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Book Review – The Curse of the Wendigo (Monstrumologist #2) by Rick Yancey

September 20, 2013 Leave a comment

The Curse of the Wendigo (Monstrumologist #2) by Rick Yancey

Book Description:

Rick Yancey’s first gothic suspense tale, The Monstrumologist, earned him a prestigious Michael L. Printz Award. The second installment of this acclaimed series, Curse of the Wendigo, finds young Will Henry on the hunt for a supernatural beast plaguing New England in the late 1800s.

Will and his mentor, the domineering Dr. Warthrop, are enlisted to help the doctor’s former fiancée. It seems her husband has been lost in the Canadian wilderness. And to make matters worse, there are reports that a Wendigo – a creature who gorges on human flesh – is on the loose.

*

I found Rick Yancey’s gothic horror story The Monstrumologist to be pretty bloody brilliant, so the second book in the series certainly had a lot to live up to.  And live up it did (although my favorite is still the first book). Do you want something scary to read tonight that will keep you up, keep you turning the pages in suspense, fire up your adrenaline? Add this to your TBR list (but if you haven’t yet, read book #1 first!)

Just a note though – while I think Curse of the Wendigo is an EXCELLENT sequel (serving up new monsters with a great heaping side of blood and gore, plus trips to the Canadian wilderness and 1800 Victorian New York) and I’d highly recommend it to any “mature” literary horror fan,  I really don’t think it should be marketed to young readers. Yes, the hero in the book is a 12-year-old orphan, but the situations he and his guardian Dr. Warthrop find themselves in are truly horrifying.  Stomach churning-, nightmare inducing- horrifying.

Maybe the problem is that Rick Yancey is such an amazing writer – the setting, the rich (aka gruesome) imagery, the atmosphere, the dialogue, the characters all felt very intense and real. If this book were a movie, I’d be watching it through my fingers – wincing at certain scenes (i.e. the autopsy scene!) while scared out of my mind (but loving every minute, mind you.) It’s very graphic & violent (in a literary Dickensian way), and terrible things happen to a lot of innocent people, and no wonder young Will was a traumatized mess in the end!

Once I’ve recovered, Book #3 The Isle of Blood next!

Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) is available on Amazon, B&N Nook, Kobo books and iTunes iBooks.

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Book Review – In the Tall Grass (Kindle Single) by Joe Hill and Stephen King

October 26, 2012 1 comment

In the Tall Grass (Kindle Single) by Joe Hill and Stephen King

Book Description:

In the Tall Grass begins with a sister and brother who pull off to the side of the road after hearing a young boy crying for help from beyond the tall grass.

Within minutes they are disoriented, in deeper than seems possible, and they’ve lost one another. The boy’s cries are more and more desperate.

What follows is a terrifying, entertaining, and masterfully told tale, as only Stephen King and Joe Hill can deliver.

*

In the Tall Grass  (Kindle Single) is a new short story by horror legend Stephen King and his son Joe Hill that should carry a warning – DON’T read on full stomach! (I read it after a pleasant lunch of grilled chicken sandwich, and was so sick to my stomach when I got to the end of the story. I was just thankful I hadn’t been eating sardines….)

What can I say about this Kindle single? Well, I definitely don’t see myself reading it again. It starts out great – super creepy – when the brother and sister first hear a kid’s cries for help coming from the field of grass, and they set of in pursuit. Cal and Becky were really likable characters, and I was all tied up in knots worrying about them. And the suspense just ratcheted up the longer they were stuck in the grass looking for the kid (And then each other).

But then, the story suddenly changed direction – I won’t give spoilers – but that’s when I ended up way more grossed out than scared. Pity – I really enjoyed reading it before things turned disgusting.

But then, maybe if you like that type of horror – you’ll probably like this way more than me?

 

In the Tall Grass (Kindle Single) by Joe Hill and Stephen King (Scribner) is available on Amazon as a Kindle Single.

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Book Review – Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

July 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Book Description:

Since mankind began, civilizations have always fallen: the Romans, the Greeks, the Aztecs… Now it’s our turn.

Huge earthquakes rock the world. Cities are destroyed. But something even more awful is happening. An ancient evil has been unleashed, turning everday people into hunters, killers, crazies.

Mason’s mother is dying after a terrible car accident. As he endures a last vigil at her hospital bed, his school is bombed and razed to the ground, and everyone he knows is killed. Aries survives an earthquake aftershock on a bus, and thinks the worst is over when a mysterious stranger pulls her out of the wreckage, but she’s about to discover a world changed forever. Clementine, the only survivor of an emergency town hall meeting that descends into murderous chaos, is on the run from savage strangers who used to be her friends and neighbors. And Michael witnesses a brutal road rage incident that is made much worse by the arrival of the police–who gun down the guilty party and then turn on the bystanding crowd.

Where do you go for justice when even the lawmakers have turned bad? These four teens are on the same road in a world gone mad. Struggling to survive, clinging on to love and meaning wherever it can be found, this is a journey into the heart of darkness – but also a journey to find each other and a place of safety.

*

* Note, the book cover I embedded here is from the UK edition – I just like it better than the US cover

I ended up finishing Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts in one sitting –  I hadn’t planned on losing an entire day just reading (I did have other things lined up to do!), but I just got so engrossed in Jeyn Roberts’ debut YA horror novel about teenagers trying to survive in a world gone mad that I kept on hitting the page turn keys to find out what happened next.

In Dark Inside, the world is rocked by massive earthquakes (right out of something like the 2012 disaster film).  But even more troubling for survivors, the quakes seemed to trigger an infectious ‘rage’ that turn majority of the population into homicidal psychotic violent murderers (yeah, right out of something like the 28 Days Later horror film).

Okay, the plot isn’t exactly original, but Jeyn Roberts managed to make it read ‘fresh’ to me. Ms Roberts added a twist in the story by introducing a spectrum to the ‘rage’ – some infected people (called ‘Baggers’) turn rabid while others seem to retain their intelligence (while remaining ‘evil’). This makes the enemy even more sinister than in a normal ‘zombie’ book since it’s almost impossible to distinguish some of the infected ‘Baggers’ from a normal when they’re not being actively homicidal. There’s definitely elements of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend with the suggestion in the latter part of the book of a new world order rising up from the more sane ‘rage’ infected.

Another big plus for me liking Dark Inside was the author’s teen main characters – the book is told from the points of view of *four different teenage survivors (Mason, Aries, Clementine, Michael) who go on the run, even as they try to make sense of and survive their brutal new world. Ms Roberts did a great job giving each kid well-developed and distinct voices and personalities, and more importantly, making them likable (while still remaining realistically flawed). I ended up really emotionally invested in the kids and cared about what might happen to them – especially Mason! (Spoiler alert)

* There’s actually a fifth POV from a character named ‘Nothing’ who seemed to be among the ‘infected’ and whose identity is kinda revealed in the end. Personally, I actually could’ve done without this POV since I mostly found it to be confusing.

And of course, no surprise, the book ends on a ‘non-ending’, setting things up nicely for the sequel Rage Within (due out in August). Pre-ordered? Yup! 😉

Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) is available on Amazon in Kindle, Hardcover and Paperback editions. *also available at Amazon UK.

The eBook is also available at B&N, Apple iBooks, Kobo books

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Book Review – Mile 81 by Stephen King

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Book Description:

With the heart of Stand By Me and the genius horror of Christine, Mile 81 is Stephen King unleashing his imagination as he drives past one of those road signs…

At Mile 81 on the Maine Turnpike is a boarded up rest stop on a highway in Maine. It’s a place where high school kids drink and get into the kind of trouble high school kids have always gotten into. It’s the place where Pete Simmons goes when his older brother, who’s supposed to be looking out for him, heads off to the gravel pit to play “paratroopers over the side.” Pete, armed only with the magnifying glass he got for his tenth birthday, finds a discarded bottle of vodka in the boarded up burger shack and drinks enough to pass out.

Not much later, a mud-covered station wagon (which is strange because there hadn’t been any rain in New England for over a week) veers into the Mile 81 rest area, ignoring the sign that says “closed, no services.” The driver’s door opens but nobody gets out.

Doug Clayton, an insurance man from Bangor, is driving his Prius to a conference in Portland. On the backseat are his briefcase and suitcase and in the passenger bucket is a King James Bible, what Doug calls “the ultimate insurance manual,” but it isn’t going to save Doug when he decides to be the Good Samaritan and help the guy in the broken down wagon. He pulls up behind it, puts on his four-ways, and then notices that the wagon has no plates.

Ten minutes later, Julianne Vernon, pulling a horse trailer, spots the Prius and the wagon, and pulls over. Julianne finds Doug Clayton’s cracked cell phone near the wagon door — and gets too close herself. By the time Pete Simmons wakes up from his vodka nap, there are a half a dozen cars at the Mile 81 rest stop. Two kids — Rachel and Blake Lussier — and one horse named Deedee are the only living left. Unless you maybe count the wagon.

*

Mile 81  (Kindle Single) is a new short story by Stephen King that should tide his fans over while waiting for the release of  11/22/63: A Novel in November (especially since it contains an exclusive excerpt from that new book about a teacher time traveling to stop the assassination of Kennedy).

Mile 81  has an entertaining concept (which I won’t spoil, but here’s a strong hint – think Christine and From a Buick 8, but with young kids involved). This is supposed to be a horror short, but I found myself inappropriately laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of certain sections. It’s very pulpy cheese (Tales from the Crypt-like), so don’t be reading this short story with high expectations. Still pretty entertaining though (just not scary enough and really too short).  The ending is pretty abrupt and not really adequately explained – I would’ve preferred this short story lengthened to novella length if only to flesh out the ‘villain’ more.

I’ve always liked the way Stephen King writes his young characters – and the spunky characters of 10-year-old Pete Simmons and 6-year-old Rachel Lussier are classic King, but I did find it very odd that the kids were swearing so much. (Maybe he meant to make the children a little older?)

Mile 81 by Stephen King (Scribner) is available on Amazon as a Kindle Single. You can also get the short story at B&N.


For a second opinion – here’s some reviews of Mile 81 by other bloggers:


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Book Review – Fear Me by Tim Curran

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Book Description:

Shaddock Valley. A maximum security prison that houses the worst of the worst: drug gangs, psychopaths, rapists, gangters, and outlaw bikers. In a place like that, a skinny little kid like Danny Palmquist doesn’t stand a chance. It doesn’t take long before the hardtimers move in on him.

Then they begin to die horribly. In locked cells.

When the lights go out at Shaddock Valley, the nightmare begins. When Danny Palmquist goes to sleep, something else wakes up.

Something primeval. Something bloodthirsty.

And if you mess with Danny Palmquist, it will find you. And in the darkness, nothing can save you.

*

Tim Curran’s horror novella Fear Me is not my usual kind of read. My friend told me that it can be filed under the Splatter punk horror sub-genre (Wikipedia defines this as “a movement within horror fiction distinguished by its graphic, often gory, depiction of violence“). I’ve never read anything like this before, but since I received it as a ‘joke’ gift, I thought, why not? I’m not averse to the horror genre, although I’ve always leaned more towards the more subtle and suspenseful kind of horror fiction.

The book is told from the point of view of Romero, an inmate at the maximum security prison Shaddock Valley. A hardened criminal himself, Romero unexpectedly finds himself softening at the arrival of Danny Palmquist – a scrawny helpless boy who Romero knows will be easy prey in the brutal prison jungle. Romero struggles within himself (does he protect or ignore the boy?), but then it becomes evident that Danny may already have some kind of supernatural protection. A series of prison inmates who have messed around with Danny are brutally killed while locked in their cells (or solitary confinement) – and the kills are all definitely deadly vicious, gory and with enough gut- & blood-spattering to satisfy any Splatter punk enthusiast (I guess).

Tim Curran does a good job with illustrating the seething violence and brutality of a maximum security prison – I could visualize the dead-eyed prisoners, the angry guards, see and smell and feel how the whole setting has dehumanized everyone in Shaddock Valley. The character of Romero provided a good counterpoint to all that hopelessness – as something decent is awakened within him even as everyone else is caught up in horror and fear.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t really grossed out by all the gory depictions of death and violence, and I wasn’t really scared either – so maybe I just get more affected by psychological horror.  But then, I was pretty upset with a scene from the YA horror fiction The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (when the investigators were going through the aftermath of a monster attack on a family) – so maybe it’s just that I didn’t care much about the victims this time around. The victims in Fear Me all seem to be the very definition of ‘scum of the earth’ (so I wasn’t too bothered by their passing), plus I couldn’t help but be sensitized after a while. I mean, there’s a limit to the number of ways you can illustrate a gory kill.

After reading Fear Me , my conclusion is that while Splatter punk may not be my cup of tea, I do think that someone who likes this genre would be satisfied by it. The book is gritty and raw (the writing has a noir quality to it, but with a lot more swearing) and Curran does a great job with imagery.

Fear Me by Tim Curran is available on Amazon as a Kindle Edition ($4.99).

You can also get the ebook at the Apple iBookstore and Barnes and Noble.

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Book Review – Ashes by Scott Nicholson

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Book Description:

A collection of 12 supernatural stories by bestselling author Scott Nicholson, including “Scarecrow Boy,” “Dog Person” and “Sewing Circle.”

From the author of THE RED CHURCH, SPEED DATING WITH THE DEAD, DISINTEGRATION, DRUMMER BOY, and the collections FLOWERS, CURTAINS, and THE FIRST, these stories visit haunted islands, disturbed families, and a lighthouse occupied by Edgar Allan Poe. From the mystery of the paranormal to the spiritual exploration of fear, Nicholson serves up chills, thrills, ghosts stories, and paranormal fantasy. Collected from the pages of Cemetery Dance Magazine, The Book of Dark Wisdom, Black Static, and more.

Exclusive introduction by Jonathan Maberry, author of THE DRAGON FACTORY and GHOST ROAD BLUES. The afterword explores the origins of the stories. Visit Scott Nicholson at Author Central or at www.hauntedcomputer.com

*

I downloaded Ashes (A Collection of Dark Fiction) by Scott Nicholson for free at Kobo Books and read it on the Kobo iPhone app. I don’t know why the Kindle edition says there are 12 short stories, but the Kobo copy I downloaded has 16 stories in all. (Just an aside, page turns on the Kobo app are slow, just like I noticed with iBooks. Don’t know what Amazon did differently with the Kindle app since the page turns are noticeably faster)

Here’s what I have in the TOC of the Kobo copy:

1. Timing Chains of the Heart, 2. Dog Person, 3. The October Girls, 4. Murdermouth, 5. Sung Li, 6. In the Family, 7. Work in Progress, 8. She Climbs a Winding Stair, 9. Watermelon, 10. The Meek, 11. The Weight of Silence, 12. The Hounds of Love, 13. Penance, 14. Scarecrow, 15. Last Writes, 16. Sewing Circle

According to the author’s afterword, the stories in the collection were written from 2000-2006 when he was struggling with personal traumas like “alcoholism, depression, fatherhood, divorce…” Well, I guess that accounts for the dark (not necessarily scary) atmosphere that’s the common link among the short stories. And the span of time covered may also account for the uneven quality of writing. I thought that there were some stories in the collection that should have remained in the author’s archives for further development, but there’s some pretty outstanding stories in the mix too that I’ll mention here.

The best for me was the weird and creepy ‘Murdermouth‘ written from the point of view of a very hungry imprisoned Zombie who is on display as one of the acts in a traveling carnival/circus. It’s gruesome and horrifying, and there’s an underlying dark humor mixed with heartbreak to the thankless situation the Zombie is in that really struck home to me. If you only read one short story from this collection, let it be this one.

A close second for me would be the chilling ‘The Night is An Ally‘ where we follow German 1st Lt Heinz Wolfram and his Third Company soldiers as they carry out their orders to “relocate” Jews in the course of one terrible and unforgiveable night. In his afterword, Mr Nicholson said that he wanted to delve into what would turn ordinary and decent men into cold-blooded killers, and I thought he did a great job illustrating that via Heinz Wolfram, a man who ordinarily has no appetite for killing, but who rationalizes his crimes by filtering responsibility through the chain of command and dehumanizing the process in the interest of “efficiency”.

Third best for me was ‘Penance‘ – a post-apocalyptic future narrated by a young girl, Ruth, who is nailed inside her plaque-infested house with her dying family members. What makes the whole thing extra sinister is the religious fervor that colors all the characters’ reactions. This is one story that I do hope the author one day dusts off and turns into a full length novel. I’d love the full treatment for this, from the time the outbreak occured and the aftermath.

The Meek‘ is set at a post-apocalyptic Australia overrun with killer zombie sheep – I kid you not. This sounds like the plot of a really terrible movie, but I thought that Mr Nicholson made it work 😉 We follow Lucas, on the run from a killer ram, as he is “rescued” by a mysterious man who may have a worse fate planned for him. I don’t know, the whole thing seemed stupid to me, but at the same time, I thought the story was original and I liked that there were some unexpected twists in it.

I wondered why ‘The Weight of Silence‘ was included in the collection at first, since it was about a young mother consumed by grief, barely coping with the aftermath of SIDS. Well, at least until we learn that something more sinister may be afoot. The twist wasn’t as well executed as I wanted, but I thought that the writing overall was pretty good for this story.

Maybe you’ll like the rest of the stories in the collection, but I found them to be either weak, or just didn’t resonate or interest me. Overall, I do think the writing is pretty good, smooth flowing, pretty rich imagery, and some really original ideas. I’m now looking forward to checking out more of Scott Nicholson’s writing 🙂

Ashes (A Collection of Dark Fiction) by Scott Nicholson is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition ($0.99) and also for $0.99 on B&N Nook.

Or you can also get this ebook collection for FREE at Sony eBookstore and Kobo Books.

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Book Review – Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

February 13, 2011 4 comments

Book Description:

I believe there is another man inside every man, a stranger . . . writes Wilfred Leland James in the early pages of the riveting confession that makes up “1922,” the first in this pitch-black quartet of mesmerizing tales from Stephen King. For James, that stranger is awakened when his wife, Arlette, proposes selling off the family homestead and moving to Omaha, setting in motion a gruesome train of murder and madness.

In “Big Driver,” a cozy-mystery writer named Tess encounters the stranger along a back road in Massachusetts when she takes a shortcut home after a book-club engagement. Violated and left for dead, Tess plots a revenge that will bring her face-to-face with another stranger: the one inside herself.

Fair Extension,” the shortest of these tales, is perhaps the nastiest and certainly the funniest. Making a deal with the devil not only saves Dave Streeter from a fatal cancer but provides rich recompense for a lifetime of resentment.

When her husband of more than twenty years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It’s a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends “A Good Marriage“.

Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.

*

Speaking as a King fan who wasn’t too impressed with his bloated (and dragging) last novel Under the Dome, I’m happy to report that with this four-novella collection Full Dark, No Stars, Stephen King has his writing mojo back! Yes, the Kindle edition is a bit expensive at $14.99, and yes, it would have been nice if it was at least the same price as the paperback, but I’m pretty happy with this one. Full Dark, No Stars is a more-than-solid effort from Stephen King, with King once again excelling in telling us stories about ordinary people who find themselves in pretty horrifying situations (that we all hope & pray we never have to deal with ourselves. Ever).

What I’m most impressed with is how authentic and distinctive each voice is in the four stories. A farmer recounts the unravelling of his life after he commits a murder in “1922“. In “Big Driver,” a cozy mystery author, who is raped and left for dead, exacts revenge from those who wronged her. A dying man makes a deal with the devil in “Fair Extension” and in “A Good Marriage“, a wife discovers that a monster lurks within her loving husband of 30 years. All four stories are richly detailed and superbly characterized with very real characters that will have you cringing or shuddering with them as they face their hells on earth. The strongest stories for me were “A Good Marriage” and “Big Driver” – maybe because they featured strong women characters who I liked and could sympathize with, whether or not I agreed with the choices they made. If I were to pick the weakest, it would have to be “Fair Extension” which ended on an IMO unfinished way – I just figure that deals with the devil ought to always result in some personal bad consequences 😉

For those worried that the stories are too scary, I wouldn’t really describe them as outright scary. They’re gruesome and grim and can be creepy – but not the type that makes you scared of the dark afterwards. Like I’ve said, I thought that Stephen King really delivered in showing us the dark side of humanity in this book, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Full Dark, No Stars to both the longtime King fan or to new readers who have yet to read him.

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition ($14.99), Hardcover ($15.17), Paperback ($9.99) or Audible Audio Edition ($23.95).

The eBook is also available for $14.99 on B&N Nook, Sony eBookstore. Kobo Books has the book listed at $16.29.

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