Monday, October 5, 2015

Brother by Ania Ahlborn

Deep in the heart of Appalachia stands a crooked farmhouse miles from any road. The Morrows keep to themselves, and it’s served them well so far. When girls go missing off the side of the highway, the cops don’t knock on their door. Which is a good thing, seeing as to what’s buried in the Morrows’ backyard.

But nineteen-year-old Michael Morrow isn’t like the rest of his family. He doesn’t take pleasure in the screams that echo through the trees. Michael pines for normalcy, and he’s sure that someday he’ll see the world beyond West Virginia. When he meets Alice, a pretty girl working at a record shop in the small nearby town of Dahlia, he’s immediately smitten. For a moment, he nearly forgets about the monster he’s become. But his brother, Rebel, is all too eager to remind Michael of his place…
This is a perfect read for the Halloween season. It has lots of horror (more Saw than The Exorcist) and psychological mystery, making it a great choice for those of you like me who love a bit of depth with their gore. 

The two main characters are fully fledged, and very real. As the story progresses and we learn more about the background of the Morrows and what Michael and Rebel’s relationship is like, the terror truly starts. There is a delicious sense of uncertainty throughout the pages which heighten the fear. 

Although the climactic revelation is foreshadowed much too early and takes away some of the surprise the author meant to give us, the very end, the last couple of lines, will leave you reeling. If you want scares and psychological terror, this is the one to choose this year.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark

Plumdog  The irresistible illustrated diary of one very special London dog--the perfect gift book for dog lovers of all stripes (and spots!)
Hello. My name is Plum and I'm a whoosell--a whippet mixed with Jack Russell and poodle. I especially like swimming, leaping, and croissants, and my favorite fragrance is fox poop. I live with Emma, an illustrator, and Rupert in London.

Over the last year, I've been keeping a diary. Emma helped with the pictures, but the words are all mine.

Since 2012 Emma Chichester Clark has been delighting followers with her blog Plumdog, which records the adventures, discoveries, wry observations, and social engagements of her dog, Plum. Now Plum's best pages are collected in this beautiful little storybook volume, which will delight anyone who has ever loved a dog.

This is an entertaining “picture book” for adults told in diary for from the viewpoint of a dog, Plum. It can be easily read in one sitting and features beautiful drawings and delightful observations from the canine world as well as from the human world. Although most of diary entries are suitable to read to kids, some of them have a curse word or two, which is why this is a book best suited for adults looking for a different, fun read before bed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

The Library at Mount CharCarolyn's not so different from the other human beings around her. She's sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn't gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient Pelapi customs. They've studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.

Sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She's sure of it. What she doesn't realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she's forgotten a great deal about being human.

In all honesty, I started this book with doubt that I would enjoy it. I am not a huge fantasy reader and world-building tends to bore me, which is why I was wary about a novel that, although it takes place in our world, has a pretty thorough universe of its own. 

The beginning is slow, with introduction to characters that are not particularly likeable. It reminded me a bit of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, which I truly disliked. So the book and I did not begin on the right foot. All of that to say, however, that from about the middle of the novel onward, I fell in love with it. Once the narrative took off, I just couldn’t put it down. It kept me reading long into the night until the very end.

So, yes, it requires a bit of patience when starting it, but it is worth the effort. From the ending, I sincerely hope there will be a sequel.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over. 
The Heart Goes LastThis is an interesting story, yes, but it could have been written by anyone. From the moment I started it to the last page, I didn’t really hear much of Atwood’s usual voice in the narrative. None of the poetic, lush language she is so well known for is there.

The characters are well developed, though none of them are likeable enough to root for. I love the bleakness of Atwood’s vision of the future, and the violent tendencies in humans that she bring to light, but I wish she had written all of this with her voice! At points, her word choices even felt as if they had been dumbed down to attract a wider audience. 

There are plenty of absurd scenes, with Elvis impersonators galore, which make me think she might have meant the novel to be a dark comedy, but the comedy aspect falls flat. As a reader who will buy anything Atwood writes, I truly hope she has gotten this style of writing out of her chest and gets back to the beautiful writing and poignant storylines she is known for.

Monday, August 10, 2015

It by Stephen King

ItTo the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their home town: familiar, well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live.

It was the children who saw - and felt - what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one's deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing . . .

The adults, knowing better, knew nothing.

Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.

Stephen King is a master at what he does. If there were any doubts in my mind as to his skills as a story-teller, then this novel wiped them clear. Not only is it frightening, but it is told in a way that unfolds the horrors in its pages slowly, building up the tension until it boils. 

One of the things I most enjoy about Stephen King novels is the way that he brings a group of characters together, bonding them with each other and with the reader, so that we feel just as much a part of the group as they are. The protagonists in this novel are all lovable and wholly real. I would have liked, however, to have learned a bit more about Robert Gray.

 King’s foreshadowing is masterfully done in this novel, as is the way he connects one chapter to the other fluidly. The only thing I felt a bit disappointing was the defeat of It in the present day. It was a bit anti-climactic, with not nearly enough of the tension that King is so good at building. He recovers from this well, though, because he brings a particular poignancy to the last few chapters of the novel. I won’t reveal what happens, but the ending leaves the reader feeling as if they have just lost a good friend.