5 Stars, AJ Rose, Genre Romance, Horror, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lynn, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: Reaping Havoc by AJ Rose

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Title: Reaping Havoc

Author: AJ Rose

Publisher: The Grim Writer Press

Pages/Word Count: 282 Pages

At a Glance: The concept of this story is amazing. I loved the author’s take on the grim reaper mythology.

Reviewed By: Lynn

Blurb: No one asked Mitch Seeker if he wanted to be a grim reaper. He didn’t sign up for the rumors, the lack of friends, or the erratic schedule. He doesn’t want to go through life watching people die. Especially not a man he loves. Mitch’s solution is simple—don’t fall in love. He’ll never have to explain why he doesn’t age or why he’s around death so often. Most of all, he will never be a widower.

But when his head is turned by world-class skier Nate Koehn, Mitch believes he may have the answer. If the soul attached to Nate is any indication, Mitch has found himself another reaper, in which case, his undeniable feelings don’t have to be suppressed. However, the spectral tag-a-long is only the beginning of Nate’s burdens. After a catastrophic loss, Nate is no stranger to grief and the hole it leaves behind.

The question they both must answer is loud and clear: is the pain of losing love worse than the pain of never having loved at all?

Dividers

Review: After reading a couple books from this author, I realize they’re becoming an auto buy for me. As I’m always looking for new authors to read, I’m looking for fresh story ideas too. This one was everything I was searching for.

The concept of this story is amazing. Mitch is a grim reaper. He collects the souls of those who have just died, and makes sure they get to where they’re going in the afterlife. I loved the author’s take on the grim reaper mythology. Instead of just one, there are thousands all over the world, kind of like a police force for souls. They get their assignments via email, where and when it’ll happen, and off they go. And then we have Nate, the new guy in town looking to start fresh after a devastating tragedy that has turned his life upside down. Life and death are about to get very interesting for these two gentlemen.

I loved getting both Mitch and Nate’s perspectives throughout the entire story. We see Mitch struggling with his pre-ordained destiny, and the realization that he may have to live his long life alone because of what he is, which has him resenting everything about it. Nate, still reeling from the death of his twin sister, is trying to move on with his life and make it on his own. I adored both of these characters. Any story that involves grim reapers is bound to be a little gory—there’s a lot of death and sadness—but with these two, their comic relief and off color humor made it a little lighter.

I really liked getting the visual and insight of what happens after Mitch collects the souls of the recently departed. It was fascinating to me. I just have a picture in my head of human balloons trailing behind him—kinda funny and sad all at the same time. The author’s mad writing skills definitely shine through.

I’m really trying not to give away spoilers here. I’ve seen some reviews that just blurt out everything about the story. To me that’s just wrong. The only thing I’ll say here, without giving it all away, is this: souls linger when they have unfinished business to attend to. Mitch notices a tagalong soul with Nate. This leads Mitch into thinking Nate is a fellow reaper. When the truth comes to light, it’s at times funny and endearing, but also sad and heartbreaking. But like I said before, there is a lot of humor throughout the book. It definitely balances out the death and sadness, so kudos to the author for bringing some light to the darkness.

I can’t go any further without mentioning one particular secondary character. He really made the story and without him, something would have been missing—Mitch’s father Charles. I really enjoyed his conversations with his son. Without saying the words, the respect Mitch has for his father just oozed off the page. I loved seeing that. He was full of experience and enlightened us with the backstory of how his family and others came to be reapers. For me, he was truly a memorable character.

Have I mentioned that I read this book in one sitting? Well, I did. And yes, it was that good. But let me tell you something. I’ve never had so many emotions going in so many directions at the end of a book like I did with this one. During the course of reading, I watched these two characters struggle and overcome so many obstacles. At this point, I am so invested in what happens to them that I’m on the edge of my seat. Just when you think it’s going to end one way, it loops back around and ends totally different. I literally felt like I was beat up after I read the ending. For those who like a happily ever after—oh, you definitely get one. But be prepared to go on a heart flopping ride before you get there, and it’s oh-so worth it.

What I loved most about this book was the originality of the storyline. I really enjoyed the author’s take on heaven and hell, soul collecting, and what maybe happens after death. I hadn’t read anything like this before, so to me, it was fresh, new and exciting to read. The author’s writing, as always, is smooth and seamless.

I really can’t say enough about how much I loved this book. I consider it a must read. If not for the storyline, then for those two adorable characters. Highly recommended.

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You can buy Reaping Havoc here:

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5 Stars, BJ Sheppard, Horror, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Devil’s Jawbone by BJ Sheppard

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Title: Devil’s Jawbone

Author: BJ Sheppard

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 139 Pages

At a Glance: This author’s creativity is not only impressive, but he’s also just a bit disturbed in only the best possible way.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: As night descends on the town of Devil’s Jawbone, no one is safe. The veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, and the darkest side of human nature is boiling to the surface. The supernatural and the natural are colliding, and in this sleepy town, the bump in the night is taking human form. Innocence will be lost; the villain will become the victor; spirits will rise and Satan himself will come to town.

In an eerie collection of short speculative fiction, author BJ Sheppard will grab your imagination, bringing new life to the classic campfire tales synonymous with the scariest of occasions. Halloween will never be the same again.

Dividers

Review: Welcome to Devil’s Jawbone, the place where a person’s convictions can be every bit as terrifying as their afflictions…where the only difference between a surgeon and a butcher lies somewhere within intent.

Author BJ Sheppard has tapped into the darker side of his imagination and pulled together a collection of horror stories that showcase the human monster which has the potential of lurking within all of us. Starting with “Legion,” this anthology takes on an eerie tone as the author begins to draw his circle. Imagery and allegory are painted in rich tones of the unknown in a poetic prose that does nothing but make the reader curious about what sort of place he’s leading us into. As it turns out, this author’s creativity is not only impressive, but he’s also just a bit disturbed in only the best possible way for those of us who love a good chill up our spines.

As we move along through each of the subsequent tales, we witness every human failing that can be twisted into horrifying realities—because, as we all know, it’s not the unknown and impossible we should fear most. What ought to strike true terror in the hearts of man is the potential for evil that lives among us, those whose fanatical persuasions and twisted passions and psychological maladaptation are as nearby as the killer who walks by us on the sidewalk and decides whether today is the day we live or die. This omnibus of the macabre leads its readers through the valley of the shadow of death, and we… we should fear its evil.

No one is immune from Sheppard’s distorted treatment of life and death and the in-between in Devil’s Jawbone. From mothers to serial murders, we are offered a glimpse inside the minds of the afflicted. From a twisting of the innocence of a child, to the betrayal of a lover which sets the wheels of retribution into motion, to the reimagining of “The Hook” (that scary little childhood tale so many of once told as we huddled under our blankets), each of these short stories seem to have nothing in common save for their setting and the fact that they’re each more deliciously disturbing than the next. Until, that is, the author’s deft and well-crafted finale, “The Devil at the Crossroads,” which brings the entire collection back around upon itself and ties everything together into a single tapestry that left me more than a little gleeful at its cleverness.

Being a true lover of horror, especially the sort of which exposes a terrifying side to our humanness, I found myself flipping the pages of Devil’s Jawbone and telling myself, “This story is my favorite.” Until I got to the end of the next and had to reevaluate my opinion. Do I have a favorite? If hard pressed I would say it’s “The Ties That Bind,” only because there’s a special sort of depravity in its romantic notions, which I found wickedly lovely.

As the horror genre isn’t a niche everyone frequents, I can’t say I’d recommend this novel to the tried and true romance aficionados, but I can say without an instant of hesitation that BJ Sheppard has offered enthusiasts of the morbid an unsafe haven called Devil’s Jawbone, a place I was more than glad to reside in for a while.

From the safe distance of my Kindle, of course.

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You can buy Devil’s Jawbone here:

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5 Stars, Carol Lynne, Genre Romance, Horror, Paranormal, Reviewed by Maryann, Wilde City Press

Review: The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly by Carol Lynne

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Amazon

Title: The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly

Author: Carol Lynne

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 99 Pages

At a Glance: Carol Lynne creates another well done horror/paranormal story here, with dangerous spirits, satanic worship, possession and old tales of horror.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: After taming the Ghosts of Alcatraz, Fisher Marx left his position as head of the World Police Unit to take a job in the small town of Toblerville. He’d hoped to live out his life in quiet splendor while still using his skills to protect the Hickory County residents, but everything changed when he heard rumors of a young man who claimed to be the victim of regular attacks by a ghost.

Unable to put the young man out of his mind, Fisher decided to investigate the situation. What he discovered in the run down house outside of town would change his life forever.

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Review: The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly is the sequel to Ghost of Alcatraz, where we first meet Fisher Marx. Carol Lynne creates another well done horror/paranormal story here, with dangerous spirits, satanic worship, possession and old tales of horror. These are two excellent stories, but a word of warning: this book does include sexual abuse and violence.

This story picks-up with Fisher starting a new life, but he’s not at peace yet. He’d seen a lot of crazy things during his ordeal at Alcatraz prison, with Jensen Black and Brian Phipps. He hears things being said about a young man, Patrick Donnelly, which are treated as a joke by his fellow officers. He just can’t let it go, so he seeks out Patrick with every intention of helping him. What he finds is a young man who is being sexually abused and tormented by his father’s spirit.

Fisher witnesses the abuse that Patrick is going through, and rescues him, but the “living spirit” follows Patrick to Fisher’s house.  Fisher decides to take Patrick to Pont-Aven, France, and put as much distance as possible between Patrick and the spirit.  But nothing can stop the evil. Fisher has been seeking advice from his friend, Brian Phipps, an ex-parapsychologist, and Brian and Jensen arrive in France to help Fisher and Patrick figure out why Patrick is plagued by the spirit.

Both Fisher and Patrick are searching for something: Fisher wants someone to make life worth living, and Patrick needs real love and peace in his life. Even though there is an age difference between them, I believe it’s a spirit that unites them together. I thought the same about Brian and Jensen when they met in Ghost of Alcatraz. Carol Lynne also introduces some new characters—Gavin, Ian, and Sal—who add an odd twist to this story.

I was really surprised and glad to see this series is continuing. It has been a long time since Ghost of Alcatraz was released (2011), the story that takes us to the year 2020 and a new Alcatraz prison where we meet Jensen, Brian and Fisher for the first time. I liked that she brought Jensen and Brian back for Fisher’s story and am hoping she will continue to bring us more eerie adventures in this paranormal world.

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You can buy The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly here:

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Horror, Paranormal, Reviewed By JJ, Santino Hassell

Release Day Review: Stygian by Santino Hassell

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Title: Stygian

Author: Santino Hassell

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 217 Pages

At a Glance: I loved this book. I recommend Stygian to anyone who loves horror, paranormal, and dark m/m romance.

Reviewed By: JJ

Blurb: Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.

Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band’s enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music, but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.

Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he’s finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroways’ secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.

Dividers

Review: After the death of his brother, Jeremy suffers from bouts of madness. He is still trying to get back on his feet when he joins the band called Stygian. He is also motivated to join due to his crush on the guitar player, Kennedy. The book begins when the band decides to rent a house for the summer in order to write new music. However, everything goes wrong from the beginning. No one in the band is on the same wavelength, and they are always fighting with one another. To make matters worse, there is something very creepy about the house and its owners, Hunter and his sister. Even though things don’t feel right, Jeremy ends up becoming closer to Hunter and distancing himself from the band. Fearing the resurgence of his psychosis, Jeremy keeps his suspicions about the house and its owners to himself until it is almost too late.

In addition to being a great book, this genre was a new experience for me. Though there are paranormal and romantic elements, Stygian feels more like horror than anything. I loved how the story kept me on my toes due to not knowing what scary thing would happen next. However, I especially loved the psychological element and the mind games they get sucked into. Due to Jeremy’s past, he was more inclined to doubt his sanity rather than believe the messed up things happening around him.

Another aspect of this book that was impressive was the complicated relationship dynamics between the band members. Jeremy is somewhat lost, but he’s in a band with guys who are also quite lost and damaged. Through their adventure in the house, Jeremy learns painful things about his band mates that help him put his own suffering into perspective. It takes the band almost falling apart before they have the strength to come together and look out for one another. In addition to being suspenseful, this book was also quite sexy.

I loved this book. I recommend Stygian to anyone who loves horror, paranormal, and dark m/m romance.

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You can buy Stygian here:

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5 Stars, Eric Arvin, Horror, Reviewed by Lisa, Wilde City Press

Release Day Review: The Rascal by Eric Arvin

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TheRascalCover200x314Title: The Rascal

Author: Eric Arvin

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 61500 Words

At a Glance: For fans of horror, The Rascal is a must read.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Lana is a faded movie star who lives alone in a big house on a hill that overlooks the sea. She has lived this way since the death of her daughter and the disappearance of her husband.

Jeff and Chloe are a couple who live in a cabin below the big house. It was Chloe’s idea to strengthen their marriage; but she sees now that it isn’t working. Jeff has become obsessed with the cabin and the old water well. Chloe only sees strangeness around her.

One night while talking on the computer with Ethan, Jeff’s brother, a feeling of dread comes to the fore. When Ethan sees a figure behind Chloe, he leaves his boyfriend and baby and sets out to save Jeff.

Chloe, Ethan and Lana come together to fight an evil that would destroy Jeff. Will they succeed or will all of them fall to the taste of a young cannibalistic ghost?

Dividers

Review: As you would do with any review, bringing your personal preferences into account, I’m going to start out by asking you to take into consideration that when other girls were reading Forever and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, I was under the covers and sleeping with the lights on, reading The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror and every single Stephen King book I could get my hands on while watching movies like The Other and The Omen on late-night television. In other words, the horror fiction genre has been a staple of my avaricious reading habits almost from the time I started devouring chapter books. So when I say Eric Arvin’s The Rascal is a brilliant book, it comes from the perspective of someone who is perhaps a little more demanding in what constitutes a chilling mindfreak of a horror story. The kind of story that when the writing leaves off, the imagination takes over, which is all the fun of reading horror.

The Rascal, in fact, reminds me a lot of the earlier days of Stephen King: Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Pet Sematary, The Dead Zone. Arvin offers us, from the outset of this novel, a macabre glimpse of what’s to come, then eases back, eases us into a placid sense of menace. Do you remember the scene in It, when the little boy is sailing his paper boat in the rain swollen gutter? It’s this innocence juxtaposed with the utter certainty that evil isn’t far away which informs every great horror novel—it’s the loss of innocence that terrifies us. Not even youthful innocence lost, specifically, but the absolute stripping away of everything that means safety and security to us. The Rascal is a book that takes any shred of hope we may have for its characters and grinds it under its heel.

There is a certain foreboding wrapped up in the rather uneventful, small town of Wicker when we visit with Jeff and Chloe Cane, the place they intend to make their new home, to try to craft a new beginning from the wreckage of their marriage. Wicker is much like any little burg on the map—insular, friendly on its surface. But deep down, you know there are secrets… With names like Bad Luck Hill and No Hope Creek, we know the calm idyll is nothing more than an illusion and that the danger is only going to grow as the story progresses.

It does.

The little cottage on Bad Luck Hill is the place that should signal a fresh start but quickly becomes a harbinger of ill omen. It’s the place where peace and hope are nothing but dead and bloated corpses, suffocated by dread and misery. It’s the place that can make even the most jaded cry out to a god they don’t believe in. This is where we find Jeff and Chloe and the former actress, Lana Pruitt, who sold them the little cottage situated between the deadly cliffs and the dark woods—even knowing there was a resident evil lurking there.

If you’ve ever read Woke Up In a Strange Place, The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men, or Wave Goodbye to Charlie, you’ll know the hallmark of Eric Arvin’s writing is his ability to turn a phrase just so, so that you suddenly see everything you thought you knew from a different angle. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law” – it does not mean what you think it means. For Jeff and Chloe, who are adventure tour guides, it’s the greatest irony that Death is the one journey for which they could never have prepared. Life is the one adventure they may not survive.

In the end, when love has been tested, faith has been broken, hatred has been simmering so close to the surface that one need only stare into the abyss to see that misery stares back, it’s how much one is willing to sacrifice for the sake of an estranged husband, and, for Ethan, an estranged brother, which brings this story’s evil to its conclusion. I love this book. I yelled at it, cursed at it, I shuddered at every single visual Arvin paints into an atmosphere that’s permeated by dread. There are things that go bump in the night. Then there are things that want you to suffer unimaginable horrors. That’s the rascal. He is the symbol of lost innocence, of evil, of insanity, of retribution. The rascal wants his pound of flesh in a most literal and chilling way.

And Eric Arvin delivers.

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The Rascal is available for purchase here (watch for other e-tailer purchase links soon):

Wilde City Press

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5 Stars, Bey Deckard, Horror, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Release Day Review: Better the Devil You Know by Bey Deckard

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Better the Devil You KnowTitle: Better the Devil You Know

Author: Bey Deckard

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 39000 Words

At a Glance: Sick, twisted, brutal, filled with the unexpected, and I loved it.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Byron is tall, handsome, well spoken, wealthy, and has outstanding taste in wine and food. You’ll be impressed by his impeccable attire and eloquence in conversation, ranging from Baroque art to the newest advances in pharmacology. With his charming smile and elegant manners, Byron truly is the perfect date… and who doesn’t love a man who appreciates opera?

What’s the catch, you ask?

Just this: if Byron finds you suitable, he will subject you to utterly depraved forms of torture.

No, I’m not talking about S&M.

Byron will mutilate, rape, and then kill you. Don’t think that you will survive the encounter, because you won’t. He has a perfect record.

Intrigued? Would you like me to arrange a rendezvous? It has to be in the next few days because he’s leaving on a trip south to much warmer climes, and his calendar will be completely full.

Yes? Very good. I will make a reservation for two under the name of Smith.

Who am I? I’m Gloria, his personal assistant.

Dividers

Review: First off, let me say that one of the things I will never do is read a book that’s dark and twisted (a lot twisted), or one that contains material which some may consider triggers—or, situations that may just plain offend a person’s sensibilities—and then say, unequivocally, “You have got to read this book!” We all have comfort zones and boundaries, and pushing those boundaries doesn’t make anyone braver or more intellectual or more open-minded than someone who chooses not to do so. Having said that, I personally have been waiting a long time for this book in the M/M genre.

Okay, not this book, specifically (I’m still waiting for someone to write an M/M Jack the Ripper novel), but rather, a no-holds-barred psychological horror story along the lines of “I ate his liver with some Fava beans and a nice chianti,” only more graphic in detail and agitating in its horrifying displays of insanity. What I’ve been waiting for is a novel that would engage and repulse, all at the same time, and Bey Deckard has delivered in a big way with Better the Devil You Know, a perfectly twisted tale that looks at evil through the eyes of a serial killer, the devil, and questions a psychopath’s ability to be redeemed at the hands of Lucifer himself.

Byron Danielsen, former doctor and this story’s antagonist, is a sick son of a bitch (if you’ll pardon my français). John Wayne Gacy? Ted Bundy? Jeffrey Dahmer? Pfft. Byron makes their crimes seem uninspired and amateurish by comparison, and I’m in awe of Deckard’s imagination—which is one of the reasons I love this niche of fiction. No, I’m not living vicariously in any way through the genre, I’m not at all titillated by the extremes of perversion herein, but I am fascinated by the abnormal psychology of the depraved and irredeemable. When they say “truth is stranger than fiction” (in an ironic bit of perfection, a quote attributed to Lord Byron), they aren’t talking about books like Better the Devil You Know. It’s difficult enough to comprehend when we see crimes of a particularly brutal and aberrant nature on the news, but when we read a story such as this, all we can do is feel grateful the author’s imagination isn’t one born of experience…or fruitful as inspiration.

Byron is… what is Byron? He is repugnant yet is possessed of a certain charm and refinement, which is what makes him such a dangerous beast—what makes so many serial killers dangerous, in fact—their ability to blend in and to attract victims by preying on our inability to see what lurks behind the veil of normalcy. He has the advantage of luring his victims to him, masquerading as a human, if a little odd, when, in fact, there is a monster lurking beneath a hotbed of psychosis. That is what makes this book, and those like it, so terrifying—we know without question that human monsters exist. And his crimes against these innocents are of a nature so foul—if we can really measure murder by degrees of obscenity—that I was left with no other choice but to keep turning pages to see how the author would bring this story to a conclusion. And, I persevered gladly.

In an interesting genre-jump, the plot soon merges with the metaphysical when Byron must give the devil his due. Literally. The Prince of Darkness aims to make Byron pay for his depravity, sending him to Hell, where Byron must endure the ultimate in karmic payback in an effort to harvest even the smallest seeds of regret for his crimes. In an even more interesting twist, Lucifer becomes a sympathetic character when pitted against Byron, which was a fantastic juxtaposition in the flipping of roles, but remember, he is Lucifer, so even in our seeing him from a softer angle, he’s still Satan, still the Lord of Flies who is determined to make Byron remember the one victim he seems to have erased from his memories.

There is no doubt this book is compelling. There is no doubt this story is well written, never once sugarcoating Byron’s crimes or insanity. There is also no doubt whatsoever that this book is not a romance in any way. Nor is this a book that will appeal to anyone but the reader who loves a chilling and macabre and thoroughly bent antagonist.

Does Byron redeem himself in the end? Mmm… I shan’t even attempt to weigh out an opinion on that one. But, to quote another famous author, “Please, sir, I want some more.”

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You can buy Better the Devil You Know here:

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5 Stars, DSP Publications, Horror, Reviewed by Lisa, Rick R. Reed

Retro Review: A Demon Inside by Rick R. Reed

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Title: A Demon Inside

Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 260 Pages

At a Glance: An intense, macabre, edge-of-your-seat, don’t-read-it-in-the-dark thrill ride.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Hunter Beaumont doesn’t understand his grandmother’s deathbed wish: “Destroy Beaumont House.” He’s never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother’s wishes, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.

But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And with whom—or what—he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, Michael Burt, a caretaker for the estate next door. The man might be his salvation… or he could be the source of Hunter’s terror.

First Edition published by ManLove Romance Press, 2010.

Dividers

Back in July of 2010, when I was still a fairly wet-behind-the-ears newbie to blog reviewing, I grabbed a book from an author whose Tales from the Sexual Underground I’d just read two weeks before. This book, as you can probably glean from the titles, was a vastly different reading experience.

When Mr. Reed contacted me to let me know he’d pulled a quote from my review to use as a blurb on the front of the new cover for A Demon Inside’s re-release, I was both shocked and humbled, and I’m also grateful that he saw something worthy in what I look back on now and can see just how much my reviewing style has changed (and improved, I hope) over the course of the last five years.

So, in honor of this 2nd Edition of one of my earlier reviewing experiences for a book that invokes the spirit of some of Stephen King’s finest tales, here’s a rerun of my review:

Dividers

Review: Rick R. Reed’s A Demon Inside is an intense, macabre, edge-of-your-seat, don’t-read-it-in-the-dark thrill ride. From the prologue to its final chapter, I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough to see what would happen next.

The story opens in a dark winter forest in 1845, where the reader witnesses a lone gypsy woman consigning her baby boy to his eternal sleep. The scene is dense with tension, mystery and a sense of foreboding that sets the mood up beautifully for the entire book, as the reader experiences the results of this gypsy’s invocation over her son’s grave.

Hunter Beaumont is an orphan. At the age of five, when a child isn’t nearly old enough to understand the concept of life, let alone death, Hunter witnesses his parents’ murder but has experienced a form of post traumatic memory loss that has helped him escape the worst of the trauma. Hunter’s family legacy holds a dark secret that has cursed his ancestors for generations, and Hunter learns the true meaning of being orphaned when his beloved grandmother succumbs to cancer, leaving him entirely alone in the world. On her deathbed, his Nana exacts a promise from Hunter—to destroy his family’s ancestral home, Beaumont House, a place he’d never known existed until that moment.

The Beaumont family legacy has also left Hunter a wealthy young man, but his sheltered upbringing leaves him a man susceptible to the human predators who would prey on his innocence. Dr. Jay Blackstock, the doctor who saw Nana through her waning days, is just such a predator, a scavenger who feeds on Hunter’s naiveté. Jay manipulates and insinuates himself into Hunter’s life so entirely that his ultimate betrayal of Hunter’s trust leaves the young man broken and wary.

After having made a trip to Beaumont House with the family lawyer, during which time Rick R. Reed serves us a mere morsel of what’s to come, Hunter decides to go against his Nana’s dying wish to destroy the house and instead, aspires to make it his refuge, a sanctuary from the social order that is determined to make him its victim. It doesn’t take long for the reader to understand that Beaumont House holds strange and terrible secrets, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d been drawn into this story, feeling as though, like Hunter, I’d become ensnared in a residual web of nightmares reaching out from the past to grab hold of my reality. Just as society had deemed to victimize him, so does Hunter’s home seem determined to exact a deadly price.

Michael Burt is introduced to the story as the caretaker for a neighboring property, living in a cottage at the edge of Hunter’s estate. Michael is a ruggedly handsome and affable man who, living with the loneliness of the remote location of these estates, looks to befriend Hunter, but Hunter, who has determined that he can’t afford to trust anyone, makes it clear to Michael that friendship is not on his agenda. Michael, as fate would have it, is also penning a novel based on the local folklore surrounding a mysterious gypsy woman – some called her a witch – who lived in the area near the mid-1800s. As more and more unexplained phenomena occur in Beaumont House, legend becomes portent, and Hunter has to choose whether to stand firm, or cut and run.

There were times during the reading of this novel that I didn’t know whether to cheer Hunter for a hero, or curse him for a fool. Perhaps there’s a fine line between the two, and the side of the line the protagonist falls on depends on whether he succeeds or fails at his quest. The one thing I do know for certain is that Hunter had me holding my breath and devouring pages in a frenzy to decide whether he would be hero or fool at the end. My final determination is that Hunter was a foolish hero – how’s that for not choosing sides? One important lesson Hunter does learn is that detachment and independence aren’t synonymous, and sometimes it takes great strength to learn to depend on others.

A Demon Inside is an enthralling read that kept my nerves stretched taut as a tightrope, leaving me spellbound from beginning to end.

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You can buy A Demon Inside here:

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4.5 Stars, Bonnie Dee, Historical Romance, Horror, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Release Day Review: The Tutor by Bonnie Dee

Title: The Tutor

Author: Bonnie Dee

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 184 Pages

At a Glance: Chills, suspense, and romance work together beautifully in The Tutor.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Gothic romance with a twist.

Elements of The Sound of Music, The Enchanted Garden, Jane Eyre, and “true” ghost hunting shows make this story feel familiar. Gay love makes it unique.

Seeing an ad for a position at a Yorkshire estate, typesetter Graham Cowrie decides to make an upward career move by passing himself off as a tutor. How hard can it be to teach a few subjects to a pair of nine-year-old boys? But on his arrival at the ancient house, he finds the staff creepy, the twins odd, and the widowed master temporarily absent.

His first meeting with brooding, stern, but oh-so-attractive, Sir Richard doesn’t go well, but with no other prospects vying for the teaching position, Graham manages to keep it. His mission soon becomes clear, break down the walls of reserve both father and sons have erected and attempt to bridge the gap between them.

But strange sounds, sights and experiences keep Graham on edge until he finally admits the Hall is haunted by two entities with very different agendas. Graham works to appease one and combat the other while protecting the broken family he’s grown to care for.

Dividers

Review: Fans of gothic horror will find plenty to love in Bonnie Dee’s historical romance The Tutor, the story of a man who fabricates his way into a tutoring position at the decaying Allinson Hall, but who soon proves his value to a widower and his sons when a malevolent spirit threatens to drag them all into darkness.

The author does two things superbly in this novel, the first being that she sets the mood and tone of the story in bleak yet vivid detail. The starkness of the Hall and the somber image of its residents paint, in Poe-ish overtones, the dour picture of a family torn apart by the death of a wife and mother. You expect dire things to come as the scene is set, but don’t know exactly what it will be, and are immersed from the beginning in the tragedy and its aftereffects. And, we soon see the near impossible task Graham Cowrie has ahead of him in reaching out to his two young pupils, Whitney and Clive Allinson.

The second standout detail in this novel is the setting up of the supernatural elements that haunt the story and its characters. There are chilling moments throughout and plenty of suspense to keep the reader’s pulse pounding as the shadows and the macabre fairly cling to the walls of Allinson Hall. The tension is palpable at times and kept me glued to my Kindle as the eerie mixed with the more poignant moments of Sir Richard Allinson’s story. The distance from his twins sons—not in terms of measurable space but in the emotional vacuum that exists between them since Lavinia Allinson’s death—lends the novel a compassionate touch as we come to understand that Richard is not only suffering from grief over the loss of his wife but guilt over the lie that was his marriage.

As Graham begins to embrace his role as the boys’ tutor we see the Sisyphean task he has ahead of him. For each bit of headway he makes, not only as their teacher but as a man who comes to care about the boys and their wellbeing, he takes a giant leap back, especially with Clive, as distrust and grief soon take a backseat to the evil spirit that spreads its pall over the estate.

Graham and Richard’s interactions are initially colored by Richard’s guilt over and denial of his sexuality, and we see him as cold and aloof, perhaps even a little sinister, which makes it difficult to warm up to him as we watch him make no effort to bring comfort to his sons. But, the author does what must be done for us to see beneath the surface, and that is to begin a slow melting of the man’s icy exterior as the truth behind Lavinia’s death and the psychological effect it had on his boys is revealed. Graham’s natural charm and our sympathy for where he came from, not to mention our admiration for what he’s achieved in spite of his upbringing, was the perfect foil to Richard’s more taciturn personality, like the silver lining around the cloud, and I found myself quickly rooting for their happy ending.

The climactic scene of The Tutor is filled with tension as the physical and metaphysical collide, and the good vs. evil battle ramps up to its fullest extent before winding the story down to its deeply romantic conclusion, one that befits the time period in which the story is set. I liked The Tutor a lot, from the storyline to the characters to the author’s writing style, and can say that if you’re a fan of historical romance with more than a touch of the supernatural to give it a suspenseful twist, Bonnie Dee delivers.

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You can buy The Tutor here:

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Smashwords

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5 Stars, DSP Publications, Horror, John Inman, Reviewed by Maryann

Review: The Boys on the Mountain by John Inman

Title: The Boys on the Mountain

Author: John Inman

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 330 Pages

At a Glance: This is a very well written horror story by John Inman, and ranks right up there with Stephen King, in my opinion.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Jim Brandon has a new house, and boy is it a pip. Built high on the side of the San Diego mountains by a legendary B movie actor of the 1930s, Nigel Letters, the house is not only gorgeous, but supposedly haunted. As a writer of horror novels, Jim couldn’t be happier.

But after a string of ghostly events sets Jim’s teeth on edge and scares the bejesus out of his dog, Jim begins to dig into the house’s history. What he finds is enough to creep out anybody. Even Jim. It seems long dead Nigel Letters had a few nasty habits back in his day. And unhappily for Jim, the old bastard still has some tricks up his sleeve.

As Jim welcomes his ex, Michael, and a bevy of old friends for a two-week visit to help christen the new house, he soon realizes his old friends aren’t the only visitors who have come to call.

Dividers

Review: First, I have to warn readers there are some extreme cases of abuse in The Boys on the Mountain, so it may be offensive to some. It is descriptive, shocking and scary. This is a very well written horror story by John Inman, and ranks right up there with Stephen King, in my opinion. It drew me in from the start, and I couldn’t stop reading no matter what happened. In a way, it’s a sad tale too, as we have heard of such abuses in this day and age, and I can’t even begin to imagine how this would have been handled in the 1920s and ‘30s.

Most of the time setting for this tale is the 1940s, during World War II. Many of these young boys were homeless and used their youth and beauty to earn money just to stay alive. Timmy (TJ) Johnson, Kenny, Arturo, Charlie Simms, Jeremiah (Jerry), Josh, and Joey; and the exception, Allan Crisp—these are only a few of the boys who faced horrific tragedy.

During this time, Nigel Letters was aging, and work in Hollywood had disappeared for him. He amassed his wealth as a B-horror movie actor in the ‘20s and ‘30s, but left the Hollywood life to live in the secluded mountains of San Diego, where he committed suicide.

Seventy years later, we find Jim Brandon and his faithful dog Rex moving into Nigel’s eighteenth century Mexican hacienda. Its purchase price was worth it to Jim, as it gave him the solitude he was looking for. And, the house was supposedly haunted. Being a horror story author, what more could he ask for, as eerie occurrences start when Jim and Rex spend the night in the carriage house? At which point he also gains some interesting information from Caroline, his housekeeper, as well as ninety-six-year-old Clarice O’Donnell.

There is a lot of humor in this story when Jim’s friends Michael, Lyle, Frank, and Stu show up and practically move into his home, which helps to balance out a lot of the horror in the plot. As a horror story fan, I was really pleased that Jim’s friends didn’t call him crazy or didn’t believe what he was telling them. There was great camaraderie between all the friends—no one ran off screaming. The rekindled romance between Jim and Michael was a plus to the story too, as Michael showed how much he was willing to sacrifice to be with Jim again.

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OmniLit/ARe

OmniLit/ARe

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5 Stars, Ally Blue, Horror, Reviewed by Jennifer, Riptide Publishing, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Down by Ally Blue

Title: Down

Author: Ally Blue

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 380 Pages

At a Glance: Not for the faint of heart but a thoroughly enjoyable novel, with horror, suspense, and the deep.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Seven thousand meters below the ocean’s surface, the crew of the BathyTech 3 mineral mining facility has found something remarkable: a rock-like sphere of unknown material and origin.

For Mo Rees, the discovery calls to his inner explorer and adds color to his dull miner’s life. Even better than the promise of new knowledge is the unexpected connection he forges with Dr. Armin Savage-Hall, leader of the team brought down to study the thing.

For Armin, the object is the find of a lifetime. It could prove his controversial theories and secure his scientific reputation. And Mo is a fascinating bonus.

Then crew members start behaving strangely. Worse, they start to change: their eyes glow purple, their teeth sharpen. Then the violence begins, the brutal deaths. As BathyTech descends deeper into chaos, the surviving crew works desperately to find the cause of the horrors around them. What they uncover could annihilate the human race. And they can’t stop it.

Dividers

Review: Ally Blue is one of my favorite authors, so when I saw that she was releasing a horror novel, I was thrilled. Until I found out where it takes place.

The bottom of the ocean.

So therein lies my dilemma. I love Ally Blue so much I purchase her ebooks, read them, love them, and then as soon as that book is available in paperback, I buy the paperback. I own every single book she has written in ebook, and every one that has been released as a paperback sits on the top shelf of one of my bookcases. She writes romance and horror very well. I was a huge fan of her book Oleander House when I discovered it, and devoured the entire Bay City Paranormal Investigations series and its spinoffs. She builds creepy creatures and worlds, and I just love it.

But I’m terrified of deep water. And that’s where this book takes place. In the deepest waters you can find on our planet. I took a chance, and while I was scared out of my wits reading half of her descriptions, I enjoyed every moment of the story.

The novel is set in the fairly near future. Things have happened to the earth, and while some of it is mentioned, not all the details are given. We do know that there have been disasters and power outages that caused chaos around the world. There’s also technology that allows miners to mine the ocean floor, walking out into the crushing pressure seven thousand feet below sea level, and still live. Together the miners live side-by-side with scientists who study the surrounding area. When a mysterious object that simultaneously exists and does not exist is found, Mo and Armin are thrown into each other’s paths, and their fates are irrevocably entwined.

First and foremost, this book is a horror novel. So while yes, there is a romance between Mo and Armin, that is not the focus of the story. Most of the sex happens off page after a fade to black and time skips. There is only one explicit scene between them, and it’s much later in the book. So if that’s all you want out of a book, then this isn’t for you. But you’ll be missing out on a great novel.

I’m not the biggest fan of horror. I mean, there are some movies I like, but I haven’t always read horror novels. I just never got into them, as most do nothing for me. This one, however, terrified me because of the setting. Ally Blue portrays this incredibly complex world at the bottom of the ocean, and I couldn’t help but think of all the things that could go so horribly wrong down there. I mean…honestly. So much can, and there’s not much you can do about it.

The onset of the horror is pretty slow at first. The suspense builds as readers follow Mo and Armin as strange things start to occur. First there are the bizarre shadows. Then the little squiggles at the corner of Mo’s vision. Headaches. Irritability. Full out psychosis.

I wondered how the novel could possibly end well, given all that was happening, but Blue makes it work. I cried at the end—her books tend to make me emotional—but it was such a great ending. The last lines were perfect and really went with the characters. Mo and Armin grow throughout the novel in so many ways, but despite all those changes, they are at heart the same men from the beginning of the book.

The secondary characters in this novel are also fully developed. All of the doctors from Armin’s group to the crew of BathyTech3 have their own personalities that make them people I wish I knew. Even DAISY. I don’t know how Blue managed to make me like a TARANTULA but she did. I hate spiders. They are my second greatest fear after deep water, but somehow this author made me like her character—and yes, it’s possible for a spider to be a fully realized character. But I guess if any author was going to do it, it would be this one.

Whether you’re a fan of horror or not, I highly recommend you checking this book out. If I can manage to do it even with all of my fears, so can you! I just might have hid under the covers more than the typical person…and, maybe I got nervous every time a shadow twitched from the car lights outside, but whatever. I can always sleep next week or something.

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You can buy Down here:

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3.5 Stars, DSP Publications, Horror, John Inman, Reviewed by Janet

Review: Willow Man by John Inman

Title: Willow Man

Author: John Inman

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 336 Pages

At a Glance: Though unevenly paced, this book turns the unusual into the horrific

Blurb: Woody Stiles has sung his country songs in every city on the map. His life is one long road trip in a never-ending quest for fame and fortune. But when his agent books him into a club in his hometown, a place he swore he would never set foot again, Woody comes face to face with a few old demons. One in particular.

With memories of his childhood bombarding him from every angle, Woody must accept the fact that his old enemy, Willow Man, was not just a figment of childish imagination.

With his friends at his side, now all grown up just like he is, Woody goes to battle with the killer that stole his childhood lover. Woody also learns Willow Man has been busy while he was away, destroying even more of Woody’s past. And in the midst of all this drama, Woody is stunned to find himself falling in love—something he never thought he would do again.

As kids, Woody and his friends could not stop the killer who lived in the canyon where they played. As adults, they might just have a chance.

Or will they?

Dividers

Review: As soon as this book came up for review, I grabbed it. I have read and enjoyed almost all of John’s books over the past few years, and was dying to read this one too. I do not have a horror background, mystery/ suspense type books are my norm, but I loved Head-On and A Hard Winter Rain, so I figured I could handle the change of genres by one of my favourite authors. His characters are always quirky and extremely well defined, and the settings for his stories are vivid; be it a mountain, farm, or a rooming house, I can always picture exactly where the characters are and their surroundings.

In Willow Man, Inman does this very well indeed. I can clearly see the dreaded canyon, dark and full of scrub, trees and rock. I can picture Woody’s house and the backyard and even his Mother’s roses. Woody is the MC of this book, and most of what we see is from his POV. He is a musician who is returning to his childhood home for the first time in a dozen years. He left his home after his parents were murdered, and took his music on the road; he struggled with drugs and cleaned himself up, and now has hopes of breaking through with his music, with a couple of shows he will perform in his hometown. But Woody had more than just his parents’ death as a reason to avoid his home, and we are introduced to the cast of characters through recurring flashbacks to Woody’s 13th year, and the summer it all went wrong.

Willow Man was scary for thirteen-year-olds, but the true scope of its evil nature is unveiled as the intervening years are played out with the adult Woody and his best friends. The group of 5 kids have a very close and dynamic relationship that John explores fully. The blindness of acceptance that kids have for one another is tempered through hindsight to the youthful yearnings they each had, and is an added layer to the traumatic events they survived. The scene where Woody and Chuck seek to draw out the Willow Man, while riding Woody’s bike double, is so real and vivid that a week later I can still see it clearly in my mind. John’s ability to paint a scene with words is enviable and a true talent that shines in this book.

A good portion of the success of a really scary horror story comes from the constant build up of dread that an author creates, and John does this well many times in this book. For me, though, the timing and/or pace was off somehow. It seemed that just as I was totally involved and full of anticipation, the story switched from past to present, or vice versa, and then the tension had to be rebuilt. It created a lag for me in the flow of the story, and I found it to be a slow read and a lot to absorb.

This is not a book for the faint of heart, as it is a dark and tangled read, with lots of blood and gore, and a sexual predator twisted into the plot. The idea that sparked this tale—a plane crash that John actually witnessed—is gruesome with possibilities that he takes great advantage of. It is typical of horror to turn the unusual into the horrific, and this he has done very well.






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Barnes & Noble

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4 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, Horror, Love Lane Books, Meredith Russell, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: “Dead Things” by Meredith Russell

“Too often something was lurking around the corner ready to bite you in the ass. Literally.” – Meredith Russell


Title: Dead Things

Author: Meredith Russell

Publisher: Love Lane Books

Pages/Word Count: 182 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Devin never thought he could find hope or love among the ruins of a broken world. Not until he found Noah.

When Devin Reid returned home from his final tour in Afghanistan he thought he’d seen the worst of what people could do to other people. It turned out he was wrong. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Horror, Reviewed by Jackie, Rhys Ford

Release Day Review: “Duck Duck Ghost (Hellsinger: Book Two)” by Rhys Ford

Title: Duck Duck Ghost (Hellsinger: Book Two)

Author: Rhys Ford

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count:

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Paranormal investigator Wolf Kincaid knows what his foot tastes like.

Mostly because he stuck it firmly in his mouth when his lover, Tristan Pryce, accidentally drugged him with a batch of psychotropic baklava. Needing to patch things up between them, Wolf drags Tristan to San Luis Obispo, hoping Tristan’s medium ability can help evict a troublesome spirit haunting an old farmhouse. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Hank Edwards, Historical Romance, Horror, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Wilde City Press

Hank Edwards’ “Blood & Stone” Kicks Things Up A Notch In Venom Valley

Title: Blood & Stone (Venom Valley: Book Three)

Author: Hank Edwards

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 229 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Josh Stanton’s mother has been held prisoner by the vampire Balthazar for fifteen years. As Balthazar has turned the residents of Belkin’s Pass into vampires under his control, Josh, his lover Dex, former saloon girl Glory, and US Army Sergeant Walker Maxwell fight to contain the undead uprising.

As Josh struggles to control his power to raise the dead, the group is pursued to the abandoned Fort Emmerick. There they make plans to take the battle to Balthazar’s cave, uncertain if all of them will live to see the light of day once again. Continue reading

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4 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Erotica, Genre Romance, Heidi Belleau, Horror, Lisa Henry, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Tina, Riptide Publishing, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau’s “Bliss” Is Too Good To Be True

“If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” — Every Parent Ever


Title: Bliss

Author: Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 230 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: They’re always happy.

Rory James has worked hard all his life to become a citizen of the idyllic city-state of Beulah. Like every other kid born in the neighboring country of Tophet, he’s heard the stories: No crime or pollution. A house and food for everyone. It’s perfect, and Rory is finally getting a piece of it. Continue reading

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