Leading a Paranormal Investigation…

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During my junior year of undergrad, I interned in the Rose Archives at the College at Brockport. My project was on the “Ghost of Hartwell Hall”. Cool, right? I can’t imagine a better project than that. I think the coolest part about the project was when I got permission from the college to conduct a paranormal investigation during an overnight stay. I was also allowed to invite the Monroe County Paranormal Investigations (M.C.P.I) team to help me. My boyfriend, Erik, was there as well. The overnight stay happened on March 18th, 2016. This was during Spring Break so there weren’t many other students or faculty there.

Hartwell Hall had eons of supernatural speculation where students and staff reported seeing and feeling paranormal events. Students reported chills in warm parts of the building, objects moving, and seeing a figure of a man. Cleaning crew members also saw the figure of a man, reported objects moving off of their carts and finding them in other rooms, a male voice speaking to them throughout the night and there is the speculation that, “Clyde” a.k.a the nickname for the male spirit, likes to solve math problems. In a transcript another student who worked on the project in 1993 uploaded regarding her interview with some of the housekeeping staff, they reported that a professor would leave math equations on the chalkboard at night and when they opened the building in the morning, it’d be solved. I mean, what ghost can’t resist math equations?

Now I researched the history of the college thoroughly and the man they might believe to be the spirit, Julius Bates, could be true as he died on the land where Hartwell stands. Before Hartwell Hall stood, and before the Normal School stood, there was the Brockport Collegiate Institute in the 1800’s. This was the town of Brockport’s first attempt to make a college for their future. Bates was the first principal of the Institute and he died at the age of forty in his bedchambers. The building housed the students, faculty and staff, the classrooms, cafeteria, and a number of odd rooms like a music studio. There is no known cause as to what Bates died of but they attribute it to a heart attack.

The College at Brockport has had its fair share of deaths on campus which adds to it being known for paranormal activity. Over my four years there, at least a handful of students died on campus. One died in my freshman dorm. Hartwell Hall isn’t the only building said to be haunted. I know from my own experience that it’s not. I couldn’t find an accurate number of deaths that occurred on the land the College resides on but I would say at least a dozen, give or take. Bates wasn’t the only one to die where Hartwell stands. Shortly after Bates died, a student claimed he was sick and stayed behind while others went to church. He tried making popcorn in his dorm room and accidentally burnt the Institute down. Oops. There is no record if the student survived or if there were other people left in the school. There was also the death of a man who was working on a cistern, slipped on a wooden plank, and drowned. Another man died after being hit on the railroad track that runs through the campus.

Anyway, the ghost hunt expedition started at 8PM that night and went until 6AM the following morning. The team and I went into the building and I told them about its history. We walked around and conducted tests and talked to the spirits. We set up cameras in rooms where activity was said to happen, wrote a math equation in one of the rooms, and conducted EVP sessions. We went inside the walls and basement of the building. In the 1970’s, some of the homeless people in town would hide in the tunnels in the basement for warmth and shelter. Could any of them passed away?

There is also a legend that a young female student drowned in the pool that used to be in Hartwell. There was in fact a pool but they took it out after renovations. Now it’s Studio 64 and used for dance practices. I couldn’t find anything to prove a girl drowned. The team had split into two and I stayed with half of them in Studio 64 while Erik followed the other half through the building.  But during one of the EVP contact sessions we did in Studio 64, I swear the temperature dropped and something grabbed my foot. They were talking to the ‘ghost’ in the darkness of the room. The only light came from a flashlight and their camera. The room was warm and no vents were turned on. They asked me to lie in the middle of the floor while they asked the spirit to make a sound or to do something. The air right above me dropped while the air on the sides of me stayed warm and then I felt a pull on my right foot. I didn’t move and the pulling didn’t stop. I’m not entirely sure what happened or if a ghost actually touched me. I could’ve just been caught up in the moment but who knows for sure? I wasn’t going to move but the other half of the team opened the studio door and the pulling on my foot stopped.

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Studio 64

The other interesting thing that happened that night was that I almost made a believer out of a major skeptic. Erik does not believe in ghosts, or spirits, or anything supernatural. That’s kind of why I brought him along. In Hartwell, a floor up from Studio 64, there is a small auditorium. The room is pretty dark but it does have windows near the ceiling which allows streetlamp light to shine in. When we walked into the room, all of the seats were folded up. Erik said he turned his head and saw the figure of a man in one of the seats. He stopped walking and stared at the figure, who vanished a couple seconds later. He walked over to the spot where he saw the figure and that was the only seat that was down. Needless to say, he was kind of freaked out and stared at the seat the whole time were were in the room. Could that have been Bates??

The rest of the night passed quietly. The paranormal team left around 3AM and Erik and I walked around the building, checking up on the math equation and items we’d left in certain rooms. Around 5AM, we did hear a loud bang a couple hallways away but it didn’t happen again. We heard little noises, like things dropping and scraping outside of Studio 64 but we couldn’t find the cause. I wanted to conduct a seance in Studio 64 but I couldn’t get Erik to go along with it. I think he was a little weirded up from the figure he saw earlier. We decided to stay for another hour but nothing happened so we left. I should mention that we also went up in the bell tower and shocked to find that there was no bell but a large collection of women’s panties hung up on a clothesline. Dozens of pairs and crushed beer cans everywhere. That might’ve been the weirdest thing we found that night.

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One of the spooky hallways.

A few weeks later, the team sent me some audio clips to listen to but they decided it most likely wasn’t paranormal activity. Just odd noises picked up by the cameras. Is Hartwell haunted? Or is it just the effect of campus legends mixed with fear? Especially, during the night when people are tired and alert to anything out of the ordinary. I would say that Hartwell probably has some kind of ghostly activity just because of the amount of tragedy and death that occurred on the land. And that’s just from the deaths recorded. Who knows the entire history of that plot of land?

I’m also intrigued to know how much campus legend and talk affect people’s beliefs of ghosts. I mean, every college campus has some ghostly legend. I doubt many of them have had research and investigations done but how is it that they all have a type of legend? Why is it that so many people are disbelievers but they spread the legend and even act wary of them? Just in case? I heard so many students talk about the ghosts and how it’s a dumb story, ghosts don’t really exist. Yet, they won’t go in Hartwell at night or they exit their night classes like bats outta hell. I wonder how much the fear of the unknown affects them…

I will say that leading a paranormal investigation for my internship was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. If you ever get a chance to lead one, be safe, but go for it. Even if you don’t find anything and you feel like a dork. You never know what you could find…

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Hartwell Hall at night. Yes, there’s no bell up in that tower.

 

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30 Days of Vampires: A Vampire Lover’s Dream…Unless You’re There…

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“30 Days of Night” by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith was an interesting concept. I had mixed feelings while reading this because I’m not an avid comic-book/graphic novel reader.  They’re just not my thing. But, the film version of this novel is one of my FAVORITE movies so it was interesting to see it in this style. However, I found the novel to be severely lacking. It held no depth or connection to the characters where the film did. Were the monsters effective? Yes, but mostly because they’re bloodsucking vampires.

I wish this had been made into an actual novel, not a graphic novel. I’m extremely familiar with the film, so I understood what was happening but if I wasn’t already familiar, I would have no clue what’s happening. I really didn’t like the illustrations because they were blurred and confusing. I did like the close-ups of the vampires because they looked super demonic. There was also very little wording which I didn’t like. There was no way to get more from this novel. We don’t get a chance to go into heads or read vivid scenes where we can picture what’s happening. Sometimes the imagination is worse. There was no way to connect to any of the characters because it was so short.

I do like when they transfer movies into books and this one was a really cool concept. It was filled with creative ideas, like injecting the vampire blood and the vampires burning the town down to force survivors out. “If we run, they get us. If we stay, we burn.” The best thing I did like about this novel where the film falls drastically short is the vampires. In the film, the vampires can’t talk, only screech and click. Jared is barely able to speak a couple of words in an ancient language. in the novel, we get more from the vampires. They can talk and we are able to connect more with them. I LOVED getting the vampire’s perspective in the novel. I do like how primitive they are in the film but I like when they can talk.

There were some more things included in the novel that wasn’t in the film, like the mother and son. But there’s such a cool plot for this novel. An entire month where there’s no sun is a vampire’s dream come true. Until the town is vacant for years because everyone was slaughtered. They really should’ve relished in that for a while longer. I also loved Eben and Stella’s relationship. The ending always gets me. Although, I think their relationship is stronger in the film because the reason Eben injects himself with the blood is to save her. In the novel, she’s there with him and that took a little out of it. There’s no way I’d let my boyfriend inject himself and then die by sunlight if I was there with him. I think the limited choice needed to be there for his motivation.

I also liked how at the end of the novel they included the original script. I took a few playwriting classes in undergrad so I got used to (and eventually was beaten down until I semi-enjoyed reading them) reading scripts. This one was fun to read because I knew the story. Overall, I’d recommend watching the film but reading the novel version was pretty cool. Definitely read or watch 30 Days because it’s a great vampire story!

Blood and Guts at the Museum: A Review of “Relic”

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Preston and Child’s thriller Relic is a thriller that takes place in the New York Museum of Natural History. The story centers around Margo Green, a graduate student working in the museum, and her attempt to find and locate the killer inside the museum. Bodies keep piling up and the findings show that the killer isn’t human. Or was it? Was the monster in the novel effective? I’d say no.

The novel had pros and cons but I did connect to a lot of its content. Before I chose writing as my path, I wanted to be an archaeologist, then a museum curator, then a forensic scientist who worked with a museum. I changed my mind a few times but I always wanted to be somewhere in the archaeological field. Most of my undergrad was immersed in these kinds of programs and I studied everything from monkeys to studying human and animal remains. I was really interested while reading this book because of how much I understood of it. And I also did a project in my senior year that focused on removing the flesh from pig remains to get it purely to the bone. It smelled and was gross but also really cool.

I thought that this novel made for a really good suspenseful tale but it was too slow for me. I felt like it could’ve been condensed and made shorter as it was a drag to get through. There were also too many characters to focus on and they were only talked about when they directly linked to the plot. I kept mixing characters up. Margo was the only character I was able to focus on, probably because she was really the only female. There were also a few instances where I had to really suspend my belief, mostly due to the police procedures. Though this novel takes place a couple decades ago, I highly doubt they would’ve allowed the museum to stay open after multiple bodies were found. I interned at a museum. If people’s lives were threatened, it would’ve been shut down and access would only be granted to those linked to the case.

But was the monster effective? I’d say yes and no. Most of our time with the monster is after the fact, after it has killed. There’s so much build-up and suspense for the little time at the end we actually meet the monster face to face. That’s what made me say no to part of its effectiveness. It wasn’t scary until the end. I did really enjoy the twist at the end that the monster was really Whittlesey all along. I wondered from the couple prologue chapters if we would see him again. I enjoyed how he had morphed into the monster after ingesting the plants and became lethal after being denied access to it. Also, I liked how dangerous and calculated he was. He had motives and plans for his victims instead of just killing randomly. He also didn’t have any weaknesses. He was shot over and over and the only shot that killed him was because it went directly through his eye and into his skull.

Overall, this book was a really good example of a suspenseful thriller. Bodies pile up, the stakes get higher, and a primitive killer is on the loose. I’d rate it about a seven but that’s mostly because of how much I understood of it. It got knocked down a few pegs because of chapter eight. No dogs should get torn to shreds. That’s just uncool. Even in a creepy environment filled with bones and artifacts. This novel also had more gore than I expected, not that I minded….

The Blob: A Review

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The Blob is one of the classic 80’s horror flicks that everyone should watch at least once. While the premise might not seem overly scary but I think most people would crap their pants if a giant blob that looked like mucus and had the consistency of Jell-O began eating everyone in town. And by eating them, I mean absorbing their skin and bones like acid. This film is loaded with mega amounts of cheese and semi-terrible special effects but is the blob an effective monster? Yes.

There’s a bunch of different aspects that make it an effective monster. First, we think the blob comes from outer space but learn that it was a government experiment gone wrong. I’m glad it wasn’t from outer space because it would’ve discredited its weakness of cold. Outer space is minus almost 500 degrees Fahrenheit. How would it have survived out there? The outer space theory was a red herring. Secondly, it grows at an alarming rate as it feeds. Like the man in the suit said, in one week it could take out the US entirely. That’s scary to think about. Thirdly, the way it eats its prey is horrifying. To me, the blob felt like it was made from some acidic material that dissolved skin from bones. It was disgusting to watch. I think another reason why it was an effective monster was because, like the alien from Alien, it wasn’t clouded by emotions or thoughts. It just acted on instinct.

Besides the monster, the film did have a lot of cheese factors that bogged down the film. The biggest drawback was the flat, stereotypical characters. When they were introduced, I knew exactly how the character roles would turn out. There’s the classic bad boy who doesn’t like authority, the good jock with a sex obsessed best friend, and the popular cheerleader. I knew the good guy would bite it and I hoped his friend would die too. Any guy who gropes his passed-out date deserves to be eaten by a monster. Of course, the bad boy would fall for the cheerleader and come back to save her and in the end, they’d kiss. I will say I didn’t expect the little boy to get blobed-that was surprising. Then there was the typical slasher film, the cheesy lines, and the biological crew who promised to save the town only to be interested in saving the monster.

The film started pretty quickly and the blob was introduced fairly soon which was good. Usually, films like that are a bit of a sludge to get through in the beginning. The special effects were pretty good for an 80’s flick and there were only two or three instances where the effects looked fake. I loved the effects when it showed the people getting eaten by the blob. The way their skin looked grossed me out at times.

Overall, I’d give The Blob a medium 8. It did have flat, typical characters but the acting was good. The monster was the best part of the film. I liked how at the end, there’s a baby blob stuck in a jar, writhing and wiggling around. It’s a great intro for a sequel. I’d definitely recommend this film to any horror movie fans who like uncommon monsters.

Godzilla (2014): A Review

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So, I accidently reviewed the wrong Godzilla film. Oops. Talk about embarrassing. But let’s talk about the 2014 version. I didn’t expect this film to be what it was-Godzilla and two MUTOs. Pitted against each other in a brutal, radioactive fight to the death. This totally beat the 1998 version, hands down. Were the monsters effective? You’d have to be crazy to think anything other than yes.

It started off really slow. Godzilla didn’t appear until 55 minutes into the film and I kept waiting for the creature of the deep to appear. At first, I thought that they redid Godzilla and added some tentacle looking affects to him but luckily, it was just a different monster.

Killing off Joe Brody so early wasn’t the best choice. I felt like he needed to be in the movie longer to finally get closure for what happened when his wife died. And he could’ve been a great asset. His son did a great job but it would’ve been stronger with his dad. I am glad that Ford kind of took over for his dad and finished the job.

I really enjoyed how they changed the storyline and origins of Godzilla and the MUTOs. Instead of having them be dinosaurs from eons ago who managed to survive until now, they were creatures mutated by radiation. The coolest thing to me was that they fed off radiation as well. I could’ve done without the romantic storyline between Ford and his wife but I guess that’s character motivation. I also liked how they mentioned the first encounter with Godzilla in 1954 and the bombs that went off were trying to kill it. It was a twist to make that tragedy a cover up.

Now, let’s talk about the monster’s themselves. It was unique how they made Godzilla the hero. I have mixed feelings about that because Godzilla is still a monster who could wreak a lot of havoc but they portrayed him as the hero who saved the day. The MUTOs were terrifying and gross looking with their wings and tentacle things, not to mention the slime they covered the fallen plane in. if I saw one of those things, I would die of fright. I didn’t mind the special effects as much in this movie because it was pretty seamless and there was a lot of attention to detail.

The fight scenes didn’t do much for me. The first fight scene was cut really short due to the closing of the subway doors. The last fight scene between Godzilla and the MUTO was really unexpected. I didn’t expect Godzilla to pull it’s jaws apart and shoot (I’m not quite sure what it was) radiation (?) down it’s throat. But that made me wonder about the mental capability of Godzilla. That seemed like a fight move humans would think of, yet a monster like him did it? Is he becoming smarter?

Overall, I thought this movie was really good. I’d rate it a 9. There were a few drawbacks, like Joe’s early death, the slow beginning, and the film was extremely long. But they added a new side to Godzilla plus two new monsters who are all frightening. I didn’t find many drawbacks to this film but a lot of pluses. I’d definitely recommend watching it.

H.P. Lovecraft’s Short Stories: A Review

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I’ll admit I’m not a major Lovecraft fan so “Call of Cthulhu,” “Pickman’s Model,” and “The Outsider” were hard to read. They were my least favorite stories out of the other ones we’ve read this semester. While they weren’t my favorite, Lovecraft definitely has a way of building the dread and suspense in his stories. The type of monsters he writes about and the word choices he uses help with the fear and dread in them. But were they effective monsters? I’d certainly say yes. If a giant tentacle monster or a group of demonic monsters were coming after me, I’d probably die of fright.

“Call of Cthulhu”

The major problem I had with this short story was that it was told after the fact by Francis Thurston. We had no real interaction with Cthulhu but were fed descriptions and tales from papers and notes that the main character found. This is why I couldn’t get into the story, I felt removed from it. Also, it took a while for the story to start because the main character talks about his views on the world and the people in it. Parts of this story were a little hard to understand because Lovecraft’s word choices were on a different level. They weren’t simple and easy to understand. I loved how there were cults dedicated to Cthulhu and chapter three was the best section because that’s the only account we get of Cthulhu as it rises from the sea.

“Pickman’s Model”

Out of the three short stories, I liked this one the most. We hear the narrator tell his friend, Elliot, about her last interaction with Pickman shortly before he went missing. I thought Lovecraft mixed horror, dread, and suspense really well in this story. It also had a good twist at the ending. I saw a clear picture of the paintings and the scenes depicted and I could see the state of mind of Pickman. But, like in “Call of Cthulhu,” the reader is removed from the story again. It would’ve been scarier if the story took place that night instead of days later. If we were with the narrator as they walked through that house and heard the monsters, found the photograph in their pocket when they left. I kind of thought that the monsters Pickman drew had to be real but I liked how he used real photographs to paint from.

“The Outsider”

This was the only story where the reader isn’t removed. We are there with the narrator as it happens even though it’s in past tense. It’s not being told by another person after the fact. I couldn’t get into this story either but that was mostly due to the first paragraph and the odd word choices Lovecraft uses. Simpler is better, at least for me. I totally saw the ending coming, that the terrifying monster would be looking into a mirror, but it was still effective. I wondered if it really was just a man or something else because living in an abandoned castle with no sunlight, human interaction, or basic necessities, would change the body into something unrecognizable and grotesque.

H.P. Lovecraft is one of the most influential writers of horror, next to Poe, but I don’t think these short stories are his best nor do they show his strengths as a writer. The monsters he wrote about were effective and scary but I wish we saw them firsthand. Cthulhu made men die of fright just by looking at it, demonic entities had children becoming like them and a man (or demon) scared off a room full of people and all he did was peek in a window. Despite being so removed from the monsters, I still felt dread and fear because blood and gore isn’t always the best way to create horror. Sometimes it’s about leaving the reader with more to imagine.

Godzilla: How Did One Egg Survive?

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Godzilla is by far one of the greatest sci-fi movies I’ve seen. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’d pee your pants if it really happened. I certainly would. A giant dinosaur looking creature makes its way to New York City, destroys it, lays eggs and meets a sad fate on a bridge. But is Godzilla an effective monster? I’m torn between yes and no. I think it could be a terrifying and effective monster but not in the way she’s portrayed in the film.

Despite being called a male in the film, it lays eggs so I’m gonna call her female. I don’t understand the sexes of lizards really well. She reminded me of the alien from Alien. She’s a monster that doesn’t have human emotions or feelings clouding her judgement and goes on animal instinct alone. Maybe I missed it but I didn’t actually see her eat anyone. Her babies ate a couple of men, however. Godzilla trashed the city and everything in it. She ducked the missiles and bullets. I also couldn’t tell if she faked being dead when the submarines tried to blow her up or if she was just stunned. Either way, she didn’t die. I felt so sad and terrible when she went back for her babies and they were all dead. Especially when she sniffed them just to be sure. Then, she got pissed. Maybe she had one human emotion but I would retaliate the same way she did.

If I can relate or emphasize with the monster, it’s probably not an effectively terrifying monster. Godzilla felt more to me like a mother just wanting to be left alone to tend to her babies. She has the size, strength, and ability to be a savage beast but I didn’t get that feel from her.

I’m happy that she wasn’t from outer space but was a result of mutation due to chemicals and radiation. That added a level of fear to me because I feel like that’s a more realistic cause for a monster than an entity from a different planet.

The special effects were also really great for the late 1990’s. There was a lack of cheese in the way she was created and the way she moved looked more realistic then they probably would’ve done in the 80’s. I liked how there were a couple hundred babies in one location yet each of them were clearly defined, detailed, and moved separately.

The acting was also well-done although I wasn’t a fan of the romance sub-plot between Tatopoulos and Timmonds. I totally wasn’t expecting Philippe to be French military. I thought he was a bad guy who had less than pure intentions for Godzilla and her babies. I was thrown off when he turned out to be a good guy who saved the city from 200 plus mutant offspring.

Overall, I really loved this film. I hadn’t watched it since I was three or four and I was surprised at how much of the plot I’d forgotten. It was almost like watching it for the first time. I’d rate it 9/10. The plot was great along with the acting. Godzilla was a scary monster although I’m still not sure how effective she was monster-wise. And did anyone else wonder how one single unhatched egg survived? Every other egg hatched but that one? And how did it manage to survive the bombs?

Snow: A Review

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Snow by Ronald Malfi was a terrifying read about monsters that are made out of snow-or are they the snow? As someone who hates and loathes snow, this book was fun to read. Malfi employed beautiful descriptions, had well-rounded characters and a lot of action. Was the snow a terrifying and effective monster? Yes. Definitely yes.

I had a good mental image of what the monsters looked like but it seemed like there was more than one type of snow monster so the image kept changing. The monsters were clear except for the scythe hands they made solid to grip their person. Once they were in their person, they ate human remains and seemed stronger. Fire was the only thing that could kill them. Bullets shot right through their snow bodies as they swirled in the air. You couldn’t really escape them either. Once they knew where someone was, they could pass through pipes, vents, and doorways and get inside. We also had no idea where they came from which always makes monsters scarier. I loved that we didn’t get any origins or background. Also, how could the people have known the snow was full of invisible monsters. One of the characters even said that they had no idea how long the creatures had been there, lying in wait. They took over dozens of small towns, cut the power and phone lines and made the townspeople isolated so no help could come. That shows that these snow monsters were capable of thinking.

The only drawback, and it’s one I found intriguing, is they couldn’t take over children really well. Children’s faces became distorted and featureless along with bloodthirsty. The kids grouped together in the woods and stayed to themselves. I got some major Wicked Little Things vibe from the kids. I couldn’t help but wonder why they couldn’t take over kids. If there was a section just about that, I’d love to read it.

The storyline was also really good. The monster came from an unexpected source which made it uncanny. I liked how the four of them didn’t start in this town but journeyed to it. It’d be a repetitive storyline if they were in the town when shit hit the fan. I wasn’t too sure how Todd’s computer worked since the signals and power lines were cut so that didn’t make as much sense to me.

The characters were pretty well put together although I still didn’t care if they lived or died. I didn’t connect with any of them, except Shawna. The scene where she describes her mother’s death hit me harder than I thought it would. She was the only character, besides Charlie and Corey, that I rooted for. I was shocked when Shawna died. I also only rooted for Molly to survive but that was mostly because she was pregnant. I didn’t like Molly at all, especially since she let Charlie wander off by himself and then had the nerve to say he wasn’t her kid. You’d think she’d be more nurturing towards kids since she was about to have one.

Overall, this is one of the top books we’ve read this semester and I’d rate it about an 8. The writing was nice, descriptive, and full of gripping sentences that made me keep reading to find out more. The characters were well-developed. And the monsters were pretty terrifying for being snow. I’m sure some of us won’t look at the white powder quite the same after this novel. The creepiest monsters are ones you don’t know are there and ones you never see coming. Just like snow.