Not for the prudish or squeamish, Corpus Corruptum delivers five short, surreal stories of gruesomely hilarious body-horror from the Light brothers. INot for the prudish or squeamish, Corpus Corruptum delivers five short, surreal stories of gruesomely hilarious body-horror from the Light brothers. In the opening story, a man gets pulled into his own belly-button; voices telling terrible secrets emanate from another man's nose in "Nose Hears" (did I mention the puns? there are puns); and dear old Saint Nick makes a rejuvenating trade-in in "The Package."
If you like your comedy pitch black and your gross-outs just a teeny bit juvenile, pick up this highly entertaining little book and get ready to say "eeeew."...more
One of the most gripping, best-written thrillers I've read in recent memory, Gone Girl is dark, twisty, emotionally insightful and -- surprisingly --One of the most gripping, best-written thrillers I've read in recent memory, Gone Girl is dark, twisty, emotionally insightful and -- surprisingly -- quite funny. This is one of those books you can't say much about, for fear of unleashing ruinous spoilers. And believe me, you don't want to be spoiled. This both is and is not the book you expect it to be, and I dare you to put it down once you've started. ...more
Elsewhere is an eerie little haunted-house story strong on atmospherics and clever dialogue, but it's one which ultimately disappoints with a pretty stock plot.
Ambitious real estate agent Joan Freeboard is offered a huge fee if she can sell a notoriously haunted mansion on an island in the Hudson river. Known as the scene of a particularly gruesome murder-suicide, even the family heirs refuse to live in it, decamping to Italy and putting it on the market.
Joan knows she has to do something to dispel the ridiculous rumors, so in order to clear the house's reputation she hatches a clever PR plan: she retains the services of a psychic, an occult expert from NYU, and her closest friend, writer Terence Dare, to spend five days with her at Elsewhere. If all goes well, they can debunk the ghost stories, and Terence can write an account of the experiment for a high-profile magazine -- which will also serve as excellent publicity for the house's sale.
Needless to say, things don't go as planned. But I'll bet you expected that. (At least you do if you've ever read The Haunting of Hill House.)
And that's the real problem with Elsewhere: it's just a bit too predictable to actually be scary. Perhaps that's unfair, since the novella was originally published in 1999 -- earlier than some of the works it ultimately feels derivative of. But if you're up on your contemporary horror, you can see the end coming from miles away. This is especially irritating because, a) we all know Blatty is fully capable of scaring the crap out of readers; and b) because the story's setup seems so obvious you're sure the twist simply can't be what you think it is. And yet.
Elsewhere was a perfectly fine way to while away a Sunday afternoon, and I'm not sorry I read it; I just wish I'd read it before subsequent works made it essentially redundant.
Libba Bray's The Diviners, yet another YA novel with a seriously dark streak, is set in the glittering Manhattan of the 1920s -- where jazz club4.75/5
Libba Bray's The Diviners, yet another YA novel with a seriously dark streak, is set in the glittering Manhattan of the 1920s -- where jazz clubs are hopping, stars are being made, illegal hooch is flowing, and just about anything can happen.
Including the apocalypse.
A small-town girl from Ohio who commits a tipsy and socially ruinous party-foul, seventeen-year-old firecracker Evie O'Neill has been packed off to stay with her bachelor uncle Will in Manhattan (some punishment, right?). Despite the fact that she's stuck with a stuffy academic who runs a creepy museum (formally known as "The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult," but mostly referred to as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies"), Evie is thrilled at the chance to taste big-city life for herself, and proceeds to duck Will and drag her quiet friend Mabel into fabulously-attired trouble at every opportunity.
But then Will is called to consult on a brutal murder with ritualistic occult overtones, and Evie brashly invites herself along to the crime scene. Here, her "party trick" again rears its ugly head: Evie has the ability to see a person's history just by touching their belongings. And, when she unthinkingly straightens the buckle on the dead girl's shoe, Evie has a vision like never before: she sees the killer, and he's not like you or me. In fact, it's the infamous occultist John Hobbes (also known as Naughty John) . . . and he's been dead for 50 years. Impossible as it may seem, he's back, and he's got a plan to bring on the end times -- one that's going to take several more bloody rituals.
Though it takes Evie, Will, and a host of friends (among them Will's taciturn assistant Jericho, shy Mabel, and street-smart scoundrel Sam Lloyd) almost 600 pages to unravel the supernatural killer's complex and gruesome intentions, The Diviners has never dull moment. Manhattan in 1926 is a huge canvas, and Bray brings it to life with flair -- the catchy slang, the clothes, the music, the promise in the air -- so "everything's jake," as Evie might say. The cast is also quite large, and full of vivid characters like iconoclastic Ziegfeld girl Theta; her charming "brother" Henry (read: gay bestie); Memphis, a poet who longs to be part of the Harlem Renaissance but runs numbers in the meantime; and Memphis's little brother Isaiah, who is having apocalyptic visions of his own. Each provides additional interest and intrigue, since they all have unique secrets and nightmares to conceal.
And, as the plot thickens and the killer counts down to a rare comet's appearance in the sky, they all, knowingly or not, play a part in the action.
I'll freely admit I thoroughly enjoyed every page of The Diviners, but do have one or two slight reservations, the foremost being that at times this book is extremely frightening and/or bloody, and it also includes scenes of sexual violence. While I found the book (appealingly) disturbing as a horror-jaded adult, it certainly would have scared the bejayzus out of me when I was the tender target age for YA lit.
Also, some aspects of the novel are almost laughably revisionist. For example: were seventeen year-olds really nightly fixtures at underground gin-joints, and did unescorted white girls often go to Harlem to hear jazz and flirt with black musicians, or wind up at hush-hush gay nightclubs? True, Bray is focused on boho underground culture -- theatricals, artists and musicians -- but the easy attitudes her characters have about race and sexual preference certainly weren't the norm at the time. In fact these kinds of "transgressions" regularly got people beaten or killed up until at least the 1960s, and (sadly) still might in some places. I guess I really can't fault Bray for trying to inject a little tolerance into her imagined 1920s -- after all, if we can buy a supernaturally resurrected serial killer, I guess Theta can fall for Memphis and Henry can dance cheek-to-stubbled-cheek with whomever he likes.
In the end, I might hesitate before handing The Diviners to my (imaginary) thirteen year-old cousin, but it's most definitely going on my Best-of-2012 list. And despite frequent rants about "sequelitis" on the YA and paranormal fiction shelves, I am not at all unhappy to hear Evie and company will return for further adventures. If nothing else, they bring the kind of clever vibe to fighting apocalyptic evil that calls to mind a different set of supernatural white-hats, also led by a sassy blonde. In fact, sometimes you can almost hear Will cleaning his glasses -- and if you get that reference, you'll love The Diviners....more
This book started out as a 2.5 and performed the unusual feat of raising itself to a 3.5 by the time I finished it. 99 Brief Scenes From The End Of ThThis book started out as a 2.5 and performed the unusual feat of raising itself to a 3.5 by the time I finished it. 99 Brief Scenes From The End Of The World was stealthy, sneak-up-on-you-good, despite some important flaws, and I'm glad I stuck with it.
The bad news first: Right out of the box I was irritated that the structure of the book was not as implied by the title. I expected something more like David Eagleman's strange and wonderful Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, only with splatterrific zombie gore. So, when characters and locales began to make repeat appearances, I had to revise my expectation (99 unique pieces of flash-fiction), to reading what is better described as a novel with 99 chapters. These are not always "brief scenes," and some are really filler-y, not strictly necessary to the story as a whole. It seems to me that a final round of edits could have pulled this all together into a tight, suspenseful novel not reliant on the random titular number for its structure.
The good news: Grim's book does have a number of things going for it, and despite my irritation I found it impossible to put down. First and foremost, Grim -- a talented, descriptive writer -- does good character work. Once I finally got to know the core survivors, I cared about their fate(s), and admired the way his craft allows their singular stories eventually dovetail. Some of the global-picture characters (the foaming-at-the mouth US President, or the morality-challenged leaders of a Japanese science/weapons lab) certainly might have been excised or toned down. Though I suppose they serve to give us a window into the global situation, I found that the struggle for survival (and sanity) of the everyday citizens was more tethered in realism, and gave me more to sink my teeth into.
Speaking of which . . . absolutely key to this particular genre is the splatter, and Grim pours forth an endless stream of surprisingly innovative mayhem. The man knows his gore, and and has a million ways to spill it. in fact, a couple of unbelievably disgusting scenes really worked their way under my skin -- and I eat dinner while watching "The Walking Dead," so do the math. Grim also conceives an unusual twist on the now-standard zombie/rage virus trope (tiny spoiler: it's neither one!) whichmight allow a continuance of the story . . . something challenging to achieve when writing about an extinction-level event.
Because the unexpected twist piqued my interest, and because it takes a lot to actually gross me out, I not only upgraded this book to "liked a lot" status; I'll happily read any follow-up work Grim gets out there. ...more