I confess, I’m not very good when it comes to pulling information out of book descriptions. But all I know is, when I first heard about The Girl with All The Gifts, it piqued my interest right away. Here you have a story about a bright young girl named Melanie, who for some reason everyone seems deathly afraid of. Being held at gun-point while being strapped into a wheelchair just to go to class? Judging by level of paranoia with which she’s treated, you’d think little Melanie was Hannibal Lecter. The book jacket may be a little scarce on details, but there’s definitely something strange going on.
So it really shouldn’t have surprised me when this book turned out to be Horror, and yet it did. Finding out about the genre, however, just made me even more excited to read it. And just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, OH HELLO, THEY DO!
By now, I gather it’s pretty safe to explain why I had myself a personal little freak-out when it hit me just what I was in for with this story. After all, the revelation comes very early on in the novel and is hardly a spoiler, not to mention the book has been out in the UK for months now and the cat is out of the bag. But avert your eyes now if you would prefer to know absolutely ZIP about the book going in. Anyway, my excitement levels exploded when I realized that The Girl with All The Gifts…has zombies.
And I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. What makes this a great zombie book – a great book, PERIOD – is the science. Ah, gotta love science. Like I always say, if you want to see some scary stuff, look no further than Mother Nature. Heck, some of the most frightening, bone-chilling things I’ve ever seen in film aren’t in horror movies, but are in those dang Planet Earth documentaries. Who could forget the “Jungles” episode and the importance of fungi as illustrated by the life cycle of Ophiocordyceps unilatertalis? Oh, the sheer horror of watching the parasite take over an ant’s brain before the fruiting body explodes out of the back of its victim’s head, all while Sir David Attenborough goes on calmly narrating in those smooth, dulcet tones. That sequence was beyond traumatizing – but also fascinating. I remember being obsessed with the idea, thinking to myself, holy crap, someone pleeeeease write a zombie book based around this!
Well, even though the video game The Last of Us might have done it first, M.R. Carey ended up granting me my wish. And he does it in such a spectacular way, wrapping this fantastic idea around a story filled with mystery, action, and lots of gut-wrenching heartbreak. The Girl with All The Gifts is everything I look for in a zombie book – tight, energetic pacing with all the savagery, suspense and tension – but it’s also so much more. For me, this book is the next step in zombie fiction, delivering on the survival and post-apocalyptic elements we all know and love, while pushing the envelope with new ideas and deep characterization.
Due to its nature, it’s not surprising that the zombie-apocalypse survival subgenre tends to feature ruthlessness and characters with hard hearts who show no pity. But seeing the themes of mercy and compassion enter into the equation here is a nice change of pace. A lot of this is due to Melanie. If you also guessed from the description that there’s something different about her character, you’d be correct. Melanie is definitely a special little girl, and she’s part of what makes this book such an exceptional, atypical zombie novel and such a joy for me to read.
Even though I can probably go on for another couple pages about why I loved this book, I really don’t want to give too much away. There are lots of surprises, including an unpredictable ending that truly stunned me. I loved this book to pieces. Haunting, powerful and poignant, The Girl with All The Gifts is a novel I would recommend highly and without reservation. (less)
To some, The Voices is going to be just another haunted house ghost story. To others, it will be one of the most terrifying books you’ll ever read. I’ll admit I came very close to not reading this, simply because the novel’s description made it sound much too scary. As a parent of a toddler, I had a feeling this one might cut to close for comfort and give me nightmares. But true to form, in the end I just couldn’t resist a good horror.
The year is 1976, the hottest summer in the United Kingdom since records began, and Christopher Norton and his wife Laura and baby girl Faye had just moved into their a grand old Victorian era home in the desirable neighborhood of Hampstead. A composer by trade, Christopher spends much of his time in his attic studio recording music, and before long he starts to hear strange voices on his tapes. Around the same time, Laura beings to notice knocking sounds from the baby monitor and baby Faye seemingly to babble at something unseen…
Haunted houses have long been a horror fan favorite, and whether you love it or hate it, they’re here to stay. The reason why certain tropes tend to stick around is because they’re so effective – if you can’t feel safe in your own home, then where can you? – and though I’ve read plenty of books and seen many more movies based around this idea, I don’t seem to be tired of it yet. It’s interesting because the narrative structure of The Voices actually reminds me so much of watching a movie, with regards to the use of familiar themes or the way particular events have a very cinematic quality to them. The book is also intensely atmospheric, heightening the creep factor and delicious sense of dread.
In truth, The Voices is a rather uncomplicated novel. But the author, being a clinical psychologist, knows just what to say to make you squirm. Tallis builds his story around a very believable, very flawed couple, giving them a depth of emotion not often found in characters in this genre. Christopher and Laura might not be parents of the year, but their thoughts and reactions towards the strange happenings in their house are so realistic you just can’t help but feel a connection. There were a couple scenes that really shook me up, because 1) they involved a baby, and 2) I know how awful it feels to worry for your child. There were things here straight out of my worst nightmare.
But the haunting is also just one single aspect of The Voices, a piece of a larger story with a complex web of relationship dynamics. I liked that there was more substance to this novel than just the horror elements, and in fact, my only complaint is that these minor plot threads weren’t more cohesive and connected to the overall picture. There were a lot of other things going on with Christopher and Laura’s lives outside their creepy old house, and while I got the feeling they were all relevant to the story, I just couldn’t figure out how. A little more direction would have probably made for a tidier conclusion, but I was still overall very impressed at the well-roundedness of the novel.
If you’re in the mood for a good ghost story or a classic haunting, The Voices is a very good choice. It’s one of the more memorable and chilling horror novels I’ve read of this type, and a genuinely freaked me out in more than a couple instances.(less)
To tell the truth, Dämoren didn’t start off high on my priority list of books to read when I received it for review, though it did hook my attention when I was told there would be wendigos (seriously, more books need wendigos). The cover, while very pretty, also did nothing to draw me in, showing a partial image of a bladed revolver. Hey, gunblades are neat and all -- but that also tells me very little.
Then a couple weeks ago, while trying to choose my next read, I was struck by a sudden surge of spontaneity and decided to pick up Dämoren and give the first few pages a shot. An hour later, I realized with a jolt that I was still reading, and that I was already almost a third of the way in. The weird thing about that hour, is that it honestly felt like a mere few minutes. Dämoren simply took me by surprise. I’ve read my fair share of stories about demon slayers and monster hunters, so admittedly I wasn’t expecting this first book of Seth Skorkowsky’s new urban fantasy/horror series to be that much different.
Once again, I am sorry to have underestimated the dark fiction of Ragnarok Pub. Rest assured Dämoren will satisfy all your needs in the action and thrills department, but what I was most impressed with was the world building and unique body of lore Skorkowsky has created, which offered a fresh new take on the angel/demon mythos.
Central to the novel is the concept of holy weapons. In the world of Dämoren, these weapons are sentient entities that if you’re not careful you may actually grow to care for them and even start thinking of them as characters themselves! Somehow the author has managed to imbue unmoving, unspeaking objects with personalities of their own. For when these holy weapons form a bond with a wielder, he or she becomes irrevocably aware that their weapons are alive and that they speak to their souls. No one knows how a holy weapon comes to be, but they are the only way to kill a demon. And the love a wielder feels for their weapon can be even more powerful than any attachment to another human being.
It is so with Matt Hollis, the main protagonist and owner of Dämoren, the name of his holy sword pistol. As a child, Matt was the only survivor of a wendigo attack on his family, making it out alive thanks to a man named Clay Mercer who killed the monsters and rescued the young boy. The former wielder of Dämoren, Clay had resigned from a secret order of demon hunters called the Valducan, and left his holy weapon to Matt after he died. But many years later, the Valducan leadership has taken an interest in Matt’s activities and asked him and Dämoren to rejoin their ranks, due to a sudden influx of coordinated monster attacks and attempts to destroy holy weapons. Unfortunately, this was not a decision welcomed by all, as some of the Valducan see Matt as corrupted. For while Matt had survived his childhood wendigo attack, he was also bitten by one of the creatures.
So, get this: In the world of this novel, all monsters – everything from werewolves to vampires, ghouls to lamia – are all essentially humans, but possessed by the souls of the different kinds of demons inhabiting them, giving rise to their physical and characteristic traits. A bite is how a demon “marks” a person, making them an available vessel to possess if or when their old body perishes. Now you can see why the other Valducans might be giving Matt the shifty eyes.
The book is just filled to the brim with cool ideas like these, not to mention the fact Matt’s special condition gives him some rather handy powers (blood compasses! Can you say awesome?) or the sheer variety of terrifying monsters, both new and familiar, that you’ll come face to face with within these pages. There’s certainly no shortage of action. I also classified this book as an urban fantasy, but in reality the plot will take you to many places across the globe, from the wilds of western Canada to the outskirt villages of Florence. So not only does it take place in variety of environments, Dämoren is a truly international adventure.
Although it will read perfectly fine as a self-contained novel, I was also happy to see that it is a “book one” implying that there will be more in the future. When the Valducan Order expands, one thing I'd love to see is more kickass female knights like Luiza. As one of the only two major female characters, I wasn't surprised that the role of "love interest" fell to her as well, but more to the point, I think the special relationship between a holy weapon and its owner is one of the most intriguing aspects of Dämoren and I would love to see this uncanny bond further explored with an even greater diversity of characters. Really looking forward to see what else Seth Skorkowsky has in store for us. (less)
I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book at first. Thank goodness I was wrong! Still, can you really blame me for having my doubts? After being inundated in recent years with the dozens upon dozens of movies, TV shows, video games etc. all featuring the same mindless gory battles against the shambling, moaning hordes of the undead, my initial thought was: been there, done that, now what more can this zombie book offer?
Well, this is the review where I happily eat my words! I should have known better anyway, because Ragnarok Publications has never let me down. As it turned out, Those Poor, Poor Bastards had a lot more to offer than I'd anticipated, in addition to that charming little title. The book did contain some of the usual trappings you'll find in a lot of zombie stories, but there were some twists as well, and I loved how the authors took the familiar and created something new. Also, while I haven't read enough of the Weird West sub-genre to consider myself a fan, a description like "Zombie Western" wasn't really something I could resist.
It is 1868, in the Sierra Nevada. The book begins with Nina Weaver and her father Lincoln riding into Coburn Station only to find that everything has gone to hell in a chuckwagon. The "Deaduns" have arisen and are sowing bloody carnage all over town, forcing the living to band together in order to survive. In typical fashion, you end up with a large, diverse ensemble cast. And like watching The Walking Dead, you just know before you even begin that many of them are going to end up zombie food before this whole thing is over.
Put a big group of people with disparate personalities into a stressful situation and you'll also inevitably get your clashes and alliances within the ranks. There are the good folks like Nina and her pa, the priest Father Mathias as well as the charming James Manning. On the other side of the fence you have the less savory types and troublemakers like the Daggett brothers or the scummy Mister Strobridge. Then there are those caught in the middle who just aren't sure. With tensions this high and a swarm of Deaduns at the door, it's the perfect set up for explosive conflict. Emphasis on explosive.
So far, with the exception of the western setting, things might be sounding rather familiar. But then, the authors work their magic and you suddenly realize there is way more to this story. Bucking tradition, we're actually given an explanation into the Deaduns and how they came to be. Their origins and motives, not to mention the actual reveal itself, were so unique that it completely threw me for a loop -- in a good way! I have to say this ended up being a delightfully fun read, in all its blood-splattered glory.
Those Poor, Poor Bastards also taught me something important about myself -- that I will never be too old or too jaded for a good ol' zombie story! What a fast-paced, crazy wild book. I think I'll just end this review with a suggestion to the potential reader: there are a lot of characters, so definitely try to tackle this novel all in one go if you can, ensuring that the dozen or so identities will always remain fresh in your mind. Besides, it shouldn't be too difficult -- because once you start reading, you just might find it hard to stop!(less)
This is the first time I’ve ever read anything by Jeff VanderMeer, and I’ll admit at first I had my misgivings. I’d picked up this book because of the great things I’ve heard about it, and also because the premise sounded fascinating. However, VanderMeer is also best known for his contributions to “New Weird”, a literary genre that’s been hit or miss with me – but mostly miss. Still, I looked at the modest page count of Annihilation and figured, what the hey. Even if it didn’t tickle my fancy, at least it would be a quick read.
Man, and am I glad I gave this one a shot.
Yes, the story is weird and a bit surreal – two descriptive terms for a book that would normally make me take off for the hills – but what I didn’t expect was how thoroughly atmospheric and intense it was. If Annihilation were to be made into a movie (actually, I believe that’s already in the plans), my dream director for it would be Ridley Scott because I think his particular approach would be perfect for the overall tone and visual requirements of this novel. It’s got those Alien or Prometheus vibes.
And really, I say Annihilation is "weird" but it’s really not that weird. I mean, I was able to follow along, so there’s hope for me yet. Still, how to explain this utterly unique and uncanny novel to the uninitiated (geez, that’s way too many “U” words in a sentence)? You don’t even get names for any of the characters. The story is narrated by a woman simply known as “The Biologist”. She goes on an expedition to a place called Area X with the other members of her team, the Psychologist, the Anthropologist, and the Surveyor, to see what they can find in this chunk of land that has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. I think this idea of a scientific mission was a big part of the appeal for me; Anthropology and Biology are fields that fascinate me, and I’m all about stories about treks into the wilderness for the sake of science.
The team also has the task to find out what happened to the expeditions that came before, and here’s where thing get a little eerie. All those involved in the previous eleven attempts to investigate Area X have ended up dead in some way. With the second expedition, all the members committed suicide. Everyone in the third died because they turned on each other with their guns. Members of the eleventh expedition, the one that came before the Biologist’s, came home from Area X as ghosts of their former selves before all dying of cancer several months later. What we find out later on is that the Biologist’s husband was one of them.
This book is strange and unsettling, which satisfied my appetite for horror. But while I’d been prepared to be a little creeped out, given what I knew of the plot from the description, what I didn’t expect was the feeling of heart-wrenching melancholy that came over me as I was reading about the Biologist’s memories of her husband. There’s a tragic, haunted quality to her narration during these parts, and the lonely and isolated environment that is Area X merely served to emphasize this. Knowing that the character is a rather quiet, antisocial and withdrawn woman, the sincerity and forthrightness of her confessions touched me, but at the same time it was also a source of anxiety. Why would she be telling us all this unless she believed something awful and unthinkable was about to happen? An ominous air of mystery surrounds this story like a shroud and its secrets are revealed only bit by bit, compounding the reader’s feeling of dread as the plot line advances towards the conclusion.
Truly, I am surprised by this book. And seriously impressed. I took to VanderMeer’s writing faster and more comfortably than I expected, but then he also makes it easy with his elegant prose. I was right that this was a quick read, and it was even quicker because I enjoyed it so much. Now I’m really looking forward to picking up Authority, the second book of the Southern Reach trilogy.(less)
Luna Masterson is an odd girl who sees demons. Reed Taylor is an odd guy who hangs around with an angel. And when girl meets guy, things get pretty crazy. This is probably THE thing I love best when it comes Mercedes M. Yardley's stories, the fact that when she gets two people together, you know you're not going to get just any old boring relationship!
I must say I learned that lesson well with Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu, Yardley's not-quite-horror-not-quite-romance love story novella that I read last year. What amazed me most about that book was her treatment of her two outcast characters, the way she gave them each a purpose and emotional depth even though as serial killers they are far from deserving of any admiration or sympathy. The characters in Nameless are perhaps not quite so extreme, but I likewise experienced some of those same vibes from Luna and Reed Taylor -- two very unique individuals who find in each other a kindred spirit...so to speak. I had a feeling I was going to be in for something special, and I was right.
So how does a girl deal with being able to see things that nobody else can? Luna's never had many friends, and the only people close to her are her brother Seth and 1-year-old niece Lydia. Perhaps this is why she comes across to me as socially awkward, sometimes doing and saying strange things or acting like she can't make up her mind. At the same time, I had to admire the brave and positive face she puts on. The way she takes the "Luna the Lunatic" comments in stride or shrugs off the weird looks she gets when she's talking with the demons only she can see, all that just makes me want to cheer her on. So as to whether or not you'll form a connection to her character, I think it can go either way.
But if there was one thing that really touched me, it was Luna's devotion and love for her niece. When Lydia is kidnapped by the worst sort of demon, Luna's anger and desperation felt so raw and close to the surface that it was practically palpable. As the mother of a Sweet Baby Girl myself, at times it was almost gut-wrenchingly difficult to read about Luna's distressing search for Lydia, simply because every one of her fears was like a piercing knife to my heart. In my opinion, this part of the book was done very well. Not only did it make Luna feel more real for me, it also made me care about this story and want to see it through.
The overarching plot is quite good too, even if at times it felt a bit rushed. If books had remote controls, imagine that someone has pressed the fast forward button through some of the scenes in this novel. Perhaps the book could have been a little longer, giving me more information and letting some of the major happenings sink in. The way Luna's narration sometimes zipped from one event to the next didn't give me enough time to digest some of the things that went on, especially when it came to her meeting and subsequent relationship with Reed Taylor. Regardless, their love story was an interesting one to say the least! I think the impact of the story would have been even stronger if there had been more time to let those feelings deepen.
But in the end I was very happy with the way things turned out. Well, okay, maybe a little gutted by the ending, but still happy! Yardley's brand of storytelling and writing style is tremendously addictive and her characters are a treat, I'd looked forward to reading more of her work ever since I got my first taste. Nameless left me very impressed, especially as a full-length novel debut for the author and the first installment of a planned trilogy. I can't wait to see what's coming next.(less)
Why do people read Horror? I’m sure there are many reasons, but I’ll tell you why I do. Few other genres give me that adrenaline rush. I love that growing sensation of dread as the suspense builds, the sound in my ears of my heart pounding faster and faster, that tingling feeling that runs up my arms and spine. I enjoy that in a good horror/thriller novel, and sometimes I go deliberately looking for a good scare.
That’s what initially drew me to The Three. To understand why, you also have to know that for years now, I have been struggling with a fear of flying. I can get on a plane, but not without experiencing a lot of anxiety. Hearing or seeing news about plane crashes fills me with crippling panic and visceral terror.
And well, you know what they say about fear and fascination going hand in hand? Yeah. When I saw the description for this book, I just knew I HAD to read it.
The Three is about four plane crashes that changed the world. They all happened within hours, on the same day, on four different continents. Terrorism and environmental factors are ruled out. In three out of the four catastrophic incidents, a single child survivor is found in amidst the wreckage. Reeling from the news of the disasters, the world struggles to come to terms with this. It shouldn’t be possible. No one could have survived those terrible crashes. People are calling “The Three” a miracle, while others are also coming up with all kinds of conspiracy theories. Some fanatical rapture cults are even calling this the End of Days, claiming that the children represent three out of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Reports of the children’s behavior becoming increasingly disturbing aren’t helping matters, nor are the rumors of strange things happening around them.
Ah, so it’s not just about plane crashes either. There’s also creepy children! It’s like this book was specially designed to push all my right buttons! And I know what you’re thinking now, because I also thought the same thing: “Three children? Wait, what about the fourth plane crash?” Just one of the many questions running through my head when I read the book’s description, giving me the heebie jeebies as I played at speculation. It is why I like the UK cover a lot too, once I got a closer look at it.
In addition to being an epistolary novel, The Three is also a book within a book, called "From Crash to Conspiracy" authored by the fictional investigative journalist Elspeth Martins. As its title indicates, Elspeth’s book documents the series of tumultuous events over the period of several months following the day of the four air disasters. Told through a collection of interview narratives, book and website excerpts, news articles, voice transcripts, emails, chat history, other forms of correspondence, etc. the book is a disturbing look how quickly fear and panic can make a society spiral out of control. The format proved remarkably ideal for this novel, considering the number of character perspectives involved on an international scale. Stylistically, Sarah Lotz’s decision to tell the story this way also adds an additional layer to the creep factor, due to the implication that some of her narrators are unreliable, including the “author” (Elspeth) herself, whose professionalism is questioned in places where she is accused of cherry picking quotes or misrepresenting a viewpoint in favor of her own biases or for the purpose of creating sensationalism.
That said, I normally chafe at ambiguity in my stories. But somehow, The Three makes it work. The way the book is structured, we catch glimpses of the lives of the three children through the eyes of their respective guardians – all of whom have lost someone in one of the plane crashes. There will be mystery and some uncertainty. Did the strange things they report really happen, or are they nothing more than a symptom of shock, guilt and grief? The multiple and varied narratives will keep you guessing and make you desperate to read on for answers, even if the developments are downright spine-chilling. The character Paul Craddock’s (the uncle of one of The Three) first “dictophone chapter” shook me up so badly I almost couldn’t bring myself to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night because it meant having to walk through the house in the dark. Curse this novel for being so engrossing that it made me stay up until 3am reading!
If it had been my goal to find a novel that truly scares me, clearly it appears I might have been a little too successful. Granted, I was probably more affected because I am a flight-phobic person; if there is a downside to reading this one as someone scared of flying, it’s that this book will feed your fears. But the upside? THIS BOOK WILL FEED YOUR FEARS. Classic horror paradox; sometimes it’s fun to be scared. I can’t think of the last time I came across a horror novel that unnerved me so deeply. Without a doubt, The Three is one of my top reads this year and deserves to be a huge success.(less)
Having wanted to read a book by this author for a while, I initially debated either tackling 7 Wonders or the Empire State series, but then I found out about his upcoming title Hang Wire. After reading the description, I decided right then and there that I wanted it to be my first Adam Christopher novel.
Immortal gods, pagan rites, a serial killer on the loose...is there anything this book doesn't have? And what's this, a circus too? If anything, it was this last one that sold me. Hang Wire looked to me like an unconventional urban fantasy that is also a fusion of paranormal, horror and mystery. There's even some mythology thrown in to stir things up even more, in what is arguably already a quirky mix.
In present day San Francisco, a blogger named Ted goes out to dinner with his group of journalist friends to celebrate his birthday, only to have a fortune cookie blow up in his face. Physically unharmed, Ted nonetheless starts experiencing odd things ever since the incident. Recently, the city has also been held in fear by a killer known as Hang Wire, who brutally strangles his victims before stringing them up in public places.
Meanwhile, the circus is in town with a new high wire act plus a Celtic dance group whose performances have been garnering lots of praise. But tension is mounting behind the scenes, especially with rumors that the carnival is cursed, and the frequent fights breaking out between the creepy circus manager and the workers are putting everyone on edge. There's an ancient evil lurking, and as it turns out, everything has to do with a handful of gods who walk among us. And one of them is a scruffy but devastatingly handsome beach bum named Bob, who gives free ballroom dancing lessons at the aqua park by the sea...
Right, I don't think I need to go further to let you know just how bizarre this book is. But then, I liked it. I didn't think I would at first, simply because of the sheer amount of information the story throws at you right off the bat. As you can see from my brief summary, there's a lot happening in this book, and while trying to figure out what's going on, things can feel a tad overwhelming. Not to mention, the numerous time jumps near the beginning can add to the sense of disjointedness.
I was loaded up with so many questions at first. Most of them involve the circus manager Joel. Who is he and why are we seeing him in all these places across the country, and at these very different times? He's obviously hunting something, but what is this strange power allowing him to know exactly where to be? Where is it coming from? A lot of these questions were answered to my satisfaction at the end, but there were still many points that I felt could have been expanded. I bring this up because for a book with so many threads and topics, the world building is surprisingly on the light side. I enjoyed what I saw, but also felt like there should have been more.
However, I am amazed at Adam Christopher's creativity and the vision for this novel. I especially loved the mysticism and the darkness. Take the Hang Wire killer, for example. This was one of many developments in the overarching story line, but admittedly it was also the horror and mystery of it that eventually grabbed my attention and drew me in. And in fantasy, you usually see circuses depicted as magical places filled with whimsy and wonder, but here the circus is a cursed, creepy place suffused with pure evil where the carnival attractions themselves hunger for blood. I found it all deeply enticing.
So then, my first Adam Christopher novel turned out to be quite the offbeat experience, but I wasn't disappointed. All in all, this was a highly original read packed with all kinds of strange and fantastical elements, and that's how I like it. There may be a lot to take in at first, but everything comes together eventually, once the story gets going and builds momentum. (less)
One of the most common things you'll hear about books these days is that everything seems to be a series. I know I myself have talked about series burnout on more than a few occasions and expressed a desire to see more stand-alones. However! Every once in a while the news of an unexpected sequel will make me jump up and down for joy! And this is most definitely one of those times.
Murder can be seen as the follow-up to Mayhem, the chilling paranormal horror novel by Sarah Pinborough that was published last year from Jo Fletcher Books. Sort-of-but-not-really about Jack the Ripper, the book and its clever combination of historical fact and fiction intermixed with supernatural elements quickly vaulted it onto my list of all-time favorites.
I should probably mention too that Mayhem works perfectly well as a stand-alone, but that I was also thrilled when I found out about Murder for reasons beyond the fact I am such a fan of its forerunner. Sarah Pinborough clearly had a lot more in store for Dr. Thomas Bond, the protagonist in these books. It should be noted that the real Dr. Thomas Bond was a very important figure in British crime history, best known for his work as the police surgeon on a lot of the Whitechapel murder investigations between 1887-1891. I’ve always believed that the best horror stories are rooted in reality, and being aware of the shocking turns in Bond’s career and later years also made me really excited to see what the author would do next.
Once again, Sarah Pinborough succeeds in bringing life and depth to her characters, several of whom were figures from history. A lot of the gruesome events described in this novel also actually happened, even the line in the description about bodies of children being pulled from the Thames (see the Victorian England baby farm murders). Pinborough flawlessly weaves a thread of supernatural into the story, but even then things can sometimes get too real. I think that’s why historical horrors are often so effective at terrifying me!
So now I’ll try my best to explain why I simply adored this book without giving away any spoilers for Mayhem: First, I love how these books aren’t about any one killer or murder case. Rather, all that serves as a backdrop in order to focus on something a lot more otherworldly and evil. Malevolence has settled upon London, and Dr. Thomas Bond is inextricably linked to it. Try as he might, he can’t escape the pull of the past. Because of this, Bond becomes an increasingly unreliable narrator, and having been familiar with his steadfast pragmatism up until this point, his downward spiral only makes the situation even more disconcerting. Like in Mayhem, Bond’s chapters are the only ones written in the first person, while others are in the third person. This point-of-view switching allows us to see a fuller picture, and it works even better here since our main protagonist’s credibility has been severely compromised.
Ms. Pinborough doesn’t hold anything back. Despite the kind of person Bond becomes, I felt for him; I really did. But clearly the author knows what needs to happen, and she carries out the plot with a cold eye and sees it all through mercilessly. And honestly? It made for an amazing book. There were some truly unexpected turns in the plot. At times, I couldn’t even believe it. You’ll be appalled and filled with hatred. Your heart will break. And you’ll also marvel at the amazing things the author has accomplished here with character development.
This book was just so good. Dark, disturbing, and full of tension -- just the way I like my horror. It was not a fast-paced book, and yet...the story had this way of worming into my mind. This is definitely the kind of book you'll find yourself thinking about even when you’re not reading, and hoping that it won’t be long until you can pick it up again.(less)
Ragnarok Publications is a publisher newly founded in 2013, but I'd heard of them prior to receiving a copy of Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love. These are the amazing folks behind the Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters anthology Kickstarter, which was successfully funded this fall and quite possibly one of the coolest projects I've ever backed! It was thus an honor and a pleasure to be offered a chance to read and review their inaugural title by Mercedes M. Yardley.
Don't let the quirky title fool you; this is one dark and disturbing tale of supernatural love and horror...because after all, even killers and monsters can fall in love. Montessa Tovar, an exotic dancer who has only known a life of hurt and abuse is abducted one night while walking home by Lu, a serial killer whose unusual power has led him to be labeled a demon. But in time, the victim becomes the accomplice. As the two continue to form the deepest of connections, Lu leads Montessa on a cross-country tour of blood and vengeance.
Have you ever asked yourself if you believe in the concept of soulmates? Of finding that one person out there who completes you? This is the idea explored in the book, though if you find the notion utterly romantic, be sure to brace yourself because the author does not do it in a conventional way. It is far from idyllic; characters are depicted in extreme or frightening situations, and there is blood and violence and killing aplenty. It is, however, still a love story, and everyone knows how much I enjoy those. Most surprising of all is that in the darkness, there is also a heart-wrenching beauty.
Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu is one of the most interesting and deliciously twisted takes on soulmates I've ever read, and I think it perfectly embodies what the publisher is going for. The reader may never truly come to sympathize with the pair of lovers/killers, but I looked at their heinous crimes separately from the depth of feeling which the author has created. It is the storytelling that matters, and Yardley has accomplished something truly impressive by writing about a love that feels convincingly powerful and real at the same time, all in the short span of a novella. One thing's for sure: it will be hard for me to forget this tale between two horribly damaged people, who somehow find that the pieces of their broken souls fit and complete each other.(less)
The Remaining is a great zombie book. Originally self-published in 2012, it quickly became an internet bestseller before being picked up by Orbit, and there’s a damn good reason for that. By now you’ve probably seen a lot of the positive reviews it has garnered, though I’m willing to bet few of them have praised this story for being terribly original. But does that make this a bad book? Heck no. In fact, I would argue that its devotion to the classic zombie survival-horror tradition is a massive part of the appeal.
The Walking Dead fans, this one would be right up your alley. No joke. The “zombies” in this book might not be the traditional mindless shambling hordes we’re used to seeing – the victims of the FURY plague are still capable of talking and strategizing up to a point before the virus degrades their brains (which makes them even more terrifying) – but the overall spirit and style of the narrative is still the same. It’s not out to knock you off your feet with any new or unusual or experimental ideas, but if its goal is to provide a fast-moving, action-packed and entertaining zombie story then I must say it has succeeded rather swimmingly.
Here’s what you basically need to know: the main character of The Remaining is a US Army captain named Lee Harden, who as part of a secret government program is sequestered in his bunker after the sudden outbreak of a new deadly and infectious virus. It’s not the first time this has happened. Lee and about four dozen other soldiers like him (one for every state) are placed in their bunkers every time the country experiences an emergency of national crisis. If the government falls, their job is to come out after the bunker, take stock of the situation and try to gather survivors in order to rebuild. But things in the past have never gone so far or gotten this bad before. When the lockdown period passes without an all-clear or any further instructions from his superiors, Lee emerges from the bunker and prepares to start his mission.
As a character, Lee took a while to grow on me – but he did. Strangely, the moment came when I was finally able to appreciate his faults. To understand, you must realize the few chapters really tried my patience. The entire lockdown period featured Lee being in denial, going back and forth between his decisions and second guessing his instructions. And then there were those long and wearying paragraphs about his guns. The deadline came and went. I kept tapping my foot waiting for him to stop describing the contents of his impressive arsenal, get his waffling butt out there and actually put all that stuff to good use on some hapless Infected.
Then I realized, I was being too harsh. Dude is stuck in a bunker. Not knowing what’s going on because he’s cut off from all communication. No human interaction at all because it’s just him and his dog. If the world outside has indeed gone to hell in a hand basket, he’s probably also scared to death of the responsibility waiting for him on the other side of that tunnel.
So maybe I was being a tad unfair to poor Lee. And really, what a shame it would have been if he was just another archetypal action hero, full of empty bravado rushing out headfirst to save the world? Lee is more realistic this way, even if he did end up doing some questionable things. But then, who wouldn’t make a mistake in the middle of a zombie apocalypse? Contrary to what all the zombie survival guides want you to believe, there's no instruction manual for stuff like this. Wrong decisions or no, Lee has to make some pretty tough calls as well. The guy has a good heart, but he's sure as hell also capable of showing no mercy to those who don’t deserve it. I love that in his character.
Bottom line, if you’re a fan of type of zombie apocalypse survival movies that Hollywood does so well, this is that in book form. After a relatively sedate start, the novel picks up and will not slow down, with always some kind of disaster or new setback waiting around the corner for the characters to overcome. No other bells and whistles or fancy-schmancy embellishments, just pure zombie fiction fun. (less)
Nightlife takes readers to a New Harbor, Connecticut on Halloween night, where deep within its depths, an ancient breed of predator prepares to rise. The city's outcasts, the forgotten and the homeless are the first victims, but the creatures' hunger only grows. At New Harbor's popular nightclub, Beth Becker arrives for her job as a bartender on one of her busiest days of the year, unaware that her life is about to be changed forever.
After that night, several people go missing, including Beth's best friend Zoe. But when the police ignore her concerns, Beth decides to take things into her own hands. However, her investigations lead her to more questions than answers, to ominous tales about the "Night Angel", and other horrors she never imagined possible. And when she encounters a mysterious stranger named Jack, Beth has to make a choice. New Harbor is about to fall to a new terror; will she run while she can, or stay and fight?
This was a request for a review that I immediately and enthusiastically accepted as soon as I read the description for the book. I think it was the idea of an "urban fantasy-horror" that first hooked me, because while something like that would naturally seem like the perfect combination of genres, I don't think I've actually read anything like it! And as it turned out, I wasn't disappointed at all. Now that I've finished this book, I think it at once delivered everything I expected but also gave me a lot of surprises as well.
But not surprisingly, the highlights for me are the characters. The story itself takes a bit of time to build up in the beginning, but meanwhile I was kept interested by Beth and the other perspectives we're given in this first part of the novel, not to mention the clever and snappy dialogue. I've read books where it takes a long time for me to get a good sense of the protagonist, enough to see them as a real person, but Beth felt like a well-defined character almost from the get go. More importantly, I liked her.
Plus, there's also the nature of the creatures preying upon New Harbor. I don't want to spoil anything, but let's just say the author takes a familiar concept in urban fantasy and paranormal, and adds his own twist and flavor of horror. This isn't at all like like the books where humans and supernatural beings coexist in a tentative balance; instead, the Beth and Jack are pitted against something savage, primal and inhuman. I liked some of the theories presented here about them, especially the biological ones, because...let's just say salt and those garlic sprays you can get for your garden make a lot of sense.
And finally, even though overall tone of the novel is quite dark, there are some fun parts as well. There's the aforementioned humor in the dialogue, as well as Jack reminding me a bit of a low-tech Batman with his badass attitude and arsenal of jury-rigged weapons and gadgets he keeps on his person.
I would have liked to learn more about him, seeing as there's a whole other side to this story that's presented but mostly left up in the air, such as the mysterious organization Jack appears to be running from as well as his link to the homeless and self-professed prophet Gil. At times, these sections actually feel disconnected from the overall plot, but they also leave much for the next book to explore. I'm looking forward to it!
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.(less)
This is going to be less of a review, and more of a list of my thoughts on why I just couldn't get into this book. I try generally to finish every boo...moreThis is going to be less of a review, and more of a list of my thoughts on why I just couldn't get into this book. I try generally to finish every book I start because I'm way too obsessive-compulsive not to, but I have to say it was so tempting to put this one aside. I did end up finishing it, but not without much zoning out and skimming.
- I remember really liking Ashes, the first book of this trilogy. It was, in my opinion, a zombie survival story done well. We had a great beginning, an intriguing cause of the disaster in the form of the mysterious "Zap" that started it all and turned everything upside down. I liked the main character Alex and how she met up with Tom and Ellie, I wanted to see more of them and what they would do to make it through the apocalypse.
- But somewhere along the way, this zombie survival story became bogged down with too much character drama. Alex used to be the main focus, which was fine with me; I liked her and her whole backstory about her illness and the death of her parents. But ever since Rule came into the picture, Alex started showing up less and less; other characters I didn't care for were getting more attention. There were way too many players involved already, but Monsters added even more.
- This book really could have been edited down further, with a lot of filler cut out. I heard it was originally around 800 pages long, but even now at around 600, there's still too much exposition and unneeded detail, like aimless dream sequences and a lot of redundant repetition.
- I did not like how it seemed the author felt every chapter needed to end in a cliffhanger. It very quickly became unbearable when we would follow one character's perspective, stop at a point of suspense, go to follow another character in a very different place, stop at a point of suspense for them, and repeat this pattern back and forth. This excessive ping-ponging between perspectives was even more tedious when all of it would sometimes happen within the same chapter.
- No big picture, no explanations or answers to questions. We don't get to find out more about the Zap, the Changed, or any of the other strange things that have been happening to our characters. The action scenes felt thrown in perfunctorily whenever we needed a break from the soap opera drama.
- Disappointing end to a trilogy that really started out quite strong. I'd really hoped for it to pick up, but instead, it spiraled further away from the spirit of what made me like the first book so much. I think the departure had already started happening at the end of Ashes, but it only got worse in the second. I didn't like the direction in which the series was headed in Shadows, and I liked it even less in Monsters. (less)
Interestingly enough, well before this book came into my life, I'd happened to be browsing through the many publishing-related newsletters in my email inbox one day when a deliciously creepy animated gif banner in one of them caught my eye. In fact, it was an announcement for this very title, bearing the tag line:
"Jack the Ripper is terrorizing London. Now a new killer is stalking the streets, the victims' bodies are dismembered and their heads are missing...the killer likes to keep them."
It gets even more intriguing than that. The book's blurb also describes it as a supernatural thriller, and given my penchant for historical horror novels (particularly those featuring a paranormal angle) I just couldn't resist. So you can imagine my excitement when I received Mayhem for review from Jo Fletcher Books, and remembering that banner with its promise of a hunt for a serial killer in Victorian London, I needed little convincing to start this right away.
Still, Mayhem isn't really a story about Jack the Ripper. Between 1888 and 1891 there were a series of murders in or around the Whitechapel area, and the modus operandi of some of these were different enough that investigators theorized that they could have been committed by another person other than Jack. The idea of a separate "Torso Killer" in these "Thames Mysteries" is what forms the basis for this book, and in Sarah Pinborough's version of the events, he takes his victims' heads as trophies.
Though Jack the Ripper doesn't take center stage in Mayhem, his name and his crimes are referred to frequently, and his terrifying hold over East London is part and parcel to the creation of the setting. Establishing that there's the possibility of not just one but two killers stalking the streets creates this sense of dread that is pervasive throughout the novel. Because of the way the plot is set up, even when nothing suspenseful was happening on the page, the book always had me steeling myself in apprehension for something horrible to come along -- that's what a good horror novel does to me.
The supernatural aspect also helps in this regard; as I've said before in my past reviews, I like a touch of that in my horror. In Mayhem, it adds a whole new dimension to the story, making it a lot better than if this had been just a straight-up hunt for an ordinary mundane killer.
In spite of this, much in this book is rooted in reality. The author did her research, and even included events like the true instance of a reporter's dog used in finding a severed leg during the Whitehall Mystery. Also, a couple of the book's chief characters, like those involved with the investigations, were actual historical figures -- the police detective Henry Moore and the British physician Thomas Bond, for example. The latter comes closest to being our main protagonist, with his chapters being the only ones written in the first person, while the others are in the third person. Initially, I found this point-of-view switching to be quite bizarre, but ultimately it worked for me.
Reports from news articles about the killings are also interspersed between the narratives, which not only establishes the timeline but also provides historical context. A work of fiction this may be, but the book never lets you forget that the Whitechapel murders, their victims and their grisly circumstances (especially in the case of Mary Jane Kelly) had really occurred, that at least one insane and very real killer had actually once terrorized London's East End, and I think that's what unsettled me the most as I was reading.
This was a very dark tale, chilling and disturbing without being overblown or excessive. The atmosphere of tension is subtle and builds gradually, but things peaked for me during that terrible scene at the dinner table involving Dr. Bond's revelation. I didn't realize until then that I was just like him -- bracing myself for the inevitable macabre conclusion. This is highly recommended for those who like historical mysteries and crime fiction, particularly if you don't mind a little paranormal thrown into the mix. (less)
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! I love delving into the horror ge...moreThank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! I love delving into the horror genre every now and then, and I have to say the description on The Troop sold me right away. Something about being stranded in an isolated area like the woods or on a lonely island just invokes a primal kind of fear in my heart, the idea that no one can hear you scream when the stuff of nightmares comes to life around you.
Of course, for me the icing on the cake is that this book is written by a Canadian author (Nick Cutter is the pen name of Craig Davidson, according to the copyright details) and takes place in Canada, in a sleepy town off the coast of Prince Edward Island to be exact. A bucolic maritime province, P.E.I. is known for its fisheries, tourism and potatoes, and I'll always remember it in my mind as a place of lush landscapes and gorgeous coastlines. That said, the contrasting effects created by juxtaposing this setting alongside the horrific things that happen in this book is probably what made it even more terrifying.
When I'm reading, there are two parts to being scared. First, there are the descriptive details that appeal to my senses -- the sight of gore, the smell of blood, the taste of vomit on the back of a frightened character's throat, etc. Also known as the gross-out factor, I think I can safely say that this book did that very well. Still, I find many authors are able to write very descriptively, but simply making me feel nauseous and disgusted is only half of the picture.
This is where the second part comes in, which is more abstract and subjective. For me to be truly creeped out, there has to be that factor of suspense; the horror novelist has to strike me with that sense of dread which makes me want to keep turning the pages and not want to at the same time. I'm happy to report that The Troop succeeded in this as well, artfully combining the two parts to make this reading the book a truly unnerving horror experience.
A big part of this is of course the idea behind the story -- a Scoutmaster and his troop of five scouts being abandoned on a small deserted island to fend for themselves against an unknown infection. Reading about the boys and their interactions, I can't help but be reminded of Stephen King and the easy camaraderie he usually has between the adolescent characters in his stories. I always think it's so much more disturbing when a horror novel stars teenagers, because their behaviors are that much more unpredictable. The boys' minds have not reached full maturity, and this leads to a lot of unsettling things happening, especially given the wide range of personalities present in The Troop. Being kids and scouts, their first inclination is to help others in need, and the fact this natural drive is exploited by the contagious threat is what made the book even more chilling.
You can kind of tell that the author delights in doing this to the reader as well, as the writing in the horror scenes seem to come off more naturally and elegantly than the other parts. Believe it or not, the introduction was the toughest section for me to get through, since the narratives of the Scoutmaster and the boys felt very awkward, rough and unfocused before finally smoothing out after the first few chapters. It's like the book doesn't settle into its groove until the horror parts are underway, but once it does the momentum just builds and builds and doesn't stop! I was on pins and needles right up to the end.(less)
Oh boy, I've always adored horror novels that incorporate paranormal elements or a touch of the fantastical, and considering my enjoyment for such typ...moreOh boy, I've always adored horror novels that incorporate paranormal elements or a touch of the fantastical, and considering my enjoyment for such types of books written by Stephen King, it's a wonder to me why I waited so long to check out something by his son, an acclaimed author in his own right.
Why I thought this was a great book, reason the first: it succeeded in creeping me out. Honestly, why else would I pick up a horror novel? I mentioned before how much I appreciate having fantasy in my horror, because rather than dulling my fear by being "less realistic", a story with supernatural aspect actually accentuates it. In NOS4A2, Joe Hill manages to balance the "world of reality" and the "world of imagination" perfectly, sometimes blurring the lines.
In this way, a tale about a predator named Charles Manx who snatches children from his vintage Rolls-Royce becomes even more frightening when you think about how in this world of mystical powers, secret places and hidden roads, anything can happen. Manx's powers are even more disturbing, when you find out that his Wraith car has the ability to transport its riders beyond the veil to a place called Christmasland, which at first sounds like a wonderful place, except every moment a child spends there they lose more and more of themselves. Knowing that this villain uses his young victims' love of Christmas against them makes this book even more chilling.
Which brings me to another reason why I found this book so effectively unsettling: the fact that this is, in a way, a story about the loss of childhood innocence. Like Manx, our protagonist Victoria McQueen also has a power, which she discovers at 8 years old, when a rickety old covered bridge appears whenever she rides her bike, always leading her to exactly what she's looking for. Years later and seeking trouble as an angsty teenager, the bridge leads Vic to her first traumatic encounter with Charles Manx.
The events in Vic's past will remain with her forever, but all powers also have their costs. As she grows into adulthood, her memories and power change her life, her personality, her relationships with the people close to her. Her struggles with these changes are a big part of why I felt drawn to her character, because it's easy to sympathize with her desire to be a good person and do the right thing, even if it means facing her greatest fears and returning to the worst time of her life.
Joe Hill builds Vic up to be this fully-realized person, so that her fears became my fears, what she cared about became what I cared about, and what she wanted became what I wanted, too. Indeed, it's not just the thrills and suspense that got me into this novel, but also the factors involving Vic's emotions and relationships with her parents, Lou, and her son.
It takes a very good storyteller to frighten their reader but to also move them, and in this way Joe Hill's writing reminds me a lot of Stephen King's work. This is one seriously talented family. While NOS4A2 may be the first book I've ever read by Joe Hill, it certainly won't be the last.
In this novel we follow two stories, going back and forth between one and another. One features Gordon Black, whose birth into a world much like ours...moreIn this novel we follow two stories, going back and forth between one and another. One features Gordon Black, whose birth into a world much like ours heralds the beginning of the end. Society makes its descension into the "Black Dawn", an era marked by environmental and economic collapse, poverty, starvation, and anarchy. The second story takes place hundreds of years later, focusing on Megan Maurice, a girl living in a future where humanity's level of technology has effectively reverted back to the dark ages.
Both characters are linked by a connection to the mysterious figure known as The Crowman. Gordon and Megan each undertake their own journey in their own time, struggling to discover more and understand their roles in determining the world's fate.
This book started out very strong, and I liked the development of these characters, even though I preferred Gordon story line. We are there from his birth, getting a better glimpse of his life growing up with his family. This made me feel a keener sense of sadness while following his tale as he experiences his losses, fears, and despair at what he perceives to be his personal failures.
Megan's story was interesting as well, but I just didn't feel as connected to her world or her character. While her future setting is admittedly a very unique and imaginative one, I couldn't help but feel the details lacked a certain cohesiveness, making it a challenge to wrap my head around concepts like the nature of her magic or Keeper's duties. Maybe a greater emphasis on Gordon was intended for this novel, but in my opinion the author did a much better job with his character over all, developing him and building his world.
Anyway, I wish the book could have continued its momentum for me all the way through, but around three-quarters of the way in, my attention started waning. The climax, if I was indeed correct in identifying it as such, left me cold and wasn't as engrossing as I'd anticipated, and I ended up mostly zoning out through the rest. I admit this might have cast a shadow upon my final thoughts, which is unfortunate, because this wasn't a bad book and I really enjoyed the beginning. Somehow, it'd just lost its steam for me towards the end, but I will say I'm still very much looking forward to the next book to see how things turn out.(less)
I seem to be running into a lot of young adult novels with overly vague or very misleading descriptions lately. Anyway, I don't know what I was expecting when I picked up this book, but for better or worse, it wasn't this.
From what I've seen and heard, Anna Dressed in Blood is a horror novel. Everything about it screams, "Read me! I am scary!" I mean, you have ghost hunter Cas Lowood traveling the globe in search of urban legends and lore, vanquishing the evil spirits that are killing and terrorizing innocent people. He ends up following a tip to Thunder Bay, where a ghost called Anna has been the bane of the local population since her death in 1958.
A victim of a grisly murder herself, she is called "Anna Dressed in Blood" because her ghost still wears the white dress she had on the day she died, now dripping and stained red with gore. She haunts the house where she used to live, and every person who has ever stepped foot inside has met a gruesome end by her hand. If you ask me, when it comes to evil ghosts that need busting, no one deserves it more than Anna. I so looked forward to Cas ending her reign of terror.
And therein lies the kicker. I wanted Cas to kill Anna, not fall in love with her! Granted, I had a suspicion this was where the book was headed given its genre, not to mention how obvious it was from the way these two characters were being handled. Still, while I did not immediately dismiss or even terribly mind the romantic side plot, I did have some issues with the way their relationship unraveled. It felt rushed and clumsy, and I did not find it remotely convincing. The way I see it, Cas has been killing far too many ghosts for far too long to just up and one day fall in love with one. And despite Anna's special circumstances, the author did not give her an engaging enough personality to persuade me that she could capture Cas' heart so effortlessly.
Also, despite the horror vibes practically leaking off this book, it is still classified as young adult and as such I did not actually expect it to be very scary. In this I was mostly right, though there are some genuinely tense and downright disturbing scenes which could possibly set off a reader's creep-out meter. If anything, I applaud Kendare Blake for being able to create this spine-chilling atmosphere, and wish she had expanded and continued this aspect throughout the entire book. This had all the potential to become one of the most unique young adult horror novels I've ever read, but it was the lukewarm romantic subplot that ended up derailing the momentum for me.
There are some other more minor things that made me stumble, including the supporting characters who felt shoehorned in and not given adequate space to really shine. Carmel, Thomas, Morfran and even Cas' mother were all very intriguing people, with personalities that I would have been delighted to see explored further. Plus, considering how little time the teens actually spent in class, the book really could have done without the school setting to begin with. Cas could have been in the area for the summer and there would have been very little difference. Massive points to Anna Dressed in Blood for taking place in Thunder Bay though, a very nice hat tip to this very nice Northwestern Ontario city.
All in all, this book gets several mixed opinions from me, though my overall experience was positive. If the romance had been handled better, I really think this could have been something more special and amazing. As it is though, it's still quite good. I'll definitely still be checking out the next book. (less)
This novel was our book club's choice for July, the theme of which was "Nominees for the 2012 Nebula Awards". Though this book hadn't been on my to-read list, nor had I a clue what it was going to be about, I'd looked forward to checking it out.
The Drowning Girl, described as dark fantasy and horror mixed with strong elements of magical realism, stars protagonist India Morgan Phelps, or Imp to those around her. Imp also has schizophrenia. As such, much of the novel's themes are centered around the nature of reality and human perception, exploring the duality of fact vs. fiction or truth vs. myth.
The book gets a bit difficult to describe beyond that, because of certain factors like the writing style or the jumble of ideas within. Imp, being an unreliable narrator, had much to do with this. Suffice to say, The Drowning Girl is a ghost story viewed through the lens of mental illness, and is a rather provocative yet critical look into our understanding of consciousness and perception.
The way this story is narrated, which I initially fretted over when I first heard about it, actually turned out to be much less distracting than I thought. I won't deny that at times it could be frustrating -- indeed, by design the book lacks "flow", and there were a couple chapters where I just wanted to grab my head and scream, "I just can't bloody do this anymore!" Imp will also sometimes go on these long, rambling tangents and talk in circles. But still, it wasn't that bad. For the most part, I think I was able follow the main thread.
As a literary horror novel or ghost story, however, it was a very subdued haunting and in my opinion fell a bit flat. Reading this, I became so absorbed by the intricacies and inner workings of Imp's mind that everything else in the story became white noise, almost irrelevant. Which, I suppose one could argue, is the point. Whether or not it was what the author intended, I personally viewed this book as more of an in-depth character study of Imp rather than an actual tale of the paranormal.
In the end, I can't say this book was my cup of tea. In spite of that, however, I can recognize its literary merits, and not the very least of those is the the bold and disjointed way the author chose to tell the story. This stylistic choice which at times annoyed the hell out me is also at the same time what I felt was the book's greatest strength. From my time as an occupational therapy student working in an outpatient mental health clinic, one thing that's always stayed with me is the constant struggle people with schizophrenia have with the breakdown of thought processes and their connection to what can perceived. Reading Imp's memoir brought me back to all the people I've met and worked with, and she feels very real in that sense. So while the writing style may be unconventional, it's also very realistic.
I can't get enough of Miriam Black. I just can't. I thought the initial delight of discovering this twisted and refreshingly candid series would have...moreI can't get enough of Miriam Black. I just can't. I thought the initial delight of discovering this twisted and refreshingly candid series would have worn off a bit by now, but it hasn't. If anything, I think I'm finally starting to sense of who Miriam is and the direction in which these books are going. Or that might just be wishful thinking. Regardless, I'm still having a blast.
Some time has passed since we last left Miriam and Louis in Blackbirds (book one of the series, my review here). For the sake of their relationship, Miriam has attempted to settle down, living in a double-wide trailer and working as a check-out girl at a local grocery store. No more drifting around the country, and no more utilizing her morbid ability to see and how and when someone is going to die simply by making skin-on-skin contact with them. For Miriam, it means a new life filled with lots of tedium, grin-and-bear-it moments, and constantly wearing gloves.
But a girl can only take so much. Fed up, Miriam packs up and gets ready to hit the road when Louis tells her about Katey, a contact of his who is convinced she is dying and wants to pay Miriam to confirm her suspicions. Eager to be herself again, Miriam readily accepts the job, which is how she finds herself dropped off at a prestigious boarding school for troubled girls where Katey is employed as a teacher. Very soon, Miriam finds herself caught up in much more than she bargained for, when she encounters Lauren, a student at the school whom Miriam's death visions tell her will die brutally at the hands of a crazed serial killer.
With Mockingbird, I think I feel a little more confident in describing the Miriam Black books as less of a traditional Urban Fantasy series, and more of a Thriller-Suspense with paranormal elements. Given the dark nature of Miriam's power, I would throw in a bit of horror, too. There are some intensely graphic and frightening scenes in this book worthy of the goriest slasher flicks, and if you're anything like me, at certain points while reading you'll likely find yourself squirming in your seat in an uncomfortable-yet-not-too-entirely-unpleasant kind of way.
Though, that's sort of what I've come to expect with Chuck Wendig. His writing and stories can make you desperately want to turn the page and be scared to do so at the same time. His characters and dialogue can induce me to laugh my ass off yet at once make me feel like a terrible person. And I love every minute of it. Why do people go and watch scary movies anyway? On a certain level, we do it for the express purpose of being terrified out of our wits. Similarly, that was why I was so eager to pick up this second installment of Miriam Black -- I wanted what I got out of Blackbirds the first time around, to again be shocked, scandalized and enthralled by Wendig's particular brand of dark humor and suspense. I was not disappointed.
Mockingbird also gave us a better look at who Miriam is as a person. I mentioned in my review of the first book that I know deep down beneath that snarky rough exterior she is good person with a good heart, and here I think we see that a little more in her determination to help the schoolgirls and her refusal to simply walk away from the situation. The origins of her mysterious power are still largely unexplained, but we do get a bit of that too. The best part, though, is this book provided a lot of insight into Miriam's past, like her childhood and her relationship with her mother, which gave me a better idea of how she became the way she is.
Overall, a very suspenseful and chilling novel which I could barely put down. As a special treat, I bought the Whispersync Kindle/Audible bundle so I was able to listen to parts of this in audiobook format too. The narrator Emily Beresford is fantastic as Miriam Black, her talent coming through especially when she sings the "Mockingbird" song, the serial killer's rendition of the folk song "Wicked Polly". The song earwormed itself into my head for days, which I have to say made the book even more memorable and creepy.(less)
Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire has wowed me before with her work, more specifically, with the book Feed in her Newsflesh Trilogy. I confess my deep love for zombie goodness, which is why I was so excited when I got my hands on Parasite, her new novel that appears to contain similar horror/thriller themes. Due to several factors, though, it turned out that wasn't able to get on board with this one as much as I'd hoped, but I did very much like the subject. Tapeworms, how deliciously creepy!
The book takes place about a decade into the future, where medical science has taken a great leap forward with the development of a genetically engineered tapeworm. Brilliant scientists at SymboGen Corporation have figured out a way to modify this parasite so that it would live in mutualistic symbiosis with humans. Our bodies give the tapeworm a place to live, and in turn it boosts our immune systems, secretes drugs and medications, protects us from illnesses, allergies, and all that good stuff. Within years, almost everyone on earth has one of these implants living within them.
We are then introduced to Sally Mitchell, our main character who woke up six years ago after being diagnosed as brain dead following a horrific car accident. Her recovery has not been complete, however. Despite being a young woman on the outside, Sally/Sal has in essence only been alive for six years because she cannot remember anything of her life prior to her accident. She woke up a complete blank slate, and had to relearn everything like language, social behaviors, and even basic things like how to eat. Nevertheless, SymboGen touts her as a miracle, crediting their tapeworm implant for preserving her life.
Sticking things into our bodies that don't belong there has never turned out well in these kinds of stories though, especially when they're parasites that scientists have tinkered with. Which brings me to my first thought -- that this book would have been better and more suspenseful if the science aspect had been stepped up a bit. On the one hand, being an avid reader of sci-fi and fantasy means that I am no stranger to suspending my disbelief; pretty much anything can go in this genre, as far as I'm concerned. However, there's also much to be said about authors who can use science to create nightmare scenarios that are so realistic that even their most outlandish ideas can seem convincing. Books like Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park or Timeline, for example, are fun to read for this reason. The research in them are at a level where I can actually entertain the thought of their stories being possible.
This wasn't something I could do with Parasite. Admittedly, I may have been a little over-critical of its premise because of my background in biology, but I think most readers with a basic knowledge of microbiology or genetics will also find some issues with this book. There are not a lot of explanations when it comes to the tapeworm, you just have to accept that things are the way they are. It's definitely not a deal-breaker, but not being able to picture this story as a realistic situation does lessen the suspense somewhat. But not unlike those crazy made-for-TV disaster movies you see on SyFy, Parasite is still a lot of fun.
Sal's character, however, was a whole other matter. I've said it before and I'll say it again: main protagonists are so important for me, and not being able to like them or connect with them makes it harder for me to enjoy a book. First of all, I found it hard to believe that Sal is at such a high level of proficiency when it comes to social behavior and language, considering she started from scratch only six years ago. Beyond that, her personality is also like that of a spoiled brat who thinks she knows everything.
In some ways, I understand that Sal is supposed to be a little naive, being technically just six years old and all. But I've lived almost five times that and I'll still be the first to admit there's just so much I have yet to learn, and Sal's self-centered attitude really got on my nerves, along with her apparent disdain for authority figures. Sometimes, I wondered if I would have enjoyed this book more as a Young Adult novel, because then the premise and the main character's attitude would not have felt so out of place.
I suppose Sal's history also excuses her for not being all that discerning, or for not having the best judgment of people and situations. I don't think it'll take long for most readers to guess the ending to this book; personally, I was able to predict the "twist" by the halfway point (and I don't think I'm the most perceptive of readers either) but it's something Sal only manages to figure out in the final few pages, significantly lessening the effect of the cliffhanger. If any suspense still remained for me at this point, the conclusion pretty much negated it and made me realize that perhaps this book just isn't for me. For a future Mira Grant fix, I will probably pick up Deadline and return to the Newsflesh Trilogy. Tapeworms are interesting, but I think I like her zombies a lot better.(less)
After having positive experiences with both the first two books in The Monstrumologist series, I eagerly anticipated getting my hands on the third book. This probably explains why I wasn't entirely prepared for my disappointed reaction when I finished. Don't get me wrong; on it's own and outside any biases or pre-conceived notions, this book is a solid horror novel for young adults. But compared to the The Monstrumologist and even The Curse of the Wendigo, I have to say it fell quite a bit short.
The book starts off in a similar way as the others, teasing the next horrifying monster that our characters will encounter next. In this case, it's news clippings and reports about "red rain" and bloody raw meat falling from the sky. These incidents and the disgusting nidus, nests made of human parts and poisonous sputum, are the only evidence of the creature known as "the Faceless One of a Thousand Faces" or Typhoeus magnificum. For monster hunters like Pellinore Warthrop, it is considered the "Holy Grail of Monstrumology."
When a mysterious package shows up at the monstrumologist's door, our protagonist and narrator Will Henry witnesses firsthand how exposure to its gruesome contents rapidly turn the hapless courier who delivered it into a mindless, rotting horror. Dr. Warthrop, recognizing what's inside the package as a nidus, takes Will Henry on a race to follow the trail and track down the magnificum.
I didn't think this book was as impressive as its predecessors, for a couple reasons. Firstly, I'm not sure if this is merely a byproduct of Will Henry growing up over the course of the series to become a teenager in this novel, but this was the first time I actually found his character annoying. By design, he was moody, whiny and childish. I also sensed a shift in his narration style to become more abstract and ineffective, especially since we have so many more scenes in this book involving flashbacks, dreams, and delirious visions.
Secondly, my favorite character Dr. Pellinore Warthrop was largely absent for a big chunk of the story. Interesting things happen when he's around, so when he's not, all we're left with is Will Henry being mopey and feeling sorry for himself. While I can understand that this book is supposed to a deeper exploration into the relationship between the two of them, I can't help but think there had to be a better way to accomplish this. The inaction in the first part of the book was a letdown compared to the action and suspense I'd grown used to from this series, and really only the opening and the ending managed to come close.
On the bright side, I thought this was the most humorous out of the three books so far, with more light moments than I expected to balance out the depressing and melodramatic. While I considered this a positive point, The Isle of Blood just had a very different feel from rest of the series, with many departures from what I thought was the norm for these books. Like I said, it wasn't bad, but I can't deny I was expecting something maybe a little more fast-paced and entertaining, and a little less subdued.(less)
4.5 stars. Oh man, what can I say about Miriam Black? Funny how Chuck Wendig was able to hook me on his Blackbirds female protagonist the way he could...more4.5 stars. Oh man, what can I say about Miriam Black? Funny how Chuck Wendig was able to hook me on his Blackbirds female protagonist the way he couldn't with Mookie Pearl in The Blue Blazes, my first book by this author. I may have mentioned my aversion for rough, brutish, brawn-over-brains characters like Mookie in my review of that book, but here I find myself completely taken with Miriam and her snarky, foul-mouthed, firebrand hellion devil-may-care badass ways. This chick had me at, "That's me. My fair fuckin' lady."
Miriam also has a very special ability -- she can foresee the manner in which a person will die and know exactly when, down to the very micro-second. All she needs is any skin-on-skin contact and the visions will trigger, the deaths playing out in her mind in their entirety but lasting only a couple seconds to anyone watching from the outside. She used to care, used to want to save others from their preventable demises, but quickly learned her lesson: What fate wants, fate gets. Now she's a vagrant, hopping from city to city trailing those she knows will soon meet their end, so she can swoop in and rob them at the time of their deaths and no one will be the wiser.
Then one day she meets Louis, the random truck driver who gives her a lift and is the first person in a long time to show her even a hint of kindness. She finds she likes him, but then she shakes his hand and sees his death -- in 30 days, Louis will be brutally murdered. Miriam is shocked; she's seen hundreds of deaths from accidents, suicides, and health problems, but very rarely has she seen murder. And the kicker is, in her vision right before Louis dies, he looks up past his killer and calls Miriam's name...like he sees her there.
It was difficult to put this book down. Obviously, the plot being such a tease was a major draw, but like I said before, I was also very much taken with Miriam. I still don't know why, really; it's not like I can relate to her all that easily since I am nothing like her, but I felt connected to her regardless. She's definitely unique, and it'll be a mistake going into this book expecting her to be just another independent, tough-as-nails paranormal fiction female protagonist. Miriam would probably just beat someone like her up, but only after cussing her out and drinking her under the table.
A lot of the criticisms I've seen directed at this book claim Miriam's character doesn't read like a "real girl", but I have to disagree. Not only do I know women who act just like Miriam, I also think that her rough, trashy badass exterior reflects the kind of life she's had growing up with her disturbing power, making her behavior and personality convincing and refreshingly honest. At the same time, I sense that underneath is someone more perceptive and complex, with a introspective, kind and caring side to her that you just have to dig a little bit beneath the surface to find. Okay, maybe make that dig A LOT beneath the surface, but I still know it's there.
This book also made me start appreciating Chuck Wendig's style a lot more than I had before. His writing, topics, and characters are infused with this attitude which to me is a little reminiscent of the transgressiveness in books one might find by authors like Chuck Palahniuk or Bret Easton Ellis. I also love the paranormal spin to Blackbirds, but I would also hesitate to categorize it as urban fantasy because it throws so many of that genre's conventions out the window; my guess is that a person can be really put off by this book if caught completely unprepared by it.
Sometimes, it does feel like the book is deliberately out to shock you, what with some of its violent and graphic scenes as well as Miriam's potty mouth, but I was strangely cool with it. The subject matter also had a way of making me feel deliciously unsettled, but it at least made this book memorable. I admit I was somewhat initially hesitant about tackling another Chuck Wendig book after enjoying but not being completely blown away by The Blue Blazes, but I definitely liked Blackbirds more than I thought I would.
Odd Thomas came highly recommended to me by many people, and which I found to be an interesting take on the "I see dead people" story. The eponymous p...moreOdd Thomas came highly recommended to me by many people, and which I found to be an interesting take on the "I see dead people" story. The eponymous protagonist is a 20-year-old short order cook whose unique ability to see and understand ghosts allows him to help the local police force solve crimes. Occasionally, he can even help prevent them before they happen. So when a mysterious visitor arrives in Pico Mundo trailing a pack of bodachs (wraith-like harbingers of death and destruction), Odd decides to investigate, and uncovers evidence that a terrible catastrophe is about to happen in his town.
I enjoyed this book, but also wished it gave me reason to like it more. There were many high points, such as the interesting cast of characters and the suspenseful themes which were nothing short of top-notch. And yet, there were also many areas in which I felt the book fell flat. I never managed to get truly engaged with the story, because every time things started heating up, they would slow down again or I felt the plot would suddenly veer off into another direction, thus negating any sort momentum. So often the narrative seemed to be building towards something, but then never quite gets there.
But I think the thing that bugged me the most was the ending, which I found very predictable. Still, being predictable alone wouldn't have bothered me so much, if Dean Koontz also didn't go to such great lengths throughout the entire book trying to convince me that "No, no, this isn't going to go the way you think, I promise!" and then essentially going "PSYCH! It WAS exactly what you think!" right at the very end. I found the storytelling very transparent and not very subtle at all. Still, like I said I enjoyed this well enough, and would be open to checking out the rest of the series.(less)
I loved Rick Yancy's The Monstrumologist so much that I quickly picked up this one, the second book of the series. Now that I've finished it, I'd prob...moreI loved Rick Yancy's The Monstrumologist so much that I quickly picked up this one, the second book of the series. Now that I've finished it, I'd probably hesitate to say that it was as strong as its predecessor, but nevertheless I wasn't disappointed. This sequel had all the horror elements in it that made the first book great; its only fault was that I found it just slightly less suspenseful.
The Monstrumologist first introduced us to the series' young narrator Will Henry and his work assisting the eccentric Dr. Warthrop in the grisly business of the study of monsters. We're thrown back into the late 1800s as Will documents in his journal their trek through the heart of the brutal Canadian wilderness, in order find traces of a missing friend who is believed to have been taken by a creature known as the Wendigo. Warthrop, however, does not believe the Wendigo actually exists, but takes the mission anyway as a favor to the woman who was his former fiancee, and to her husband who happens to be the missing victim.
Anyone who's ever gone to summer camp and sat around a campfire telling scary stories at night should know about the Wendigo, a demonic creature appearing in the legends of the Algonquin peoples of the northern United States and Canada. Once again, I found it really neat the way Rick Yancey was able to work a well-known myth into the story, along with the documented yet controversial condition called Wendigo Psychosis, whose symptoms include an intense craving for human flesh.
I also loved, loved, LOVED the character development. Strange as he is, I find myself a big fan of Dr. Pellinore Warthrop's character, just from what I got reading The Monstrumologist. This book carries that on further, going a little deeper into his past history and personality. He's such a complex and subtle figure, with so many layers to his personality that go unsaid, yet they come through so clearly in Rick Yancey's writing and storytelling. Will Henry's relationship with the doctor is a veritable quagmire of volatile emotion and dynamics, and to me it's an incredible achievement on the author's part in the "Show, don't tell" department.
Anyway, the same caveats I provided for the first book also apply for this one; some of the scenes in here are absolutely not appropriate for the faint of heart or younger readers, despite its YA designation. Older teens will probably find it okay, but keep in mind it's still pretty gross stuff. It's true that I didn't find this book as suspenseful as the first one, mostly because I felt it had a slower start, but its overall story and the atmosphere are no less unsettling. Like I said, I eat this kinda creepy stuff up, so I'm definitely looking forward to starting the third book in this series.
I won't claim Young Adult speculative fiction as my main interest, though lately, it does feel like I've been on a...moreAlso reviewed at The BiblioSanctum.
I won't claim Young Adult speculative fiction as my main interest, though lately, it does feel like I've been on a YA kick. I like picking it up occasionally, but it always seems like my favorite books in the genre are the ones that can be enjoyed by all ages, the ones that don't scream "YA!" the instant I open the book and meet its teenage protagonists. You know what I mean.
That probably has a lot to do with why I absolutely adored this book. I wanted a change from the paranormal high school romances, and the fact that The Monstrumologist is horror, told from the perspective of a 12-year-old boy, and takes place in late-1800s New England are all big pluses. The novel is presented as the diary of Will Henry, an orphan working as an assistant/apprentice to the odd Dr. Pellinore Warthrop who is a monstrumologist, someone who studies monsters.
Still, some caveats: while this book is technically categorized as YA, I still wouldn't recommend this lightly to any young reader. It contains plenty of content that are what I call the 3GRs: gross, gruesome, graphic. No question about it, if adapted completely faithfully, a movie based on this novel would get an R-rating...a solid hey-kid-how-the-hell-did-you-sneak-in-here-without-an-accompanying-adult resounding R-rating.
I can't remember the last time I was this creeped out by a book. Again, here I am shocked that this is actually YA -- for two reasons, really. First, the horror aspects were extremely well done, and while the book's breakneck pace wasn't so surprising, the quality of writing and descriptiveness is of a caliber I wouldn't expect from a young adult novel. And second, maybe I'm just not savvy enough to the stuff going on in today's YA fiction scene, but I was completely blindsided at how violently and vividly gory this book was.
Of course, good horror isn't only about the blood and gore. Thankfully, the author has the other factors covered too, with plenty of suspense and atmosphere-building. It always impresses me when a book can immerse me so deeply and grab me like this, as in like, wow, I'm so glad I'm not a claustrophobe too, or those last few chapters would have been even more unsettling.
In fact, much of the book actually feels specifically crafted to enthrall and frighten, with a deliberate shock-factor involved perhaps, but I was still more than happy to go along with the ride. After all, I love this kind of stuff. My friends in my gaming circle will know how obsessed I am with a paranormal/horror-themed MMORPG called The Secret World, mostly for its spooky setting and atmosphere. I have to say The Monstrumologist sucked me in immediately as well, exactly because it was dripping with those very same vibes. I just eat this stuff up.
Anyway, in my humble opinion, it was the monsters that made the book. Rick Yancey chose to make it about Anthropophagi, which means "people eaters"...enough said. While they're not Yancey's original creation (mythology or literature buffs will probably recognize Anthropophagi from Shakespeare), the unique spin he adds to the creatures makes them absolutely terrifying.
For example, the book begins with a grave robber showing up at Warthrop's house, presenting him with the corpse of girl with a dead Anthrophage wrapped around her body. She has half her face eaten off, her throat is chewed up, and then a tiny fetus of an Anthropophagus is found in her womb. Ick, ick, ick! See what I mean about disturbing imagery and description intended to give the reader chilling thoughts? If that stuff makes you uncomfortable, I would stay away.
The other factor that adds to the creepiness is the characters. I loved our main protagonist Will Henry and the narrating style the author gave him, which is believably suited to that historical period. That's another reason why this book doesn't read like a typical YA novel; not only has Yancey adapted the vernacular and vocabulary to the times, Will Henry also lacks the modern preteen/teen protagonist attitude that's so common in YA fiction.
Still, as much as I adored Will Henry, compared to the rest of the cast, he was probably the most normal and boring. Dr. Pellinore Warthorp, if he were alive today, would probably have been diagnosed immediately with a personality disorder, but he was also very interesting, filled out and well-written. There are so many layers to him that I spent half the book trying to make up my mind about his character, and actually enjoyed figuring him out along with Will Henry. Then there was Kearns, who is, in a word, insane.
Anyway, bottom line? I think I've found a new favorite young adult author, and his name is Rick Yancey.(less)
Having really enjoyed Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist, I became interested in checking out the author's other works and...morePosted at The BiblioSanctum.
Having really enjoyed Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist, I became interested in checking out the author's other works and decided to pick up his new young adult book The 5th Wave.
The book tells the story of an alien invasion, happening over a period of time in a series of planned attacks called "waves". The 1st wave was an electromagnetic pulse-like burst that knocked out electricity and almost everything that runs on power. The 2nd wave wiped out all cities on the world's coastlines. The 3rd wave was a plague that decimated the human population. The 4th wave made those still alive mistrust and turn on each other. Cassie is one of the few lucky (unlucky?) survivors, believing that striking out alone is the only way to stay alive. Those that are left now prepare for the worst; they know "the Others" aren't done with humanity yet, and a 5th wave is on the horizon.
I was really excited when I found out the premise behind the book, hoping to see a new take and fresh ideas on the alien invasion concept. Going on a tangent here, but I think most of us today take movies like Alien for granted; the image of the chestburster exploding out of a human chest cavity is a familiar one to us now that it's been propagated in pop culture, but can you imagine actually sitting in that theater seat watching that scene play out for the very first time on the big screen back in 1979? It was before my time, but I can't help but think it must have been one crazy, horrifyingly mind-blowing experience, simply because no one then could have expected it.
You could say I'm trying to I'm chase that feeling, I guess. I live for those moments when I'm surprised by my science fiction, those OMG-I-can't-believe-that-just-friggin'-happened moments. Anyway, I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately it didn't quite get me there. Even so, it was great read. Never mind that some of the waves were based on familiar ideas, and there were themes reminiscent of stories like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Thing (TRUST NO ONE!), the horror of their relentless assaults was very well done, making the characters' fears seem very real.
In fact, I only have a very few minor gripes, and they mostly stem from the things the author threw in to make this book feel more mainstream YA, almost like he was deliberately trying for a Hunger Games vibe. There's that aspect of the young girl struggling in a survivalist situation, complete with a sappy romance with a cute boy with a lop-sided grin. Arrgh, seriously, why do they always always ALWAYS have to have the lop-sided grin?! Spare me!
I know it's a stereotype, and as usual there are going to be exceptions, but some male authors just can't seem to pull off writing convincingly and realistically from the point-of-view of a teenage girl. Some of Cassie's thoughts about crushes and boys are either giggle-worthy or cringe-inducing, and I get the feeling Rick Yancey simply used general ideas found in mainstream movies and books when it came to writing Cassie. She definitely didn't come across as naturally compared to his characterization of Will Henry in The Monstrumologist.
I only mention this because YA romances that feel corny or awkward have a tendency to drive me absolutely bonkers, but thankfully it was only mildly distracting here. Ultimately, there really wasn't much in this book that took away from my overall enjoyment. Despite incorporating a lot of elements I feel like I've seen before, I really have no complaints in terms of the story. It was entertaining, full of action and suspense and all I could ask for.(less)
At its heart, Warm Bodies is a "zombie book" because it's a book about zombies, but it's definitely not your classic post-apocalyptic survivalist adve...moreAt its heart, Warm Bodies is a "zombie book" because it's a book about zombies, but it's definitely not your classic post-apocalyptic survivalist adventure involving gory battles with the brain-eating hordes. This sets the story apart and makes it original, but it also helped that I went in knowing what to expect.
The zombies themselves also aren't very typical. On the surface, they appear to be of the usual shambling, moaning and in various-stages-of-decay variety, but the ones in this book are able to maintain a semblance of a structured society. Communication between them is just good enough to allow things like organized hunts or a rudimentary class system, and zombie couples even have wedding ceremonies and are given zombie children to teach and raise.
The book also gives a plausible reason as to why zombies like eating human brains, explaining that it gives them a cerebral high while letting them relive the memories and experience the emotions of their victims. It is in this way that R, our zombie protagonist and narrator, becomes fixated with a girl he encounters on a routine hunt, after killing her boyfriend and chowing down on his grey matter.
In a way, the style and writing reminds me books I've read in the past where the story is told in the point-of-view of a dog or any other kind of animal. In each case the author has to find a convincing way to explain to the reader why their narrator is obviously intelligent and eloquent enough to tell a story, but can't express that outwardly. R, for example, can think and wax philosophical with the best of them in his head, but can't manage to put together more than a couple words or a handful of syllables when he tries to speak.
A persistent need to expound upon this dissonance is very characteristic of these types of books, so the first step on the path to enjoying myself was being able to accept anything and everything the story throws at me. However, a process like that generally takes time, and the fact this book is so short and proceeds at such a break-neck pace probably wasn't the most ideal for me personally, but I could just be a stickler for the details.
If I could do it all over again, though, I would not have chosen the audiobook. My current rating probably wouldn't have changed much even if I had read the text version, because the story, while fun and interesting, was still a bit melodramatic and too cheesy for my tastes. Still, I can't help but suspect listening to the audio version played a part in preventing my full enjoyment of the novel, though I have to admit it's not through any fault of the audiobook production company or voice actor. In fact, Kevin Kenerly was very good.
Unfortunately, the nature of Warm Bodies just simply does not lend itself to be converted that well into voice format, mostly due to the amount of internal dialogue, random and sudden interruptions or changes of perspective, as well as memories and flashbacks galore. This works well on the page, but makes the story hard to follow if you're listening to it, for obvious reasons. I snapped this version up from my county library's digital collection because there was no one else on the waiting list, but I kind of wish I had been a little more patient and waited for the ebook version. The experience might have been vastly different.
But in the end, it was the story that didn't quite grab me. Despite the naughty language and several detailed scenes of gory violence, this is a young adult novel...and for me reads "too much" like a young adult novel. Aside from the underlying angsty vibes, I just felt that it tried a bit too hard to be profound with its pages and pages of R trying to figure out hope, life, love. Don't get me wrong, I think the novel does a great job of asking the question what it truly means to be alive, but there's nothing all that revelational despite the frequently over-the-top prose.
Ultimately, this book might be better for a fan of YA romance than for the die-hard zombie reader. Like I said, I knew what I was getting into before I started the book, but a part of me had still hoped for a little more action and a little less Romeo and Juliet references.
Books like Miserere are why I'm glad I make it a personal rule to finish reading all books I s...more4.5 stars. Review originally posted at The BiblioSanctum
Books like Miserere are why I'm glad I make it a personal rule to finish reading all books I start. It's always tempting to put a title away for something else when the story doesn't capture me right away, and certainly I had my doubts that this one would be right for me when I first began. But sometimes, a book can be full of surprises.
I ended up loving Miserere. All I needed was some time to get into it, and part of the reason is its pacing. It's the kind of book that takes its time revealing itself to you, doling out details about its world in a trickle as you read. I was unable to make heads or tails of the story until I understood a bit of the context, that the universe of Miserere is made up of four planes: Heaven, Earth, Woerld, and Hell. Woerld is sort of like the first line of defense against Hell and its demons, as it were; all the religions there work to keep Fallen hordes from breaking through to Earth. It is in Woerld where the book mostly takes place.
Exorcist and man of faith Lucian Negru has been in exile for sixteen years, banished for abandoning his lover Rachael in Hell in exchange for the life of his twin sister, Catarina. Catarina, however, didn't want to be saved, as she'd sold her soul to the Fallen for the chance to rule Woerld. Lucian was crippled and imprisoned when he refused to go along with her plans, until one day he escapes and endeavors to save Rachael, who has since made it back from Hell, albeit possessed by a demon that is slowly taking over and killing her.
Along the way, Lucian also rescues Lindsay, a young Earth girl who had slipped through the Veil into Woerld, just as he had many years before. Like Lucian, Lindsay possesses special powers, and will one day become one of the Kathoros, able to activate magic through prayer. Lucian is determined to make it his duty to train and protect her, but that's easier said than done with Catarina's minions on his tail and traitors at the heart of the Kathoroi.
Such a rich world, with so much history and background. I don't think I was able to absorb it all until a third of the way through the book, mostly because not everything's explained right away. You're meant to be thrown into Miserere without much guidance, letting the story do the job of explaining the details as it progresses. Call me impatient, but I don't usually enjoy books like that; I much prefer it when the setting and characters are set up early so I know what I'm in for. But still, Miserere ended up making it up to me in spades!
Contrary to its description and the nature of its themes, this book isn't really about religion, though religious philosophies and the notion of faith are interwoven into the story. More significant are the ideas of redemption and mercy, of finding the strength and reason to go on again even after falling from grace. It's also about love, of whether or not it is possible to trust again after betrayal.
Speaking of which, one of the first things that struck me about this book is how beautiful the writing is. I felt that the interplay of emotions between Lucian and Rachael unfolded very naturally and was presented almost perfectly, as were the descriptions of Lucien's mixed feelings for his traitorous sister. And yet, the writing was not at all flowery to the point of distracting, nor did it disrupt the flow of the story, which made this a very easy and smooth read. The execution in the details was also phenomenal; I am thinking of one scene in particular involving an exorcism that is quite possibly one of the most awesome and yet horrifying things I've ever read.
I just breezed through the second half of this book, since by then it had me completely hooked. One night, I found myself still up at 3am because I'd lost track of the hours reading this. I'm so glad I kept my mind open and gave this book a little time, as the reward was very much worth it. (less)