What’choo Reading? – The Girl With All The Gifts


The problem with the “star” rating system on Amazon is it’s pretty easy to give something four or five stars. “The Girl With All The Gifts” is a five star book, through and through, from the set up to the characters to the gore to the subtext to the ending that has more guts than anything I’ve read in a while. It’s an A+ concept, executed flawlessly with enough depth to stick to your ribs a while after you’ve finished it up.

Quickly, “The Girl With All The Gifts” is about a spore that infects people and turns them into zombies with the exception of a few children who are rounded up and put in a classroom. When the camp housing the classroom falls, a zombie child named Melanie travels with her teacher, two military men and a scientist keen on cutting her up to discover what makes her tick into the wasteland to find out where she belongs.

I’m a fan of when high art and low art get together and this is a delicious paring of lofty “nature of humanity” kind of thoughts with ooey gooey zombie stuff. It’s splendid.

Recommendation – Great Jones Street



Publishing a book has changed my reading habits drastically.

Like a lot of you, I endeavored to read “a lot” and even went so far as to catalogue my book consumption and join Goodreads to provide feeback on what I’ve read. But toward the middle of the year things would get busy and drop off. Enter this whole “publishing a book” thing.

Suddenly reading is part of the job and I’ve found myself loving it. I’m diving into fiction in ways I never had before and I’ve found treasure troves and amazingly beautiful moments from authors I’d never heard of before. It’s been fun to explore and discover and it’s one of those discoveries I want to point you toward.

The Great Jones Street app is available on Apple and Google Play and features a short story a day. They range in genre and, frankly, they range in quality but it’s awesome to have 20 minutes of reading, new every day on my phone whenever I feel like it. If you haven’t ever given short fiction the time of day I would encourage you to do so. Personally, I love the feeling of diving into something and having no idea where I’m going to end up.

I Owe Someone A Freakin’ Fruit Basket



It’s still new to me that people are reading my debut novel (FantasticLand, available for sale now at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other fine retailers), but it’s been almost a month since the book has come out and the response has been…glowing? Is that right? Enthusiastic? Really freakin’ good?

Try this: A reviewer named William Grabowski from Hellnotes.com gave the book a read and here’s what he had to say.

Mike Bockoven
Skyhorse Publishing
October 2016
Reviewed by William Grabowski

Prior to receiving his debut novel, I’d not heard of Mike Bockoven. Having read FantasticLand, I’ll not forget the name.

As someone who reads and reviews a lot of books, I’ve learned that press releases, synopses, back-cover copy and the like are not reliable indicators of quality. Usually—when promotional materials originate with mid-size to large publishers—the author has no hand in the matter. Hit-or-miss seems to be the rule. With FantasticLanddescribed as “…Lord of the Flies meets Battle Royale…” I took a deep breath, sighed, and began reading.

Some 264 pages later, I found I had run out of text.

FantasticLand chronicles 35 days of hell on Earth in the eponymous theme park, a Disneyesque icon opened in 1970s Florida. Admin policy forbids employees, most of whom are twenty-somethings, from carrying electronic devices. When Hurricane Sadie hits the Daytona Beach area, storm surge isolating the park, the workers project their inner fantasies and fright onto outer darkness.

At this point, the author might have opted to tell the story from some remove—like third-person POV. Given Bockoven’s narrative tension, deep mining of psychological triggers and clinical prose, the novel might very well have succeeded. But we aren’t granted that relative comfort, for FantasticLand gives us the complete blow-by-blow via journalist Adam Jakes, whose fact-finding interviews with the survivors immerse us into personal perspectives, whether we like that or not. This collage-like weave provides camera-eye urgency—and spares us nothing.

What most drew me in, beyond the promise of a well-told story, was a compulsion to see what this Bockoven guy was made of. Was he intelligent? A pulp-meister offering Z-movie fluff in book format? Since I already leaked my answer, all you need do is trust it.

Obviously, the author is someone who’s given serious thought to the effect—good and ill—“social” media has on us all, particularly those born after 1990. What happens when people in this age group are cut off from accessing the internet and expressing cyber-selves even partly at odds with who they really are? In the FantasticLand park itself, already a surreal mix of historical and pop-cultural structures, characters, and imagery, then mostly flooded and empty under rainy skies, what happens when less-than-fully-formed identities are forced to endure a month with no external contact?

Someone’s gonna get a fruit basket on their desk.

Seriously, I’m not used to much feedback on my artistic endeavors, so when positive reviews come through I’m not good at reacting. That being said, wow. I’m humbled and thankful to everyone who’s had kind words for me. It means a lot.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go buy one of William Grabowski’s books. You can find them at Hellnotes.com.