Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews

REVIEW: Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman

*No Major Spoilers*

*Small trigger warning for brief mentions of gore and torture*

Failed academic Frank Nichols and his wife, Eudora, have arrived in the sleepy Georgia town of Whitbrow, where Frank hopes to write a history of his family’s old estate-the Savoyard Plantation- and the horrors that occurred there. At first, the quaint, rural ways of their new neighbors seem to be everything they wanted. But there is an unspoken dread that the townsfolk have lived with for generations. A presence that demands sacrifice.

It comes from the shadowy woods across the river, where the ruins of Savoyard still stand. Where a longstanding debt of blood has never been forgotten.

A debt that has been waiting patiently for Frank Nichols’s homecoming…


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I started this audiobook not knowing what to expect. At first it was reminding me of The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey. The main character comes into this small town and maybe not everything is as what it seems. The end result is something dark and twisted that will leave you stunned.

“That was a mean thought, and not funny at all. I let it turn to sand and blow out of my head.”

Christopher Buehlman, Those Across the River

I love how dark, yet beautiful this story was thematically. When Frank and Eudora were just going to the store in broad daylight, you could feel the heavy and intense atmosphere. The financial strain everyone was facing, the PTSD Frank was suffering, and the aftermath of the ending of the ritual made the world feel unnerving.

One thing I didn’t like was how hard it was to keep track of most of the townsfolk. I’m not sure if that was intentional because that seems to be a trope in the horror genre. Where everyone except the main character(s) are cardboard cutouts and monster/demon fodder. I know it’s a necessary evil to convey how full and alive this town is, but even one of the minor plot twists made me feel indifferent.

Overall, this was a beautifully written novel full of small town horror, sophisticated romance, and dark suspense. Frank’s perspective on everything made the townsfolk seem sinister, even when the pastor himself fought to keep the pig ritual reinstated. Frank learns the devil lived in Whitbrow, and the devil soon destroyed the town in the end.

I would recommend this novel to fans of horror, historical fiction, and for fans of The Curse of Crow Hollow and Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics. This story is a great read and would encourage anyone thinking about either getting a fresh take on horror, or just looking for some early Halloween vibes, then I would definitely recommend this book.


Want More Horror? Click Here to see more horror novels I’ve reviewed!

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

UPDATED REVIEW: Dog on It (Chet and Bernie Mystery #1) by Spencer Quinn

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*No Major Spoilers*

Meet Chet, the wise and lovable canine narrator of Dog on It, who works alongside Bernie, a down-on-his-luck private investigator. Chet might have flunked out of police school (“I’d been the best leaper in K-9 class, which had led to all the trouble in a way I couldn’t remember exactly, although blood was involved”), but he’s a detective through and through.

In this, their first adventure, Chet and Bernie investigate the disappearance of Madison, a teenage girl who may or may not have been kidnapped, but who has definitely gotten mixed up with some very unsavory characters. A well-behaved, gifted student, she didn’t arrive home after school and her divorced mother is frantic. Bernie is quick to take the case-something about a cash flow problem that Chet’s not all that clear about-and he’s relieved, if vaguely suspicious, when Madison turns up unharmed with a story that doesn’t add up. But when she disappears for a second time in a week, Bernie and Chet aren’t taking any chances; they launch a full-blown investigation. Without a ransom demand, they’re not convinced it’s a kidnapping, but they are sure of one thing: something smells funny.

Their search for clues takes them into the desert to biker bars and other exotic locals, with Chet’s highly trained nose leading the way. Both Chet and Bernie bring their own special skills to the hunt, one that puts each of them in peril. But even as the bad guys try to turn the tables, this duo is nothing if not resourceful, and the result is an uncommonly satisfying adventure.


I love a good mystery involving a dog or cat. So, when I stumbled upon this mystery series I knew I had to check it out. So let’s dive into Dog On It.

I thought it was a really cool idea to tell the story through Chet’s POV (point of view). The things us humans focus on and think about vs what our canine companions must think about is so funny and heartwarming. Chet sees his best friend as the smartest guy he’s ever met and that he knows “money trouble” is a constant worry. Chet has no concept of such human things, but he is there to support Bernie through thick and thin.

“A wild-goose chase! I’d heard that expression so many times but never been on one. It sounded like the most exciting thing in the whole world. Yes, I wanted to go on a wild-goose chase, and if that meant Vegas, so be it.”

Spencer Quinn “Dog On It”

One negative I have is how much Chet repeats himself. By the time I got halfway through the book it seemed like the case was in the same standstill as we were in several chapters ago. Once Bernie finally figured out a “big clue” I was yelling at my phone in joy that the mystery was finally progressing and we were going to nab the bad guys.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Overall, I liked this novel. I think if you’re a fan of David Rosenfelt then you would enjoy this series. The focus isn’t so much on the mystery in this series as it is the bond between a PI and his dog. However, I think it’s worth the read.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews

REVIEW: When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry

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*No Major Spoilers*

Almost everyone in the small town of Splendor, Ohio, was affected when the local steel mill exploded. If you weren’t a casualty of the accident yourself, chances are a loved one was. That’s the case for seventeen-year-old Franny, who, five years after the explosion, still has to stand by and do nothing as her brother lies in a coma.

In the wake of the tragedy, Franny found solace in a group of friends whose experiences mirrored her own. The group calls themselves The Ordinary, and they spend their free time investigating local ghost stories and legends, filming their exploits for their small following of YouTube fans. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it keeps them from dwelling on the sadness that surrounds them.

Until one evening, when the strange and dangerous thing they film isn’t fiction–it’s a bright light, something massive hurdling toward them from the sky. And when it crashes and the teens go to investigate…everything changes.

~~

First off, I have to say that when I saw the cover of this novel at the library, I fell in love with this beautiful book cover. When I finished reading When the Sky Fell on Splendor, I can say that the story is just as beautiful as the cover.

“How many billions of things had to happen just right to give me this ordinary life.”

Emily Henry, When the Sky Fell on Splendor

I love how the characters were relatable and had depth. Franny and her brother Arthur grew up living in their older brother’s shadow. After the steel mill explosion and their brother Mark ends up in a coma, Franny’s mom and dad divorce and Franny and Arthur continue to live in the background of their depressed dad’s life.

We don’t get much from the other characters other than what is on the surface that Franny has observed. One of the key facets of their friend group is to not talk about emotional stuff. Even though some of the signs of the parents’ issues have clearly effected their kids in subtle ways.

Franny had grown close to one of the other boys in their group, and during an emotional moment he shared about how his mom’s doomsday prepping quickly spiraled into hoarding after the accident. He even took up a job at the local Walmart just so he could support his ailing mom and how he had become the sole breadwinner after his dad died in the accident.

I personally would’ve loved more insight on Sophia. I think she was left out when it came to emotional weight. She was the smartest one of the group and wasn’t an outcast like the others. She wanted to be a lawyer after a weekend with her grandmother watching Law and Order: SVU. She seemed to have a great relationship with her mom, and doesn’t understand why Franny started keeping her at arm’s length.

I read this book being compared to The Serpent King and Stranger Things as well as Super 8. I personally haven’t read or watched any of these, but they seem to have similar themes to When the Sky Fell on Splendor. So if you are familiar with any of these popular stories, I would recommend this novel for you.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Non-Fiction

REVIEW: The Last Book on the Left: Stories of Murder and Mayhem from History’s Most Notorious Serial Killers by Marcus Parks, Ben Kissel, and Henry Zebrowski

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Since its first show in 2010, The Last Podcast on the Left has barreled headlong into all things horror, as hosts Henry Zebrowski, Ben Kissel, and Marcus Parks cover subjects spanning Jeffrey Dahmer, werewolves, Jonestown, and supernatural phenomena. Deeply researched but with a morbidly humorous bent, the podcast has earned a dedicated and aptly cult-like following for its unique take on all things macabre.

In their first book, the guys take a deep dive into history’s most infamous serial killers, from Ted Bundy to John Wayne Gacy, exploring their origin stories, haunting habits, and perverse predilections. Featuring newly developed content alongside updated fan favorites, each profile is an exhaustive examination of the darker side of human existence. With appropriately creepy four-color illustrations throughout and a gift-worthy paper overboard format, The Last Book on the Left will satisfy the bloodlust of readers everywhere.

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I have been listening to The Last Podcast on the Left for a couple of years now. I love how they talk about these serial killers and rips the curtain mainstream media has placed around them and expose them for who they indeed are.

Years of researching serial killers has revealed that most of these criminals are not the monsters of nightmares they are so often portrayed to be by “true crime entertainment” but are more often huge dorks who couldn’t get anything right in their lives so they turned to murder and mayhem. -Henry Zebrowski of Last Podcast on the Left

However, on their podcast, they talk about more than just serial killers and true crime. They also discuss various paranormal and occult topics. They recently finished up a series about the history of lobotomy, and I found the subject to be fascinating as well as a bit gross.

This collection of serial killer histories is worth the read for any true crime fan, and I feel it’s a great introduction to the podcast itself. Marcus tells the story, and Henry and Ben interject with jokes and humorous comments. Although, when the subject revolves around UFOs and aliens, Henry tends to take over the story and adds pieces of his research.

Overall, if you are looking for a true-crime read that’s not afraid to have a sense of humor, then I would recommend Last Book on the Left. This collection is perfect for fans of the podcast or looking for an introduction to true crime. This story will leave you laughing while double-checking the locks on your doors and windows.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Columbus Day (Expeditionary Force #1) by Craig Alanson

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*No Major Spoilers*

We were fighting on the wrong side of the war; we couldn’t win. And that was the good news.
The Ruhar hit us on Columbus Day. There we were, innocently drifting along the cosmos on our little blue marble, like the Native Americans in 1492. Over the horizon come ships of a technologically advanced, aggressive culture, and BAM! There go the good old days, when humans only got killed by each other. So, Columbus Day. It fits.
When the morning sky twinkled again, this time with Kristang starships jumping in to hammer the Ruhar, we thought we were saved. The UN Expeditionary Force hitched a ride on Kristang ships to fight the Ruhar, wherever our new allies thought we could be useful. So, I went from fighting with the US Army in Nigeria, to fighting in space. It was lies, all of it. We shouldn’t even be fighting the Ruhar; they aren’t our enemy, our allies are.
I’d better start at the beginning…

~

I have been looking for a sci-fi novel that involved first alien contact that didn’t leave the reader with their nose stuck in a military dictionary trying to figure out what was going on. I don’t usually read military fiction because the author can forget that not everyone reading their books may not know all of the military terminologies. Luckily Columbus Day explains all of the jargon and military slang. I like how the main character is telling his story like he’s talking to ordinary people, all of the lingoes is explained, and he explains various types of strategies and the pros and cons of each.

Another thing I enjoyed about Columbus Day is how the main character relates to the enemy as well as their allies. When the Ruhar first attack, Bishop and a ragtag team of military friends abduct one of the enemy soldiers to get intel on the enemy, and one of the other enemy soldiers got hurt by debris. Later, we learn Bishop felt guilty for not being able to check for injuries on the enemy.

“Soldiers are soldiers, whether they have fur, skin or scales. So, logically, the Ruhar lobbed a missile at the most imposing structure in the area, the potato warehouse, and took it out in impressive fashion. I mean, they blew the hell out of it, those soldiers must have had something against potatoes.” – Columbus Day

However, my opinion of the story took a dip when the author introduced Skippy, an all-powerful AI built by ancient beings many millennia ago. I feel like the author hit a roadblock in the story and created Skippy as a way to get the story going again. The author then forces us to read a game of “Pete and Repeat” about everything we had learned up to this point. I felt this dialogue was unnecessary to the overall plot.

I have since gotten used to Skippy helping Bishop and other human soldiers. Once you get over that significant speedbump, the story smooths back out into military space action. Even with Skippy doing a lot of the critical technical aspects of the operation, this doesn’t slow the momentum down.

Overall, if you are looking for a sci-fi space adventure, then I would recommend Columbus Day. I would also recommend this novel if you are a fan of military fiction, space adventures, and just looking for an overall good story. Columbus Day will leave you binging the whole series before the day is over.

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