Great Review of my latest novel, THE DAMNED PLACE, from Tristan Drue Rogers!

Absolutely WONDERFUL review for my newest novel, THE DAMNED PLACE, by author and reviewer Tristan Drue Rogers! I’m speechless with this review, and I don’t mind telling you about the rosy blossoms blooming high on my cheeks. Check it out. The book can be purchased via the link in Tristan’s review or by clicking the ‘Books’ tab above! And while you’re checking out his review of my work, check out his own novel, BROTHERS IN BLOOD.

Enjoy the review here.

BOOK REVIEW: Jerry’s Book Sucks: The Book by Jay Sigler and Justin M. Woodward

You’ve heard the term “popcorn movie” before, right? It basically means the movie is a big summer (usually) blockbuster full of action and special effects and actors who look sexy covered in sweat and grime, huge setpieces, exciting shootouts and explosions, and while the heroes may go through a bit of hell, they triumph in the end. What it does NOT mean is that the movie is going to be some life-altering examination of character and humanity full of quiet heartache and a slow pace. That’s what the Oscars are for.

JERRY’S BOOK SUCKS: THE BOOK is a “popcorn book”, and that is not meant as an insult on any level. It knows exactly what it is, what it’s trying to accomplish, and the general laws of physics and human nature be damned. It sets its eyes on the goal, jumps in the car (or on its horse 😉 ), and floors it. Full speed ahead and hang on for the ride. THAT is what this book was for me. A big, bold, ambitious, and satirically hilarious big-budget Hollywood action fantasy that basically takes all the ingredients from a dozen totally different recipes and tosses them all in together for a glorious cauldron of steaming hot fun. Oh, and don’t forget the kitchen sink…that’s thrown in there, too.

Jerry is an overbearing bore, and Rob loses a bet playing darts with him. His bane for losing is that he must edit and publish Jerry’s book–which has no title–since Rob had self-published a book of his own before. The problem is, Jerry’s book, well…it sucks. It’s about Jerry, who has renamed himself Gary in the story, and how he has to stop the vicious bat-monster Bob–curiously close to Rob’s name. There’s a girl in the mix who’s been taken, and Gary goes on a quest to find and save her from the nefarious Bob before he hurts her AND before he amasses the power to control the entire universe. Along the way, Gary enlists Helen, a woman who works for him–and has been turned into a gelatinous goo with an eyeball in it–and an otherworldly gnome by the name of Ryan, King of the Foopians (just read the book).

We travel across time, across space, to other planets, other galaxies, other dimensions, and even Hell! There’s absolutely NO place this book doesn’t go with its sprawling adventure, and along the way we get a handful of Footnotes from Rob, the editor, where he explains how Jerry has taken some real-life situations and written them into the book, but he’s always changed it to make Bob/Rob look bad. Oh, and Jerry has written himself/Gary as an obnoxious, know-it-all, perfect male specimen who makes other men green with jealousy and makes women’s panties eject into the nether with lightning speed at the sight of him.

We can tell Rob hates Jerry, and his footnotes throughout really drive that point home. However, in spite of all this, Jerry’s book really DOESN’T suck. I mean, sure, strip away the scathing satire and the fact that we’re reading a book edited by a guy who hates the author, and this wouldn’t work so well. But in the framework of how the story is presented, it ends up being a home run. There’s fun to be had on every page, laugh out loud moments assail us at every turn, and there’s simply no predicting what will come next. How do you predict that an elderly woman with a talking tit will turn into goo after a fall and spend the rest of the story in one bottle or jar or another in a holster on Gary’s hip, end up screwing herself (literally and hysterically), and pleasure a lusty demon?

Answer: you can’t!

Jay Sigler and Justin M. Woodward have created an absurdist masterpiece here, a mixture of bizarro fiction, sci-fi, and high fantasy, and I for one have never come across anything quite like it before. I do hope I get to experience something like it again if the authors decide to continue Jerry’s sucky books story. When it ended, I wanted more.

Its got action, its got comedy, its got romance, its got an army of talking yard gnomes, its got time travel, portals to other worlds, and a berry that turns you into a walking cellphone to people across the galaxy. And so much more.

Your life will not be changed here. You will not reach some epiphany about life and humanity. You will not break down in tears (except for those of laughter), but what you WILL walk away with is the memory of some of the best fun you’ve ever had ‘twixt the covers of a book. I mean that. Lots of laughs, lots of WTF moments, lots of action and explosions and shootouts and even a pretty damned good rap battle.

If any or all of that sounds appealing to you, snag this up. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, and who doesn’t like a good belly laugh or 800? I know I do, and I had a great time with Jerry’s Book Sucks: The Book. You will too.

Now, go buy the foopin book. Find it in print, digital, and audio here.

BOOK REVIEW: Kill Whitey by Brian Keene

A fast, fun, mean ride where crime/noir and slasher meet. Lots of messy charm!

KILL WHITEY by Brian Keene dropped the transmission into low gear and floored it from the very beginning. The whole time I was reading, I felt like my head was pinned to the headrest behind me and I couldn’t lean forward…and I never really wanted to. The ride was too exhilarating.

We have Larry, a blue-collar guy and regular Joe, who falls for a beautiful Russian stripper named Sondra. She works at a shady gentleman’s club and, after the first outing to this place with his pals from work, Larry finds himself drawn back time and time again to watch and lust after the beautiful woman. The place is owned by Whitey, a big Russian guy with white hair, and one of his friends claims he’s part of the Russian mob, though the other’s don’t believe him.

Only, they should have. After a night at the club where Sondra didn’t show and some strange activity is happening with the security folks of the joint, Larry and Darryl find Sondra hiding under Larry’s car outside and they help her get away. The Russians are really pissed off by this, and they’re coming, led by Whitey, whom they soon find is almost as indestructible as Jason Voorhees.

The fun never stops. At least if you find violent shootouts and fights to the death with severed limbs and blown apart organs fun. And I do. Fun AF. And KILL WHITEY delivers it in spades. It’s set up like a crime/noir, replete with the naive protagonist and sultry femme fatale and a bad guy who neither knows how to quit nor is capable of doing so. The story of precisely WHY Whitey and crew are after Sondra is never fully clarified. We get Sondra’s story and we get Whitey’s, but it’s never confirmed which (or if either) were being fully truthful. And this helps add to the conflict and suspense of the tale. The uncertainty in Larry’s mind plays out wonderfully confused and infuriated and conflicted.

Keene’s simple, straight-forward approach at prose is on display here, and as always, it just works. It reads easily and rings true. I especially appreciate his showing the cracks in Larry’s moral shell as the story goes forward and he’s worn down by panic and survival and doubt.

It’s fast. It’s fun. It’s mean. And it’s totally badass. If you like slashers and crime/noir, this is for you. It’s got it all, and it’s executed with lots of heart throughout. Once the action gets rolling, which is pretty early on, it never lets up. For me, THAT’S how you tell a story.

Another fine outing from Keene. Find it in print, digital, and audio here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Hungry Ones by Chris Sorensen

When I first read THE NIGHTMARE ROOM by Chris Sorensen, I was struck at what a powerhouse debut it was. The pacing was just right, the building tension getting tauter and tauter as the story progressed, and the ending blindsided me and blew me away. I was LITERALLY astonished, and it remains to this day as one of the best “ghost stories” I’ve ever read. I knew from the start this was going to launch a series, as it was subtitled THE MESSY MAN SERIES, Book 1. This struck me as interesting because as much as I adored The Nightmare Room, I just couldn’t see how the story could progress and go further.

I needn’t have worried. In the more than competent hands of Sorensen, the sequel to his hit debut, this one titled THE HUNGRY ONES, the story not only goes forward but does so in new and interesting ways. Here, we have a lady who’s purchased a dilapidated motel which was the sight of a brutal shot-gun massacre two years before. She’s about a week away from opening when the family from the first book stops by and she rents out a room to them, and unkowingly awakens something sinister lurking on the grounds of her motel. Actually, SEVERAL somethings.

Where Peter and his wife were the main focus of the first book, they take a bit of a back seat in this outing. They still have significant roles, and the version of Peter who is now part of The Messy Man is integral to the story, the real focus here is on his son Michael and the motel owner Jess.

Sorensen structures his books much like an onion, and as we dig into the tale, layers are peeled back one at a time, revealing more and more to us, drawing us in with mystery, and then surprising us with another great finale.

I was privileged enough to be able to read the first couple of chapters of this for Chris many months ago when he reached out to ask if I’d look them over and give him some feedback. The opening is focused on The Maple City Butcher, who is looking for a drink desperately late at night. This is the same guy who shoots up the motel, and here we get a bit of a look into the man that sets everything in motion for this story. I was captivated by this character and instantly wanted to know more. Then after this sinister opening, we meet Jess as she’s readying her new motel for business. Again, I was instantly struck with how her character connected with me, like a very sweet person who saw me standing on the street, nervous and confused, and took my hand to lead me where we needed to be. And ultimately, I was hooked. When the couple of chapters Chris sent over for me to peruse were over, my heart sank knowing it would be some time before I’d get to finish this tale.

It was worth the wait. While not quite as fresh and without as big of a twist ending as the first, this was still a terrific sequel. And it IS a sequel, one where the reader will certainly need to have read the first book to understand what’s going on. There aren’t any lengthy recaps to catch us up on previous events, but there are plenty of spoilers to the first book, so if you’re reading this and interested in getting this book, stop, go buy THE NIGHTMARE ROOM, and read it first, THEN get this one. It’s the only way to consume this work.

I was initially a bit confused by certain sections that jumped back in time, retelling events from the motel from the past, but soon I caught on and ended up quite enjoying these leaps in time, which filled out the story nicely. Like in the first book, the pacing is spot on and the tension keeps winding up tighter and tighter until the chain snaps in a violent whipcrack at the end, setting us up for yet another sequel to come. Now that I’ve seen Sorensen’s deft handling of a story I was convinced couldn’t work beyond a single book, I’m more than eager to see where this story goes from here. And speaking of sequels, this one has all the elements of the very best ones: MORE. More ghosts, more characters, more seedy situations. It really ups the ante nicely.

I’m not a huge “ghost story” fan in general. I’ve liked a good bit of them, but it isn’t the subgenre I typically am drawn to. But Chris Sorensen’s pair of books display the height of the genre, hitting all the right notes at just the right tempo with just the right amount of passion. For this reason, I can heartily recommend THE HUNGRY ONES to anyone who enjoys a good supernatural suspense yarn. There’s very little gore in either of these books, so the squeamish should be fine, but be sure to have a Xanax handy because this story will put your stomach in knots.

Just do me (and yourself) a favor: read THE NIGHTMARE ROOM first. If you don’t, you’ll be lost, confused, and in dire need of explanation. Plus, you don’t want to spoil the ending to that first book before reading it. It’s just too perfect.

I listened to this one on audio, and Chris did his own narration here excellently, just as he did in the first book. Terrific audio production.

THE HUNGRY ONES is the very best kind of sequel, returning us to characters we already love, introducing us to new ones we can cheer for, and takes the story in new and interesting directions. Just remember to hang on for one hell of a ride. Find it in print, digital, or audio here.

BOOK REVIEW: Darkness on the Edge of Town by Brian Keene

I’ve read quite a bit of Keene’s work over the years. Nowhere near all of it, but a fair amount. Something I’ve learned along the way with him is that there is a REASON he’s a legend in the horror community. His characters connect with the reader, come across less like the ideas from someone’s imagination but rather like real individuals. He’s got some grand ideas about multiple worlds and different dimensions and God and the devil and other gods and creatures and so on.

Of the books of his I’ve read, I still say Ghoul is my favorite, but much of that is the fact that I just love coming-of-age stories, especially when they’re set back when I was growing up. So Ghoul has that going for it ON TOP OF being just a terrific novel. But…I have found what I would consider my favorite Keene this side of Ghoul, and that would be DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN.

We have that awakes to find that some sort of darkness has surrounded it from above and at all sides, and anyone who ventures into the darkness never returns, but their screams can be heard from time to time. The darkness also seems to be showing things to people when they get close; things that scare them sometimes, other times loved ones enticing them to come just a little closer. But whatever the darkness is, it’s evil, and a strange homeless man in town seems to have kept the darkness from coming inside of the town. He’s held it at bay with magic. But the darkness can still play with their minds.

I wasn’t so sure about the premise here when I started, though Keene has never let me down. It seemed a lot like The Mist by Stephen King to me, but once I actually started reading, I saw that it was entirely its own story, having little to do with King’s story. This was really a terrific powerhouse of a novel, pulsing with increasing dread throughout all the way to the bitter, breath-stealing ending.

Let’s talk about that ending for just a second, without giving anything away. The novel builds a little slowly, but I wouldn’t call it a slow burn. We’re dropped right into the craziness from page one and hear about how it came about. We watch as people in town are growing more and more paranoid, their morals are deteriorating, their sanity is crumbling. It’s leading to what I was expecting to be an apocalyptic finale. But it takes a different turn, and I really think it was the right choice. It’s more of an unknowing ending. There’s a sprinkling of hope, but there’s also gallons of forboding doom as well. The fact is, we don’t know what’s going to happen. And there’s no need for a sequel to come along and tell us (though I’d read it in a heartbeat if one came along), because in the context of this story, it’s just a perfect ending.

Stephen King said this book was a terrific short novel. I have to agree. For some, the ending seems anticlimactic. But I disagree. The battles being waged in the characters’s minds is where the suspense came from and the ramping up of tension from the situation of the darkness is nearly secondary. Because of this, I thought it was a terrific book with a terrific ending that would have been cheapened if done any other way, and I’m thankful that Brian has such a Keene (pun intended, wow, that joke came out of nowhere) eye for such things.

If you like horror, get this. If you like Keene, get this. If you like character-driven studies in human psychology during a stressful event, get this. For me, it hit all the right notes. In fact, it was so good I immediately went out and got another Keene novel to rip into next. I rarely do that, reading the same author multiple times in a row. But Keene’s books are something special. Read this, and find out why. Get it in print, digital, or audiobook here.

BOOK REVIEW: Full Brutal by Kristopher Triana

My first Kristopher Triana novel will NOT be my last. This is extreme horror done right.

Kim is a beautiful and popular 16-year-old cheerleader with suicidal thoughts and a general pessimism for life in general. She wants something new to change her perspective, to make her feel alive, and she decides that based on what her friends have been telling her, sex is the answer. But sex alone isn’t enough for Kim, who likes to set herself apart. Instead, she sets her sights on her sex-ed teacher and finds him all-too-willing after a few gentle nudges.

Nothing changes in her perspective, but she soon finds she quite enjoys making her teacher squirm in fear of being found out. What follows is an increasingly depraved descent into cruelty and madness, blood-soaked and full of fun twists.

I’ve read my share of extreme horror novels, and generally speaking, I like them. It’s rare that I LOVE one, but I usually have a good time. I often find that the writing or story or characters take a back seat to the moist squirts and disembowelments and the like in extreme horror, so I usually kind of treat them the way I would a popcorn action flick: turn my logic reactors off in my brain and just settle in for the fun.

However, FULL BRUTAL doesn’t suffer from ANY of these ailments. The writing was tight and flowed extremely well, the story was interesting and unique, and the characters all rang true, none more so than Kim, who tells us the story in first person, not shying away from any of the brutality and sadism she inflicts on those who think she’s their friend. What was fascinating to me was, as sick and depraved as this girl is, you find yourself rooting for her as her escapades get increasingly more vile and horrific. You don’t want her to get caught. You want her to figure out a way to deal with her ‘situation’ (no spoilers, read the damn book!). You want her to turn everything on its head and convince everyone she’s as innocent as she says she is. All while feeling like you need to run to the confessional for cheering on such rotten individual.

That’s the brilliance of this blood-soaked book: you’re rooting for the bad guy. You IDENTIFY with her. There’s a good deal of social commentary here, much like with Caroline Kepnes’s YOU (though infinitely more depraved), and Triana deftly weaves this into his tale of debasement and butchery. Watching as Kim manipulates literally EVERYONE to her whim and fancy is nothing short of brilliant, further adding to the appeal of this character who, by all rights, should be utterly reviled by any sane human being.

This isn’t what I’d call a slow burn, but it does take its time getting to the gory bits. However, there’s plenty of gooey goodness (or not-so-goodness) from the get-go, so the extremes are on display early here. But when the blood starts to flow, a mighty Amazon river of the red stuff floods the pages and does let up one iota through to the last page. In fact, it just keeps getting more and more and more intense and squirty and stomach-turning…all in the best possible ways.

The dialogue is good, the characters–especially Kim–are very well drawn and believable, the pacing is excellent, and it delivers in exactly the way you’d want an extreme horror novel to do: in dripping–and apparently delicious–chunks. There’s a good reason this gem won the 2019 Splatterpunk award. It earned it.

This is extreme horror, so reader beware if this is not your taste. The extreme content isn’t going to be for everyone. But, if you’re into this or think you might like to give it a try, I highly recommend this book to you. As far as extreme horror novels go, this would be my second favorite of all time, right behind (and I mean just a foot or two away) OFF SEASON by the late and great Jack Ketchum. It’s that good.

If this is a genre you enjoy, you’re in for a REAL treat…and Kim is a fine cook. Find it in print, digital, and audio here.