WOOFER'S LAIR

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.

Wicked Seasons

Wicked Seasons
My short story, HUNGRY FOR MORE, is included

CURRENTLY READING

CURRENTLY READING
Joe Hill's NOS4A2

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A 1950s Style Horror Romp through Florida

My first exposure to the works of Hunter Shea was The Jersey Devil. I was so impressed with that novel that I followed up immediately with Loch Ness Revenge. Another winner. I have some of his other books on Kindle, which I will get to when some of my time frees up, but when I saw Jurassic Florida, I had to drop everything and read this, especially since I had just watched The Giant Gila Monster, one of those 1950s horror movies where nature strikes back, and unfortunately, I have to say this wasn't nearly as good as the two novels I had already read. Don't get me wrong. It was a fun read, but it lacked the depth and detail of The Jersey Devil and Loch Ness Revenge. The main focus here is on moving the story along without bogging it down with any backstory. As a result, you don't become invested in any of the characters, and therefore you don't feel anything when they die their gruesome deaths.

The story set up for Jurassic Florida is one we've all seen, especially if you've seen any of the recent SyFy giant creature movies or any of the movies of the 1950s that featured small towns being attacked by supersized bugs and spiders. An environmental disaster, in this case a BP-sized oil spill, riles up the wildlife along the Florida coastline. The town of Polo Springs see a dramatic increase in the iguana population. The little beasts are everywhere, and they just keep coming. Here, Shea borrows from the 2010 remake of Piranha, and we find out these vicious little guys are only the babies. So where are Mommy and Daddy? It doesn't take long to find out. Chaos ensues as the behemoths push their way to the surface and the residents of Polo Springs are running and fighting for their lives. Who lives? Who dies? Does anybody survive? You'll just have to read it to find out.

As I already mentioned, this was a fun read, but it could have been so much better had Shea adhered more to formula for this type of tale. The residents assume the oil spill forced these giant iguanas from their underground lairs. What they don't say is that the oil caused a genetic mutation that allowed these creatures to grow to the size of dinosaurs. As a reader, I don't accept the fact that they were always there, not in the numbers that surface. Some one or some thing created these creatures. Had Shea adhered to formula, the scientist(s) would have been brought in, as well as the military, who, working with the good Professor, would find a way to defeat these monsters and rescue the trapped townsfolk. Leaving the townsfolk to fend for themselves as they attempt to vanquish these beasts is anticlimactic, at least for me. You're prepared for a big showdown between man and beast that never really manifests. That aside, I would still recommend it, especially if you're looking for something light to kill some time. It's perfect for those couple of hours spent on the beach or by the pool.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Going 'Squatchin'

Ever since I was a kid, I had a thing for cryptids, so imagine my surprise when I saw that Frank Peretti had written a book dealing with Bigfoot.

I had my first exposure to Peretti years ago when I read The Oath, which, if memory serves me correctly, I enjoyed. At the time, I made it a point to check out more of the author's work but just never got around to it. Between life and other books, he just got lost in the shuffle. Part of the reason he got lost is because I heard he was "Christian author," which turned narrow-minded me off to his books; however, he wrote a book about Bigfoot. Bigfoot! Despite the mixed reviews, I HAD to check it out.

Monster gets off to a mysterious start with a hunter covering up  an obvious murder, staging the scene so that it looks like the man died in an accident. Why? Well, it's obvious he's tracking something, and he doesn't want people to know what actually killed the man. One can assume it's a bear, but is there something else loose in the woods, something more vicious than a bear?

The scene then jumps to two couples who are planning to meet up for a survivalist weekend. Reed and his wife, Beck, arrive at the rendez vous point ahead of their friends, only to find the cabin they had been planning on staying in destroyed and the hired guide nowhere to be found. They investigate the cabin and the area surrounding it and come to the conclusion that it was a bear. Because it's so late in the day, they are left with no recourse but to camp out for the night, as there isn't enough daylight left for them to make it safely back to civilization. They set up camp away from the cabin take the necessary precautions so as not to attract the bear to their campsite, but as soon as the sun goes down, the surrounding forest comes alive with grunts, howls, and what they swear is a woman sending out a a mournful wail into the darkness. They become aware of a presence in the woods, and they realize it isn't a bear, but something with intelligence, as it's keeping just far enough within the shadows of the trees so it can't be detected. They try to stay calm, but fear takes over, and soon they are running through the woods. In the process of trying to evade whatever is pursuing them, they stumble across the body of their guide, hidden in a tree and practically decapitated. Needless to say, the chase ends with Reed witnessing some creature carrying his wife off into the woods. This sets the stage for the rest of the book: a search for and rescue of Beck from the creature that took her.

Despite the mounting evidence that the creature in the woods is definitely a biped, there is a resistance group among the rescuers who continue to insist it's a bear and try to convince the others that there's no such thing as Bigfoot and that what carried off Reed's wife was indeed a bear, and they shouldn't expect to find her alive -- if they find her at all. Meanwhile, we find out Beck is alive. Injured, but alive, and being held "captive" by a family of Sasquatches: an adult male, two adult females, and a juvenile male. It become obvious that the one adult female view Beck as her child and is determined to take care of her and protect her from the other members of her family (?), who make it clear they do not want Beck among them. Will Beck survive long enough to be rescued by her husband? Will her husband give up the search in light of evidence that points to Beck no longer being among the living? And what of the mysterious hunter from the beginning?

With Monster, Peretti has created a thrilling novel that is so much more than just a tale of survival. It's also a tale of intrigue because yes, there is a cover up, and there's also a twist that you won't see coming. His characters are fully realized, and you come to care what happens to them. As far as his creatures are concerned, you gain an insight into them that you wouldn't expect, so yes, you even care about what happens to them, more so as the truth is revealed.

The thing I can't understand are some of the reviewers' comments, saying that the religion is laid on rather thick. I didn't find that to be the case at all. I've found Koontz's later work to be rather heavy handed and preachy when it comes to religious beliefs, but within the context of the book, the characters praying and asking God to deliver/return them safely is quite believable. Even the most un-religious person will sometimes throw up a prayer to the Man upstairs asking them for a little help, so this aspect didn't bother me nearly much as it seems to bother other readers. And it certainly hasn't turned me off to the author. I know I said this once before, but I definitely will be seeking out more works by this author, and this time I fully intend on following through.

Would I recommend Monsters? Absolutely! I think it's one of the best Bigfoot novels I've read to date.



  

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

No More Teachers, No More Books...

William Carl's The School That Screamed has been sitting on my TBR mountain for quite some time, and I just now got around to reading it. Part of my hesitation on actually starting it comes from the fact that I've recently been inundated with haunted school stories, be it on TV, short stories, or novels, and none of them offered up anything new to this particular sub-genre of horror. The School That Screamed is no different in that respect, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it -- because I did.

The novel takes place at the Dolly (or is it Dollie? My one BIG gripe with the novel) Elliott School for Girls, a last-resort boarding school for "bad" girls, or girls that parents just don't want to be bothered with anymore. Laura Pennington is one of these girls. She's the "new girl" and arrives at the school carrying a secret she doesn't want to share with anyone, not realizing the school also possesses a secret. The new teacher, Sarah Stallworth, also has a secret, one that could get her relieved of her position if anybody were to find out about it. Rounding out the cast of characters is Yvonne Blaylock, the tough-as-nails head mistress, Jon O'Hara, the token male character (who's really one of the girls), and the rest of the "Scooby Gang" -- Allie Sayers, the self-proclaimed Queen Bitch Brandy Huber, and Goth girl Jane Melville, who also happens to be a practicing witch.

Carl doesn't waste time getting into the story, as we soon learn that Allie is having visions. She keeps seeing an eyeless nun (are spooky nuns the genre's new clowns?) staring at her from the mirror, but when she turns around, there's no one there. She eventually confides in the new girl, and we quickly find out that the school has a past. It was known at one time as the Mary Magdalene Home for Wayward Girls, a half-way house run by nuns and populated by unwed mothers. And as all nuns are evil bitches, we soon learn that these Godly women were far from Christian-like with their charges, which resulted in many of their deaths. It is these girls and the nuns who haunt the school.

As the story progresses, the supernatural events and the body count escalate quickly, and we can tell by the chain of events that Carl is building up to something. Just what that something is, we don't know, but we can suspect. Chances are, if your familiar with this type of story, you know what the climax is going to be. I'll leave that to you to find out.

Carl has a way of moving us quickly through the story so there's no lag in the narrative, and combine this with the author's style of writing, you can find yourself caught up in the events and reading right through to the end in one sitting (if time allows). 

However, as much as I enjoyed the book, it isn't without its faults, the most obvious being names. As mentioned earlier, the school is referred to at times as the Dolly Elliott School, and at other times it is the Dollie Elliott School, a teacher's name switches between LeBoum and LeBouf. For me, the relationship between the girls develops too quickly. The book reads like it takes place over the period of a few days to a week or so, so for Laura to be calling the other girls friends doesn't seem right or natural. Roommates, acquaintances, classmates, but not friends, which leads me to the way the characters react and respond to certain situations.  Reactions don't ring true, which for me is a definite minus. I want characters to respond realistically within the world the author has created, so when one of the girls makes a play for one of the other girls, it's brushed off as if nothing happened. Within a serious horror novel, which is what Carl is trying to paint here, there should be an awkwardness between the girls that lasts awhile, but for the sake of moving the novel forward, they treat it as if it's no big deal. That kind of revelation could put a strain on even the best of friends, and for two strangers? Awkwardness, silence, avoidance, until the one has had a chance to take it all in and decide how she wants to handle the situation.

Later on in the novel, Carl attempts to throw some humor into the mix (I guess, to alleviate tension), but it falls flat because it comes out of nowhere. Were we in a Buffy-type situation, where these types of quips and banter are a staple of the show, it seems out of place in Carl's work. One can very easily imagine Cordelia hesitating as the action plays out to consider her dress or her shows and how she really doesn't want to damage them or get them all bloody, but for these characters, when they are stressing how important it is that they move quickly in order to save the day, to stop and worry about their designer shoes and to actually remove them so they won't get ruined, opting to walk across a blood-soaked floor, has the reader rolling their eyes instead of laughing. While this might not bother some readers, it was enough to pull me out of the story.

Issues aside (as I said, they might not bother some readers), I would still recommend The School That Screamed, especially on a day when you find yourself locked inside with nothing to do. With the Northeaster heading our way, I can't imagine a better way to spend the time.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Don't Mess with the Ness

After have read Hunter Shea's The Jersey Devil, I was eager to jump into another one of his novels to see if he could deliver the same thrills twice in a row. It was a no brainer as to what book of his I would read next, as I have loved The Loch Ness Monster ever since I was a kid, and often fantasized about camping out on the shores of Loch Ness with the hopes of catching site of the elusive Nessie.

As the title boldly claims, Loch Ness Revenge is a tale of vengeance. It tells the story of Natalie and Austin McQueen, a brother and sister pairing who are seeking revenge on the creature that killed their parents. Kids at the time, they witnessed the serpentine creature constrict, then drag under the two people they loved most in the world. Left in the care of an aunt, they came into their inheritance when they turned eighteen. Austin did his best to move on with his life, but Nat, consumed by rage, grief, and a thirst for vengeance, sacrifices everything to get back at the creature that robbed her of her parents. Camped out on the shore of Loch Ness, she begins the long wait for Nessie to make an appearance.

It's Nat's belief that Nessie sightings come in waves, and when her suspicions are confirmed, she reaches out to her brother to come share in their moment of victory. Joining them is Henrik Kooper, a man haunted by his own monsters, and together they set out to destroy Scotland's prehistoric mascot. As the battle rages, their survival becomes questionable, as they make a discovery none of them could ever have expected.

Once again Shea delivers a fast-paced thrilled ride of epic proportions. Style-wise, it reminded of old Koontz books in that it catches you up in a wave in the first chapter and carries you through to the very last page, but unlike Koontz, whose endings, in my opinion, tend to fall flat, Shea's ending is satisfactory and doesn't leave the reader feeling disappointed. He does, however, leave you chomping at the bit for more as he sets up what we hope will be his next novel.

My only disappointment with this novel is that the cryptozoologist introduced in The Jersey Devil doesn't make a reappearance in this one, which had the perfect setup for him to appear. If you're a fan of creature feature fiction, this one is definitely one to pick up.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Devil of a Good Time

In addition to being a fan of giant creatures, I also happen to be a fan of cryptids. Bigfoot, chupacabra, the Mothman, I love them all. So when I saw Hunter Shea's The Jersey Devil, I knew it immediately it would find its way into my TBR pile. As to when I would get to it, that's another story. And that's only because I'd never read anything by Hunter Shea, so I wasn't making it a priority like I do with something authors. Turns out, it only took me about eight months to get to it — and I'm kicking myself for having waited so long.

The Pine Barrens of New Jersey is home to the Jersey Devil, a winged, cloven hoofed creature described as being a cross between a horse, goat, bat, and man. Like its fellow cryptids, the Devil is elusive, preferring to keep itself hidden within the wilds of the Pine Barrens, but something has happened, something that has forced the Jersey Devil out of hiding and sightings are on the rise. However, unlike sightings in the past, the Jersey Devil has become aggressive and is actively hunting those who venture into the Barrens.

To the Willet clan, the Jersey Devil is no legendary creature. Sam Willet has had an up close and personal encounter with the creature, and years back, it abducted his fiance. While she eventually escaped, she was never quite right afterward, and the encounter left her marked with a birth mark in the shape of a cloven hoof. What the mark means, neither she nor her husband know. What they do know is the mark has been passed on to their only child, who, in turn, has passed it along to his children. For years now, they've tracked the sightings of the Jersey Devil, which, for the most part, have been rare to non-existent. But now that they sightings have increased in frequency, Sam Willet has decided now is the time to get to the bottom of things and find out what the mark means. He and his family head into the Pine Barrens to confront the Devil, but they encounter more than they bargained for, and finding out what the mark means has been all but forgotten as they fight for their very lives.

There's a certain predictability to Shea's novel and there are few surprises, as early on it is revealed what causes the Devil to go from relatively docile to practically rabid — if you can't figure it out, you haven't watched enough environmental horror films — and I called the birth marks early on, but that doesn't take away the fun of the book. What Shea does deliver, though, is a thrill ride worthy of the best slasher films. He launches you into the action on the first page, and doesn't let you rest until the very last page. There is, however, one twist that took me by surprise, which I will keep mum on. If you want to know, you'll just have to read it for yourself.

The other thing Shea delivers is a set of fully realized characters, ones you get to know and care about, which is rare in today's horror fiction, and find yourself rooting for as they go up against insurmountable odds. There's one character in particular, Norm Cranston, a cryptozoologist, that I became particularly fond of, and I hope he makes appearances in Shea's other novels.

This is my first foray into the worlds of Hunter Shea, but it definitely won't be my last. Already a quarter of the way into Loch Ness Revenge.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Come into MyParlor, Said the Spider to the Fly



Stuart R. West is a new author for me, so I went into Dread and Breakfast not knowing what to expect. I only knew that the cover was awesome! And it didn't take long to realize that the book I was reading was equally as awesome!

West doesn't waste words with lengthy buildup before getting into the heart of the story. From page one, where a girl is murdered during what the killer describes as "date night", we're thrust right into the thick of things.

We've seen the premise before: a group of strangers are forced to take shelter from a storm under the same roof, and while outwardly all the characters seem harmless enough, they all harbor dark secrets, some darker than others. And because of that, the rest of the "guests" are in jeopardy with little chance of escaping, thanks to what the weathermen are calling the Storm of the Century. You have a young newlywed couple eager to start their new life together; young mother and her daughter fleeing from an abusive husband; a nerdy accountant who has absconded with a tidy sum of his boss's money; a security consultant who sometimes takes side jobs for his boss -- all of whom take shelter at the Dandy Drop Inn, an establishment owned by a sweet elderly couple, Jim and Dolores Dandy, and run by their adopted son, Christian. The only guests with reservations are the newlyweds; the others are forced to seek shelter when the storm makes driving conditions too dangerous to stay on the road. Think Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap.

As if this cast of characters isn't enough, West sets up a collision course at the inn with a rogue cop seeking to get his wife and daughter back and a betrayed mafia don out for revenge on the man who stole his money and the hit man who teamed up with the thief to split the money and run.

As the snow builds up on the outside, the body count builds up on the inside. Who is smart enough, strong enough, driven enough, to survive the bloodshed and see the storm through to the end.

Dread and Breakfast is a fast-paced thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat until the very end. The characters are all likable -- well, most of them anyway -- and have a certain charm that will have you rooting for them as they try every avenue of escape possible, only to be cut off (some literally) by the killer. And just when you think you have it all figured out and know who is going to survive, BAM! West delivers a twist you will not see coming and which once again will leave you wondering who will live and who will die.

As I said, Dread and Breakfast was my first West novel, but it definitely won't be my last. I highly recommend this one. Guaranteed, once you've picked it up, you won't want to put it down.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ghost Girl on the Train

I have to admit, as much as I love the Pepper Martin Mysteries, I went into this one with some reservations. After a solid start to the series, Daniels stumbled with Dead Man Talking, Book 5 in the series. She regained her momentum with Tomb With a View, so I wasn't sure what to expect with 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.