Book Review: Something is Killing the Children Volume 1

Something is Killing the Children

Book Cover

Title: Something is Killing the Children Volume 1 (Issues 1-5)
Author: James Tynion IV, Werther Dell’Edera (Illustrator), Miguel Muerto (Colorist)
Genre: Horror, Graphic Novel
Date of Publication: May 26, 2020
Publisher: BOOM! Studios


Synopsis

When children begin to go missing in the town of Archer’s Peak, all hope seems lost until a mysterious woman arrives to reveal that terrifying creatures are behind the chaos – and that she alone will destroy them, no matter the cost.

IT’S THE MONSTERS WHO SHOULD BE AFRAID.

When the children of Archer’s Peak—a sleepy town in the heart of America—begin to go missing, everything seems hopeless. Most children never return, but the ones that do have terrible stories—impossible details of terrifying creatures that live in the shadows. Their only hope of finding and eliminating the threat is the arrival of a mysterious stranger, one who believes the children and claims to be the only one who sees what they can see.

Her name is Erica Slaughter. She kills monsters. That is all she does, and she bears the cost because it must be done.

GLAAD Award-winning writer James Tynion IV (The Woods, Batman: Detective Comics) teams with artist Werther Dell’Edera (Briggs Land) for an all-new story about staring into the abyss.

Collects Something is Killing the Children #1-5.

Goodreads

My Thoughts 

Volume 1 of this graphic novel is just what the doctor ordered.

Hauntingly grotesque and gorgeous illustrations? Check.

Badass and inscrutable monster-slaying heroine? Check.

Mysterious mythos and hints at more complex worldbuilding to come? Check.

My only complaint is that this instalment isn’t nearly long enough. I need more Erica Slaughter and I am dying to find out what happens next.  Erica is mysterious and has a dangerous edge to her, and her big beautiful haunting eyes are quite creepy, fitting the tone of this graphic novel perfectly. She isn’t completely jaded and hardened, however.  I don’t want to say more at the risk of spoiling anything.  I will say that she is definitely a fascinating character that I look forward to getting to know better.

Volume 1 of There’s Something Killing the Children only scratches the surface of a fascinating and unique mythos. I’m very eager to dig deeper once Volume 2 is released.

Something is Killing the Children

This is recommended to those who are looking for an atmospheric, thrilling, and compelling story about a small town that’s being plagued by something that’s killing the children…

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Book Review: Monster She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger & Melanie R. Anderson

Monster she wrote

Monster she wrote

Title: Monster She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction
Author: Lisa Kröger & Melanie R. Anderson
Genre: Non-fiction
Date of Publication: September 17, 2019
Publisher: Quirk Books


Synopsis

Weird fiction wouldn’t exist without the women who created it. Meet the female authors who defied convention to craft some of literature’s strangest tales. And find out why their own stories are equally intriguing.

Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein; but have you heard of Margaret Cavendish, who wrote a science-fiction epic 150 years earlier? Have you read the psychological hauntings of Violet Paget, who was openly involved in long-term romantic relationships with women in the Victorian era? Or the stories of Gertrude Barrows Bennett, whose writing influenced H.P. Lovecraft? Monster, She Wrote shares the stories of women past and present who invented horror, speculative, and weird fiction and made it great. You’ll meet celebrated icons (Ann Radcliffe, V.C. Andrews), forgotten wordsmiths (Eli Coltor, Ruby Jean Jensen), and today’s vanguard (Helen Oyeyemi). And each profile includes a curated reading list so you can seek out the spine-chilling tales that interest you the most.
Goodreads

My Thoughts

What a beautiful book, inside and out! Of course, I’m referring to the illustrations, but also the content. Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson have a witty and informative writing style, and this book is a must-read for any horror lover.

Monster She Wrote is broken up into sections, where like authors are grouped together based on what or when they wrote.  Each section has a brief foreword explaining the importance of the contribution of these women to literature, talking about the political and social climates in which they wrote, as well as the impact their works have had on later generations.  There are sections on the traditional Gothic authors, the women who penned ghost stories, “the women who wrote the pulps”, and much more.

Throughout each author’s biography, there are mentions of their works and the significance they had on the genre and literature in general.  I was impressed with how Kröger and Anderson managed to summarize these books in such succinct and intriguing ways that made me reach for my notebook to add yet another title to check out later.  The end of the section on each author provides recommended readings, both by the author, as well as by those who were influenced by her.  My to-read list has grown pages since picking up this book.

For example, (I picked this at random) under “Related Work” for the author Angela Carter, “Werewolf fans may enjoy St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (Knopf, 2007), a story collection by Karen Russel about nuns, wolf-girls, and alligators set in the Florida swamps.” Um, yes please, add that to my list, thanks!

Monster she wrote

Monster She Wrote provides an excellent foundation on the women of horror and speculative fiction, and I recommend it to all readers and authors alike.

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Book Review: Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks

Devolution book cover

Devolution

Title: Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre
Author: Max Brooks
Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Literary
Date of Publication: May 12, 2020
Publisher: Del Rel Books


Synopsis

“As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined . . . until now.

But the journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the town’s bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing–and too earth-shattering in its implications–to be forgotten.

In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the legendary beasts behind it.

Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and inevitably, of savagery and death.

Yet it is also far more than that.

Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible. We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us–and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.

Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story as only Max Brooks could chronicle it–and like none you’ve ever read before.” – Goodreads

Plot & Language

What an amazing premise! I love the layout and the style of this book. The majority of the story is told through diary entries, with some interview excerpts and other forms of epistolary thrown into the mix. It genuinely read like a non-fiction book on the subject. Brooks uses a matter-of-fact tone in the excerpts from books on Bigfoot, etc. but the language flows quite conversationally during the diary entries. This narrative flow makes the story that much easier to get lost in.  

My only complaint is that the book was comprised mostly of diary entries, with occasional excerpts from interviews and textbooks. I wanted more of these other forms of storytelling! I would have liked to have read more on the history of Bigfoot appearances.  Nevertheless, Brooks takes advantage of this, and I found myself genuinely wondering what was real and what wasn’t. He quoted Frans de Waal and Jane Goodall, two of my favourite animal behaviour experts, and I know that the information in those quotes were real. He talked about evolution of man, including species such as Gigantopithecus, which I know to be true. But I don’t remember much else from my undergraduate anthropology classes, and this novel had me questioning and believing that Bigfoot could be real. That’s the sign of a talented writer!

I also loved the theme of the novel, which is reflected in the title, “Devolution”.  Throughout the story, we question whether or not Bigfoot could exist, while being presented with information about evolution and primate behaviour. All the while, Kate and the others at Greenloop are struggling to survive, and we learn just what people are willing and capable of doing when their lives are in danger. 

This story is compelling and quite haunting at times.  It’s definitely a horror, but one that can be enjoyed by those who aren’t fans of the genre, as it has so much more to offer.

Characters

I did find that Kate and her husband, Dan, weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked. While I’m glad that Brooks didn’t spend a lot of time in the diary entries having Kate talk about their past, their failing marriage (any more than was necessary), it did leave a lot of questions unanswered. For one: Why is Kate joining this group? I didn’t quite understand it, as she didn’t quite fit in with the others, and I would have benefited from a little more handholding in the beginning of the book, with Brooks possibly having her explain why she was there more than just “to fix their marriage”. I also wanted more about her past. We know that she had a brother, but what was their relationship like? What did she have back home to fight to survive for? 

Side characters in the novel were quite interesting, and I enjoyed the occasional additional piece of information that the author provided, whether it was an interview or a diary entry—to provide more information into their backgrounds.

Devolution book cover

I recommend this book to those who want to read a compelling story about survival, and to those who want to dip their toes into epistolary fiction.  A suspension of disbelief isn’t even required to enjoy this story about a first-hand eyewitness account of Bigfoot.

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* Thank you to OLA Super Conference and Del Rey Books for the arc to review! *

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Book Review: The Mentor by Lee Matthew Goldberg

The Mentor

The Mentor

Title: The Mentor
Author: Lee Matthew Goldberg
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: June 14, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books


Synopsis 

When Kyle earns a prestigious position as an editor at a large New York publishing house, he’s surprised and delighted to hear from his favourite professor from his college days.  Apparently, Professor William Lansing has been writing a novel these last ten years, and he asks if Kyle would consider publishing it.  Kyle is thrilled to be the first to read this novel, but that excitement is short lived. It’s a thousand pages of horribly written depravity.  Kyle tries to let his professor down gently, to tell him that the novel can’t be published, but his mentor won’t take no for an answer…

Plot 

The Mentor starts off slow, but the writing was compelling enough to keep me engaged until the novel’s hook was revealed. There are quite a few hair-raising twists throughout this thriller.  A couple were somewhat predictable, but there were enough surprises to keep me on my toes.  The ending (no spoilers!) is downright chilling. 

This book is quite a psychological thriller, as it becomes clear that Professor Lansing isn’t exactly the stereotypical concerned teacher.  He has a dark side, which is gradually revealed as the story progresses. There are times when Kyle questions his own sanity, and the reader can’t help but do the same.  That said, there are other horror elements, such as the “depravity” of the professor’s novel, which are revealed to the reader in snippets.  These excerpts were never too extreme, but definitely not something you’d want to read with the lights off.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Mentor by Lee Matthew Goldberg”

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

Book Cover

Title: The Haunting of Hill House
Author: Shirley Jackson
Genre: Horror, Literary
Date of Publication: 1959
Publisher: Penguin Classics, among others


Synopsis

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.Goodreads

My Thoughts

It’s hard to separate out the four appeal elements for this book, because they’re all so interwoven and dependent on one another.  But I’ll try! 

Language

Jackson’s style of writing is clearly the primary appeal for this novel. This is a classic for a reason, and there is significant imagery and symbolism in everything that appears on the pages. The novel begins with somewhat of a light tone, talking about the house and the darkness within it, but as the story progresses, this lightness is swallowed by darkness, and the tension rises with every turn of the page.  A lot of the horror of this novel is not in what happens, but in how it is written. Jackson has a way of eliciting fear and dread in the reader, just by careful word choice and sentence structure.

Setting 

Set in an old house that’s so peculiarly built that it rivals the Winchester Mansion in California, the setting is what makes this novel so memorable. The house is described not in just physical terms, but also in the way that it makes people feel.  The history of the house and everything else has so much thought and care put into it that it feels more fleshed out than the main characters. And that’s because it is its own character.  

Plot

This novel has a slow pace, particularly at the beginning, but the language is so beautiful and engaging that I didn’t even notice.  That isn’t to say that nothing happens, but it happens at its own pace, and the plot isn’t at all rushed. We don’t get one of those books where so much happens at the beginning that it lags in the middle. The Haunting of Hill House has the opposite effect, where it begins slowly, taking its time to get where it wants to go, but the plot unravels quicker and quicker as the story progresses. I would say that if you have a hard time getting into the story, you should give it another shot, because the book just keeps getting better and better.

Characters

I was surprised by how funny this book was. The characters are witty, and some of the things they say serve to transform them into three-dimensional, relatable characters that could exist today, not only sixty years ago. Some of the imagery made me laugh out loud, particularly in the beginning of the book when Eleanor leaves to find Hill House, and she steals her sister’s car.  While this book is quite short, I felt that I really connected with Eleanor, and her character development (at the risk of spoiling anything) is quite fascinating and beautifully facilitated by Jackson’s firm grasp of the written word.

The Haunting of Hill House

I recommend this book to literally anyone who claims to be a fan of haunted house stories. 

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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.

Continue reading “Book Review: Violet by Scott Thomas”

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”