Punch review by: Mandy Tyra

 

Oh, my god. I am gutted….                                                                                                                 Just…. gutted from J.R. Park’s strikingly realistic, dramatically powerful portrayal of a good and honest man pushed and pulled (head first) over the brink of his sanity.
Martin Powell is a broken man, his hopes and dreams cruelly crushed years ago, 10 years ago to be exact, he’s been ‘away’ for 10 long gruelling torturous years, away from his home in the idyllic seaside town of Stanwick Sands where he ran the popular Punch and Judy show.
He loved children, he loved performing, he loved life, he was a great puppeteer and his booth was a show stopping spectacle with the kiddos, and adults.
With flashback pieces peppered throughout, you quickly get up to speed on the where’s, how’s, and why’s regarding our Mr. Powell and his going-ons of the past decade.

Now, back in town simply to get his affairs in order, mainly fix up his old house so he can sell it and move on with his damaged destitute life, elsewhere.
Well, ‘simple‘ doesn’t take too kindly to him, once the townsfolk pick up on his scent.
Even the paper runs a frontpage ‘announcement’.
Small town close-knit communities really can be a fickle rabid bitch and he’s met with a hateful vigor.
Buuuut, he’s trying his damnedest to not let it bother him, the carnival is in town that week and he’s feeling all nostalgic, plus, he’s met himself a gal. She really fancies him and he’s really feeeling good for the first time in ages.
Sadly, the bothers get beyond bothersome, they get downright violent, which breeds more violence.
Ya know, even the most pleasant, sweet-natured, and forgiving man has his limits, you can only bend, twist, and wretch someone so much, before an inevitable snap into a dozen schizophrenic pieces befalls.

So now, a little revival is in show stopping store for the residents of Stanwick Sands.
YEP, Mr. Powell is gonna host his own happy reunion welcome back party. The Punch and Judy show is baaaack, with a few new puppeteer characters.
Gotta keep up with the times and give the public what they want, what they deserve….

OH man, does this gets brutal in the 2nd half!!

You will flat-out loathe quite a few of these characters but never Martin, even after all the eye-popping (gouging) and stomach turning (…disemboweling) atrocious acts he ‘performs’, you still can’t find fault in him. Especially when it comes to a couple of horrid young women….prissy little twunts.

They’ve taken everything from him; his years, his life, his entire livelihood, including his spirit and now finally, his sanity.
You care and feel for him. Aaand then you hoop, rally, and cheer him on in this little purging punitive comeuppance exhibition of his.
I felt so dirty, yet it was quite cleansing.

This book affected me deeply, I can’t shake it off, I’m trying but the whiplash is affecting me more. Oh it just made me sick, all the juvenile injustices, so unfair….just tragic. Made my blood boil!
I felt like I was right there going through all that with Martin.
The cringing, the crying, and of course, the gagging…yea, I went a bit batshit over this suckerPunch of a book. And it was actually uncomfortable to read at times, I had to take little breaks.
That’s ALL due to Mr. Park’s amazingly captivating, all-consuming (all-inclusive) writing style.
It’s totally absorbing, you just get soaked right into it….through it
Whisked away into this cathartic retributive tale in this coastal town as if it’s a virtual reality feature playing on the 4D screen. Could even smell the salty air.
I actually read in the acknowledgments that this was originally written as a script for a movie!?
Make that happen Mr. Park!!
Bryan Cranston would make for a perfect lead, a little older but considering what the character has gone through, premature aging would fit well.
OR, if you insist on a British bloke, I vote Gary Oldman. Oh Yeah!

I simply cannot believe this book is not more popular, come on people, what’s the deal ~ READ IT, live in it, dream in it. So what if you get a vivid nightmare or two….
No seriously, if you want an incredibly well written and deeply profound, plus yucky gross book ~ THEN THIS IS IT!! 😀
I LOVE it when a book (i.e. phenomenal author) has the power to suck, errr..soak you in like this.
Definitely (and defiantly) one of my favorite recent reads and I read bunches.
Creepy as hell cover too.

Terror Byte shall be my next read from him, about a killer computer program….it might be a tad bit over my head because I am a self professed (ok, majority professed) cyber-tard but hey, I may learn a thing or two. Possible don’t gotta be plausible…right???….. :/ Lol

 

You can get the book here:

 

Gristle and Bone review by: Mandy Tyra

 

 

Duncan Ralston is Start Raving Rad!!
Hot Damn, I just continue to be impressed by this author, reigning from up above.
In Canada.After reading his jaw dropping, extremely intricate, highly engaging and darkly humorous novella Woom ( back to back, it warrants it, demands it ) which also happens to be one of my top reads for 2016, I debated on what of his to read next and decided on this, because it’s 7 short stories.
Over 360 (or approx 275 depending on if you’re going by Goodreads or Amazon…) pages total!
Oh so filling, sooo girthy. I wanted to sample more from him, all across his imaginative, polished, and sharply cracked spectrum before diving into a full novel.
And he didn’t just bring it, he took it. It’s gone…
YEP, takes that cake aaand as long as he didn’t make it himself, I reckon I’ll have seconds… and thirds. I’m a glutton.

With an insightful and charming introduction by Chris Hall, that fantastic reviewer over at DLS reviews. Hmmm I wonder what the DLS stands for…
I can’t even think up a semi clever pun for that one.

I included Kindle page counts for each BUT they are rough count page cuts, I counted them myself so, huge margins of error.
My abacus may need an alignment.

Baby Teeth ~ 12
Candace and Joel find out she is unable to conceive, which sends her down a depressing downward/wayward spiral. She wants so bad to be a mom, craves it. Now, no more desire for sex AND she takes up old lady hobbies. Overall, just adopting a real lackadaisical phoning it in approach to life until….well, something gets her number and forces a proactive pep in her monotonous step.
It’s easy to see why this one is the shortest of the bunch but DAMMITT, I wanted more, more of Candace in the throes of her fruitless woes and how she copes.
I oddly could relate to her. Well, not the barren part….all those bits and pieces have worked, a bit too well.

Beware of Dog ~ 55
Dean has had some anger issues. In his mid 30’s and back living at home since he was dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces following an aggressive/turned violent/turned awol episode. He’s ordered to take some therapy, thankfully it’s with long time family friend, Dr. Timothy Baswell. He sees no real use for it, other than getting it over with but to his surprise ‘Uncle Tim’ helps him have a breakthrough. It all stems from his early years, trio of despicable bullies, and a puppy dog love crush. Yea, being back in his hometown, and running into all his old friends and foes is the beast thing that could have happened to our Dean to come to terms with his rabid demons.
Alot going on in this one and you really have no idea it’s true direction but you’ll enjoy the ‘seemingly’ aimless venture and holy hell what an ending!!!!

Viral ~ 40
Tara is a kind of emotionally crippled, no notable relationships with anyone. She’s very guarded and closed off. Works the music column at the Toronto Herald, she’s unfulfilled and longs for meatier material to sink her journalistic teeth into. Seeing a video online that has gone viral about a depressed and despondent teenage girl, who remarkable, unbelievably….just up and disappears during her candid webcam outpouring. There is no way that was a camera trick, Tara resonates with that girl….she IS that girl. After some slick convincing to her boss, she heads out into the field to correspond with the girl’s family, and friend. She senses a real story here, one that may get her off the tuneless music beat, and she maaay even find herself in the process.
Sad and poignant, such an amazing story. Oh the drama of it all.
I think there is an urban legend about this, the sad bullied teen, just….disappearing.
They already feel so invisible on the outside, who would even notice, right….
GOD, this one really got me, pulled my heartstrings taut, and taunt!

Artifact (#37) ~ 26
A manly group of entrepreneurs….connoisseurs of sleaze, if you will. What’s a group of very able-bodied men to do for a gainful living when they have no real bankable skills. Well, procure a nice sized van and reinvent themselves as cyber porn peddlers. Christening their little dirty jiz biz, The Filthy Lessons Crew, they joyride them streets. With stage names like Mad Bastard and Meat, it’s like the smuttiest of reality shows and their paid female counterparts play their part whole whorily. And it was quite lucrative before the internet porn craze really took off. They are now celebrating their 200th video but one early ‘actress’ is more memorable than the rest, she unfortunately fell victim to an atrocious crime of circumstance while in their charge. It was completely unrelated to them but they were still held accountable in the public eye, they’ve always held themselves accountable too. Her memory continues to haunt them. You can’t help but kind of like these lewd and crude trashy guys. Dispiriting and foreboding with a heavy dose of off-color bawdy.

//End User ~ 29
Mason, conspiracy theorist blogger and loner, wakes up one morning to a strange email. It’s not so much what it says, it’s the fact that it’s to and from himself. Has he been pranked, spammed, hacked, is ‘the man’ watching?? They keep coming and seem to know a little bit too much, even things that haven’t happened yet…
Through the course of the day, he goes through many emotions trying to understand what’s going on. He’s tinker tottering on the edge, has his long-standing paranoia finally driven him to schizophrenia….
Who holds the real power, what is the end game here?
This was quite the little pulse pounding cyber thriller. You don’t know what the hell is going on and can’t wait to find out! Loved the Arnie, They Live, and Marathon Man references.

Fat of the Land ~ 56
Delectably delicious and disturbingly….grody. Just ew, grody…
June and David, happily unmarried couple in Monte Verde California for a wedding.
June comes from money and has a very unpretentious aura about her, turns her nose up at snotty rich entitlements. David does not come from money yet tries to adapt a pretentious entitled aura about him. In an innocent naive way though, she finds it endearing and kind of dorky. Such a cute couple.
June does often hear the nagging voice of unreason from her not so dearly departed bigoted mother though, antagonizing her, trying to keep her toting that birth rite grandiose line.
Getting a recommendation from the hotel desk clerk about an upscale, referred reservation only restaurant called Ambrosia, they head out for what promises to be a romantic and eclectic fine dining experience. Should have stuck with McD’s drive thru.
This one made me soooo hungry, Duncan’s excellent mouth-watering descriptions of food, OMG, I had to take a break and make me something savory. UNTIL, he pulled back that tainted false curtain, then my savory treat came back up, from whence it went down.
Bravo for that bit of aversion therapy ~ bulimia style.
This one gets crazy with a hell of a lot going on from a missing groom, an odd whaaat denominational church, old world prejudices, a strange mythic script, and underground caverns. Flat out loved all the couple’s bantering framework and that slow burn ~ where the hell is this going ~ build up.

Scavengers ~ 97
Jim and Leanne were restaurant owners late in life, tired of their normal daily grind business like jobs in the small town of Knee High. They are successful and serve delicious food that brings ’em in from all over. Very nice, honest, and reliable couple. Well, some things come to light ~ ooor to the dark ~ that drive Jim a bit batty, he doesn’t like anything going on in his restaurant’s back alley. A little investigating and he uncovers more than just the random, harmless scavenger. Their lives snowball into blackmail, bartering, conspiracy theories and espionage.
Neighbor, long time friend and accountant for the couple tells their tale, in written form, to best of his secondhand (fill in the gaps) ability.
How interesting, what a unique approach to storytelling.
This is creepy crawly and will make you think twice, do a double take when you hear something rustling out back by your garbage bins. Could it be…..
This one was a novella, almost a 100 pages, perfect little mystery with an excellent hair-raising, freakish factor going for it. Again, loved that POV style!

And there you have it, 7 diverse, fantastic, and unique stories.
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. You’ll binge, you’ll purge. Very very easy to get lost in these stories.
Awesome title too; Gristle and Bone. Because a lot of characters find themselves stuck rut in the middle of a gnawed off sinewy tough spot and a rock hard endo aaand exo place.

So hard to believe that this was his first published work! He’s a natural.
And quite…unnatural. Yea, he is finely tuned and calibrated to precision, more than capable of wooing us with his spitfire charm, yet he is also slightly unhinged. All the best ones are!!!

So much depth, none of these stories were an A to B kind of tale. They are all over the goddamn alphabet!! Foreign alphabets too, I’d wager.
Lots of layers I notice in ALL his stories, Woom and all those interconnecting tales as well, he’s like a ginormous bulbous onion, but not one of them sweet vidalia onions.
No, ain’t no sweet in them bitter eye burning layers. Plenty of sour though and a touch of ripe but oh so savory sauteed with a side of liver and a bottle of red.

Viral and //End User I pictured as episodes of that fantastic Black Mirror show. Perfect perfect fit.
A younger Hilary Swank circa ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ would be a shoe-in for Viral and I imagined a scruffy Elijah Wood in //End User. He pulls off that deer in the headlights paranoid look very well.
Artifact (#37) would fit the tone of that show too, I got a couple old boyfriends who would be dead ringer excellent as the brothers.
Yea, Duncan needs to get in contact with that Charlie Brooker chap, dinner and a lot of drinks, they could hammer and nail it all out. 😀

“…the one which reminds us we all walk a tightrope between sanity and madness, a rope that is both slippery and barbed. The odds are not stacked in our favor.”
Helpful tip: for optimal ~and stable~ enjoyment, it’s best to craft yourself in the art of tap, and tip toe, when strutting across a tightly woven yet jagged and edgy Ralston branded tightrope.
Happy and safe reading to all.

Ralston has a permanent home on my Kindle that’s for sure!!

What next from him, there are quite a few tasty choices. Savages, about a flooded town in a haunted lake and a grieving brother searching for answers or maybe I’ll soak up more short stories in Sweat and Blood. Guess I’ll just have to flip a coin.

Cipher review by: Mandy Tyra

Cipher is Keane’s 2nd super scary customized tale for his All Tied Up With String collection and it’s allll about the mad love for the video game ~ VR style ~ a virtual in your face/out-of-body experience.

And next up for the Total Annihilation catered mistreatment is another long time personal mate of his named Jamie Stow. Yea, he really puts him ‘threw’ the gamut.

Ya know, I do believe our Mr. Keane is getting quite the therapeutic benefit from this rather personal approach/execution.                                                                                                 Hate to see how he’d, uhhhh…transcribe his enemies ~ EEECK shudders.                            Just kidding, I’D SO LOVE THAT!!

Very charming ~ on the level ~ and frank little intro, yes, gaming is very popular, more so now than ever and I just love how Stuart unabashedly admits to his own profound gamer geekdom. That’s so awesome! Both my sons are voracious little gamers. I wasn’t bit by the bug as an adult but I do understand it’s appeal. It’s all just too damn complex and interactive for me though. Give me old school Mario or Zelda…oh yeaaa, I blazingly 1-up soared through those…collecting princesses, swords, and squirrel suits.                       “Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!”. That was riveting pulse pounding ‘the right stuff’ gaming right there!

Cipher clocks in at about 30 pages:

“Computer games are amazing. You never know where you’re going to travel to or what you’re going to find and feel playing them. Each one is different, and I just love the joy of the story at the beginning, middle, and end.” ~ Jamie Stow ~ final<<glitching//lagging>> fantasy words of…

Jamie is a hardcore, no holds barred, obsessive/compulsive type of gamer. Lives and breathes for his video games, this story even up at a hospital, Jamie having suffered a….a game related incident. With a doctor’s warning to ‘take it easy’, he gets home to a gamers delight delivery, something he’s been waiting ages for. The newest state of the art cutting edge virtual reality headgear game-set called Cipher and being the proud and devout beta gamer that he is, he is super stoked to be one of the first lucky ones to check it out. His covert objective is just to play around looking for any kinks, ginks, or bugs.                       He’s game, aaaalways brings his A game.                                                                                                 With no instructions or game guide included, he just dives in blind.                                      Take it easy ~ nah, it’s not in his gamer coded DNA. And he ain’t no n00b but this particular game is a ‘bit‘ more interactive than anything he has ever experienced before. It’s terrifyingly realistic, messes with his senses, and seems to have a handle on him. A real…rough touch.                                                                                                                       And then, there is Charlotte, his long time live in lady-love, she adores Jamie dearly but she’s afraid they are growing apart due to his infatuation with the video game. His consoles are the perpetual ‘other woman’ and she’s tired of competing for his affections.   And holy living hell, that ending was a, well…..gamers beware, this is a virtualistic cautionary tale!!

Prepare for unforeseen consequences ~ Half Life

OK, not saying anymore!!! I’ve set it up, Keane and Jamie will role play it out.

Video game horror is pretty rare on the page, a lot of writers have difficulty adapting their sights into description, but Keane manages it with aplomb. It’s obviously due in no small part to him being such a passionate gamer back in the day, pair that alongside his passionate (level:expert) writing skills and…aplomb ~ it’s the bomb!!                           Flawless Victory.                                                                                                                                           Ah the visuals he created of this innovative, all-encompassing, creepy as all get out game play were vivid and high def graphic. You have no problem immersing yourself in Jamie’s experience, can sense it, feel it, and….unfortunately, smell it. Actually, I should rephrase that; Stuart has NO problem ~ or issue ~ immersing you into his story. I only wish it was longer, he could do so so much more with a full-sized, whole book on par with the excellent Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. He could and should do that! Now.

And HA, I am HIS proud and devout beta. Ohhhh, the parallels, they forebode.     Thankfully, my beta gigging is not quite as combative as poor Jamie’s, especially when Stu accepts my feedback, sans backtalk.

And now for the Q&A portion of my review, where I sit down with Mr. Stow, a bottle of red, and proceed to pick his brain a little, Barbara Walters style, ya know, the ones with the flattering filters.

1.) How do you know the author?

Hi, Mandy. Yeah, I know Stuart from our time together at an insurance call centre. Once we got to know one another, we talked about games, movies etc. and discovered we shared many things in common.

2.) What is your first and/or favorite Keane book?                                                                            My first read was The Customer Is Always…, his debut novella. It’s based in a call centre, and I believe it was inspired by from his time in that environment. It was good to see so many similarities between the page and the actual setting itself, and having worked in it, I connected with the story immediately. I’ve read more books since, and my favourites to this day are Grin and Cine. Both are so gruesome but yet so satisfying when it comes to the characters and the stories etc.. I do have all of Stuart’s books, I just need to get round to reading the next one.

3.) Tell me a little bit about the treasured topic you chose for Keane to utterly desecrate with little or no regard for?                                                                                                                            I love gaming; I’ve been a gamer since I was 4-5 years of age and I’ve been in touch with all the different consoles and games since then. Like movies, they take you away from reality, which is always the charm of such a hobby. My girlfriend actually brought me a VR headset for Xmas and I’m now looking forward to playing loads of new games this year. At the moment, I’m currently playing Resident Evil 7, which is a horror first person game, but I’d love to see some of Stuart’s books turned into video games. That would be awesome!

4.) Are you equal parts disturbed and delighted with your tailor-made tale?                           Yes, Stuart did justice with my story. I loved it;  I was hooked from the second I started reading and couldn’t put it down. Awesome book, and I’d love to be a victim again in any future novels. I was shocked by the ending, and I didn’t expect it but still, it was such a brilliant book. Thanks for picking me for your collection, Stuart.

Cheers to Mr. Stow for playing along and indulging my nosy inquiries. I’m sure your story gave you chills and felt oooh sooo real! And hey, uh, best of luck with your new VR setup, I’m sure you’ll…knock em dead!! 😛                                                                                              I do agree, Cine was brilliant, I feel it’s pretty underrated compared to his other well know titles, deserves more word of mouth. Aaaand I’m pretty mouthy, but all too often….and far too easily ~ tuned out.                                                                                                                                 Pfft tut tut

Up next is B Side bout that good time old time rock and roll, the kind that…soothes the soul (Oh, I’m quite sure….), starring Lorraine Sadler and is due out the end of March!                So, till then. 😉

 

Outbreak review by: Mandy Tyra

Oooooh something rotten is running rampant in thy Keanedom.

Keane goes zombie, OHHHH man, does Keane ever go full zombie, quite…keenly. Aaand it’s about damn time! I think all horror authors should put their spin on the gore lore, it should be a prerequisite.

These aren’t your basic run of the mill traditional zombies either, this is a genuine genre bender, a zombie game changer. Yea, he spins it right round alright and it’s vertigo inducing. Invigorating, breathing new life into this often tired and worn out gaunt troupe culture. A thrilling read that takes many twisty turns. Nobody is safe and anything goes.

He did have a really badass zombie centric short story in Whispers Volume 1 called Vermillion and that’s all I think, this is definitely his first zombie BOOK.
By the way, I highly recommend reading all the Whispers if you haven’t, there are 3 of them (more planned), a total of 25 unique and scary fun stories, I still get chills when I let myself think too long and hard about some of them. Gonna have a reread binge marathon here one of these days.I’ve been super stoked for this since hearing about it last summer and it was well worth the wait, he’s such a perfectionist, so articulate and we reap the rewards of his blood, sweat, and tears.
Triple bloodletting bonus score, we are gonna get so much more ~ this is set to be a trilogy!!!
Off to a fantastic ~ and goretastic ~ start with this beautiful brutal beast.
Chalked full of virtuous and vile characters, this very much reminded me of his amazing All or Nothing, in that it had a lot of interesting characters, story depth, settings galore, and hardcore action all racing parallel in just a short space of time.
Keane’s got mad rad writing skills and can multitask, manhandle it all. He’s gonna be a household name one day, I know it…I feeeel it!

I’ve also been privileged as of late to receive ARC copies of his work. It’s truly a joy and believe me, my reviews were just as exuberant and enthusiastic before I got any sort of privy perks. I’ve called him The King since I first started reading him, in part because he is reminiscent of early Stephen King and also because he’s British, and bloody awesome.

Quite often with zompoc (I just heard that word for the first time the other day and it’s perfection…zompoc, looove it!!) you don’t know the how’s or the why’s or the huhhh’s of what the hell happened to bring on this cadaver revival, and that’s all ok, sometimes it’s just not interesting or important enough to go into. These things simply happen….
However, it’s quite the treat when you do get the run through lowdown.
And THIS gets you from the prologue. Seriously, that prologue…was so gutting, downright tragic, and you will be hooked ~ hooked, clothes-lined and…stinkered right from the jump-start.

It all takes place in the space of a day (roughly 24 hours) which just tells you that you are in for a frantically fast paced, non stop, in your face, gooorerrific good time.
It’s gore with a thick slice of still beating heart though, intense and graphic with emotions running on high ~ end is nigh ~alert.
I’m reluctant to go too far into the plot, it’s too just damn riveting, to be read in the dark….so, I shan’t shed too much light on it.
I’m gonna go vague. Attempt to anyway….

Welcome to the town of Barrington. Cute, quaint little British town and the ground zero breeding grounds for some pretty atrocious and awfully spry undead creatures.
Home of Dr. Nichol, brilliant (and undoubtedly slightly mad) scientist who has the picturesque house on the hill. It’s revered and feared, lots of rumors about the types of studies he conducts. He’s well aware of his infamy, naysayers, and mockers, he does not really care. Only cares about his teenage daughter Felicity, and as a single father, she is his world. His world gets a bit bleak and now he really couldn’t care less.

Catalyst having been triggered aghast, now all over this ~formally ~ cute and quaint town, we got our baffled and buckled down survivors, doing their best to stay that way.
A lot of characters in this, I’ll just brush through a few of the main ones:

Honorable and noble cops, Naomi Goodright and Sean Harrison are not exactly trained for this sort of combat, there are no actual protocols in place for this but they are not going to cower away, they must protect and serve, to the best of their ability. Harrison was hoping for a promotion that day to get him outta small town life and Goodright was right there, at zero hour zombie inception, she doesn’t have time for traumatized though.
Bruce is the resourceful and good-natured orphan teen/team player who adopts them. He’s seen a few movies and knows a thing or two. He thinks best under the influence of chocolate.
Gorgeous, smart, and, savvy therapist Melanie, hiding out all holed up in her office with her super creepy court appointed sex fiend patient, David. She’s gonna have to amp up them shrinking skills to cut him down to size.
We got a cheeky klepto gal named Morgan who only fancied nicking a ~ must have ~ cute pair of pink stilettos at the local mall to satiate her addiction, when all undead hell broke loose.
A sleazy cheating husband named Steven who goes a little too far AWOL off the grid/under the sewers for a little randy rendezvousing with his newest fling, Thea. Sounds romantic.
Local bakery and pastry worker Emma who is completely bored but this is not the type of excitement she had in mind to liven up her dully days….

That’s just a few of the main players. I couldn’t go through them all, my reviews are long enough already! Whew! Oh, but wait….
Yea, there is one more I MUST warn you about, Xander. Ughhhh the dreadful Xander..
There are a few different types of narcissism and he has dusky shades of them all but none as darkened out as the malignant narcissist. Pair that vicious dominant trait with rich and influential and yep, you get Xander.
Life as they know it may be in the outhouse shitter but he sees it more as a deep cleansing, and he’s appointed himself to play the savior role to lead the crusade, no matter the collateral damage. He’s treacherously lined all his lackey ducks in a row to take full-on advantage of this splendid new prosperity on the horizon.
You will despise this sadistic character, along with a few others but none more than the wretched Xander. He’s missing more than just a few scruples, he’s anemic in humanity.

Our townsfolk find ~and lose~ themselves in some pretty hopeless, horrifically dire situations, situations that are not solely undead related. The human monsters are often worse than zombies, at least the zombies have no conscience because they are, ya know, dead….and no longer accountable.
Opportunistic people who only care about fulfilling their own well-being and deem this….A NEW RISING ~ of the very much still alive kind ~ all dead set to become the leading conformity authority, can be just as fatal as the epidemic itself. Such havoc wreakers…

Creative, clever, complex, and severely cerebral. Braaaiiinnnsss…
This is spot on zompoc!!
Next one is called Pandemic, and I sure hope we don’t have to wait too long.
I’ll write an angry letter. Oh yes, I sure will. 😀

Skin Deep/Ordinary Monsters review by: Mandy Tyra

 

GREAT new author I’ve come across, New Yorker ~ Frank Martin; up and coming writer, riding that cusp!! I love stumbling upon talented new ~ under the radar ~ authors, it’s a real treat and yes sometimes I suffer through the dullish dud, in which case…well, I don’t dooo those kinds of reviews, I take joy in finding the hidden gems and trying to bring more attention to them and I found one right here that’s deserving of some praise and a bit of spotlight.
Because these two teen tales were totally terrorific!!
That campy pulp style cover art really draws you in too. PLUS some awesomely illustrated, very clever and creepy, graphic comics after each story. So much detail, they were magnetic!
And at roughly 80 pages each, they really are quite lengthy, tasty little novellas. Thick cut slices in the ~ very unordinary ~ lives of a couple of blindsided and barreled over teenagers.
I really liked Frank’s imaginative and descriptive take on these two old school (age-old) heavyweight monsters.The first story is called Skin Deep, about a sophomore named Laura who’s a track star. Her parents equally encourage and push her, probably because they feel that they have failed with their first-born Jessica, 23-year-old college student who’s had a few issues and dreams of being an artist. The sisters have never been close, never really bonded like sisters should, which is unfortunate.
It seems like when one tries, the other has better things to get to..
After a family argument one evening, Jessica gets mad and heads off to meet her wild and crazy friend at a real dive of a bar. Unbeknownst to her, Laura follows with fake ID in tow, looking to bond….but Jessica has better things to get to at the moment.
Mad at her bossy sister, Laura decides to hang out and underage drink it up in another area of the bar where she is then drawn to a good-looking older man. He’s Cuban, all mysterious; parts charming, brooding, and boorish, so…of course, she’s smitten. Laura craves a little excitement, a bit of teenage rebellion. Now it’s Jessica’s turn to reach out but Laura may be just beyond reach now.

The second story is called Ordinary Monsters and is told in first person style. Liam and Eric have been best friends for many years, they go to highschool together and deal with the many cliques….neo-Nazi’s, goths, jocks…etc. They don’t consider themselves branded though, just like to hang out with all (well, except the neo-Nazi’s, they are jerks) and party every weekend. If Liam was the jealous sort, he would be of Eric, cause Eric just excels at damn near everything, especially sports. Some strange things starts coming to light regarding Eric and his home life….those odd family nights. Liam’s curiosity gets the best of him and he sniffs around a little bit ~ sniffs himself right into a lurking, unyielding stench.
Layered throughout this tale is a very heart wrenching Nazi back story and although the boys are learning about the Nazi’s in history class, you still wonder what one has to do with the other….then it all comes together beautifully…harrowingly
Quite brilliant, adding this highly emotional and historical element to the story, it made it all impact, deeply. Oh, it forebodes.

BOTH of these stories are about going through changes, not the typical teenage changes though, unfortunately. These are a bit more temperamental…and feral.
And yes, both our teenage leads are kind of selfish, never really happy or even content in their ~ pre transformative/formative years ~ home lives. Always battling and bickering with not so adversarial parents and basically…not really all that loveable or even likeable at times.
Well, that’s pretty much most teenagers; selfish, greedy, self-centered, and a bit self-righteous. Total little narcissists and thankfully, they grow out of it….ideally.
My ex didn’t, but that’s an entirely different rant….

MAN, this guy can write, superb style, very polished and sharp. The stories flowed perfectly with genius build up, followed by kinetic fiery knock down.
And these must be young adult, I can’t find anywhere where it states that but I just got a strong Chris Pike vibe while reading them. I LOVED Pike back in the 90’s, he wrote the best teen scary thrillers. I felt the same 3 dimensional ease of story and full-bodied characters while reading these two tales, although these were quite a bit edgier than the YA I remember. 😀
Aaand maybe they aren’t, it really doesn’t matter what genre they are (or aren’t) labeled in, because what they are, are riveting little character driven page turners.
However, no obscene or explicit content, so that’s why I assumed young adult. Yea, hahaha…I probably loiter in the extreme horror blackened back alley too much….
It’s made me nostalgic for dusting off some of my old Pike’s (aaand Stine’s, yes, I was well versed in him too…don’t judge. Lol) for a little reminiscing comfort reading, that’s for sure.

Anxious to check out more from this sharp and savvy new writer on the block.
So…I request another teen scream double billed book please, Mr. Martin.
Chop, Chop!! 😀

 

You can buy the book here:

The Club review by: Mandy Tyra

 

Punch-Drunk LOVED this!!
Writer rock star strikes…err I mean writes, again. And strikes too actually. He’s a striking writer!!
GOD, I’ve been ‘scot-free’ for far too damn long, months of impatient waiting for new material to sink my starved teeth into. I’ve read everything else of his, some even twice.

So was The Club worth all that wait ~ ABSOFUCKINLUTELY!

Fast paced, in your face, non stop action and intrigue, wonderfully written wretched characters; just a page a minute thrills, kind of oddly charming, storytelling and oh so graphic and extreme!!
It’s what he does, and does exceptionally well.
This Scottish feller was born to write, he makes it all seem so effortless, it’s most definitely his second aaand first nature. Probably some third thrown in there too.

And often he has a super strong femme fatale lead. Gals with gumption you just holler and root for. That’s the best, men authors who excel at creating well rounded-self sustaining-kick ass-balls of bejeweled steel- WOMEN.

I like to think I can relate to them. Well but, no..not really, I can’t even manage to shave my legs without cutting my arms but it’s fun to live vicariously (albeit delusional) through his many heroines.

Also often, it’s the 2nd half of Kyle’s books that fill his court mandated therapeutic release brutality quota but not so much this time…

From the very first page….

We open up with a quartet of psychopaths, doing very psychotic, not nice things. Having kidnapped their latest ‘toys’ (a couple of young pretty sisters), just all hanging out and cutting loose in a motel room.
The leader of the bloodthirsty whack pack is Jason, the charming and charismatic beautiful man with a great smile and gorgeous green eyes. He’s the kind of man your momma would warn you about, before he guts her. He’s the kind of man you probably wouldn’t care as long as he kept you on his safe side.
He enjoys the taunt as much as the kill and ‘gets off’ on mind screwing his many victims.
He finds his soulmate in carnal sin carnage in a hardened street smart gal named Lara, he reforms that former back alley druggie whore and they both enjoy the thrills of the spree kill.
Rounding out the unharmonizing/non whistling dixie quartet is Conner and Fiona, a couple young uns that grew up on the same street as best friends, then copious gratuitous lovers. They ain’t right in the head either but need grooming and Jason is a groomer.
Not much of a coddler though…

One sister having used up her entertainment value (NOT a spoiler, from the first pages), down to just the one girl now. Simply known as The Girl…I like that, names are way overrated anyway.
Finding themselves on the fuzz’s radar, they decide to camp out and lay low for a while in the California Redwoods….how fitting.
Bound yet determined, the girl sees her opportunity. Barely managing to hop, skip, and jump her way outta the fire, she ends up diving head first into a blazing raging ~ copulating ~ inferno when she comes across a luxurious and rather intimidating mansion out in the middle of nowhere. Oh, this can’t be good, but better than where she’s coming from, she naively assumes…..
Welcome to The Club.

Oh what can I say about this particular club….
They like to play club games ~ house rules.
The enjoy exquisite banquet dining ~ house recipes.
And they delight in a bit of kinky perverted hanky pankying, group style ~ house amenities; all access, all-inclusive.

Ran by a Mr. Athos, this club caters to glorified gluttony to nourish the deviant mind, body, and soul. They are violently vile and scrumptiously sinful and accept only the most esteemed and distinguished members.

Fans of Kyle’s Consumed Volumes 1 and 2 will already know about some of the goings ons at The Club. And for those that haven’t yet…you’ll definitely/defiantly crave more backdoor connections.

Isn’t just gorn porn for the sake of gore porn although it IS quite gorgasmic. It’s the kind of porn that caterers to us ladies as well, in that it includes a well told, captivating, and affecting story at its core. Even a pizza delivery man!!!! LOL That happened a week before the happenings in this book, fans of Special Delivery in Consumed Volume 1 will get a big kick out of the mention.

I love the nonchalant and flat-out effervescent ways Kyle delivers the dirty deeds. One question I’ve often wondered though, how the hell does our Mr. Scott seem to know so much???
Like, the exact melting stages a face being burned off takes ooor the exact orifice ratio for no waiting… :/
Hmmm, it’s very detailed, it’s very telling. It’s very…all knowing.
And ya know, I suppose…yeaaaa, I really just don’t need to know. ** cough cough, so method.

Jason envisions, downright fancies himself as a psycho extraordinaire, alpha cream of the slay crop UNTIL meeting The Club…..he’s sees he ain’t exactly extraordinary, more like pretty damn ordinary when comparing, contrasting, and crossing paths with the ‘elite psychopaths’.

AAAAAND that’s it, I’m not going anymore into the plot, Kyle always reads best not knowing too much beforehand and I’m very very protective of this particular author.
I’m not quite done talking yet though, of course not. 😛

This is all told in 3rd person perspective but Kyle took a unique approach, each chapter is centered around a character and we also get a bit of backstory on all our main players.
If you crave more Mr. Athos though, he has his own background centered short story in Room 7 in Consumed Volume 2, it’s a real appetite suppressant; weight management control courtesy of Scott.
With a feather light dusting of social, cultural, and historical commentary, it’s another common theme in quite a few of his books and from reading past reviews, I notice that this has bugged a couple of people….
I have no idea why?? It’s not like he’s spouting off hateful propaganda, extremist leftist radical thinking here. NO, nothing of the sort, you can tell this author has a big heart and strong unwavering convictions, he’s got a humanitarianism streak flowing through him and it’s quite vibrant, floral and fragrant.
It makes it all resonate that much deeper, deeper than just, balls deep…in disemboweled bowels…kind of…deep.
That moral code paired along side that warped, demented, sick and twisted imagination of his, makes for some lovely literature, it’s The Kyle Style in full extreme swing.

I personally value his views. If this was the 60’s, I totally picture him being one of them long haired free loving beautiful hippies, full of neighborly respect and with that day-glo peace signed up VW bus (ala Scooby van) in tow, smoking fatties aplenty.
OH GOD, he should do a story of that!!! Similar to The Tripper but much much better.
YES, Kyle, do it, DO IT. Write it, just be it
Aaaaand he can add in all the social, political, and cultural unjusts, unrests, and upheavals he wants!!!
ACES!

I think Kyle’s an elite, I’ll just stick with elite…writer, for now. 😉

 

You can purchase this book here:

Prime Directive review by:Mandy Tyra

 

Thrilling, smart, and snazzy little science fiction book. Yep, Bradshaw took me to Mars and dropped my ass off!! Tis fine, been hankering for an all inclusive get away/go away/stay away holiday vaca anyway.

Now, I don’t often venture to the syfy spacey territories but being a BIG fan of Duncan’s unique and unparalleled written (rip roaring out-the-door) voice, I suited up for the journey and I had an awesomely celestial far out fun time.

It opens with our astronaut crew on Mars, addressing kids questions. It’s all a jolly easy breezy good time, this group of six, until the broadcast ends….yea, this space traveling team are not all that into each other, not anymore. Irritations and intolerances have taken over but I suppose, after many many MANY months with the same people in close cut off quarters….I’d be the same. Oh no doubt…
It was so comical, all the nitpicking, cattiness, and indifferences.
They’ve all become a bit snarky with one another but none more than Dana, jealous geologist Dana who studies all those rocks, looking for something, always finding nada.
Why the hell does the biologist get all the good finds!?
*I LOVE how the bitchy self-centered one is American. HAHAHA touche…

A team of six multinational astronauts. It was a world effort to get them to this point, the first of hopefully many manned Mars missions. That’s one of their main jobs, to set up a basecamp for future missions.
There’s Dana; our American ~ jealous, petty geologist hell-bent on making a name for herself.
There’s Nikolai; the one from Russia ~ pilot/cook, big and strong quipster.
There’s Sabina; the one from Germany ~ pilot/medic, straight-laced & sensible.
There’s Charles; the one from England ~ engineer, kind of shy and socially awkward.
There’s Sanjay; the one from India ~ botanist, forgettable, so he’d like it all named after him.
And then there’s Mei Qiao Zhang; the one from China ~ biologist and the star attraction astronaut.

Dana wants so damn bad to leave her mark, to be remembered (to be revered!) and seeing as how they are due to leave the red planet real soon ~ for that long long looong trek back to Earth, where she’ll no longer have an opportunity for discovery and for getting her name in the history books…perhaps a blockbuster biopic movie with her name up in lights… ~ she decides to head off for a little solo exploration endeavor. Hopping in the Weeble, she ventures off to a craterous region.
Well, she does comes across something….not gonna tell you what but it is quite the site and NOT what you’re thinking.

The race aaaaand the chase is on!
This gets pretty damn brutal. The visuals Duncan created of Dana’s…ummm, metaphysical…metamorphosis….OH BLOODY HELL!!
Hilarious and horrific which is EXACTLY the balance this particular author excels at.

She only wanted some acknowledgement, some accolades, a bit of high praise standing ovation applause and now…well, perhaps she will be revered (…reviled)….as a specimen, in a petri dish.

Duncan captured the isolation desperation vibe of the red planet very well, the ‘uhhhh no where to go’ aspect of it all. And very vivid descriptions of the…ahem scenery. Lol BRAVO! I applaud yooooou.

I’m hesitate to say too much about this riveting and graphic little Mars tale, so…I’m not going to.
It really is a super quick read even though it’s 150 pages, you rocket soar through it!
And it took quite a few twisty shifty sharp left turns leading to a WOW ending.
Really does go to uncharted territory, some awesome HOLY HELL moments make you laugh and gag. He puts you rightthere, in the thick and thin head spin of it all.
I LOVE how Duncan describes things, heinous things ~ tongue firmly pressed into cheek ~ it really throws you for a fruit loop. :O
What a strange and awe-stunning mind he has.

This marks my 4th read and review for Bradshaw (not even counting shorts in various anthologies) and ~ YEP, still mesmerized. He’s a fantastic, engaging, hilarious, and highly original writer. Plays in many genres and his one man team is always on the winning side.
Up next for me from this multifaceted gifted writer’s wonderful little library shall be, Hexagram, an ancient Inca unfulfilled ritual trickled down throughout the ages book.
Sounds totally exciting and definitely not one to be read (uhhh chanted) out loud, I ain’t no dummy.

Gotta love the versatility in this British writer, he won’t be duck-billed or platypus holed…or whatever they call that..
Really NEEDS and DESERVES more attention, this bloke!!
He’s ultra unique and I think I’ll keep him. 😀

That is UNLESS he’s got the latest Those Who Survive Class Four #2 zombie book available for my viewing and ogling pleasure.
Oh I’ll be on THAT one in an apocalyptic New England minute!
So super stoked, so hurry the hell up with it Mr. P. Bradshaw!! ACES! 😀