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

Review of “Dagmar of the Northlands” by John C. Adams

An epic-length book, this story is filled with fantastical lands, intriguing characters, and a complex history of kingdoms and gods. I really enjoyed the vivid imagery and excellent characterization of both the heroes and villains. The plot itself builds and draws you in as you begin to understand how everything might come together. The scenes where the gods are watching the events of man add a cool mystical element. The various tensions in various relationships also keep you interested.

I found the title and blurb a bit odd, considering Dagmar isn’t necessarily the main character. The overall story certainly doesn’t revolve around her by any means. She’s important and a dynamic character, but I thought it was a little strange that the title suggested her story line was the focus.

Also, there were a LOT of characters to keep track of. I like multiple points of view, especially in a book that covers this much ground, but I think there were something like 10+ POV characters. Eventually you figure it out, but it’s really confusing at first because the book jumps from one to another quickly before you’ve gotten to know anyone. I think any experienced reader can handle it, but it’s something to be aware of as you dive in. And along with this, there was a LOT of “son of” and “daughter of” and explanation of who had married who over generations – that might be great in moderation to give a historical depth to these kingdoms, but it was a LOT and added to the confusion from the get-go.

The writing itself is great. I was never distracted by any editorial goofs. There’s plenty of description to give you a picture of each scene without being overly flowery. The dialogue sounds natural and fits in well amid all the action. Also, the author does an excellent job of making you sympathize with each character, good or bad, and even the heroes are shown to have problems, which makes them believably human.

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Flight of the Spark” by Evelyn Puerto

Dystopian YA fiction often has something to say about our current society or mankind in general, and this book did a great job of illustrating several different evils. The leaders in this dystopia rule by keeping the populace ignorant and afraid, and it was easy to believe that that could happen, even to this extreme. The common villagers’ infighting and betrayals are a product of this. The abuse is as well. Through young Iskra’s eyes, we see what it would be like to be brainwashed into believing that semi-enslavement is for their own protection. It was incredibly frustrating at times, and often you want to shake Iskra and tell her not to be so stupid, but at the same time you get why she is the way she is.

The plot of the book is pretty straightforward, and suspense builds and builds as you follow Iskra through her discoveries and decisions. There’s a constant sense of impending doom, but there’s also hope as she learns from the Riskers and begins to find confidence in herself. I really liked that we got to see the perspective of the “bad guy” to learn more about what was really going on, and this also worked to build tension as he suspects her of rebellion. The first part of the book drags a little bit but has plenty going on to hold your attention. The last part of the book skips forward as things come together, and it’s in this part that you definitely begin to understand how this is going to be part of a series.

The writing itself is quite descriptive and easy to read. There’s enough description to give you a great picture of what this world and people are like. The dialogue feels natural. The action scenes pull you in.

I’d definitely recommend this for anyone who enjoys YA dystopia that doesn’t feel like it’s aimed only at teenagers. Because Iskra is fifteen, some of the situations she gets into might make some readers uncomfortable, but nothing is gratuitous.

See it on Amazon!

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