Review: The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

Published: October 1, 2019 by Ace Books

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.

Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell … and Earth. 

Review: I think I fell in love with this book, and with Claire and Brevity and Hero and Leto. I feel such much emotion for all of them. Every single character is layered and deep, which is severely lacking in fiction these days. The plot was similarly complex and layered. Just when I thought the story had peaked it was raised to another level entirely.

Claire was one of the single best characters I have ever read. We are introduced to her as the surly, prickly Librarian of the Unwritten Wing of Hell. She takes no crap and expects everyone to follow commands without question. She is 100% certain that the role of Librarian is to prevent characters from rising from their novels because who knows the damage they could inflict on the world. She is steadfast, she has an iron will on this issue. But it’s not that simple. There is a heartbreaking reason why she feels this way. When it was revealed, I cried with her and for her.

Leto was a mystery when we are first introduced to him. He is a human who recently died and, for some reason, he has condemned his own soul to hell in the form of a demon. And he refuses to tell anyone why. Again, as we revealed the whole of his story, I fell in love with him too. I cried with him, I cried for him, and my heart rejoiced when he found his way.

My only minor complaint is that the story meandered quite a bit. I feel like this could have been a lot shorter but not sacrificed anything that made it wonderful. This world had so many layers and I loved exploring them.It is a very unique take on heaven, hell and all things in between. I also glanced rather uneasily at the unfinished manuscripts on my computer throughout this book, maybe I should work on those. I hope to further explore the different areas of this world in the next book, which I pre-ordered as soon as I finished this one.

Reading Progress Updates

The Body Double by Emily Beyda

Goodreads

Progress: Page 125 out of 293

Synopsis: A dark, glittering debut novel, The Body Double is the suspenseful story of a young woman who is recruited by a stranger to give up her old life and identity to impersonate a reclusive Hollywood star.

A strange man discovers our nameless narrator selling popcorn at a decrepit small-town movie theater and offers her an odd and lucrative position: she will forget her job, her acquaintances, even her name, and move to Los Angeles, where she will become the body double of the famous and troubled celebrity Rosanna Feld. A nervous breakdown has forced Rosanna out of the public eye, and she needs a look-alike to take her place in the tabloid media circus of Hollywood. Overseen by Max, who hired her for the job, our narrator spends her days locked up in a small apartment in the hills watching hidden camera footage of Rosanna, wearing Rosanna’s clothes, eating the food Rosanna likes, practicing her mannerisms, learning to become Rosanna in every way. But as she makes her public debut as Rosanna, dining at elegant restaurants, shopping in stylish boutiques, and finally risking a dinner party with Rosanna’s true inner circle, alarming questions begin to arise. What really caused Rosanna’s mental collapse? Will she ever return? And is Max truly her ally, or something more sinister? With echoes of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, The Body Double is a fabulously plotted noir about fame, beauty, and the darkness of Hollywood. 

My Thoughts So Far: So far I am really liking this book. I like Max, I find him just the right amounts of charming and secretive. The narrator is a good conduit to this story so far. But I feel like I have already figured it out. I don’t know that this is how it happens, but spoiler alert anyway! Max is the only person who knows why Roseanna has been missing for over a year. When asked about it he gets really squirrel-y. I suspect that Max stalked and killed Roseanna (or maybe they were involved and she broke it off) and is trying to replace her and cover it up with a double.

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

Goodreads

Progress: 10 hours 12 minutes of 13 hours, 57 minutes

Synopsis: In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.

Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell … and Earth.

My Thoughts So Far: I think I might be in love with this book so far. I love Claire, I have cried for her in this. I love Brevity. I love Leto and I have cried for him too. It is also making me side eye all of those never finished manuscripts I have on my computer.

Take My Money! Sunday

Burn by Patrick Ness

Expected Publication: June 2, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: On a cold Sunday evening in early 1957, Sarah Dewhurst waited with her father in the parking lot of the Chevron gas station for the dragon he’d hired to help on the farm…

Sarah Dewhurst and her father, outcasts in their little town of Frome, Washington, are forced to hire a dragon to work their farm, something only the poorest of the poor ever have to resort to.

The dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye, though. Sarah can’t help but be curious about him, an animal who supposedly doesn’t have a soul, but who is seemingly intent on keeping her safe.

Because the dragon knows something she doesn’t. He has arrived at the farm with a prophecy on his mind. A prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents in hot pursuit—and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself. 

Why I’m Excited: I love anything to do with dragons and I am intrigued by this idea of the poor in the community using dragons are forced servants. There is something very appealing about this synopsis and I want to read it so much.

Size Zero by Abigail Mangin

Expected Publication: July 12, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: Condom dresses and space helmets have debuted on fashion runways.

A dead body becomes the trend when a coat made of human skin saunters down fashion’s biggest stage. The body is identified as Annabelle Leigh, the teenager who famously disappeared over a decade ago from her boyfriend’s New York City mansion.

This new evidence casts suspicion back on the former boyfriend, Cecil LeClaire. Now a monk, he is forced to return to his dark and absurd childhood home to clear his name. He teams up with Ava Germaine, a renegade ex-model. And together, they investigate the depraved and lawless modeling industry behind Cecil’s family fortune.

They find erotic canes, pet rats living in crystal castles, and dresses made of crushed butterfly wings. But Cecil finds more truth in the luxury goods than in the people themselves. Everyone he meets seems to be wearing a person-suit. Terrified of showing their true selves, the glitterati put on flamboyant public personas to make money and friends. Can Cecil find truth in a world built on lies?

In high fashion modeling, selling bodies is organized crime.

Why I’m Excited: This one is getting a lot of mixed early reviews, but I cannot wait to read it. It sounds so out there and on the very fringes of what horror is meant to be. I am hoping for a skincrawling adventure into the world of horror fashion.

Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Published: April 7, 2020 by Quirk Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

Review: I had fairly high expectations for this book when I got the audiobook. I had heard a lot of great reviews from good friends of mine and it sounded absolutely thrilling and charming. Taking horror back to a time when the Internet was still just dial-up and cellphones weren’t a thing. Center it around a southern ladies’ book club and you have the stage set for a great read. Unfortunately it was just okay.

Patricia started out as a good character but she quickly became boring. Most of her narration is complaining about her boring life as a housewife. She complains about her mother in law, her husband, her children, her book club, her friends, the household chores, the new neighbors, the weather. She just complains a lot. And I was okay with that at first because it seemed like the plot was moving on from it, but then it didn’t and I had to listen to many more hours of Patricia complaining about everything. She’s also a very weak character and I just couldn’t deal with her anymore.

The plot meanders quite a bit too. We meet the suspicious James (I am fairly sure that was his name at least) early on and Patricia grows suspicious of him early on too. But when the women decide that they have to turn over the information they’ve found to the police their collective husbands hold a meeting to tell them how hysterical and ridiculous they are being. The husbands decree they are never to speak of this again. (Sidenote: I really really hated all the husbands in this book, there should have been a massive neighborhood divorce going on.) And so we spend many more hours of book club meetings, dinner parties, and pretending that James is just a perfect new neighbor. In fact no further plot development happens until three years later. And it literally felt like I had been listening for three more years too. It was so utterly boring.

It also isn’t lost on me that the white women in the book club are all perfectly fine with overlooking their suspicions for three years when it’s children from a poor, primarily African American community who are going missing or turning up dead. They only change their minds when it’s their children who are in danger. Then they can’t remain silent any longer.

Now, once Patricia decides to stop cowering behind her husband (remember what I said about her being weak?) and starts bringing the women over to her side I was back on board too. Things were moving and it was interesting and well written. I really loved the back half of the book. It was gritty, dark and at times disgusting. The ending was imaginative and unexpected. If the middle half had been taken out of this book then it would have been an easy five stars from me. But that middle half was some of the boring drivel I’ve ever read.

Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

49878129._SX318_SY475_The Return by Rachel Harrison

Published: March 24, 2020 by Berkley

Buy this book at Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: An edgy and haunting debut novel about a group of friends who reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance.

Julie is missing, and the missing don’t often return. But Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and she feels in her bones that her best friend is out there, and that one day she’ll come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her.

Rating: 4 star

Review: The synopsis of this book was just intriguing enough to make me pick up this book without actually giving me any idea what it would entail. I liked the idea of a girls trip that uncovers something sinister about what happened to their friend. I did not realize before I was reading it that there would be some horror aspects in this one. I figured that out while I was reading in bed at midnight, everyone else in the house sleeping soundly. Needless to say I did not sleep much and devoured this book in about 48 hours.

This book focuses on the friendship between four women; Mae, Molly, Elise and Julie. Two years ago, Julie went hiking and vanished. Mae and Molly presumed that Julie was dead when she had not surfaced after a year, but Elise never let go of the feeling that their friend was alive. On the second anniversary of when Julie disappeared, she is found by her husband sitting on their porch with no recollection of the last two years. Her friends all go out for a weekend getaway to reconnect. Everything is going fine, Julie is back and she’s acting just like herself. Except when she isn’t acting like herself. Elise is uneasy about her friend but also about the hotel itself, everything is setting her on edge. But it’s just her imagination right? Julie is still Julie, isn’t she?

Elise was the perfect narrating character. She was the closest to Julie and has felt left behind by her friends. She views herself as the hanger-on of the group. Her friends are all successful while she works a pathetic job and still lives in a studio apartment. She is sure they do not approve of her choices and probably talk about it amongst themselves when she leaves the room. She was so relieved when Julie was found because now the dynamic between the friends would be restored. I empathized with her and identified with a lot of her feelings of unworthiness and anxiety.

The plot was super creepy. It was set in a mismatched hotel that sets Elise on edge, and set me on edge too. The author did a very good job at playing on the fears and anxieties that plague all of us. How many times have we sworn that we saw a shadow moving in our peripheral vision? But then we look and nothing is there and we chide ourselves for being scared, we’re adults after all! Or how many times have we averted our eyes at the gap in the curtains, convinced that if we look someone will be standing there? No one ever is, but we all feel the thrill of fear in our gut just the same. That is the type of horror at play in this novel. I recommend reading it in daylight only.

 

Review: Fire is Orange by Scott Sigler

fireFire is Orange by Scott Sigler

Published: October 23, 2019 by Empty Set Entertainment

Buy this book at Amazon

Synopsis: The third in the Color Series of short story anthologies from #1 New York Times best-seller Scott Sigler. A mixture of never-before-seen stories, stories from various anthologies, and Scott’s first-ever published fiction, this collection blends humor and horror into a frothy red mixture.

Author’s notes explain the history and/or impetus of each story, giving you an insight into the method behind the madness.

Rating: 4 star

Review: I know, I am kind of OD’ing on the Sigler stuff lately. What can I say? I always come back to my favorites. In this case I wanted something quick and fun. As it turns out a short story collection was just the ticket. Overall, this was a very good collection. Some of the stories were amazing and others were a bit meh. Now, for my own story notes and individual story ratings.

Complex God – 5 stars. This story is set is at a dubious point in the Siglerverse. It is after Pandemic and follows the origin of one Petra Prawatt. Anyone who is a Sigler Junkie will recognize the Prawatt name. This was such a fascinating little story and so much more terrifying by what it represents. It represents the idea that once human beings create a being that can begin to improve itself by making little decisions based on its mistakes then it is going to surpass its creator. A very scary concept and I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Hippo – 4 stars. This story had a lot of hype behind it. I had been told that it had the most horrifying and gruesome thing that Scott Sigler has every written. Worse than his infamous chicken scissors moment. Admittedly, the scene made me gag, but maybe I am just too jaded because other than being gross it wasn’t particularly horrifying. I’ll pronounce the two moments a tie. But I loved the world this was set in, and I loved the “twist” at the end.

Dale & Mabel – 5 stars. This story was so out of the norm for a Scott Sigler novel. Two people trapped in a situation that could be the end of the world but with no way out. They are not the heroes of an apocalypse novel. They are elderly, married for many years, and not really able to get around so well anymore. How do they ride out the apocalypse? I cried like a baby through the entire second half.

Fifth Girl – 5 stars. This was creepy. And not in a blood and guts kind of way. Just creepy and a good take on the generations that seem to feel an insurmountable need to post their entire lives on the internet. Be cautious who else is following along.

Mister Double-M: 3 stars. This one was pretty funny. I laughed aloud at a few points. But other than a few laughs I didn’t feel there was too much substance to the story.

Pink Torpedo – 3 stars. Again, this was funny but otherwise unremarkable.

Puppet Master – 3 stars. This one rather confused me in the end. I found it to be very thoughtful and profound, but it also really confused me. I had a very hard time following the narrative so apart from a few profound thoughts it didn’t leave a lasting impression.

Reunion – 5 stars. Holy crap I was not prepared for this story. I thought I was but the longer it went on the more I realized that I was not prepared. It made me think, it made me cringe and then it made me cry.

Splashing Contest – 2 stars. I didn’t really like it. I understand what Sigler is going for with it and wanting to create a relatable situation but it just seemed very convenient and not too lasting of a story. I forgot it almost as soon as it was over.

The Laundry Demon – 2 stars. Again, some laughs and an amusing concept but there wasn’t much else to it.

So, in the end, it was a good collection and there wasn’t really anything that I can say I disliked. Another worthy edition to my ebook collection.

Review: Blood of the Fae by Tom Mohan

41813744Blood of the Fae by Tom Mohan

Published: November 15, 2018 by BHC Press/Open Window

Buy this book at: Amazon| B&N

Synopsis: Liza McCarthy has never known the love she so desperately craves. The illegitimate child of a broken marriage, the identity of her father and her heritage are a well-kept secret. When she receives a call from a mysterious woman claiming her life is in danger, she manages to flee just before two men break into her home.

She soon finds herself in the tiny midwestern town of Halden’s Mill. There she is taken in by the Finns, a mysterious family who claim to guard the entrance to the fabled land of the faerie.

Liza is slowly drawn into a world of monsters, dark magic and a host of peculiar townsfolk. Now she must rethink everything she’s ever known and seek her destiny before two worlds collide with a force that could mean the end of the human race.

Rating: 3 star

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley!***

This book is proving to be a difficult one to review and decide on an appropriate rating. I finished it over 24 hours ago and am still trying to put my thoughts together. On the whole, it was an alright story. There was absolutely nothing revolutionary about it, but it’s a solid story.

Let’s start with Liza. I did not really like her as a character. I found her to be annoying for the most part. She starts off fine, a bit histrionic but who wouldn’t be freaked out by the things she is discovering about the world? After awhile she seemed far stupider than I felt she should be. The pieces were there but she just refused to put them together and instead continued with her internal narrative that “there’s no way that any of this involves me”. Literally everyone in the book is telling you that it does. Hell, your dreams are telling you that it does! The strange happenings are telling you that it does! EVERYTHING IS SCREAMING AT YOU THAT YOU ARE INVOLVED!! So while there was nothing actually wrong with the character, she grew to be infuriating. And then when we got to the end of the book, it turned out she was pretty useless and unnecessary to the plot. More on that in a minute.

The characterization of the fae was fabulous. I enjoyed seeing a more horrifying aspect of the land of fae instead of the pretty, sparkling faeries that are so common in literature. I can’t say that the book was overly scary, but the horror aspects of it were very well written and interesting.

I can’t say that I can conjure up too much emotion about the other characters since I did not feel that I got to know them at all. They were a flat and lacked qualities that would have made them more relatable and realistic characters. They were fine, but one dimensional. They also seemed to be a bit stupid at times, similar to Liza’s stupid. They acknowledge that everything happening is telling them that the old rules don’t apply. But then they run around screaming, “Oh My God! Why are the old rules not working!?”  Well, duh, you just said why just a few pages ago.

A lot of this book was difficult to read. I found myself reading the same page a few times in order to understand what was going on. I am not entirely sure what made it difficult but I had a very hard time.

On to my last point for this: The ending. Warning!!!! Spoilers:

So, the whole point of the book is that Liza is a fae princess and has to choose between two princes. One prince wants the fae to rule the world and exterminate humans. One prince wants the fae to live in a dimension completely separate from humans and allow the peaceful existence of both. In the end, Liza will choose her prince and that will decide the fate of the world. But then we get to the end and she doesn’t choose! She chooses to stab herself instead in order to not have to make a choice. And somehow this meant that her choice was for peaceful co-existence of humans and fae? I have no idea where that ending came from but I didn’t like it. Making a choice by not making a choice and then somehow that means that everything is fine. So dumb and kind of made me feel the book was pointless in the end.

At the end of the day this book was decently written with passable characters and the fae are good enough to make this book a decent read.

Review: Laughter at the Academy by Seanan McGuire

45418305._SY475_Laughter at the Academy by Seanan McGuire

Published: October 31, 2019 by Subterranean Press

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis:

From fairy tale forest to gloomy gothic moor, from gleaming epidemiologist’s lab to the sandy shores of Neverland, Seanan McGuire’s short fiction has been surprising, delighting, confusing, and transporting her readers since 2009. Now, for the first time, that fiction has been gathered together in one place, ready to be enjoyed one twisting, tangled tale at a time. Her work crosses genres and subverts expectations.
Meet the mad scientists of “Laughter at the Academy” and “The Tolling of Pavlov’s Bells.” Glory in the potential of a Halloween that never ends. Follow two very different alphabets in “Frontier ABCs” and “From A to Z in the Book of Changes.” Get “Lost,” dress yourself “In Skeleton Leaves,” and remember how to fly. All this and more is waiting for you within the pages of this decade-spanning collection, including several pieces that have never before been reprinted. Stories about mermaids, robots, dolls, and Deep Ones are all here, ready for you to dive in.

This is a box of strange surprises dredged up from the depths of the sea, each one polished and prepared for your enjoyment. So take a chance, and allow yourself to be surprised.

Rating: 4 star

Review:

***I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley and Subterranean Press!***

As with all short story collections that I read, I prefer to review them by the story. Inevitably I will love some of them and not care for others and this collection was no different. I am a big fan of the author but some of these stories were a miss. I also noticed that there were some formatting issues with the ARC, which meant that sometimes I didn’t get the complete story. On the whole, this collection was a solid four stars with a lot more hits than misses.

Laughter at the Academy: 2 stars. I am not sure if it was the formatting issue or if the story was really supposed to be that disjointed. We got a little snippet of something “official” about the disorder in question, and then we would jump into a scene, right in the middle of a sentence. A scene that is totally unconnected from the previous scene. If that if how it was supposed to be, I didn’t like it. The snippets were good, but I never felt I got a full story.

Lost: 5 stars. This was a very short story but wow it packed a wallop. It was inventive and whimsical. It was riveting and profound. It was fantastic.

The Tolling of Pavlov’s Bells: 5 stars. This is probably one of the more twisted stories I’ve read in quite a long while. It carries very heavy themes in complacency as a species, being too convinced of our own individual superiority to listen to people superior in knowledge than us. The desire for things to be the same and to be easy than to listen to harsh lessons. It was profound and deeply, deeply twisted.

Uncle Sam: 2 stars. The formatting issue was present here too, the story started mid sentence and I could tell there was more to it that I didn’t get. I didn’t really like this one. The story was slightly interesting but I didn’t really invest in the narrative for some reason. It was a bit obvious where it was going and the political assumptions in it were rather annoying. For example, “well obviously, even though many people think X thing, we all know that Y is true.” Well no, Y isn’t objectively true in the real world. If it’s objectively true in this world then fine, or if it’s true to those people then fine, but telling me that it’s true without more context was annoying. The ending was obvious, which also was irritating.

Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage: 3 stars. This story was okay. I would have liked a tiny bit more history on the story. I know it’s a short story but just thrusting someone into a fantasy world with no warning is a bit jarring, give me something to explain the things that are going on. The ending was good, I liked the conclusion a lot. Overall, it was fine but not as good as some of the others.

Emeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust: 4 stars. I love the land of Oz and stories about Dorothy’s adventures. This was definitely a darker story but I loved it. There wasn’t too much action, which disappointed me a little but the world introduced there was amazing.

Homecoming: 2 stars. I can honestly say I remember nothing about this story, even though I took notes. That says something I think.

Frontier ABCs: 4 stars. I can honestly say that I had no idea where this was going and it was a delightful little ride to find out.

We are all Misfit Toys in the Aftermath of the Velveteen War: 5 stars. Holy crap this story threw me for a loop. I had to take a break from the book for a day or two because it just sent me reeling. It’s something so profound that I could imagine happening in our world. I have often said, “How do you prepare the world for a child’s toy saying they don’t want to be turned off because they are scared of the dark?” I love the complexities offered to humanity by AI and this story explored that beautifully.

The Lambs: 2 stars. Another exploration of AI and its uses in humanity but there was a problem here. I just didn’t buy it. I did not buy that this would be a reasonable alternative to the way things are right now. As a parent, I can’t imagine anyone seeing the technology presented and thinking “Yes, that’s a good idea for handling unruly, bully children”. And so, I didn’t enjoy the story because I couldn’t buy the premise.

Each to Each: 4 stars. Not too much to say about this one in particular other than it was really great.

Bring About the Halloween Eternal: 5 stars. Part of good sci-fi is using new formats to tell a story. This one used the backdrop of a GoFundMe project to tell the story and I loved that idea. It was playful, unique and wonderfully constructed.

Office Memos: 4 stars. I really loved this one because it takes the form of a bunch of company emails to narrate the story. Having been on the receiving end of many such mundane office emails I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

Lady Antheia’s Guide to Horticultural Warfare: 3 stars. This one was okay. It had some formatting issues at the beginning, so I missed out on the beginning of the story. It was a solid story, I just didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the others.

Driving Jenny Home: 5 stars. This particular story broke my heart. I cried all over my Nook. The sadness was palpable, the conclusion inevitable and all I could think at the end of it was “I’d do the same thing for the person I loved.”

There is no Place for Sorrow in the Kingdom of the Cold: 5 stars. I can honestly say I’ve never read a retelling of Pandora’s Box, so this was a first and it hit the nail on the head. I loved every word and wanted the story to be longer.

In Skeleton Leaves: 4 stars. Speaking of retellings, Peter Pan anyone? This was also wonderful. I felt so sad for the characters and the ending I did not see coming, though I probably should have I was just too wrapped up in Wendy’s narrative to see it.

Please Accept My Most Profound Apologies: 5 stars. I have to say, I really love stories that are narrated as a letter from the bad guy, explaining themselves to the unfortunate sap who finds their manuscript before the end of the world. This was great and made my heart race in anticipation.

Threnody for Little Girl, With Tuna, at the End of the World: 3 stars. This one was an interesting concept and I liked the backdrop of the Monterey Bay Aquarium since it’s also one of my favorite places on earth. But in the end it was a little bland.

From A to Z in the Book of Changes: 3 stars. I liked this one, but it was just too disjointed for me. It seemed like unconnected threads that never came together to form a whole.

#connollyhouse #weshouldntbehere: 5 stars. I said earlier I loved playing with new mediums, this was a horror story told through someone’s Twitter timeline. I really liked that idea but wasn’t sure how effective it would be. Oh my God was it effective. It literally made my jump and feel uneasy sitting in my living room and continuing reading. It was superb. Probably the best one in the book.

Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves: 4 stars. We ended the book with the formatting cutting off a page or so from the beginning of this final story. It was deliciously twisted and well told.

Review: Meg by Steve Alten

meg Meg by Steve Alten

Published June 2nd 1997 by DoubleDay

Buy this book at B&N / Amazon / Book Depository

 

Synopsis:

On a top-secret dive into the Pacific Ocean’s deepest canyon, Jonas Taylor found himself face-to-face with the largest and most ferocious predator in the history of the animal kingdom. The sole survivor of the mission, Taylor is haunted by what he’s sure he saw but still can’t prove exists – Carcharodon megalodon, the massive mother of the great white shark. The average prehistoric Meg weighs in at twenty tons and could tear apart a Tyrannosaurus rex in seconds. Taylor spends years theorizing, lecturing, and writing about the possibility that Meg still feeds at the deepest levels of the sea. But it takes an old friend in need to get him to return to the water, and a hotshot female submarine pilot to dare him back into a high-tech miniature sub. Diving deeper than he ever has before, Taylor will face terror like he’s never imagined. MEG is about to surface. When she does, nothing and no one is going to be safe, and Jonas must face his greatest fear once again.

 

Rating: 4 star

 

Review:

God how I loved this book, I loved it like a fat kid loves ice cream. We have all seen a horror movie that we thought “Oh man, this is just so awful! I love it!” That’s what this book was for me, a made for tv horror movie. But that’s also what made me hesitate to give it four stars. Based on the technical merits of the writing it would probably be a three, based on the story alone maybe a two, but based on how much I absolutely adored it a five would be appropriate. So in the end a 3.5 to 4 seems most fair.

Let’s get a few things straight about this book right up front. The writing is not very inventive or clever. I counted at least 3 times that the word “entrails” was used in every single scene where the shark eats something or someone. It was a bit repetitive and not very thrilling. The plot is also highly outlandish. You might just have to turn off your disbelief switch because I don’t think just suspending it will do the trick.

Though the plot was out there, I also thought it was awesome for that exact reason. More than once I just sat there with the book in my lap laughing so hard that I couldn’t see straight as the book slowly slid its way to the floor unnoticed. I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to see what outrageous thing would happen next. It was fabulous! And the ending…oh my God the ending! Give me a minute, the giggles came back. *deep breath* Okay, I’m good now. The ending was quite possibly the silliest and most amazing thing I have ever read. I cannot even fathom how such an ending came into being. I refuse to say anything else about it because it would ruin the amazingness.

Now let’s ponder for a moment on Mr. Alten’s  theory of how the Megalodon survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. The book proposes that the Meg’s prey were driven to the depths of the ocean by the Ice Age and given that they are warm blooded the Meg followed and then stayed there because that’s were the prey was. And by the time they had any need or desire to return to the surface they were trapped by the colder water temperatures and so have stayed in the depths for millions of years. It’s an interesting theory but it ignores several key facts about the closest living relative of the Megalodon, the Great White shark. The White is also warm blooded, and it prefers colder waters. The White is most concentrated in areas such as northern California, off the coast of Massachusetts, the southern tip of Africa. Yes they can and do inhabit warmer waters as well, but the colder water is seemingly preferred. Since the Megalodon is considered a cousin to the White shark, why would that species be much different? There is no logical reason that the Meg would have been “trapped” by the cold layer of water between the depths and the surface. It made for an interesting theory for a book, but doesn’t make much logical sense. *blush* I’m sorry, is my nerd showing?

ENTRAILS!  Now that you’re all distracted let’s move on to characters. They were all typical of this kind of horror book, nothing new or earthshattering. I did think the love interest seemed really forced. I mean, it wasn’t necessary so why not just leave it out? Instead I was caught feeling…wait a second they were wishing death on each other not two chapters ago and now they’re planning a romantic trip for when they survive this? That was kind of weird.

This book had a nice set up for a sequel, which I do intend on reading. I recommend this book if you want to read a book that is as silly as it is tropey, but still completely awesome. I know I loved it.

Review: Terminal Island by Walter Greatshell

terminal islandTerminal Island by Walter Greatshell

Published December 4th, 2012 by Night Shade Books

Cover and synopsis provided by the publisher.

Buy this book at: B&N / Amazon / Book Depository

Synopsis:

Henry Cadmus grew up on Catalina Island, a scenic vacationland off the Southern California coast. But Henry’s experiences were far from idyllic. Today, even though Henry has seen firsthand the horrors of war, the ghastly images that haunt his dreams is one he associates with his childhood… and the island: a snarling pig-man holding a cleaver; a jackal-headed woman on a high balcony, dripping blood; strange occult rituals… and worse. If it was up to Henry, he would avoid the island entirely.

But Henry is returning to Catalina Island. At his wife Ruby’s insistence, Henry, Ruby, and their infant daughter are coming to Avalon, so that Henry can face his fears, exorcise his demons, and reconcile with the one he fears most… his mother.

From Walter Greatshell, author of Xombies comes Terminal Island, a novel of cosmic horror.

Rating (out of 5): 3 star

Review:

This book was…strange, there really is no other word for it.  I have postponed writing this review for a few days to find a better word to describe it but I can’t find one.  Parts of this story had me clutching my ereader in a death grip with fear for the characters.  Parts of this story just left me scratching my head as I thought “Wait, what?”  The basic premise is that Henry lived the life of a wanderer when he was growing up, his mother moving him from place to place with regularity.  When his mother decided to move him to Catalina Island he fell in love with the place.  Shortly after, however, he begs his mother to leave and she complies.  Now that he is married and has a child, his mother has dropped off the map.  They were never close, but now he hears that she has moved to Catalina Island and is returning his letters. His wife, Ruby, suggests that they go find his mother and sort this out.  Henry is overcome with apprehension at returning to the place of his childhood nightmares but agrees.

This novel jumps between Henry’s perspective of the island in the present and flashbacks of his time on the island as a child.  This is very disconcerting and pulls the reader out of their comfort zone, I thought this was a very good tactic.  This is supposed to be a horror type novel, I shouldn’t have a comfort zone!  And with this novel I never did and I liked it.  While reading, you are never quite sure what is real and what isn’t.  Henry has memories of the girls at his school chasing him down and trying to kill him and stumbling into a butcher shop where the butcher is wearing the head of a pig and brandishing a cleaver.  He has dreams about nearly drowning and finding himself face to face with a monster that lived under the ocean and tried to hold him underwater.  Part of me wanted these things to be real because the descriptions were fascinating.

The writing of this book and the plot were all very good.  The pacing was also good but it got a big slow at the end.  As the pieces of this story began to unravel I found myself growing more intrigued with this story than I was at the beginning.  But I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled with everything.  There was a large section of time when I kept thinking to myself “Wait, is X in on this or not?  And if they are, how long has this been going on?”  Then there is a part when Henry is trying to protect his daughter, who was just barely yelling and calling for him, and the ending of that part was just weird and it didn’t feel genuine to me.  Similarly the occult ritual that takes place was very long and I started to skim it to get to the interesting parts.  I was still not totally aware at the end what was real and what wasn’t and that annoyed me.  But also at the end it just started to get cheesy.  For example, this line: “They killed the sheriff.  But they did not kill the deputy.”  I swear to God that’s actually in there.  That was so corny and dumb it just pulled me right out of the story.  When we reached the ending I was so ready for it to just be over that I started skimming again.  Because of that, there was never a big monumental moment of “Oh my God!” about the ending.  It was just over.

This was a good book in its entirety.  It was intriguing and entertaining but I felt like the unraveling of the mystery could have been done better.  And the ending was pretty lengthy and it started to drag which effected my enjoyment of the conclusion of the plot.  If you are a big fan of mysteries and horror novels then this is one that you should give a read.  But if you are not deeply interested in these genres then I would suggest you give this one a miss.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review.  Thank you Night Shade Books!