Tag Archives: horror thriller

The Prisoners of Stewartville by Shannon Felton Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A teen boy starts to look into the mysteries of the small town defined by its prison system after discovering a hidden tunnel in the basement of a home, and in doing so uncovers dark histories and hidden secrets that will terrify him to his core in the author Shannon Felton’s “The Prisoners of Stewartville”.

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The Synopsis

Stewartville. A town living in the shadow of the prisons that drive its economy. Haunted by the ghosts of its past. Cursed by the dark secrets hidden beneath. A town so entwined with the prisons waiting outside the city limits that it’s impossible to imagine one without the other, or to ever imagine escaping either.

When a teenage boy digs into the history of the town, he discovers a tunnel system beneath Stewartville, passageways filled with dark secrets. Secrets leading not to freedom, but to unrelenting terror.

Stewartville. Where the convicts aren’t the only prisoners.

The Review

This was a truly captivating and masterful read. The heavy atmosphere of the narrative kept readers engaged right from the beginning. The rich mythos that the author develops for this story and the evil that infects this town (or is it the other way around?), really do a remarkable job of keeping the reader’s hearts pumping.

The heart of this short horror read is actually the balance of character development and the book’s setting. The thing that stuck out to me was how the people of this town felt very much like a by-product of the infestation that this town had become, as it not only seemed to draw in people who are typically deemed by society to live “on the fringes” but would transform people into their worst nightmares through fear and terror. The protagonist’s story and his confrontation with the evil of this town reflected the status of the town altogether, which became a central character in its own right.

The Verdict

Horrifying, chilling, and entertaining, author Shannon Felton’s “The Prisoners of Stewartville” is a must-read occult fiction meets paranormal & urban fantasy novel. The twists and turns this narrative takes and the larger discussion on the prison system and how society treats those living on the fringe kept me invested in this gripping story, as did the shocking twist final pages of this instant horror classic. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Shannon Felton lives in Buckeye, Arizona with her husband, their four children, and three dogs. The Prisoners of Stewartville is her debut novella.

Sanctuary (Hell Hare House Short Reads Book Seven) By Michael J. Stiehl Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young man who has grown up in a monastery soon has his world turned upside down after the arrival of a young girl who holds the key to unlocking the secrets of his past and that of the Sanctuary he calls home in author Michael J. Stiehl’s “Sanctuary”, the seventh book in the Hell Hare House Short Reads series.

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The Synopsis

Deep in an impenetrable swamp, lies the Sanctuary. Abandoned there as a child, Theobard has lived a quiet life among the Silent Brotherhood, a monastic sect that never speaks.

The arrival of Dellia, a beautiful golden-eyed girl with a secret, will change everything.

Her secret will expose Theobard’s true nature, and that of the Sanctuary, pulling apart the only world he has ever known, leaving nothing the same. 

The Review

The author did an incredible job of crafting a unique and captivating horror story. The tension and heaviness of the setting really captured the isolation and eerie silence that mirrored the monks and their dark secrets. The blending of different sub-genres of horror, from psychological thriller to creature features made this story feel very haunting and kept me on the edge of my seat.

The heart of this narrative however was a unique blend of the rich character dynamics and the chilling atmosphere the author was able to infuse into the narrative. The physical and emotional toll the twists and turns this story took on the protagonist and the connection he made to this new arrival emphasized the harrowing journey they found themselves on, and the atmospheric style of writing really honed in on the horrifying nature of the dark secrets this Sanctuary holds.

The Verdict

Thought-provoking, mesmerizing and entertaining, author Michael J. Stiehl’s “Sanctuary” is the perfect short horror read and the perfect continuation of the Hell Hare House Short Reads series. A brilliant blend of psychological thriller and horror, the fusion of gothic and isolated horror themes really brought the terror and heart-pounding action to life in the best way possible. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Michael J. Stiehl has had a lifelong passion for fiction, in particular horror, comics, adventure and science fiction, and is thrilled to finally be writing some of his own. Michael lives in the Chicago suburbs with his wife, two kids and his very silly poodle Jack. When not writing fiction, Michael spends his time riding bikes, camping, reading books, obsessively listening to music and playing D&D with his friends. In short, he hasn’t changed a bit since junior high.

https://www.facebook.com/michael.stiehl

A Child Alone with Strangers by Philip Fracassi Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young boy taken and held prisoner in a remote farmhouse connects with a powerful force in the woods to wreak havoc on his captors, not realizing the true motivations this force has for connecting with the boy in author Philip Fracassi’s “A Child Alone with Strangers”.

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The Synopsis

When the young Henry Thorne is kidnapped and held prisoner in a remote farmhouse surrounded by miles of forest, he finds himself connecting with a strange force living in the woods—using that bond to wreak havoc against his captors. Unknown to the boy, however, is that this ancient being has its own reasons for wanting the interlopers gone—there is something hidden beneath the house, tucked away in the dark, damp root cellar . . . waiting for its return. 

The Review

The first thing that really jumped out to me about this narrative was the author’s incredible work building tension and atmosphere. The complex emotions that were poured into these characters were amplified due to the chilling nature of the narrative and were felt more profoundly thanks to that atmosphere of terror and horror. 

Yet it was the balance the author struck between iconic horror storytelling elements with more thematic plot lines introduced early on to elevate the horror. From young Henry’s trauma and loss to the same struggles his uncle has in the face of his brother’s passing and the deep-seated tone of depression and racism the author explores through these powerful characters, the themes really helped bring the spine-chilling terror of the narrative to life.

The Verdict

Haunting, entertaining, and captivating, author Philip Fracassi’s “A Child Alone with Strangers” is a must-read horror novel of 2022. The perfect read for those who enjoy classic monster-style horror and profound character development, the imagery and tone kept me enthralled as the narrative wove in and out of the life of young Henry, and the terrifying nature of the narrative from both the human and monstrous elements made this story feel one of a kind as a whole. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Philip Fracassi is an award-winning author and screenwriter living in Los Angeles.

His debut collection of short horror, BEHOLD THE VOID, won “Story Collection of the Year” award from both This Is Horror and Strange Aeons Magazine.

His new collection, BENEATH A PALE SKY, arrives June, 2021, and his debut novel, BOYS IN THE VALLEY, comes out on Halloween day, 2021.

His stories have been printed in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best Horror of the Year, Black Static, Cemetery Dance, and Nightmare Magazine. His work has been reviewed in The New York Times, LOCUS Magazine, Rue Morgue and many others.

His screenplays include the Lifetime thriller Girl Missing and Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups, from Disney. Both are available as VOD.

Follow Philip on Facebook and Twitter (@philipfracassi), or visit his website at http://pfracassi.com

Reborn by Stephanie Ellis Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Blood rituals, magick, and monsters take center stage as the rebirth of Cernunnos and the exploration of realms beyond our own lead to a dangerous journey in author Stephanie Ellis’s “Reborn”.

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The Synopsis

Return to the Weald, the world Stephanie Ellis introduced us to in The Five Turns of the Wheel.

Reborn is the story of Cernunnos, the Father of all, who has risen. Born of blood offerings, he travels to the Layerings—one of those places, like Umbra, which sit just beyond the human veil.

Reborn is the story of Tommy, Betty and Fiddler, the infamous troupe whose bloody rituals were halted by Megan, Tommy’s Daughter. Rendered weak by Megan’s refusal to allow them to hunt in the human world of the Weald, they seek their rebirth and forgiveness from the Mother and Cernunnos.

Reborn is the story of Megan, who follows Cernunnos and Hweol’s sons on a pilgrimage of hope—one that would see her husband restored to her and the dark presence of Hweol removed.

Ultimately, though, Reborn is the story of Betty, the most monstrous of the three brothers. He is Nature, red in tooth and claw. He is what the Mother made him. And who are we to judge?

With Reborn, Ellis delivers another powerful tale of folk horror that will captivate the reader from the first page until its final bloody climax. 

The Review

As a longtime fan of the mythology of different cultures, I loved the author’s extensive use of Welsh mythology and culture in this folk horror read. The haunting imagery and terror the author infuses into the atmosphere and tone of this novel kept me present and engaged with the narrative. The rich settings and intimate details of the mythos allowed me as a reader to become immersed in the story fully and completely, feeling every twist and turn the story brought as the grim reality of these ancient beings came to life.

To me, character development was the true heart of the narrative, both for the heroes and the villains of this tale. The hopeful pursuit that Megan goes on in hopes of restoring her husband clashes brilliantly with the destructive nature of the ancient deities, especially the three brothers, whose bloodlust and animalistic tendencies prove equally dangerous and disturbing. Yet the author’s ability to capture not only that folk element of the horror genre but showcase that these characters all reside in very deep shades of gray and no one character is wholly good or evil showcases the complexity and engaging elements of this novel.

The Verdict

Twisted, captivating, and harrowing, author Stephanie Ellis’s “Reborn” is a must-read folk horror read of the 2022 season. The perfect spooky season read for fans of ancient mythology and chilling horror novels, the gripping character development and thought-provoking themes the author explores make this a one-of-a-kind read that cannot be missed. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her longer work includes the novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel and the novellas, Paused and Bottled. Her two new folk horror novels, Reborn and The Woodcutter are due out soon!

She is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on twitter at @el_stevie.

Note: I am no longer leaving a star rating for my reviews – wherever possible.

Below by Kev Harrison Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A man is eager to share his grandfather’s legacy and a woman seeking an opportunity of a lifetime head into a recently uncovered mine and discovers something far more disinter is dwelling below in author Kev Harrison’s “Below”.

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The Synopsis

Nick has revered his grandfather his entire life. The absent hero, his namesake, buried alive in his final act of courage an ocean and thousands of miles away. Jess has outgrown her status as an all-action social media celebrity and the endless demands that come with it.

Adventure Travel TV has thrown this unlikely duo together, promising Jess the launchpad she craves and Nick the chance to tell his grandfather’s story first-hand, in the newly uncovered mine that still holds his remains from the twilight days of the gold rush. Is it a dream come true or a nightmare as someone or something stirs…BELOW.

The Review

This was such a powerful and chilling read. The author did an incredible job of building tension and elevating the mythos that surrounds the unknown that is often associated with ancient mines and abandoned places around the earth. The haunting atmosphere immediately drew me into the world the author was crafting, and the fast-paced tempo of the story itself kept me on the edge of my seat as the characters descended further and further into the depths of this mine.

The world-building and character development the author was able to achieve in such a short read made for a truly captivating novel. The dynamic between Nick and Jess was so rich and engaging for a reader to behold, while the haunting portrayal of the threat facing the duo as they venture into this mine not only brings chilling imagery to the narrative but plays into the culture and history of our world so perfectly when it comes to disasters and lost people in isolated locations, making this story so unique.

The Verdict

Thrilling, entertaining, and exhilarating, author Kev Harrison’s “Below” is a must-read horror thriller novel that will keep readers on edge in the best way possible. The twists and turns the story takes, especially at the identity of the threat facing them, will have readers’ heart’s pounding out of their chests as the epic final pages come to a close. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Kev Harrison is a writer of dark fiction and English language teacher from England, living and working in Lisbon, Portugal. He has previously lived in various areas of the UK, as well as Turkey and Poland.

He is a staff writer for This is Horror and has had short fiction published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Lost Films, from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Below the Stairs: Tales From The Cellar from Things in the Well, Aphotic Realm Magazine’s ‘Fangs’ issue and ‘In Darkness Delight: Creatures of the Night from Corpus Press. He has also had short fiction featured on The Other Stories and Tales to Terrify podcasts.

He has two entries in Demain Publishing’s Short Sharp Shocks series: ‘Cinders of A Blind Man Who Could See’ and ‘Curfew’. His debut novella ‘The Balance’, is available now from Lycan Valley Press and his debut collection ‘Paths Best Left Untrodden’ is out now from Northern Republic.

His latest novella, ‘Below’ is available now from Brigids Gate Press

https://kevharrisonfiction.com/

Interview with Author Dana Hammer

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I’m not sure how I got into writing. I’ve always written. I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t write.

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2) What inspired you to write your book?

Drugs, haha. Basically, I wanted to write a satire about the way we treat addicts in our society. On the one hand, we treat them as criminals for something that pretty much everyone agrees is a disease, and that’s messed up.  On the other hand, addicts often do horrible things because of their addictions, and we can’t ignore that, and act like it’s not a problem. To my way of thinking, the solution to addiction isn’t to punish addicts. The solution is to come up with a cure for addiction. I’m not a scientist, so I can’t do that. But I can write a book about it. 

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

This book has a lot of themes in it, and I’m reluctant to tell people what to take away from it. I just hope that something resonates with them. 

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I love horror comedy and dystopian fiction. Both genres are always asking the question “what if?” And I think that’s the basis of all really good storytelling.

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5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I’d like to hang out with Esteban Zappa, of course! I want him to take me out to a fancy restaurant and introduce me to exotic dishes and I’d ask him to tell me stories about his globetrotting adventures.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

The only social media site I really use is Facebook. I technically have an Instagram account, but I hate taking pictures, so it’s not really for me. Twitter seems like it’s just people being really mean, really fast. Maybe I’ll try TikTok someday. I don’t know.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Marry someone who will support you financially so you have the time and space to write. Alternately, be independently wealthy. I’m mostly kidding, but not entirely.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

Yesterday I finished a new draft of my first middle-grade novel, My Best Friend Athena. It’s about an eleven-year-old girl whose best friend is the reincarnation of the Greek goddess, Athena. When Athena accidentally turns the school bully into a cockroach, the girls have to work together to find him and turn him back into a boy. 

We will see if I can get it published. 

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About the Author

Dana Hammer is a novelist, short story writer, playwright, and screenwriter living in Anaheim, California.

https://www.danahammer.com/

https://a.co/3x08ftf

Delta by Tom Starita Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tensions mount in one man’s life when he discovers a young girl locked in his basement soon after the loss of his daughter, claiming to in fact be his daughter, and he must decide if fate has brought his daughter back to him or if he is slowly losing his grip on reality in author Tom Starita’s “Delta”.

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The Synopsis

Jason Carico is a grieving father, desperately trying to come to grips with the loss of his eight-year-old stepdaughter, Delta, who drowned two months ago.

But if she’s dead, then why is there a little girl claiming to be Delta locked up in his basement?

Desperately wanting to believe her, Jason attempts to live a normal life while hiding his nightmare below. His anxiety explodes when his late wife’s sister appears on his doorstep. Can he trust her? Would she believe him? And what will the police think if they ever find out the only African American man in town has a white girl trapped in his basement?

The haunting motto of Mother’s death cult tolls throughout the book, “The Universe has a plan, independent from the wants of man.” 

The Review

This was such a chilling and haunting read. The tension and heart-pounding suspense the novel’s narrative brings to life was the perfect way to marry both the horror and thriller genres that this story needed. The pacing the author set up perfectly allowed readers to develop this compulsive need to understand the circumstances surrounding this strange and troubling situation, as one minute readers see a tale of a man who has captured a young girl in his basement, and in the next a disturbing cult has set their sights on the same girl, and in the next a powerful force of nature threatens to converge on everyone at once.

This book’s narrative was definitely character-driven, and the characters really elevated the tension and atmosphere of this gritty suspense thriller meet horror read. The emotional pull of these characters, from Jason’s fractured psyche and desire to “protect” Delta, to Colleen’s struggle to right a grievous wrong and stop the madness she suspects is happening, really kept me invested in the narrative. 

The Verdict

Haunting, engaging, and thrilling, author Tom Starita’s “Delta” is a must-read horror suspense read of 2022. The chilling atmosphere the author’s use of imagery creates and the shocking twists and turns that leave readers on the edge of their seats, eager for a second book, made this story shine so brightly. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Tom Starita is the author of three novels, “Two Ways to Sunday,” “Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated,” and his latest “Delta.” When asked for her thoughts about him, Oprah Winfrey said, “Who?” Tom Hanks refused to respond to an email asking for a quote, and former Mets great Mookie Wilson once waved to him from a passing taxi.

Originally from Staten Island, NY, Starita has now found a home in Connecticut with his amazing wife Shannon, their beautiful daughter Chloe and their potato of a dog Lola. But, most importantly, he loves the New York Mets.

https://goppygots.com/

Cardinals by Ian Conner Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two Scottish women who hope to stop an ancient vampire that nearly killed them discover she is on a path of revenge against God himself in author Ian Conner’s “Cardinals”.

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The Synopsis

Nine Hundred years before Christ, God has cast his wife, Asherah, out of heaven and condemned her to roam the earth as the first vampire. Over the centuries, she created other vampires. There are also those that she left for dead but survived her attack without being completely turned into vampires. These survivors are called Cardinals. Scottish Countess Kellena Donnachaidh and Lady Suzette Allard, our protagonists, are among these cardinals. They are searching out Asherah for a final conflict.

Asherah has discovered a way back to heaven so she can exact her vengeance. Using the Amulet of Cassiel she can call the Flaming chariot of Israel to return to heaven and exact her revenge on God.

Now, 3000 years later, the Vatican and other groups are working to destroy Asherah and the vampires., fearing their own destruction if she ascends, simply want to stop Asherah using the Amulet of Cassiel to re-enter heaven. The race and intrigue to recover the Amulet is full of intrigue, betrayal.

A completely new twist on Stoker’s tale.

The Review

The author did such an incredible job of crafting a memorable horror read. The mythos and world-building the author did in this novel were incredible, truly capturing the ancient origins of the world’s most powerful mythological figures. As a longtime fan of all things vampire-related horror, I loved this new take on vampire lore, delving into mythology and spirituality to explore the supernatural origins of the creatures. 

It was so amazing to read about these characters. The character development overall was just superb, as it allowed each character to have a chance to showcase their respective personalities and storylines. I loved the depth of backstory and richness of the antagonist’s story in particular, as readers discovered Asherah’s origins as God’s wife and the horrors that befell her for questioning him. What I really loved in particular about her story was that she represented a trope that has existed in our own world for so long, and that is the world’s tendency to always put the blame on women for life’s problems. From the Salem Witch Trials to modern-day America, women have always been the figureheads for life’s great tragedies in people’s eyes, and it’s something that needs to stop. The story is the perfect reflection of how we can be the cause of a villain’s rise to infamy. 

The Verdict

Entertaining, haunting, and adrenaline-fueled, author Ian Conner’s “Cardinals” is a must-read horror adventure novel! The unique mythos the author crafts, along with the in-depth character growth and emotional connection that develops between the narrative and readers made this a stellar read that I couldn’t put down. Be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Ian Conner is retired and spent most of his adult life as a Marine and Army Infantry Sergeant. Now living near San Diego California with his wife Bonnie, a cellist, and their two dogs, Cookie and Isabella. Conner spends his days fostering kittens, gardening, crafting beautiful stained glass and creating worlds on the page.

Conner has authored several other novels 

     Cooper’s Ridge  –  Science Fiction 

     The Long Game – Political Thriller

     The Price of Partisanship – Political Thriller

     Solaris  – Political Thriller

     Griffins Perch – Epic Fantasy

     Ghost Witch  –  Horror

After a lifetime of destruction the thought of creating something tangible and lasting holds great appeal.  He finds writing a cathartic way to redefine himself both in his eyes and the eyes of others.

Conner can be reached at Ian@BlackRaptorBooks.com

http://www.blackraptorbooks.com

The 666 Murders: A Supernatural Thriller by Alan Golbourn Review 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A London investigator and a private eye in the late 60s must work together to stop a ritualistic killer before it’s too late in author Alan Golbourn’s “The 666 Murders: A Supernatural Thriller”.

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The Synopsis 

His time is now …

London, 1966

Fear grips the capital when a second ritualistically murdered victim is found in an alleyway — with their heart removed.

With no leads or motive, DCS Kendall Quincy is under intense pressure to find the sadistic killer before a third victim is claimed.

Out of luck Randolph Landon — disillusioned with his life as a private investigator and separated from his family, soon becomes embroiled with his biggest, challenging, and most terrifying case to date. The case leads him down a sinister road to a chilling discovery like no other, so that he regrets grumbling about his lack of work and misfortune …

The Review

This was such a chilling and haunting read. The author did an incredible job of building tension and layering the atmosphere with suspense that kept readers on the edge of their seats. The balance of mythos and world-building the author made with the complex yet nuanced character development was greatly felt throughout the reading and made the growing mystery of this series of occult murders so harrowing to read.

Yet it was the richness of the narrative itself and the slow growth of the characters and their backgrounds that really kept me invested. The ways in which the heroes all came together by the book’s end completely made me conjure up images of Van Helsing, Jonathan Harker, and Quincy Morris traveling to Dracula’s castle to slay the immortal monster. The well-developed villain of the tale is quite horrifying and yet mesmerizing to read, and the way his backstory plays into the narrative and the mythos as a whole was so creative and unique, making me hooked on the author’s tale.

The Verdict

Brilliant, entertaining, and spookily delightful to behold, author Alan Golbourn’s “The 666 Murders” are a must-read suspense horror read. The equal ways in which the author develops the thriller aspects of the narrative with the supernatural mythos and action that takes place throughout the read made this story a classic horror tale in the making. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Alan Golbourn was born in Essex, England. He has enjoyed writing stories since a young age, when he was recognized early for his writing abilities. Amongst several interests and hobbies, including football and computer games, he holds a love and compassion for animals.