When Jeremy Dyson is contacted by journalist Aiden Fox to uncover Britain’s hidden ghost stories, he embarks a hardened sceptic. As he sets off around...moreWhen Jeremy Dyson is contacted by journalist Aiden Fox to uncover Britain’s hidden ghost stories, he embarks a hardened sceptic. As he sets off around the country he learns how the mundane can turn terrifying in an instant.
The success of many of these stories is the complete normality running up to the ghost encounter. One minute you’re reading about the minutiae of everyday lives and the next an edge of fear has crept into the text. The fear that a noise or a touch can bring is somehow much more real than monsters that lurk in the dark. Hardened horror fans may find the pace a little slow but I found several of the stories really gave me the creeps.
The Haunted Book is rather ambiguously marketed, presented as a collection of ghost stories from around Britain sourced by Dyson. It is left up to the reader to decide the truth but inevitably it becomes clear it if fiction masquerading as non-fiction. Even if you are inclined to believe in the stories themselves, the fact that there’s a book within a book, within a book would leave very little that could be genuinely attributed to Dyson.
Like many short story collections, there are hits and misses and I found myself skipping over a few. Yet there was always the feeling that you could turn the page to be confronted with something terrifying and the lack of it just adds a little to the tension. What really lifted the book for me was the end; hidden away in those black pages. If you are a book geek you will love it. Maybe every book should end that way!
The physical hardback is certainly one of those books that begs to be picked up. Indeed, when reading at my desk during lunch (because I’m a big wimp and need to read scary things in daylight) several people came and leafed through it. The designer has managed to replicate the old journal look perfectly. (less)
In the 16th century, 114 colonists mysteriously vanished from Roanoke Island. Hundreds of years later, the mystery remains unsolved but has become jus...moreIn the 16th century, 114 colonists mysteriously vanished from Roanoke Island. Hundreds of years later, the mystery remains unsolved but has become just a story for tourists, re-enacted each year in the local theatre. Miranda is a summer intern at Waterside Theatre, the freak at school and a Blackwood, a family name that brings with it a history of outcasts. After losing her mother her father hit the bottle and her only friend is her dog Sidekick. When 114 people vanish overnight, including her father, she finds herself at the centre of it all. And then Phillips turns up; the boy who claims to hear the dead.
Having never heard of the Lost Colony, I was intrigued by the historical aspect and how it would be explained away. It did make me smile when a certain historical character turned up (not Marlowe but getting nearly as common in fantasy). If anything, it has piqued my interest in finding out more about the history. There’s a lot going on and I wonder if the pace suffered because of this. There’s Miranda’s family problems, a sinister birthmark that carries a curse, a boy who hears the dead, a murder, an FBI investigation into the missing people and a whole host of excitement that happens after. It took me ages to get into and every time the pace picked up, something new was added to the plot which slowed it down again.
There’s potential for it to be really rather creepy but Miranda came across as a bit detached which made it hard to connect to her. And there lies my problem, it wasn’t in-depth enough on any one of the plot points to keep my interest and yet I didn’t care enough about the characters to overlook that. Their dry humour may appeal to others but it felt like they were hiding their real selves behind it. It’s also a little irritating when writers put in little cultural references and go on to explain them. When they’re not relevant to the plot, it doesn’t matter if the reader doesn’t get them and explaining it just comes across as awkward.
On the plus side, it doesn’t fall into any of the obvious romantic traps of young adult. Really, it’s not romantic at all and the developing relationship between Miranda and Phillips is rather tame and sweet. It’s also refreshing to read a standalone novel, that has *gasp* an ending. Overall it’s something a bit different which is what Strange Chemistry is aiming for.(less)
Liz has been having recurring nightmares. When she moves away from Wales to escape bullying, she finds the place of her dreams of the edge of Hollow P...moreLiz has been having recurring nightmares. When she moves away from Wales to escape bullying, she finds the place of her dreams of the edge of Hollow Pike. She brushes the thought off as coincidence, after all, aren't all woods pretty much the same? Yet the history of Hollow Pike is rife with Pagan rituals and witch hunts, could there be any truth in the silly superstitions of the townsfolk?
Immediately Liz falls in with the popular crowd at school although she is drawn to the “freaks”. Soon enough, she's the victim of bullying again but there's something much more sinister going on. Are her new friends hiding something? Is witchcraft really being practised in this Yorkshire town? Is she even safe?
It's a creepy and tense story with a dash of paranoia. It's not a new-girl-at-school-learns-magic sort of plot but one on the edge of being perfectly believable. I've also come to the conclusion that I much prefer British young adult writing, these teenagers actually seem a lot like the teenager I remember being as well as the ones I overhear talking on the bus. They're not mature and sensible. They are bitchy, get drunk and obsess about what other people think.
I keep reading books at the moment that remind me of films and I generally don't like comparing the two but this did make me think of Heathers now and then. Overall Hollow Pike is a solid début novel from ex-teacher James Dawson. If anything, teenagers might just learn that teachers are paying attention. (less)
Warm Bodies is one of those books that I fell in love with from the start and just want to tell people to read it. They are the kind of books that are...moreWarm Bodies is one of those books that I fell in love with from the start and just want to tell people to read it. They are the kind of books that are hard to write a review for, I don't want to spoil a thing for potential readers. One of the most moving and beautiful books I've read this year and believe it or not, it's about zombies.
Our narrator, R is a zombie. He lurches and groans. He kills people and eats brains. With the brains come flashes of memories from the lives of his prey. R has always seemed a little bit different than the others, maybe a little less gone but when he saves the life of a living girl, Julie, things really start to change. He may have eaten her boyfriend but he will do everything to keep her safe. Is it possible that a zombie can love? Is there any chance for either of them in the doomed world they live in?
Zombies are the creature du jour this year but this isn't your average zombie story. Whilst most are a message of how bad things can get, this is a tale of hope. It is also full of well crafted prose and there are so many passages that are quotable. If you want to challenge your preconceptions of a genre in 2012, you could do a lot worse than reading Isaac Marion's utterly wonderful novel.(less)
Stockholm is in the grip of a heatwave and strange things are happening. Electrical appliances won't turn off, everyone has headaches and the recently...moreStockholm is in the grip of a heatwave and strange things are happening. Electrical appliances won't turn off, everyone has headaches and the recently dead are starting to come back to life. Not the average zombie story, John Ajvide Lindqvist has taken the time to think about the emotional aspects of zombies actually being loved ones. David has lost his wife in a car crash but can't bring himself to tell his son that she's either dead or undead. Mahler lost his grandson, Anna her son, two months before and are still struggling to come to terms with his death. To both families, the zombies are not some horror film come to life but a chance to hope that there is life after death.
It's really quite a moving and thought-provoking book. The reliving are still corpses but animated somehow. They are not out to eat brains but understandably people are scared of them. If it is one of the people you love most in the world, what can you do but carry on loving them? Fear and hatred can only have negative consequences but what happens if we can be compassionate...
Translated from the original Swedish by Ebba Segerberg, there are a few clunky sentences and odd phrases but not enough to get in the way of the powerful storytelling. It's not all action but a much more introspective, quiet book that I feel would even appeal to readers who don't like zombies.(less)
It's 1911. Underneath the idyllic surface of small town Eliada, eugenics is being studied and the town may have reasons for its seemingly perfect inha...moreIt's 1911. Underneath the idyllic surface of small town Eliada, eugenics is being studied and the town may have reasons for its seemingly perfect inhabitants. I first read about the American eugenics program in Jodi Picoult's Second Glance and it was that subject that made me want to read Eutopia. It's a part of American history that has been swept under the carpet, for understandable reasons. However, eugenics is used as a vehicle for the plot here and I didn't learn much more than I already knew.
If eugenics isn't scary enough for you, there's something not right in the quarantine shed. Dr Waggoner is a black doctor who happens to be available when a young woman has been butchered during what looks like outhouse abortion. Now in a town practising eugenics, you can tell that a black doctor is going to be in for a tough time and an attempted lynching is just the start of it. It turns out that women are being raped and the person being kept in quarantine is suspected of being involved.
This novel is seriously creepy. Do not read it on your own, at night, with the bedroom window open. I ended up jumpy and paranoid and then had to sleep with the window closed even though it was muggy and uncomfortable. Now, when it comes to films, I'm a big girlie wuss but not so much with horror novels. I find the scariest things are often the stuff that can really happen and horror writers can kill the suspense with excessive description. But not here.
There are a lot of big ideas in Eutopia and I think maybe there are too many to do them all justice. Not only are there the real life horrors of practising eugenics on a community, biological warfare and an element of the supernatural but also questions of religion. It did seem a bit disjointed at times and the end seemed a little anti-climatic after all the good stuff that came before but the creep factor gives it an extra star.(less)
A tense tale of isolation and unending darkness. A short and fairly slow read, I found it eerie and oddly believable. Even though the book starts with...moreA tense tale of isolation and unending darkness. A short and fairly slow read, I found it eerie and oddly believable. Even though the book starts with a letter from Algie stating that Jack isn't insane, you do wonder how the Artic winter really effects them.(less)
Whilst in no way badly written, I just didn't like any if the characters to care if they disappeared into apartment 16 never to be seen again. Even th...moreWhilst in no way badly written, I just didn't like any if the characters to care if they disappeared into apartment 16 never to be seen again. Even the heroine of the story, Apryl, destroyed any sympathy I had for her with her stereotypical opinions of the British. The character of Felix Hesson is loosely based on Vorticist artist Wyndham Lewis and the book does contain some long faux art criticisms that might deter some readers. I did like the general idea of art and the occult but I was expecting a bit more explanation at the end. The epilogue seemed to end suddenly too so I'm not sure if there was much point in it being there.(less)