Category Archives: #Reviews

REVIEW OF THE FERVOR (by Alma Katsu)

Just finished reading THE FERVOR by Alma Katsu as I was passing through Chicago. Travel is an important part of this story so reading it while I was traveling added to it. The story on its own is engaging on so many levels. Part of the narrative shares what it was like to be in one of the internment camps that many American-Japanese found themselves imprisoned in after Pearl Harbor. The racism against Asians was unwarranted, and cruel. Many lost everything, taken from them because of their race. Alma does a brilliant job of showing the camps for what they were.

The Definitive, Indisputable, All Time Top 5 (my favorite) Horror(ish) Movies Ever Released… In March

Written by Briant Laslo

Briant Laslo

My goal here is to go throughout the year and each month pick out five of the best films, in my opinion, that in some way or another fit into the horror genre. They may not have been box office smashes. They may not have been critical successes. Some of them might even be more funny than scary.

But, all of them will have made some kind of contribution to the genre or, at the very least, made their mark on me personally. We are moving into the third month and completing our first quarter of reviews.

While March is a little thin, this is the first month of the year where we are starting to see a bit more choices. Because of that, this month will mark the addition of a small section at the end including the Honorable Mentions Top five lists are, by their very nature, subjective and meant to be fun, conversation starting pieces. So, I encourage everyone to get involved in the comment section. Give us your top five, or talk about any of the films I mentioned. So, without further ado, here are the Top 5 Horror (ish) Movies Ever Released in the month of March!

Resident Evil, March 15, 2002. Obviously, this is as much action movie as it is horror and it relies nearly 100% on the jump scare for any kind of fear. Sure, there are a number of creeping through hallway not sure what’s around the corner scenes to build tension, but the only time you really have any kind of fear in this one is when something (un?)expectedly jumps out at you. However, I felt it still needed to have a spot on this list as it’s one of the few movies that did more than a halfway decent job of adapting a video game into a feature-length movie. The movie really does capture the feel of the videogame, and while there have been multiple sequels, I don’t feel any of them have lived up to the original. In the end, this is a fun movie, and if you are a fan of the original videogame, then you are probably a fan of the movie. An important note, you don’t NEED to be familiar with the videogame to enjoy the movie, but I do think it helps.

Final Destination, March 17, 2000. I think this is an overlooked horror movie. It’s more of a comedy/horror in my eyes. There’s really no scare at all other than jump scares, but I love the concept. I was always a fan of playing the old mouse trap boardgame and love Rube Goldberg machines, that’s basically what this movie is. Multiple overly complex, frequently ridiculous sequences of events that wind up in somebody getting murdered because they escaped death when they were not supposed. There’s plenty of jumps, plenty of blood, if you’re like me there’s also plenty of laughs. Someday I may rewatch all of the Final Destination movies and put out a list of which ones are my favorite, I mean best, deaths, but I felt the original needed to be here just based on originality.

10 Cloverfield Lane, March 11, 2016. In my experience, the Cloverfield series of movies has always been very dividing. Almost everybody falls into one of three groups-I love the Cloverfield movies! (I believe this is the smallest group)… The Cloverfield movies are okay… I despise the Cloverfield movies with the heat of 1000 dying suns! (Seemingly the largest group) I fall in the middle, I’ve liked each of them to one degree or another, I again appreciated the originality and the way the larger story has been told. However, none of them really blew me away. But, the second Cloverfield movie, 10 Cloverfield Lane came the closest and in my opinion is definitely the best of the three when it comes to horror. My favorite horror movies are ones that are able to depict something (the environment, monsters, zombies etc.) as dangerous, terrifying and so on, BUT display that in these situations, much the same way as everyday life, humans can be the real terrors. 10 Cloverfield Lane does a really good job of this, and also is able to maintain a mystery throughout until the very end: is John Goodman’s character crazy, having given into conspiracy theories and a “fake videotape” from the first movie, or, was the first movie real and he has a good reason for hiding? Whether you are a fan of the overall story arc or not, I think this one is worth the time to check out just on its own, and you won’t have to deal with all of the shaking camera syndrome from the first!

Pontypool, March 6, 2009. Pontypool is a little known movie out of Canada with a virtually unknown cast, other than Stephen McHattie who has been in basically everything (Orphan Black, The Strain, 2012, multiple Star Trek shows. He has 216 acting credits on IMDb, you’ll recognize him). The movie itself is very low-budget, pretty much shot on one set, but incredibly original. Stephen plays the main character, a radio DJ in a very small town where people start getting sick and strange things are happening. I don’t want to give away the great concept as to how the disease spreads (which is not in any way plausible in our reality) but this movie really has a little bit of everything. Some great tension building, some good blood, some good jump scares, unique storyline. This is one that has very possibly eluded a lot of people, but I hope you give it a shot.

Psycho, March 8, 1960. While there are some movies I feel I need to leave off of this list because they are too obvious (like My Bloody Valentine last month), there’s no way to do that with Psycho. This movie is 62 years old and it is still AMAZING with some of the tension building. The scene at the top of the stairs STILL makes me jump! Some of the camera angles Hitchcock uses remain almost revolutionary today. You just don’t see them anywhere else. His ability, especially in this movie, to misdirect you into expecting something to happen in one part of the screen, and then coming at you from somewhere else completely is genius. Obviously, the blood and gore isn’t on par with movies of today and if that’s your gig, then you probably are not a Hitchcock fan. But, if you love some great storytelling and fantastic tension that you already know how great Psycho is!

Honorable Mentions: Dawn of the Dead (remake) March 19, 2003, Children of the Corn, March 9, 1984, The Birds, March 28, 1963.

And there you have it everyone, inarguably, the best 5 horror movies ever created and released in the month of March! Look forward to your comments and I’ll have another one out for you all next month.


Find Brian Laslo on his Patreon at: https://www.patreon.com/BLaslo

The Definitive, Indisputable, All Time Top 5 (my favorite) Horror(ish) Movies Ever Released… In February

Written by Briant Laslo

My goal here is to go throughout the year and each month pick out five of the best films, in my opinion, that in some way or another fit into the horror genre. They may not have been box office smashes. They may not have been critical successes. Some of them might even be more funny than scary. But, all of them will have made some kind of contribution to the genre or, at the very least, made their mark on me personally.

This is the second month of the reviews and once again, pickings are pretty slim for horror in February. There’s at least one selection that would seem obvious (My Bloody Valentine) that I imagine most people put on their list by default, so for that reason I figured it had to stay off of this one!

Top five lists are, by their very nature, subjective and meant to be fun, conversation starting pieces. So, I encourage everyone to get involved in the comment section. Give us your top five, or talk about any of the films I mentioned.

So, without further ado, here are the Top 5 Horror (ish) Movies Ever Released in the month of February!


Willy’s Wonderland, released February 12, 2021. Okay, so in reality, this movie doesn’t really deserve to be in the “top” five list of anything. This movie is weird. The main reason it gets put onto this list is because Nicholas Cage is one of the characters/celebrities that I have a story about, so any excuse to list any movie that Nicholas Cage stars in gives me a chance to tell the story! You can check out the story in video form here: https://www.patreon.com/BLaslo 

Otherwise, this is a really goofy movie about a shutdown children’s restaurant with possessed animatronics which features Nicholas Cage as a “silent loner”. There is lots of blood… Oh, did I mention Nicholas Cage never says a single word and there’s no explanation as to why?


The Crazies, released February 26, 2010. This film is a remake of the movie originally shot and directed by George Romero (have a story about him as well, but I’ll save that for a later time.) Romero is of course the Godfather of all zombie movies and while this movie has several similarities to zombie movie, it’s definitely not. It’s more of a biological apocalypse type movie where the infected become uncontrollably violent, but there is no undead qualities to them. I thought this movie was surprisingly well written, successfully leading you down the plot without really letting you know exactly where it’s going. There are several jump scares and even some good tension building. I don’t think this is going to change anybody’s life path, or be anybody’s favorite movie, but it’s definitely worth the time if you’re in the mood for a good scary, bloody movie.


Get Out, released February 24, 2017. I went back and forth on this movie a good bit when working on this article, not sure where to place it between 2, 3, or 4. This movie has received tons of sparkling reviews and was a big hit. I like it. But, I wasn’t blown away by it. I did not find it that scary. However, it is some great writing! The story is really enjoyable, and it certainly opens up the horror genre featuring a majority black cast rather than the “token black character” that seemed to be the maximum allowed in so many horror movies after the 70s and up until this movie. This is definitely not the movie you’re looking for if you want blood and guts, and I probably have other suggestions if you’re looking for something that really scares you. But, if you’re looking for a good story and some decent atmosphere, Get Out will deliver.


The VVitch, released February 19, 2016. Similar to Get Out, I vacillated on this one a bit. Another movie that got sterling recommendations that, for whatever reason just didn’t scare me. Again though, it’s a really good story, based on happenings and folktales from the New England area in the 1600s. It builds its environment from the very beginning (special kudos to the score for using music consistently and effectively) and never lets up, so you definitely can get drawn in. There are a couple of jumps, nothing major, some blood, again, nothing too major. Fantastic acting by the eldest son and daughter.


The Invisible Man, released February 26, 2020. Whereas I bounced around on a number of movies in this month’s list, I felt that the updated version of The Invisible Man was the clear number one. It does a great job of being based in our modern, realistic world, and then stretching it just a little bit through technology to make the invisibility believable enough. I personally found this a really intelligent movie.

I thought it was, even beyond a straight out horror film, a really good depiction of an abusive relationship. The female lead is experiencing, and treated for, PTSD based on what her partner did to her over the course of their relationship. The way they tie this in with the overall plot is great. There is plenty of tension building, and you almost need to watch it a few times to catch how often you can see something moving in the background, or off to the side of the shot that nobody in the shot notices. There’s not a lot of gratuitous blood, certainly not a slasher movie, and a fair share of major jump moments. Overall, I did not expect a lot of this movie when I heard it was coming out, and was very pleasantly surprised when I got to see it!


And there you have it everyone, inarguably, the best 5 horror movies ever created and released in the month of February! Look forward to your comments and I’ll have another one out for you all next month.

The Definitive, Indisputable, All Time Top 5 (my favorite) Horror(ish) Movies Ever Released… In January

Written by Briant Laslo

Briant Laslo

My goal here is to go throughout the year and each month pick out five of the best films, in my opinion, that in some way or another fit into the horror genre. They may not have been box office smashes. They may not have been critical successes. Some of them might even be more funny than scary. But, all of them will have made some kind of contribution to the genre or, at the very least, made their mark on me personally.

Top five lists are, by their very nature, subjective and meant to be fun, conversation starting pieces. So, I encourage everyone to get involved in the comment section. Give us your top five, or talk about any of the films I mentioned.

So, without further ado, here are the Top 5 Horror (ish) Movies Ever Released in the month of January!

Mama, released January 18, 2013. Let me start off by saying the first several months are rough going. January is one of the big “dump months” for films where studios push out all of the films they’ve made that they don’t think are going to make any money. However, Mama is a decent, scary movie with some great visuals. I’m not a big fan of horror movies that rely solely on the “made you jump” moment, and while Mama has a few of them, it does a great job of portraying the main antagonist as a sympathetic, while terrifying, character that truly does care for the children. The scene where the children are playing tug-of-war with a blanket in their room and you can’t see who’s on the other side of the blanket, and then they start to get pulled up towards the ceiling laughing in fun is one of my favorites.

From Dusk Till Dawn, released January 19, 1996. Definitely not your stereotypical horror movie, nor your stereotypical vampire movie for that matter. This is definitely the “Tarantino is cool and pulp fiction is great, let’s make a vampire movie like that!” Heck, there’s even a cameo by Big Kahuna Burgers. The movie is of course ultraviolent and definitively answers the question “does Quinten Tarantino have a foot fetish?” There’s not a lot of true scary moments or tension builders in this one, but if you’re looking for a fun ride with lots of blood, you will not be disappointed.

Hostel, released January 6, 2006. The second full-length movie directed by Eli Roth is the kind of movie that I have the hardest time watching when it comes to horror, and is for that reason usually something that sticks with me. This is a straight out horror/torture film about as based in reality as you can get for a horror movie. There are not any ghosts or invincible bad guys around. These are humans, both vulnerable and depraved. The movie doesn’t pull any punches and the horror is more about enveloping you in the situation rather than building tension. I don’t like re-watching this movie because I honestly don’t enjoy the feelings it creates inside me. But, it DOES successfully create those feelings of fear and disgust. So, if that’s your thing, then you need to make sure you give this one a go.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil, released January 22, 2010. Okay, so like I said, not all of these movies are going to be pure horror. This one still touches on many of the horror stereotypes (deranged hillbillies, sexy teenagers, running, screaming, blood, all that good stuff) but it certainly plays it on the comedic side. First off, full transparency, I’m a huge Alan Tudyk fan. I like pretty much everything he is in. And, if you’re a fan of the current NBC medical drama “New Amsterdam” you’ll love seeing Ziggy in a completely different role. If you’re looking for scares and tension, this is not the movie for you at this moment. But if you’re looking for multiple good laughs, still plenty of blood, and enough of the horror movie tropes to potentially trick your brain into thinking you’re watching a horror movie, making the comedy even that much better, then this might be one of those cult classics you wind up watching several times.

The Girl with All the Gifts, released January 26, 2017. Second bit of full transparency, I love zombie movies. I will go into why I love them more in some reviews later in the year on movies that are more prototypical zombie movies. This is one of those movies that, again, isn’t necessarily straight out horror. It’s very well written, with an original twist on the zombies. It’s also not truly a straight out zombie movie, but more of an intersection of horror/zombie/post-apocalyptic movies. It’s got plenty of tension building and moments where you realize you are gripping your seat, or clenching your jaw. You’re not entirely sure who the good guys are, or if there are even any good guys, and the ending leaves you to ponder whether things went the best way they could have, or the worst.

And there you have it everyone, inarguably, the best 5 horror movies ever created and released in the month of January! Look forward to your comments and I’ll have another one out for you all next month.

REVIEW: SPIRIT KEEPERS TAROT PLUS

As promised, I share my thoughts (aka gushing praise) for not only Benebell Wen’s limited release of the SKT deck, but also a number of her books and how they have impacted my craft studies over the past year. If you want to know more about esoterica, you can find a treasure trove of well written, excellently documented info at benebellwen.com.

WIRED FOR STORY: MY THOUGHTS

What makes a story click for a reader? Writers have asked themselves this question since we first picked up a quill.

In Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, author Lisa Cron uses neuroscience to explain how our reader brains are hardwired to to crave story—and the she explains how writers can systematically satisfy that craving.

I love this book. It was so full of useful, actionable information it took me awhile to finish because I kept taking notes. In spite of being packed with so much useful information, Lisa made the book easy to digest. She uses a lot of humor and examples to drive the message home. It was an entertaining and powerful read that provided high-value information.

I owe three stories at the moment, but a few chapters in to Wired for Story I put them all on hold so I could implement the checklists Lisa presents before I wrote anything else. Thanks to this book, I’ve added some powerful new tools to my arsenal and I’m excited to try them out.

I highly recommend Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron. You can find it on Amazon here.

FAMILY INSTRUCTIONS UPON RELEASE

A poetry book review by Renata Pavrey


Elizabeth Kirkby-McLeod is a New Zealand author whose poetry and writing have appeared in a range of New Zealand journals, online publications, and in the public art installation, In Our Words in downtown Auckland.

Elizabeth’s father took his own life in 2012. Unable to find words of her own to write about what had happened, she took them from Twelve Angry Men and the New Zealand government’s Fact Sheet 4 – Suicide and Self-Harm. Family Instructions Upon Release was her first poetry collection that released in 2019 from Cuba Press.

The blurb prepared me for what to expect in these verses. The collection is based on the poet’s grief when her father committed suicide and the cathartic effect of coming to terms with his death through poetry. I knew I was in for a heart-wrenching read, but Elizabeth’s writing is so beautiful, it truly reflects the catharsis as she looks for silver linings through her mourning.

Family Instructions Upon Release is set around the play Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose, which the poet had attended with her father, and forms part of her earliest and fondest memories with him. Elizabeth has also included the New Zealand government’s fact sheet for suicide and self-harm, to create a collection that’s both educative and sorrowful – merging personal experience with public information. The format and content are brilliant! Even the cover has its own story.

The book is written as a play, with exhibits, tickets, three acts, an explanation between acts, before, after, front stage, backstage, casting calls and critics’ reviews. The father and daughter are prominent characters in the play of life, and are moved around and guided and called forth or sent backstage by the Director. Through this literary enactment in verse, Elizabeth revisits her father’s battle with depression (that ultimately led to him taking his own life), and her own struggles with conception and miscarriages (which finally succeeded in the birth of a boy). The duality of wanting to end life and wanting to begin life, through the poet’s inner turmoil about her father and son, pierces through her verses.

Some of my favorite pieces are the titular poem, Miscarriage, Placing Blame, Antenatal Class, Birth, and Daughter Gets a Casting Call. This was a difficult book to read and review, and the poet’s anguish comes through in her writing. The subjects are sensitive and personal to even warrant a review, and I hope more readers pick up this book. It’s too beautifully written to miss reading.

Everyone’s response to grief and loss is different – the way we process deaths of those we’ve known all our lives and the unborn never met. Family Instructions Upon Release is a piece of art in itself – for the topics it addresses, the creativity in unfolding the collection, and the striking power of limited words. It’s a book to be treasured in the collection, and read many times over.

Some quotes:

-…one whose perfect love often seems imperfect, and the other whose imperfect love felt
so perfect.

-The parent, she’s born painfully, pushing out of her childish whims.

-Antenatal class. She’s pleased there are evenings set aside to keeping a child alive. Sad,
though, isn’t it, that there wasn’t a course on keeping a depressed person alive.

-He was my father. He killed my father.

-She’s locked in the brokenness he left behind.

-All stand on stage now Death has come.

-Why couldn’t Father be the same, at the end, as in the beginning?

-Life was undelivered. Did a postman mishandle it? Life went missing. Did it fall out a
hole in her pocket?

-Home is an assignment. Wellness is an accomplishment.

-She thinks about getting life, he thinks about getting rid of life.

-Lighting Manager dims the lights, as if he controls all darkness.

My rating: 5/5

About the author:

Renata Pavrey is a nutritionist and Pilates teacher. She reads across genres and languages, from writers around the world. Her short stories, essays, poetry and artwork have featured in magazines, journals, zines and books. She’s the founder of Tomes and Tales – a book blog dedicated to reviews, interviews, features, and all things book-related, including cooking and sketching inspired from literature. She can be reached at Tomes and Tales (tomesandtales365.wordpress.com) and @tomes_and_tales on Instagram.

READ BOOKS ALL DAY & GET PAID FOR IT

Thanks to the rise of self publishing, there is a fresh gig opportunity. Chances are that if you are an editor, you are already doing it. It’s called book coaching and it’s a holistic approach to publishing that covers the entire process from edits and content organization to agents.

I came across this idea sometime in the summer through the Author Accelerator accreditation program so of course I bought the book: Read Books All Day & Get Paid For It by Jennie Nash.

This is one of those texts that I have on Kindle and paperback, I enrolled in the class and if there was a T-shirt, I would buy it. An excellent book for the writerly inclined that addresses the business end of book coaching. Jennie covers the tough topics like setting a price, putting value on your time, scheduling, contracts… I think you could probably start a well organized coaching business from just reading this book.

Jennie’s approach to the topic is warm and professional. There is a lot of information packed in the book but no where did I feel overwhelmed by dry details. Her voice is engaging, informative and helpful. There is enough here to benefit anyone in the writing industry with services, but it is specifically addressing those that want to be accredited as trained book coaches in fiction and/or nonfiction with opportunities to specialize in a niche like memoirs.

I am in the course right now in the nonfiction tract and I will probably include the memoir specialization. I decided to take this course because story and book coaching is what I spend a good deal of my time doing anyways, just for free. Unfortunately, that started eclipsing my own writing so my big interest in taking this course is learning to manage a business, set boundaries and streamline the process. I’m 15% through the class and I know I made the right choice.

If you are thinking you might like to get serious and organized about your own author services, I highly recommend this book. If you think you might like to be a book coach, definitely read it so you know all that’s involved. You can find Read Books All Day & Get Paid For It by Jennie Nash on Amazon here. If you’re interested in looking at the Author Accelerator program, you can find that here.

*I paid for all copies of the book out of my own pocket to review. Book links may be affiliate links.

REVIEW: MONSTRUM POETICA + GIVEAWAY

Looking for some dark edification? Look no further than MONSTRUM POETICA by Jezzy Wolfe. Published from Raw Dog Screaming Press, this is a poetic primer about monsters across cultures. Jezzy takes the reader on a well-researched tour of some of the creepiest and most horrifying things to crawl across the page. It’s poetry, read to be savored but I was also educated by learning about some myths I’d never heard of.

Black-eyed children is one of my favorite sections. A relatively new monster, this is my first introduction to them. Melon heads are another new-to-me creature with plenty to learn about. Classic monsters such as vampires and werewolves are explored alongside American continent nightmares like the mothman.

This is a poetry collection you will want to dip into repeatedly. Aside from the impressive collection of monsters to explore, there is the poetry. I feel like the forms must have been picked to reflect the subject. A good example of this is “Road Hazard,” a chain of linked haiku that explores yokai. In the concrete/shape poem “Dog Deadly,” Jezzy mimics the loping run of a hunting canine across the page, heightening the reader’s experience.

A beautiful collection in every way from the quality of the poems to the stunning presentation from Raw Dog, this is a book I will return to when I need something to savor. I highly recommend MONSTRUM POETICA, and I look forward to seeing more from this poet.

You can find MONSTRUM POETICA on Amazon here or see if you are the lucky winner of a copy with a bookplate signed by Jezzy Wolfe. Just leave a comment on this post and I’ll draw a name randomly next Halloween and get this book sent to you. With all the shipping issues, I am going to limit this one to the Continental US so it will actually arrive.

Want to hear Jezzy read from MONSTRUM POETICA? She was on LIT UP a few weeks ago, so wish granted.

ONE WEEK OF TORTURED WILLOWS: REVIEWS

I don’t know if I have ever had so many reviews on a one week old book as we have on Tortured Willows right now… and such reviews. My head is spinning from all the responses but not just “great poetry” or “spooky reading.” The responses have been conversations.

The theme of all these reviews seems to be connection. Readers say they understand it more about Asian culture, or empathy because they’ve felt the same things. Some have discovered new things, concepts, perspectives. All have been flattering. That is why we wrote this collection. Thank you for all reviews, every word of feedback. To quote Elizabeth Miki Brina in Speak, Okinawa, we “feel seen, rather than exposed.” That is worth everything.

Tortured Willows for ebook should be available within 24 hours. Here are just a few of the reviews that have been filling the inbox.

Thank you Nat Whiston Reviews!

More TORTURED WILLOWS Reviews


Tortured Willows, Skydiving, and the Magic of Poetry.
Geneve Flynn in a Guest Post on Stephanie Wytovich’s blog Join Me in the Madhouse.

The Horror Tree Blog Tour
Lee Murray — Cheongsam
Geneve Flynn –When The Girls Began to Fall

Epeolatry Book Reviews: Tortured Willows: Bent. Bowed. Unbroken