You Only Get One Shot review by: Mandy Tyra

This was fabulous, a highly enjoyable read!
It was like a really clever collection of shorts disguised as a novella, it’s basically four short stories with a wrap-around/weaved-through tale, for a total of five stories.
A unique approach with an original backdrop, I was impressed by how they arranged it all out.
Yea, the set-up, lay-up, and execution of this was spot-on, I just loooved the whole concept.

We open up with a mysterious gal at a coffee-house, compiling a special email for a group of four, she is not interested in any sort of chatty cyber chinwagg’n though.
Civil corresponding is not on her agenda.
Her reasoning is simple; she had a writer friend who was trying to break into the business and ended up succumbing to his own insecurities and self-doubt, it destroyed him and she blames these four writers in particular, for not being more supportive of a new author.
Her only resolution is simple; they must write a winning story.
Entry is mandatory, noncompliance is an automatic swift elimination.
Primed and poised for a bit of wrath, our mystery gal masterminds a little game.
A bona-fide battle royal of the written wits.

One winner, three losers ~ no participation trophy, no consolation prize.

We meet our reluctant contestants who hope it’s all some sort of sick joke but they aren’t gonna take that chance, this is not the type of rejection letter they wanna get…
Adhering to that strict deadline and with the ‘you only get one shot’ warning playing on a loop in their heads, they submit their best life-sustaining story for the win.
Then wait with bated breath for the inevitable hoax to reveal.

First up is Fiona, bit of a drinker, seems sweet enough and she can’t for the life of her remember the writer in question. She’s always nice to everyone.
Her coerced submission is The Wrong Girl ~ about a resilient young girl kidnapped who hopes (who knows) her father will find her in time. She has a lot of inner strength and doesn’t take too well to being cornered.

Then we meet Diane, also a nice lady who is just beside herself with stress over all this. How can any of this be true??
Luckily she already had a story almost finished and hoping upon hope it’s good enough, she completes then submits Rezerection ~ about a military man (an almost family man) who in his grief and disbelief is task with new orders to contain a small town in the throes of an outbreak.

Next up is Drexl, ughhhh Drexl….a deceitful, despicable, scumbag! You seriously can not stand this sham of a man. No jittery nerves shake him up after he opens his threatening email, he’s too damn arrogant and ignorant to take anything seriously.
His story is called Feral ~ about a deceitful despicable scumbag of a man, still living off rich daddy’s dime. Bored but with a purpose; to chart the nature vs nurture of babies left in the charge of wild wolves.

And lastly, thrust into this cutthroat competition, we meet Simon, who is struggling in life and finances. He only just recently discovered he has a gift for writing. He seems like an all around nice bloke.
He offers up Summoned ~ I don’t wanna say too much about this one, only that it’s brutal and upsetting until you find out what’s going on, then you’re like ~ YES!

So…who wins?? Oh the game has only just begun.
Personally, I’d say my favorite story was probably Summoned, so, Simon for champ!!
But honestly, all but Drexl seemed like nice decent folk, he is the only one I wanted to die Die DIE a horrible death, twice.
And all the stories were really good too, yes…even *cough-cough* Drexl’s.
You’ll have to read and decide for yourself who the winner should be.

You literally had no earthly idea what was gonna happen next, it took a lot of twisty turns, was completely unpredictable, and what a shocker of an ending…..!!

But now, come on guys, J.C., Kevin…fess up, this is an autobiographical tale, ain’t it??
And big props changing it to a female antagonist…clever.
Yes, clever indeed. 😉

I’ve been a fan of Kevin for a while now, since reading his amazing The Tale of Sawney Bean and his two holiday themed anthologies (Xmas and then Easter) from the past year that he put together and contributed to.
He’s a captivating writer, really draws you into his world.
So far, I’ve only read two short stories by J.C. (in the above antho’s), I’ve searched him out and noticed he has a highly rated book that came out a few years ago called Discordia, about a rave, a new drug, and all the chaos that ensues. That sounds awesome and will most likely be my next read from him….well, unless this devious duo come out with a new one, that is.

Because YES, they definitely should write together again, their differing styles complimented each other nicely. You Only Get One Shot was very well written, intense and intriguing, with interesting characters, you can’t ask for much more than that! Except…I did wish it was a bit longer, they easily could have gone another 30 pages or so of pure non-padded storyline.
There were two parts in particular I wished were fleshed out a bit more, you’ll know them when you get there. Not a big deal at all and it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment or anything BUT for their next book, well….I’m devising a little game.
Entry is mandytory, noncompliance is…. * cue maniacal laughter *
HAHAHA Cheers guys!! 😀

 

You can buy the book here:

Pine Lakes review by: Mandy Tyra

Mind blowingly EXCELLENT!!
Holy WOW, what a story…what an author!
Only his 3rd solo release and I am flat-out-right impressed. His writing is so smooth, just effervescently full of life.
I say quit your day job Mr. Motz and write full-time, you’re a natural-born storyteller.
Which is actually not very common.

I was gorilla glued to these pages. A lot of well thought out thinking went into this surreal and startling tale.
It read more as a mainstream kind of book to me, something easily worthy enough to chart a bestselling list somewhere. It certainly rises above and soars beyond the often mediocre mash-up/ pile-up that currently litters Amazon these days.
Oh there are still plenty of solid gold needles to be found in that hay (…hack) stack, you just have to sift through and dig around a little, and THIS is one such golden needle gem.
Would make for an AMAZING movie or better yet; a mini series! YES!

It begins with Ted and Susan, a delightful married couple, on their way to a charming little resort called Pine Lakes. Every year they take a week-long relaxing getaway there, it’s a long-standing tradition from Ted’s side of the family and they have made it their own yearly retreat. They were highschool sweethearts and after 20 years they are still going strong. Madly deeply in love with each other and I fell head over heels in love with them too.

Only 20 miles from their rest and relaxation destination but heavy rains cause Ted to lose control of the car which swerves and crashes down a steep steeeeeep embankment.
Initially trapped in the car and attempting to just compose themselves, take stock of the situation…but their cell phones are acting all wonky, the radio is playing some eerie tunes and seemingly personalized broadcast jabs, plus they get the spine-tingling feeling they are being watched…stalked, which propels them into panic fueled flee mode.
After finally managing to break out of that confined fryer, apparently only to be flung into an even deeper, blistering, and boundless fryer.
They are but 40 feet from the main road but the quick and easy way up and out, is not an option for them.
They must blindingly forge ahead, deeper and deeper into the threat filled woods.
And that’s when things take a sharp turn for the extreme worse…and just plain weird.

What the hell is this place , they constantly ask themselves…
It’s as if their car crash ripped a tear straight into another realm, an alternate and hellish dimension.
When it’s supposed to be light, it’s dark and when it’s supposed to be dark…it’s darker.

They now find themselves courageously ~and unavoidably~ trekking through those increasingly darkening woods, strange sounds and even stranger lights, beastly creatures on the prowl, an old cabin, an even older cryptic lady, a busload of feralish kids, an unforgettable town that time forgot with a population best left uncensored, an underground web of caves and sewers that further defy any sort of logic….
For a jump-start.

Exhausted, hungry, confused, and scared half to death, an indeterminable amount of time passes but they are almost there…almost. there.
So Damn Close to getting to their destination but it really may as well be in a different world BUUUT if there was a way in, there must be a way out!
Finding solace in reassuring and consoling each other that; Come rain or shine, hell or high water, grim or gridlocked, they are bound and determined to start their vacation, dammit they deserve it!

Peppered with perfectly placed (and paced) flashback scenes exploring the cutsey couple in all their lovey doveyness and highlighting their darker days and near breaking points. It hasn’t been all cupcakes and rainbows for them but they have always persevered, sometimes through knock down drag outs, all due to their undying love for one another.

Gut wrenchingly emotional, all of these nostalgic parts, you feel very attached and protective of this very real, very human couple. Susan is so compassionate, empathetic, and big-hearted. Ted is such a good strong man, chivalrous, funny, and supportive. The quintessential soulmates.

I LOVE how this story went in so many different and diresome directions, literally and figuratively. Physically and metaphysically. Yet never lost its way.
Some writers can bite off more than they can chew, attempting to razzle and dazzle us with an abundance of style that lacks substance, and often we end up with the aftertaste of a stale anti-climactic effort.
All show-no tell, then slapdash wrapped up in a paper cinched with a bow.
Well, NOT THIS, it stayed true the entire way through.
You’re on the edge of your seat, pins and needles, heart pounding, hoping this charming couple can find their way out of the perpetually perilous darkness.

“Time, time is weird here.”

And that’s it, I can’t (won’t) go any deeper into the plot. I’m trying to be protective.
But OH MAN, there is so much more I wanna say about this book, I have 2 (THREE!!) pages of notes….but…I can’t, it would be unfair to the writer and new readers. Boo…

It’s a pretty long read too, at well over 300 pages (333 to be exact which is a proper and impressive undertaking) and never ever a dull or lagging moment.
I could have easily read double that.

There were 3 times in this awe-tastic book that I balled….flat-out ugly cried with strange sounds and lights coming out of me! I teared up a couple other times and laughed quite a bit too.
Yea, a lot of witty banter, sarcasm, and pop culture references in this that further upped the enjoyment factor for me.
His writing is exceptional, you get lost in his words, his worlds, and really care about what the characters are going through.
A full spectrum of emotions running rapid in this story.

I really can’t recommend this enough ~~~ READ THIS BOOK!! ~~~~
And follow this author because he’s going places if he continues to write in this realm of excellence.

So far Pine Lakes is sitting prominently on my favorites of the year list.
And I’m pretty damn sure it’ll remain there, would be extremely hard to knock it off its rightful pedestal.

Think I might check out his very first release The Darkeningnext, a scary tale set in the summer of ’86 about a group of teen friends coming of age.
Sounds great, the 80’s were the best time to come of age and if The Darkening is even half as well-written and all-consuming as Pine Lakes, it’s bound to be another winner! ACES!

 

You can buy the book here:

Primitive (All Tied up with String #5) review PLUS Nev Murray Q&A by: Mandy Tyra

Simply Sublime! We are now over a third of the way into the All Tied up with String series, Primitive is #5 (out of 14) and not only is it the longest short story of the collection so far but it is also the most ‘evolved’ of the pack.
This mammoth tail spans months, two continents, and 4 main characters….not to mention the supporting ‘title characters’.
There is seriously a lot going on in Primitive and it stars Nev Murray, a well-known and well liked (revered and feared) reviewer at Confessions of a Reviewer.
For 2 and a half years he’s been a top-tier reviewer and recently has set up a publicity side to his website at www.confessionsofareviewer.com .

This personalized series of shorts is really shaping up to be a quite the juggernaut. You can tell Keane is having an uproariously keen time putting his friends and readers in such perilous predicaments.
Primitive maaay even be my favorite so far but it really is hard to choose.
All with so much variety, depth, FUN, and this one made me really really hungry.

Stomping it at a rip-roaring 43 pages.

“Turkey Dinosaurs: a fun, fast and fabulously delicious treat … but scary as hell with an imagination like mine!”
Nev Murray ~ twice bitten, over chewed, opportunistically gluttonous words of…

Mr. Nev Murray is a successful businessman, seemingly with most of his scruples. He has taken a favorite junky food from his childhood and turned it all healthy.
Owner of Murray’s Turkey Dino’s; tasty breaded nuggets of juicy turkey meat shaped like our favorite iconic dinosaurs.
They are a massive hit and have made him a massive wealth. With contracts in place at grocers and even school cafeterias, parents and kids alike both love em, they are so addictively yummy.
Yet he still feels the urge to go bigger, to authenticate, proceed ~ without much caution ~ to the next level of his business arrangement with the advantageous Richard Banks, who is a slightly less scrupulous billionaire businessman.
All is quite lucrative at first and business is not only booming….it flat-out saurs, but as is often the case when more is bitten off than can be properly chewed, pandemonious choking can ensue.
With back and forth cuts to an aloof reporter named Bethany and her camera man Matthew, interviewing the new health food craze at one of the schools, and begrudging that lame fluff piece given to them. Raring for a real story, something newsworthy, a career making piece.
That piece comes, at a price. The story of a lifetime is just around the corner at the prominent Wembley Stadium.
It’s the power and prestige of the nugget, no not the gold nugget…the golden turkey nugget.

So much going on in this short story. How does he do it!? So much plot, so much…sustenance, in just a few short pages. It’s teee-rex-rrifically transcendent and unlike anything he has ever written before.
* note how I refrained from using Dinoo-Mite 😀 😀 …errr, wait…oops..

And now this reporter was anything but aloof interviewing the distinguished and formidable Nev Murray, so I brought extra (nerve calming) wine and awwww he supplied plates of his yummy signature food.
After feast and drank, nerves were calmed.
Aaaand being a wino of such inquisitive tastes but limited lucidity, I cut to the chase and proceeded to further jeopardize any sort of journalistic integrity.
He had a lot to say in this little expos`e.

1.) How do you know the author?
To be honest, I’m not 100% sure about how we actually came to be conversing with each other. It all seems so long ago now that it’s a blur. I think I saw his face appearing on various posts on Facebook and saw a load of mutual friends so decided to add him. That will teach me, eh?
I know that we talked a lot when I first read Grin and I was lucky enough to win the star prize at the launch party for it and can look at my wonderful print of the cover of Laymon’s Fiends, signed by the man who drew it, Steve Crisp, as I work everyday. I’m actually looking at it now!
Not long after that, I had the opportunity to meet Stuart at Emcon, in Nottingham in 2015. We had arranged to meet up with Jack Rollins and a few others the night before the event and Mr. Keane wouldn’t let me go back to my hotel until I was shamelessly drunk. That sort of set the mood for the entire weekend. He may claim otherwise, but he is lying.
From there, we have had many a conversation about books and life and books and life. He is forever asking me for writing tips. I almost feel like I write his stories for him but he never replies to my requests for royalties!
It’s a working relationship that developed into a friendship that I hope will continue for many, many years to come.

2.) What is your first and/or favorite Keane book?
My first read of Mr. Keanes, and still my favorite of his, was Grin. There were so many things I loved about that book, and still do. It was great for me, as a reviewer, to pick up something new, from a new author to me, and be able to sit back and relax with it and enjoy it. Sometimes it is difficult to read a book for review because you always feel that you have to pay special attention to what you are reading to give it a fair appraisal. I never felt like that with Grin. It was so easy flowing that I just got lost in it.
For example. This is what I actually said in my review at the time:
“He is one of those authors that I put into the easy category. Now I’m not suggesting that he is easy, although some rumors are doing the rounds. What I mean by that is that you slide into the book very easily. It doesn’t take you long before you feel totally at ease with what you are reading. You feel as if you have known the characters for a long time after only a few pages. It flows extremely well and is paced perfectly for the different types of horror featured in the story. It has blood when it needs it and emotion in abundance in both the bloody parts and the head feck parts.”
I also said this:
“Horror of the mind is the next best thing about this book. What Dani goes through is something that no one can ever comprehend unless you ever actually do go through it. I pray for each and every one of you that you don’t because, it is horrific in the extreme. Physical and mental torture that would drive the hardest of us to an early grave. I felt very emotional at times reading this book because I felt so so sorry for Dani and what she was going through.”
This is why I loved Grin so much. There were many different horror elements to it that it has something for everyone.

3.) Tell me a little bit about the treasured topic you chose for Keane to utterly desecrate with little or no regard for?
Oh man. Where to start. If you live in the UK and haven’t had Turkey Dinosaurs before, shame on you. Absolute shame on you. If you live in the US, I feel sorry for you because as far as I am aware, you don’t get them there.
They are a little package of pure joy for dinner time. Succulent pieces of turkey meaty, shaped like various dinosaurs, coated in breadcrumbs that, when cooked to perfection, are quite goldenly deliciously crunchy and so full of flavour. Add chips (fries for you American types) and baked beans, well, you have a plate full of loveliness fit for a King or Queen! Just look at the picture!
To be honest, myself and Mr. Keane had many discussions about Turkey Dinosaurs after my enjoyment of them one night, while reading Grin, was somewhat destroyed by what I was reading. This developed into many other discussions that led to some other stuff that will become very clear over the next few months.
I really picked them as my topic because I didn’t think he would be able to pull off a story about them without it sounding absolutely ridiculous. After reading Primitive, how foolish do I look now?

4.) Are you equal parts disturbed and delighted with your tailor-made tale?
To be honest, again, (I seem to say that a lot, don’t I?) I had no idea what to expect. I was waiting and waiting and waiting on my turn because, as I said earlier, I didn’t think he would manage to pull it off. While I was reading the story, I initially thought it would be a complete rip off of a well-known film franchise but as I kept reading, I was very pleasantly surprised.
He managed to take the story in a completely different direction than I thought he would. It was interesting in the fact that, although being a horror story, it was nothing like anything I have read from him before. He definitely stepped way outside the box, and his comfort zone for this one.
That is both admirable and annoying. Admirable because he sat back, thought about how he was going to do it, and pulled it off. Annoying because I honestly didn’t think he would do it. I was expecting animated goldenly delicious bread-crumbed dinosaurs running amok in true Toy Story style. I certainly didn’t get that.
To say I was disturbed and scared would be an understatement. This is the sort of story that, in some respects, I wish were true and possible, because it would fascinate me, but in other ways, I’m so glad it can’t be true, god help us all if it was. Or is it true? Who knows.

WOW, a huge thank you to Nev for that informatively exuberant little chinwag.
Yea, Mr. Murray is quite the talker and so well spoken, nice, and personable.
I can see how he’s made such a name for himself, starting with a blog turned mega, then rolling that into a whopping website with extra reviewers and a publicity business side. Impressive.
He and it is a pillar of the writer community, you know you’re making a name for yourself if Nev and his team review your work!

Oh and as for my overtime Stu, I’m invoicing you for double the poptarts. Chocolate fudge please, don’t question… I ask the questions. 🙂 🙂

The next story is Atonia, all about that precious SLEEP and it features his mother in law, Dagmar Boo.
Uh-Ohhh….sleep mom in law, sleeeeep. It’s for the best.
It’s due out in a couple of weeks. So till then, rest up….because you know, like the blare of an alarm clock, I’ll come shrieking back with a jolt. 😉

 

You can buy the book here:

Shopping List review by: Mandy Tyra

This was a great anthology!!
A whole motley slew of 21 gamut busting stories. Topics ranging from werewolves to clowns to sammiches to explosive acne and everything else in between, inside out, and upside down. It’s all covered, so much variety.
I do really like antho’s that don’t follow a set topic, you have no idea what the next tale will bring, such a surprise treat that way.
And HAHAHA the writers included their actual shopping lists before their stories. What a clever little running gag and the only thing that links any of these shorts.
Some of their shopping lists were just as disturbing as their stories….

I’ve actually never heard of any of these indie authors with the exceptions of Tim Miller and David Owain Hughes. I’ve read bunches by those amazing horror authors, so of course I was super anxious to get to their tales but found myself pleasantly sated with all the other delicious digestables on the buffet table.

For those familiar with my review style, you know this is gonna take a while, I have to (have to!) meticulously tread through each tale.
Ad nauseam, some have claimed…
I don’t take offence to brisk skimming. 😀

Oh and I finger tallied the page counts with my kindle at its lowest setting so they are kind of accurate-ish.

Coach Augustine: Smoke and Claws ~ Robert Over 17 pgs
This coach is a tutor in more than just a sport-sy way, he is on call 24/7 to help his students, even when they’re feeling waaay off-game. It’s his goal. Middle of the night distress call from a good kid with a bright future, this dedicated coach grabs his bag of supplies, plus magic aids, to help with a non-lunar flare-up.
Hate it when that happens, teenagers and their hormones…
* An exciting and wild little coming of supernatural age tale.
Shopping List: he’s obviously gonna make a badass casserole in clean clothes while getting his buzz on. A culinary master.

Speed of Shadow ~ Christopher O’Halloran 17 pgs
Tracy is a smart and observant girl, learning about the speed of light in class, she’s got this all figured out. Driving back to her mom’s with her big brother and dad one day, those ‘figures‘ speed up on them in a terrifyingly foreshadowing way.
* So tense and dramatic, you feel like you’re in that car. So claustrophobic.
Shopping list: This writer cares about all the others in his household (human and non) more than himself. Awww

Cold Cuts ~ Eric W. Burgin 22pgs
Hugh loves having a bestie, he can only have one at a time though cause he gives it 100%. The bond of friendship is a tightly bonded bond, downright adhesive/…clingwrapy.
Hugh needs to have his new friend Jared around, all the time, because that’s what friends are for, right?? He feels like he’s the perfect host, the perfect friend. He makes some mean gourmet sandwiches, serves up plenty of brew, and countless rounds of play-by-play sports on demand. A story of bromance, love, and loss…and unrequited friendship.
* A page turner, couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. FUN and fast paced story. And it made me really hungry.
Shopping List: Something exotic is on the menu.

Deathlust ~ Russ Gartz 14 pgs
A period piece set in the 1400’s Spain about the Holy Inquisition, the citadel, a feud, a love story, bloodlust, a…deathlust, that demands to be fed. There is a holy war brewing in Spain and the vampires are lapping it up as they align themselves with the double-cross retribution at play. Things are as not as cut throat and dagger as they appear.
* That time period already scares the crap outta me, add in vampires and holy men ~ oh my.
Shopping List: Yep, seems like he’s got, all ends….covered.

Touch Me, I’m Sick ~ Mark Slade 14 pgs
You can’t always control physical attraction even if you are not exactly available but what if the consequence of such sexually gratifying compulsions had deeper repercussions than just spurned spouses?? Could you suppress your desires then, they are not set in stone, are they?
* A clever little fidelity challenged cautionary tale. Heed the warning.
Shopping List: Only missing the beer for a fab picnic, must be byob, I’m there!

The House of the Skinwalker ~ Jeff Baker 14pgs
Spring break, friends headed to Mexico….nothing bad ever happens there, right?? Well, before their spring even has a chance to break-out, New Mexico has a go. Altered realities crash, converge, and blur at the Fire Hills Motel on sacred Native American land.
* Eerie mythos of a dispiriting native nature that’s more than just folktale.
Shopping List: Short and really sweet, especially if that last item pans out nicely.

Backne ~ Tim Miller 8 pgs
Jerry is a factory worker who deals with hazmat  labeled substances, he doesn’t really like his job very much at all, especially when he has to forklift them from high up all around the warehouse, that can be a real scary bitch. One such barrel leaks on him, a bit. What he goes through next, even Proactive couldn’t help with..
A lot of dark humor in this one, in between the gagging.
* 3rd time I’ve read this disgusting tale, give me blood and guts and I’m A-OK, I don’t fare as well with pus and slime….so ew.
Tim Miller is such a fun and outrageous writer!
Shopping list: All for research, I’m sure…he’s so method.

The House on the Back Road ~ Nick Swain 25 pgs
Bickering married couple, on a road trip to the wife’s sister’s place. He’s a car dealer and she’s a nagging hag, yea, she’s a real piece of work. He’s adapted to her speciality blend of vulgarities, even coined a few towards her. Getting a shortcut route to avoid a traffic jam from a nice local man, he decides to take that scenic, don’t want to anger the wifey…they are already late and she has no coffee. A not that uncommon violent outburst causes him to lose control on that long desolate road. Guess they are on a walkabout now. What happens next, well….
* Fabulous story and I LOVED all the petty feuding. I got a strong Creepshow vibe, the one called The Crate.
Shopping List: I wanna dine and be entertained at Swain’s house!!

The Kick ~ JC Raye 15 pgs
OHHHH a western story, the old west complete with a general store, saloon, jailhouse, barber, town doc/reverend/banker/constable and a few cretins.
A simple town called Bodie. Uncontrollable fits of anger and sudden impulses kicked off with a gaudy hat. Is there something in the watering hole, in the air??
* EXCELLENT and I wanted more, a berserk western, oh yea!!
Shopping List: an odd list, prepping for an odd party?? Eh, I’d attend.

A Nightcap with Selena ~ Jovan Jones 25 pgs
A bar hook up takes a long-term turn for the worse for nice guy Donovan. Selena, she’s so alluring, so beautiful, a bit strange but he’s okay with that.
Nightmares, hallucinations, visions…reality….what the hell is happening to the poor guy.
At least he has the lovely Selena to take care of him.
* Bizarre and sultry tale with driblets of black ooze and maggots.
Shopping List: Mouth wateringly delicious, a full menu of good eats. So meaty!

Breaking Ahab ~ Ben Stevens 22pgs
A grieving husband has turned to drink, he just can’t face it all, and he really couldn’t care less that an arrogant city detective has come to investigate him. Guess they don’t believe his whole Giant Squid story. He misses his beautiful wife so much, she loved the water, she loved the boat. Why did they have to go out that night?
* Such an amazing story drowning in a riptide of emotions that takes a Lovecraftian twist.
Shopping List: No actual sustenance but a fulfilling list none the less!

The Cypress Wood Terror ~ David F. Gray 19pgs
Dean is a film editor for a small post-production company. He was lucky enough to find his soulmate on the job, unlucky enough to get caught in the cross-over cuts of a temporal digital threat. Where to go, where to hide??
* Really enjoyed all the behind the scenes movie making, it’s always been an interest. This story was so unique and original. It could be on Black Mirror!
Shopping List: Health scare, system in shock.

The Shine ~ Brandon Cracraft 21pgs
In a way this one is the most horrifying of the bunch. Picture those holier than thou, self-righteous religious fanatics. Now picture they are college kids, and there is an app for that.
The Campus Crusaders want to expunge your many many sins ~ REPENT!
* OH Good Lord, horrifying indeed. Technology and bible thumpers make for an ungodly mix…
Shopping List: Short and sweet, an in-and-out trip to the grocers.

A Charm for the Shadows ~ M.S. Swift 22pgs
Verity is older gal living with and taking care of her mom. Her mom, who is still spry enough to date makes Verity feel even more alone. Some strange happenings at the decades long vacant house across the way, it seems bustling as of late. Is it the imaginings of a lonely woman or is there something vindictively malevolent going on….
* An atmospheric somber tale with a retributive reach out that grabs ya.
Shopping List: Getting ready for a witchy potluck…

The Cadenza ~ Kevin Holton 16pgs
Victim of a violent crime strips a man of his confidence and livelihood, his symphonic overture days long over. Now living as a hermit at some motel far from home, and forming a bond with the wise and appealing proprietor, he may just find a new handicraft vocation to brighten his cripplingly dull days. A brand new prelude to perform, offbeat yet harmonious, his magnum opus…his purpose of life.
* This was great story, had no idea where it was going. It was moody and expressive, I could hear the classical music playing in the background.
Shopping List: A particularly specific mix. Don’t forget the tuna!!

Blackout ~ David Owain Hughes 7pgs
Jennifer is recently single and now lives alone. The house is too quiet and she’s just trying to go about her normal Friday night routine. Ya know, reading, wine, over-thinking things….wondering what all those strange sounds are.
* Creepy, creepy, creeeeepy, and that ending gave me chills. I always recommend anything Hughes, he’s a keeper. Aaand a peeper!
Shopping List: Scary….but everything about David scares me so at least he’s consistent!

Zeitgeist ~ Bertram Allan Mullin 20pgs
American man moves to Japan to be an English teacher and falls face first into one of those authentically scary as hell Japanese movies, you know the ones…the ones us Americans always butcher. All he was looking for was a bit of culture, now he’s shackled in an interrogation room, barely knowing the language and less-than-barely remembering what brought him there.
Hmm maybe he should have gone to North Korea instead….
* LOVED IT! That slow reveal ~ holy #*$@!
Shopping List: Incredibly healthy, my system really would go into shock unless some of that was deep fried!

The Lights Unseen ~ Jeff C. Stevenson 27pgs
Long time paranormal researcher Jack and his team of investigators are always on the hunt for authentic supernatural occurrences, getting an email about a strange house one day puts him in contact with a realtor named Carly. What she tells him about said property excites him to the bone…could this be it?? But what is it and how can it be…
* What an interesting take on the haunted house story, goes in an all new direction. Very eerie.
Shopping List: Kitties are cared for and at least there is ice cream.

Carnaval Macabro ~ Sebastian Crow 17pgs
A flourishing novelist grows tired of big city life, he’s taking scenic stops in the beautiful and picturesque coastal countryside towns, looking for a new place to settle.
It’s all so tranquil, so serene, home is where the heart is. Finding the perfect time killer before the settle in a carnival clown town island escape, it’s all so evocative….but home always finds a way to pull you back.
* Totally enjoyed all the ambiance of this one and then I waited for it…..yep, nope, didn’t see that coming. What a twist ending!
Shopping List: Starting from scratch it looks like. Must have just moved in, or he was robbed by a pack of peckish burglars….either way, hope it’s payday!

Daddy, I’m So Hungry ~ S.E. Rise 19pgs
A family of four living way up north. Long cold winters, long dark days. The kids are playful, the wife is seasonally depressed, the patriarch is just trying to keep them all safe, warm, and happy. The shadows though…the shadows are tricky. It’s all about adapting. But a man is only so strong, physically and mentally.
* What a mind bender of a tale, it was so captivating, and saddening. I pictured lots of quick cuts.
Shopping List: Periodic comfort food with a European twist and maybe a DIY project for the meantime.

The Stranger ~ Kathy Dinisi 30pgs
Young mother April does her best to provide for her daughter which unfortunately means being on the road a lot as a photographer for a fashion mag. Several hours of driving left before she gets to her baby girl, is she getting road worn or is she being followed, taunted, and threatened by a hooded man in a black truck??? Some short cuts aren’t for a destination home.
* A tense and gripping page turner with increasingly foreboding chapter titles made this quite a riveting read. I didn’t want it to end.
Shopping List: The makings of some of my favorites eats plus that sweet tooth satiated.

THAT’S IT, all 21 of em!! I’m not quite done yet though….
LOL so anyway, I’ve learned I’m incapable of picking a top 3 in collections but here are a handful of my favorites, they are all so good and well written but these ones just impacted a little deeper, and harder.
Cold Cuts: Lively duo, plenty of suspense. I craved, caved, and made a killer sandwich.
Backne: So damn gross and so damn entertaining. Made me almost upchuck me sammich.
The House on Back Road: The quarreling couple were so delightful, perfect ending!
The Kick: The western setting and all the deranged goings-on made this a prospected golden gem.
Breaking Ahab: Heartbreaking and mysterious. Kept me really intrigued from page 1.
The Cadenza: A gritty tale of talent lost….talent stolen! And how a man who knows of nothing else, decides to cope and rise above.
Zeitgeist: Another great setting, Japanese horror is so damn unsettling and I vividly pictured this as one of those kinds of top-notch horror movies.
The Stranger: Pulse pounding with white knuckles, such a sweet gal and it’s so appalling what she’s having to go through on her road weary way home to her daughter.

And now I have a bunch of new writers to check out!
But the only thing I did find lacking in this here vast collection was the author bios after each story. For me, it really helps me to remember a new author if their mini bios, and any other titles available, are after their story.

Hellbound Books is really making a name for itself and with quality works like these, it’s well deserved. They also have The Big Book of Boot Leg Horror out now which is 20 tales of the taboo. I adore all things taboo.
More anthologies slated soon so I’m sure I’ll be back with much more of my over-analysis’sss.

ACES!! 😀

 

You can buy the book here:

http://hellboundbookspublishing.com/shopping1.html

Yo-Yo (All Tied up with String #4) review by: Mandy Tyra

Spinning in as the 4th twisted All Tied up with String personalized story is Yo-Yo and this one is an all spun out, brutally sick little tale. Sprinkled with just enough dark humor to make us feel uncomfortable, hop-the-fence in a squirm.
It stars Zachary Walters, that popular reviewer feller from the Ex Libris The Eyes of Madness blog.
Zakk enjoys scary books, cheap whiskey, smooth yo-yo’s, and long moonlight lurks on the Cali beaches with the above items firmly in hand.
Taken from his website, well, except that last one. Maaay have overtaken a touch of creative license there…. 😀

Right after I read this wicked tale, I felt a taunting pull to seek out some yoyo tricks, see what all this hoophla is about.
Moves like hoophla, hop the fence, barrel rolls…
And WOW, I had no idea it was that intricate! It really is an art form and I was completely transfixed.
#isaluteyoyoawareness

Whirling in at around 28 pgs.

“Playing with a yo-yo, or a return top, is the manipulation of a toy that requires patience, precision, balance, and the right amount of string tension. Expect cuts, scrapes, bruises, and string burns. Apply the qualities and characteristics of this toy to anything else and it sounds a bit morbid.”
Zachary Walters ~ the unwound and unsound dictums of…

Zachary Walters is a loner but he never feels alone, not with his coveted (cough…modified cough-cough severely) collection of yoyo’s.
He plays with them, pampers them, cuddles them, names them, has conversations with them….yea, Mr.Walters is a little schizophrenic.
A bit batshit.
And whilst he may be missing a bearing or three on his fractured axle, in no way is it a debilitating kind of…condition. He is smart and cunning, finely attuned and calibrated to his own special needs and…hobbies, uses his good looks and swift skill-set to tally up a different sort of collection.
With Molly, his favorite (shhh don’t tell the others) and most proficiently clean-cut yoyo tucked away in invisi-whip mode, he snap-starts his prowl, eyes his pretty mark, and formulates his flytrap.
A momentums worth of hesitation finds him strung out in a lindy loop… just who’s stringing whom along here, child’s play…this is not. Is he saavy enough to throw down an iron-whip sleeper pull before it all spindles out of control???

You really can’t help but almost like that raving schizo, you know you’re not supposed to but I found myself rooting for him, at times.
That’s the beauty (and beast) of a Keane badguy, they are always written with a layer or two of likeability.
It’s a love to hate/hate to love kind of thang.
Yes, my morals have been questioned.

This story was fun and fast paced, a breakaway brain-twister!
Big props to Keane for making such an interesting story centered around yoyo’s, I’m sure it was a challenge. There really is nothing he can’t write.

** I apologize to any yoyo enthusiasts that I may have offended with my lame puns….
I was over a barrel..roll….sss :/

So this go round, I didn’t have to frogger across the pond for my journalistic investigating, since Mr. Walters is a fellow American. Out in California, SWEEET, it’s so beautiful there!
With legitimate wine in hand and illusioned meet and greet underway, I proceed to ask Zakk the tough questions. He was in-hiding and rather combative at first but I broke him.
I gots skills too. 😉

1.) How do you know the author?
I connected with Stuart as most do these days, on social media. Facebook. I had been looking at his titles for a little bit with some interest. I had recently joined a podcast lineup and found my way to a Facebook release party Stuart was throwing. We chatted a bit and got to know each other’s interests.

2.) What is your first and/or favorite Keane book?
I ended up winning a copy of Charlotte at said facebook release party. I devoured that book the day after the party, loved it, then purchased The Customer is Always… I devoured/loved that one as well. At the moment I’d say that Cine is my favorite Keane read, entertaining and brutal as all hell. That book got to me.

3.) Tell me a little bit about the treasured topic you chose for Keane to utterly desecrate with little or no regard for?
I got into Yoyoing a few years back when my kids got Yoyos for Christmas. I got one so I could play with them. We all kind of lost interest pretty quickly, then one day I saw a video of a modern master doing a stage demo and I was hooked. Coupled with the myth (conceived and perpetrated by one of the larger Yoyo companies) that it was an ancient weapon, I thought that it could make for a great horror story.

4.) Are you equal parts disturbed and delighted with you tailor-made tale?
Delighted, for sure. There are a couple of aspects to Yo-Yo that I love. Without going into spoiler territory, an aspect of “Zach’s” character I simply adore and made me smile wide. On the other side of things, one action by the antagonist, intentional or not, shows a complete disregard and disrespect to “Zach” (back to the whole walk-the-dog thing). I thought it was perfect. All-in-all I think Yo-Yo is great.

Preciate ya Zakk, thanks for playing along, you are the 2nd Keane pawn plaything to name Cine as a favorite ~ I agree!
And major points for giving Keane that unusual topic to play with.
He also tells me he can do the skin-the-gerbil and gentrified yoyo tricks, those are some pretty complex and amazing looking moves but OUCH, those yoyo’s really do pack a punch when hit in the head. I think I’ll stick with my fidget spinner. Old dog, new tricks, and all that jazz.

Next up Keane free-range tackles reviewer extraordinaire Nev Murray from Confessions of a Reviewer with a story called Primitive about turkey dinosaurs. Really Nev…turkey dinosaurs
Eh, outta be a funky fowl fun time. And oddly appetizing.
Out in a couple weeks, so till then, TTFN.

 

You can buy the book here:

 

Sorry, Wrong Country review by: Mandy Tyra

THIS WAS GREAT!! So raw, so raucous, so damn witty.
Hilarious and thought-provoking. Over 200 pages, almost 40 piercing little look-see tales from the strange and somber side of Greece.
The wayward, the nutters, the naysayers, the downtrodden, the optimists, the pessimists, the lost and never founds…

Complied over a period of 8 years, Konstantine observed and documented the strange all around him. Then hand-picked a few dozen blossoms, assorted a colorful arrangement, and delivered this most bountiful bouquet of oddities. So fragrant, and flagrant.

It is quite simply, a series of completely unrelated micro stories and all they have in common is Konstantine as the often speechless and stunned observer, and his homeland of Greece.
Just delightfully insightful, all these side-splitting tidbits, amusing musings, and off-the-wall taxi-cab type confessions.
For instance:
~ The not so fair meth housing act-up
~ The art of blackmailing God into being your bitch
~ A pack-rat aficionado so devoted to his craft even the cockroaches croak
~ The student on a spirit animal dream quest
~ Satan takes a sweetheart
~ A roving gemstone infused ejaculate box for beating the meat outta cancer (talk about a DIY proper!!)

Such a nice change of pace from my usual slice and dice horror books.
I can’t even remember the last time I read a non fiction book, maybe…ummm does my 60 pg ‘Health Care Plan: Exclusions’, count???
I pictured this as more of a coffee table book, IF I had a coffee table, I would display it there and if I entertained guests, I would amuse them with a rousing vignette here and there.

You will crack up laughing at some of these….revelations, scratch your head at others, and kind of wish you were there (but just out of sight) at most.
YES, laugh out loud humor, dry humor, head scratching humor, with pangs of sentimentality, and at times bitterly, bitingly candid…. this writer has quite an impressive way with words and easily lures you into his mad, mad world.
You almost feel like a voyeur.

Yea….people are weird. Anecdotally worthy in all their weirdness.
They always say ‘write what you know’, even if you don’t understand it ~ just write it!

“And the crazies….the crazies pretty much own the street.”

But hold on, first I have to interrupt myself right quick.
Because I just LOVE LOVE LOVE Greece, I lived there for a few years in my teens, on the island of Crete and I ferried to Athens a few times. Simply gorgeous in all it’s preserved culture, iconic beauty, and easy-going street style. I remember all those street vendors, just parked and packed all up and down them streets! So unpretentious and laid back.
Back in the early 90’s, that was my Greece anyway, I hope it still is and they didn’t go all ‘Americanized’.
Oh and the poster perfect beaches!! Just WOW…
Quite a few topless too, I barely had boobies back then though, so… :/
One day I’ll go back, I try to convince myself of that.
I think I might miss gyros the most, he talks about gyros quite a bit in this and my mouth always watered. Mmmm souvlaki gyros, extra tzatziki. Oh and Greek salads, extra feta. YUM!!
Reading this sent me on a full-stop nostalgia trip, that’s for sure.

Most of these quirky little quips are customer related, our writer has run-ins (hide from and near misses) with all sorts of crazed and unfazed people from his many places of employment, for instance:
jewelry and watch repair shop/including wind-up house calls, a mobile sandwich shop (we called them Roach Coaches!! no idea why…), hubby and wife tag-team realtor biz, airport booze and sugar peddler, paperwork hell in the Army bureau, a tutor for ‘Damian’….

And often all he did was ask a simple ‘How are you today?’
The TMI flows rapidly, rampantly.
Some of them acquaintances, some actual friends, some complete strangers, and a fair few are of a familial relation.

He nicknames his bit players with catchy and telling little monikers, for instance:
The Hoarder, Cutie Wreck, Mrs. Quirky, Flyguy, Mrs Sneer, Little-Don’t-Know-Better, Grave Digger Junior… ~ for ease of reference and entertainment purposes or….legality reasons.

Also peppered with some morose, personal inner writer reflection type segments as well, like the BIRDS, BEES AND STD’s one, where as a preteen he learned (can’t be unlearned) some precise tricks of the trade tactics from the more audacious men in his family.
And the FUTUREPACT one, where as a 19-year-old aspiring teen writer still living at home he tries to man-up and help out but instead, inadvertently, slips-up.
Learned a tough life lesson there.
And the DIAGNOSING WRITING one, “Whenever someone confides in me that they are ‘writers’, my heart sinks down to my gut. I ask them how long they have known. If they can, perhaps, get a second opinion from a qualified professional. How long has it been, since the symptoms began?”
Awwww the call of the writer really is a tough as nails, iron fisted bitch, huh…
More often than not, a thankless gig, I’ve heard.
WELL, I thank you Mr. Paradias! I thank for an ARC copy of this here fine book. It was a most pleasant international departure for me!
Round trip…but eh, we’ll work on that. 😛

I was unsure at first because I’m such a creature of habit and this is smack-dab in the middle of foreign breed book land for me, but I’m so glad I tried something new and different.

Konstantine has a fantastic writing presence, it leaves a lasting impression. You can tell he put a lot of time and heart into this…as well as all that wit!!
I really admire indie writers for having the confidence to just…put it all out there, even though they often feel half crushed by the weight of crippling uncertainty. It takes guts full of grit!

This is not your average book though, it won’t be everyone’s cup of Ouzo.
But if you like your humor shaken, spiked with candor, 96 proof, topped off with a fruit loop twist and all served up with a gaudy umbrella, then put your dribble bib on and toss back these shooters.
No hangovers, I promise…you’ll only be thirsting for more.
So yea, not so much of a ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul‘ kind of true-tales read, this is more like a…’Hard Knock Spirits for the Psyche‘ good time read ~ and such a smooth burn it is.
Flowers aaaand nightcaps…..can’t wait to see what he brings for our next book-date. 😛

I wonder if he does have another collection of tell-all tidbits of the brutally blunt, non garden variety kind, in the works???
Oh I bet he does, probably notebooks full!
Could call it….’Still Apologetic: Greece Calling, Line 2‘. LOL

For a fun time, and oddly educational read, pick this Greek gem up. OPA!!
Oh and be very leery of them pilfering pamphlet prophet profiteers!!

“But that was the Greece of plenty for you: Never-Ever land, in the flesh.”

 

You can buy the book here:

Blessedly Bound review by: Mandy Tyra

Blessedly Breathtaking….
I was spellbound from the very first chapter where we meet our witchy heroine Gwen and her faithful trusty familiar, Lewis.
It’s charmingly chalked full of delightful and exotic, multi faceted, shiny and sparkly characters.
ALL of it is incredibly well written, quite addictive.

I read it very slowly, savoring and taking it all in. This is not the sort of book you wanna speed read through, it’s too entrancing…enchanting.
You can vividly picture it all and it’s awe-inspiring, awe-tastic…just spirited away to this other-worldly world and totally zen out on the ambiance of it all.

Yea….just flat out AWE-mazing.

I do believe I have found my new favorite female author, Ms. Lucretia Stanhope.
I already fell in love with her bewitchingly beautiful writing style after I read her first published book, the highly imaginative and monster rich, Rather Be Fishing.
She has such a hypnotically elegant prose going for her, creating this most magical and majestic (yet reeeal feeling) of fantasy worlds, and they all converge.
I picture myself easily getting lost in her worlds/words, often.

This is primo storytelling at it’s pristine finest, folks!!

Gwen is an orphan, her mom died when she was really young. She comes from a long line of witches but didn’t learn of this (or her own abilities) until she was much older.
Now with her shape shifting familiar Lewis by her side, she travels to the stately estate of the grandmother she never met, trying with all her untapped might to solve her brutal murder.

Is it witch related, is Gwen in danger too??
The neighbor Sebastian fears that she is. He was a close personal friend/confidant of her grandmother and Gwen takes an immediate like to him.
He’s so damn likeable ~ that smile, those eyes!!
He was also a familiar back in the day, a powerful one, but was disgraced after an incident with his witch.

Her grandma Lizzy was a very well liked member of the town, and most of the townspeople go out of their way in support of Gwen and her long overdue homecoming.
She feels whole and warmed for the first time in her solitary life.
Menace lurks close by though, she can sense it.
Is it true that she is actually a supremely powerful witch, capable of so much more than simple visions?
Why would this be kept from her?
Why was she bound in the first place??
It’s all so overwhelming for our big-hearted Gwen.
And with both Lewis and Sebastian harboring secrets from the new and insecure witch, those insecurities resonate into an even deeper bind.
Poor Gwen, has a hard enough time understanding her own place, let alone everyone else’s.
The journals of her grandmother and the pick and choose advice/confessions of the familiars help her fit some of the pieces together, as the plot thickens.

Gwen is a wonderful character, you really like the little gal. Sweet and innocent but with no filter, she says the first thing that pops into her mind. She’s painfully honest which sends her into a whiplash whirlwind knowing that things are purposely being kept from her.
For what purpose??
Who can she really trust??

A family debt, a family curse, a stumped family tree, non shapeshifting shifty people, white magic, black magic, voodoo, blood bonds, romance, passion, humor, knitting.
Mystery and suspense with a beguiling lure ~ this book hasit all!!
So much going on in this spellbinding story and lucky for us, it’s a saga, the start of many many more, that are available NOW.

The epilogue of this book gives you the first chapter of part 2: Burning Captivation, where we’re introduced to a whole new exciting supernaturally threat, plus all the old ones that still linger with their jagged scars, casting doubt.

This is going to be a fantastic series, the center stage is set brilliantly!
I can totally picture Gwen and company finding themselves in a myriad of wicked aaand whimsical entanglements, including those of self discovery, and almost always in a perilous passion fueled frenzy.

I’m not now nor have I ever been a fan of romance novels. I don’t consider this a romance though, even though it has strong emotional elements of intimacy cast throughout.
Right now, it’s more of an undercurrent drift but I know it’s going to come on stronger as the books continue. I can honestly say though, with such an awesome jaw dropping supernatural storyline…bring on the sappy, mushy, angsty, achey, lusty, hanky-panky, lovey-doveyness.
Come on, I can handle it! 😉 hehehe
I would recommend this book to all those who are also on the adverse, ew romance bandwagon.

Oh dear Goddess, I wanna be a witch….
Gwen and I actually do have a lot in common too; we both drink a ton of coffee.
That’s pretty significant.
Oh and I don’t have a very functionable filter either. hahaha
And I actually did try it out once but there is that whole ‘do no harm’ fine print. Pfft.

I wonder exactly how many books she has planned, there are 6 listed on Goodreads already.
Yea…it’s probably just taken a fiery, spirited, juju infused life of it’s own by now and they will keep her in the loop, when suited.
She is blessedly, blissfully, bound.

Jeez, I’ve rambled long enough, I tend to do that….just read the book!! It’s phenomenal. 😀

 

You can buy the book here: