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


Hunter Shea's Loch Ness Revenge

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.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Rock and Roll Will Never Die...

... the artists, on the other hand... Well, that's a different story altogether.

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

A Misguided Saint

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

What a Dick!

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

A Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Back in July I made my annual trek to Rhode Island for NECON, a small gathering of horror writers and artists. One of the discussions I got involved in was the trend toward Monster Porn that seems to be so popular on Amazon these days. Tawdry covers and titles like Taken by a T-Rex, Raped by a Raptor, and Moan for Bigfoot. No, I haven't read them, but someone asked me if I had ever read Bear by Marian Engel, and silly me had never even heard of it. I asked what it was about and was told it was about a woman who has sex with a bear. "A werebear," says I, thinking along the lines of paranormal romance, and he said, "No, a real bear." He went on to say that it had been a bestseller in Canada and even won some sort of award. Turns out the the award it won was the Governor General's Award, the highest honor a book can receive in Canada. Curiosity got the better of me; I had to check it out. I mean, how bad can it be, right? Bestiality? I've read worse.

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.