Behrg Reviews “Land of Bones” by Glenn Rolfe

Land of BonesFirst let me begin this review by stating Glenn Rolfe is one of the nicest authors you’ll meet and that the guy does everything he can to promote other’s work and the horror genre in general. It’s awesome seeing the success he’s finding and I have to say it’s well deserved and I hope it only continues.

While I’ve purchased quite a few Rolfe books, Land of Bones is the first title I decided to crack open, after seeing so many glowing reviews. I’m a huge fan of short stories and so naturally was looking forward to experiencing Rolfe’s work in a variety of forms, my experience here however felt a little dim compared to others who have read this.

The best way I can describe my thoughts on this collection is that I found the stories “serviceable,” meaning they hit the right notes, and accomplished mostly what they were aiming for. But, short of one story, there was little that blew me away or provided something more than an average paint-by-the-numbers “horror story” you might find anywhere.

The story “Welcome to Paradise” I thought was brilliant and a great showcase of talent. “Simon” was another story I thought was above average. But while I was hoping for something a little more unique as a complete collection, for fans of the genre there’s certainly something to enjoy here. This one may have left me wanting but I’m still looking forward to more of Rolfe’s work.

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Catching Up on Book Reviews

It’s been a little too long since I last spent a minute in the blog-o-sphere. While the time away has enabled me to catch up on some much needed writing, amidst other things, I felt a need to reconnect to all those bots who follow me here! 🙂

But for the rest of you who are looking for some book recommendations, I’m commited to catching up on the reviews from what I’ve read since April, and let me tell you, there are some good-uns here. Scott Thomas, Robert McCammon, C.V. Hunt, Jeremy Hepler, Tim Lebbon, and Michael Patrick Hicks… as solid a stable of writers as you can find out there.

I’ll be sharing more about some of my writing projects in a future post, as well as adding reviews from books by Glenn Rolfe, Stephen King, Duncan Ralston, Jason Parent, and more. For now, here’s the first batch of book reviews I’ve failed to post over the past few months. And as always, happy reading!


Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

kill creek.jpgKill Creek is one of the most memorable books I’ve read this year. A perfect set up with 4 horror authors coming together to spend an evening in a supposed haunted house, Scott Thomas thankfully avoids a lot of the cliches inherent in the genre while still paying his respects to all that’s come before. But really it’s the characters that shine here, with glimpses into their work that will make you wish their books were actually real and you had a chance to dive into their fictional backlists.

For a haunted house story, I loved that so little time was actually spent in the house. This is slow-burn horror at its best, and the build up intensifies into a wild conclusion that will satisfy even the most blood-thirsty readers out there. And if psychological horror is your bag, well, plan to walk away with a heavy load.

Kill Creek has gotten a lot of praise over the past year, but is a book that’s earned the buzz. It does so many things right it’s easy to forgive the few faults you might find. I’m looking forward to where Thomas’ career leads.


The Listener by Robert McCammon

The ListenerMost stories are like coloring books, the design is already on the mat, to some degree, and authors add their interpretation of what colors to use and dressing to add. But occasionally you come across a story where the execution is so unique, the window into the world so perfectly drawn, that the only summation is that no one else could have told this same story. This is the best way I can describe my experience reading McCammon’s latest, The Listener.

From the setting and time period to the complexities of the characters to the multiple genres from which the author draws from, this novel is as close to a masterpiece as one might find. And even more importantly, it’s a lot of fun. McCammon isn’t showing off here, he’s performing, and doing it with an air of expertise and mastery of his craft.

Hands down, one of my favorite reads of the year.


Home Is Where The Horror Is by C.V. Hunt

HomeIn order to review a book, it helps to know how you feel about what you’ve read. This being my first CV Hunt novel, I can honestly say—even a few months after reading this one—that I’m not sure what exactly I read, let alone how I feel about it.

What I can tell you is that this is dark. Graphic. Shocking. And that it won’t go where you expect it to, in both good and bad ways. And yet I plowed through this book, needing to know, with a sick fascination, how the story ends.

I’ve never quite read something like this novel, and if you look at this book from a macro level, the entire book would be the first few chapters of what another novelist might begin their story with. Hunt isn’t intimating anyone here, but carving out a place at the dinner table where no one will want to sit beside her.

A truly unique experience, but recommended with a warning that once you go in, you might not like where you end up. A solid 3 1/2 stars.


The Boulevard Monster by Jeremy Hepler

Boulevard MonsterThe Boulevard Monster is a highly unique read, and quite an accomplishment for a debut novel. While the concept for this story is rather simple, its that simplicity that enables Hepler to draw the reader in, and then hit them with a left hook they never saw coming.

One of the things that continued to surprise me during the course of this novel was how relatable our protagonist Seth Fowler remains, despite the terrible actions he participates in. Hepler deftly navigates this line while causing the reader to continually ask what we might do in a similar situation. This morale quandary, coupled with an antagonist that was just fun to witness, kept this novel moving at a great pace.

If this is a novel you’ve skipped over, I’d recommend remedying that. Just be prepared to not know what to expect.


Relics by Tim Lebbon

relicsI feel compelled to begin this review noting I’m a huge Tim Lebbon fan. He’s one of the hardest working authors in the industry and he’s got the talent and dedication to his craft that will only carry him to further heights.

This being said, Relics is a novel I struggled with, and while I love the concept, I never felt connected to our protagonist or involved in the story. The separation of loved ones that was the driving force and motivation for some highly out of character actions just never felt real enough to me, and I found myself frustrated, and worse, bored.

While I won’t be picking up the sequel, I will be continuing with more of Lebbon’s work, and one of the beautiful things about books in general is that what works for one person might not for another. It doesn’t necessarily mean the book isn’t good, it just didn’t connect with me the way I had hoped.


Mass Hysteria by Michael Patrick Hicks

mass hysteria.jpgThere are horror novels, and then there are HORROR novels. You know, the ones with blood dripping off the letters (and pages) and sinking deep into the pit of your soul, causing you to question the decency of humanity and existence itself. Mass Hysteria, by Michael Patrick Hicks, certainly falls into this latter category.

As I started this book, I recognized a very Richard Laymon type vibe. Now I’ll be the first one to say there are various degrees of horror, and I’m not typically a fan of the bloody gore for gore’s sake type of tale with little character development and a whole lot of shock factor. I was expecting Hicks to go in this direction with the set up of the novel, as this would be the path of least resistance, so to speak. Thankfully, and while there is more gore and shock factor in this book than three typical horror novels combined, Hicks has the chops to create more than cardboard characters, allowing those terrors to actually have an impact.

This was a brutal read, but like watching a car accident take place in front of you, I couldn’t stop myself from watching. And every time I thought I knew where Hicks was going with the story, he would turn things on its head. This is a novel where no one is safe, where the most awful depravities take place, but I couldn’t help but smile at its conclusion and the dark journey through which I was brought. Masterful storytelling, but NOT for the feint of heart. You’ve been warned. 

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. **

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