Book Review: The Circus of Hungry Clowns by Caesar Ruell


Title: The Circus of Hungry Clowns

Author: Caesar Ruell

Release date: November 19, 2022

Huge thanks to Tony Jones for connecting Caesar and I and thanks to Caesar for sending me a digital review copy of this novella!

I gotta say, I went into this 100% blind and it was a blast. I quick, snappy read, I read this in about an hour last night and it was such a fun ride!

Whether you go in blind or read the synopsis, one thing is clear – that cover screams loudly that attendees of this circus will not be having the fun time they believe they are!

What I liked: The entirety of the novella takes place over two days. We follow as Joe takes his son, Bobby to the circus that has came to town. Bobby is BEYOND excited to see the clowns. Once there, they sit and patiently wait, before show begins.

Once the show begins, Ruell unleashes unholy Hell on his characters, camouflaged through the fine mist of neurotoxins and laughing gas.

It’s here where the crux of the story falls – Bobby is selected to be part of one of the acts – the last act of the night. When he doesn’t return and Joe learns the truth of what is going on, the novella turns into a splatter-riffic, carnage-filled, survive-at-all-costs story. Joe desperately does what he can to get his son back and to save as many of the other kids as possible.

The ending was a really frantic, fantastic sequence. Once the dust settled, we see who survives, what the aftermath was and what lays ahead in the future.

What I didn’t like: This is a really fast novella which may or may not leave you wanting more of wishing more occurred. Ruell does a solid job of having a fully formed story within this tight page count, but that may also leave you wishing there was more of everything.

Why you should buy this: Sometimes, as a reader, you simply want a book you can read in a single sitting and when it will have you reading it with a smile on your face as the shit hits the fan, so be it. That is this novella. This rips along, you’ll root for Joe and for Bobby’s safe return and you’ll quickly learn to fear the clowns.


Book Review: The Ballad of El Hacha by JP Wenner


Title: The Ballad of El Hacha

Author: JP Wenner

Release date: March 29th, 2023

Huge thanks to JP for sending me a copy of his debut novella!

I’ve long, long been a wrestling fan, having cut my chops growing up on the classic WWF era and into the WWE era. Truthfully, though, it’s been a solid twenty years since I’ve watched and followed wrestling of any kind, but that might be changing as my six-year-old son is slowly becoming intrigued with some of the clips he’s been watching on Youtube.

JP described this as a Splatterpunk wrestling story with some Bizarro mixed in. I was worried about the Bizarro slant as sometimes it can really take me out of a story, but I was intrigued and leaped in off the top ropes.

What I liked: The story begins with a bang. We arrive in the middle of a wrestling match in honor of El Hacha Cuarto father, one of the most revered wrestlers to ever live. Now, El Hacha Cuarto is destined to take his place, even as his family roots against him and doesn’t believe he deserves the honor.

The story really ramps up when, after the match,  El Hacha Cuarto hits a deer while driving and soon learns that the deer was actually a powerful forest beast, who takes possession of the van. The van is El Hacha Cuarto’s prized possession and thus the story takes off. About a wrestler, trying to get his van back from a vengeful entity, who is accompanied by a woman, Abby who longs to help.

Wenner goes to a number of great spots in this novella, as well as some really odd spots, but that is expected with the Bizarro component. We get a talking flower, some crazy characters and a ton of action spots that really work to dole out a warehouse volume of carnage.

Throughout, Wenner has done a solid job of wanting us to root for El Hacha Cuarto, and it doesn’t take long before you see just how much is stacked against him and how hard he needs to battle to survive, get his van back and become the greatest wrestling champion of all time.

What I didn’t like: Like I mentioned, the Bizarro aspects can be tough for me and there were a number of times where I was loving the storytelling and then got really pulled out because of the odd directions it went. If you love the Bizarro world of dark fiction, it’ll work great for you, otherwise do be aware.

Why you should buy this: ‘The Ballad of El Hacha’ was a really fun time and Wenner has created a character in El Hacha Cuarto that the reader will instantly believe in and root for from page one. The story has great pacing and we get enough action and intrigue to pull us all along really well.

Fans of wrestling and crazy-zany antics will be very, very happy!


The Ballad of El Hacha by JP Wenner

Book Review: The Black Cabin by Wayne Fenlon


Title: The Black Cabin

Author: Wayne Fenlon

Release date: March 8th, 2023

Look at this! Wayne Fenlon’s debut novel! Wayne has long been one of my most vocal supporters, so when he previously announced his drabble collection, I was all over that. With this one, I was really excited and intrigued. Sadly, I was unable to get to it ASAP when it was released due to my ridiculously overflowing TBR at the moment, but there was no way I wasn’t going to squeeze this in for release month! So, apologies to you, Wayne, but here we are and what a great ride this was!

What I liked: The story opens with a delicate scene of a man finishing up repairs to a cabin. It then transforms into a raging inferno of a narrative as we follow a few different POV’s as multiple characters all converge into a dramatic finale.

Throughout, Fenlon crafts a story that is powerful and moving. We connect with the characters – even the despicable ones – and root for the ones we want to see succeed. Intertwined within this is the duality of vengeance and revenge. It comes from both aspects, the good side and the bad side and this worked really well to have us on the edge of our seats. It’ll have you screaming at the book to “not trust him!” or “don’t go there!” over and over.

Wayne weaved the story masterfully, with all trails lining up and a really fantastic, thrilling climatic scene. The reality of what was happening and how it all came together was great.

What I didn’t like: I do struggle when chapters jump back and forth between characters. Just something I’ve always found when reading books. And while the end scene was chilling and great, I do wish there had been a little bit more there, as things seemed to go from 100 mph to 1,000,000 mph which made for a jarring pace change.

Why you should buy this: This was a really well-done debut novel, one that had multiple layers of emotions and gave us truly wonderful characters that will stay with the reader long after you’re done reading.

It’s great to know this is only the beginning for Wayne. Can’t wait to see what he gives us next!


3Q’s – Eric Butler takes his turn on the catwalk!

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Really fun 3Q’s today with the awesome Eric Butler!

I’ve shared a TOC or two with Eric and he’s got a really great fanbase that is always anticipating what he’s got coming down the pipeline!

Please welcome Eric!

eric butler

Steve: What does your writing time look like? Do you try and write at the same time each day? Do you have a word count you attempt to hit?

Eric: It’s a bit like that Sponge Bob Gif where his brain is destroying his memories, absolute chaos. While I try and plot each story, I usually end up flying through them by the seat of my pants. I do try and write on a schedule, usually after everyone else in the house have gone to bed. However, if I’m working on a deadline, I will shoehorn writing time all throughout the day. I usually don’t set a daily word count, but I do try and get something down each day no matter what.

Steve: You’re riding an elevator and BAM! It gets stuck. What two authors (one living and one dead) would you happen to find yourself stuck with?

Eric: This is the question that I’ve had trouble answering. My brain immediately thinks zombie. So, no matter what dead author I pick (I’m gonna say Laymon since he’s my favorite), he’s hungry for brains. I’m gonna pick Daniel Volpe as my living author. He seems to be in pretty good shape and hopefully can keep it occupied while I climb up the escape hatch. If he isn’t bit, I’ll pull him up and if he is … well, that’s the start of a great novel.

Steve: Tell me about your newest release and why someone should read it!

Eric: I have 3 shorter works I’ve released first on Godless, and then followed up on Amazon. All three are creature features, each one showcasing an original story loosely based on legends. The first was Kiss Me Where It Smells Funny. This is a toxic monster story, that has an old school monster vibe. The second one was The Surrogate. This one is about the horror of bringing someone into your house, and they not being what you thought. And the third one, There’s Something In The Water, just came out. It is about a lake monster gone wild.

I offer the eBooks on Godless, and eBooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks on Amazon.

Steve: Bonus Question! If you were transported back in time, which Pop Band/Hit Band would you hope to find yourself a member of?

Eric: I’m thinking it would be Right Said Fred, cause I’m too sexy for my shirt …


Steve: Haha, great answer! Now, everyone will expect you to take your little turn on the catwalk!

Thanks for doing this, Eric!

To find more of his work, check the links!



3Q’s – The kinetic power of JP Behrens!

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Hey, hey! Look at this! A new 3Q’s! That’s right. As they roll in, I’ll be scheduling them! So, if you’ve been sent the 3Q’s questions, answer them and send them back! Sheesh! Lolol!

Today’s guest is a fun one. JP Behrens has released some scintillating short fiction and last August, saw the arrival of his debut novel!

Please welcome JP!

JP Behrens

Steve: What does your writing time look like? Do you try and write at the same time each day? Do you have a word count you attempt to hit?

JP: My process is always evolving as the demands of balancing life, family, and career forever fluctuate, especially with school age children.

I start the day with exercise and reading a short story. I’ve managed to read one short story a day since 2021, so I’m into my third year without missing a single day. The rest of the morning is for housework. After lunch, I write until I hit my goal for the day, no matter what. When putting down new words, the goal is 1000 words a day, but I’m hoping to work that up to 3000 over time. The project I’m working through right now is in the editing phase, so I aim for 10 pages per day or a full chapter.

Steve: You end up at an estate sale and discover an unpublished manuscript from an author you love. Do you keep it just for yourself or do you share it with the world?

JP: That would require a lot of research. If I discovered that this was some lost manuscript the author always regretted misplacing, I would absolutely reach out and share it with everyone. On the other hand, if this is a work that they wanted burned, I would never let it out into the wild. The controversy over GO SET A WATCHMAN and the final wishes of Terry Pratchett as performed by Neil Gaimen have influenced my opinion about posthumous works and the ultimate intent of the author. If one cares about an author, it’s best to respect their wishes as closely as one can.

Steve: Tell me about your newest release and why someone should read it!

JP: My debut novel, PORTRAIT OF A NUCLEAR FAMILY, is a cross between WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN and MOMMY DEAREST with taxidermy.

Wanda has discovered her eldest son, Nathan, is keeping a dark secret that threatens to tear apart the carefully constructed image of the perfect family she’s worked for years to maintain. After a tragic incident, Wanda becomes determined nothing with stand in her way to preserve the idealized version of family she’s always been taught to desire.

If you like psychological horror with characters who could be living right next door, grab a copy of this book. It’s dark, twisted, and pulls absolutely no punches. Be warned, there is a content warning.

PORTRAIT contains depictions of animal abuse (central to character development and plot and in no way glorified) and depictions of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse.

Steve: Bonus Question! You wake up in a comic book. What is your comic book character and what is your superpower?

JP: My character would be someone who doesn’t necessarily agree with the social pressures of society but has a very strict code of ethics to keep him from hurting people through impulsive reactions to everyday annoyances. Willing to suffer the consequences of his questionable actions, he is unwilling to allow anyone else to pay that price, even in a secondary way. I think how the public at large sees him could be interesting to play with and. The conflicts with that possible dynamic are legion.

His power is to control all forms of energy; kinetic, potential, psychic, magical. He can redirect or block energy, but if he loses focus it can explode with tremendous force, endangering whoever happens to be nearby. He is forced to maintain a mental and physical discipline that will be constantly tested.

Steve: That’s a great answer!

Thank you so much, JP for doing this!

To find more of his work, check the links!



Book Review: The Caverns by Olen Crowe


Title: The Caverns

Author: Olen Crowe

Release date: June 23rd, 2022

Thanks to Olen for sending me a copy of this one. We connected a while back on Twitter and I always love checking out other’s work, so this was a cool novel to discover.

Look, anything involving crazy events/incidents in a cave – I’m pretty much game for. Whether it is supernatural, weird mutated creatures or simply bad guys holed up and trying to scare folks away, cave based horror will always get me amped up.

What I liked: The story takes place in the Linston Caverns, a tourist attraction off the beaten path. The book opens with a group of tourists out on a boat in a lake inside the caverns that gets tossed around and the people disappear.

Crowe ramps things up by having two investigative journalists partner up with three college kids who’re wanting to explore the caves to see if they can get to the bottom of everything happening. Insert a slightly crazy local who believes the caverns are haunted and a small town hellbent on doing whatever it can to keep the tourist dollars flowing and you have a rollicking, multi-layered novel.

The story has some unique bit-parts, characters that fit in to push the novel along and many of them will feel like characters you’ve known for years, which is always a blessing when an author can pull that off.

The ending comes like a crushing wave onto shore, wrapping things up as well as leaving some lingering questions for us readers to really ponder.

What I didn’t like: No matter how much I tried, I just didn’t like the Junior character. The way he is portrayed almost became like inserting Jim Carrey at his most ridiculous into a drama piece. Felt like oil and water. He has a purpose and aides with how the story moves, but I just couldn’t get a handle on him.

Why you should buy this: This was fun from start to finish. The caverns offer up an immediate place to create chills and make the readers squirm and Crowe uses all of that to his advantage.

Overall, a really solid, claustrophobic story that’ll have people developing anxiety as the novel progresses.


Book Review: Starry Nights by S. Kovax


Title: Starry Nights

Author: S. Kovax

Release date: November 3rd, 2022

Big thanks to S. Kovax for sending me a digital copy of this one. I read his excellent collection ‘The Uninvited Words – Tales of Horror and Dark Fantasy Volume I’ back in 2021 and have the second volume on my Kindle to be read soon.

Kovax had indicated that ‘Starry Nights’ was a novella that he really loved and wanted to see if I enjoyed it as well and after having read this, I found it really engaging and a refreshing take on the unknown that lures us in concept.

What I liked: ‘Starry Nights’ follows Margo, one of the leading painters in the world. She’s gorgeous, addicted to drinking and having fun and fucking whatever moves. But it’s not want she wants, not deep down in her soul, and after giving a farewell speech at her latest unveiling, follows in the footsteps of Van Gogh and moves to Arles, where he famously cut off part of his ear.

This is where Kovax really accelerates the narrative. Margo meets a young man, a fan of her work but also a painter in his own right and after sharing what his subjects are, they team up to paint together. It is a fascinating study on how creative people create, but also what happens when one wants something they’ve never had, while the other has achieved all of it and more.

The subjects were fascinating and it lead to a horrible reality, but also an expected direction, when placed in the context of the story leading up to that point.

The ending was great and I gotta sale, Margot was such an amazing character to follow along.

What I didn’t like: While I thought the subjects were intriguing and had me curious, I wish we would’ve had more about the who, the why and the what. This was most likely done purposefully (God knows I’ve gone that route before) but it left me dying to discover so much more about it.

Why you should read this: Kovax is a really gifted writer. He gets to the heart of what makes a character tick quickly and has the reader engaged and following along within minutes. This one hums along and, while I’m not a fan of the painting/art world much in real life, I do enjoy reading about it in a horror novella/novel setting and this worked really well.


Book Review: It Looks Like Dad by J. Krawczyk


Title: It Looks Like Dad

Author: J. Krawczyk

Release date: April 23, 2023

Huge thanks to the awesome Chris for sending me an eARC of this one!

It seems preposterous to consider, but Toronto’s Little Ghost Bookstore will be be turning one in April of 2023. When I think about that, my struggles to comprehend. They feel like they’ve been an integral part of the book community for years already and I consider myself very fortunate to have a couple of my books on their shelves.

As they’ve continued to grow and expand their offerings, we’ve now seen the announcement of launching their own small press and ‘It Looks Like Dad’ by co-owner, J. Krawczyk, is the first release in that line.

I went into this one COMPLETELY blind, knowing just the title and the fact that there was a big-ass spider on the cover!

What I liked: Look, going in blind for this was probably a blessing and a curse. I mean, on one hand I experienced this WTF! novella fresh and was just blown away. On the other hand… I need to kind of tell you some of the stuff that goes down here, so if you read past this point, I’m kind of ruining the ‘blind’ aspect for you!

This novella is essentially a scaled-down Michael Crichton story mixed with a Hunter Shea rampager to give us a phenomenally high-paced, emotional piece. When I say scaled-down though, what I mean is that Krawczyk gives us 600 pages of information in a 200 page story and does a fantastic job of simplifying it and never once losing the reader with hard-to-understand physics and spatial science. It really helped to amplify the story and the craziness going on.

The story follows Kaitlin, who gets a call that her husband has been arrested. It can’t be possible, she thinks because he’s on a work trip, but when she goes to the jail, there he is. Only it isn’t him. It’s a version of her husband from an alternate timeline. And he’s here to try and save his alternate wife and daughter from the apocalyptic event about to happen.

Even within the short page count, we get treated to a Hollywood blockbuster movie with how much action and movement takes place within. It hummed along and the character of Rudy – aka the giant-ass spider – was a cherry on the top.

The ending, while kind of what we expected, works really well and keeps the science aspect alive and well.

What I didn’t like: Going in blind, I was worried at first with how much of the science aspect we would be exposed to. Saying that, don’t let that turn you off, J. does a solid job of keeping things simple and understandable. I know science based horror-novella’s can turn people away, so don’t let that be a worry.

Why you should buy this: Well, here’s a two-parter. The first – by buying this you not only support small press but also small business (and a Canadian small business as well) owned by two of the nicest people out there. The second – you’ll want to buy this considering A) the cover B) the insanely great story within and C) that this novella was a blast from start to finish and absolute hits all of the high notes. I had so much fun with this one and I think J. Krawczyk has hit a home run here!


Goodreads link:

Book Review: Suckerville by Chris Sorensen


Title: Suckerville

Author: Chris Sorensen

Release date: May 31st, 2023

Oh man, how we the faithful have waited!

For those unfamiliar, Chris Sorensen is the author of the phenomenal The Messy Man trilogy, which opens with the ‘The Nightmare Room’ and never lets up over the following two books. But it’s been three long years for fans of his work as we’ve waited for another release from Chris and now the time is upon up!

Huge thank you to Chris for sending me an eARC of this one, which I dove into almost immediately!

What I liked: Much like the first time you watched Tremors, ‘Suckerville’ will bring you back to that headspace. We follow JD, a world-class fuck up who prefers drinking and fighting to working and responsibilities. He’s bailed out of jail by his good buddy Rowdy and somehow convinces his friend to help him steal his Airstream trailer back from his ex-wife. Unbeknownst to them, something is occurring in the woods near the lake nearby.

It’s from here that Chris rips along and the readers are in for a world of fun and carnage. We get a really great group of characters that have to band together and try to survive as these insane, sucker-covered people try to devour every moving thing in their paths.

Throughout, Sorensen does a masterful job of creating tension and keeping up the high-speed banter between these characters, which worked so well to not only have us rooting for them, but also alleviated some dark moments with some well placed quips and the humor worked really well, considering the people involved.

The ending was a blast and not only wrapped things up, BUT does leave the door open for a potential sequel. That is, if Chris wants to go down that road once again!

What I didn’t like: JD appears to be the only character for the most part that is willing to step up and try to save those when they need saving most. It kind of felt odd, considering this big-drinking, big-talking rednecks often consider themselves the strongest, toughest, meanest SOB’s to walk the planet. So, I was expecting a few times to see a few of the other males have an ounce of courage, but alas, it was not to be. (Actually, in my experience, many of those big-talking rednecks are the first to run and turtle from a fright!)

Why you should buy this: If I wasn’t reading about six other books at the same time, I would’ve easily cruised through this in a single sitting. This was so much fun and I had a smile on my face the entire time. It felt like I was watching an 80’s ninety-minute creature-feature movie like I used to love watching, with a great cast of characters, a hideous, horrendous antagonist and action sequence after action sequence. This may very well be one of the most enjoyable books you’ll read all year and I for one am so excited to see a new Sorensen book for masses to devour!


Book Review: The Handyman Method by Nick Cutter & Andrew F. Sullivan

Title: The Handyman Method

Authors: Nick Cutter & Andrew F. Sullivan

Release date: August 8th, 2023

There’s no way I’m starting this review without saying A HUGE MASSIVE MASSIVE THANK YOU to Andrew F. Sullivan for moving mountains and getting me a digital ARC. I can’t thank you enough and I really, truly appreciate that!

It was back in 2014 when I discovered Nick Cutter through getting his novel, ‘The Troop.’ It was a phenomenal horror story and led me into rushing out and grabbing ‘The Deep.’ Since then, I’ve also dove into more of Nick’s work. I mean Craig’s. As many know – there’s still a few who don’t – Nick Cutter is a pseudonym for author Craid Davidson. Same with Patrick Lestewka, whose books I’ve also read. Between the three, I find myself drawn slightly more towards Craig’s literary approach, but if you want brutal and unhinged, Nick and Patrick are there for you.

As for Andrew F. Sullivan, it wasn’t until just last year, in 2022, that we connected and since then we’ve struck up a great friendship and having read his masterpiece, ‘The Marigold’ already, I know he’s an absolute beast of a writer. Which will answer the question some of you may be wondering – why’s Nick Cutter co-authoring a book with Andrew F. Sullivan? They answer that in the acknowledgements and the journey from initial conception to finished novel was fascinating and very interesting to read about. These two horror heavyweights have delivered a novel that’ll have you completed riveted from start to finish.

What I liked: On it’s surface (pun intended), the story appears pretty straightforward. Having recently been put on administrative leave, Trevor and his wife Rita have purchased a new house in a new development and move there with their son, Milo and his pet turtle, Morty.

But immediately things are not what they are supposed to be. There’s no sod. There’s a crack in the wall. And the house seems to be ‘dipping.’ Trevor, having no outlet now that he’s jobless, decides to take things into his own hands, and finds a Youtube channel, titled The Handyman Method, that will guide him through how to fix his house himself.

It’s here that Cutter (occasionally dipping into Lestewka territory) and Sullivan begin to have fun. There’s things in the walls. The man in the videos appears to be directly speaking to Trevor. Milo finds an odd structure in the woods with strange squirming things and a sink hole underneath. Morty begins to grow pink sludge. And Rita sees them unravelling and takes it in stride. Because she knows things and that layering, the texture of revelation works so well to create this chaotic, unnerving deception.

As we go further in the book, we see a mother doing everything she can to protect her son, and a father becoming completely unhinged and going so far off the deep end there can’t possibly be a way back. I do have to add, every single scene at Home Depot was a riot and the descriptions of the guys there and the interactions had me chuckling with their absurdity and accuracy.

Additionally, I really enjoyed the use of technology as a maddening device. Having a six-year-old son who watches random Youtube videos on his tablet, that had me smiling when Milo began to have his own experiences and it seemed so completely plausible.

The ending is fantastic and wraps it up really ‘nicely,’ and I use that word tentatively. This is a Cutter/Sullivan affair afterall.

What I didn’t like: I loved this one from start to finish, and what we learn worked so well for the overall story. Saying that, I found the discovery of the structure in the woods odd, when it was all said and done, because it didn’t seem to completely fit into the mythology that they’d built. The lore seems to have said one thing and this was something different? Not sure. Maybe it was a second one that was happening or maybe I just completely missed that!

Why you should buy this: This novel is a banger from beginning to end. It’s got a solid structure with the house and the family moving there, but this goes into so many different avenues that it’ll appeal to fans of every horror subgenre. We get some Barker-esque scenes, some brutality coupled with some truly emotional family moments – see Morty the turtle – and Cutter and Sullivan absolutely were writing this with huge grins on their faces. It comes off of each page. Two ultra-talented authors having a blast and subtly infusing this straight-ahead-horror story with elements of environmentalism, commercialism, the technology takeover and toxic masculinity. I had an absolute blast with this one and I think this one’s going to shoot off the shelves like a rocket come release day!