Behrg Reviews “The Odds” by Jeff Strand

Strand is the master at combining humor and horror into an odd concoction that hits just about every feel-good moment you could hope for in a reading experience. With his latest, The Odds, he continues along that same vein, delivering a fast-paced novel where the stakes only continue to increase.
The Odds
I loved the premise of this one, and true to form, Strand brings us right in with the inciting incident as our “hero” Ethan hits a rock bottom moment having fallen victim to his gambling vice. Little does he know, rock bottom has several more levels he’s about to explore. The stakes continue to increase with elaborate games only Strand could concoct, and it’s impossible not to have fun with this quick read.

Now, I will say, this novel wasn’t perfect and there were moments that really pulled me out of the narrative. Far too many times the “narrator” explained that Ethan had no choice but to just continue playing the game, rather than taking the time to actually explore the options he really did have. It cheapened the experience and felt far too much like author intrusion, in my experience at least.

The other piece that I feel could have been improved upon is one inherent with Strand’s style. The man has a wicked sense of humor, and it’s something I’ve come to love about his writing. That said, when every character (including minor characters) shares that same style of humor, we lose the individuality of the characters. It felt like the author was speaking through each character rather than allowing the characters to speak for themselves. It’s not necessarily a terrible thing, as Strand has a lot to say, but I think this novel could have really been elevated to something more than the final product that was put out.

All in all, a quick and fun read, but one I would have loved for the author to spend more time with in really developing the potential this story had. Odds are, you’ll enjoy it. (And yes, I went there).

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Behrg Reviews: “True Crime” by Samantha Kolesnik

“Deceit is really the true crime of humanity.”

The killers on the run idea has been done to death, as has the psychopathic emotionally distant murderer with no remorse. So what else is there that can be said in this genre?

Apparently, a lot.

True CrimeKolesnik takes your expectations and shatters them, delivering an emotionally powerful story that will resonate with readers long after the book’s final page. Reading True Crime is sort of like watching a master magician perform. You know you’re being manipulated, but the performance and skill is at such a level that you’re just smiling along the way.

I will say, the most common faults I find and sort of expect in these type of stories were cleverly addressed or concealed, providing a fascinating look at an otherwise dark and hopeless tale. The violence is visceral, the characters believable, and the questions posed about society, humanity, and the role and expectations of women combine to make this more than your run of the mill horror novel.

An exceptional read, and one that isn’t afraid to dive into the darkest corners of our society, this might be as close to a modern masterpiece as you’re going to find. Highly recommended.

New Interview – Reviewer / Owner of Sci-Fi & Scary, Lilyn George

This week’s interview is live as part of the new Book Reviewer Interview series featured on Kendall Reviews, Page Turners.

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I had the chance to interview Lilyn George of Sci-Fi & Scary, touching on their new anthology they’re accepting submissions for, content warnings, author do’s and don’t’s, SEO advice, and how science fiction and horror can compliment each other. One of my favorite interviews, with so much great content Lilyn shared.

Check out the full interview here.

And if you’re a book reviewer who would like to be featured / interviewed, get in touch!

 

 

 

 

Behrg Reviews: “The Book of Baby Names” by Norman Prentiss

“In the best stories, the child always dies in the end.”
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Everyone has those favorite authors you read who just speak to you. Their writing style, voice, the narrative choices they make, everything combines into an experience that just has you smiling inside. “The Book of Baby Names” is an excellent reminder of why Norman Prentiss is on my list, and one I consider a must-read author.

The title for this collection of short stories doesn’t necessarily clue you in to its darker undertones, but the commonalities tying these stories together resolves around the theme of children. To speak to the strengths of Prentiss’ skills, every story is unique, never repeating the same message while exploring different sides of this Rubik’s cube-like coin. Grief of a lost child; the challenges of conceiving; a child that is more monster than human; the fears of single parenting; the challenges of a gay couple raising a child . . . each of these is explored but within a horror backdrop, allowing the themes to be present but secondary to the horror story taking place.

A darkly beautiful collection and great introduction to Prentiss’ work, one I highly recommend. You can pick up the collection on sales for just $0.99 on Amazon right now, a steal at that price.

Introducing “Page Turners” – an Interview Series with Book Reviewers

Today I’m excited to share we’re launching a new series of interviews with Book Reviewers called “Page Turners.” This is being held and hosted on Kendall Reviews site, a platform that has been selflessly promoting the horror genre for quite some time, and will be a weekly ongoing series.

 

To learn more about why we’re doing this, you can read my guest article on the KR site here. But if you want the Reader’s Digest version, each week we’ll be interviewing a different book reviewer about their process and how they’ve built their platform, with advice for authors, reviewers, or casual readers alike. Why? Because book reviewers are amazing people and THEIR stories deserve to be told!

It’s been awesome seeing all the different approaches and great advice as well as learning more about those that tend to stay out of the limelight while promoting others. The first interview is live now, and you can check back on the Kendall Reviews site each Thursday for a new interview.

Hope you join the fun, and for any book reviewers that would like to participate, feel free to reach out!

Behrg Reviews “Communion” by Steve Stred

Steve Stred’s disturbing trilogy continues with book 2 in the Father of Lies series, and if you thought Ritual was messed up, just wait until you get your meaty hands on this puppy.
Communion
Now, as a horror fan and dark fiction author, I’ll just say I don’t scare often. It’s easy to feel like you’ve seen it all, been there before, especially with a book about cultish practices. But Stred doesn’t just walk the line with Communion, he forcibly pulls you over it, and this is the first book in a long time where I felt those heart palpitations and shortened breaths.

For me, the mythos behind Father and his cult were a big part of what made this book work. There was more definition and color on those brushstrokes while still allowing ample questions to keep the reader wondering why, how, and WTF. Stred’s hitting his stride here and it shows.

Looking forward to where these dark paths may lead in book 3.

Today is the release day for Communion, and you can currently pick up both book 1 & 2 in the series for just $0.99 each. You can thank me later.

Behrg Reviews: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones is an author I deeply respect. He’s got his own style, his “voice” is strong and is a huge part of what makes his fiction unique and memorable. I found his novel Mongrels amazing, and loved the different take he used with a werewolf story. He’s okay with breaking rules and shattering norms and doing it his way. If you’ve read one of his books, you’ll know what I mean. The journey itself is as fun as any destination, and once you jump in you quickly realize you’re just along for the ride.

IndiansThis said, I struggled with The Only Good Indians. I’m likely in the minority on this one, as the reviews have been fantastic coming in, and there’s so much I appreciate about this story and the way it’s constructed, it just took me a really long time to get through.

The best way I can describe this book is comparing it to a bowl of Lucky Charms. But this would have to be the last bowl in the box, the “dregs” if you will, after your younger brother or sister has gone through by hand and pulled out as many marshmallows as they could find. Every mouthful just sort of tasted the same. And then there’d be these moments of exquisite flavor when a marshmallow shocks your system, and so I’d keep shoveling more in only to be back to the plain flavorless taste.

Now don’t me wrong, the marshmallows in this book are amazing, and a few of the scenes are ones embedded now in my little head. For me, instead of the connected vignettes I would have preferred a single short story with that first epic twist pulling its trigger and then calling it good. Without going into spoilers, it was a fantastic moment and though there were other marshmallows sprinkled throughout, none of them lived up to that first spike of sugary / horrific goodness.

One of the other things that really stands out in this book is the characterization of modern Native Americans. The prejudices, challenges, and even self-fulfilling prophecies, and the way SGJ took tradition and lore and incorporated it into a new prism was fascinating and likely something only he could do. There’s an authenticity to his writing, for good or bad, as that may have had something to do with the pacing issues I felt through parts of the story.

Certainly worthy of your time, this could be a quite polarizing work, and while I’m glad I read it, it felt like more work than it should have. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher and author for allowing me to read an advanced copy. The Only Good Indians comes out this summer.

A Trip Through Wylding Hall

I believe things for a reason, and in the old days they did things for a reason. And if you don’t understand why—well, you might end up opening a few doors better left closed.
Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand is billed as “a short novel of unexpected terror,” a phrase that completely misses the mark of what Hand accomplishes. It’s also a great example of why marketing for books is so difficult and often misconstrued.
 
First, let’s be real here — if you’re telling me there is terror in a book, it’s no longer “unexpected.” Secondly, this story is not an in-your-face horror-fest but rather a quiet, subdued, character driven narrative that worked for me extremely well despite the misrepresentation in marketing.
wylding hall
The word that best describes this novella is haunting. It’s not overdone, not trying to invoke dread where none is present, but there’s this quiet sense of dread that carries from the very beginning all the way to its rightful conclusion. I dug it, but I often prefer subtlety over gallons of blood being dashed upon every page. So here’s what you need to know before diving in:
 
— The story is told an in interview style, with a documentarist interviewing members of the band, producers, or associated friends, regarding an incident that occurred. The style worked well for this story, particularly reminiscent of a “Behind the Music” like documentary. What I enjoyed most was that it quickly became invisible rather than drawing attention to itself, which is exactly what you want. Considering the music / band focal point of the story, I consider the style a strength in this particular novella, despite drawbacks inherent in its form.
 
— The drama and intricacies of the bandmates were so well drawn out that you almost felt as if this group really existed. A lot of research was done and it clearly paid off and made for a fascinating behind the scenes look into this niche of folk-psychedelic rock. As a musician, I appreciated the authenticity that was brought into the characters and backdrop of the story and never once did any of it feel false.
 
— From a “horror” standpoint, this is a muted slow-burn read, with pay-offs that are expected but just as fun to arrive at. There were no big twists or moments of shock, but the tale was just as satisfying without them. The more interesting part to me was how much of the story wasn’t revealed in the novella, leaving the reader to fill in the gaps on their own.
 
A definite recommend from me for those looking for a fresh read or a different take on an otherwise traditional ghost story. This was a fun trip to fall into and one that has some lasting power.

Free Short Story – Verso.ink

The Covid-19 pandemic is disrupting life as we know it, and from the looks of things we’re only getting started. It’s been amazing to see so many authors and content creators share some of their work for free or at discounted prices at this time as just a small way to give back. Time is something we might all have a little more of in the coming weeks or months.

Fiction has always provided an escape from the world, and I’d argue particularly that the horror genre has always been that counter-balance to keep the horrors of the real world in check. For those who aren’t aware, I have several free stories and even a novella available at no cost on all eBook platforms. You can find links to each of these free eBooks here.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But in addition to these stories, I’ve just published the first story in my new collection of short stories, The Passengers You Cannot See, on a new public platform called Verso.ink. It’s a place where authors can share short stories for free and readers can jump on and check out free fiction. This particular story, titled Driven, is a great preview of what you can expect from my collection and has sort of a Twilight Zone-esque approach to it.

Check out the new story DRIVEN on Verso.ink!

For those of you who have purchased copies of the new release, THANK YOU. Reviews continue to come in, with quite a few comparing the collection to the Netflix TV show Black Mirror. If you have read the collection, please add your thoughts as a review on Amazon or Goodreads, and if you haven’t yet checked it out, it’s also available for free under Kindle Unlimited or to purchase for less than a cup of coffee.

Stay safe out there and don’t panic. The good news is that we’re all in this together. And like all horrors–whether real or fictional–an end is always within sight.

It’s Alive! #Passengers

A big thank you to all you beautiful readers out there who pre-ordered PASSENGERS over the past 2 days! My collection is now officially available on Amazon, and it’s hard not to feel like Dr. Frankenstein watching his creation come to life for the first time.

 

If you haven’t had a chance to pick up your copy yet, today’s the last day of the pre-sale pricing at $0.99 so grab it while the grabbin’s good! Early reviews have been very kind, and I’m appreciative of every one of them.

The Passengers You Cannot See is a collection that dives much deeper than just the surface of telling a good story. Through these tales I’ve explored the boundaries of depression and mental illness in ways I couldn’t in the real world. It’s really my thesis on living with depression, and through writing these stories I was able to find my way through that labyrinth and out the other side.

Hope you enjoy these dark tales and that they live with you as they have with me!

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