Review: The Beast You Are: Stories by Paul Tremblay

The Beast You Are: StoriesThe Beast You Are: Stories by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-star rounded up**

The Beast You Are: Stories is a recently compiled collection of short works from beloved author, Paul Tremblay.

I have enjoyed three previous novels from Tremblay, but have never read any of his shorter works. I was happy to receive a copy from the publisher and check them out.

Overall, I felt like this was an interesting collection. It’s quite a mix of topics, which made every new story feel fresh and unique. Additionally, I think it’s a great example of Tremblay’s creativity and speculative style of storytelling.

Unfortunately though, the last story, the novella for which the collection is named, was my least favorite. Therefore, it ended up leaving a bad taste in my mouth at the close, which isn’t how I like to finish off a collection.

Other than that one though, I felt it was very solid.

I loved how a couple of the stories are lightly connected to A Head Full of Ghosts. That was fun, like little Easter Eggs.

That has been my favorite of Tremblay’s novels, so it was exciting to see those connections revisited here.

I believe the majority of these stories have been previously published in other collections, or magazines, etc., but this is the first time they have ever been presented together.

I think for long-time Tremblay fans, this will be an enjoyable way to get your hands on so many of his shorter works. I would absolutely recommend it to those readers looking to get easy access to that type of story.

I’m happy I read this. Always happy to be reading Tremblay and am looking forward to whatever he publishes next!!

Thank you so much to William Morrow for providing me with a copy. I appreciate it!

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Review: The First to Die at the End (Death-Cast #0) by Adam Silvera

The First to Die at the EndThe First to Die at the End by Adam Silvera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved, loved, loved They Both Die at the End when I read it all the way back in February 2019. Trust me when I say, since that time it has lived rent free in my heart.

I, along with most other people, believed it to be a standalone novel. Then shockingly, a prequel novel was announced. The First to Die at the End is that prequel. I’ll be honest, I’ve been so scared to pick this up.

I wasn’t sure any other content was necessary. How could it possibly live up to the story told in TBDATE?

Finally, however, I could resist my curiosity no more. I had to read it and ultimately, I am really glad that I did. Silvera successfully pulled off the unasked for prequel.

In this story, our main characters are Valentino and Orion. The stage is set on the eve of the launch of Death Cast. Valentino, with dreams of becoming a professional model, has just, as in this very day, moved to New York City.

Orion, is a life-long New Yorker with a tragic past. He is anxious for the launch of Death Cast due to the way death has previously touched his life. Also, he has a very serious heart condition. He always feels the clock is ticking for him.

Through a twist of fate, these two boys meet in Times Square and feel an instant connection. As Death Cast goes live, one of them gets a call and the other does not.

They decide, no matter how it is going to turn out, they are going to spend the next 24-hours together. Death Cast is untried. Will their prediction be correct, or will it all end up being nothing more than an elaborate hoax?

Woven throughout the over-arching storyline, we also get vignettes of side characters that Valentino and Orion encounter along the way.

I know not everyone is crazy about the inclusion of these types of tiny slivers of life, but I loved them and the way it demonstrated the interconnections in general.

It’s like all the tiny connections that we may never realize or understand, but we are all connected in one way or another. I think Silvera showed that beautifully.

As far as the main characters go, they were fantastic. They were complex with plenty of backstory to make you want to fight for them. I enjoyed the relationship that developed between the boys.

Of course it is a bit instalovey, but it sort of had to be, considering the brief time-frame of the narrative. I actually didn’t mind it. I sort of feel like if I had met Valentino on the streets, I could have fallen in love with him just as quickly.

The banter was great and Silvera provided plenty of hard-hitting issues to consider. It really showed a range for emotion and difficult circumstances, but also the power to rise above and keep living every day with intent.

There were also some fun connections to the original book and the NYC setting was vivid. So, while this wasn’t quite as powerful for me as the first book, I still really, really liked it and appreciate the characters and the heartfelt way Silvera told their stories.

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Review: A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor

A Sliver of DarknessA Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

A Sliver of Darkness is a short-story collection comprised of 10-tales by beloved author, C.J. Tudor. This was Tudor’s only 2022 release, a fact that she addresses within this book.

Anything from Tudor would get me excited, but I was particularly looking forward to trying out some shorter fiction from her. This collection was definitely interesting.

I found these stories to be unique and entertaining. It’s pretty clear Tudor has entered her dystopian/post-apocalyptic era and I’m not mad about it.

This explored themes that felt fresh and relevant to our post-pandemic world. It also got pretty murdery and twisted; two things I adore in dark, or speculative, fiction.

I enjoyed how each story had a short introduction by the author. This reminded me of King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. I always enjoy when an author includes these types of insights into their inspirations, or connections, to each story. It makes the experience more personal.

Additionally, I feel like it helps to set-up the proper tone for each story. I’m definitely glad that Tudor decided to include them in the final copy of the book.

Overall, I found this collection to be varied, unpredictable, well-written, engaging and it definitely gave me a lot to think about.

Considering all the world has been through over the past 3-years, I don’t think it is surprising that this is the type of creativity Tudor felt like expressing. It definitely feels apropos for the times.

Thank you to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I love Tudor’s style and will continue to pick up everything she writes!

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Review: This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno

This Thing Between UsThis Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The exploration of grief is a fairly common topic in Horror. It’s also something I really enjoy sinking my teeth into.

I knew that was going to be an aspect of Gus Moreno’s This Thing Between Us, but it still hit me like a gut punch. I’ve rarely, very rarely, experienced it done so well.

At the start of this story we find our main character, Thiago, working himself through the early stages of grief after the sudden, tragic loss of his beloved wife, Vera.

The narrative is second person and Thiago is expressing his thoughts and feelings to Vera, even though she’s gone. I loved this choice by Moreno. It made it feel so intimate and frankly, real.

I did listen to the audio version and the narration by Robb Moreira was so well done. He was Thiago to me.

Thiago takes us through their relationship with his musings. There was a lot of love there and many good times. There was also a smart device that started to go a little wonky. That’s where the creepiness really begins to set in.

Thiago, unable to rest comfortably in the home he and Vera once shared, decides that getting out of Chicago would be the best thing for him. Thus, he packs his bags and heads to a remote cabin in Colorado.

From here, I cannot go further into a synopsis. You’ll have to discover that for yourself. Just know, it gets crazy, weird, disturbing and I’m not quite sure I know what actually happened in the end.

I have my own conclusions I have drawn and choose to live with. Regardless, I was impressed with this. Overall, Moreno has me intrigued.

This story was weird in such a good way. It definitely made my mind work overtime, I’m not going to lie. If you pick this one up, which I recommend you do, prepare to be scratching your head at the end.

I would love to go back and annotate a physical copy someday. Maybe I could glean just a tiny bit more out of it if I did that. It would be worth it.

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Review: A House at the Bottom of the Lake by Josh Malerman

A House at the Bottom of a LakeA House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


During the summer they are seventeen, James and Amelia, go on their first date. They are both nervous, but decide to take a risk.

They take a canoe out on a local lake, with some sandwiches and beer; making a day of it. James has spent some time on the busy lake and knows a passageway to a connecting lake that sees less traffic; they can be alone.

It’s romantic, it’s adventurous and the two really hit if off.

As they are exploring the second lake they come across another waterway; a tunnel actually, that the canoe will fit into. They’re having so much fun, and not wanting to disappoint one another, they figure why not explore more.

Things get a little hairy for a bit, but ultimately they pop out in a third lake. It seems completely unoccupied. They paddle around marveling at their find and then they discover more.

Looking down into the water they spy the top of a house. A house actually submerged under the surface of the lake.

They take turns diving down and cannot believe what they find. A two-story house with an open door and multiple furnished rooms to explore.

It defies all logic. How can this be? The two are absolutely mesmerized by their discovery.

After that first date they begin to spend more and more time at the house. It has altered their lives, but not all is well in their home below the waves.

This is an interesting novella. I have mixed feelings about it. Part of me loves the speculative side of it, that allows the Reader to imagine the outcome and essential meaning. But another equal sized part of me wants more explanation.

Even James and Amelia are confused by it all. How the heck am I supposed to know what is going on?

I did find the writing intriguing. I liked James and Amelia taking a chance on one another and finding and sharing this obsession together. I think they both felt like there was nothing special about themselves and finding this house, and each other, made them special. It gave them meaning.

To me, the house was ominous. It felt like a predator fish that lurks in the deepest parts of the ocean. The one that has a light on its head to attract all the little innocent fishes. By the time they realize they are in danger, it’s too late.

You know the one, right?

Overall, A House at the Bottom of a Lake is a very interesting story. I think I got a good handle on Malerman’s style from reading this. I’m definitely interested in picking up more of his work. Personally, I would love to see a continuation of this story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate you!

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Review: Second Chances by P.D. Cacek

Second ChancesSecond Chances by P.D. Cacek
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Second Chances is the follow-up to P.D. Cacek’s 2019 release, Second Lives, which I read and reviewed last year.

In that novel, we learn of a global phenomenon where souls, in some cases, a long time dead, are reincarnated in a sense, into the bodies of recently deceased humans.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the bizarre occurrences, but the newly matched souls with bodies are known as Travelers, mostly accepted within society and protected under the law.

In some cases, the families of the recently deceased people, now inhabited by the souls of other people, agree to take these Travelers in and basically absorb them into their families.

It’s an odd concept, but definitely creative and also quite interesting to think about.

In this installment, we are mainly following twins, Jessie and Abbie, whose father is the leader of a religious movement known as, True Borns.

Daddy’s main area of focus happens to be preaching hate against the Travelers, or Imposters, as they call them. Otherwise known as imps.

We also follow a mentally unstable teen boy and his equally unstable mother, as well as a few other people related to the Traveler phenomenon.

I’m not sure how I feel about this one, y’all. It hurts my heart, but I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first novel.

It was definitely interesting, particularly the overall picture of what is going on in this world. If you think about the ramifications of what our world would be like if this actually happened, it’s creepy AF.

With this being said, there were also large portions, or storylines, of this book that just didn’t sit right with me. Frankly, they made me uncomfortable.

Particularly, Jessie’s storyline as a trans character, but also the treatment of mental health for Curtis and his mother. I would definitely be interested in seeing OWN voices reviews on those two representations here, should they come up.

Overall, I just don’t think it was a solid match for my tastes.

It is a good book though, don’t get me wrong. I would recommend picking it up, especially if you really enjoyed the first book.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flame Tree Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!

There is a reader for every book, and a book for every reader.

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Review: Second Lives by P.D. Cacek

Second LivesSecond Lives by P.D. Cacek
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

My exact thoughts upon completing this:

Eight people die.
Four come back but not as they were before. Or should I say WHO they were before.

Intriguing premise, right?
It certainly is and I think Cacek did a wonderful job of weaving this highly detailed tale together.

The writing was very solid. You can definitely tell that Cacek is an experienced author.
Each chapter was like a short story unto itself. It was quite impressive. For those of you who enjoy short story collections, I feel like this book could really work for you.

Creative and unique, this story made me really sad. I feel like it is suppose to be a story about hope, love, relationships and sacrifice for others but honesty, it bummed me out. Some of the characters end up in fairly hopeless circumstances and are forced to begin again with no choice.

I thought going into this that it was a horror novel but after reading it, I wouldn’t personally classify it as such. It seemed more speculative fiction to me. There were a few chilling moments, mostly due to the thought of imagining something like this actually happening to you or a loved one.

We get a couple of hints throughout that the events of this story are a phenomenon occurring around the world but this book focuses on patients in one hospital. They are all strangers but through various doctors have their cases ultimately connected. The book seemed to be broken up into three distinct parts: learning about each character, the soul shuffle and the aftermath. I liked the format a lot and thought it was an agreeable way to present the story.

Other than that, I can really not say too much more without giving anything away. I think if you like eccentric stories that explore life’s darker side, you should give this one a shot. I definitely am interested in chatting about this with some other bookworms, so if you ever read it, message me!

A big thank you to the publisher, Flame Tree Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!

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