Dreams of Lake Drukka & Exhumation (Short Sharp Shocks! #31) – Mike Thorn

Title: Dreams of Lake Drukka & Exhumation
Author: Mike Thorn
Publisher: Demain Publishing
Genre: Horror/Paranormal
Page Length: 48 pages

I cracked open this short collection of two stories. One is about two sisters looking for familial closure. The other involves a family funeral.

The first one, Dreams of Lake Drukka, was most intriguing to me. I felt a connection with the sisterly theme, as well as I was hooked on the mystery of their adventure. Family secrets are always a gossip worthy experience and I found myself enjoying this dark and scary story.

The second story, Exhumation, was gory and nose wrinkling. For all the readers out there who enjoy blood and guts this one is for you, not so much for me.

Thorn is a compelling and engaging writer and I look forward to seeing more standard size writing from him in the future (I hope). For horror lovers out there, Thorn is worth taking a chance on.

If you are looking for a quick snack of fright induced shivers, then check out these two short stories by Thorn. But you might want to wait on snacking on real food until after you are done reading.

The stories can be found on Amazon in e-book format.

Synopsis: Dreams of Lake Drukka and Exhumation explore the unearthing of horrific, long-buried family secrets. Journeying into the darkest recesses of the past, these stories depict the dire consequences of discovering the truth.

Writing about Dreams Of Lake Drukka and Exhumation, author Mike Thorn said: “It was only in retrospect that I could see the connections between these two stories. When I revisited them for publication, it struck me that they work well as companion pieces. Both plots depict unfulfilled pacts with supernatural undercurrents, both include journeys to uncover unresolved familial trauma, and both pivot around the revelation of repressed memories. I wanted to explore the relationship between setting and atmosphere in these pieces, and to depict horror within internal and physical ‘sites of trauma.’ The characters are grappling with painful memories / experiences that have held them back, consciously or unconsciously. One story focuses on a character who is the agent of her own revelations, whereas the other story sees someone whose agency is quickly and brutally taken away.”

THE MAN BEHIND THE STORY:

Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours.

His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Dark Moon DigestThe NoSleep Podcast, DarkFuseUnnerving MagazineTurn to Ash and Tales to Terrify. His film criticism has been published in MUBI NotebookThe Film Stage, The Seventh Row, Bright Lights Film Journal 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 MIKE:

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OWL Rating:

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Harley Merlin and the Mystery Twins – Bella Forrest

Title: Harley Merlin and the Mystery Twins (Book #2)
Author: Bella Forrest
Publisher: Nightlight Press
Genre: Fantasy/YA/Paranormal
Page Length: 406 pages

I jumped right into the sequel of this series wanting to follow the adventure that had started in book one. I prefer to read standalone novels, as I grow bored when storylines continue on in multiple installments. Regardless, I decided to continue despite my history with series. Reading book two was safe this time. However, I will now need to take a break before I go on in the series.

The storyline picks right up where it left off and the author does a good job of refreshing the readers mind about past events. I appreciate this as someone who does not read one book after another and as someone who has a questionable memory.

I learned more about the individual characters but not as much as I hoped. The story focused more on the magical mystery and less on the character relationships. This was mildly disappointing. I would have liked a bit more character revelation and development in book 2.

However, the story was engaging and easy to read. I still like the characters and am learning to feel warm towards some others.

I will continue to read the series, as I am enjoying it, but I will take a break and read some other things before I come back to it.

If you like stories about teens with superpowers and slow growing feelings then this story might be up your alley.

You can find the book on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: A dark past. A hidden power. A dangerous enemy.

Harley Merlin has a lot of unanswered questions in her life. What drove her father to kill her mother? How can she know the true extent of her magical abilities? Has Wade Crowley always been this annoying?

After the violent gargoyle incident that left many dead, Harley fears what other evil tricks her psychotic aunt has up her sleeve. When she discovers that magical foster kids like herself are in danger, she knows she must do whatever it takes to protect them.

And it turns out that Tatyana, the Coven’s resident ghost-whisperer, is also willing to make sacrifices and has secrets of her own…

OWL Rating:

 

Harley Merlin and the Secret Coven – Bella Forrest

Title: Harley Merlin and the Secret Coven
Author: Bella Forrest
Publisher: Nightlight Press
Genre: Fantasy/YA/Paranormal
Page Length: 402 pages

This book has been blowing up my Amazon account for awhile now and I could not resist checking it out. It was advertised as the next Harry Potter, so I delved into it with high hopes.

This story is different from Harry Potter. Aside from the fact that the main character is an orphan with magical powers and there is a point system at her educational institution, the story is original and should not be compared to something else.

I have never read Forrest before, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a new author that I enjoyed reading in one of my favorite genres.

The story was easy to read, magically entertaining and all the characters were unique and intriguing. I also appreciate that the potential love interests are a VERY slow burn.

At this point in the series, I have no complaints. It was a pleasurable reading experience and I look forward to seeing what happens in the next installment.

If you are looking for a mysterious and enchanting read then check out this story.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: When a rogue 19-year-old witch is recruited to help guard an ancient magical Bestiary, a breath-stealing journey begins…
Being an empath has its advantages.

Harley Merlin can sense people’s emotions, among other things. It’s how she snagged her first job pinpointing cheaters at a casino.

But she has no clue where she got these freakish powers because she spent her childhood jumping from home to home in the foster system, and her father left her with nothing more than a cryptic note.

Then she crosses paths with a terrifyingly real monster. Which is when a mysterious and annoyingly arrogant young warlock named Wade Crowley steps in, introducing her to a hidden world of beasts, magicals, and covens riddled with secrets—as well as clues about her murky past.

Whether she likes it or not, this new world is where she belongs. But after a disturbing twist of events, Harley quickly realizes that her past is darker than she could ever have imagined.

And that someone in the coven is out for her blood.

With the help of Wade and her new friends, she must figure out who the traitor is and why they’re targeting her… Before the human and magical worlds dangerously collide.

OWL Rating:

Skinwrapper – Stephen Kozeniewski

Title: Skinwrapper
Author: Stephen Kozeniewski
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Page Length: 81 pages

If you are a fan of the bad guys known as Reavers, from the beloved show Firefly, then a Skinwrapper may be the next best thing. The Skinwrappers from this story share a lot in common with the Reavers of that story.

This story branches off from Kozeniewski’s novel The Hematophages, a totally different and darker world from Firefly, but still just as awesome.

In an hour you can whip through this tale that keeps you sucked in to the very end. Everything Kozeniewski writes is original, imaginative, often creepy and always edgy. Skinwrapper is no exception. I never know where the story is going because every development is fresh and unforeseen.

There are many good storytellers in existence, but the great are hard to come by. Kozeniewski is a great, and with each new story he creates, his footprint grows bigger in the literary world of horror and science fiction. It is only a matter of time before Kozeniewski is a household name.

If you have never read anything by Kozeniewski, why not take a chance on this?

You can find it on Amazon in e-book and paperback.

Synopsis: A single word strikes fear into the hearts of even the most experienced starship crews…

Aboard the freighter Blue Whale, a young girl’s day begins like any other: texting her friends while her parents bicker about breakfast. Then, with a loud, sickening pop, their domestic tranquility is shattered.

A single word goes out over the emergency warning system…

The galaxy’s shipping lanes are plagued by a gang of vicious pirates. Suffering from all manner of terminal diseases, they require zero gravity to live. They also need a constant influx of fresh blood and organs, so their victims also become their unwilling donors. The band is so ruthless, so violent, that its very name has become a synonym for terror.

A single word that chills the blood, even in the utter cold of space…

The little girl finds herself alone, lost, and trapped aboard the vessel she called home, praying it won’t also become her tomb. She is about to learn there is nothing in the universe worse than being hunted by a SKINWRAPPER.

This prequel novella shoves you screaming back into the world of “space horror masterpiece” (Daily Dead) THE HEMATOPHAGES.

THE MAN BEHIND THE STORY:

Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”) lives in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.

CONNECT WITH STEPHEN

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OWL Rating:

 

The Raven Boys (Book #1 of The Raven Cycle) – Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Raven Boys (Book #1 of The Raven Cycle)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Paranormal
Page Length: 409 pages

I picked this up due to a recommendation I received on the series. I had read Stiefvater in the past and had not been hooked, but I decided to give her another try.

The storyline was intriguing, and I enjoyed the individuality of all the characters. I loved how Blue, the main protagonist, came from a magical family but she herself was not obviously magical. I actually would have enjoyed more time learning about her family.

On the other hand, I had a hard time embracing the whole quest of the ley line obsession. I never quite understood why waking the ley leins was all that important. Also, I found the quest to be rather tiresome. Additionally, I didn’t care for the boys personalities all that much. They were all troubled in their own way and I never felt the chemistry between Blue and the boys.

Stiefvater is a good writer, and I felt she developed her characters well. But overall, I just wasn’t that engrossed. I had to force myself to finish the book. Now that it’s over I will move on to something else. I wish I felt otherwise, but I think Stiefvater just isn’t my storytelling flavor. However, most of the reading community disagrees with me, so if you like fantasy and young adult this book may be just what you are looking for.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

OWL Rating: for writing well and having an original concept

The Future Falls (Book #3) – Tanya Huff

Title: The Future Falls (Book #3 of Enchantment Emporium)
Author: Tanya Huff
Publisher: DAW
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal
Page length: 336 pages

This weekend was dedicated to finishing the final installment of the Enchantment Emporium series. I was excited to read the epic conclusion to a series full of magic and mystical creatures, which is what Huff writes best (in my humble opinion).

This story continues the journey of Charlie, a wild power Gale woman. Except this time, Charlie has been tasked with saving the world from an incoming big bang chunk of rock. You witness her relationship with Jack the Dragon Prince and Allie the dragon slayer and family protector evolve as well. The best part was the more dominant presence of Auntie Catherine, who has gone rogue and helps Charlie from the shadows.

I enjoyed the finale of this series with a few exceptions. First, the constant references to popular music was a bit overwhelming. I didn’t know all the references and couldn’t be bothered to research them. I think I would have preferred it if Charlie came up with her own melodies and lyrics. I think this issue will also date the books faster than had it been an original tune.

Additionally, I found some of the dialogue to be confusing and lacking clarity. Sometimes there were innuendos that went over my head and sometimes, I felt that Huff knew what she meant, but she was not able to convey it to the reader.

Lastly, I was seriously concerned about Charlie and Jack’s growing feelings, so I had to look up age of consent in Canada to slightly alleviate my discomfort with where this story was headed.

Overall, the story was compelling and exciting. It kept me engaged and I enjoyed how the series wrapped up, though I always have felt more could be done. There are many characters worth exploring in this world. Huff has a gift with magical systems and truly has a creative flare with the world building. I loved all her fantastical creatures like Joe, the Leprechaun who is a favorite.

I recommend this series to lovers of fantasy and magical worlds that are hidden within the hum drum of every day life.

You can find the book on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: When Auntie Catherine warns the family of an approaching asteroid, the Gales scramble to keep humans from going the way of the dinosaurs. Fortunately for the world, they’re wielding a guitar and a dragon.

The Gale family can change the world with the charms they cast, which has caused some supernaturally complicated family shenanigans in the past. So when NASA and Doomsday Dan confirm Auntie Catherine’s dire prediction, Charlotte “Charlie” Gale turns to the family for help.

But Allie is unavailable because the universe seems determined to have her produce the seventh son of a seventh son of a seventh son of a Gale.  And the Aunties can’t help because they’re tied to the earth – although they are happy to provide their delicious, trademark pies.  And in the end, all Charlie has is a guitar…

…and Jack. The Dragon Prince, and a Sorcerer.

But Charlie might like Jack just a little too much, and Jack might like Charlie a little too much in return. Actually, between Allie’s hormones, the Aunties trying to force her and Jack into ritual, the Courts having way too much fun at the end of days, and Jack’s sudden desire to sacrifice himself for the good of the many, Charlie’s fairly certain that the asteroid is the least of her problems.

The Gales are going to need more than pie to save the world from an incoming asteroid. But together there isn’t anything they can’t deal with – except possibly each other.

OWL Rating:

I’ll be Home Soon: How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety – Patricia B. McConnell

Title: I’ll be Home Soon: How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety
Author: Patricia B. McConnell
Publisher: McConnell Publishing
Genre: Non-fiction
Page length: 38 pages

If you’ve ever had a pet that just couldn’t cope with you leaving him alone, this short book may help you. I currently have a pup who is suffering from separation anxiety and I like to look back on some of the tips in this book from time-to-time to help me refresh what I should be working on.

The booklet doesn’t have all the answers. My dog isn’t food motivated, and this guide doesn’t address that, but it’s a good place to start if you are looking for information on how to begin addressing your pups anxiety. Just understand that it’s more of an introduction to the problem you are experiencing and not an all encompassing guide.

Additionally, I have employed an animal behaviorist in the past. Books are a great beginning, but when you don’t do this for a living it can be hard for you to see the triggers you are activating in your pup. I recommend you see someone who specializes in anxiety in dogs, in addition to doing your own research.

I recommend this instruction guide for those just in the beginning stages of their education regarding combating separation anxiety.

You can find it on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: This booklet explains the difference between dogs who truly have separation anxiety and those that merely misbehave. Written by Patricia McConnell, it describes a dog behavior modification program for the prevention and treatment of both problems. A treasure chest of ideas for keeping your dog happy in your absence, this booklet can help prevent and treat both minor and severe dog problems related to dogs being ” home alone.” Clear and understandable, this easy to read booklet is written for anyone who wants to leave the house knowing that their dog is happy and their house is safe.

OWL Rating:

Once Upon A [Fallen] Time (#2) – Samreen Ahsan

Title: Once Upon A [Fallen] Time (Stolen Series #2)
Author: Samreen Ahsan
Publisher: Self
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Page length: 417 pages

This is a month of sequels for me, as they just keep on coming.

Once Upon A [Fallen] Time continues the tale of Myra Farrow, a modern day woman who gets lost in her medieval fantasies and Edward Hue, a fictional 15th century, soon-to-be King of England.

I had read the first installment several years ago and I remember enjoying the tale at the time.

For some reason, I was much more aware this time and I have a real issue with modern day talking and swearing being used in the 15th century, albeit fictional England. The 15th century prince said, “Shit” more times than I can count, acting more like a Gen Z teenager, than a 15th century royal. While I don’t mind a fictional 15th century, it’s rooted in the real world and I feel should reflect some historical accuracy.

Additionally, the internal dialogues were long and repetitive. I skimmed a good part of this book because they just kept saying the same thing in their heads.

This felt like a first draft that is in need of heavy revision and modification. As a reader, I needed more show than tell. Additionally, the characters are immature and lacking in much development. Edward is a damaged individual and I don’t think he deserves Myra’s affection since he can be abusive. Myra is childish and seems to lack an understanding of her surroundings. I was mostly frustrated with her behaviour throughout the majority of the story.

As you can tell, I was disappointed in this continuation of the story-line. However, it still has good bones and with proper editing and guidance could be an interesting Beauty and the Beast twist. I’m not sure why my experience was so vastly different this time than the first, but I see a lot of potential in the writer and in time she could be a strong story-teller, but I think she would benefit from getting more outside perspectives before publishing and calling it done.

If you like romantic fairytale twists this story might intrigue you. She clearly has devoted followers who do enjoy her writing style. So, just because the book missed the mark for me, doesn’t mean that it won’t delight you!

You can find the story on Amazon in Kindle format.

Synopsis: 2015…
All her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castle-and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. When Steve Bernard, a wealthy videogame designer offers her to model for a princess character in his new game, Myra can’t resist his offer to enter the mysterious, colourless, and cursed Hue Castle. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to it by blood and sorcery. When she enters the castle’s doors, she awakens dark powers, time travelling through a cursed mirror, torturing her present, and rewriting her future, leaving Steve Bernard with millions of questions.

1415…
Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine, nor felt the rain, or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father King Stefan, who will not rest until he shatters Edward’s soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward’s one hope is the mysterious woman, who walks into his life through a cursed mirror, out of his dreams, and introduces him: love.

Will Myra break Edward’s curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly? Will Steve ever be able to finish his game without Myra? Past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.

This is book 2 of [STOLEN] SERIES

 

THE LADY BEHIND THE STORY:

History, art and literature are my passions. I love digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, that don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.

Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing—and yes, it can’t happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities. I currently live in Toronto, Canada.

A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded from A Prayer Series is my first story about paranormal events based on Islamic concepts.

Once Upon A [Stolen] Time is a romantic fantasy fairytale.

My new book: UNVEILED is COMING SOON! This action-packed thriller takes a woman from the bonds of motherhood to the horror of radicalization when a single mother joins ISIS to find her teenage daughter, who is sold as a jihadi bride as she risks her life and her soul to save her daughter.

 

CONNECT WITH SAMREEN

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OWL Rating:

*We received the story for free in exchange for an honest review

Venators: Promises Forged (#2) – Devri Walls

Title: Venators: Promises Forged (#2)
Author: Devri Walls
Publisher: Brown Books Publishing Group
Genre: Fantasy/YA
Page length: 428 pages

Finally after close to three years, the sequel in the Venators series has finally been released. I had read the first as an ARC and had fallen in love with the world and characters Walls had created. I couldn’t wait to get back into the world of Eon.

The second installment picks up right where the first left off and once again you follow Grey and Rune as they come to terms with their new Ventator identity. Since it has been a few years, my memory was a bit cloudy regarding all the previous details, but I found that there were enough little reminders that I was able to pick most of the story-line back up. I feel it is important that writers give readers memory hints, so I appreciated her effort.

I was entertained and appreciated eighty-five percent of the story. I feel like I don’t know Rune as well as I’d like to, and I’m not sure how much I root for her. I find her kind of annoying at times and I am growing tired of her temper tantrums. Additionally, at a certain point the climax and action of the story became drawn out and a bit boring. It felt more like the writer was writing for word count instead of story progression. I feel bad saying this because the rest of the book was completely engaging and enjoyable.

Regardless, I love Beltrane! I was thrilled he played a more dominant role this time. Walls has an imaginative mind and I loved the new characters and landscapes we were introduced to. It was a colorful addition to the series that had a creative edge.

I look forward to continuing the series, and I hope the next installment comes out sooner than the last. This series has potential to be something much bigger and I could see it going on for many more books to come.

If you like portal driven fantasies where you’re in danger of your boss sucking your blood dry, and where heroes come in all shapes and sizes, then I recommend this series.

You can find it on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: It has been mere days in the world of Eon, where Rune Jenkins, her twin brother Ryker, and their friend Grey have been trapped, fighting for their lives. After discovering the truth of their ancestry, the three are far from home, and far from anything resembling their mundane lives of the past.

While Ryker is still held captive by the eerily beautiful Zio and her goblins, Grey falls into the clutches of Feena, the Fae queen. She begins to drain his soul bit by bit to feed her dark underground garden, and Grey has no hope of escaping on his own.

It is now up to Rune to save Grey, as his precious time slips away inexorably. But the Council has denied her permission to embark on a rescue mission, until she can harness her Venator gifts and prove herself capable of venturing into the Fae queen’s territory. As Rune discovers that promises in Eon are forged with life-or-death consequences, she realizes that she must act quickly, or else be swallowed and Grey along with her by the dangers of Eon.

OWL Rating:

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) – Marissa Meyer

Title: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3)
Author:
Marissa Meyer
Publisher:
Feiwel & Friends
Genre:
Fantasy/YA/Sci-fi
Page length:
550 pages

Hot on the heels of the second installment of The Lunar Chronicles, I pounced on the third and devoured it in rapid speed.

Marissa Meyer knows how to reel you in and keep you glued to every page. I love all her characters, whether they are dark and twisted or heroic and understated. The romance is a slow burn that leaves you tingling and hopeful for actualization.

Cress continues the storyline of the heroes of this series and welcomes a new character that claims to be a damsel in distress but is really anything but. I loved every moment and could not put the book down. It is hard sometimes to keep readers interest (especially mine) with series. It is a true testament to the authors storytelling ability when you love the sequels as much as the first.

Meyer has earned physical book buying ownership from me, which means that I like her enough to actually give her space on my shelves (a rare event these days).

If you like genre blending and bending, fairytale twists that keep your heart throbbing with love struck hope then this series is for you.

You can find the series on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Cress, having risked everything to warn Cinder of Queen Levana’s evil pla, has a slight problem. She’s been imprisoned on a satellite since childhood and has only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her accomplice.When a daring rescue of Cress involving Cinder, Captain Thorne, Scarley, and Wolf goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the wold has.

OWL Rating: