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Review – We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

By Shirley Jackson

Summary: Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp. 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

This book was one of those last minute, omg-that-cover-is-awesome type of bookstore buys that I wasn’t planning on buying. As a horror lover, the cover hooked me and I couldn’t resist. I read the book before October one fall. I’m a little mad because I swore I typed up a review and now I can’t seem to find it, so I’m trying to write this based on memory from over 6 months ago.

The book is great and perfectly creepy, mysterious, and weird. It’s frustrating in a way because Mary Catherine was so immature, but the family dynamic totally hooked me. What was going on in that strange house? What happened to the Blackwoods? I mean, we knew, but we didn’t know why. What was going on in that house? Why would she poison her family?

I was compelled and I devoured the book quickly. It isn’t the in-your-face horror novel that I think modern horror lovers expect, so I understand why there are so many disappointed reviews, but I thought the book was brilliant and fascinating. It was completely screwed up and I think it’s important to note that it was written in the 60s. It has all the right odd feelings of an old Tim Burton movie or something and I absolutely loved it. From the judgement of outsiders to the family dynamics of the remaining Blackwoods, I was thoroughly intrigued. 

If you’re into the slow horror, the not-so-direct horror, and intrigued by the synopsis and title, I highly recommend We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It was awesome and creepy in so many ways. 

Star 4

Review – NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

 

NOS4A2

By Joe Hill

SummaryNOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

NOS4A2 was completely insane, twisted, and engrossing. 

It was the tale of Charles Manx, a man who kidnapped children in his Rolls Royce and took them to Christmasland where they would never die. It was the story of Vic, The Brat, McQueen, who had a magic bridge that took her places she needed to go. Every talent had its price. The book took place over the course of Vic’s life for the most part. She was the only child who ever escaped Manx, but when her own son was kidnapped, she knew she needed to find a way to use her talent again.

While part of me was blown away by the sheer uniqueness of the idea presented and the awesome way it was horrifying and twisted and completely messed up, part of me was a little uncomfortable because this really felt like a Stephen King approach to a novel and I’m disappointed by it. I think Hill did his own thing in Heart Shaped Box, but the span of time, the reflection on childhood, the classic car, the creepy old dude, and even the twisted Christmas theme just feels SO Stephen King! Scenes and quotes took me back to a King novel and, while I appreciate the style, I think it’s important that Hill stays in his own style. However unfair it is, he of all people has a tough act to follow when it comes to writing horror.

Despite the fact that I’m a little disappointed that the voice/writing seemed a little too close to his dad’s style, I can’t help but be impressed. I was sucked in through all 600+ pages and that counts for something. It was creepy and captivating and I’m eager to see what else Hill has up his sleeve. It’s clear he’s as imaginative and well versed as his dad, though I really do hate to compare the two. 

I loved Manx’s character and the way that nothing turned out well for people. I love that there were consequences to the talents and that the characters messed up many times. It made it all feel a little real despite the obviously out of this world plot. 

I definitely recommend NOS4A2. It was creepy. Just.. don’t read it before/during Christmas. Or you’ll be terrified of your tree. Or.. read it DURING Christmas if you’re hard to scare. Lol.

Star 4

 

Review – The Merciless by Danielle Vega

The Merciless 

By Danielle Vega

SummaryForgive us, Father, for we have sinned

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
 
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
 
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
 In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

Source: I received a paperback as a gift for Christmas.

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Review:

The Merciless was crazy. It was like Mean Girls, maybe a little of The Craft, and a dash of Stephen King. It’s hard to really describe it. I picked it up expecting a YA Mean Girls type of horror novel, not really sure how it would all go. It was recommended by a friend and she bought both of us a copy. 

The story began with Sofia. She was a new student in her high school and had a brief encounter with Brooklyn, who seemed friendly enough, but a little rough around the edges. Sofia immediately drew the attention of the popular trio, Riley, Alexis, and Grace. She had never been popular, so she was happy enough to fit in with them. There was some history between Riley and Brooklyn, but Sofia wasn’t sure what it was. 

The girls were religious, but not in the southern way that seemed familiar. Instead, they seemed heavily focused on Catholicism and had a ritualistic approach, relying heavily on those comforting things like holy water and communion. Their interest seemed obsessive and not necessarily genuine, which is partly why I associate the book a bit with The Craft. Riley accused Brooklyn of being possessed by the devil, sure that it was the cause of her wicked ways. The few strange things that happened in town, like the weird skinning of a cat in the school grounds, were attributed to Brooklyn, though Sofia wasn’t so sure Brooklyn was even into anything like that. 

Sofia was a follower in every sense of the word and it seemed to work out until she entered the basement of one of Riley’s parent’s abandoned homes in a development and saw Brooklyn tied up and terrified. And Riley was ready to do an exorcism…

And then, things just got CRAZY.

I loved how fast paced the book was and how quickly things spiraled out of control. It teetered delicately on the line of being believable and yet completely insane at the same time, which was great. The ending was probably the best part. 

The book gets a bit violent and horrifying, so it’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s also not like nail biting scary either. It’s disturbing and fun and I’m glad I read it. I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes horror and stories where teens go a little crazy and gang up on others. The occult symbol and horror synopsis on a bright pink cover really says it all… lol.

Star 4

Review – The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

 

The Historian

By Elizabeth Kostova

SummaryTo you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history…

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

The Historian was a well researched and fascinating book that mixed history and legend together to weave a tale about Dracula. Part historical fiction, part horror, The Historian was very well done. The author did her research and was able to combine fact with the legends we know about Vlad the Impaler/Dracula and tie it together with a fictional tale about a daughter and her father. 

The story involved professors proficient in history and anthroplogy who happened upon a strange book that lead them to research more about the Dracula legends. For the characters involved, the research became highly dangerous. The main character, a sixteen year old girl, happened upon her fathers strange Dragon book and it prompted him to finally tell the story of his travels and his experiences with the book. 

The book shifted from present day, with the main character narrating in first person, to the father’s tale that he told verbally throughout many of their trips together. Then, a series of letters were introduced by her father’s mentor and colleague, another Profressor who disappeared many years ago. Other series of letters were introduced, so the reader was slowly introduced to the full picture and everything came together at the end.

The Historian was very long and slow. I’m glad I read the book during a time when I didn’t have much going on and didn’t have any reason to start the lofty 2017 reading goals I set for myself. In some ways, I feel like the length and the slowness were worth slogging through, as the story was well told. In some ways, I feel like the book was too long, too over the top, and the author could have told the same story and condensed in quite a bit, solving both the length and the issue of it being very slow and somewhat boring in some sections. But The Historian was a debut novel and one written by an author more geared towards the historical and academic aspect of everything. 

If you enjoy the idea of Vlad the Impaler, the Dracula legends, and the history surrounding all of it, The Historian is very enjoyable and worth the read. It’s sort of a combination of Dracula and perhaps The DaVinci Code, in that the main characters galavant all over the world in search of history and monuments, meeting just the right people at the just the right time in order to further their research, with a major threat hanging over them if they fail. I think the writing is likely a bit more intellectual than that of The DaVinci Code, but I still think it’s a fair comparison. For some, the coincidental convenience of the characters and their research will be too much and too unbelievable. I don’t know much about spending time in a dark and dusty archives and how plausible it is to happen upon people with similar research topics, but I was happy enough to let it slide by. After all, perhaps the history and location the characters were researching was one of those “small world” type of scenarios and they got lucky.

I recommend The Historian and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I do warn anyone that it is very very long. 

Star 4

Review – Gerald’s Game by Stephen King

Gerald’s Game

By Stephen King

SummaryStephen King cranks up the suspense in a different kind of bedtime story. A game of seduction between a husband and wife goes horribly awry when the husband dies. But the nightmare has just begun…

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

It’s so funny how different Stephen King books are and how some fans like some books and other fans love his other books. How can two huge Stephen King fans have such different opinions about his books?! But his books are so different from each other and there are so many, it’s just like a regular book genre. Some people like some books, other people don’t. Gerald’s Game is one of the books that seems to really test the line. Reviews go from 1/2 stars or 4/5 stars and there doesn’t seem to be very much in between. This book either scares you and impresses you or it makes your eyes bleed from boredom.

Gerald’s Game has to be the absolute worst Stephen King book I’ve ever read that I can remember. I hated it. I hated Jessie from page one and reading about her adventures handcuffed to the bed was the most awful thing ever. And it’s surprising because I certainly didn’t mind being in Paul Sheldon’s head while he was trapped in a bed going crazy, so it’s not that Stephen King isn’t great at weird story lines like that. Gerald’s Game is not a book for everyone. I’m a huge King fan and I usually like SOME aspect of a story and I really just wanted to either save Jessie or kill her, but just END THE FREAKING BOOK because it didn’t need to be that long. Ugh.

Some people really enjoyed the book. I would say that if you’re a fan of internal monologues and flashbacks and an overall lack of real plot, this book is perfect for you. And you’ll know within the first few chapters whether or not Jessie’s head is an enjoyable place for you. I didn’t enjoy myself at all and will be taking my shiny paperback to the used bookstore as soon as possible because I hated it. 

And if you loved this book and love King, please do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES recommend this book to people who haven’t read King. No matter how you feel about it, it’s unfair to subject someone to this book without them at least knowing what King is capable of. I would never pick up a Stephen King book if this was my only impression of his work.

Star 1

Review – Illuminae (Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

 

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)

By Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

SummaryThis morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Illuminae was one of kind, an absolutely thrilling story told in a unique way and had a flawless execution. 

I’ve heard a lot of praise for the book, but whenever I picked it up in the store and saw the way that it wasn’t a story in the traditional sense, with strange pages and transcripts and emails, I would put it back down. That style of storytelling has never worked well for me and I’ve always seen it as a great idea theoretically, but it sacrifices writing and details and would be better told as a movie if it’s not going to be a true story. It feels like a gimmick and it feels like a gimmick that stands in place of true storytelling. 

Illuminae completely blew me away and shattered my preconceived notions. I’m so glad I finally just grabbed it and decided to read it. I went into it feeling very nervous about it, afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up or that it would be dull or hard to read. But as soon as I dove in, it was easy and thrilling.

I cannot gush enough about how amazing the story was. Now that I’m done, I think the weird format was what made the book even better. It didn’t feel like a gimmick. It didn’t feel like the authors used the tactic to avoid writing well. There was incredible writing throughout the book and some poetic and moving sections. It was heart pounding. Terrifying. Absolutely mind blowing.

The book was a brilliant science fiction tale of loss, love, horror, war.. it was everything. Parts of it reminded me of Event Horizon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 28 Days Later, Starship Troopers… it’s rare that a science fiction YA novel really gets it right and Illuminae did it… and truly captured the essence of great science fiction. 

It mainly featured Kady Grant, a teenager living on Kerenza who was pretty good wth computers. She broke up with her boyfriend and her planet was attacked by a giant corporation. Refugees were rescued by a scientific research vessel and a military vessel and were on the run from the corporate ship. The military ship did not come out of the rescue unscathed, leading to some problems with the ships being able to make a swift escape. It sounds cool, but it could’ve easily been an eye-roll inducing dystopian space novel and because of the writing and the layers of storytelling, it was so much more. 

I did not expect the book to be so terrifying in some moments and I say that as a horror lover. The story was absolutely stunning and executed flawlessly. I can appreciate and savor each and every page. 

Illuminae was smart, clever, adventurous, emotional, scary, and so much more. I highly recommend it. Do not let the strange format stop you from reading the book! It was brilliant!

Star 5

 

Review – The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

 

The Night Sister

By Jennifer McMahon

SummaryOnce the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel’s past, something that ruined their friendship forever.

Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Sylvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock’s next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I am a huge fan of Jennifer McMahon novels and The Night Sister was certainly not disappointing. I’m always amazed when authors can deliver amazing stories that are consistently good and mysterious. While many of her stories share similarities, each one has a unique element that I never see coming and it makes each book it’s own wonderful adventure. Part mystery, part contemporary, part horror, part supernatural… all of her novels combine everything I love into compelling stories that feature something odd, something slightly off, and childhood adventures and misunderstandings that become adult secrets and memories of the past. 

I flew through The Night Sister on a cold and creepy evening, ready to be slightly scared, and the book definitely delivered. The story had 3 distinct parts. The 50s, where the story featured Sylvie and Rose, two sisters growing up in the Tower Motel in London, Vermont with their family; the 80s, featuring Amy, Rose’s daughter and her friend Piper, along with Piper’s sister Margot; the present, featuring Piper, who came back to town after an awful accident involving Amy. What secrets were hidden in the Tower motel? 

I loved piecing together the past and trying to unravel what was really going on in the motel. As I said before, McMahon isn’t afraid to throw a bit a supernatural into the story, so when Rose assumed her sister was a mare, a creature who could essentially shape-shift, I read with a healthy dose of skepticism and intrigue. Just because there are legends in the story doesn’t mean McMahon will necessarily include them as plot devices, so you never really know what to expect. I love never knowing what amount of the fantastic will be a part of the story and what is just part of the backdrop. It keeps me on the edge of my seat and it worked well in The Night Sister.

Aside from the mysterious plot and wondering what happened with Sylvie’s disappearance in the 60s, I was interested in the dynamics between Piper and Margot and Amy, as well as Jason, who played a part in the girl’s past and present and was later married to Margot. I love the complexities of growing up and discovering the problems of adults, wanting to figure out a mystery, and also having to deal with the emotions and hormone’s driving young teens. The book was compelling on several levels and it made it easy to flip through the pages eagerly.

I loved The Night Sister and I definitely recommend it. Still, my favorite McMahon novel is Don’t Breathe A Word, but The Night Sister was very good. I don’t know how she does it, but she tells great stories consistently, with none of them being disappointing to me. I highly recommend all of her books.

Star 5