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review 2020-04-13 16:37
Anything is improved by adding a dinosaur, or more!
Mountain Climbing with Dinosaurs - Doug Goodman

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

This is my first book by Goodman, and it was a ride on the wild side.  I suspect it won’t be the last of his books I read, either.

OK, from the title you probably guessed that the book is about mountain climbing. Check! It also has dinosaurs. Check! I chose the book because I thought that, in the current situation (Coronavirus, I’m talking about you again), I needed something that would grab my attention and  keep it away from what has become a reality that feels like a badly written dystopian novel. And yes, it did that, for sure, but it also did much more than that. I know very little about mountain climbing, and I’ve only attempted to climb a climbing wall once in my life (climbing wasn’t a problem, but I didn’t like the ropes and wasn’t good at handling them, in case you wonder), but I’m always intrigued by mountaineering adventures, and well, dinosaurs. I couldn’t resist the combination. But the back story of the climb was fascinating in its own right. The description only refers to it in passing, but the two twins who are the main protagonists of the story (Travis and Brady), are doing it for a very good reason. They have been climbers since they were children, recently survived a school shooting, and are doing the climb in remembrance of their dead schoolmates. Thirteen of their friends died in the shooting, and they’ve decided to climb thirteen mountains and leave a memorial on top of each one of the mountains, one of each of their friends. The book manages to touch on survivor’s guilt, and also on the feelings of those indirectly involved in the shootings, relatives of victims and perpetrators, while at the same time keeping the focus on the climbing and the dinosaurs (and these are not the friendly kind, believe me). It keeps a good balance between pure adventures and more serious topics, and although at times the most technical aspects of the mountain climbing got lost to me, that didn’t impede my enjoyment of the story. I don’t want to go into the plot too much, because although some of it you can probably imagine, there are subtler aspects that are best left for readers to discover.

I have talked about some of the themes of the book. The dinosaurs, that I guess will be one of the main attractions of the book, are not the best-known and most familiar to the general public, and the creatures, that in this story have been brought back to life by Big Pharma, seem well –researched (although I’m no authority on dinosaurs). Not being an expert in mountain climbing, as I said, I cannot judge how accurate the techniques and equipment mentioned are, but they rang true to me, and I again think the research has paid off. The book also deals in themes that I was more familiar with, like the psychological aftermath of a school shooting, and it does so with a fine touch and sensitivity. Although the writing style is completely different, it reminded me of Hunter Shea’s Creature. That also made me think that although the dinosaurs are “real” within the book, they could also be read as symbolising what the twins are going through, and so could some of the other strange events that happen within the novel (and I’ll keep my peace about that as well).

This is not a book with many characters, and most of the action is narrated in the first person by one of the twin climbers, Travis, so we get a very direct perspective on what is going on, and an insight into how he sees events, and also how he remembers the things that happened, and his understanding of his brothers’ actions and feelings. We also get some short inserts where the cameraman interviews relatives and friends of the twins, to help him create the documentary of the climb. These characters are not part of the action, but those fragments offer us a different and larger perspective into the twins, and also into their background and their previous stories. The two twins are the main characters, although the filmmaker and the photographer also play a small part in the main action. But there are other characters that also pertain in the story, because their memory is very much alive, and those are some of the other victims of the shooting, and though we don’t get to know them all individually, we feel them there every step of the climb. The dinosaurs are also characters, and we get enough information about them to get a good sense of their different outlooks and characteristics. I wouldn’t want any of them as pets, believe me!

The writing style is direct, and easy to follow (apart from the use of specific mountain climbing terminology at times), and there is enough description of the mountain, the climbing techniques, and the dinosaurs to allow readers to get a clear picture in their minds (yes, it would make a great movie, if the special effects were done well). There are some instances of telling rather than showing, necessary to provide the information general readers would need to understand the action and the behaviour of the dinosaurs, but they do not interfere with the flow of the story. As I said, most of the novel is written in the first-person, and I know some readers don’t like it, but I thought it suited it well. Some scenes are quite violent and graphic, so I wouldn’t recommend it to squeamish readers. As I always say, I’d recommend future readers to check a sample of the novel and see if they think the style suits their taste.

The ending is suitable to the genre of the book —I don’t think anybody would expect a conventional happy ending—, but I thought it worked well, considering the story and the events. And yes, the epilogue was very fitting. A quick word of warning. The story only occupies 90% of the e-book, and it’s followed by a teaser from another book, although I confess I wouldn’t mind reading Demon Flyer at all.

A solid read, with its scary moments (it did remind me of Jaws at times), and a deeper and more meaningful story than most readers would expect from the title. It demonstrates that any book can be improved by the introduction of a dinosaur, or a few.  Recommended to lovers of mountain climbing, dinosaurs, and to readers looking for creature horror with a bit of backstory and depth.

I’d suggest to the writer and publishers the inclusion of a list of mountain climbing terminology, with links, and also a list of the dinosaurs and their characteristics, as that would avoid distractions and enrich the reading experience.

 

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review 2020-03-22 19:26
FEAR OF FREE STANDING OBJECTS: A COLLECTION by Doug Rinaldi
Fear of Free Standing Objects: A Collection - Doug Rinaldi

FEAR OF FREE STANDING OBJECTS: A COLLECTION is an impressive and imaginative group of stories that swept through me like a slow moving storm and left me like jello, shivering on the floor.

 

I can't list my thoughts on all of them here, but the ones that blew me away were:

 

AN INCIDENT IN CENTRAL VILLAGE- Pond monsters!

 

THE YATTERING-A haunted bookstore. Already, with the title and subject alone, it screams my name.

 

THE SICKENING-At this point in time, what with COVID19 and its effects, this tale was even scarier than it otherwise would have been.

 

At least COVID19 doesn't make us kill each other. At least not yet.

 

AND THE HITS JUST KEEP COMING -A "tables are turned" type of story.

 

LOTUS PETALS: LIMINAL PERSONAE-Body Horror that put me in mind of Geek Love or some of Michael Blumlein's work.

 

SYBARITES (OR THE ENMITY OF PERVERSE EXISTENCE) I don't even know what to say about this other than that this was the tale that cemented my thoughts about how great this collection really was.

 

To be honest, this was a collection where every story worked for me on some level or another. That's a rare occurrence, so I took my time savoring these tales and surrendered myself to whatever it was Mr. Rinaldi wanted to show me. I'm so glad I did!

 

My highest recommendation!

 

Get your copy here: FEAR OF FREE STANDING OBJECTS: A COLLECTION 

 

*Thanks to Doug Rinaldi for the paperback arc in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

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review 2020-03-12 22:30
THE ROO by Alan Baxter
The Roo - Alan Baxter

Romping, chomping, creature-feature FUN!

 

I was on the outskirts of the Twitter community that spawned the idea for this story. It was fun to see most of those Tweeters turned into characters and killed in the book.

 

Perhaps a bit heavy on the anti-domestic violence message, but that didn't spoil the overall fun.

 

Recommended for fans of creature-features!

 

*I purchased this novella with my hard earned cash.*

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review 2020-02-22 07:00
Creature by Hunter Shea
Creature (Fiction Without Frontiers) - Hunter Shea

Wow. I'm shook. Like, crying on my couch needing to watch Forensic Files to calm down shook. 

 

When I checked out this book, it was a leap of faith based on a review from Char's Horror Corner. After all, this is the same writer who felt it was important to describe the penis of the Jersey Devil. So to read a book packed with so much emotion, deep characters, and really dark subjects knocked me off my feet to be sure. 

 

The book is a bit of a slow burn but it's far from boring. Andrew and Kate are such a good duo and I love reading about their day to day life, even if it was mundane. The scares were awesome and so true to the Bigfoot form. 

 

 

It wasn't REALLY a Bigfoot, which kinda disappointed me, but it honestly really had nothing to do with the enjoyment of the story

 

(spoiler show)

 

 

It would have been easy to write Kate or Andrew in a way that would be completely obnoxious. Kate could have been a "woe is me" whiner and Andrew could have been the unsympathetic, resentful husband, both of which I would have hated. And while there were flavors of this in their character, there were just as many wonderful traits that made me love both of them even when those traits came through.

 

Overall, I'm just REALLY impressed by this book. It connected to me in a way that I wasn't expecting and stirred up emotions I wasn't expecting to be stirred. That exactly what I hope for from a good book.

 

Final rating: 5/5 It was so much more than I was expecting.

 

Final thought: I can't decide if I wish there was more monster genitalia or not.

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review 2020-02-17 12:02
Creature horror with a nostalgic feel
Highway Twenty - Michael J. Moore

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

This is the first book by this author I’ve read (no, he is not “the” Michael Moore we have all heard about), and I was attracted by the description and the genre. It reminded me of TV series and movies I’d enjoyed, and it delivered on its promise.

I think the description shares enough information for most readers to get a good sense of what the story is about. I guess readers of horror would classify it as “creature” horror, and as I read it, quite a number of titles, mostly of movies and TV series, came to my mind: The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, V, Slither, Star Trek’s The Borg, The Blob, and a novella I read a while back that I thoroughly enjoyed, Broken Shells. Although I love horror, the more I read in this genre, the more I realise I haven’t read yet, and I must admit not having read many in this subgenre, so I am not sure what its usual fans would think, or how original they would find it. As I said, for me it brought to mind some aspects of many movies and TV series I had watched, and it grabbed my attention and kept me reading. Is it scary? It’s creepy, and rather than making one jump or scream, imagining what it would be like to fall victim to these creatures is the stuff of nightmares and it will keep playing in one’s mind.

This book is pretty action driven, with short scenes that keep the story moving, and although like many stories about alien invasion they can be read in a variety of ways, and they seem to pick up on underlying fears (issues of identity, what is true and what is not, what makes us what we are, illnesses and epidemics, the end of the world…), the book does not delve too deep into any of those and it never makes openly acknowledges such connections, or veers into conspiracy theory terrain. It is just what it is, and that’s pretty refreshing.

Although the book follows a number of characters, the two main characters are Conor Mitchell —a man in his early twenties, who loves his car, enjoys his job as a mechanic, has a sort of girlfriend, some family issues, and does not appear to be hero material—, and Percly, the town’s homeless man, who sleeps in a disused train and does not bother anybody. The figure of the reluctant hero is a common trope in literature, and particularly prominent in American Literature, and these two are prime examples of it. They are thrown into a critical situation, and by a fluke of fate, both of them seem to be in a better position than most to fight the creatures. We learn more about them both as the story progresses, and they are fairly likeable, although, as I said, not standard heroes. We get snippets of other characters during the story, but due to the nature of the story, we don’t get a chance to learn much about them, and other than because many of them end up being victims of the events, we hardly have time to feel attached or even sorry for them.

The story is narrated in the third person, from alternating points of view. In fact, this is what most made me think of movies and TV series in this genre when I was reading this novel, because suddenly there would be a chapter where a new character would be introduced, and we would follow them for a while, learning how they feel about things, and perhaps thinking they would become a major player in the story, only for the rug to be pulled from under our feet. Yes, nobody is safe, and like in movies where a murderer picks at characters and kills them one by one, here although some of the characters keep “returning”, and we even peep into the minds of the creatures, we are not allowed to get comfortable in our seats. Readers need to be attentive, as the changes in point of view, although clearly marked, can be quite sudden. Ah, and I must admit the prologue is fantastic. For all the advice on writing books against including a prologue, Moore here clearly demonstrates that when used well, they can drag readers into the story, kicking and screaming, and keep them firmly hooked.

I’ve mentioned the short scenes and the cinematic style of writing. There are no long descriptions, and although there is plenty of creepy moments, and some explicit content, in my opinion the author plays more with the psychological aspects of fear, the fact that we don’t know who anybody is and what is real and what is not, and he is excellent at making readers share in the confusion of the main characters, and in their uncertainty about what to do next. Run, fight, hide? Although there is the odd moment of reflection, that allows readers to catch their breath a bit and also helps  fill in some background details about the characters, mostly the book moves at a fast pace, and it will keep lovers of the genre turning the pages.

The ending is particularly interesting. I enjoyed it, and it ends with a bang, as it should, but there is also an epilogue that puts things into perspective, and it works in two ways: on the one hand, it fills in the gaps for readers who prefer a closed ending with everything settled; on the other, it qualifies the ending of the story, putting an ambiguous twist on it. (And yes, I liked the epilogue as well).

All in all, this is an action book, with fairly solid characters who although are not by-the-book heroes are easy to warm to, with a somewhat disorienting and peculiar style of narration that enhances the effect of the story on the reader. I’d recommend it to those who love creature horror, and to people not too squeamish, who enjoy B-series movies, and who love to be kept on their toes. An author to watch.

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