The fear of death is the most prevalent fear that mankind has. Paradoxically, though,  most of us believe or want to believe that there is something beyond this entanglement of feelings and emotions that we call life.  What is death? Is there a God? A Heaven? A Hell? What happens to the soul once it leaves the body.

One guy knows the answers to all these questions. And his name is Corwin Grimm. So, who is this Corwin Grimm dude?

Well, the answer to that is known by a delightful lady by the name of Linda Cowden, and the endearing nickname of Auntie Maim. Ms. Cowden has written an awesome epic dark fantasy novel, which has Corwin Grimm as a central character.  Who’s Corwin Grimm, you might ask? Well, he’s a soulful saxophone player with a thing for cats. And the occasional stint as a vigilante, sending bad guys to hell while giving the last moment of comfort to  those in need of it.  Because….he’s also  The Grim Reaper! Escorting people to either realm of the afterlife does come with its heft, and this heft will haunt Corwin from the moment in which he touches the soul of a human being in a very special situation.  Throughout this sprawling novel, Grimmie, as he’s known to those who befriend him, muses on all that being human encompasses: faith, fear, love, longing, passion, pain and all the confusion inbetween, moving back and forth between goths, Japanese mobsters, Catholic priests and other such colorful characters. This is a book that’s written with a great deal of wit, a book with a big, pulsing heart that deserves a lot of attention, and a Netflix TV series! Think Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman writing a book together, and you’ve got GRIMMIE. Solid, solid read! Loved it!  Ten outta five for what may be my all-time favorite dark fantasy novel! Huge debt of gratitude to Auntie Maim for providing me with a copy of her enchanting work. However, the views herein are all my own!


The role of horror fiction in our world has been widely debated. Fans(myself included) and writers of the genre defend it as a necessary cautionary look at the darker side of human nature, while detractors see nothing in it but “penny dreadfuls.”

Recently, I’ve had the honour of reading one of the smartest horror novels ever written, in my view. Penned by celebrated tie-in author for such franchises as Doctor Who and Friday the 13th, THE LAST DAYS OF JACK SPARKS is his first foray into original fiction. Now, if I could throw my two cents about it from the get-go, I’d say it bloody well shouldn’t be his last, because it’s a definite page-turner.

Meet Jack Sparks. Celebrity blogger, celebrated author and all-around typical cocky famous asshole known for his biting sarcasm and staunch atheism, Jack has mysteriously kicked the bucket while researching his latest book, “Jack Sparks on the Supernatural”, in which he calls bullshit on exorcisms, haunted houses, and so forth. And it all starts when Jack laughs during a Roman Catholic exorcism on a 13-year-old girl.

Now, some of you might think that the topic of exorcisms has been done on so many different levels, that there’s hardly anything new to be said in regard to it. Let me assure you, you’ve not read anything like this before.  The character of Jack Sparks is so, so well done, and I love the whole meta-concept of the novel(it’s basically Jack Sparks on the Supernatural” with all sorts of added material by his brother Allistair.  There’s so much in this apparent exorcism-gone-south tale that’s relevant for our society, whether it is our obsession with the online environment and celebrity culture, or our eternal fascination towards the paranormal. Jack is a great character to read(I loved how his previous books, on drugs and gangs, as well as his wacky research methods, are referenced), and his arrogance will paradoxically endear him to readers.  This solid novel gets all the stars in the sky for the much-needed lesson it teaches about the toxicity of arrogance and self-worship. A huge debt of gratitude to Mr. Arnopp and Orbit books for providing me with a copy of the novel! Nevertheless, the views presented herein are my own.


The larger-than-life personality of Ludwig van Beethoven has always been fascinating to me. The bombastic opening to the Fifth Symphony always boosts my mood, as does the soaring Ode to Joy. The fact that this man could write music while unable to physically hear is proof, in my view, that any obstacle can be overcome. The intensity that this titan of music had inside him is next-to-impossible to capture in words.

And yet, there’s one beautifully written work of historical fiction that I am proud to have read, which does so in a masterful manner.

BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139: CONCERTO QUASI UNA FANTASIA may very well be the most unconventional biography of a classical composer that I have ever read. Written by Mr. Howard Jay Smith, the novel starts with the death of Beethoven and his subsequent journey throughout Elysium in pursuit of Isis, his muse, the paragon of womanhood, and guided by Napoleon, who proves to be the Virgil to Beethoven’s Dante in his quest for the one moment of pure joy that he begs from Fate. This is a brilliant manner of framing the story, as it not only serves as a great fantasy sequence, but it gives the reader the opportunity to see Beethoven from a different perspective. I’m quite sure you’ve never heard his story told this way before. You will discover a man of great wit, passion, energy and intensity. A lover of many women, some of whom you’ll meet in the pages of this novel(I loved Josephine Brunsvik for fated symmetry-induced reasons, if you know what I mean, and the intense Antonie Brentano the most), but first and foremost a worshipper of the tremendous power of music and creation, he comes across as a complex, multifaceted and haunted figure as Napoleon gives him glimpses of his past and visions from the future, a future we, mere mortals, could probably not imagine without his iconic pieces.  This is an exquisitely written tribute to perhaps the most powerful musical icon of the classical era, a work unique among the many books written about him. Long live Beethoven, and Mr. Smith! Though I was provided with a copy of the book for review purposes, I do-do-do-do confirm that the views herein are my own! Ten out of five for a solid piece of historical fiction.


A sense of intimacy with Jesus is something that all Christian denominations seek to the highest degree there is.  I, for one, have always wondered what it could have been like for those who actually shared intimacy with Him: His immediate family.

I found a  warmly written and very plausible answer in a fascinating novel that I am honored to have on my shelf.

The book is called MY BROTHER’S KEEPER: A NOVEL ABOUT THE FAMILY OF JESUS, and written by Mr. Bill Kassel, who was gracious enough to provide me with a copy of his work for review purposes, for which I thank him profusely.  Given that disclaimer, I insist upon stating that the views presented herein are my own.

The novel starts off quite  a while before the birth of Jesus, with Joachim, the father of Mary, and Zacharias, the husband of her cousin Elizabeth, coming to Joseph to discuss the  future of Mary, whose time with the temple virgins is coming to an end. I found it very interesting that the author chose to incorporate very early Christian traditions held by both Catholicism and Orthodoxy in regard to how the relationship between Joseph and Mary came to be.   The character on which the novel focuses is James, the half-brother of Jesus, known as “James the Just”, who, throughout the novel, evolves from a knowledge-hungry young man to a very respected rabbi and the Jewish advisor of Pontius Pilate. Speaking of Pilate, I think the author did a fantastic job exploring the motivations that drove him to condemn Jesus to death, although knowing He was innocent. The plot leading up to the Passion story is presented with great depth and reverence, meant to incite further discussion of what led to the sacrifice of Jesus and what its implications, whether political, social, or spiritual, were. The novel is a worthy addition to the shelf of any Christian fiction enthusiast, and a heartily recommended read for those who seek an intimate portrayal of the Holy Family. Ten stars out of five for a true masterpiece of Biblical fiction. Thank you, Mr. Kassel! A fine, impeccably researched, elegant-sounding story of Christ, one for the ages!

As a full-blown Elvis fan, I try to get my hands on as many books about the King of Rock n’Roll as I can. The guy is one of my biggest inspirations, and I do love to see him get the fictional treatment if it’s done right.

A little while ago, I had the blessing and pleasure to read a novel which hits the hammer right on the head when it comes to Elvis. Why? Because it’s the first piece of fiction that heartily endorses his Christian heritage. I don’t think it should come as a shock that Elvis was a devout believer in God, no matter how many strict dogmatists will try to discredit that due to his untimely demise caused by addiction to medication and unhealthy eating habits.   The book is called ELVIS IS ALIVE, and written by Mr. James LeCroy, who was kind enough to provide me with a copy of his work.

The storyline of the novel is fairly simple, at the same time offering space for plenty of interesting stuff to happen: having reached the Throne of Jesus in Heaven, Elvis pleas for a second chance at getting things done right, realizing his wrongdoings. He’s granted 40 days to win souls for Christ, and if successful, he may return to Heaven. Thus, he appears in the middle of the Nevada desert, to Sunny Carlisle, a down-on-his luck Elvis impersonator. They meet lapsed Catholic Elisha Matthews, and together, the trio embarks on the adventure of a lifetime, with these two helping Elvis in his Heaven-granted quest by being there for him as he puts together comeback concerts to fulfill his mission.

In spite of the book safely being labeled as Christian fiction, what I love the most about it is that it doesn’t offer wishy-washy cardboard cutouts from Sunday school lessons for characters. It shows sin at its ugliest, from language to violence, pulling no punches in its attempt to show its impact on our world. The characters go through a lot of dark and violent stuff, confrontations with evil cultists and terrorists, kidnappings, murders and so on, and, shock and awe to holier-than-Thou individuals, they drop f-bombs. Yes, this is the world we live in, and the book is not afraid to take on it, mano a mano. It’s one of the grittiest and most inspiring Christian novels I’ve read in the recent period, and while it could benefit from a little more editing, the message comes through loud and clear. Four point five stars out of five for this awesome fictional tribute to the King of Rock n’Roll and the King of Kings.


Those who know me know my penchant for wrestling. There’s something I find absolutely fascinating about the manner in which combat is used as a pretext to tell a story of contrasting personalities clashing inside the squared circle. So when I read the plot description for CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, by journalist Chad Dundas, I was instantly hooked. And boooy, did this book ever deliver.
Set in the infancy days of professional wrestling as we know it today, this historical novel tells the gripping story of former lightweight champion Pepper Van Dean, now a circus performer known for his death-defying Hangman’s Drop, and his wife, Moira, who makes a living out of tricking people at card games. The former champ’s wrestling glory days come back to haunt him, when he receives an offer to train African-American heavyweight wrestler Garfield Taft for a shot at being the eponymous Champion of the World. Which, of course, given the fact that the story takes place in the ’20’s, is controversial, to say the least. And let me tell you, this book is replete with controversy. From gangsters to blatant racism and some homosexuality, there’s little in this book that is for the faint of heart. However, those who stick with it to the end will find a story that’s super-confidently written for a debut novel(I had a hard time believing this to be the case on a couple of occasions). From the opening, the reader is engrossed into this story, and the characters are so complex and well-drawn that you’ll care about all of them, from down-on-his luck yet never-say-die Pepper, to the ever-resourceful Moira and the superlatively confident Taft. A robust, authentic, gritty, heartfelt debut, written in pull-no-punches prose, CHAMPION OF THE WORLD is sure to entertain wrestling fans, historical fiction buffs and those who are simply looking for a great read. This, in my book, is the great American wrestling novel, and I’m looking forward to the further efforts of Chad Dundas! Ten outta five for a solid debut! The views herein are my own, though Mr. Dundas was gracious enough to provide me with a copy of his work.

Stories of teenagers trying to find their way through turbulent times have always fascinated  me. It’s quite inspiring to see young people growing up, forming their personalities in times of great social upheaval.

So when I heard about TEN THOUSAND SAINTS, the gritty, emotional novel by Eleanor Henderson, about the straight-edge movement, with which I was vaguely familiar due to professional wrestler CM Punk), I knew I had to read it. I fell in love with the plot description instantly.

Meet Jude. Jude is a teen raised by parents who are very, very liberal, to say the least, in regard to using various addictive substances.  Jude’s best friend, Teddy, has lost his life to a drug overdose, so this kid’s got quite a personal history with drug abuse. Which is why, in turbulent, AIDS-panicked New York in the 1980’s, Jude, together with Teddy’s former girlfriend, left pregnant, and Johnny, Teddy’s half-brother, join  the straightedge movement. To the “uninitiated”, this is a punk subculture, with a strong aversion to drinking, smoking,  drugs and sexual promiscuity.

The novel pulls no punches in dealing with heavy subjects: drug abuse is very common, Jude’s parents being very big into this sort of thing. Eliza’s pregnancy, given that she’s not even out of her teens, is another point of controversy.  Pretty much every adult in this book, as a previous reviewer remarked, is a wreck. So, in its essence, this is a story about growing up with no suitable role models. It’s a painful, gritty, honest story, with flawed, vulnerable, and yet likable teenage protagonists trying to find their way in a wayward world.  The plot twist with Johnny was something unexpected, as was the bittersweet ending(read this book!) I also had a chance to get educated on fetal alcohol syndrome, which I knew vaguely about, so there’s stuff to learn from this novel as well.

For the authenticity of the setting and the compelling nature of its characters, TEN THOUSAND SAINTS gets TEN THOUSAND stars! This book rocks, and though I received a copy from the author for review purposes, this review is entirely composed of my own views. Thank you, Ms. Henderson! Great job!