A Better Life by Kyle M. Scott. Review by:Mandy Tyra

The Savvy Scotsman scribes again!!
FINALLY, it has been too damn long since I have had the pleasure of Mr. Scott’s company to keep me warm at night.
Not my choice, it’s been over a year since his last release, The Club; an unhinged and animalistic ~ goretastic and orgylicious ~ story about innocence lost, inhibitions shed, and overindulgence embraced to the extents of which would make the tour guides at Sodom and Gomorrah blush.
It was crude and lewd and one hell of a delightfully down and dirty read!

This book, A Better Life, is much more reserved, subtle in it’s horrificness yet still horrific indeed.
It’s more of an atmospheric slow-burn, a character driven tale with an age-old ethical dilemma at its core.

For those not familiar with Scott’s work and who like their horror a little less on the extreme side, A Better Life would be a fabulous introduction for you.
OH and the supernaturally charged Where The Dead Ones Play also pops in mind. That book is one of the few, that after reaching the last page, I flipped back to the first and began again.
I wasn’t prepared for such a deep and profound emotional journey, I was just expecting an awesome fun read and felt I cheated myself with the bigger picture.
So, after getting a signed permission slip for the feel trip, I dove head first back in and that’s when I really started noting all the brilliant foreshadowing, somber symbolisms, and hidden/double/missing meanings that Kyle laced his spooky story with.
Nothing short of pure brilliance.
It’s critically acclaimed for a reason, yea…occasionally those critics get it right. hahaha

Ok so, I got a little sidetracked ~it happens~ now back to thisreview, there are only 5 characters in this book, just 5, and the entire thing is set at a remote location out in the Nevada desert.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, the story may not be complicated but the characters sure suffer some….complications.

Theses are often my favorite types of books and movies. A handful of characters set at a fixed location.

~ We got the young and madly in love married couple, Curt and Jess. He’ll do anything for her which is what has brought them to this desperate point in their lives. They have suffered a few ordeals in their time together and could really use a fresh start, a one way ticket outta the trailer park.
Greed is not their motivation, they just deserve a better life.
~ And then there is Peter, he works as a mechanic at Curt’s shop. He’s a foul-mouthed ex-con boozer whose idea of staying on the straight and narrow is swinging from the short and curlies like some sort of belligerent Tarzan. An avid idiot who is the antithesis of good-intended. Truly a vile character but let’s be honest, those are usually the best ones and I dooo notice in my reviews that I tend to go on and on and on about them, way more than the line or two I devote to the pure-at-hearts.
That may say a lot about me but it don’t mean nothing, well…it don’t!! Lol
~ We also meet the jovial and sassy Lisa, she’s very maternal and enjoys taking care of the people she cares about, she doesn’t mince words and makes a mean sandwich. She’s a mama bear and her involvement is wholly altruistic.
~ And lastly, we have little Miss Emily, a beautiful and oddly aloof 8-year-old girl. Jess takes a real shine to her even though she is a bit unnerved by her stoic nature. She seems to be taking all of this a bit too well.
But everybody’s nerves are on edge and young Emily just must be lost in a sort of shock, she assumes.

It was supposed to be so easy, go off without a hitch. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
E V E R Y T H I N G.
The set-up was simple. The follow-through was anything but.
Teamwork makes the Dreamwork!! Well, unless equations factor in because:
Best Laid Plans + Murphy’s Law = Chaos Theory

So just what constitutes a better life anyway…. Wealth? Health? Happiness? Freedom?
Existing?

At the root, it’s a morality tale that teeter totters that ambiguous line of immorality.
Maybe some sort of catch-22 form of immortality too….
Intrigued? You bet your sweet ass.
There ain’t no sweet in that bitter though, just pure bitter…but a bit of sour too.

Kyle really takes us to some dark places in this story. He plays on (and with) a genuine fear
everybody has. Sin. Just how much sin does it take to overshadow virtue?
Is there a past-the-point-of redemption?
And who decides this….
This book really brings up some moralistic questions.

Remember when I mentioned the vile characters and how much fun they were, well that’s only if the writer is cunning enough to create them multi-textured and with a bit of depth. The last thing I wanna read is some color by numbers, over the top, caricature antagonists.
That just takes me right out of the story.
And I never fear cause Kyle writes them ALL so well ~ the good, the bad, and the fugly.

Another skill I applaud in a writer, what separates the good writers from the great writers, is when they know when to show restraint. I especially admire how in this one scene, this one shocking scene, he wrote it happening ‘off screen’, only audible for another character.
I know it must be hard for extreme authors to practice that kind of self-discipline, to have the foresight and be intuitive enough to know when to hold back and just let the scene sell itself.
It really can be far more impactful and cringe-inducing that way.
Of course I also love it when they go all out bat-shit/buck-wild explicitly crazy on our asses too, which is what Kyle is known for, and excels at.

Aaaand that’s it!!! If you think I’m gonna tell you more, think again.
This ain’t that kind of book and I ain’t that kind of girl!
Well….I am, but this isn’t.
I do wish I could go on but I can’t, I sequester myself with all of my Kyle reviews and yes, I know my silence it’s awfully…disquieting.
That’s the point.
You have to experience The Kyle Style for yourself.
He’s a real write-outside-the-box kind of author.
Smooth as silk, tough as nails, and as real as the 5th dimension.

My only complaint ~ and it is a biggie ~ is that he does not write new stuff nearly enough.
But I guess that’s the perfectionist in him, a writing force to be reckoned with.
I can’t wait for his next tour de force.
It’s supposed to be The Infernal about a rapturous-like apocalypse (…rap-poc) and it’s due to come out in July-ish
BUT, our Mr. Scott does not abide by our repressive Gregorian calendar, he soars the scenic route, transversing along his own celestial course, like a natural-born star ~ a writer rock star.
Sooo….we’ll get it when we get it and it will be worth it. I guarantee it.

If any of you actually made it this far in my review, WOW, I’m impressed or maybe you’re just still on the toilet.
No matters. Preciate Ya either way!
Yea, I used to try to watch the word count but attempting to cut-the-fat always made them bloat more.
So I surrendered and learned to just let my red freak flag fly freely in my reviews, or…little articles.
They’ll end when they’re good and ready.
The End.
Cheers!! 😉

100 Word Horrors by Kevin J. Kennedy / Review by Mandy Tyra

AWESOME, I enjoyed this waaaay more than I thought I would!
Such an interesting little (very little) concept, I had never read this kind of style before.
I battled, and very nearly broke, myself with this review because for the past two years, ALL of my anthology/collection reviews are a run through of each story, in order, as well as my extra subjective opinions, plus a fair bit of gibberish.
Well, there are 110 tiny tales in this… O-o ….
Yeeea, my rambles would be longer than their drabbles, no doubt about that.
So, I popped a couple Xanax and changed up my style, a bit.

This was a fun and unique approach to flash-fiction storytelling, perfect for when you are waiting in line, stuck at a train, or in the bathroom on personal business.
I always enjoy Kevin’s anthologies, they’ve been holiday themed short story collections so far, involving some of the most talented new, and old-er, writers in the biz.
But this go round, he feng shui-ed the hell outta the format, delivering something very outside-of-the-box, and very entertaining.

I really admire all the writers restraint here, 71 of them took on the challenge, some even brave enough for multiple entries.
It’s A LOT harder than it looks!
I attempted to try it but I know, and accept, my limitations.
They have to have a great opening line, set up a premise, go in some sort of direction, and have an amazing closing line….all in exactly 100 words! Whew..
So every word has to count ~ HA quite literally but that’s not what I mean.
And being able to add in a throat punch twist, well, that’s just a little bonus stroke of genius right there.

Ok, so, I have a fabulous idea for the next edition, let’s jump it to 300 words, call it a trabble.
But here’s the kicker; it would have to be these same writers, expanding on the these same tales, picking up right (or write) where they left off. Ehhhh….
Of course they can utilize flashback to set up a bit of backstory, I’m not some sort of monster.
And the poems get a pass, that’d just be cruel. Instead, the poets could write a couple companion poems, of exactly 100 words, again. That sounds fair, right??
There are a whole bunch of these tales that have such full-on short story potential and I craved more.
However, I do have to admit that a sizeable chunk were actually flat-out perfect as is, but I’m a glutton, always wanting moooore.
And if I am being honest, a fair few of them did fall flat for me but that’s bound to happen with so many and those are probably the ones that would thrive from the trabble treatment, to flesh them out a bit. 😀 😀

So, I give this creative collection 4.5 stars rounded UP to 5, cause I don’t go down.
That came out wrong.

And Jesus Christ, I simply can NOT believe it’s only a $1.40!?! Really, a whole buck-forty…
W O W….netting that kind of profit all the authors involved could like, share a variety pack of Hubba Bubba bubble gum or something. Taking turns, of course, so definitely not anything which loses flavor fast, like Juicy Fruit.

Candid Confession: Before I posted, I actually had to force myself to practically disembowel this review when I noticed I was absent-mindedly yakking up a rave for some of the real jaw dropper stories, which led to a few more of my favs, and more, and more….
O-o…I was spiraling out of control.
I really reeeally do admire all the writers restraint and since mine is down-right non-existent, I had no choice but to just zap the whole lot of them from any, and all, casual commentary. :`(
No Title Left Behind, that’s my credo.
I’m weak. I fall too hard and go too deep. Cold turkey was my only option.
*pops another Xanax*

So, just buy the damn bookI’ve been through so much
It’s one hell of a good-time read!!!  😉

 

 

All Wound Up review by: Mandy Tyra

What a cracking collection, the saga of Simone comes full circle!
All 7 novellas and short stories in the whole Wind-Up Toyworld make up this immense book,
very aptly titled ~ All Wound Up.
Clever, Clever.

I ordered a signed copy directly from David and got this beaut of a hardback complete with visually stunning dust jacket. It’s gorgeous!
I’ve always liked how he spells out the titles in childrens pastel colored alphabet blocks. Really amps up that creep factor.
Fun Fact: this was the first time in a reeeally long time I wasn’t reading from the kindle.
Ohhh to have something so big and hard in my hands once again, was quite rousing. 😀 😀

Ok so, I had already read the original Wind-Up ToyBroken Plaything, and Chaos Rising and had posted very thorough praise filled reviews for them on various sites.
They are the 3 meatiest of the tales and have the most story and character development, the heart and soul, the hemmoraged guts of the beast, so to speak (…volumes).
The other 4 stories were all new to me and are pure rich and creamy ~ and quite noxious ~ gravy.

If you are new to the series, then I highly recommend starting with the original Wind-Up Toy, it sets the stage brilliantly and leaves you blood lusting for more.
You will absolutely LOVE this author’s wild and brazen, carefree style. As long as you are not a pansy or afflicted with delicate sensibilities, have an iron-clad stomach, and are blessed with a good dark sense of humor, then we’ll all get along just fine.

If you have read any of theses tales already then you already know that Simone is one sick and twisted motherfucking son of a bitch. Quite literally.
But the way he is written, with such depth, you almost feel compassion for him….in between the heaves. Hughes really jerks loose and shakes you to your moral core here and all that dark and inappropriate humor is so damn spot-on and you feel so damn guilty for laughing.

The first 2 in the collection are 2 that I hadn’t read yet, Happy Birthday Simone and Playtime Simone, where we delve back into his upbringing which is always horrific. It’s shocking, the psychological damage he grew up enduring. It was all normal to him and David’s unapologetically disturbing and no-holes-barred approach to writing Simone and Co. really sucks you in and chews you up.
In these shorts we get the introduction of some very familiar friends and are able to pin-point the moment of snap, his break from reality.
Bullies, bath time, and a two-way peep show also fill these distressing pages.
Plus we learn the origins of a certain Paddington Bear that plays a key role in a very disturbing flashback scene in the original. A shocking little moment that told me I was NOT reading your average extreme horror book.
It all kind of reads like some sort of indecent pop-up book of ‘count the childhood catalysts that contributed to the making of a maniac.’
Helpful Hint: Fingers and toes, and then some!! :O

For Into the Playpen, Simone reunites with the Flaying Flesh gals (from Broken Plaything) and relocates to America for a fresh start….or at the very least, a flesh start.
But things don’t exactly work out to his meticulous timed structured agenda though and he ends up cornering himself when he falls victim to his own lack of restraint. But not for long, a big surprise lurks in wait.
I found it very impressive how this story was written, it flowed so nicely going back and forth from past to present, slowly filling in the blanks, building up to a flat-out, stark-raving-rad finale!

BUT WAIT, that’s not all…..then we get the BONUS story, His Name Was Simone, written just for this collection and as a loving Thank You to all the WUT fans and Simone groupies out there. It was also the most surprising and outside-of-the-box story of the bunch.
The end-cap/night-cap/lights-out to the series.
Taking a different approach, and jumping into the future, David infused this pervy little tale with an engrossing non-fiction vibe as we meet a group of lascivious college kids. They are researching the legend of Simone, rumored to be the most sadistic of serial killers and Wales dirty little dead-and-buried secret …could it be more than mere legend, could it be true…
Reading and rereading Wind-Up Toy written by the elusive David Owain Hughes (yep), they become well-versed in the folklore. Downright obsessed with knowing all the sordid details, they visit Simone’s old house one Halloween and really get into character.
Those meddling kids!
“The author must have been a sick motherfucker.”
I concur.
He’s so meta. David and Simone even share the same birthday; June 7th.
Coincidence….I doubt it…

A genius bookend to an excellent series and as much as I would love more Simone and friends, I hope this is the end….cause even he can’t top that!

After you read this bold and ballsy collection (and if you gots any spunk left), I dare you to commit yourself to White Walls and Straitjackets and it’s sequel, Escapees and Fevered Minds.
2 absolutely brilliant books with a 3rd in the works. In these he creates another boundless, lush and sleazy, world full of fascinating, full-bodied characters doing audacious things…in an oddly relatable way. That’s mainly due to the 6 foot depth he layers into all his players and games.
A lesser author would never be able to get away with such carnalistic chaos.
It’s second nature, par for the (…crass) course, for our David and it’s what makes THIS author a boner-fied Welshian Writer Savant who will be a household name one day. Seedy side of town, of course!

JEEZ, group this review with my other 3 and I reckon I’d have my own little novella.
A novella I’d be damn proud of too, because it’s caterwauling the praises of one of my very favorite writers today!
This was a really tricky review to write though and I’m sorry if it turned out a muddled mess.
I didn’t wanna repeat myself too much, and I’m just not savvy enough to incorporate all of them in this 1 review, aaand keep it concise and intelligible. I have many limitations, coherency is but one.

Cheers!! 😉

 

https://www.amazon.com/All-Wound-David-Owain-Hughes/dp/1938839072

 

Kevin J. Kennedy’s Collected Halloween Horror Shorts review by: Mandy Tyra

A horrifically fun, top-notch Halloween anthology! This is Kevin J. Kennedy’s 3rd holiday themed anthology series and I sure hope he continues it on, he only accepts the highest quality stories from the finest crop of new writers, so I always know I’ll be pleased and thank you’d when I pick one up.
First he tinseled and lit our asses with his festive Christmas collection, then he had us hare-raised and hopped-up on his Easter shorts, and now it’s only apt that we get this BOOeautiful and darkly HELLarious Halloween assortment.
Tricks and treats that are bittersweet and hard to beat, just look at all that deadmeat ~ ok oookkk I’ll stop. Jeeez…tough crowd..

Cutting back on the quantity but never skimping out on the quality, he goes from 20 something stories down to 16 scary tales in this volume, yet it’s still over 300 pages.
With potential for a 17th terrifying entry if 3rd time resident forward guy Nev Murray cared to elaborate on “the troubles” of Northern Ireland that plagued his childhood.
I’m so intrigued!

And at only 16 tales, there is a good chance that this review of mine may not succumb to article status length this time.
Well, a fair chance anyway.

As always, the page counts are approximate. It’s not that I can’t count adequately enough, but depending on format and device, results may vary.
I’m most likely right though…. 😛

Black Widow ~ Christina Bergling 28pgs
College is a time for self discovery and growth but the only thing Dane cares to evolve is his libido and every Halloween he strives to love and leave a new slutty-costumed-up conquest.
He’s got a bucket list he’s trying to work his way through but wonders if there are any untapped get-ups left for his disposal. A random party invite sounds promiscuously promising. Oh the tangled webs to be wove..
I loathed that Dane character and loved what the author put him through. I’ve enjoyed all of Christina’s short stories in these collections, she’s a luminously bright new writer.

Mister Parker ~ Richard Chizmar 15pgs
Benjamin Parker is a middle school teacher, he’s also a bit of a loner and leads a very solitary, yet content, life. He detests Halloween due to a miserable and rotten childhood. He normally just locks himself away in his library and reads every Halloween but this year, this year…something is off.
This story was so sad, the build up was perfect for its short length, it kept me guessing about what it was really all about, leading to an ending I did NOT see coming.
It had a very non-fiction vibe to it which can be the most horrific of stories.
The first I’ve read from this author and reading his bio at the end, he co-wrote Gwendy’s Button Box with Stephen King. Wow!

Girlfriend ~ Andrew Lennon 19pgs
Simon is taking a lazy day, he was just dumped by his girlfriend Susan but is already looking towards the greener grassed bright side of it all. Ironically, he’s being harassed via mobile by said ex-girlfriend, begging for a 2nd chance. Baffled and annoyed, yet also kind of amused, he does his best to just let-it-all-hang-out and enjoy his new-found bachelorhood. Until things take a plunge to the shocking and stiflingly surreal. “Happy Halloween!”
I’ve always enjoyed Lennon’s imaginative writing style. I’ve read quite a bit of his work and he’s terrific.

Coffin Man ~ Mark Lukens 12pgs
Doting boyfriend Dennis accompanies his grieving girlfriend Tara to her hometown on Halloween, because her grandmother has died. They do not traditionally celebrate the fun holiday in that town but they do still decorate with an odd array of ornamentation. For preservation or…preparation, dunno but it is a very uninviting little town with an eerie Halloween legend.
The 2nd short I’ve read from Lukens, he says so much with so few pages. I see he has some highly rated/reviewed novel length books out there too. Read the synopsis for Devil’s Island ~ HOLY!

The Devil’s Fruit ~ Suzanne Fox 18pgs
Apple bobbing for bedpost notches…..?? It’s a real game, for Josh and Sam anyway, who have the point system and handicaps all worked out in their favor. It could have been and most likely would have been a sure thing if only they….well, let’s just say…did their own shopping; how bout them apples. But hey, either way it’s still destined to be one killer paaaarty!
Suzanne has a lot of class, and sass. Her stories are thrilling little page turners. She fondles…errr I mean dabbles in erotic fiction too. Her story in the X-mas collection….wheeew hot Hot HOT.

The Halloween Playground ~ Christopher Motz 20pgs
Marty is a drunk, the belligerent and intolerant kind that is annoyed by anyone and everyone, which only makes him drink more. So, it’s all their fault, obviously. Looking to make some changes, not within himself so much as at the expense of others, he’s planning the Halloween yard display to end all Halloween yard displays. He’s tired of being a background bit player, he’s gonna be the star attraction, talk of the town.
Oh man what a wicked wicked tale!
And Motz’s Pine Lakes should be required reading for any lover of the creepy and captivating edge-of-the-bed vivid dream inducing page turner. To quote myself in that review “Mind blowingly EXCELLENT!!”

Jenny Greentooth ~ James Matthew Byers 6pgs
What a catchy and extremely well versed poem about a witch going about her own witchy business. James writes such elaborate, hilarious, and demented poetry, his jelly bean one from the Easter collection was amazing!

Don’t Fear the Reaper ~ Steven Stacy 53pgs
This story was a love letter homage to John Carpenter’s Halloween, it read like a sister companion piece. Michael Myers is an iconic badass fictional character with many fans, so it’s not outside the realm to believe that a diehard fan (who is unbalanced and deranged enough) would turn copycat. Amber is tired of the wait, she’s ready for the 3rd act reveal and her friends really should be taking this all a bit more seriously. Pfft teenagers…
Steven Stacy is a name I remember vividly from the Easter collection. Not only was his story, The Echoes of the Bunny-Man, fantastic but it was made even more powerful when tied in with his bio. Two excellent stories that keep a similar tone; the strong and empowered female heroine who’s had too much heartache in her young life but still refuses to be the victim and the overall page length with many characters and much development ~ and that’s where the similarities end. A popcorn flick of a good time read!

A Story of Amber ~ Mark Cassell 23pgs
Brothers Chuck and Dillion were farm kids who experienced an unexplainable freakish event in their fields one Halloween. They are all grown up now and have unfortunately drifted apart. You’ve heard of gemstones having healing properties, well, what if the opposite was true…
Oh that antagonistic Amber, a beauty to be wary of as it unifies and evades.
So damn unique, I had NO idea what was going on here I just knew that I was digging it.
Mark is a very highly regarded indie author with quite a few highly regarded works out there. I have only read two short stories of his, so far, but I can totally see why. His writing is like alternate (yet not bizarro) dimension kind of stuff, multi layered with precise attention to detail. I really need to check out more from him. His Shadow Fabric Mythos series is….yep, you guessed it, very highly regarded.

Trick Turned Treat ~ Briana Robertson 36pgs
Incredibly vain and over-empowered…yet insecure…Chicory, fears aging. She has a sure-fire skin care regimen recipe for that though. And lucky for her, ingredients aren’t too terribly hard to come by for a woman of her cold and calculating feminine wiles.
So brutal, so…unnerving. I think I’m in mourning.
I went absolutely baby-bat-shit crazy for her Easter antho tale Baby Blues, it was so real and raw, I very much related. I could actually relate to certain elements of this one as well.
Briana is in my head, anxious to find out what we’re thinking next.

Pumpkin Rex ~ Lisa Morton 12pgs
High Schooler Devin loves Halloween and has saved up to buy the best, most traditional and distinguished, costume he could manage. His friend Maxx talks him into going to a rave, not overly enthused about it but hoping he’ll at least meet a cool girl, turns out it’s morphing into the rave of the millennia and some old traditions never die.
Lisa is a bonafide Halloween enthusiast expert, she has a nonfiction book out called Trick or Treat that explores the origins and pop culture fusion of this feared and revered, whimsically macabre holiday.

The First Shot ~ J.C. Michael 17pgs
Jealousy, scorn, and indifference lead a young woman to play a spiteful prank on Halloween. Encouraged by the voice of her racist and bigoted (aaand very deceased) grandfather, she watches from afar to see how her little show will play out.
It wasn’t until the end that I saw Oh Wow, this is a prequel to the grippingly awesome You Only Get One Shot novella that J.C. co-wrote with Kevin! So of course I had to go back and read it again with that in mind. YES, great story and I loved learning a bit of backstory for that big bad bitch. I hope he writes some more tales, adding even more layers to her mysterious and cold-blooded character.

Hallowed Be Thy ~ Stuart Keane 48pgs
Venturing back to the ominous Lake Whisper (that other S.K. has Castle Rock, this S.K. has Lake Whisper) yet again, we met sweet-natured Jack. He’s stoked cause he’s got a hot date with a gorgeous gal named Emma. It’s the sweetest Halloween treat he could possibly imagine….buuut this is Lake Whisper where salty and sour are the more predominant essences.
I’ve read almost everything by Stuart Keane, he is a brilliant writer with a BIG future ahead of him.

Dressed For Success ~ Peter Oliver Wonder 11pgs
Troy finds a mysterious and untouched make-up kit tossed by a trash can at a local novelty stop. He’s oddly drawn to it and enjoys the different characters he can create and perform. You know how you feel like a different person when in costume, just unabashedly uninhibited and game for anything?? Well, Troy surpasses that infantile feeling when he dons his custom-made costume. Playing dress-up is so out-of-this-world euphoric.
Peter writes sharp and fun little stories. He’s been in all 3 anthologies and all 3 of his tales were stand-out memorable. He also has a new novella out called Puckered that he co-wrote with one of my very favorite writers, David Owain Hughes. I must read that soon!

The Halloween Phantoms ~ John R. Little 22pgs
Forlorn and damn near despondent Ellen is just going through the motions while still trying to take good care of her daughter. Halloween holds no fun or excitement for her and she’s especially not in the mood for any neighborhood boo games.
Oooh this was such a terrific and highly emotional story, very sad and disturbing. This is one that sticks with you…

Halloweenland ~ Kevin J. Kennedy 30pgs
Zak and Wendy are a couple of 13-year-old long time best friends that are on the cusp of a burgeoning and quite adorable little bout of puppy love. A Halloween carnival is coming to town and they are beyond excited, it’s very much their favorite time of year. This ain’t your family fun time kind of operation though; the carnies are weird, games are rigged, prizes are scant, and the stakes are high!
An action adventure coming of age tale with a dollop of pumpkin spice. Yep, it was a blast to read
and Kevin says it’s going to be a whole carnival series with different authors putting their spin on it. How interesting, I can see this going in many different directions.

That’s all of them and I did try really hard to pick a top 3 but even with my standard inflation, I still couldn’t manage to narrow it down to single digits. They are all pretty damn fantastic and top 3 worthy!

Ok Kevin, sooo….I have a proposition for you. 😀 😀
If you continue to do these 3 holidays collections yearly (inviting back your usual suspects as well as introducing us to new 1st time offenders), then I will continue to read and review them. However, and this is a dealbreaker, you must also add in a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day anthology ~ that’d really make for some killer family fun time stories!
Yea…cause I can’t really think of any other UK/US crossover holiday’s, well, unless….hmmm do you guys celebrate Thanksgiving and Independence day??
Perfect, so, it’s settled. A cyber-shake (…down) deal, that is contractually binding. 😉
You made the right decision.
Cheerios!

Oh and completely off topic but still quite pertinent, it seems Cadbury creme eggs are not just for Easter anymore!! Screme Eggs are all the rage aaas my willpower whimpers, I’m just not strong enough to resist. Boo. :/

 

You can buy the book here:

Violence Dave: Heartless review by: Mandy Tyra

WOW, what an exhilarating thrill ride this was, just a action-slam-jam-packed!! 
Really grabs (and throttles you) from the very first page and doesn’t let up (or even let you breath) till the last. 
It’s non-stop riveting and with no chapter breaks or pauses, you really stay on that intense level the entire read. 

This is labeled as a science fiction bizarro novella, I don’t read much bizarro so when I do decide to take one on it’s always with a bit of trepidation at first. My mind just don’t bend that way.
This book is weird and strange with many odd creatures and even odder happenings BUUUT the narrative of it was not bizarro, weird or wonky. 
I had absolutely NO trouble following along. And if I can

Greek author Konstantine showing so much versatility here, the only other thing I have read from him so far couldn’t be more different from this, it was called Sorry, Wrong Country and it was a nonfiction series of entertaining and humorous tidbits all about the offbeat, wild and crazy Greek life. 
Violence Dave: Heartless is also offbeat, wild and crazy but in a far removed way, also…it’s fiction, I believe. 
So Mr. Paradis gets my most versatile vote. My second read from him in just a few short weeks and the two books are as incomparable as apples and ouzo. 

It’s literally Hell on Earth, two years into the apocalypse and us mere humans are attempting to fight the battle to end all battles, or at least survive long enough to fight a new day.
Hellgates, Hellportals, and Hellmouths have opened up all around the globe, whenever we manage to close one..more appear.
Time works differently there, not to mention the inhabitants, they work differently too….they are not very people friendly. Some are about as sentient as cockroaches, but others are intelligent and savvy enough to have stolen and modified human weapons, other top-gear, aaand have figured out shameful ways to use our intel against us. 

The future is scary but ahhhh the gadgets; state of the art robotic combat suits fitted with a living layer that repairs you as you still fight, shoots you up with oxytocin to make the pain bearable, so you can still fight. Also a turbo booster long-high-jump mode. Niiice.
With nooks and crannies built-in to efficiently carry blitz-guns, rocket-propelled tearers, raptor repeaters and other wonder weapons. 

But ohhhh the enemies, those adversaries really know how to take the fun out of it all; spider-like alien looking creatures, giant women-esque worms, bull-demons, dog soldiers that play dress-up (quite dumb but abundant), mammoth behemoths with tentacles that fly, crow demon scavengers that circle the dead or dying of either species. 
They all have their weapons too, some from ungodly natural abilities, more often from kiped and converted human tech. 

We follow Dave and his platoon in one such recon (suicide) mission, they are literally pummel dropped from their Lancer right into the thick of it. They refer to Dave as greenhorn and new fish, since it’s his first slated day in the trenches and that’s true, it is his first slated day, but this ain’t exactly his first rodeo. He’s like a trapped loop wrangler, ducking, dodging, and riding for his life… trying to grab that bull-demon by the horns and end this all…once and for all.
He’s watched them all die countless deaths, he’s watched himself die countless times over but now….now, he’s going off the grid, he’s not feeling very compliant anymore. 
Time to venture away from that beaten up path. Sick and tired and running off pure endorphined-up endurance and with his trusty shotgun, affectionately coined Bielebog, by his side, he’s breaking protocol. 
He may be spent but he’s still got his wit!
But how can you live to fight another (brand new) day when the enemy always seems to be able to 1-up you. 

I have a feeling this Dave is gonna save the world…ooooor die a 1,000 more times trying. 
Or maybe he’s just on one extreme acid trip. Eh, could be. 
We’ll just have to wait for the 2nd installment to find out a little bit more about the who’s what’s and hooow’s of it all. I’m really liking this Dave character though, I think he’s full of heart, and I’m jonesing for his backstory. 
And how the hell did he find himself in such a wretchedly repetitive predicament anyway?!?
This was like a little teaser, gets you all amped up for the real guts of the glory, story. 

I can see the homage/inspiration to popular first person shooter video games like DOOM, but I’m not a gamer and can’t really parallel the two. I very much likened this to that awesome Tom Cruise movie ‘Live Die Repeat’ (well, technically it’s Edge of Tomorrow but that title is lame compared to Live Die Repeat, am I right??) with a slap dash dose of ‘Starship Troopers’ and a hint of ‘The Mist’. 
Just a flat-out surrealistic, down-right freaktastic alt-world this author created, chalked full of otherworldly ambiance. Creative and clever indeed. 
I pictured it, a bit too vividly. His descriptive prowess ~ whoa and ewwww.

I very much enjoy Konstantine’s easy-going yet hard-core writing style, it’s so magnetic. 
It astonishes me how this Greek born and bred (and still firmly rooted) writer writes 100% fluently, HAAA better than some native English speakers. 
Even people fluent in another language can often have trouble with all those little nuances, slang terms, or like, participle phrases or whatever. I don’t know, I don’t quite grasp the scholarly aspect of it all, I just know when it reads wrong. 
And Konstantine reads write…errr right. 
Very impressive!! 

Yea, I’m unfortunately not reading or reviewing much at all this summer, the stress and demands and stress of kids has me over (and hiding under) a barrel lately but some books, some books, I just gotta get to. They deserve some attention. Violence Dave is one such book and I’m super stoked for the sequel. 

Oh and finger guns, they can and dooo work, if you believe. 
Air guitar next…??? Oh Yea…
ACES! 😀

You can buy the book here: 

https://www.amazon.com/Violence-Dave-Heartless-Konstantine-Paradias/dp/1945373954/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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: