Book Review — Bird Box

Title:  Bird Box
Author:  Josh Malerman
Genre:  Horror, thriller, post-apocalyptic
Pages:  Kindle, 211
Publisher:  Harper Voyage
ISBN: 978-0-06-225965-3
Opening Lines:  "Malorie stands in the kitchen thinking.  Her hands are damp.  She is trembling.  She taps her toe nervously on the cracked tile floor."


"Something is out there . . .

"Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

"Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?

"Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?

"Interweaving past and present, Josh Malerman’s breathtaking debut is a horrific and gripping snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page."

~ Jacket copy

Lately, it has been hard to find a book that will fully catch my attention.  Whether it was due to the combination of classes and work or something else, it has been an issue for several months.  In an endeavor to correct the problem, I spend hours scouring Pinterest for new bool suggestions.  Many of the pins I looked at dealt with horror.  Usually, I save the horror for the fall, colder weather, and longer nights; however, it has been ever-present in my mind lately.  On all of the pins, this book kept coming up over and over and over again.  I decided to give it a chance.  Luckily, my local library had it available as an electronic rental!

(Yes, yes, as many of you will remember, I vowed never to become a Kindle user.  However, my wonderful Viking gifted me with a Kindle a few months ago.  Knowing that my textbooks would be approximately $50 cheaper in electronic format, he found a wonderful Kindle Fire . . . USED!  Since then, I have decided to embrace the idea of ebooks a bit more . . . )

This book is extremely hard to describe without giving it away completely.  As suggested by the jacket copy, this book is a post-apocalyptic horror/thriller.  After strange occurrences in Russia, people are starting to seemingly go insane and kill themselves/others after seeing something.  While there are many theories circulating about the nature of the thing, no one truly knows what or why people are losing their minds.  They only know that people are dying and no one is safe.

After several years living alone in a house, Malorie has decided to take matters into her own hands and try to give her children a future beyond the four walls.  However, with sight being dangerous, she must find safety using her other senses.  

Close your eyes and think about walking to your mailbox blindfolded.  Now consider preforming other mundane tasks with a blindfold over your eyes and taking away your sight.  If you take the blindfold off and open your eyes . . . Insanity . . . Death.  Yet, you do not know from what.

Malorie is the mother of two four-year-old children who live in a house with covered windows, locked doors, and old blood stains on the walls and floors.  When they leave the house to collect water from the well or empty the "shit bucket", it is all done with blindfolds covering their eyes.  Malorie lives under the constant fear that she might see something that will cause her to go insane and ultimately kill herself.  This is a fear she has been living with for approximately five years when the first people died in Russia.

After living alone with the children for four and a half years, Malorie has decided that she is willing to risk their safety in order to find a future for her children.  She has trained them to be acute listeners and not rely on their vision.  With blindfolds on and strict instructions not to open their eyes, Malorie embarks on a 20 mile trip up the river to find possible salvation.  However, the trip could prove to be harrowing, as well as life threatening.

The story is told mostly in flashbacks with occasional jaunts to the book's present-day on the river.  The most terrifying thing about this book is the unknown.  Like the characters, "sight" is taken from the reader.  Using limited third-person POV, Malerman is able to build the growing fear in the readers.  Like the characters, the audience has no idea what the novel's antagonist truly is, what it looks like, or why it is causing people to go insane.

There were many times throughout this novel that I found myself jumping at known noises in my house.  The novel was able to bring back the idea that, if I just closed by eyes, I would be safe.  It was engaging a played on the fear of the unknown, as well as adding an element of human nature/survival.

This was an excellent story and a rather unique idea.

Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Crossed

Title:  Crossed
Author:  Ally Condie
Genre:  YA Dystopia
Pages:  Hardback, 367
Publisher:  Penguin Group
ISBN:  978-0-525-42365-2
Opening Lines:  "I'm standing in a river.  It's blue.  Dark blue.  Reflecting the color of the evening sky."


"Chasing down an uncertain future, Cassia makes her way to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky—taken by the Society to his sure death—only to find that he has escaped into the majestic, but treacherous, canyons. On this wild frontier are glimmers of a different life and the enthralling promise of rebellion. But even as Cassia sacrifices everything to reunite with Ky, ingenious surprises from Xander may change the game once again.

"Narrated from both Cassia's and Ky's points of view, this hotly anticipated sequel to Matched will take them both to the edge of Society, where nothing is as expected and crosses and double crosses make their path more twisted than ever."

~ Jacket copy

Matched has been sitting on the shelf in the classroom staring at me for quite some time.  It didn't help that the school librarian kept suggesting it.  However, it was a book I had already read and didn't remember particularly enjoying.  (A look back at my previous post shows that I was correct).  Despite my better judgment—while packing up endless boxes of books for my head teacher—I decided to give Matched another chance and then get further into the series.  It didn't help that Reached was on the book shelf in my mentor teacher's classroom.  It appeared as though I was . . . doomed!

At the conclusion of Matched, the readers see Ky sent to the Outer Provinces and Cassia on a train with her family as their being relocated for her mother's new job assignment—or so they've been told.  When Crossed starts, Ky is serving in what looks like the military and Cassia is in a work camp.  Through these limitations and no idea where the other is at, Cassia sets off on a trek to find Ky as he is trying to escape from certain death.

To be honest, the second time around, I actually enjoyed Matched more than I did the first time.  It might have been for the escapist value.  That being said, I cannot say the same for the second book.  The concept of the split narration gives an interesting spin on books and allows the reader a peak into the minds and rationale of the other main characters; however, it has been overdone.  In addition, it needs to be done well.  Granted, Ky had all the potential of being an interesting character in the first book, but narrating the story from his side did not add any depth.  Condie would have been better served by not splitting the narration.  As it stands, it detracting from the story.

Between the first and second book, something was lost.  I did not feel the same connection to the characters in this book.  They felt rather one dimensional and banal.  Cassia always was a tad bit vapid, but it felt as though this book turned her into a flat archetype of a heroine.  Not only that, there was little to no development and she fell into typical stereotypes.  The same can be said about Indie and Eli.

The book took too long building to the climax and then the "resolution".  Looking back at it, I wonder if there truly was a full climax in the book.  There was the possible threat of the Society swooping down and taking them away; however, it was never really followed.  The biggest problem they dealt with was the green pills and the chance of a flash flood.  Not only that, the end was rushed.  

All in all, this book was adequate as far as a sequel.  It left a lot to be desired.  Considering the previous book, I am not too surprised at how this one turned out.  I'm not sure whether I will take the time to pick up the third book.  After skipping large chunks of needless word vomit, I am happy that this was a library book.   

Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Daughters Unto Devils

Title:  Daughters Unto Devils
Author:  Amy Lukavics
Genre:  YA Horror
Pages:  Hardback, 231
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen
ISBN:  978-0-373-21158-6
Opening Lines:  "The first time I lay with the post boy was on a Sunday, and I broke three commandments to do it."


"When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner's family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries.

"When the Verners arrive at their new home, a large cabin abandoned by its previous owners, they discover the inside covered in blood. And as the days pass, it is obvious to Amanda that something isn't right on the prairie. She's heard stories of lands being tainted by evil, of men losing their minds and killing their families, and there is something strange about the doctor and his son who live in the woods on the edge of the prairie. But with the guilt and shame of her sins weighing on her, Amanda cant's be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or deep within her soul."

~ Jacket copy

As we near October every year, I spend weeks on Goodreads, Google, and Pinterest trying to find the best horror novels that have recently been released or that I've missed.  It made me extremely ecstatic when I found a whole board devoted to new, terrifying horror novels!  I was even more excited when I was able to find the vast majority of them at my local library or available via InterLibrary Loan!  And this lovely gem happened to end up at the top of the pile.  It might have had a little something to do with the cover, but . . . Well, I prefer not to judge a book by its cover . . .  

The jack copy does a far better job explaining the story than I could.  However, in an attempt to add to it, Amanda is a young girl struggling with her demons, as well as dealing with the growing tensions in her family and herself.  And, by the end of the book, you are left wondering whether she truly did find respite from the voices in her head.

This book was chilling.

The story opens up with a young girl dealing with the residual shadows of cabin fever, a sister who was born deaf and blind, and possibly her place within her large family.  As a form of escapism—and maybe a little bit of rebellion—she enters into a torrid affair with a post boy.  What she thought was love and romance changes quickly with the discovery of pregnancy and the threat of another hard winter.  On the heels of that revelation, Amanda's pa decides to move them out of their tiny cabin in the woods to the warm prairies full of larger cabins ripe for the picking.  And that is when things turn sinister . . .

When I first started reading this book, I wondered whether it was taking awhile to get going and to catch its stride; however, after taking a few days to dwell on it, I feel as though the author fully intended it as a literary mechanism.  Throughout the beginnings of the story, the author kept dropping little details about the previous winter and what Amanda saw in the woods.  You are told that her pa has treated her differently since then and won't even look at her the same.  Her ma even has a wary on on her.  Nonetheless, the author doesn't divulge that information until later.  It was small things like this that made the overwhelming sense of dread build, and it had me feeling as though something sinister was waiting on the periphery.

There were many times that I found myself not wanting to put it down and then being forced to leave my bedside light on.  The author did an amazing job with the internal and external demons.  And the book truly has stayed with me since I finished it on Thursday.

Even given the great nature of this book, I felt that a few things were lacking and made me ask questions.  I felt as though she didn't fully answer how Pa got the map.  Amanda has a theory—which I think is correct—but it was left too ambiguous for me.  In addition, she needed to flesh out the whole backstory behind Zeke and his father.  I wanted more information about their role in the whole story, how long these issues had been going on, and even a little more about the other cabin.  And was everything inevitable?  Aside from the solution the doctor presented at the end, was there a way to keep all of this from happening?

All in all, it was chilling and terrifying on many different aspects. If you're looking for a quick, good horror story, this was should definitely be on your list.

Much love, Sinn

Book Review — A Court of Thorns and Roses

Title:  A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author:  Sarah J. Maas
Genre:  YA/New Adult Fantasy, retelling
Pages:  Hardback, 416
Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA Childrens
ISBN:  978-1-61963-444-2
Opening Lines:  "The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice."


"When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a breast-like creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she knows about only from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once rule their world.

"As Feyre dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility to a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever . . . "

~ Jacket copy

If you haven't guessed it by this point, I suppose it is only nice to tell you . . . I am back in a retelling kick.  Wasting Spending time on Pinterest, I stumbled upon a great list of retellings.  It told me that "they are a must read', so—as any good reader should do—I decided to find them at the local library.  And—ding, ding, you guessed it!—this book was near the top of the list.

At its basic level, this is a re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast with the "evil" faeries as the backdrop.  Young Feyre is out hunting for food during the long, grueling winter.  Spying a wolf about ready to take her quarry, she decides to kill it before it has the chance.  It doesn't hurt anything that she is convinced it is one of the Fae rumored to sneak through the Wall and hurt people.  After killing it, skinning it, and then selling its fur for a pretty penny, a large beast bursts into their house demanding penance.  According to a treaty signed by the humans and Fae, her life is forfeit.  Offering her an alternative to death, Feyre is taken to live across the Wall in Prythian.

Before I start, I loved this book!  It kept me up reading into the night, kept me anti-social during my lunch breaks, and consumed all of my time once I got home from work.  I could not put it down, nor did I want to finish reading it.  That being said, however, I could not give it five skulls . . .

Within the first few pages, I wanted to put the book down.  Feyre's voice is insipid and whiny.  Yes, she was the only person willing to feed her family; however, she spent more time complaining about her lot in life and a promise she made to her mother than much of anything else.  In addition to which, the attitude taken toward her sisters was infuriating!  It was understandable . . . To a point.

Aside from setting the stage, I felt that the story didn't truly start to come into its own until after she was taken into Prythian.  The audience wasn't given too much of her backstory until she started relating things to Tamlin and having moral quandaries with leaving them.  In addition, the scene was better written and fleshed out once she crossed the Wall.  That could have been an intentionally planned writing tool; however, it made everything before seem lackluster and unimportant.

The characters in the book were quite interesting, and the author really could have done some amazing things with them.  Sadly, she really failed to make them very three dimensional.  I felt that Lucien was one of the better characters.  He had a great presence in the book and tended to just fill the room with it.  Tamlin was our typical Byronic hero—broody, tall, dark, and handsome.  He was not a beast nor did Feyre truly transform him out of a beastly alter ego.  Despite my better judgment, I did like Tamlin and found myself really cheering for him . . . Even though he was a two dimensional shell of a cliche character.

She could have been a complex, sinister evil queen.  Maas has all the markings of a remarkable villain; yet, she failed to grasp onto that and run with it.  She was so cold and malevolent, it was jarring.

The ending and how Maas has set up the next book with Rhys upsets me.  Going into it would ruin the book.  That being said, for me, it negated the premise of this book entirely.

All in all, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to other people.  Maas had an intriguing idea to bring a classic story into the realm of the Fae.  She did a wonderful job bringing some things to life and adding a new spin on the story.

(As a side note, I did find it interesting that this is a New Adult novel!)

Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Furiously Happy

Title:  Furiously Happy
Author:  Jenny Lawson
Genre:  Humor/Non-Fiction
Pages: Hardback, 329
Publisher:  Flatiron Books
ISBN:  978-1-250-07700-4
Opening Lines:  "This is where I was going to put a simple Mary Oliver quote but instead I decided to replace it with the idea I had for the cover of this book because I'm pretty sure it'll never get accepted and I don't want it to go to waste."


"In FURIOUSLY HAPPY, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jenny Lawson explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea.

"But terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

"As Jenny sayd, "Some people might think that being 'furiously happy' is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he's never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that 'none' is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.

'Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked up but you'd never guess because we've learned to bare it so honestly that i becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, "We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it." Except go back and cross out the word "hiding."'

"Furiously Happy is a book about embracing everything that make us who we are—the beautiful and the flawed—and then using it to find joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. Because, as Jenny's mom says, 'Maybe "crazy" isn't so bad after all.' Sometimes crazy is just right."

~ Jacket copy

This was a book club book.  To be quite frank, I never would have picked this book up, and I very nearly put it back down again when I started reading it.  But, sometimes, things are than they first appear.

This is another instance when the jacket copy does a far better job than I could describing this book.  Putting it very, very simply, this is a book about being mentally ill and choosing not to be a victim or letting society put you into a box.

As I previously stated, I almost put this book down.  Soaking in a warm bath after a long, hard day at work, I had high hopes that this book would lift my mood, make me laugh, and just forget about the stress.  Sadly, I found it starting to ratchet me up and piss me off.  Jenny is very upfront and honest with the fact that she's mentally ill, and that was kind of a draw for me.  I've struggled with OCD and severe anxiety since my early 20s, so the whole concept was intriguing.  However, after getting a few pages past the first chapter, she made me irate.  First of all, she was setting my own anxiety off.  In addition, it felt as though she was letting her mental illness define her and using it as an excuse.  But, considering that it was a book club pick, I persevered.

In some ways, this book was just a series of random stories thrown together.  Most of them were ridiculously funny and had me reading long into the night.  Digging deeper, however, they were all little pieces that went into showing the reader just who Jenny is, how crazy she is, and be able to see her illness through a different lens.

This book is extremely hard to describe.  She is all over the place, over the top, intensely crazy, and, in some ways, extremely brilliant!  If you struggle with mental illness or have dealt with it in you life, give this book a chance.

Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Cuckoo Song

Title:  Cuckoo Song
Author:  Frances Hardinge
Genre:  YA fantasy, horror, historical fiction, mystery
Pages:  Hardback, 408
Publisher:  Amulet Books
ISBN:  978-1-4197-1480-1
Opening Lines:  "Her head hurt.  There was a sound grating against her mind, a music-less rasp like the rustling of paper"


"Following a mysterious accident that left her sopping wet, Triss awakens to a world that's eerily off-kilter. Her memories are muddled, her sister despises her, pages have been stolen from her private journal, and her appetite is insatiable. Confusion quickly turns to dread as she begins to see and hear things she shouldn't. Her dolls reveal themselves to be deceitful, living creatures; she's suddenly and inexplicably afraid of scissors; and when she brushes her hair, out sprinkle crumbled fragments of leaves.

"Then she stumbles across evidence that hedr beloved brother, killed in the war, is actually alive—and she begins to suspect that the secrets lurking within her home are even more shocking than her twisted new reality. Is Triss going mad? Or did her accident trigger a nightmarish chain of events? In her quest to learn the truth, Triss ventures from the shelter of her parents' protective wings into the city's underbelly. There she encounters strange creatures whose grand schemes could forever alter the fates of her family."

~ Jacket copy

One of the joys of my current job is the bi-annual book fairs!  On my short lunch breaks, I would take the time to just wander through the displays of books.  Some of them really didn't look appealing.  Others, however, really caught my attention.  This was one such book.  Sometimes YA horror can be awful and painful to read, so I was curious whether this one would be different.  Honestly, the cover also really drew me in.  Imagine my surprise when I saw it sitting on the shelf at the local library several months later!  And thus began my journey with this book.

Hmm, that is truly a hard question to answer.  The jacket copy does an amazing job giving tantalizing details without giving away the huge twist of the book.  At a basic level, it is about a family torn by the death of their son during WWI and how they cope.  However, it is so much more than that!  It centers around Triss—the sick daughter of well-to-do parents—and her struggle with her identity, the strange occurrences after her accident, and her relation with her family (especially her younger sister, Pen).

This book was excellent!  It has all the elements of a fairy tale while using the guise of post-WWI England as it's backdrop: the start of the post-war feminism, the birth of Jazz, and the very real effects of war and loss.  In addition, it also has all of the workings of a Gothic novel: gloomy settings, supernatural creatures, curses, and heroes.    

One of the things that really struck me in this book is the fact that the author didn't pull any punches.  She tackles a lot of major and complex issues.  Not only is she dealing with a family struggling hard to maintain the last vestiges of what they once were after an intense loss, but she dares to even show the socio-economic crisis after the end of the war.  In some ways, while the Jazz clubs seem lively, they are shown as escapism in the very real face of things like hunger.  It is also fascinating that the author uses a lot of the terminology from that time period, locale, and culture.  In addition, spurning the typical YA romance and veiled references to sex in favor of a strong relationship with her little sister was a very surprising and welcome addition to this story.  

It is really hard to fully address everything in this book without giving away Triss' full plight and the mystery surrounding her accident; however, it is definitely worth the read.  Despite the gloomy, war-torn setting, this book is beautiful and full of hope and wonder.  Even though Triss is only 13-years-old, this book has very complex themes, so it does not ostracize adult audiences.  Do not pass this one up!

Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Crimson Bound

Title:  Crimson Bound
Author:  Rosamund Hodge
Genre:  YA Fantasy/Retelling
Pages:  Hardback, 436
Publisher:  Balzer + Bray
ISBN:  978-0-06-222476-7
Opening Lines:  "'In all your life, your only choice,' Aunt Leonie said to her once, 'is the path of needles or the path of pins.'"


"When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But when Rachelle was fifteen she was also reckless—straying from the forest path in pursuit of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting foes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

"Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forced Armand to help her hunt for legendary sword that might save their world. Together, they navigate the opulent world of courtly elite, where beauty and power reign and no one can be trusted. And as they become unexpected allies, they discover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?"

~ Jacket copy

Working as a nanny this summer, I had the "privilege" of reading The Land of Stories book one and two (please, do not ever subject yourself to that drivel!).  In many ways, there is a lot of re-imaging in that series, which was one of the few reasons I continued to read the books to my charges (their steadfast love for the horrible books was the other).  While the series was terribly written and juvenile at best (in the worst possible way for a 20-something year-old author), it reignited by love for retellings.  Doing a search on Pinterest for them, I stumbled upon this one.  Being given Rose Daughter when I was 14 opened many doors into that world.  Even though I have read some interesting and obscure retellings, this was my first venture into Little Read Riding Hood.

At the very basic level, this book is an apocalyptic story.  More years ago then can be counted, fraternal twins (a boy and a girl) stopped the Devourer from rising.  Since then, on the fringes of society, woodwives have been weaving charms to protect the villages from him and his forestborn.  As an apprentice woodwife, Rachelle's duty is to carry on in the long tradition of walking the path, never entering the forest, and weaving charms to protect her people.  However, that changes when she meets her first forestborn and her feet dare to venture off of the path.

This book had everything you could hope for in a retelling, a YA fantasy, and a book concerned with the end of times.  The author created an absolutely rich and vibrant world!  She was able to do a wonderful job showing the difference between the decadence of court—the chateau later—and the villages on the outskirts of society, closer to the forests.  It was obvious to me that she studied Medieval literature in school.  The dichotomies she presented are very prevalent in that time period.  It gave a more fairytale-esque air to the story, and, in some ways, made it far darker.

The characters were well thought out and sympathetic.  In more ways than one, she was able to help me, as the reader, get inside of Rachelle' struggle.  Erik is very much akin to a person in my own life, so it made the story truly engrossing and all-encompassing.  Even the secondary characters had depth to them!

It is hard to fully talk about this book without giving away too much.  Suffice to say, it was beautiful, magical, romantic, and dark all at the same time.  It was hard to put this book down, and I found myself wanting to burn the midnight oil despite work the following morning.  This is definitely a book that stays with you.

Much love, Sinn



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    "If you’re a freak like me, Wave your flag! If you’re a freak like me, Get off your ass! It’s our time now, To let it all hang out!" I am a recovering English major, closet bibliophile, breve addicted, zombie lover with a rockabilly and heavy metal fetish.