Book Reviews – Ketchum & Strand

Two more reviews of some quite non-traditional novels. Both of these have a ton of staying power to them and are ones you’ll carry with you for quite some time after the final page has turned.


The Secret Life Of Souls by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee

souls

The Secret Life of Souls is a cleverly spun tragedy piece, and your heart will be breaking by the end of it. A window into a functioning dysfunctional family and the small decisions that lead to unimaginable consequences.

The characterizations were strong and believable and, having grown up as a “child actor”, I loved the glimpse into the entertainment industry and the quiet implications of what it does to people. The other thing I loved about this was that there was no real villain, only wounded individuals making poor decisions and then doing what they must to cover them.

Which, of course, only leads to more poor decisions.

Stylistically, I’m not a huge fan of using an animal’s POV as third or first person narrator. It’s a choice that, for whatever reason, just drives me out of the story and I always feel the author writing rather than the persona of the intended animal. I got worried at first that much of the story would be told this way but, thankfully, it was used sparingly.

Beyond that, this was a sharp story simply but effectively told. Well worth checking out.


Dweller by Jeff Strand

dwellerIf there’s one thing you can expect when reading a Jeff Strand novel it’s that the story isn’t going to go where you would expect.

But wait, if you’re expecting it not to go where you expect, does that mean it actually will go where you expect since your expectations are that it won’t go where you would normally assume? Or do your expectations cancel out the unexpected deviations of a “traditional” story (read: “Non”-Jeff Strand story), thereby making the unexpected rather blase, turning cherry blossom caramel-swirl candy corn ice cream into imitation vanilla?

Thankfully, this tasted nothing like vanilla. (Though Owen probably wouldn’t complain either way).

A simple story about an unlikely friendship made all the more interesting by the unique way in which it was told. This is a book no other author could have written. Come on, Jeff Strand and Sasquatch? What more are you waiting for?

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.