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.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Flash Fiction Friday – An Apple a Day

Welcome to my second Flash Fiction Friday. This is a story I wrote called An Apple a Day. I hope you enjoy!

An Apple a Day

Angus Flannagan walked through the door kicking up a cloud of dust. The day was hot and a blast of heat followed him. The store, full of barrels of flour, tools for mining, and sweets for the little ones, was nearly empty except for the man behind the counter. He wore spectacles and suspenders. His nose reminded Angus of a hawk and his eyes were about as beady as one. Angus nodded his hello and pawed through the store. 

He placed the hammer, the hatchet, and the rope on the counter.

“Three ninety-five,” the storekeeper announced without looking up at Angus.

“And one of those.” Angus pointed to a barrel of apples, red and juicy.

“‘Twill be a penny more, unless you’re looking to buy five, in which case that’s two pennies. ‘S as good a deal as you’ll find round here.”

“Just the one.” Angus gathered his things and made his way out of the store back into the hot and dusty day. He slung the rope around his shoulder, carried the hatchet in one hand and the hammer in the other. The apple he put in his pocket.

Angus thought about Judith on the way back. She’d been young and beautiful when they first met. She hadn’t said much, only smiled. That suited Angus fine and all he did was smile back. They’d spent a lot of quiet moments together since then, just smiling. Her auburn hair matched well with his shock of red on top and they had gotten along just fine. Just fine. Most days anyway.

They’d had their trouble of course, what couple doesn’t? She did miss her mother though. It took Judith ages to persuade him but Angus agreed to have the woman sent for. Within a fortnight Mrs. Sally Winthrop had arrived on a fancy carriage drawn by two black horses. Nevermind that Angus didn’t have space nor seed to feed the animals. Didn’t have much use for a fancy carriage either. Still, they made do. Angus was good at odd jobs and didn’t mind the sting of a hard day’s work on his hands now and again.  

Every week he would go into town, get the tools he needed, go to some neighbor and patch a roof, or fell a tree or whatever had been needing done. Word soon spread that Angus was a handy fellow to have around. And although he would never say it out loud to anyone, Angus supposed he was pretty handy. 

A year passed, then another, then another and soon a strapping baby boy was born. Mrs. Sally Winthrop was none too interested in the child, although she did admit he was a handsome one. What Mrs. Sally Winthrop wanted most was for the child to be silent at night, so that she could get some sleep. No matter what they did, the child would wake at all hours, crying his lungs out. Feeding helped some and there had been the occasion where a small swig of brandy had made its way into the child’s milk at night. Those had been rare but Angus understood the necessity of it. If it kept his mother-in-law happy, he supposed it was none too harmful.  

Judith had found it difficult though. Angus was gone a lot of the time tending to his odd jobs and Mrs. Sally Winthrop could be a might demanding at the best of times. Angus remembered more than one occasion in which he arrived home to raised voices. It always threw him when he heard Judith yell. Judith who never wanted to be anything but quiet. She loved to read or knit or cook. Sometimes she hummed a little tune but for her to yell, loud enough that Angus could hear it outside? That was some serious arguing in Angus’ opinion. 

Mrs. Sally Winthrop’s favorite thing was to argue about the boy. Angus still thought of Pete as “the boy” because that’s what Mrs. Sally Winthrop always called him. Angus supposed it was because he had been the one to name Pete. That must’ve irked Mrs. Sally Winthrop to high heaven. She’d insisted the child be named Marcelus after her father’s father. Considering that Angus didn’t know the man and Judith only had the vaguest of memories of him, they decided against the name. Mrs. Sally Winthrop did not forgive slights or insults easily.

Angus noticed the dust gathering on his boots as he walked. He looked back at the trail he had left. There were footprints that led back to the store. He looked up at the sky and wondered if clouds might roll in soon. It was so hot, though, that it seemed unlikely. Nothing to do about the footprints then. His boots would need a shine but then again, so did everyone’s on a day like this.

The front door was painted red. Angus had painted that door together with Judith. The pair standing next to each other in silence as they worked. It had been the last thing Angus added to the house and he wanted to make sure they had both put it in together. After the hinges were on and the door framed, Judith declared it was in need of some color. It was the same red as the apple that Angus had bought. He knew when he stepped through it this time, there wouldn’t be any arguments. 

Judith sat on the couch. Tears fell down her cheeks in silent rivulets. Mrs. Sally Winthrop lay on the floor. There was a red, angry, wound all the way around her neck. Pete sat in the corner, playing quietly by himself. 

Angus nodded his hello. Judith tried to smile but it wouldn’t come.

“Judith, sweetheart, you know that she deserved it, don’t you?” Angus asked.

Judith nodded.

“I never minded the touch of brandy she’d give him, but arsenic, I never thought she’d go that far. I suppose it’ll take a little while to clean this up. How’s your hand?” Angus bent down to look at the bandage she had wrapped around it. 

“Still sore a little. She bucked some as I held the rope. She didn’t see me coming from behind but as soon as she felt it, she kicked something fierce.” Judith bowed her head and clutched at Angus.

“Don’t you worry darlin’, no one’s gonna know what you done. I got us some new tools and one of them juicy apples you like so much. I walked an extra two miles outside of town and bought at the first store I saw.” He handed the apple to her and she slipped it into her apron.

For the next hour, Angus worked outside in the hot sun. He had lumber enough to make the wooden box and plenty of nails. The new hammer drove true and the work went faster than Angus had expected. The hatchet was sharp and did its work cleanly. Mrs. Sally Winthrop was laid to rest with little fanfare in front of the house. They had lowered the box into the ground with the same rope that had done the job. After, Angus hung the new rope where the old one had been. As loathe as he was to do it, he tossed in the hatchet and the hammer, perfectly new, into the ground with the box. He buried the spot with dirt. He patched the dirt up and then made rows to plant seed in. It would take a year or two but there would be some fine apple trees just above Mrs. Sally Winthrop. 

It was weeks before anyone one noticed her absence in town. Angus did his best to keep things as normal as possible. He did his odd jobs, worked with his neighbors, and came home to Judith and Pete. She sat crying quietly to herself most days. Pete had gotten a lot quieter too. He slept much easier now. He seemed to be the only one.

 On the day that the sheriff came to their red door, Angus had been out helping to haul in some lumber. When he arrived back, he had his rope slung around his shoulder. It was still new and unfrayed.

“Angus,” the sheriff nodded.

Angus nodded back.

“People are starting to get worried Angus. No one’s seen Mrs. Sally Winthrop in town for a while. Is she sickly?”

“No sir, she went out to visit some relatives.” Angus hitched up his shoulder to keep the rope from sliding off.

“Looks like you’ve plowed some new ground out here. What are you growing?”

“Some apple trees. You know how Judith likes her apples.”

“I do. I’m sure she’ll appreciate you not having to make a run to town for them.”

“I suppose.”

“Listen, Angus, some people said they hear some shouting over here on occasion. That so?”

Angus nodded.

“Pete could get loud some. She didn’t like it and her and Judith tended to argue. That’s why she left. Couldn’t stand the country, or the noise.”

“You mind if I go in and ask Judith some questions?”

“No need for that. She’s laid up with migraine right now. Anything you need to know, I can tell you.”

“Alright. You say Sally left town. I heard there was some arguing. Could be she left town, could be something else happened. I’m wondering a couple things though. No one saw a fancy carriage leave town, like the one she rode in on. Her horses are still here too. Want to explain that?”

“She hired a driver, simple as that.”

The sheriff nodded.

“Collins at the mercantile says he hasn’t seen you in weeks. He told me he’d go out of business if you didn’t come in to buy fresh tools and apples regularly. You been down to the store lately?”

“Can’t say I have. You really need to know all this, Dale?”

“Just my job. When’s the last time you bought some apples for Judith?”

“I don’t know must have been about three weeks ago. She loves them but I haven’t had too much chance to get around lately.”

“Angus, I hate to do this, and this is just a formality, but I’m going to need you to come into town with me. Me and the boys are going to have a few more questions for you. That alright?”

Angus nodded.

“Can I say goodbye to Judith and Pete first?”

Dale slapped him on the shoulder and gave him a nod.

“You go on and do that. I’ll be right out here.”

Angus went in and held Judith and Pete for a few minutes. He smiled at them and left without a word.

The day that Angus was sentenced for murder was a hot one. Dry and dusty. Angus had made sure that Judith’s name was never mentioned. Most people in town wouldn’t believe Judith capable of something like that anyway. She wasn’t handy the way that Angus was.               

Across from him sat a man with a hawk nose and eyes just about as beady as one. When the judge asked how the man was certain that Angus had bought the items they found under the fresh patch of dirt the man was quick with his reply.

“He only bought one apple. No one passes up five for two pennies.”

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.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Introducing: Flash Fiction Fridays

Hey everyone. If you’re a reader of my blog you may have noticed I didn’t post a lot in February.

Well, there was a reason for that. I was participating in Flash Fiction February so a lot of my writing time was spent on that. I used the prompts in the Storytelling Collective for some of the stories I wrote and I just wrote whatever I wanted on some of the other stories. I’ve submitted a story to be included in Flashbang! Volume III. Once that comes out I’ll link to it here but I thought it might be fun to share a few of my stories on my blog. I can’t promise I’ll be posting one of these ever single Friday but I will when I can. I’m a few stories ahead so for a little while at least, there will be one each Friday.

In case you don’t know, flash fiction is a very short story. It usually means anywhere from 1-1,500 words but not more. I like writing these because the time investment is not too heavy for someone who is working full time.

If you enjoy these stories, or even if you don’t, let me know in the comments, just remember to keep it civilized. I’m totally open to criticism and want to improve so feel free to let me know what you think. If no one enjoys these I probably won’t keep posting but if they go over well, I’ll likely post more stories here.

One last thing to note is these are my stories which I own the copyright to so please no plagiarizing. If you do like them though, please, please feel free to share, reblog, post on your social media and all of that good stuff.

The first story I’m going to share with you is an old one I wrote quite some time ago. But, the prompt of the word Time from last year’s Storytelling Collective Flash Fiction February reminded me of it and it was one of the first stories I wrote that actually felt like a story to me. This one is called Time Served.

Time Served

I need time, I need money, I need sleep.  The train rattles me along as these thoughts thunder in my head.  Just out of lock-up and released from parole I head towards my son.  I can’t sleep with the sound of the tracks thudding against me.  Any money I had is gone.  I got extra time for not pleading guilty to something I never done.  One man in a red shirt is the same as another to some people.  The therapist said I couldn’t let go of my anger until I admitted my wrongdoing.  Can’t admit to something I never done.  Can’t help being angry they didn’t believe me when I told the truth.

Six years gone.  Conviction overturned.  I need time, I need money, I need sleep.  I wonder if my boy knows me.  I wonder if I know him.  I wonder why she never visited me.  I wonder what happened in all that time.  I wonder if I will see wrinkles on her face and bags under her eyes.  The train rolls along, steady, steady.

They gave me a pass, said I had no parole but no place to stay, no compensation neither.  Just a ticket to anywhere I want to go.  I go to my boy.  Getting off in Wisconsin, the chill wind hits me like a fist.  I pull my cap lower over my ears and start walking.  No money left, none for the bus ticket. 

My old man was a con.  Only my old man was guilty.  I saw him take that money, I saw him point the gun.  My boy never saw me with no gun never and I don’t want him to.  My legs ache from the stretch of walking, so much walking, and I sit down for a minute on a bench.  In the yard they let us walk.  One hour every day.  The only hour of the day my body was allowed to move and feel free.  The time my mind brought images of my boy.  Safe in the outside world up on the monkey bars, out in the snow, laughing with his friends.

I reach the address I have written down.  The paper I hold in my hand is the only letter, only sign of anything I ever got from her in all that time.  One letter, one address, one bit of bad news I still can’t process.  I don’t want to walk in there.  I’m more afraid than I was the day they locked me up for good.

I stamp my feet and walk through the doors.  They slide open automatically.  The smell hits me.  It’s sterile and clean.  Going up to the room I pass people in scrubs.  I can’t help but think how the guards look the same in their uniforms.  They are the people that have access to the outside.  They are the ones that can leave all this behind.  Not me.  Not her.  Not my boy.  All of us prisoners.

I reach the room and she is in a chair by the bed, a book on her lap.  The machines are by him.  They loom large like iron gated walls did for me.  She looks up.  I see the wrinkles, I see the tiredness.  She gives me a crooked smile but doesn’t move.

I have been traveling for so long, unable to sleep, unable to think, I don’t know what to say.  She lets out a sob.  I left off crying long ago.

I wait for her to say something.  She never does.

I look at the boy.  The machines breathe for him.  It’s worse than I had imagined.  I was locked in a room but my body was always free to move. I have no scars, just my ink. He has bandages covering all of his scars and bruises. I wasn’t there when it happened.  I keep thinking how he always held my hand at the crosswalk.  Even when he was too old for it, he always reached for my hand. 

 “You thought I done it,” I say.

“It would make it easier,” she says.  Then she sits silent, her eyes staring at the floor.

“All this stuff.  These things keeping him from dying, how much they cost?” I ask.

“There was a settlement.  Money’s almost gone now.  Court says the driver paid his share. Doc says he could get better. ” She looks away from me.

We sit and say nothing.  The windows go dark and night falls.  Still I sit when she leaves.  I look at my boy with contraptions in his mouth and his chest moving up and down in rhythm.  There is one that says Brain Wave Activity.  It moves back and forth, rapid fire, faster than I can follow it.  His mind is screaming to get out.  The way I was screaming to get out.  I thought I had no chance but they let me out in the end.  I want to let him out too.

I think about my time in lock-up.  I think about how they put me there for nothing.  I think about how if I had at least been guilty I could try to make up for what happened.  But for this there is nothing.  I try to sleep but I can’t.  My boy never moves on his own.  Not once.

I start to think that lock-up isn’t so bad.  I start to think about how I can survive there.  I start to think what it would have meant if I had robbed somebody.  I start to think how hard it is going to be to find someone that will hire a man who served time.  I start to reconsider the gun.  I start to think that maybe all the money I could get will help my boy live longer. I start to wonder if I should do what I served time for.

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.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

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.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

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.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Book Review – Afterworld

Afterworld by James G. Robertson

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

Death comes, and misery follows. As a man in his early twenties, Leon never genuinely contemplated what would happen after his death. Like those before him, he never understood the truth of our universe. After his sudden demise, the terrorizing reality of a mysterious dystopian afterlife begins crushing him as it has those prior. Men have started enslaving and killing each other to sate their greed while enigmatic creatures oppress the masses. Only a select few have shown the courage that is needed to challenge their supremacy.

Through this eclipsing darkness, there is hope. But will that hope prove to be enough to save this turbulent cosmos? The revelations of advanced science, magic, human savagery, and even our gods will be showcased. Both in a new light and disturbing darkness, will the verities of Earth and Afterworld give him a greater understanding of our universe; or in turn, begin to break him as they have done to so many before?

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Leon has met with an unfortunate accident. He awakes falling through the air with no parachute to soften his impact. This turns out to be the least of his worries as what happens after is larger than anyone might imagine. He’s in a place called Afterworld where gods, men and women, and monsters all fight for power and supremacy.

Afterworld has an interesting premise in which all of the worlds religions have been preparing man for one thing and one thing only, to be able to fight dark gods from another universe. There is a fair amount of action and a bit of gore in the book. We see most of the action from Leon’s perspective. While a lot of the action and story is intriguing, it would have been nice to see Leon taking a bit more of an active role in the book.

The gods and creatures are fairly unique and so is the premise so that may be enough to keep readers going. Leon gets to interact with people who have incredible powers and learn from some of the most brilliant minds humanity has ever known. He is thrust into a sprawling universe that is full of danger at every turn possible. Only with help from the few people he can rely on will he be able to endure.

The ending leads nicely to the next book in the series and it will be interesting to find out where it goes from here. If you like books about alternate worlds, that tackle philosophical questions, and have a bit of blood in them, Afterworld is worth reading.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Challenge Yourself! Books, Movies and RPGs for 2022

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. 2021 was a year full of challenges for most of us. Instead of the kind that life throws in our way I thought we could have some fun with challenges I made myself. Rather than the challenge of just muddling through life, let’s have a book, movie, and tabletop RPG challenge!

(This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through them I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

This is the second year I have thrown down challenges but I would love to know what you all think of them so please let me know and also, feel free to play along all year. Each list has 12 challenges so one per month should be doable but if you are an overachiever, feel free to knock these out in 12 days or less. If you do take up the challenge let me know how it went. And if you happen to post it onto your blog, let me know, so that I can link to your challenge on my blog.

Below are the rules as far as I am going to follow them. You don’t have to follow the same way I do but these are the rules I set for myself. They are the same rules I followed last year.

How Does This Work? The Rules

  1. There are three separate challenges, one for books, one for movies and one for books, movies and RPGs lumped together. I will tell you a little more about each one and give some potential suggestions for what I think I will do to complete the checkboxes.
  2. Once I finish a challenge I plan to check it off and then post about it on my blog. If you just want to do this for fun and not post on your blog, that is totally cool. If you do post on your blog, let’s compare notes!
  3. These can be done in any order. Feel free to skip to the bottom, go to the middle or meticulously hit each one as they are listed.
  4. I am not in the camp of double dipping so I will not be doing that. (Although there may be time constraints and I reserve the right to change my mind!) If you want to, you won’t get any judgement from me.
  5. If you complete any one of my challenges and post about it on your blog, I will let you choose any one thing in that list’s category for me to review (within reason). For example if you complete my movie challenge and you want me to review The Emoji Movie, I will do it. If you complete my book challenge and want me to read and review a book that you published, I will do it. If you complete my Read-Watch-Play challenge and you want me to play an RPG that you think is really cool, I will play and then review it. Side note: I won’t review anything that I think is too extreme and I have ultimate veto power over what I post on my blog but otherwise, you can tell me what to review.
  6. This is not a rule but these are all downloadable PDF’s so feel free to download and print them or pass them on to friends, relatives, neighbors or office mates looking for something to do! Share, share, share!

Challenge 1: Book Challenge

The book challenge should be pretty straightforward. Pick one of the challenges and find a book that matches. Or if you are reading a book and realize that it fits in one of these categories, check it off once you have finished the book!

Some examples of what I plan to do are as follows. The first book I remember reading is Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. That should be a pretty quick read. I am reading Revival by Stephen King and that one is definitely more than 500 pages long. I’m not sure what I will do for the rest yet but you get the idea.

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Book Challenge!

Challenge 2: Movie Challenge

This one should also be pretty straightforward. Watch a movie that matches the category and check off the box once you have finished watching. I watch a lot of movies so for this one I might just watch first and then see if it fits the category after, although I do have some ideas for some of these. For a Horror Comedy I might go back to the Toxic Avenger series. The first movie I remember seeing in a theater was The Great Muppet Caper where the muppets try to steal the “baseball diamond”. I’ve had an intense love for film, and puns, not to mention muppets, ever since. I will likely watch The Godfather II for a sequel that is better than the original but I have a couple other ideas in mind for that one as well. Remember, you get to decide if the movie you are watching fits into your category so you do you.

Challenge 3: Read-Watch-Play Challenge

Out of all my challenges, this is the one that I will most likely do in order. It’s pretty easy to find books and movies to fit these categories but I realize that not everyone is familiar with good Tabletop RPG choices so I am going to tell you the ones I plan on doing and even provide you with helpful links if you need a suggestion. (These are affiliate links and if you do buy anything there it helps this blog out immensely at no extra cost to you. No pressure though, never buy anything from a website that you don’t want)

For the first role playing game I remember playing, it is of course Dungeons & Dragons and you can get started on it for free using the basic rules.

For a Tabletop RPG I have never played before I have three that I am thinking about. I may end up playing them all but we’ll see. If you have played any of these, let me know what you think. The first one I am considering is Cyberpunk Red. While the video game release was a mess, I’ve always thought Cyberpunk made more sense as a tabletop game anyway. I wanted to play this last year but I never quite got around to it. The second I am considering is Traveller. This is a space role playing game and it has been around forever but I have not yet played it. I’m curious how it would compare to something like the several Star Wars, Star Trek and Alien role playing games since this one is not set in a licensed movie or television world. The third one I am considering is The One Ring, the TTRPG based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. For as much inspiration as other role playing games take from those books, it has not been often that LOTR has gotten involved in tabletop gaming with the actual franchise. I’m very curious how it compares to the sword and sorcery heavy Dungeons & Dragons.

For a sci-fi role playing game I plan to play Stars Without Number: Revised Edition. It’s a game about humans returning to the skies after their empire has fallen. I played it a little bit last year and had a blast so I’m ready to go back!

For a one page Tabletop RPG I plan to play Crash Pandas. The reason I want to play it? I’m just going to let the description here speak for itself: “You’re a bunch of raccoons, all trying to drive the same souped-up sports car, desperate to make a name for yourselves on the cut-throat LA street-racing circuit. But: why?” Yeah, who wouldn’t want to play that?? Seriously.

I hope you enjoy the challenges I have come up with. Don’t forget to let me know if you plan to play along and how it goes if you do.

If you enjoy the content I make please give a like and a follow on my wordpress blog site!

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Book Review – Death Rider: A Dark Fantasy Epic (Gunmetal Gods Saga)

Death Rider by Zamil Akhtar

SUMMARY

A disgraced warrior seeks an honorable death on the battlefield, but an eldritch god has other plans for her.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

You may be wondering why the summary for this book is so short. Just to put this in context, this is a free novella that is a sort of prequel for the Gunmetal Gods series and having a much longer summary would likely give away spoilers of not only Death Rider but also other books in the series. Like the rest of Gunmetal Gods, this is fantasy combined with cosmic horror. If you like that style of story, the whole series is a must read. It’s inventive and interesting and full of epic battles, heartbreaking emotion, and unimaginably horrible gods.

Zamil Akhtar proves with this novella that he can make an impact with a shorter form of story just as well as he can with full length novels. I’ll not go too much into the plot here because I do not want to spoil the story for any new readers. This novella is a good place to start if you have not read any of the Gunmetal Gods series and for those of us who are already fans of the books, this is a wonderful supplement to the main story.

Darya is what is known as a Death Rider. She has made a mistake and is at death’s door because of her actions. She has one last chance to survive. One last hope at living, for even one more day. With the horrors she will encounter, she may well wish she had chosen death instead.

The novella has a relatable main character, an enjoyable amount of action, and one hell of an ending that needs to be read to be believed. If you are a fan at all of cosmic horror or epic fantasy and you have not read Gunmetal Gods, I can’t recommend it enough. You can purchase Death Rider in paperback at the link above, or you can get a free digital copy by joining Zamil Akhtar’s mailing list at ZamilAkhtar.com. He’s also working on a new progression fantasy series and I’m excited to see where that leads.

(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)