Genre: Horror

Short & Sweet – The Chronicles of Alice

Posted February 3, 2017 by Bonnie in Book Reviews / 5 Comments

Short & Sweet – The Chronicles of AliceAlice by Christina Henry
Series: The Chronicles of Alice #1
Published by Ace on August 4th 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Horror, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: eBook
Source: Gifted
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Also by this author: Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook

four-stars

A mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll...

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

‘Alice hardly recalled when she was new and whole. That girl seemed like someone else she’d known once, long ago and far away.’

When Alice was sixteen-years-old, she snuck out of New City and into Old City with her friend Dor. She returned home changed irrevocably: she had a cut across her face that would no doubt transform her beautiful face into a scarred one, she was covered in blood, and she couldn’t stop talking about Rabbit. Her parents are determined to quiet any negative gossip that could be associated with their family so they place her in a mental asylum in Old City and there she remains for ten years. Drugged daily, memories of the Rabbit still haunt her and her only companion is Hatcher, a man that she speaks with through a small mouse hole which connects their two rooms. When a fire consumes the asylum and something powerful within is released, her and Hatcher escape together. Together they must work to contain what was released and Alice intends to find the truth of what happened to her all those years ago.

“I feel the night crawling up all around, blotting out the moon. I feel blood running down the walls, rivers of it in the streets below. And I feel his teeth closing around me.”

This book was mad. Completely and utterly mad. It’s this bizarre mix of fantasy and horror but is one outrageously insane nightmare. So, if you’re looking for some variation on the original Disney tale? hahahaha…. Look elsewhere. I read this entire book with this look on my face:

All the characters from the original tales are included in this retelling, except their roles are vastly different (and they are men, not animals). We see Chesire, Caterpiller, the Carpenter, and Walrus who are all crime bosses in Old City. But instead of just silly illusions we’re dealing with fighting rings, sex trafficking (massive trigger warnings here in terms of rape), cannibalism, some horrifying depictions of slavery and magical body modifications… (refer to above gif once again for my response). Honestly, this book is extremely disturbing and the incredible amount of non-stop violence felt like a complete assault on my being at times. Even if it was a difficult read, it was quite remarkable how the author managed to take the basis of a story yet transform it so drastically so as to render it nearly unrecognizable. What didn’t work quite as well was how the actual characters themselves were written. Whether it’s because the author chose to focus completely on the world itself or because she chose to have us rely on our recollections of the characters from the original tale, either way, the characters themselves were lacking in both personal detailing and their general motivations.

This story isn’t going to be for everyone and it’s definitely going to take someone with a higher threshold for reading some seriously messed up shit. It’s grotesque yet in that captivating way that keeps you reading while simultaneously thinking: “What the hell else could possibly happen?”

This fantasy horror mashup will definitely appeal to fans of unconventional fairytale retellings.

Short & Sweet – The Chronicles of AliceRed Queen by Christina Henry
Series: The Chronicles of Alice #2
Published by Ace on July 12th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Horror, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook

three-half-stars

The author of Alice takes readers back down the rabbit hole to a dark, twisted, and fascinating world based on the works of Lewis Carroll…

Alice and Hatcher have escaped the Rabbit, Cheshire, and the Jabberwocky, but they are still on a mission to find Hatcher’s missing daughter, a quest they will not forsake even as it takes them deep into the clutches of the mad White Queen and her goblin or into the realm of the twisted and cruel Black King.

The pieces are set and the game has already begun. Each move brings Alice closer to her destiny. But, to win, she will need to harness her newfound abilities and ally herself with someone even more powerful—the mysterious and vengeful Red Queen…

“Once, there was a girl called Alice, and she lived in the New City, where everything is shining and beautiful and fair. But Alice was a curious girl with a curious talent. She was a Magician.”

After Hatcher and Alice discovered the truth of their pasts, they set out in search of Hatcher’s daughter Jenny who was believed to have been sold and sent East. On their journey, they stumble upon a small village near the woods with the horrifying stories of the children that they must sacrifice to the White Queen. Alice believes she can be of help to these people despite her inability to consistently use her magic and when Hatcher disappears, Alice is left on her own to take care of herself and make things right for the village.

‘There were monsters in the night but there were monsters in the day too, and monsters inside people who smiled and showed you all their teeth like they were nice.’

Reading this duology back to back was like shifting from fifth gear down to second without slowing down. If Alice was 100% horror, Red Queen is more like 30% and has all the building blocks to make it feel more like the fairytale these stories are based on. Creepy woods that contain unknown creatures that hunt at night, a White Queen and a Black King and the mysterious story of their pasts, magical villages that possess untold rules, a goblin that can fool you with illusions, and giants who were transformed from normal men by a malicious queen. For the majority of this story, Alice is the sole character presence and we get an inside look at her thought process which at first is hesitant and insecure at her ability to do anything on her own. Alice is not only besieged with her personal identity crisis but also with getting a grasp on her magical abilities. The build-up to her gaining confidence is a bit of a plodding process but is a necessity to make her change a realistic one.

The fairytale aspects of this story take center stage when it comes to wrapping up this magical adventure by cleaning up loose ends in a bit of a rapid and unrealistic (but realistic in fairytale standards) style. While I was glad to get a respite from the brutality of the first installment, I think there should have been more included in Red Queen so it felt less like a completely separate story instead of a continuation of the first.Christina Henry certainly knows how to mix up a fairytale and turn it into something awe-inspiring though and I look forward to next reading her take on Peter Pan and Captain Hook in

Christina Henry certainly knows how to mix up a fairytale and turn it into something awe-inspiring though and I look forward to next reading her take on Peter Pan and Captain Hook in Lost Boy.

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Short & Sweet – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, Bad Boy

Posted December 23, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016, Short & Sweet Reviews / 10 Comments

Short & Sweet – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, Bad BoyAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on August 9th 2016
Pages: 346
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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four-stars

A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.

As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It's safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy's family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood's All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.

We meet Wavonna “Wavy” Quinn when she’s only five years old and she’s already experienced far more than any five year old should. Her father Liam is a meth dealer and her mother Val is an addict. Val possesses more than a few neurosis about cleanliness (she tells her she has germs, sticks her fingers down her throat telling her food is dirty, occasionally even throws food out completely forcing Wavy and her younger brother Donal to dig from the trash for their dinners) and subsequently passes these same neurosis onto Wavy. She refuses to eat when others are looking, she doesn’t touch anyone, and refuses to be touched. Until Jesse Joe Kellen. Kellen is a drug runner for Liam but he begins the only one that takes care of Wavy and her brother. As Wavy grows up in her unstable environment, we’re told her story from her point-of-view and various others in her life and we see how her and Kellen’s relationship transforms into something, well, both ugly and wonderful.

I’ve read some questionable books in my time but the idea of romanticizing a relationship between an extremely  young girl (they met when she was just 5) with a twenty-something-year-old man had me saying

For good reason, but damn did Greenwood make it work. The story unfolds over the course of 15 years or so of Wavy’s life and through it all we see the trauma she underwent in her household and how her and Kellen’s relationship ultimately saved them both. I appreciated how much we got to see from Wavy’s point of view because it gave the reader the ability to develop some much needed tolerance. While it may be deemed wrong in the eyes of the law, Wavy had a complete understanding of their less than perfect romance. Setting aside the squick factor that I know is a definite issue, this was a beautiful tale of hard-fought love.

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Short & Sweet – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, Bad BoyThe Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp
Published by Orbit on March 3rd 2016
Pages: 336
Genres: Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Ghoster

four-stars

Jack Sparks died while writing this book. This is the account of his final days.
In 2014, Jack Sparks - the controversial pop culture journalist - died in mysterious circumstances.

To his fans, Jack was a fearless rebel; to his detractors, he was a talentless hack. Either way, his death came as a shock to everyone.

It was no secret that Jack had been researching the occult for his new book. He'd already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed in rural Italy.

Then there was that video: thirty-six seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed - until now. This book, compiled from the files found after his death, reveals the chilling details of Jack's final hours.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is about, well, the last days of Jack Sparks. While researching the occult for his most recent book, he had some mysterious incidents that even he couldn’t explain away. See, even though he was researching the occult, he was actually a professed non-believer of it all and sought to discredit everyone. He attended an actual exorcism and laughed at the experience and then there was the mysterious video that was added onto his personal YouTube channel showing possible proof of an actual ghost. It was a bit downhill for him from there on out.

This story was, for the most part, a mystery and the horror would sneak up on you reminding you of its true genre, but there was quite a lot of humor to balance things out. For the record, I read a lot of horror and this story often left me with my jaw on the ground. Once things really got going and you’re dealing with various different storylines that were confusing yet still managed to make sense, then Arnopp hits you with the twist.

But like, in the best way.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks managed to both shock and impress me despite the loose ends that didn’t quite get resolved to my liking. If you enjoyed A Head Full of Ghosts but were wishing it was a bit more terrifying? This read’s for you.

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Short & Sweet – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, Bad BoyBad Boy by Elliot Wake
Narrator: Randal Marsh
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on December 6th 2016
Pages: 248
Length: 8 hrs and 29 mins
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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two-half-stars

Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus the scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity.

But Ren has been living a double life.

Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as him. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence.

But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for.

Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too.

Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.

Renard Grant is a popular transgender vlogger who is also a vigilante saving terrorized women in his spare time. If your immediate thought is “that’s a bit of a mouthful” you would be right. Grant’s story is a rousing tale of discovering your true identity; something that Wake can speak from the heart about because his emotions shown clearly through the delivery. The transformation process is discussed in much detail and it’s enlightening and informative, shedding light on something with many pre-conceived notions.

I adored Unteachable and while Black Iris and Cam Girl both had their fair share of flaws, there was still much to love and the writing style is something to behold. The issue I had with Bad Boy is there’s simply far too much going on in the few pages there are. There was already enough of a story recounting the experience of transitioning without adding in the concept of a masked vigilante group protecting women. It’s a great concept, the only problem is the transition story View Spoiler » was a far more compelling one and the superfluous addition only caused it to pale in comparison. On top of that, the combination of many of Wake’s previous characters from Black Iris and Cam Girl was overwhelming. Each of her characters can hold their own as the star of the show and having them all grouped together, battling for attention, felt like some sort of all-consuming motley (and not in the best way). Bad Boy is still no doubt well worth the read for the edifying aspect alone.

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Audiobook Review – I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

Posted December 10, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 4 Comments

Audiobook Review – I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain ReidI'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
Narrator: Candace Thaxton
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on June 14th 2016
Pages: 5 hours and 22 minutes
Genres: Horror, Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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two-stars

In this deeply scary and intensely unnerving debut novel, Jake and a woman known only as “The Girlfriend” are on a drive to visit his parents at their secluded farm. But when Jake leaves “The Girlfriend” stranded at an abandoned high school, what follows is a twisted unraveling of the darkest unease, an exploration into psychological frailty, and an ending as suspenseful as The Usual Suspects and as haunting as Misery.

Deeply scary and intensely unnerving, Iain Reid’s debut novel is a tightening spiral of a story about a woman’s uncertainty of her relationship with her boyfriend, Jake. After an uncomfortable and confusing trip to meet Jake’s parents at their isolated farmhouse, reality unravels and events spin out of control when Jake and “The Girlfriend” make an unscheduled stop at an abandoned high school. Part murder mystery, part psychological thriller, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is about doubt, psychological fragility, and the lengths we’ll go to avoid the truth. Twisted as Shutter Island, as suspenseful as Under the Skin and as atmospheric as The Sisters Brothers, Reid’s breakout literary thriller is sure to keep readers guessing until the last page.

‘Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.’

Jake and his girlfriend are traveling to visit his parents, whom she’s meeting for the first time, but on the way there she realizes that she’s thinking of ending things with Jake. Throughout the entirety of the trip, she contemplates her decision, wondering if she should truly go through with it. Her internal monologue remains ambivalent while describing their supposed rare and intense attachment. What exactly would make her suddenly think about ending things remains a mystery. She also touches on strange events from her childhood and a recent individual who has been leaving eerie voicemails that she isn’t sure how to handle. In addition to this are sections interspersed which imply that a crime took place but no clear answer is given. This rehashing of events is an unsettling build-up to a truly baffling finish.

what britney spears confused britney wut

This story had such diverging ratings that I HAD to try this, even if it turned out to be horrendous. Sometimes you just gotta see for yourself because you never really know. Well, my rating pretty much speaks for itself. I didn’t hate it but I clearly didn’t love it. The narration of this audiobook succeeded in making this one a manageable read and bumped up my rating from a mere 1 star. Her character voices were easily able to differentiate including Jack’s male voice. The individual that was leaving the eerie voicemails was described as having an effeminate voice and while the voicemails themselves were meant to spook the reader, Candace Thaxton’s production of these particular scenes were the most eerie part. (See below for an audio clip.) In terms of the “mystery”, it relies heavily on creating a build up of intrigue (and an immense amount of bait-and-switch tactics) to get you to the twist of an ending. Enough is revealed by our narrator via her stream of conscious depiction of events, but you can tell from early on that she’s not being exactly forthcoming in the details. Something is being omitted; there’s a missing piece of the puzzle. If you didn’t already detect the cryptic nature of our narrator, the fact that she isn’t ever identified, she remains nameless the entirety of the novel, should be a flashing warning sign.

‘Both fictions and memories are recalled and retold. They’re both forms of stories. Stories are the way we learn. Stories are how we understand each other.’

Admittedly, the beginning was fairly adequate even though there was that feeling of a forced air of mystery. As more is revealed, it’s hard to see what direction this story is headed in but it’s enough to still leave you curious. But then the weirdness sets in. She asks Jake questions which he ignores completely as if she never even spoke, he gives her a tour of the farm View Spoiler » instead of going immediately into the house to see his parents whom they traveled hours to see, his idea to stop at a Dairy Queen while there’s an ongoing blizzard outside, and most especially was his insistence that they detour down an unplowed road because he thinks there’s a school down there with most likely a trash can because he has to throw away his melting lemonade cup before the cup holders get sticky.

wtf confused huh jenna marbles what the fuck

This sudden lack of sense was an immediate disconnect from the mystery because I knew that something fishy was going on. Nothing seemed logical and clearly everything that was happening had to be questioned to the nth degree. Regardless of my confusion, the ending could have delivered a spectacular twist that had me praising the authors ingenuity… but not in this case. The ending clears up all questions without being thrown some curve ball twist you never saw coming. Thinking back over the entirety of this short novel, you can see hints at the reveal that was to come, but that doesn’t make it any more satisfying. In truth, the ending is a bit too orderly for how convoluted this novel is presented and while the introductory build-up had me immediately hooked, the end result was anticlimactic.

‘Maybe the end was written right from the beginning.’

1986 jeff goldblum geena davis the fly this is it

 

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Waiting on Wednesday – Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Posted November 9, 2016 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 3 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Universal Harvester by John DarnielleUniversal Harvester by John Darnielle
on February 7th 2017
Pages: 224
Genres: Horror, Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
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Life in a small town takes a dark turn when mysterious footage begins appearing on VHS cassettes at the local Video Hut

Jeremy works at the counter of Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa. It’s a small town—the first “a” in the name is pronounced ay—smack in the center of the state. This is the late 1990s, pre-DVD, and the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut. But there are regular customers, a predictable rush in the late afternoon. It’s good enough for Jeremy: It’s a job; it’s quiet and regular; he gets to watch movies; he likes the owner, Sarah Jane; it gets him out of the house, where he and his dad try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.

But when Stephanie Parsons, a local schoolteacher, comes in to return her copy of Targets, starring Boris Karloff—an old movie, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the store—she has an odd complaint: “There’s something on it,” she says, but doesn’t elaborate. Two days later, Lindsey Redinius brings back She’s All That, a new release, and complains that there’s something wrong with it: “There’s another movie on this tape.”

So Jeremy takes a look. And indeed, in the middle of the movie the screen blink dark for a moment and She’s All That is replaced by a black-and-white scene, shot in a barn, with only the faint sounds of someone breathing. Four minutes later, She’s All That is back. But there is something profoundly disturbing about that scene; Jeremy’s compelled to watch it three or four times. The scenes recorded onto Targets are similar, undoubtedly created by the same hand. Creepy. And the barn looks a lot like a barn just outside of town.

Jeremy doesn’t want to be curious. In truth, it freaks him out, deeply. This has gone far enough, maybe too far already. But Stephanie is pushing, and once Sarah Jane takes a look and becomes obsessed, there’s no more ignoring the disturbing scenes on the videos. And all of a sudden, what had once been the placid, regular old Iowa fields and farmhouses now feels haunted and threatening, imbued with loss and instability and profound foreboding. For Jeremy, and all those around him, life will never be the same . . .

About John Darnielle

John Darnielle is an American musician, best known as the primary (and often solitary) member of the American band the Mountain Goats, for which he is the writer, composer, guitarist, pianist and vocalist.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Waiting on Wednesday – Black Mad Wheel: A Novel by Josh Malerman

Posted November 2, 2016 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 3 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Black Mad Wheel: A Novel by Josh MalermanBlack Mad Wheel: A Novel by Josh Malerman
Published by Ecco on May 23rd 2017
Pages: 304
Genres: Mystery, Horror
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: Bird Box, Black Mad Wheel, Unbury Carol

From the author of the hit literary horror debut Bird Box (”Hitchcockian.” —USA Today) comes a chilling novel about a group of musicians conscripted by the US government to track down the source of a strange and debilitating sound

The Danes—the band known as the “Darlings of Detroit”—are washed up and desperate for inspiration, eager to once again have a number one hit. That is, until an agent from the US Army approaches them. Will they travel to an African desert and track down the source of a mysterious and malevolent sound? Under the guidance of their front man, Philip Tonka, the Danes embark on a harrowing journey through the scorching desert—a trip that takes Tonka into the heart of an ominous and twisted conspiracy.
Meanwhile, in a nondescript Midwestern hospital, a nurse named Ellen tends to a patient recovering from a near-fatal accident. The circumstances that led to his injuries are mysterious-and his body heals at a remarkable rate. Ellen will do the impossible for this enigmatic patient, who reveals more about his accident with each passing day.

Part Heart of Darkness, part Lost, Josh Malerman’s breathtaking new novel plunges us into the depths of psychological horror, where you can’t always believe everything you hear.

About Josh Malerman

FUN FACTS ABOUT JOSH

1. Shares a birthday with Amelia Earhart
Is the middle child
2. At 12, got stung on the face by a jellyfish after father convinced him the ocean was safe
3. The Twilight Zone: The Movie was the first horror film he saw
4. Almost always writes as horror movie soundtracks play on the record player (The Howling, Poltergeist, and Zombi 2 are great, but Creepshow is best)
5. Sings for the rock n’ roll band The High Strung
6. Wrote/performs the theme song for Showtime’s Shameless (starring William H. Macy)
7. Has only read two books twice: William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and Stephen King’s The Shining
8. Is a member of the Detroit Zoo
9. Lives with his fianceé (whose head he recently shaved) in Royal Oak, Michigan

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I adored Malerman’s debut Bird Box and I’ve been anxiously awaiting more from him. This one certainly sounds intriguing!

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Ominous October – Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror by Ellen Datlow

Posted October 31, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 / 0 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Ominous October – Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror by Ellen DatlowNightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror by Ellen Datlow
Published by Tachyon Publications on November 1st 2016
Pages: 432
Genres: Horror
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Unlucky thieves invade a house where Home Alone seems like a playground romp. An antique bookseller and a mob enforcer join forces to retrieve the Atlas of Hell. Postapocalyptic survivors cannot decide which is worse: demon women haunting the skies or maddened extremists patrolling the earth.

In this chilling twenty-first-century companion to the cult classic Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror, Ellen Datlow again proves herself the most masterful editor of the genre. She has mined the breadth and depth of ten years of terror, collecting superlative works of established masters and scene-stealing newcomers alike.

grey-review

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror is the newest addition to prolific editor Ellen Datlow’s catalog. This anthology combines a wide range of genres; everything from the every-day contemporary horror, paranormal horror, to end of the world horror. The variety manages to add depth to the collection as a whole and keeps the reader guessing in terms of what to expect next. There is easily something in here for everyone.

This collection is comprised of many big-name authors such as Margo Lanagan (Tender Morsels), Dan Chaon (Await Your Reply), Caitlin R. Kiernan (The Drowning Girl), Garth Nix (Sabriel), and Richard Kadrey (Sandman Slim). “The Goosle” by Margo Lanagan is a disturbing retelling of the Hansel and Gretel fairytale involving cannibalism, “How We Escaped Our Certain Fate” by Dan Chaon is a horror-light but is a bleak look at how our world could be if zombies rose, “Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)” by Caitlin R. Kiernan is the story of twins on a murderous rampage, “Shay Corsham Worsted” by Garth Nix is an interesting bit of contemporary paranormal that I wanted more of, and “Ambitious Boys Like You” by Richard Kadrey is the last and most terrifying story of the bunch. Other notable titles: “Our Turn Too Will One Day Come” by Brian Hodge is about the uncovering of horrifying family secrets, “That Tiny Flutter of the Heart I Used to Call Love” by Robert Shearman is a terrifying tale of dolls, and “Lonegan’s Luck” by Stephen Graham Jones is a tale of zombies and your luck running out.

Each of these short stories were hand-picked from anthologies from the last ten years in order to showcase a complete decade worth of horror. While the bulk of these stories were enjoyable in a horrifying way, there were a few that simply didn’t work as much as the others. All in all, this was a solid collection that certainly lived up to the title. These stories come off as fragmented, possessing a hazy, dream-like quality where it’s unclear what is real and what is mere fantasy. But isn’t that what nightmares are all about?

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Ominous October + #Giveaway! The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) by Jonathan Stroud

Posted October 28, 2016 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Giveaways, Read in 2016, YA / 8 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Ominous October + #Giveaway! The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) by Jonathan StroudThe Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co., #4
on September 13th 2016
Pages: 464
Genres: Horror
Format: Hardcover
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy

four-stars

After leaving Lockwood & Co. at the end of The Hollow Boy, Lucy is a freelance operative, hiring herself out to agencies that value her ever-improving skills. One day she is pleasantly surprised by a visit from Lockwood, who tells her he needs a good Listener for a tough assignment. Penelope Fittes, the leader of the giant Fittes Agency wants them--and only them--to locate and remove the Source for the legendary Brixton Cannibal. They succeed in their very dangerous task, but tensions remain high between Lucy and the other agents. Even the skull in the jar talks to her like a jilted lover. What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving Steve Rotwell and Penelope Fittes just may do the trick. But, in a shocking cliffhanger ending, the team learns that someone has been manipulating them all along. . . .

About Jonathan Stroud

Jonathan Anthony Stroud is an author of fantasy books, mainly for children and youths.

Jonathan grew up in St Albans where he enjoyed reading books, drawing pictures, and writing stories. Between the ages seven and nine he was often ill, so he spent most of his days in the hospital or in his bed at home. To escape boredom he would occupy himself with books and stories. After he completed his studies of English literature at the University of York, he worked in London as an editor for the Walker Books store. He worked with different types of books there and this soon led to the writing of his own books. During the 1990s, he started publishing his own works and quickly gained success.

Jonathan is the author of the bestselling Bartimaeus Trilogy as well as Lockwood & Co. from Disney-Hyperion.

Lockwood & Co. Series

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase//Review]
The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase//Review]
The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase//Review/

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After an ominous glimpse at the future, Lucy decided it was best to part ways with Lockwood & Co. She transformed herself practically overnight into a successful freelance agent (with the help of the talking skull in a jar that she carries around with her) that have many vying for her services. When a knock on her door early one morning brings Lockwood back into her life, requesting her services in a most important job, she struggles to decide which is the right path for her.  Lucy begins to realize though that the premonition she foresaw for Lockwood just might happen with or without her presence. The jobs the group takes on though continue to increase in the risk involved and Lucy realizes she’d be hard-pressed to say no to the opportunity to work alongside him and the group once again.

‘It was a bit annoying not being able to sleep, but it was a change being kept up by moral conundrums rather than Wraiths and Specters. Doubts, like ghosts, gain strength in darkness; even with the dawn I wasn’t sure I’d done the right thing.’

While Lucy’s apprehension about re-joining the group, albeit temporarily, was understandable, I sure did love to see the gang all back together. Lucy, Lockwood, and George always had a fantastic team dynamic and the addition of Holly in The Hollow Boy did cause things to go somewhat askew but fortunately that wasn’t for good. Holly has become a full-fledged, active member of the team, her and Lucy have repaired their personal rift, and she even briefly shows a bit of her badass side much to my satisfaction. Skull still manages to keep his spot secured as my favorite character of the bunch though, despite his partial absence in this tale. His snarky commentary is so very comical.

You’ve got a good thing going here,” the skull said. “It’s called independence. Don’t throw it away. And, speaking of throwing things away – your dress. Too tight.
“You think so? It looks all right to me.”
You’re only looking at the front, love.
An altercation ensued here.

What with Skull’s partial absence, George stepped in as a suitable replacement for the time being.

“George.”
“What?”
“We’ve got to destroy the circle. That monster flare of yours. Now might be just the time for it.”
“What? Big Brenda?”
“You’ve given it a name?”
“I’ve grown kind of attached to her.”

When the group begins investigating why someone could be stealing powerful sources, this leads them to convoluted conspiracies, ghostly experiments, and all sorts of danger. Stroud still manages to deliver on the creepy too. Extremely unnerving lines that’ll make your eyes widen from unseen horrors. I loved seeing Lucy operating successfully solo but it was such a joy to see her back with the team again. Stroud leaves us with yet another stunner of a cliffhanger that will leave fans of this series both anxious and nervous for future dangers in store for the team.

‘There are many new questions to answer, and our investigations have only just begun.’

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Thanks to the wonderful individuals over at Disney-Hyperion, I have a most excellent prize pack to giveaway! One winner will receive the Lockwood & Co. series. (all 4 books!) and a pumpkin-carving kit to get into the Halloween spirit!

Leave a comment expressing your interest in this story to enter!

This giveaway is open to US residents only and will end on November 11th, 2016.

prizepack

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Waiting on Wednesday – Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

Posted October 26, 2016 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 7 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuireDusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire
Published by Tor on January 10th 2017
Pages: 176
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Horror
Format: Paperback
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Indexing, Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation

A thrilling and atmospheric story of a ghost trying to make things right from the author of Every Heart a Doorway.

When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline while dodging meddlesome witches.

But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.

About Seanan McGuire

Seanan is the author of the October Daye urban fantasies, the InCryptid urban fantasies, and several other works both stand-alone and in trilogies or duologies. In case that wasn't enough, she also writes under the pseudonym "Mira Grant." For details on her work as Mira, check out MiraGrant.com.

Seanan lives in a creaky old farmhouse in Northern California, which she shares with her cats, Alice and Thomas, a vast collection of creepy dolls and horror movies, and sufficient books to qualify her as a fire hazard. She has strongly-held and oft-expressed beliefs about the origins of the Black Death, the X-Men, and the need for chainsaws in daily life.

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This sounds fascinating. Always love a good combination of Urban Fantasy and Horror.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Ominous October – The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics

Posted October 22, 2016 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2016, YA / 0 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Ominous October – The Women in the Walls by Amy LukavicsThe Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
Published by Harlequin Teen on September 27th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


two-stars

Lucy Acosta's mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They're inseparable—a family.

When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she's ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother's voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin's sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.

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“The girl lives in a beautiful dollhouse made of stone, […] But underneath her shining plastic smile, there are only screams.”

Lucy Acosta lives in her family’s estate, home-schooled, with only her cousin Margaret for company. Her father is a constant absence but her Aunt Penelope is their main caretaker. After Walter, the cook, commits suicide, her Aunt Penelope walks into the woods and disappears without a trace, and Margaret says she’s hearing voices in the walls, Lucy has no one to turn to. Lucy’s hold on her mental stability is fragile and her answer to hardship is to sequester herself in her room with a razor. She begins to realize though that no one else seems to grasp the seriousness of the issues going on and that it’s up to her alone to battle whatever evil resides within her home.

With a blurb essentially guaranteeing you sleepless nights, the story unfortunately felt lifeless, causing the intended terror to be nothing more than a distant mirage. The characters appear as mere caricatures without any solid background development to help the reader feel sympathetic to their plight. The lack of backstory is an enormous issue too with a complete lack of “connecting dots” that are clearly meant to be make this story more mysterious but ends up just not making sense half the time. What seemed to be a Gothic Victorian period piece ended up being the modern equivalent when the slang being used (“That promise sure lasted a hot minute.”) and the random sprinkling of curse words  were taken into account. I really wish I had more nice things to say about this because I was genuinely excited for this story, alas, I wasn’t impressed by much until the very end and by then it was merely too little, too late.

Combining the uncertainty of your own sanity (The Yellow Wallpaper) with a gothic mansion and paranormal entities (The Haunting of Hill House), The Women in the Walls had potential to terrify but fell short of hitting the mark.

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The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase//Review]
Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna #1) by Kendare Blake [Purchase//Review]
Long Lankin (Long Lankin #1) by Lindsey Barraclough [Purchase//Review]

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Waiting on Wednesday – Ararat by Christopher Golden

Posted October 19, 2016 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 3 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Ararat by Christopher GoldenArarat by Christopher Golden
Published by St. Martin's Press on April 18th 2017
Pages: 320
Genres: Horror
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Snowblind

New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden’s supernatural thriller about a mountain adventure that quickly turns into a horrific nightmare of biblical proportions.

Fans of Dan Simmons’ The Terror will love Ararat, the thrilling tale of an adventure that goes awry. When a newly engaged couple climbs Mount Ararat in Turkey, an avalanche forces them to seek shelter inside a massive cave uncovered by the snow fall. The cave is actually an ancient, buried ship that many quickly come to believe is really Noah’s Ark. When a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark for the first time, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses. The artifact tempts their professional curiosity; so they break it open. Inside, they find an ugly, misshapen cadaver—not the holy man that they expected, a hideous creature with horns. A massive blizzard blows in, trapping them in that cave thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain…but they are not alone.

About Christopher Golden

CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN is the New York Times bestselling author of such novels as Snowblind, Tin Men, The Myth Hunters, Wildwood Road, The Boys Are Back in Town, The Ferryman, Strangewood, and Of Saints and Shadows. He has also written books for teens and young adults, including Poison Ink, Soulless, and the thriller series Body of Evidence, honored by the New York Public Library and chosen as one of YALSA's Best Books for Young Readers.

Golden co-wrote the illustrated novel Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire with Mike Mignola, which became the launching pad for the cult favorite comics series Baltimore. As an editor, he has worked on the short story anthologies Seize the Night, The New Dead, and The Monster's Corner, among others, and has also written and co-written comic books, video games, screenplays, a BBC radio play, the online animated series Ghosts of Albion (with Amber Benson), and a network television pilot.

Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family. His original novels have been published in more than fourteen languages in countries around the world. Please visit him at www.christophergolden.com

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There’s something truly terrifying about blizzards in general but add in some randomly discovered coffin with a horned creature inside?

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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