horror

Campy Fun in “Sweet”

22718736Sweet by Emmy Laybourne
Feiwel & Friends: June 2, 2015
Genre: Horror; Young Adult
Source: Free From Library

I’d go there again!
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Sweet is a weirdly awesome horror tale. It’s both funny and unrealistic, and the author owns that campy tone, making for an all around enjoyable read.

Over the course of six days a celebrity-filled cruise will embark on a televised experiment. Passengers on the cruise ship have been invited to try Solu, a new dietary supplement that results in dramatic weight loss. With Solu you can eat whatever you want and still lose those persistent pounds. Naturally, this drug is not quite what it claims to be, and soon the addicted passengers are ready to do anything for their next fix. (more…)

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A Reader’s Guide to New England  

Happy Thanksgiving, American readers!

Many of us spend this time with family and friends. For those of you heading back to (or staying in) New England this year, I put together a list of books from our favorite genres that are set in the region.

A note about this controversial holiday: I admit I have very little knowledge of non-colonialist fiction about New England. I believe that the Thanksgiving holiday has been simplified, and that we need to expand the narrative to include voices from other cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives. As a start, I’ve included in the list below some novels I have enjoyed that take place in New England, and some that I’ve found that add native voices to the narrative.

If you have more knowledge, or have read great books from the American Indian (or First Nations) perspective that you think should be on this list, do please share in the comments!

Click on any of the images to see the full caption and mini-synopsis of each book, or scroll down for linked titles.

 

  1. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
  2. Nightlife, by Matthew Quinn Martin
  3. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
  4. Return of the Sun: Native American Tales from the Northeast Woodlands, by Joseph Bruchac
  5. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe
  6. Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman
  7. The Dreamer, by Lora Innes
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  9. Carousel Seas, by Sharon Lee
  10. Dawnland Voices: An Anthology of Indigenous Writing from New England, by Siobhan Senier

It’s Cruising Time: “Day Four”

23341590Day Four by Sarah Lotz
Little, Brown and Company: June 16, 2015 (Horror)

Beach Vacation
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Congratulations on choosing a Foveros Cruise, your one-way ticket to Relaxation and Fun! Fun! Fun!

Three days of vacation bliss, then on day four Beautiful Dreamer is dead in the water. Mechanical failure or something more sinister?

When a fire breaks out on the Beautiful Dreamer, the ship stops moving and all communication is lost, the crew and the guests assume that it will only be a matter of time before another ship will stop to help them in the busy Gulf of Mexico. When no other ships appear on the horizon the crew and the guests are forced to consider that they are well and truly screwed. Some turn to the spiritual, some to drugs; what everyone can agree on is that rescue is not imminent. (more…)

“Mirror and Goliath” – Singular and Extraordinary but Disorganized

mirrorgoliathMirror and Goliath by Ishbelle Bee
Angry Robot: June 2nd, 2015 (Gaslamp / Steampunk)*

Beach Vacation
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This book is aptly titled. It borrows from the gaslamp fantasy’s Victorian setting, which borrows from the Victorians’ fascination with the dead, ghosts, seances, and Ouija boards. And yet, it is unlike any gaslamp I have read.

It begins with the heroine at the age of six. Mirror is traveling with Goliath around England in search of soothsayers, magicians, mediums, and other people who profess to have connections to the Otherworld. Mirror has a problem that they hope these people can solve. The context for their predicament is not shared until nearly halfway through the book, where it takes on a tinge of horror. (more…)

Happy Halloween with ‘Doctor Sleep’

16130549Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Scribner, September 24, 2013 (Horror)

My Rating: Outstanding Adventure

I’ve been drifting through Doctor Sleep for a couple of weeks now and just finished it in time for Halloween; fitting, I think.

While this one did take me awhile to get through, it was not because I didn’t enjoy it. Stephen King is just one of those authors that I get engrossed in, set down and then don’t return to it for awhile. But, as soon I start back up, I’m sucked in. This was the case with Doctor Sleep. I would set it down, but would finish big chunks at a time.

As most people are aware (unless you’ve been living in a cave) Doctor Sleep is the sequel to King’s 1980 The Shining. In Doctor Sleep we return to little Danny Torrence who is all grown up and still trying to deal with his shining abilities. We are immediately aware that Dan’s not been so successful at dealing with the shining, in fact, he’s taken the same path as his father and has turned to alcohol to deal with the strange visions he experiences. Because of his dependence on alcohol, Dan’s done some not-so-good things over the years, and when he finally hits rock bottom in a small town, he vows to get sober with AA. Dan ends up settling in this small town and eventually starts working in a hospice where he helps the residents cross over; hence the nickname, ‘Doctor Sleep.’ Over the years he realizes that there’s a young girl, Abra, that also has the shining, and she periodically gets into contact with him. For the most part, Dan doesn’t really think too much about Abra, but understands that she’s significantly more powerful than he is. However, when a sinister group, The True Knot, set their sights on Abra, Dan has to make a decision and to contact Abra and her family. The True want Abra for her “steam” or psychic talents, which they can “consume” if they kill her and inhale her essence. They have been doing this to kings for a long time, and it’s given them longevity; however, they don’t count on Abra having help to defend herself.

There was a lot of stuff going on in Doctor Sleep and I really don’t think I can completely capture it in a short review. What I really liked was the contrast between the unnatural family of The True, and Dan and Abra’s makeshift family. On one hand, it’s very clear who the bad guys are. The True are killing kids and stealing their essences. That’s obviously a villainous thing to do. But what threw me off balance is the fact that The True are a family and they care about one another. We see their side of the story, and while it’s completely twisted, they still have those qualities that most families have. It was bizarre at times to see the villains thinking in a family-oriented way rather than being completely vilified.

Now for those who consider King merely a horror writer, I think you should reconsider. First of all, Doctor Sleep isn’t particularly scary. I personally found it sinister with The True’s creepy caravan of kidnappers, traveling across America in their RVs and murdering children. It was sinister because The True were hiding in non-threatening bodies as bad people so often do. To me, the characterization of The True as RV-goers was the real creepy part of the novel. Although, there were some cringe-worthy moments while I was reading. Anytime that Dan knew a person would die, flies would appear on that person’s face. There’s something about the way this is described that makes my skin crawl. So, if you’re worried about being scared, I wouldn’t say this book is “scary,” but it does have it elements of creepiness.

Overall, I thought this was an exceptional book and showcased a lot of elements that I like best about Stephen King. And make no mistake, King is a good writer – after all, Margaret Atwood says so.

My Favourite Stephen King Books (excluding The Shining, of course):

The StandUnder the DomeItPet Sematary

Your Haunted House of Literary Monsters for Halloween

Burne-Jones-le-VampireHappy Halloween, lovely readers!

How could we prepare you for Halloween without a collection of creepy stories featuring scary monsters, in addition to the ghostly selections we listed earlier? (The answer is, we couldn’t. Which is why you’re reading this post.) Keep reading for a stunning selection of scary (and some not-so-scary) tales of vampires, werewolves, serial killers, and one monster.

In the Drawing Room, we have … Vampires.

Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

Duh. A classic. I bet you already think you know what it’s about. Read it – and go back to the original that inspired all the knock-offs. Word to the wise: watch out for the misogyny, but the suspenseful story and creepy Vampire make it worthy of its classic status. By the way – have you seen the new show yet?

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Another about Dracula, but a much different take – follow a young woman as she searches for her father, who once searched for her mother, who got taken by … you guessed it – Dracula. It all starts with an ancient book and mysterious yellowing letters. Her travels span the globe, and several stories (the heroine’s, her father’s, and Dracula’s) are intertwined. This was one of those books I couldn’t let go, and I was particularly impressed by and enamored of this Dracula.

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

These days, another classic take on the Vampire, although much more recent than Dracula. I’ve not read this one, but if you’ve seen the movie (with Brad Pitt – enough said), my work here is done. I’ve heard it’s erotic, and shocking… you’ve been warned.

Nightlife by Matthew Quinn Martin

Shivers. This dark modern-day tale of vampires you’ve never seen before is dark, spooky, suspenseful, and riveting. Beth Becker is just an outsider bartender in a small town, until her best friend goes missing – and she discovers a creepy, alien world she never suspected existed. Along the way she meets Jack, a vigilante motivated by a devastating past. And the vampires – they’re definitely NOT your friends. Try putting it down. I dare you.

In the Kitchen, with the Knife: Serial Killers.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Hannibal has to be the creepiest fictional sociopath. In Red Dragon, the first in the series chronologically, FBI agent Will Graham relies on hints and manipulative advice from mental patient Hannibal to track a serial killer associated with the Dragon. Even if you’ve seen the Hannibal movies, it’s worth checking these out in book format. There’s something about using your own imagination that makes it even scarier.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Do you like stories about time travel? Do you like cringe-worthy novels about horrifying (fictional) events? What about a strong, determined heroine who wins the day in the end? Can you stand graphic and disturbing imagery. This is a twister about a sociopath who discovers a house that allows him to travel through time. Kirby is one of his victims, who can’t let her attempted murder go. Cue mystery, suspense, danger, and sleeping with a light on.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

The only nonfiction book on this list, this is one of the best and creepiest serial killer stories. This time, the serial killer was for real. Adds an extra dash of spine-tingling horror. Intermingled with (and almost as interesting) the true-crime story of the serial killer of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, is the story of the fair itself.

And on the Back Porch, howling to get in, are the Werewolves and Monsters.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

I haven’t read this yet, everyone knows it’s a classic. Mary Shelley (daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, if you’re interested in the history of feminism) started writing this story when she was 18. How’s that for youthful accomplishments? Anyway, Frankenstein is a science student who thinks there’s nothing wrong with attaching scavenged body parts to other scavenged body parts and then animating them. Riiiiight. Nothing could go wrong! Except poor Frankenstein ends up with the first vengeful undead monster (if we’re not counting vampires, who have been stars of folklore and fireside tales for even more centuries).

The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia

This is magical urban mythical fantasy along the lines of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Galina, a young woman in 1990s Moscow, searches the mundane world and the underworld with a young clear-eyed policeman, Yakov, when her sister turns into a jackdaw and flies away. In Moscow’s underworld, you’ll find more jackdaws, weeping trees, and creatures of Russian folklore. Fasten your seat belt!

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Okay, not so scary. But definitely kick butt. Volvo mechanic Mercy Thompson is not a werewolf – she’s a coyote shifter. This makes relations with her neighbor, attractive alpha of the nearest werewolf pack, tense (and intriguing). Not to mention, her former boss is a gremlin, and one of her customers a vampire. This mix ends up getting her in trouble with the local supernatural community. One of my favorite series about werewolves. Ever. Go check it out from your local library now. Go, go!

Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Anne Bishop has always, all my life, been a favorite author of mine. And with her latest series, she just KILLED it. In a world where humans are not at the top of the food chain (that’s the Others: werewolves, fae, and the like), Meg Corbyn is a rare cassandra sangue, which means her blood gives her prophetic visions (meaning that she gets cut every time a vision is required, and every time she gets a cut, she sees a vision). She, and others like her, are confined and controlled by a mysterious agency. Clever Meg escapes, though, and hides with the Others. Leading to all kinds of intriguing situations and interspecies relationships. Another Must-Read here.

What’s on your Halloween shelf? Read any really scary, really good monster stories lately? Share in the comments!

*Image credit: Philip Burne-Jones, The Vampire, 1897

Your Ghostly Reading List

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In honour of Halloween, I’m creating a ghostly reading list. All of the following feature ghosts in some way (whether real or psychological). Since I’m me, I wouldn’t say that any of these books are terrifying, I am the romance reader after all. But, I love the concept of ghosts in books (especially within a historical context) and all of the following interest me in some way. Most of the books I’ve read, although I have included a couple I haven’t read, since I’ve heard some great buzz about them.

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

One of my all-time favourite books. It features a destructive ghost and has an awesome romance between ghost hunter, Matthew, and his newly appointed assistant, Sarah. This one’s not super scary, but those moments when the ghost arrives are spine tingling. All of St. James’ other works also feature ghost hauntings and she is a complete master at interweaving romance with freaky and inexplicable events.

Wide Open by Deborah Coates

Wide Open is the first in a trilogy featuring Sergeant Hallie Michaels, who has returned home for her sister’s funeral. However, Hallie has survived a terrible accident in Afghanistan and she’s now left with the ability to see ghosts. So, here we get a little bit of mystery, paranormal and a dash of romance. An added feature, the ghostliness is related to Native American traditions, which I found extremely interesting.

The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

Book one in the Graveyard Queen series, this one takes us to the South, where Amelia Gray struggles with her ability to see the dead. I loved the Southern setting to this, and since I’ve been to Charleston I can completely understand how this city could be haunted. The ghostly encounters in The Restorer was also extremely well done; I was completely creeped out by what Amelia was seeing, but there was no way I was going to put the book down.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Throwing a little teen ghostliness into the mix with this one. The dead are organized into a large library, but there are times when they leave their place. It’s up to Mac as a Keeper to track them down and return them to the archive. Not really scary, but points for being set in a refurbished hotel (The Shining, anyone?).

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

By this point, you can probably tell that I like historical fiction and ghosts in historical settings are even cooler and creepier. In The Uninvited Guests we have a whole host of ghosts that arrive during a young woman’s twentieth birthday, but why are they there and how do they get rid of them?

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I think this one’s more of a psychological haunting than anything else, but I absolutely love this Shirley Jackson novel. The house seems to come alive, but is it is all in Nell’s head or is there something more sinister at work?

The Shining by Stephen King

I could hardly write this list without the inclusion of this classic ghostly tale. We have a haunted hotel and a psychic kid who can see all the lost souls left behind. A great read for Halloween!

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

For the ambitious reader. This is an extremely bizarre ghost story and a bit of a challenge to read considering the words literally tangle on the page. But, it’s worth checking out because the haunted house is seriously freaky, even creepier than the Overlook hotel.

This House is Haunted by John Boyne

I haven’t read this one yet, but I hear good things, plus I am very intrigued by the Victorian setting. I love the idea of spiritualism during this period and can’t wait to check this one out.

Help for the Haunted by John Searles

Another one that I haven’t read, but a co-worker compared this one to the movie, The Conjuring, which scared the pants off me, so I am intrigued. Sounds like a creepy coming-of-age story. Count me in!

And that’s all from me! Are there any other ghostly reads that you’d recommend?

Terrifying creatures that go bump in the night in Nightlife

nightlifeNightlife by Matthew Quinn Martin
Pocket Star, October 21st, 2013 (Horror / Urban Fantasy)*
Rating: I’d go there again (probably).

I started this one because it is October, and I wanted to incorporate some scary horror stories into my reading life in time for Halloween.

Before I begin, a technical issue: I find it intensely frustrating that some of these e-ARC PDFs are so tiny on my e-reader screen, because I cannot enlarge them enough to read easily without adding three or more clicks to the page-turning process. If I don’t enlarge the image, I end up holding my reader at most three inches from the end of my nose. This was one of the worst.

To our regularly scheduled review:

As Nightlife opens, Jack Jackson is being tortured and questioned by a police detective about several murders. The first hint of the supernatural: that Jack remembers hearing It scream as he looked at all the blood in his living room.

Twelve years later, Beth is a bartender working in the last remaining nightclub in downtown New Harbor. Having grown up in the projects, she is a tough, clever, independent young woman. Her first scene – she stops a bunch of teenage punks from murdering a stray dog (integral to the story), and then beats up the lead punk when he starts to attack her. Awesome! One night, her roommate and best childhood friend disappears. She begins hunting for her, while more and more people go missing. Eventually, she runs into Jack, who has become a lonely, loner Batman-like vigilante with an impressive DIY arsenal hunting for the “Night Angels,” often known as vampires. Beth and Jack begin to work together, on Jack’s part reluctantly. As they continue their fight, Beth (and the readers) slowly learn about the nature of the enemy.

There is no doubt that this is a horror novel, where friends and lovers disappear, and the tone is almost unrelentingly dark. I found it creepily fascinating. The “vampire” premise was unique, and the vampires are definitely not the desirable and sometimes honorable ones seen in other stories. There is no way for humans to coexist with these creatures.

I rarely read horror books, or dark books, or sad books. So this, and others like it, are outside my usual purview. However, I was very impressed by the plot, the fast pacing, the creepy factor, and character development. Jack and Beth both live bleak lives, and they’re both lonely misfits. As odd as they are, they are both convincing – Jack with his battle scars and emotional armor and Beth with her defensive independence and her courage. Along the way, characterizations and caricatures of secondary characters add depth and interest to the novel. The plot and suspense, the mystery of the creatures kept me turning the pages, eager to find out what happened next. The resolution is tidy, scary, but not without leaving room for more storytelling. For instance, what is the shadowy Division that seems to be stalking Jack?

I may read the next in the series, but I’d have to be in the mood for something dark. I recommend it for fans of urban fantasy, horror, and vampire stories.

*e-ARC provided by NetGalley

Other Halloween reads:

Dracula The Historian Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles #1) Anno Dracula (Anno Dracula #1) Red Dragon (Hannibal Lector #1)

Fall Itinerary

17380041Now that September’s hit, I feel like my reading list is out of control. There’s so much that I want/have to read this fall, I can’t help but think it’s really too bad that librarians don’t get to read all day at work. So without further ado, here’s a list of my most anticipated reads for this fall. Some (if they’re as good as I hope they are) will be reviewed here in the coming weeks and months. In no particular order…

1. Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood (September 3, 2013)

I first discovered Atwood after having to reading The Handmaid’s Tale in high school and have loved her dystopian books ever since. I’ve been following the Maddaddam trilogy, and have been both entranced and disturbed by the vision of the future Atwood displays. I can’t wait for the conclusion.

2. Longbourn by Jo Baker (October 8, 2013)

Pride and Prejudice remix? Yes, please! I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about Longbourn and the downstairs version of Pride and Prejudice. In some ways, I think it’s capitalizing on the Downton Abbey success and I can only hope that it lives up to the hype. Since I’ve got an advance reader copy, hopefully I will be proven right sooner rather than later.

3. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas (August 27, 2013)

I loved Maas’ Throne of Glass and have been anxiously awaiting this one forever. I’m currently reading it. I love it, but I also hate it, since I know it’s NOT going to end well and then I will have another year to wait to find out what happens next. It’s moments like these when you wish you hadn’t discovered a series until after all the books were published.

4. The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn (October 29, 2013) 15702268

I love Julia Quinn. Her historical romances are cute and quirky, and I especially loved her latest featuring a mathematical genius with a limp. I can promise that this one doesn’t disappoint, since I’ve already read my review copy. I’ll be posting my review closer to the publication date.

5. A Study in Darkness by Emma Jane Holloway (October 29, 2013)

Steampunk is a genre close to my heart. I love the combination of a historical locale and the impossible. Holloway’s Victorian London, combines magic, steam barons, mystery and a dash of romance, all centred around her intrepid heroine, Evelina Cooper, Sherlock Holmes’ niece. I’ve just started reading it; so far, so good!

6. No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean (November 26, 2013)

MacLean’s another one of my favourite historical romance writers. She gives up great plots, great characters and fantastic romance. This will be third book in the Scoundrels series and I can’t wait for Temple’s story.

7. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (September 24, 2013)

The Shining is a book that I discovered in university when I had to read it for a class about hauntings. It was terrifying and amazing at the same time. I can’t promise that I’ll read this one right away, but it will be interesting to see what King does with Danny’s character after the events of The Shining.

171655938. Mortal Arts by Anna Lee Huber (September 3, 2013)

I’m not generally a huge mystery fan, but there’s something about a historical mystery that just draws me in. The second book in Huber’s Lady Darby series promises to be fantastic, now if only my library’s copy would arrive!

9. Allegiant by Veronica Roth (October 22, 2013)

Who isn’t looking forward to this one? Unfortunately, I’m near the bottom of the holds list at my library, so I probably wont be reading this one until the winter, but I’m still excited about it, especially since I keep seeing pictures of the upcoming film adaptation of Divergent.

10. Inhuman by Kat Falls (September 24, 2013)

Another teen dystopian. I don’t know too much about it, but it looks good. Plus, I have an advance copy, so how can I not be excited about that?

There will, of course, be other books that I’ll want to add to my “to-read” list for the fall – so it’s pretty clear that I need to retreat to my reading cave and blind myself with reading.