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Countdown to Halloween: Three 5 Star Reviews from John

Just recently, I’ve noticed a lot of talk about a novella called Dear Laura, by Gemma Amor. Being unfamiliar with the author's work, I was unsure of what to expect. What I found, was that Dear Laura was every bit as good as I’ve been led to believe. What I also discovered, is that Dear Laura is one of those books that, while it’s definitely horror, it’s not what you’d expect horror to be.


Dear Laura is the story of Laura, a woman who has been stalked and terrorized by a madman for around 30 years. After a horrific event that takes place in her teens, Laura is tormented throughout the following decades by a psychotic man who for some reason has taken a shining to her. Amor weaves back and forth between Laura’s past and present, unraveling a tale of mystery, perversion, and unrelenting mental and physical abuse. We witness Laura as she experiences continuous emotional and physical abuse, and follow her current trajectory of confronting the demons of her past. I found Dear Laura to be extremely unsettling, to put it mildly. The lengths that Laura goes to in order to satisfy her tormentor are handled realistically, and to be frank, this all felt like something that could be pulled out of a horrific news story. The conclusion of the book was extremely satisfying, yet unexpected. I really liked that Amor didn’t take the easy way out with the conclusion. She could have simply wrapped everything in a neat bow and called it a day but that wouldn’t have served the dark, twisted story that she crafted in these pages. Dear Laura is all the better because of this.


With Dear Laura, Gemma Amor has crafted a tight story that can be read in just one or two sittings. This is a 2-hour read, packing an emotional gut punch. I highly recommend this book, just know that it's going to leave you feeling emotionally crippled by the end.



With A Place for Sinners, Aaron Dries has crafted an exceptionally well-written novel that defies being placed into a horror sub-genre. There are a lot of elements of horror on display here, and instead of becoming a dumpster fire, Dries manages to craft a masterpiece.


A Place for Sinners follow Amity and Caleb, two siblings who decide to break the chains holding them back in their Australian hometown. What better way to do this than go to Thailand. An awesome adventure turns into the vacation from hell. The writing in this book is phenomenal. Dries has written a book that is equal parts beautiful, atmospheric, brutal, and disgusting. This book starts off simple enough, but the further in the book you go, the more complex it gets. Dries writes with a voice that weaves together all of these elements to the story, different sub-genres within horror, and multiple plot threads in such an immaculate fashion that he makes it look easy, yet a lesser writer could have easily botched this. There are plenty of gross-out moments here, more gore than you could ask for, and savagely violent scenes that will leave your jaw hanging. After reading this novel, I’m not sure that I want to travel to other countries ever again.


Another slam-dunk for Dries is the characters. All of the characters in this book are well developed. They have layers upon layers of depth and feel like real people, whether you love them or hate them. The characters here have real flaws and deal with emotions the way you’d expect people to. Susan Sycamore may be one of the most terrifying characters I’ve read in a long time.


What Aaron Dries has done with A Place for Sinners is written a masterpiece. This book has some of the best-written prose I’ve ever seen in the genre. There are times when the story gets complex, and instead of losing the story Dries weaves an intricate tapestry of horror excellence. A Place for Sinners has made Dries a must buy author for me.


5/5 Stars

I love a good coming of age story when done right, they transport you back to times that were somehow simpler, yet much more confusing. Frustrating, yet magical. When I caught wind of the latest by Jeremy Hepler, I knew I needed this book. I’m pleased to say it’s even better than I had hoped.


Cricket Hunters follows Celia Lundy as she attempts to locate her missing husband, Parker. The disappearance of whom seems to be somehow related to the disappearance of their childhood friend, Abby. Fifteen years pass between the events and the truth behind Abby’s disappearance remains unknown. 


Jeremy Hepler wrote one damn fine book. The story takes place going back and forth between the present and the past. Hepler hits all the right notes of what you’d want in a coming of age tale. The characters experience loss, love, adventure, dangerous close calls, you name it. Celia is the protagonist here, and one interesting aspect that sets this book apart is Celia’s Hispanic heritage. Celia is raised by her Abuela, Yesenia, who is a Bruja. Throughout the book, we’re treated to the delightful interactions between Cel and Yesenia. We watch as Yesenia casts healing spells, protection spell, barriers and all manner of witchcraft. The true joy of the book, however, is following Celia and her friends, known as the Cricket Hunters, through their daily interactions.


The book is very well written with excellent prose. The story is fascinating and a breeze to follow. You can tell throughout reading that Hepler took great care writing this, there are no loose ends, no big plot holes, nothing at all I can find to complain about. The transition between time periods is woven throughout the story in a manner that makes sense and enriches the story, sometimes time jumps can be confusing and that was never the case here. Central to the story is the disappearance of Cricket Hunter Abby, and Celia’s husband Parker. I had suspicions as to what happened and when all was revealed, I couldn’t have been further from the truth, it came out of left field in the best way possible.


When I finally closed Cricket Hunters I was left completely satisfied. It has everything I love about coming of age stories while still managing to feel completely fresh. Jeremy Hepler has not only written a spectacular novel, but he has succeeded in writing one of the finest coming of age stories I’ve read in a long time.


John is a native of Cranston, Rhode Island. He served 4 years in the United States Marine Corps, deploying twice to Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s a lover of all things horror, pizza and cheeseburgers.  When he’s not reading or watching boxing he spends his time with his amazing wife and two beautiful sons.

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