Category Archives: Horror

A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills

Zindel, Lizabeth. A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills (2010). 302 Pages. Viking Juvenile. $16.99

Sometimes I have far too much fun exploring the newly-input lists at the local library, and I end up with my holds maxed out at 10 and more items I still wanted to get. This is one of those books. It’s a Hamlet spinoff, but it follows the interpretation which I don’t entirely agree with.

From the Cover

Something is twisted in the state of Cali

It’s winter break, and Holly has come home from boarding school to face her dad’s new girlfriend, Claudia– who also happens to be her mom’s sister. Gross. Holly’s mom died less than a year ago, and already Claudia has taken over her movie production company, her house, and now her husband.

Then the ghost of Holly’s mother appears, claiming that Claudia murdered her. Holly vows to avenge her mom’s death no matter what it takes, but as the stakes get higher, she starts to wonder: What does this ghost really want from her, and why?

Throw in an adorable college guy named Oliver, an all-night house party with a pack of Australian surfers, and a shopping disaster on Rodeo Drive, and you wind up with a Hamlet-inspired ghost story unlike any other.

First Lines

It was ridiculously early as I sat on the steps of Reed Hill waiting for the cab to take me to the airport. I was bundled in my favorite red peacoat and warm hat with earflaps that looked like some nice grandma had knitted it.

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Dust City

Weston, Robert Paul. Dust City (2010). 299 Pages. RazorBill. $16.99

From Goodreads:

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

His son, that’s who.

Ever since his father’s arrest for the murder of Little Red Riding Hood, teen wolf Henry Whelp has kept a low profile in a Home for Wayward Wolves . . . until a murder at the Home leads Henry to believe his father may have been framed.

Now, with the help of his kleptomaniac roommate, Jack, and a daring she-wolf named Fiona, Henry will have to venture deep into the heart of Dust City; a rundown, gritty metropolis where fairydust is craved by everyone and controlled by a dangerous mob of Water Nixies and their crime boss leader, Skinner.

Can Henry solve the mystery of his family’s sinister past? Or, like his father before him, is he destined for life as a big bad wolf?

First Lines

Once upon a time, fairydust came from where you’d expect. From fairies. I was only a cub, so I don’t remember much of what the City was like back then. But I have a strong sense that things were different. Dreams could come true. You read about it in the paper. I’ve seen the clippings.

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Filed under Book Review, Fairy Tales Retold, Fantasy, Horror, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Patient Zero

Maberry, Jonathan. Patient Zero (2009). 419 Pages. St Martin’s Griffin. $14.95

Joe Ledger: Book One

This post is long-overdue. When I read Rot & Ruin, I was thrilled. I’d found a zombie book which was also about humanity. I had to find out if the author had more in him, so I went out of my way to pick up Patient Zero from the library. I devoured it in a little under a day, and spent a little over an hour gushing about the pair of them to my mother, who has now decided that she needs to read it. And then, life happened.

I got sucked-in to a writing project– yes, I also do creative writing– and a few old forums that I haven’t been on in ages. I got extra hours at work, I’ve been on a fierce job-hunt, and reading has really fallen by the wayside. I am attempting to get myself back on track, which will likely happen as a direct result of me setting myself a posting-schedule.

Synopsis (via Goodreads)

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there’s either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills… and there’s nothing wrong with Joe Ledger’s skills.  And that’s both a good, and a bad thing.  It’s good because he’s a Baltimore detective that has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new taskforce created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. This rapid response group is called the Department of Military Sciences or the DMS for short. It’s bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance…

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Paranormal, Sci-Fi

Rot & Ruin

Maberry, Jonathan. Rot & Ruin (2010). 458 Pages. Simon & Schuster. $17.99

Don’t let the cover put you off. It’s a creepy book, at times, but not as creepy as the eyeball seems to suggest.

Synopsis

Benny Imura has only vague memories of the night his parents died. What he does remember paints a bleak picture; his father was a zombie, his mother facing imminent death, and his brother was the coward who took him and ran, leaving their parents behind. Despite what everyone seems to think about Tom Imura, Benny knows the truth; his brother is a coward.

On Benny’s fifteenth birthday, he becomes an “adult,” and has six weeks to find a job, or his rations will be cut in half. With hunger looming, and the best jobs long gone, Benny turns to his brother, Tom the Bounty Hunter– zombie killer for hire– to ask for a job. He doesn’t want to join the “family business” but doesn’t see any alternatives.

What he learns about the world outside his town’s fences– the Rot & Ruin– and about his brother will change Benny’s life forever.

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Zombies vs Unicorns (Anthology)

Black, Holly & Justine Larbalestier (ed) Zombies Vs Unicorns (2010). 415 Pages. Simon & Schuster. $16.99

The thing which actually made me want to read this anthology was Diana Peterfreund’s addition “The Care and Feeding of your Baby Killer Unicorn,” which is set in the same universe as Rampant. However, I am glad I took the time to read this, since I enjoyed almost every story in the book (at least on some level.)

The offerings are mixed, but are all labeled as either “Team Zombie” or “Team Unicorn,” with only one (I think) that has both zombies and unicorns. Additionally, the top corners of the pages are also marked by either a Zombie or Unicorn logo, making quick-scans for specific stories easy. A few of them were sweet, one or two romantic, and a couple actually bleak. I’m glad I took the time to read this, though.

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Sunshine

McKinley, Robin. Sunshine (2010 ed). 405 Pages. Speak. $8.99

Sunshine is not a vampire story the way Pegasus is not about winged horses. Sunshine is about Rae Seddon– commonly called Sunshine– a young woman whose life is forever altered by her choice to go out to the local lake, alone, and at night. It is there that she is grabbed by Others and dragged to a remote, abandoned house.

At first Sunshine is confused, because she isn’t dead yet, and Vampires don’t usually play with their food for long. However, she is not alone in the abandoned mansion; she is to be dinner for Con, a vampire no freer than she is.

To get out of this alive, Sunshine needs his help, and strangely enough, he needs hers.

First Lines

It was a dumb thing to do but it wasn’t that dumb. There hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake in years. And it was so exquisitely far from the rest of my life.

Monday evening is our movie evening because we are celebrating having lived through another week. Sunday night we lock up at eleven or midnight and crawl home to die, and Monday (barring a few national holidays) is our day off. Ruby comes in on Mondays with her warrior cohort and attacks the coffeehouse with an assortment of high-tech blasting gear that would whack Godzilla into submission: those single-track military minds never think to ask their cleaning staff for help in  giant lethal marauding creature matters.

Thoughts

While Sunshine’s world is similar to ours, it is not ours. It is a sort of parallel dystopia, in which the Voodoo Wars– a battle between the Humans and the Others– have left humanity struggling to rebuild in a wasteland. This world is simultaneously eerily similar to, and startlingly different from our own*. There is a lot going on here; the human population has been decimated, Others are discriminated against, part-bloods held responsible for their heritage, cities are slowly growing, around the “bad spots,” and places like Charlie’s Coffeehouse are small havens from the insanity.

I think the world-building may be my favorite part of this book, actually. The characters come second to the world for me. I wanted more about the world, more about the why, the what, the how. Things are hinted at, bits are mentioned, there are “bad spots” where humans dare not go, left-overs of powerful magic. But why are they there? My curiosity was not completely satisfied, which was a little frustrating, because I’m usually quite content with her worlds.

I do like Sunshine, but she is not the strongest female McKinley has ever written, and I have an affinity for the strong girls. At first, Sunshine is rather inactive, she is victimized, and spends a lot of time recovering from the trauma. She struggles with her sense of self, with needing support and being afraid to reach for it, with the ramifications of what exactly she has done, and with her bond.

Something which is particularly problematic to me are the relationships in this book. Sunshine is dating Mel**, but they seem stuck in a sort of loose dating, where they’re together when it’s convenient. Sunshine never seems to talk about things to him, and though he could be there for her if she just asked, she doesn’t. There are hints about her heritage, things which her mother may have been hiding, but it is never verified, it remains Sunshine’s theory, and is never really tested. She’s surrounded by family and friends and people who care about her, and some of them are powerful enough in their own right that they could protect her, but she doesn’t turn to any of them. She instead relies upon a Vampire who she has only known for a brief amount of time.

When I first read this book, I remember really liking it. I was on a vampire kick, and I was reading everything I could. This was not a YA book then, but that didn’t stop me. Looking at it, and having read it, I wonder if it is a YA book now. There is a fairly explicit scene around page 250 which left me wondering if it should be called YA. I don’t necessarily feel that teens need to be protected from everything sexual, but I felt a little awkward reading this scene, and I’m an adult. I imagine most teens would either be titillated or would feel as awkward as I did.

It is sad, knowing that I will never know more. McKinley doesn’t write sequels. She may eventually venture back into the same world, if her muses drag her there, but this is the only guaranteed book in this setting. It’s a pity, because there is so much you can do with a post-apocalyptic world. There are options, and ideas, and worldwide locations.

Anyway, this volume gets a 4/5. There is a lot more that could have been done with Sunshine, and I wasn’t wholly satisfied (and not just because I wanted more, which is a good sort of unsatisfied.) It is worth reading, because it is enthralling, and it’s very different from what you expect, if you’ve been told it’s a vampire book, because it’s not. There are vampires, but ultimately, this book is about Sunshine.

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* It left me thinking of Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan world, actually.

** I like Mel, a lot. He’s got magical tattoos, which remind me of Pritkin’s tattoos from Karen Chance’s books.

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Kiss Me Deadly (Anthology) Part 3

Telep, Trisha (Editor). Kiss Me Deadly (2010). 430 Pages. RunningPress. $9.95

Review: Part 3 (Part 1, Part 2)

There is an awful lot to say about this anthology, so it has been split up into several parts. You can find Part 1 and Part 2 in their own posts. This book is definitely worth picking up, as it features several very good stories.

The anthology is the second to a “pair,” though the first half The Eternal Kiss is focused on vampires, and this is general paranormal. As I think I’ve said before, it features a lot of authors who I have never heard of, but there are at least a few whose other works I’ll be seeking out.

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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Kiss Me Deadly (Anthology) Part 2

Telep, Trisha (Editor). Kiss Me Deadly (2010). 430 Pages. RunningPress. $9.95

Review: Part 2 (Part 1, Part 3)

Because I have so very much to say about all of the stories in this anthology, I’ve opted to break it into parts. You can find Part 1 here, though, in short, I’ll say that Diana Peterfreund’s “Errant” is excellent. I’ve been slowly enjoying the next few stories, and I figure four is enough for another post. I hadn’t heard of any of these authors before reading this anthology, but I’ll be finding more works by a few of them after this.

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Blood Lite (Anthology)

Anderson, Kevin J. (editor). Blood Lite (2009). 379 Pages. Pocket Books. $16.00

It’s very, very rare that I cannot finish a book. I made it through the first four stories, and gave up. I don’t foresee surviving the rest of this book at this pace.

It opened with Kelley Armstrong’s “The Ungrateful Dead,” which I did really enjoy. You do need to know the basics of her main series, because the main characters are Jaime and Savannah. Do I think that the book is worth picking up, considering all the other stories? Yes, as long as you’re not paying for it.

The second story, “Mr. Bear” by Joe R. Lansdale was a strange interpretation of Smokey the Bear, if he were a child star gone wrong. Jim runs into “The Bear” on an airplane, and gets dragged along on an adventure he never wanted to have. There are dead hookers, greased weenie pulls, and a lot more vulgar things. I don’t think I enjoyed a single thing about this story.

I figured it could only get better from there, and in a strange sort of way, it did. “Hell in a Handbasket” by Lucien Soulban. A mysterious baby is left on hell’s doorstep, and it messes with every demon it comes across. It ends with a huge poop joke. I was moderately entertained.

The fourth story, “The Eldritch Pastiche from Beyond the Shadow of Horror” by Christopher Welch, was trying too hard. Our narrator– an “I” who may be “Christopher”– has been writing what boils down to bad Lovecraft fanfiction, and struggling to get published most of his adult life. He attempts to find help, because it has ruined his life, and instead he finds out that he has a greater purpose.

After that, when confronted with the title of the next story: “Elvis Presley and the Bloodsucker Blues,” I gave up. I’d laughed once or twice while reading Kelley Armstrong’s story, and had not laughed since. I really wish I had enjoyed it, but I didn’t. I’d picked up the book expecting paranormal stories with a bit of funny, which the book failed to deliver.

In Conclusion:

I’m sure there are people out there who would enjoy this. People who like poop jokes and vulgar “humor.” I am not that audience. It gets a 1/5 for being unreadable. (It has a 3/5 rating on amazon.com).

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Kiss Me Deadly (Anthology) Part 1

Telep, Trisha (Editor). Kiss Me Deadly (2010). 430 Pages. RunningPress. $9.95

Review: Part 1 (Part 2, Part 3)

This was a definite impulse grab. I was at Borders, looking for a specific book, though at the moment I can no longer remember which book I sought. I don’t think I remembered what I was looking for then, either. When I walk into a building which contains more than a few books, I tend to get a little sidetracked. So I was staring at the Y.A. Paranormal section, feeling a little concerned for the sheer quantity of Twilight-knockoffs — we all know them, they’re the generic vampire romance that has exploded since sparkly vampires were first published — and my eye fell upon Kiss Me Deadly. I had a moment of oh dear, not another, but I’m such a fan of anthologies as a way to sample new authors that I couldn’t help picking it up.

I know it wasn’t an author’s name that grabbed me, because I have to admit that I do not know a single author from this volume. (Though I did also grab Shiver while I was there, because as a fan of romance, paranormal, and young adult, it seemed like a reasonable combo.)I think it was the Editor’s Note which opened the volume which got my attention;

Love in the time of… Zombies?

Somehow, that just doesn’t have the classic ring of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s famous novel Love in the Time of Cholera* …  my bet, after titles like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter**, is that this is likely in some publisher’s pipeline somewhere, probably slated for publication next year, or the year after that. (Intro)

Anyway, in a sort of gimmick-y “paranormal = horror” way, there are 13 stories in this volume. Because I do intend to talk at least a little bit about each of them, I’m going to cut this into several posts.

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