Ferocious is a perfect blend of witty dialogue, quirky characters, and nightmarish horror. But what else could we expect from Jeff Strand? When Mia’s parents die in an accident, it’s up to her reclusive, misanthropic uncle Rusty to step up and care for his baby niece. He’s in no way equipped to take on the role of parent, and it’s nothing he ever expected of his life, but he’s determined to do the best job he can. Surprisingly enough, he manages to do a fine job, home-schooling Mia and teaching her his woodworking trade as they live a life of quiet solitude in the forest. He may not have believed it possible at first, but Rusty managed to raise her almost to adulthood, and he’s proud of how she’s grown up. Just as Rusty begins to question whether he’s shortchanged Mia by raising her in such isolation, their world is shattered by wildlife gone mad. Squirrels, birds, deer, wolves, bears, and other creatures have become aggressive and determined to kill Rusty and Mia–but the aggression isn’t the hardest part to comprehend, it’s the fact that they’re all dead. Strand drags us at breakneck speed through a sequence of events that would be horrible under the best of circumstances; but miles into the woods without any hope of salvation nearby, these are far from optimal conditions. Scott Thomas’s narration captures the wry wit of the two protagonists even as they grow increasingly exhausted and violated as the narrative progresses. The quality of the narration never took away from this being a Jeff Strand story, and that’s something to be proud of.
Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind In The Willows collide with The Most Dangerous Game and Animal Farm in Durham’s Winterset Hollow. Exciting, surreal, and defying all expectations, the author has crafted something both somber and thought-provoking. John Eamon Buckley and his two closest friends join a group of fellow fans of Winterset Hollow to embark on a pilgrimage to the isolated island home of the children’s poem’s author, E. B. Addington. The crowd of friends and strangers couldn’t have prepared for–and never imagined–how intimate their glimpse into Addington’s life would be. What follows is a dizzying upheaval of everything they thought they knew and understood about the world around them. Awaiting the fans is a dark and scathing denunciation of the history they assumed to be true and a personal journey for Eamon as he discovers his connection to the beloved childhood story is deeper and more horrible than he’d suspected. The poem at the heart of Winterset Hollow is something I could imagine published on its own, and I could understand how the fictional characters might have cherished its captivating story. It’s the larger narrative, beautifully written and complete with its damning subtext of the evils associated with colonization and Westward expansion in early America that I adore, though. It’s so well-written and ingenious in its acknowledgment that Manifest Destiny and the American Dream were constructed on a substrate of nightmares levied against all those unfortunate enough to be in the path. The audiobook narrated by Jonathan Edward Durham himself was a spectacular way to experience this story, and he managed to capture both the tarnished innocence of Eamon and the bitterness combined with the sadness of the residents of Addington Isle.
Tatum Johnson was never an animal lover, but it wasn’t until his ex-girlfriend left him after he’d accidentally killed a dog by hitting it with his car that he came to hate animals with a cruel, driving passion. Emphasis on driving. After investing thousands of dollars into customizing a vehicle into a killing machine reminiscent of something one might see in The Road Warrior, Tatum is on a mission when he ventures out at night. He prowls the backroads like a steel-encased predator, seeking out any creature unwary enough to cross his path. When the giant buck steps onto the gravel road, Tatum thinks he might have hit the jackpot, but he’s on the road to judgment and pain that he could never comprehend. If Roadkill King is representative of the rest of what Dan B. Fierce has in store for readers with the Cabin 187 collection, people should be chomping at the bit in anticipation. Satisfying, cathartic, and captivating, I must insist that readers give Roadkill King a chance. There is some cruelty to animals in the story. But it’s the unforgiving cruelty of animals that makes everything feel better in the end, as the irredeemably reprehensible Tatum gets what he deserves. Except for the dog, of course, because as every dog lover knows, that species is nothing if not willing to forgive and defend even the most indefensible.
You can obtain this story by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:
Peter Caffrey has delivered a bedtime story that I might have read to my children as they’d gotten older. Keep in mind that the first book I purchased for my eldest daughter when she was a toddler was a chapbook of The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey. It’s also worth noting that I received a text message when said daughter was in middle school, asking me what necrophilia was. As you might expect, I provided an accurate and uncensored definition. I provide these anecdotes to suggest that I might not be the best judge of what makes for a good bedtime story. Arnold seems like a sweet child, sheltered by a loving mother and berated by a less-than-stellar father. The important relationship in Arnold’s life isn’t with either of his parents. It’s the one he has with Jimmy the Chimp, a stuffed toy who is far more than appearances might indicate. This ape is no harmless imaginary friend. A neighborhood experiencing a plague of missing kittens, a fateful can of tuna, and an oedipal connection between mother and son make for one hell of a twisted story…and this is only the beginning.
You can obtain Caffrey’s bedtime stories by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:
The Trap House provides us with a story of squandered potential, pissed away by an inconsiderate jackass. We’ve all known people who peaked in high school–or sooner–who never evolve past that point, and who can’t seem to recognize that the rest of the world has moved on around them. Get ready to see that taken to an extreme. Lil Snap was seemingly a golden child, with a great future ahead of him, until he tripped over his own ego and shit the bed in a spectacularly public display of ignorance and bigotry. Of course, one can never be too sure just how accurate that recollection is, seeing as how the character is a selfish psychopath with delusions of grandeur. With everyone turning their backs on him out of self-preservation and dignity, an embarrassing altercation in a check-out lane shatters the last vestiges of humanity in the vile cretin. Enter Hooper, with a deal that’s too good to be true. For someone accustomed to expecting everything handed to them, there’s no consideration that it can’t be that easy. The punishment in this installment is one I didn’t see coming until it had already been enacted. It’s become a thrill, trying to figure out from the narrative which direction the comeuppance will take, but this one hit me out of the blue, even though the clues were there.
The Trap House is Drew Stepek’s contribution to the 31 Days of Godless event at http://www.godless.com, released on his birthday of October 21st. You can pick it up for yourself by going to the website or downloading the app. The link is below:
Geick’s Cynophobia begins with a drabble. In this case, it’s a heartbreaking drabble that certainly sets the stage and tests the waters for the reader, in advance of the main story. It’s suitable for that purpose, in that it’s perhaps harder to read than what Geick offers up to us in this new tale of mental illness, irrational fear, and failing relationships. None of this is easy to read for an animal lover, and especially a dog lover. I am an animal lover. While I was growing up, I had several birds (my great aunt raised them for sale and had a room that consisted of virtually nothing but walls of bird cages. I’ve owned snakes and tarantulas. I have a daughter who didn’t take particularly good care of three guinea pigs she’d received as pets quite a few years ago–but she was only eight or nine at the time, so I shouldn’t have expected too much. They were adorable little things, though. They were, all three, sweet as can be, but they also produced a whole lot of waste that wasn’t properly cleaned up. I’ve owned a total of five ferrets over the years, and it’s challenging to keep up with the rancid mess they make, no matter how well-trained you believe them to be. We have a cat in our home, and we had a terrific rabbit until recently, and I’m allergic to both. I’ve had, at this point in my life, a total of 11 dogs, I currently own three of them, all under the age of five and two of them under the age of two. In October of 2019, the best dog I’ve ever owned died in my arms when a cruel sort of blood cancer stole her from me when she was only seven. It was worth mentioning all of that because I can sympathize with the protagonist of Cynophobia in a handful of ways while simultaneously considering him almost alien in others. No more pets was not the insoluble rule he expected it to be, he learns, as his wife progressively turns their home into a menagerie. The relentless hoarding drives the couple further apart and our protagonist distances himself from both his wife and his daughters. As the situation at home spirals out of control, Geick propels us toward a breaking point at which nothing will be the same. It’s a train wreck in relatively slow motion that the reader can’t turn away from. Cynophobia presents us with two possible endings, the original (S.A.D.) ending and the new ending Geick’s written for this version of the story. In one available ending, the sickness and mental illness appear to spread from one parent to the other, manifesting in an awful climax that will make many readers cringe. In the alternate conclusion, we witness the–hopefully–more natural end of the relationship and the outcome of the clear mental illness left unrestrained at the core of this tale. You’ll have to read them both, to discover which one you prefer. The splattery side of my nature prefers one, while the animal lover in me prefers the other. Neither of them is pleasant, and as the story says, there are no happy endings.
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