Genre: Horror

Ominous October – Dead Souls by J. Lincoln Fenn

Posted October 8, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2016 / 3 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 – Dead Souls by J. Lincoln FennDead Souls by J. Lincoln Fenn
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on September 20th 2016
Length: 9 hours and 30 minutes
Genres: Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Poe

four-stars

From the award-winning author of the acclaimed novel Poe comes an edgy and bone-chilling new novel.

When Fiona Dunn is approached in a bar by a man who claims he's the devil, she figures it's just some kind of postmodern-slash-ironic pickup line. But a few drinks in, he offers her a wish in exchange for her immortal soul, and in addition Fiona must perform a special favor for him whenever the time comes. Fiona finds the entire matter so absurd that she agrees. Bad idea. Not only does Fiona soon discover that she really was talking to the devil incarnate, but she's now been initiated into a bizarre support group of similar "dead souls" - those who have done the same thing as Fiona on a whim and who must spend their waking hours in absolute terror of that favor eventually being called in...and what exactly is required from each of them in order to give the devil his due.

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Imagine witnessing your boyfriend get into a taxi with another woman after he tells you he’s leaving town on a business trip. You head to the bar to get trashed only to end up unintentionally selling your soul to a man named Scratch, who also claims to be the devil, for a single wish. There’s also the matter of the future favor he’ll be calling in when you least expect it. Bad freaking night. Fiona Dunn is an atheist and doesn’t believe it’s at all impossible, but when clear evidence to the contrary rears its ugly head, she’s determined to find a way out of the deal. Once she discovers that there are far more “dead souls” than just her in Oakland, California, she winds up becoming a new member of a support group for all who continue to walk this Earth, minus a soul. But as time passes, the Devil starts calling in his favors, and they end up being far more horrifying than they ever would have anticipated.

Out of all the wishes Fiona could have made, she made the wish to be truly invisible, to be able to witness all the things she otherwise would have missed. In exchange, she gets a business card with the date she sold her soul burnt into it and a blank space below “Favor.” Once the Devil calls in his favor, instructions will appear and you won’t be able to say no. And this is the part where the otherwise mysterious tale turns dark and gruesome. Very, very dark and gruesome. It is suggested that the mass shootings and otherwise horrifyingly violent acts that have occurred in the past (and even hinting at current events) are nothing more than the Devil calling his favor, performing violent acts in his name. I specifically enjoyed how the author manages to make this story very much set in the real world yet incorporating the paranormal aspects in such a way to make it all seem scarily conceivable.

The story is written in first person which gives it that distressing sense of urgency as Fiona frantically tries to come up with a plan to give out of the disaster she finds herself in. The beginning of the story delves into Fiona’s career as a marketing executive and it’s not until later you realize how relevant it all is in the grand scheme of things. A marketing executive is akin to a salesman and Fiona is determined to sell her plan to the Devil, just as she were to sell an idea to a client, except this time her very soul is at stake.

More horrifying than terrifying, but still immensely satisfying. Fenn knocks it out of the park with this delightfully macabre tale of horror.

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Horns by Joe Hill [Purchase]
The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman [Purchase//Review]
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay [Purchase//Review]

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Early Review – The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

Posted July 29, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 / 1 Comment

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.

Early Review – The Language of Dying by Sarah PinboroughThe Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough
Published by Jo Fletcher Books on August 2nd 2016
Pages: 144
Genres: Magical Realism, Horror
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Mayhem, Murder, Behind Her Eyes

three-stars

In this emotionally gripping, genre-defying novella from Sarah Pinborough, a woman sits at her father's bedside, watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters--she is the middle child of five--have all turned up over the past week to pay their last respects. Each is traumatized in his or her own way, and the bonds that unite them to each other are fragile--as fragile perhaps as the old man's health.

With her siblings all gone, back to their self-obsessed lives, she is now alone with the faltering wreck of her father's cancer-ridden body. It is always at times like this when it--the dark and nameless, the impossible, presence that lingers along the fringes of the dark fields beyond the house--comes calling.

As the clock ticks away in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her, a reunion she both dreads and aches for...

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‘There is a language to dying. It creeps like a shadow alongside the passing years and the taste of it hides in the corners of our mouths. It finds us whether we are sick or healthy. It is a secret hushed thing that lives in the whisper of the nurses’ skirts as they rustle up and down our stairs. They’ve taught me to face the language one syllable at a time, slowing creating an unwilling meaning.’

The Language of Dying is a multi-genre novella which tells the story of a dying father and his five children that come together to be with him in his final moments. Blending a contemporary tale of family life with aspects of magical realism and horror, Sarah Pinborough focuses on an unnamed narrator, the middle child of five who has been the one to remain home and care for her father once he realized that cancer was ravaging his body. It’s not until she receives word that her father has mere days to live do her siblings finally return to pay their respects, leaving it up to her to handle things until they can no longer say no. Her siblings have always found her to be something of an odd duck, always has her head in the clouds, but not only is she constantly haunted by a creature she once saw out her bedroom window but of the darkened past that she keeps hidden while is continues to consume her.

‘A black horn grows twisted from between its eye, a thick, deformed, calloused thing, a tree root erupting from the earthy ground of its forehead, the matt texture oppositional to the sweaty shine on its dark hide. I stare at it and our souls meet. It is power and anger and beauty and nature rolled into something other-worldly, waging a war with the night on its four thick hooves.’

The magical realism/horror aspects of this novel were initially curious yet ultimately left me perplexed. The novella mainly centers around the narrators relationship with her father and her siblings as well as her own tragically distressing story that has changed her as a person. Bouncing between past and present tense, the story is a nostalgic one, recalling past times with both fondness and animosity. The inclusion of the fantasy aspect, oddly, never seemed out of place in this contemporary story yet felt mostly like a metaphor that I never fully understood. The Language of Dying is an outlandish yet beautifully written story that effectively illustrates the power of grief and the indelible mark it leaves on us.

 ‘Sometimes there are just too many words filling up space and not enough emptiness left for thinking. I keep a little emptiness inside for when I need it.’

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Audiobook Review – End of Watch (Bill Hodges Trilogy #3) by Stephen King

Posted June 16, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 5 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.

Audiobook Review – End of Watch (Bill Hodges Trilogy #3) by Stephen KingEnd of Watch by Stephen King
Narrator: Will Patton
Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy #3
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on June 7th 2016
Length: 12 hours and 54 minutes
Genres: Horror, Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Doctor Sleep, Cujo, Pet Sematary

four-stars

Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney, who delivered the blow to Hartsfield's head that put him on the brain injury ward. Brady also remembers that. When Bill and Holly are called to a murder-suicide with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put not only their lives at risk, but those of Hodges’s friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Because Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Bill Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the supernatural suspense that has been his trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and up-all-night entertainment.

Bill Hodges Trilogy

Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1) [PurchaseReview]
Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #2) [Purchase]

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Seven years have passed since Brady Hartsfield drove a stolen Mercedes through a crowd of people, killing many, and paralyzing one survivor by the name of Martine Stover. Despite her disability, she still lives a peaceful life with her mother who is her primary caregiver. That is until the day the police are called to her residence in what appears to be a murder/suicide, but is in all actuality anything but. This crime has Brady Hartsfield written all over it, but he’s in a mostly vegetative state in the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, how could such a thing even be possible? But when more and more suicides begin popping up, the only thing that connects them is Brady and Bill Hodges just might be the only one that could believe such an impossibility.

“End of watch is what they call it, but Hodges himself has found it impossible to give up watching.”

The gang is all back together for one last hurrah: Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson. Hodges and Holly were doing their fair share of investigating the strange evidence piling up around the recent increase of suicides, but it’s not until one of these attempted suicides hits close to home that the ante has been upped. Despite the impossibility of Brady being the backstage conductor, readers that have been with this series from the beginning will have been given a glimpse at where King was heading at the end of Finders Keepers. Mr. Mercedes, the first installment, seemed to at first be a bit of a departure from King’s typical style, going for your basic mystery/detective thriller, yet slowly but surely he deftly infused it with his trademark supernatural horror. Whether it’s due to the blow that Holly landed or the experimental drugs being delivered by his doctor, Brady has developed the ability to influence the minds of others. With his technological genius, he manages to find a way to increase the way he spreads his infectious thoughts so that he can finally commit the massive crime he was prevented from carrying out before.

Despite the fact that King doesn’t fully flesh out the supernatural aspects of the novel, it doesn’t take much suspension of disbelief for it to still work. The powerful effects of video games are evident in society even without the supernatural aspects involved and King uses this to bring that effectiveness to life in this novel of horror. Suffice it to say, the cover may have been intriguing before reading the story, but after? You won’t want to maintain eye contact for long. And this song is definitely ruined. So, King subsequently ruined the ice cream man and a Mickey Mouse song in one fell swoop with this series. A most impressive feat.

The initial working title for this book was The Suicide Prince and while I was disappointed when it was announced it would actually be End of Watch instead, it’s so much more fitting. King didn’t disappoint with this ending, not leaving us hanging with unresolved questions but not coating the ending in unlikely perfection. I may have started this trilogy skeptical that King could pull off a convincing mystery but by the end I’m hoping that he experiments with this genre more in the future.

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Waiting on Wednesday – Mirror Image: A Novel by Michael Scott & Melanie Ruth Rose

Posted June 15, 2016 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 5 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Mirror Image: A Novel by Michael Scott & Melanie Ruth RoseMirror Image: A Novel by Michael Scott, Melanie Ruth Rose
Published by Tor on August 23rd 2016
Pages: 352
Genres: Horror
Format: Hardcover
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A mirror that feeds on human souls wreaks destruction on those around it in Mirror Image, the new novel from internationally bestselling author Michael Scott and Melanie Ruth Rose.

In an auction house in London, there is a mirror no one will buy. Standing seven feet tall and reaching four feet across, its size makes it unusual. Its horrific powers make it extraordinary. For centuries, the mirror has fed off of the lives of humans, giving them agonizing deaths and sucking their souls into its hellish world.

When Jonathan Frazer, the wealthy owner of a furniture and antiques shop in Los Angeles, buys the mirror at an auction, he believes he is getting the bargain of a lifetime. With its age and size, it is easily worth eight times what he paid for it. At this point, the mirror has sat dormant for years. But within days of Jonathan's purchase, the deaths begin again. One employee is crushed when the mirror falls on top of him. A few days later, the corpse of another is found in front of the mirror, brutally stabbed. A third is burned beyond all recognition. All the while, an enormous man with a scarred face is following Jonathan, demanding that he give him the mirror and killing any police officer that gets in his way.

The police are becoming desperate. As the death toll rises, Jonathan himself becomes a suspect. He knows there is something wrong with the mirror. He knows it's dangerous. But he cannot bring himself to get rid of it. Everyday he becomes more captivated by the mirror.

For the mirror is awakening, and its powers are resurfacing.

About Michael Scott

Irish-born Michael Scott began writing over thirty years ago, and is one of Ireland's most successful and prolific authors, with over one hundred titles to his credit, spanning a variety of genres, including Fantasy, Science Fiction and Folklore.

He writes for both adults and young adults and is published in thirty-seven countries, in over twenty languages.

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“A mirror that feeds on human souls”

WELL THEN. That sounds delightful. 😂

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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Audiobook Review – Different Seasons by Stephen King

Posted June 3, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 1 Comment

Audiobook Review – Different Seasons by Stephen KingDifferent Seasons by Stephen King
Narrator: Frank Muller
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on August 27th 1982
Length: 19 hours and 49 minutes
Genres: Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Doctor Sleep, Cujo, Pet Sematary

four-stars

A “hypnotic” (The New York Times Book Review) collection of four novellas from Stephen King bound together by the changing of seasons, each taking on the theme of a journey with strikingly different tones and characters.

“The wondrous readability of his work, as well as the instant sense of communication with his characters, are what make Stephen King the consummate storyteller that he is,” hailed the Houston Chronicle about Different Seasons.

This gripping collection begins with “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” in which an unjustly imprisoned convict seeks a strange and startling revenge—the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award-nominee The Shawshank Redemption. Next is “Apt Pupil,” the inspiration for the film of the same name about top high school student Todd Bowden and his obsession with the dark and deadly past of an older man in town. In “The Body,” four rambunctious young boys plunge through the façade of a small town and come face-to-face with life, death, and intimations of their own mortality. This novella became the movie Stand By Me. Finally, a disgraced woman is determined to triumph over death in “The Breathing Method.”

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Different Seasons was King’s first Short Story publication which came out in the summer of 1982. In his Afterword, King gives us a brief glimpse into how this collection came about even though he originally never intended them to be published. All were written following the completion of a novel: The Body was written after Salem’s Lot, Apt Pupil was written after The Shining and he said he didn’t write again after that for 3 months, Shawshank Redemption was written after The Dead Zone, and The Breathing Method was written after Firestarter. Each story is clearly different than anything King had put out at that point, and it was just as his editor at the time feared. “First the telekinetic girl, then vampires, now the haunted hotel and the telepathic kid. You’re gonna get typed.” Typed as in, “horror writer”. It’s funny to think at this point in Stephen King’s career that he not only worried about being typed as nothing but a horror writer, but that he worried he wouldn’t be able to make a living writing horror. All four of these stories are between 25,000 and 35,000 words which is what King refers to as “a really terrible place, an anarchy-ridden literary banana republic called the ‘novella'”. Since these novellas weren’t his typical horror and were considered more mainstream, they weren’t exactly marketable, yet somehow King still managed to make it happen.

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (Hope Springs Eternal) tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who in 1948 is wrongly convicted of killing his wife and her lover. It’s narrated by “Red” Ellis who is also in prison for life for killing his wife, except he wasn’t wrongly convicted. As the years pass, Andy’s story is relayed and despite everything he’s forced to suffer through, his resilience means his spirit won’t break. It’s a hopeful and unforgettable tale of perseverance that is most admirable, just as Kings subtitle suggests. This was by far my favorite of this series.

Apt Pupil (Summer of Corruption) is the story of thirteen-year-old Todd Bowden who, after becoming fixated on the horrifying details of World War II, discovers that his neighbor is fugitive Nazi war criminal who’s real name is Kurt Dussander. Todd forces him to divulge the stories of his involvement which subsequently drives them both mad from the horrors. The slowly spiraling mental state of both characters is truly terrifying to watch unfold. Who said there isn’t real horror in reality?

The Body (Fall From Innocence) recalls the events of a childhood adventure where a group of boys set out to see a dead body. Fall From Innocence is a fitting depiction for the transformation that these boys underwent by taking this journey, starting out simply innocent and curious. “He was a boy our age, he was dead, and I rejected the idea that anything about it could be natural; I pushed it away with horror.” It was a jarring realization of their own mortality and the loss of their adolescence. This was the most compelling tale of the collection that went beyond entertainment with its resonance of truth.

The Breathing Method (A Winter’s Tale) is certainly the closest to horror that King gets in this collection. Within the darkened walls of a private Manhattan club, ghost stories are told at Christmas. Sandra Stansfield is single and pregnant in the 1930s, yet despite the public snubs she receives, she’s determined to have the child no matter what. Her doctor, Dr. McCarron, teaches her what is now known as Lamaze even though it was frowned upon during that time period, and is what leads to the apex of this horrifying tale and completion of this collection.

Even though this collection of stories weren’t my favorite of King, I appreciated them for what they meant to show: another side to a typed horror author. While these weren’t true horror, elements of horror still manage to crop up in one-way shape or form in all of his tales, and that’s okay. King leaves us with a final note:

“I hope that you liked them, Reader; that they did for you what any good story should do—make you forget the real stuff weighing on your mind for a little while and take you away to a place you’ve never been. It’s the most amiable sort of magic I know.”

 They did, Mr. King. They definitely did.

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Waiting on Wednesday – The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) by Jonathan Stroud

Posted May 18, 2016 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 2 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) by Jonathan StroudThe Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #4
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 13th 2016
Pages: 464
Genres: Ghosties, Horror
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy

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.

It’s rare that I’m able to keep up with series releases these days but these books are so damn good that I’m willing to drop everything when a new one comes out. The summary kills me though. ANOTHER cliffhanger?! Stroud, come on man. You’re killing me.

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 – The Graveyard Apartment: A Novel by Mariko Koike

Posted May 11, 2016 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 2 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The Graveyard Apartment: A Novel by Mariko KoikeThe Graveyard Apartment: A Novel by Mariko Koike
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on October 11th 2016
Pages: 336
Genres: Horror
Format: Hardcover
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A terrifying tale of a young family who moves into an apartment building next to a graveyard, and the horrors that are unleashed upon them.

One of the most popular writers working in Japan today, Mariko Koike is a recognized master of detective fiction and horror writing. Known in particular for her hybrid works that blend these styles with elements of romance, The Graveyard Apartment is arguably Koike’s masterpiece. Originally published in Japan in 1986, Koike’s novel is the suspenseful tale of a young family that believes it has found the perfect home to grow into, only to realize that the apartment’s idyllic setting harbors the specter of evil and that the longer they stay, the more trapped they become.

This tale of a young married couple who harbor a dark secret is packed with dread and terror, as they and their daughter move into a brand new apartment building built next to a graveyard. As strange and terrifying occurrences begin to pile up, people in the building start to move out one by one, until the young family is left alone with someone... or something... lurking in the basement. The psychological horror builds moment after moment, scene after scene, culminating with a conclusion that will make you think twice before ever going into a basement again.

About Mariko Koike

Mariko Koike graduated from the Department of Literature at Tokyo’s Seikei University, then worked as an editor at a publishing firm before quitting to become a freelance writer. In 1978 her essay collection Chiteki akujo no susume (On Being an Intellectual Woman of the World) was a huge bestseller, and overnight she became a darling of the mass media. She subsequently turned to fiction, making her debut as a novelist in 1985. She won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Short Stories in 1989 for her collection Tsuma no onna tomodachi (My Wife’s Girlfriends). Though she initially established herself as a master of horror and suspense, her writing style underwent a transformation during the nineties as she began producing love stories influenced by the work of Yukio Mishima, including Mubansō (tr. A Cappella), Koi (Love; winner of the 1995 Naoki Prize), and Yokubō (Desire; winner of the 1998 Shimase Award for Love Stories), often referred to as her “love trilogy.” She was awarded the Shibata Renzaburō Award in 2006 for her novel Niji no kanata (Beyond the Rainbow), the MEXT Award for the Arts in 2012 for Ichijiku no mori (Fig Forest), and the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature in 2013 for Chinmoku no hito (The Silent One). Besides having a very deep backlist of top-notch entertainments, she is also known as a master of the short story and has published many collections, including Minazuki no haka (June Grave) and Yoru no nezame (Waking in the Night). She is married to fellow writer Yoshinaga Fujita.

This is an old one (originally published in 1986) that is only just now being translated and made available in the United States. Sounds damn creepy though and extremely good.

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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Early Review – The Fireman: A Novel by Joe Hill

Posted May 10, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 / 2 Comments

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

Early Review – The Fireman: A Novel by Joe HillThe Fireman: A Novel by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow on May 17th 2016
Pages: 608
Genres: Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: NOS4A2, Twittering from the Circus of the Dead, Strange Weather

three-half-stars

From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman.

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

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“There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out. Of course, I suppose everyone ALWAYS dies in the middle of a good story, in a sense. Your own story. Or the story of your grandchildren. Death is a raw deal for narrative junkies.”

In my opinion, post-apocalyptic fiction could easily be considered a sub-genre of horror so it only makes sense for Joe Hill to be tackling it. In Hill’s version of the apocalypse, the world has drastically changed after a spore begins spreading that is quite literally burning everything (and everyone) to the ground. It’s known as Draco Incendia Trychophyton, or more commonly known as Dragonscale. The infected show signs on their skin in black and gold dragon scales which could be considered beautiful were it not for the fact it causes people, and those in close proximity, to spontaneously combust. Harper Grayson is a school nurse who begins volunteering at the local hospital at least until it too burns down. She returns home to her husband, Jakob, only to discover shortly after that she’s pregnant. Harper is intent on keeping the baby, convinced she’d be able to give birth to a healthy child, but Jakob disagrees and becomes exceedingly violent. Harper is forced to find a new safe place to see this pregnancy through which ends in a chance meeting with The Fireman, a man who straddles the line between hero and villain.

“Do you spend a lot of nights keeping the fire department in hysterics with creative acts of arson?”
“Everyone needs a hobby,” he said.

This was an immense and time-consuming book, however, if you’ve read a Joe Hill book before you know that the man can’t seem to write a bad book. While this one was not nearly my favorite (that award goes to Heart Shaped Box, always) it’s always fascinating to see a well-loved author tackle a new genre and watch the world he created unfold. He also once again proves his talents for writing fantastic female characters. Merrin Williams in Horns, Victoria McQueen in NOS4A2, and now Harper Grayson in The Fireman. Where he really excelled though was with his created contagion, Dragonscale, and how it was built up and developed far more than most end of world diseases I’ve read about. Typically, stories such as these have a failure of sufficiently developing what led to the downfall of civilization and instead focuses on the world after instead. I could easily compare the time spent explaining and detailing Dragonscale (including the origins and scientific explanations) to how flawlessly Mira Grant handled Kellis-Amberlee in her Newsflesh trilogy.

‘Her Dragonscale pulsed with a disagreeable warmth, in a way that made her think of someone breathing on coals.’

Camp Wyndham ends up being Harper’s “safe” place for her to continue her pregnancy but once she arrives there the pacing of the book seemed to suffer. Camp drama, strange religious aspects that are pretty standard for any end of world story, and various other plot lines were ongoing but I felt that much of it was often superfluous and ultimately never amounted to much when you consider how much time was spent exploring said plots. I applaud his effort for writing such a tome, but alas, I feel it could have been trimmed down just a bit. There was also the requisite yet under-developed bad guy that I’ve already mentioned: Jakob. To summarize, Jakob was a big bag of dicks.

“I’ve never once met a woman who had any true intellectual rigor. There’s a reason things like Facebook and airplanes and all the other great inventions of our time were made by men.”

And that’s just one example. Basically, he went a little psycho after he discovered Harper had contracted Dragonscale. They had touched one another in recent days so he became a hypochondriac, convinced that she had also infected him and sentenced him to his death. I felt that there wasn’t enough basis for him as a villain and wanted a bit more backstory to find out how his perverse mind worked, even though I doubt it would have been an enjoyable experience.

Hill created a most enticing world full of love, bravery, and adventure in The Fireman. He also set the tone for possible future installments. I’ll admit, I did groan a bit because that’s just what this world needs more of: series. But this is Joe Hill, and I can’t not be curious.

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Early Review – The Mark of Cain (Long Lankin, #2) by Lindsey Barraclough

Posted May 6, 2016 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Early Review, 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.

Early Review – The Mark of Cain (Long Lankin, #2) by Lindsey BarracloughThe Mark of Cain by Lindsey Barraclough
Series: Long Lankin #2
Published by Candlewick Press on May 10th 2016
Pages: 496
Genres: Horror, Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Long Lankin

two-half-stars

A spine-chilling companion to Long Lankin, here is the story of a wronged witch’s revenge, spanning generations and crossing the shadowy line between life and death.

In 1567, baby Aphra is found among the reeds and rushes by two outcast witches. Even as an infant, her gifts in the dark craft are clear. But when her guardians succumb to an angry mob, Aphra is left to fend for herself. She is shunned and feared by all but one man, the leper known as Long Lankin. Hounded and ostracized, the two find solace only in each other, but even this respite is doomed, and Aphra’s bitterness poisons her entire being. Afflicted with leprosy, tortured and about to be burned as a witch, she manages one final enchantment—a curse on her tormentor’s heirs. Now, in 1962, Cora and Mimi, the last of a cursed line, are trapped in an ancient home on a crumbling estate in deepest winter, menaced by a spirit bent on revenge. Are their lives and souls forfeit forever?

Long Lankin Series

Early Review – Long Lankin (Long Lankin, #1) by Lindsey Barraclough

Long Lankin (Long Lankin #1) by Lindsey Barraclough [PurchaseMy Review]

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‘I am bound here, for as long as there are Guerdons in the world, I must be in it. And they have returned to the marshlands – to me.’

 It’s been four years since Cora and Mimi lived to tell the tale of Long Lankin. The two girls survived, however, the scars they acquired are hidden beneath their skin. After their father recently came into an inheritance, their Auntie Ida’s rundown mansion, he tells them that they’re moving to the village of Bryers Guerdon. Right back to where it all happened. Long Lankin may no longer be a threat, but he wasn’t the only one left to fear. 400 years prior, a woman by the name of Aphra Rushes loved a leper who was known by the name of Long Lankin. She was sentenced to death at a young age for murdering an infant and his mother, a spell with the intent to cure Lankin which had gone awry. With her dying breath she placed a curse on the Guerdon line, who were responsible for her death. Flash forward to the Halloween of 1962 and her ashes have risen up from the ground to fulfill the curse that she placed on the Guerdon family before she was covered in pitch and burned at the stake.

‘I am the dust of charred bones and ash.’

I’ve considered Long Lankin to be one of my all-time favorite gothic horror stories and news of a follow-up story had me most eager even if I didn’t understand the necessity. There’s a wonderful air of mystery to The Mark of Cain, a constant sense of impending catastrophe. The writing itself is eloquent and I delighted in the eerie events depicted: the old derelict mansion that was unsettling on its own yet the girls’ memories of their time spent there made it even more so, their temporary guardians that caused more discontent than comfort due to their forever absent father, and the strange items that they would find around the house like the bundle of twigs tied with red twine or the archaic symbols sketched on the doors. The pacing felt constantly off and I ultimately feel it should not have taken all 496 pages to reach the point we did. The slow-pacing could have been easily made up for if that sense of impending catastrophe was heightened just a smidge more.

The story is told mainly from the point of view of Cora who is now fifteen years old and is struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy for her eight year old sister Mimi. The only trouble is, since Mimi was taken by Lankin she returned a changed child, able to see things normal people cannot. Including the current terror haunting them in their new home. Because we’re told this story from the POV of Cora, there’s a bit of a disconnect of knowledge that keeps the reader in the dark since Mimi refuses to discuss anything with Cora. What I’m assuming was intended was to add even more mystery to this story, but it only caused the story to falter leaving it feeling all very subdued as if Cora wasn’t actually experiencing it all firsthand. Regardless of the fact that Mimi is only eight years old, having the story told from her point of view would have been a vast improvement.

I’ve come a long way in the horror genre since I read Long Lankin back in 2012. In that review, I even admit to being “a big weenie” which I definitely wouldn’t describe myself in terms of horror stories anymore. Back then it took some serious encouragement to read horror and now I’d consider it one of my favorite genres. Long Lankin was a most unsettling read, yet The Mark of Cain just didn’t manage to leave me with the same impression. I think it would be appropriate to actually describe this as more Gothic vs. horror for curious readers. This may not have completely worked for me, but this is a Gothic thriller that will no doubt please many.

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Book Review – Fellside by M.R. Carey

Posted April 28, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 2 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.

Book Review – Fellside by M.R. CareyFellside by M.R. Carey
Published by Orbit on April 5th 2016
Pages: 496
Genres: Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Girl With All the Gifts, The Boy on the Bridge

two-stars

The highly anticipated new thriller from the acclaimed author of The Girl With All the Gifts.

Jess Moulson is convicted of murder. But it's a murder she can't remember committing.

Nothing is quite clear from the drug-fuelled night when a blaze set in her apartment killed the little boy upstairs. But when the media brands Jess a child killer, she starts to believe it herself.

Now she's on her way to Fellside, the biggest, most formidable women's prison in Europe, standing in the bleak Yorkshire moors.

But Jess won't be alone in her prison cell. Lurking in the shadows is an unexpected visitor... the ghost of the ten-year-old boy she killed. He says he needs her help - and he won't take no for an answer.

FELLSIDE is a powerful, thought-provoking and heart-wrenching new standalone novel by M. R. Carey.

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Jess Moulson has been sentenced to prison after being convicted of setting a fire that not only left her face destroyed and her boyfriend injured but unintentionally killed a young boy named Alex. The problem is, she doesn’t remember setting the fire, but she quickly begins to believe herself capable what with all the evidence stacked against her. Resigned to her fate she beings her life in Fellside, a prison deep in the moors of Yorkshire, knowing she won’t have to suffer for long after she begins refusing food. As her body and mind weaken more and more each day, she’s visited by the ghost of Alex, and he proposes that she work to discover who truly killed him so that they can both be at peace.

Honestly, I don’t remember even reading the synopsis of this before falling all over myself in excitement. I simply adored The Girl with All the Gifts and maybe that’s where I went wrong. My expectations were astronomical. Regardless, there’s nothing in the synopsis that would have normally turned me away from reading the book but ultimately this one fell flatter than a pancake for me.

Yep, I’m definitely part of the black sheep crowd with this one. I’m pretty broken-hearted about it though because this was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. The majority of my complaints are spoilers so I’ll do my best to explain without revealing too much.

There are not only a ton of characters and scenes told from various points-of-view but somehow they all managed to be completely lackluster. Jess Moulson is not a likable character having been convicted of killing a child, however, that’s never been an issue for me since I liked Lolita and even Tampa. There just wasn’t anything about these people that captivated me or even interested me in the least. The storyline started off slightly interesting with the mystery of the fire but that quickly dissolved into prison drama with a “bad” warden that’s helping bring drugs into the prison and all the threatening of inmates to be the drug mules. There was the prison doctor that had a sad personal story that wasn’t explored very much that did nothing in the pity part of my heart, the nurse with her questionable yet excessive anger towards Jess for the crime she was convicted for, and the various stories of other inmates and the lives they’ve led and the losses they’ve suffered. There was a really strange side story about Jess’ lawyer too that I felt was pretty ludicrous to say the least. AND THEN, enter the ghostie to really complicate shit further.

You’d think adding a flair of paranormal to a story would help it but it ended up just being strangely bizarre and by the end it left more questions than answers. This book was a whopping 496 pages but it still shouldn’t have taken me over a month to finish. It’s one of those really slow-going stories where you feel that pressure slowly building in the background and you’re waiting for that big reveal that’s going to take your breath away. That eagerness to find out the truth of it all was the only thing that kept me going. Sadly, by the time the “secrets” are all revealed I couldn’t help but feel equal parts

and

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