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.
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!
Monday, May 27, 2013
Twenty-five years ago, Roland McAlister was at the top of his game. He was a championship wrestler, had money in the bank, and a wife waiting for him at home—and a "rat" in every town he stopped in... and by rat I don't mean the rodent. That's what he called his hook-ups, his mistresses, the flavor of the day, which gives you some idea of what kind of guy Roland really was. In Detroit, there was one woman, Gloria, who he claimed to really have a connection with, but when she comes to him to let him know she's pregnant, she's out like yesterday's trash. There was no way he was going to be a father to this whore's little rugrat.
Jump twenty-five years to present day and Roland is just a shell of the man he used to be. Having suffered a heart attack, he is now confined to a wheelchair. Life is good, or as well as it can be given his condition. He has a wife who loves him (wife No. 3) and a steady income from some illegal dealings (steroids) on the side. All that is about to come crashing down around him when he receives a phone call. From Gloria's son. Who, after twenty-five years, wants Roland to be a Daddy to him. And he'll stop at nothing to get what he wants, and I mean nothing. The cover gives you some idea what extremes he will go to to get Roland to be his Daddy. The guy is a real sociopath.
The story in and of itself isn't a bad story, but it's a perfect example of an author who has cranked out a story and put it up on the Kindle self-publishing platform before editing and proofreading his work, and that's where the story suffers. Typos, missing words... and the most lethal mistake an author can make, Clendening lost track of which character he was talking about. *SPOILER ALERT* Cory, Gloria's son, has just killed Rosemary, Roland's wife. Being a good kid, Cory cleans up the mess before leaving Roland to think about what he has done. Yes, Cory thinks Daddy is responsible for Rosemary's death because all the old wrestler had to do was agree to spend some time with Cory, get to know him, be a father to him. If he had a greed to that, Rosemary would still be alive, but Roland had refused. Now, sitting alone, he decides to get to the bottom of things and reached for the phone. "I hadn't spoken to Rosemary in twenty-five years..." Hello? Rosemary is dead. Your son just blew her brains all over the sewing room. If you want to talk to her, you'd do better picking up a Ouija board than the phone. Clendening doesn't catch his mistake until the next scene, so during the entire phone conversation with Gloria, he's talking to Rosemary.
The ending itself is interesting, as the conversation with "Rosemary" reveals something that throws Roland for a loop. The thing is, you have the reveal, then nothing. It ends, and it leaves you wondering... What? How?
Had the story been cleaner, more polished, it would have been a decent read, but as it stands now, it's an embarrassment to the author and I would seriously recommend he unpublish it, polish it up, then re-post it. Until that time, this is one you should pass on.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Pied Piper of the Undead tells the story of a 13-year-old survivor of the Zombie Apocalypse. As far as Peter knows, he is the only living person in his hometown. This would be hard for anybody, but for a child, it could be particularly devastating. Put yourself in the child's position—while on a scavenging run you encounter people you used to know, people you can put a name to, people you ran into on a daily basis, maybe said hello to, and now they want to eat you. Your best friend, the girl at school every guy wanted to be with, the school lunch lady, and yes, even your parents. This is what Peter has to endure on a daily basis. When we encounter a zombie, we see it through the boy's eyes, and unlike like so much zombie fiction, they aren't The Monster, The Zombie, or The Biter, or whatever naming convention that author has assigned to his walking dead. Whetzel has chosen to assign every zombie a name, a former occupation, which is what makes Pied Piper of the Undead so emotionally jarring. It's almost as if Peter hasn't fully grasped the fact that these things are no longer the people he used to know. On one level he does, as is evidenced by the fact that he stays above ground level whenever possible, choosing to live on the platform of an elevated water tower, but on another level he seems to be in denial of those whole situation. This is particularly evident when he encounters his best friend and his parents. If you have a heart, these scenes might very well bring tears to your eyes.
Again, if you follow my reviews, you're waiting for the "But...", and there isn't one. Some aspects of the story might have some readers rolling their eyes, like how Peter knows to stay off the streets and how he successfully manages to get around town, but given the boy's fascination with hand-held video games, it doesn't come as any surprise that he has figured this out. As far-fetched as it might seem, it seems perfectly logical within the confines of the story, and something I didn't even bat an eye at. It just shows the ingenuity of a child and the extent to which his imagination can stretch in order to survive.
Given the nature of the story, I can't really say too much about it without giving anything away. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the story immensely and... Oh wait... I lied. There is a "but", one problem that I had with the novella that could easily be rectified if the author sees fit to humor this reader and correct the problem.
The one problem I had with Pied Piper of the Undead is the ending. While satisfactory, it does leave you hanging, and this reader wants more, so I can only hope Mr. Whetzel decides to continue the story. Other than that, no other issues. Surprising, huh? I would suggest, however, that the author clean up the language a little. Not that I'm a prude or anything, I just feel that by doing so he would make it more appropriate for a YA audience. Should he do that, and extend the story to novel length, he just might give Maberry's Rot & Ruin a run for its money. Pied Piper of the Undead is that good. Highly recommended.
Friday, February 1, 2013
Bloop starts off with a group of Charlie's Angels-type mercenaries, The Sisterhood of Saint Tommy Gun (yes, I did roll my eyes at that), taking on a marauding pack of yetis. If you're familiar with the Bigfoot series, you'd expect all of these little girls to be slaughtered by the yetis, but that isn't the case. The Sisterhood wins the day, without a single broken nail or a hair out of place. Oh, and no casualties. I guess the yetis aren't as formidable as the American cousins. Battle won, the Sisterhood just disappears. Who were these masked women? We want to know more about them, but alas, the story jumps elsewhere.
Where does it jump, you ask? To the middle of the ocean, where a yacht is about to be attacked by some sort of sea monster. What kind of sea monster? We don't know. The extent of the description is that it's serpentine, has armor-like scales, and sharp teeth. Oh, and it's hungry. We learn this because no one on board the yacht survives. Really? Even Godzilla had one survivor. How else did we come to learn about the giant lizard that ate Tokyo (actually, NYC comes to mind—yes, I'm thinking about that "God-awful" Matthew Broderick film, which isn't really all that bad if you don't think of it as "Godzilla", but I digress).
The scene jumps again (I'm beginning to get a little dizzy with all this globe-trotting jumping around), this time to a college campus, where a bored professor is slurping his cold coffee while he lulls his students to sleep. Said professor is the leading authority in the hazards of environmental corruption on the natural world (we knew he had to show up sometime). An associate interrupts his class (how dare she!) to let him know the military is waiting for him (déjà vu here, folks). What could they want with him? Duh! Obviously he doesn't read the news. Oh wait! Military coverup. Gotta keep this under wraps. Convenient that no one survived. Our hero learns about this creature, whatever it is, and then it becomes a race against time to destroy the big, bad monster before it attacks again. Do they? Well, no, but then again, do we, as the reader, care? Again, no. And yes, Charlie's Angels do make another appearance, if you care to know, but I'm not going to say anything else.
Where do I begin? There's so much wrong with this book, I don't know where to begin, but I gotta start somewhere. One of the first things I noticed with Bloop is the narrative structure. We start off with a Prologue, but we never know where the Prologue ends. We have "****" to indicate a jump in the story, but we don't know where it actually starts. I was constantly on the look out for "Chapter One" or "1" or something to let me know, "Okay, folks, we're starting." That never happens, so the novella reads like one giant Prologue.
The second thing I noticed was the manuscript the lack of editing/proofreading (if it was, Brown needs to fire the party(ies) involved and get someone new). Nowhere is it more obvious than with character names... Well, once character in particular—General Waltson. Or is it Walton? It changes constantly throughout the story. Brown refers to a ship named the "Author Curry", and Driscoll even smirks at the name, as if he's in on a secret no one else is privy to. Given Brown's love of comics, I believe he meant "Arthur Curry", aka Aquaman. Elsewhere in the book, a reporter slips past the MPs to ask our hero, "Why has the military but you in on this?"
The story also suffers from a lack of detail. After having read it, I still have no idea what this creature looks like other than it's an armor-plated serpentine creature with sharp teeth. I have no idea how big it is, or what it is. Are we dealing with a genuine sea serpent? Given the environmental aspect introduced earlier with the introduction of Driscoll, are we dealing with a giant, mutated eel or sea snake? Or do we have a remnant of prehistoric times along the lines of Nessie and Champie? It's plausible, given Brown's previous works. I mean, after Bigfoot, why not tackle another legendary creature? had this been a short story, this is something I could forgive, but even then, the reader needs a little more to go on. Given that this is an attempt to take it longer than a short, but not quite achieving novel length, you need to give the reader more. In any movie that falls into this giant creature sub-genre, you always learn what the creature is and where it originated from. That's not so here.
This same lack of detail carries over into the world Brown attempts to create. Not once could I envision where I was supposed to be, and that's something I can usually do when I read. And the characters? Who cares. They are cardboard cut-outs, stock characters typically found in this type of story. There's no character development, and no back story to breath life into them. We know nothing about them, so why should we care about what happens to them? Brown's main focus is story—this happened, then this happened, then this happened, and as a result, the story suffers. The structure of the story as it is currently written doesn't even provide the element of suspense.
I know we're dealing with fiction here, so don't go jumping on my case for what I'm about to say, but where Bloop is concerned, there's no essence of reality. By that I mean the world has not become real for the reader. There are a couple of factors behind this. One is the lack of detail. The other is dialogue. If you've read Brown's work, you know he is not one to shy away from the gore aspect. Granted, it is not rendered as vividly as some authors tend to do, but it is there, so why is he so afraid of vulgarity? You will not find a single "fuck", "damn", or "hell" in his books, which in and of itself is not a bad thing, but there are times it's expected. Case and point, we're dealing with military men here in a combat situation, so when one of them blurts out, "What the frag do we do now?", you can't help but laugh. Frag? Really? Who the hell says "frag"? It totally knocks the reader out of the story, which in this case isn't too hard to do. If you don't want to use the "f" word or the "h" word, leave it as, "What do we do now?" That tends to be a little more realistic than using something like "frag".
I feel part of the problem with Bloop lies in the fact that it is based on a "screen story", so Brown is probably adhering to the story as it was given to him, to the letter. He's not putting his own spin on it, adding insights to the novella (yes, folks, it's very short—this review is probably longer than the "book"), or adding any details. Had he approached this as an original work, I think we might have seen an entirely different story. Having read some of Brown's other works, I was hoping for so much more with Bloop, but what I got does not live up to what I know Brown can do. He failed to deliver here, so unfortunately, this is not one I can recommend. You'd do better to check out his Bigfoot War series.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Even if you've only seen one slasher film, you'll know what to expect from D'Allasandra's follow-up to Death House. That should be part of the fun—but it isn't; in fact, it's one of the reasons why this book fails. She (actually he, as Andrea D'Allasandra is actually Jery Tillotson) isn't concerned with character development because she knows she's only going to kill them off. Her only concern is to keep the story moving, but even that gets stale after awhile.
The characters in Horror House are poorly developed stereotypes, all of which you hope get killed off soon just so you don't have to deal with them anymore. Take Scotty, for example. The only gay character in the book. A flamboyant ex-stripper/GoGo Boy trying to live the legitimate life because he's fallen in love with the nerdish professor, Charlie (who never makes an appearance), yet like ALL (yes, I am being sarcastic here, so don't start sending me hate mail) gay men, he wants to screw every guy he sees and is constantly fantasizing about seducing Tyler, the straight, jock-type security guard. While the author tries to make him the likable comic relief, his over the top characterization makes the reader hope he's one of the first to go. One of the other problems with D'Allesandra's characters is that she pulls things out of thin air whenever it's convenient for that point in the story. Scotty thinks with his dick, but then all of a sudden he's got this soft spot for kids. Josie Jetson, a successful author of cookbooks who looks more like Honey Boo Boo's mother than Martha Stewart, is an abrasive, obnoxious bitch who hates everyone—but has a soft spot for kids. And why are kids their Achilles' Hell? Because Benji "adopts" an abused child, who then becomes a tool to catch his victims unaware. When you look at the entire cast of characters, there really isn't a likable one in the crowd, not even the sheriff, the only carry over from the first book. The "good guy" has been reduced to a conceited strip-o-gram cop who literally masturbates while watching himself perform in a home-made bisexual porn flick he made with another sheriff and the man's wife. Somebody give me a happy ending and shoot this guy—quickly.
Since the characters aren't enough to keep you interested, you pray the story itself is enough to hold your interest, but unfortunately, it isn't. There's nothing new, nothing fresh, but you plod on hoping that one of the characters will be killed off in an interesting, unique manner. Don't hold your breath. Not even the writing is enough to keep the reader engaged because it is very poor. One has to wonder if D'Allesandra accidentally submitted a first draft instead of the polished, final version because Horror House suffers from the same thing so many other self-published books suffer from—poor or no editing. With clunky sentence structure and needless repetition, it becomes painful at times to read.
I really wanted to like Horror House, but unfortunately I didn't, and I can't, in good conscience, recommend it. There are so many other self-published books out there you can spend your time with.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
This outing, Brown teams up with Jennifer Minar-Jaynes to give us Boggy Creek, The Legend is True, a novelization of a film by the same name, which I haven't seen yet — but it's on my list. Brown doesn't waste any time getting to the meat of the matter, so to speak. Boggy Creek opens with a rather nasty attack on a young couple parked in the woods. Casey Guthrie is savagely mauled and his girlfriend, Brittany, is among the missing. Missing? Yeah, Brown finally went there without actually going there. Seems that's the MO of these Bigfoot attacks — the men are killed, the women abducted. You do the math. Anyway, back to poor Casey. It's a powerhouse opening to a fun read.
As it turns out, Casey and Brittany aren't the only victims of these random animal attacks. Yeah, you heard me. Seems the local sheriff knows what going on, but refuses to do anything about it because of some misguided sense of duty. It's his deputy, Mark Klein, who finally grows a pair and decides enough is enough. He and his redneck friends decided to hunt the beast down.
Meanwhile, enter some would-be college freshmen. Jennifer Dupree and her friend, Maya, are headed to Boggy Creek for a little rest and relaxation. Jennifer is actually coming to lay the past to rest. Her fathered lived in Boggy Creek until he met his maker in a freak accident (or did he? We're never told what exactly happened to her old man). Unbeknownst to Jennifer, Maya has planned to make this a partying weekend, and thus the scene is set. Now the question becomes: Will Jennifer and friends survive their week in the wilds of Boggy Creek, or will they become meat for the beast?
Let me start off by saying Boggy Creek, The Legend is True is not a great book, but it is well written (barring a few errors that I'll get to later), and it is fun. I mean, it's Bigfoot; what's not to like? Given the length of the novella (a mere 120 pages), it's perfect for a lazy Saturday afternoon in front of the fireplace. Notice I say afternoon. If you live in the city with not a tree in sight, feel free to curl up in bed at night, but if you, like me, live in or near a wooded area, it's best to read this during daylight hours. The scare factor isn't high, but the suspense is there. The authors have the ability to draw you into the story, so much so that you'll be jumping at those unexplained sounds outside. Is that really a branch scratching at the window, or something else?
The cast of characters in Boggy Creek, The Legend is True is your typical slasher fare: creepy neighbor, gruff sheriff, inept deputy, partying coeds, and a host of cannon fodder. Regardless of their role, the authors treat them all with the same attention to detail, fleshing them out and making them real. They give that same attention to his scenic descriptions as well, fully realizing the locales, thereby making it so easy for the reader to lose him- or herself in the narrative.
For all the pluses in this novella that make it a fun read, there are a few glaring errors that were enough to jolt me out of the story and had me flipping back to double check to see if I had misread something. In the very beginning — remember Casey and his girlfriend? — the couple is sitting in the front seat of his pickup. Yet a few paragraphs in, the monster leans into the car. Wait a minute? Didn't you just say they were in a pickup truck? OOPS! (Bad editor!) When Jennifer arrives in town, she and Maya pass a sign that says, "Boggy Creek, Texas. Population 406." Later on when the sign is passed, it reads, "Boggy Creak, Texas. Population 421." Whoa! Wait just a cotton pickin' minute! Was there a baby boom within the past 24 hours or so? And is the highway department that much on top of things that they were out there putting up a new sign so quickly? (Very bad editor!) And a little later on, when Jennifer meets the creepy neighbor, he says his name is Dustin Long, but two chapters later, during a flashback, he name is Dustin O'Brien. (Very, very bad editor!) Yeah, he may have given her an assumed name, but if he is supposed to be concerned for the girl's well-being, especially after what happened to his wife, why lie? More importantly, we aren't told that he lied. The average reader might not notice these things, but to me they were glaringly obvious and enough to break the flow of the story. There were a few other things that I can't recall at the moment, which means they weren't enough to knock me out of the narrative.
The only drawback to the book is that the authors didn't give us a look at Bigfoot other than through the eyes of the characters. They put us in the creatures head when it is about to attack, but doesn't give us a peek at the "homestead". Are the ladies being dragged back to the lair in a Neanderthal-type manner only to be served up as a midnight snack? Or are they, as is insinuated within the text, being used as breeding stock? Inquiring minds want to know these things. Is there a "I had Bigfoot's baby" story in the future? One can only hope.
All in all, though, I have to say that Eric S Brown and Jennifer Minar-Jaynes delivered a solid and enjoyable story, a must for Bigfoot fans. Highly recommended!