I don't know how to describe the mad, dark, mash-up genius contained in the pages of Nick Cutter's upcoming release The Acolyte -- but I've found myse I don't know how to describe the mad, dark, mash-up genius contained in the pages of Nick Cutter's upcoming release The Acolyte -- but I've found myself in a similar state of speechlessness with other titles released by the incomparable ChiZine Publications. Their motto is Embrace the Odd and embrace it they do with abandon. ChiZine's book covers alone are enough to send this bibliophile into paroxysms of delight. Here are a few of my favorites:
ChiZine has also recently gotten into the graphic novel game and I adore this cover too:
Let me wrap up the fangirling over cover art to conclude that ChiZine is a wickedly weird and dangerous publishing house ruthlessly seeking out unique voices in speculative fiction. There is nothing safe or sanitized or boring about them. And while I'm not always in the mood to enter into the wacky landscapes they pimp, I'm very grateful that they exist, and very proud that they are Canadian.
Fans of either or both of those books should not expect the same kind of story in The Acolyte. I'm not surprised it was ChiZine who published it for him because it is an odd, intense mixture of horror, police procedural, dystopia, and noir. It is violent, contemplative, thematic, and disturbing. It's not a book you 'enjoy' or 'savor': it is one you endure and survive.
And that's all I'm going to say about it. Read the plot summary if you want, but it's not going to help prepare you for what lies in wait in its pages. If you are feeling adventurous and brave, and want a taste of something not so mainstream that will take you off the beaten path into a darker part of the forest, then by all means take The Acolyte home with you.
An advanced reading copy was provided by the publisher for review....more
First I would like to start out with a warning -- please remain calm: this *is not* a full length sequel. It is a *short story*. It is a *chapter* of First I would like to start out with a warning -- please remain calm: this *is not* a full length sequel. It is a *short story*. It is a *chapter* of what we can only hope will become part of a much larger series that Courtney Summers will -- she better! -- continue to write.
My ebook edition displayed as 65 pages and I didn't even get that many since those 65 pages also included a sample of Summer's new novel All the Rage (which has no zombies, but I still want to read anyway because Summers is a great writer no matter what story she's telling).
So Please Remain Calm is a short, sweet taste of something terrifying and grueling. I remember This Is Not a Test as an epic, emotional The Breakfast Club meets Dawn of The Dead -- a bunch of high school archetypes, including the jock, the brain and the basket case -- are trapped in a high school with each other while outside the world is being ripped apart at the seams by flesh-hungry reanimates. Our narrator, Sloane, is the basket case. She was on the verge of suicide before the zombies came and now has to run for her life rather than commit to taking it. I remember Sloane as strong and sad and sympathetic.
Please Remain Calm is not her story -- this time it's Rhys who's speaking (the jock) and I barely remembered anything about him other than he is the one Sloane escapes with at the end of the first book. And that's exactly where this short story picks up. No time has passed at all. The two teenagers are on the run from the high school. To where, to what, we don't know because they don't know. They are moving panicked, blind. And then they get separated.
This is much more your traditional zombie story of unrelenting fear, fatigue, hunger, trying to find a safe place to close your eyes for more than ten minutes. I *loved* it. It's pulse-pounding and page-turning with great writing and for so few pages, great characterization. Summers can write a zombie chase/attack scene like nobody's business. Her zombies are fucking terrifying and I don't even care that they move fast. Usually that would bug me. But Summers makes it work. Boy does she ever.
Don't let the YA label fool you with this one; it's raw and violent and dark. It's going to take a bite out of you and leave you shaken and stirred. That I guarantee. Merle knows what I'm talking about, don't you Merle?
I've been a lifelong fan of horror and the older I get, it seems to me the harder it's getting t ***Now Available!***
Save your last breath to scream
I've been a lifelong fan of horror and the older I get, it seems to me the harder it's getting to scare me and to get my hands on the good stuff. One positive thing about this sad development is that it's forced me to venture out into other genres and try new things and find new loves. My first love however -- my one true love -- will always remain horror. It's in my DNA (literally probably because my parents were huge fans of things going bump in the night). I was weaned on the stuff, and on the stuff I shall die.
Why am I rambling thus? For a fan with such an unquenchable appetite for these matters, discovering newcomer Nick Cutter is the equivalent of venturing to the end of the rainbow and having a leprechaun hand you over his pot of gold. I'm so gobsmacked and excited by my good fortune (our good fortune) that I'm still in a bit of a dizzy fangirl spin. The only thing that could make this any better would be if this discovery heralded an ushering in of a whole new Golden Age for horror the likes of which not seen since the '80s. Yes? Please? C'mon now!
Well, whatever the case, Nick Cutter is doing his part penning two terrifying tales in two years, written to make grown women scream and grown men wet their pants. He's got the horror cred down; you don't have to read him too closely to see that he too was weaned on the stuff and inside his writer's heart beats the heart of a horror geek.
Reading The Deep I was put through quite the mental and emotional ringer. Between its covers some of my most vulnerable pulse points of fear were ruthlessly exploited. I was reminded of Sphere, The Thing, Event Horizon, and Alien. There's body horror that's going to remind you of early Cronenberg. And just when things start to feel familiar and you think you have a handle on it all, Cutter veers the story off into an angle of Weird that's psychologically trippy and very Lovecraftian in execution. And while this story is going to remind you of a lot of other things, it is still going to shock you and lay you down and have its way with you.
Nick Cutter is a pseudonym for a talented author who can write a mean literary novel and win prizes for them. But I'm selfish and insatiable. Now that he's ventured over to the dark side I want him to stay here and to play here forever, and ever and ever. Yeah, I'm a smitten kitten alright.
A free copy was provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Check out my review of Nick Cutter's debut fright fest -- The Troop.
First off, in case you didn't know Craig Davidson is also horror writer Nick Cutter who blasted onto the scene in 2014 with The Troop -- the book Step First off, in case you didn't know Craig Davidson is also horror writer Nick Cutter who blasted onto the scene in 2014 with The Troop -- the book Stephen King declared scared him. Davidson, writing as Cutter, then went on to publish two more horror novels in quick succession -- The Deep and The Acolyte. I binge read all of them as fast as he could get them published (actually, truth be told I couldn't even wait for the books to be published; so smitten was I from the start I begged, borrowed, stole advance reading copies any way I could get them).
You could say Nick Cutter was my gateway drug to finding Craig Davidson. Once the connection was made it was only a matter of time before I picked up a Davidson novel to see what his other more literary, less genre focused, alter ego was capable of. Let me just say, no complaints here. Not a single one.
If like me, you're finding your way to this book because you've loved any or all of Davidson's Cutter books, just know that Cataract City is not graphic horror but rather contemporary literature. Yet, there is a lot of similarities in the intensity and emotionality of the writing. The character development that defines his horror writing is present here as well, taking possession of the narrative and of the reader in a way that's as addicting as it is signature.
These are tales about ordinary folk trapped in dead-end places in dead-end lives who don’t even have the wherewithal or wisdom to get the hell out of Dodge even if it means chewing their own goddam leg off to do so. No matter how beautifully written — the stories reveal a kind of brutalization lined with a deep and abiding sadness. People are desperate — or deranged — and behave accordingly. Sometimes it’s because of crushing poverty, other times it is because of inheriting a mantle of family violence that stretches back countless generations. I don’t know what that says about me that this sort of visceral reading experience appeals to me, but it does. Perhaps it’s the cold comfort that no matter how bad my life seems at any given moment on any given day, it will never be as bad as that.
Cataract City is not rural noir in the strictest definition, but it is close enough to get you a cigar. It's small town life, it's being trapped, it's facing lack of opportunity and tragedy with grace, or reckless ineptitude. And reading it is going to break your heart.
This book is many books in one. It starts out a coming-of-age story worthy of Stephen King -- two 12 year old boys, best friends, lost and starving in the woods. Then Davidson moves his narrative along to include dog racing, dog fighting, and bare-knuckle brawling. The stakes are always high, the details so sharp and expansive that vivid pictures are created in your head whether you want them there or not. Davidson is not shy about being graphic -- this is cinematic, visceral writing at its finest. You will feel the blood spatter across your face, you will taste the aluminum tang of adrenaline. You will grip this book in your hands white-knuckled and hang on for dear life.
I couldn't put it down. I could have binge read this in a few days, but I was glad life and work got in the way. Because it forced me to slow down. I was able to savour the prose -- let the sentences roll around in my mind and on my reader palate like smooth whiskey and unfiltered cigarettes. I am in love with Nick Cutter, but I will gladly have a torrid affair with Craig Davidson.
Child narrators under the age of 10 are tricky to say the least. It can be so easily flubbed and come off as gimmicky or inauthentic. Mostly, I'm not Child narrators under the age of 10 are tricky to say the least. It can be so easily flubbed and come off as gimmicky or inauthentic. Mostly, I'm not a fan. Louis CK's rant about children and their secrets beautifully sums up the why for me.
So this book, with its five-year old narrator Anna, is going to fail or succeed depending on your acceptance of the childish, stream-of-consciousness storytelling style. Anna is in the grips of some nasty peril after just losing both her parents to a bear mauling. What's more, she is saddled with the responsibility of her baby brother Stick, aged 2. Anna's point of view is limited by what she knows and what she is able to articulate (for the record, not a whole lot). There's repetition and tangent after tangent. As with any child, you must have patience. You'll get all the information you need eventually, it just might take a while to get there.
Anna's voice grew on me, it really did. She's bratty and self-absorbed like any young kid, but also sweet and funny and brave. Her thorny relationship with her baby brother is heart-wrenching at times, the way she hates him and loves him in equal contradicting measure. There is tension here and a palpable suspense as we watch two hapless babes in the woods stumble from one threat to another -- sunburn, dehydration, poison ivy, and of course, the black bear who may or may not still be stalking them (and who continues to feed on their parents).
This is one of those books you're just going to have to try and see for yourself whether Anna's voice makes you want to keep reading, or throw the book across the room as if it had cooties. Either reaction is possible.
Some spoilers ahead under the spoiler tag:
(view spoiler)[I'm not certain the dramatic back story of the affair and Anna's parents separation was really necessary. I felt this domestic conflict didn't add much to the story other than to reinforce the on-going theme of the "family unit" and Anna's "we are four", "we are two", "I am one" interpretation.
Anna's months of silence after her ordeal and her long road to recovery was interesting. She was obviously much more traumatized by events than her initial telling of the story would have us believe. The trauma definitely lingers since she is haunted by a nightmare for the rest of her life of getting mauled by a bear.
Two scenes made me tear up:
At the end when Anna and Stick curl up by the front door waiting for "Daddy" to come home.
I look at the door too. It is closed. When the door is open, there is the backyard and then my tree and then the gate where Daddy comes in. He is not home from work. It stays shut and so Stick came down to see if Daddy came and fell asleep.
When Anna and Stick are grown, they revisit the site of the accident. Anna lies in the grass where she is certain her mother took her last breath.
Lying on the ground I can see him. And that's when I know that Mom could see us. If she was still conscious when she was lying here, and if her eyes were open, she would have seen me luring Alex into the canoe....Maybe she saw that I got into the canoe after him and started to paddle with my hands. Maybe she knew that we got away.
I thought that was a lovely note to end on. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
First of all, when Stephen King goes out of his way to blurb a book, I pay attention. About The Troop he says:
"This is old-school horror at its best.
First of all, when Stephen King goes out of his way to blurb a book, I pay attention. About The Troop he says:
"This is old-school horror at its best. Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it's a perfect gift for a winter night."
I'm a sick puppy! Right away, I perk up like one of those Pointer dogs on the scent. Secondly, the book description refers to The Troop as Lord of the Flies meets The Ruins. Oh yeah! You just pressed two of my book buttons right there. I'm lighting up and going off all over the damn place.
So yeah, Stephen King is not lying or exaggerating. This book IS NOT for the faint-hearted. It's for the sick puppies -- it will make you squirm and gag and cringe and hold on for dear life. It will also creep you the fuck out and make your skin crawl off in self defense. Your skin may never speak to you again actually.
I usually run an image free zone in my reviews, but for this book, I'm hoping a picture speaks a thousand words.
Here are some of the faces this book made me make:
Get the picture? I'm a horror veteran, and let me tell you, this book scarred me. There are scenes I will NEVER forget. If they invented brain bleach tomorrow, it still couldn't erase the shock and ewww and WTF? from my mind.
Five stars for totally creeping me out and giving me a raging case of heebie jeebies. I could not put this book down and I will be recommending it to other sick puppies. Plus, I actually CARED about the characters. Newt!!! And perhaps (view spoiler)[having one of the boys turn out to be a bonafide animal torturing sociopath is a bit of overkill, but so what? I admire the author's commitment to grab you by the throat, full-throttle storytelling. (hide spoiler)]
Nick Cutter is a great pseudonym for a horror writer. Let's hope we hear more from him in the future.
A free copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review.
This review has been posted at Busty Book Bimbo where you can also find my Q&A with the author Nick Cutter. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Even though this is my first Tony Burgess read, I'm not exactly a Burgess virgin. He's a bit of a cult figure in Canada, thanks largely in part to the Even though this is my first Tony Burgess read, I'm not exactly a Burgess virgin. He's a bit of a cult figure in Canada, thanks largely in part to the iconic zombie flick Pontypool, based on his novel Pontypool Changes Everything. Confession time: I've seen the movie (it's brilliant), but I never got around to reading Burgess's book. Or anything else by him either. Until now.
Sweet Jebus. I was dimly aware of his reputation as a gore master, a mad splatter genius who frequently pushes boundaries of decency and sanity every chance he gets. It's a reputation well-deserved. Reminiscent of another iconic Canadian's early work -- David Cronenberg -- Burgess delves into body horror in such a way to disarm the reader and distress the shit out of you.
It's not a mere gross out that's easily dismissed as senseless pulp either, but an exercise in relentless brutality that leaves you mentally and emotionally floundering. In a lot of ways, reading The n-Body Problem reminded me of Kafka's The Metamorphosis because I was left feeling similarly shuddering and sad. (view spoiler)[The narrator's fate as an armless, legless torso mummy wrapped and encased in glass is a metamorphosis that leads to much the same kind of alienation and dehumanization experienced by Gregor Samsa. Except the ultimate fate of the narrator here is so much worse, if such horrors can indeed be quantified. (hide spoiler)]
This isn't a book I would easily recommend. It's Grade A disturbing, and very much not nice. I repeat: This is not a nice book. It doesn't want to hold your hand, or stroke your hair. Or make you laugh and feel better about life's absurdities. It wants to show you something very dark and nasty, about humans, about death, about our fear of death and extinction. Approach with caution -- and a very strong stomach. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Wow. This book -- flipping fantastic. But your enjoyment of it is probably going to hinge on the expectations you're carrying going in. Despite som4.5
Wow. This book -- flipping fantastic. But your enjoyment of it is probably going to hinge on the expectations you're carrying going in. Despite some superficial similarities -- The Silent Wife IS NOT Gone Girl. So if you loved Gone Girl and come seeking the same kind of tawdry, illicit, messed up thrills and shocking plot twists here you're probably going to be disappointed.
The Silent Wife is silent, as in very subtle. It's a train wreck that happens at 15 miles per hour as opposed to 120. But Jesus, if you're like me, and crave that slow inexorable build to a very bad destination that you can see waiting on the horizon -- absolutely unavoidable -- then this book is for you.
Also, I was pleased to discover that The Silent Wife is a modern noir piece with its roots firmly planted in the old black and white film noirs of the 1940's. The pleasure derived from classic noir movies is the opportunity to be the voyeur and watch the nasty transgressions unfold before you. It's the thrill of observing morally compromised characters carry out immoral acts -- greed, lust, and murder oh my!
From the get-go, you know the strait-laced, buttoned up Jodi is going to murder her common-law husband Todd (what a cheating, lying bastard asshole he is). But it's HOW we get there that's the addictive, sexy part. And there is a rewarding twist which I loved that gets slid in there at the very end.
Deciding to tell a story about a physically disfigured child who lusts after his biological mother while living out their lives in the long, judgmenta Deciding to tell a story about a physically disfigured child who lusts after his biological mother while living out their lives in the long, judgmental, crucifying shadow of the Catholic Church in 1950's St. John's Newfoundland ... is ... curious at best. But also weird and ... questionable.
I'm not sure what kind of a book Johnston thought he was writing. At first it seems humorous and whimsical, a slice of Frank McCourt meets a heaping portion of John Irving. There's poverty, a dysfunctional family, religion, sexual awakening, and some odd occurrences that make you laugh just for their very oddness and inappropriateness.
But as the book progresses, the oddities start to fall flat onto the very shoulders of uninteresting and boring. If Son of a Certain Woman is meant to be Johnston's indictment of the corrupt and nasty hold the Catholic Church at one time held over the historic and capital city of St. John's it really doesn't succeed, neither as a parable, or tongue-in-cheek satire (if that's what you're looking for, get Codco on DVD).
Where it really fails is as a meaningful and emotional coming-of-age story. I didn't fall in love with anybody and did not feel as if there were any stakes worth cheering for. (view spoiler)[Despite Percy's precociousness and precarious place in the world, I could not open my mind wide enough to hope that his gob-smackingly, sensual mother finally lays him. (hide spoiler)]
My disappointment here is heartfelt. I love Johnston's writing and his unerring ability to capture the layered realities and eccentricities of my home and my people. I did enjoy some of his descriptions of the 1950's streets of St. John's, but sometimes, in an effort to paint that portrait, the brush strokes felt a little heavy-handed and clumsy, like a travel book or described video.
While it pains me to do it, I am recommending a pass on this one.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Elaine: (on boys giving wedgies) Boys are sick. Jerry: What do girls do? Elaine: We just tease someone 'til they develop an eating disorder.~Seinfeld
Elaine: (on boys giving wedgies) Boys are sick. Jerry: What do girls do? Elaine: We just tease someone 'til they develop an eating disorder.~Seinfeld
There can be something so vicious and primal about the way young women torment and bully each other. It's tribal and unrelenting and it disturbs me to my very core because I have three young nieces, one of who is on the cusp of tweendom. And right now I can't decide what would be worse - to have them grow up to be the bullies? Or the bullied?
All I can think of to do is to support their parents in any way I can, and stand vigilant to all warning signs and distress signals of it going either way (and pray that they will each find a neutral safety zone that falls outside the worst of the predator/prey relationships they are sure to confront).
Meet Regina Afton. She is at the very top of her high school's food chain, orchestrating feeding frenzies and character assassinations on a whim. But all that's about to change when after a drunken party it gets out that Regina had sex with her best friend's boyfriend. It doesn't matter that this is a lie. It doesn't matter that the boyfriend in fact tried to rape Regina. All that matters is what her "friends" are willing to believe.
Suddenly, Regina is enemy number one, being targeted as "slut" and "whore" in a ruthless, protracted campaign that only gets worse with each passing day. Summers paints a brutish portrait of the realities of bullying that left me squirming and feeling sick to my stomach.
Point of note: this is hardcore realistic fiction. There are no punches pulled here. If you are sensitive in any way to teen profanity, sexual content, alcohol consumption or drug abuse, then this book is probably not for you. However, if you are seeking out a well-written, emotional, honest book about the dark side of bullying amongst girls, then please read this. Then after you read it, recommend it to all the young women that you know.
For sure this book is dark. For sure there are scenes that are very difficult to read. However, as Regina fights for her survival, there is also hope and humor as she moves closer to uncovering her greatest strengths (and weaknesses).
You know, the thing about a shark...he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until he bites ya ~JAWS (1975)
The perfect beach read (for my twisted tastes anyway) found as summer's door closes on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend. The book's blurb describes BAIT as: "Survivor meets Lord of the Flies meets Drugstore Cowboy" and that's pretty accurate as blurbs go, with a side portion of Trainspotting to sweeten the deal.
Subtract the worst of SAW's gory torture-porn aspects, I also couldn't help be reminded of it as well -- oh yes ladies and gentlemen, BAIT is a winner, a white-knuckled page-turner with a gaping maw of shark's teeth ready to take a chomp out of your ass at any moment. I'd love to see this as a movie, and its length would have made it the perfect one hour Twilight Zone or Night Gallery episode.
The novel works so well because Messum takes some time (amidst the roiling action) to develop his cast of sad, deplorable and desperate characters. As readers, what are we to think of protagonists plagued by heroin addiction and the jagged guilt of dirty deeds?
The six victims who wake up stranded on a deserted beach are not the people we usually cheer for. It's hard to warm up to them, and unless you've suffered from addiction yourself, it's very hard to relate to them in any way. Despite this challenge, Messum takes what could have easily resulted in stereotypical junkies -- no archetypes or caricatures here -- and turns them into sympathetic characters, nicely fleshed out in a short period of time with minimal details.
On the surface, BAIT is a thrill-kill, adrenaline read, a man versus nature versus man extravaganza. But beneath the surface, there is deep water that runs, not just with sharks, but with thematic purpose tinged with social commentary and observations of the human condition -- our rage, our prejudices, our lack of empathy and understanding, our human ability to dehumanize ourselves and others around us. In some respects, this cautionary tale has an allegorical feel to it all, about justice and second chances and who deserves them.
As the dog days of September draw near, I can't recommend this book enough for a quick and satisfying read.
A free copy was provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ...more
This is the second installment of Atwood's great serial ebook experiment, and I'm definitely hooked. Choke Collar is an entertaining blend of dark hum This is the second installment of Atwood's great serial ebook experiment, and I'm definitely hooked. Choke Collar is an entertaining blend of dark humor mixed with delicious hints of dystopia dangers. I'm thoroughly enjoying the pacing and the when and the how Atwood is choosing to reveal things. I'm being pretty conservative with my star ratings so far, but that's only because I know the story is only barely getting warmed up. Don't let my three stars keep you from picking this up. Three stars in this case is not a reflection of "meh mediocrity" but rather "hmmmm...interesting. I want more please."
I love the nasty implications of "social experiments" gone horribly wrong, or hijacked for other nasty purposes. Humans do weird things when they are rigidly controlled. It is not in our nature it seems to respond well to being mere mice in a maze. Both Stan and Charmaine are great examples of this as they persist in their debauched extra-curricular activities.
(view spoiler)[Charmaine is fascinating to me as she continues to have her lurid affair with "Max" while she plays happy housewife with Stan yet still finds the time to take pride in her day job. Even though her day job is killing people by lethal injection, Charmaine finds the romance in it. She believes she has a "talent" -- and has even added her own personal touches -- the kiss on the forehead -- to a very ritualized procedure. It's amazing what can become "normal" under the right, twisted circumstances.
Stan is an ass, but I have to think much of his dysfunction and outright more unlikeable qualities are a result of Consilience than his natural character. He certainly paid for his pervy, lustful obsession with a woman who turned out to only exist in his imagination. Jocelyn is quite the bird too. A dominatrix flair with a Black Widow sting, and I found myself laughing helplessly at Stan's fate when he unwittingly falls into her spider trap and particular brand of torture.
The 'big reveal' offers a satisfying cliffhanger -- organ trafficking? Sweet. What will happen to Stan? Will Charmaine "kill him"? What will he do if he makes it outside the walls of Consilience? Does Stan even have it in him to be a hero? Is that even what Jocelyn and Phil really want or are they setting him up for something else? (hide spoiler)]
Ah Ms. Atwood. We meet again. You and I haven't been getting along so well of late. The Blind Assassin? Oryx and Crake? I tried to love them but it wa Ah Ms. Atwood. We meet again. You and I haven't been getting along so well of late. The Blind Assassin? Oryx and Crake? I tried to love them but it was not meant to be. But here we are. At last you've given me a tantalizing premise that I just can't walk away from. A dark future? Yes please. A sinister dystopian landscape dressed in idealistic utopian clothing? Tell me more!
While this first installment is short and sweet and only begins to hint at sinister shenanigans, I'm hooked already and will be sticking around for the duration. What I love about any well-constructed dystopia, is its construction. The devil is in the details. I love a slow reveal. I want a bit of foreplay. But then you had better be able to deliver on what you're promising!
I figure at this point in her writing career, I'm in good hands with Atwood and this crazy vision for the future she's concocted. I'm ready to go along for the ride anyway. I respect her tremendously as an author despite some painful misses, and The Handmaid's Tale has a permanent spot on my all-star team of favorites. Dystopias are my crystal meth, and Atwood's classic tale about reproductive rights is 'the blue stuff' -- Heisenberg grade if you kennit.
So far we have a kinky story going on that seems more lustful than outright unnerving and paranoid. But already I'm getting Stepford vibes that something is rotten in the the state of Consilience. Oh my my, Ms. Atwood, what do you have up your sleeve?...more
I don't know how I'm going to do this, move through the hours like someone who wants to still be breathing when I had so firmly made up my mind to st
I don't know how I'm going to do this, move through the hours like someone who wants to still be breathing when I had so firmly made up my mind to stop.
Wow. This little book has completely floored me. I was not expecting something so deep, so very melancholic yet shot through with the irrepressible human need to hope. Not just irrepressible, Summers shows us that hope is irreducible. Stripped to its basest core, hope just might be the evolutionary urge that has kept us going as a species for millennia -- in the face of disasters and war, atrocities and cruelty, in the face of bottomless grief, crushing despair, paralyzing loneliness and love lost. And I have no doubt that when the zombie apocalypse comes, it will be this amazing capacity to salvage hope from the ruins that will save us.
In This is Not a Test we meet Sloane, a young woman who has lost her ability to hope and thus, her will to live. She is alone with a father who beats her, abandoned by the only person in this life she has ever loved, her older sister Lily. Lily always told her they would escape together, that she would wait for her...and then she didn't. The depth of this betrayal slices through Sloane leaving her panicked, floundering, numb, then finally resigned. Her sister always said that Sloane would die without her -- and now Sloane has decided that she was right. At the point when Sloane knows she cannot possibly continue to live for another single intake of breath, zombies come pounding at the front door. The world is in chaos. Death is in every backyard, on every street corner. And suddenly, the young woman who was going to take her own life, is now running for it.
Yes this book has zombies but PLEASE, if that's not your thing, don't let it keep you from reading it. This is a story rich with emotion because Summers has such a genuine talent for creating memorable, unique characters. A book of six teens where every voice is distinctive and grounded firmly in reality is rare and precious. Hell, that's rare and precious for fiction period. The way these kids relate to one another, approaching with caution, testing for vulnerabilities, seeking approval, acceptance, a safe unconditional embrace, just left me riveted. I can tell you, I WAS IN THAT HIGH SCHOOL with them. I felt their fear and pain. I watched them come together, pull apart, rage and cry ... and I cried with them. Oh yes, there were tears people.
So many reviewers have pointed out that this book isn't about the zombies, but I would add that it's not just about the zombies. Because unlike some other books, the zombies are more than mere window dressing here or a fleeting, ill-defined threat. While there are very few actual sightings and encounters, there remains a stifling, almost suffocating sense of them at all times. In fact, there are several truly terrifying scenes, scenes that only work because Summers understands the critical relationship between tension and release. There is so much quiet in this novel, that when she ratchets up the suspense to a scream in the final 40 pages it's enough to make your heart beat right the fuck out of your chest.
I really loved everything about this book. I could search for flaws, as I'm sure they exist, but I'm not going to. I got lost in it. I thought about it when I was away from it, and I couldn't wait to get back to it. I was reading it on the bus on my way home today and nearly missed my stop because I was so engrossed. Read this! READ IT! I can't state it any more emphatically than that. Don't believe me? Read Catie's review. She'll convince you.
P.S. and I was so excited to learn that Courtney Summers is Canadian! Yay, Canada :)
Women and men. Girls and boys. People I might've known but can't recognize anymore. There is every shade of blood--black, brown, red, pink. All eyes looking at us through that same milky film that sees us for what we are and what they are not anymore.
I enjoyed parts of this book very much. Andrew Pyper is a talented storyteller and I will continue to seek him out. He gets character development, und I enjoyed parts of this book very much. Andrew Pyper is a talented storyteller and I will continue to seek him out. He gets character development, understands the integrity of back story, knows how to draw out suspense and when to twist the knife in. All of these elements are on spectacular display in his latest novel The Guardians, but I did find them to be a little lacking here.
This is a good novel, and if you desire an original take on a whodunit mystery with some horror elements thrown in for good measure, there’s a chance it will read as a great novel. I’m not a mystery lover so much of what Pyper achieves here stylistically was lost on me. The long drawn out approach to the missing and murdered, the red herrings, and the process of making just about everyone equally suspicious started to lose its charm for me about three-quarters of the way through.
I will say that this is an expertly plotted piece that hits no wrong notes. It is a unique premise blending several genres together in an interesting way. I love Pyper’s insights into the psyche of aspiring novelists. The sequences describing the writing circle itself cast a spell on me that reminded me both of Ghost Story and Stephen King’s novella The Breathing Method.
I did appreciate the ending (view spoiler)[and the fact that the father was able to sacrifice himself for his son using such currency as his own dark story. I also appreciated that what was looking to be a supernatural story, turned out to not be that at all. At least, I didn’t think so. The villains were vampires alright, but of the human sort. The fact that they could disappear into the night had more to do with their sociopathic tendencies and lifestyle, not anything paranormal. (hide spoiler)]
All of this to say it’s my fault that this book didn’t get a higher rating, not Pyper’s. Recommended. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Part of what we share is the knowledge that every small town has a second heart, smaller and darker than the one that pumps the blood of good intentio
Part of what we share is the knowledge that every small town has a second heart, smaller and darker than the one that pumps the blood of good intentions. We alone know that the picture of home cooking and oak trees and harmlessness is false. This is the secret that binds us. Along with the friends who share its weight. ~The Guardians
What is not to love about this book? It is a coming of age story about friendship. It is a story of ghosts and secrets. It is a tale of damaged men who discover the past cannot be outrun, but must be faced head on if one is to survive it. Best of all, The Guardians is a crystalline snapshot portrait of small town life wrapped in gorgeous prose that will scare the living bejeebers out of you.
The creep factor buried in its pages is huge and unrelenting. The story starts off subtle and small, like a soft tapping sound on your window at night, but by the end it has you by the throat and is screaming in your face. This is a genuine, honest to goodness haunted house story with teeth and I loved every minute of it.
I want to thank Sue for bringing this book to my attention. She promised epic heebie jeebies and she did not lie. How people live in houses with earthen cellars I do not know. ...more
I thought I would be ga-ga over the moon for this book. It has all the ingredients I’m usually such a sucker for – coming-of-age; first-person narratoI thought I would be ga-ga over the moon for this book. It has all the ingredients I’m usually such a sucker for – coming-of-age; first-person narrator; dysfunctional family; humor; the mother and daughter relationship; it’s even set in Canada during a time period that should make me feel nostalgic. I really liked it, parts of it work amazingly well, but overall I’m left feeling empty and a little cheated. It’s like I was promised a real, live, bloody beating heart and then after being led down the garden path a few times I was handed a cut-out of a black and white diagram from a 1960s biology textbook. Or remember this ad from a few years ago? The expression on that kid’s face perfectly sums up how I’m feeling right now (a little cheated, a little mistreated).
The structure of this novel is impressive; Kirshner’s control of language is enviable and she is obviously a talented writer (hence the 3 stars). But here’s the thing: even though all the technical aspects of the novel are firmly in place – plotting, pacing, characterization, metaphors, analogies, foreshadowing, the works – most readers are searching for more than technical proficiency when they sit down and open a book. I don’t like to feel manipulated by literary devices and tricks of the trade. I want to be swept away goddamn it, and be pulled out of my own life for awhile. I want to live and breathe a story and totally believe in the characters I’m reading about. I want to feel their pain and cheer for their success. There is just something a little too contrived and … I don’t know … kitschy about the struggles in this one.
The first 1/3 of the book sort of reminded me of Running with Scissors – the dysfunction is such that it reaches almost the level of parody. Surely the narrator is taking liberties with memory and exaggeration. In the case of Where We Have to Go, I found myself struggling with the way Lucy’s parents related to her and spoke with her. Things are said that left me scratching my head thinking: “would parents really talk to their 11 year old kid like that? Even an only child?” As for Lucy, her precociousness is so over-the-top, her insights so keen, I could never really buy her as “just a kid”. Her “beyond her years” wisdom is jarring and unconvincing when we also consider she’s prancing around in ALF merchandise (not even realizing it’s long off the air and she’s watching it in syndication).
Other things that left me unsatisfied: (view spoiler)[Lucy’s mom and her friend trying to set Lucy up with a boy when she’s TWELVE YEARS OLD. Huh??? Really? I know young girls are growing up faster than ever these days, but do you really need your mother pimping you out? I also felt the “anorexia” bit kind of a throwaway part of the novel; it lagged and didn’t ring true for me. It felt like forced drama attempting to add “depth” to Lucy’s coming-of-age trials. I also did not appreciate the quick death of Lucy’s mother at the end. I felt emotionally manipulated. There’s nothing more tragic or devastating than dying mothers battling cancer. It felt like a cheap ploy and made me angry. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, while the novel is technically proficient and reads very strong in places, I find myself not able to recommend it. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Immensely enjoyable read about the devastating powers of peer pressure and conformity. If it's happening to the other guy, it's not happening to me. WImmensely enjoyable read about the devastating powers of peer pressure and conformity. If it's happening to the other guy, it's not happening to me. We learn that early on and too many people take this lesson into their adult lives. We need to teach our children to be courageous and stand up for what's right.
Canada's Chocolate War. Sure to appeal to a teen audience....more