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review 2018-07-18 21:00
DARKEST HOURS by Mike Thorn
Darkest Hours - Mike Thorn

On top of having this super cool cover, within these pages I discovered some of the best short, dark fiction I've read in a long while! Let's talk about it, shall we?

 

When I was young and couldn't afford bookstores, I often went to the library. (I still do, actually, because I love them, not because I have to.) I developed a love of horror back then, but our library's collection consisted of about two shelves. Once I read those, I started reading all of their anthologies and collections, in the hopes of finding new authors. In this way, I discovered Richard Matheson, Steve Rasnic Tem, Dennis Etchison, Ray Bradbury and other writers that I still love to this day. DARKEST HOURS brought me back to that time of discovery-horror and dark fiction in all of its glorious, different forms. Reading this collection made me feel like a kid again. 

 

This volume begins with the story HAIR. I knew right then that this book was going to be a force to be reckoned with. Coming unapologetically out of left field, Thorn hits you with this tale of unstoppable hair and then moves on to something out of right field, just to keep you off balance.

 

THE AUTEUR It's important to know who you're talking to when you ask for horror recommendations from people. You may find out a little too much about them otherwise, but by then it might be too late. Hair plays a role in this story too. (P.S. Always feel free to ask me for horror recs. You're safe with me. But employees from Verne's Video? Watch out for them!) 

 

CHOO CHOO This story felt like it came out of one of those early collections that I loved so much. With an ending so unexpected that it felt like I got hit by a train, this tale made me laugh out loud with glee.

 

LONG MAN I never thought anything could compete against the Long Walker in my imagination. (Thank you to Nick Cutter's Little Heaven for that.) But now, now we have Long Man. He's even scarier-trust me on this. 

 

ECONOMY THESE DAYS Here again is another story, completely different, completely unlike any other story here. How much physical abuse would you be willing to take to pay your bills? What would that abusive job look like? Of what would a promotion consist? This tale proposes answers to all of those things and oddly, I don't think it's that far out of the realm of possibility. 

 

SABBATICAL If I hadn't felt the spirit of Stephen King in this story, the main character's names of Thad and Gage would've put me in mind of him anyway. I cannotdescribe this story, but it was just so much fun it made me want to do some kind of dance-the dance of my dark fiction people. The dance is delightful and it's only brought on by the best and most twisted of tales. This is one of them. 

 

Stars will collapse and new lights will prick through the sky,

and screaming will not help. 

 

SCHLUTER The most disturbing story I've ever read was written by Michael Blumlein who is a doctor. (Trust me when I say I have read some VERY disturbing stories.) I found it disturbing because in some universe it could happen. SCHLUTER has now taken THE MOST DISTURBING STORY EVER medal. What that medal would look like, I don't want to know, but Mike Thorn owns it. Take this one little harmless sentence for instance:

 

 His mind screamed, but his sutured lips twitched noiselessly.

 

If that sentence doesn't bother you, okay then, to each his own. However, if that sentence makes you want to run out and buy this book, heed your feelings, man! You won't be disappointed.

 

There are a few themes that became apparent throughout this book, academia being the one that surprised me the most, but also: hair. I don't remember ever reading a collection where simple hair is used in such a menacing, disgusting, or just mentioned in passing but still in a creepy-as-hell- kind of way. 

 

 

Okay then-to sum up: disturbing tales? Check! A wide-ranging variety of stories? Check!

Extremely well written? Check! It almost seems like this collection was written with me in mind-it was so perfect for me that I don't even know what else to say. Well, other than this: I think Mike Thorn is an author to watch. I think he's going to do great things in the world of horror and dark fiction, and I for one, will be there to watch it. Will you?

 

My highest recommendation. Period. Get a copy here: DARKEST HOURS

 

*I was provided an e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-07-11 11:22
Review: “Little Boy Dead: A Boystown Prequel” (Boystown Mysteries, #0) by Marshall Thornton
Little Boy Dead: A Boystown Prequel - Marshall Thornton

 

~ 3.5 stars ~

 

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review 2018-07-10 17:55
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Strange Highways - Dean Koontz

I do re-read this one mostly in the month of October. Koontz really sings in this short story collection. Maybe he should think about publishing more short stories since even some of his shorts he has written lately have been better than the full length novels that have followed.

 

All in all the books showcase the good with Koontz. He can spin a sentence and also scare you at the same time. You get some religious musings here and there, but honestly everything in most of the stories works. I kept wishing after I first read this, that Koontz would think about spinning off some of the characters that we meet here. Too bad he never did.

 

"Strange Highways" (5 stars). The anchor of the collection this one was really good. We follow a man named Joey who is in essence a failure. He tried to be an author and is pretty much dead broke. He returns to his hometown in Pennsylvania to attend his father's funeral. His brother is successful and Joey doesn't know why, but he can't stand to be around him. When a second chance has Joey back in the past to fix a mistake that can lead him down a different path. This one had a lot going on with it, but it all works. Most time travel stories make me go hmmm, but Koontz plays with it in a good way and the reveal about what happened to Joey in the past and who was behind it was actually scary. I think Koontz also smartly incorporated the town. We find out this is a dying former mill town (there are lots in PA) and due to that many people had left it when he was a teen, when Joey goes back as an adult you feel like time stopped there. I loved this story from beginning to end.

 

"The Black Pumpkin" (4.5 stars). An almost perfect Halloween tale. A young boy named Tommy is in a terrible family. His mother and father are pretty awful and his brother is a potential serial killer. When Tommy and his brother get to pick out a pumpkin, his brother picks the black one that has Tommy scared to death. He can sense something evil about it. In the end though there is a definite surprise about the pumpkin. The ending was okay, but just didn't gel with the scares that came before it.

 

"Miss Attilla the Hun" (3 stars). Among my least favorite in this series. Probably because we get another uber perfect woman for Koontz to fawn over. Mrs. Laura Caswell is a teacher who one day realizes that something funky is going on at her school. A classic alien story which in the end didn't really work for me, probably because it didn't seem quite finished.

 

"Down in the Darkness" (3.5 stars). We follow a good man (Jess) who is excited about moving his family into their new home. When Jess finds a mysterious door that he doesn't recall being there during the house tour, he realizes that the door is hiding something potentially evil. When we (readers) find out what the door is for and how it comes into play with Jess's background as a former POW it was intriguing. In the end though I thought the ending (pun intended) wasn't that great. I think because it ends up leaving things a a moral question when we see what happens with Jess and the door and I don't think that Koontz needed it to be that deep.

 

"Ollie’s Hands" (4.5 stars). A sad story but very good. We find out about a man named Ollie and what his hands can do. I had nothing but pity for the character named Ollie when we come to the end of his story.

 

"Snatcher" (5 stars). This is really a fun and scary story. A man that is a purse snatcher and just all around terrible person has the tables turned on him.

 

"Trapped" (3 stars). I honestly feel like I read this story before somewhere. A woman and her son are on the run from some scary rats. Not a bad story, but like I said, I think that I read this or a similar idea of it somewhere before. Drove me up the wall because I can't figure out where.

 

"Bruno" (5 stars). I laughed and always laugh reading this one. No spoilers, I just think you will enjoy a story about a time traveling bear (seriously) and a private eye named Jake. Jake is asked to help Bruno out with catching a time traveling criminal (as one is these days apparently). this is one of the stories I wish we had seen a follow up about since it was so interesting.

 

"We three" (3.5 stars). Not bad, just fairly short. Murderous triplets maybe ushered in something that will be the end of them.

 

"Hardshell" (5 stars). So good. Another one I would have loved to see a spin off or larger novel about. We have a LAPD detective chasing a killer. We find out though that neither man are what they appear to be.

 

"Kittens" (5 stars). The main reason why I gave this one five stars is that for once Koontz didn't back away from a scary/terrible ending. Reminded me a bit of King with the ending and what we realize must have happened as readers. Shudder.

 

"The Night of the Storm" (3 stars). My second least favorite story in this collection. I can't even go into how boring I found this, but it was boring.

 

"Twilight of the Dawn" (3 stars). A very preachy Koontz book that also had no horror elements in it so it doesn't really fit with the rest of the book. That said, it works because Koontz manages to draw you in with his writing. The story is about an atheist who ends up being pretty much an asshole to his young son and his own wife when the question of religion comes up. We know why he is that way (he had very religious parents) and doesn't want his son growing up thinking there is a God. When he loses his wife though his son starts to question his father's lack of faith and grows even stronger in his belief of a God. When his son eventually gets diagnosed with a fatal cancer, the question of faith becomes even more of divide between them. I went back and forth on this rating a lot. I eventually ended up with a three since I thought the father character was an ass.

 

"Chase" (5 stars). This and "Strange Highways" were the longest stories in the collection and this one really packs a punch. It's a good way to end the collection. Benjamin Chase has a complicated history. Returned from Vietnam and having to drink to forget his memories he is welcomed at a dinner for a Guest of Hero thing. I was a bit nonplussed at first since I thought most of the US was terrible to returning vets. Chase is given a new car and while driving ends up saving a young girl who was about to be raped and murdered. This puts Chase neck in neck with a killer who is determined to end Chase.

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review 2018-07-09 08:10
Audio Tour w/Review - Leaning Into The Look

 
TitleLeaning Into the Look
Series: Leaning Into Stories, #6
Author: Lane Hayes
Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Publisher: Lane Hayes
Original Release Date: March 23, 2018
Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 8 hours and 20 minutes
Genre: Romance, friends to lovers, San Francisco, humor, businessmen
 

Add to Goodreads

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

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Grant Kostas made a career based on his looks before joining his family’s real estate firm. He may not love his job but he’s better at sales than he thought. And when he’s poised to bring in the biggest account of the company’s history, even his father is impressed. Unfortunately, the extra attention highlights Grant’s personal life. His parents accept that he’s gay. They just wish he’d meet a nice Greek man.
 
Miles Harrison is a fabulous red head going through a rough patch. Between getting dumped by his long-term boyfriend and finding a new place to live in the city, he’s nearing his wits end. He’s not sure why he thought rooming with his boss’s friend was a good idea. Miles has had a crush on Grant for years. However, he knows attractive people aren’t always pretty on the inside. As the two men grapple with external problems, they form an unexpected bond of friendship and trust that feels like the real thing. The only way to know for certain is to let go of fear and lean into the look.
 

 

Listen to an audio excerpt & purchase at Audible
 
 

Excerpt:

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I stopped short when we reached the other side of the street and then backed him against the brick façade of a bank building and pressed my lips over his. It was a bold move and not one I’d ever tried on any man in public before. But I couldn’t help myself. It felt oddly freeing to share one of the bleaker parts of my past with him. I wanted to thank him somehow but that seemed awkward so I kissed him instead. I held his head and glided my tongue alongside his, loving the moment when he flung his arms over my shoulders and responded with fervor. When we broke for air, I rested my forehead on his and grinned.
 
“Your ass is pretty spectacular too, Mi.”
 
He chuckled good-naturedly. “Thanks.”
 
“No really. I think I’m love with it.” I lowered my hands down his back and squeezed his cheeks as I molded his pelvis to mine.
 
“That’s kind of romantic. But if you’re thinking about falling in love with me too…don’t.”
 
I backed up slightly to get a better look at him. “Okay. I won’t.”
 
“Pinky promise.” He held up his right hand and wiggled his fingers.
 
“What makes you think you’re so irresistible?” I asked, wrapping my pinky finger around his.
 
“I’m not and you’ll figure it out sooner or later. But I like you and I want you and…”
 
“And what you’re really saying is you don’t want to fall for me.” I kept my tone light, hoping a jocular vibe would steer us from turning this into an uncomfortable conversation.
 
“Maybe.”
 
“Look, Mi. I’m not—”
 
“No. Listen. Don’t make this into a big deal. It’s not. We’re going to have a grand adventure. Just me and you. We’ll do incredible things and have amazing conversations and lots of sex. And when it’s time to say good-bye, we won’t ruin it by pretending we were ever in love. What do you say?”
 
Nothing. I had nothing to say. All I could think was maybe he really was crazy because who said shit like that?
 
But when I looked past the lighthearted swagger I saw the cracks in his armor. He was scared and battered and raw on the inside. Kind of like me. And somehow I had a feeling it wasn’t an ex-lover that made him so cautious. I only knew he was right. We were a couple of oddballs who unexpectedly found ourselves inhabiting the same circle. Temporarily.
 
But love? I should have walked away. Or at the very least, laughed at his wild leap. Instead I cocked my head and squinted. “What kind of adventures?”
 
Miles grinned. A slow-moving, gorgeous upturn of the lips that morphed into something celestial. He literally took my breath away. I hoped the dizziness faded before I gave him a reason to think it was a good thing he’d issued a warning about getting too attached.
 
“All kinds! We’ll turn this town upside down being one hundred percent ridiculous.”
 
“Okay…” I gave a half laugh and pushed a stray lock of hair behind his ear. “What do you have in mind? Dancing, parties—”
 
“No. More like Trivial Pursuit marathons, Netflix binge-watching fests in our Pjs, the compare and contrast game and—”
 
“The what?”
 
“Don’t worry. We’ll have fun. You’ll see,” he assured me earnestly as he laced our fingers together and pulled me away from the wall.
 
I glanced down at our joined hands and briefly thought about joking that he should be careful about giving me mixed signals. But I knew my limits. My comedic timing was crappy and the last thing I wanted was to push him away. I might not love Miles but I liked him. A lot. And holding his hand while we wandered through town under a sea of rainbow flags on a random Sunday felt special. The way new beginnings sometimes did.
 
 
 
 

Leaning Into the Look (Leaning Into,, #6)Leaning Into the Look by Lane Hayes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is book #6 in the Leaning Into series. This book can be read as a standalone novel. For reader understanding, and too avoid spoilers, I recommend reading this amazing series in order.

Grant & Miles know one another through mutual friends. One night, when Grant is at a party for friends, he needs Miles help. Following that night, he realizes how much Miles really could be.

Miles has always wanted Grant for himself. When he gets his chance he goes with it like a freight train without brakes. Later, when he and Grant discover there could be more, he wonders if he should have looked at this with caution.

Nick J Russo has the narration by storm. I love his voice, it is very soothing. I also love the changes in inflection and nuances that just make it more than just reading would have been. What a great edition!

The long awaited story about Grant was not just everything I wanted. It was really just a great read. There is humor, heat, & happenings. I love how Miles is the perfect balance to Grant. I loved it so much and it fits so well with this series. I also really loved the audio narration.


***This audible version was provided for an honest review only.

View all my reviews

 
 
 
 

Meet the Author:

 

Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and won first prize in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

Meet the Narrator: 


Nick is an award winning narrator with a fan following for his work in fiction, specifically in the romance genre. His performances in two of Amy Lane's books, Beneath the Stain and Christmas Kitsch, made him the recipient of Sinfully M/M Book Review's Narrator of the Year - 2015. When he's not in the booth, Nick enjoys spending time with his wife, Jessica, and kids, (aka their beagle Frank and cat Stella), drumming in his cover band, exploring rural back roads with his wife on his motorcycle, or being enthralled in a tabletop role playing game with his friends.  

Facebook | Twitter

 

 

Giveaway:

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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review 2018-07-08 12:49
TO LIVE IS TO ENDURE - AND PREVAIL
You Don't Look Your Age: And Other Fairy Tales - Sheila Nevins

Several weeks ago, I happened to see Sheila Nevins speaking about this book on CSPAN's BOOK TV program. I was so taken in with her presentation that I decided to buy "YOU DON'T LOOK YOUR AGE: And Other Fairy Tales" at the earliest opportunity.

In essence, the book is an amalgamation of short stories and poems through which Sheila Nevins shares with the reader "the real-life challenges of being a woman in a man's world; what it means to be a working mother; what it's like to be an older woman in a youth-obsessed culture; the sometimes changing, often sweet truth about marriages; what being a feminist really means; " the need to identify and be wary of 'frenemies' (enemies pretending to be your friend); "and that you're in good company if your adult children don't return your phone calls." 

I fairly breezed my way through this book and - as a middle-aged man - appreciated the insights Sheila Nevins gave me from her own life. 

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