Review: “Psycho Hose Beast From Outer Space” [Spoiler-Free]

Purchase “Psycho Hose Beast From Outer Space” on Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.

I recently had the pleasure to read and review the newest book from Canadian author, C.D. Gallant-King, a writer whose take on horror, sci-fi, and humor (all rolled into one) now has me keenly interested in checking out his prior publications. He is, without a doubt, a geek after my own heart, and it shines through in his writing.

Gale Harbour Book One

“Psycho Hose Beast From Outer Space” is the first entry in what is set to be the “Gale Harbour” series, named for the fictional Newfoundland town in which our story takes place. I say ‘fictional’, but Gallant-King describes the town in such a way as to bring quite a clear picture to the reader’s mind. Growing up in an Atlantic Canadian town myself, I found it quite easy to imagine Gale Harbour as a real place, which gave a sense of realism to the quite extraordinary, out-of-this-world story that takes place there.

The story is also set in the early 1990’s, and Gallant-King does an excellent job of regularly reminding us of this fact. Reference to early 90’s video games, movies, and pop culture are woven into the plot, as well as accurate portrayals of everyday life in that decade (e.g. video rental stores are still a thing, and none of the characters own a cell phone).

Jumping Between Generations

If asked who the main protagonist of “Psycho Hose-Beast” is, I would be tempted to choose 12-year-old Niall, but the narrative moves regularly between multiple different characters as necessary to create the type of story Gallant-King is trying to tell. In one chapter we will follow Niall, his best friend Pius, and Pius’s cousin Harper, while in the next we will be focused on Harper’s ‘game and fisheries ranger’ father, or local police sergeant, Tanguay. The jumps work well to allow sharing information with the reader as required to progress the story, and are done in a way that isn’t jarring or annoying.

What is particularly nice, however, is how well Gallant-King portrays the different age groups involved. The adults feel like adults, with grown-up concerns, more rational minds (sometimes to a fault), and the need to be responsible and logical. The children, on the other hand, feel like children. They are all written in a way that truly resembles the way I remember kinds of that age acting. Each of the five child characters also have distinct personalities that a very well-written and bring a ton of life (and laughs) to the story.

Psycho Hose-Beast???

So, okay, I’m sure you’re thinking what’s with the title? Well, the central plot of the story revolves around an ancient creature – something like an elder god, if you like – that was sealed away by clever humans thousands of years prior and is, not to put too fine a point on it, rather pissed off about it. The creature managed to break free of its prison approximately 63 years prior to the events of the book, but was temporarily re-trapped by a pair of enterprising witches. Now it is free again and is on the hunt, not only to heal and strengthen itself, but because it desires the eradication of humanity for daring to trap it in the first place.

And to answer your (admittedly reasonable) question, ‘psycho hose-beast’ is the name given to the creature by one of the children, Harper, who is by far the bravest and most level-headed of the child characters. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Save the Harbour, Save the World

“Psycho Hose-Beast” follows this random assortment of child and adult characters as they work to stay alive and defeat this horrible creature, who has already taken several lives in their quiet harbour town. The story tows the line between humorous and dramatic, not shying away from the concept of death but also working in some wonderfully ridiculous moments, including one in which Snow’s “Informer” makes a surprise appearance. The titular beast is creepy, disturbing, and most definitely evil, while the human characters are all likeable, even the ones who kinda-sorta make you want to toss them to the beast. There are lots of twists and turns, well-loved tropes, and bits of information fed slowly that come back to make sense later on. Parts of the story also set up ideas about where the rest of the series might lead, such as the secret army tunnels running all throughout the ground beneath the town.

The story is not dragged out by pointless fluff, could easily be devoured in a sitting or two if you were so inclined, and has a good pace that keeps you wanting to keep going right to the end. And speaking of which, the ending is, in my personal opinion, quite satisfying in a number of ways. It could easily all end right here and I would be quite pleased, but at the same time the inevitable sequel has been set up well enough that I’m definitely looking forward to seeing ‘Gale Harbour Book Two’ in the future!

My personal favorite thing about the entire book, however, is the children and their dynamics between one another. From the bookish weakling, to the weirdo kid who never stops talking, each of the children feel so much like real kids that could have been a part of any of our childhoods that it gives that much more gravitas to the story. You genuinely want to see these kids survive and succeed, even (or possibly especially) when they’re being morons, because they’re so relatable.

If asked, I would rate “Psycho Hose-Beast” as either a Teen or Young Adult novel, but there is also nothing in it that would stop me allowing my own pre-teen to give it a read. I’m quite certain she would love it for its horrific humor and young heroes.

In Conclusion…

“Psycho Hose-Beast From Outer Space” is definitely worth a read, especially if you’re a fan of the horror-comedy aesthetic of something like “Stranger Things”. The characters are likeable and relatable, the setting realistic and familiar, and the monster the kind of weird, illogical, disgusting beast that you might find in anything from a b-rated horror movie to a modern-day sci-fi flick. This is a fun, enjoyable, easy-to-read romp, and I can’t wait to find out where Gallant-King goes with the rest of the series!

Pick it up for yourself right here on Amazon, and feel free to come back and let me know what you thought!

Book Review: “Bonfire” by Krysten Ritter [SPOILER-FREE]


It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review, which is a sin since I’ve actually been reading a good bit lately. So I thought I’d dive back into it with one of my favorite books of 2019 so far, and that is Krysten Ritter’s debut, Bonfire.

Wait…Krysten Ritter as in “Jessica Jones”?

Before I get into the actual review, I feel the need to address the fact that, yes, the author of this book is also the actress who portrays “Jessica Jones” in the Marvel series of the same name. I don’t bring this up because I think it should matter who, specifically, the author is. I bring it up because while I was reading the book I had absolutely no idea. It just never occurred to me when I saw the name “Krysten Ritter” on the front of the book that it was the same “Krysten Ritter” who is an actress. After all, it’s not as though there are no other Krysten Ritters in the world.

So, that’s just an extra little bit of info that may (or may not) affect how you feel about my review. I had no idea who the author was, and therefore had no bias one way or the other as to whether her book would be any good. Just the way it should be, in my opinion!

The Plot:

Bonfire’s narrator, Abby Williams, works with environmental law and has been placed in a bit of an awkward position. She will be investigating Optimal Plastics, the company which is the beating heart of her hometown of Barrens, Indiana. It’s a sticky situation to begin with, without adding in the fact that Abby doesn’t exactly have fond memories of the town and the people there she grew up with. And just in case that wasn’t enough to be dealing with, emotionally, she soon begins to uncover a strange scandal involving a classmate who ran away from home immediately following graduation. Where all this will lead is down a rabbit-hole of declining mental and emotional stability the further Abby presses on.

First Impressions:

I’m going to be perfectly honest: upon first picking up this book I wasn’t sure if it was something I was going to be able to enjoy because it’s so different from the kind of thing I normally read. I tend to focus on supernatural and fantasy stuff, whereas Bonfire is very much focused in the realm of reality. Most of what I read is third-person, past tense, and Bonfire is first-person, present-tense. I’m sure these seem like small, insignificant things when concerning a well-written story, but I do tend to be picky. So when I began reading, it was with a sense of concern.

Second Impressions:

Luckily, my first impressions/concern were complete and absolute nonsense.

I very quickly got used to the present-tense style of storytelling, and before I knew it I’d fallen in love with Abby as a character. What’s wonderful about her is that she’s an incredibly complex character. She’s very clearly the “good guy” in the context of this story, but she has plenty of failings as well, as we soon learn. Expanding upon that, some of her failings are very clearly of her own making, while others are very clearly the result of a less-than-stellar childhood.

This aspect of Abby also makes her very easy for me to relate to. My own childhood may not have been as rough as what Abby describes, but I can definitely understand quite a lot of what she’s gone through, such as bullying and unhealthy relationships.

To put it simply, Abby is the kind of character you can absolutely imagine being a real person. She is absolutely believable and makes you feel like someone you could have grown up with yourself.

The Plot Thickens:

As the story moves on, we become engrossed in lots of twists and turns that, quite frankly, will break your mind. Abby, because of the emotional roller-coaster she exists on, is an unreliable narrator who regularly spins us off in confusing directions. It is rather difficult at times to tell what is really happening, and what is all in Abby’s head. Chapter by chapter little bits of information are mixed into her investigation, and we’re never quite sure what is really happening in the background. Oftentimes throughout the book I found myself thinking that I knew how things were going to turn out, only to have something get flipped around on me a few pages later. In the end some things did turn out how I was expecting, but not before I’d been fooled into changing my mind half a dozen or more times. In other words, I was definitely kept on my toes with this book.

Final Thoughts:

It’s difficult to say too much about a book like Bonfire without ruining the suspense and intrigue, so I’ve kept things very vague. But the fact of the matter is that within the first few chapters I was completely hooked and desperate to know what was going to happen next. I ended up being completely engrossed and I devoured the book as quickly as I was able because I needed to know how things turned out in the end.

Ritter’s debut novel was a breakaway hit, at least in my opinion. Her ability to tell a story has been cemented with this first publication, and I’m going to be very interested to see what she comes up with next.

I highly recommend this book and would love to hear what other readers think about it. Let me know in the comment section, or add me on Goodreads: Tracey Lynn Tobin!

Want to check out Bonfire for yourself? Click right here to order!
Already read it? Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment section below!

“A Clockwork Orange” – Spoiler-Free Book Review

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess


“What’s it going to be then, eh?”

Normally I start off these reviews with a digital photo of the book cover for cleanliness and clarity. But this particular copy of A Clockwork Orange was a gift given to me by my lovely friend River. Therefore I thought I’d instead use this shot I took of it on my shelf with the Alex DeLarge Funko Mystery Mini I got in a massive blind box haul!

A Clockwork Orange is one of those classic books that I’ve had on my list of “things I really should read” for years. I’ve long since seen the movie and was very curious about how it matched up to the book. Sadly I just never seemed to get around to picking up a copy. Cue River, who found this out and just couldn’t let the injustice stand! She had an extra copy and shipped it my way immediately. Thanks again, River!

“He looked a malenky bit poogly when he viddied the four of us like that…”

The first thing I have to mention about A Clockwork Orange is that some people may find it a little difficult to read, or at least to get into, because of the language. I don’t want to deter anybody; I just want to give a heads up. A large portion of the book is written in “nadsat slang” (teen-speak), which is, according to Burgess, a “Russified” version of English. This can be quite confusing, especially in the beginning chapters, because our humble Narrator rarely explains the strange words he’s using.

Eventually a few things begin to come clear. “Cutter”, “deng”, and “pretty polly” all refer to money. “Bezoomny” means mad or crazy. A “droog” is a friend, a “devotchka” is a young lady, and a “chelloveck” is a young man. But there are plenty more – see this Appendix for a list – and many only come up once or twice, leaving you no chance to discern their nature. It’s left up to the reader to try to figure it out, and if you’re anything like me you won’t have a clue. Unless, perhaps, you’re familiar with Russian.

But immersion is one of the best forms of learning tools.

As I said, the confusing slang shouldn’t be a deterrent, as it slowly becomes more like background noise. By the time I was halfway into the book I was finding myself hardly even noticing the slang. Some of it I’d naturally picked up as I went. Some I still didn’t get, but I found myself understanding the general context of what the sentence was saying anyway. All in all it didn’t both me enough to ruin my enjoyment of the book. In fact, it did enhance the feel of the story. Our Narrator is a teenager, after all, and who the hell understands teenagers?

Moving away from the language…

For anyone who has neither read the book nor seen the movie, the overarching story is about the violence of youth. Along with that comes the importance of free will. Eventually the disgusting nature of government and politics is mixed in as well (although I’m not certain Burgess intended to express it that way, or if it was just a side-effect).

Our Humble Narrator is Alex DeLarge, a teen who has two obsessions in life: classical music and ultra-violence. He and his “droogs” are the epitome of evil, and I don’t say that lightly. They aren’t just hoodlums. They aren’t just thieves. They’re sociopaths who do whatever (and whomever) they wish. To these ends, some might find A Clockwork Orange to be a difficult read. This is a far warning. There really is “ultra-violence” in this story. Burgess takes the idea of teenagers being impulsive, self-involved little bastards and takes it to the extreme. A night on the town for this group is bashing a few faces in and maybe breaking into someone’s home to have their way with the lady of the house.

But here’s the twist…

As brutal as our Narrator’s actions are, what makes A Clockwork Orange a particularly weird read is that we’re meant to empathize with him. When the state takes extreme measures in order to redeem Alex (not a spoiler! It’s on the back of the book!) we’re meant to sympathize with his plight. They’re attempting to “fix” him by literally taking away his ability to do the things he does. In this way, the book is a very interesting commentary on what freedom and free will are, and how important they are when compared to the safety and comfort of society.

Ultimately, for this reason, the story gave me a feeling of disjointed loss; I didn’t know what I wanted the outcome to be. On the one hand Alex was clearly a psycho who deserved to burn for the things he’d done. On the other hand, he had one redeeming quality that was inadvertently stolen from him along with his free will. I was – as I believe Burgess intended – able to feel bad for him. I wanted him to pay for his sins, but I also wanted those who’d destroyed his mind to pay for theirs.

Stop playing with my emotions, authors!

It’s a rare thing, I think, to be able to hate a character one moment, and root for them the next. Especially rare is when those two oxymoronic notions play leap frog in your head, bouncing from one to the other and back again. To my recollection I believe only one other author ever accomplished this particular feat with me, and that was George R.R. Martin of A Song of Ice and Fire fame. In his world people make evil decisions one moment, and moral ones the next, so that a villain may turn out to become your favorite hero. Then he’ll turn around and do something horrible that makes you feel psychotic for ever liking them for even a moment.

Burgess’s Alex DeLarge is the same way. He’s an evil, horrid little wretch who you want to suffer. But then does suffer, in a rather horrible way, so you can’t help rooting for him, at least a little bit. Yet at the same time you still think he’s horrid. It’s a very complex mental conundrum.

The 21st Chapter

My copy of the book also has the missing twenty-first chapter. When the book was first released in the US, this final chapter was dropped out with the vague explanation of “Americans won’t get it”. Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation  followed suit and ended with the second-to-last chapter, although this may have been for unrelated reasons owing to artistic expression. Having now read the final chapter – and having seen the film – I’m not entirely certain what they thought Americans wouldn’t “get”. It’s seems to be a perfectly straightforward concept to me, but then…no spoilers, so you’ll have to judge for yourself.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I would personally say that Burgess got across the point he was trying to make with this story. It may have been done in an especially extreme way, making Alex out to be the worst possible example he could fathom. Regardless, by the end of that final chapter (the real final chapter) it definitely made sense as to where Burgess had been going with it all. He made his point about free will. He made his point about government and authority. And he made his point about youth, and the inevitability of youth passing into age.

A Clockwork Orange is definitely worth a read, especially if you’re a fan of the film, or if the film left a hundred questions in your head. Burgess was inside Alex’s mind, and was able to portray that mind in a frighteningly thorough fashion. Grab this one for your bookshelf now!

Want to check out A Clockwork Orange for yourself? Click right here to order!
Already read it? Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment section below!

Book Review: The Lunar Chronicles Series [Spoiler-Free]


For this particular book review I’m spreading my focus across a four-part series, as I’d finished reading the first two books in the quadrilogy before I first began writing reviews. That series is The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, comprising of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter. Though there are two other books that technically belong to the series – Fairest and Stars Above – I won’t be including them in this review as they are both stand-alone stories in the same world as, but set outside of, the main narrative.

When I first began reading Cinder, I didn’t know a great deal about The Lunar Chronicles other than it was a futuristic take on several classic fairy tales: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. I was soon to learn that, while Meyer does take a lot of ideas from these fairy tales, she’s also constructed an incredible, original tale that sucks the reader in and begs to be read.

The series begins with Cinder, and we find ourselves in the distant future, after several world wars have come and gone, and peace has reigned on earth for many years. The Earth as we see it – similar to the present, but redistributed into somewhat different geological groupings such as the Eastern Commonwealth and the European Union – is technologically advanced, but not in such a way that makes it seem unattainable and unrealistic. Meyer has created a future in which the average citizen communicates with the world via tablet-like computer devices, space travel is commonplace but not something every Earthen has easy access to, and the sick and mortally wounded are capable of mechanical reconstruction. Unfortunately those who have these “upgrades” – known as cyborgs – are looked down upon, considered to be less than human, with less rights than a fully automated mechanoid – known as androids. Our heroine, Cinder, is one such cyborg, little more than a piece of property to her adopted family, but also one of the best mechanics in the Commonwealth. She is, of course, the Cinderella of our story.

Scarlet shifts the story narrative to our Little Red Riding Hood character, a spunky young woman with bright red hair who lives on a farm with her grandmother and has a run in with a wolf…in a manner of speaking. Cress introduces us to our Rapunzel character, a brilliant young computer genius who has been cruelly locked away in a satellite far above Earth’s surface. Finally we move on to our Snow White, a young princess named Winter who suffers under her vile, evil stepmother, who also happens to want to conquer Earth.

It is rather difficult to say too much about any of the four stories without ruining important moments throughout for anyone who hasn’t stepped into the series yet, but there are a few points of note that I can safely share that may, in fact, make the series that much more interesting to you:

  • While Earth is at peace within itself, it has also been suffering for several years under a mysterious disease called Letumosis, also known as “The Plague”. Letumosis strikes seemingly at random and is extremely contagious, so anyone found to be suffering with it is quarantined immediately. There are no survivors. Seeing even the slightest hint of the disease is a death sentence for the victim.
  • At some point in the past of this world, the moon was colonized and eventually became known as it’s own country, Luna. One of these first colonists, as a result of genetic damage, became the first true “Lunar”, a mutant capable of manipulating the bioelectric energy  around a person’s mind, enabling him to implant thoughts and control another’s actions. This first Lunar passed his gift on, and on, and as the Lunar colony grew this ability became prevalent across their society.
  • Earth and Luna have been at odds with each other for many years as of the telling of our story, with the vile Queen Levana of Luna attempting a “truce” by way of a marriage with an Earthen leader.

The real story begins when our cyborg friend Cinder is approached by Prince Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth to help in repairing what he says is a very important android. A series of events follow, sending Cinder on the run as she struggles to uncover a veritable treasure trove of secrets and conspiracies that have been buried since before her birth. On her journey she befriends our other “princesses”, as well as their respective “princes”, and together they embark on a mission to set right the evil plans that Queen Levana has put into motion.

But I hear what you’re thinking: but is it good?

That would be an emphatic “Yes”.

There is no doubt that The Lunar Chronicles are what my husband refers to as “teen-y stories”, full of giddy romances and the like, but it’s also unwavering in realism. People get hurt. People die. People do horrible, disgusting things to one another. This is not a happy-go-lucky story. It’s full of fun characters, humorous moments, uplifting side-stories, but also warBlood and death and destruction. This is a story of horrible things done by people who believe they’re in the right, and the people who finally turn around and fight back.

It’s an incredibly well-written story, start to finish. Each of the characters – men, women, good, evil – captured me in their own ways, pulling me into their individual stories, which all weave into one another beautifully. I devoured Cinder in a couple of days, Scarlet and Cress just as quickly, and though it took me a while to get around to reading Winter, I scarcely put it down until I had it absorbed. And honestly? I’d turn right around and start the entire thing over again right now if not for the fact that I have dozens of other books that I need to get around to reading. That, to me, is the sign of an excellent book (or, in this case, series of books): if finishing it just makes me want to hit rewind and go back to the beginning, it obviously made a big impression.

Whether you’re a fan of young-adult fiction or not, I would definitely recommend giving The Lunar Chronicles a bit of your time. If you can reach the end of Cinder without desperately wanting to know what happens next, I’ll honestly be amazed. The entire series gets two thumbs up from me!

Want to check out The Lunar Chronicles Series for yourself? Click right here to order!
Already read it? Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment section below!

Book Review: “On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft”


On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft is Stephen King’s foray into sharing his knowledge of writing and encouraging the next generation of writers with what he has learned, the mistakes he has made, and the tips and tricks he’s picked up throughout his life.

Let me start this review by stating that I am not personally a fan of craft books. I’ve read a few of them, and I’ve found, overwhelmingly, that they’re full of stuck-up, preachy “advice” about how you NEVER do this, and ALWAYS do that. Those other books I’ve read were full of demands from snobbish writers who believe that one can only become a writer if one follows a set, precise roster of dedicated rules that must never change. This, of course, is complete bullshit, and Stephen King knows it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up a tad.

Despite my dislike of the previous craft books I’ve read, I decided to pick up On Writing because I’d heard a ton of good things from fellow writers. Additionally, King is one of my favorite writers of all time, so I hoped that he would have something interesting to tell me.

I was surprised to find that the book does not jump right into writing rules and well-meaning advice, but actually begins with a bit of an autobiography. In chapter-like chunks of varying sizes, King tells us about his life growing up and how these moments, in one way or another, created the writer we know today. This section takes up nearly half of the overall book, and I’ll admit that if I’d know this before buying the book, I might have reconsidered. I was looking for writing advice, after all, not a life story. However, having been glued to the pages throughout the entirety of the autobiographical section, I now implore any prospective readers to not let this deter you. To be perfectly blunt, reading about King’s life, different trials and tribulations, and all the little moments that made him the writer he is, was infinitely more interesting and useful information than any of the tripe in the other craft books I’ve read. There were little, simple lessons he learned from people he’s worked with, family moments that changed how he looked at things, personal struggles he had to deal with and how his writing was affected as a result, and much more. It reads a bit like a stream-of-consciousness project, with King occasionally wandering off on tangents that seem totally irrelevant, but everything manages to come together in sweeps and waves, and eventually we come out on the other end having knowledge we might never have otherwise gained unless we happened to live a very similar life (which, obviously, is unlikely).

The second half of the book is where the specific advice comes into play, though this section still isn’t drawn out in the way other craft books are. While King is now giving his opinions on what we need in our writing “tool box”, what steps we should take when deciding to become a writer, and what changes we should make in our lives to facilitate that decision, it’s all still written in a kind of autobiographical way. King explains his advice by comparing it to his own life and his own experiences, and in my opinion that makes it all seem much more worth while, somehow. There’s something more convincing about advice garnered through personal experience as compared to advice that came from a university course the giver took from a professor who’s never written an actual book in his/her life.

The advice itself varies from the simple and obvious (understand your language, your grammar, etc), to the more involved (adverbs have their place but should be used very sparingly), to the “yeah that makes sense” (read a lot; TV is the devil). I was pleasantly surprised, myself, to realize that the overwhelming majority of what King was saying made perfect sense to me. Instead of screaming at me that you can NEVER do this in a book, and if you don’t do THIS and THIS you’re a worthless amateur, King gives a ton of actual, meaningful, reasonable advice. One of the lines from the book that really resonated with me in particular was, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” In this King is so right, and this is something I myself have been neglecting in a terrible way. So I’ve recommitted myself to reading more – as much as possible, in fact – and if this is the only thing I’ve gained from reading On Writing (it isn’t) then I’ll happily say that the book was well worth reading.

Something else that I have to mention, though: what I loved most about this book is that King understands writing and writers. While so many other craft books shove lists of rules down your throat, nearly everything King offers up is a suggestion. He mentions a number of things that he personally feels are very important, hard-and-fast kinds of rules, but at the same time regularly admits that something will work for one writer but not for another. He understands that writing is fluid, changing shape depending on the container it is being poured from and into. In this way he gives us the tools, but admits that sometimes a rock can work as well as a hammer. For this reason alone, I am quite happy that I decided to purchase and read On Writing. In a world of veteran writers with their noses in the air, it was extremely refreshing to read the advice of a very successful novelist who realizes that his words may be everything to you, and may be nothing. That, in itself, is an exceptional lesson.

So would I suggest this book to the fledgling writer? Of course! In fact, I would suggest it even to the established writer, because the fact is that we all have something to learn, and sometimes the lesson is to relax a bit and figure out what works for you.

Want to check out On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft for yourself? Click right here to order!
Already read it? Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment section below!