Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Vanishing Girl (Daphne and Velma #1) by Josephine Ruby

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*No Major Spoilers*

Popular Daphne Blake and über-nerd Velma Dinkley are not friends. They aren’t enemies either, but they don’t have any reason to speak to each other, and that’s how they prefer it. The two girls grew up together—they’d been best friends since pre-K—but when they hit middle school, Daphne dropped Velma and never looked back.

These days, Daphne’s deep in the popular crowd, daughter of the richest family in town, while Velma’s an outsider, hiding from the world behind her thick glasses. When they run into each other in the halls of Crystal Cove High, they look the other way.

But then Daphne’s best friend, Marcy—who happens to be Velma’s cousin—goes missing. A century ago, there was a wave of disappearances in Crystal Cove, and many local people believe that supernatural forces were behind it. Now the whole town believes those same forces are back…and up to no good.

Daphne and Velma may be the only ones who can solve the mystery and save Marcy—if they can trust each other enough to try. Especially since the truth might be stranger—and scarier—than either girl can imagine…

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If you are a fan of the Scooby-Doo franchise, the fan service is all here. You have references to fan-favorite characters, as well as characters the author created herself. So let’s see how The Vanishing Girl stands up to the typical Scooby-Doo formula.

This novel handles a lot of difficult topics in a very realistic way. Daphne is dealing with the hurt of her parents being divorced and co-parenting. Velma is dealing with being an outcast to everyone around her while her dad is suffering from crippling depression and her mom is the manager at the local theme park. Not only that, but Velma is also working at the same amusement park just to help her family make ends meet.

I felt the issues were handled as any teenager would handle something they couldn’t see the big picture of. Wounds take time to heal, and this novel shows us this throughout the unraveling mystery. After so many hurtful words and actions between Velma and Daphne, they’re not going to be going back to being BFFs overnight.

The mystery of who or what is haunting Crystal Cove is your typical Scooby mystery, a case that seems complex but actually, once solved and explained, is pretty simple. However, since it’s primarily Velma and Daphne working on the case, Shaggy, Scooby, or Fred make many appearances throughout the story.

Even though I was able to solve the mystery before Velma and Daphne, I felt the emotional ride the author took us on was more important and more valuable than the mystery itself. I had to take small breaks at points in the novel to keep myself from getting upset. So get those tissues ready when you read this one!

Overall, as easy as it is to write this off as glorified fanfiction, I really enjoyed The Vanishing Girl. The mystery is well thought out and the drama feels genuine and realistic. I would highly recommend this novel to fans of the Scooby-Doo franchise, fans of female detectives, and young adult readers alike.

Read more of my Scooby-Doo reviews if you enjoyed this review.

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Posted in Movie/TV Reviews

REVIEW: Blacksad: Under the Skin

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*No Major Spoilers*

**This Game and Series is rated M (Video Game Terms) or R (Movie Terms)**

Blacksad: Under the Skin is set in New York City during the 1950s, and takes place chronologically between Blacksad: Arctic Nation and Red Soul. Its story begins when protagonist John Blacksad is approached by Sonia Dunn, daughter of a boxing club owner who has died suspiciously. She asks Blacksad to investigate the situation and locate the club’s starfighter, who has been missing since her father’s death. So it’s up to Blacksad to solve the case, or the daughter will have to shut down her father’s gym forever.

I love the Blacksad series. I am a huge fan of crime noir and hardboiled detectives. This is the perfect series for those that love mysteries and anthropomorphic animals. Blacksad is a private detective who deals with the scum of the Earth. He likes to help others when he can, especially if they are a helpless female.

This game is a must for mystery lovers and visual novels alike. Just when you think you have solved the case before Blacksad, the game throws a wrench in your theory. There were several theories Blacksad had and I was asking him where he came up with that. Nothing against the character himself, it’s just part of being a detective.

I admire how much joy and care the developers put into this game. I can tell they read and studied the graphic novels and took the material to heart when creating this game. The characters are well written and this case was built in a way where I couldn’t solve it before the Blacksad.

Overall, I love this game and I think it’s worth the money for any fans of Blacksad, crime noir, historical fiction, and hardboiled detectives. This game was well worth the money, although I do recommend waiting for it to go on sale, buy it nonetheless. Blacksad: Under the Skin is a great game for fans of Blacksad or just looking for a new mystery to solve.

Read more about Blacksad here!

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Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Oscawana: A Monster Novel by Frank Martin

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*No Major Spoilers*

*Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault/Child Molestation*

Located just forty-five miles north of New York City and isolated in the hills of Putnam Valley, Lake Oscawana is the perfect summer getaway. At least, that was what April’s mother told her when she dropped April and her brother off to spend the season at their uncle’s lake house. It wasn’t bad at first. April thought she might’ve finally found someone that made her feel like family and a place she could actually call home. But April grew worried when she found something living in the water. Something strange. Something growing. She wanted to tell someone and sound the alarm, but April would have to learn the hard way that not all monsters lurk beneath the water.

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I found this novel on Twitter, a lot of authors I follow retweet their friends’ works. I thought the premise was unique and I couldn’t wait to jump into Oscawana: A Monster Novel!

I feel that the author did a really good job of making Lake Oscawana seem isolated and far away from civilization even though it is in Upstate New York. I felt like I was in the depths of Canada for as far as April had to travel just to get to the nearest small town.

Early in the novel, April stumbles upon the monster when he’s still small and not threatening. They quickly develop a friendship that grows as the monster, who April named Oscar after the lake he lives in, grows in size.

The build-up to the climax is really slow, we’re mostly following April as she watches Oscar grow into an actual killing machine. Even when April comes to this realization, I found Oscar just as adorable and harmless as when April first found him. Oscar reminded me of a genetically modified dog.

April as a character feels so ingenuine from one moment to the next, more or less for the first half of the novel she is your standard teenager who has been let down by the adults around her. Then after the climax, her motives and reasons flip flop. I can’t go into more detail due to spoilers, but it was frustrating.

Shocked, Brad pulled back from the water and watched in horror as what he assumed to be blood spread out like a blooming flower. The crimson tinge was thick and slimy, bouncing a blinding ray of light in Brad’s eyes. He couldn’t look away, though. Brad stared at the ever-expanding slick of blood as it continued to grow until it completely surrounded the boat. –Oscawana: A Monster Story

I feel the ending to be lackluster, the ending feels like there could have been enough for a sequel or even a short story sequel. The ending left me feeling unsatisfying and left me with a lot of questions. Will April reunite with Oscar? Where did Oscar come from? What will happen to Oscar? Maybe these questions will be answered in some way.

Overall, I have mixed feelings towards Oscawana. I think it’s an alright story. I was expecting more monster action but was disappointed when 80% was about the human characters and their drama. If you’re looking for a quick read, I would recommend this novel. The action was great, and the heart and emotion were as well.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: God of War by Matthew Stover and Robert E. Vardeman

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*Possible Spoilers for the God of War Games*

A brutal warrior, Kratos is a slave to the gods of Olympus. Plagued by the nightmares of his past and yearning for freedom, the Ghost of Sparta would do anything to be free of his debt to the gods. He is on the verge of losing all hope when the gods give him one last task to end his servitude.

He must destroy Ares, the god of war.

But what chance does a mere mortal have against a god? Armed with the deadly chained Blades of Chaos, guided by the goddess Athena, and driven by his own insatiable thirst for vengeance, Kratos seeks the only relic powerful enough to slay Ares . . . a quest that will take him deep into the mysterious temple borne by the Titan Cronos!

From the black depths of Hades to the war-torn city of Athens to the lost desert beyond, God of War sheds a brutal new light on the bestselling video game and on the legend of Kratos.

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I have been a fan of Greek Mythology for a long time. With the Percy Jackson series introducing young readers into the mythos in a kid-friendly way, God of War is basically Percy Jackson for adults. The video games are well known for their antihero Kratos, who let his bloodlust go too far and cause pain and death all around him.

If you’re familiar with the video games, then you are familiar with Kratos’ backstory. He is a Spartan who asked Ares to become his apprentice. This decision haunts him as he seeks relief from the nightmares and the decisions his younger self made in the past.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed God of War. The action, adventure, and feelings of other stories inspired by Greek Mythology were enough to keep me enthralled in the story. I haven’t played or watched any of the God of War games myself, but knowing there are novelizations of the games makes me want to continue on the adventure.

I would highly recommend this novel for fans of the Percy Jackson series as well as fans of Greek Mythology in general. There is plenty of action, adventure, and plenty of Greek gods to keep you invested in the story. I can’t wait to jump back into the world and continue on with Kratos.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Ghostland by Duncan Ralston

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*No Spoilers*

After a near-death experience caused by the park’s star haunted attraction, Ben has come to Ghostland seeking to reconnect with his former best friend Lilian, whose post-traumatic stress won’t let her live life to the fullest. She’s come at the insistence of her therapist, Dr. Allison Wexler, who tags along out of professional curiosity, eager to study the new tech’s psychological effect on the user.

But when a computer virus sets the ghosts free and the park goes into lockdown, the trio finds themselves trapped in an endless nightmare.

With time running short and the dead quickly outnumbering the living, the survivors must tap into their knowledge of horror and video games to escape… or become Ghostland’s newest exhibits.

”If they didn’t get out of there soon, they would all die at the hands of the exhibits, then they too would become a part of Ghostland, a part of Garrote’s ghost army.” – Ghostland

I found this novel when I renewed my Kindle Unlimited subscription. I found the concept of a haunted amusement park to be intriguing and exciting. The thought of ghosts being the museum exhibits instead of the objects or buildings being the exhibits.

I will warn you upfront, this novel gets to be a gorefest at points. So if you are the squeamish type, I’d pass on this one. Otherwise, it is clearly a love letter to the classic horror movies that weren’t afraid of showing blood and letting out curse words.

I love how the author built this universe from the ground up. He even included footnotes for the ghosts and exhibits in case you wanted to know more about these fictional ghosts. Even though you learned about the barebones of the universe through dialogue and the main characters’ knowledge of the exhibits, it was nice to read more into each of the famous attractions. I think my favorite one was about a guy who got lost in his own mirror maze and ended up cutting off pieces of himself to try and keep from going around in circles.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but each character has depth and personality. Both Ben and Lillian change throughout the novel. Not only through witnessing so much trauma and horror, but just by trying to survive the murderous park. Lillian was so affected by Ben’s near-death that she stopped living life.

I was gripped to the edge of my seat until the epilogue. The anticipation of wanting to know who was going to survive, and who was going to have a gruesome demise kept me guessing until the end. One thing I did like was that the author wasn’t afraid to kill any characters. I often wondered if no one was safe.

I often found myself forgetting that Ben and Lillian were only able to see the ghosts through the artificial reality headsets they wore throughout the majority of the story. I kept forgetting about this and was amazed at how the fictional technology seamlessly blended into the background.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ghostland it was a breath of fresh air to the horror genre for me, the author wasn’t afraid to kill off characters, and even though the story is from the perspective of two teenagers, I feel like it was written for adults. If you are looking for a novel to help with your horror genre burnout, then I would highly recommend Ghostland.

Click here to read an interview I did with Duncan Ralston.

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