A Hard Day's Fright. Needless to say, I couldn't put this one down.
For those who aren't familiar with Pepper, she has a rare gift, thanks to an unfortunate accident where she was knocked unconscious after tripping and hitting her head on the corner of a mausoleum while giving a tour of Cleveland's Garden View Cemetery, home to many deceased celebrities. When she comes to, she has the unfortunate ability to see dead people. And not only can she see them, she can hear them -- and the one thing's she's discovered is that the dead do not shut up until they get what they want. And since Pepper is the only one who can communicate with them, it's up to her to complete whatever mission they have in store for her so both she and the spirit can finally have some peace and quiet. Unfortunately for Pepper, there never seems to be a break in the action because there's always some departed soul who needs her help. A Hard Day's Fright is no exception.
Thanks to mechanical issues with her car, Pepper is forced to rely on public transportation to get herself to and from work. During a ride on the train, she is confronted by the ghost of a teenager who can't move on until her remains are found and she has no clue as to where they can be. Faced with a nigh-on-impossible task, Pepper is tempted to walk away once she realizes the girl's spirit cannot leave the train, but she quickly has a change of heart once she hears Ella, her boss at Garden View, mentions the girl's name in relation to her youngest daughter's irresponsible behavior. Pepper soon learns that Lucy Pasternak had been Ella's best friend when they were in school, and Ella was the last person to ever see Lucy. Ella refuses to believe Lucy is dead; her belief is that she disappeared and is alive and well somewhere, maybe being held hostage (for forty-five years!).
Little by little, one false lead after another, Pepper, aided by Ella and Ariel, Ella's youngest daughter, slowly pieces together the puzzle she thought she never stood a chance of solving.
What was so refreshing about this particular outing is that never during the investigation did Pepper find her life at risk. There are a few surprising twists, some laughs, and an ending I didn't see coming, which has me hungry for the next installment to find out what Pepper is going to do. These books are light, fun reads that you can polish off in a day or two, and despite the nature of the investigation, you always come away from the books feeling good. If you haven't had the good fortune to make Pepper's acquaintance, I strongly urge you to do so. And while each book does stand on its own, they usually pick up right where the last one left off or within a short period of time afterward, so I would suggest starting at the very beginning with Don of the Dead.
Welcome to Woofer's Lair. Curious as to what you will see here? Well, for the most part, you will find book reviews, maybe the occasional movie review, and if you are lucky, you might stumble across one of my own works in progress. If you like what you see or what read, and even if you don't, please feel free to leave your comments. As I am somewhat new to blogging, all of your constructive feedback is appreciated. Have fun and thanks for stopping by.
Sunday, January 1, 2017
I continue my review of Grinning Skull Press's Grave Marker line with "Rock, Paper, Scissors" by Sebastian Bendix, which deals with The Tailor, a nightmarish figure of legend that parents called upon to handle unruly and unkempt children. When he is accidentally summoned by a grunge rock band during a late-night jam session, all hell breaks loose. You see, The Tailor wants to help The Filthy Habits clean up their act -- whether they want his help or not.
"Rock, Paper, Scissors" is a typical slasher story, so you've probably seen the scenario in countless other stories or movies, but the villain in this one is unique, as I've never come across a story that deals with The Scissor Man. The other thing that differs with this one is the characters, especially Dreads. In these types of tales, you usually find yourself rooting for the monster, but in this one, she's the one you find yourself rooting for, as she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. From the beginning, she questions why she's with the band when she deserves so much more, and she's considering breaking out on her own because she realizes that she's going nowhere as long as she stays with these losers. But it seems she's made her decision to leave one day too late, and she's racing through the run-down textile mill that houses their studio desperately looking for a way out. The Tailor, however, has been quite thorough in blocking all the exits. Will The Filthy Habits live long enough to play their next gig, or will their music live on without them? This one is highly recommended.
GSP's Grave Markers are short, satisfying reads they don't leave you hanging. They're complete tales that are perfect for that long wait in the doctor's office, that long morning commute, or that afternoon where you don't want to get bogged down in a novel and find short stories too short to be satisfying.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Last year, Grinning Skull Press launched a new line of short fiction called Grave Markers. What are they? Stories ranging between 10,000 and 20,000 words, too long for anthologies, but not long enough to be published as stand-alone novellas. They're published individually in digital format, and then later on in print as 3-in-1 compilations. Richard Black's Nikolis Cole: The Low-Rise Saint was the premier release in this new line. What's it about? Well, read on.
War has broken out on the streets of Southeil between two rival gangs over the death of one gang leader's first lieutenant. The war has raged on for nearly a year, with no end in sight. The only chance Detective Karen Oswalt and her partner have of ending the war is by bringing the killer to justice. Unfortunately, they haven't a clue. When they receive a phone call from a long-thought-dead informant claiming to know who the killer is, they jump at the chance and arrange a meeting, never thinking for one moment that they might be walking into a trap. What they do walk into defies explanation, something their cop instincts (and common sense) say can't possibly exist, but there it is. They need to come to terms quickly with what they are witnessing, otherwise their very lives might be forfeit.
Even though the piece is short, Black showcases his talents as a writer by creating a believable world populated with realistic characters you quickly get to know and and like (well, some of them, at least). His vivid descriptions of the gritty landscape places the reader on the streets of Southeil, and you come away from the story feeling just a little grungy, but wanting more. The story begs for expansion, and if not an expansion, at least another installment, and I could definitely see a movie being made of this.
Those who follow my reviews know there's usually a but coming, but in this instance, there is no but. If you're looking for something to read, but don't have the time to invest in a full-length novel, I would definitely recommend this tale, as it could very easily be finished within half an hour.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Don't ask what possessed me to buy Duane Bradley's Sick in the Head, because I have no idea. Maybe it was a freebie, maybe it was only 99 cents, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I did.
Detective Greg Parker, like most men, isn't exactly happy with the size of his pecker, so when he stumbles across the means of making it larger, he... well, he doesn't exactly jump at the chance because it involves eating another man's penis (we're not talking blowjob here), but when the opportunity presents itself in the former of a Lorena Bobbitt-type cast off, he takes advantage of the situation (tastes like chicken). While this "ancient Chinese secret" has the desired effect, it isn't without side effects: Parker's pecker literally takes on a life of its own. It can talk, and it doesn't always need to be attached to Parker to seek out what it wants. And since Parker, like most men, tends to think with his crotch, we all know what Seymour (yeah, that's its name) wants. The only problem is that with each sexual conquest, Seymour grows. There's no stopping it (you know where this is going, don't you?). Eventually what we're faced with is The Attack of the 50 Foot Penis. How will New York City survive? Well, I won't spoil the fun, but there is a secret weapon that is rolled out that had me literally laughing out loud.
Given the nature of the book, it's obviously not for everyone, but if you if you have a slightly warped sense of humor like I do, then you will enjoy Sick in the Head. The story is short and moves at a fast pace, and Bradley's sense of twisted humor, while sophmoric (what else can you expect when telling the story about a mobile talking penis?), is spot on. I wasn't expecting much when I started reading, but quickly found I did not want to put it down until I reached the end. If you can put your delicate sensibilities aside and suspend your disbelief (crumple it up and throw it out the window), then I would highly recommend this one.
Friday, August 15, 2014
The novel starts off innocently enough with the Institute Lou, our central character, is employed by inherits the Cary estate, which is situated on a remote Canadian island. Lou is sent to settle the estate and catalog the massive library contained within the house, as it was requested that the library not be separated from the property. Lou doesn't quite know what to expect upon her arrival at the house; the one thing she is not expecting, however, is a bear. A tame bear. It seems the previous own kept a bear on the property, penned up and chained the way you would a dog in an outdoor kennel.
At first she wants little to do with the animal, and the bear expects nothing from her except its food, but it seems the prior owner was fascinated by the species, as were her ancestors, as there are notes written on slips of paper in just about every book Lou picks up, all revealing some cultural or historical fact about bears. It might be subliminal, but before too long she takes an active interest in the bear, taking it for walks, swimming with it, and even allowing it into the house to curl up by the fireplace while she works. With no one else on the island save for an old Indian woman, who Lou has only encountered once or twice, Lou has no social outlet unless she wants to take a trip to the mainland, so she turns to the bear as a companion. The relationship between the two progresses quite rapidly, and eventually becomes intimate, and that's when Lou begins to lose herself. She becomes more of a wild woman, living only for the bear, and it seems like she is willing to give up her previous life to stay on the island and care for the bear. The inability to consummate their relationship by committing that final act frustrates Lou, and at first she blames the bear, but then she realizes the fault lies with her, and what she was attempting to do is wrong. She does make one last attempt to "seal the deal" so to speak, and ends up being gravely hurt in the process.
The book itself is not a bad book, and once you get past the "eww" factor of a woman performing intimate acts with a wild animal, you see what the book is really about. During the course of the narrative, we find that Lou tends to give of herself with no expectation of getting anything in return. This can be said if her work life and her romantic life. Her relationship with the bear is symbolic of her life, and you go through it wondering when she is going to wake up and realize that what she is doing is wrong. That point does come, and with it comes that realization that she deserves more out of life.
After I finished reading Bear, I closed the book and wondered, What was so great about that? It was okay, but hardly worthy of the award and praise it has gotten. But now that some time has passed and I've had a chance to look at it as a whole, I see how amazing the book truly is and how skillfully the author was able to encapsulate all aspects of this woman's life in that one relationship. I would highly recommend it.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Welcome to Pine Street, a typical street in a typical suburban neighborhood. It could be anywhere in the United States. It's the kind of street where, like it or not, everybody knew everybody else. The residents are your typical, everyday people. There's Tony, an unemployed schlep whose wife dotes more on the rugrat of a dog she calls Stevie than she does on him. There's the wholesome, all-American Girl Next Door, friendly and flirtatious. There's the feisty old lady, Bertie. There's Ivy and Geno, Kathleen and Pat, and a host of others, each living their humdrum lives on their boring little street. All that is about to change.
From deep underground, a stinking, black sludge starts to bubble up into the streets. It's rising up through the sewer pipes to fill bathtubs and toilets, kitchen sinks and bathroom sinks. It's rising fast, and by the time they think to get in their cars and trucks and get the Hell out of Dodge, it's too late, because not only is this sewage thick enough to bog down the most rugged of vehicles, it's also the home to hundreds carnivorous worms. Ranging in size from eels to pythons, these worms possess row upon row of needle-sharp teeth, just right for boring into some tender flesh. And somebody just rang the dinner bell, and these suckers never say no to a free meal.
Reading Worm, I was reminded of a couple of my favorite movies. It's a cross between Squirm and Tremors. It also brought to mind Keene's The Conqueror Worms, but unlike Keene's novel, which, while enjoyable, tends to have its slow moments, Curran's work is a nonstop onslaught of wormy action. But for all of the enjoyment I received while reading Worm, and for all the memories of my childhood it brought back of being glued to the television while some giant nasty laid waste to a town, I couldn't help but feel cheated after I finished. For all of Curran's thrills and chills as people fight to survive, he fails to deliver in one respect, and that's with the origin of the worms. Considering the size of the novella, there was plenty of room to expand this to a full-length novel had he he chosen to split the focus of the story between the events unfolding on Pine Street and those going on beyond this little community. We know what's happening on Pine Street is not an isolated incident, that it's happen throughout the town and authorities are in the process of evacuating people. Let's see what's happening on the outside, as well as underneath. Are these worms a natural occurrence, nature's way of striking back for all the wrongs we have committed against her? Are they a government experiment gone wrong? Or are the something dark, more sinister? Maybe even supernatural. The Devil's minions. We don't know, and it's frustrating. Had we been provided this bit of information, Worm would have been a more enjoyable read. However, since we aren't, I have no choice but to take off points.
Despite this one flaw, Worm is highly recommended. I've only read one other novel by Curran (Graveworm) before this, but I'll definitely be reading more, as Curran delivers the thrills and chills along with the best of them. He's a voice to watch.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Meet Miles Landish. A neglected 17-year-old rich kid who makes Jabba the Hutt look like a Victoria's Secret Model. Threatened with being expelled from school after being caught red-handed breaking into lockers and scarfing down other students' lunches, his parents are at a loss as to what to do. Food is controlling the boy's life, and something needs to be done. That something turns out to be Camp Tum Tum, an exclusive fat camp for the rich and spoiled. At Camp Tum Tum, supervised by a team of Health Nazis, Mile will learn everything he needs to take control of his life. Things spiral out of control rather quickly, however, when a case of corporate sabotage elsewhere in the world has tsunami effect on this small, remote island retreat. Just how far will a group of morbidly obese teenagers go to survive? The title says it all.
Let me start off by saying that Cannibal Fat Camp is not for everybody, especially if gross-out humor is not your thing. And I mean it when I say humor. Cannibal Fat Camp is hilarious—in a sick, twisted sort of way. It's so over the top that you can't help but laugh even though the scenes as they play out are grounded in reality (You don't think so? Remember the 1972 plane crash that left a Rugby team stranded in the Andes? In order to survive their ordeal, they had to resort to cannibalism.). Combining humor and horror is never an easy, but Scioneaux and Hayes manage to do it successfully: The news and medical reports help keep the reader's feet firmly planted in reality, even if the doctor is a sarcastic SOB; the diary and journal entries allow the reader an insight into the characters that a standard narrative wouldn't allow; the letters home that Miles writes add a subtle humor to the story (and maybe that's an age thing), as the reader hears Allan Sherman and Lou Busch's "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jjiWS__Mp0) playing through their head; and the recipes? I was howling.
Despite the humor, there are elements in Cannibal Fat Camp that ring true to the world today: childhood obesity and bullying. Society is concerned with the rising number of obese children and tries to instill in children the need to eat right, but what you don't hear is an attempt to research and resolve the root cause of the obesity epidemic. The authors touch on that here as they attempt to find out the reason for Miles' food addiction. Miles himself claims not to know why he eats the way he does, but we can see it's a cry for attention. You would think that the ridicule he receives at school would be enough to make him turn himself around, but Miles doesn't feel he's worthy of trying to better himself. When his own parents don't seem to care, why should he? Subconsciously he's hoping his parents will wake up to what's going on and extend a caring hand. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the letters home, where Miles admits to being a disappointment to them and it's no wonder they wanted to ship him off, maybe to forget about him altogether. In truth, when we first meet Miles, we don't like him very much, but as we get a deeper insight into the character, our feelings change and we end up feeling sorry for him. We start rooting for him, hoping he'll be able to turn himself. The same cannot be said for some of the other characters, one in particular: Charles York. Charles is a take-charge type, and he's quick to assess the situation, but we soon realize that he's not all there mentally. The guy's a sociopath, and the more we learn about him, the less we like him.
One could argue that the pacing of the story was off, that "civilization" deteriorated too rapidly, but when you are dealing with undisciplined, unsupervised children, is it too hard to imagine that things could spiral out of control so quickly? Think back to when you were a teen and your parents left you alone for the weekend for the very first time. What was the first thought that ran through your head? PARTY!! And consider how quickly rioting and looting break out in times of disaster. No, the events that transpire are not that hard to imagine at all.
Well written with well-developed characters, Cannibal Fat Camp is an enjoyable read from beginning to warped, twisted ending that I would highly recommend. However, if you are in any way squeamish or easily grossed out, I would advise reading this on an empty stomach, otherwise you just might be running for the bathroom. Bon appetit!