Centralia: Epicenter Review

Centralia, chances are you’ve heard of that city, town, or tiny little speck on a map somewhere.
It’s almost like the slightly less famous little brother of the name Springfield, there’s at least 12 of the bastards spread across this country.
But…what if there’s more to it than just a random and overused name?
What if, like, some new shit has come to light, man?

Those are the questions raised here, that maybe these towns are connected by some darkness…some underlying evil…

Though I’ll try to keep it as spoiler free as possible, just to cover myself, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

Probably the creepiest of the stories for me was the first, Grandma’s Eyes by Heath Amodio.
A young girl, Jenna, stricken blind in a freak car accident develops a condition that forces her to avoid her grandma or suffer painful headaches.
Cut ahead a few years and the girl and her Mom get a call from Granny, she’s nearing death.
So, as most folks would, Jenna and her Mom make the trip to see Grandma and say their goodbyes.

A Certain Kind Of Forest Sound by Adam Cesare, when you boil it all down, is a disturbing tale of the call of the wild.
A hiker spends a summer day doing what hikers do, when a sound grabs her attention and draws her into gory mayhem.

The overwhelming majority of short stories and novels make it feel like a story is being told at you, not to you.
They have a stiff delivery that almost feels cold, but not these two!
Both of these stories, but especially the first, have some of the most naturalistic dialogue I’ve ever read, and it is beyond refreshing.

Let’s get this out of the way right now so it doesn’t distract or taint (hahaha, I said taint!) what’s to come.
Yes, I listen to the Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave podcast.
Yes, I’ve seen Impractical Jokers, some of the show and the movie.
So this is your, apparently, prerequisite “Oh my god, it’s Colonel Q!
Let’s all dog pile on the rabbit!”
Good, that’s taken care of.

Now let’s all be honest here, if you look at the many reviews I’ve written or if you’ve heard me talk over the years, you know I am a sucker for an off-kilter detective story.
If you need proof of that then scroll up to the search bar and type in “Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.” or “MONK” and it’ll be laid bare for the world to see.
The title alone tells you this is going to be an untraditional detective: G.B. Bolt And The Case Of The Grabbed Ghost by Brian Quinn.
A fuckin’ robo man spends his many years investigating supernatural occurrences!
Yeah, I’m in!

But as easy a sell as that is for me, I do have two issues here.
The first is an issue that A Certain Kind Of Forest Sound also has.
Both, while delivering information that is important to building the worlds of their respective stories, have a certain distracted circuitousness in them that is…slightly frustrating.
It’s sort of like the narration of both has an almost folksy charm in them when talking about history and then they need a smack in the back of the head to get back on course.
Not an issue major enough to impact enjoying either story, but something that definitely stuck out for me.
Now my other issue is something that plagues the final story as well.

The Grasp Of Wraiths by Cullen Bunn and G.B. Bolt And The Case Of The Grabbed Ghost both feature the most criminal of offenses, the worst of all possible atrocities!
Both end with a glimmer of hope that these characters could possibly appear again some day, but we don’t know when!
*dramatic music plays*
But, some how, even worse, both hint at numerous possible prequels that just do not exist!
*even more dramatic music plays*
It’s an act of unforgivable pure evil from both of them.

In The Grasp Of Wraiths, a mysterious figure is called by an unlikely ally to investigate a series of gruesome murders that may or may not have deep roots that tie it to a Civil War era massacre.
That’s right, gang, we have another Supernatural detective on our hands, and I am happier than a pig in shit.
This one has a damn spooky and well drawn word picture of a dude who spends a good amount of his time dealing with the world between worlds and the critters what inhabit it.

This collection includes two other stories, Sundown by Michael Patrick Hicks and The Valley Of The Yunwi Tsunsdi by Brian Keene, that I haven’t even touched on, but I have to leave something for you to discover on your own.

Before reading this, I’ve not read anything from any of these six writers.
But that’s something I’m willing to change now.
All know how to do the words good like and such, and build a great sense of dread that’s fitting for the season.

Centralia: Epicenter is available on Halloween, you can pre-order it now on Amazon!

Let us know what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.
And you never know, I may yet have another Halloween themed review up my sleeve.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

And for more great Nerd Blitz content (including Horror like this), head over to Patreon.com/NerdBlitzPod or TSDJAProductions.bandcamp.com

Goosebumps: Egg Monsters From Mars Review

My first encounter with a Goosebumps book, while not particularly what I would consider horror, went surprisingly well (read all about it HERE).
That left me more than ready to dive in and read another almost immediately.
So was this one able to go in a more horrific direction?
Was the good experience I had in the previous book indicative of the entire series and will it hold steady or was it a fluke that took a nose dive in the very next installment?
The time has come to find out, gang!

As I’m sure you know by now, this is your ever present ***SPOILER ALERT***, so everybody act accordingly.

When his bratty sister, Brandy, requests an egg hunt for her birthday party, aspiring scientist Dana Johnson finds one that is beyond belief.
Giving off heat, covered in pulsing veins, he takes it to his room to study it more closely.
When it hatches, he takes it to a local research lab and the shit hits every fan you can possibly imagine!

First off, R.L. Stine must have had or wanted a bratty little sister, because this is the second book in a row where one is a key character.
Second and most important and possibly interesting or inspiring, this book came out one month after Bad Hare Day.
That was completely insane to me so I looked ahead and found that all of the four I have came out in four consecutive months.
While this books aren’t the most challenging, his level of output is incredibly impressive and respectable beyond my ability to articulate.
Bravo, sir!

I’ve been trying my damnedest to find something about this book that I didn’t like and I’m coming up empty.
This one had the horror vibe I felt the last one was lacking, which is a huge plus.
It’s pretty damn disturbing what happens when he heads to the lab.
It didn’t feel like it was lacking any depth like Bad Hare Day did either, in fact I loved the economical way he told this story and how it really dives in and deals with Dana’s reaction to the horrific and traumatic situation he finds himself in.
With the way he conveys that fear and panic of being captured, I can see why kids would find this scary.
Nothing at all here felt like it was missing or went unexplored like the previous story.

It really does make me a little bit sad that I missed the boat on these books when I was a wee lad.
I think it would have been a great way to embrace another aspect of horror at such a young age.
And with that fact alone I can totally understand why this series still persists to this day.
These first two experiences I’ve had with this series have gotten progressively better with each installment and that makes me excited to read the next two books next October.
But return to this franchise I most definitely will!

Let us know what you think of this special Halloween review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for this year’s final themed review in the next week or so.

Special thanks, as always, to @ACFerrell1976 for her continuing editorial assistance.

And for more great Nerd Blitz content, head over to Patreon.com/NerdBlitzPod or TSDJAProductions.bandcamp.com

Goosebumps: Bad Hare Day Review

The global phenomenon known as Goosebumps is a monster of a machine that has been rolling for almost 30 years and includes hundreds of Books in multiple series, TV shows, Movies, Video Games, Comics, and amazing amounts of merch.
It truly is a juggernaut!
But for some reason, as a kid, the books never really grabbed me.

So now, as I reach almost 30 myself, I’m taking a plunge into the series for the first time.
Will it stand up to the grizzled and cynical eyes of a grumpy old Doom or will it reignite some hidden youthfulness?
Let’s creep on in and find out.

As always, this your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

Now let me very clear about a couple of things upfront.
1. Yes, I understand this is a series of children’s “horror” novels, that wouldn’t and shouldn’t give it a pass for sucking.
Thankfully though, it doesn’t.
I judged this the same way I would any other novel or short story.
2. While this is the first Goosebumps book I have ever read, this is not my first experience with the franchise.
When I was little, love it or hate it, EVERYBODY watched the Goosebumps TV Series that aired on Fox kids in the mid-to-late 90s.
I remember absolutely loving it!
So I’m not quite sure why I never checked out the books.
3. Just so you know where I’m coming from with this review, for Halloween this year, I thought it might be fun to read some short horror books to celebrate the season and get in the mood.
With all of that out of the way, let’s dive in to the belly of this beast.

A magic obsessed kid named Tim spends his days trying to work out the kinks of his burgeoning act on anybody that will sit still long enough for him to attempt a trick.
During a trip to the local magic store, he’s given tickets to see his idol Amaz-O perform for the first, and possibly only, time ever!
So he sneaks out of the house one night with his bratty karate chopping sister, Ginny, in tow for a show that will change his life forever.

The first thing I would say is that this story specifically feels a bit mislabeled as horror.
To me, it feels like more like a thriller that has a dash of morality tale thrown in for good measure.
The tension doesn’t have that typical type of tension I associate with horror, it’s more of a “damn, this kid was wronged and got in too deep. I hope he doesn’t get in too much trouble” type of tension.
That is by no means a complaint, it’s just something that stuck out.

Now, something that I would consider a bit of a mild complaint (and actually something we just talked about in regard to Ash Vs Evil Dead) would be that it leaves you wanting more.
The “Just the facts, ma’am” style and break neck pace Stine seems to employ here does just that.
While it may be a limitation of the format/target audience (short attention spans), I want to see this dude unchained and able to tell a story with depth and some breathing room cause he’s definitely got the skill to weave a compelling and interesting story.
I get the feeling this may end up being the big “problem” I’ll have with any of these that I read, I just want more.
I want the chance to get to know this world where magic can transfigure you into other critters better.

As for the morality angle I mentioned earlier, it’s a pretty good Monkey’s Paw situation of “be careful what you wish for”.
Tim, due to his sister’s brattiness, keeps threatening to turn her into a rabbit.
When it eventually does happen, it comes back to bite him in the ass in a big way.
While that does change, the point lands hard.

Overall, this is pretty damn fun and well written, kid’s book or not.
Though it feels like a short story that could easily be turned into a full length novel, it’s pretty satisfying as is.
The characters each have a distinct voice of their own, which can sometimes be an issue with books aimed at younger audiences.
I’m definitely interested in reading more!

Let us know what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview, and keep an eye out for my other Halloween themed reviews in the coming weeks.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

And for more great Nerd Blitz content, head over to Patreon.com/NerdBlitzPod or TSDJAProductions.bandcamp.com

Murder In Cormyr Review

If you’ve read many of these reviews or listened to the pod, you know that I dig detective/private investigator stories.
The less straight forward and more off beat the better.
Be it Monk, Psych, Dan Shamble, or Mystery Inc, there is just something about the nontraditional mystery solver that I love.

You’ve also heard my interest in Dungeons And Dragons grow since this show launched nearly 4 and a half years ago, as evidenced by Ep 100 of the main show (listen to that here).
So what happens when you combine D&D and a murder mystery?
Let’s find out!

As always, let it be known far amd wide that this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

In the tradition of most detective novels I’ve stumbled across, this story is told from a first person perspective of somebody who just so happened to witness it all as the helper of the incredibly savvy detective.
This story begins with our former slop boy and quarter halfling narrator, Jasper, recounting the story of how he came to be in the service of a retired war wizard, Benelaius.
Having broken into Benelaius’s cabin on a drunken dare, Jasper agreed to be his servant, at half his current pay, for a year to keep his soon to be employer from reporting his crime to the local law force, the Purple Dragons.
Yes, gang, this book isn’t afraid to go full nerd!

Nearly a year passes, with Benelaius teaching Jasper ways to broaden his future beyond petty burglary.
In the year that has gone by, a ghost has started appearing in the Vast Swamp near town and the citizens are starting to get worried.
They get even more alarmed when bodies start dropping just before the merchant’s guild is scheduled to hold their annual meeting in the normally quiet town of Ghars.

Before I got a copy of this, like with most books I get, I did a ton of research and only found a couple of reviews from around the time of release.
After I finished reading it the other day I searched them out again just to compare.
The only conclusion I can come to is one of the following: either Chet Williamson wronged this reviewer in the worst possible way and the reviewer got his revenge in review form, your ol pal Doom might be simple in the head and is easy to please, or this reviewer read a totally different book cause I had a shit ton of fun with this one.

Williamson infused this with an incredibly pulpy vibe, while still juggling the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy aspects of it all.
Which is fascinating considering my research (which could just be internet horseshit) says that when he wrote this he had less D&D experience than I currently do.
Had I not read that, I would have thought he was a seasoned veteran when it comes to slinging polyhedrals.
He paints as good a picture of the world and its monsters as the DMs on most actual play podcasts I’ve heard.

The mystery of the murderer is interwoven with the ghost and political upheaval storythreads damn well.
All have enough satisfying twists and shocks to keep you more than interested until the end.
The Monk-like “here’s what happened” scene even has a twist that is explained the following day to add an unexpected bit of business to make this story have a freshness all it’s own.

Bottom line: If you always wanted to read a tale of a slightly more sedentary Gandalf or Dumbledore playing gumshoe with Frodo or Harry doing their legwork, look no further.
The biggest thing I can piss and moan about is that the ending seems to suggest more adventures with Beneliaus & Jasper that sadly never happen.
This book was perfectly made for me, and I’m glad I found it.
Hopefully you’ll feel the same and pick it up yourself.

Let us know what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem Review

With a name like Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem, you are sending a very clear mission statement to the world.
You best sack up and deliver on all 3, or you’re gonna have big problems, man.
I wanna see some variety in crazy critters, talk of the movin’ pictures, and some chaos and/or pandemonium!
Does this collection of creepy creatures and calamitous carnage come through?
Let’s find out, gang!

As is always the case in these reviews, this here is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

The first thing I have to point out, or confirm rather, is something KJA specifically told me in our interview in Part 1 of Ep 100 (find it Here or where ever you get your podcasts), and that is that this collection has a healthy mix of all types of monsters, there’s really no chasing of trends or attempts to cash in on any current horror fads that I can detect.
There’s Dragons, and Zombies, and Ghosts, OH MY!
But also Vampires, Werewolves, Demons, Aliens, weird beings that exist outside of our known laws of physics and logic, and more.
So on one of the three points I mentioned in the intro, the editorial team of assemblers on this compilation were indeed successful.

But what about the stories themselves, you may wonder?
All that hard work to offer a good selection doesn’t mean jack if the stories are boring as hell.
Well, thankfully, they aren’t.
Now, I will fully admit, there are a few stories in here that, as soon as I finished them, made me plop the book down a bit unsure if I liked them or not.
But, far more often than not, a few minutes of kicking them around in my ol head part brought me around to likin’ on them.

To get specific, Hyde Park by Shannon Fox, a modern day Jack The Ripper tale with a dark twist.
This one felt like it was all wrapped up a little too quickly, but upon reflection I did find it impressive how economic Fox was.
While snappy, there’s absolutely no wasted space.
Whoever Writes Monsters by Sam Knight, the story of a writer who lost his spouse and muse.
The jarringly quick tonal shift in this one had my head spinning a bit as it goes batshit crazy bloodlust 0 to 60 in no time flat, but after chewing it over I found it to be pretty ballsy and I quickly started to admire how bombastically crazy it ended up going.
And finally there was Motivating A Monster by Irene Radford, a story of a thespian dragon that has let himself go.
The issue I had with this one again ended up being a major part of the reason I dug it, the absurdity of a dragon that has made a career, and fortune, doing Kaiju flicks while living in a cave near the studio with an internet connection is so goofy, but fun to think about.

There are plenty of stories in here that I loved immediately (more on them in a bit), but one really stood out with its wonderfully Twilight Zonian flair for karma and I have to point it out.
Vinegar Symdrome by Ben Monroe features one of those stereotypical overappreciators of the art, history, and craft of *turns nose up haughtily* Cinema.
One night after closing up his arthouse theatre, he gets a call from a contact he’s made in town while pursuing his quest to snap up rare or vintage film memorabilia.
While reading a collection of stories like this, you should know what comes next, and the road there is satisfying as fuck, man.
After screwing the contact over for a long lost, and thought destroyed, piece of movie history, our main character gets what he has coming in a beautifully twisted and throughly just way.

Other highlights include Steve Rasnic Tem‘s Z Is for Zombie, which is the story of an old time Zombie performer from way back that feels oddly like a Night Of The Living Dead tribute to me, in the best possible way.
Linda Maye Adams‘s Alien Pizza about a gluten-free LA pizza joint that nobody expects to last long, given the *ahem* strange clientele that has brought down every other restaurant to call that building home.
David Gerrold‘s flash fiction ghost story Michael Thinks The House Is Haunted that packs a quick and funny punch to break some of the tension the book was building.
Julie Frost‘s When The Shift Hits The Fan, an incredibly fun story of an actress werewolf that has a cost cutting director ask too much of her on set.
The button at the end of this one is particularly good!
And the last one I want to make sure I mention, though I really dug so many more, is David Boop‘s supernatural western Progress Grows Out Of Motion.
When a grizzled and recently retired bounty hunter makes his way to the most haunted town in the Arizona territory, shit goes as sideways as you’d expect.
Just the concept of a supernatural western does it for me (why in the hell aren’t there more!?), but this is a thrilling ride on top of it.

Each of the stories I mentioned do an impressive job of filling one of the titular criteria, often times ticking off more than one.
There is straight horror, humor, heartbreak, Sci-Fi of many sorts, mystery, and more.
The curation of this collection is top notch for damn sure.
And now knowing and understanding the backstory of how this book came together makes it all even better.

I’ve only mentioned nine of the tales here, meaning you have fourteen more to discover yourself.
If you dig the short story format, this is one you shouldn’t miss, gang.

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.