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#TuesdayBookBlog HIGHWAY TWENTY by Michael J Moore (@MichaelJMoore20) #RBRT Creature horror with a nostalgic feel

Hi all:

I bring you a horror novel that made me think of many movies and series I’ve loved over the years.

Cover of Highway Twenty by Michael J Moore
Highway Twenty by Michael J Moore

Highway Twenty by Michael J Moore

An engineer from out of town disappears. Then Conor Mitchell’s girlfriend. Then his parents. The townspeople of Sedrow Woolley, Washington are vanishing at a horrifying rate. But they come back. They all come back days later, and they’re different.  Hungry.  Insectile.  Creatures posing as humans.

Because Conor knows the truth, and because the entire police force has already been changed, and because there’s nowhere to run from an evil that only wants to spread, his sole option is to fight. But they have no intention of letting him leave town.

Author Michael J. Moore

About the author:

I have worked as a personal trainer for many years. I live in Washington State. My spare time is spent searching the darkest corners of my mind for whatever horrors, oddities, or fascinations may have found their way in, begging expression in my unique literary voice.

Also, I’ve always been passionate about storytelling and impressed by the influence it has on people and the decisions they make in life. I love engaging with the projects I work on, diving headfirst into the research, investigation, and production of stories I feel are worth writing about. I am a curious and proactive Author.

My other published book is the bestselling, young adult novel, After the Change (MKM Bridge Press) which has been adopted as curriculum at the University of Washington.  My work has received an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, has appeared in Blood Moon Rising Magazine, The Horrorzine Magazine, Schlock Magazine, Terror House Magazine, Siren’s Call Magazine,  Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine, The Electric Press and this year is set to appear in Terror Tales Magazine, Horror Tree – Trembling with Fear, and various anthologies.


My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

This is the first book by this author I’ve read (no, he is not “the” Michael Moore we have all heard about), and I was attracted by the description and the genre. It reminded me of TV series and movies I’d enjoyed, and it delivered on its promise.

I think the description shares enough information for most readers to get a good sense of what the story is about. I guess readers of horror would classify it as “creature” horror, and as I read it, quite a number of titles, mostly of movies and TV series, came to my mind: The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, V, Slither, Star Trek’s The Borg, The Blob, and a novella I read a while back that I thoroughly enjoyed, Broken Shells. Although I love horror, the more I read in this genre, the more I realise I haven’t read yet, and I must admit not having read many in this subgenre, so I am not sure what its usual fans would think, or how original they would find it. As I said, for me it brought to mind some aspects of many movies and TV series I had watched, and it grabbed my attention and kept me reading. Is it scary? It’s creepy, and rather than making one jump or scream, imagining what it would be like to fall victim to these creatures is the stuff of nightmares and it will keep playing in one’s mind.

This book is pretty action driven, with short scenes that keep the story moving, and although like many stories about alien invasion they can be read in a variety of ways, and they seem to pick up on underlying fears (issues of identity, what is true and what is not, what makes us what we are, illnesses and epidemics, the end of the world…), the book does not delve too deep into any of those and it never makes openly acknowledges such connections, or veers into conspiracy theory terrain. It is just what it is, and that’s pretty refreshing.

Although the book follows a number of characters, the two main characters are Conor Mitchell —a man in his early twenties, who loves his car, enjoys his job as a mechanic, has a sort of girlfriend, some family issues, and does not appear to be hero material—, and Percly, the town’s homeless man, who sleeps in a disused train and does not bother anybody. The figure of the reluctant hero is a common trope in literature, and particularly prominent in American Literature, and these two are prime examples of it. They are thrown into a critical situation, and by a fluke of fate, both of them seem to be in a better position than most to fight the creatures. We learn more about them both as the story progresses, and they are fairly likeable, although, as I said, not standard heroes. We get snippets of other characters during the story, but due to the nature of the story, we don’t get a chance to learn much about them, and other than because many of them end up being victims of the events, we hardly have time to feel attached or even sorry for them.

The story is narrated in the third person, from alternating points of view. In fact, this is what most made me think of movies and TV series in this genre when I was reading this novel, because suddenly there would be a chapter where a new character would be introduced, and we would follow them for a while, learning how they feel about things, and perhaps thinking they would become a major player in the story, only for the rug to be pulled from under our feet. Yes, nobody is safe, and like in movies where a murderer picks at characters and kills them one by one, here although some of the characters keep “returning”, and we even peep into the minds of the creatures, we are not allowed to get comfortable in our seats. Readers need to be attentive, as the changes in point of view, although clearly marked, can be quite sudden. Ah, and I must admit the prologue is fantastic. For all the advice on writing books against including a prologue, Moore here clearly demonstrates that when used well, they can drag readers into the story, kicking and screaming, and keep them firmly hooked.

I’ve mentioned the short scenes and the cinematic style of writing. There are no long descriptions, and although there is plenty of creepy moments, and some explicit content, in my opinion the author plays more with the psychological aspects of fear, the fact that we don’t know who anybody is and what is real and what is not, and he is excellent at making readers share in the confusion of the main characters, and in their uncertainty about what to do next. Run, fight, hide? Although there is the odd moment of reflection, that allows readers to catch their breath a bit and also helps fill in some background details about the characters, mostly the book moves at a fast pace, and it will keep lovers of the genre turning the pages.

The ending is particularly interesting. I enjoyed it, and it ends with a bang, as it should, but there is also an epilogue that puts things into perspective, and it works in two ways: on the one hand, it fills in the gaps for readers who prefer a closed ending with everything settled; on the other, it qualifies the ending of the story, putting an ambiguous twist on it. (And yes, I liked the epilogue as well).

All in all, this is an action book, with fairly solid characters who although are not by-the-book heroes are easy to warm to, with a somewhat disorienting and peculiar style of narration that enhances the effect of the story on the reader. I’d recommend it to those who love creature horror, and to people not too squeamish, who enjoy B-series movies, and who love to be kept on their toes. An author to watch.

Thanks to Rosie and all the members of her group, thanks to the author for this novel full of fun and chills, thanks to all of you for reading, writing, commenting, liking, sharing, and never forget to keep smiling!

Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview BROKEN SHELLS: A Subterranean Horror Novella by Michael Patrick Hicks (@MikeH5856) Gore descriptions, mind-blowing action in a claustrophobic setting with nightmarish creatures. What else could we ask for? #horror

Hi all:

Today I bring you a novella for those who like to be scared and don’t mind creepy-crawlies.

Book review. Broken Shells
Borken Shells by Michael Patrick Hicks

Broken Shells: A Subterranean Horror Novella by Michael Patrick Hicks

Antoine DeWitt is a man down on his luck. Broke and recently fired, he knows the winning Money Carlo ticket that has landed in his mailbox from a car dealership is nothing more than a scam. The promise of five thousand dollars, though, is too tantalizing to ignore.

Jon Dangle is a keeper of secrets, many of which are buried deep beneath his dealership. He works hard to keep them hidden, but occasionally sacrifices are required, sacrifices who are penniless, desperate, and who will not be missed. Sacrifices exactly like DeWitt.

When Antoine steps foot on Dangle’s car lot, it is with the hope of easy money. Instead, he finds himself trapped in a deep, dark hole, buried alive. If he is going to survive the nightmare ahead of him, if he has any chance of seeing his wife and child again, Antoine will have to do more than merely hope. He will have to fight his way back to the surface, and pray that Jon Dangle’s secrets do not kill him first.

Author Michael Patrick Hicks

About the author:

MICHAEL PATRICK HICKS is the author of a number of speculative fiction titles. His debut novel, Convergence, was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist. His most recent work is the horror novel, Mass Hysteria.

He has written for the Audiobook Reviewer and Graphic Novel Reporter websites, in addition to working as a freelance journalist and news photographer.

In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

To stay up to date on his latest releases, join his newsletter, memFeed:



Twitter: @MikeH5856

My review:

I obtained a copy of this novella through a giveaway and I freely chose to review it.

Despite my fondness for the horror genre, I review other types of novels more, like thrillers (on occasions there can be a certain crossover between the two), but I hope to remedy this in the future.

I had never read any Michael Patrick Hick’s works before, but I truly enjoyed my first experience of his writing, and I’m sure it won’t be my last.

It is not easy to combine solid, convincing characters and page-turning action that flows well in a short format, but the author manages to do precisely that and his writing is excellent. He has a good eye for detail and his descriptions bring to life the settings and the creatures (sorry to be so cryptic, but I’m trying not to spoil the fun for future readers), without slowing the pace.

The story is narrated in the third-person, from several characters’ points-of-view (mostly Antoine De Witt and Jon Dangle), and the two main characters have very distinct voices and personalities. The author manages to make Antoine an interesting and sympathetic character in the short time we spend with him. He is one of those characters who wake up on the wrong side of the bed and things go from bad to worse. He is a very atypical example of the reluctant hero. He is far from flawless and can be mean at times but I think most readers will find it easy to root for him. The author offers us less information about the rest of the characters but the few details we get help us gain some understanding of their situation and their reasoning, however much we might disagree with them or dislike them. As for the creatures… I’ll leave you to read the story, but I warn anybody who does not like bugs, as you will suffer if you read it.

There is plenty of detailed gore and graphic violence and there is an intense sense of claustrophobia that adds to the horror in some moments of the story. This is not subtle psychological horror but rather punch-in-the-gut scares and an almost physiological sharing of the feelings and sensations of the protagonists. While in the past I have recommended some books that fall within the horror genre to the general public, this novella is not for everybody, but it is perfect for lovers of monsters and creature horrors who don’t mind plenty of creepy details. And it comes with the bonus of fabulous writing and serious social and moral themes that elevate it beyond poor entertainment. Just a word about the ending; It was not totally unexpected, but it was extremely well done and I loved it.

I hope to read more of this author’s work in the future and I encourage other lovers of the horror genre to give him a try. You’re in for a treat.

Thanks to the publisher for the novella, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

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