Book Review – Footsteps in the Dark: Short Horror & Sci-Fi Stories Volume II

Footsteps in the Dark Volume II by Joshua G. J. Insole

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Another collection comes from the three-time Reedsy winner, Joshua G. J. Insole. This second volume of horror and sci-fi explores the dark alleys of the mind once more.

A woman defends house and husband from the home’s eight-legged inhabitants. Two strangers discuss music’s finer points as cannibals try to break into their car. A gender-reveal party goes off the rails as the true nature of the infant comes to light. Thirteen women gather at night to right the wrongs of society. A mother takes shelter in the family treehouse as the world ends around her. And finally—

Wait. Do you hear that?

Footsteps.

Footsteps in the dark.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Footsteps in the Dark is a collection of short science fiction and horror stories, most of them between three and five pages long. It’s a world of stories inhabited by zombies, vampires, wendigos, creepy crawly spiders and other things that go bump in the night. There are also several stories that might be considered more science fiction than horror but even these have a bit of a horror element to them.

The nice thing about a collection like this is there is a wide variety of stories to read and none of them take a huge time commitment. While not every story comes off perfectly, any reader who is a fan of horror is bound to find at least one story here that will stay with them long after reading. For example, Gender Reveal takes a decidedly unexpected turn and the story Ordinary stayed with me long after I finished that story. Another standout in my mind was Homeowner’s Association which gives a new take to how much people are willing to tolerate in their neighbors.

A word of warning would be that some of the stories can get a bit gory so if you don’t have a stomach for that type of reading you may want to skip a few in this collection. If you have a strong enough stomach though, most of the stories are worth reading at least once and added together they make a fine collection for horror fans.

If you like bite-sized horror and science fiction stories this is a great collection to add to your shelves.

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Book Review – Revival by Stephen King

Revival by Stephen King

SUMMARY

In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Charles Jacobs. Soon they forge a deep bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity.

Decades later, Jamie is living a nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Now an addict, he sees Jacobs again – a showman on stage, creating dazzling ‘portraits in lightning’ – and their meeting has profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.

REVIEW

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

At six years old, Jamie Morton is playing with his toy soldiers when a shadow looms over him. This is the shadow of the man named Charles Jacobs, a new minister in town. Jamie gets to know this man and the two have a connection until tragedy strikes Charles Jacobs.

Years later, Jamie is destined to be put in the shadow of Charles Jacobs once more. Jamie has succumbed to a heroin addiction after years of touring with various bands. Jacobs is no longer a minister. He’s now a carnival showman who can tap into what he calls “secret electricity” to not only perform neat tricks for crowds but also to cure people of their afflictions. Including addiction to heroine. Jamie’s life is saved by Jacobs but things might be better if he had never been cured.

While reading the book it doesn’t take very long for the reader to understand this is a Frankenstein story about a man obsessing over his grief and loss and willing to go to any extreme to change the world. He’ll pursue knowledge at the cost of anyone and anything that comes his way.

With most Stephen King books I am of the opinion the journey toward the end of the book is better than the ending itself. With this one I feel the exact opposite. The ending is fantastic but it takes more work than it is worth to get there.

While the character of Charles Jacobs is compelling and interesting and the reader always wonders what is exactly happening with him, the weak point is the main character of Jamie Morton. I never found myself caring enough about him for it to matter to me what happened to him. Also, the story of a man who is struggling through addiction is very well trodden territory for King and it never felt like anything new here.

If the book was cut by a third and told from the perspective of Charles Jacobs this really could have been one of King’s best books. That’s not what we have however and while there are great moments of horror and some compelling events, they don’t add up to a great book.

If you love stories about people who can’t quit their obsessions this is a good one and if you like anything Stephen King writes, this is not your worst choice. Just know, it’s also not your best choice.

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Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Challenge Check-in!

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. February is a short month but it’s still hard to believe it’s already over. I wanted to do a monthly check-in on how I am doing on the challenges I created for books, movies, and role playing games for this year. If you want to see how I did, this is the post for you! And if you have been doing any of these challenges, I would love to know how it’s going for you. Let me know in the comments!

Reading Challenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Book Challenge! Click the image to download your own copy!

The second challenge on this list is to read a book that is more than 500 pages long. February is a short month so I didn’t quite finish. I’m working on reading The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan but as I have mentioned before on this blog I am a bit of a slow reader. I’ll complete that part of the challenge but I don’t know when. I did, however, read an independently published book. The Winding by Avi Datta was good enough to earn five stars from me and one I would recommend to anyone who likes a good time travel story with a bit of romance in it. It reminded me of The Time Traveler’s Wife. So, while I didn’t check off the second one on the list, I did in fact, check off a box this month.

Movie Challenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Movie Challenge! Click the image to download your own copy!

For the second month in a row I did not end up watching a movie about love but I’m sure I’ll come across one soon. I did watch a movie I had never heard of. It’s called The Madwomen’s Ball and I found out about it from bkgriffinsnest. I’ll be posting my review of it tomorrow so if you are interested in what I thought of it, stay tuned.

Read, Watch, Play CHallenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Read, Watch, Play challenge! Click the image about to download your own copy!

For this one I am still reading Vampire of the Mists which is set in Barovia, a gothic horror setting for Dungeons & Dragons. The next challenge on the list is to watch a movie where the characters play Dungeons & Dragons. I thought about watching E.T. but decided to go with Lloyd the Conqueror. The characters technically LARP but they roll D20’s and there’s enough D&D references in there I think it counts. I’ll be reviewing that one the day after tomorrow so if you want to know my thoughts on it, again stay tuned.

In Conclusion

Well, that’s where I’m at for these challenges so far this year. Have you tried any of them? If so, how’s it going? Also, a reminder, if you complete one of these challenges and post about it on your blog and let me know, I will review anything you would like me to. (Within reason of course). If you want me to review your book or movie or role playing game or one you just really want to know my opinion about, simply put your link to your blog post in the comments, and let me know and I will contact you about reviewing something for you.

If you would like a copy of any of my challenges, feel free to download from the image, or click here for books, movies, and read, watch, play challenges.

If you enjoy my content and want more, sign up for my mailing list below.

Until next time, stay slick out there!

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Book Review – Reflection

Reflection by Brandon Hargraves

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

After witnessing the tragic death of her closest friends and family, Dawn travels across the country with a weathered vagabond in search of her aunt. On the way, she discovers that the world is a much scarier place than she had initially imagined, and that she might have some darkness lingering within herself as well.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Dawn lives a quiet, happy life in a small village. She has a family who loves her and close friends to keep her company. She hasn’t traveled outside of her village but she hasn’t minded because she’s happy. Everything changes when her little village and family are attacked and left for dead. Dawn is now on her own and will need to make friends and allies in order to navigate her way through a world she has yet to truly experience.

She meets up with Cain and Ragnar who are what is known as Reavers. These are people who uphold justice and protect the land. Dawn sets off on an adventure with the two of them as she tries to connect with her only remaining relative, her aunt who lives in a far away city. On the way she will have to face danger, enemies, and most of all, herself.

Reflection is a high fantasy adventure full of magic, interesting creatures, and compelling action. What is most interesting is that the characters in the story don’t automatically resort to violence to solve their troubles and there are some characters who really think about what it means to take a life. That’s refreshing to see in a fantasy book as oftentimes there is action without consequences in these kinds of stories.

There was room for a bit more character growth for some of the characters and there were times when the world didn’t feel as fully built as it could have been. But the story is satisfying to the reader and there is a lot of potential for this as a series. The characters are enjoyable to read about and there is a sense of fun in this world.

If you like fantasy books with lots of magic in it like Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time series, you’ll find this an enjoyable book worth reading.

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Book Review – The Winding (Time Corrector Series Book 1)

The Winding (Time Corrector Series Book 1) by Avi Datta

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Morally complex, orphan, and absolute genius Vincent Abajian is hellbent to uncover all he can on Artificial Intelligence. His relentless pursuit distracts him from a traumatic childhood loss—his childhood best friend Akane was engulfed in a time-turbulence, a random rift in space and time.

But when a beautiful, temperamental, post-doctoral scientist, Emika Amari, joins his Center, everything changes. Vincent is convinced that Akane is inside the irresistible Emika. As they begin a life together, Vincent’s past and his connection with a time turbulence survivor challenge everything they’ve created and push them into a spiral of politics and conspiracy. Vincent’s silence to protect Emika threatens to tear them apart. Unknowingly, Emika is torn between what she wants and what Akane wants from her. With his newfound power, Vincent struggles with whether or not he should create another time-turbulence to free Emika from the grasp of Akane once and for all. But will tinkering with time be more destructive than anything he has ever encountered before?

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Vincent Abajian is an orphan who grows up at a wealthy boarding school. His life is anything but privileged though as he has to fight school bullies, not knowing who his parents are, and prejudices of his schoolmates. That is, until he finally makes a connection with Akane, a sweet girl who shows him kindness and connects deeply with Vincent. She is soon lost to what is known as a “time-turbulence” where people can disappear from one reality to another. Sometimes they come back and sometimes they don’t. They may even return into a new life as a whole other person with small fragments of memories from the first life.

Vincent spends his life in driven pursuit to be the best he can in his chosen field of AI robotics. He has given up on finding Akane again until Emika Amari walks into his life. She may be Akane or she may be only Emika but either way, Vincent loves her. He now has to grapple with what all of this means, if he can do anything to change it, and must figure out how to protect Emika in the middle of political turmoil even if it costs him everything he truly wants.

The Winding is an intricately detailed story full of deep emotion. It also makes the improbable seem possible. However, what really stands out is not just how well the plot is constructed with all of its connections but how deeply the characters connect to one another. The reader is able to sympathize with Vincent while also feeling for Emika and feel the sadness that comes with great loss and the joy that comes with great connection.

At some points, parts of the book feel like they may be disjointed but by the end everything comes together and makes sense to the reader. Vincent and Emika are especially well developed both in terms of their characters and in their relationship to one another. There are moments where the political situation seems slightly underdeveloped but in the end it comes around enough to be worthwhile.

Overall, this is an excellent story full of surprises, twists, turns, and especially, deep emotional resonance.

If you enjoy love stories with a bit of science fiction such as The Time Traveler’s Wife or books like The Great Gatsby this book is an excellent read and well worth the time. If you just love great stories, this is a must read book. And the best part is this is only the first in the series. It will be exciting to see where it goes from here.

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Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Challenge Check-in!

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. Can you believe January is over tomorrow? Time flies right? Well, I just wanted to do a monthly check-in on how I am doing on the challenges I created for books, movies, and role playing games for this year. If you want to see how I did, this is the post for you! And if you have been doing any of these challenges, I would love to know how it’s going for you. Let me know in the comments!

Reading Challenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Book Challenge! Click the image to download your own copy!

The first challenge on this list is to reread the first book you remember reading. Well, for me that book was The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. I didn’t do a review of it on this blog because, well, it’s a kid’s book that doesn’t really need a review and most people know exactly what it is. I will say though, re-reading it brought back fond memories of how proud I felt when I could read the whole thing with no help from anyone else. It’s the first book that really ignited the love of words in me and it’s what I still hope to experience any time I read a new book. For this challenge the first bullet is complete!

Movie Challenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Movie Challenge! Click the image to download your own copy!

For this challenge, I actually ended up doing the second bullet first. I watched a movie about an issue I care about, namely climate change, when I watched Don’t Look Up on Netflix. I would say this is an allegory about climate change but it’s actually more of a direct comparison and it’s downright frightening how close to reality this film feels, including the political landscape, social media, and disaster denialism. If you haven’t read my review for it, check it out here! I haven’t yet decided what movie to do for a movie about love but if anyone has a good suggestion, let me know in the comments below.

Read, Watch, Play CHallenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Read, Watch, Play challenge! Click the image about to download your own copy!

For this one, I have started, but did not finish reading a book that is set in the same setting as a tabletop game. I’m reading through a book set in my favorite Dungeons & Dragons setting, Ravenloft. In the past I have read I, Strahd which is about the most famous vampire in Barovia, Strahd Von Zarovich. I wanted to read another book which ties in with that and I’ve begun the excellent (so far) Vampire of the Mists. Once I finish it, I will post a review on this blog and let you all know what I think of it. For this one, consider it in progress but not checked off. I should have it done well before the end of February though so watch out for my review. If you have any recommendations for great books set in the same setting as a tabletop game, let me know in the comments below!

In Conclusion

Well, that’s where I’m at for these challenges so far this year. Have you tried any of them? If so, how’s it going? Also, a reminder, if you complete one of these challenges and post about it on your blog and let me know, I will review anything you would like me to. (Within reason of course). If you want me to review your book or movie or role playing game or one you just really want to know my opinion about, simply put your link to your blog post in the comments, and let me know and I will contact you about reviewing something for you.

If you would like a copy of any of my challenges, feel free to download from the image, or click here for books, movies, and read, watch, play challenges.

If you enjoy my content and want more, sign up for my mailing list below.

Until next time, stay slick out there!

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Tales to Astonish #36

Tales to Astonish Issue #36 Photo Credit: Marvel

Tales to Astonish has sort of become the Ant-Man show at this point. While there still are other features in this book, the biggest draw is Henry “Hank” Pym who has developed a serum capable of making himself the size of an ant. He also has a cypernetic helmet which allows him to communicate with the insects.

Apparently, since we have seen him last, he’s been out adventuring and helping the public. In the first two stories of Ant-Man, it was pretty much just Hank Pym who knew he had these capabilities. In this issue, we see him free some bank robbers who are trapped in a time-lock vault. The cops are there to arrest the men once Ant-Man let’s them free so they don’t suffocate. While the public seems to know Ant-Man is a hero, that’s about all they know about him. He just shows up at the right place at the right time to do some good. Turns out when you can communicate with millions of ants you have a pretty good idea of what is going on in your city.

Meanwhile, “the commies” are learning about Ant-Man and devise a plan to use Comrade X to trap him. They, of course, want to know his secret so they can apply it to their army.

So, yes, this is once again, yet another story involving the cold war. We have to take into perspective that things were pretty frightening as far as the nuclear arms race went and people were legitimately fearful at the time. It stands to reason this would be reflected in popular culture, including comic books.

The story is fairly standard. Henry gets trapped but he uses his helmet to help escape. He also uncovers the fact that Comrade X is really a woman who claimed to have fallen in love with Comrade X. She was just in disguise. Hank had found her rubber face mask when he was hiding in her pocketbook at one point.

There isn’t much here that I would say is incredibly significant in this story but it does do a couple of things. It sets up Comrade X as a possible return villain and since Ant-Man doesn’t have a main nemesis yet, this could be a possibility. More importantly, the story does establish Henry as a public hero, albeit one the public doesn’t know much about. Down the road when superhero teams are formed, Ant-Man will be involved and that’s only the case because the public does know about him. After all, it would be pretty easy to never let the public see what you are doing when you are the size of a tiny insect.

Next on the reading list we’re getting mighty again with Thor in Journey Into Mystery #86!

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Strange Tales #101

Strange Tales Issue #101 Photo Credit: Marvel

Sometimes when you have a hit comic book on your hands the stories in there get too big to be contained in just that book. This was the case for the mega hit superhero team the Fantastic Four. Up to this point there had been seven issues of the first family of heroes and while those were popular, Marvel also had a book of anthology stories that was not selling as well.

When you think back on it now, it seems like it was an easy call to have a prominent character or characters go from a best selling book into one that was only sitting on the shelves. Now, it’s not like there was no audience for Strange Tales prior to the introduction of regular superhero stories but it definitely wasn’t flying off of the shelves. The other problem with anthology books is that you have to think of something to put in there over and over to crank them out. Eventually there are only so many stories you can tell about aliens attacking, scientists creating formulas that go haywire, and communists attacking the population of the country. So what’s the solution? Toss in a superhero!

In this case the book is about Johnny Storm, a.k.a. The Human Torch. He’s moved to upstate New York with his sister, Sue who is, of course, The Invisible Woman. We don’t really see her in this issue (or do we?) other than in a recap of how the FF famously came to be.

The story itself revolves around an amusement park Johnny and his pals are eager to frequent as soon as it is built. While they are there watching the progress of the construction it seems as if one of the rides being tested is about to kill someone on it. Luckily Johnny is on the spot (yes pun intended) and takes quick action to save the man on the ride. The audience knows this was going to happen because we got to see a threatening letter from someone called The Destroyer.

The people building the park ignore these threats and proceed with building. Each time Johnny is there to flame on and save the day. He comes up with more and more ridiculous ways to hide that he is The Human Torch with elaborate distractions so no one will notice the guy next to them literally lighting on fire and flying away.

Eventually, The Destroyer calls Johnny out to battle by advertising his challenge in the newspaper. Ben Grimm, a.k.a. The Thing shows up believing this guy will be too much for Johnny. Johnny tells Ben it’s his fight (after all the story is literally featuring The Human Torch so he gets to shine here) and immediately walks into a trap.

He makes it out okay and then figures out the only amusement rides being tampered with are the tall ones so he flies on up to check it out. There he sees, “A commie sub!!” and knows he has to finish this fight. Which he quickly does. I mean, you try fighting a guy who is actually on fire, it can’t be easy. Turns out the publisher of the newspaper was feeding information to this submarine but if the amusement park was built, he would no longer have cover to do so.

So, to sum up Strange Tales was a little tired of the same old stories about aliens and communists so they dedicated a feature story to a superhero who… defeats a communist. Still, this will not be the last appearance of Johnny Storm in Strange Tales by a long shot. And will absolutely not be the last time a hit superhero ends up in the pages of an anthology magazine published by Marvel. It was a bit original though, in that it was the first Marvel effort to get one of their big stars from a team to have a spotlight shined on them individually. It’s a sort of forgettable story but nonetheless has its proper place in comics history as a new innovation for Marvel that would work very well for them.

Next time on the reading list we’re getting micro once again as we check up on Henry Pym a.k.a. The Ant-Man in Tales to Astonish #36!

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Find Fantastic Four comics on Amazon

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Book Review – Pray Lied Eve 3: Tales of the macabre and untoward

Pray Lied EVE 3 by Lydia Peever

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Macabre tales of alienation, terror, and the supernatural…

Take a seat in a darkened theatre for Wormwoods Final Cut, then cast a wary glance at the scarecrow Staked in the fallow field. Gaze across strange shores, All White and Jagged, and too far away from the safety of a library holding Grave Marginalia. Listen close for the Fading Applause in Quintland before Checking Out of the abandoned hotel rotting back into the ground, then stumble through city streets to avoid the Crocodile Rot.

Horror, weird tales, quiet stories of the dread… these seven stories serve as a following to the first three dark offerings of the Pray Lied Eve series. This third installment is dense, and as with the previous collections, we delve into realms, perhaps best left undisturbed.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pray Lied Eve 3: Tales of the macabre and untoward is an anthology of seven short stories mostly falling into the horror category. This is the third entry into the series but it’s not necessary to have read the previous books in order to enjoy this one.

Like all short story collections there are some stories that work better than others but each one here is an enjoyable read. Most of them have at least some gore in them but if you are a regular horror reader it won’t be anything you are not used to reading.

One of the strongest stories comes at the beginning in Wormwoods Final Cut in which a young woman hears something strange in an old film projector. She’s not the only one to hear it and it just gets more horrifying from there. Also extremely memorable is Grave Marginalia where a quiet library is disturbed when the staff finds a collection of books that contain things that definitely don’t belong in books. Stake is a quite short tale but it pulls off the story very well in a short amount of time. Fading Applause in Quintland is probably the story that works least in this collection but it’s still an interesting entry and worth reading.

Overall, if you are a fan of short stories, especially ones with a horror or supernatural theme of any kind you’re likely to find at least one good story here.

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