Friday, June 9, 2017

Feral by Holly Schindler ~ 2014

It's too late for you.

Publisher: HarperTeen (August 26, 2014) HarperTeen is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers LLC
Publication: August 26, 2014
Pages: 437
Language: English
Cover art: © 2014 by Mark Owen / Trevillion Images
Cover design: Laura Lyn DiSiena
Author photograher: John Schindler II

Read for my curiosity and a review for Ms. Schindler

 4 Stars

Holly Schindler
Last weekend I picked up a tale that I have been wanting to read for quite some time.  I dove into my been-wanting-to-read-pile and pulled out something, well since its been awhile, something a bit Feral.

Holly Schindler spins a tale from Peculiar, Missouri of two girls meeting under some very strange and horrible occurrences. Some by happenstance? and maybe some by foggy paranormal appearances that happens to the best of us.

Claire Cain is the main character and her journey through this tale takes you on a trek, with Holly's writing making you almost a part of her as she gets to the bottom-line of this mystery.  Ms. Schindler will absorb you into the main character, a bit hypnotically, don't know how, no need to to question it. Just silent thanks to her as you read.

Pace is comfortable and engaging, things are moved along with an outstanding air of mystery through each event.  A few of the scenes were depicted quite vividly, so the pace she has set might want to be picked up bit for a few of you readers.  Maybe not.  Holly has a flair describing gore.

Claire and her dad Dr. Cain arrive in Peculiar from Chicago in a '72 Gremlin on the onslaught of an ice storm.  Her father is on a Sabbatical and she is on one herself from a very personal event she rather would keep covered if all possible.

Claire discovers Serena Sims, the young missing girl.  Dead and surrounded by feral cats shortly after arriving, but, long before this bad feeling she was living through at the 'Bout Out when they first arrived.  'Bout Out is the general store in these Peculiar parts folks.

Old man, the fueling scene, the warning Claire thought she heard; I perked my ears up on the old man ... not as in the bad guy, more as a Stephen King innocent by-standing character coming off his pages visiting yours Ms. Schindler, and Claire.

As the investigation gets under way, local Sheriff Holeman whom hasn't even as much as written a speeding ticket for quite the few years, so ... small town USA, did he overlook a few things?

Here's where the story spins for Claire as you can imagine, a junior in high school and has an innate ability to see pretty much right off the bat, 'Hey, somethin' wrong here' - so she sets off to set things straight, again.  She finds herself taking a different look at her surroundings.  Her senses start talking with her and its always a good thing to listen to your gut.  Right?  Here we go ~

Fighting inner turmoil and going on instinct - it was not, what they thought the death was of Miss Serena Sims.  Claire needs to find out what really happened to Serena before she becomes the next victim.

Filled with great flow to the plot and character development, especially right at the end with the characters.  Sure, I enjoyed the hell out of Becca Holeman's character, she has this air of royalty with - she pretends she doesn't want to be adorned and admired.  What a snoot.  Chas, Casey, and Owen, ordinary high school kids.  Each owning their own and, owning their part in the story.  Ms. Isles reminded me of my high school poetry teacher to the T, other than ending up with an abuser.  Mm.  Moving on ~

Here we have a tale of suspense and mystery flowing pretty damn good, there were parts that gave me a speed bump with me imaging the scenes.  For example, when Claire was asked to approach Mavis' desk, I was there with only those two, then R was there.  Huh?, where did you come from?  I understand its a classroom, yet the writing made me feel there where only two people by her desk.  There were a few spots like that which made me feel like I should be the one looking over my shoulder to see who is all there with me at the scene.

Ice taking the stage with fog taking center rolling around in the story, my vivid imagination enjoyed the eerie coldness.  Juxtapositions filled the atmosphere with this read.   From Claire and Serena, Becca and Chas, boilers producing heat next to icy surroundings, fog, screams, silent screams producing 'This-can't-be-happening-to-me-right-now-oh-but-it-is' bestows for nothing but great reading folks.  So what happened to Serena?  Ms. Schindler is taking you into the woods and, and, well, you're coming along.  And nothing else matters - it's Feral.

Enjoyable for the suspenseful mystery lover

Here's where you can get your fingers on Feral:

  •  Amazon ~ Kindle $3.99 ~ Hardcover $11.01 USD

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About the author  ~

Author Holly Schindler

Connect with Holly

Holly Schindler is a hybrid author of critically acclaimed traditionally published and Amazon bestselling independently published books for readers of all ages.  Her work has received starred reviews in Booklist and Publishers Weekly, has won silver and gold medals in ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year and the IPPY Awards, respectively, has been featured on Booklist's Best First Novels for Youth and School Library Journal's What's Hot in YA, and has been a PW Pick of the Week.

Schindler is also owned by a Pekingese named Jake, and is currently consuming large quantities of coffee while working on her next novel.

Readers can keep up with the latest or get in touch at

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Enjoy my  Spotlight with Holly

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Monochromes and Other Stories by Matt Bechtel ~ 2017

Find horror hidden within humor, hope persisting amidst anguish, and absurdity pretty much everywhere

Author: Matt Bechtel
Publisher: Haverhill House Publishing; 1 edition (April 30, 2017)
Publication: April 30, 2017
Pages: 120
ASIN: B07257VQ7K
Language: English
Cover design & Illustration: © 2017 Dyer Wilk
Foreword: James A. Moore

5 Stars

"This book was provided by John McIlveen in exchange for my honest review alongside my proffered thank-you for asking."

Matt Bechtel
Matt, Matt, Matt ... what did you do to my mind on a few of these stories?  No, I shouldn't start out that way.  I will start by saying Thanks! for a great read!  Has anyone told you your mind is a bit twisted?  I mean twisted Matt.

Monochromes and Other Stories is a series of short stories with each story's ending leaving an impression on you that will take a minute or two to digest (one with some discomfort if you have too many Halloween cookies).

The horror/thriller fan will absolutely love this read.

Don't let the title fool you, every story is filled with color.  The prose is humorous satire having a quite pleasingly dark hue lighting your read.  A plethora of 19 cognitive shades of insight is what is in store for you one weekend.

As I sat down with my cup of beverage, Good N Plenty at the ready and jammin' to Chris Botti in the background I was ready to disappear.  Truly, here's the good-thing Warning folks: you will not be able to put this down.

Matt Bechtel took his pen, his ingenuous abnormal? mind, and crafted you story after story of thought-provoking tales.  His unbalanced insight to capture a reader needs applause and an encore.   Few of my favorites of this collection of unhinged writings are After Hours, This Story Approved By The American Dental Association (I'm a bit OCD), Dreams, Cozzy's Question, and hell - I gotta say Tele-Serve is pretty damn good.  Funny and oh so true.

Monochromes starts this collection with color.  The inner turmoil people go through, even the inner happiness people go through, and everything in the between -  shows your true color.  You might even be able to see other true colors as in these pretty cool characters Kiki and Eric.  I am so glad I don't have their predicaments.  Matt your atmosphere at the diner is spot on.  Especially the woman with the kids leaving and the waitress's demeanor.  Actual life stuff, I dug it.

Which brings me to my thought - I'd put a quarter on many of these stories you've personally been through, or watched - you just added to the experience with exceptional endings to the events.  Mmm?

I have not read this type of skill in writing for a minute folks.  Matt Bechtel has an impressive talent/skill to captivate, envelope, and take you Reader into a realm of abnormality.  An abnormality that you'll enjoy for a couple hours.  Seriously, you can take my word on it, or better yet, once you read this collection, you'll understand.

So ...

Grab a Saugy, your beverage, and a couple of hours.  If you enjoy reading how the world is viewed a bit differently, you'll love this.

Thanks Matt for a hell of a time

Here's where you can get your fingers on Monochromes and Other Stories:
  •  Amazon ~ Kindle $2.99 ~ Paperback $12.95 USD

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About the author  ~

Author Matt Bechtel

Connect with Matt

Some people just see the world differently.

Matt Bechtel was born just south of Detroit, Michigan (cursing him a Lions fan), into a mostly-Irish family of dreamers and writers as opposed to the pharmaceutical or construction giants that share his surname.  As such, he has spent most of his years making questionable life decisions and enjoying the results.

Mentored by their late-founder Bob Booth, he serves on both the Executive Committee of the Northeastern Writers’ Convention (a.k.a. Camp Necon) and as a partner in the Necon E-Books digital publishing company.

His own writing tends towards dark humor / satire and has been compared to Ray Bradbury and Cormac McCarthy.  He currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island (and if you look closely at his author’s picture you can see that he follows Irish tradition and signs his initials into the head of his Guinness).

Matt Bechtel has, at times, argued that The Terminator is a love story, that Bob Dylan’s “Don't Think Twice, It’s All Right” is joyful rather than bitter, and that the characters of Everybody Loves Raymond are more monstrous than the Bates Family.

In his first collection of original fiction, he turns his wry, satiric eye upon landscapes of his own creation — such as the early days of skydiving, the terror of collecting unemployment, the extreme sport of competitive standing, a circus performer succumbing to zombieism, and the most anticipated day never circled on any calendar — to find horror hidden within humor, hope persisting amidst anguish, and absurdity pretty much everywhere.

The views from his pen are equal parts hysterical, unsettling, and thought provoking.
Some people just see the world differently. Matt Bechtel is one of those people.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett ~ 2016

And a presence speaks through them all

Author: Jon Padgett
Publisher: Dunhams Manor Press; 2 edition (January 20, 2017)
Publication: January 20, 2017
Pages: 198
Language: English
Cover and interior art: Dave Felton
Jacket design: Anna Trueman
Author photographer:

2 Stars

"This book was provided by Jon Padgett in exchange for my honest review alongside my proffered thank-you for asking."

Jon Padgett
Don't understand the reviews,

After the first three stories were explained to me, I wondered about number four.  Any tension here?  Suspense this time around?  Instead of having the reader 'feel' the read, the narration was being explained what you will or should feel.

Reaching past 30% of this read is all I could take.  There was no need to turn a page and seek out your quest to settle your anxieties the author should have installed into you by this point in the read.  There was no part of a flow.  I felt no part of a theme.  Three down and after I read Origami Dreams - that was strike four - I'm out.

Origami Dreams did have a slight edge to the writing lending itself to mystery and suspense, yet, it was not strong enough to keep me.  Then, let's read a manual.

The next story in line after Origami Dreams is 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism.  I couldn't take 20 more explanations.  I perused the steps - they are exactly that - steps on how to be a ventriloquist.  One should know reading into a read for 30 - 50 pages, if this read is for you, you would want to turn the next page.  You're interested.  You're hooked.  That need should be in you by now.
Threw a question at myself - Gee, should I keep reading?  Will all these stories connect somehow in the end?

Jon Padgett has an idea here for a great theme, though after a third of the book was read there was no hint of suspense, no urge.  No flow.  Seemed to be a book of nothing more than miscellaneous stories grouped together to make a novel.   He's trying way too hard to be a writer who has this 'new' edge to writing.

You gotta grab the reader man.  Grab the reader by their throat right off the bat.  You need to hone in on your victims and make them have that urge to turn the page.  If you don't have your reader hooked by at least 50 pages - that curiosity to see if the antagonist gets away and lives for another day or the protagonist ... is fine - you've lost your reader. 

Will all these stories connect in the end I kept asking myself and I stopped - this overwhelming feeling came over me - I don't want to work at a read.  I would rather be scared and interested and have that need to turn a page to see and feel that all will be well ... in the end.  If I had reached the end and all the stories did fit together for some extravagant climax, even if it did come from left field and made sense, why would you have me go through so much hell beforehand?

I see this read had some great reviews and from some legitimate sources, I might add.  I don't see their view.

Been sitting here with a busted wrist, following Doctor orders and just want to read if not great stuff, at least good stuff.

I'm going to go and warm my drink.

Recommend?  It's a two star from me folks.

Here's where you can get your fingers on The Secret of Ventriloquism:
  •  Amazon ~ Kindle $4.99 ~ Paperback $12.99 USD

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About the author  ~

Connect with Jon


Jon Padgett is a professional--though lapsed--ventriloquist who lives in New Orleans with his spouse, their daughter and two cats.  Padgett is a Senior Editor of Vastarien: a source of critical study and creative response to the corpus of Thomas Ligotti.
He has work out or forthcoming in Pseudopod, Lovecraft eZine, Xnoybis, Antenna::Signals and The Junk Merchants: A Literary Salute to William S. Burroughs.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Echoes of Darkness by Rob Smales ~ 2016

Thirteen tales of twisted and demented pleasure

Author: Rob Smales
Publisher:  Books & Boos Press; 1 edition (February 27, 2016)
Publication: February 27, 2016
Pages: 287
Language: English
Jacket design: © 2016 Mikio Murakami
Author photographer: Billy

 5 Stars

"This book was provided by Rob Smales in exchange for my honest review alongside my proffered thank-you for asking."

Rob Smales
Folks, I love traveling the world via imaginations of some very talented writers' whims they have in print.  Hell, I've practically been everywhere folks - to search for suspenseful thrill rides my for mind's eye - serial killers getting away/caught, wrongful injustice to the innocent not being set right, drug-lords having their ways, murder with twisted endings you would not ever dream of otherwise.  At times the settings and atmosphere is all too serene.

Some places you can only travel to through others' imagination.

From a very deranged and talented young mind comes a baker's dozen of tales filled with huge amounts of murder, ghosts, insanity with your own reality, disturbed dreams, & for some of you - disturbed echoes of darkness that will make you rise from them wet with sweat.  As an anthology, these tales - these incredible echoes blend together nicely if you want your shit scared out of you one weekend.

Rob Smales writes with poignant impact on twists that slaps insanity right into you.  Some of these tales will actually give you those 'quick' leg or hip twists as you read and your mind says, "Oh, man"  and you slowly shake your head a couple of times and grin.

Right on, next tale - 13 of these folks - hell on pages ... and you keep on reading.  Each tale compels you to read the next one.  Well written echoes.

As I launch into my review,  these thirteen tales begins with an accommodating introduction from Mr. Smales, infusing you with a word or two about the title, and Rob, rest assured this tuning fork resonated with perfect pitch from your Echoes of Darkness  ~

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Death of the Boy  ~  ...“Sorry, boy. But this needs doin’.” ... Then he saw them ....

Death of a Boy was what the boy needed.  Personally, I think he thanked the old man
I enjoyed the hell out of that tale

A Night at the Show  ~  ...“Because that thing needs to stay secret. Needs to stay hidden. No one can know.” ....

Keep checking that calendar  -  Valerie's mother Mrs. Redfern and Val's friend Hillary celebrate her ninth birthday - A Friday night out at the movies turns into a multiple 'double-feature' for Hillary.  Love a good scream


In Full Measure  ~  ...“Now, Mr. Capshaw, I only hope that God can see His way clear to giving you exactly what you deserve, whether it be striking you down or casting you out of Heaven to burn for all eternity." ....

LOL -  Laughed my ass off in this one.  Careful of what you wish for, oh that's right, she didn't wish she prayed.  Either case, careful.  Keeping her backbone solid and demanding not to fiddle with such a nonsensical bill-collector at the door, Eva wanted to voice herself to the Top Dog.  Well Eva, hindsight is always 20/20; sometimes its 30/30 but in many cases, history does repeat itself as described in the notes after your tale Eva, just ask your author.  When is the next one? You know, the next chew?


Those Little Bastards  ~  ... I nearly laugh aloud at the quavery “Hello?” he sends into my foyer. He’s not in a crowd now, and the fear is back, so big I can see his eyes right ....

Dares and thoughts of 'how big our my balls' really? Then, one pissed off ghost and does it make you wonder of purgatory?  Very quick tale - sweet & sour for all around


Maxwell's Silver Hammer  ~  ... More than two dozen   .  .  .  things were trying to get out. Ben screamed. His mobile phone, lying on the floor by the gurney, began to chirp. He scrabbled for it; flipped it open. “Hello?” ....

Self-righteous 'old school' doctor counts his chickens before they hatch


Photo Finish  ~  ... His father stepped back, struck a heroic pose with fists on hips, gave an exaggerated smile and said “Cheese!” The pose did make Billy smile. The camera flashed, the motor whirred, and the white square stuck out of the little machine like a tongue. ....

This one was inwardly different - a story developing within and ending facing yourself, and its the plot twisted.


A Man's Done Right  ~  ... “I didn’t come in here for you to help me! I came in here to help you!” .... 

Doing the right thing with consequences and not a damn thing you can do about it. -damn-


One Sock, Two Sock  ~  ... “They were rolled! A pair! What the hell do you do, eat them?” The dryer sat motionless, not deigning to make the slightest response. “I know it’s you.” She indicated ....

My drawer consists of one color - white.  If I need any other color/type/need I go purchase, use, end.  Won't permit myself to go through such hell.

Mutes  ~  ... I need to get this told, just in case, but I have to hurry. I don’t know how much time I have. Granny McCalloum was right. She always said— wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. My name is Scott St. Armond. I’m making this recording in my apartment, and I swear I’m of sound mind. I swear to God. ....

EMT Scott Armond has the sight on my affinity for Good & Plenty.  He wants them gone and the sweet sickly smell they waft under his nose, too.  Sorry Scott, no-can-do on that one, might be damned, but, I won't stay mute.  Good & Plenty kicks ass.  Or try hard Root Beer Barrels candy, maybe?


On Cats and Crazy Ladies  ~  “Great big mansion, way out from town. No neighbors. Cop response time, not so great— for them, anyway. For us, it’s pretty good. Rich old lady living all alone, goes out every day to buy food and shit. She goes out, we go in and find the cash she has stashed in the house. We can’t find it, we wait until she gets home, then make her give it to us. We find a bunch of sweet lookin’ stuff we could hawk for cash, we wait ’til we get her wrapped up, then pull that”— he threw a thumb over his shoulder toward the van parked amidst the tallest of the bushes—“ up to the door and load in everything we can. Then we drive off, leaving the old lady tied to a chair for the mailman to find or something.” He brushed his gloved hands together, as if dusting off after a job well done. “Easy-fucking-peasy.”

Burglary awry - Leave the crazy cat ladies alone.  See this key word here: crazy.  Should give you a clue.  Just stay away.

Ma Liang's Crayons  ~  ... “Crayons!” The girl rocked on her little bottom in excitement, though, to tell the truth, Julie was more impressed with the box than its contents. It doesn’t look like there are any metal parts at all, and that moving rack is beautiful. That is some serious craftsmanship— seems a little silly to do all that work just to hold a set of Crayolas. ....

This colorful Chinese legend paints a scene a bit too late for all concerned.
I want a box.  Please.


Wendigo  ~  ... They left me some food— quite a bit, actually— but they took their words with them. I turn and look from place to place, at the food they left behind. At the meat. Not a lot left. But it’s mine. ....

Reality takes on a new meaning for a lone plane crash survivor.


Playmates Wanted  ~  ...“Beautiful,” he murmured, and the word echoed in his mind, buoyed by the memory of that last scream. What a voice! ....  ...“Give   .  .  .  me a   .  .  .  scream   .  .  .  lover!” ....

Last victim for this serial killer?  I don't think so

This tale was perfect for closure - for Benny and for us readers

If I may come full circle, these 13 tales from a very dark and disturbing corner(s) of Rob Smales mind will delight all those in search of the creepy & chilling horror reads.  Each story is completely different then the next, yet, as a collection, this anthology is beautifully melded into one you gotta read.
Rob brings the story to your senses quickly and vividly with the characters role being described throughout each tale.  As in Death of the Boy, the old man's character was multi-leveled in respect to being humane.  In Wendigo, the mental breakdown.  In On Cats and Crazy Ladies, the burglar's characters were developed right along with the pace.  Quick and vivid.  Great short-story skill.

Themes, settings, atmosphere envelopes the reader.  The tales read as if Rob Smales has been writing short horror stories for awhile.

There were a few spots through the read where "big ten dollar" words don't work.  Thought 4 star read; In Full Measure: chitinous carpet did not flow.  In A Man's Done Right, the word seined - I don't agree with.  Your narrating at one level of reading then Bam! a ten dollar word.  If a small ordinary everyday word would work - then use it.  These words though, are completely okay when your character needs to sound a bit above everyone. Like explain it as in Mutes: ... commotio cordis, or cardiac arrest due to impact ....  There's a couple of other spots, but, I've said my piece/peace.

Ask me if I would recommend and I would say, "You haven't read this yet?" - with a raised eyebrow

Here's where you can get your fingers / paws on  Echoes of Darkness:
  •  Amazon ~ Kindle $3.99 ~ Paperback $11.98 USD

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About the author  ~

Author Rob Smales

Connect with Rob

Facebook   Twitter



Rob Smales is the author of DEAD OF WINTER, which won the Superior Achievement in Dark Fiction Award from Firbolg Publishing’s Gothic Library in 2014.  His short stories have been published in two dozen anthologies and magazines.  His story “Photo Finish” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and won the Preditors & Editors’ Readers Choice Award for Best Horror Short Story of 2012.
Most recently, his story “A Night at the Show” received an honorable mention on Ellen Datlow’s list of the Best Horror of 2014, and was also nominated as best short story by the eFestival of Words in 2015.

Lifelong reader, recently turned writer, my friends were surprised when I turned to writing horror.  They remember me reading a lot of Sci-Fi while growing up.  And I did.  But there was an awful lot of Fantasy, Crime, Mystery and, yes, Horror in the mix.

Though I do have a few non-horror stories in my head and fighting to get out (I started this ride writing a series of Sci-Fi shorts to read to my son at night), most of what I write about comes from the darker side of life.  And unlife.  I'm going to just keep sprinkling material onto the mulch pile in my mind and see what comes up.

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