The Girl Next Door Review


The Girl Next Door - Jack Ketchum

There’s going to be some personal information in this review. If you feel uncomfortable reading about child abuse of a sexual nature, you might want to skip this one.

The Girl Next Door was one of the first Leisure paperbacks I recall buying. I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I got was a kick in the teeth. This book is brutal and unapologetic. And, in my opinion, Ruth is one of the scariest characters to be found within the pages of the book. What makes this all the more terrifying and unsettling is that the story is based on true events.

This time around, I decided to listen to Jack Ketchum read the book to me via audiobook. The one criticism I have is that Ketchum, like Ruth, is a heavy smoker. You can hear evidence of this in the way he breathes. I constantly felt myself drawn out of the story and and wondering about Ketchum’s health. His voice isn’t unpleasant, but his breathing is. You likely won’t notice, but I did. He reminded me of my father, who was on oxygen during the final years of his life.

Here’s where the personal info comes into play. You can skip to “In summation” if you like.

Growing up, I lived down the street from a pedophile named Eddie. The guy was arrested after a neighbor walked in on him molesting his mentally-impaired son, Jamie. Jamie’s brother Ryan soon confessed that, yes, Eddie had been messing with both of them. After that, all the kids in the neighborhood came crawling out of the woodwork with stories of how Eddie had been at them.

I recall very clearly playing hide and seek with Ryan and group of our friends. Ryan and I hid in a closet. While we were in there, Ryan unzipped his pants and pulled out his penis. He said, “Put it in your mouth.” I was ten and he was a year older than me, but even then I knew there was something wrong with what he was asking me. I mean, you pee out of that thing. Why would I want to put my mouth on it? I called him nasty and he laughed. He put his dick away and said he’d only been kidding. We played the rest of the day and never mentioned it again.

That was my only odd experience with that family, meaning Eddie never got a hold of me. Although there were stories about how my sisters offered themselves up willingly so he would leave me alone. To this day I’m not sure if that’s true. It’s not something I feel comfortable asking them, because we’re not that close.

Soon after he was caught, one of the girls on the block came up pregnant. Rumors flooded the street about how the father was Eddie. The girl’s mother had had a thing for him and used her daughter as a bargaining chip to win Eddie’s attention.

Years later, I remember thinking, what kind of woman would do such a thing? Reading The Girl Next Door hit me that much harder because of all that.

Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. They come in all genders. Unfortunately, people like Ruth exist. Trust me. I know.

When Eddie got out of jail a few weeks later, he would park on the cross street and walk up and down our block. He’d point at houses and nod his head. He’d wave at anyone he’d happen to catch in their yards or looking out their windows. This was years before sexual predators had to register on a national list, and it was months before a restraining order was put into effect.

Some of you might recognize parts of this story because I put a different version of these events in one of my books. Looking back, I know how lucky I was.

In summation: Rereading this wasn’t a bright idea, but I don’t regret it. I’ll never say that I enjoy reading it, but I feel everyone should experience it at least once.

Final Judgment: Utterly horrific.

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Deathcrawl Review


Deathcrawl - Rich Hawkins, Daryl Duncan

One thing is obvious after finishing Deathcrawl. Rich Hawkins is an above-average writer. The editing is on point and he was able to extract physical reactions from me. The dinner scene toward the end was intense and disgusting and I damn near threw up. That scene is also where, in my opinion, the book should have ended. Deathcrawl ends up drifting into nonsensical territory that dropped my rating from a solid four stars all the way down to a low three. 

In summation: A short review for a short book. Deathcrawl is reminiscent of Stephen King’s Cell, up to and including the lackluster ending. Instead of Phonies, we get mad cannibals who may or may not be possessed. Luckily, Hawkins’s book is a quarter of the length of King’s, so the rushed ending doesn’t annoy as much as it would have had the book been longer. Worth a read if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Final Judgment: Rushed and nonsensical finish leaves a bad aftertaste to what was an otherwise delicious cocktail.

Kindle Unlimited Update: Money saved = $3.98

Spoiler Discussion:



What sense did it make for Charlie and his mom to leave Jed alive only to come back six months later to kill him? None. That’s how much sense it made. Zero. And both Jed and Charlie surviving a bombing run and being able to hear each other afterward? Highly unlikely. Charlie’s mom running out of the mist made me literally laugh out loud. Everything after the mad dinner party felt like a rush to tie up all loose ends. Even the writing took a hit, as Hawkins’s prose went from lush to bare minimum quicker than I could blink. This is all a huge shame because I was thoroughly enjoying myself until the last few pages.


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David S. Atkinson wants to pay you for reviews!

David S. Atkinson is buying reviews for $5 gift cards. How nice of him! Mind you, I’m not a reviewer for hire, so I passed up the chance to review his book for $5, but I promised to spread the word.

Original email sent to my personal email account:

Happy Friday!

Hope you’ve had a great week.

My name is Sami, and I just wanted to check in [I don’t know who this person is, so I have no idea why “Sami” would be checking in], as I have an author wanting some Amazon (and Goodreads, if you’re a member) reviews for his book of short stories – Not Quite So Stories.

David is giving out $5 gift cards for your time, and I’m happy to send you a digital copy of the book, if it piques your interest! I’ve included some details below.

Thanks for taking a look, and I hope to hear from you!

Not Quite so Stories (published March 1, 2016 by Literary Wanderlust) The traditional explanation for myth (including such works as the relatively modern Just so Stories by Rudyard Kiping) is an attempt by humans to explain and demystify the world. That’s crap. We may be able to come to terms with small pieces, but existence as a whole is beyond our grasp. Life is absurd, ultimately beyond our comprehension. The best we can do is to proceed on with our lives in the face of that. The stories in this collection proceed from this idea, examining how the different characters manage (and/or fail) to do this.

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Helltown Review


Helltown: A Horror Novel - Stephen Bentley

This is the first book I’ve read using Kindle Unlimited. I got the idea to keep track of the money I save using KU from my buddy Dan. But I will not only be judging the amount of money I save. I will also be comparing the money saved to the quality of the books offered. Thankfully, I decided to start my 30 free trial of Kindle Unlimited with this book, because, holy shit, was it bad. Had I paid for it, this review would have been far more rage-y.

DNF @ 18%, but I’m going to review this because the problems I had were with the terrible writing and editing, meaning no amount of good story could have saved this. To those of you who whine about reviewers reviewing books they do not finish, kindly take a flying fuck at a wall of spikes.

The Stephen King references and Easter eggs were cute, but Stephen Bentley is no Stephen King, so they felt out of place. From a store called King’s Supermarket to mentions of people with names like Barbie (Under the Dome) and Dodd (The Dead Zone) to the main character having gone to the University of Maine at Orono, where King was not only a professor, but a student. Then we have the Overlook Hospital… Okay. I get it. You’ve read some Stephen King. Good job. As a King fanboy you’d think that I’d have loved this stuff. But not here. Here it felt well and truly overdone, because all those nods to King occur in the first 18%. I can’t imagine how many are in the book total.

The dialog is clunky and silly and at times just plain broken. Bentley fails at even getting the simplest points across without rambling on. Slight spoilers ahead:

Bentley writes:

“I felt uncomfortable out there in the dark with Jessica trading numbers, like I was cheating on Pam or was planning to, but I wasn’t, and that’s the truth.”

No shit, Sherlock, because Pam’s dead. You can’t cheat on a dead person. I know what he meant, that he felt he was betraying his dead wife, but that sentence if full of unneeded words. Speaking of unneeded words, we get stuff like:

“I saw Jessica swallow hard.”

The book is written in first-person, so we know everything seen is from Dan’s POV. A simple, “Jessica swallowed hard.” would suffice. We know Dan saw it. He wrote the book.

Which brings me to the fact that this poor novel is in serious need of a line editor. Sure, there’s a missing word here and there, but Bentley needs help with simple mechanics. He needs to have a professional work with him on how paragraphs are structured and what information should come before what information.

Speaking of information, the first 15% of this novel is nothing but info dump after info dump. Instead of getting to know the characters, like in any other cogent novel, Bentley dives right into these vague scare tactics. “Can’t you feel something coming?” Ooooooo, eerie! But not so much, because we don’t know the characters, one of which is stolen whole-hog from Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher. Barbie is Duddits’s doppelganger, right down to the way he talks. But, back to my point about the lack of character development. I can’t be scared for characters I don’t know. Just because you tell me something is scary doesn’t make it so.

There’s a bunch of silly shit in here that I won’t go into too much detail about, but I wanted to highlight a scene wherein the two main characters are saying this place, Hilltown, is unique because it has ghost stories. Here’s the interaction:

“It’s amazing isn’t it?”


“All these stories.” She put her pen down and looked at me. “Everyone [the people in Hilltown] has them. Did they have them in Maine?”


“Didn’t have them in Fairlawn, either…”

Fucking what? What town doesn’t have ghost stories? Also, I lived in Maine, for 3 years. That state is loaded with ghost stories. It was at this point, 8% into the book, that I lost all faith in Bentley as a storyteller.

Nothing happens in this book for the first 15%, and when something does happen (the characters being teleported ahead two days) they’re shocked for all of a minute before going to grab hamburgers at Burger King. What? You just lost two days and your investigative approach is “Wanna grab a whopper?” Fuck off.

We do get a lot of forced foreshadowing. Something is coming. Everyone feels weird and uncomfortable. We get the cliched old man warning of “Get out of town while you still can!” and the strangest fucking bit of forced foreshadowing I’ve had the displeasure to read:

“Jessica threw the ball into the river. I was glad. Something about it gave me the willies. I had a feeling those pinky balls didn’t belong in this universe.”

commercial photography locations

There’s no reason for this dude to feel the way he does about these pinky balls. No descriptions of odd shadows or the ball sweating or dripping ectoplasm. He just… feels… like… something’s… wrong… And that is this book. It just feels wrong. From the info dumps to the terrible writing to the forced foreshadowing to the goofy dialog to the tired King homage, it all just feels wrong.

In summation: Nothing can save this read at this point, so I gave up. Stephen Bentley has written what will likely become my worst read of the year.

Final Judgment: That soupy substance at the bottom of a dumpster.

Thank fuck for Kindle Unlimited. Money saved thus far: $2.99

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The World Lost a Good Man Last Night

My Facebook friend Rich Meyer passed away last night and his wife Mona needs help with funeral expenses. If you can help out at all, I’m sure she’d appreciate even something as small as a reblog or share. 


Rich was a great guy, a snarky, pleasant soul who loved classic television, trivia, and rescuing animals. I remember when he adopted this blind cat he came to call Ruby and all I could think was, “This dude is a saint.” Although I never met him in person, he was open enough that I felt like I knew the guy on a personal level. I’m gonna miss seeing him around.


Here’s the link to the GoFundMe. I can vouch for the lady who’s running the campaign. She’s good people as well, and I have no doubt the money will go to the right places.


RIP Rich.




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Dear Mr. M Review


Dear Mr. M: A Novel - Herman Koch

In subtext and content and delivery, Herman Koch says to novelists everywhere, “Do better.” As a writer, I think I got a little more from this book than a non-writer would. I caught all the nods to form and style and competition. Sure, this book is a thriller, after a fashion, but it is also a punch in the face to the lazy writers of the world. Toward the end of the novel, there’s a passage that gracefully explains my hatred for writers like James Patterson and Clive Cussler, these word mills employing authors-for-hire who will only ever be remembered for how many books they sold and not what their books were about. There is a place for their laziness and business savvy and quantity-over-quality approach, but, in my opinion, it is not the in the world of literature. No, not everything needs to be a work of art. I simply wish the books that have something to say, something meaningful to say, outsold the air-headed authors of the world.

Why, yes, Virginia, I am a book snob. Now kindly fuck off and let me get on with my review.

*clears throat and does a horrible impersonation of Movie-Theater-Voice Guy*

In a world of books whose titles all start with THE GIRL… and authors who regurgitate last year’s bestsellers’ lists, Herman Koch dares try something different.

Not necessarily new but indeed different.

Here is a story told in two different, usually-unpalatable styles: second-person close and third-person omniscient. You’re gonna fuck up and find yourself more confused than Tom Cruise at a Chippendale’s if you don’t pay attention. The first third of the book is much different than the second third, but the last third brings everything together in a string of Ah-ha! moments. And then Koch brings everything home with a final, fitting twist. But, while this is, at its most basic, a literary thriller, its potency far exceeds that of other novels of its kind.

As always, Koch delivers on the nastiest details, but what I found startlingly hilarious was the description of M. I’ve seen interviews with Herman Koch, and I’m pretty sure he was describing himself. The unshaven face… the teeth… Koch is the kinda guy you imagine you can smell his breath through your computer screen, a sickly bitter aroma of old coffee and rotting food lurking at the gum line. In that sense, this book is quite meta. Here is Koch poking fun at himself while proving that, although he has his shortcomings, he’s much better than most authors on today’s bestsellers’ lists. It’s a bold statement. “I might be ugly and stinky, but I can do this one thing better than you.” Koch doesn’t have to tell us this, though. The work speaks for itself.

Yet I felt the burn of Koch’s dissection of writers, too. He riffs on the authors who’re “down to earth”, those authors who are open to personal contact from their readers, authors who are approachable. While I’ve always loved having a personal relationship with my readers, I gotta say, Koch is right. I’m still an asshole. Why? Because, by making myself easily accessible, I am, in a way, saying I am better than those authors who choose to keep their distance. “Well, at least I’m not like So-and-So. He won’t even return emails from fans. What a cockhead.” But is the detached author a cockhead? No, he’s not. Well, maybe he is, but being unapproachable doesn’t not automatically mean he’s a cockhead. He might simply be anti-social. Or perhaps he’s an asshole who realizes he’s an asshole and would rather be judged on his work than his demeanor. Such a person should be commended. At least I think so. I surely shouldn’t be placed above him just because I choose to make myself available to readers.

Man, but this book brought some stuff to light for me. Made me change the way I see how I might be seen, and I gotta say, I don’t care too much for my reflection. And isn’t that the best part of good literature? When it in some way big or small turns the mirror on ourselves and perhaps makes us reevaluate the way we perceive something?

Holy shit, this book is good. Fuck. It’s the kinda book that makes me less articulate. All I wanna do is cuss and bitch about how well written it is because, you know, I didn’t fucking write it.

Oh, and no worries. I’m not going to distance myself from you guys. But I think I might stop talking about how I feel about my own work. After all, it’s not my place. The books are published. They’re yours now. Who cares if I don’t like some of them? The only thing that matters is that some people do like them. And that should be enough.

In summation: All the rambling you’ve just read is brought to you by a guy who read a terrific book that changed the way he sees a few things. You might not have the same experience, and that’s okay. I, for one, loved everything about this novel. Dear Mr. M should be required reading for every author.

Final Judgment: A mirror that shows the parts of us we’d rather not be able to see.

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