Sci-Fi & Scary

Just a girl who reads and reviews science fiction and horror novels. Reviews are flavored with snark, bawdy humor, and the occasional firm dressing down over bad writing.

Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway - Seanan McGuire RTC

Dreamfall

Dreamfall - Amy Plum RTC.

Peekers

Peekers - Kealan Patrick Burke Read Peekers, they said.
It's a good short story, they said.

Well, I read it, and it's a good short story, but what they failed to mention was it was also freaking disturbing and now I'm looking at all the corners and edges in my area, like "Where you at? Nope there's nothing there. There's nothing there. There's nothing there." and I swear to Cthulhu if anyone tries to jump out at me today, I'm gonna blame this ruddy short story as my murder defense. OK?

Okay, so now that we have that established...

Read Peekers, I say.
It's a good short story, I say.

The Demonic

The Demonic - Lee Mountford I picked up The Demonic because I’m part of the Horror Aficionados group on Goodreads, and this was one their group reads. In one of my rare tries at being part of a group, I decided to join in and do the read-along. And then I promptly finished the book in a handful of hours and the whole thing felt pointless. But, hey, I tried!

The Demonic got off to a strong start with me. Due to some of Danni’s previous history, there was a ‘nice’ heavy oppressive atmosphere that I could feel weighing down on me. I identified strongly with her and her feelings toward her father. So, fairly early on in the novel, when the first scare happens, I actually jumped. That was a new one for me. All I will say about that is that The Demonic is likened to Insidious for a reason. Good lord.

At first I initially liked how things hit the ground running. This isn’t a book where the creepy starts out small, and then builds up. (Relatively speaking, at least.) Instead, we go almost straight to sightings of bad things, and within thirty six hours, the happening of bad things. While I can’t really stand slow burn novels, I found that I thought The Demonic just moved too fast for me.

One of the things I really appreciated was that there was no dead baby backstory in this book. Though the killing of a few children is briefly relayed when some background into the house is looked into, it’s not an integral part of the story. It would have been nice if it was absent entirely, but upon reading the author’s note in the back, it was completely understandable.

I liked Danni, Leah, and Alex. I appreciated the inclusion of someone with physical disabilities without making them into a ‘poor me’ character to be pitied. John, the husband, was okay, but his domineering style made me twitch.  I do have some conflicting emotions about two of the characters though, considering what happens to them. But, as I’ve ran into lately, it’s not one of those things I can talk about without spoiling stuff.

Overall, it was an entertaining read, and the author definitely has the ability input some mental images that you’ll have trouble getting out of your head. You can tell he’s a fan of horror, and he does his best to bring the paranormal terror through to his readers. My picks with the book are fairly small overall, and I think a lot of people will probably enjoy The Demonic more than I did.

 

Earth Abides

Earth Abides - George R. Stewart

Earth Abides is not an entertaining book. It is not perfect. It is a tad long-winded at some points, sometimes decidedly dated feeling, and has a serious lack of everything that generally entertains me. It is, at it's base, a look at the post-apocalyptic world through one man's eyes. It was first published in 1949, and according to Goodreads, currently has 55 editions. It is considered a sci-fi book, but there's nothing science fiction about the book. A disease hits, wipes out most of the world's population, and the few that survive are left to pick up the pieces. That's it. But that's not all there is to it. A lot happens, but it's over the life of one man. There's no grand battles, no good versus evil in the ruins of the old world, just the quiet puttering of one of the last embers of humanity as it strives to not die out completely.  And yet it won't let you alone until you finish it.


I think this book had to have made some waves when people first started reading in. Published in 1949 and it features an interracial union and espouses a life better without God in it? Yowzers.


I frequently disliked the main character. Isherwood Williams is the type of man that - while I might admire his mind - I would frequently want to thump. He's full of himself. He's so cynical about the 'simplicity' of the people around him.  And, of course, he's completely human, and there's the rub. We look for a 'hero' in these types of books. Ish is no hero. He's someone who had the 'luck' to survive the end of the world, and now he's got to live in it. But the world changes - doesn't it always? And Ish isn't a King of old. He's just the head of his Tribe.


Earth Abides feels timeless. I have read many post-apocalyptic books, and they've grown tiresome.  I approached this book with some caution, because I was afraid of more of the same drivel that is wonderful the first few times you read it, and then swiftly approaches "Been there done that" with disturbing ease. I didn't want to dislike this book because I was bone-weary of the sub-genre.  Thankfully, that wasn't the case. Because, I honestly don't believe, for all the post-apocalyptic books I've read, that I've ever read a novel like Earth AbidesIt also feels the most real. This is how the world goes on; earth abides while humanity fumbles along.


I won't deny that the main reason I'm making the connection between the two is because I just recently read it, but I could not help but think of McCammon's Boy's Life when I finished Earth Abides. I am not someone who self-describes as liking 'literary fiction'. I'm happy with my genre jollies, thankyouverymuch. I'll admit to even wrinkling my nose at the idea of reading 'literature'. However, I think both Earth Abides and Boy's Life are perfect examples of books that show the appeal of that type of book. They're not 600 pages long and packed with five dollar words, yet they don't fit into any particular genre, and they make you think far more than they entertain you. 


Here are a few of my favorite quotes:




“If there is a God who made us and we did wrong before His eyes—as George says—at least we did wrong only because we were as God made us, and I do not think that He should set traps. Oh, you should know better than George! Let us not bring all that back into the world again—the angry God, the mean God—the one who does not tell us the rules of the game, and then strikes us when we break them. Let us not bring Him back.”





“Man has been growing more stupid for several thousand years; I myself shall waste no tears at his demise.”



“During ten thousand years his numbers have been on the upgrade in spite of wars, pestilences, and famines. This increase in population has become more and more rapid. Biologically, man has for too long a time been rolling an uninterrupted run of sevens.”


Earth Abides really does deserve it's spot on the "Must Read" list folks. Its hard to talk about but easy to read. You'll need some quiet to be able to really appreciate it. Take as long as you need to take with it. I actually walked away from it for a week or so because I have an attention span the length of a gnat, but was drawn back to it, and able to pick up right where I left off.

Into the Mist

Into the Mist - Lee Murray A little bit of chomp and stomp per day keeps a girl happy.

Review to come.

Sleeper(s)

Sleeper(s) - Paul Kane, David Moody, Joe (Crystal Lake) Mynhardt Sleeper(s) has a sweet blurb, a great opening, much with the creepy-assed ‘here be monsters’ feeling town, and a solid threat against life on Earth.  It moved fast, it ratcheted up the threat level, and demanded your attention for all 184 pages. It’s also nicely copy-edited and proofread, and has a neat cover to boot.

Even with the fact that I pretty much loathed all the characters except for two (neither being the main), I was still interested in the story. The main character, Andrew Strauss, made me want to punch him in the face. That, or hire someone to give him the Wedgie from Hell every single day of his existence, and once more before he was buried. I understand why he was written the way he was, and it just goes to illustrate to me that I was never meant to have a Prince Charming, because I’d have decked the guy before three days were through.

The way Paul Kane described everything that happened in Middletown was fantastic. It had some serious Silent Hill vibe-age going on. I’m pretty sure the first time the infection showed it power, I would have screamed, pissed myself, and ran off like the half-naked chick in the opening scenes of a slasher flick. The man can set a scene like you wouldn’t believe. Sweet baby Cthulhu. Too bad this was a fairy-tale retelling instead of a straight-out horror tale. Because as straight up horror, not bowing to the rules of fairy-tale, I would have liked it a lot more.

For most of the story, Sleeper(s) is a fantastically twisted fairy-tale re-imagining. In fact, it’s too easy to forget at times that this is a Sleeping Beauty re-telling. As a reader being guided along the plot by Kane, you can’t help but expect the feces to hit the fan in a grand fashion. Until he reminds you, abruptly, that it is a fairy-tale retelling. And then all your hopes and dreams for the story seep out of you in the painful imitation of the morning visit to the loo after a Taco Bell and beer binge. Okay, so it wasn’t quite that bad, but there was disappointment to be had!

There was a lot about Sleeper(s) to like. I think it’s admirable that Paul Kane managed to keep me interested enough to read the whole book even with his cast of thoroughly irritating characters. And it’s a short, quick read that you could pick up over a week’s worth of lunches at work. However, my blackened, shrunken little heart just isn’t meant for fairy-tale retellings. And I’m a grouch about epilogues in general, so the end of the book took a lot of the enjoyment out of it for me. It’s not for everyone, though, and I’m unfortunately one of them.

Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens Vol. 1 (Hercules: The Wrath of the Heavens)

Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens Vol. 1 (Hercules: The Wrath of the Heavens) - Jean-David Morvan Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.

I didn’t like Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens nearly as much as I hoped to, but I did like it. The legend of Hercules is a fascinating one, and when I was little, I absolutely loved watching the TV show with my mom. So, when I was Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens mentioned in the newsletter that Titan comics sent out, I figured I had to give it a try. The Hercules of old in a futuristic setting? Okay, let’s do this! And by the end of it, I was totally caught up in what was happening. However, it took a good 100 of the 146 pages in the volume before it hooked me.

Jean-David Morvan and Looky did a great job in translating the first few of Hercules’ 12 Challenges in Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens. The Lion was kind of expected. The Hydra surprised me. The Hind had me laughing. If the Hydra and the Hind are any indication of what we’re to expect of the re-imaginings of the Challenges, I really can’t wait to see the next volume. So, that was one aspect that I really liked.

And, lets be honest here, some of the artwork cracked me up. There’s a representation of a certain goddess wearing what one can only describe as aureole shields. I spent a solid three or four minutes looking at the Goddess and wondering if she had suspenders attached to the, er, pointy bits themselves. “Are they boob-spenders, or are we facing a Clooney’s Batman Nip-Gate?” Turns out, it was Batman-esque Nip-Gate that lead to a whole discussion with one of my bookish friends about Goddess bumps and gyroscopes.

The last quarter of Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens has a whole lot of adult images that seemingly come out of nowhere. I mean, there were things early on that told you it was a little bit risqué, but… Let’s just say that sometimes a graphic novel lulls you into a sense of complacency, and then you’re suddenly staring at someone with ladybits in rather irregular places. And more in that vein.

Oh, on that note, ladies and gets, please make sure you know this graphic novel isn’t for the younger comic book readers out there. Trust me – trust me­ – on this one. So, yeah, not for kiddos.

Also, there’s a set of panels involving matter and anti-matter that had me groaning in absolute delight. It was just so bad that it was awesome.

Unfortunately, while I liked the panels where action wasn’t happening, and the general art style, Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens was one of those graphic novels that I struggled with. The pages were too busy during action sequences, and my eyes didn’t know where to settle. There was just too much to take in, and I frequently felt lost as to what was happening during them. Not to mention that I’m really not a fan of panels that are taken over by weird noises like “Glonk”.

Overall, though, I enjoyed reading Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens, and will pick up Volume 2. It took me a while to get into it, and it’s not an easy read for me, but the ending was crude and fun that I need to see where Jean-David Morvan and Looky take this in future installments.

Hidden City

Hidden City - Alan Baxter Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from the author for review consideration.

Alan Baxter did a great job with Hidden City. This is a book that sufficiently creeped me out enough that I had initially had it listed as horror before I went to Goodreads and saw that it was listed as Urban Fantasy. Hidden City definitely is Urban Fantasy, but sweet baby Cthulhu, Baxter brings the skin-crawl. This was a book that managed to keep me uncomfortable for most of the read. My skin crawled, my scalp prickled, and I was always just on the verge of putting the book down and doing something else to give my overactive imagination time to die down.

The 'unnatural connection' between Hines and Cleveport was an interesting one. The author does a great job of illustrating the relationship between the two without every truly anthropomorphising Cleveport. Yes, it might have emotions and even a limited intelligence, but it's not exactly yearning to turn human and screw someone's brains out. (At least that I could tell.)

I loved that Hidden City doesn't have a drip of happening romance in it. Abby Jones really is just Steven's friend. There's no unrequited lust there. Even though she is pretty much is a walking cliche of the "Hard-nose copy with the back story and the drinking problem", she's a nice contrast to Steven's unassuming personality. This book is all about what's happening on Cleveport's streets, and the desperate fight to save not only the people on them but the city itself.

Hidden City kept me guessing. I truly didn't expect it to end quite the way it did. I was over-the-moon about it ending the way it did. Some authors know how to walk that fine line between giving us the cliche happily ever after, and not quite burning the whole world down to embers. Baxter walked it perfectly. I can't even complain about the final chapter, and that's normally one of my biggest gripes!

Can I just mention the creepy factor again? Because ew. Ewww. Eww. Eww. Okay? Days after reading the book, I still have the imagery in my head. It just..ugh. There are some things we don't need to visualize, and Baxter heaps them on you here. 

Overall, Hidden City was a delightful read that creeped me out and delighted me in that special way that only some books can. If you like your books a-typical, your urban fantasy not filled with love-sick werewolves and/or vampires, and your fungi of the dangerous kind, given Hidden City a try. It won't spore you wrong.

Creature From The Crevasse

Creature From The Crevasse - Michael Cole Unfortunately, I had to DNF this. While I normally try to stick through it to the (hopefully) bloody end, Creature From the Crevasse was just not doing it for me.The characters and their personal drama were miles away from being interesting to me, so rooting for any of them was out. And, the one thing that could have kept me hanging in there - the humans getting eaten - just left me sadly uninterested.

I love my 'creature feature' books in general, but this one just didn't get me roaring.

The Tide

The Tide - Anthony J. Melchiorri I thought I had read and reviewed this on Goodreads already, but obviously I hadn't. It's been a while, so I don't remember the exact details of the book, but I do remember thinking that it had several creepy moments, the setting was fantastic, the writing was solid, and the narrator did a good job.

House of Justice: A Short Horror Story

House of Justice: A Short Horror Story - Vincent Bivona Good idea, but it was so short that there was no time to get into the story at all before it was over.

A slightly longer version would fare much better, I think.

Her Gift, For You

Her Gift, For You - Joseph Paradis This was pretty good. The author did a good job of world-building just enough to really crank up your interest in this short story.

The ending both hurt me and made me happy because I love it when authors do the unexpected. And unexpected it was, as I had no idea what direction this story was going in.

Not necessarily curious to check out more books from the author, but this one wasn't bad at all.

Rag Doll

Rag Doll - Troy McCombs A short story about a creepy looking doll and the evil that it brings into a house previously filled with love and laughter.

It fails to impress, but it didn't exactly bore me to tears either. My main complaint with this is that the writing seems a bit clunky and 'off'. It just doesn't read nearly as smoothly as it could. When the idea for the story isn't exactly an original one, it's important that other stuff be as on point as possible to make up for it.

That just wasn't the case here, to the detriment of the story.

Decent effort, though.

The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses

The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses - Ty Drago Parents who are fans of John Carpenter movies will find a familiar story within the pages of Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses. As an adult, it was an enjoyable, almost nostalgic read; as a child, I can imagine it to be a quite exciting one. Ty Drago has delivered a story filled with action, adventure, and mystery. It’s also, as a lot of middle-grade books are, about growing up a bit even if you don’t want to.

Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses is definitely meant to be the beginning book in a series. The loose ends left hanging at the conclusion of the story are big ones. (We do get a complete story arc, though. No evil cliffhangers to get you to buy the next book.) I enjoyed some of the references in the book to other well-known works. Beyond the aforementioned Carpenter movie, there’s also a Harry Potter reference, as well as The Walking Dead. (I’m sure there’s more; those are just the few that stand out.)

Drago does a good job giving us a wide variety of characters and showing how neatly each one fits into the group. It’s important to show kids that everyone has different skills and abilities and they are all equally useful. There is also a bit of racial diversity, and a good split of males and females doing all jobs.

This is one of those books that moves at such a rapid clip you want to give it your full attention for fear that you’ll miss something. The dialogue seems believable for the situation. (Some of them do speak and act a bit older than you might expect, but being forced to grow up too soon will do that to a kid.) There is some violence, blood, and one on-page death. However, while it might make you go “Eww”, it’s not excessive on any level.

Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses is a good middle-grade read, and looks to be the start of a very promising series. It’s also been out for a while, so there are four other books in the series already available if your kid likes to dive in the deep end with series rather than just test the water.

The Coven Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 3)

The Coven Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 3) - Brian Hare Disclaimer: I read this book as a member of Rosie's Book Review team, and therefore received the book for free. This does not affect my review.

I chose to read The Coven Murders because even though it was a mystery, which is not something I often enjoy anymore, there was the promise of a daemonic element to it that made me curious. Having not read any of Brian O'Hare's previous works in the past, I had no idea what to expect. However, the positive reviews on Goodreads made me hopeful. The setting of Ireland had a lot to do with my decision as well. For the most part, I'm pleased with what I read. Although, as usual, I'd figured out who the killer was within pages of meeting them. I don't think that's a failure on the author's part as much as it is evidence that I read too much.

The Coven Murders was not exactly the right book for me. It is a much better book for someone who is more religiously inclined (and probably also doesn't read nearly as much horror as I do.) While I do feel like the elements of the coven, its rituals and beliefs, felt real enough, I had trouble taking them seriously. There were several times during the book, with earnest dialogue between characters, that I found myself giggling and scolding myself with a firm "Yep, yep, you're definitely going to Hell." Even though the daemonic element is normally one that scares the bejesus out of me, and there was at least one legitimately creepy scene involving the largest casting out I've ever read about, I just could not commit myself to suspending disbelief for the book. Which is kind of stupid because if spiritual evil does exist, its probably most honestly described here than it is any of my climbing-on-the-ceiling horrors that I normally read.


I feel like I was hampered a bit by not reading the previous two books in the series because I think I would have enjoyed it more if I’d known the characters a bit better. As it was, I couldn’t really get the rhythm of some of the relationships that had been long established for a good bit of the book, so it felt a bit off. My chief complaint though, and the only one that's a true criticism of the book rather than an acknowledgement of my own strangeness, is that it felt like all the 'bad guys' were blindingly obvious. A good portion of the first half of the read was spent with me mentally yelling at the characters and wondering how in the world a bunch of police could be that obtuse. I would have liked for there to have been a bit of, well, mystery involved there.


However, by the end of the book I was eager to see everything resolved. Even though it seemed obvious exactly what was going on, I was still interested enough to finish reading it. The story moves along at a nice clip. The detectives seem like a solid assortment of 'good guys' (and gals). The charm of the country (as well as its foibles) was obvious and endearing. I had found a certain affection starting to burgeon for a few of the members of the force. The way the book ended, while not a surprise, still managed to make me feel a pang of sadness for one of the unlucky fellows involved with things.


For someone who doesn't read much traditional horror, but still wants to give themselves a tingle, The Coven Murders would be worth checking out. It's a nicely-written mystery that is probably nearly perfect for the target audience. Unfortunately, my heathen self wasn't the target audience. Still, it was a nice read and I don't regret picking it up.

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