• Bella Dean Joyner

Book Review: The Thirteen by Joseph M. Monks

I hope that all of my readers in America had a wonderful 4th of July! Happy birthday to this great nation! Surprisingly enough, we found out shortly before the 4th that we will be returning to America in March of next year! Only 8 more months of being stationed in South Korea! Now we are in a hurry to make sure we take in everything this beautiful country has to offer before we leave. Be on the lookout for pictures!

First, a couple of updates! I recently received the first 15 minute audio to approve from the narrator of the audiobook for The Still. The level of theatrical performance and attention to detail that Dillehay is putting into the production of the audio is amazing! I am so excited and can't wait for you guys to hear it. We are a little behind our original projected release date because of COVID messing up some scheduling, but we should have the audiobook released by the end of this month!

Next, I want to give my fellow writers a tip about an organizational tool I discovered. I'm not sure how many of you have ever utilized what they call an author's planner. It helps you keep track of daily word count, plot consistency, ideas. I've used a couple of them before and have been disappointed. I either struggled with the layout or the lack of different sections and spaces to keep my work organized. The planners I received felt out-dated. I felt the need to have multiple planners for the same project.

However, as my writing career ramps up and I have multiple projects going at once, I decided that I needed to look into an author's planner again. I was pleasantly surprised to find that at least one creator has updated their layout to fit the current self-publishing market, and I am excited!

The planner that I purchased is The 2020 Author's Planner by Audrey Ann Hughey. You can either purchase this planner on Amazon in paperback form for about $15 or, if you are like me and prefer spiral bound for these sorts of things, you can order it from Lulu for about $30.

This planner has approximately 400 pages with different sections to help your productivity and inspirational quotes to keep you motivated. Hughey has included areas for you to put your vision on paper, to speak your goals into the universe, and to check back in on those goals every quarter to make sure the moves you are making align with those goals you set for yourself. The planner has enough space for multiple manuscripts if you plan to produce more than one work per year, like myself, and an area for additional story ideas that may pop into your head throughout the day. However, what excited me the most was the pages set aside for expense budgeting and marketing tracking. As a self-published author, a huge portion of my time is spent marketing myself. It's almost as important as the actual writing. To be able to create a social media plan, maintain and track a marketing plan, and see what has given me a positive rate of return is great. Throughout each month, you can track your daily writing goals, word counts, and monthly newsletter statistics. Overall, I think this planner really fills a gap in the market for authors. I'd suggest it for the seasoned author or the one just starting out.

Now on to the reviews!

The first book I finished was actually The Haunting of Winslow Manor by Ambrose Ibsen. It is the third book in a series by Ibsen that revolves around a librarian named Sadie whose mother is an unworldly being linked to the death and destruction of the prior two books.

Though I felt like the first book was a difficult read, I made it through to this one and am very glad that I did. It did not have the writing inconsistencies of the first book and had less of the unbelievable moments from the second, but had more of the creep factor that I have enjoyed in other Ibsen works. I was not a fan of how the book ended, but that was simply because of my own personal attachments and preference. I think that Ibsen orchestrated it well. Definitely recommend.

The other work I read that I want to focus on is The Thirteen by Joseph M. Monks. This short story was posted by Monks in one of the writers' forums I'm a part of and is available on Amazon for 99 cents or on Kindle Unlimited.

Monks categorizes this work as "creepy pasta". Like the author admits in his preface, I had to look up this term. Evidently creepy pasta refers to short stories that are meant to circulate the internet and scare the readers with gore and supernatural occurrences. The novella was definitely short at 20 pages, but I don't know that it fits the description of creepy pasta. According to everything I read online, creepy pasta is supposed to be copy and pasted across the internet, not put up for sale on Amazon. When you think of creepy pasta, think of the viral story of the man who lives in an apartment and is haunted by the little boy with the deformed head, Dear David. This short story just doesn't measure up to that.

The story centers around an unnamed young lady who is trying to find a cheap apartment away from her parents in New York City. The area she is looking at is derelict and had been suggested to her by a friend at college who also lived in the area. There are hints about bruises around her wrist which we are made to assume has something to do with the reason she wants out of her parents house. She finds the apartment building which she describes as looking out of place and out-dated, almost like it never quite belonged where it stood. As she goes to view the apartment for the first time, she sees a thirteenth floor and it is the superstitions surrounding this thirteenth floor that dominates the rest of the story. It is here, literally on the fifth page of the story, that the author lost me.

In the story, Monks describes the thirteenth floor legend being based in the roots of returning soldiers who are haunted by superstitions extending past what they had seen in battle. In my own research on the legend, I found no such references. The thirteenth floor has been historically omitted from buildings merely for the presumed unluckiness of the number. Builders anticipated tenants being unwilling to rent spaces on the thirteenth floor so built elevators and stairwells without the thirteenth floor options. While this theory of war preceding the legend does fit in with other aspects of the story, it still was inaccurate and out of place.

I also found there to be a distracting disconnect between details the author included and the rest of the story. For instance, when the young lady is first viewing her apartment on the 15th floor, she sees a glimpse of a bloodied female in the reflection of the bathroom mirror. The author made no mention of the young lady recognizing this face as her own or as anyone she knows and never circles around to explain it. The young lady states at one time that she never sees another tenant in the building on one page, yet talks about a lady that accidentally missed the elevator she had gotten into on the next.

At one point, the young lady does go onto the thirteenth floor and immediately assumes that it's otherworldly, not from this time, interjected into this time and space by forces outside of her understanding. I found this part of the story to be unrealistic. She jumped from being logical to being convinced and wholly accepting of the supernatural without a moment of confusion, panic, or fear. The author then immediately delved into the macabre and the war references mentioned earlier which seemed sorely out of place. I felt no tension build up, only my own confusion. I found the ending to be convoluted. Nothing about the entities on the thirteenth floor encountered by the young lady seemed understandably connected in any way.

We then have the matter of the friend who suggested the apartment building to the young lady in the first place. She makes an appearance towards the end of the story and speaks about something that the young lady had done to her parents. Again, this detail, while disturbing, was not worked into the story in a cohesive way. At the beginning of the story, the author put a large emphasis on the young lady wanting to find an apartment in the city that was far enough away from her parents that they would not be able to find her until the time that they were able to pay one of her friends enough to divulge her address. Yet throughout the story, not only is the assumption clear that this young lady does not have any friends, but that she used the one friend she supposedly did have to do something that would ultimately result in the death of both of her parents. If she did something that would result in their deaths, why would she be concerned about finding an apartment they would not be able to locate?

When Monks wraps up the story and reveals the truth about the building itself, I was not surprised. It wasn't that I had anticipated this twist or that the author had cleverly worked in clues along the way. It was simply that the author had already compiled a hodgepodge of details that had no correlation...throwing in one more didn't really phase me.

Overall, I think Monks had the opportunity and the foundation to create a wonderful story here, but completely missed the mark. Had he fleshed out the details a bit more and provided more of an explanation and cohesiveness to the text, I feel like this would have read a lot better. I think he also should have invested in an editor to help make sure that his character details remained consistent throughout the story. I probably would not recommend this story to horror readers.

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