I'd really rather give this one 4.5 stars, because it was an excellent book. Although a young adult book, it is definitely sophisticated enough for an...moreI'd really rather give this one 4.5 stars, because it was an excellent book. Although a young adult book, it is definitely sophisticated enough for an adult to enjoy it (I don't consider myself sophisticated, but I still think a person who is would like it). I liked that the suspense builds. There are no cheap thrills or shock value scares. Instead, the author takes his time and builds up the menace so that you spend your time trying to prepare yourself for the scare. Even still, you won't hear someone yelling 'boo.' Instead the moment of dread will come and you will think, whoa, "I'm glad I'm not in Tom's shoes right now." I do love stories where a character comes into their destiny, and this is one of them. Tom wasn't really sure that he wanted to be a spook after all. But he didn't have any other trade in mind, and he definitely didn't like farming. But it turned out his destiny was waiting for him as the seventh son of the seventh son. He was apprenticed to train as the next Spook, which is a person who rids the towns of evil, supernatural creatures. It is a job that is looked down on by others, and promises to bring the bearer a lonely life. But at the time, Tom figures it's better than farming, and his mother doesn't really give him much of a choice. Let's just say she had his destiny determined long before he was born. You get to see Tom struggle with his role as the Spook's Apprentice, several times, deciding to quit but having his mind changed in various ways. He makes some mistakes along the way, but learns from them, so there is also a good coming of age story in this book.
I like that there is definitely good and evil in this book. But there are also humans who could go either way. Yes there are bad witches, but there are some that are benign. There is one character that is likely to be in-between, and she has a very pivotal role. I believe that she will have a very important place in Tom's life as he matures. Perhaps there will be a romantic future for Tom and Alice when they get older.
The parts with the witches really did unnerve me. They are horrible creatures who kill and eat people and use their bones for dark magic. It was refreshing to read a book that actually had bad witches for once. I was very proud of young Tom for facing off on not one, but two witches that were out for his blood and his bones, and saving a young child that was likely to be one of their victims.
The author really did a great job of setting a sinister tone. It wasn't over the top, but very subtle and building. His use of words drew a very vivid image, where I felt as though I was standing there and the witch was crawling out of the grave to get me.
Another thing I liked was that this story was not predictable. You don't know how it's going to end. You don't know the way in which the witch will manifest herself. She could have possessed any one of the people in the house during the climax moments of this story.
Tom was a sympathetic, likable narrator. He was realistic for his age, but I truly did admire his bravery although he was scared when a rational person would have been scared. He was often left to deal with situations that would have been challenging for a grown-up, much less a boy of twelve. He risked his life to do the right thing, and that was very admirable to me.
There are questions that I would still like answers to, but reading the next books in the series, will definitely give insight into the enigmatic Spook, and Tom's mother, who has gifts that are still somewhat mysterious at this point.
If you want to read a young adult book that has the appeal of giving a good, sustained scare instead of a series of shock value, short-lived scares, I think you would enjoy this one. A cool bonus with this book is pages of Tom's journal, a map of the areas in the book, and the key to the codes used by a Spook in his trade.(less)
This was a good book of ghost stories. As the blurb on the back says, no two are alike. They take the reader in different directions. I like this anth...moreThis was a good book of ghost stories. As the blurb on the back says, no two are alike. They take the reader in different directions. I like this anthology because it shows how versatile the the ghost story is. And what defines a ghost is in the eye of the beholder, and the storyteller. None of these stories would keep me up at night, but there is a lingering unease as I remember reading some of them. Various settings are used, and the imagination of the writers seems limitless to me. Read these stories if you want a fresh, different look at ghosts. I definitely think this volume has ghost stories for the millenium. Probably the most unique and arresting stories is by Lucius Shepherd. I cannot even begin to describe his story. It was like Bangsian (fantasy taking place after death) meets The Usual Suspects meets The Last Seduction. I will definitely try to read more by this author.(less)
If you like your urban fantasy/occult detective novel with a touch of the horrific, then The Nightside books are up your alley. John Taylor is very en...moreIf you like your urban fantasy/occult detective novel with a touch of the horrific, then The Nightside books are up your alley. John Taylor is very enigmatic. He has abilities. He can find things, usually things that don't want to be found. There are things that go bump in the night. And most of them live in The Nightside. It's a dark, scary place that is somewhere near London.
John Taylor is a wanted man in the Nightside, and has sworn not to go back. You know about good intentions. When a girl goes missing, he is asked to go there to help find her. Strapped for cash, he can hardly turn down the exorbitant fee he is offered And John feels the need to help people (although he'd hardly own up to it).
I became a fan of Simon R. Green when I read this book. He has a great sense of humor, on the wry side, often dark, but funny all the same. Yet there is a core of goodness even in the muck and yuck of what happens in this place where it's always 3 am. It's John Taylor. He's all hard-bitten exterior, but inside there is a hero hiding.
Taylor is an interesting protagonist. He has quite a legacy that he is running from, and doesn't fully understand. He doesn't know that much about his parents, except that his mother was/is a heavy hitter in the Nightside, and his father was fairly normal. As the books unfold we find out just how powerful his mom is. There is a prophecy that Taylor might bring about the end of the world if he succeeds in finding his long-lost mother. Taylor goes to the future long enough to see that it's not what any of us want, especially me (read the book and you'll find out why. Poor Razor Eddie).
This book is full of interesting and rather dark and scary, but often humorous at the same time secondary characters like Razor Eddie, Shotgun Suzie, the gun-happy, rather butch female friend and sometimes enemy of Taylor, and The Harrowing, very scary beings with no faces wearing suits and with hypodermic needles for hands, who are out for Taylor's blood, just to name a few. There are some strange and unsettling things happening in the Nightside, and for that reason I would warn a reader. Green tends to describe the violence in a very horrific way, but I feel the humor keeps the subject more light. I am a bit squeamish, and I love these books, so I think most interested readers could handle them. So if you are willing to take a walk on the darkside, come on down to the Nightside. John Taylor can tell you more than he cares to remember about this place. (less)
What lessons did I learn from this book? Angels are as scary as they are majestic. Whew. I really don't want the angel apocalypse hitting anywhere I l...moreWhat lessons did I learn from this book? Angels are as scary as they are majestic. Whew. I really don't want the angel apocalypse hitting anywhere I live like it does in the Nightside. Also don't get in the way of an angel with a mission. You will not survive the encounter. In this case, the angels are after someone who has the Judas Cup, not the Holy Grail. Yeah, you can guess this cup is probably not going to be used for benevolent purposes.
The action is fierce, the horror is very evident, the humor is crisp, and the glimpses of humanity in the characters make it go down nicely when it could have been over the top. There are folklore bits nicely woven into this story that I really appreciated, such as Black Annis, one scary lady for kids and grownups alike. Although I had my shuddery moments, I loved this book, and am eager to read more in the series.(less)
Ever heard the phrase, "Killer Voice?" Well, Rossignol (translates to Nightingale in French) is a girl in the Nightside who literally does. Her voice...moreEver heard the phrase, "Killer Voice?" Well, Rossignol (translates to Nightingale in French) is a girl in the Nightside who literally does. Her voice has the power to drive people to kill themselves. It didn't used to be that way, but something changed, made her sad, so all she can do is sing dreary songs (think Depeche Mode at their most downer moments). John Taylor has been asked to find her since she disappeared. That's where this journey begins. This is a dark journey, even for Taylor. There are horrific moments, funny moments, and even poignant moments. Why do they always leave Taylor?? This is probably the goriest of the Nightside books so far. Yet I am still hooked. I think Simon R. Green is an incredible writer with a great imagination. Can't wait to read more Nightside books.(less)
**spoiler alert** This was a pretty weird story and takes an interesting turn. I loved the fact that the hero was Vietnamese-American, and he sounded...more**spoiler alert** This was a pretty weird story and takes an interesting turn. I loved the fact that the hero was Vietnamese-American, and he sounded like a real cutie. It uses a little bit of Vietnamese folklore which was neat as well. Not my favorite by Koontz, because I thought the ending was strangely absurd and I laughed, and I'm not sure I was supposed to be laughing. It starts out serious and descends into hilarity, and the change in tone was a little jarring for me. Good book all around and great hero.
Warning: I am keeping this review on the vague side because Shan's books are more fun if you don't know what's going on before you read them.
Well, th...moreWarning: I am keeping this review on the vague side because Shan's books are more fun if you don't know what's going on before you read them.
Well, this was a very interesting book. I didn't really like the idea of the freak show, but I did think that it was a novel way to introduce this story, and a different sort of motif for a children's series. I've seen this series at the bookstore for years now, and waffled about reading it. The freak show concept turned me off. I am just not into it, I must admit. I don't even like circuses (I went to a few as young child, but they are scary and sad to me). For some reason, This kind of reminded me of The Traveling Vampire Show by Richard Laymon, but these stories unfold quite differently, and the latter is not a children's book by any stretch.
A Living Nightmare is definitely written for a target audience of older children and younger teens. At some times, the writing seemed a bit juvenile. I feel bad for saying that. I think it's because I read Lord Loss first, which was about a teenager, but I feel was written in a way that seemed more mature and advanced enough that an adult reader didn't even notice that it was for children. I can't blame Mr. Shan for targeting a younger audience, if I chose to read a children's book. So I am not trying to sound judgmental or snooty. It was merely an observation on my part.
The beginning is very sound, and sets you up to hold your breath to see how 'Darren Shan' manages to get on the path that he is walking in life (or afterlife I should say). The descriptions of the freak show are somewhat interesting, but it's not something I find that exciting. Yet there are eerie moments that caught my imagination as I waited to see what would happen next.
'Darren Shan,' which is a psuedonym, (Since this is written as a boy telling his story, there is a foreword that states that all the character's names are made up to protect the real life people) is a protagonist that you can feel for. He is just a boy, not evil, and not super-good either, and he makes some bad decisions that come back to haunt him. He doesn't always own up to his faults, but in the end, he makes a choice that I admired for its maturity. In fact, the repercussions of this choice actually made me cry. It just struck me as pretty awful what has to happen in order for things to work out for Darren's family. I was really impressed that Darren Shan (the author) was fearless enough to incorporate this aspect into a children's book.
The look at vampire lore had a life of its own. It had some familiar conventions, but the manner in which a person becomes a vampire was something I haven't read anything like before. That part was pretty cool, and some of the mechanism of vampirism and how they apply to Darren's situation specifically.
I thought Darren had a very good relationship with his family, and I really liked how he was so close and loving with his younger sister, Annie. It was sweet how they got along so well and loved and watched out for each other. Darren has a complicated relationship with his best friend, Steve, who is a very troubled boy, and a catalyst for the events that occur in this book. This relationship will continue in the later books with some twists that I look forward to reading.
I decided to give this book four stars because it's a good book and it was fun and involving. There were scenes where I gasped out loud. I was waiting for dinner and I actually groaned on a part that was pretty shocking and outrageous. The guy standing across the way from where I was sitting looked at me and smiled. I smiled back sheepishly before I was quickly immersed back into this story. That said, I must admit that, had read I this before Lord Loss, I would really be cheering. But Lord Loss set me up for higher standards that this one didn't quite meet. However, I can see children and some adults who like eerie, yet fun little vampire suspense tales targeted towards older children, really getting a kick out this story. I definitely want to continue the series to see what happens to Darren, because this story is just getting started.(less)