Book Review: The Hellbound Heart

Hellbound Heart

The Hellbound Heart

Title: The Hellbound Heart
Author: Clive Barker
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: November 1986
Publisher: been republished numerous times


My Thoughts

I remember when I was a kid, hanging out at the movie store, trying to decide what age-appropriate film to rent.  I always found myself back in the horror section, staring at the covers in fascination. Hellraiser was one of the covers I often returned to. It mesmerized me. I eventually saw the movie years later, and it quickly became a favourite.

I finally read the novella this brilliant movie was based on this year.  Being a novella, it is quite fast paced, and the horror begins within the first few pages. Despite the short length of it, we get to delve into the motivations of the main characters with a remarkable amount of detail.

This is my first Clive Barker book, and it definitely won’t be my last. His writing style is unique and beautiful and horrifying. I want to explore another world he’s created with his brilliantly twisted mind and unrivaled talent for putting words to the pages.

Before reading this book, I was warned that it’s quite similar to the movie, and that I might be disappointed because of this. To the contrary. I was in the mood to rewatch the movie, so I read the book instead. It is a terror-ride from cover to cover, and recommended reading for any horror lover.

Hellbound Heart

Recommended for those who love the movie, or for those who are looking for a bite-sized horror novel to read before a sleepless night.

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Book Review: Beneath London’s Fog by Iona Caldwell

Beneath London's Fog book cover

Title: Beneath London’s Fog 
Author: Iona Caldwell
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Date of Publication: October 30, 2019
Publisher: FyreSyde Publishing


Synopsis

A centuries-old vampire haunts the streets of London at night, but he isn’t the monster one would expect. Jonathan once fell in love with a human, Anna, who died tragically, breaking his heart.  Now he does not kill to feed, though it would make him stronger. He lives in the feared Raven Hollow Manor with his daughter, an orphaned human he adopted.  Since he does not kill, he is safe from persecution, that is, until another vampire comes to town and this one doesn’t share Jonathan’s moral code…

Plot 

This is a novella, which is both a strength and a weakness. It’s a strength, because every word that Caldwell writes serves a purpose to either create atmosphere, plunge the plot forward, or develop three-dimensional characters. It’s also a weakness because I wanted more!

This book is rocket-fast paced. It’s designed as a quick and tumultuous adventure, rather than a long and arduous trek, which is often the case with Victorian-era vampire fiction.

There are many flashbacks throughout the story, but they felt a little too rushed to my liking. It often felt like a scene ended just when it was really beginning.  Caldwell had a dynamic idea that could have easily been extended into a full-length piece.

The plot of this novel did seem familiar, as if I’ve read it before. While deemed “horror” the book isn’t particularly scary. However, it does deal with some dark themes, (and vampires ripping out people’s throats is always considered horror, right?). That said, I would categorize this book more as a compelling mystery masquerading as a Gothic vampire horror.

Characters 

While fast-paced, the novel doesn’t forego necessary character descriptions. Jonathan isn’t a mysterious cloaked figure, but a well-fleshed out character. Caldwell does this through flashbacks as well as present-day interactions with his daughter.

Because of the shortness of the book, we don’t get to see as much of other characters, such as the villain (I’ll leave it vague since that’s a  spoiler!) or even his daughter, Anna. I would have liked to learn more about Anna, her motivations, and maybe experience more flashbacks to when she was first adopted by this creature of the night. What happens when a centuries-old vampire is raising a teenager? I’m hoping that future instalments in this series will give me the juicy details that I want!

Language

Beneath London’s Fog reads like other classic vampire stories–particularly Dracula or Interview with the Vampire. The style is authentic to the time period. The writing is also almost epistolary in the way that Jonathan seems to address the reader, but this isn’t extended throughout the whole story, which might have disconnected the readers from the action.

While Caldwell uses an older style of writing, this doesn’t detract from the quick pace of reading.  There aren’t any long, monotonous speeches, as seen in classic horror novels such as Dracula.  That said, there were occasional parts where the grammar seemed stilted, which is to be expected when using this style of writing.

Setting

Somehow in a 100-page novel, Caldwell hits all four readers advisory (librarian-nerd alert!) appeal factors–including setting, which is often neglected in shorter pieces.  She takes her time describing the city, as well as Raven Hollow Manor. She provides twisted history of this building, which was a delightfully dark surprise. But again, I wish she had delved deeper into the beautiful world she created. I wanted to learn more about the madman that had once lived in Raven Hollow, or the monster that apparently lurks deep beneath it.

Beneath London's Fog

I recommend this novella to anyone looking for a cozy horror story to read on a cold evening while curled up by the fireplace with a cat on one side and a glass of blood–er–wine on the other.

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*Thank you to FyreSyde Publishing for the advanced reader copy for review*

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Book Review: Rose by Rami Ungar

Rose by Rami Ungar

Rose book cover

Title: Rose
Author: Rami Ungar
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: June 19, 2019
Publisher: Castrum Press


Synopsis

When Rose awakens in a greenhouse with no memory of how she got there, she’s horrified to discover that her body has transformed. Her memories are a jumble, and she encounters a strange man named Paris who claims to be the love of her life. She doesn’t remember him at all. He says that he saved her life using magic he found in an ancient tome, and that her bodily transformation is an unfortunate side effect. But there’s a sinister side to Paris that scares her and makes her question everything he’s told her…

Plot

The story gripped me from its very first lines.  Ungar keeps the pages turning with a fast-paced plot.  The novel itself is only 208 pages, and he fits quite a bit of action among its pages. The story is intense and dark and fit for any fan of the horror genre.

The transformations that Rose undergoes are truly unique, and Ungar has created a new horror monster that isn’t quite like the rest.  He establishes limitations for her that make the story more interesting, as we discover that Rose cannot simply escape from Paris’ home.

While compelling, there are some aspects to the story that require a suspension of disbelief, and those have nothing to do with the magic.  For example, what are the odds that both Rose and Paris speak Dutch?  There are also a few inconsistencies in the plot. Rose’s parents are uneducated, yet one of them is a librarian? Ahem. I’m going to let that one slide, but just FYI, you need at least one master’s degree to be a librarian. Rose is Paris’ sociology “teacher”, but I couldn’t quite tell if that meant she was his professor or teaching assistant.  These little inconsistencies are nitpicking, and while they did confuse me somewhat while reading the story, they didn’t affect my enjoyment of it.

Characters

Rose is categorized as a horror, and while there’s some body horror in her transformations, the real horror lies in what a human would do with seemingly infinite power.  Paris’ transformation may not be a physical one, but it is the most terrifying part of this story.  Paris is a fascinating character with a horrifying past that has distorted him into the man he is today.

As mentioned earlier, Rose has lost her memories. Part of the fact that she has lost her memories means that she could be any one of us.  There aren’t any obvious aspects of her past that distinguish her from any other woman reading the book, and that relatability adds a personal touch to the horror. Ungar manages to develop her personality well without having the crutch of many flashbacks to draw on.  She questions her sanity more than once which, again, adds another level of horror to the novel.  As the story progresses, she regains some of her memories, and this enables Ungar to flesh her out into an even more compelling character.

There are other characters in the story, but they aren’t as well developed, which is the nature of such a short, plot-driven book. Had Ungar decided to make the novel longer, I would have liked to have seen more of these characters on the pages.

Rose

I recommend this book to those looking for a psychological thriller with a body horror twist.

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*Thank you to the Blackthorn Book Tours for the ebook for review*

Author bio:

Rami Ungar knew he wanted to be a writer from the age of five, when he first became exposed to the world of Harry Potter and wanted to create imaginative worlds like Harry’s. As a tween, he fell in love with the works of Anne Rice and Stephen King and, as he was getting too old to sneak up on people and shout “Boo!’ (not that that ever stopped him), he decided to merge his two loves and become a horror writer.

Today, Rami lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio. He’s self-published three novels and one collection of short stories, and his stories have appeared in other publications here and there. Rose, his first novel with Castrum Press, will be released June 21st, 2019.

When he’s not writing your nightmares or coming up with those, he’s enjoying anything from the latest horror novel or movie to anime and manga to ballet, collecting anything that catches his fancy, and giving you the impression he may not be entirely human.

Author links:

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Book Review: Violet by Scott Thomas

Violet

Violet

Title: Violet
Author: Scott Thomas
Genre: Horror, Literary
Date of Publication: September 23, 2019
Publisher: Inkshares


Synopsis

When Kris’s husband dies, she decides to take her daughter, Sadie, to stay at the summer cottage her family used to visit when she was a little girl.  But things aren’t quite as idyllic as Kris remembers.  The cottage is run down and uncared for.  The town of Pacington has had a string of missing girls.  Strangely, Sadie isn’t at all upset to be spending her summer in a creepy house in the middle of nowhere far from all her friends.  She’s made a new friend–an imaginary one. A little girl named Violet, who is suspiciously similar to the imaginary friend that Kris had when she stayed at this cottage twenty years ago…

Plot

The concept of this novel is simple, yet brilliant.  Unfortunately, because of this, there aren’t many twists in the plot that aren’t immediately given away by the blurb on the back of the book. Despite this, the book is all about the journey. It’s about following Kris as she struggles to understand what is happening, even if the reader already knows or suspects what is going on.

Unlike Kill Creek, Scott Thomas’s debut novel, Violet is far more literary, and, as a result, it is much slower paced.  There are many flashbacks to when Kris was a little girl staying in this house, filling in the gaps in her memories which have faded over the years.  The prose is powerful and gripping, and the setting and characters are so well-described that I could perfectly envision Kris and Sadie stepping out of the car and approaching their new home.

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Book Review: Brimstone by Tamara Thorne

Brimstone

Brimstone book cover

Title: Brimstone
Author: Tamara Thorne
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: May 9, 2019
Publisher: Glass Apple Press


Synopsis

Eleven-year-old Holly Tremayne has been able to see ghosts her entire life.  When Holly’s mother brings her to stay with her reclusive grandmother, retired actress Delilah Devine, at the Brimstone Grand Hotel, Holly’s excited to be staying at a haunted place. But what she doesn’t realize is that the ghosts are quite aggressive, and that she is personally connected to the most dangerous ghost of all… the Brimstone Beast.

Continue reading “Book Review: Brimstone by Tamara Thorne”

Book Review: Wolfgang by F. D. Gross

Wolfgang

Wolfgang book cover

Title: Wolfgang
Editors: F. D. Gross
Genre: Horror, fantasy
Date of Publication: October 23, 2018
Series: Wolfgang #1
Publisher: Independently published


Synopsis:

Wolfgang is a nobleman who spends his days and nights purging the countryside of the undead.  But when he returns home after killing a nest of vampires, he discovers his wife dead, his town in ruins, and his son is missing. Desperate to find his son alive, he must fight a race against time, all the while killing the hoards of undead that are trying to keep him from his goal.

Plot

The book opens with a little preamble setting the stage for the story. It sort of reminds me of the sliding words on the screen of the beginning of Star Wars movies.  I think this will be very useful in follow up books in the series, so that readers can be quickly reminded of what happened in the previous books, so the the author can jump right into the plotline in the first chapters.

This novel reads like a rocket-fast paced version of Dracula (minus the epistolary style).  The story itself is quite different from Dracula, but the writing has a similar language and tone.  The plot plunges forward from the very first pages, and things are explained just enough so that the reader can follow along for this wild ride.  There are quite a few twists and turns in the plot, some which were predictable, and others were not.  

Characters

Because of the fast pace of the story, there is not much opportunity for scenes that are crafted solely for the purpose of character development. However, every scene is carefully planned.  F. D. Gross does an excellent job of giving us a clear understanding of who Wolfgang is, what his motivations are, and even showing some vulnerabilities. For instance, in the very beginning of the story, he has to kill an undead woman.  He does so, because it’s his duty, but he wavers at the thought of killing her child, even though the little boy is no longer technically living. This tells us so much about not only the nature of the undead in this world, what the plot will be like for the story, but it also tells us bucketloads about the main character.

Side characters are a little less developed, and I would have liked to have had some more scenes with simple conversations between the characters, to get a better sense of who they are.  Wolfgang’s wife dies very early on in the book, but we didn’t have much opportunity to grow attached to her. However, F. D. Gross does provide some flashbacks later in the book, which allow the reader to better understand how greatly Wolfgang loved his wife.

Worldbuilding

While the plot is fast-paced, every word is carefully selected and F. D. Gross crafts a well-developed and elaborate world.  He even describes what the undead smell like – cloves and burnt leaves, in case you were wondering.

Wolfgang

Overall, I highly recommend this book if you’re a fan of fast-paced plots, effortless worldbuilding, and old-fashioned vampire killing.

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*Thank you to the author for the ebook for review!*

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Book Review: Carrie by Stephen King

Carrie book cover

Carrie book cover

Title: Carrie
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: April 5, 1974

 


 

Carrie has had a difficult life.  She’s chubby.  Her mother is extremely religious. The girls at school bully her.  But Carrie isn’t like these other girls. She’s different, and on prom night, when her bullies take things too far, that’s when she’ll have her revenge…

This book review includes spoilers! Read on at your own risk!

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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: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula cover

Dracula book cover

Title: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker 
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: 1897
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Format:
Audiobook,


Before reading Dracula, I had seen almost every iteration of it on television–from the original Bela Lugosi film to the remake TV series starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers.  I have to say that, in this case, the book is better than the movie. Which movie, you ask? Every. Single. One.

I absolutely loved the writing style and the way that Stoker carefully cultivated a tense and bleak atmosphere. This entire book is written in epistolary style–through journal entries and letters and the occasional newspaper article. This in itself should make it challenging to craft an effectively dark and chilling atmosphere, which is required in any good horror novel. Yet somehow Stoker manages to, not only develop a unique voice for each of the characters, but to create that deep sense of foreboding that is so common in great horror books. I found certain passages spellbinding, and I was shocked to discover how a book that was written over a hundred years ago could still be terrifying. (Thanks to Renfield I’ll never look at a fly OR a spider the same way again).

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Book Review: Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

Kill Creek Book Cover

kill creek book cover

Title: Kill Creek
Author: Scott Thomas
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: October 31, 2017
Publisher: Inkshares


World-renowned horror author Sam McGarver has writer’s block.  He hasn’t written anything in two years. So when he’s mysteriously invited to spend Halloween at an allegedly haunted house, he figures he has nothing to lose. When he gets there, he discovers that the reporter who invited him, infamous Wainwright of the website “WrightWire”, actually invited three other horror authors as well. All four of them write completely different types of horror, yet they’re all brought to the house for a group interview as a publicity stunt to increase sales of their future books. But when the sun goes down strange things start to happen in the house, and Sam starts to wonder—what if this house really is haunted?

Kill Creek brings Gothic horror into the modern era.  In the very first chapter, Sam McGarver, who is also a professor at the university, gives a lecture on the elements of true Gothic horror.  It did not go over my head that this book addresses all of these key components. The house on Kill Creek has a tragic, mysterious history that Thomas shares with the reader in the very prologue of the book. This sets the stage for the disturbing events that follow…

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