Book Review — The Bone Houses


Title: The Bone Houses
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: Hardback, 335
ISBN: 978-0-316-41841-6
Opening Lines: "The gravedigger's children were troublemakers. They chased chickens through the neighbors' yards, brandishing sticks like swords, claiming that the fowl were monsters in disguise."

Rating


"Seventeen-year-old Ryn cares about only two things: her family and her family's graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scaping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the food of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don't always stay dead.

"The risen corpses are known as bone houses, and legend says that they're the result of an old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with a new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

"Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the deeply buried truths about themselves. Equal parts classic horror novel and original fairy tale, The Bone Houses will have you spellbound from the very first page."

~ Jacket copy



Bānhūs is a kenning in Anglo-Saxon literature meaning "body".  It is one of the many kennings made famous by Beowulf.  When the title of this novel caught my attention while I was teaching Beowulf to sophomores.  (It was not actually during the middle of class.  Rather, Viking and I were wandering through Barnes & Noble, and I squealed with excitement while repeating  "bānhūs" over and over again . . .)

Book Review — Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell

Title:  Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell
Author:  Paul Kane
Genre:  Horror/mystery crossover
Pages:  Paperback, 274
ISBN:  978-7-1-78108-455-7
Opening Lines:  "The box was full of possibilities; full of answers to questions he didn't even know he'd asked.  It was a puzzle, yes, but so much more than that."

Rating


"Late 1895, and Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion Dr John Watson are called upon to investigate a missing persons case. On the face of it, this seems like a mystery that Holmes might relish — as the person in question vanished from a locked room. But this is just the start of an investigation that will draw the pair into contact with a shadowy organization talked about in whispers, known only as the 'Order of the Gash.'

"As more people go missing in a similar fashion, the clues point to a sinister asylum in France and to the underworld of London. However, it is an altogether different underworld that Holmes will soon discover — as he comes face to face not only with those followers who do the Order's bidding on Earth, but those who serve it in Hell: the Cenobites. Holmes' most outlandish adventure to date, on that has remained shrouded in secrecy until now, launches him headlong into Clive Barker's famous Hellraising universe . . . and things will never be the same again."

~ Jacket copy



Hellraiser
 was my first introduction to Clive Barker.  I remember sitting on my friend's couch during our weekly "beer and pie" nights.  We were slowly working our way through 80's horror flicks.  For him, he was reliving old childhood memories.  For me, I was finally able to watch many of the movies my mother forbade.  (And, in the case of Jason X, wondering why people decided to drag out a franchise.) 

Book Review — No One Gets Out Alive


Title:  No One Gets Out Alive
Author:  Adam Nevill
Genre:  Horror
Pages:  Paperback, 628
ISBN:  978-1-4472-4090-7
Opening Lines: "The dream receded quickly and Stephanie recalled little of it, beside an anxious desire to leave a cold, greyish place; a narrow space in which people stood too close to her.  One of them had been crying."

Rating


"Cash-strapped, working for temping agencies and living in a shared accommodation, Stephanie Booth feels she can fall no further. So when she takes a new room at the right price, she believes her luck has finally turned. But 82 Edgehill Road is not what it appears to be.

"It's not only the eerie atmosphere of the vast, neglected house, or the disturbing attitude of her new landlord, Knacker McGuire, that makes her uneasy — it's the whispers behind the fireplace, the scratching beneath the floors, the footsteps in the dark, and the young women weeping in neighbouring rooms. When Knacker's menacing cousin, Fergal arrives, the danger exceeds her darkest imaginings.

"But this is merely a beginning, a gateway to horrors beyond Stephanie's worst nightmares. And in a house where no one listens to the screams, will she ever get out alive?

~ Jacket copy


After a bad break-up and a crummy home life, all Stephanie wants to do is make it one her own.  Unfortunately, working in work temp agencies affords her little more than the "Cage"; however, she has to get out.  She cannot live there another day.  As luck would have it, she sees an advert for a boarding house for girls at a price she cannot refuse.  Unfortunately, she refuses to listen to her better reason, over look all of the warning signs, and takes the room for the decent price.  And that's when everything starts happening



I wanted to like this book.  I desperately wanted to like this book!  Many of the reviews said to hang through the first 200 pages, and then it would pick up.  If you can get over Stephanie refusing to stand up for herself and her whining, it would get better.  At times, I honestly believed the reviews.  Yes, the first 200 pages are hard to slog through; however, Nevill has some great world/setting building in those pages.  He sets an amazing tone and mood that carried the book through.  Unfortunately, it should have ended after the ninth day in the house.

The book has a very good undercurrent of the paranormal, and, at times, it invaded my dreams.  I found myself a bit paranoid after reading the book.  Sadly, Stephanie is not a likable character, and she is rather daft.  Without getting into the aspect of the Black Maggie, Knacker's plans were obvious.  Even the idea of the Black Maggie was overused and played out.

After reading House of Small Shadows and reading rave reviews of Nevill's other books, I desperately wanted to venture into his other works.  If his other books are like this, I will be staying away from him in the future.  He suffers from TELLING and not showing.  Much of the last third of the book was spent skimming and skipping large sections.  It was more erroneous and superfluous detail that completely took me out of the story.  As mentioned before, the entire last part of the book was completely unnecessary, and the story itself would have been improved had it been scrapped during editing.

All in all, this book ended up being more of a disappointment. 

 
Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Seed

Title:  Seed
Author:  Ania Ahlborn
Genre:  Horror
Pages:  Paperback, 221
ISBN:  9781612183664

Opening Lines:  "The Saturn's engine rattled like a penny in an old tin can."

Rating


With nothing but the clothes on his back—and something horrific snapping at this heels—Jack Winter fled his rural Georgia home when he was just a boy. Watching the world he knew vanish in the trucker's rearview mirror, he though he was leaving an unspeakable nightmare behind forever.

"Now, years later, the bright new future he;s built suddenly turns pitch black, as something fiendishly familiar looms dead ahead.

"Surviving a violent car crash seems like a miracle for Jack's family, but Jack knows there's nothing divine about it. The profound evil he uncovered as a boy has finally found him again. The thing that crouched at his bedside with soulless eyes and grinning, razor-sharp teeth is back with plans for Jack and his angelic youngest daughter, and a chilling promise: I've always been here, and I'll never leave."

~ Jacket copy


Jack has never been one for telling people about his past.  He ran away from home when he was 14 and did not have a desire to look back.  His parents—definite white trailer trash—made sure he was fed, clothed, and had a roof over his head.  However, according to him, that was about it.  All he remembers is a turbulent childhood filled an old cemetery, a shadowy creature with a Cheshire Cat grin in the corner of his room, and his mother too terrified to sleep under the same roof.  After running away, he was hopeful he had managed to outrun his life . . . Until now . . .


When Jack sees the glowing eyes in the middle of the road, he is forced to remember something he hoped was lost to the recesses of his childhood memories.  Mr. Scratch—has Charlie calls him—decided to pay Jack a visit . . . Or finally prove that Jack was never truly able to run away when he was 14 years-old. 

Ania Ahlborn has been on my radar for a bit; however, I never ventured into her books until Brother.  Either the local libraries did not have copies of her books or I was too damn broke to buy them.  After Brother, I was excited to finally dive head-first into her first novel, Seed.  And I was not disappointed!

I am a bit of a horror aficionado.  Every October, I find as many horror novels as I can and spend the entire month trying to terrify myself.  Viking and my first movie date was Rings (it sucked), and we love watching Paranormal Files on YouTube as we fall asleep every night.  Our favorite argument revolves around "who is better"—Freddy or Jason.  So, at some level, Seed is very predictable.  What Ahlborn meant as a twist, was not a huge surprise.  However, she is a master when it comes to character development and descriptions!  If not for her ability to create believable characters and use vivid details, this story would have fallen flat.  At points, I half expected to see a shadowy figure lurking in the corner of my bedroom and every creek at me jumping during the day. 

If you are looking for a good demonic possession story similar to the Omen, this book needs to be on your list.  It is certainly not the scariest book I have read nor did it keep me awake at night, but it kept me reading when I needed to prepare my online classes . . . Oops! 

Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Brother

Title:  Brother
Author:  Ania Ahlborn
Genre:  Horror
Pages:  Oversize paperback, 319
ISBN:  978-1-4767-8373-4
Opening Lines:  "Michael twisted in his bed, the threadbare blanket he'd used all his life tangled around his legs.  A girl was screaming bloody murder outside."

Rating


Deep in the heart of the Appalachia stands a crooked farmhouse miles from any road. The Morrows keep to themselves, and it's served 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 Morrow's backyard.

"But nineteen-year-old Michael Morrow isn't like the rest of the 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 Virgina. 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 . . ."

~ Jacket copy




To distill it down to dregs, this book is the love-child of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deliverance, and Wrong Turn.  The Morrows are the stereotypical Appalachian hillbillies turned serial killers.  However, despite their familial bonding, one of the children dreams of a life outside of "family business" and longs for to escape the life of a rural hick stuck in the West Virginia countryside.


 
Michael is unlike his brother, Rebel, he dreams of a life outside of the his old farmhouse.  He does his job because that is what is expected of him, but he looks on it with resignation.  He holds onto little postcards and pictures he's seen of far off places like Hawaii and New York City, and he dreams of one day being one of the many dreamers flocking to find his place.  However, he knows he can never leave Misty, his older sister.  So his dreams, like the many strawberry blondes, are killed and forgotten.  Until he meets Alice . . .  

When this book first popped up on my feed, I knew I was in for something extremely sick and twisted.  However, I was complete unaware of the depths Ahlborn would go with this book.  The chilling aspect of this book is not necessarily the "family business" or how the family "survives off the land," it is slow, methodical torture and grooming.

At some level, this book can be seen as a macabre version of Romeo and Juliet or even Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (it was not lost on the reader that Lucy's last name was Liddle).  However, that would almost be a gross injustice.  It is more a danse macabre.

This book horrified me with the descriptions of the methodical grooming and torture, as well as the cat and mouse.  It was predictable, but Ahlborn managed to keep my attention throughout.  Even though I knew the ending half way through the novel, I was still stunned when it actually happened.  

Do not go into this book lightly.  Expect that you will find yourself revolted, but also know that you will be sucked in.  If you find yourself near the end, by all means, please turn on The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel.  It will most definitely set the mood.  And don't forget a hearty bowl of beef stew.    


Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Hunted



Title:  Hunted
Author:  Meagan Spooner
Genre:  YA fairy tale retelling, fantasy
Pages:  Hardback, 374
ISBN:  978-0-06-242228-6
Opening Lines:  "We always know before the change comes.  When the storm approaches, we feel it in the thickness of the air, the tension in the earth awaiting the blanket of snow."

Rating


"Beauty knows the Beast's forest in her bones—and in her blood.

"She knows that the forest hold secrets and that her father is the only hunter who's ever come close to discovering them.

"But Yeva's grown up far from he father's old lodge, raised to be part of the city's highest caste of aristocrats. Still, she's never forgotten the feel of a bow in her hands, and she's spent a lifetime longing for the freedom of the hunt.

"So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there's no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas . . . or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentlemen.

"But Yeva's father's misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he'd been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

"Deaf to her sisters' protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a curse valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva's heard about only in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin—or salvation.

"Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?"

~ Jacket copy

One of my coworkers suggested this book over winter break.  Unfortunately, despite teaching English, it is hard for me to sit down and commit to a book.  (Is it possible to lose my love of reading because of my job?)  Even though I have been reading through horror—slowly!—my husband suggested taking a break before I hit burn out.  Somehow, this book kept coming back to the forefront of my mind.  



For those of you who know me or have been following this blog, fairy retellings are one of my guilty reading pleasures.  However, many of them seem to follow similar tired tropes found in ever other retelling or YA romance and never dare to try something new.  Even though this is a Beauty & the Beast story, Meagan Spooner takes on elements from Russian fairy tales to add depth to her story.

In many ways, Hunted is like any other retelling—merchant father loses his fortune and ends up in the clutches of the Beast.  As a way to save her family, Beauty ends up becoming the Beast's prisoner and falling in love with him.  That is where the similarities end.  Yeva—to her family, Beauty—is her father's daughter.  She loves to hunt and craves the freedom found in the wood.  Despite the hardships it will mean for her sisters, Yeva is secretly happy about the loss of her father's fortune.  It means living in her father's hunting cabin in the woods. 

When her father's faithful hunting dog fails to come home without him, Yeva casts off all vestiges of status to become her father's savior.  However, she find something she does not expect—the Beast her father has talked about throughout her childhood.

At the onset, Hunted is a slow-burn.  Spooner does a wonderful job setting the stage for everything to follow; however, for fans of fairy tales, it is sometimes hard to slog through the known and familiar.  Hunted also lacks world building.  It relies on the character development of the Yeva and the Beast. 

The ending, while beautifully written, was expected due to the hints dropped by the author.  However, despite that, it was an amazingly rich story. 


Much love, Sinn

Book Review — With the Fire on High

Title:  With the Fire on High
Author:  Elizabeth Acevedo
Genre:  YA contemporary
Pages:  Hardback 388
ISBN:  978-0-06-266283-5
Opening Lines:  "Babygirl doesn't cry when I suck my teeth and undo her braid for the fourth time."

Rating


"Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago's life has been about making the tough decisions, doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen. There, she lets her hands tell her what to cook, listening to her intuition and adding a little something magical every time, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

"Even though she's always dreamed of working in a kitchen after she graduates, Emoni knows that it's not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she's made for her life—and everyone else's rules, which she refuses to play by—once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free."

~ Jacket copy




After taking a YA literature course in college, I have fallen in love with the genre.  Sometimes the stories tend to be far richer and deal with complex issues.  It is not uncommon to find me reaching for a YA book over anything else.  Frankly, some of the YA horror out there is far more terrifying than anything leading horror novelists write!  In addition, as a middle/high school English teacher, I am always on the lookout for new books to add to my classroom library or suggest to my more reluctant readers.  While cruising Instragram, this book popped up on one of my fav teacher pages.  The premise seemed interesting and the cover art alone was gorgeous!  I quickly ran to the local library and got a copy.
 

The story is about a young girl growing up in Philly and trying to find her way in the world.  Be struggles with acceptance because of race, being a young mother, and her aspirations to be a chef.   


This book was one of the few DNFs.  I truly wanted to like it and feel something for Emoni.  She has huge dreams and wants to rise above the label of "teen mother".  Unfortunately, the resemblance to my favorite Kerry Russell movie was too much for me to overlook.

The first 100 pages of the book fails to tell a story.  There are hints here and there of the author moving the audience to Emoni eventually taking a trip to Spain; however, nothing happens for a third of the book.  One three page chapter will briefly discuss Emoni's first period class and the next will talk about her absentee father.  The constant shift between random stories to build a backstory and her current life disrupts the narrative flow.  As a reader, it is hard to determine whether I am reading a story about a young teen mom talking about her past or trying to show her struggle in the present. 

Emoni is a flat character.  As a reader, you want to find a way to either connect with the protagonist or feel something for them.  When the book opens, however, it feels as though all of Emoni's growth and development happened between her freshman and senior years in high school.  At this point, she has dealt with all of the adversity of being a pregnant teen/struggles with the social stigma and now, at the start of this book, all of her dreams are coming true.  Because of that, there is no true conflict. 

The prose is extremely choppy and rudimentary at best.  Some word choices add a bit of flare; however, they do not fit with the overall writing style.  I found myself shaking my head and completely baffled by many of the word choices.  This is my first venture into Acevedo, so I am not familiar with her writing style.

Honestly, this book has amazing potential and I am exceedingly pleased that people appear to enjoy it!  From what I did manage to read, it shows teens that it is possible to overcome some pretty crazy hardships; however, they need to be willing to put in the hard work and not give up.  For me, however, this book just fell flat and lacked execution.      



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.