Why did I need a diaper? Because the book made me wanna wet myself. Yeah. “Baby Talk” was that effing creepy.

I met Mike Wells on Twitter. He’s an indie author like you and me and follows the advice of experts by reaching potential audience members through Twitter. I was one of his potential audience members, it turns out, and Mike convinced me to take the leap with a brilliant bit of marketing. He gave me one of his books for free, just for following him on Twitter.

I’ll admit, I didn’t read the book he gave me for free. I didn’t have the time to invest in a new novel, at the time, but I did check out his blog, http://www.mikewellsbooks.com. It was there I discovered I enjoyed Mike’s narrative voice. I started retweeting his tweets and joined his Linked-In network. Then, one day, he advertised a free book on Amazon entitled “Baby Talk.”

I adore live for creepy kid stories. I can’t quite put my finger on what about kids really scares me, but I think it has something to do with my insane fear of commitment. And if you think about it, a kid is about the biggest commitment a human being can make. The only thing more permanent than progeny is death. Period.

Image: Flikr Creative Commons

Image: Flikr Creative Commons

Mike Wells played sweet music to my deepest fear and completely won me over. I’m a devoted Mike Wells fan forever and have finally started reading “Lust, Money, and Murder,” the first free book he tried to get me to read. And then I will go on to purchase more of his work because he’s brilliant and has definitely earned my money.

Lesson one, my fellows. Give your audience members free sh*t.

Now, for the review part of things.

First, since this is a full-length piece, a quick synopsis: “Baby Talk” is a story about Neal, the new father of a five-month old infant named Natasha. Despite a troubled marriage, Neal does his best to be a decent husband and father. His daughter possess hidden talents, however, alarming talents that prove to be far more than Neal can accept. While secretly terrified of his own baby girl, he struggles to keep his life and sanity together. Will he keep his family intact, despite his child’s disturbing behaviors? Will he even survive them?

My synopsis hardly does the storyline of “Baby Talk” justice, that’s how intricate and absorbing this book is. I devoured this piece. I was hooked from the first page and Mike didn’t let me go until he’d drug me through every letter of the book. I was frothing at the mouth and foaming about the flanks when I reached the final page…to discover Mike had split the book into two parts. And he ended it right at the MIDPOINT!

What a total sadist that Mike Wells is.

I was honked off at the guy for two days for cutting the story off, but then I put my writer hat back on and realized the brilliant marketing strategy at work. Thus, I’ve purchased the second part of “Baby Talk” so I can read the second half of the book.

This is an easy and entertaining read and Mike’s voice is perfectly engaging. Character development was top-notch. And I must say that I love that I didn’t really like any of the characters, though I did identify with them. They were real people, with real people’s scars and hangnails and body odor. I despise the perfect hero, the perfect villain. I enjoy complexity. And Mike delivers plenty of it in “Baby Talk.”

Anyway, enough of the worshipful praise (but seriously, I’m shocked how well this man can write). Here are my scores:

Writing/Style: 5 out of 5  Not a misplaced modifier or incorrect comma in sight. And I’ve already said his voice is engaging as hell. I dare you to read only one page.

Plot/Storyline: 4 out of 5  I was a bit tempted to give this category only a neutral 3 since I haven’t read the second half of the story yet. “Baby Talk” is two books, but it’s only a single complete story that I have not yet experienced in its entirety. However, the first half of the plot was solid and without apparent problems and the trajectory of the storyline was all but addictive. Thus, the 4.

Character Development: 4.5 out of 5  The  main characters (with the exception of Annie) are brilliant. I feel like I know Neal. Hell, maybe I am Neal. Annie was a little static for my taste. She was so central to the story, but didn’t change much from beginning to end. At the end, however, she was the main character in possibly my favorite scene, so she couldn’t be that bad. Maybe Mike wants me to find her annoying and hard to take. Even the secondary characters, such as the Snell brood, were completely filled out and believable. Excellent work with my favorite element, Mr. Wells!

Structural Soundness: 4 out of 5   I scored this category as I did for much the same reason I scored the plot/storyline as I did. I might have stayed neutral, since I haven’t read enough of the story to comment on its architectural stability. However, up to the midpoint, where I was forced to stop, “Baby Talk” showed all the signs of a well-plotted story, complete with all the proper points in all the right places. The pacing was the cherry in this category cake, and what ultimately caused me to again be generous. This guy broke my neck with this story and I want more.

Suspension of Disbelief: 4.5 out of 5  It’s tough to achieve a really good suspension score with the horror genre, since horror tends to provoke fear by introducing topics or ideas we generally identify as fictional. How do we make an audience believe the unbelievable? Mike strikes a good balance with this in “Baby Talk” by introducing the main logical issues through his main character, Neal. Once I accepted that Neal had the same doubts as I did, I was more willing to believe the seriousness of his quandary.

Total Score: 4.4  Awesome! I loved this book. I really did.

In short, fellow Under-Belly feasters–do yourselves a solid and check out this book. It will completely creep you out if it doesn’t outright scare the piss out of you. And if you’re an indie writer, like I am, follow Mike’s Twitter account @MikeWellsAuthor and start taking some notes. This man does it right!

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