Book Review: Chasing Ghosts by Glenn Rolfe


Title: Chasing Ghosts

Author: Glenn Rolfe

Release date: August 1st, 2016

Recently, Glenn Rolfe announced a new novella coming in the Summer of 2023 – called Are We Out of the Woods? I preordered it, because I’m a huge fan of Glenn’s work, but only after preordering it did I see that it said The Cobbs Book 2. I was perplexed. Book 2? Had I missed Book 1? Looking into it, I saw that the first was titled ‘Chasing Ghosts’ AND it had been languishing somewhere on my Kindle since early 2018 when I’d purchased it. Knowing that a sequel was arriving soon, I dove into this, expecting a brutally snappy novella and boy was it ever.

What I liked: To be frank, the characters in this are purely there to head to the woods near the Cobbs cabin and be slaughtered. I could probably just leave this section with that one sentence and people would be racing to read it. This, of course, being a Glenn Rolfe story, has more to it than that, but that is the entire basis of the novella and I suspect the sequel will follow along with the events at the ending – at least I hope so.

After a couple of kids go missing, one being Jesse, his parents world falls apart and issues arise. Tie in a band going to play in a cabin in the woods and a deranged killer wanting to slash and stab any people who disturb his area of the woods and you have a recipe for classic Splatterpunk tale. Glenn holds nothing back and no character is safe.

The ending is a culmination of residents and cops trying to survive while they continue to deal with this figure who won’t die, no matter the damage they give it. This one reads like Rolfe was having a ton of fun while writing it and it really makes me eager for the second novella.

What I didn’t like: The reality is, we don’t get that much character depth so it was hard to connect with a few of them, and when they get ripped to shreds, that does lose some of the emotional impact that otherwise would’ve been there.

Why you should buy this: Splatterpunk fans with love this short, snappy single sitting read. It rips along, we get a ton of carnage and gore and we get the stage nicely set for what’s to come. Another great read from Rolfe who goes from strength to strength with every release.


Book Review: The Briars by Stephanie Parent


Title: The Briars

Author: Stephanie Parent

Release date: May 9th, 2023

Huge thanks to Stephanie for sending me a digital copy of this one!

‘The Briars’ is Stephanie’s debut novel, being released from Cemetery Gates Media and has developed a sizeable buzz as we inch closer and closer to release date. I was personally intrigued by this one for two reasons – setting and the author’s own history. There hasn’t been many dark fiction releases set in a commercial dungeon, where men go to get spanked or to do the spanking, and adding in the fact that Stephanie herself has worked in a dungeon, I knew it was going to add an extra layer of authenticity to the experience. Multiply that by a potentially haunted dungeon and you’ve got the makings for a novel that would either be explosive or a slow-burn.

What I liked: The story follows Claire, working at The Briars after abandoning her dreams of becoming a professional dancer. She’s found her ‘why,’ a place she loves, doing something she loves even more and is surrounded by a solid group of women she considers to be her closest friends, even if none of them know each other’s real names or much about their lives outside of The Briars.

When new girl, Mara arrives, odd little things begin to occur and it’s here that the story really takes off as items move, things fall and mysterious events happen. Throughout, each of the main girls featured have their own experiences, but the story really focuses on Claire and dominatrix, Ruby. It’s through these experiences and a shared worry that we see a potential budding romance flare, even as Claire struggles to decide if she wants to remain with her long-term boyfriend, a flake in a rock band. I can’t spoil what happens here, but I do want to say the Claire-Ruby storyline – for me at least – was the strongest aspect of this novel, the crux that kept me racing through to see what happened.

The ending ties a lot of things up, gives us some solid answers and clarification on the nature of everything that had been occurring and we get to learn what happens with our characters, which is always a nice way to wrap up a story that is drenched in emotional turmoil.

What I didn’t like: I wasn’t overly keen on the omniscient interludes that we got at the end of most chapters. I think it was the distinct change in tone of the writing that really made it feel off.

As well, I figured out the truth of a specific character and their connection to the ending early on, so as the story goes on, any attempt of sleight of hand didn’t work. Also, there are some chapters that may come across repetitive simply due to the nature of the story – client comes in, selects girl, they go have fun, odd thing occurs – but do believe me there is a reason for this repetition.

Lastly, you will HATE this novel if you are either a prude or someone who doesn’t believe sex work is real work. Avoid this one at all costs, because this one focuses on that and if you can’t get over your own prejudices to other people’s choices and decisions for what they want to do for a living and what they take enjoyment from, you’ll be DNFing this one during chapter one. You’ve been warned.

Why you should buy this: Hey, if you read that last paragraph and are on the OTHER side of that fence, where you believe that love is love, that sex work is real work and that a person can make a choice to pursue a career in something that ass hats might not deem ‘becoming of a lady,’ then this is the novel for you. Wonderful characters, engaging storylines and ultimately a finale that is filled with tension, ‘The Briars’ will be a home run for you. Consider this perhaps the launching of a new rush of spicy-ghost novels, because I think Stephanie has hit a home run here and folks will be eating this up.


Book Review: The World You Loved by Brennan LaFaro


Title: The World You Loved (Slattery Falls, Book Three)

Author: Brennan LaFaro

Release date: June 13, 2023

Huge thanks to Brennan for sending me an eARC of this one!

So, here we are. The finale. The ending. Book three of three.

If you’ve read any book series in your life, you’ll have an idea of what to expect when you get to the ending of a series. The first is that it may not be the ending. Sometimes authors are assholes like that. They build everything up, they tie off a bunch of loose ends, and then SHABLAM!! Leave the door open for the potential of more. The second is that (as I just said) a bunch of the loose ends will be tied off and you’ll get some answers. The third is that there will be blood. Oh, yes, there will be blood. And action. And devastation. Which is the fourth guaranteed thing in the last book of a series. Devastation. Death. Those you loved and followed along with may not make it to the end of the end.

LaFara has led us on a journey and now that we’re at the potential ending, I had that hint of nervousness you always get when you crack it open. Can the author do the story justice? Will the journey wrap up how you want it to end? Who will survive and what will be left of them?

What I liked: After a brief ‘the story up until now’ refresher – cheers for that Brennan – we dive in, immediately joining Travis and Elsie where we’d left off. The hard part about reviewing the third book in a series is that spoilers are almost impossible to avoid for book 1 and 2 so tread lightly here if you’ve not read either.

Having been separated from Robin and their daughter, April, they find a way to get back to Slattery Falls, only to discover eleven years has past. In the few short hours they were trapped on the other side, over a decade flew by.

After reuniting with Robin and her wife, Penny, they get to see their now-teenaged daughter and the emotions fly. This was a powerful scene and it set the stage for the events to follow. Namely, the return to Slattery, the following of the clues and the desire to end Weeks’ reign of terror once and for all.

LaFaro does a great job of banding this group together, having them work as a team even as things take a few sideways steps and the surviving characters make it to the other side and reunite with an old friend to finally take down Weeks. The explosive finale was powerful and made for some great emotional highs and lows. Fans of this series will find themselves reaching for the tissues as the body count rises.

What I didn’t like: For being a third book and a series ender, there was a significant amount of continued information dump in the form of back story and Youtube videos. It was necessary, but I felt at times that it slowed the pace too much and reduced how much of the last section of the book would be available for that final good versus evil battle.

Why you should buy this: If you loved books 1 and 2, LaFaro confidently destroys book 3 and wraps this one up really nicely. Slattery Falls is a location that works really well and how it is utilized over the course of three books, LaFaro has made it his own paranormal home base. He does leave the ending open to potential further entries, but it felt more like they’d be stand alone or unrelated.

This was a great ending to a very solid series and will make fans of Brennan’s and Slattery Falls very happy.


Book Review: The Dead Woods by Christian Francis


Title: The Dead Woods

Author: Christian Francis

Release date: May 1st, 2023

Huge thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for approving me for a copy of ‘The Dead Woods.’

The cover and the synopsis had me hooked. I was excited to dive into this one and, as a huge fan of coming-of-age, creatures in the woods novels, thought this one would be right up my alley.

I also didn’t mind going in that this was marketed as YA Horror. YA Horror can be some of the most fast-paced, emotionally devastating books, while also scaring the pants off of the reader. So, knowing that, I dove in.

What I liked: The story follows a group of kids trying to find out what actually happened to their friend who disappeared one night. They know he was going to the house where, just a short time prior their own son had disappeared, but when their friends bike and bag are found far from there, they know something is up.

From here, Francis takes his time in setting up a creepy story where there is an obvious desire from our characters to stay out of the woods. As more of the truth gets revealed, it becomes and inevitable task, that the kids will need to enter and we get some really great creature scenes and some well done tension.

The coming-of-age aspect wasn’t as prominent as I expected, but the group of kids work well together and do what they can to survive and attempt to put an end to the evil.

What I didn’t like: This one just didn’t click with me, unfortunately. I didn’t care about any of the kids, and because of that there was no emotional connection between reader and story, which meant when anything happened, I just didn’t care.

It also took a really long time to ramp up. Even by the 50% mark very little actual progress had been made, which meant by the time anything of woodsy note occurred, it felt rushed and not expanded upon.

Why you should buy this: This was good, just not great for me. It had some really fun moments and had enough going on that I wanted to see what happened, but it wasn’t as fast-paced as I would’ve hoped considering the middle range page count.

Overall, a decent entry into the creature-in-the-woods genre but one that won’t appeal to those who stay away from YA.


Book Review: UFO of GOD by Chris Bledsoe


Title: UFO of GOD: The Extraordinary True Story of Chris Bledsoe

Author: Chris Bledsoe

Release date: February 19th, 2023

This is 100% the first book I’ve purchased because of a Tik Tok video. And it was a random Tik Tok video at that. I know my algorithm will be such to push a video like the one I saw for this video to me, but it wasn’t from an account I follow or one I’d watched any content from.

From a very young age, the idea of UFO’s has fascinated me. I’m not smart enough to completely grasp or understand just how BIG the universe is, I do know it is huge. And I can’t fathom the idea that we’re alone. If we exist, so might others. Maybe not ‘humans’ as we are, or even as little grey figures, but I fully believe that there are other beings out there, some where. Saying that, I don’t believe in a God, as how the Bible portrays one or as Jesus Christ being what he was purported to be. I’m stumped that people believe in a Creationist viewpoint, that the Earth is only thousands of years old, versus what dating data shows us, but this review isn’t to get into any arguments or anything with anyone else about their beliefs, I simply wanted to go into this review sharing a bit of my viewpoint.

The Tik Tok video was from a guy – someone who I guess has a large following in the UFO community – who simply walks down a sidewalk and asks the viewer, if you’ve heard of Chris Bledsoe. This viewer had not. The guy goes on to say how Chris was a successful businessman, lost it all, had an experience, became a local pariah because of sharing his experience, but over the years he’s been repeatedly visited by intelligence members and invited to high level government events regarding his experience. That had me intrigued. For most people, they see videos like this and think that either UFO’s are crazy (even though the US government just released a bunch of interesting info about them) or the person is crazy. Most people can’t accept that something like this might ACTUALLY be real.

So, having watched the video, having went to Instagram and watched some of Chris’ orb videos, I bought it for Kindle and dove in.

What I liked: Opening with a foreword and introduction from two highly esteemed former US government officials kicks this one off with a bang. It lends an air of importance and professionalism that sets this book apart from a lot of the other true-story experience novels I’ve read that end up feeling more like someone trying to make a quick buck than someone who actually had an experience.

The book is exactly what the random guy from Tik Tok said it was. It follows Chris – who wrote it (believe he had a ghostwriter help) in first person POV – from childhood to present day. We see how he came from a poor family, worked his butt off to become a successful contractor, to lose it all to health issues and have to start over. I really liked this opening backstory stuff. It helped me, the reader who couldn’t pick Chris out in a photo, understand that this is a hardworking man, a man of faith and a man who no matter how down he was, would do what it took to provide for his family. That included growing their own food and harvesting their own manure (chicken manure, not their own manure, sheesh), so that he could overcome his health concerns and support them.

The big event, the ‘Fire in the Sky’ moment comes when Chris is at his lowest. Taking his son and some co-workers out fishing near their home, he goes for a walk, stressed about his health and what people say about him. It’s here that he has an experience with lights, figures and missing time. I won’t go too far into it, as I don’t want to be a total spoiler, but it is a gut wrenching, tension-filled section that had me captivated. It was also interesting to learn that not only did his son, Junior, experience ‘things,’ but so did the co-workers. I’ll come back to that in a minute.

From that point on, we get to share in the very low-lows that Chris and his family go through, up to the very highest of highs, with involvement in some phenomenal moments, meetings and events. It was staggering to read this and see who is interested in Chris’ story and what he ends up being involved with. Again, spoiler free, but it absolutely heightens that air of professionalism and believability.

I will say, throughout, the narrative voice doesn’t change or flicker. No disrespect meant to Chris, but it is told through a ‘good-ole-boy-awe-shucks’ writing voice that really works and helps humanize Chris time and time again. It never feels like he’s speaking down to the reader, never saying ‘hey, look what I got to do and you didn’t,’ which again, really works to make this book relatable.

As for the title of the book, this is in reference to not only Chris’ long time belief in God and having solid faith, but also about the vision he sees, the lady that visits him and his own interpretation of this. I think he does a remarkable job of walking the line between stating he believes it is God, but also that it is an unknown entity. I would argue that if this had happened to me – someone who doesn’t believe in God – I may very well interpret it as a space traveler, an inter-dimensional being etc. Chris really remains neutral and never once comes across preachy or holier than though, which works to not turn off any readers who don’t believe in Christianity or God.

Lastly – I thought it was wonderful to read lines that shared this sentiment – I waited until now to publish my story because I was able to gain approval/time clearance etc to share it. That was a stamp of approval for me for believability. That certain key moments in here were only able to be shared after a certain legal time period had past, really levels this up.

What I didn’t like: A few things stood out for me. The first was what I mentioned before. Chris states that Junior and the co-workers all also had experiences. While this profoundly devastates and crushes Junior, I would’ve liked to have heard a bit about what happened with the co-workers. Were they ridiculed? Did they ever speak out about it or in support of the Bledsoe’s?

Secondly, I have come to learn Junior has a podcast etc, but we don’t really hear much about Junior’s interpretation of the events. I know this was Chris’ story and in his POV, but I wanted to hear a bit about how Junior was handling things.

Lastly, the book kind of just ends. The ending works, but we go from a really amazing event Chris is at, to a few paragraphs about believing in that which we can’t see and then it just ends. Will we get a second novel? Is there more to come? What’s next? It wasn’t necessarily a cliff-hanger, more of just air being let out of the balloon.

Why you should buy this: If you’re like me and love reading about UFO stuff, cryptids, paranormal events etc etc, then this book will be right up your alley. The Bledsoe’s story is phenomenally engaging while also shows what can happen to the best of folk in the worst AND best of times. This was riveting and highly engaging and has some truly amazing UFO/unknown entity moments you’ll ever read. Even better – there are videos on his Instagram of some of these events which really ramp up the ultimately overwhelming sense of ‘you’re not alone’ that you’ll experience.

Really enjoyed this one.


3Q’s Special – Espen Aukan and the no good, very bad back!


Over the course of the 3Q’s, I’ve managed to chat with many writers, an illustrator/writer with a massive following (looking at you, Trevor Henderson) and a number of cover designers. One type of writer I’ve not had yet is someone who focuses solely on Screenplays/Screen Writing.

One thing I’ve really loved about social media and its global reach, has been connecting with some really amazing people. Which brings us to today’s guest.

Espen Aukan and I connected a year or so ago on Twitter and IG. I think Espen is my first Norwegian guest in the 3Q’s series and if you’re reading that name and knowing you’ve seen it somewhere but can’t place it – Espen co-wrote the screenplay for one of the biggest movies of 2022 on Netflix – TROLL.

Espen has been beyond kind to both myself and my son, Auryn, answering our questions on the movie (a movie I’ve watched four or five times and Auryn over a dozen) and we’ve developed a great friendship through the wonders of social media. I am super happy that Espen was able to answer the 3Q’s!

Welcome Espen!


Steve: What does your process look like once you finish your first draft? Do you immediately dive back into it, or do you take some time away?

Espen: Well, my writing process is a mess, so it’s hard to give a simple answer. I guess it all depends on the project and how soon my impostor syndrome kicks in. Many of my screenwriting heroes always says that a first draft should be written fast so that you don’t have time to let doubt creep in. But for me that doubt usually comes really quick and I struggle with it all the way through, so a first draft can take forever to complete because I do rewrite after rewrite after rewrite while writing the first draft. So my first draft is actually never a first draft really, it’s more like a freaky mess of different parts that may not even go together as a whole.

So, getting through the first draft is really rough, and then when I finally get to the end and have to deliver it, that’s always the moment when everything becomes clear and I realize how I should have written it and I see everything that I have screwed up. But then it’s too late of course, and I have to wait for notes from the director or producer(s) or whoever is reading it before starting the second draft.

By the time I get the notes, I will have forgotten everything and have to start struggling all over again, but this time with new doubt already waiting and with a shitload of notes on top making the second draft even worse. What can I say, writing is hard…

But in a perfect world I think I would prefer to let it rest for a while, maybe while working on something else, before going back to it again after some time away from it, maybe a couple of months so I would be able to see things more clearly and just let it evolve naturally. Alas the world is far from perfect and instead I live in this nightmare.

Steve: Do you believe cryptozoological creatures exist? If so, which one do you think has the best chance of being proven to exist?

Espen: After TROLL was released on Netflix last year, the director actually got messages from people who could prove that giant troll-like creatures did exist at one time. They claim to have evidence of this. Although the biologist I talked to when doing research for the movie is pretty damn sure that it would be impossible for such large creatures to even be able to walk, because gravity would make them so heavy that their legs would be crushed by the weight. The heart wouldn’t even be able to pump blood through to a body that large. It’s just physically impossible. So I guess trolls are off the list. Werewolves on the other hand…

Steve: Do you have a personal favorite script or piece that you’ve written? And if so why?

Espen: I hate everything I write. And I don’t say that to be funny. I just don’t think anything I write is any good. But the thing about writing movies is that there are a lot of other talented people involved in front of and behind the camera that can take my crappy script and make it look and sound good. And I’ve been really lucky with both TROLL and VIKING WOLF in that regard, and I can actually watch both movies without thinking “Dammit, I suck!” But as far as my writing go, I don’t like it much. The best I can hope for is that the other people involved like it enough to go make it and make it good.

Steve: Bonus Fun Question – You’re on a camping trip when suddenly a wild animal confronts you. You take off running and it follows. What animal are you confident in thinking you could outrun?

Espen: As everyone who follows me on social media knows, I’ve just been bedridden with horrible back pains. The first time I got these pains was last June when I went to a Scout tournament to do research for a movie. To get the whole Scouting experience I slept in a tent and my back went all to Hell because of it. So, if I go camping my back would probably do that again and I would be too crippled to even be able to walk. I would therefore be toast if any wild animal came after me. Hopefully it would be a sweet-natured animal and there would be cuddles instead of me getting eaten.


Steve: So, so sorry to hear about the back pain! I hope you’re on the mend!

Thank you so much for doing this, Espen!

To follow along on his journey, check the links!




Book Review: How Lovely to be a Woman: Stories and Poems by Tiffany Michelle Brown


Title: How Lovely to be a Woman: Stories and Poems

Author: Tiffany Michelle Brown

Release date: May 1st, 2023

Huge thanks to Tiffany for sending me an early digital of this one. I have it preordered but wanted to do my best to help support her as she’s always been an amazing supporter of mine. I’ve previously read one of her stories in an anthology before this, but was excited to see what her author’s voice was and how it weaved and flowed throughout an entire collection.

I will say this right off the bat – I’m a 41-year-old, CIS, straight, white guy. I am absolutely NOT the target market for this collection, but you know what – that didn’t matter. Each story and poem within are really engaging, wonderfully written and you can either take them at face value as simply a story or you can read them and take in the deeper meanings and implications within each.

What I liked: This collection starts off with a bang and never wavers from there on out. The stories crackle and have an emotional depth to them, which made this one a harder one to really tackle, as I needed to pace myself more than I usually do, wanting to digest each story once done.

Standouts for me were;

The Price of Motherhood – the opening story is one of the most visceral pieces in here. We follow Leslie, who has struggled with infertility and losing her significant other to another woman because of that, who orders an AI baby from an infomercial. At first things seem perfect, but soon she realizes she’s in over her head. This one was gut wrenching and really focused on themes of fertility and the lengths some will go for social media likes.

Something Black – The first of a few office/work based stories, this one features Lois, our MC, who discovers a new algorithm that’ll help make the company more profitable. But, the more her boss won’t make time for her and take her seriously, the more crows appear. A fantastic, quick piece of brutality.

Pursuit – a flash fiction piece, we follow along in the mind of a woman walking to her car at night knowing someone is pursuing her. Very unnerving and one that’ll hit home for anyone who has ever experienced that sensation of being followed – even more if you’re someone who has been followed.

Extraction – a fun body horror story, Val wants to be more beautiful. Getting some new makeup, she falls asleep. When she wakes up, the makeup is fused to her face. So, she begins to try and remove it. Horrifically amazing and a great riff on beauty standards.

This Woman’s Work – another flash fiction piece, all I’ll say is it involves the moon and a transformation.

Seeing Double – this one was a blast. Frat guy, Brad just wants to hook up and finally get laid. When he finds out that there’s more to the hot chick he’s making out with, he gets put into a precarious position and wishes things would’ve went very differently.

The Wailing – perhaps my favorite story in this collection (and one I hope Brown expands upon in the future), it opens with a woman making an important presentation when one of her teeth pop out. At home, another. And things escalate from there. We get a mysterious man and a frantic 911 call and a story that will absolutely make you squirm and want to turn the lights on.

The poetry within was great as well, as were the other stories I didn’t mention. I just found the ones I’ve listed to be the standouts for me.

What I didn’t like: Again, as I said, I’m not the target market here. But, I did love this collection and found Brown’s voice to be very refreshing. BUT – if you rail against the wokeness of the world, if you wish the former orange one was still in office and if you are happy with the current state of the US, where women and anyone that isn’t an old white, Christian male are losing their rights, you may want to stay away from this.

Why you should buy this: Tiffany Michelle Brown should be really proud with this collection. From start to finish the stories and poems create a phenomenal experience for the reader and her writing voice and take on dark fiction was wonderfully macabre. There are trigger warnings listed in the back for those who may need them, and that shows you just how dark this set of stories goes. There’s no holding back here, no pushing you to the edge only to back off. Brown makes sure to knock down all of the pins with each and every throw and the reader is all the better for it.

Really fantastic collection.


Book Review: Devil’s Track by Julie Hiner


Title: Devil’s Track (Detective Mahoney Series, #4)

Author: Julie Hiner

Release date: April 27th, 2023

Huge thanks to Julie for sending me a digital ARC of her newest!

I connected with Julie a few years back now, and we were both involved with the HWA Alberta chapter (not sure if that’s still happening or not, I’ve heard nothing lately), and it’s always great seeing not only an Albertan author releasing new work, but also a Canadian.

Julie is known for her heavy metal horror, works that feature heavy metal or have it as one of the narratives throughout.

I’ve not read any of the previous Detective Mahoney series, and honestly, when Julie offered this up, she never indicated that I’d need to have read the previous ones. I don’t think you’re missing anything and if you are, it most likely is related to Stella and her father, which I feel like this novel fills in a lot of what you might’ve missed anyways.

What I liked: Detective Stella Mahoney is an up-and-coming detective in Calgary, Alberta, living in the shadows of her father’s legendary career as one of the cities top detectives. She’s trying to walk the line between straight laced public servant and die hard metal head who likes to party on the weekends.

In this one, a body is found, displayed in such a way that Stella immediately suspects the potential for witchcraft to be involved. After some sleuthing and a discovery of a mysterious song, she follows that lead with the help of, Jake, a guy capable of tracking down information online. Hiner expands on Stella’s dislike of people throughout and does a great job of really pushing her buttons by mixing in a partner and showcasing just how much Stella has to battle to be seen separate from her father’s legacy.

I really enjoyed the pacing throughout, the story rumbling along and really keeping the reader on their toes.

As the clues begin to fall into place and Stella and her partner dedicate their time to connecting the dots, Hiner never lets up, but also continues to infuse our main character with a solid amount of doubt, which really humanizes her.

The ending was a blast, with Mahoney coming into her own and really showcasing her internal and external strength.

What I didn’t like: I actually found the chapters dedicated to Val and Damaris – our antagonist’s – to slow things down. I was fully rooted to seeing Stella connect the clues and get to the bottom of it, and I don’t know if I needed to see the other side of things. It was hard to make any connection with them and I didn’t find it really added any tension.

Why you should buy this: From start to finish, this is a really engaging and rollicking crime-fiction, thriller, with a lot of information infused within to really give the witchcraft aspect depth. Hiner has really created a character that readers will instantly come to like and as this is book four, that’ll give you time to go back and read the first three before we undoubtable get a fifth installment.

This was a blast.


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