Book Review: Chasing Ghosts by Glenn Rolfe


Chasing Ghosts

By Glenn Rolfe

Published by Sinister Grin Press, August 1, 2016

4 Stars

One of my earliest guilty pleasure movies was Wrong Turn. I was obsessed with the backwoods creatures that knew no moral boundaries, who seemed to exist solely to inflict pain and eat other humans. This premise is ruthlessly terrifying, and I found myself, years later, equally frightened by Glenn Rolfe’s take on this vicious plot in his novella, Chasing Ghosts.

For such a short book, Rolfe is able to pack an immense amount of characters into the main plot—and not just filler, but characters you actually feel for. He opens with a ghost hunt gone wrong, where a group of young boys stumble into a dangerous family of monstrous humans. It then fast forwards a bit, following a punk band and their mistake to agree to play a show in the secluded woods. We are treated to a slasher-esque pacing of characters being picked off one by one, and as quickly as the blood-spilling and mayhem begins, it continues until the stories bittersweet end.

This book is brutal. It is relentless. The thrill moves at a breakneck speed. Rolfe depicts violence in such an empathetic, yet over the top way, that you find yourself cringing involuntarily when the action ramps up. There are few details spared to really bring that 80s horror vibe home. I could easily picture what was going on at every turn, as Rolfe’s writing has a very cinematic quality to it. Each page splashes across your imagination vividly, a feat that is not often achievable at this consistency.

While this is a book that I will remember because of its hard-hitting gore and horror, the amount of emotional work done in this book does not go unnoticed. The relationships between characters are well-established in a short period of time and still find space to develop in interesting, interconnected ways. This makes the pain felt by characters resound even louder as it’s felt by the characters close to them as well. Rolfe does what a lot of modern-day slashers can’t—makes you care if the characters live or die.

There were few things I was less enthusiastic about with this book. One, however, is that the title, combined with the summary, makes you feel like you are going to read something very different than what you get in the book. I was a bit confused when the focus of the book started to become clearer, but still, far from disappointed. The other small issue I had was with the late introduction of the law enforcement characters, who felt slightly forced into the fray. It would have been interesting to see them developed more throughout the story. I gladly would have read another hundred pages in this world!

All in all Rolfe’s Chasing Ghosts was a true treat to read in the dark, covers pulled tight. I’m looking forward to reading more in Rolfe’s catalog, as he clearly has an eye for horror and pulls off one of the more disturbing reads I’ve come across.

(Disclaimer: Review copy received from publisher. Thank you!)

Book Review: Bones by Andrew Cull



By Andrew Cull

Published by Vermillion2One Press, 2018

4.5 Stars

I find myself increasingly drawn to short horror fiction. Much like horror movies, horror is often best delivered in small chunks. Enough time to get into a story, develop characters so that you care what happens to them, deliver the punch, and draw it to an end. In other words, a little goes a long way. Andrew Cull’s Bones takes the short story format, and delivers several packed tales in his book centered on monsters and the different forms they can take. We run the gamut from human monsters, to ghosts, to other strange happenings in this book, and each story truly sings all the right notes.

The first story, “Did You Forget About Me?”, packs a powerful punch of estranged family, trauma, growth, and all with a touch of ghosts. This story was truly haunting in terms of long-term repercussions of neglect and family strain. I think, out of the stories, this was the one that grabbed me the least, but, considering the caliber of all of these stories, that’s hardly a knock. The true strength of this story lies in the world created by thick spooky ambiance. At the end of the day, this is a haunted house story that I could truly visualize, creating chills in response to unnerving atmosphere.

“Hope and Walker” was an incredibly unique story. There is a deeply unsettling cadence with which this story is written. I found this short to be one of the scariest because it was able to carefully intertwine real-life horror, the monsters that people can be, with supernatural elements. Cull did a commendable job of really making you see through the eyes, in an emotional sense, with the main character.

The third story “The Trade” was perhaps the bleakest of the bunch. It feels like creature feature meets rituals gone awry. The entire story was horrifically tense, weaving action throughout. Cull writes with such a vivid sense reality that you can almost smell the blood and viscera that permeates this story. I may have connected to these characters the least, but that didn’t mitigate the fear felt while reading this short.

Finally, my favorite story of the group, Cull finishes strong with “Knock and You Will See Me”. This story follows a family who has recently buried a loved one, with a mother at the head of the family trying to protect her children. She begins to receive messages from beyond the grave, seemingly from her recently deceased father. With her sanity in doubt, her children in danger, and the disturbing thought that her father might actually be alive, the story unravels in a spectacularly stressful and panic-inducing manner. Cull’s final featured tale hits you hard where it hurts, ending with heart-palpitating revelations.

Cull has made a powerful debut with Bones. His ability to craft gripping first sentences followed by mesmerizing tales of monsters of all shapes and sizes speaks volumes to his versatility and craft. He’s able to write from multiple perspectives and walks of life, with a tirade of horror themes, and this will surely aid him in his future writing ventures to keep the formula from getting stale.

Disclaimer: Review copy received from author. Thank you!

Book Review: We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

We Sold Our Souls

We Sold Our Souls

By Grady Hendrix

Published by Quirk Books, September 16th, 2018

5 Stars

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix is hands down one of the most suspenseful, horrific, and entertaining books I’ve ever read. Strong female protagonist? Check. Disgusting scenes of gross-out horror? Check. An entire mythology created to sustain the story? Check check check. Hendrix has one of the best new catalogs of horror stories and a clear love for the genre, and his newest work does not disappoint in the slightest.

We Sold Our Souls follows Kris Pulaski, a tired, down-on-her-luck, former metal rock star and her truly epic journey against a force of evil under the guise of sell-out rock. This story is filled with metal riffs, rabid fans, unsettling lyrics, and one woman’s battle against the pits of hell.

This book is one of those rare books that I could not put down no matter how hard I tried. It had a magnetic pull that required I turn page after page to watch the grueling adventure spill over each paragraph. The plot was so beautifully paced, allowing for introspection in between big action moments, plenty of character development to create long-lasting impressions of well-rounded badasses.

Like Hendrix’s other books, the story told here is relatively original with compelling characters, quick humor, and a sense of world-building that is truly unrivaled. For this particular book of his, the humor may be a little quieter, but the world was the most fascinating one he’s created yet. Hendrix wrote an entire discography of music, a feat that deepened the lore in a satisfying way, providing an almost audible march that kept the plot moving. In addition to the numerous intriguing lyrics he wrote, he also crafted a fiction within his fiction that provided a backdrop for the hero’s journey. This mythos was equal parts awe-inspiring and terrifying. Hendrix carefully weaves the dark side of metal with the terrible things that humans do to craft a tale with moments of true horror.

However, while this books has plenty of heart-stopping moments, what I really loved about this book was the character-driven heroism inherent in Kris. Kris is a multi-dimensional character, written with heart, that I wanted to leap off the page and meet in real life. Her story, her drive, her passion…those things stick with you long after the book ends. I think Kris is one of Hendrix’s best characters yet, and I would have read a thousand more pages of her life and journey. Strong female characters is not necessarily uncommon in horror, with the trope of the final girl and powerful women like Ripley from Alien and Laurie Strode from Halloween. However, the depth given to Kris makes it more than just about her will to survive, but also about her dedication to her passion and to her friends.

Hendrix has another successful hit on his hands with We Sold Our Souls. I don’t have a lot of time to re-read these days, but this is a book I could see myself revisiting every couple of years. Simply put, I was completely engrossed in every aspect of this book, and, as dark as the world was, I want to be there again to witness the thrill of the journey.

I’m going to go take this book, pick up my guitar and microphone, and scream into the void just how wonderful this book is.


Book Review: The Beast of Brenton Woods by Jackson R. Thomas


Book Review

The Beast of Brenton Woods

By Jackson R. Thomas

Published by Alien Agenda Publishing, 2018

My rating: 4/5


I love a good creature feature. There’s something about a seemingly otherworldly being—something powerful, ravenous, and disconcerting—that just makes for a good antagonist. Motives aren’t always clear, but the action and intrigue are sure to be ever-present.

The Beast of Brenton Woods by Jackson R. Thomas delivers exactly that. From the first few pages, rife with fast-paced adventure and page-turning carnage, I knew I had a fun and wild ride in my hands. To quickly summarize, this story follows a group of small town folk, connected by their relationship to the white wolf of Brenton Woods. The legend of the white wolf swirled throughout the town’s past comes quickly to the forefront as the mystery of the creature is unwound from multiple perspectives, coming together in a brutal and bloody fashion.

For a long time, I had thought I was done with stories about werewolves and vampires after fatigue with these particular creatures made itself known in my viewing and reading habits. But, when I saw the cover for The Beast of Brenton Woods and read the synopsis, I hoped I could find what I used to love about the werewolf mythos. While I enjoy stories that humanize the werewolf, making readers sympathize with the duality of the character, Thomas created a wolf that breeds no sympathy, a take a quite enjoyed. The wolf of Brenton Woods is purebred evil, creating for a violent story that saves emotional beats for the victims of the wolf and those touched by the legend.

Thomas’ writing is straightforward throughout this novel. He paints clear pictures of the savagery commanded by both man and beast. The dialogue is honest (albeit a bit harsh at times) and feels natural to the setting of the book and the characters involved. I personally enjoyed the pacing of this book—there was little fluff to the chapters, providing quick story beats that kept me flipping pages in the classic “just one more chapter” fashion.

This unrestrained evil lends itself well to a quick, exciting read, yet does not sacrifice character development. I found several of the characters in this story to be likeable, relatable on some level, to bring you to root for the characters in their struggle with the beast. Yet, there were characters that showcased the evil non-beast humans are capable of as well. Truly despicable characters live on the pages of this story, providing a depth of relationships contributing to the legend haunting the small town, which helped to pique and maintain my interest throughout the story. Speaking of despicable characters be forewarned: this is an extremely violent story, not just in the way people are torn apart physically, but also in ways that include strong language and sexual assault. There were scenes in this book that were difficult to get through because of heavy content, but worthwhile in how things came together in the climax of the story.

There wasn’t much I didn’t enjoy about this story. There were interesting twists in the plot and chapters churned action with breakneck speed. I wish some of the characters had a bit more depth to them, particularly the female characters. I felt the deputy, for example, had potential to be more interesting, standing on her own. However, I also recognize that this book seemed to be more about character relationships with each other and the legend of the white wolf, so it did not feel like it hurt the story too much in this regard.

Overall, The Beast of Brenton Woods is an exciting debut novel from Thomas, an author I’ll be sure to follow in his future endeavors.

(Disclaimer: Review copy received from publisher. Thank you!)