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 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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Posted in Author Q&A

Author Q&A with Lee Gabel

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In honor of Mr. Gabel’s upcoming novel, Arachnid 2.0, I’ve reached out to Mr. Gabel for a little interview. I have been following Mr. Gabel for awhile now, and I try to be a part of his community on Twitter.

From Mr. Gabel’s website:

Lee has spent most of his life living on an island in the Pacific Northwest. A certified movie junkie, he has channeled his love for good stories to the printed (and electronic) page.

Why does Lee write? In his own words: “Writing is magic. I’ll never understand how it works the way it does, but I do know if I put energy into it, it rewards me in strange and wonderful ways. Even if I know where I’m going in a story, often I’ll end up being pulled in directions by my characters that I least expect. What ends up on the page never ceases to surprise me, and that’s super cool. Writing continues to be one of the most difficult and most rewarding aspects of my life.”

Lee has worked within the visual and dramatic arts landscape as a graphic designer, illustrator, visual effects artist, animator, screenwriter and author.

Elisha’s Books: Where did the ideas of Vermin 2.0 and Arachnid 2.0 come from?

Mr. Gabel: The genesis of the idea came from having to become a rodent exterminator on my own property in 2008. In the space of a few months, I caught more rats than I care to admit. A few properties down from me, a dirty, run-down house stood vacant and had been that way for years. It was the neighborhood eyesore and affected property values of the surrounding homes. The owner of the property was given an ultimatum: clean up and renovate the place, or demolish it. The owner chose to raze the house, but before that could be done, the community’s health authority needed to inspect the home’s interior for asbestos, lead, and anything else harmful to the environment. That’s when the colony of rats was discovered. Hundreds of them. The air was so bad inside the house that inspectors had to go in wearing hazmat suits and breathing apparatuses. They didn’t use electricity to kill the rats, but in the end, the colony was decimated, and the house was bulldozed soon after. I didn’t see many rats on my property after that, but the idea of a rat-infested living area stuck with me. Since I had hands-on experience as an exterminator, the ideas and images were forefronts in my mind. I wrote a screenplay first (which placed highly in a couple of competitions), then used the screenplay as the basis of the novel.

As for Arachnid 2.0, I had seen a lot of interest in Vermin 2.0, and even though I didn’t intend it to be a series, it moved in that direction organically. A reader sent me an article about a giant spider in Australia, and I’ve got a healthy respect for spiders (they can startle me), I continued the story from there. Most of my ideas come while I’m actually writing, so as I come up with an outline I’m happy with, more ideas pop up. When I write the first draft, more ideas pop up and sometimes I have to adjust the outline a bit for it all to make sense.

Elisha’s Books: I saw that you participating in writers’ workshops, do you find meeting other authors helps you with your writing?

Mr. Gabel: Absolutely. I value all opinions, even though I may not agree with all of them. And that’s okay. I’ll incorporate ideas and suggestions into a story that I feel belong and throw away the rest. Writers that I trust can add a different spin on a subject or story element. If enough people say the same thing, then that’s the time to listen. It’s also just cool to hear what other writers are working on and what is going on in their lives.

Elisha’s Books: On Twitter, you have several posts involving NASA and space in general. What about space inspires you the most?

Mr. Gabel: To me, space and the cosmos offer limitless possibilities, just like the blank page one of a story. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to travel to different planets, but we are limited by our technology and time. In fact, one of my favorite movies is Contact, written by the late, great Carl Sagan. A private industry like SpaceX are making serious progress but we have a long way to go. With my interest in space, many would think that I’m a fan of science fiction, but that’s one genre that I have rarely read and currently have no sci-fi projects on my schedule, except ones that are more contemporary in nature. Perhaps that will change in time.

Elisha’s Books: What was your favorite book or series when you were growing up?

Mr. Gabel: I didn’t read a lot when I was growing up. Perhaps that’s because I read slowly. It’s only been in the last 30 years or so that I’ve made a concerted effort to read more. Recently I’ve started to broaden my interests, reading almost anything contemporary. But my favorite book, and in this case a novella, is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King. The novella was included in King’s 1982 collection Different Seasons. Some more recent favorites include Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell), The Outsider & Elevation (Stephen King), Dark Matter (Blake Crouch), The Woman in Cabin 10 (Ruth Ware), I am Pilgrim (Terry Hayes), and Gone Girl & Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn). Yeah, my genres are all over the place.

Elisha’s Books: Have you ever considered writing a nonfiction title? If so, what would it be about?

Mr. Gabel: Have I thought about it? Yes. Have I seriously thought about it? No. My interests and skills are varied but I don’t think I know enough about one thing to fill a book. I know that’s what research is for, but I’m having too much fun making it all up as I go along. I love dialog and interaction between characters, peril, and twists. Making it non-fiction would hold me back too much. But if the right subject presented itself, who knows! Never say never.

Thanks, Mr. Gabel for answering my questions!

You can get Vermin 2.0 by Lee Gabel here.

You can follow Lee Gabel on Twitter
Facebook
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And BookBub

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Club Reads, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Asylum (Asylum #1) by Madeleine Roux

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*No Major Spoilers*

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it’s a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it’s no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

This was this month’s Book Club read. I voted for it solely from the title alone. Just to be finished with the Gone Girl clones and Stephen King novels was a major factor in my decision for voting for this novel.

“If someone tells you you’re crazy enough times, eventually it becomes true. It’s that old psychiatrist’s joke: insanity’s all in your head.” – Madeleine Roux, Asylum

From all the sleepless nights I’ve spent watching Ghost Adventures, Paranormal State, to several paranormal podcasts, most asylums are preserved as historical sites. Mostly to show how the mentally ill were treated and for Zac Bagans (from Ghost Adventures) to show how “macho” he is.

The subject of psychology and mental health is something near and dear to my heart. Not only do I have an associate’s degree in psychology, but I have always wanted to learn about people and how they think, feel, and react to stressful situations.

Nevertheless, let’s move on to my review.

Besides the fact that any asylum would be converted into a dormitory for a university would be highly improbable. But hey, this is a young adult fiction novel, let’s just go with this idea. It’s not like this novel gets any more ridiculous (insert sarcasm here).

Dan is a relatable character to me. High school was the worst years of my life, but for somewhat different reasons than Dan. So I can understand his excitement at the prospect of making new friends while he’s at this new place.

As weird things start to happen, I start trying to solve the mystery. I think in another life, I could’ve been an FBI agent. Always trying to solve the mysteries that are presented to me. However, I will proudly call myself an “armchair detective”.

I found the mystery and how it affects Dan and his friends intriguing. Who can you trust? The police don’t believe you, so you have to figure it out for yourself. Dan’s grip on his sanity towards the end was understandable. The mysteries and horrors of the asylum are terrifying. Those walls hold the emotions and energies of those who lived and worked there.

This story scratched my itch for a good haunted house story. Even though it was slightly ridiculous, I still enjoyed it all the same. The ending is somewhat predictable, so that was frustrating to me. But hey, what can you do? *shrug*

Overall, I enjoyed this story. There’s horror, psychological horror, murder, and a boy who is losing his sanity the longer he stays at the university. If you’re looking for a decent horror story, then I would recommend this one.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Boneyard (Deadlands #3) by Seanan McGuire

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*Spoilers at the very end of the review*

Step right up to see the oddities and marvels of The Blackstone Family Circus and Travelling Wonder Show! Gasp at pit wasps the size of a man’s forearm. Beware the pumpkin-headed corn stalker, lest it plants its roots in you!

Annie Pearl is the keeper of oddities, the mistress of monsters. Her unique collection of creatures is one of the circus’s star attractions, drawing wide-eyed crowds at every small frontier town they visit. But Annie is also a woman running from her past . . . and the mother of a mute young daughter, Adeline, whom she will do anything to protect.

Hoping to fill its coffers before winter sets in, the circus steers its wagons to The Clearing, a remote community deep in the Oregon wilderness, surrounded by an ominous dark wood. Word is that a traveling show can turn a tidy profit at The Clearing, but there are whispers, too, of unexplained disappearances that afflict one out of every four shows that pass through the town.

The Clearing has its secrets, and so does Annie. And it may take everything she has to save her daughter―and the circus―from both.

I’ve been interested in reading this novel for a while now, it’s been on my ‘to be read’ list for a few years. I felt like it was finally time to jump into this Weird Wild West novel.

Annie’s trailer of oddities made me realize just how far we’ve advanced in science and biology. Her “nibblers” are piranhas, she owns a pet lynx named Serenity, and other monstrosities of nature.

Overall I enjoyed this weird wild west tale. It had plenty of spookiness, horror, action, and adventure. It was worth the wait to be able to add this to the “weird wild west” subgenre.

Here’s a short story collection of Weird Wild West

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

In this story, wendigos are the main antagonists, other than the town itself they are a threat to the circus. The wendigos weren’t something to be taken lightly, the town had made a deal with them to keep them from eating the townsfolk during the harsh winters and to keep outsiders away. The wendigos would attack any outsider that came to the town by either killing them on the spot, kidnapping them and taking them back to their lair to save for later. Which I felt like a convenient circumstance so we can have somewhat of a happy ending to the story.

I first heard of wendigos when I was watching a playthrough of the video game “Until Dawn”. With that said, when I found out the wendigos were a supernatural based entity I did plenty of research on them because they captured my interest. I found them unique and fascinating compared to other supernatural beings and entities talked about in average lore.

This is a book I’d recommend to anyone interested in wendigos, the supernatural, circus stories, and mysteries. It is definitely worth a read, whether you get it from your local library or you buy it, it’s definitely an excellent story.