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Peel Back and See by Mike Thorn (Book Review)

In spaces both familiar and strange, unknowable horrors lurk.

From the recesses of the Internet, where cosmic terror shows its face on an endless live feed, to a museum celebrating the sordid legacy of an occultist painter, this chilling collection of sixteen short stories will plunge you into the eerie, pessimistic imagination of Mike Thorn. Peel Back and See urges its readers to look closer, to push past surface-level appearances and face the things that stir below.

 

Amazon Purchase Link
Journalstone.com

 

(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

Peel Back and See is a collection of sixteen (16) short stories that are heavy on unforgettable encounters with hungry creatures, blood and gore, fear, Satan, and (weirdly enough) sexual arousal. 

Some stories stuck with me more than others. Below are my top five (5). 

1.) Mr. Mucata’s Final Requests: Everyone knows you don’t try to double-cross Satan. I mean, come on, don’t even try. Deals with him are also a bad idea. Seriously, the worst possible choice a person can make. If you believe in the devil, demons, and hell, say NO to anything offered. Period!

2.) @GorgoYama2013: We’re raised to know you NEVER go into a stranger’s car. Horror movies have ingrained in us to NEVER go into a strange basement, especially alone. Victor broke all the rules. What he met could best be described as a horrific version of Krang (the brain) from TMNT. If you don’t know who I am talking about, look him up! 

3.) Vomitus Bacchanalius: Okay, people are vomiting. Aliens are eating the regurgitated food. There are goo-faced men. Ugh, this story was gross, BUT good! I loved the nod to Gordon Ramsay too. 🙂

4.) The Furnace Room Mutant: This story stood out more because you’d think an unnatural being would be the monster in the story. I like it when authors step out from the paranormal norm. 🙂

5.) Havoc: This was the first story in the collection, and it made me close my laptop and take one giant step back from it. Read the story, and you’ll understand why. There was only one part I wasn’t too keen on — a flashback scene between student and teacher. I don’t want to divulge too much, but it made my score drop from a five to a four. (for this story only, not the overall score of the anthology)

 

 In Peel Back and See, thirteen of the sixteen stories scored three and above. That’s impressive! I encourage others to read the collection and see which story has you cowering under the covers. 


Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤

Amazon Purchase Link
Journalstone.com

 

 

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Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, The NoSleep Podcast, Tales to Terrify, and Prairie Gothic. His film criticism has been published in MUBI Notebook, The Film Stage, and Vague Visages. He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.

Connect with him on Twitter (@MikeThornWrites) or visit his website for more information: mikethornwrites.com.

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Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition by Mike Thorn (Book Review)

cover image / art by Mikio Murakami

 

Between the covers of Darkest Hours, you will find academics in distress; humans abusing monsters; demons terrorizing people; ghostly reminiscences; resurrected trauma; and occult filmmaking. Ranging from satirical to dreadful, these sixteen stories share a distinct voice: urgent, sardonic, and brutal.  

This expanded edition includes a new foreword by Sadie Hartmann (Mother Horror) and author notes for every story describing Thorn’s process, influences, and more. This updated release also features seventeen of Thorn’s essays on horror cinema, which cover films by Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero, Rob Zombie, M. Night Shyamalan, Wes Craven, and Dario Argento, among others.   

Journalstone.com

Amazon Purchase Link

 

 

(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

When I look at anthologies (multiple authors) or a compilation of works by a single author, I hope to walk away loving 1/2 of the short stories. With Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition by Mike Thorn, 11 out of the 16 horror tales scored a 4 or 5. That’s huge! It just shows you how well Mike Thorn crafted each storyline. 

Each story caused various reactions from me. Here are some examples:

 

HairAs a germaphobe, the idea of hair getting in my food or the possibility of eating hair is nightmarish. Ugh, just thinking about it makes my stomach turn. However, the inquisitive part of me wanted to know about hair fetishes. Oh my word, my browser history would raise some eyebrows. Curiosity made me read about hair eating (trichophagia), Rapunzel Syndrome (basically, hairballs), trichophia, and pubephilia. I’ll let readers of my review look those up for themselves. 🙂

While the plot 100% disturbed me and grossed me out, I was fascinated by the medical information surrounding the perversion to hair. 

Economy These DaysThis story wasn’t gory or horrific. It was, however, very plausible. In desperate times, people will do anything for money. So, I can absolutely fathom someone using their body as a punching bag. $450 a day, $2,250 a week, 9K a month, that amount of money is too irresistible to resist. Economy These Days made me wonder what I would do if there were no hope in sight. What would be my price? 

Lucio Schluter: In real life, humans are the real monsters of the world. They are the ones who abduct, inflict pain, suffering, torture, and kill. Every adult has probably watched at least one documentary of a famous serial killer, so you know the horrors that lurk in this world. For me, when Mike Thorn writes about plausible scenarios, that’s the stories that haunt me the most. The ones I won’t soon forget. 

 

Quick responses to 5 more stories featured in the Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition:

 

I’m never camping, thanks to Fusion!!! 

Mirrors are overrated, so I have no issue tossing all of mine in the trash. The possible result if I don’t is scary as shit! (Story, Long Man)

Mired: The absolute horror of the story was the blob eating all the textbooks. 😀

I’ve had many conversations about ghosts, so I loved the philosophical and theoretical discussions in Speaking of Ghosts. I wouldn’t want to face the actual outcome presented in the tale. Nope, I like to live in a world in hypotheticals. Leave the “seeing is believing” for other folks. 🙂

Mike Thorn ended the compilation with a fascinating tale. It’s a story through the eyes of a ghost. Remembering Absence wasn’t gory. It was another “thinker” story. While I love a good gory tale, I found this type of story sticks with you much longer because you’ll find yourself talking about the possibility of such an occurrence with your friends. 

 

After reading the sixteen stories, I learned several important facts.

No sober person had any supernatural encounters. Nothing good happens after dark, so stay the F*** home. Oh, and mirrors are evil so get rid of them! Now! 

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤

Journalstone.com

Amazon Purchase Link

 

 

 

_DSF2007 (1)

Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, The NoSleep Podcast, Tales to Terrify, and Prairie Gothic. His film criticism has been published in MUBI Notebook, The Film Stage, and Vague Visages. He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.

Connect with him on Twitter (@MikeThornWrites) or visit his website for more information: mikethornwrites.com.

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Caroline And Mordecai The Gand: A Fantasy Novella by Jeff Gunhus (Book Review)

Reading age: 8 – 18 years Grade level: 4 – 12 Print length: 126 pages

Content Rating: PG: The language is G. There is one scene with the main character punches a bully resulting in a bloody nose. The emotional treatment of grief and the death of a loved one can be somewhat intense.

 

This novella was written by USA Today bestselling author Jeff Gunhus after he received a devastating diagnosis of state 3 cancer. The story is a message to his five children on how to deal with grief and a plea for them to grasp onto joy and love even in the darkest of times.

Caroline loses her spark. It takes a great adventure for her to find it again.

Caroline loses her father in a car accident for which she feels responsible. Consumed by grief, she has a difficult time readjusting to a world that has changed so dramatically for her. On the anniversary of her father’s death, a strange window opens in the middle of the small lake behind her house. She climbs up an old oak to peer inside, but falls out of the tree and discovers that the window also serves as a door into a different world.

Enter Mordecai the Gand, a mysterious traveler who befriends Caroline and promises to help her find a way back home since the window she fell through has disappeared. The two set out on a series of adventures that include visiting a tree village populated by a tribe known for eating travelers, running into a witch under a spell of her own making, hiding in a cave with a dragon encased in a wall of ice (prone to melting by campfire), all the while being pursued by a mysterious entity call the Creach which promises to devour Caroline and trap her in an eternity of despair.

As they navigate these adventures and this new world, Caroline slowly discovers that she is meant to help each of the characters she meets. As she battles internally whether to stay or return home to the sadness and grief waiting for her there, she must regain perspective and open her heart to the act of caring and to the joy of love itself. In the end, she must demonstrate great courage, loyalty, and caring as the plot unfolds, becoming the active hero of her own story.

Amazon Purchase Link 

 

 

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from iRead Book Tours.  I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

 
Caroline & Mordecai the Gand by Jeff Gunhus’s target audience was intended for middle-grade students, but I became immersed in Caroline’s emotional journey, and I’m in my 40s. Like Caroline, my father died when I was young. And like her, I carried a lot of guilt surrounding his death. 


Grief is complicated at any age, but I feel kids have a more challenging time handling a personal loss because, sometimes, they aren’t able to articulate their feelings. Heck, even adults have trouble with the task. 


Jeff Gunhus did an outstanding job depicting the internal struggles people of all ages face when dealing with loss. 


I adored everything about Caroline & Mordecai the Gand. It made me smile, and it made me cry. Jeff Gunhus made me reflect on my father, a voice I can’t hear anymore but a face I’ll never forget. 


Would I recommend this book? Yes. This book’s audience extends past middle-school. It will touch many hearts. 

 
 
Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤❤

 


Meet the Author

Author Jeff Gunhus

 
Jeff Gunhus is the USA TODAY bestselling author of thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade fantasy series, The Jack Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year-old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 30 on Amazon, have been recognized as Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists and reached the USA TODAY bestseller list.

Jeff wrote Caroline & Mordecai the Gand after receiving a devastating diagnosis of stage 3 cancer. The novella was meant as a private story for his five children on how to face grief by holding onto joy and love. He leads an active life in Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of Old Fox Books in Annapolis working on his next novel or on JeffGunhus.com.

 
connect with the author:  
website  ~  twitter  ~  facebook 
instagram goodreads bookbub
 
 

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