Category: What we’ve been reading

The Thing

Just found this novella a few weeks ago and was thrilled to get another chance to read it. I’d read it once before many years ago, but I had thought it lost and was delighted to find it was simply among my books in storage.

Mr. Campbell did a wonderful job of creating a terrifying science fiction tale of isolation and the old ’10 Little Indians’ theme. In the lonely antarctic, a team of researchers are slowly realizing that the remains they brought in from a wrecked spaceship they’d found in the ice is still alive. Even more alarming is the fact that it can infect and duplicate any life form, by entering the victim’s body and replacing every cell in that target body, allowing it to devour and become that person/animal.

The rest of the humans must find a way to figure out who’s been taken over and what this ‘thing’ wants, before any migrating birds come to stay at the base and move on to other parts of the world.

John Carpenter’s version of this story “The Thing” is very close to Mr. Campbell’s actual story, but liberties were taken and the novelette is still worth reading. I highly recommend anyone who is a fan of science fiction and mystery to check out this spine-tingling tale.


Love and Coffee

Many of us have a particular establishment where we go for a good cup of coffee, tea, and maybe even a pastry.  We might even like to park ourselves at a table, maybe by the window, or in a corner so we can sit, read, do a bit of texting, writing, artwork, or just dream.  But how many of us pay attention to the other folks sharing that space where we like to relax and unwind?

After reading “Love and Coffee” you may find yourself paying more attention to those around you and wondering what roads they’ve traveled down.

“Love and Coffee” is a collection of short vignettes that all take place inside not just any coffee shop,

but a very special one.  It’s run by a woman everyone calls Little Italy, who knows just what you need even before you make up your mind.  She’s assisted by her cohorts Big Red, and Angel, as well as a music box that seems to have come straight out of the more benevolent corners of the Twilight Zone, along with Little Italy who simply has to give it the slightest nod or look of encouragment get the device to bring the just the right song into play at the moment it’s needed most.

All the stories are told through the eyes of the author, who has a wonderful gift for making you feel like you’re there at the same table with him watching each installment unfold.  And although we never learn the real names of the other patrons, he manages to make us feel like each and every one is an old friend and when the next story involving them comes up you can’t help finding yourself sharing their hopes, dreams, and disappointments.

I found myself smiling, laughing, and even shedding more a few tears over a number of these short tales, which I offer as high praise for the author’s handling of each scene.  There are a host of characters waiting for you within the pages of this collection like The Man with the 5 Minute Memory,  Pin Stripe, Mister Tick Tock, The Mouse and so many others.  They’re all waiting for you, so step on with your favorite beverage.  And if you don’t have one, never fear because Little Italy will help you discover it soon enough.

And when you finish never fear, Mr. Main already as a “Refill” in the works and I for one cannot wait to get my hands on it.




A Romantically Fang-Tastic Read


This book surpassed all my expectations.  In an age of sparkling day-walkers, we get some good old traditional vampires who have moved with the times.  They’re powerful, clever, and have built some strong financial power for themselves.  However, a number of them are still ‘monsters’.  Dorian Taylor is an exception.  He does not view mortals as merely play-toys or food, like his associates.  He longs for something more and finds it in Jennifer, he also finds his heart.  

Definitely not a book for anyone under eighteen, but a cracking good read.  Miss Black supplies the reader with a good amount of BDSM and sex.  But even more importantly she provides us with a love story with plenty of danger lurking in the shadows.  There are twists and turns I did not see coming which I found both moving and exciting.  While some situations might seem trite to some people, the author does something else that certainly makes up for it.  She makes us ‘care’ about the characters, including the supporting ones.  

A damn good read, which I highly recommend to others.  

I first encountered Mr. King’s works back in the late 1970’s and quickly became a huge fan.  I even got to meet the man himself in 1983 when I was attending Nassau Community College.  Mr. King had come for a politician who had been running for the Democratic Presidential ticket (the man in question later dropped out after having been caught out by the press for having an affair).

Back to Stephen King, I was in awe of him back then and I still am today.  I will admit some of his books are not always my cup of tea these days, but he is still a brilliant writer whom I look up to and respect.  “Salem’s Lot” is one of the reasons for my admiration.  Check out the review I created for below and perhaps you’ll get a better picture as to why I love this particular book so much.

Salem's Lot

Possibly one of the best modern-day vampire stories I’ve ever read.

‘Salem’s Lot is a nice little town up in Maine. A charming community where everyone knows their neighbors, but not all their dirty little secrets. Even the most picturesque towns has it’s share of dark tales. Take the Marsten House where Hubie Marsten murdered his wife and then hung himself. No one has lived there for years, but now someone has bought the place.

At the same time Ben Mears, the famous author, has returned to ‘Salem’s Lot to do a story on the old place. He’d gone inside once on a dare and has been trying to reconcile what he saw that day inside the old abandoned place. But while he tries to wrestle with old ghosts, a greater threat has come to town.

First a beloved dog is found hanging on the cemetery gate, mutilated in a most bizarre and ritualistic fashion. Soon a small boy disappears and his older brother contracts a fatal illness with anemia-like traits. Soon darkness spreads across the town, but no one is willing to talk about it. Some ponder but none are willing to acknowledge or admit to the possibility of something ‘supernatural’ taking hold of their community…

I have always loved this story because it felt so believable to me. We are taught to be rational and intelligent. To not believe in bogeymen, werewolves, or vampires. So I could easily see an entire town slowly being turned into the living dead through the old “you bite two friends, and they bite two friends, and so on…” method. And who would believe it if you told them this was happening? The police? The clergy? The newspapers? Or would you have to create your own little band of slayers to fight the threat? People who’ve seen and now believe and are willing to stand with you? Or do you simply turn and run, leaving the town to it’s fate?

For me, this is one of Mr. King’s greatest works

body snatchers
NOTE: This review contains spoilers, so read only if you choose to.
Ever since the 1956 black and white classic movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was released certain phrases became part of everyday life for most folks.  I’ve heard things like:  Pod person?  Have you checked his/her basement for any giant seed pods?  So-and-so is acting weird, you think he/she might’ve been switched by a seed pod?  Dunno, if they did it’s an improvement… (this one was directed at me more than once, fyi).

But before the movie came the novel, a brilliant piece of fiction by Jack Finney (who also authored other great works such as “Time and Again”, “The Night People” and many others which I hope to read and review down the road).  However, it was “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” that captured the minds of readers.  Released in 1955, it was subsequently snatched up by Hollywood to be made into a movie in 1956.

Interestingly, despite the time of the book’s release Mr. Finney seems to have had no intention of making his book about McCarthyism or the “Red Menace” (referring to Russia and socialism during the Cold War).  Instead, it seemed to hint at the loss of individuality and personal freedom, as well as (from my point of view) the overuse of the planet’s resources.

Those who’ve seen the original 1956 movie already know the basic plot, a small town doctor in California begins encountering patients who swear their nearest and dearest are not who they appear.  Each of these people swear that somehow their mother/father/uncle/teacher you name it… has been somehow replaced by a doppleganger who intends some kind of menace.  The patients admit that the individual in question looks, sounds and acts like the person they’ve known all their lives, but SOMETHING is missing and that’s how they know the person they’ve loved has been replaced.  Naturally, the good doctor talks to some of these ‘replaced’ individuals and finds nothing amiss, at least nothing he can really put his finger on.  And being a man of science and medicine he chalks it up to mass hysteria, especially after referring some of the patients to a psychiatrist friend of his (unknowing of course that his friend was replaced some time back).

The doctor then meets an old flame who’s come back to town and they start dating only to notice there are some differences going on in their little home town.  Restaurants that were normally busy as can be are practically empty, some of the homes/businesses seem to be slacking off on work and even basic maintenance, etc.  Then some of the good doctor’s patients who had complained that someone close to them had ‘changed’ begin telling him (with exaggerated embarrassment) about how silly they had been acting and that all is well, etc.

Of course we the readers are fully aware that something is up and follow the doctor and company slowly catching on as well.  The final proof for our protagonists comes when a close friend summons him late at night to check on a ‘dead’ body found in his basement.  As one can surmise, the body is one of the invading pods that is slowly replicating the doctor’s friend, little by little in an attempt to replace him.  This is where the action really kicks into high gear as the pieces start coming together for our heroes and heroines.  The clock begins to tick and the horror begins to dawn on them as they discover hidden pods making these duplicates and now they must alert the town only to learn to their growing horror that they may be the last 4 normal humans who are not being targeted for replacement.

All of this can be seen in the movie, which was shot on a shoe-string budget to great effect.  However, there are certain scenes which were left out which shows that the pods were not as intelligent as many think.  The doctor speaks with a botanist who tells him about a farmer summoning him to his barn where a some strange large pods showed up amidst his trashcans.  The botanist tells the doctor that aside from the unusual pods (“…which over time I probably could have identified, but not right then…”) he saw nothing unusual except two empty tin cans of tomato sauce that looked remarkably similar, along with 2 axes with identical broken handles amidst the rubbish.

Another part that is left out of the original movie is the revelation that the pods travel through space and purposely land on various planets or astral bodies in search of things to duplicate and replace.  “The moon was quite lush at one time…” it’s revealed, “Mars too…” For me, these passages raised the threat and terror levels to all time highs.  Furthermore, the pod-people reveal that they only have a 5 year existence, and that they cannot reproduce themselves, thus they must help grow more pods to keep their ‘race’ alive.

At this point the idea of not McCarthyism or Communism being the implied threat went out the door for me.  The good doctor gets the pod people to reveal that they can duplicate anything that is/was alive and that the originals simply crumble to grey fluff after being duplicated and replaced.  Meaning grass, trees, animals, etc.  In 5-10 years time everything on Earth would be duplicated and then the duplicates would themselves perish, leaving a dead planet behind while the newest pods would float up back into outer space and find another world to drain of its resources.  At one point the pod speaker says, “How is it any different than the way your kind are using up what your planet offers?”

Again for the most part, the movie closely follows the book remarkably well.  However, the climactic finish differs wildly… and I’m NOT about to share it with you.  This is a cracking good read so I suggest you get your own novel, Kindle/Nook, or audio version of the story and let it capture your imagination.

As Stan Lee would say, “Nuff said…”

Isaac Asimov is well known for his extremely numerous writing contributions to science and science fiction.  But not everyone knows he was also a mystery author and regular contributor to Ellery Queen Magazine, as well as a few others.  His most famous crime sleuths never actually went to a crime scene, nor did they go into police headquarters and announce they had cracked an important case.

No, these amateur sleuths, who call themselves the Black Widowers because once a month they come together for a dinner of just themselves and one invited guest, a man.  Women are not allowed to attend this function, hence their nickname.  For one night a month they can enjoy just the company of each other without female company, not that they object to women.  It’s simply their own little club.  The members of this little club are based on friends from the author’s own life and are listed here:

  • Geoffrey Avalon, a patent attorney (based on L. Sprague de Camp)
  • Emmanuel Rubin, a mystery novelist and acquaintance of Isaac Asimov (based on Lester del Rey)
  • James Drake, a chemist (based on Dr. John D. Clark)
  • Thomas Trumbull, an expert in cryptography for the United States government (based on Gilbert Cant)
  • Mario Gonzalo, an artist, who usually draws a portrait of the evening’s guest (based on Lin Carter)
  • Roger Halsted, a high school mathematics teacher, fond of jokes and limericks (based on Don Bensen)
  • Henry Jackson, the club’s waiter, was not based on an actual person, but according to Asimov was inspired by PG Wodehouses character Jeeves.
At each meeting a guest is brought by one of the members and after being served an excellent meal, are then ‘grilled’ by the group, usually by being asked “How do you justify your existence…?”  What happens in the first story sets the stage for the rest of the tales within the pages of this excellent work.
A puzzle is presented to the Black Widowers who systematically try to help find the answer to their guest’s dilemma. In the end, it is the esteemable Henry who provides the final solution to each of the twelve tales you will find here.  Each story is presented fairly and the reader is supplied all the hints that the Black Widowers are given.  Although Henry supplies the answer, he always credits the club members for having helped eliminate all the other options, allowing him to discover the final solution.  
My personal favorite in this collection is “The Acquisitive Chuckle” which is also the 1st story.  In it we learn a great deal about our hosts and even more importantly we gain keen insight into their wondrous butler Henry, a scrupulously honest man, but who is not above delivering a little payback to an old partner.
There is one puzzle that involves a death of one of the club member’s sister, which is touching and bittersweet, but handled very well.
As for the rest of the tales, each has its own flavor and unique outcome.  I can safely say that they are wonderful puzzles that will keep you guessing and wondering.  But at the same time it is the interplay between the characters will also keep you smiling and laughing.
There are 5 books in this series and I will tell you right now, each one is a 5-Star read.  I intend to review each of them as in the near future.

Have you ever felt like you would never fit in?  Of course you have, we all have at one point or another.  But for some this is not simply being awkward socially, but much more.  For 10 year old Matica, the problem is a physical one.  She is not growing.  Despite her age and having a younger brother, Matica has the body of a much younger child which has made her life a real challenge as far as making any friends in the little village in Peru where her parents are missionaries trying to help the local tribe.  The tribe finds Matica’s situation strange and tend not to associate with her, making her more lonely than ever.

However, Matica does have knack for making friends.  In this case its a pair of condors, which seems to fascinate the local villagers.  But they are even more surprised when the bond between the undersized girl and the huge birds becomes so strong that when their egg is threatened by poachers they allow her to watch over and care for it.  Soon the egg hatches and Talon is born.  The villagers are more impressed than ever by the young girl as she helps raise the young condor, becoming an expert on the birds and soon Matica finds herself no longer the source of curious glances but a bit of a celebrity.  But her true love for family and her condors never takes a backseat to this new status.  Her dedication to both her families is unwavering and continues to grow just as quickly as Talon who is soon big enough and strong enough to take flight.  But is he powerful enough to grant Matica’s most secret wish?

Aimed at preteens, this is a story that can be enjoyed by any age.  As I said at the beginning of this review, we’ve all felt out of place and thought we’d never find where we truly belong.  Matica’s journey is a tale that everyone can relate to.  Sometimes its not finding where YOU fit in, but making a place for yourself in the world and watch it start swarming towards you.

This is such a wonderful tale, I have not problem giving it the 5-Star rating it deserves.  I’m even more delighted to know that this is only the first installment.  As of the writing of this review, there are four more books in the series.  Needless to say, I’ll be adding them to my library and more reviews will come with time.

And now I will take my hat off to the author Gigi Sedlmayer, may she, Talon, Matica and the rest of this fine cast soar high and far for many years to come.


A fun and fulfilling collection of the most tangled, yet intriguing, tales one might want to read.  Miss Kings, a. k. a. the “Vampire Maman” has enchanted many with her blog “Vampire Maman, Musings of a ModernVampire Mom”.  It is a very popular blog, and where all the tales found in this collection originated.  Of course, while one could sift through her blog, it would take hours or possibly even days to find each of these tantalizingly delicious vignettes.

Each story stands on its own merit, yet are connected at the same time, as the author shares stories not only about her own long existence, but those of her brothers, children and family friends which include zombies, the occasional werewolf, ghosts, elder vampires, and more than a few ordinary humans.

Our dear Vampire Maman, weaves each tale in such a way to make us laugh, smile, feel a little remorse, or simply take a moment to appreciate those around us.  She brings wit and wisdom as well that is sure to keep the reader entertained as well as making us think.

All in all, it’s a wonderful collection that would be most welcome in many personal libraries, especially with Halloween just around the corner.

You can also find your own copy of “Morning at the Vineyard” on Amazon at:

Also, if you’d like to find more stories by Miss Kings just click on the link below:


     With the voice of experience, Mr. Gaughran shares his many insights of the world of publishing, and in particular self-publishing.  With the advent of e-books, many writers and would-be writers have found themselves faced with the opportunity to finally put out that book they’d been thinking about for years.  Yet, they quickly find that the most daunting task, is not writing the book itself, but how to get it out to the public.  Should they go the tradition route of finding an agent, and then a publisher?  Can they deal with the countless rejections or avoid the scams that promise seeing their work in print, for a ‘nominal’ fee of course.

     Mr. Gaughran provides the reader with enough food for thought that would make a seven course meal look like an appetizer.  But he never gets preachy.  Instead he simply supplies the reader with tools and knowledge to navigate the world of Indie Publishing.  He provides solid advice about the importance of editing, proofreading, beta-reading, and revisions, before leading the reader down that final stretch of formatting your book for electronic and actual print.

     Even more importantly, he gives some sound advice on marketing and building an audience and how to get reviews and deal with criticism.  Writing is not an easy road to take, but Mr. Gaughran does his very best to provide the reader with as many tools and knowledge to help them navigate this journey from start to finish.

     I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to try their hand at the art of telling stories via the written or e-written word.


Son of Rosemary

After getting my hands on the original “Rosemary’s Baby”, I was fascinated to see where Mr. Levin would take the characters after having left them untouched for almost 30 years. I was not disappointed.

This story takes up 34 years after the conclusion of the first novel. We find Rosemary waking up from a coma she had fallen into some 28 years earlier. Her last memories were of still living in the Bramford, and glancing at her son Andy who had recently celebrated his sixth birthday. From the other side of the walls, she could hear the coven chanting as usual then blackness.

She awakens in the year 1999, to learn that the coven had put her into a long-term care facility under the name of Rosemary Fountain (the last name of one of cults members). Realizing the coven had put her into a coma as they had her friend Hutch, she is outraged and fearful for what had become of her son Andy, whose father is Satan himself.

She soon learns that Andy, has become a respected man of influence who is loved and reknowned around the world. Thanks to her own celebrity status as Rip Van Rosemary, the woman who woke up from a 28 year coma, she uses a television interview to reach out to Andy and let him know she’s alive and well.

After a tearful reunion, she learns that the coven had told Andy she had died in an effort to raise him in their ways. But as Rosemary had hoped at the end of the first novel, his human half made him rebellious and he has been using his ‘influences’ to thwart his father’s plans and machinations. Or so Andy says.

The story continues with Rosemary being both relieved and skeptical of her son’s motives and actions, along with the God’s Children organization he has formed to make changes towards peace and tolerance throughout the world. Yet in spite of all the good she sees he has done, something still does not feel right. Especially in those moments when his horns peek out (literally) and his eyes turn from hazel to “Tiger”. Still she does her best to aid his more noble efforts, not realizing that they are both being manipulated to bring about the end of man on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight, when almost everyone in the world will light special candles provided by the God’s Children network.

Many have criticized this book because of how the story ends…

****Warning Spoiler Alert–Do not read further unless you want to know what happens****

Satan reveals himself to have been in Rosemary and Andy’s midst all the time. He even crucifies his son for rebelling against his plans thanks to his mother’s influence. Yet at the moment of Satan’s apparent triumph, Andy manages to send his mother back in time to before his birth and arrange her life in such a way that she and Guy (her husband) do not wind up moving to the Bramford, thus escaping the coven’s trap.

The complaint with this angle is that Rosemary wakes up from this prolonged nightmare (i. e. “It was all a dream…”). Yet we are given clues that it wasn’t and that a part of Rosemary does realize what her son had actually done and that her fondest wish that his human half won out in the end.

Like the first book there is not a lot of gore or outright horror, as seen in other Son of Satan works such as the “Omen” series. Instead, Mr. Levin sticks to the spirit of his original work and plays a psychological game with the readers and Rosemary, leaving us wondering until the end if Andy can be trusted or not.

A brilliant effort by the man who also gave us “The Stepford Wives”.

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