12. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Eric, Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller/Suspense

Natural Selection by Dave Freedman, read by Eric, on 04/11/2013

The problem with killer creatures from the sea is that once sharks, octopuses, naughty whales and various cryptozoological meanies have rampaged through the pages of novels, finding fresh species to feature is difficult. Enter author Dave Freedman, and the antagonists of this novel, bloodthirsty rays. As in cousins of Manta and Sting. It seems that Earth’s oceans are being invaded by a virus, GDV-4, and it is triggering all kinds of havoc, including the migration and rapid evolution of a deep-sea ray, the adults of which grow to about a 14-foot wingspan. Wingspan is a well-chosen term, because somewhere about the middle of the book, they are flying through the air like birds, and hunting with teeth the width of forearms. Luckily, there is a team of scientists/adventurers on the path of their migration, attempting to discover the new species, keep their jobs with the millionaire funding their expedition, and survive to tell the tale.

I love beach reads. I’ve read many tales along the lines of this one, and for the most part, I’ve been able to overlook the absurdities, and enjoy the bloody action. Manta rays possibly are my favorite sea creature, as well. Envisioning one madly flapping through the skies is more silly than terrifying, though, and matters aren’t helped much by the writing. Fewer humans and other creatures are killed than the author uses the word literally. At one point, I started counting the number of times, and literally, he used literally three times in the two pages I scanned. After that, it became a game of spot-the-literally, to the point of distraction. In the end, all the chasing came down to a single creature hunting the scientists, and literally, I didn’t care which side won. Recommended for those routinely checking the skies for sea creatures.

09. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocolyptic, Courtney, Horror, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Light (Gone #6) by Michael Grant, read by Courtney, on 04/07/2013

Death, destruction, brutality, fear, hunger, disease…in other words, things are as normal as they can be in the FAYZ. When the countdown begins this time, one word sums it up: endgame. The gaiaphage has a body. Little Pete is disembodied. The barrier is transparent and the rest of the world can see what is happening in the fishbowl that is the FAYZ. The public is shocked at Sam’s actions involving Penny and the baby Gaia; video has circulated around the globe painting him as a killer. Sam’s mother, Connie, knows that if or when the kids make it out, someone will be made to pay for the numerous crimes committed in the FAYZ. The kids inside are getting hungrier as more and more of them gather at the barrier to look out at the world they haven’t seen in nearly a year. Few seem to be willing to work and starvation is imminent if something isn’t done. As if these circumstances aren’t bad enough, the gaiaphage, in its human body, is on the loose and seeking total destruction. Our heroes are at first concerned about the “after”, the time when they are able to emerge from their prison. They quickly realize that they have far more important issues at hand that will make the very concept of “after” completely uncertain. The only thing that is certain is that not everyone will make it out alive. Those that do will never be the same.
I’ve been waiting for this book for a full year now. I’ve read each book as they came out and have grown to love, admire, hate and respect the various characters. Finishing this book was like attempting to pull myself out of the FAYZ. It didn’t really feel like the world should even still be turning. Michael Grant pulled no punches here. This book is every bit as exhilarating and compulsively readable as all its predecessors. The ending is as epic as one might expect and just about every question gets answered. An electric ending to one of my favorite series. It may have been a rough and disturbing ride, but I’m sad to see it end just the same.

29. March 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Horror, Teen Books

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd, read by Courtney, on 03/24/2013

Juliet Moreau has been working as a maid and living rather humbly after the scandal that rocked her family’s world. Her father, the infamous Henri Moreau, managed to escape London rather than facing jail time and left Juliet and her mother destitute. After her mother died, Juliet was left to fend for herself. After intruding on a late-night vivisection, Juliet finds a diagram being used by the medical students that was drawn by her own father. A bit of investigation and the desire to see if her father was indeed still alive leads her to an apartment where she runs into her father’s former servant, Montgomery and a hairy, malformed man called Balthazar. Montgomery and Balthazar are in England to pick up supplies for Juliet’s father and agree to take her with them to the isolated island off the coast of Australia. They set sail on a rather sketchy vessel and pick up a castaway named Edward along the way. Edward is full of secrets and refuses to discuss any of the details of his former life. Montgomery grudgingly agrees to allow Edward to join the small group.
Juliet is shocked to find that her father doesn’t seem in the least bit surprised to see her setting foot on the island. She’s also shocked when her father shoves Edward into the water and stands aside to watch him sink. Montgomery saves Edward at Juliet’s behest and, after a private conference with the doctor, Edward is allowed to stay on the island until the next ship passes by to pick him up.
Juliet finds her father to be cold, arrogant and largely dismissive of anyone else. He locks himself into his laboratory night after night, confirming the rumors that had been circulating around London. Meanwhile, Juliet tries desperately to get used to the odd appearance of the islanders, all of whom seem to regard her father as a god. Juliet discovers that a series of murders have been plaguing the islanders and Juliet suspects that her father’s experiments might be even worse than she ever thought possible. Oh, and she might just be falling in love with both Montgomery and Edward, neither of whom seem to particularly like each other.
Based on the Jules Verne classic, The Island of Dr. Moreau, this story asks the question: if Moreau had a daughter, what would her relationship with her father be like? There are also a whole host of other issues at the heart of the story, for instance, what makes humans human? A fast-paced and absorbing tale. Readers don’t necessarily need to have read the original to understand this tale, but it might help. I have not read the original, but am familiar with the plot. I would be interested to hear what a fan of the original would have to save about the points where this new version diverges from Vernes’.

06. March 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Eric, Fiction, Horror, Paranormal

The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red by Ridley Pearson, read by Eric, on 03/03/2013

Rose Red is a massive mansion in Seattle, the construction and haunting of which is described in the pages of the diary of Ellen, the young wife of an early 1900s oil baron, John Rimbauer. The site of several disappearances and murders, Rose Red becomes a living entity to Ellen, both welcome and terrifying. The fate of Ellen and her family mirrors the fate of the mansion.

The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer is fiction disguised as a diary, presented as paranormal evidence by a fictitious doctor, Joyce Reardon. Adding to the confusion is the real-world misconception that this novel was written by Steven King. Actually written by Ridley Pearson, this book was created to promote Stephen King’s Rose Red miniseries, which aired two years later. I didn’t find it particularly frightening, or believable as a diary, for that matter. A fair portion of the first half concerns world travel and the start of Ellen’s rocky marriage. Once back at Rose Red, however, the story starts a slow, unsettling burn toward a final confrontation, which is more compelling. This is a better than average tie-in novel, recommended for readers in search of creep rather than gore.

Crossovers-2 coverThe two volumes of “Crossovers” are a fascinating and highly enjoyable read for anyone interested in the interactions between various pulp, mystery, adventure, and science fiction characters with each other and real people throughout history.  The premise of the book was inspired by SF writer Philip José Farmer’s “Wold Newton” concept which he developed in the 1970s:  a “radioactive” meteorite crashed near Wold Newton, England, in 1795 and affected several carriages full of people who were passing by.  Their descendants became highly intelligent and powerful heroes (or villains) such as Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, Dr. Fu Manchu, Doc Savage, Lord Greystoke (Tarzan), and many more.  Farmer wrote popular and detailed biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage in which he explored the family trees of many “Wold Newton Family” characters.  Over time, the concept has been expanded and continued by Win Scott Eckert and others to become the “Crossover Universe.”  Mr. Eckert has done a fantastic job of compiling references to literary heroes who have met each other (or “crossed over”) and had adventures together, and thus co-exist in the same fictional universe. Volume 1 covers the dawn of time up through 1939, and Volume 2 covers 1940 into the far future.  (Mr. Spock himself claimed Sherlock Holmes as an ancestor of his!)  There are 2000 entries in this chronology and 300 illustrations. Reading these two books is fun and will send you scurrying to find many of the stories and books that are referenced.

 

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Horror, Literary Fiction, Teen Books

Darkwater by Catherine Fisher, read by Courtney, on 02/18/2013

Here we have a story where two parts become one. In the first half of the book, we meet Sarah Trevelyan, descendent of the once-proud and wealthy Trevelyans. She has been reduced to assisting in a local school house to make ends meet for her and her ailing father. All the while, the spectre of her family’s former glory, Darkwater Hall, looms over her. Sarah would give just about anything to get her family’s honor back. One day, she meets the new lord of Darkwater Hall, Lord Azrael, who offers her a job assisting him with his alchemy. She eventually strikes a bargain with him that will restore her estate to her family, but only with the caveat that Azrael will return for her soul in a hundred years.
In the second half of the book, we meet a teenager named Tom. Tom lives in our time, but in the same location as Sarah. Darkwater Hall has become a prestigious school that Tom would love to go to, if he only had the intelligence and talent. Tom’s self-esteem gets bolstered when he meets Darkwater’s newest professor, Dr. Azrael, who just happens to want Tom as his assistant. It’s only a matter of time before Tom is faced with a bargain of his own.
I love stories that intertwine like this and Catherine Fisher is a great writer. There are certainly echoes of her other work here. Her characters are great as well. Sarah is believable, if not always likeable. Tom is hard on himself and unnecessarily so, just as many other teens are. I love that these two characters actually meet and relate to one another in spite of their vastly different origins. The Faustus-like theme is obvious, but it’s a delightful take on it.

20. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Classics, Fiction, Horror · Tags:

Alice in Zombieland by Nickolas Cook, Lewis Carroll, read by Angie, on 02/19/2013

Alice meets zombies in this fun mashup. This book follows the Alice in Wonderland story pretty well it just adds zombies to the mix. In fact, Alice herself becomes a zombie after falling down the rat hole and starts craving meat. While the book isn’t stellar it is a fun read. I really enjoyed how the author integrated zombies into every little bit of the Alice story.

15. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Teen Books

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough, read by Courtney, on 02/01/2013

When Mimi and Cora’s mother fails to return, their traveling salesman of a father sends his daughters off to live in the English countryside with their mother’s Aunt Ida. Mimi and Cora are met considerable resistance from Aunt Ida, who has no intention of keeping the girls with her in her ancient, run-down manor. The girls have no idea that Ida might have extremely good reasons for not wanting them there, but they try to abide by all of Ida’s rules (which include never opening windows and staying far, far away from the crumbling several-hundred-year-old church down the road). Cora can’t stand living there and young Mimi isn’t much happier. Things brighten up a bit when the sisters meet Roger and Pete, a pair of brothers that live in the old town of Bryers Guerdon. Finally, there are children their age to play with. Unfortunately, since boys will be boys, the very first place the children go to play is the forbidden church. One visit is enough to make Cora and Mimi uneasy, even if they aren’t sure why. After a couple more visits, the kids all see things that don’t add up until they begin to learn the story of Long Lankin. Is the legend of Long Lankin real? The villagers won’t talk about it, but they won’t let their children near the church either. What is the connection between Lankin and the church? What does Ida know that she isn’t telling her wards? Secrets are revealed as the story reaches its chilling apex. This is not gory horror, but atmospheric and psychological. Readers won’t be able to get this one out of their heads easily.

14. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocolyptic, Eric, Fiction, Horror · Tags: ,

Devil's Wake by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, read by Eric, on 02/14/2013

The sheer bulk of zombies and similar human horrors in films, books, and television makes it increasingly difficult to bring something new to the genre. In Devil’s Wake, the husband-wife writing team of Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due don’t attempt to do so. In their scenario, the undead are of the infected variety, which pass the infection on through bites.  A ragtag group of young adults must avoid being bitten as they travel from the state of Washington to Devil’s Wake, a reportedly “freak free” island off the coast of Southern California.

For the most part, the characters’ back stories are given perfunctory glances. A majority of them are delinquent teens from a work camp. At times, their dialog seems out of place for their age, and the cultural references too dated. This, combined with the familiarity of the plot, failed to spark my interest much until they were on the road, and interacting with other survivors. Unfortunately, the novel abruptly ends after this point, not because it’s a natural break in the story, but so there can be a series of books. I’m not sure I’ll go along for the ride.

Crossovers-1 cover

The two volumes of this book are a fascinating and highly enjoyable read for anyone interested in the interactions between various pulp, mystery, adventure, and science fiction characters with real people throughout history.  The premise of this book is inspired by SF writer Philip José Farmer’s “Wold Newton” concept which he developed in the 1970s:  a “radioactive” meteorite crashed near Wold Newton, England in 1795 and affected several carriages full of people who were passing by.  Their descendants became highly intelligent and powerful heroes (or villains) such as Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, Dr. Fu Manchu, Doc Savage, Lord Greystoke (aka Tarzan), and many more.  Farmer wrote popular and detailed biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage in which he detailed the family trees of many “Wold Newton Family” characters.  Over time, the concept has been expanded and continued by others into the Crossover Universe.  Win Scott Eckert has done a fantastic job of compiling references to literary heroes who have met each other (or “crossed over”) and had adventures together, and thus co-exist in the same fictional universe.  Volume 1 covers the dawn of time up through 1939, and Volume 2 covers 1940 into the far future.  Reading these two books is a fun and highly addictive experience!

 

04. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Paranormal · Tags:

Bitter Blood by Rachel Caine, read by Brian, on 02/01/2013

Rachel Caine has released her 13th book in Morganville Vampire series.  I found every book to be entertaining and suspenseful. Morganville is a small dusty Texas town where humans and vampires coexist, sort of, in a bare minimum way.  In this chapter of the series the town is recovering from the draug, a parasitic enemy of the vampires and humans alike.  Now the draug is gone the vampires feel free to rule the town.  Humans feel they need to take up arms and free themselves from vampire rule.  To add to the mayhem, a television crew come to town to film a ghost hunter show.

With many book series, the longer it goes, the worst it gets and you hope the author will put an end to it.  Rachel Caine has written a series in which you finish a book and can hardly wait until the next one.

bitter

20. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Tammy, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, read by Tammy, on 11/10/2012

The sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood with all the heart-thumping suspense and clever quips you would expect from main character Cas and his friends. The ghost girl, Anna saved ghost-hunter Cas and his friends in the first book by dragging the voodoo monster, Obeahman, down into Hell. But now she’s reappearing in Cas’ dreams and in his room and her voice is coming from other ghosts. Cas realizes she is being tortured and he’s determined to rescue her despite all advice to the contrary. This sequel takes Cas and his friends to Britain and explains the creation of the athame and Cas’ connection to it.

05. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Horror

Locke and Key: Clockworks (Vol. 5) by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, read by Courtney, on 08/15/2012

Oh, I do so love a good back story.  This volume delivers in spades. Bode is still occupied by Dodge, but his siblings are starting to come around.  A key is discovered that allows its holders to view events in the past.  Tyler and Kinsey go back to view the events that transpired when their father was a teen in Keyhouse.  It turns out to reveal some of the true evil concealed by the house as well as the origins of Dodge’s sinister streak.  Three different time periods covered in one volume and so many questions answered.  Good reading.

25. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocolyptic, Courtney, Horror, Teen Books · Tags:

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers, read by Courtney, on 07/13/2012

Yes, a thousand times yes! This might be my new favorite zombie novel. Sloane’s life is miserable. And that’s before the zombies kill nearly everyone. Sloane had been planning on killing herself the day that the undead broke through the door of her house. Yes, she’s depressed. But that’s not even the half of it. Her mother died when Sloane was young. Her father was severely abusive. Her sister, Lily, ran away six months ago, in spite of promising to take Sloane with her. Now, petrified of her father and reeling from her sister’s betrayal, Sloane is faced with the zombie apocalypse. She winds up back at her high school with a handful of others who have managed to survive. There is distrust and in-fighting immediately and personalities continually clash. All Sloane wants to do is die. Nightmares of her father wake her up more at night than the fear of the undead.
What does one do when the world appears to be coming to an end? When you didn’t want to live in the first place? This is such a fascinating twist on the classic zombie novel. Summers, who has already proved herself an exceptional YA writer, once again shows her skills in giving voice to an all-too-common issue (the depression, not the zombies), giving this novel an added emotional charge.

28. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Apocolyptic, Graphic Novel, Horror

100 Months by John Hicklenton, read by Andrea, on 06/27/2012

This book was very dark. If the sun hadn’t still been shining when I read it I may have had nightmares and/or been severely depressed. Suffering from MS, the author, John Hicklenton, committed assisted suicide the day after finishing this graphic novel. I was not surprised to learn that fact after reading and looking at the very disturbing and graphic illustrations. The entire story is about death and suffering. Mara, an earth goddess, is sent by her father (a scary looking creature who is presumably Satan) to slay the swine God Longpig (presumably all the negative aspects of humanity). It centers on her journey to find the Longpig. Mara claims the purpose of her task is to ultimately avenge her friend’s death (Jesus?).  Along the way, anyone she finds she punishes. She pretty much unleashes her wrath on all of humanity. The accompanying pictures are graphic but the composition and the usage of colors is quite breathtaking (if you can look past the death and destruction the illustrations represent).

I randomly came across this book while looking for another and am kind of glad I decided to read it. Considering this was Mr. Hicklenton’s final statement to the world, I almost wonder if he was trying to give people a glimpse of what he thought the world is coming to and what will happen if we don’t change. It was almost as if he believes in the whole idea of self-destruction is imminent if humanity refuses to change kind of view. Creepy but interesting book.

18. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Horror, Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller/Suspense

House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings, #1) by Robert Liparulo, read by Andrea, on 06/15/2012

The first book of the Dreamhouse Kings series, House of Dark Shadows was one of those creepy books that makes one a little bit jumpy – especially while reading at night or while no one else is around. The characters and the creepy situations they are made to face throughout the book reminded me of the Goosebumps thriller series from the 90′s, but only for a more mature reader. The series centers on the King family who moves into a house that seems to have portals that lead to different time periods and places throughout the world. Unfortunately for them the portals seem to have let someone in who seems to be quite a threat to the family considering he has taken Mrs. King with him into another portal. Seems exciting and will continue to read the next book in the series to see what happens to the King family next.

07. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror

Black Dawn by Rachel Caine, read by Brian, on 06/07/2012

Rachel Caine’s, Black Dawn, is twelfth book in the Morganville Vampire series and unlike some series with many books to it’s name, Morganville keeps getting better. In the last installment of the series, Last Breath, both the humans and vampires are being threatened by a new enemy, the Draug.  The draug are the one thing vampires scurry away from as they drain the life out of their victims.  Black Dawn is the continuation of the fight to save Morganville.  The vampires can not defeat the draug and must rely on the human citizens to save them.  Of course, there are the constant struggles between humans vs vampires, vampires vs vampires and humans vs humans.  If you haven’t tried this series, I would recommend it.

05. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocolyptic, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Short Stories

Zombies Vs. Unicorns by Justine Larbalestier, Holly Black, read by Angie, on 06/03/2012

It is an age old question.

Zombies or Unicorns?

Are you on team Zombie or team Unicorn?

I assumed going into this collection I would definitely fall into the team Zombie category. I love zombie stories and movies and unicorns have always just seemed to girlie to me. And I have to admit that I am still on team Zombie, but the unicorns might have turned my head just a little bit.

This is a pretty solid collection of stories from some of the best teen authors of today. I love the back and forth banter of our team captains before each story. Yes, it could seem annoying to some but I thought it brought a lightness and a sense of fun and illustrated the challenge of the book. Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black were clearly having fun with this book and we should too.

As for the stories…some were better than others. Some were great short stories, some were not that great and a few I wish were the start of an actual book. So bring on the zombie apocalypse or the invasion of the unicorns. I am ready!

04. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Horror, Science Fiction

Alien vs Predator: Three World War by Randy Stradley, read by Brian, on 06/02/2012

The graphic novel, Aliens vs Predator: Three World War, combines three of the deadliest creatures alive: Man, Predator & Aliens fighting for survival. Using Aliens like hunting dogs  a Predator clan  wants to wipe out another Predator clan and anything else in their way.  Man, by the way of a woman who use to fight with one of the Predator clans must unite together to destroy Predator/Alien clan or perish.  This graphic novel is colorful and full of action.  Anyone is a fan of either the Predator or Aliens will enjoy this piece of work.

 

12. May 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Horror, Teen Books

Morning Glories by Nick Spencer, read by Courtney, on 05/11/2012

6 kids have been selected to become students at the prestigious Morning Glory Prep School. It’s a boarding school that claims to prepare its students for a “better future”, but one of the students notices that something is awry almost immediately when she realizes that not only do all 6 of the newcomers have the same birthday, they also cannot reach their parents or anyone from home. These kids have no idea why they’ve been selected, other than for their sheer over-achievement and no idea what the school is trying to accomplish. What they do figure out, quite quickly, I might add, is that the school has a deeply sinister side with motivations yet to be seen. As the arc progresses, we find out more about each student and their troubled pasts.
I’m still not sure how everything fits together yet, but this is a pretty exciting beginning to a story that will undoubtedly have much more to offer