Crooked Hills, Book One, by Cullen Bunn (earwig press)

Crooked Hills, Book One, by Cullen Bunn (earwig press)

Crooked HillsCrooked Hills by Cullen Bunn

At some point, the head noise of adult life dulls out a vital sense that kids know deep down in their bones: sometimes what you’re looking for is also looking for you.

Charles “Charlie” Ward is almost 13, and newly-made man of the house after his father’s recent death in a suspicious hit-and-run “accident.” Charlie’s a Chicago kid who’s looking forward to losing his troubles in a summer of video games, horror novels, ghost stories, and baseball with his friends, until certain doom hijacks his plans: a family vacation in the Ozarks with his mother and annoying eight-year-old brother, Alex. But the summer has its own plans for Charlie, who finds himself headed for Crooked Hills, the most haunted town in America, and home to Maddie Someday, a spirit who wanders the woods at night, in search of children she find by the blood-red light of her ruby ring.

Cullen Bunn, who has written for Marvel and DC Comics, Wildstorm, and IDW, is also author of the horror noir series, The Damned, The Sixth Gun, and Like a Chinese Tattoo. His new juvenile fiction series, Crooked Hills, is a cobwebby trap-door that suddenly appears in the ceiling of your clean, new, suburban home: a portal for children to climb into the ghostly back rooms and hidden spaces of supernatural fiction. And unlike the recent turn that tween supernatural fiction has taken into bodice-ripping, fashion-conscious, narcissistic soap-opera, Cullen Bunn delivers the real goods: worms, spiders, headless chickens fleeing bloody axes, kidnapped little brothers, and girls with slingshots who can track ghost dogs by moonlight.

Crooked Hills is a series you’ll want to kid to read, or better yet, to read together, because all horror and supernatural fiction fans know that the prickling, shuddersome feeling that comes from a good ghost story is no cheap thrill, it’s a vital connection to something larger and and deeper and more shadowy: a key to what’s haunting you.

Forthcoming in February 2012: Cullen Bunn’s,“Creeping Stones and Other Stories.” Individual stories to appear digitally leading up to book’s release.

A Bird Black as the Sun: California poets on crows and ravens

A Bird Black as the Sun: California poets on crows and ravens

Please read this review on Litseen

A Bird Black As The Sun: California Poets on Crows and Ravens, edited by Enid Osborn and Cynthia Anderson
reviewed by LJ Moore

Green Poet Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-615-53632-3

Pop-Lit Bleed Out: Soulstice, by Lance Dow and Keana Texeira

Pop-Lit Bleed Out: Soulstice, by Lance Dow and Keana Texeira

Luna's Dream (Soulstice, #1)

Soulstice: Luna’s Dream
by Lance Dow and Keana Texeira
(613 pages/Red Tide Publishing, 2010)
ISBN : 9780578053721

Soulstice: Luna’s Dream is part one in a four-part saga about vampires and werewolves co-written by 15-year-old pop-singer/model Keana Texeira and screenwriter, Lance Dow. Texeira will star in the movie version of the book, which was publicized for release in 2011 but has apparently overslept in its coffin. Soulstice is a teen romance written in the voice of its 15-year-old narrator, Luna Tremaine, a vampire who breaks the cultural code of her species by… you guessed it… falling in love with a human boy.

Before you read any further let me do you a favor: if you are a fan of well-written gothic/horror/supernatural fiction, simply skip Soulstice. I doubt you even need me to tell you that. If you are a fan of the Twilight series, you should also skip Soulstice. Frankly, everyone should skip it. However, I have made it a personal point to only write negative reviews when a book goes beyond being junk reading and crosses baldly into the territory of, as Robert Smith sang it,  jumping someone else’s train.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a longstanding tradition of theft in literature, music, art- in all of human nature. No one really invents the wheel: we steal the idea from nature, and then we steal it from each other, making improvements along the way. The line betweeen plagiarisim and inpiration is really the difference between knock-off and innovation: one is an assisted act of creation, fueled by the influences/samples/riffs of others. The other is a cheap vampire.

For fans of the Twilight Series, (and I am not one, but let’s just pretend for a moment) Soulstice is going to seem groan-inducingly familiar: the story takes place in a remote town in the Pacific Northwest, it is about vampires falling in love with humans, the trials and tribulations of high school, love at first sight, feats of inhuman strength, vampires defending the humans they love against other vampires, rebellion against cultural taboos, pop culture and fashion, running really fast in the forest, jumping really far, mood swings, brooding, emotional outbursts, and blood. Don’t forget the fashion-conscious-yet-eco-friendly plugs for hemp, as well as Native Americans who appear as caricatures of doomed wisdom.

Soulstice is written in the confessional style it seems pop culture ascribes to being the universal voice of teens everywhere. Texeira’s age is a consideration, but not an excuse to confuse bad writing with “voice.” To be fair, Texeira hits her stride near the end of the book with fast-paced, truly gory fight scenes. If all of Soulstice were written with that kind of focus,  wiped clean of asides, self-conscious meanderings off-topic, and tedious scene-setting blow-by-blows, (now I’m parking my bike, now I’m putting on my headphones) it could at least be a guilty pleasure to read at the gym.

There is very little in Soulstice that is not derivative of Stephenie Meyers’ world (itself filled with plagiarism of Anne Rice, but don’t get me started), which begs the question: why does Soulstice bother itself with being about vampires anyway? If nothing new is being brought to the mythology, why not do something creative with the concept and take the passionate, fresh, bloodthirsty focus of a teenage perspective and apply it to a new vein? Since the Twilight Series has done this decades’ work of re-opening the pop-lit artery, the answer seems to be that there’s a feeding frenzy on for derivative blood money.

Meanwhile, a generation of new hemophiles will eventually (hopefully) figure out for themselves that reading books like Soulstice is about as satisfying as a bottle of cold, skunky Tru Blood.