected, returning to the world (which has greatly changed since their deaths) and wanting to go back to their perceived perch atop the pecking order.

But that is not to be and as power changes hands and clashes continue to occur, we see characters make moves to get to their end goal.

The character I think many seem to gravitate towards the most is Orka Skullsplitter, who is on her quest to find her son Breca and reunite with him. Every decision she makes and every ramification that happens is based solely on moving herself that much closer to tracking him down and it is painful and brutal to watch. But watch we do and we hold our breath the entire time.

One last thing I’ll mention, is that this one goes into a full-on, borderline Kaiju rumble in the final act. We get Gods battling, beasts braying and enough blood splattering to watch a city be decimated and characters get crushed and chomped throughout. Gwynne’s writing really shines in these moments, describing every millisecond of action with purpose and pristine prose.

The ending was great and sets us up for big things in Book 3. I’m excited to see what happens and how these storylines that came ever-so-close to merging at the ending of Book 2 culminate in the finale.

What I didn’t like: Even though I read Book 1 and 2 back-to-back, I still found a lot of the characters with similar names to be borderline confusing, especially as each chapter goes to a different characters. Skalk and Skuld etc etc, a lot of names starting with G! Part of it is definitely me as a reader not tracking it along mentally like I should, but when you read an epic like this, it can become a bit much! And fair point in return – it can’t change now! We’re heading into Book 3!

Why you should buy this: I said this in my review of Book 1, but this is brutal fantasy done right. We don’t have thousands of words dedicated to describing meals and food preparation and (I may be in the minority here) we don’t get endless story devoted to who is sleeping with who. I find with some fantasy novels this can often be the main driving narrative and it can become tiresome, and no this wasn’t a dig at Martin’s offering.

Gwynne has created some truly memorable characters here, some who’ll live long in my head when the final page is closed. The landscape is palpable, the stench of blood and waste carried from my Kindle into my nostrils and yet, I can’t wait to return to this world. Kudos to Gwynne, this series and this book are second to none.


Book Review: The Envious Nothing: A Collection of Literary Ruin by Curtis M. Lawson


Title: The Envious Nothing: A Collection of Literary Ruin

Author: Curtis M. Lawson

Release date: June 14th, 2022

Huge thanks to Curtis for sending me a digital ARC to check out!

Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of reading Curtis’ work and it feels like he’s found a groove. Between his short fiction and longer pieces, his descent into writing stories that are bleak and crusted around the edges has been great to see. Saying that – I’ve not had time to dive into his back catalog. So there’s a solid chance he’s always been bludgeoning readers this way.

But, when I look at the two most recent pieces I’ve read from him; ‘Black Heart Boys’ Choir’ and ‘Devil’s Night,’ I can see him shining, even when a story or a chapter has been painted over in black repeatedly.

Which brings me to his newest collection, ‘The Envious Nothing: A Collection of Literary Ruin.’ This, like many collections, is a mix of new to this release stories as well as previously published stories. Some of the previously published stories though, were only available through his Patreon, so if you are not a supporter, you’d still not have come across these stories in widely released anthologies.

What I liked: There is a lot of variety throughout this one, but one thing is clear – you’ll come away from each story or poem feeling despondent or as though you just survived an unexpected deluge of rain.

The collection opens with the sci-fi/horror mashup of ‘You and I and the Envious Nothing’ and doesn’t let up. The story itself begins with someone on a space station looking out through a window and realizing the earth has mysteriously vanished and things escalate quickly from there.

Bleak, heartbreaking and pulse-pounding.

But that could very well be the blurb that would adorn the front cover of this, signed off by a master author in the genre. The last two things I’ve read that made me feel similar to this collection were T.E. Grau’s collection ‘The Nameless Dark’ and Jo Quenell’s ‘The Mud Ballad.’

Throughout, the collection, Lawson continues to push the dark reaches of his imagination and the reader comes away the better for it.

Other highlights for me were the outstanding novella length ‘Beneath the Emerald Sky, (I won’t even discuss this one at all, instead I’ll let your mind wander based on that title) and the stunningly schizophrenic piece ‘The Green Man of Freetown.’ This one followed Charlie, released on parole who goes to the woods to try and find the truth behind the murder of his wife and son. Relentlessly sorrow-filled.

The absolute gem for me, was ‘Orphan.’ This one was so good, I did something I never do – I messaged Curtis to tell him just how amazing the story was. The main character is Ian, former leader of a punk band that grew huge and then dissolved who has been hired to come perform in a small town church. Of course this goes into super crazy-town territory, but at its core, Lawson infuses it with the sentiment of outsiders looking to find where they belong, where they fit. It is a great showcase for what Lawson does in his writing – making us look inside at how we react to the larger world as a whole.

What I didn’t like: As with any collection, some stories may not connect or work for the reader. I found each one to be phenomenal, but – I did need to step away from the collection a few times and let the stories digest, as this one is a constant source of darkness and despair.

Why you should buy this: Lawson has a vital voice in the dark fiction community. One that consistently pushes the imaginative boundaries and the places the stories visit, while keeping a sense of humanity firmly gripped in the themes throughout. He is never an easy read, often times making you feel repulsed or furious, but that is the point. He’s crafting stories with a visceral reaction, never once phoning in his performance. His books are tough and that’s what sets him apart from the ever-growing landscape of dark fiction collections. Lawson is an author I think we all need to experience, even just once, to help with your internal scale of how far down into the blackness you are willing to go.



Russo Returns; An interview with Andrew Pyper about Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders!


For Pyper-Maniacs like me, any new output from Andrew Pyper is a reason to celebrate! Last year we were fortunate to get not only the Audible release, Oracle, but also the full length documentary, ‘Demon in the White House’ based on Andrew’s research into writing The Residence.

Well, here we are nine months later and Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders arrives, this time with a full audio production behind it! And friends – it is phenomenal.

For a spoiler free review see here:

Now, as with many people listening to the audiobook, I had a number of questions pop up. Unlike a lot of people listening, I have a tendency to frequently bother Andrew – so once again, I did just that! I asked and he answered!

I will say – this interview does contain some minor spoilers – so I’d suggest you go check out Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders first, then return and see what steered Andrew through the woods and abandoned amusement park in Becket, Massachusetts.


SS: As always, Andrew, thank you so much for doing this!

Nate Russo is back. I find this character to be utterly fascinating. He seems to be this combination of some of your prior characters – bits of Bartholomew Crane, Patrick Rush, Miles McEwan and David Ullman – these damaged men who struggle with aspects of their past – but in this instance Russo has one foot on the other side (closer to Danny Orchard) and has a firm belief in the supernatural. Would it be fair to say that Russo might be the most damaged of your characters though? If we look at him struggle through ‘Oracle’ with where he came from, and now, his desire to connect with someone while also pushing everyone away in ‘Oracle 2’ surely speaks to a conflicted, broken man.

AP: I see Nate as a figure who has at least partly arrived here out of noir fiction – a man of few words, quick with his fists, can take a punch, lonesome love life, dark past. The noir detective is usually beaten up by “having seen too much” of the world. This is where Nate’s difference arises: his vision is of a supernatural nature, so what he’s seen too much of is from this world and the underworld. I don’t know if this makes him the most broken of my broken protagonists, but it’s a big part of what interests me about him, that’s for sure.

SS: Clare Fernandez might be just as damaged as Nate, but in a more human way. Where Nate is broken from his upbringing and this malevolent Ghoul, Claire is dealing with PTSD, hurt from her partner (Tillman) and the effects of a disintegrating home life. Was she a hard one to nail down and develop her nuisances?

AP: Once I saw Clare as a single mom whose son is drifting away from her – or so she worries – her character came together for me. She’s a woman in the FBI. That alone suggests an extra degree of discipline, a thick skin, compartmentalizing the person from the professional. But the cost she bears for doing the work is, as it is for Nate, terribly painful and yet almost impossible to mention, to share. Accessing that, for me, came down to feeling my way to her as a parent, imagining the pain of being far from my child in order to do my work, to do something good.

SS: Let’s not forget Greg Tillman. Now, Greg at times appears to be both an attempt at a calming presence and keeping them on track but also some comic relief. I think, this might be the first real time I’ve read anything from you with legitimate banter/humour to this level. How as it writing that?

AP: Writing the scripts for Oracle 2 was a different experience from writing the novel manuscript for Oracle in a number of respects. One distinction is thinking more about what the characters say in a script, and revealing character through dialogue alone. With that comes the fun of letting them go at each other, demonstrate their misgivings and anger and contempt through wars of words. Nate and Tillman are almost constantly on the verge of throwing a punch at each other. So how do you punch a guy with language? Yeah, those are good scenes to write.

SS: The Boneman returns, which was great to see, but to our surprise – the character seems to be afraid of what it encounters. You have a few lines here – where Russo believes that The Bone Man only wants Nate to live to look through his eyes, but surely they’re more connected than that?

AP: The Boneman hasn’t reformed in Oracle 2, but his dependency on Nate is revealed. Those two are a pair, they need each other (to do what special things they do). So what’s that mean when they come up against a bigger, older, more powerful evil? It forces the relationship between the Boneman and Nate to change – not bending toward friendship or anything like that, but recognizing the larger supernatural network they exist in.

SS: The folklore in this is really fascinating. Hearing the chapter where our archivist (whom I’m going to believe was 100% based on me and my archiving skills no matter what you say!) describes the history of this creature and how the Indigenous won’t name it and it exacts vengeance on people and how then the women are tried and hung at the same spot was great. How much of that was based on real folklore? Was any of it based on folklore from Becket itself? The Red Woman/Cunning Women aspect was really well done.

AP: Thank you! And yes, the archivist is 100% you! (What harm can it do to give you that?) (STEVE SIDE NOTE – HOLY HELL HE ACTUALLY ADMITTED IT! HAHA!) The mythic underpinnings of Becket aren’t based on any particular folklore narrative, but rather a melding of a few varied histories. For me, the important aspect was how past crimes build on other crimes, whether we remember them in the present or not. Metaphorically, the history that lives under Dreamland is the history of what we now call North America: crimes against Indigenous people, crimes against “outsiders,” crimes against women. My intent was to give that history life through a figure of vengeance and power, a singular figure that announces itself just when we think we’re “moving on.”

SS: The production of this is just stellar. As “just the author” you must be over the moon listening to how great of a job Audible did. Do you know if the voice actors and actresses recording their pieces together or separately? If separately, they really did a great job with the post-production. Did you have to do any re-writes or anything like that as it went on?

AP: The performances and sound design really are superb. I joined the cast via Zoom during some of the recording sessions and it gave me goosebumps listening to them embody the words I wrote with such passion and intensity and range. As for the production, full credit goes to Greg Sinclair who brought such care and detail to the series. There were some micro adjustments to the scripts as the recording went along, but I think the final version is pretty close to the scripts I wrote.

SS: A common theme in a lot of your work is the sentiment “every town/house is haunted.” Is this something you’ve believed or contemplated since you were a young boy? If not, do you remember when it began to fester?

AP: I guess I’ve never entirely gotten over that feeling of being a kid and entering a friend’s house and realizing it’s home for them, but a strange place for you. A place with its own history, its own secrets, its smells and hidden corners and ceremonies and rules. And every town has hundreds, thousands of such haunted houses. It all comes down to the stories that attach to these places, and is less dependent on the places themselves. Look at any house, any hospital, any store, any school, and ask: What happened in there? That’s when the ghosts appear.

SS: Correct me if I’m wrong – but I believe you previously said ‘Oracle’ was crafted from a story you had been working on and when Audible approached you, you ironed it out, right? Was the approach to ‘Oracle 2’ different at all? Knowing it was going to be a full production, was this written more as a screenplay as it wouldn’t just be Joshua Jackson narrating the entire piece?

AP: Yes, Oracle was a completed novel manuscript when I was approached by Audible, whereas Oracle 2 was commissioned as audio scripts right from the get-go. The difference was fundamental: novels live in a single voice and point-of-view, while scripts live in multiple voices. I wasn’t thinking too much about the production aspects as I wrote Oracle 2, but I certainly was thinking about actors eventually performing what I was writing. I think that’s why there’s more “play” in the scripts, more teasing and flirting and attacking and expression of feeling.

SS: Lastly, in the past you’ve mentioned that none of your releases/ideas had excited you when thinking of it as a series/writing a sequel. That you’d told the story that needed to be told and that was that. Nate Russo seems to be the key to unlock that desire and that excitement. Will we see more of Nate Russo? Either in Audible work or in written releases?

AP: I don’t know at the moment if Nate Russo will return, but I’d love it if he did. You’re right: all my previous books and stories were conceived as standalones, closed worlds. But when I wrote Oracle I knew it was something different. It wanted to be a series. And for a while, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a part of that. But when Audible came along and provided a venue for doing a series in a different form from a series of novels, it provided the answer.

Huge thanks to Andrew for doing this! If you’ve not – definitely check out both Oracle and Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders!


Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders

Audiobook Review: Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders by Andrew Pyper


Title: Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders

Written by Andrew Pyper

Performed by Joshua Jackson, Humberly Gonzalez, Devon Bostick and an ensemble cast

Release date: May 18th, 2022

A sequel! A sequel! Are you kidding me! (Or as my son used to say when he was three – are you tipping me?!) Look, as a devoted Pyper fan, and having devoured almost everything he’s released/written (I still have three short stories or so to read), I’ve longed for a continuation of some of his characters, as I know other fans have. Who wouldn’t want to see what Ullman is up to these days? Or what happened after the ending of ‘The Killing Circle’? 

Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders gives us just that. I will say – this review will be spoiler free, but an interview I’m doing with Andrew won’t be – so you can read this review just fine, BUT, saying that, you definitely need to check out Oracle first before entering into this follow up.

This one was an interesting and very different experience than Oracle. Oracle also happened to be my first Audiobook experience, so going into that, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Joshua Jackson delivered a fantastic performance as both the Narrator, but also bringing our main character, Nate Russo to life.

Now, Jackson is back, but this time, it’s no longer a singular narrated audiobook, but a full on audio production, with an ensemble cast, complete with music and sound. For me, I’d described it as watching a movie with your eyes closed.

This follows the events of Oracle, picking up with Nate being bailed from jail to join Clare and Tillman again. This time, they need his ‘special assistance’ after a strange killing occurs near an old abandoned amusement park in Becket, Massachusetts. 

What I liked: While Oracle was a single Audiobook told with a single Narrator, Oracle 2 arrives with ten episodes, with a full production. At first I found this change a bit jarring, but that was 100% down to me not being familiar with type of entertainment consumption. It went away really quickly and once again, the writing is so compelling that the characters immediately come alive.

The highlight I think for me, was the folklore that Pyper infuses into this story. A sprawling narrative that spans centuries and is revealed at first slowly, then in a really well done, dramatic information dump, where the cards are spread on the table and the reality of what they are dealing with is exposed.

I think one aspect of the episodic element that really worked well, was also the heightened secondary character development. Where in a novel, some of these characters may only have a few paragraphs or appear in a chapter, we get to see them come and go throughout, which also elevated the ‘small-town’ feeling where you often bump into the same people multiple times a day.

Dreamland itself is a fantastic aspect and as it comes alive the most during the finale, the production side of things really worked to give the listener that atmospheric creepiness that was necessary.

I will say – our friend the Boneman returns, albeit in a slightly different iteration and this works well to see the subtle ways Nate Russo has grown and changed since the events in Oracle.

I’ll finish this section off by saying – both Clare and Tillman feel more like important characters this time around than secondary pieces to push Russo’s plot. The voice actors really did these characters justice (as did all of the voice actors throughout) and it makes for some really entertaining and dramatic moments.

What I didn’t like:  One part that I thought would’ve been played out a bit longer than it did was a particular love interest/moment that Nate has. It is with a specific character who plays a larger role in the overall events and lead up in the town, but was far too brief for me. They have a connection, absolutely, but this listener would’ve loved to see how Nate would’ve responded given more time.

Why you should buy this: It’s a unique thing – having a writing voice as solid and identifiable as Andrew’s that even when performed by others, his way of forming a sentence is immediately familiar and comforting. When compared to Oracle, I’d suggest Oracle 2 stands out more, not so much because of the full cast or the production put into it, but more for the depth of storytelling and level of folklore put into this. It has a wholly realized concept and the beginning, middle and ending work well together to cohesively tell us the story that realizes the concept. It is really well done and shows why Nate Russo is one of Pyper’s most complex, and most human, characters that he’s created yet.

Kudos to Audible, the performers and Andrew for this one. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we see (or hear) of Russo and crew!


Book Review: Quiet Places by Jasper Bark

quiet places

Title: Quiet Places: A Novella of Cosmic Folk Horror

Author: Jasper Bark

Release date: September 29th, 2017

I’ve had this novella on my TBR for some time, but seeing the love the fantastic Dave Jeffery has for it, I bumped it up when I had gap arrive between longer reads.

I was really intrigued with the ‘Cosmic-Folk-Horror’ categorization, as that’s not a subgenre we see that often, or if we do, it’s frequently subdued and doesn’t push too far in either direction. So, this one had me excited to dive in and see what nightmares awaited.

What I liked: The story follows Sally, recently having moved to a small town where her boyfriend now lives. He comes from the town’s lineage, his family being paramount to the formation of the town and since then they’ve woven themselves into the fabric of day-to-day life. But now, he is the last in line.

The opening to this story is incredibly unnerving. We arrive to discover every person, except Sally, are essentially automatons – they stand lifeless and Sally moves them, cleans them and cares for them, all in the hopes that what has happened will be undone. It’s from that opening that Bark weaves the Cosmic elements as well as the folklore surrounding Dunballan, this small, odd town.

I really enjoyed the Beast and the role it played, and how Sally struggled with the distance between her and David but also her desire to lessen it. Bark does a great job of making them both enticing characters but also frustrating characters.

What I didn’t like: A lot of the folklore is learned through these old journals that Sally discovers and reads and, while I enjoyed learning about this folklore, I wasn’t so sure that the journals would’ve contained that much depth and detail, especially considering the time they were supposedly written in. 

Why you should buy this: Bark has written a very fast-paced story that asks the reader to suspend reality in the best way possible. The setting is great and the events surrounding the Beast and the bushes was fantastic. This one hits a lot of high notes and I think those seeking the ‘Cosmic-Folk-Horror’ subgenre will be very happy!


Book Review: Horrors Untold Vol 5 by Matt Wildasin


Title: Horrors Untold Vol 5

Author: Matt Wildasin

Release date: May 19th, 2022

It was only recently that I discovered Wildasin’s writing, with his co-authored piece ‘Baggage’ (alongside the awesome Simon Paul Wilson), which was a ton of fun and was a bigger story than the length of pages. It really caught me off guard with where it went and I was excited to read more of both authors.

When Wildasin reached out to see if I’d be up for an ARC of his next collection ‘Horrors Untold Vol 5,’ I said absolutely – I’d heard great things about the first four entries, and even though I’d not read them, I was excited to see just what Matt was getting up to within these releases.

What I liked: ‘Horrors Untold Vol 5’ features 8 stories of varying length from a flash fiction single pager to a couple pushing into novella length. It makes for a great time for the reader as nothing seems repetitive or forced into a word count parameter.

The highlights for me were;

  • Hall’s Tower – This one followed friends Matt and Will as they hiked into an ‘off the map’ abandoned location to see if all the rumors about ‘Hall’s Tower’ were true. You know how this one goes. If it’s in a horror collection – the rumors are true!
  • Turkey Massacre – This story was a ton of fun. Something falls from the sky and mutates the turkey’s at a local free range turkey farm. Chaos and bloodshed ensue.
  • Crazy Cat Lady – A great take on the ‘back from the dead’ zombie narrative. This one follows a lady, her cats and her efforts to keep everyone fed.

Overall, Wildasin gives us some really great takes on different storylines and even the flash fiction piece ‘Inevitable’ was poignant.

What I didn’t like: As with each collection of stories, some stories will work more than others. I’m personally not a big fan of Christmas/Santa horror stories typically (ironic I know, considering I had a story in an Xmas themed horror anthology), so that one was decent, but not one I would usually go out of my way to discover.

Why you should buy this: It’s always exciting to find new authors who have a solid writing voice and easy prose to read. I don’t say that as an offensive thing – I mean his writing flows and you get lost within the story quickly. Judging from both the co-authored ‘Baggage’ and this collection, I’ll need to read more Wildasin and I hope if you read this review, you’ll also dive into his catalog and check out his work!

This was a solid collection and shows his range and versatility really nicely.


Book Review: The Island by Adrian McKinty


Title: The Island

Author: Adrian McKinty

Release date: May 17th, 2022

**Huge thanks to Netgalley, Adrian McKinty and Little, Brown & Company for approving me for an ARC of this one!**

This book wasn’t on my radar until recently when a fellow reviewer posted about it. I figured I’d give it a shot, see if I would get approved for it, and to my utter surprise – I WAS! Now, I’ve never read anything from McKinty before, but have had his novel ‘The Chain’ on my ‘To Buy List’ since it came out. Not sure why I’ve not gotten around to both buying it and reading it, life I guess, but I was intrigued to see what he’d unleash on us with this one, ‘The Island.’

Now, the description itself doesn’t give us anything you’d consider groundbreaking or differentiating between a lot of the dark fiction books I read. Family goes on a vacation, things take a turn, those that live need to find a way to survive at all cost.

That’s fine, I’m ok with a common horror trope set up – BUT – this isn’t a horror novel. This is marketed as an action/adventure/thriller story, one that is already in development for HULU and because of that, I went in with my “gore-meter” already dimmed and my “extreme events” mindset dampened.

What I liked: I think the shining light in this story is the main character, Heather. Heather grew up on a small island near Seattle, living in an art commune. Eventually, she moves to the big city and while there, falls in love with Tom. Tom is a recently widowed doctor, now a single father of two teenaged kids. Doesn’t matter, they love each other and get married. That is all backstory, stuff we learn about, but it is key to why Heather’s story arc is the highlight. She transforms from a meek, worried, secondary spouse, to a take charge, survive at all costs provider and it was great to read.

The story itself follows the family as they head to Australia for a conference that Tom is speaking at. While there, they do some sightseeing and it’s on one of these excursions where they bribe their way onto a private island to try and see some wildlife. Something happens, they try to flee, but are stopped and from there, the story morphs into “we need to get off this island” territory.

McKinty does a great job of creating tension between the two kids and Heather throughout the first quarter, but there is a subtle shift when the trio is separated from Tom and the two kids understand Heather is their only hope to survive.

I thought the ending was good, if abrupt, and the pseudo-epilogue after was a touching closure to the story.

What I didn’t like: No matter how many times I reminded myself that this was a mass-market thriller, it still became a bit underwhelming at times with how dampened and polished some events felt. Some of the characters were too one dimensional (I hated Tom from the start, and the entire scene of him having a toddler meltdown over the rental company not having the specific Porsche SUV for him pushed me close into DNF territory he was such a knob) and stereotypical.

Why you should buy this: Don’t get me wrong, McKinty serves this up really nicely and the writing is a ton of fun. He has one of those writing voices where you don’t realize you’ve read as much as you have, because it flows so well.

I think for those who’ll see this on the bookstore shelves or grocery store lanes, this will be an exhilarating ride, but for those who enjoy a bit more of a visceral, descriptive island survival story, you’ll be underwhelmed.

Overall, a solid adventure story, if not a bit too commercial in spots.


Book Review: The Mud Man by Donna Marie West


Title: The Mud Man

Author: Donna Marie West

Release date: April 19th, 2022

When Tim McWhorter announced he was opening up his own publishing imprint, Manta Press Ltd., I was really excited. I’ve loved everything I’ve read from Tim and knowing he would be seeking out fantastic stories to release, I awaited the announcement of the first book.

‘The Mud Man’ by Donna Marie West had the honor and distinction of being the first release on the upstart press and after reading the synopsis I immediately preordered it for my Kindle. 

Now, one thing I want to clarify – as I read a lot of horror – I was kind of expecting this to be a dark fiction release, but can say now, that I’ve read it, it is not. That isn’t a bad thing at all, the writing and the story are really great, but if you know Tim from his horror novels or short stories, definitely don’t assume all he’ll be releasing through this imprint is brutality. 

No, ‘The Mud Man’ is an intriguing story that is layered in emotions, complexities and character depth that really highlight the plot arc of this novel.

What I liked: ‘The Mud Man’ follows anthropologist, Veronica, who gets a request to come view a strange discovery in Northern BC. Once there, the team on site reveal the frozen (but starting to thaw) body of an ancient man, seemingly locked in place for tens of thousands of years. But when Veronica goes to examine him closer, they realize that this man is someone still alive.

From here, West has us follow along as Veronica gains stewardship/legal guardianship of this man and arranges his care, recovery and they eventually develop a friendly relationship where the man teaches Veronica about his life while she teaches this man about the modern world. It is a sweet development and you can quickly see how Veronica losses any pretense of simply researcher and develops a bond and caring for this man.

The secondary characters are great throughout, one of my favorites early on being the physiotherapist, Ty, who has a ‘HOLY COW!’ moment, when the realities of this man’s actual age hit him during a therapy session. It was a really great and light hearted moment that connected that character with the man even more.

The ending is gut wrenching but pristine. An expected full circle development but still emotionally devastating and I’m glad Donna decided to end it how she did.

What I didn’t like: There’s an odd ethical dilemma that plays out near the beginning, once this man is found and transported to Veronica’s ex-husband’s facility for rehabilitation. They discuss it a little bit but it seems to be glossed over and I found that odd seeing as both of their education/occupations and the reality of who and what this man is. I was hoping there’d be a bit more about those implications throughout.

Why you should buy this: I don’t read enough fiction like this to make any comparisons to other books or even movies. What I will say, is that this reminded me of a lot of movies I used to watch growing up. The movies that connected with the watcher such as ‘Stand By Me,’ ‘My Girl,’ and even ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.’ These stories that show character connection through an odd/strange event/incident and how different relationships develop afterwards.

This was really well done and a really excellent first entry into the world by Manta Press Ltd.!


Book Review: Sinister Mix by Brian Bowyer


Book Review: Sinister Mix

Author: Brian Bowyer

Release date: April 17th, 2021

It’s interesting to me how wide the horror landscape is. You can have authors writing in different subgenres who are frequently posted about on one social media platform, but never so much as a peep on others.

Case in point – Brian Bowyer. I see Brian’s writing praised frequently on Twitter as being some of the most extreme stuff out there. I also see it a bit on IG. Very rarely do I see it on FB. That’s not to say there is anything bad about that, but it is to point out that we are currently having an overabundance of dark fiction riches to discover.

Bowyer is also very prolific, churning out a number of releases each year. I actually dove into a different release from him, but found it just wasn’t working for me. So, I took a look at his vast catalog and decided to dive into this collection, and I have to say – this one was a ton of fun.

What I liked: Bowyer’s writing is succinct and to the point. In each story within this collection, we are only really shown the gruesome event, which works to create a chaotic feeling as you go from one story to the next. Not to say we don’t get back story or any build up, we do, but often that is within the story, not before, which I think works really well.

A number of the stories really stuck out for me but I’ll highlight the four I think would be considered my favorite.

First Date – the opening story was also one of the best. It starts with a simple set up – an author goes on a first date, only to find out she’s a fan of his work. After spending the night together, she invites him to come out to see her farm and get some writing done. From here, things go south and Brian delivers a really chilling ending.

Maternal Flame – a horrible story about a boy who is kidnapped while out with his mom and the events that occur after. This one is both extreme but also incredibly sad.

Black Yacht – another story involving a parent and a child, in this case, a heroin junkie mother takes her child to the beach, hoping to score some drugs. While there a strange boat is docked just off shore. Someone offers the mother cash in exchange for the kid coming onto the boat alone for the day. Bowyer adds some X-Files-ish elements to create a really unnerving story.

Casa Fiesta – this one might be the most straight-forward story in the batch, but it follows a woman who goes on vacation by herself and discovers not all strangers have her best interests at heart.

Time and again, Bowyer really gives the story the worst possible moments and readers who like extreme will be really happy.

What I didn’t like: One thing I did find was there was some repetition in story themes and plots, which dampened the impact of those that came after. Case in point – ‘Maternal Flame’ is about a kidnapped child. Shortly after, we get another story involving a child and a similar ending to ‘Maternal Flame.’ Several stories later, ‘Black Yacht’ comes along, another story involving a parent and a child. Some readers may find not even variety to make their way through the darker pieces.

Why you should buy this: Bowyer writes with gusto and joy, you can practically feel his maniacal grin coming off each page when you read brutal passages. You know he had fun writing these extreme slabs of brutality and the reader definitely benefits from it.

If you’re looking for a quick, depraved cross-section of life’s worst moments, look no further, Bowyer has you covered!