26. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Paranormal

Joyland by Stephan King, 283 pages, read by Brian, on 08/23/2013

I’ve got the Joy Joy Joy Joy down in Joyland. Where? Down in Joyland.  Stephen King has once again delivered another masterpiece of a short story.  Joyland isn’t scary or sexy but more of a mystery.  Sure there is a ghost a bad guy and a pretty lady but this story has a sweetness to it and heartache as well.  Character development is King’s greatest strength and I thank him for it.  The carnival has always been a fascination with me.  It is mysterious and creepy and even though I’m a rube, I just love the atmosphere of it.


30. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Courtney, Horror, Science Fiction, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad, 355 pages, read by Courtney, on 07/07/2013

In the not-too-distant future, plans are being made to bring mankind back to the moon. It’s been decades since the first astronauts set foot on the lunar surface and NASA has now decided to send a new crew up. The twist this time is that they’ve decided to send three teenagers (for the ratings, ostensibly). A giant, world-wide lottery is held and three are chosen: Midori (a trendy Harajuku girl who longs to see the world), Antoine (the broken-hearted Parisian who wants to get as far away from his ex as possibly), and Mia (a musican from Norway who honestly has no desire to go to the moon, but is signed up by her parents and goes anyway). After their training, they’re off to be the first inhabitants on DARLAH-2, a space station that was built in the ’70’s but the existence of which has only just been made known to the public. Things go smoothly until the teens and their accompanying astronauts arrive at the station. First, the power goes out. Then people start dying.
I picked this up, thinking it was going to be a sci-fi book but was surprised to discover that this book is far more horror than sci-fi. The setting, however, did add to the claustrophobic feel- earth is days away, which means no rescue and nowhere to run. There’s a pervasive feeling of dread throughout in spite of the excitement that surrounds the fanfare put forth by NASA (the narrative is interspersed with advertisements promoting the lottery, as well as photos and diagrams from the mission itself).
I wound up using this book as one of my high school book group’s selections, with great success. There was plenty to discuss and all agreed that the book was definitely creepy. One girl claimed to have screamed. I, personally, had a few issues with the premise itself (i.e. who would ever think it’s a good idea to send minors into space?). I was also very unclear as to the nature of the menace facing the kids and crew. This was likely intentional, but still a bit frustrating. Overall, an unusual reading experience. Gotta love YA lit for its genre-blending tendencies.

27. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Horror, Mystery

Joyland by Stephen King, 283 pages, read by Helen, on 06/05/2013

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

26. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Tammy · Tags: ,

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks, 342 pages, read by Tammy, on 06/24/2013

Moving and thought-provoking. Definitely not two words I thought I’d ever use to describe a zombie novel.

world war zIt didn’t dwell on the gore of a zombie attack and killing zombies though some of that action is described. Instead it is a collection of first person accounts from doctors to soldiers to individual citizens and political leaders in a variety of countries and cultures. It clearly brings home the emotional, social and economic damage caused by world-wide plague conditions or even an individual country laid low by a plague outbreak. It deftly combines the two (war and plague) never completely forgetting that the enemy were once other human beings often neighbors and friends or family who did not choose to become the enemy but for your survival and the survival of the human race and the human spirit — they all have to die.

26. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Elizabeth, Horror

London Falling by Paul Cornell, 402 pages, read by Elizabeth, on 06/16/2013

London Falling

I was excited when I picked up a copy of Paul Cornell’s London Falling. The book has been widely described as urban fantasy, a genre that I really enjoy. I knew of Cornell from his work on the television program Doctor Who. I immensely enjoyed London Falling, but I do not consider it to be a wholly urban fantasy novel.

London Falling tells the story of a group of police officers who have worked to find enough evidence against a local gang leader to put him behind bars. When the suspect is gruesomely killed in a locked room, the police are baffled. Their investigation leads them to discover another London, one filled with magic, witchcraft and evil.

While I understand why the novel is being described as urban fantasy, I disagree with that assessment. Perhaps it has some elements of the genre, but I would describe London Falling as a police procedural supernatural horror with a very British sense of humor. The result is a horrifyingly exciting story that I would recommend to fans of supernatural horror, police procedurals and English football (soccer) humor.



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

Fall of Night by Rachel Caine, 352 pages, read by Brian, on 06/04/2013

Fall of Night is the fourteenth book in the Morganville Vampire series.  This is the first book that takes place out of Morganville.  Why? Morganville is ruled by vampires and no one leaves Morganville without permission from the vamps.  Claire the main character of the story is has permission to leave and attend college at MIT.  Claire will be working with a professor and former resident of Morganville to a machine that can slow down a vampires attack.  Most of the main characters are back for a thrill ride that doesn’t stop until the last page.


03. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Brian, Fantasy, Fiction, Food, Horror · Tags:

Apocaylpse Cow by Michael Logan, 352 pages, read by Brian, on 06/01/2013

Do you want to stop eating meat?  Read Apocalypse Cow and your meat eating days will be in the past.  The setting starts out at a slaughter house outside of Great Britain.  A cow dies and then comes back to life to attack the owner of the establishment.  Without warning all the cows start attacking the humans.  A special group of men are sent  to take care of the problem.  The only issue, a cow gets away starting and an epidemic of animals turning into zombies begins.  This book could have been called, “Revenge of the Animals”, as the human population [Great Britain area] starts to head towards extinction.


31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Helen, Horror, Paranormal

Abandon by Blake Crouch, 416 pages, read by Helen, on 05/30/2013

On Christmas Day in 1893, every man, woman and child in a remote gold mining town disappeared, belongings forsaken, meals left to freeze in vacant cabins; and not a single bone was ever found. One hundred thirteen years later, two backcountry guides are hired by a history professor and his journalist daughter to lead them into the abandoned mining town so that they can learn what happened. With them is a psychic, and a paranormal photographer—as the town is rumored to be haunted. A party that tried to explore the town years ago was never heard from again. What this crew is about to discover is that twenty miles from civilization, with a blizzard bearing down, they are not alone, and the past is very much alive.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Helen, Horror

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill , 704 pages, read by Helen, on 05/09/2013

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photography, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country. Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing–and terrifying–playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.” Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble–and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

06. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Horror, Tammy, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense · Tags:

Bitter Blood by Rachel Caine, 404 pages, read by Tammy, on 05/06/2013

bitter blood Book 13 in the Morganville series and Rachel Caine is back on her game. After a couple of books in the series seeming to drag, this one flew by and had several surprises and concentrates on Claire and her relationships and her feelings of growing up.

29. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fiction, Helen, Horror, Science Fiction

The Remaining by D.J. Molles, 220 pages, read by Helen, on 04/25/2013

In a steel-and-lead-encased bunker 40 feet below the basement level of his house, Captain Lee Harden of the United States Army waits. On the surface, a plague ravages the planet, infecting over 90% of the populace. The bacterium burrows through the brain, destroying all signs of humanity and leaving behind little more than base, prehistoric instincts. The infected turn into hyper-aggressive predators, with an insatiable desire to kill and feed. Some day soon, Captain Harden will have to open the hatch to his bunker, and step out into this new wasteland, to complete his very simple mission: Subvenire Refectus.

To Rescue and Rebuild.

29. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Helen, Horror

Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Ethridge, 332 pages, read by Helen, on 04/04/2013

Herman and Janet Erikson are going through a crisis of grief and suffering after losing their daughter in a hit and run. They’ve given up on each other, they’ve given up on themselves. They are living day by day. One afternoon, to make a horrible situation worse, their dog goes missing in the coyote-infested badlands behind their property. Herman, resolved in preventing another tragedy, goes to find the dog, completely unaware he’s on a hike to the River Styx, which according to Greek myth was the border between the Living World and the world of the Dead. Long ago the gods died and the River dried up, but a bottle containing its waters still remains in the badlands. What Herman discovers about the dark power contained in those waters will change his life forever…

24. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Brian, Fiction, Horror · Tags:

World War Z by Max Brooks, 342 pages, read by Brian, on 04/22/2013

World War Z is the first hand account of those around the world who survived the near extinction of the Zombie War.  Max Brooks travels the world to interview men, women and children to document this historical event.  The book is chilling and makes you think of present times.  My favorite part is when a man commented on how whales got the worst of it when the plague broke out.


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

Natural Selection by Dave Freedman, 414 pages, 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: Apocalyptic, Courtney, Horror, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Light (Gone #6) by Michael Grant, 411 pages, 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, 420 pages, 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, 252 pages, 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, 240 pages, 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, 256 pages, 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.