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  • Writer's pictureRachel Schommer

Rachel Schommer Reviews: 2.5.24

This week is a fun mix of my last 5-star read of 2023 and an entertaining and over-the-top read by Jeff Strand.


SMILIN’ SAM’S CORN MAZE by Stephanie Perry Scissom

1. I don’t give out 5-star reviews easily, but this novella earned it. There is so much to love in these short 88 pages – that’s my only complaint, I wanted MORE!!

2. Not extreme or splatterpunk, just good old-fashioned real-life horrors put onto the page: dealing with a medical diagnosis that includes a slow slide into dementia, loss of a child and the ensuing family dynamics, etc. Not light topics by any means, but very real things that people in the world deal with daily.

3. The rawness of the topics were compounded by relatable characters. They’re flawed, but real, and you can’t help but empathize with what they’re going through. Stephanie Perry Scissom made me feel feelings. I don’t typically relate to a storyline that includes a parent lamenting the loss of a child. I don’t have kids myself and I don’t particularly like them, if I’m being honest. While I don’t wish any ill on them in real life, I generally don’t jive with stories where the main plot relates around a kid. This was different (obviously, since I rated it 5-stars). I think because the characters maintained their own identities – yes, they were parents, brothers, and sons but they were well-rounded and full characters that weren’t just parents, brothers, or sons; we got to know them as people as well.

4. Smilin’ Sam…I’m still unsure if he’s good or bad. Or maybe, like the rest of us, he just ‘is’ (or isn’t?!). This added a bit of mystery and intrigue along with the horror. Or maybe it added horror into mystery and psychological fiction? Either way, this is one incredible story that packs a punch in a short amount of time. You’ll experience the full gamut of emotions and question absolutely everything. It’s set up in such a genius way that really ensures the most impact.




1. I don’t particularly care for clowns or spiders, so what convinced me to read this book? Well, it’s the hilarity that Strand brings to everything he does. I had the pleasure to see him read a gross-out story at 2023’s STC AuthorCon and I was so intrigued with his sense of humor that I decided I needed to read more of  his work. What better way to start than with 2 things I don’t typically enjoy?!

2. Strand made me feel bad for clowns. CLOWNS!! Can you believe it? Part of the storyline (I don’t think this is a spoiler) revolves around the fact that clowns are good gentle people who simply want to provide innocent fun and not the evil blood-thirsty child-eaters that we typically think of them as, especially around Halloween. But they’re also clowns, so when they’re the only beings standing between the end of the world via spider and, well, not the end of the world via spider, hijinks ensue.

3. Completely over the top and fun! I recommend, even if you don’t particularly like clowns or spiders. Maybe especially if you don’t like clowns or spiders!


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