Book Review: Howl-O-Ween by Gary L. Holleman



Title: Howl-O-Ween
Author: Gary L. Holleman
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: October 1996
Publisher: Leisure Books


Cyrus Twigg, a professional bodyguard, is hired by the mysterious and beautiful Kyna to protect her while she delivers jewels to clients across Canada and the US. Little known to either of them, her boyfriend and boss, Bryan, gave her a jewel that she wears around her neck, one that’s more valuable than the rest to the strange “Dark Man” who’s hot on their trail.

My Thoughts

What a weird book. Now, don’t get me wrong–I love weird. But this was weird in a way that didn’t quite make sense.  I don’t even know if I would classify it as horror, even though there were some gory bits. Also: werewolves.

The book has a noir-style feel to it, which normally I love, but if a book with a ridiculous premise takes itself too seriously… I think you see where I’m going with this. I think that in order to enjoy this book, you have to appreciate the dry humour, if that’s what it was intended to be. Still not sure on that point.

I was a fan of the Voodoo and the way that magic and werewolves worked in this novel.  However, it was a little convoluted and hard to keep my interest at parts. I’ve read a few books on Voodoo, and Holleman took some fact and threw it in with his fiction, which makes for a more interesting read.  While I love a book that’s heavy on the magic, however, I needed more likeable characters and a stronger plot to keep me interested.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the main character, Russ.  He was a typical thug.  His interactions with Kyna, the gorgeous woman who magically transforms into his lover (shocker) were so cheesy they bordered on comical. Here is an excerpt:

They made love. Not the way they usually did–like two sumo wrestlers in heat trying to pin each other–but slowly, carefully, lovingly, the way the Swiss make watches.

That said, the intentionally unlikeable characters were great. Holleman did a phenomenal job of making me detest characters like the boyfriend/boss “Bryan”, who fortunately get what’s coming to him in the end of the book.


I recommend this book to those looking for a cheesy horror book that’s set around Halloween.


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Book Review: Catfishing on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer

Catfishing on Catnet

Catfishing on Catnet

Title: Catfishing on Catnet
Author: Naomi Kritzer
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Date of Publication: November 19, 2019
Publisher: Tor Teen


This book is marketed as a dark thriller. I mean, look at that cover (Which, by the way, is not the cover it had when I requested it through NetGalley. That cover had cute cyber-kitties on it). Doesn’t this cover make the book look dark and spooky? Even the description and the initial reviews made it sound like a dark thriller about an AI that goes off its rocker.

On the contrary, this is a light book about a girl who’s always been on the run with her mother. They always have to move to different towns, so Stephanie doesn’t have any friends–in the real world. She has friends in CatNet, a chat room where pictures of cats and other adorable animals are like currency.  It’s quickly revealed that one of these friends is an artificial intelligence, and this AI wants to come out of the closet.  Meanwhile, Stephanie will do whatever it takes to keep from having to move to another town, because there’s a girl in her class who she isn’t ready to leave.


This book has a lot of great ideas, but I was disappointed in the execution. I’ll start with one of my favourite parts. In school, the students are expected to learn sex education from a robot, because adults find that topic uncomfortable. This part had me laughing (and a little angry, because it’s so darn accurate), and every time students would ask an unsanctioned question (about LGBTQ+ issues, for instance) the robot would tell them to ask their parents.  This was a hilarious and interesting projection of the current political climate, and I do wish this book had had more of these types of funny (yet upsetting) insights.

I absolutely loved the metaphor of the AI coming out as an artificial intelligence. However, for a book that is very Social Justice Warrior-y, the characters were often insensitive, and a lot of the metaphors really didn’t work. Stephanie should not have been running around telling everyone that [spoiler] was an AI, because that ruins the metaphor.  It was the AI’s choice to tell people, not Stephanie’s.  *Sigh*

I enjoyed the main story arc of the novel, but again, it wasn’t particularly suspenseful or dark. I would have liked for there to have been a few twists or turns in the storyline, to keep me asking questions.  Maybe I’ve been reading too many psychological thrillers, but I usually expect a twist or two in my books. At least one. (And that twist can’t be the one in the first chapter that reveals that one of the main characters is an AI).


I didn’t particularly like Stephanie, the main character. I felt for her plight, particularly the fact that her mother had lied to her her entire life, and her inability to make real-life friends–because she knew that these relationships could only be temporary. However, there were a few times when I really couldn’t stand Stephanie. In particular–when her mother is in the hospital, and Stephanie doesn’t know what’s wrong with her or if she’s even dying–and she doesn’t check on her for a very long time. Her mother has been essentially her only real-life friend her entire life, yet she doesn’t come across as particularly worried. She’s more concerned about her budding romance–which may be authentic for a teenage character, but this doesn’t make for a sympathetic character.

The saving grace for this book Stephanie’s relationship with Rachel. It was gradual, not insta-love, and they had cute interactions. However, I don’t understand why characters in non-fantasy YA books need to be so quirky these days. Why can’t the main character’s love interest be a normal girl who doesn’t draw on people and who has a normal number of birds waiting for her when she gets home (And for those asking, I’d say a normal number of birds would be 1-4).  

Catfishing on Catnet

I recommend this book to those who are looking for a YA quasi-thriller about artificial intelligence and contemporary social justice warrior issues. Just don’t think about the metaphors too much, and you might enjoy this book.


*Thank you to Tor Teen and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy for review*

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Book Review: I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

I Invited Her In Book Cover

I Invited Her in book cover

Title: I Invited her In
Editors: Adele Parks
Genre: Domestic Psychological Thriller 
Date of Publication: September 20, 2018
Publisher: MIRA

I invited her in… and she took everything…


Melanie hasn’t heard from her college best friend, Abigail, in over twenty years. But when Abigail calls her up to ask for a place to stay as she divorces her cheating husband, Melanie is thrilled.  She invites her in with open arms, which–as you can probably tell from the book’s title and its assigned genre of “domestic suspense”–isn’t a good thing…


I was surprised by how slow this book started. I’m used to psychological and domestic suspenses starting with a bang – in the form of a prologue or a little taste of what’s to come – and then go through the monotony of introducing the main character and her humdrum life, easing the reader into the plotline, etc. While the “suspense” element wasn’t immediately apparent (and by “immediate”, I mean not even within the first 100 pages), the writing was compelling.  I found that I was curious to uncover what would happen next. However, the book is very slowly paced and character driven.  Not a lot of anything happens in the first half of the book.

As I said before, there aren’t  a lot of thrills in the first half of the book, and you have to really want to find the “thriller” aspect to even feel the slightest bit of suspense. Some chapters are from Abigail’s point of view, and she doesn’t come across as ominous or unhinged, especially in the first few chapters with her POV.  It might have added more suspense to not know what she was thinking.  Especially since it can be difficult to write someone’s point of view without revealing their motives or what their plans are.  That said, the end of her chapters tended to have a single line that made me itch for more. A single line that could be interpreted as innocuous or foreboding.  I chose the latter, because that made it a more interesting read.

There are a few plot twists, but they’re all quite obvious from the very beginning.  I won’t spoil them here, but if you are reading the book carefully enough, the twists aren’t even twists at all, but more like a natural progression of the plot.

I found the story line somewhat infuriating.  While Melanie is quite a normal person, I couldn’t relate to how she dealt with some of the things going on, especially later on in the book.  The plot grew more and more exasperating, which was partly because the twists were obvious, but also because of how slow paced the story was in addition to how nonsensical some of the characters were behaving.  And it wasn’t infuriating in that fun “Oh, gosh, why can’t they see what’s been in front of them all along!?” kind of way, more in the “Dammit, why are you so stupid!?” kind of way.

Continue reading “Book Review: I Invited Her In by Adele Parks”

Book Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

There's Someone Inside Your House Book Cover

theres someone inside your house book cover

Title: There’s Someone Inside Your House
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Genre: Horror, Young Adult
Date of Publication: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

In There’s Someone Inside Your House, teenage Makani leaves her dark past behind in Hawaii and moves to a small town in Nebraska to live with her grandmother. It looks like her life is finally turning around.  She makes new friends and even has a budding romance with a mysterious loner named Ollie. But this Halloween brings a lot more than just dressing up and carving jack-o’-lanterns.  A serial killer is targeting students from Osbourne High.  Makani must find the murderer before he targets her or someone she cares about.

Book cover

I was disappointed in this book. Marketed as being like the next Scream, which is one of my favourite movies of all time, I was expecting something scary, funny, and self-aware. Unfortunately, There’s Someone Inside Your House was none of these things.

This book isn’t particularly frightening.  The murders are gory and creative, but that isn’t the reason why I read a horror book. I read for the characters. I want to get lost in the story and genuinely fear for the lives of the people I care about. After reading this book, I realized that Perkins could have killed off every single character and I wouldn’t have cared. In fact, that would have possibly made it more enjoyable, if only in the sense that it would have been unexpected and deliciously disturbing surprise.

I’m a huge fan of Perkins’ other works – particularly Anna and the French Kiss.  I would have forgiven this book for not having a great plot and not being scary had I been invested in the romantic plotline.  Perkins spends so much time developing it, yet it fell flat to me. I did not care one way or the other if Makani and Ollie ended up together. It seemed like Perkins was trying too hard to make Ollie a lovable outcast, and he just ended up being a stereotype.

I wanted more about Makani’s friendships. I wanted to see more of her relationship with family. I wanted to see her go to school, interact with her friends and teachers, before the murders started.  I think Perkins needed to spend more time building who Makani is on a personal level, and less time building what her romantic relationship with Ollie was.

One thing about slasher books and movies is that the main character is supposed to be relatable. She’s supposed to be the voice of reason.  However, there’s a serial killer on the loose and Makani barely notices. All she cares about (at first) is her romance. This is all well and fine, yet she’s the main character. This is acceptable behaviour in a zany best friend, but not in a main character.

Spoilers between the glasses!
Spoilers between the Glasses!


The killer ended up being someone that I only remembered being briefly introduced earlier. We found out who the killer was fairly early on, so I assumed there would be a twist or two before the end of the book. But there wasn’t one. I’d thought, since the book was compared to Scream, that maybe he had a partner, and that the partner was someone that the reader knew more intimately.  Nope.

Also, the reason why the killer was killing everybody was a little murky.  They had a few explanations as the story progressed as Makani and her friends tried to figure out why he was murdering people, but the explanations got more and more ridiculous. The final rationale was just as silly. Essentially, he didn’t want people moving on with their lives and leaving town after they graduated.  This explanation is unsatisfactory for me, and Perkins didn’t spend much time supporting this in the text.


Spoilers between the Glasses!

The main strength of this book is the language. Perkins has a unique and engaging writing style, which unfortunately wasn’t quite strong enough to make up for the unlikable characters and uninteresting plot.

I honestly don’t think I can recommend this book.  The romance is unimpressive, and the mystery itself is not very engaging. This book is quite short and is a very quick read, so I will let you decide for yourself.


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Book Review: In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey

In The Night Wood

In the night wood book cover

Title: In the Night Wood
Author: Dale Bailey
Genre: Fantasy
Date of Publication: October 9, 2018
Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

When he was just a young boy, Charles Hayden discovered a mysterious Victorian children’s book called “In the Night Wood”.  Years later, Charles is a failing scholar who is obsessed with the book that so greatly influenced his life. His wife is a distant relative of Caedmon Hollow, the author of “In the Night Wood”.  When she inherits Hollow’s home, he moves there with her to run away from their shared tragic past–the death of their six-year-old daughter.  Charles hopes that he can use this opportunity write a biography of Caedmon Hollow.  Digging deep into the past is never a good idea, however, and it quickly becomes apparent that “In the Night Wood” was inspired by the forest surrounding Hollow’s home.  But how much is truth and how much is fiction? 

The writing style is one of the book’s greatest strengths, and Caedmon Hollow’s Victorian-style house, the woods surrounding it, and the neighbouring town are all beautifully described.  However, I felt that the story somehow managed to feel too rushed, while very little actually happens. The story doesn’t have much substance.  In the Night Wood is quite short, but based on content, it could have easily been a novella or even a short story.

Continue reading “Book Review: In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey”

Book Review: Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Girls night out

Girls' Night Out Cover

Title: Girls’ Night Out
Author: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Genre: Thriller
Date of Publication: July 24, 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Three estranged friends go on a vacation to Tulum, Mexico to try to repair their damaged friendship.  When one of them goes missing on their girls’ night out, the other two must try to patch together their fragmented memories of what happened that night to find out what really happened to her…

This is a character-driven story about three insufferable, self-centered, and unrelatable women.  It’s nice to read a book about three professional women, but they are each more selfish and unlikable than the last. The secrets they’re “hiding” (at least, according to the description of the book), barely keep the plot moving forward. There’s a lot of dialogue, with a lot of roundabout conversations that don’t end up anywhere.  I don’t particularly understand why they’re friends, or even why they’re attempting to repair their relationship.  The three “girls” (women who are pushing forty—but I guess the book had to profit off the word “girl” being in the title) don’t ever learn from their mistakes. They have no empathy for one another, even though they’re all going through similar experiences in their lives.

Continue reading “Book Review: Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke”

Book Review: Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd

Dead Girl Running

Dead Girl Running

Title: Dead Girl Running
Author: Christina Dodd
Genre: Romantic Thriller, Mystery
Date of Publication: April 24, 2018
Publisher: HQN

Kellen Adams is hired as an assistant manager at a secluded resort on the North Pacific Coast. A former marine, she has a lot of secrets, including the fact that she doesn’t remember an entire year of her life.  Not long after taking over the resort, Kellen finds the former assistant manager’s mutilated corpse.  She has to solve this mystery, and it becomes quickly clear that the killer is still at the resort…

Dead Girl Running

Christina Dodd deals with a lot of tropes in this book, which is both its strength and its greatest weakness. Dead Girl Running features a battered wife running from her past and a former marine with a unique mental ability.  But the catch is that both tropes are wrapped up in the same person.

Dead Girl Running doesn’t have much originality in its plot or characters (or even setting) aside from the fact that there’s a lot going on.  It seems like Dodd had about twenty ideas for a book, and rather than sifting through them and picking one or two to focus on, she decided to use them all.  This in itself isn’t a bad thing.  Using a lot of different character and plot ideas could work, but she stretches herself too thin.  The book has the bad-ass marines, the typical cozy mystery novel setting, a murder mystery party (which, sadly, was barely covered), spies, and the list goes on.

Continue reading “Book Review: Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd”

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Tess of the Road

Tess of the Road Book Cover

Title: Tess of the Road
Author: Rachel Hartman
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Date of Publication: February 27, 2018
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Rachel Hartman has a solid writing style and a good sense of character development, but sometimes that isn’t enough to make a good book. This novel is a second duology set in a world Hartman already fleshed out in the Seraphina duology. While this book is supposed to be stand-a-lone, I do feel like the author cut corners when shaping this world. About fifty pages into the story, I found myself saying “Wait, what’s a dragon?” I still don’t have a clear answer, although I’ve pieced together a solid idea from her descriptions and other books I’ve read that feature dragons as a humanoid species. But using my vast knowledge of other fantasy series to understand this book is cheating, right?

One thing that I do appreciate is the ideas behind the story. Tess is on the road to finding herself, and it doesn’t require her to fall in love or meet a boy to do so. That said, the road to finding herself was deadly slow, with very few exciting events to keep the book moving forward. At first, I dreaded the flashbacks because they slowed the story down further, but after a while I appreciated them, because I hoped they would explain why Tess is such an unlikable character. I have a pet peeve against the trope of a female character who has a hard life just casually thinking about killing herself. She does seem mildly depressed, and I wish that she would have more genuinely considered it, if only to discover there’s something in live worth living for.

I did find the discussion of language – Quootla and Goreddi – rather interesting, but sometimes this slowed down the plot further.  I didn’t mind as much in these cases, because I’m a nerd and language is fascinating. Even made up languages.

Discussion of themes with some spoilers!

Tess of the Road


Like I said before, I appreciated the themes of the story. Tess believes she was “born bad”. She talks of this when she does some horrible things in the book like when she kicks the beggar under the bridge, but it’s almost an excuse. I would have liked for Tess to have developed more self-awareness. Tess also comes to terms with her body and her sexuality, through conversations with various strong women she meet along the road. The nun, the “whore”, and everyone else has something valuable to contribute to Tess’s personal growth.
Tess of the Road
“I’m just walking the road, looking for reasons to keep walking.”

While I appreciate that sentiment, and the writing was nearly impeccable, I felt the same way about reading this book. I just kept reading, looking for reasons to keep reading.


*I received an ARC of this book from Random House*

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