Red Hill, by Jamie McGuire

3 Stars


I know Jamie McGuire as that woman who writes generic new adult novels, filled with characters likable enough to move the story along, but absolutely forgettable one week later. She’s a predictable author, which is why I was intrigued by Red Hill. Could the woman who wrote Beautiful Disaster pull off a zombie story? What the heck? I’ll try anything once.


Yes, McGuire can pull off a zombie novel, but in the same way she can pull off a new adult novel. I’m not an avid reader of this genre, but I felt her story worked well enough to move the plot along, while lacking the depth of true sci-fi. McGuire managed to keep a very simple plot of seeking out loved ones and safety, pretty engaging, though. There were a few errors in story-telling, such as when a character drops his keys beyond reach, only to have them moments later, with no explanation. This wasn’t a recurring theme, however.

The shortcoming of Red HIll is one of characterization. This book came out just after Beautiful Disaster and McGuire’s effort to separate these characters from the intensity of her previous ones is clear. Scarlet was bland when she wasn’t infuriating. I had similar, yet more watered-down feelings for everyone else, despite the attempts at romantic plot lines. I found the ending both surprising and unbelievable, but not quite disappointing, because it was at least final. I would not call it an HEA. Overall, I enjoyed this stand-alone title.

Review Word Count: 247



Off Season, by Jack Ketchum

3 Stars

Off Season

There’s something about warmer weather that makes me want to read horror. Perhaps, I just want evidence to support my insistence that camping is a miserable idea.


Off Season certainly provides this, as Ketchum tells a tale of a weekend getaway gone horribly wrong, when joined by incestuous cave-dwelling savages. While the scenes of gore are certainly chilling, the character development and plot are both pretty bland. There are no twists to this story. It is exactly as advertised on the back cover and no more. Furthermore, not a single death broke my heart or left me feeling anything but mildly ill, because I didn’t care about any of these people.

I may not be a seasoned reader of the genre, but overall, I found Ketchum’s Off Season to be gruesomely fun. Other horror writers aim to get inside your head and mind rape you with their stories. You’re not intended to read Stephen King’s It and develop a fear of clowns; instead you fear the ancient evil inhabiting the world and the people in it, including yourself. Ketchum is a bit more to the point, both with his plotline and word count. I find that truly brilliant horror is tedious by nature, due to the aforementioned mental invasion. This title can be read in a few days and forgotten, despite some of the more cringe-worthy moments. Nick Cutter’s The Troop, however, still haunts me. If you want to be scared, without true commitment, Off Season is a good choice.

Review Word Count: 250

The Troop, by Nick Cutter

4 Stars

the troopEvery five years or so, I decide I’m capable of reading horror…

… and I am always wrong.

For some reason, I read that Stephen King found The Troop horrifying and immediately thought “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” In fact, this title reminded me a great deal of a King novel, particularly through characterization and imagery.

“The sky was salted with remote stars. The beach was a bonelike strip unfurling to the shoreline. The sea advanced up the shore with a series of minute sucking inhales.” pg. 111

For realz, y’all, he made a beach sound eerie. As far as the brand of horror, though, this is mostly a creepy crawly, mindfuck story.

“11:42 Subject blindly consuming own stripped flesh.” pg. 151
“The… stomach split soundlessly, like Saran Wrap, groin to rib cage.” pg. 167

Unlike King, Cutter’s side tangents were brief and rare. However, while they served a purpose in characterization and story line, I felt the animal abuse anecdotes were excessive. I admit it. I skipped the kitten story. I saw the word “kitten” and the word “Borax” and nope. Flip, flip, flip. It was at least five pages long. Dude, not necessary.We get it. The kid’s fucked up.

In addition to the animal abuse, the central plot of this tale is the horrifying first person deaths of several 14-year-old boys that are written like 12-year-olds. It was tough for this substitute teacher to take, but Cutter’s mission was certainly accomplished. I’ll never go camping again. Though, there was never much of danger of that anyway.

Review Word Count: 249