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

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When the Hunter Becomes the Hunted

I don't know what it is about reality shows, but they are everywhere now. All of the major networks have at least one, and they've even invaded the cable networks on channels that shouldn't have them. Now they are invading the literary world. I've read a few, and sometimes the concept just doesn't work. That's part of the reason why, as much as I love Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series, I put off reading Kitty's House of Horrors. For those of you not familiar with Kitty Norville, she's a celebrated werewolf who hosts a weekly radio call-in show that is dedicated to all things supernatural. She's rubbed elbows with other lycanthropes, vampires, demons, etc., so it's possible the reality show them could work here, but I was still hesitant.

When Kitty's House of Horrors opens, two sleazy Hollywood types are pitching the concept show to Kitty. She knew it would bound to happen sooner or later, but she has her reservations. They reassure her that everything is on the up and up, that the show is meant to raise awareness of the supernaturals in the world, but Kitty is still unconvinced. It isn't until the two sleazoids drop a couple of names that Kitty's interest is piqued. It seems that people whom she considers friends, people she has worked with in the past and people she knows will have her back should things go awry, that she agrees to consider it. That satisfies the pitchmen. When Kitty places a phone call to one of her friends, Tina McCannon, a psychic who works on another reality show, Paradox PI, who admits that the only reason she agreed to do the show was because they told her that Kitty was already on board. When Kitty confesses that she only just now heard about the show, Tina tries to sway her into doing it, telling her it would be a blast. Kitty is still not convinced, and she tells Tina she needs to think it over some more. Thinking it over means talking it over with Ben, her husband and pack mate. The timing couldn't have been worse, as he needs to prepare for his cousin's parole hearing. When Kitty first met Cormac, he had tried to kill her (see Kitty and the Midnight Hour, the first book in the Kitty Norville series). Since then, they've developed a strong friendship and working partnership, which eventually lead to Cormac's imprisonment. Kitty reluctantly agrees to do the show, especially since it will benefit the supernatural community.

Kitty doesn't know who else involved with the show until she is transported to the locale, an isolated cabin in the middle of nowhere. In addition to Tina, there's Jeffrey Miles, a celebrated TV psychic; Odysseus Grant, a self-proclaimed magician working the Vegas strip; Ariel, a witch who also hosts her own radio show; Jerome Macey, a professional wrestler who happens to be a werewolf; a state legislator from Alaska, Lee Ponatac, who also happens to be a wereseal; Conrad Garrett, a celebrated author who has made it his business to debunk the supernatural; Gemma, the winner of the very first vampire beauty pageant; Anastasia, an ancient vampire and Gemma's creator; and Dorian, a human who acts as a blood donor to the vamps. It is up to the supernaturals to convince Garrett that they are the real thing, but they have to play to the camera and play the game. In other words, Kitty can't change into her wolf in front of him to prove that she is the real deal. They need to try to convince him verbally first. The show progresses per schedule, but when Dorian is killed, they quickly realize that they have all been set up. There never was a show; what they have become involved in a supernatural snuff film, and they are the stars. One by one, they are being picked off, and it all to quickly turns into a real-life version of Survivor, only this time to be voted off is to lose your life. Can Kitty and crew, normally the predators in their world, survive being systematically hunted, or had Kitty finally met her match?

Well, all of my fears were for nothing. I think Kitty's House of Horrors is one of the best books in the Kitty Norville series. Kitty shines in this book, and we also get to see a side of her we rarely get to see. Through most of the series, Kitty has relied on the help of other supernaturals to get her out of a jam, but here, although there are other supernaturals present, they all seem to look to her for leadership, which is a situation she has tried her best to avoid most of her life. She just wants to be left alone, but she often finds herself in situations where she is reluctantly required to assume the role of leadership. It is because of her hesitancy that she often needs to rely on others. She does not want to give in fully to the beast within her; she feels that to do so would cost her humanity. However, in this book, if she wants to survive, she has to rely on wolf; she has to give in to the predatory nature of the animal within while maintaining the level-headedness of her human side. Wolf wants to run, but the alpha human side of Kitty feels the need to protect those she is with. She is literally backed into a corner, and that is the worst thing you can do to an animal.

I like that Vaughn brought back characters from past books in addition to introducing a few new ones. It ties them all together and foreshadows of bigger things to come. There's mention made of The Game, which involves the vampires. Anastasia implies that Kitty has a key role in this political power play. It seems that everything that's happening is preparing her for this role, a role she doesn't want. While I like this development, it strikes a sad chord within me, as it means the series will more than likely be wrapping up soon.

I would love to be able to recommend this book, but it isn't a stand alone novel. I do think it is one of the best in the series so far, but if you haven't followed Kitty's adventures from the beginning, I can't encourage you to read this; however, I can encourage you to start the series. If you have followed Kitty from the beginning and haven't yet picked up this installment, I strongly urge you to do so.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

This Ain't No Maryland Crab Fest

When I was younger, I remember seeing Guy N. Smith's Night of the Crabs on my brother's nightstand. At the time, I was only reading high fantasy, but I remember thinking that it looked awesome. It looked like it would be as much fun as the movies I loved to watch. Of course, by the time I turned my attention to horror fiction, the book was nowhere to be found in the house, not in the house and not in the stores, which is why I got so excited when I saw it had been released on Amazon for the Kindle. I was finally going to get a chance to read it.

It started with Milton Hogarth, a corporate schmuck about to go down for embezzlement. He's planning on faking his own death in order to escape prosecution, so when he really does go missing, nobody takes notice. However, when Ian Wright and Julie Coles go missing, presumed drowned, somebody does take notice.

Cliff Davenport doesn't buy the explanation he's been given by the authorities concerning his nephew's disappearance. Ian and Julie were both strong swimmers, so a simple drowning doesn't seem likely. There has to be something more to their disappearance, but he can't for the life of him figure out what it might be. Determined to find out the truth concerning his nephew's disappearance, he takes a little trip to Barmouth, a little town on the coast of Wales, to do a little investigating of his own. He sets up base camp at a local Bed and Breakfast run by an old friend, who wastes no time trying to play matchmaker between Cliff and a young divorcee. Not know what he he's looking for, he agrees to let Pat Benson join him while he investigates his nephew's disappearance. What he discovers is far beyond anything he could have expected. The stretch of beach known as Shell Island, as well as the surrounding areas, has become the hunting grounds for a nest of giant crabs.

Davenport reaches out to his contacts in the military, and at first he is treated with ridicule and disbelief, but when the evidence presents itself, it becomes an all-out war for survival. The only problem is, is the military smart enough to outsmart the crabs, which appear to have the ability to think, reason, communicate, and strategize.

I had mixed feelings while reading Night of the Crabs. A part of me loved it because I love those old B movies like Tarantula, The Deadly Mantis. and all those other giant bug movies, but the issues I had with the book outweigh the pleasure I took away from it. For those of you who know me, you know that I am against romance in horror fiction; I find it forced, poorly timed, and progresses way too quickly. The relationship that develops between Cliff Davenport and Pat Benson is a perfect representation of everything I find wrong with romance in horror. Cliff is supposed to be looking for his missing nephew. First and foremost in his mind should be finding his missing relative, not this woman he just met. And once the crabs enter the picture, getting rid of them should be first priority, especially when you believe they killed your relative. However, Cliff at one point is ready to chuck everything and leave in order to protect the woman he loves. Loves?! He just met her. And the author mentions during the course of the narration that something like three weeks has elapsed during all this, and they are already planning a wedding. This was a sticking point for me, and no matter what I was reading, I kept coming back to this—they've only known each other three weeks and already they're engaged. The other thing that kept playing in my mind is, our dear Ms Benson is just out of a really bad marriage. Would she be jumping into this kind of relationship so soon?

The other sticking point for me was the writing. Night of the Crabs wasn't badly written, but I did get the impression that it was targeted towards a teen audience. It seemed like every time the characters were mentioned, Smith used the full name: Julie Coles did this, Julie Coles did that, Oh my God, the crabs ate Julie Coles; Cliff Davenport met Pat Benson, Cliff Davenport had breakfast with Pat Benson, Cliff Davenport had to get back to the B&B to make sure Pat Benson was safe. It felt as if I wasn't thought to be smart enough to remember the character names and that I was being talked down to. Having to stumble over the full names of each character every time also broke the fluidity of the text.

Do I regret reading Night of the Crabs? No, not when it is considered a cult classic within the genre. Will I read more of Smith's Crab books? Now that I know what I am getting myself into, yes. It will also be interesting to see if the books improve over time. Would I recommend it? Yep, if only because it has reached cult status within the horror genre.

Monday, March 14, 2011

No BONES about it. . .

After five years of being on the air, I recently started watching the television series BONES, starring Emily Deschanel as Dr. Temperance Brennan and David Boreanaz as Special Agent Seeley Booth. I like it. I like it so much that I decided to check out the books the series is supposedly based one. First in the series of books written by Kathy Reichs is Déjà Dead. The fact that the main character of the books is named Temperance Brennan is about the only similarity the book has to the series.

Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who works in affiliation with the Canadian Police Department. She is usually called in when older bones are discovered and they need to determine their age or cause of death. Her current case involves something more recent, a young woman who was murdered and dismembered. Something is triggered in her mind as she seems to recollect another murder victim who died under similar circumstances. When she brings up the similarities to the police, they refuse to even consider it, so Brennan, who has no police training, takes it upon herself to find the killer of, as it turns out, five women. Can she do it, or will she just bungle things and end up having to be rescued by the people who should be investigating?

Reading Déjà Dead, I was quickly reminded why I stay away from certain types of fiction. When Reichs started going into the details of how certain lab procedures were done, while interesting, the story for me came to a grinding halt. It struggled to find a balance between the scientific aspect and the police procedural, and the transitions were not fluid.

Another stumbling block was the language. Reichs seemed to feel it necessary to give us the original French of some dialogue, immediately followed by the English translation. The infrequency with which this occurred made it seem like a gimmick to up the word count slightly and I don't feel it was necessary. It was another screeching halt moment, where everything is moving along smoothly, and then there's a line of French, followed by the English translation: it felt like I was backtracking. If Reichs didn't feel comfortable trusting the reader to be able to figure out what was being said, then it shouldn't have been there, especially when the rest of the dialogue continues in English.

I also couldn't shake the feeling while I was reading that I was reading a young adult novel. We are supposed to be dealing with a well-educated professional woman, but she behaves more like Nancy Drew when she takes off to investigate without thinking things through. She repeatedly places herself in perilous situations because of her own carelessness, and only after she's knee-deep in it does she stop and think that maybe she shouldn't have done this. The one advantage the teen sleuth has over Brennan is that Drew at least has the foresight to tell her people—friends, adults, parents—where she's going to be. There's always going to be someone who can go to the cops and say, "Nancy's in trouble." Brennan keeps everything close to her, not sharing until she's good and ready. Granted, she's in a male-dominated field, and the men treat her like more like an annoyance than a professional, but you can't blame them if this is the way she acts.

I reluctantly have to admit that I might be judging Déjà Dead a little too harshly, and if I am, it's probably because it wasn't what I was expecting. Having gotten to know Brennan via the television series, I was expecting a novelization of the series, but that isn't what I got. The calm, confident forensic anthropologist who knows her way around the lab like the back of her hand but whose social ineptness makes her so endearing is nowhere to be seen on this book. Nor do we see the suave Seeley Booth who can find his way around a crime scene with his eyes closed, but can't seem to see what's right in front of him when it comes to the chemistry between him and Brennan. The Brennan of the television series would never think of investigating on her own because she knows her strengths and weaknesses, and they are not police procedural work. The Brennan of Déjà Dead seems to think of herself as some sort of superwoman, somebody who is infallible and immune to physical harm until she puts herself in the thick of things and only then thinks it wasn't such a good idea. Between the two, I'm more drawn to the television series.

Does that mean I won't read another of Reich's Temperance Brennan mysteries? I can honestly say, "I don't know." If I do, it won't be for awhile. Does that mean you shouldn't pick this up? I'm not one to tell people what they should and shouldn't read; I only recommend what I think people might like based on my own feelings, and unfortunately,
Déjà Dead is not high on my list of book recommendations.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bigfoot Walks Tonight

As a kid, I had a thing for all things monsters. Who didn't? My passion for dinosaurs gave way to Nessie, Yetis, Bigfoot, etc. In fact, for awhile I even entertained fantasies of becoming a monster hunter. I was going to be the one to prove all these mythical creatures existed. Well, that didn't last long, but I never lost my interest in these creatures, which is why I just had to read Eric S. Brown's Bigfoot War.

As a kid, Jeff Taylor witnessed something no kid should ever have to go through—the murder of is father and younger brother. The authorities chalked it up to a bear attack, but Jeff knew the truth. Now, all grown up, Jeff is back for revenge on the creature that killed his family.

When Jeff reveals the real reason he's come home, he is greeted with ridicule and disbelief, but the townspeople rapidly come to realize that Jeff speaks the truth. There is a blood-hungry Bigfoot roaming the forests surrounding their town. With the help of Sheriff Becca May and her deputies, they dispatch the killer, but it soon becomes apparent that the one they killed is not alone. According to the town "medical examiner", the markings on this creature label it as either a "holy man" or an outcast, and based on the reaction of the other creatures in the forest, it's a safe bet to say they killed the leader of the Bigfoot community. They are angry, and they want revenge. Are Becca and her team of deputies enough to save the town's residents from an army of furious sasquatch? Can they hold back the army of furred warriors long enough for help to arrive?

I wasn't disappointed with Bigfoot War, but I did have one issue with the book. Reading it, it quickly becomes clear that Brown has a blatant disregard for the reader's emotional attachment to the characters they encounter in the book. Just when you begin to like a character or feel sorry for what they have endured, the character is gone, a victim of the furry fury that is laying waste to the town. It literally becomes a guessing game as to who will see things through to the end. Once you realize that you shouldn't invest any emotional energy in the characters, you can enjoy the ride. . . and what a ride. The book is a fast-paced roller coaster ride of savage fury, blood, and guts (yes, I'm a gore whore) that will have you turning the pages long into the night. The visuals Brown creates are vivid, and it plays like a movie in your mind. In fact, the book reads like a detailed treatment for a movie and does bring to mind the B-movies I so loved growing up, and still love to this day. It screams for a sequel, which I hope Brown is considering. If have a love for gory horror films and like your books fast paced, I can't recommend Bigfoot War enough.

Sex-Crazed Zombies?

I am rapidly developing a love of all things zombie, especially since my publishing debut was in a zombie-themed anthology, and my second story (to be published in June) will also be in a zombie-themed collection. Therefore, I think it's only natural for me to check out what else is out there. One of the books that I downloaded a few months ago and kept putting off in favor of something else is Armand Rosamilia's Highway to Hell. I should have put it off a little bit longer.

Now don't get me wrong. It wasn't a bad book, or badly written for that matter. It's just that I'm a traditionalist when it comes to zombies. It's one of the reasons why I can't stand to watch the re-imaging of Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Zombies are supposed to be slow-moving shamblers, not corpses on speed ready to run a marathon. And they certainly don't have. . . Well, I'm getting ahead of myself.

As with most zombie fiction, Highway to Hell is a survival story. The central character is Randy, and he drifts from town to town looking for other survivors, for a safe haven. What he finds is Becca. Or that's the name she gives him. Becca seems to live in a constant state of denial, claiming she can be whoever she wants to be, names don't matter much anymore. And why be truthful about the nobody existence you lead before the dead started walking. You can be anybody you want to be. Randy has been alone for so long, he has it in his head rather quickly that he and Becca are going to set up house together. It quickly becomes apparent that Becca has ulterior motives. She's a user, and very quickly reminded me of the bimbos in Zombieland. I so wanted them to get chomped much the way I want Becca to get chomped. As the story progresses, Becca's bitch-ness becomes more apparent; Randy is trying his best to make life, such as it is, more bearable for both of them while Becca is only concerned about what's best for Becca. There's one point in the story where she actually abandons him in a zombie-filled hospital with little means of protecting himself. You'd think this guy would wise up after awhile, and just when you think he's about to, Becca the slut distracts him with the promise of sex. Does Becca's bitchy selfishness earn her a justly deserved zombie chomping, or does Randy's little head lead to his demise? You'll have to read it to find out.

Reading Highway to Hell, I got the impression that Rosamilia was going purely for shock value, which I think is the story's downfall. As I mentioned earlier, I'm a traditionalist when it comes to zombies. The should be slow-moving and hungry; they should not be sprinters, they should not be jumpers, and they most definitely NOT be sex crazed. Rosamilia's zombies are slow, they are hungry, and they most definitely are horny. In fact, the book opens with two zombies gang-banging a girl barely alive: "Randy watch, repulsed as the two male zombies took turns dead-fisting the barely-alive girl anally." I knew right then and there I was in trouble. Don't get me wrong; I am not a prude. I just have MAJOR issues with sex in horror. I find it to be a poorly timed plot device to catch the "victims" with their pants down, so to speak. And in this instance, to start a book that way, it has to be done purely for shock value, an attempt to push the gross-out factor to the limit. In this case, it failed miserably. I wasn't shocked by it, but I was disgusted by it, but not in the way it was intended. I merely rolled my eyes, took a deep breath, and read on, hoping things got better.

The sex aside, Highway to Hell is not a bad story. The character of Randy is likable enough (even when you want to smack him upside the head to wake him up), and you keep hoping Becca will do something to redeem herself so that you can like her. The descriptions are rich in detail, making it very easy to envision the desolate city landscape in which the story takes place. However, I did feel the scenes of domesticity slowed the pace of the story, just short of plodding along. Once you pass the halfway point and the apartment building is left in the dust, the pacing increases to a rather explosive climax that is worth the wait. All in all, I feel this is an admirable effort on the author's part, and if you are a die-hard zombie fan that just has to read every worthwhile piece of zombie fiction that is published, Highway to Hell is worth adding to your library. However, if you prefer your zombies to be more traditional (a la Romero), you might want to pass this one by.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Not Since PSYCHO Have Showers Been This Terrifying

With the pile of books that I have waiting in the wings, it's rare that I "borrow" books from people, and when people recommend books, I usually make a note of it and maybe I'll get to it, maybe I won't. Daniel Pyle's Down the Drain came recommended to me by a friend, and at first I was going to pass it by, but then I saw it was a small file (yes, I read it on the Kindle), and therefore knew it would be a quick read. I never expected to become so engrossed with it that I wouldn't want to put it down. I will note, however, that after the first chapter, I almost did put it down. I'll get to that later.

When Bruce's cat disappears, he's more than just a little upset. The cat has been a part of his family for over ten years and his only real friend since his girlfriend walked out. She's nowhere in the house, and the only thing he can think of that might explain her disappearance is that she had somehow managed to sneak out and she was lying dead in a ditch somewhere. Never in his wildest dreams would he guess the truth of what happened to his feline companion. But he's about to find out. It seems there's something living under Bruce's house. Well, that's not exactly right. There's something living in the plumbing, something that surfaces through the drain in the shower. There's really not much more I can say without giving too much away, but suffice it to say, there is a showdown. Who wins? You'll just have to pick it up to see.

I was kind of puzzled initially when I started reading Down the Drain, figuring I was going to be reading the story from the thing's point of view, but it didn't take long to realize that the first chapter is written from the POV of a cat. So we, the reader, know exactly what happened to Bruce's favorite feline. And this is where I almost put the book down. You see, I'm a sucker for animals. Yes, I love me some horror fiction, and you can maim, mutilate, butcher, cannibalize, and torture as many people as you want and it doesn't bother me (yes, I'm sick, I know it), but pleasepleaseplease leave the animals alone. Kill off an animal and you run the risk of losing me as a reader. That's just the way I am. BUT I persevered with this one. Why? It was short. I finished it in about an hour, hour and a half tops. And because my friend said she had really liked it.

Once I got past the kitty killing, I admit I enjoyed Down the Drain. The central (only) character is likable enough, and the creature, as far-fetched as it was, was interestingly original. I did find it a tad predictable, but I pushed on hoping to find out more about the origins of the creature. Yes, it was what I thought it was, but I wanted to know HOW it came into being. Unfortunately, that is never explained. It was well written and well plotted, and with an ending that leaves it wide open for a sequel. Pyle is an author I will definitely be reading more of—provided he stops killing defenseless animals in stories. If you have an hour or two to kill, I would definitely recommend checking this one out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Feels Like The First Time. . .

Have you ever found an author that you like? Somebody who has been publishing for awhile, somebody who has a back list but who is entirely new to you? You absolutely love this author and wish you had discovered them earlier because now you have so much to catch up on. Wouldn't it have been great if you had been able to get in on the ground floor, so to speak. Well, here's your chance. First Time Dead is a two volume zombie anthology published by May December Publications and edited by TW Brown. All of the stories contained between the covers have been written by first-time authors. Now before you go rolling your eyes, let me say this. . . I was impressed. And for me to say that about a collection of short stories. . . Well, if you've read my past reviews, you know how much I dread them because they are usually inconsistent.

I mentioned that First Time Dead is a two-volume anthology; however, please note that I am only going to be covering Volume 2 in this review, which gets off to a kick-ass start with "In This House I Dwell" by Ron Harris. The zombie apocalypse is already underway when the story opens, and Harris' tale of survival of a man and his wife veers from the norm because some of the zombies are evolving, regaining the ability to speak, think, and reason. But is there something darker at work here?

DA Chaney explores the possible origins of the outbreak with "Zombie Bites: The Old Dead", combining the decaying zombies we all know and love with a hint of the more traditional zombies of The Islands.

With "Ooky" Matthew R. Davis paints a classic portrait of adolescent one-upmanship as a young couple pass regaling each other with past sexual exploits. While the zombie action is low in this one, the story itself proves to be one you won't quickly forget.

Joe Blevins' "Once More Without Feelings" does not deal with the zombie apocalypse, which we have come to expect with zombie anthologies, but delves more into Voodoo idealogy. Blevins proves that when you got it, you got it, even when you're dead.

Donny Chavez shows us what a "day in the life" of a handful of survivors must be like in "Snow Days". Of all the stories, this is one that I feel could very easily be expanded upon. It has the same feel to it as The Walking Dead.

Alexandro Rios offers up a more analytical view of the outbreak in "Zombies in Puerto Rico: Island of the Dead," in which an ex-reporter witness and blogs about the breakout as it occurs.

"The Last Legacy" by Amanda Larson focuses on a mother and her two children who decide to stay in their remote island home, literally cut off from the outside world, and how the community pulls together to survive the outbreak.

Eric Pollarine's "The Mission" takes us underground, as the survivors of the zombie apocalypse take to the sewers and underground tunnels. This is one of the most desolate stories in this volume, as it shows the hopelessness of the "new world", that not matter what you do to survive, eventually you will be joining the ranks of the walking dead.

Jason Thacker takes a more comic approach to the zombie tale with "The Hungriest Zombie" as he tells his tale from the zombie's point of view. This is the first zombie story I've come across where, between the chuckles, I actually felt sorry for the zombie.

"Rude Awakening" by David Maynard is a heartbreaking tale of a father losing his family one by one to the outbreak. The ending of this tale is chilling and memorable.

In "Zombie by Night" Aaron Phillips takes a unique experimental approach to the zombie theme that has a vampiric feel to it as he tells of a man's search for his brother's murderer.

Gregory A. Carter is the only author to have the zombie affliction spread to the animal population in "What the Cat Dragged In". It's a story of love, loss, despair, and hopelessness as a young couple prepares to flee the city for what they hope will be a safer area.

While not all the stories in First Time Dead Volume 2 will be for everybody (and that can be said about every anthology), there's no denying the talent that exists between the covers of this collection. The stories are well crafted and well written, and if you are a fan of zombie fiction, I would highly recommend checking it out. I don't think you'll be disappointed.