It was the Summer of 1961 and young Mark Gaitlin was on vacation with his family in Lake Livingston Texas. Mark was like any other 15-year-old, his body was changing, his family was driving him nuts and he was obsessed with sex. His dream of meeting a girl comes true one night when a mysterious girl invites him to go skinny dipping. Mark is on the verge of becoming a man and everything is about to change.
Mark is starting to see the social injustices in the world and also realizes that Lake Livingston is a mysterious place. He’s surrounded by abandoned villages haunted by family secrets and finds evidence of a cult of religious backwoods snake handlers. As he journeys into manhood he finds the world is more complicated than he thought and wrong decisions may cost him his life.
Lost Girl Of The Lake by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty is about how a series of odd events shape a young man’s life. The passage that really hooked me into this story was early on when we hear Mark being introspective as an adult about his childhood. He states that “the man and the boy don’t speak the same language anymore.” He then describes the difference between how an adult thinks compared to how a child’s mind works. The beginning of this coming of age tale had a Stephen King feel to it that made me want to keep reading.
What I enjoyed most in this story is how a lot of it is open to interpretation. The authors paint a picture by the way they describe the setting. Also the use of imagery like the butterflies that gather at the lake, the abandoned town, the Copperhead snakes and the dreams that Mark is having are metaphors and they all shape the man he will become. It’s up to the reader to wonder what the meaning behind everything and how it affects the characters in the story.
For a short novella there is a lot going on in this book and every little detail seems to have a deeper meaning. I enjoyed the references to pulp fiction magazines in the story and since at points it felt like the pulp fiction that Mark reads I thought it was a good metaphor. Another scene I liked that illustrated what its like to be on the edge of adulthood was when Mark and his friend are heading to the lake to look at “spicy” pulp magazines and have to keep a look out for anyone who may get them in trouble for having them. At one point Mark tries to walk away but his friend urges him to stay which leads to something that illustrates what 15-year-old boys are like.
Whether you like this book or not will depend on what you’re looking for. If you’re expecting a good horror story or a tale with a lot of supernatural activity you may be disappointed. On the other hand if you are into coming of age stories that make you think about how certain events shape your life then you will like this novella. This is a story of the loss of innocence, the road to adulthood and how your reaction to what’s happening around you affects your life.
Richard Fletcher is the kind of guy who you probably don’t notice if you see him. He is overweight, unpopular with girls and mostly keeps to himself. For entertainment he joined a group of witch hunters but he didn’t believe that witches or black magic was real. Then one night Richard is contacted to take a reporter and cameraman out on a witch hunt and his whole life changes.
Richard was ready to put on a show for the news crew but finds out that everything he thought was a hoax was real. Now not only does he have to save himself, he has to save the reporter and cameraman along with stopping an evil, ancient witch from preying on innocent victims. Richard has to rely on spells and rituals that he thought were fake and find the inner strength that he didn’t know he had to survive the night.
I can’t say enough good things about Witch Hunter Into The Outside by J.Z. Foster. The author paints a vivid picture the way he describes the settings such as the witch’s house and the forest surrounding it. I also liked that he talks about supernatural creatures that I’ve never heard of before such as a mob of sankai and a wight. The fact that I had to look up what these creatures were shows me that J.Z. was trying to keep things original. One of my favorite scenes was when we meet the wight in a dark basement, after the perfect creepy setup we find the wight to be pretty funny, this story is full of surprises.
The best part of the book has to be Richard, he is a self-proclaimed looser and everyone treats him that way. He doesn’t see himself as a hero and doesn’t want to be one. He’s just a guy doing what he feels he has to do. I loved that the two people he was with were his exact opposites making him even more uncomfortable in the face of danger. Ted the cameraman is the athletic type with a bad temper and Beth is a beautiful reporter who is looking for her big break. In the beginning Richard tries to impress them and shows his awkwardness by how he talks and the way he holds himself. You constantly see him get put down which makes him someone you have to root for. The relationship between the three changes throughout the book. Even as Richard proves himself it doesn’t change their feelings towards him or his own feelings towards himself. In one scene that describes Richard well he thinks how he prefers the black and white world of fantasy over the real world with all of its confusing angels.
Witch Hunter Into The Outside is the type of book that shows you how good a horror novel can be. It has great characters, a few good laughs and plenty of scares and suspense. The story is deceptively simple but the relationship between the three main characters along with the witch and his minions are complex. My first thought on the witch was that somehow it was a hoax and he wasn’t very strong. Though little by little you see that isn’t true. This is one of those type of books where the characters are so interesting that the story doesn’t matter. I’m hoping this is the first book in a series because I would love to see these characters again.
Horror literature has several different sub-genres such as cosmic horror, splatterpunk, supernatural and several others. One sub genre of horror is Gothic literature which contains a picturesque setting, elements of the supernatural, romance, mystery and a feeling of impending doom. The Ravencrest Omnibus: The Ghosts of Ravencrest by Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross contains the first three episodes in The Ghosts of Ravencrest series and fits nicely into the Gothic literature genre.
The book centers around Ravencrest Manor, an old mansion which was transported from England to Northern California in the 1800’s. Ravencrest’s walls have seen scandals, witchcraft, ghosts and several acts of depravity. By day the mansion looks beautiful but by night it becomes a place of terror. The story begins when Belinda accepts a job as the new governess at Ravencrest Manor. What seems like a dream job starts to look like a nightmare as she finds out that not all of the inhabitants at Ravencrest are living.
The Ghosts Of Ravencrest series starts slow developing its characters and gets creepier as it goes along. It has kind of a Dark Shadows feel to it with a lot more blood and erotica thrown in. If you have read and liked the work of Thorne and Cross then this book is a must have and exactly what you would expect from them. For instance we know off the bat that the estate’s administrator Mrs. Heller is obsessed by power but as the story moves along we also find out that she has a much darker erotic side to her. If you want to know more you have to read the book.
My favorite part of this book was how when you learn more about each character they all have some surprising secrets. I also liked how the authors slowly build a mythology for the estate before getting into the more terrifying parts of the story. I enjoyed this book but one thing to keep in mind if you get it is that this is a starting point for a series. There is no ending and after this one there are 5 more episodes and a second story that has 8 episodes. So if you don’t want to invest your time in a spooky style soap opera then this may not be for you. That being said, if you give the series a chance its one wild ride.