Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix







Horrorstor
Grady Hendrix


Genre: SuspenseHorror
Paperback: 240 Pages
Publication: September 23, 2014
by Quirk Books




Synopsis

Something 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.


Review
◆ An ARC was provided by Quirk for review ◆

Okay, I feel bad for starting out this way, but I didn’t like the layout of this book. I’ll still give the cover major points for creativity, though. Making it look like a furniture catalog is really clever, and the tiny hints in the pictures that reveal it as a horror story are brilliant. That being said, I just felt like the book was really clunky, and it was almost maddening for me that the print only filled half of the pages, leaving a whole column blank. I almost expected something like The Lifespan of a Fact, where there were notes in the margins throughout the whole book, but it didn’t happen. I think that if there had been something like that, not necessarily just notes but also signs in the store or even a few illustrations, it would’ve made the page formatting more understandable.

The only thing I really liked about the layout was the use of illustrations, both the cover art and the pictures featured at the beginning of each chapter. In the chapters, they gradually go from being things you would normally expect to see in a furniture store (couches, chairs, tables, etc.) to torture devices, tying into the big reveal about the store. The slow progression was very smart, and I loved how the objects were featured in the chapters, sometimes without names and it was kind of fun having to go back and figure out which was the "featured torture device," if you will.

As for the story, it was really good; there were moments when it made me think back to some horror films, like the original Night of the Living Dead and Poltergeist. Good as it was overall, I can't really say that applies to the first third or so. It was mostly setting up how bad a day it is for our protagonist, Amy. Honestly, this first part was a major slog to get through, and even though I think the intention was for the reader to sympathize with Amy, she doesn’t come across as very likable throughout this section. Since the novel is told in third person, I was hoping that the narrative would show us what was happening to other characters but it didn’t happen.

I especially would've liked this when all the weirdness started to go down, mostly because I wanted to see the reactions of our other main character, Basil. Where Amy is rash and headstrong, Basil is really rational and a strong rule-follower, and he's also revealed to be a big fan of Dr. Who, so maybe he's more open to the idea of the supernatural than we might be led to believe. Since he is African American and acts as a leader, he reminded me a lot of Ben from Night of the Living Dead, played by Duane Jones. This is all the more reason why I would've liked to have seen things from his perspective, to see how he finally figured out that what was happening was for real.

When it comes to the big reveal, I felt like it wasn’t complete. The less-than-reputable characters are the ones who talk about it, but because they aren’t the most trustworthy, you don’t know whether or not to believe what they say. It turns out to be true, but I wanted to know more. Part of the inside cover ties into the revelation, as do the torture devices featured at the beginning of later chapters, but what was lacking was information about the names and lists that are featured in the inside cover and in one particular illustration in the middle of a chapter.

I also wasn’t sure what to make of the epilogue. It seemed to come to an uneasy resolution, but then the last few pages set up either the possibility of a sequel, or at least of a few more chapters. Or maybe it was meant to show that the predicament was never going to end either way. There's no definite answer, and maybe there is going to be a sequel in the future. That being said, it's still a pretty ominous ending, as could be expected from a horror story either way, but it just felt too uncertain for me.

For the most part, I liked this book. Besides hating the layout and the first part of the story, I loved the rest of it up until the epilogue. There were plenty of good scares, and the suspense was well done. I’m not sure whether or not to expect a sequel, so I have mixed feelings about the ending. Also the physical book itself kind of hurt my overall enjoyment, but it might not bother everyone. All I can tell you for sure is that I'm not going to be stepping into an IKEA store anytime soon.





Additional Information

Series
   
N/A

Similar Books
  • The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Content
  • Violence
  • Some gore

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: Lailah by Nikki Kelly





Lailah
Nikki Kelly


Series: The Styclar Saga #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Hardback: 352 Pages
Publication: October 7, 2014
by Feiwel and Friends




Synopsis

The girl knows she’s different. She doesn’t age. She has no family. She has visions of a past life, but no clear clues as to what she is, or where she comes from. But there is a face in her dreams – a light that breaks through the darkness. She knows his name is Gabriel.

On her way home from work, the girl encounters an injured stranger whose name is Jonah. Soon, she will understand that Jonah belongs to a generation of Vampires that serve even darker forces. Jonah and the few like him, are fighting with help from an unlikely Allie – a rogue Angel, named Gabriel.

In the crossfire between good and evil, love and hate, and life and death, the girl learns her name: Lailah. But when the lines between black and white begin to blur, where in the spectrum will she find her place? And with whom?

Gabriel and Jonah both want to protect her. But Lailah will have to fight her own battle to find out who she truly is.


Review
◆ An ARC was provided by Macmillan for review ◆

I think the reason that I kept trying for so long is because Lailah was originally published on Wattpad (here), and I was curious about what the sensation was. I also give some leeway when reading a debut work. I can certainly see why this garnered an audience. The writing has a mysterious quality to it in places, and the characters are compelling in their own right. However, too many cumulative annoyances piled up, and I had to put this one down.

There's an excess of some things like extraneous talk of dress and appearances, which is fun at first but gets annoying after a while. And there's too little of other things like world building, especially of the human world. (It took me a while to realize we're supposed to assume it's our world with the same general mythologies, and I was caught off guard when an iPhone appears midway into the storyline.) The same goes for the development of character relations—to the extent that I don't feel like I got to know any of the side characters beyond a superficial level.

With paranormal books, I find that they tend to lean either towards a romance focus or a plot focus. This definitely fell on the romance end of the spectrum, which was disappointing as there is a lot of potential in developing the intrigue here. However, the little present that is present in the first half of the book is poorly done. Hints are dropped, meant to build up the suspense and set up the plot for events to come; instead, it's frustrating because there doesn't seem to be a pattern or purpose to the order in which things are revealed. The same goes for the manner with which Gabriel tells Lailah multiple times that all will be revealed. . . eventually. I'd be okay with him withholding things if Lailah didn't keep asking him, but when the protagonist goes looking for answers, I'd like to get something out of it. Maybe not direct answers but at least some plot development.

This is defeinitely a paranormal romance. Lailah has interest in both guys, one is light and one is dark. Sometimes this can work out; however, Lailah's relationships with the two of them aren't fleshed out well, and I ended up being surprised by some of the developments. Lailah, or Cessie as she goes by in this lifetime, keeps thinking about Gabriel while keeping her distance from Jonah, and then all of a sudden she reveals a fatal attraction to dark, dangerous Jonah, who she suspects has shady motives (though she really doesn't know what he wants), and lets him get close to her. I could maybe understand her waverings if her relationships and thoughts about the two guys were better explored, but as it is, it was as if a bomb had been dropped.

And Lailah. At times she seems content with the little that Gabriel offers her whereas at other times she acts brash and recklessly despite the danger out there and her lack of knowledge of what she's charging into. Seriously though, why run into a house overrun with evil Vampires out to get you when you don't even know how to defend yourself from them? Rather than rescuing your comrades, you're more likely to get in their way. What really did it in for me is that she and Gabriel seem to have something between them, except they do a poor job of communicating, and there's a definite lack of trust between them, neither of which bodes well for their relationship. He withholds things from her, and she runs into the arms of another man because she's jealous of the Vampire that clings onto him. Even though he's done nothing to suggest that he cares about anyone more than Lailah.

As it is, I never really felt connected to the story or the characters. First, there isn't a good balance between the romance aspect of the novel and the plot development. Second, it felt as if I was waiting for everyone to figure out what Lailah is and why she is so desired by the higher powers of both supernatural orders. Which means a lot of running and waiting. Midway into the book, it began to feel like this is another first book whose purpose is to set the stage for the second book. While that is generally the purpose of first books, I like for one to have a plot of its own and be able to stand on its own. At the point I dnfed in the novel, it doesn't seem like this one can.

DNF 55% into the novel




Additional Information
Series
  1. Lailah
  2. Gabriel
  3. Untitled
Content
  • Kissing, touching
  • Violence

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review: Generation 18 by Keri Arthur





Generation 18
Keri Arthur


Series: Spook Squard #2
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Crime
Paperback: 384 Pages
Publication: September 30, 2014
by Dell




Synopsis

COUNTDOWN TO CRISIS

A serial killer strikes every twelve hours. A vampire takes lives at random. At first glance, these tragic incidents seem unrelated. But Special Investigations Unit agents Sam Ryan and Gabriel Stern trace them both back to a military base known as Hopeworth. Is the murder spree part of a cover-up? And are the vampire killings less by chance and more methodical?

The investigation takes an eerie, personal turn when Sam discovers a connection between herself and the victims—and a clue to her own mysterious origins. With the violence escalating and the danger drawing closer to home, the stakes are raised and the mission changes from seeking justice to ensuring Sam and Gabriel’s own survival. And the one person who seems to hold all the answers—about Hopeworth, about Sam’s past—is a mystery man she isn’t sure she can trust. They share a psychic link through her dreams, and he once saved her life, but he may just be the greatest enemy humankind has ever known.


Review
◆ An ARC was provided by Random House for review ◆

Once again, I found myself hooked in by the action and intrigue. It's a bit spotty for the better part of the novel with the SIU trying to make sense of the evidence. As the pieces come together, however, the action really gets going, and I couldn't tear my eyes away from the pages.

I still find it hard to connect with Sam and Gabriel. There's a lot that we don't know about them, mostly because we follow them as they proceed along this investigation. It's all about the work with no time for play for the partners, and little of their thoughts and backstories was worked into the novel. That's why it's pretty jarring whenever Gabriel's family makes an appearance in the story. Becauase they rarely warrant a mention otherwise. As for Sam, I understand that she doesn't know any of her potentially living relatives and that she has a big memory gap in her past, but I feel like there should be ways of letting the readers get to know her outside of her attitude at work and towards her partner.

The characters aren't the only aspect that could use more fleshing out. There's a lot of potential for more plot development. As it is, we just follow the partners from one lead to another, and the pieces just somehow come together. Given how rashly the partners act (once again, Gabriel walks right into a trap he saw coming, and once again, Sam acts against her partner's better judgment), it's also surprising that they manage to come out of everything in one piece. Cross that. They walk out because they happen to have special powers that emerge when they need them. As much as I like the intrigue and action that's already present in the novel, it could have been a lot better if I believed that the partners might not make it out alive, if I really felt the danger. The mystery was also pretty straightforward and could have used more twists. I'd also like to see more resolution to the case. Once again, things just happen, and we're expected to believe that the current investigation has been wrapped up nicely.

That said, I do have questions coming out of Generation 18. From Gabriel's words and from similar situations taking place in The Damask Circle books, I thought that shapechangers only loved once in a lifetime. So why the growing connection with Sam? (And why is Gabriel okay with having casual sex with someone he doesn't particularly care about?) What's going on in the military? What are these secrets projects that Sam seems to be connected to? Also, while this novel is titled after one of the military's secret projects, the project itself doesn't play much of a role in the novel. It would have been nice if more intrigue around the project was built up and if it'd played a larger role in the novel.

Though questions have been raised about Sam's past since Memory Zero, book one, it doesn't feel like much has been done about it in the installments. While we're closer to the truth, it just feels like it's put on the back burner until things happen to raise questions. There's a lot going on here, and I'm not sure if they can all be answered in another 400 or so pages in the next installment. Nevertheless, for all the complaints I have about Generation 18, I've enjoyed this book and the series thus far and will be reading Penumbra to see how this all wraps up.




Additional Information
Series
  1. Memory Zero
  2. Generation 18
  3. Penumbra
Content
  • Violence

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Review: The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead





The Indigo Spell
Richelle Mead


Series: Bloodlines #3
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Hardback: 401 Pages
Publication: February 12, 2013
by Razorbill




Synopsis

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets - and human lives.

In the aftermath of a forbidden moment that rocked Sydney to her core, she struggles to draw the line between her Alchemist teachings and what her heart is urging her to do. Then she finally tracks down the elusive, enigmatic Marcus Finch – a former Alchemist who the organisation denies exists, and who lives in shadows, on the run. With Marcus's help, Sydney realises that the group she's been loyal to her whole life has been hiding the truth from her. Is it possible that her golden lily tattoo might have more power over her than she thinks?

As she struggles to come to terms with what that might mean, Sydney is compelled to use her growing magical powers to track down an evil magic user who is targeting powerful young witches. Using magic goes against everything she always thought she believed, but she realises that her only hope is to embrace her special blood – or else she might be next.

Forging her own way is harder than Sydney ever dreamed. Maybe by turning off her brain – and following her heart – she'll be able to finally figure out where she belongs.


Review

I am totally, shamelessly admitting that my reason for reading these books has been the epic romance between human and Moroi. It has to be when my reason for reading the first three books through The Indigo Spell has been to see Sydney and Adrian finally get together.

I can't talk enough about how much I love them. I'm not usually one for going for the bad boy, and yet Adrian is one of my few everlasting book crushes. Okay, he's not the stereotypical bad boy, but he does have his vices: smoking, drinking, and he has a bit of a playboy partyboy history. At the same time, he's just so darn charming and full of witty remarks, he's just irresistible. I love seeing the effect he has on straightlaced Sydney, who is struggling to reconcile her Alchemist beliefs and what her heart tells her. They're just so cute and perfect together. It's obvious they were meant to be. And I love the swoonworthy romantic scenes that The Indigo Spell delivers.

Plot-wise, The Indigo Spell fell short of my expectations. With all the anticipation build up regarding Marcus Finch—and with him featured on the cover—I was expecting to see more of him. However, he doesn't really seem to play much of a role in this book except to provoke Sydney into investigating more deeply into Alchemist affairs. The witch plot failed for me as well. I think there's just too much going on here for one book, and it's been a struggle trying to bring the vampire and witch worlds together. With all these things going on, I don't know how Sydney's managed to stay sane. What I can say is that I like how she deals with things, and I approve of her decision at the end.

With all the plotlines competing for attention, many of the side characters lost out as well. Other than Sydney and Adrian, the other characters don't get much page time, which was disappointing as I like a lot of them, excepting Marcus and co. I miss the "family time" from Bloodlines and The Golden Lily. All we really get to see here is that. . . well, it's complicated, and Sydney is glaringly missing out on a lot of things.

Despite my feelings on the plot, I'm still very much in love with the VA world. I am feeling all sorts of feels and am desperately want to see a happy ending for Sydney and Adrian. As expected, Richelle Mead delivers a complicated turn of events at the end. I'm going oh no oh no oh no and am yearning to get started on The Fiery Heart so that I can find out what happens next. I've heard great things about the book and have high expectations for it!




Additional Information
Series
  1. Bloodlines
  2. The Golden Lily
  3. The Indigo Spell
  4. The Fiery Heart
  5. Silver Shadows
  6. The Ruby Circle
Similar Books
  • Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
Content
  • Kissing
  • Violence


Favorite passage
There are some swoonworthy moments in this book. Some very swoonworthy elements. However, Adrian is just so full of charm, wit, and sarcasm. I don't think anything can beat an Adrian retort.

Such as. . .
“You're not as much of a lost cause as she was. I mean, with her, I had to overcome her deep, epic love with a Russian warlord. You and I just have to overcome hundreds of years' worth of deeply ingrained prejudice and taboo between our two races. Easy.”

Oh, Adrian. . . you really know how to live on the positive side of life. I think his situation with Sydney may be even more complicated than with Rose, though it's certainly easier to woo a lady when her heart isn't taken already.

Now, I ask you. What are your favorite Adrian moments?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Review: Goodnight Kiss by R.L. Stine







Goodnight Kiss
R.L. Stine


Genre: YA SuspenseHorror
Paperback: 216 Pages
Publication: June 1, 1992
by Simon Pulse




Synopsis

Summer means plenty of beach tourists…and plenty of fresh blood after months of deprivation. But this year the Eternal Ones have decided to spice things up with a little bet: The first to seduce a hot date of the human variety, and then turn him into a fellow creature of the night, wins. The catch? In order to successfully turn their prey, they must take only three small sips of blood on three different nights. If they take too much blood on any night, the human will die and the bet will be lost.


Review

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this in any of my previous reviews, but I LOVE vampires. As in I’ve been obsessed with them since I was seven years old. So naturally, I was excited to find out that R.L. Stine had written a vampire book for teen readers (the first Goosebumps book I remember reading was Vampire Breath). I vaguely recalled hearing about this book and seeing it in classrooms when I was a kid, but never got around to reading it until now.

The plot was relatively solid. Not tight since it meandered and floundered at some points, but nothing too distracting. However, I wasn’t terribly crazy about the way this book was structured. There were times when I thought chapters were cut too short just so they would end on cliffhangers, which really wasn’t that necessary. Another problem I had was with wordiness; a lot of things were repeated, like the vampires' hair color and the seductiveness of their eyes and lips. These reminders weren't necessary at all and only made the prose more awkward and clunky.

The human characters were bland for the most part. This might be because they're just pawns for the vampires to play with, but there wasn't really anything that made them memorable. The only one who somewhat stands out is Matt, whom I remember as the guy obsessed with horror movies and whose girlfriend gets frustrated with him. There's also the easy-to-spot dated references: the theater in town is showing a Friday the 13th triple feature, there's a photo shop, and no mention of cell phones. This isn't bad, but it also got me wondering if Stine had just watched another 80s horror classic, An American Werewolf in London, while writing this since one of the characters meets a fate similar to a character from the movie. Nothing lycanthrope-related but if you've seen the movie and read this, you might catch the reference.

I have to admit, I love classic vampires. I do like some re-imaginings, but sometimes there’s no topping some of the classic lore: no reflections, no crosses, no garlic, no going out until nighttime. These are the kinds of bloodsuckers we’re dealing with, and I like them… for the most part. The vampires don’t refer to themselves as vampires, but instead as Eternal Ones. It’s not clear why they’re called eternal; I assumed that it's because they stay however old they are when they’re transformed, but that theory was knocked off when a vampire describes how he has to put effort into looking youthful again. We're never given a reason for this, and the curiosity bothered me while reading.

Maybe it's because they stick so close to classic vampire traits that Stine may have felt it unnecessary to dive more into the mythos of these Eternal Ones. For me, this was a huge lost opportunity and probably the biggest disappointment of the book. Because we spend so much time with the vampires, I would've loved to have known more about them and how it is that they came to become Eternal Ones. One of them reflects on how she doesn't remember her human life at all, while the other notes that the soil surrounding his coffin is the only thing left of his homeland. This brought up a lot of questions that I hoped would be answered at some point but never were.

Then there’s the twist ending. I liked it, but it felt like it was thrown in just for the sake of having a twist. There is a sequel though, and the twist might tie in to what happens in the next book. (For this review, I read the collector’s edition which has both this story and its sequel, plus a bonus short story. If you would like to check it out, click here.) It honestly has me split down the middle: everything seemed all fine and good, but then came the twist in the last chapter. The one plus I see to the twist is that it sets you up for a sequel, where hopefully we get answers to the questions that came up during this book.

Like I said in my last Stine review, try going into this book with the sort of mentality you’d have before watching a cheap horror movie. As was mentioned earlier, this had a good, if sometimes rambling, plot. The vampires are melodramatic almost to the point of being funny, though this may be Stine's personal touch (he was a comedian to start off with, after all). These vampires are kind of sexy but still relatively tween friendly; they're not meant to be totally romantic and do have moments when they're actually kind of scary. Bad prose and lack of vampire mythology aside, this was a quick and fun read. Not the best out there by any means, but still pretty okay.






Additional Information

Series
  1. Goodnight Kiss
  2. Goodnight Kiss II

Similar Books
  • Bury Me Deep by Christopher Pike
  • The Hunger by Whitley Streiber
Content
  • Making out
  • Brief violence
  • Biting

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lois Metzger: Some Things I Learned While Writing A Trick of the Light + Giveaway

Today, I'm delighted to have Lois Metzger on the blog today to talk about . A Trick of the Light was one of my favorite reads last year. It's a FANTASTIC book that I recommend to young readers. It talks about some very important concepts, particularly about boys and eating disorders. This is a book that I would want my children to read.

You can read my review of the book here and an interview I had with Lois Metzger when the book first came out here. You can also enter to win a signed copy of the book on this very post!


Lois Metzger: Some Things I Learned
While Writing A Trick of the Light


The sheer numbers of people with eating disorders: the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) estimates that 30 million people in this country have eating disorders at some point in their lives. At any time, 10 million people have eating disorders, and at least 10 percent are male, which means at least one million men and boys—who are less likely to seek out or find treatment because eating disorders are still considered “girl diseases.”

My book is fiction, but the narrator—also known as the “eating-disorder voice” or the “anorexic voice”—is very real. I’ve seen it described in other books (fiction and nonfiction) as an ever-present “green, scaly creature with a large beak,” “the dictator,” “the beast,” “a drumbeat, a howl,” and a voice that “didn’t seem to be me doing the talking. Not any part of me I’d ever encountered, anyway.”

People with eating disorders often have food rituals. In my book, Mike eats only five bites per meal and arranges food on his plate so it resembles a clock face. While researching eating disorders, I spoke to young men who chewed food and spit it out, who only ate at night and never during sunlight hours, who only ate burnt toast.

Many people with eating disorders suffer from “body dysmorphia”—believing that one’s appearance is hideous and flawed, and ruminating about this for more than one hour a day. They may look in the mirror and actually see a distorted image. A healthy body can appear grotesquely overweight. Even an emaciated body can appear “fat.”

People may want to lose a few pounds in order to look good or feel fit. When people with eating disorders lose weight they endanger their health. Their hair and eyelashes may fall out, and cuts and bruises don’t heal. They may get a soft coat of fuzz on their faces, backs and chests (because of a lack of food, the body can no longer produce heat, and this hair is the body’s attempt to keep warm). They have trouble sleeping because the body won’t let them rest—it goes into starvation mode and stays alert because it wants to find food and eat. Due to a lack of calcium, they may develop osteoporosis. They can’t stand up straight and their bones can break from a simple fall. Too little potassium can result in weakened heart muscles, which can lead to a heart attack (in fact, the mortality rate for eating disorders is as high as 20 percent). So the intent—to look good and feel fit—has been lost. They are cold all the time, and hungry all the time, and can’t sleep, even while they protest that they are not freezing, not famished, not exhausted.

Which was something else I learned. People with eating disorders lie a lot because they have to hide the fact that they have eating disorders. This is why the narrator of my book—the “anorexic voice”—lies all the time. It is the quintessential “unreliable narrator.”

Because people with eating disorders deny they are ill, and because eating disorders can escalate so quickly and are so deadly, friends and family have to take action. A good first step is to call NEDA: 1-800-931-2237.


About the Author

Lois Metzger, author of A Trick of the Light, was born in Queens and has always written for young adults. She is the author of three previous novels and two nonfiction books about the Holocaust, and she has edited five anthologies. Her short stories have appeared in collections all over the world. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, and Harper's Bazaar. She lives in Greenwich Village with her husband and son.

Connect with Lois
Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter


About the Book


A Trick of the Light
by Lois Metzger

Genre: Contemporary
Paperback: 208 Pages
Publication: September 23, 2014
by Balzer + Bray


Mike Welles had everything under control. But that was before. Now things are rough at home, and they're getting confusing at school. He's losing his sense of direction, and he feels like he's a mess. Then there's a voice in his head. A friend, who's trying to help him get control again. More than that—the voice can guide him to become faster and stronger than he was before, to rid his life of everything that's holding him back. To figure out who he is again. If only Mike will listen.



Giveaway


Thanks to Lois, we have a signed paperback of A Trick of the Light to offer for one of our readers. To enter, all you need to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us what you learned from Lois's post / if you have anything to add and why you want to win her book.

● Open to the United States
● Giveaway ends September 25th
● Full contest terms and conditions found on Rafflecopter

a Rafflecopter giveaway