Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
Author: Stephen King
I read this story particularly because I had seen the movie probably hundreds of times since it came out in 1994 and I figured after all this time I should see which one was better, the novella or the movie adaptation. Most often, the book is better. But in this case, I’d say it’s a really close call.
As with all original novels that films are made from, the novella lacks various things that were in the movie. While some don’t strike me as that big of a deal there are others that I feel had a real impact on the finished film product and the success of the movie once it was released. But first, let’s talk about the book. Then we can get into comparing the two.
There are a number of things that make this a great story. First of all, I think this is a story that any generation would like. It’s not a horror story that is so graphic that it would be inappropriate for teens or young adults, in my opinion. And yet it is a story that adults would like just as much if not more. With Stephen King, it’s not always about the typical gore as many might think. He writes across the entire horror spectrum, leaving readers with a vast selection from which to choose.
This story takes place at a prison. It is about Andy Dufresne and his life in prison after he is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover in a jealous rage. The story is told from Red’s point of view, who was Andy’s friend in prison. Now, if you’ve seen the movie, and I can’t think of anyone I know who hasn’t, you know that Morgan Freeman plays Red. As I read the text of this story the words were processed in my head in Morgan Freeman’s voice as if he were narrating it to me. I didn’t try to do that, it just happened that way because he narrates the movie. I do have to say though, if you can do that, it does make the reading all that much more entertaining.
Being a novella this isn’t one of those two-inch-thick books that we often see King’s name on. The story started with a great lead-in and kept going all the way until the end. The thing is, there weren’t any spots that were what you would think of as typical horror with a bunch of gory, bloody murderous attacks—no moments or swirls of action between characters that are spelled out in graphic detail. The story isn’t really violent or terrifying unless you consider going to prison in itself to be considered horror-genre-level material. I do not. It’s just the setting where the story takes place so to me that doesn’t automatically fit into being defined as horror.
Even though the timeline of events at the prison is somewhat different in the novella than in the film, it doesn’t interfere with the flow of the story at all. I thought it might be strange or awkward while reading because when you know what happens (or you think you know what happens) because you saw the film there are certain expectations you will naturally have. I always remind myself that Hollywood will most often take a lot of liberties with adaptations and also that it would be very difficult to put every little detail from any book into a film that would fall within the normal parameters of the majority of films released. Still, you get absolutely invested very quickly in the story and in the characters, as it was with the film for most viewers. King has many talents and one of them is making the reader empathize with his characters and their experiences.
As Red recounts his time spent serving out some of his prison sentence with Andy at Shawshank you are pulled into the story in such a familiar way it was as though this was a story that your grandpa or uncle was telling you. While the story is intense and fraught with heavy emotions there’s still a somewhat lighthearted tone to it. There’s a happiness in the presentation of the tale but at the same time, there is a loneliness and a sadness that most readers could probably relate to. I mean, let’s face it, this is Stephen King. His writing always evokes several emotions and even instincts. He’s a master of horror.
In this novella, the kind of horror is more subtle. It’s not the monster under the bed kind of scary or the villain that never dies going on a rampage. It’s not aliens taking over or a zombie apocalypse type of horror either. The horror in this story lies in the reality of the circumstances. Innocent people are put in prison. Some for a very long time, some forever until they die. The idea of being trapped in prison for a violent crime you didn’t commit, having your life taken away right after you lose your spouse to the violent crime you are accused of, has got to be one of the scariest realities someone could face. So to me, since this is something that could really happen in real life, I find it much scarier. Now, whether every other aspect of the story is totally realistic or not, that doesn’t weigh as heavy on me.
Putting all of that together, I felt like the novella was very close to being as good as the movie. If the novella had the parts the movie added it would have been equal to the film, in my mind. But there were a few things that a lot of the people who saw the movie felt were very memorable or important points of the film.
So what were the main differences? I’ll try to give you the condensed version and in no particular order. First, the “man” who has all the bank accounts holding the money Andy stole from the warden is named Randall Stevens in the movie and Peter Stevens in the book. And Andy steals the warden’s suit and shoes to wear after his escape in the movie. This does not happen in the book at all. Next, in the novella, Andy goes through multiple rock hammers while in the movie we only see him with the one. In addition to that, Boggs doesn’t get his beating in the same way as in the movie, the setup and circumstances in the book are a bit different. Also, Byron Hadley doesn’t get arrested like he does in the movie, that too is a bit of a different situation. But the biggest difference for me was with the warden. The warden doesn’t shoot himself as the police are coming to arrest him. And Andy doesn’t send anything to the papers to expose the prison and the warden either. There are a few smaller details such as the happenings in the movie are not in the same order in the plot timeline as they are in the book.
However, I still thought this was a fantastic read. I had a hard time putting it down. The fact that it was so close to the movie and vice-versa, I have to give Hollywood some credit. It seems that most of what they added was just for cinematic effect. Luckily, they didn’t really change anything in the story. This is one of my favorite novellas of King’s and will be for a long time, if not always.
The Crypt of Dracula
Book Author: Kane Gilmour
Length: 209 pages print length
I chose to read this novel because it is a Dracula novel. It came to my attention through a recommendation. To me (and hopefully to other fans of horror), Dracula is one of the core characters of horror. This character is a classic staple in the horror genre and community. Everyone knows who Dracula is. This character and the subject of Dracula and vampires have been done so many times that it’s really hard to find something classic and different at the same time. So often I find that each vampire story is typically the same with little variation. And the story often seems to be told with a certain bias against Dracula. It's the same kind of bias you might find in a typical werewolf story. It is one that accompanies monsters of all eras; these creatures have no feelings, no heartfelt compassion, no soul, and no morals, ultimately projecting the idea that they are entirely inhuman (and always have been) and are not capable of and do not possess any characteristic or quality that is unique to human beings.
This novel is not like other typical Dracula stories, in my opinion. This novelist puts considerable time, effort, and emphasis on the characters, their surroundings, their emotions and experiences, practically everything except Dracula himself. I would liken it to the way we see the shark portrayed in the movie Jaws. We barely see the shark compared to the other characters but have other elements and observations to conclude that the threat is there. However, Gilmour can do this without being longwinded or drowning the reader in insignificant details or irrelevant tangents. This creates a clear picture of the author’s unique individual interpretation of a classic Dracula tale. And it’s the physical but heavily implied absence of Dracula that makes him such a formidable foe, as we see the shark to be in the movie Jaws.
This novel is very well-written utilizing a certain type of language that takes the reader back to a previous era yet the verbiage isn’t cryptic, muddled, or unfamiliar feeling (such as how some people feel about Shakespeare). Although the story does take a little time to develop, the foundation is necessary. Furthermore, once it does get moving along, it doesn’t stop. This author has excellent usage of an extensive vocabulary that conjures up a slew of vivid images.
Within this tale are five essential characters other than Dracula; Petran, Fritz, Wagner, Gretchen, and Anneli. Petran is Dracula’s servant. Wagner and Fritz have been hired to do repairs at the castle of Count Dracula. Anneli is married to Wagner and Gretchen is in a relationship with Fritz but, they are not married yet. As the two gents would be at the castle for an extended period of time, they opted to bring their significant others to join them in staying at the castle.
The story details the strange behaviors of the Count and Petran and the effects of these encounters on the guests of the castle. The odd and mysterious behaviors of these two men aren’t the only things that start to unsettle the two couples. Paranormal activity coupled with peculiar changes in the castle such as items cryptically being moved around the rooms, and objects outside the castle’s living space unexplainedly being put in motion with no discernable force putting the visitors in an unnerving state of alarm and mortal danger.
This novel is packed with suspense, horror, gore, violence, drugs, sex, monsters and creatures beyond this world, seduction, romance, and a small group of unwitting victims. There are intimate encounters, dark and damp hallways, and staircases drenched in fear and precariousness, and grotesque creatures moving about the castle in wickedly unnatural ways. Truly slowly walking the reader through each disturbing brush with the danger that surrounds them.
Gilmour uses some very interesting, and what I would consider unique, word choices displaying an excellent use of his extensive vocabulary which allows for the superb descriptions with which he paints for us the full picture of the time that our characters spend with the Count. Gilmour takes the very common mystical and romantic portrayal of Dracula and sublimely melds it with the true evil of a creature of the undead. Though the personalities of the characters are well defined, within each lies hidden or more subtle traits that must inevitably show themselves through various circumstances, albeit forced or voluntary.
All of these qualities merge together to create descriptions so vivid and meticulous that the reader gets as close to watching a movie as one can while reading a book. The movie that played in my head while reading was steady, interesting, fascinatingly intense, suspenseful, and very satisfying from start to finish. This was truly a joy to read.
This is a collection of short stories from this author. I chose this book to review from the options that the good people of Black Tide Book Tours offered. I’m glad I picked this one. First of all, as most of my readers are aware, I really enjoy short story collections. Sometimes it feels like more bang for your buck when you get multiple stories in one book. I used the same system to rate this collection as I have in the past. I score each story individually on a scale from 1-5 and then I take the average of all the scores to come up with the rating for the whole book. With all that said, let’s get into it.
This book had a total of nine stories. I will list the individual scores in the latter part of this review. Overall, I enjoyed this collection very much. Every story got a 4 or 5 out of 5 on my rating scale except for the last story. Now, I am not going to go into detail about the content of this book only because they are short stories and to give that kind of detail would be almost like retelling the tales, which I don’t want to do. I would rather leave them for you to actually read. Instead, what I will do is go through the titles and give a few comments on my thoughts on each tale. Before I do that I must say, I really like this author. He has a very Twilight Zone-esque style of writing. Generally speaking, the stories also have a slow, solid build-up of suspense. And for me, they were mostly the kind of stories that commanded my attention because of the suspense. These were not stories that were easy to just put down in the middle of the tale. They grabbed my attention enough that I read each story all the way through before stopping as regular life inevitably gets in the way of my reading all the time.
Okay, here we go:
Living Water 5/5
I thought this was an excellent story. This was the one that struck me the most similar to The Twilight Zone. It had a fantastic build-up of suspense and moved along very smoothly. It was very well-written. Though it is a short story Coppel took time to develop each main character in a way that didn’t weigh the story down but still gave it a more “meaty” feel to it, creating a well-rounded and satisfying experience for the reader.
Lightning Strike 4/5
I thought this was an interesting story. This one had the same kind of slow-burning suspense that we see in Alfred Hitchcock films while simultaneously employing expertise in creepiness in the form of an automated smart home.
Last Touch 5/5
This was a good short story. What stood out to me was the seamless flow of the plot and how background information was carefully worked in and presented. I also particularly like the way the ending was written in this story.
Lost Words 4/5
I also really enjoyed this story. Overall, it was a good read. I would have liked a little more substance to make the ending a bit clearer, but that could be just me and how I interpreted it.
Labour Shortage 4/5
This was a fantastic story. Some might feel it moves a little slow, but it all comes together fabulously. I did notice a number of simple errors throughout this story that could have probably been remedied with the use of spell check and grammar check. But that would be my only complaint. Such errors just makes the story a little harder to read.
Lethal Assignment 5/5
This tale was amazing! This one might even be my favorite. This story had a fast pace, it flowed nicely and it embodied what I consider to be a great mystery type of story. The suspense is great and makes for a thrilling story. I especially loved the ending on this one.
Light Dusting 5/5
I found this to be an all-around well-balanced good story. It is very well-written with an easy flow of thought and plot just like the other stories. It incorporates a few surprises which I always find exciting in horror and thriller stories. This story had a fabulous ending and it left me feeling very satisfied.
Long Shadows 4/5
In this story, I liked the build-up. The story had a great flow that led to a great ending. The explanation of the shadows felt a little disconnected and a bit unnatural as if it were inserted into the story at a later time, not as a natural part of the creation of the original plot. Luckily, that didn’t take away from the overall story and I thought it was really good.
Lasting Memories 2/5
This was my least favorite story in the collection. This one moved too slowly for me. There were also some oddities in this one. The character’s last name on page one is Grant and then on page twenty-five, it’s suddenly Hall. I wouldn’t have considered this a horror or thriller story either. It almost seemed like a magical, mystical Hallmark Christmas movie type of story. There were a number of sentences where words seemed to be missing, kind of like the author was trying to get his hands to keep up with his thoughts and inevitably, some words got left out. Again, it just makes the story a little difficult to read and follow if things are confusing due to errors.
Though there were a few errors and hiccups here and there, I really enjoyed this collection. It’s not lost on me that the title of the collection uses words that begin with L and that each story title starts with an L. I found this to be a fun little tidbit, I just wish I knew what the reason was behind that so I could maybe appreciate it a bit more. But, overall, this was a fun group of twisted tales that are surely going to satisfy any horror/thriller lover.
A long while back I was fortunate enough to be sent a copy of Island 731, which is written by Jeremy Robinson, as a suggestion from the creator of a comic book I had reviewed by the same title. I was immediately drawn to the premise of the comic and even commented in my review that it reminded me of the TV series LOST, which I was addicted to watching during its broadcasting and never missed an episode for all six seasons. However, I found out that the comic book was no longer going to be produced and it was suggested by one of the creators that I read the novel instead. This proved to be one of the most excellent book recommendations I have gotten since I began this website.
This was a novel that I was hooked on from early on. The book practically starts with a bold taste of action and then builds up to something more and the cycle keeps repeating throughout the story, getting more and more intense the deeper in you get. And you get into it pretty deep. This is one of those stories that you totally immerse yourself in and, before you know it, it’s after three o’clock in the morning and you feel like you’re just getting started. Every chapter has something fascinatingly creepy, gruesome, gory, or just downright terrifying.
There are many layers to this story as well. There are a number of characters that you get emotionally invested in, some you even sort of despise if not flat-out loathe or hate. And I have to be honest, those particular characters are written exceptionally well. The main character (in my opinion) is a man named Hawkins and he is no one to mess around with. He’s a tough guy and yet still kind of a romantic deep down inside. There’s a plethora of characters, each with their own distinct personalities and issues, making them very real, human, and easy to relate to. That is something that is essential if the author wants to get the reader to really dive full-on into the story. And I did, without hesitation.
Additionally, I would definitely call this a horror/psychological thriller. As I said, there are many characters and sides to each one’s personality. But there are many philosophical, psychological, and even a few theological layers to this plot as well. I found myself horrified at times, disgusted at others, and yet sympathetic, even empathetic, at other points in the story. I found myself asking “What would I do in that situation?” or “How would I handle that information?”. The answers didn’t come as easily as one might think given the depth and gravity of the story as a whole and the people in it.
Another thing that I found exceptionally chilling is that this story isn’t one that is actually very farfetched at all. In fact, there are things similar to numerous actions and concepts in this story that are not just real possibilities but have actually been documented in history. It’s amazing what sound and stable funding, and determined, motivated people can accomplish even in the most uninhabitable type places.
This novel had me addicted to its content in the same way I was with the LOST series when it was airing. The intrigue, the mystery, the uneasiness that something bad is just around the corner, the humanized characters that really come to life, the horrific behaviors and circumstances that are presented, and the action and suspense, all come together to create a novel that is truly one of the best fiction books I have read in over a year, maybe even two or more years. I really am a fan of this novel and I do hope that you will check it out.
Below you can find the links to purchase the novel in a number of ways. Take my word for it, you won’t regret it.
But, before you get all click-happy and jump to that information, I am going to give you a little rundown of the plot. Only a small one though. I can’t very well give you a review and not talk about the actual storyline of the novel. But I don’t want to give too much away.
Here is what is in the summary on the back of the book cover:
“Mark Hawkins, a former park ranger and expert tracker, is on board a research vessel in the Pacific. But his work is interrupted when the ship is plagued by a series of strange malfunctions and the crew is battered by a raging storm.
The next morning, the beaten crew awakens to find themselves anchored in the protective cove of a tropical island—and no one knows how they got there. The ship has been sabotaged, two crewmen are dead, and a third is missing. Hawkins spots signs of the missing man onshore and leads a small team to bring them back. But they soon discover the evidence of a brutal history left behind by the island’s former occupants: Unit 731, Japan’s ruthless World War II human experimentation program. As more colleagues start to disappear, Hawkins begins to realize the horrible truth: that Island 731 was never decommissioned and the person preying on his crewmates might not be a person at all—not anymore…”
Now, the first thing to know is Unit 731 was very real. It was, in fact, a Japanese unit during World War II that was based out of Pingfang, a district of Harbin, which was the largest city in a Japanese-controlled area at the time, in what was formerly called Manchuria, now simply generally referred to by its location, Northeast China. This was a group similar in purpose to the Nazi doctors and their inhumane programs. Their “work” involved lethal human experiments of all kinds, biochemical and biological weaponry and the effects on humans of such weapons, and experiments that challenged the boundaries of human imagination and destroyed the general innate sense of humanity that we assume all people possess.
If you are aware of the atrocities committed by the Nazi doctors in WWII prison camps such as Auschwitz and Dachau, then you can get a fairly clear idea of what Unit 731 was doing during the same time period. The experiments performed by Unit 731 were very similar. If you are not familiar with the many vicious and savage acts of barbarism, those atrocities, in short, included acts such as cutting live prisoners open with no anesthetic with no valid medical reason or treatment and applying biochemical weaponry, such as mustard gas, directly into the open tissue of the wound to see how it affected the poor prisoner and to try to develop some sort of antidote or vaccine for the Axis military on the battlefield. And that would be considered the lighter end of the horrors that were perpetrated upon these poor abused souls. There were experiments that involved live human dissection (vivisection) with no anesthetic, various chemical and biological poisonings and infections within the prison and in the surrounding civilian populations, and experimental surgeries that were performed seemingly out of pure hate, horror, and morbid curiosity. That is the short version. The experiments were so horrific and so numerous that it would take a whole different article, perhaps even a series, to explore such violations of humanity, which I may end up covering at some point at a later date.
In the late 1930s through the early 1940s Unit 731 conducted many of the same types of experiments, adding some of their own along the way. They used kidnapped victims and others from the surrounding populations including both men and women, and even children as their test subjects. And these experiments covered the entire arc of scientific horror. Unit 731 was shut down after the war and their facilities were demolished in about 1945.
Now, take that knowledge and apply it to the blurb summary of this novel I provided earlier.
Imagine that you are on a research vessel. You are trying to determine the effects imposed on the ocean and marine life within its depths by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a many miles long and wide accumulation of trash and debris that has naturally gathered by ocean currents and huddled together in an area that is between the Western Coast of North America and Japan. (Yes, it is a real thing and it is a very real threat to our ocean waters and the creatures that make those waters their home.) A perhaps somewhat disgusting and at times probably depressing, and maybe even demoralizing, job, but typically no more dangerous than a job on any other marine research vessel.
Then, all these little things start to happen to the ship and the crew, things that compromise the integrity of the ship and the confidence and ability of the crew. Then a strong storm comes and whips the little vessel about like a ragdoll. You lose consciousness. When you wake, the ship is damaged and anchored off the coast of a tropical island, crewmates are missing and some are even dead. Two things run through your mind: What the hell happened and where are my friends? Next thought, how do I get everyone together and get the hell out of here? Then the thoughts come in waves like a tsunami. Where are we? What’s going on? Where is help? Is there help? Whom can I trust? Are there people on this island? Is there a radio or phone to call for help? What the hell do we do now?
The novel Island 731 answers all those questions. But, as with any good horror-suspense-thriller, answers lead to more questions. As we get deeper into the story, we go deeper into the tropical jungle of the island. And with that depth comes tragedy, sacrifice, emotional rollercoasters, horror, fear, and the realization that science can further corrupt the minds of those already infected with nefarious power and control.
The journey into depravity starts on page one. It grips you in every way possible and takes you through the nightmare coupling of the jungle and science gone awry. Terror awaits. Time is short. It’s up to Hawkins to save his friends, get off the island, and away from its coast in one piece and, most importantly, alive.
Here are links to purchase Island 731:
You can find further information and reviews of this novel at the link below on Goodreads.com:
This tasty little tidbit of a macabre midnight snack was a novella I chose from the Black Tide Book Tour folks (formerly Blackthorn Book Tours). This was a fun read but it was a slightly different approach to horror, in my opinion. There is almost nothing horror related (almost) in the first half of the book. However, once the horror starts, it’s pretty much constant throughout the rest of the story.
In this particular tale, we have a group of friends who are getting together for Thanksgiving dinner. Friends and family gather to form a social circle as dysfunctional as any other average familial group. There’s a somewhat overbearing wife Char, whose husband, Doug, is a disappointment to her parents, Judy and Owen. Doug and Char have two children, Charlotte (a teenager) and Tommy (a school ager). They are present for the holiday gathering as well. A couple, Mike and Marleen, are friends of Char’s and invited to the festivities, but Doug isn’t a fan of these people. Or Char’s parents, for that matter. Friends Craig and Amy are also invited and supposed to make an appearance but they end up running late, which they are notorious for doing. Then we have Dan. Dan is Doug’s brother and has recently been released from prison. Doug and Dan’s parents, Fred and Mable, also attend this dinner. Doug also asked his best friend, Randy, to come to dinner for Thanksgiving. So, a typical holiday get-together with everyone there being unhappy that someone else in the group is there. Doug doesn’t like Marleen and Mike. Char doesn’t like Dan and Randy. Owen and Judy don’t like Doug. There are voiced complaints about Craig and Amy. And of course, the kids would rather be doing something on a digital device than interact with family and their parents’ friends.
But as the evening continues, many things start to go awry. Little things, big things, dangerous things, offensive things, and scary things from the dark. All this piles up into the culmination of an evening’s worth of negative energy combined with fear and horror. And that is where the real horror begins. Quite the setup for what turns into a very good story. As I mentioned earlier, the real action is in the second half of this story, but the detail and information given are truly needed to set the scene for what this dinner truly entails. Like with so many family get-togethers, this one doesn’t go as hoped or as planned. But slowly and consistently we get small glimpses of our tormenting villainous monster from the background, the tension of our characters, and the suspense of the unknown building up to a horror lover’s classic bloody and gory action-packed tale. Plus, we get to see what’s happening from different characters' points of view on the same events or other events happening at the same time. This is a creative way to give the reader the story and insight into whom the characters are as people and their role in the circumstances and events constantly unfolding.
I think any suspense lover would find this an entertaining read. Its structure of separating parts and then chapters make for a quick read that both thrills and entertains.
Author: Lisa Renee Jones
Length: 385 pages
Before I start, here is the summary of this novel that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go:
“A detective with a dark secret...
Samantha Jazz used to be one of the top profilers in the Austin PD, living for the chase of hunting down a killer and bringing him to justice. That is, until one bad case nearly destroyed her.
A killer with a hidden agenda...
There’s a new kind of serial killer on the loose––and people are turning up dead. The only clues to their murders lie in the riddles the killer leaves behind. A mystery with more questions than answers, and a suspicion that he’s taunting Samantha.
A dead body wrapped in a riddle...
Samantha will have to use all her wits to solve each new puzzle before the killer can strike again. But the closer she gets to the killer, the more she draws him to her as well. And in this thrilling game of cat and mouse––only one of them will survive.”
This was a very entertaining novel to read and I don’t usually go for fiction so much. Here we have a story about a very dedicated law enforcement officer, Detective Samantha Jazz, and her intense and persistent pursuit of one of the most dangerous serial killers she’s ever encountered. And in this particular detective, we not only have a workaholic with an intense, but calm, personality, but we also have a woman with a profound and somewhat dark past.
Detective Jazz’s life is her job. And her job is her career, not just a job. Like a lot of other law enforcement personnel, she eats, sleeps, and breathes being a cop. Her profession permeates every aspect of her life, every aspect of her existence. She has a partner named Lang, who is somewhat the stereotypical male lifer in the department. He’s seen more than his share of horrors, he’s very blunt, perhaps a little bitter, and he’s definitely a pain in the ass. He's full of smartass remarks and witty comments, a lot of each said at many inopportune times. However, Detective Jazz can most assuredly hold her own against any member of the good ol’ boys club and she can fire back at Lang, or anyone else, with just as much wit, vim, and vigor as they throw at her. Sometimes she adds a little sauciness just for fun.
Her adversary in this dramatic tale is a serial killer she has dubbed, The Poet. She chose this moniker because of the unique signature he displays in his killings. At first, this presents as a relatively normal investigation. However, Jazz soon realizes that The Poet is somehow very familiar with her and her personal life, and the people in her life. This of course intensifies the entire situation, raising both the danger level and the need to catch this perpetrator.
In the course of her pursuit of this murderous deviant, she finds that, like many serial killers, this particular offender is of high intelligence, challenging her intellectual capabilities as well as her detective skills. During the investigation, we also find out more and more about Detective Jazz, her past, and her way of thinking, her personality. All of this combines to create a thrilling and suspenseful chase of a brazen and daring killer on the loose. And it’s up to Detective Jazz to stop him.
I was intrigued by the summary of this book, but after the first two pages, I was hooked. I had had this novel on my reading list for a very long time. I finally got to this book’s turn on my list and was super excited to read it at last.
This author is a great writer. The amount of detail expressed in this piece of work is crucial to the suspense and anticipation the content invokes. From the very beginning, I was on the edge of my seat anxious to read the next chapter. This was one of those stories that, as the reader, you are constantly trying to solve the case along with the detectives. With each new victim, we get new clues. We are presented with an array of people that are involved in this case. Some are obviously harmless and not the killer. Some characters are a little on the creepy side and somewhat suspicious but don’t have the serial killer vibe. Others are the kind of characters you just know have to be dirty in some way, but are they the killer?
The way this author reveals tiny pieces of the story at a time reflects the path detectives and other law enforcement officials must take to solve each crime. While sometimes it may seem tedious, each little clue is another piece of the giant jigsaw puzzle one has to complete to solve and close a case. In my opinion, the flow of the case in this novel is fairly realistic. Without having worked in law enforcement, I can only form that opinion based on my experience being raised by a police officer and growing up directly associating with all kinds of law enforcement personnel from patrol officers to judges. This case in this novel moved much like a real investigation. The author was very careful to make sure that the details of the case and the investigation were realistic and believable. Again, in my opinion, she did an excellent job.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes crime fiction, detective stories, or anything full of suspense, keeps you on pins and needles and keeps you guessing, just like the rollercoaster the police go through when trying to work a case. After reading this book, this is an author I am going to follow on Goodreads.com and see what other works she has available.
Pain and Gain
The Untold True Story
Book authored by Marc Schiller
I sat down to start this book and I didn’t put it down until I was at the end. I read the whole book in one day. It was truly gripping and I could not help but finish it. It was an incredible story to read. Not because it was unbelievable. Oh no. Far from it in fact. Unfortunately, when this author first tried to tell his story to law enforcement and even doctors, they assumed he was not being truthful. The truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction. Indeed, that is the situation in this case. And while some of what this author tells about his experience may seem outrageous or like something you just can’t believe, I assure you, this story is possible. In my experience as a true crime researcher, the one thing that is constant in crime is that there are no limits to human depravity. There are no limits to how dark or demented a person can be, no limits to the arrays of pain, degradation, humiliation, and suffering that some people are willing to inflict upon others. There’s no real limit to the lengths some people go to and no real limit to whatever their reason is for such abhorrent behavior. Crime happens on all levels, in all areas, and it’s committed by people from all backgrounds and situations.
In this particular case, we have one victim and multiple perpetrators. And it’s not just the four people that kept this man prisoner but also people outside of the kidnapping and torture that helped victimize this gentleman further by helping strip him and his family of everything they had in the world. All their property, all their money, their business, their home. These monsters even took the kids' toys. They cleaned him out. The greed was endless and they had no qualms about how they got their hands on what they wanted.
Now, I’m sure many people think this kind of thing could never happen to them. That they would never be coerced into signing over everything they owned. However, you can’t say what you would do unless you’ve been in his position. And his position was very grave. He was chained to a wall. He was tortured physically, emotionally, and psychologically. He was degraded and humiliated. His family was in danger. At a certain point, one has to reach the conclusion that material possessions can be replaced but human lives cannot be. It got down to the most basic of factors---survival. Everything beyond survival could be addressed once he was free.
This story was not just about a kidnapping either. It was about betrayal and loss. It was about fear and pain. And it was largely about the concept of pure faith in general (not religion) and perseverance. No person or animal should have to endure the things this man endured. The trauma and torture inflicted on this man were nothing but sadistic. The leader of this whole vicious circus was violently mentally ill, in my opinion. I saw signs of a severe malignant narcissistic personality. Plus, a horrific anti-social personality coupled with what seemed to possibly be a kind of bipolar disorder. Please know, with confidence, that not everybody that has any kind of mental illness is dangerous. Nobody is dangerous automatically just because they have a mental illness. There are a few that do end up dangerous and their mental illness may exacerbate that. But just being bipolar or just being even a malignant narcissist doesn't automatically mean that you want to hurt people. Still, in this case, this perpetrator's mental illness was not a positive factor in this experience on the whole. I can’t and won’t say that his mental illness caused him to do what he did, because I do not believe that to be the case and because I am not a licensed professional in the field to make such a determination. I will say that an already violent and unpredictable personality was made worse at times by varying factors of his illnesses. All of this becomes crystal clear as you read about what actually happened, how it all came about and transpired, and the explanation of the people involved.
But the main takeaway from this case is hope, perseverance, self-respect in all circumstances, and the importance of family. Marc Schiller is an absolute example of a good human being. He is an example of fortitude and stability. His harrowing account takes you deep into his experience as a prisoner of these demented tormentors. He tells about things he could have easily left out because they were embarrassing. He wants people to understand, as close as they can, exactly what he went through. And the only way to do that is by being completely open and honest about the entire experience. And I can imagine it took quite a bit of emotional and psychological strength and resolve to put all of this down on paper into a book. This must have been painful to write and yet, at the same time, somewhat cathartic.
This was just an average man. A family man that worked a typical accounting job, provided for his wife and kids and tried to be a good person and help others when he could. He lived in a normal house and had a normal, fairly uneventful life as an adult. His childhood was rough but it didn’t hold him back from anything. If anything the struggles he endured growing up would mold him into the man that was able to survive this ordeal. This written account takes you through every event of this case, almost day by day. The detail expressed in this book creates a very clear, very vivid, and very horrifying picture. And it is one survivor’s story you can’t ignore. Marc is very relatable and he tells his story with emotion and transparency.
This was an excellent book. As a frequent reader and researcher of true crime, I had heard about this case before and knew the general story. But I did not know all the details, big or small. Also as a frequent true crime reader, I can say that this is one of the more horrifying kidnapping cases I have read about. It was not only an incredible story but it was an inspirational one as well. Learning about something like this makes you think about things like priorities and how spoiled we can get with all the advances in life now. It makes you think about the difference between what you want to endure and what you can endure. The two are very different. While he didn’t want to go through any of this, Marc endured his captivity day in and day out, vowing not to be broken. And he wasn’t.
Any true crime reader should like this book. It was well worth the read.
This was an interesting collection. I chose this from the Blackthorn Book Tour group's June Quick Bite selections. It’s a small assembly of four short stories. Although I did not fall in love with this collection, it certainly wasn’t a struggle to read. Still, it is more on the eerie side rather than the traditional horror with gore and such.
The first story is Family Roots. This is the longest story of the four at just a little over five pages. This was also my favorite tale in the book. It’s a fantastic fearful little tangled tale of love, revenge, and unseen mystical forces. The second story is a tiny two-page tidbit relating the fallout of certain wounds and illnesses partnered with the inner workings of the world of a trapped mind full of fear and confusion. The next story is Affirmations running at just over three pages. This is the tragic relation of abuse, fear, curious happenings, and powers unseen and unknown. The final story is just a bite. It is one paragraph long bearing the title Warm. This compactly served story gnaws at the heart with death, longing, mystery, and sadness.
I did enjoy this small collection of stories for the most part. The author seems to want to reach the reader on a more emotional and psychological level. There is a clear style to the writing being that each story has a kind of implied meaning, action, behavior, or circumstance. I assume this is intended to make the reader think, filling in open parts of the tale and deciding meanings with their interpretation rather than the author just putting it out there. For me, this was a good attempt and I see what the author was trying to accomplish. It was effective in a basic sense for me but did fall just a little short in having the kind of fervent effect that I believe was originally intended. I also wasn’t thrilled about the stories getting so much shorter as the book went on. This was especially true for me when I got to the last story. Personally, it is difficult for me to call such a paragraph an actual story. It read to me as the opening paragraph of a very creepy, spooky story, and then it just stops, sort of falling flat in my opinion. Especially since it’s clear that the plot idea has real potential to be expanded.
Nevertheless, overall I did enjoy reading this book. I only wish it had a little more substance to it. I am certain this particular author is capable of it as what was presented in this book could serve as a teaser to a full-length anthology of short horror stories.
Echoes in the Dark by P.L. McMillan
Print length: 13 pages
Age range: This is an adult collection
Trigger warnings: death, murder, domestic abuse
Amazon Rating: New collection not yet rated.
About Echoes in the Dark
Four short tales of suspense, horror, loss, and the macabre.
Perfect for a quick read. But be careful, this fiction comes with a bite! (A quick bite – get it? It’s a quick read!)
Family Roots: An orchard whose trees listen
Unseen Cost: A man gets his sight back.
Affirmations: Live, laugh, kill.
Warm: A haunting scent, a memory.
About the Author
P.L. McMillan is a Canadian ex-pat living in the States, after having taught English for three years in Asia. She is a victim of a deep infatuation with the works of Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, and H.P. Lovecraft.
To her, every shadow is an entryway to a deeper look into the black heart of the world, and every night she rides with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night wind, bringing back dark stories to share with those brave enough to read them.
You can check out more on her website at https://plmcmillan.com or follow her on Twitter at @AuthorPLM.
This was one of the most interesting and captivating collections I have read in a very long time. I chose this from the Blackthorn Book Tour folks and once again, our tastes in literature come together in perfect unison.
This anthology is a mysterious kind of collection all in itself. There are stories of all types of dark and sinister themes. While the entire collection would not really be considered horror, a great number of these tales bring the darker and less palatable horrors of actual reality out in the open. I would personally classify this collection as more of a dramatic thriller anthology than horror.
What we read for entertainment is an entirely personal choice. I happen to enjoy reading work that stimulates my brain. Just like any other muscle, the brain needs to be exercised to stay strong and healthy. Use it or lose it, as they always say. This group of stories is by far one of the most thought-provoking anthologies I have ever come across. Typically we apply personal experience and knowledge to what we read, watch, hear, etc. The most unique characteristic of this author’s writing is that it often takes on a point of view that is not what the average reader might have originally thought of or might have never experienced for themselves. This is a clever and intriguing way of really getting into the heart and mind of the reader. If the story is being told from a point of view we are not used to seeing or hearing it gives the reader an opportunity to open their minds and expand their capacity for empathy and understanding. We often only see things from our own side and it’s beneficial and valuable that we get the chance to learn about a different view.
The actual content of each story was great and the plots were thrilling. My only issue was that there are quite a few places where a small word is missing (such as ‘a’, ‘whole’, ‘the’, etc.) or the wrong word is typed, like ‘hours’ instead of ‘ours’. It seems quite possible from the minor grammatical errors that this book was dictated in a voice-to-text program and not typed up by hand. Which is completely fine. The finished product could benefit though from a final spellcheck and grammar check, and maybe even a final physical read-through.
The one thing that did make certain parts a little harder to read was that a great portion of the writing uses a run-on sentence structure. The sentences are four or five lines long and as little as three sentences can take up over a third of a page while creating a paragraph. Now, this isn’t necessarily negative as it comes across as it would if someone were verbally telling you the story. That’s kind of cool. It gives it a more personal feel. On the flip side, the long sentences have a lot of information in them. This is a lot to absorb in one sentence and I often had to go back and read the whole sentence a second time to get everything the author was trying to convey. Again, if this were a person telling this story verbally, none of that would matter. You would have the tone of voice and various pauses and inflections to convey that material. But, when reading, it might be easier to break the long sentences up and utilize more commas and semicolons to get the right effect.
Still, there are a few stories in this collection that weeks after reading are still in my mind. So this writing absolutely has an impact on the reader. This will be a collection I remember for quite some time.
About the Author
Miles Watson has won more awards and accolades than almost any independent writer of his generation. His various works have won the following:
The Cabin Sessions
Author: Isobel Blackthorn
Here we have a definite must-read for those that love psychological and suspense thrillers from Blackthorn Book Tours. While I wouldn’t necessarily call this a horror novel it certainly is a wonderful cerebral tug of war. With the steady and consistent build-up of tension and suspense, the author leads the reader through the lives and happenings of a select group of people gathered on a stormy night at a local cabin where they play music and gossip about each other.
This tantalizing page-turner has an easy-to-follow format due to the author’s clever insight. Each chapter is named after a character. When you read each chapter, you are instantly aware of whose “world” we are in and can easily find where we are in each character's story. This story also has plenty of twists and turns to captivate the reader and keep them guessing what will happen next.
Additionally, this particular author has an extensive vocabulary coupled with poetic wit and tempered patience. This means there are no “dead” spots or filler text. The story keeps moving, characters keep building and in doing so, they become more realistic and relatable with every event in the plot, no matter how minute or significant each experience or event may be. All of these skills are melded together to create a fantastic story to curl up with next to a fire and completely submerge yourself in the twisted minds of normal individuals.
There is nothing outwardly special about each character. No obvious hero types or high-moral preachers. No clear-cut villains or physical wars are being waged. Instead, we get to know these people almost as we would in real life. Slowly, carefully, little details here and there combined with behavior and thoughts. These characters develop and mold into true people with thoughts, issues, and solutions.
A lot happens in these few hundred pages. Many lives are unveiled and a lot of truly personal and intimate details are revealed. Just like in real life, the characters are all different. And yet equally as realistic, these people we meet are no different from many others, each having their qualities and personalities, flaws and issues, dreams and failures, losses and successes.