Forget Harry Potter – Danny Orchard is the real “boy who lived.” He’s had so many near death expeThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Forget Harry Potter – Danny Orchard is the real “boy who lived.” He’s had so many near death experiences that he’s been able to live off the single book he wrote about them. First there was the day of his birth, which he only narrowly survived. And then later on, there was the fire that claimed the life of his twin sister, Ash.
But why do people care about these experiences? What makes them go out and buy so many copies of his book that it hits the bestseller list? What makes them go and listen to him speak at conferences? It’s because the second time he almost died, the time of the fire, he went…somewhere. An afterlife of sorts where he met up with his deceased mother and she gave him a watch – the watch she was buried with the be exact. A watch he woke up holding in the hospital.
But a watch isn’t the only thing he brought back from the afterlife. He was also accompanied by Ash’s spirit. And she is not happy. The thing about Ash is that she’s never been a normal girl. She’s always been a little…disturbed. And now that she’s no longer restricted by her earthly body she has the freedom to be as creepy and dark as her heart desires. And she’s directing all of that Danny’s way. Partially because he lived and is trying to move on with his life and partially because she’s wants the truth of what happened to her to finally come out.
Andrew Pyper’s choice to set this story in Detroit was an appropriate one. In many ways, the crumbling, mostly deserted state of the city mirrors what’s happening in Danny’s own life. It sets the tone for everything – for the empty feeling in Danny’s life before he meets his future wife and stepson, Willa and Eddy, and for the desperation he feels as he fights something not of this world in order to protect them.
Ash is definitely not someone I would want to have haunting me. Her early attempts at haunting Danny were genuinely creepy. But it wasn’t scary in the way I expected it to be. It didn’t leave me afraid to turn the light off or to be in my house by myself – which is generally what I want when I sit down to read a ghost story. I would have been ok with just creepy, however, if it had maintained that atmosphere throughout the entire novel. But the second half was much, much different.
In the second half of the novel Danny decides the only way he can win this thing is to go back into the afterlife and fight Ash on her home turf. And this is where tension of the story slowly seemed to fade away and the previously brisk pacing slowed to a crawl. The challenges Danny faced there often felt silly or nonsensical.
I also had a hard time getting behind Danny’s motivation. Before meeting Willa and Eddie he was accepting of the fact that Ash would be haunting him. He didn’t like it, but he saw it as his cross to bare. Then he falls in love and everything changes. Which is great. But I couldn’t tell you anything about Willa, other than that her husband died and she was basically perfect in every way. And Eddie was especially confusing. His age felt all over the place. His actions were those of a young child, but he spoke like a much older child.If these characters were going to be the catalyst for the main character’s actions, they should have been more fleshed out – they should have meant as much to me as they did to Danny.
I haven’t read Pyper’s earlier novel, The Demonologist, but I have heard nothing but great things about it. So I was disappointed when The Damned didn’t live up to my expectations. There were still some strong elements to this novel, so I’m willing to try his work again in the future. But if you’re new to him as well, or are looking for a genuinely scary ghost story, it’s probably best to let this one pass you by....more
What is Area X? The simple answer is that Area X is an area of land, cut off from civilization, eThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
What is Area X? The simple answer is that Area X is an area of land, cut off from civilization, except for twelve separate, government-funded explorations. But as the four members of the twelfth expedition are about to learn, when it comes to Area X there are no simple answers.
Annihilation is one of those books you need to set aside a bit of time and really commit to it. Because once you enter Area X with the biologist, the surveyor, the psychologist and the anthropologist, you aren’t going to want to leave. Right off the bat the biologist (the narrator for this book) fills the reader in on the previous expeditions. And it’s not pretty – disappearances, suicides, mass murder, cancer. If it was me I would stay far, far away from Area X. But not these ladies. They’re true scientists – fascinated by the mystery and the driven by their need to know more.
Before I started reading I had speculated about all the different things that could be hiding away in Area X. Lauren Beukes’s blurb “a little Kubrik, a lot Lovecraft,” left the door wide open for a number of scenarios. But even with my imagination running wild I couldn’t have predicted a number of things they come across in their adventure. There are quite a few surprising revelations that will keep you hanging on, dying to find out more.
It’s hard to get a straight answer about anything though. We are guided through the story by the biologist who doesn’t really know that much herself – though she certainly thinks she knows more than the other team members. And it’s tricky to determine if what she’s telling you is 100% accurate. She’s a tad self absorbed and it wouldn’t at all surprise me if she was holding something back because she doesn’t think you deserve to know. She is a challenging character, and though I never really connected with her, I did find her fascinating.
I suppose the one failing of this novel is the character development. We know next to nothing about the four women on the expedition – not even their names as they are consistently referred to by their positions. I felt like I was constantly being kept at arm’s length, which prevented me from forming any real attachments to them. It’s more than possible this was deliberate but as someone who really enjoys getting to know different characters I found this challenging.
The end of Annihilation will leave you with a lot of questions. The next book comes out in May, and while that’s a lot sooner than most sequels it doesn’t feel soon enough! Like the biologist, I have quickly become fascinated by Area X and I can’t wait to find out more in the sequel. Jeff VanderMeer’s intelligent, detailed, writing and fascinating world-building are sure to please many readers. But I particularly recommend this for fans of nature-based science fiction and Lovecraft-style horror....more
This is without a doubt one of the most underrated comics on shelves right now. It’s a dark and mysterious tale and it had me captivated from the very first few pages.
Rachel Rising is unsurprisingly about a girl named Rachel. Rachel is not your average girl though. She was dead and now she’s not. However before you get any wrong ideas, this is not a zombie comic. Rachel is not undead. She is alive again, with only a scar around her neck and bloodshot eyes as evidence of what happened to her. She’s a very mysterious character, you don’t find out a lot about her write away, revelation are slow and deliberate building onto the overall suspense of the story.
This comic is extremely dark. There is a lot of death and destruction and it will shock you. BUT it is not gory by any means, which is an impressive feat – to make me gasp in surprise without resorting to gore. The art is also completely in black and white. I wasn’t sure about this at first. It’s normally not my thing, but in this case I couldn’t imagine this comic in colour. The black and white and simple style really add to the creepiness of this story. It’s something terrible happening in the most normal of places.
If you enjoy horror, ghosts stories or simply comics with a lot of suspense I highly recommend Rachel Rising. It’s one of my new favourites. ...more
I am a sucker for zombie novels. I can't quite put my finger on why but I absolutely love them. So when I was offered a chance to review Lily Herne'sI am a sucker for zombie novels. I can't quite put my finger on why but I absolutely love them. So when I was offered a chance to review Lily Herne's Deadlands (a novel with the tagline - Everything's better with Zombies - Not) I jumped at the chance.
Deadlands starts out on a strong note. As the reader we're immediately introduced to Lele, a zombie apocalypse survivor living in South Africa. I think I can count the amount of books I've read that were set in South Africa on one hand. It's not a setting you see that often and it was a refreshing change. I liked that we were given references to life before the zombie outbreak and wish there was even more of it. If it's going to be set in South Africa why not make the most of it?
If I’m being totally honest, it was Arclight’s gorgeous, colourful and eye catching cover that coThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
If I’m being totally honest, it was Arclight’s gorgeous, colourful and eye catching cover that convinced me to pick it up. I had no idea what so ever what it was about. I was sold on the cover alone. But then I started reading and became just as hooked on the book’s insides as its outsides.
Arclight starts on a high note. Alarms are going off, codes are being given and people are seemingly running for their lives. We don’t who they are, what they’re running from and where exactly we are in time and space. Normally this kind of beginning can feel jarring and choppy but it was just the beginning this book needed. It gives the story an incredibly high intensity level right from the get go, and it never lets up. If you liked stories that get your heart pounding and move at a consistantly fast pace, you’re going to love Arclight.
Once you’re into the story and are able to get more oriented, you realize you’re reading something totally unique. This isn’t a dystopia, it isn’t science fiction. I saw someone describe it as Stephen King for teens and I think that’s about as accurate description as we’re going to get. It’s haunting and at times, more than a little creepy. The people of the Arclight are surrounded by these creatures called The Fade. They’re creatures of shadows, who have slowly, over many generations, taken over the world. They bleed black and can assimilate your body into their ‘hive’. Creepy stuff. I really enjoyed reading about a creature I had never heard of before as it added an element of surprise. How could I predict what they would do next if I knew nothing about them?
The only fault I have with Arclight is that sometimes I was a little lost. This was because the world building, was at times, lacking. Everything is just SO new and different that it would be impossible to flesh it all out in one book. Josin L McQuein does a pretty good job but I still would have liked more. Sometimes it felt like the world and the characters within it were just rushing by and it was easy to get lost in the shuffle. Overall I was still able to enjoy the story but if you asked me to explain how the world got this way or exactly what the Fade are…well let’s just say I’m not the best person to ask.
Recommendation: Arclight is a high intensity read that actually accomplished the challenge of being “nothing like you’ve ever read before.” It’s great for those who want to get lost in a high action, high impact read. Not so great for those who love really fleshed out speculative fiction....more
This review is kind of hard to write because my personal feelings on this book are mixed but theThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
This review is kind of hard to write because my personal feelings on this book are mixed but the writing and quality of story telling itself were extremely well put together.
Let’s start with the writing. The entire novel is written in Old English – right down to the capitalization of the nouns. It took a little bit of getting used to. I mean how many of us read that style of writing on a regular basis really? But once I did adjust I began to really enjoy the rhythm of the story telling. It had a very lyrical quality to it, and I read quite a few passages out loud just to get a sense of how they would feel and how they would sound.
These beautiful words all came together to weave this incredibly complex and intriguing tale. Taking place in the midst of the Enlightenment, this story is constantly in flux, trying to find a place between the wonders of science and call of the unknown. Tristan Hart is the personification of this conundrum. From an early age he has dedicated himself to the pursuit of knowledge, particularly medical knowledge. He builds his own lab, reads every book he gets his hands on and eventually goes to study under another Doctor. But there’s another version of him. One that’s actually quite mad. He see’s goblins and invented conspiracies. And eventually it gets to the point where you begin to question every single scene that takes place. What’s really happening? Is this person actually in the room with him? What’s up with his friend Nathaniel? I really enjoy the unreliable narrator technique when it is done right and this is a good example of one of those times.
However, the reason I feel personally conflicted about The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bone is that I had a hard time with the personality traits of Tristan himself. I mentioned earlier that Tristan is obsessed with the pursuit of medical knowledge. In particular he is interested in pain. How to stop it and how to cause it. I found his actions incredibly disturbing and often hard to read about. It started with vivisections on small animals (which was bad enough) but then moved onto the torture and down right abuse of women. And it goes into these scenes in incredible detail. I read a lot of this book on the subway and I’m sure people wondered why my face paled so suddenly. A couple of times I even felt a little nauseous over what was happening on the page. Please note this is not a reflection on the writing. In fact it was because of the writing that these qualities seemed so real – and therefore even more disturbing. But I do think that it’s a legitimate concern to adress because I’m sure there are other people, like myself, who would have a hard time with some of the scenes in this book.
Recommendation: A good book for those who want to be challenged on questions of knowledge vs faith and maddness vs sanity. It’s a book that could stand up to study and interpretation and I think would be enjoyed by those who look for well constructed plots....more
I have never read Holly Black before *hides* but after this I NEED all of her books. Every scrapThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I have never read Holly Black before *hides* but after this I NEED all of her books. Every scrap of paper she has ever put words on.
Some people think it’s strange that I read so much middle grade. And I always tell them that a good story is a good story no matter what demographic it’s aimed at. Doll Bones is an example of how true that can be. Sure, it’s short and simple and at times down right adorable, but it’s also haunting, atmospheric, beautifully written and compelling.
I think the thing that hit me right off that bat about this book was that it was so much creepier than I expected. I guess the cover should have tipped me off. The doll on the cover is central to the story and is known as “The Queen.” And she is genuinely terrifying. Made from human bones, haunting these children, longing to be reburied. It gives me the heebie jeebies. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts it isn’t hard to imagine this doll staring at you with her lifeless eyes in the night… It’s creepy no matter how you look at it.
But Doll Bones isn’t really the story of a doll. It’s the story of three friends – Zach, Poppy and Alice. It’s a story of friendship and growing up. On the brink of leaving childhood and becoming teenagers Zach struggles to balance “growing up” with doing the things he loves with his childhood friends – in this case playing with dolls. There is a lot of pressure to fit in, or be who you think you’re supposed to be and I think these themes will resonate with all readers, no matter their age. I also think Holly Black makes some interesting points about gender roles and what boys/men are expected to enjoy and how they are supposed to act.
It helps of course that the characters were so easy to like. I loved Zach. I thought he was honest, and quirky and fun. I liked Poppy and Alice as well but the longer I am separated from this book the more the two girls blend together. They felt like extras/side kicks to Zach’s lead. Which in the long run was disappointing but while I was reading it wasn’t really a problem.
Recommendation: Doll Bones is example of middle grade story telling at its best. It’s smart and poignant and images of the Queen will continue you to haunt you long after you’ve finished reading. Holly Black’s Doll Bones is an example of how middle grade story telling can blow readers of all ages out of the water....more
This book reads like an ode to Stephen King. Young characters in very dark and violent situationsThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
This book reads like an ode to Stephen King. Young characters in very dark and violent situations, lots of detail and descriptions. But I felt like Wasserman didn’t go that one step further and allow her own voice to shine through. This was particularly disappointing because I really liked The Book of Blood and Shadows but The Waking Dark fell short in comparison.
I think the central problem with The Waking Dark is the sheer volume of characters. With so many running around and such short scenes it was difficult to become invested in any of them. If one of them was hurt or in danger, I didn’t feel that sense of urgency or despair I normally feel when characters are threatened. I was also less than impressed with the big twist at the end. It felt reminiscent of so many other stories and I was hoping for something with a little more punch.
Robin Wasserman is clearly a skilled writer, there was obviously a lot of thought and planning that went into this story. As I said, there are a lot of characters and the fates of all of them are intertwined. Often in ways I didn’t even think possible. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to keep them all straight. The Waking Dark is an interesting horror story but at the end of the day it didn’t manage to set itself apart from other horror novels and left me underwhelmed....more
I am constantly amazed by how much content Darren Shan can fit into so few pages. Zom-B UndergrouThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I am constantly amazed by how much content Darren Shan can fit into so few pages. Zom-B Underground comes in under 200 pages yet, once again, I feel as though I’ve been on this crazy, emotional ride that I can’t stop thinking about.
Zom-B Underground picks up not long after Zom-B left off. B has been bitten and she is now a zombie herself. She’s found herself locked in a cell and doesn’t quite understand how she got there, why she still has all her same thoughts and memories and what they’re planning on doing with her. I found this a really neat approach to your standard zombie novel fare. The reader actually gets to see what’s going on in the mind of someone who has been turned. I’ve read a lot of zombie novels and I can honestly say Zom-B Underground was unlike anything I’ve ever read before.
I was kind of disappointed, however, that Zom-B Underground didn’t have the same level of commentary regarding racism as Zom-B did. B isn’t the same immature brat that we met in the first book. In a way this was a good thing – we really got to see her grow as a character and I am all for character development. But that being said, that commentary was what made the first book such a stand out for me. I guess that’s the trade you have to make in this sort of situation but I’m still hoping Darren Shan will come back to it in book three.
Finally, I feel it is necessary to add a warning of sorts for those who are considering this book. There is this incredibly creepy new character called Mr. Dowling. He is probably the most terrifying clown ever. I’m normally not scared of clowns but I’m reasonably sure he will haunt my nightmares. If you are at all afraid of clowns you have been warned.
Recommendation: A great continuation of the series. B is still an interesting and complex character and I truly enjoy reading about her journey. Recommended....more
I picked up a copy of Breed this year at BEA and initially I was incredibly excited for it. A horror novel in theOriginally posted at Hooked on Books
I picked up a copy of Breed this year at BEA and initially I was incredibly excited for it. A horror novel in the vein of Rosemary's Baby? What's not to love about that? As I started reading, however, I found that this book was nothing like I expected to be and that this was both good and bad.
Breed is divided into two parts and my feelings about these two parts are as different as night and day. The first part focuses in on Alex and Leslie and their struggles to get pregnant and produce an heir. It was touch and go for a bit on whether or not I was actually going to finish this book, Alex and Leslie are such unsympathetic characters. Leslie is whiny and annoying and Alex is condescending and ignorant. (I mean really you're going to complain multiple times about how hard it is to be rich?) As far as I can tell you were supposed to feel this way about them, but it makes it really difficult to keep me interested in a novel when I absolutely do not care about what happens to the characters.
The second part, switches gears to after the children are born and I found it much easier to get into and it kept me hanging onto the very end to find out what happened. Because of the comparison to Rosemary's Baby I wasn't expecting the children to be overly developed, and though they weren't as fleshed out as I would like, there was still actual substance to them. It was easy to care about them, and cheer them on. I do wish more time would have been spent on Alice, as I felt Adam dominated part 2, but it wasn't a huge problem.
Overall, I didn't find Breed as scary as I expected. It was interesting and quite strange (seriously, there must have been some bizarre expressions on my face while I was reading this one the subway) but the characters were poorly developed and I can't say I'm 100% satisfied with it's resolution. It felt like it was falling just short of being a really exciting novel.
Recommendation: If you're looking for a book that will send chills up your spine this Halloween, Breed is not it. ...more
Out of all the books I read for Halloween Book Week this year, I knew right from the get go, that not only did I nOriginally posted at Hooked on Books
Out of all the books I read for Halloween Book Week this year, I knew right from the get go, that not only did I need to review this book, but that I would the final spot of the event for it. Because when it comes to horror, few can compare with R L Stine. Before I was waiting in lines at midnight for the newest Harry Potter, I was reading Goosebumps. They scared the pants off me. First the books and then later the shows. When I heard he had a new novel just for adults, I was confident it would be just the scare I was looking for.
The story starts out on a small, very creepy island off South Carolina in the midst of one off the worst hurricanes in years. From the wreckage, Lea (an out of work travel writer) finds a pair of orphaned boys and takes them back home to Long Island. I can officially say, that because of R L Stine's I am terrified of twins. Honestly if I ever meet a pair of blond twins, around 12 years old, I may run screaming in the other direction. To me, the mark of a great horror story is when something ordinary, because the stuff of your worst nightmares. And this is something R L Stine has always done really well.
One nice thing about the mystery and the thrills in Red Rain was that they were really well paced out. There's nothing I hate more than when the action seems to happen all at once, giving the reader no chance to react and absorb what's going on. Red Rain unravels slowly, leading the reader step by step to the final conclusion. It had me biting my nails down to the quick, worrying and wondering about what surprises where ahead.
Red Rain was exactly what I wanted in a horror novel. It was creepy, it was twisted, it kept me up long into the night. And it proved that R L Stine is just as capable of scaring me now that I'm adult as he did when I was a kid.
Recommendation: A super creepy read that is certain to give you chills this Halloween (or any other time of year!)...more