Review: Black Mad Wheel

Black Mad WheelBlack Mad Wheel
Author: Josh Malerman
Publisher: Ecco
Genre/Themes: Horror
Release Date: May 23rd, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

Synopsis

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.

Review

Josh Malerman’s first novel, Bird Box, is my all-time favourite horror novel. It’s the only book that has truly frightened me and I thought it was remarkably atmospheric and suspenseful. I quickly decided that I would be reading all of Josh Malerman’s future books. I was extremely excited when I heard his sophomore novel was coming out and I was intrigued by the premise, though I did notice a vague similarity to Bird Box. In his first novel, the sight of some unknown entity renders a person insane, and in this one, a mysterious sound causes dramatic effects in both people and inanimate objects.

Nevertheless, I put my reservations aside and dove into this book expecting amazing things and I was so very disappointed. This book was not atmospheric, not tense, and not the least bit scary. It was a let down in every way. I wasn’t invested in the plot at all, nor did I believe it. I had to suspend disbelief at the fact that the military would send musicians to look for a mysterious sound in the African desert. The military is not known for outsourcing. In fact, my biggest problem with this book was that the plot barely made any sense. It had elements that had potential (crazy doctor, mysterious sound, possibly supernatural entity), but it tied together so poorly. I still don’t understand the motivations of any of the characters.

Speaking of the characterization, it was not anywhere near as well done as Bird Box. I didn’t like or dislike Philip Tonka or Ellen. There was also a strange instalove in this book that really confused me. I did like the relationship between the four band members and I thought that was the most authentic relationship in the book, but it wasn’t developed or written about for a long period of time.

The only redeeming thing about this novel was the fact that Josh Malerman can write really well, and even though his writing didn’t draw me into this story, I know he’s talented enough to draw me into another one if the story actually connects with me. Yes, I’m disappointed by this book, but that may just be due to the fact that this story wasn’t for me. I will still be reading all of Josh Malerman’s future novels.

I received this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

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Review: Skitter

Skitter (The Hatching #2)Skitter
Author: Ezekiel Boone
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Genre/Themes: Horror, Adventure
Release Date: April 25th, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

Tens of millions of people around the world are dead. Half of China is a nuclear wasteland. Mysterious flesh-eating spiders are marching through Los Angeles, Oslo, Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, and countless other cities. According to scientist Melanie Gruyer, however, the spider situation seems to be looking up. Yet in Japan, a giant, truck-sized, glowing egg sack gives a shocking preview of what is to come, even as survivors in Los Angeles panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are trying to invent a spider super weapon, but it’s not clear if it’s too late, because President Stephanie Pilgrim has been forced to enact the plan of last resort: The Spanish Protocol. America, you are on your own.

Review

Skitter is the second book in The Hatching trilogy. I read the first book, The Hatchinglast year and enjoyed it a lot. There isn’t a lot I can say about this book without giving the plot away, but I still found the sequel to be an entertaining read.

Just like the previous book, I found that the whole story was extremely cinematic. It’s written in the same style as the previous novel – jumping between different groups of characters to show how they are all handling the spider invasion. In this novel, we see a few of these groups link up and I’m really looking forward to seeing how each group will be responsible for stopping the spiders in the final book.

I still really liked the characters, and while the female characters were still written in a slightly offensive manner, it was way more toned down than the previous novel. My biggest complaint in The Hatching were the female portrayals, but it wasn’t as overtly misogynistic in this bookThere were a few more characters introduced, and I think they will be helping in some interesting ways, but I never found myself attached to any of them as much as I was to the original cast of people introduced in the first novel. There weren’t a lot of chapters that included the original cast, and I really wished I could have read more about them.

However, a major problem I had with this novel was that a lot of it just seemed to be filler. There were people introduced that died in the same chapter, which was fine, but it happened multiple times. No huge breakthroughs were really made, there was not much progress forward. I feel like this didn’t need to be a trilogy, it could have been compressed down into a duology.

Of course, I will be reading the final book in the series because I really want to know how everything will be resolved. These novels are fun and complete page-turners. It’s escapism at its best. I can’t wait until the final book is released!

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Review: Little Heaven

Little Heaven
Little Heaven
Author: Nick Cutter
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre/Themes: Horror
Release Date: January 10th, 2017
Format: Ebook
Little Heaven

Synopsis

A trio of mismatched mercenaries is hired by a young woman for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven. Shortly after they arrive, things begin to turn ominous. Stirrings in the woods and over the treetops—the brooding shape of a monolith known as the Black Rock casts its terrible pall. Paranoia and distrust grips the settlement. The escape routes are gradually cut off as events spiral towards madness. Hell—or the closest thing to it—invades Little Heaven. The remaining occupants are forced to take a stand and fight back, but whatever has cast its dark eye on Little Heaven is now marshaling its powers…and it wants them all.

Review

Nick Cutter is a Canadian author known for his previous horror novels, The Troop and The Deep. Even though I haven’t read his previous works, I’ve heard very good things about his books, which is why I was so interested in picking up Little Heaven. Additionally, the synopsis for this book was very intriguing, mostly because it involves a lot of my favourite tropes in a novel – three mercenaries, a religious cult, and something dark and mysterious. I was expecting to be really impressed by this book, and while I was in no way let down, it still didn’t live up to my expectations.

It was really hard to get invested in this book. It’s really difficult to understand what’s going on at the beginning. I understand why there’s such a build up and that we need to understand the three main characters a little better, but it’s really hard to want to read a book with such a strange introduction to the world. It took a long time for me to fully understand what was going on and what the story was going to be about.

The story flips back and forth in time, which is an interesting way of telling the story, but it seemed a little unnecessary and took a lot of the suspense out of the novel since we knew what was going to happen to the main characters. Understandably, the book isn’t about the suspense, but about the stomach churning, horrific things that happen at Little Heaven. While this is classified as a horror novel, it’s an old-school type of horror – more Lovecraft than anything else. I’m sure that a lot of people would really enjoy a book like that, but I just didn’t find it scary at all. The writing was incredibly detailed and there was some extremely graphic scenes and a lot of vivid, disturbing imagery, but it was really gory. I prefer slow burning horror books instead of gory ones so it wasn’t very entertaining for me.

There are some great things about this book though. My favourite part of the novel was the chemistry between the three main characters. I loved all three of them deeply and even though they started off together in a really strange way, it was rewarding to see how they ended up trusting each other and looking out for each other.

I don’t think this was the best way for me to be introduced to Nick Cutter’s works, but I’m still interested in his previous novels. While I didn’t love this book, I still think it’s a solid horror novel that has an audience out there. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant for me.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Review: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl – Paige McKenzie

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl (The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, #1)Something freaky’s going on with Sunshine’s new house . . . there’s the chill that wraps itself around her bones, the giggling she can hear in the dead of night, and then the strange shadows that lurk in her photographs. But the more weird stuff that happens, the less her mom believes her. Sunshine’s always had a quirky affiliation with the past, but this time, history is getting much too close for comfort . . .

If there is something, or someone, haunting her house, what do they want? And what will they do if Sunshine can’t help them?

As things become more frightening and dangerous, and the giggles she hears turn to sobs and screams, Sunshine has no choice but to accept what she is, face the test before her and save her mother from a fate worse than death.

I heard about Paige McKenzie through her hugely popular YouTube show, of which I only watched half of the first season. I also saw her when she was an author attending the Vancouver Writer’s Fest. Paige McKenzie is an interesting young woman so I was really interested in her horror novel based on her YouTube show. I actually had a galley from Netgalley which I hadn’t had time to read, but I picked it up this October.

I really like horror, but this seemed like a typical haunted house novel. I wasn’t expecting a lot from this book, and while it didn’t exceed my expectations, it didn’t let them down either. The book is written for young adults, but I think it’s written for a younger audience. It’s a pretty predictable YA novel. There’s nothing unique or exciting about it. McKenzie has created a new bit of mythology to explain Sunshine’s abilities in the form of a “luiseach”, but it was thoroughly underwhelming mostly due to the fact that a luiseach has both a mentor (which is understandable), but also has a “protector”. It turns the mythology from being a self-reliant woman to being a damsel-in-distress.

Also, since this is a YA novel, there’s an obvious love interest, who is cute, but not too cute and completely non-threatening. Of course, both Sunshine and her male counterpart are quirky outsiders with interests that don’t match anyone else. Add a couple of expected YA heroine traits (self-conscious rambling in front of a love interest, use of weird phrases while nervous – “blah”, constant referring to herself as never fitting in, constant self-esteem issues) and you’ve got this book in a nutshell.

The plot was also completely predictable as well. While I liked the use of new mythology, it was just tiring to get to the big reveal and the climax was both really short and really underwhelming. I felt like there was no lead up to it, and when it did happen it ended really quickly.

I think this book trilogy (because of course it’s a trilogy) will be very successful for fans of Paige McKenzie’s show, but for outsiders there isn’t enough to hook the reader, especially if you’re not the target audience. There isn’t enough character development or a unique plot, and the use of tired YA tropes pretty much ensures I won’t be continuing with the series.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Review: Shinigami Eyes – Adam Smith & Cheree Smith

Shinigami Eyes (Shinigami Eyes, #1) Most children hope to grow out of their imaginary friends.

17-year-old Rin Waters’ only hope is that hers doesn’t kill someone, especially when said imaginary friend puts a boy in a coma. Finding herself shipped half-way around the world—to Japan, of all places—she is forced to live with grandparents she hasn’t seen for ten years and a cousin she can’t even remember.

Rin would rather just forget about the one night that ruined her life and pretend her imaginary friend doesn’t exist—if it was only that easy. When manga-obsessed otaku, Matt, won’t stop pestering her about a manga that sees the future and the tragic accident she’ll be involved in if she doesn’t listen to him, pretending becomes quite a challenge.

Suddenly mysterious accidents begin to happen to students in her school, and Rin has to wonder what length Matt is willing to go to prove his manga is real. Is it all a sham or is there really something that wants to see Rin and her new friends dead?

I was really looking forward to reading this book, but unfortunately, I found myself really disappointed and ended up having to abandon it. While I was really excited that the book was taking place in Japan, that was the only thing I really liked about the book. I gave up reading after about 60 pages.

My biggest issue with this book was the terrible parenting. It infuriated me that the first sign of Rin showing some sort of mental problem (schizophrenia), her parents shipped her off to a foreign land to live with people she’d never met and had no connection with. It bothered me so much that I could never get past it.

I wasn’t really grabbed by the characters because they all fell so flat for me. They were so one dimensional. Even though all I read was about 60 pages, the plot and writing didn’t interest me either. While I was intrigued by the character of Misa and figuring out whether Rin had mental health issues, everything else about the book upset me enough that I didn’t continue.

For some readers, this would probably be an enjoyable novel, but it wasn’t for me.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This hasn’t affected my review in any way.

 

Review: My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix

My Best Friend's Exorcism Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

I first was introduced to Grady Hendrix when I read his first novel, Horrorstor. I really enjoyed Horrorstor, and I had really high expectations especially when I found out that this book takes place in a high school in the 80’s. I was even more intrigued when I realized the book was fashioned like an actual high school yearbook, just like Horrorstor was fashioned like an Ikea catalogue.

I was really disappointed by the actual story, but I liked the way the book was packaged. The story was extremely corny and ridiculous. There was nothing even remotely scary or creepy about it. Also, it was wholly unoriginal. I felt like I’d read so many books and/or watched so many movies about this exact thing, even though I really haven’t. Horrorstor creeped me out, but this book didn’t.

I also thought the characterization was weak and nothing momentous really changed within the characters. The writing style was also pretty mediocre. I don’t think I can really recommend this book to horror lovers, but if you’re interested in the cool way it’s packaged and not expecting mind-blowing things from the story, check it out.

 

Review: The Hatching – Ezekiel Boone

The Hatching: A Novel An astonishingly inventive and terrifying debut novel about the emergence of an ancient species, dormant for over a thousand years, and now on the march.

Deep in the jungle of Peru, where so much remains unknown, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.

The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake.

Boy oh boy, do I hate spiders. I’ve had really bad experiences with them (think getting bit, getting a staph infection, and then getting put on antibiotics for a week). This book was pretty much guaranteed to freak me out, but I wanted to give it a shot anyway because I’ve never read a book about man-eating spiders before. I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

This book isn’t really a horror novel. It’s more of an adventure story. It reminded me a lot of the movies where aliens or zombies or parasites attack and a bunch of different groups of people have to band together to solve the crisis. This book is written a lot like a movie and it cuts between different characters who are all dealing with the aftermath of the spiders.

Since the book is written in the style of a movie, the writing is entertaining, but a little simplistic. It’s not poetic or riveting, and there’s a little bit of a disconnect between the reader and all of the characters due to the writing style. Sometimes, it’s hard to get invested in the characters because as soon as we start to read about them, the story skips to a new group of people. Overall, the format of the novel is a plus for the book and I really liked it. It’s interesting to see how each group of people is impacted by the spiders and I know all of the people are going to come together in a rewarding way.

There were both good and bad parts about this novel’s characters. In a lot of ways, this book is really progressive. There’s a female president of the United States and one of the people responsible for figuring out the origins of the spiders is a female entomologist. There are also people of colour in positions of power, and a gay couple that I feel is going to play an important role in the future.

However, the women are mostly portrayed as adulterers or cougars, which I find irritating. Almost all of the characters are divorced and of course, the main male FBI officer has a complex relationship with his ex-wife, her new husband, and his daughter. This book does fall into the trap of a lot of cliches that occur in adventure movies. It’s not necessarily a bad thing and it didn’t bother me while I was reading the book, but it could be troublesome for other people.

I actually really enjoyed the plot of the novel. There are some gruesome and disturbing scenes relating to the spiders, but not nearly as bad as some other horror novels I’ve read. I always found myself really eager to continue reading because I wanted to know the story behind the spiders and what was going to happen next.

This novel is the start to a trilogy, and it was a really intriguing first novel because it managed to tease a lot for further books while still having a satisfying conclusion. It’s a hard balance to have. The Hatching is the perfect blend of intrigue, suspense, and horror.

Ezekiel Boone has written a really strong start to a series. I’m so eager to read the second book!

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my review in any way.

Mini Reviews 10

Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley Pride and Prejudice is my favourite novel, so when I heard about this book that takes place after Lizzie and Darcy get married and involves a murder, I was intrigued. I like murder mysteries and I love Pride and Prejudice, but I’m always wary about retellings or re-imaginings of classic novels. This book wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either. It involves characters from the original tale as well as newly introduced ones. The language and style are similar to Jane Austen, but it doesn’t have Jane Austen’s wit or spark in the writing. Relationships are stilted and conversations aren’t always true to the characters. I listened to this book on audiobook and I didn’t really enjoy the narration so that could be affecting my opinion of the book. Overall, it’s an interesting take on the Pride and Prejudice universe, but Lizzy was too much of a secondary character and it was far too strange of a concept. I don’t recommend this novel.

I Was Here

I Was Here I absolutely loved this novel. I listened to this book on audiobook and it’s narrated by my favourite narrator, Jorjeana Marie. I first discovered Jorjeana Marie when she narrated another one of my favourite books, Belzhar. This book is beautifully written with main characters that I actually cared about. The main character, Cody, recovers from her best friend Meg’s suicide and the journey she goes on isn’t the most realistic, but it was impeccably done. I thought Meg’s reaction and her emotions were really honest and raw. I didn’t think this book pulled any punches when it came to how suicide wrecks everyone left behind. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was the romance in this book. While it wasn’t the main thing in this book, it was unnecessary to the plot. However, this is still one of my favourite books I’ve read so far this year. Highly recommended.

The Girl With All The Gifts

The Girl With All the Gifts

This was one of the books I was looking forward to the most this year, and I knew I’d like it, but I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. This book is beautiful, melancholy, and heartbreaking. The main character of Melanie repeatedly broke my heart in the best possible way. The plot is slow, but there’s still a lot of things that happen. However, the most rewarding part about this novel is the characterization. Everyone in the book is so vividly written, and nobody is fully evil or fully good. Their lives are shades of grey and nobody winds up the same at the end as they are at the beginning. I can’t explain how well this book is written and how much it will make you feel. I know it comes across as just another post-apocalytpic novel with horror movie overtones, but the writing is wonderful, and I highly recommend everyone read it.

Mini Reviews 6

Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

'Salem's Lot Reading Stephen King’s writing is a delight. He’s a master with words and he creates these really vivid settings and characters. He writes these really creepy scenes that make you shudder and want to take a break from reading, but unfortunately, this book didn’t scare me. I didn’t realize this book was about vampires when I started reading it and since I’ve never found vampires very scary, I was unimpressed. However, the writing was great and the characters were all fully developed and very interesting to read about. I enjoyed the plot and liked the interactions between all of the different characters and I even enjoyed reading about the history of the small town, but I was never scared, so as a horror novel, it isn’t one I would recommend.

I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban I believe there are people who come into this world to do great things, and Malala Yousafzai is a prime example of such a person. I consider her to be a personal hero and an inspiration. Her goals of achieving literacy and education for all young women in Middle Eastern countries is one I firmly stand behind. I truly believe that the reason for most conflict is due to a lack of education.

This book was a harrowing account of what led her to be shot in the head by the Taliban and how she recovered from such a senseless attack. She clearly laid out the events that brought the Taliban into the Swat Valley, and how they misrepresented themselves to the inhabitants to such a degree that they gained popularity almost overnight. It showed how desperately people want to believe that there is someone who will fight for them.

However, I think this was a pretty superficial account of Malala’s life. I felt like there were quite a few things she never discussed and even though she talked about the terrible conditions she and her family lived in, I felt like it was much worse and she didn’t go into the ugly details. Additionally, I wasn’t as interested in the history of the Swat valley, Pakistan, and Afghanistan but I recognized why talking about the history was important.

Overall, I think this is a must-read book for anyone who believes in women’s rights, education, literacy, and wants to know more about the political regime currently in Pakistan.

 Dead Set – Richard Kadrey

Dead Set Oh boy, was I disappointed by this novel. I absolutely love Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series, but his venture into writing a young adult novel was extremely unsuccessful. The plot was nonsensical and the characters were soweakly written that it’s almost shocking that the Sandman Slim series is by the same author.

I was bored throughout the entire book, hated the myth and story behind it, and would not recommend it at all.

 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings This is the first book by Maya Angelou I’ve read and I thought it was immensely powerful. There are some scenes in this book that are extremely graphic (i.e. there’s a scene of child rape), and I found it stomach churning. Reading other reviews for this book, I noticed there were some (white) parents who wanted to shield their children from reading this book due to the graphic content.

Are you kidding me?

This is Maya Angelou’s memoir. These things actually happened to her and to “shield” your children from reading this book is a disservice to them. Life isn’t pretty, and growing up non-white in a world that reveres it is an ugly thing to read about, but it’s necessary. I felt Maya Angelou’s anger and fury almost like it was mine. I understood exactly what drove her to write this book, and it’s an important reason.

This is a must-read for everyone.

Horrorstor – Grady Hendrix Review

HorrorstörSomething strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

First off, can we talk about how incredibly this book is packaged? You can’t really see it from the picture, but the book looks just like an order catalogue. Inside, there are product illustrations, a home order delivery form, and coupons. There’s even a map of the Orsk furniture store. It’s SUCH a brilliant idea, and I’m not surprised this book comes from the amazing publisher Quirk Books.

This book captured my attention immediately with its setting. I’ve never heard of a horror novel taking place in a furniture store and definitely not an Ikea-like furniture store. It’s such a unique idea that I was very eager to read the novel. Going into this book, I knew it would be a cross between humor and horror. I didn’t know how it would divide into the two genres, but it turns out the first half is quite humorous. It’s a little bit of a social commentary on large organizations and retail. It also really stresses how corporations try to get you to buy things. I found the first half to be really entertaining and getting to know the main cast of characters was fun. All of the characters together were a little like a teen movie. Amy was the jaded, cynical employee, Ruth Anne the slightly naive mom type, Matt the bearded hipster, Trinity the cool punk girl, and Basil the straight laced boss.

This is why the second half was such a shocker. It felt like the book turned on a dime and the plot suddenly became so dark and creepy. It turned so quickly that I almost felt jolted out of my light, breezy world. Orsk is an extremely atmospheric setting and I could feel their dread like it was my own. I can only imagine how disorienting it would be to be trapped in a furniture store after hours. I know the plot isn’t very original since it’s basically a reworked haunted house story, but it was executed really well. There was very ominous imagery that made me wince a few times. I usually have nerves of steel but there were a few scenes where I had to stop and take a pause from the book.

This is by no means the best horror novel I’ve ever read, but I had a lot of fun while I was reading it.