Book Review: “The Halloween Children” by Brian James Freeman & Norman Prentiss

“The Halloween Children are watching me. They’re watching us all …”

halloween childrenThis novella reminded me a bit of a Jack Ketchum story. The first 2/3 of the book is spent exploring the characters – in this case a quite dysfunctional family. A constant sense of dread continues to build as questions are strung throughout the narrative like carefully placed decorations, until you reach the end which comes screaming at you like a freight train lifted from its tracks.

The narrative point of views, in flipping from Lynn and Harris’s perspectives, worked extremely well as you couldn’t fully trust either of the two narrators. The savvy reader begins to get the real picture of what’s going on by what’s NOT being said. I’ve always enjoyed the unreliable narrator motif, and it’s used here in quite a unique way that’s not fully understood until you reach the end.

But the ending — I’ll admit, a few times I grew a little weary of the bickering between the two parents, but this has one of the best endings for a book I’ve ever read. The thematic metaphors woven throughout one of the most tragic and shocking finales you’ll find … as I was reading I felt as if my jaw kept dropping lower and lower. Beautifully crafted, this is horror that will affect even the most jaded of horror fans.

A fantastic collaboration between two amazing authors, this is a book that will stay with you long after you close the final page.

“You’re all guilty. You’re all the Halloween Children.”

NOTE: This book will be released June 7th, by Random House and their Hydra imprint. You can pre-order a copy here.

** I received an advanced review copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own. **

Book Review: “Hex” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

hex.jpgA present-day witch story that cleverly combines new horror with old-school horror, Hex is a novel that is quite unique. Part “Cabin in the Woods,” part “Under the Dome,” the reader is brought into a town under self-quarantine, and the slow-burn suspense builds like watching a spark travel down the wick towards a stick of dynamite. In this instance, that wick may be a little long, but when it reaches the blasting cap, you better believe it explodes.

The last quarter of this novel is incredible, and the way Heuvelt underscores the action and horror with underlying thematic elements only adds to its mastery. Definitely a novel deserving of the praise its received and a great example of how to cull from the horror greats who have come before you while simultaneously cementing your own unique vision on a work. One of my favorite reads so far from this year.

See you in Doodle Town.

Because Who Doesn’t Love a Free Book?

Sadly the word FREE, as it goes with offering a product, often assigns a “value-less” attachment to whatever is being offered. Ebooks are no different, and with the desperation many authors face in trying to attract readers, it’s no surprise that this trend has affected — and disrupted — the wonderful world of reading.

There are, however, times when great books are offered at heavily discounted prices.

Recently, Amazon has introduced a new program called Prime Reading, in which Amazon Prime members can “borrow” up to ten ebooks at a time for absolutely no cost to the reader. Thousands of books are plugged into their rotating carousel of available books each month and, much like borrowing a book from a library, readers can check one out but WITHOUT accruing late charges.

My novel, HOUSEBROKEN, was a part of the introductory Prime Reading program when it first launched, and it was a great way to introduce my work to new readers during that time frame. Well, as the carousel continues its rotations, I thought I’d make you lovely readers aware of a few books you can download today for free that are part of this program, books you won’t want to miss.

Books You Can Download for FREE w/ Amazon’s Prime Reading:

1984First, do yourself a favor and pick up George Orwell’s fantastic dystopian novel, 1984. If you haven’t read this one yet, you’re in for a treat. In today’s world this little classic is looking more and more prophetic, and not in a good way.

 
Unpaved SurfacesFor a chilling character-driven suspense read, make sure you grab Joseph Souza’s award winning novel, Unpaved Surfaces. About the deconstruction and reconstruction of a family who has a child go missing, it’s a fantastic read.

 

melophobiaAnother dystopian novel that’s near and dear to my heart is Melophobia by James Morris. About a world where music is banned and musicians are fugitives, this one takes some surprising turns. Definitely one of my top reads for 2016.

 

twistedAuthor Andrew Kaufman has a dark thriller in the vein of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island that’s available. While I preferred Lehane’s execution, Twisted is still a great psychological thriller definitely worth checking out.

 

freelancer.jpgOff the beaten path from my normal dark reading, for fans of YA & sci-fi, I found Freelancer by Jake Lingwall a particularly clever novel. He’s created a futuristic world with hackers and drones and a protagonist you want to root for.

 

lewisAnother genre-blending novel is Forever by Linda Cassidy Lewis, who combines a gripping love story with a dark tale of possession. This definitely went in directions I wasn’t expecting and is an extremely memorable read.

 

Support an Author and (Potentially) Receive a Free Book!

Haunted HouseOutside of the Prime Reading program you’ve got an opportunity to help a fantastic author win a contract through the Kindle Scout program. Norman Prentiss’s novel, Life In a Haunted House, has been on the Hot & Trending list since it debuted on Kindle Scout and his campaign is up in a matter of days. By taking a moment to nominate his book, if it wins you’ll pick up a free advanced copy (and I’d be earth-shatteringly shocked if this one doesn’t win). Plus it’s just fun to help a deserving author along their road to success.

Check out his campaign and click nominate here. And if you dig what he’s doing with this release, he’s also offering three shorter tie-in novelizations which are also currently available for free. Check them out below:

* “The Lake Monster” — https://instafreebie.com/free/PMtEs

* “The Dungeon of Count Verlock,” — https://instafreebie.com/free/bu1p9

* “The Space Visitor,” — https://instafreebie.com/free/bu1p9 

My Own Free Offerings

Lastly, (if you aren’t sick of free stuff by now — I did warn you!!) if you haven’t yet subscribed to my newsletter, I’m currently offering 3 free eBooks as a Thank You for subscribing. The First Book in The Creation Series, The Creation: In The Beginning; my short story The Lines (The Girl Who Couldn’t Come Up With an Original Title); and an exclusive story that’s only available through my newsletter, entitled “Patterns.”

I only send out the occasional update through the newsletter to announce new releases, contests or sales. Subscribe here and I’ll get your free books on their way.

See? Whoever said free wasn’t a good thing?

Newsletter Books

 

Book Review: “The End of the World As We Knew It

I rarely touch a book with your typical horror monsters in it … vampires, werewolves, zombies? Unless it’s approaching things from a completely unique angle, I’m just not that interested.

(And yes, I gave up on the Walking Dead somewhere in the middle of Season Three … Sorry, folks. I’m one of THOSE guys).

I find most of these books turn into what I’d consider “fan-fiction,” recapitulating all of the hours of reading (or watching) other <insert monster here> movies or books that the author has taken in. It’s nice that you like zombies, it really is, but if you want me to buy your book, come up with your own creation. Or give me a zombie story I haven’t seen before.

With “The End of the World As We Knew It,” author Nick Cole attempts to bring us that story.

nick coleDid it work? Sort of. I absolutely loved the first third of this novel. The writing, the pacing, the characterizations revealed through imperfect recordings. It was a blast. Then things sort of got bogged down into more familiar territory, but without any real risk or inherent danger. One of the problems with using journal entries as a means of telling a story is that the audience knows that, despite whatever circumstance our “hero” may find themselves in, they’ll survive. Else, how could they be “telling” us the story?

And that’s sort of where the book headed, with telling rather than showing. A lot of summaries of battles and dangers overcome that would have been much more interesting if we had lived through them rather than hearing of them second hand.

(As a side note, I often wonder how anyone would ever write in such detail conversations or the intricacies of events that took place in a journal. Ain’t nobody got time for that!)

Despite the way in which the story was told, what I enjoyed the most was the humanity this novel revealed. This is where Cole’s writing thrives and what elevates this story from what might be considered your average zombie tale.

For you zombie horde fanatics, this is one not to miss. For the rest of you? You’ll get enough out of this to make it an enjoyable journey. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Kindle Scout 2 Yr Anniversary – $0.99 Sale!

Hard to believe it’s been two years since my debut novel, HOUSEBROKEN, was published through Amazon’s Kindle Scout program. I still remember the anxiety of going through that 30 day campaign … the hopes, the frustration, and the eventual bliss and validation in having my novel selected for publication.

HousebrokenSince then, HOUSEBROKEN has gone on to be a #1 Amazon best-selling novel, both in the US and UK, for horror-suspense. The Kindle Scout program has, within this same time period, launched over 250 books, some to incredible success and others to lack-luster results, but publishing has never been a perfect science. It continues to be a great way for readers to discover new books and authors (and be rewarded for your efforts), while helping to launch careers and offer alternative options for authors these days.

To celebrate 2 years of the program’s success, Kindle Press is offering a sale on every one of their titles!

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 9.48.04 AM

For a short time period, you can pick up every Kindle Press title for just $0.99, including my novel HOUSEBROKEN. You can check out all the titles here — With an impressive array of authors across multiple genres, there’s sure to be something that will grab your attention. (And to grab HOUSEBROKEN for less than a buck, click here)

Later this week, I’ll add a post on a few Kindle Press titles I’ve read over the past 2 years that are ones you won’t want to miss. Till then, happy shopping. 😉

 

Book Review – “Hide & Seek” by Jack Ketchum

hide and seekA lot of people passionate about either loving or hating this one, I clearly fall into the camp of the former. I feel expectations play a big role in whether we enjoy a book, and the blurb for this one is quite deceiving … The “game” itself is only the last fourth of the novel. This isn’t “Saw,” it’s not a haunted house tale (though you could make arguments that it incorporates some of the tropes of the genre), but I found it both moving and brilliant.

Ketchum takes his time in this one, allowing the characters to drive the narrative rather than the other way around, and it works magnificently. One of my biggest gripes with a lot of books / films in the horror genre is that I don’t care enough about the characters before the blood starts flying. This doesn’t mean I need lengthy back stories or — even worse — flashbacks; quite the contrary. Often it’s through a character’s actions and/or reactions that we get to know them. But it’s also through their wounds that they become real.

For me, this was a story I didn’t want to end simply because I felt I knew these characters, and I could have spent more time with them. Ketchum’s approach only made the horror elements of this novel that much more shocking, which led to some great and/or tragic discoveries. A novella to take your time with and not race through, but highly recommended.

This novel is currently FREE on Amazon for anyone with Amazon Prime, as part of their “Prime Reading” program. Definitely worth picking up.

Book Review – “Stranded” by Bracken MacLeod

stranded.jpgI’m a huge fan of horror stories set against the backdrop of a frozen winter land. Add to the setting a story that delves into the psychological, with a simmering suspense that slowly dials up, and you’d think I would have loved this one.

Not sure if it was the characters feeling a little wooden, only playing a single note, or if the style of writing was what kept me from really sinking in, but I constantly felt on the outskirts of the story rather than being drawn into the middle of it.

Lately, it seems there’s a trend to move toward subtle storytelling, a less-is-more approach, where huge concepts instead of being fully explored are dampened. I look at Joe Hill’s The Fireman as an example, or even Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil Rock. For me, Stranded falls into a similar category. (Meaning for all of you readers out there who LOVED these books, you’ll probably condemn me for not 5-starring this wintery winterland). Some great ideas that never fully took off the ground, at least for me.

I’d definitely be up for checking out more of MacLeod’s work, this one just left me — dare I say it? — chilled. 3 out of 5 stars.