Behrg Reviews “The Neighbor” by Joseph Souza

neighborJoseph Souza’s latest novel The Neighbor is an intricate puzzle box of a story and the epitome of what I consider bold writing. Up front, this is a novel people will either love or hate. It’s story centers around people you will adamantly disagree with. And yet you won’t be able to stop coming back for more.

Souza’s real secret to this story is how he gets the reader to simultaneously abhor the characters yet feel so drawn to them and their plights. It’s like watching a magician perform a sleight of hand trick but never being able to pinpoint how exactly the trick is being done. Despite the characters’ immense flaws he allows for moments of vulnerability that make them surprisingly sympathetic and allow the reader to see themselves in the characters, something that–trust me–you won’t want to happen.

This is compulsive reading at its best, and I felt completely swept away in the strong undertow of Souza’s writing. Dark, disturbing, but completely captivating, this is the best form I’ve seen Souza in, which says a lot for this accomplished writer. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a different approach to your typical psychological thriller.

** I received a copy of this book for review from NetGalley. My thanks to the publisher and author. This is no way influenced my thoughts or opinions. **

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Behrg Reviews “Screams You Hear” by James Morris

James Morris excels at finding the right voice when it comes to a YA narrator, and I’ve been a fan of his work for awhile now.  Screams You Hear is a step into a much darker pool for Morris, and this novel is layered with moments that will have even the most jaded reader needing a moment to come up for air.

screams you hearThe concept is great, a young high school girl living on a small island off the Pacific Coast uncovers what could be a pathological outbreak resulting in extreme violence from those infected. What’s worse, only adults seem to be the ones who come down with the disease. The novel is interwoven with Ruthie being back on the mainland, horrifically burned as possibly one of the only survivors, then retelling her tale as we’re transported into the past and the events that unravel. The back and forth work extremely well even as we begin to question Ruthie’s telling of the story, and provides for some twists that wouldn’t work any other way.

As per usual with Morris’s writing, the setting is fantastic and used to full effect, heightening the drama of the bizarre outbreak that occurs. Combine that with some excellent character moments and some jaw dropping scenes to create a story you won’t find anywhere else. The one issue I have with the book is I felt it didn’t know what it wanted to be. At times it felt YA suspense, at times it entered into the darkest caverns of horror, but the juxtaposition didn’t fully mesh and left me a little uncertain as to what it was trying to accomplish. Of course that could be part of the point, the extreme moments meant to crush your ideas of a relatively safe young adult themed world.

Surprising and fresh, this was definitely worth the read, and it’s fun seeing Morris flex his muscles and redefine the boundaries of your normal genres.

RIP: Kindle Scout

Just a little over three years since its first round of books was released, the “crowd-sourced publishing platform” that was Kindle Scout is being closed down. I received an announcement today of the news, along with other authors who have had books selected through the program and published by Kindle Press.

Kindle Scout

As of today, April 3rd, Kindle Scout will no longer accept new submissions. The books that have been published through the program will remain within the Amazon wheelhouse for now and we’re being told will still be eligible for inclusion for promotional opportunities. I suspect, however, that quite a few Kindle Press authors who have been on the fence will now request their rights reversion and move on to self-publish their novels or find another home for them elsewhere.

Having been one of the first authors published through the Kindle Scout program I find the news disappointing but far from unexpected. Kindle Scout was always an experiment, and while the intentions were good I don’t think it took off like Amazon might have hoped. Publishers — both big and small — come and go, and in today’s ever evolving landscape one certainly can’t fault a corporation or publisher for trying something innovative, whether or not it proves to be a success. In truth, I wish more publishers were looking at breaking the mold and finding ways to disrupt the “tried and true” practices of the industry which have become more “tired” than “true”.

So the big question which will now be asked is whether Kindle Scout was a failure. The answers, of course, will vary, but I’ve always looked at the program as just one stepping stone along a path leading to success. One can look to authors like Sariah Wilson or Michael McBride, for which their Kindle Scout winning novels led to landing further deals with either Amazon or big five publishing companies. And for many Kindle Scout authors, myself included, having a company like Amazon select your book over thousands of entries was a moment of validation, a glimpse that the end of the long and lonely writing tunnel just might end with light.

And yet for every successful story that came out of Kindle Scout there have been just as many authors disappointed with the program. Some books received far less marketing support than others, and some authors have sold far more books self-publishing than they ever have through Kindle Scout. The story remains: “Just add water, but results may vary.”

As for my experience, I’m grateful I had a chance to be a part of it. For a debut novelist with no foreknowledge of publishing or marketing books, Housebroken has been a repeated #1 best-selling novel on Amazon for Horror, broke into the top 100 best-selling books on Amazon, remained #1 in Horror in the UK for over a month, and has sold almost 10,000 copies to date. The Kindle Scout experience has been a jumpstart to my career as an author. It’s also enabled me to connect with a community of authors I never would have known otherwise and reach an audience far wider than the little bubble I travel in. My novel has been picked up by a premier publisher for a limited hardcover release (more details to come), has landed an amazing actor to do the voice work for an audiobook adaptation, and is in the early stages of being optioned for a film (you’ll know more if / when I do). To say that the program is a failure is to dismiss every author for whom doors have been opened because of Kindle Scout.

So whether Kindle Press evolves into something new or permanently closes, remember this isn’t the end of the story. It’s only the end of a chapter. And who knows how many book this series might sustain? I bid a fond farewell to the Kindle Scout program and look forward to whatever twists and turns the future may hold.

Hiking adventure

 

Behrg Reviews: Ararat by Christopher Golden

ararat.jpgArarat has a lot going for it beginning with its killer premise – a cave opening up on the top of Mount Ararat which may or may not house the remains of Noah’s Arc. Add to it the cherished (by me at least) landscape of snow sprinkled with a generous dash of horror and I was fully engaged before starting page one.

Whether my expectations were simply too high or the book didn’t live up to its premise is a matter for debate, but when I finished this novel I felt like I do after leaving a buffet — full, but far from satisfied.

The first half of the novel moves quickly enough, though I was disappointed our two protagonists were already looking for the arc. Without getting into spoilers I liked the twist that was offered, defying expectations, but the last half of the novel felt incongruous with the former half. The horror elements for me felt over the top when compared to the compelling premise and, for the first time in a long time, I was left wishing the author had used more finesse and restraint to deliver something truly unique rather than devolve into “more of the same.” Again, I blame my expectations as the first half of the novel kept me engaged with the slow-build of tension and questions, but by the end I was just looking forward to my dinner mint and forgetting the fact that I had overindulged myself at another far too ordinary buffet.

Ararat recently won the Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a novel, so it certainly has its supporters and fans and I’ve seen mostly rave reviews. I’m glad I tackled this one and did enjoy it, but I feel there was a lot more within the source material that would have made for a stronger story.

Final judgement: Come for the premise, but don’t expect a gourmet meal.

Book Birthday!

Today’s the release of the final book in THE CREATION SERIES and there are 3 ways you can celebrate with me —

 

  1. Pick up Book One for FREE and Book Two for just $0.99!  This is the first time book 2 – The Creation: Let There Be Death – has ever been on sale so grab it while you can at this reduced price!
  2. Join me tonight for the Facebook Release Party for a chance to win signed copies of all 3 books as well as a host of other give-aways!
  3. Share this with a friend!

I’m incredibly proud of this series and appreciate the support of so many readers who have pushed to see this journey completed. Thanks for joining me on this adventure. To many more!

Burning city. Disaster concept. You can put your design on the city

 

Win a Signed Copy of All 3 Books in The Creation Series!

Burning city. Disaster concept. You can put your design on the city

Join us for the Release Party

The final book in The Creation Series will be released next week and in celebration we’re having a party even us introverts can join! That’s right, you can stay in your pajamas for this party —

Join us online at the Facebook event March 20th from 5:30 – 8:30 PST!

Hosted by the Confessions of a Reviewer Publicity Team, you’ll have the chance to meet up with fellow readers and quite a few talented authors and win some free eBooks throughout the night. You can also be entered to win a signed copy of all 3 books in The Creation Series!

So hop on over and register for the event and feel free to share this with any other readers who might be interested in joining! We’ll see you next Tuesday.

Creation Book Release

Behrg Reviews “Kin” by Kealan Patrick Burke

I’m a huge fan of horror, but the regurgitation of material within similar sub-genres is one of the biggest challenges within the industry, whether it be print or film. We’ve all seen the end-of-the-world zombie epidemic or the college kids going out into the woods and then chased by back-woods cannibals to the point that the set-ups themselves become cliche. It’s one of the reasons I typically steer clear of creature features as too often they’re derivative and offer very little I might consider “new” or original.

KinAnd then you have those artists – writers, directors, etc – who take the familiar but tilt the concept on its head, offering a fresh perspective on what you’ve come to know so well. The movie “Cabin in the Woods” is a brilliant example of this, subverting your expectations while still delivering the horror and fun you might expect from the genre. In my opinion, Kin, by Kealan Patrick Burke, is right up there with it.

First, Burke chooses a brilliant starting point for this story, one I’ve never seen done before: the book begins with the only survivor (as if often the case) making their way out of the forest AFTER having been caught and tortured and having barely escaped with her life. This is where every other story might end, but this is our beginning. What follows is the aftermath of not only the survivor but the group of “kin” from whom she’s escaped. And the trail of bodies of those who help our survivor along her way.

Burke does a fantastic job of blurring the lines between protagonists and villains, of building believable character motivations and then dashing our expectations to pieces. Not only is this a character-driven exploration of pain and guilt and revenge, it’s also just a lot of fun and there are several moments that will be embedded deep into your subconscious from the moment you read them until either the moment you die or your mind wastes away into stormy clouds of dementia.

Seriously, these horrors will stay with you.

More proof that Kealan Patrick Burke stands on the shoulders of the many authors trying to make it in this genre. For those who aren’t afraid of exploring the darkness, put Kin on the top of your must-read-list.