Review – Horns by Joe Hill

 

Horns

By Joe Hill

SummaryIgnatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with one hell of a hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned American musician, and the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.
Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – with Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, Ig was and always would be guilty.
Now Ig is possessed with a terrible new power – with just a touch he can see peoples’ darkest desires – to go with his terrible new look, and he means to use it to find the man who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Horns has been on my TBR for a few months. I try to grab what Joe Hill books I haven’t read if I see them at a bookstore, but I wait until I’m in just the right mood to open them up. I’ve enjoyed Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2, but Horns isn’t quite the same genre. I suppose it’s still horror, but it’s not the same kind. 

I loved Horns. It was easy to get sucked in from the beginning when Ig woke up to a pair of grotesque horns on his head. He thought he was hallucinating, but then his interactions with other people made him think something even worse was happening. For some reason, they noticed the horns but didn’t react in the way anyone would expect and then they would reveal their absolute worst thoughts to him. Was this some sort of punishment?

Horns is really quite brilliant. It was a book about human nature, which is quite terrifying. People are awful and they lie everyday. There Ig was, trying to be a good person, loving everyone with all he had, and it counted for nothing when it really mattered. No one believed he didn’t kill his girlfriend and nothing he seemed to do or say changed the opinions everyone had. Sure, he “got away with it” and wasn’t convicted, but to everyone in his town, including his family, he was guilty. If the premise wasn’t already extremely intriguing, this angle really got me because I just can’t imagine not being believed by people and it would be really awful to walk around in a place where everyone thinks you’re capable of the worst sort of crime. 

Horns was a mix of the supernatural, a murder mystery, a glimpse of a small town life with small town attitudes, a horror, and a bit a dark humor to tie it all together. Joe Hill created characters I immediately couldn’t get enough of. The story bounced from the present, the recent past when Ig and Merrin were together, and the early past as Ig met Merrin, was saved from drowning by Lee, and disappointed his father by not being able to play the horn instruments like his older brother. We got the whole story from multiple sides and it was broken up into chapters/parts that all served different purposes to building the story. It was a story that took me through a small town and the interpersonal connections between everyone and lead me on a dark road with terrifying conclusions. 

I really don’t try to compare Hill to his father, but when I do, it’s nearly always a compliment. It’s really freaking hard to find an author who captures people the way King always does and Hill does it so perfectly. What lies inside of human beings is the really scary part of King’s horror novels and that’s essentially the same in Horns, though Hill creates unique characters and finds his own voice. I’m always impressed when an author really tackles those essences of horror instead of just giving me a bump in the night kind of story and that’s what sets King and Hill apart from the crowd. I love this kind of story and that’s why I compare Hill to King.. I would do it even if I knew they weren’t related. Because they both do exactly what good horror authors should do.

I highly recommend Horns. I really loved Heart-Shaped Box, but I think Horns might actually be better in a lot of ways, so I suppose I have two favorites now.

Star 5

 

Top Ten Tuesday – How To Make Me Not Read A Book

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Top Ten Tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s topic:

Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly NOT Want To Read A Book

This is the exact opposite of last week’s prompt, so I’m going to take what sounds like positive remarks and explain why they would do the opposite for me. 

 

1. “I just love how wholesome it is.” 

Uh. No thanks.

 

2. “It felt very spiritual and I love the religious aspect.”

*cringes* 

 

3. “It’s so much fun seeing a main character somehow always come out unscathed.”

I will instantly stop reading or watching a series when the main characters are not affected by the traumatic events they go through and no one ever gets hurt. We don’t live in bubbles. We react to our experiences and we get hurt. Sometimes we die. It’s just unrealistic to never see real consequences.

 

4. “It’s based on a fan-fiction.”

Ok, so maybe I have read some of these, but I’ve always initially put it back on the shelf immediately after discovering this and somehow the need to find out what the fuss is about overrides this in some cases. But generally, I’m not into the whole pulled to publish thing.

 

5. “It’s the new [insert popular title]”

I cannot stand when people advertize this as a reason to pick up the book. Sometimes, I am looking for the next similar book, but it feels dishonest to just make such a bold claim. Is it great for fans of [insert title]? Then just say that. But don’t act like it’s going to be the next amazing bestseller/box office book to movie hit because it features a teenage girl. 

 

6. ‘I thought I wouldn’t like a book about [insert something about horror, science, space, etc], but I really enjoyed it.”

As a fan of those things, I’m immediately more wary. Is it a book about something I love that completely glosses over those aspects? Is it a book that has bad science that makes no sense? *cringes* 

 

7. “I love that it’s such a long series! I can’t get enough!”

Wait. This is book 1 of a gajillion? Ugh. *puts book away* I just can’t commit to that. 

 

8. “I can’t for the next book to come out. I wish I knew the release date!”

Wait. It’s a series and it’s not finished? And we don’t know when the next book will be out? Is it a fantasy? Because I can’t. GRRM and Rothfuss have ruined my life and I’m just not doing it any more. 

 

9. “The love interest was so swoony and I couldn’t wait for him to realize he was with the wrong girl.”

Sometimes I’ve enjoyed a book with something like this happening, but I need more information before I pick the book up because I just can’t deal with cheating or pining after someone who is taken. It rubs me the wrong way.

 

10. “I love how the author was able to mix modern day politics in an apocalyptic tale.”

I love love love post apocalyptic fiction, dystopias, and screwed up societies. I do. But I really want to leave modern politics out of it because I don’t identify with either major party and the book will inevitably paint the other party as world ruiners (literally) and I think that’s oversimplifying a complicated issue.  

Review – Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

 

Incarceron 

By Catherine Fisher

SummaryIncarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells and corridors, but metal forests, dilapidated cities, and wilderness. It has been sealed for centuries, and only one man has ever escaped. Finn has always been a prisoner here. Although he has no memory of his childhood, he is sure he came from Outside. His link to the Outside, his chance to break free, is Claudia, the warden’s daughter, herself determined to escape an arranged marriage. They are up against impossible odds, but one thing looms above all: Incarceron itself is alive . . . 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Incarceron has a gorgeous cover and a thrilling synopsis, so I couldn’t help but pick it up at the bookstore once I saw it. It has great reviews and seemed to be a great mixture of dystopia and steampunk, which sounded pretty awesome.

The book was about Finn, a prisoner inside the awful machinery world that was Incarceron. He was sure he came from outside and had visions of stars and lakes. To everyone else, he was likely cell-born, as Incarceron was said to create life in some instances. It was an ever changing machine and the entrances had been sealed for centuries. No one could go in or out, but there were legends of Sapphique, a man who escaped. Claudia was the Warden of Incarceron’s daughter on the Outside. In the Outside, Protocol demanded that there be no progress. Only a small portion of technology was allowed to be used; everything else was Era. They said the world got too out of hand and progress was to blame. She was betrothed to a prince she was fond of until his death. His stepmother, the Queen, had a son of her own who would be heir to the throne and Claudia was betrothed to him after the death of Giles. But when she found a key and spoke to Finn in the prison, she recognized him…

The plot of the novel seemed really interesting, but it was actually very slow going for me. I wasn’t engrossed in the characters whatsoever. I think the book has so much potential, but the execution was disappointing in just about every way. Claudia was the innocent daughter of the villain in the story, yet despite her fear of her terrifying father, she wasn’t afraid to do just about all things illegal behind his back and somehow think she could save the day and help prisoners escape from a prison she wasn’t fully capable of understanding. The Queen was an even worse villain, though I’m not really sure why.  Incarceron suffered from the same old YA tropes that took away from the unique premise. The story was mainly action based, which I would’ve enjoyed had the world building and character building been more present. All of the action felt like it was done with no real understanding of the consequences. Claudia just knew people were evil or awful without really having much proof, acted on her own biased whims, and yet it all worked out in her favor. The story just seemed too simple for such a complex world and I’m still not any wiser as to the how’s and why’s of the world I was just visiting.

This is one of those times when I own the sequel and am torn between just trudging through it or letting it sit for decades on my shelf, unread. If you’re a younger teen, this book might be just what you’re looking for. It’s fun, action packed, and full of mystery and plots. But for older teens and adults, it just fell short of my expectations. I think there comes a point when the whole “adults are evil with plots of their own and I, a teenage girl with no background about ANYTHING, know exactly what I’m doing” plots just don’t work for me. 

Star 2

 

5 Things on Sunday – Stress

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5 Things on Sunday

Hosted by Reads and Treats

Things to do When You’re Stressed

1. Read a crazy book. 

Maybe some people prefer to read something relaxing, but I think I almost enjoy reading something violent and complex where the main character has to juggle all of these dangerous things because it shifts the perspective for me. Here I am all stressed out about X, Y, and Z and this character has much bigger problems.

2. Drive.

My local Barnes and Noble is a bit far away, but it’s right off the of the highway. I realize that I actually enjoy the drive out there because it’s a stretch highway where everyone drives on the right and passes on the left and I’m in the zone, paying attention, just enjoying the thought process of maintaining speed and anticipating the speed of cars around me. 

3. Browse the bookstore.

Shopping for books can be therapeutic, especially in person. I love to feel and hold a book, see the cover in person, and make decisions. I almost never just go off of a list and I just browse. 

4. Yoga.

I’m not a crazy yoga person and I don’t do it that often, but the stretching and moving helps my lower back and hips so I feel like I’m getting the stress out of my body when it doesn’t ache. 

5. Tackle a project.

It seems counterproductive, especially if your stress is largely due to your to-do list. But focusing on one thing at a time and just doing it is so therapeutic to me. I sit down, maybe write out my reviews for the blog, maybe pay some bills and do some budgeting, look up phone numbers of all the places I need to call in the morning. It eases the stress because I feel like I’m making progress on my to-do list, but by not forcing myself to focus on deadlines and just the organization process or just one thing, it eases the overall stress. 

Review – The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

 

The Casual Vacancy

By J.K. Rowling

Summary: A big novel about a small town…

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?

A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.

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Source: I purchased a paperback

Review:

The Casual Vacancy was the first book J.K. Rowling released after the Harry Potter series. As a result, it is a book with plenty of mixed reviews. Even still, J.K. Rowling has also written mystery thrillers under a pseudonym that was later revealed to be her, and The Casual Vacancy still doesn’t quite fit in with anything else she’s written. It was most certainly not a fantasy or anything remotely like Harry Potter, nor is it a mystery, despite it beginning with a death. 

With that being said, if you were picking it up because you wanted more Rowling after loving Harry Potter, I suggest you reread the synopsis and decide whether a book about small town politics is your type of thing. No amount of love for Rowling as an author will matter if you don’t like the subject matter of the book. It is NOT Harry Potter. There is no magic in this novel. If you are picking the book up because you think it will be a fun murder mystery and you enjoy her other thrillers, I also advise you to reread the synopsis. If you do not enjoy small town politics and social issues between a community of people, you WILL NOT enjoy the book. It’s a bit unfair for people to not enjoy the subject matter, yet pick up the book and then suddenly cry “this isn’t what I thought I’d get!” 

I enjoyed The Casual Vacancy, but it was not without its flaws. 

My first issue was with the over the top crudeness of certain scenes. I am no stranger to crudeness and even enjoy when books are graphic or over the top, but with this book, it felt like a way for Rowling to shout “this is SO adult, look how crude I can be, look at the words I’m using!” I’m sure she wanted to prove her worthiness in an adult genre after being a children’s/YA author for so long, but there was just no need for the sexual scenes to use language like that when it wasn’t present in the rest of the book.

My second issue was the slowness of the plot. I was intrigued by the beginning and engrossed at the end, but there were entirely too many pages in which nothing happens and story shifted from person to person while they did things that were mostly not relevant to anything else. The events and the way everyone was interconnected was certainly interesting, especially as the residents of the town kind of turned on each other and were awful people, but I feel like, with a better editing process, the story could have been condensed and written in a more straightforward way. I think Rowling got a bit of a deal with her being a popular author and had she written this one under a pseudonym it might have been put through a more rigorous editing process.

Despite my two issues, the book itself was pretty good. The writing was great. It was sort of like reading about friends of the Dursley’s from Harry Potter, as some of the residents of Pagford were very awful and obsessed with their own self importance in the same way Vernon Dursley was. I liked the plot and getting into the personal lives of the residents and the issues that motivated them, while watching nearly all of them be awful people. But I can’t give the book more than three stars because it was quite boring for at least 50% of the book and there was just no need for that. 

Star 3

Review – Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

 

Luckiest Girl Alive

By Jessica Knoll

SummaryHER PERFECT LIFE IS A PERFECT LIE.

As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.

But Ani has a secret.

There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.

With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to “have it all” and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that’s bigger than it first appears.

The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it at long last, set Ani free?

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Source: I bought a hardcover.

Review:

 I’ve heard mixed reviews about Luckiest Girl Alive. While I was intrigued enough by the buzz and the synopsis to buy it, it has sat on my TBR shelf for a bit. Finally, the mood hit me and I grabbed it. I’m not sure what I was initially worried about because I really enjoyed the book!

Ani was a tough main character and I think how you feel about her will essentially make or break your enjoyment of the book. At first, she came across as just the worst sort of shallow and conniving person, manipulating the people around her, eager to be a success, measuring herself by the price of the clothes on her body and the age of the ring on her finger. It was a bit tough at first to care about her, but I still flew through the pages just to figure out why she was like that and what happened to her. 

Throughout the book, we got to know Ani. Something happened to her at Bradley, her high school, and the story switched from past to present to give the reader a bit more detail about whatever changed her from eager semi-poor girl with flashy wealth to someone who measures her worth by the age of the money she was surrounded by. It didn’t take long to realize that due to her childhood and the way she grew up, a lot of who she was in the present was a defense mechanism. Despite her narrating the book, she wasn’t even honest with herself about how shallow of a person she was.

I enjoyed the book quite a bit. I can see why other people didn’t like it, because Ani was a tad abrasive, but I liked her POV and I was eager to know what happened and how it shaped her, and what decisions she’d make in the present. I think, overall, she grew as a person as she participated in the documentary about her high school years and realized a bit more about herself.

I definitely recommend Luckiest Girl Alive, provided you aren’t the type of person who has to love or respect the main character and don’t mind if they are selfish and flawed. I think it has a lot of great points about what it’s like to be a girl growing up and trying to be cool or popular and the decisions you make that have an impact on the people around you. 

Star 4

Top Ten Tuesday – How to Get Me to Read

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Top Ten Tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

 

I’m going to mention things I hear people say in reviews that they mean in a negative way that make me actually want to read the book they are talking about. 

 

 

1. “There is so much violence.” 

I love violence! 

2. “The main character is just so heinous. It’s so hard to root for him/her.” 

I love dark characters, especially ones who aren’t morally perfect. They are far more interesting to me.

3. “It doesn’t really have a happy ending.” 

Good. I want some conflict and stress when I read. My life is pretty good, but even when I read and I’m stressed out, I’d rather read about people who have the fate of their world in their hands. Makes me feel better about my puny problems.

4. “There’s so much language.” 

F*** yes! Language isn’t an issue for me. I think it adds shock value when necessary. Some characters need to use it, sometimes it works. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a book have too much language for me.

5. “For a YA novel, there’s a lot of sex/sexual tension.” 

In an adult book, I get it, I don’t want too many references to flowers and members and all that awful stuff, but in a YA book, it’s never been too much for me. It’s usually just right. I’m not a teen or a parent, so I have no reason to care about whether it’s appropriate for the genre. I’m actually happy authors are pushing the limits. Give me tension without multiple adjectives for body parts that go on for chapters on end. 

6. “So many people die, I just can’t take it!” 

YES! When important characters die, it’s so unexpected and I love unpredictable books. Save the happy endings and the everything-works-out-for-everyone for people who need that.

7. “There’s so much detail and I’m a plot person. Can’t we just get to it?” 

I do love action, but I love stopping to smell the roses. I love fantasy for this reason. The world building should be rich and detailed, just not too boring, which is why I added the “I’m a plot person.” If someone who also loves detailed books says it’s too much, then I’m less likely to pick it up. There’s a fine line.

8. “It’s a standalone and I wanted more!” 

You mean I don’t have to continue to wait years to read, forget, reread, forget, repeat? I can just have my closure right away? Sign me up!

9. “Whoa, this book is way too dark for me.” 

I love darkness. Give me the violent, morally ambiguous, madness and mayhem. I don’t want books to be happy piles of sunshine.

10. “This book is so messed up because of [insert controversy here].” 

Mostly, I just want to see what the fuss is about. Why are people offended. Will I also be offended? Let’s find out! 

 

Okay, so maybe I just like super screwed up books, but all of these make me want to read the book. But let’s just all admit that negative reviews can be extremely positive for people who have different tastes!