Review of “Peel Back and See” by Mike Thorn

I cannot say enough about this book. I can’t pick a favorite story from this collection. I can’t wait for more from this author. He and these stories are just that good.

“Peel Back and See” is a perfect title to encapsulate these 16 stories. In each one, the characters go deeper and deeper into whatever they’ve discovered, uncovered, or searched for. The complex horror of each takes time to come to light. The reader is taken further and further into the inner world of each character’s particular depression, self-destruction, or struggle for answers. The sheer weirdness grows and grows as you read – I’m looking at you, “Vomitus Bacchanalius.”

I also realized as I read that, for each story’s main character, the horror comes only because they went looking. This isn’t a monster-and-slasher kind of horror collection. Nobody’s car breaks down and they’re randomly attacked by some terror from the woods. No masked figure attacks strangers with a chainsaw. These characters go looking for trouble, in one way or another, and find their own doom. Some regret it immediately. Others embrace the darkness.

The horror is also, like the author’s “Shelter for the Damned,” very psychologically driven. While there are indeed gruesome monsters, they are often so terrifying because of how they relate to whatever the characters are personally afraid of. And in the era of COVID, when so many of us have been trapped in our own heads more than usual with only the internet as an escape, stories like “Havoc” and “@GorgoYama2013” as well as “Fade to White” feel a bit closer to home than they might have in the world before. These characters feel isolated from society in a way we might not have understood so well pre-pandemic.

In fact, that was a main thought which I, Lit nerd that I am, kept coming back to – these stories are like a collection Poe might have written if he lived today, like Poe in the era of COVID. The terrors are often spawned by the characters’ own doings. The monster is inside the house, so to speak. Everything happens because of whatever demons these people are already fighting, whether poverty, academic pressure, depression, grief, greed, etc. Because of their internal struggles, they “Peel Back and See” something horrible.

The author’s unique and seemingly effortless mastery of language is a joy to read. Many of the stories will leave you thinking. Many may give you the creeps. One left me forever unable to look at my daughter’s dollhouse the same again. Overall, I’m just in awe of this collection and can’t wait to be horrified by more.

See it on Amazon!

New Release – “The Alt-World Chronicles” Audiobook (Plus a Giveaway!)

The box set audiobook is finally here, and I’m so excited to share it with you! My narrator (whose name goes great with mine, don’t ya think?) did an awesome job bringing this world, characters, and story to life. And that was no easy task, considering she had demons, jinn, and ancient vampires to create voices for. I’m really proud of how this turned out, and it’s been a long time in the works. It’s amazing that a story I started as catharsis for living through a super hot summer in Kansas City turned into 24 LISTENING HOURS of Fantasy storytelling.

If you want to listen to a sample or check it out for yourself, you can find the audiobook available at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

AND…

For a limited time, I’m offering FREE AUDIBLE CODES if you email me at kynacoba@gmail.com. Times are tough and stressful for everyone right now, and I’d love to offer some Fantasy/Sci-Fi escape and make your life a little more entertaining. So – first come, first served!

I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I do!

Review of “Shelter for the Damned” by Mike Thorn

While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced.

But it isn’t long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides.

Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.


To sum up my thoughts on this book in one word, I’m IMPRESSED.  Horror books can be predictable and all read the same after a while, and it’s rare that I come across one that stands out as being so deeply smart and psychologically complex while also being creepy and appropriately bloody. You can tell how much time and effort went into making this book as good as it could be.  Though the premise and setting aren’t particularly abnormal, the author digs deep into the psyche of the main character and warps everything into a maddening descent from ordinary suburban life to a truly horrifying nightmare. 

The writing itself is extremely enjoyable if you’re a nerd like me who applauds that sort of thing.  The dialogue is completely believable as coming from teenage boys.  Even beyond that, it feels like you’re hearing the adults speak through the ears of a teenage delinquent – the parents sound out of touch and full of hollow punishments, the teachers are bland and authoritative without much personality, and the abusive dad’s chummy charade is answered with humoring caution…for a while.  The main aspect of the writing that I loved was that the descriptions don’t rely solely on visuals but also draw you in with unusual descriptions of smells, tastes, and sounds that remind you exactly of what the author means – for example, “empty, humming with the kind of drip-drop, fuzzy white silence saved especially for public restrooms.”

Again, this is a psychological kind of horror story.  There are bursts of action that are quite graphic, but the slow internal buildup was the part that was even more frightening, to me.  The toxic masculinity of the father figures is frightening in how subtly and believably it breaks these boys.  I was never sure quite what to think of Mark, and that works great to pull you along, especially considering Mark isn’t sure what to think of himself as he untangles whatever the Shack is doing to him.  And there’s something wonderfully creepy about using an unexplainable building as a source of evil.  I loved the way it all starts as “a gust of heat sighed from inside, breathed into his skin, massaged his muscles and coiled his bones.”

I highly, highly recommend this one if you’re a lover of language who also likes a good horror story.

See it on Amazon!

Happy Black Friday! Book Fair Alert

Greetings! I don’t know about you, but fantasy and sci-fi books have been GREAT for escaping 2020. Here are a bunch of free and discounted books for you to check out.

There are also PRIZES to be won including a Kindle Fire, Starbucks gift card, and one-month Owlcrate Gift Subscription!

Click here to visit the Book Fair

“Alterni” Audiobook

Ever have a nightmare where you’re naked in public? What if everyone else in the room was also naked…and also a version of yourself? That’s the reality Esme Kuchis finds herself in, and soon things get even weirder.
She’s not in her Kansas City anymore. This alternate world is home to an ancient, secret Order with a king, conjuri magicians, cavali fighters, and dozens of paranormal races. And the purpose of this magical Order? They protect an unsuspecting public from malevolenci, demonic beasts from otherworldly rifts.
As an alterni summoned to this world, Esme must partner with the king and fight using magic only an alterni can wield. Unfortunately, the model-perfect King Owen is broken by grief and guilt, the Order has little faith in her, and the malevolenci are worse than ever.
Eight alt-Esmes preceded her. Eight lost their lives. Can Esme use her unique gifts to master this world’s magic? If she can’t, the consequences might be more devastating than Owen is willing to say.

The audiobook for “Alterni: The Alt-World Chronicles Book 1” is now available! Sommer Hines (yes, Sunshine and Sommer work together – lol) does an excellent job narrating the story, and I can tell you from listening to book 2 that she manages some pretty fantastic tricks with the ancient vampire voices. You won’t have to wait long to hear those either, since “Malevolenci” (Book 2) is also finished and pending review on Amazon for release!

Listen to a sample! You can find the “Alterni” audiobook on:

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