Here are my reviews of two short stories written by Rhonda Hopkins, an avid reader and prolific reviewer as well as being a valued IASD member and contributor. Having already read and enjoyed ‘The Consuming’ I knew I was on safe ground taking advantage of the free download of ‘Survival’ (though it has now reverted to its original price. Having said that, both are free to read if you have Kindle Unlimited).
Amazon Description: Survival: Survival Series Prequel
When Sarah escapes from her brutal abductors, she promises to return to rescue her twin sister, but with the walking dead invading Fort Worth, TX, she is forced to rely on a competitive coworker who made her work life hell for years. With her coworker weakened by cancer treatments, her sister still imprisoned, and zombies looking for an easy meal, Sarah’s only plan, if she can pull it off, is Survival.
SURVIVAL is a 14,000 word (approx. 45 pages) short story and was originally published in the Let’s Scare Cancer to Death anthology.
I haven’t read all that much in the Zombie genre so I can’t say how this compares with similarly themed stories but it certainly sets off at a cracking pace with the fight for survival starting right from the opening sentence almost; it was a nice touch that the initial ‘survival’ efforts were quite unrelated to the Zombie apocalypse occurring. It’s probably premature to make comparisons but the opening scene could easily be one straight out of the hit tv series ‘The Walking Dead,’ though the cover does invite such comparisons, which given its current popularity, I’m not sure is such a good thing.
Although it would read quite well as a stand-alone story, I’m glad the author indicates there will be future instalments thus hopefully allowing the reader to explore the characters in greater depth. It’s impossible to tell what direction the story will take in the future but the story has been written in such a way as to leave open all manner of possibilities and a yearning to know the hows and whys of the current situation the characters have found themselves plunged into.
Amazon Description: The Consuming
Serena knows her late uncle wasn’t crazy. So when she inherits his sprawling Carolina mansion and leaves the big city to restore both his home and his name, she uncovers a mystery that could cost much more than her sanity. As the house slowly reveals its dark secrets, and the extent of her peril becomes evident, she’ll settle for escaping with her life—if it isn’t already too late.
A supposedly haunted dilapidated old house you’ve just inherited, the sudden death of an uncle you haven’t seen since childhood, rumours of madness, the locals refusing to go near the place, and a psychic best friend who warns you not to go near the place … It’s hard to say too much about a short story without giving too much away but here we have all the ingredients of a spooky little ghost story, the sort that would make for a great episode of Hammer’s House of Horror. I liked the author’s style of writing, hints of a modern Edgar Allen Poe but obviously more current and without overdoing the gothic atmosphere, striking just the right balance at the beginning between outward normality while feeling and knowing something’s not quite right. Sometimes a short story will leave too many unanswered questions but in one such as this, a bit of mystery left to the imagination just adds to its enjoyment.
Taking just under an hour to read, this is the perfect story if you like a little mystery and the supernatural in your reading but aren’t in the mood to take on the challenge of a full-length novel. Personally, I would have preferred this to be a little longer, perhaps with more involvement of the psychic friend but overall a fine short story that horror fans will appreciate.
“The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the literary version of what films like Paranormal Activity tried to be. This has the bumps in the night flying off the page.” ~~ TW Brown, Author of the Dead, and the Zomblog series.
“The Consuming is a wonderful, chilling tale that leaves you listening too hard in the quiet of a dark night, and jumping at shadows in mirrors. Definitely looking forward to more from Ms. Hopkins.” ~~ Stacey Joy Netzel, USA Today Bestselling author of Beneath Still Waters and Lost in Italy.
“The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the perfect example of gothic horror…” ~~ Jennette Marie Powell, Author of Hangar 18: Legacy and the Saturn Society series.
“…Rhonda Hopkins’ The Consuming had me turning on all the lights in the house and checking behind doors.” ~~ Stacy Green, Author of Into the Dark and Tin God (A Delta Crossroads Mystery).
“…This tale will give you shivers up your spine, make you take second glances in mirrors…Superb!” ~~ Penelope Anne Bartotto, The Library at the End of the Universe.
More about the author:
Award-winning romantic suspense and horror author, Rhonda Hopkins, has learned firsthand that truth is stranger than fiction. Her two decades of experience as an investigator for her state and family courts give her characters a depth and realism that gives truth a run for its money. In addition to stories published under her own name, Rhonda Hopkins has also contributed stories to a number of other multi-author anthologies. You can find out more about Rhonda at:
See also Rhonds Hopkins’ Amazon Author page for all the author’s books
This is the second book of Tom Benson’s that I have a reviewed (see my review of Beyond the Law), and the second time I have been thoroughly impressed, though for very different reasons in this case. To reiterate my previous preface of Tom Benson, he is a prolific writer whose works include a number of novels, short stories, flash fiction, and several poetry anthologies. For further information on Tom Benson, please see his blog at:
Military Matters, by Tom Benson (available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle)
This is a substantial anthology of poetry by author Tom Benson. The poems themselves follow a broadly traditional style and format, covering the life and times of the British soldier during times of modern warfare and terrorism. Set amidst the backdrop of Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, every poem tells a story, each one unique in its own way. The subject matter covers everything from frontline battle operations to the pride and dedication of those who serve, saddening tales of heroism, love, and its loss, and of loyalty and courage. You’ll not find the glorification of death and war as epitomised by Brooke or indeed the flowing prose of Owen in his vivid accounts of its horror. What the reader will find here are the hard, often tragic and brutal, but always true and honest observations of a man whose marched and trudged in the very same boots and in the same wars as the men and events he portrays in his poems. In comparison to these past writers, I would say Military Matters bears more relation to Owen than to Brooke, perhaps on account of, Like Owen, Tom Benson did indeed live and experience the things he writes about, whereas Brooke’s sonnets were borne more from the hopeful idealism with which Britain entered the first world war.
Tom Benson neither glorifies nor condemns, but with acute poignancy relates the thoughts, feelings, and accounts of a soldier’s life and the job he does. Whilst the author assures the reader that people and events in the poems are largely fictitious, there can be no doubt amongst the lines and verses there are real memories and experiences upon which some of them are based. I doubt if any serving or ex-serviceman or woman could help but be moved, and pause for thought whilst reading through this anthology. Military Matters also presents a unique and heart felt glimpse to the non-military reader of a different world, and one that helps protect and maintain the peaceful one in which we all hope to live and enjoy our lives.
Those readers who have read and enjoyed the works of Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke might well appreciate these up-dated, modern day accounts of war and the military and how they compare.
For further biographical information on Tom Benson and links to his previous and current writing projects see also:
This is the first of my book reviews. You’ll not find any commercial Best-Sellers here, as I’m sure such books are likely to have no end of reviews and a generous marketing budget to aid their sales and popularity. What you will find are mainly self-published works along with those published by some of the smaller, less known publishing houses; some only in e-book format and others in both e-book and print formats.
Whilst not commercially published in the traditional way, all the books reviewed here certainly compare favourably with any you might find on the shelves of your local bookshop… I hope you find these reviews helpful.
Take Him Away by Ron Piper (QueenSpark classics)
There are now three generations for whom the Second World War is little more than a lesson in history, or the subject of quaint old black and white films. But what of the day-to-day lives of those who lived through it, and the sense of spirit and adventure it engendered amid the bomb, danger and uncertainty?
For a light-hearted and entertaining account of a by-gone era, one would be hard-pressed to do better than ‘Take Him Away’. Set against the backdrop of the war, Ron Piper’s book is a humorously written collection of reminiscences and witty anecdotes, some funny, some sad, but all providing a fascinating insight into period of history, seen through the eyes of an innocent seven year old boy, progressing, with increasing daring and wonder, to the age of sixteen.
Another old man writing his life story, I hear you moan? When I first learned of this book, I too was inclined to think the same, but nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it is a life story which abruptly ends at the point which Piper identifies as the beginnings of his life as con, in and out of prison for most of his life. What we have here is one young man’s steady progression to a life of crime, a life which he himself describes as wasted.
Throughout the book, Piper’s vivid portrayal of the hardships and brutality of the times bring to life an era most of us can only imagine. In some ways this could almost be placed in the ‘rites of passage’ genre, taking the reader through Ron Piper’s childhood phases: the mischievous pranks of a seven year old with too much energy, those first tentative explorations of the opposite sex, the slow moving away from childlike naivety to gradual adult awareness, right through to the adolescent’s need to stand tall in the eyes of his peers:
“It was only when I heard gossip that Mrs. So and so was ‘having it away with a yank’ that I began to understand. Even then, what hell was she having with a yank still puzzled me…”
“Any male in civilian clothing and sporting a moustache was to us none other than Adolf Hittler himself. One Hittler we followed, and we must have followed many…” On a darker note, through those adolescent years, one can almost see the foundations being laid for the life-long career of crime to which Ron Piper would progress. He does not attempt to lay blame or to judge the milieu of the time. Whatever part the environment or his up-bringing may have played in the future course of his life, this book is not an apology for it. Nor is it an attempt to justify it, just the simple portrayal of life as he experienced it. Through his wit and no-nonsense style of writing, the seven year old Ron Piper transforms the devastation, the people dying and the horror of the times into one of excitement and adventure, an opportunity to let the imagination run wild in that magical way that only the innocent imagination of a child can achieve.
‘Take Him Away’ is an extremely sharp, often funny and nostalgic account of the war as seen through the eyes of a child, but also a social commentary of how people coped, of loyalty and non-judgemental observations of the times. Well worth reading!