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


Joe Hill's NOS4A2

Monday, March 29, 2010

Are We There Yet?

For those of you not familiar with Amanda Feral, she's a zombie. But not just any zombie. She's the original Diva of the Living Dead. So when the Road Trip of the Living Dead opens, we find our heroine camped out in a cemetery with fellow zombie gal pal Wendy and gay vampire sidekick Gil. While Gil prepares for the "coming out" of a newly turned vamp, courtesy of his latest enterprise -- Luxury Resurrections Ltd. -- Amanda ponders the course of action she should take regarding her mother, who is wasting away in a hospice. Should she stay or should she go and visit the old bag before she bites the big one for the last time. The decision is taken out of her hands, thanks to your friendly neighborhood ghost who unleashes a stream of ectoplasmic piss on the newly risen vamp. Who turns out to be none other than Richard Markham, a Mafioso type figure who tends to hold a grudge. Rather than hide out until things blow over, Wendy suggests a road trip, thus fulfilling the "moderately accurate" prediction of Madame Gloria, Wendy's telephone psychic.

The trio (quartet, actually, when you take into account Mr. Kim, Amanda's ghostly hood ornament) take to the road, destination Rapid City, South Dakota and Amanda's mother. However, nothing with Amanda is ever simple, as she lives for drama. From the minute they hit the road, the body count starts to rise. Will Amanda and company "live" long enough to say good-bye to Mommy Dearest? To find out, you'll just have to pack a bag and tag along. But please make your you bring your own Depends, because with the laughter that ensues, you may just find yourself in need of some relief without a rest stop in sight.

Reading Mark Henry, you quickly find nothing is held sacred -- anything and everything falls prey to his sharp wit: white supremacists, Wal-Mart shoppers, nursing homes, etc. You find yourself laughing, but at the same time you are reprimanding yourself for enjoying his un-PC sense of humor -- a genuine guilty pleasure. The story is solid and engaging, and you can't help but keep turning to the pages to find out what happens next. I didn't think Mark Henry could surpass Happy Hour of the Damned, but he has.

It isn't until you get to the end that you ask yourself one question (and this is the only problem I had with this thoroughly enjoyable read): why did he introduce the Travelers, ghosts that are not bound to the location in which they died? Cort makes an appearance, and there's a hint of a promised return, but alas, he's gone with the wind, never to be seen again. It could be an element of foreshadowing, but it doesn't come across that way. That aside, I urge to pick this up and take a little trip.

And if you haven't already done so, I strongly urge you to stop off at your local literary watering hole and enjoy a drink or two with America's Favorite Living Dead Diva during Happy Hour of the Damned. While it's not necessary to read Happy Hour of the Damned before taking a Roadtrip beyond your wildest imaginings, I would highly recommend doing so to become familiar with Amanda Feral.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

An STD? Who knew?

After reading a string of urban fantasies, I needed a good dose of blood and guts, and Ray Garton's Ravenous provided just that. That it was a werewolf tale only served to make it that much more rewarding, especially after reading so much "domesticated" wolf tales. However, when starting Ravenous, you will need to discard everything you thought you knew about these creatures of the night, as Garton puts his own spin on lycanthropy, so if you are looking for a traditional take on werewolves, pass this one by, but you are going to miss out on a good read.

The town of Big Rock is about to be rocked by something more sinister than the series of violent rapes they are currently experiencing. Emily Crane is the latest victim. The only difference is, she fought back -- and won, successfully putting her attacker in the morgue. But nobody expected the body to get up and walk out.

Sheriff Arlin Hurley is in hot pursuit of the naked dead guy, but loses him in the hospital, but one of his deputies picks up the chase. When Hurley finally stumbles across his deputy, his been torn to pieces. Now, in addition to a rapist, they also have a killer on their hands. From there, the body count and the rape count continues to rise.

After receiving a call about a domestic disturbance, Sheriff Hurley arrives on the scene of another brutal murder, but also find the body of a creature lying on the lawn. The creature, it turns out, is Emily Crane. And she was killed by a mysterious stranger, Daniel Fargo, a self-proclaimed werewolf hunter, who informs Sheriff Hurley that he has a problem in his town unlike anything he could ever imagine. Unless he does something to nip things in the bud, he is going to have an infestation of werewolves in his town, a problem that can go from bad to worse overnight, as, according to Fargo, werewolves have two hungers -- sex and red meat. And that is how they spread the disease. If the unfortunate victim isn't eaten during the course of the sexual escapade, they will become infected with the virus and in turn will have to have to be killed before they can spread the virus. As expected, Hurley has a hard time accepting this. Does he wake up to the fact before things get out of hand, or will his town fall to the creatures of the night?

Garton's raw brutality is not for the weak, but if you can withstand the gut punch, I can't recommend Ravenous enough. It grabs you on the first page and keeps you on the edge of your seat to the last page.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Once Upon a Time. . .

Ever since reading Tanith Lee's Red as Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, I have been fascinated with traditional Fairy Tales that have been rewritten with a twist. That's why I was so excited to see an anthology of Twisted Fairy Tales. I eagerly read the short collection in one night, and I am sorry to say, I was more than a little disappointed with this collection.

The tales within were either hit or miss, which is to be expected with most anthologies, but when you compare "The Three Little Kittens 'A New Tail'," which depicts a dysfunctional feline family, to "Glass Slipper", you can't help but feel disappointed at the imbalance of story quality. Where the story of the three little kittens paints a graphic picture of what life is like for the three little kittens after their father passed away, dealing with a whoring, alcoholic mother, "Glass Slipper" is an attempt to re-spin the classic Cinderella story, but it feel like the author got bored with it or lost her direction and decided to wrap it up, leaving the reader with a WTF moment, and you turn the page expecting more, and you are greeted with the next story.

The same can be said for "Natalie's Garden", which comes across at first like a psychological Sleeping Beauty, with a mental patient who is withdrawn. You expect an awakening to occur, but the ending just leaves you wondering what happened with the rest of the story. "Green", which hints of Rapunzel, is a jumbled mess that reads like an draft of a story that was never completed. A retelling of the story of Snow White, "Snow," starts off on a promising note with a suicidal Snow White, so unhappy with the way her life has turned out, cooking and cleaning and picking up after a bunch of dwarfs, that she welcomes the attempts on her life by the wicked witch, and she grows resentful of the little men who are constantly foiling the witch's plots. But once again you are left with an abrupt ending that leaves you looking for more. "See Red" is a confusing mish-mash of Little Red Riding Hood that lacks cohesiveness. Also visiting the Little Red neighborhood is "I Wore Crimson", a reflective piece that doesn't seem to fit in with the retelling of tales, but offers a look back as a mother prepares her daughter to go out into the world. The reflective nature of the piece gives it an incomplete feel.

One of the gems in this anthology is "Mrs. Culling's Reformatorium for Wayward Children," a chilling update on the story of Hansel and Gretel. Instead of a Gingerbread Cottage, the witch now runs a home for wayward youths. What better way to sate your appetite for children than to have those who are no longer wanted brought to you. They'd never be missed.

"Cinder Sister" is a spin on Cinderella, and while it is not as satisfying as some, it's a different take on the story and has a satisfactory ending.

Hansel and Gretel is revisited in another satisfactory tale, "Dylan and Megan," that has the brother and sister running away from a murdering drug addict and being taken in by a kindly toy maker.

The remaining tales in this anthology -- "Jack and the Beanstalk", which features the son of the infamous Jack; "Bridge of Bones," a re-telling of The Three Billy Goats Gruff; "The Legend of Liddy 'Red' Hood", which sets Little Red Riding Hood against a post-nuclear background; and "Snow White's Release" an erotic story that has Snow White seeking refuge with seven hunky brothers-- are the true standout pieces in this anthology, along with the few previously mentioned.

One of the great failings of this anthology, beside the uneven caliber of the stories, is the number of times a particular story is re-visited. I feel the editor would have done better if she only used each Fairy Tale once, use the best Snow White story, the best Little Red Riding Hood story, etc. The repetition of the story types makes the anthology redundant, and it would be very easy to become bored with it.

The stories I highlighted as being the superior pieces in this compilation make the anthology worth reading, but I would look for a discounted bound copy or a digital version, preferably pdf. I would not recommend the Kindle version, which is what I read, as the formatting is horrendous, often having one or two sentences appearing on a page, the anthologies title appearing sporadically through the work, and some annoying gray boxes that appear without any apparent reason, often being the only thing that appears on the page. The best option, though, would be to borrow a bound copy from somebody who has already purchased it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Playing With New Technology

What would you do if you discovered your Kindle had a secret menu that didn't exist on any other Kindle but yours? Well, that's the problem one Wesley Smith finds himself faced with.

Wesley Smith is a college professor with a great love for books in this novella by Stephen King. After breaking up with his girlfriend over a comment about books -- her basically telling him to ditch the books and start reading on the computer like everybody else, and him calling her an illiterate bitch -- Wesley really starts to think about what her parting statement. Shortly after the breakup, Wesley discovers one of his students has a Kindle and is intrigued by it, and after thinking long and hard about reading on the computer like the rest us, he breaks down and orders a Kindle. When it arrives, he notices that it's pink, and chalks it up to a manufacturer error. The fact that it arrived via overnight mail when he hadn't requested express delivery only serves to confirm that suspicion. The manufacturer wanted to rush it out of the warehouse before the error was caught, and shipping it out to some unsuspecting customer proved cheaper than discarding it.

As he plays with it, he discovers an "Experimental" setting that lists a series of UR books, subscriptions, and local. When he checks out the book section, he feels like he has entered into the Twilight Zone. The dates for Hemingway's death are wrong, the author information has him dying several years later, and there are a number of books Wesley, as an English Professor, knows the author never wrote. And Hemingway isn't the only author listed.

This begins his descent into madness, and he brings one of his students and a fellow professor along for the ride. They discover "alternate reality" newspapers, as well as future events for his local area. Knowing what the future holds, does Wesley set out to change the course of events, or does he allow them to play out as they were meant to? You'll need to read it and find out.

This novella is a shameless promotion for Amazon's Kindle, otherwise King would have made up a fiction name for the device, as well as a fictional corporation from which the device is purchased, but he doesn't do so; in fact, Amazon is mentioned quite often throughout the short work of fiction. There are attempts to tie it in with the Dark Tower universe, and not being overly familiar with that particular series, I found that interesting, but overall, this novella is nothing to write home about. If you find yourself needing a King fix, I would recommend skipping this and re-reading some of his earlier short stories, as his earlier work is his best work.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Family Reunions Suck. . .

. . .especially if your family is the Auphe. Yes, the Auphe are back in Deathwish, Book 4 of the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman. For those not familiar with Rob Thurman's series, the Auphe are a race of creatures from an alternate dimension, beings beyond your worst nightmare and they take great pleasure in torture and murder. With the Auphe, death is rarely slow in coming. The heroes of Thurman's series are half-brothers Cal and Nikos Leandros; Nikos, the elder, is human, Cal is half Auphe, although you wouldn't know it to look at him.

Deathwish picks up where Madhouse left off, with Cal running for his life through the streets of New York City, an Auphe in hot pursuit. This comes as a surprise, as Cal and Nik believed they had killed off the Auphe in an earlier installment. Cal needs to reach Nik, because where there's one Auphe, there's bound to be more, and they have promised to destroy everybody Cal holds dear to him before dragging him back to the hell that is Tumulus.

As if the Auphe weren't enough, Promise, Niko's vampire lover, has found a client who wishes to hire the brothers. Officially, Cal worked at The Ninth Circle, a bar that catered to a supernatural clientele, and Nik worked part time at NYU. Unofficially, they kicked monster ass. The client Promise has found is Seamus, another vampire and one of Promise's lovers from her past. She claims the affair was over a long time ago, but Seamus, on seeing Promise after all these years, becomes jealous of Nik. To add to the growing list of problems, another secret from Promise's past shows up on her doorstep in the form of her daughter, Cherish. Cherish has problems of her own. Promise admits her daughter is a liar and a thief, a bad apple, but when Cherish claims she is being pursued by Oshossi, an immortal who is trying to retrieve something that Cherish has stolen from him, something she claims to no longer have. It is out of pride that Oshossi pursues her.

Can the brothers survive with a plate this full? Pick it up and find out.

Within the past few years, I have found myself reading more and more Urban Fantasy, and I have to admit, if I wasn't a native New Yorker, I probably would not have picked up Nightlife, the first in the series. That was the big selling point for me. I was not sorry I did. Thurman's style is "snarky" and fast paced, putting you firmly on the edge of your seat and keeping you there from the very first page. She has an instinct for comic relief and weaves it seamlessly throughout her narrative, providing that release when the tension gets too high. You may find yourself laughing out loud as you read passages like this one: " 'Issues?' he echoed incredulously. 'Jesus, Nik. People on Dr. Phil have issues. We have atomic-powered, demonic-flavored, fresh-from-the-pits-of-hell, full-blown fucking neuroses. Freud would've been in a corner sucking his thumb after one session with us.' " Or, "And I'm sleeping with a wolf who if she wants an after-sex snack might decide that's me, but I still like her anyway."

I love this series and strongly urge everybody to give it a try. If you are a fan of the TV show Supernatural, I'm positive you will love Rob Thurman's series. But don't start in the middle. The books, in order, are Nightlife, Moonshine, Madhouse, Deathwish, and the just released Roadkill.