Monday, May 4, 2015

Book review - "Boom Town" by Glenn Rolfe

If writing is an art form, then the various types of format represent the different types of canvas upon which an artist can paint their story.  One of the most challenging types is the novella.  With a novel, the author has the opportunity to really explore their subject matter and their characters over the course of many pages.  With a short story, the author is given some degree of leeway in providing less character and plot development for the sake of brevity.  A novella is a hybrid of the two.  It is expected to be shorter than a novel, but more involved than a short story.  The author must develop their characters and tell their story without using too much page space.  It is for these reasons that I am often very impressed when I come across a novella that truly captures my attention and does not leave me disappointed by the end.  Boom Town by Glenn Rolfe is a great find that avoids all of the potential pitfalls of a novella.

Terror from below!

In the summer of 1979, Eckert, Wisconsin, was the sight of the most unique UFO encounter in history. A young couple observed a saucer-like aircraft hovering over Hollers Hill. A blue beam blasted down from the center of the craft into the hill and caused the ground to rumble for miles.

Now, thirty years later, Eckert is experiencing nightly rumbles that stir up wild rumors and garner outside attention. The earthly tremors are being blamed on everything from earthquakes to underground earth dwellers. Two pre-teens discover a pipe out behind Packard’s Flea Market uprooted by the “booms” and come into contact with the powerful ooze bubbling from within. What begins as curiosity will end in an afternoon of unbridled terror for the entire town.

The story is very tightly written, but still provides us with characters we care enough about to grip us throughout the novella.  The author’s use of having the two protagonists thinking of themselves in terms of another book’s characters provides an added layer of connection to the characters that might not have otherwise been possible in such a short period of time.  The descriptions of the terrifying events that unfold is written to perfection and I would have sworn I was reading a short story simply because of the story’s fast-paced narrative that left me finished before I realized it.  At the same time, the story does not leave the reader hanging, but provides a great ending within the framework of everything the author had written up to that point.   The horror and tension is high throughout the entire story and there is plenty there for both gore hounds as well as those who like atmospheric scares.

Perhaps the biggest issue I had with this book is how hard it is to tell about it without giving too much away.  The narrative is so tightly woven together that to reveal any pieces beyond the synopsis already given on the book itself is to risk giving away key elements of the story.  I don’t recall the last time I enjoyed a novella nearly as much as I did Rolfe’s Boom Town.  I was instantly grabbed and yanked through the story, but the ending didn’t leave me unfulfilled as a reader.

So all that being said, what the Rage score?

Story Concept - 4/5
Story Execution – 4.5/5
Story Flow - 5/5
Character Development (give-a-damn factor) – 4.5/5
Gripping visuals/details - 5/5
Entertainment Value/Story Engagement - 5/5
Editing (including grammar and spelling) - 5/5


Boom Town is available through several outlets:

Glenn Rolfe, Bio

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King and Richard Laymon. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author the ghost/mystery/thriller novella, ABRAM'S BRIDGE (Samhain Publishing, Jan. 2015) and his latest novella, a Horror/Sci-Fi mash-up, BOOM TOWN (Samhain Publishing). A full-length novel, BLOOD AND RAIN, will come out this Fall from Samhain Publishing and THINGS WEFEAR, a novella, is set to publish from Samhain in 2016.His debut novel, THE HAUNTED HALLS (James Ward Kirk Publishing, 2014), is available now, as well as his short story collection, SLUSH (Alien Agenda Publishing, 2014).Look for his punk rock band, The Never Nudes, on Amazon and Facebook.

Check out his website:

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Review - "Island of the Forbidden" by Hunter Shea

Let me begin with a little confession.  While I love everything I have read by Hunter Shea, I only first read one of his books less than a year ago.  Given the extremely limited time I have to read things that are not in the form of a textbook, I have not read nearly as much as I would like to by Hunter.  With that in mind, it may not come as a surprise to you that I did not realize that this novel was a continuation of a character’s story from some of his earlier work.  It became clear shortly into reading that this was the case as backstory was referenced.  I began to fear that I would not be able to do a worthwhile review that gave an honest, fair opinion of this novel if I had trouble due to a lack of background knowledge on the character.  I decided to continue on with my reading and hope for the best.  Not long after getting past the point of my concern, I found myself not wanting to put this book down and realizing, yet again, that Hunter Shea is an amazing story teller.

Sometimes, the dead are best left in peace.

Jessica Backman has been called to help a strange family living on a haunted island in Charleston Harbor. Ormsby Island was the site of a brutal massacre two decades ago, and now the mysterious Harper family needs someone to exorcise the ghosts that still call it home. The phantoms of over one hundred children cannot rest.

But something far more insidious is living on the island. When the living and the dead guard their true intentions, how can Jessica discover just what sort of evil lurks on Ormsby Island? And why is Jessica the only one who can plumb its dark depths?

Despite not having read the previous books, I had little trouble finding the characters engaging from the start.  Hunter Shea does an excellent job of providing an adequate amount of backstory for readers like myself who make the mistake of picking up a book that comes later in a character’s story without spending a large amount of page space rehashing previous writing.  He wastes no time getting right into the thrill of the current tale and drawing us into the story, hooking us quickly and relentlessly.  I quickly found myself drawn into the mystery of what was happening and was turning pages with equal levels of anticipation and hesitation as the thrills and chills piled up.  The characters were well written and Hunter Shea does a great job of really breathing life into them. 

Overall, I found myself in a rare position where I had no complaints about a novel.  While I would much rather have read the previous stories first, I was still able to really dive into this book and let Hunter Shea take me for a thrill ride one page at a time.  All of the horror, suspense, action, and character development I have come to expect from Hunter Shea’s work were present in large amounts.  This is definitely a novel for fans and new readers alike (although you may want to read the earlier novels first).

So what’s the Rage Circus breakdown?

Story Concept – 4.5/5
Story Execution - 5/5
Story Flow – 4.5/5
Character Development (give-a-damn factor) - 5/5
Gripping visuals/details - 5/5
Entertainment Value/Story Engagement - 5/5
Editing (including grammar and spelling) – 4.5/5

Overall – 4.79/5 – DISCOVER THE MYSTERY OF ORMSBY ISLAND, READ Island of the Forbidden TODAY!

Island of the Forbidden by Hunter Shea continues the story of Jessica Bockman, the ghost-hunting heroine who has appeared in Forest of Shadows, The Graveyard Speaks and Sinister Entity, all published by Samhain Horror. 
You can get your copy of Island of the Forbidden at any of the following:


Samhain Horror:

Barnes and Noble:

Hunter Shea, Biography
Hunter Shea is the author of paranormal and horror novels Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal, Sinister Entity,  HellHole and Island of the Forbidden, which are all published by Samhain Horror. 
The June 3, 2014 release of his horrifying thriller Montauk Monster was published by Kensington/Pinnacle. His second Kensington novel, Tortures of the Damned, will be published later this year.
He has also written a short story to be read prior to Sinister Entity, called The Graveyard Speaks (it’s free, go download!), and a book of stories called Asylum Scrawls.
His work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales, and the upcoming anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror. His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists, and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on.
He is also half of the two men show, Monster Men, which is a video podcast that takes a fun look at the world of horror. You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at, on Twitter @HunterShea1, Facebook fan page at Hunter Shea or the Monster Men 13 channel on YouTube.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Déjà vu Writing - A Guest Post by Russell R. James for the "Dreamwalker" Tour

This time around, my novel creeped me out.

When I wrote Dreamwalker, I wanted to set it in a location that emphasized the duality that the main character, Pete Holm, lives in. I’d read about Atlantic City and how the promise of casinos hadn’t created the promised city-wide rejuvenation. Atlantic Avenue divided the city, separating the glitter of the high-rise hotels from the poverty of the rundown residential areas. The location seemed perfect.

I’d never been to Atlantic City, or Philadelphia, another location in the book. But MapQuest is amazing, and I used grids of the streets to flesh out my fantasy versions. Pete takes a bus, so I Googled the bus station locations and schedules just to make sure such places existed.

After the second draft of the story was completed, I had a free weekend in Maryland and decided to visit these places I’d so casually created based on a few thin facts. I headed to Atlantic City, hoping I could work in some real-life observations to the story.

I drove through the city and went into shock. Locations I’d created in my mind’s eye were here in real life, almost doorframe for doorframe. The restaurant Pete works in, the rundown homes, the decaying basketball court. It didn’t feel like I was exploring someplace new, it felt like I was returning to someplace familiar.

In the late afternoon, I drove to Philadelphia, taking the same route my character takes when he tries to find the identity of the girlfriend in his dreams. In the city, I followed my invented route to her fictional hospice. There was no hospice, but there was a doctor’s office with an entrance that looked just as I’d imagined the hospice’s did. It gave me chills.

Dreamwalker is about a college student who enters an alternate reality when he dreams. Did I enter some alternate subconscious reality when I invented the locations for my book? I don’t know. If I could, it would sure make writing the next novel much easier.

Dreamwalker is the sixth novel that Russell James has published with Samhain Horror under legendary horror editor Don D’Auria!
Dreamwalker Synopsis
Two realities. One hope.
What if you lived in two worlds, and could die in either?  Pete Holm can. He is a dreamwalker, able to travel to the realm of dreams, including the devastated world of Twin Moon City, where an evil voodoo spirit holds living souls in terror with his army of the walking dead.
In the waking world, drug lord Jean St. Croix knows only the power of the dreamwalker can stop him, so St. Croix vows Pete must die.
Pete is the only hope to rescue the lost souls in Twin Moon City…unless St. Croix kills him first. Can anyone survive when two realities collide? 
Get your copy today!
Samhain Horror:
Barnes and Noble:

1)      Open reviewer giveaway: Anyone who reviews Dreamwalker on Amazon and one other site like GoodReads, etc. and sends Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, their links to will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card. This contest ends on Feb. 28, 2015.

2)      Rafflecoper giveaway for two copies of Russell’s previous books. Two winners will each win one of two books, Black Magic and Dark Inspiration. US only, no international shipping. Must use a valid email that you can be reached by. By entering the giveaway, you consent to allow Russell to have your email for very infrequent newsletter updates. Contest ends Feb. 28, 2015.  

Other contest questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, Hook of a Book Media at

Praise for Russell R. James
“James has a talent for combining action-packed vignettes into a powerful, fast-paced whole.”
—Library Journal on Black Magic

(Five Stars, A Night Owl Top Pick) “I loved the story so much that I’m eagerly waiting to read more from him. He carefully and very intricately wove his storyline to have elements of mystery and suspense throughout. I now have a new favorite book I’ll read over and over again.”
—Night Owl Reviews on Dark Inspiration

“The book had me at the edge of my seat. The writing is so vivid I even jumped a few times. If you're a fan of the genre, love ghosts and are drawn to the supernatural, then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book!”
—Long and Short Reviews on Dark Inspiration

Russell R. James, Biography

Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents' warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn't make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, and Dreamwalker. He has two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness. His next novel, Q Island, releases in 2015.

His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says "There is something seriously wrong with you."

Visit his website at and read some free short stories.

He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats.

To find out more about Russell R. James, please visit his Website or follow him on Facebook! Join him on Twitter, @RRJames14. Also, feel free to drop him at a line at