Book Review: The Drowned Forest by Kristopher Reisz

[Editor’s Note: a version of this review is also on my GoodReads page. It is my hope to begin reviewing more books in this blog, as I review podcasts, in an attempt to bring attention to the things I think others should check out.]

The Drowned Forest

The Drowned Forest by Kristopher Reisz is a book that has stuck with me over the last few days. I highly enjoyed it and hope that many others will as well.

The story follows Jane, a teenage girl who is trying and failing to deal with the loss of her best friend, Holly. Jane is in the center of a very religious community and holds God in every aspect of her life. However, the faith that she so heavily relies on offers little comfort in light of the fact that Holly’s spirit remains trapped in the waters she drowned in.

I was following the story along willingly until I reached a scene that caused me to put the book down, ponder what the hell just happened, then immediately pick the book back up to see what would happen next. The story is quick-paced, spanning a week’s time, and as soon as the action kicks in it does not lag.

The characters are believable and feel real. The details of the world are engaging (damned if Reisz cannot convey the awful, sticky heat of an Alabama summer) and are woven into Jane’s thoughts. We are spared any spoon-fed explanations and are simply offered the world of The Drowned Forest as it is.

There folklore in this story is some of the best this side of the Mississippi. There are root workers, circles drawn to ward off spirits, and the power of mojo. Reisz brings a haunting, hungry force into Jane’s world through the history that surrounds the titular drowned forest and I am so sorry that people ditched on the incredible mythos he is laying down in this story.

The protagonist begins the story as a sheltered, heavily-religious teenager who is trapped in her grief over the loss of her friend Holly. The religious aspect of Jane’s life is intentionally suffocating. It reflects the way that, although perhaps Jane cannot yet see for herself, those around her see their own struggling or non-existent faith. But a protagonist is built to change, to alter their own perspective and see the world in a different way. Regardless of your own personal religious views (or lack thereof, that’s cool too), I hope that you give The Drowned Forest the chance it so richly deserves.

Bonus fact: As a role-playing nerd I can totally see this as a viable setting for a campaign.


Podcast Review: Writing Excuses

“This is Writing Excuses! Fifteen minutes long because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart!”

Out here in the vast wilderness of the Internets an intrepid browser could probably discover an infinite amount of professional advice on any given topic. Naturally, much of the advice is sarcastically quotation-marked “professional” at best, and you can only filter out so many of the crazies by analyzing whether or not it looks like they used Geocities-izer to make their site before you stumble across someone that has the pretense of actual knowledge.

So, gentle listener, how does one divine true and authentic information from the Intertrons in a safe and timely manner, without running the risk of clicking on a site that once seen, cannot be unseen?

First you read my reviews. And then you go listen to Writing Excuses.

Hosted by bonafide authors Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells along with verifiable web-comic creator Howard Tayler, this podcasts is a veritable font of useful information for writers. A quick-fix of advice and opinion from the viewpoints of established authors who are willing to share their experience in podcast form. I believe the audience intended for this podcast is new or unpublished authors, but I think a writer of any level could gain some usefulness information out of Writing Excuses.

Relevant Links:
Main Site
…honestly, the main site is all you need. Each host has links to their own blogs, you can find the iTunes and RSS feeds right on the front page.

And why not, here’s the Wordle you get for the Writing Excuses website:


Can’t say they’re not consistent when it comes to mentioning their sponsor.

Episode Length: Fifteen minutes on average. Occasionally longer, depending on how verbose the hosts are feeling about a particular topic.

Release Schedule: A new episode is released every Sunday.

Each episode focuses on one particular topic that relates to writing in some way. Example topics from previous episodes are:

The Anti-Mary Sue episode
How to Write Without Twists
Plot-vs. Character-driven Fiction

Look at those topics! They’re positively brimming with…topicability.

Each host in turn will share their ideas and experiences, and do their best to show how their information can be utilized by the listener. Their approach is friendly and welcoming; this is the kind of podcast that, could it be worn, would be your favorite hoodie from college. Brandon, Dan and Howard work together to host the majority of the episodes, but there are frequent guest hosts who are in turn harnessed to give a fresh view.

The hosts will touch on both the creative and business ends of writing, which will be much appreciated by aspiring authors. It is not enough to know how to write a story, or even how to edit it and make it presentable to editors, but how, where, when to submit, how to approach editors and publishing houses, what to expect after you actually write something! It is refreshing to see a creative task explained and examined with reason.

Content Rating: Clean. They may occasionally drop a very tame swear word. Or mention monkey poo.

Unintentionally Good Part: Writing Excuses Episode 632. Trust me.

Unintentionally Bad Part: This podcast is niche-niche-nichy. Even for aspiring authors, the advice generally pertains to only the science fiction/fantasy genres, so this podcast will attract only a very specific audience.

Drinking Game: Have a brass monkey every time they use a monkey as a plot device in their writing prompt.

Writing Prompt: A secret organization has implanted a device into your head that records your every thought for a live-steaming podcast. Go!

Guest Podcast Review(!!!): H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast

[Kalisa’s Note: Hello, and welcome to my very first guest post! Woo! This podcast review is brought to you by the nimble fingers of Kristopher Reisz who is fresh off the release of his latest novel, The Drowned Forest. You can find more information about him at the end of the review, and trust me, he’s worth the looksie-loo. Enjoy the review!]

H. P.Lovecraft Literary Podcast

H. P. Lovecraft is one of the patriarchs of horror literature; however, delving into his stories can be a prickly endeavor.

Writing during the 1920s and 30s but admiring the authors of the 1880s and 1890s, Lovecraft merged a florid Victorian prose style with a pessimistic, post-World War I outlook. What’s more, his stories don’t have much, well, story-ness. They lack a lot of the things we expect from stories like character development or rising and falling action. Instead, his stories center around accounts–letters, half-remembered dreams–of a vast, interconnected pantheon of alien god-monsters.

So why do fans of an odd, obtuse author continually reinterpret his creations through novels, movies, music, RPGs, clothing, video games, and any other medium you could name? That’s what the H. P.Lovecraft Literary Podcast wants to help you understand.

Relevant Links:
Main Site!



RSS Feed!

Most episodes of the H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast (it’s friends call it HPLLP) focus on a single Lovecraft tale. (Some of his longer stories get a series of episodes.) The hosts, Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer, walk listeners through the plot–accompanied by dramatic readings of choice sections–pausing frequently to explore the more literary aspects of the story: symbolism, possible inspiration, how the story fits into the larger Cthulhu Mythos, etc. Sometimes they bring in guests like Lovecraft biographer S. T. Joshi  or theologian Robert M. Price to up the pointy-headedness of the discussion. Lackey and Fifer have a relaxed, chatty style that comes as a relief when you’re struggling through Lovecraft’s archaic language and tangled plot structures. (The dude loved to tell a story-within-a-story. Sometimes he tells a story-within-a-story-within-a-story.) They have excellent taste in dramatic readers and special guests as well, using both to highlight what makes Lovecraft’s work so unique and disquieting.

The HPLLP boys have been at this for awhile now, and they’ve worked through nearly all of Lovecraft’s stories. They’ve moved on to reading weird fiction from other writers like Ambrose Bierce and Guy de Mauspassant. They’ve also moved to a subscription model, offering access to their newest stories for the death metal-tastic price of $6.66 for four months. However, several years worth of their older, Lovecraft-themed episodes remain available for free.

Content Rating: Caution suggested. Lackey and Fifer don’t work blue often, but they do let the occasional cuss word slip. Also, they are talking about terrible beings whose merest glance strips a man of his sanity the same way the hunter skins a rabbit. So. . . there is that.

Average Episode Length: Between 30 and 45 minutes, with some shorter mini-episodes sprinkled in between.

Drinking Game: Sip whenever Lovecraft describes something as “eldritch,” “blasphemous,” or “fungoid.” Chug every time the narrator faints in horror.

Release Schedule: Once a week, more or less.

Unintentionally Good Part: Lackey and Fifer struggling to pronounce names like Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, and Celephaïs.

Unintentionally Bad Part: The hosts hemming and hawing and tying themselves up in philosophical knots before finally admitting
that, yeah, Lovecraft was pretty racist.

Unrelated Rating: Seven non-Euclidean angles out of five

Who Are You, Kind Stranger?: I’m Kristopher Reisz, an urban fantasy writer! My novel The Drowned Forest is out now. It’s about Jane, whose best friend drowns in the Tennessee River. When her friend comes back, twisted and wrong, Jane has to put her to rest while figuring out how to move on from the tragedy herself. You can learn more and read an excerpt at my website.

Take As Needed

My computer is still in a state of disrepair. The new hard drive is installed, the BAZILLIONS of updates to the OS are up and running, and I installed FireFox so that counts for the majority of necessary fixes. However, my stupid battery backup decided to kick the bucket so it will still be a few days before Writing Base Alpha is back up to speed.

Sidenote: batter backups make me feel guilty when they die because they make those sad little beeps as they fail. Poor things.

In the meantime, please allow me to offer you some delightful links!

Crossed Genres is seeking first readers! First Readers are the front line of slush pile submissions and as such, are always in high demand so that editors can spend their time more efficiently. Sort that wheat from that chaff!

Chuck Wendig’s excellent writing blog has an excellent article on the 25 Things A Great Character Needs. I highly recommend that you give his site a looksie as it is chock-a-block full of interesting and useful thoughts on writing.

Tired of writing, thinking about writing, reading about what other people thing about writing, and need a break from the craft in general? Whenever I want to do something creative that doesn’t involve trying to write out the scenes in my head, I bake. The King Arthur Flour blog is an excellent resource for any level of baker. Baking is a great way to create something in a different way than you might, say, crochet or write or garden. I think it is a great way to clear my mind and in the end, I get something delicious to eat when I get back to writing!

What are some good sites that you think I should be looking at? Let me know in the comments!

Friday is the New Thursday: Podcast Review! Enhanced Naked Neuroscience

[Editor’s Note: Me oh my, the hard drive on my computer decided to shuffle off this mortal coil! A day later my UPS battery thing ALSO decided that it was done functioning. While I am waiting out the shipping time until I can be reunited with my desktop computer, I am currently camped out on the family laptop. Sorry about the schedule delay!]

Enhanced Naked Neuroscience


The human brain is a disgusting, glorious piece of machinery that mostly tells me to procure more Cheetos, Doritos, or other processed foods that end with the “ee-toes” sounds.  Once I have a few dozen bags (Funyuns are also allowed) stashed in the false bottom of my desk, my brain then tells me to write podcast reviews.

Brains are weird!  They wrinkle up when you learn a thing!  Your prefrontal cortex rewrites itself during puberty!  If something is wrong with your brain, like seizures, a doctor will crack your skull open and cleave your brain in twain to help you out!  AND WHAT I DESCRIBED IN THE LAST SENTENCE ACTUALLY WORKS.

Also, Phineas Gage.

In summary:  brains are neat, brains are important to your day-to-day life, and we should strive to learn more about how they do the things they do.  With that in mind (pun!), we turn to theEnhanced Naked Neuroscience (ENN) podcast.

Relevant Links:
Get it through Google!
Check out ALL of the Naked Scientist podcasts HERE.  There’s so many and they’re all FREE!
Naked Scientists Twitter!

Content Rating:  Clean.  Trigger-warning for zombies.

Average Episode Length:  A dubious average of the episodes I have downloaded in iTunes shows about 18 minutes on average.

Drinking Game:  Take a drink every time a specific part of the brain is named (dendrite, neural circuit, hypothalamus).  Alternate each drink with a glass of water because otherwise you will have an odd sense of guilt about what damage you’re doing to the body part you’re learning about.

Release Schedule:  Couldn’t find any concrete release schedule, so let’s go with “erratic”.

Music:  A little intro, not bad, doesn’t get it the way of anything.

The ENN podcast is a series of interviews and articles relating to neuroscience.  Doctors and scientists in fields related to and surrounding neurology let you know about recent studies and what cool new things humans are discovering by prodding into lumps of grey matter.  If topics such as how scientists backwards-engineer neurons for testing, or studies on little amoebas and how they relate to human behavior, this podcast is your bag, baby.

Topics are discussed in such a way that they are accessible to the typical listener without being overly simplified.  This keeps the podcast interesting, and the topics themselves are flat out fascinating.  The interviews range greatly in topic, so if one interview doesn’t interest you, another will be along shortly.

Unintentionally Good Part:  The delightful accents.

Unintentionally Bad Part:  When you start looking up neurological disorders on Wikipedia and the subsequent self-diagnosis that you have at least 3 of them.

Unrelated rating:  Two out of eight mice that escaped along with the Rats of NIMH.