Saturday, October 29, 2011

Calling Lisa!


AKA Book Chick! You're one of the winners of my Halloween Horror Giveaway! I need your mailing address so be sure to end it over to me. If I don't hear from you in 48 hours I'm going to need to pull another winner. So hurry!

80s Awesomeness! ~ 133


Of course, another Stephen King movie. The man's like a cockroach, but that's okay. Based on the book, this is about a man that loses his little boy and, after being told about a particular cemetery in the woods, behind the pet cemetery (or per the sign, sematary), decides to bury him there and see what happens. Enter demon spawn of Damien proportions, little Gage will sear himself into your mind forever. And when you see him again on Full House as Michelle's friend, he just won't be the same.

Seriously, this movie is just nine different levels of creepy. Even 20 years later, I still cringe in my heart area watching the trailer. And people wonder why I don't like the woods. Just the image of that burial ground scares the hell out of me. Sometimes dead is better.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Creep Factor + 4

Some things you just can't avoid around Halloween and one of them is the never ending lists of top scary movies. There are tons of them and while there are some consistencies, their particular focus is usually pretty obvious. This particular list, for instance, has a heavy influence from the days of cheesy yore. While The Birds is pretty frightening (made so by Hitchcock's genius non-use of music so as not to cue a scene), it's coupled with more than its fare share of pre-World War II movies. I'm sure it was frightening in its day but really, how scary is Boris Karloff now?

What's scary changes over time and, in my humble opinion, anyway, the kind of scary that transcends time irrespective of its cheese factor is few and far between. The original Romero's Dawn of the Dead will carry on, not because it's a first of its kind or simply old, but because it's pretty horrifying. Just because something's old doesn't mean it's scary and if you have to keep referencing how horrifying it was for its time, it's probably lost it's touch. Love you, Bela Lugosi, you are a classic. But let's be honest: you don't pack the same punch you used to. 30 Days of Night? Maybe a little bit more so.

Freaky Friday :|: 133


Title: Nightmare Hall: Captives
Author: Diane Hoh
Published: July 1995
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Summary:

Molloy and her friends take refuge in abandoned Nightmare Hall on a violently stormy night--just until the storm passes. But they are not alone. They've entered a crazed killer's secret hideaway and become his captives. Trapped, they are in for a night of terror. Who will live, and who will die? Only the killer knows. (amazon.com)

Is that supposed to be Molly? It's mistyped on two different sites with two different blurbs. Weird name. And all I have to say this: this is a truly terrible school. So careless with their students. Do they think THAT many people are flaking on classes?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb by RL Stine

Published January, 1993.

Gabe just got lost - in a pyramid. One minute, his crazy cousin Sari was right ahead of him in the pyramid tunnel. The next minute, she'd disappeared.

But Gabe isn't alone. Someone else is in the pyramid, too.

Someone. Or some thing.

Gabe doesn't believe in the curse of the mummy's tomb. But that doesn't mean that the curse isn't real.

Does it? (book back blurb)

As much as I love all things Egyptian, I have to say this isn't one of my favorite GOOSEBUMPS books. The Idiot Adult Syndrome runs a little too high for my liking in this one. For instance, right at the beginning, Gabe's father asks Gabe how he thinks the pyramids were built. His father then reminds him that the Egyptians didn't even have the wheel. Now I don't know if this was an editorial oversight or a comment on just how dumb Gabe's parents are but they're supposed to be successful business people. So I don't know. And Gabe's archaeologist uncle had some serious TSTL moments. Far too many for his own good.

I get it. The kids are supposed to save the day and all but this one goes a bit too far to make the parents look incompetent where the kids would have to step in and save the day. It just ended up being a bit TOO silly for me. I can take some silly. I wouldn't be reading GOOSEBUMPS if I couldn't. But this one's at the top of the ladder.

I also wasn't too thrilled with the characters so I didn't have that to fall back on. Gabe is a bit of a whiny brat and Sari is a spoiled brat. Neither exhibit real redeeming qualities at all and while there's some growth, I think it comes too little and a bit too late.

It's good for the Egypt factor. It paints a great picture of the artifacts and the dig site and all of the mummies. It's got some good exciting moments where you don't know if the kids are going to make it or not (with RL Stine that's not always a given). But MUMMY'S TOMB isn't at the top of my GOOSEBUMPS list. Thankfully there are a ton more to more than make up for it.



Ban Factor: High - Horror always equals high. Considering this one includes ancient Egypt and mummies' curses, it's bound to be some kind of heathen in the banners' eyes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Creep Factor + 3

Sometimes it's not just ghosts and vampires that make one jump for Halloween. Sometimes there's little else more frightening than faerie tales. And I'm not talking about the Disney kind. Carlo Collodi's original PINOCCHIO talks about the wooden boy getting lynched and murdered for being a bad kid. The best quote from that linked article -

The moral of the [Disney] film is that if you are brave and truthful, and you listen to your conscience, you will find salvation. Collodi’s moral is that you if you behave badly and do not obey adults, you will be bound, tortured, and killed.

Yay for children's stories! And we can't forget Grimm's stories, where Cinderella's sisters chop off body parts to try and appease a prince, or Rumplestiltskin ripping himself in half. And a stepmother poisoning her daughter out of jealousy? Or a witch that lured children to her home with candy and then bakes and eats them? And these aren't out of Stephen King novels!

Those innocent faerie tales told to children while they're falling asleep are far more sinister than Disney gives them credit for. They were never meant to entertain children; they were meant to scare the everloving shit out of them to make them behave. And they say children's stories are too dark now. Perhaps we should reinstitute the old ways . . .

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Author Bites - Mike Mullin Waxes on Apocalyptic Accuracy

As you all know, I love me my accuracy in dystopian/apocalyptic novels. A single line can often derail an entire book for me. How can I trust it when the author gets one cataclysmic element wrong that should have a massive chain reaction throughout the rest of the book? But when I read ASHFALL by Mike Mullin, he proved to me that a few authors still give a damn about scientific accuracy in the popular genre. And he's agreed to stop by and say a few words about it. Thanks for coming by, Mike!

I grew up reading dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels. Some of my early favorites included Z is for Zachariah, The Postman, The Day of the Triffids, and Alas, Babylon. So when I started writing for publication three years ago, it was natural that I’d choose to write in that milieu. (I’ve been writing more or less non-stop since sixth grade. But I didn’t decide to try to write a publishable novel until 2008.)

Unfortunately, the first idea that called to me was a young adult horror concept. While I was working on that, I happened across a display in my local library that included the lavish, illustrated edition of Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. It’s an impressively-sized book, but, I thought, nowhere near big enough to merit the title. So I checked it out, and learned about the Yellowstone supervolcano in its pages.

A few weeks later, I woke in the middle of the night with a scene from ASHFALL bubbling in my brain. (I know it’s a clichĂ©—the writer dreaming his book—but evidently my subconscious doesn’t care.) I wrote 5,500 words before dawn. When I returned to ASHFALL eight months later, after finishing my YA horror novel and researching supervolcanoes further, I realized that the scene I’d written in the middle of the night was junk. Only one word survives from the 5,500 I wrote that night: the title, ASHFALL.

One major issue remained: what would make ASHFALL any different from the wonderful and diverse dystopian and apocalyptic young adult novels being published in the wake of The Hunger Games? I thought about this question a lot as I was writing ASHFALL. While I love the current crop of apocalyptic novels, I often find myself wondering: Could this really happen? Sometimes the world-building seems designed with more of an eye to drama than realism. Also, little details knock me out of the story—toilets that still function after a brutally cold winter without power, for example.

I decided I’d attempt to differentiate ASHFALL by making it unflinchingly realistic. So, for example, I asked myself whether ASHFALL should include any mention of cannibalism. The obvious answer is that no, it shouldn’t, because it will gross out the teachers, parents, and librarians who are so influential in putting books in the hands of teens.

Instead of accepting the obvious answer, I researched the question. And sadly, the truth is that collapsing societies experiencing widespread starvation virtually always turn to cannibalism. Check out Jared Diamond’s excellent Collapse, or follow this link to an interesting study of the Donner Party for more info on that topic.

I attempted to portray the full range of human behavior in an apocalypse, from the most brutally savage to the most sublimely selfless. Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell was useful for stimulating my thinking—it chronicles responses to real natural disasters ranging from the San Francisco earthquake to Hurricane Katrina.

In real disasters, how we respond depends largely on how we see the victims. If we see them as people like us, then incredible utopian communities often emerge, like the free food kitchens that formed following the San Francisco earthquake. If we see survivors as different from ourselves, we get police and volunteers lining up to shoot African-Americans attempting to flee the Superdome in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In ASHFALL, I capture this range of responses in my depiction of Worthington and later via the division of Americans into “red state” and “green state” groups.

So, to summarize, I attempted to provide my readers the thrill of an apocalyptic novel, while differentiating ASHFALL by making it unflinchingly realistic, on both a scientific and human level. I hope you’ll give ASHFALL a couple hours of your reading time and judge for yourself whether I succeeded.

Bio

Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really hoping this writing thing works out.

Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife and her three cats. ASHFALL is his first novel.

About ASHFALL

Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the Earth forever.

Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when the supervolcano erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.

Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter. When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait—to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano.

Excerpt

The first two chapters are available on my website: www.mikemullinauthor.com.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Sleepwalkers by J Gabriel Gates

Published October 4, 2011.

Privileged and popular Caleb Mason is celebrating his high school graduation when he receives a mysterious, disturbing letter from his long-lost childhood playmate, Christine. Caleb and his jokester friend Bean decide to travel to his tiny hometown of Hudsonville, Florida, to find her. Upon arrival, they discover the town has taken a horrifying turn for the worse. Caleb's childhood home is abandoned and his father has disappeared. Children are going missing. The old insane asylum has reopened, and Christine is locked inside. Her mother, a witch, is consumed with madness, and Christine's long-dead twin sister whispers clues to Caleb through the static of an a.m. radio. The terrifying prophesies of the spirits are coming to pass. Sixteen clocks are ticking; sixty-six murdered souls will bring about the end of the world. As Caleb peels back layer after layer of mystery, he uncovers a truth more horrible than anything he had imagined, a truth that could only be uttered by the lips of the dead. (goodreads.com)

The book as a whole reads as scattered and nominally disjointed as that blurb read, to me at least. I always get a little excited at the prospect of what sounds like a good horror novel. On first look, without reading the novel, I wouldn't think that blurb too bad. But in hindsight, everything runs into everything else, just like it does in the novel, and it doesn't make for too great of a read.

I won't say I had high hopes for it. I just get excited to read horror. But I'm well aware of the pitfalls of the genre, and how massive turds could be laid in the dark corners of it. While THE SLEEPWALKERS isn't a massive turd, it's pretty much a turd nonetheless.

It was slow-going to start, taking it's sweet time getting into the meat of the plot. I didn't really mind like I normally would. So I waited. Some needless characters were introduced that didn't serve a purpose beyond the first couple of chapters. But when Bean and Caleb went on the road, that's really when the story started and things started getting weird.

Bean I really could have lived without. I just found him horrendously grating in his incessant need to be obnoxious. I just felt the character was pushing for something that didn't feel natural at all. He just always grated on me. Caleb ended up being your classic horror hero, or anti-hero, as it were. I didn't really feel one way or another for him, which isn't really a good thing. He kept getting these unexplainable needs to stay when all signs pointed to get the hell out of there and that bugged me. Classic in horror, but it wasn't played very well here and he ended up with a lot of blood on his hands. Which he dwelled upon for about half a chapter and then it wasn't really mentioned again. So that didn't sit well with me either.

I was fading from the plot and then quickly hooked back in once the sleepwalkers were introduced. I thought those things were pretty creepy and the idea of people so controlled, and possessed, like that while asleep is pretty terrifying. But it all jumped the shark once clown make-up and end-of-days prophecies starting showing their ugly faces. Once a horror novel (or movie) turns towards the downright silly, you can't really recover from that. And I don't mean making light of the moment, silly, but scoffing at the pages silly. Once I hit that point the book was lost to me. It could have had redeeming moments but it really didn't. It ended how I figured it would end, the telltale showdown came to fruition and I turned off my eReader and moved on to the next book.

Ultimately I felt like THE SLEEPWALKERS was trying too hard to be horror. Instead of letting the creepiness of the asylum be it's down character and pull the reader in (despite how cliche that is, it can still work when done right), the door exploded in an orgy of horror tropes, as if the author were trying to cram as many of them into the pages as possible. Like Scary Movie but without the humor. I felt inundated by horrorness instead of horrified by it. I wanted to be afraid but wasn't. I wanted to be creeped out and for a couple of instances I was but they were few and far between. I didn't feel like the characters were real. They recovered from their ordeal far too easily for my liking and while it didn't really end on an up-note, it just felt too neatly tied into a pretty bow for me. I wasn't scared at the end of the book. I was just done with it.

THE SLEEPWALKERS was a decent try at horror but I'd have to say less is more. Letting the sleepwalkers be sleepwalkers would have been more than enough. But throwing in the Joker and overcooked prophecies just doesn't leave enough room for anything else.


Ban Factor: High - As I've said, horror gets a high by default simply because it's horror. It deals with creepy, spooky things without tidy endings and banners don't like that. This one isn't any different although some of the lesser characters throw around Christianity a bit. But I don't think it's enough to balance it all out.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Added to the Pile + 96

Just one lone book this week from Flux. I loved, loved, LOVED Josie's last book, ALBATROSS, so much that I just had to get this one too.


FAKING FAITH by Jose Bloss

Thanks to a humiliating and painfully public sexting incident, Dylan has become the social pariah of her suburban Chicago high school. She's ignored by everyone - when she's not being taunted - and estranged from her two best friends.

So when Dylan discovers the blogs of homeschooled fundamentalist Christian girls, she's immediately drawn into their fascinating world of hope chests, chaperoned courtships, and wifey submission. Blogging as Faith, her devout and wholesome alter ego, Dylan befriends Abigail, the online group's queen bee. After staying with Abigail and her family for a few days, Dylan begins to grow closer to Abigail (and her intriguingly complicated older brother). Soon, Dylan is forced to choose: keep living a lie . . . or come clean and face the consequences. (book back blurb)

Things I've Learned from Books + 123


Avoid old asylums at all costs. Really, what good ever came from them? Falling through the floor is the least one can hope for with one of these things.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

80s Awesomeness! ~ 132


Keeping with my Halloween-themed Awesomeness posts, I'm going with Maximum Overdrive this week. If you're out there trying to find Stephen King's book of the same title, you won't. Because it's called Trucks and it's in a short story anthology, NIGHT SHIFT, if I'm not mistaken. That's not to belittle it's awesomeness, for it is still truly an awesome 80s movie. They even renamed it awesomely.

The premise is that automobiles, really anything electronic, from lawn mowers up to massive semis, have taken on lives of their own and start attacking people. In the opening scene of the movie, a Coke machine starts shooting out full cans of Coke, killing people. Epic. Enter Emilio Estevez (not one I would think to put in a hero position, but there you go) who gets holed up at a diner with some other strandees and they decide to fight back. The short story itself is really good and the movie isn't all that bad either, even though people tend to die in some creatively cheesy ways. At least it's Stephen King-endorsed. Hell, he even directed it.

Freaky Friday :|: 132


Title: Nightmare Hall: The Biker
Author: Diane Hoh
Published: June 1995
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Summary:

Someone on a motorcycle is driving wildly through campus terrorizing pedestrians. Echo Glen thinks she knows who it is. And she won't tell if she can have one ride on the Harley-Davidson. But the ride isn't thrilling, it's terrifying. Because it's the night that the "Mad Biker's" joyriding turns into murder. (amazon.com)

You know, really, it doesn't take much to eff someone up that's riding on a bike. A car usually does a pretty good job. Even a sturdy, low-built cement wall, like one many college students are found sitting on. So I'm not sure how freaked out by this one I'd be. Unless the bike were the size of a semi.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Giveaway Reminder!


This is it! My Halloween Horror Giveaway ends tonight at midnight, EST! Be sure to get your entries in by then if you want your chance to win some truly spooky reads!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

YA Reading Challenge COMPLETED!


Woohoo! Another one bites the dust! Check out my complete list here. Only two left now. One with only a little bit left. One with a lot a bit left. We shall see . . .

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake + Giveaway!

Published August 30, 2011.

Cas Lowood has inherited an usual vocation: he kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead - keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian house she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares his life. (ARC back blurb)

Apparently the publishing gods were listening to me as I begged, pleaded and whined about getting more YA horror onto the market because ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD certainly delivered! Part Supernatural, part Buffy with a penis (just don't tell Cas that), part Exorcist, ANNA is both incredibly spooky and touching all at the same time. It grabs the horror and throws it at you in little bursts, never overdoing it but it likes to play at the heartstrings too. It still carries some of that teen relationship schtick that most other YA books have but it's different and even more unattainable than Buffy and Angel's tryst. So there's really something for everyone but just be warned about the gore and spook elements. If you don' like that stuff, it might not be your bag.

There's something immediately likable about Cas. He's not a complainer but he's not a showboat either. There's a subtlety to his function that if tipped any other way he'd probably come off as annoying. But Blake does a phenomenal job of keeping him grounded and inherently appealing. He's got a job that he does. No big deal. He does it and moves on. That's it. It's best not to get strings attached to anything because that's just a hassle. He's so grounded out in logic that I can't help but fangirl him. Nearly every move he makes actually makes sense. There was barely a moment in the story where I was reading and disbelieving something he was doing. He followed a natural order to everything that was going on and he really never went against that. Scoffing at ridiculousness need not apply.

I also liked that his mom was a big buddy in the story. Whereas a lot of YA tends to shove parents into the background, ANNA didn't really do that. Of course the teens did a lot of the goings on and there was some bemoaning of parental worrying on Cas's part but that's natural. His mom, and Morfran, weren't wisps of smoke in the background leaving their children alone. They played active rolls in helping Cas figure out what the deal was and I really liked that. Again, more reality. More elements that actually made sense. Love it.

Carmel (sorry, but that's an absolutely atrocious name) and Thomas prove good supplements to Cas's abnormal evenness (because really, such a level-headed character is rare in YA). Carmel played the giggly popular girl well but she's a basket full of surprises. I ended up really liking her simply because she shattered every preconceived notion I had about her. Thomas didn't. He lived up to everything I originally thought he was, but that doesn't mean I didn't like him. He was useful to Cas, and insistent about it, which Cas begrudgingly took at the beginning but Thomas proved himself. Both of these guys showed Cas that he doesn't have to go it alone. They made him open up his eyes. For someone that was so open to strange and unusual things, Cas ended up being pretty close-minded about a lot of things mundane. I guess that comes with the territory.

I loved the gore simply because it came out of nowhere. It's not something you really expect in YA so when it popped up it was a total surprise and then I cheered a little. Not because a character got hurt, but because here's an author that's unafraid to take that step. How could I not love that? And there were some genuinely freaky moments going on that had me looking over my shoulder. I can't really like a book more once it does that. That's pretty much the pinnacle. The horror has done it's job. It's freaked me out and, even for a moment, unsettled me. Win.

I can't wait to read more in Blake's ANNA series if what I'm going into looks anything like this. YA horror, how nice it is to see you again. I hope you stay for a long, long time and have many, many little horror babies. Please.


Ban Factor: High - With all the talk of voodoo and ghosts and witchcraft and nothing Christian to balance it out, the banners would attack this like Westboro Baptist at a gay pride parade.

Giveaway Time!!!

I have a finished copy on my hands. You want it? Just fill out the form for your chance to win!
  • Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only.
  • One entry per person per email address.
  • Duplicate entries will be deleted.
  • Following my blog is required.
  • Giveaway ends November 3rd, EST.


ETA - Just read the press release I found in my giveaway copy and what does Tor compare the book to? Supernatural and Buffy. It's okay. You can call me awesome for my amazing prophetic abilities.

Giveaway Reminder!


Today's the last day to get your entries in for an ARC of ASHFALL by Mike Mullin! So be sure to get them in by midnight, EST, tonight!

And don't forget about my Halloween Horror Giveaway either! That one ends tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Author Bites - Robert Browne Talks About Paradise

I got a bit gaga over Robert Browne's THE PARADISE PROPHECY so I asked if he'd want to stop by and say a few words about it. He's a super busy guy but he was able to answer a few questions about his book that I fired over to him. Yay! So here you go and enjoy! Thanks for stopping by, Rob!

Why was Paradise Lost such a central force in your story? Was it because it's untapped water in the genre or are there really rumors of a hidden code and secret organization?

The idea to use Paradise Lost came out of discussions with Dutton about who would be the ultimate villains, and the fallen angels from Milton's classic seemed to fit the bill. From there it was a matter of figuring out how to integrate these villains into a modern-day thriller and The Paradise Prophecy was born. The hidden code in Paradise Lost and secret organization is pure invention, I'm afraid, but the history of the Devil's Bible (including the missing pages) and Steganography are very much real, as well as Milton's visit to Galileo (although no one really knows what transpired between them) and most of the historical details surrounding the story.

Is this the end of the Callahan/LaLaurie team or will they have other matters to contend with in the near future?

There has been talk of a sequel, but nothing set in stone, as yet. Paradise is a big, bold story and I'll have to have an even bigger, bolder story to justify writing a sequel. I have something in mind, but I'm not quite there yet. We'll see what happens.

Has PARADISE gotten any backlash from the religious crowd about its interpretation of the bible? If so, what's been your response?

A few readers have expressed some displeasure, but others who are religious have accepted that the book is fiction and have given me good reviews in spite of that displeasure. I respect everyone's right to believe what they want to believe, but I take the attitude that no one really knows the truth about ANY religion—they only have faith to rely on—and I see nothing wrong with presenting a version of events that I feel is just as plausible as any other. As LaLaurie says at one point, the events in Paradise transcend all religious beliefs. The book isn't really about religion, but about the choices we have as human beings to do the right thing, no matter what we may personally believe. In this case, Sebastian LaLaurie is faced with a very difficult choice and I wanted to explore his emotional journey—as well as Callahan's. I'm not particularly religious myself, but I find religion and its trappings to be endlessly fascinating and a wonderful backdrop for the story of two people struggling to make the world right again.

Which of your characters is your favorite and why?

They're like my children, so I love them both equally, but in different ways. Batty is such a tortured soul who has gone through a devastating loss and I feel for him. The moment in the crypt—which I don't want to spoil here—when he makes contact with his past, brought tears to my eyes as I wrote it. As for Callahan, I love that she's a strong woman who doesn't take any bullshit from anyone, despite her own inner conflicts. It was pretty tough to say goodbye to both of them, so it's quite possible I'll have to visit them again.

Thanks for the questions, Donna!

Rob

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Creep Factor + 2

Another building for you, Gravesend Asylum (pronounced graves-end). Which apparently isn't in Gravesend, Brooklyn, nor is it even really called Gravesend. According to Opacity, it's a pseudonym. Not sure why. To protect the tumble down?

Still, it's effing creepy. Be sure to check out the gallery for Gravesend on the Opacity site. It'll be sure to give you nightmares!



(Both images appear to be from the Opacity gallery but were found on Google Images.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Goosebumps: Ghost Beach by RL Stine

Published August, 1994.

Jerry can't wait to explore the dark, spooky old cave he found down by the beach.

Then the other kids tell him a story. A story about a ghost who is three hundred years old.

A ghost who comes out when the moon is full.

A ghost . . . who lives deep inside the cave!

Jerry knows that it's just another silly made-up ghost story . . .

Isn't it? (book back blurb)

Another piece of awesome from RL Stine. Even for a middle grade book, he really doesn't pull any punches.

Sure there are some cheesy moments. Some kooky senses of humor being thrown about. A lot of spooky moments that turn out to be something not so spooky after all. But it all comes back around in the end, leaving everything hanging, including Jerry and his sister!

Stine's got the MG voice down pat. He doesn't dumb it down for the reader and he doesn't skimp on the spook. He targets an age that he knows needs a bit of a goof but isn't afraid to get scared too. And I have to say it again, it all comes back to the ending. It was fantastic! You'll probably see it coming but where Stine leaves the story off, you have to give him credit for it. No nice neat, tidy endings for him.

GOOSEBUMPS is a great series to get the young ones hooked on horror early. It'll help develop their appreciation for the spookier things in life. My entry into the horror realm wasn't so subtle (Poltergeist at age 4, The Exorcist at age 6) so by the time I got to reading these books, they were old hat and far beneath my horror comprehension. But for the better protected youth who needs their horror a touch watered down but not entirely forgiving, GOOSEBUMPS is the way to go and GHOST BEACH is an excellent addition to that classic series.


Ban Factor: Medium - It's horror. It'll be on the banners' radar just for that. Age inappropriate or whatever. But there are sure to be other books at the front of their list. GOOSEBUMPS is a bit tame for them.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Creep Factor + 1

The last couple of years, around Halloween, I've been making posts under the label of Fright Fest, highlighting awesome horror movies from over the years. Now I'm going to broaden the scope a bit and add in some extras; not just horror movies but spooky things. Creepy buildings that give good scary inspiration or some cemetery pictures that could get your spooky juices flowing. The title will now be Creep Factor in my Features index, slightly modified to fit the new format.

So for the first Creep Factor I'm going to give you a building. It's local for me, less than an hour away down by the shore in Connecticut. Ghost seekers galore would go here, trying to hunt out the rumors of hauntings. It is a sanatorium, after all. There's bound to be something left behind, lurking in the shadows. The Norwich State Hospital was, of course, a hospital for the mentally ill. They were all the rage, you know. Of course, due to budget concerns, the place closed and has been left to rot ever since. There's been some speculation as to what's going to be placed there, if anything. Some say an amusement park (for serious, people are demented), others say a mall. But nothing's happened yet.

Last year the people from the show Ghost Hunters were granted filming access to the hospital. That comes with some bragging rights because the state has never before allowed filming to go on in there, although many have asked. I don't know why they let them go now. Solider Boy had to do some urban warfare training there. At night. He said it freaked him the hell out. He'd come upon a room where a chair and random teddy bear were set up all creepy and he'd just stomp out. Water would be flowing through the pipes and it'd echo, making creepy sounds. Pretty horrifying.

You can find more pictures at the Opacity site linked above.


(Images from Google Images.)

Added to the Pile + 95

Three books this week, all from different sources -


From BN -

SLEEPLESS by Thomas Fahy (it turned out to be discounted when I went to buy it for my Halloween giveaway so I got myself a copy too)

From HarperCollins -


From Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc . -

Things I've Learned from Books + 122


When a parent says you're going to stay with relatives that were old when THEY were young, think on that for a second. If you end up not being able to high five your uncle for reasons other than arthritis, like him not being corporeal, it's time to re-evaluate the situation.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Check Out My Wicked Halloween Decorations!

As you all know, Halloween is my favorite holiday so it's no surprise that I decorate for it. I don't go all crazy tacky with my decorations. I prefer well-placed things that are actually nominally creepy as opposed to overblown, blow-up lawn decorations. Creepy rather than cartoony is more my thing for Halloween. I need the ambiance.

Which is my I love crafts and craft fairs. But this season has been somewhat lacking in what I've been looking for in Halloween crafts in my local area. So where do I go? I took to Etsy. I was bound to find something there. And oh did I!

I stumbled upon this Macbeth set of a witch hat and four containers of "potions" from one seller so I set it aside. Then I came across and epic-looking crow pie. Set that aside too. Lo and behold they're both from the same seller and holy crap, the seller is local! Meet Lilac Pumpkin! It's a lot of papier mache stuff, a lot of foam and whatnot, but all highly detailed. The pictures alone make me want to buy out the store. So I settled with my two pieces and waited not-so-patiently. Thankfully I didn't have to wait long because it was shipping in-state, in a state that's the size of a postage stamp.

So yesterday I come home from work to a big box waiting on my stairs. Yay! Here's what was inside.


Everything all hanging out together. I just love it, except for it's stinkiness. All of the paints and whatever that was used are pretty strong still.


See what I mean about detail? It's a dog tongue! (not really but it still looks really neat)


Eyeballs! There are eyeballs in the jar! From some monster newts!


And of course, the crow pie. Epic. Check the term if you're looking at this and going WTF?

You can see higher resolution images of the hat and potions here and of the crow pie here. Beware of subtle differences. Adds to their uniqueness. God, I love Etsy. It's such a drain on my checking account but this stuff is amazing. Totally worth it.

Giveaway Reminder!


Just a reminder that today's the last day to enter to win a signed copy of THE BABYSITTER MURDERS by Janet Ruth Young! You have until midnight, EST, so be sure to get your entries in by then!

80s Awesomeness! ~ 131


The decade began with a few incidents at Camp Crystal Lake. They could have been minor, but I few too many died to downplay it to that. When camp counselors try to re-open a summer camp where a kid drowned, shenanigans ensue at the hands of something probably not alive. 1,864 sequels later, he's still coming back for more. And at times fighting Freddy for top seat. And apparently one can age in the afterlife. Neat.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Freaky Friday :|: 131


Title: Nightmare Hall: Dark Moon
Author: Diane Hoh
Published: May 1995
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Summary:

Eve is chosen to head the planning committee for Salem U's Founder's Day festival, which will take place under a full moon. Friends say a full moon means trouble. And trouble is just what Eve gets. (fantasticfiction.co.uk)

Dun dun dun! God, I love it. You don't see too much scary stuff in YA centering about a full moon and the bat shittiness it can spawn. I'd read it just to see what Hoh does with it. I'm sure it'd be cheesetastic!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Halloween Horror Giveaway!


October would not be the same for me if I didn't have some kind of Halloween giveaway. It is my favorite holiday after all. What with all the candy and scary stories and autumn, what's not to love? So I've put a little something together for this lovely month and here's what I've got!


Three scary books, three goody bags, three winners. Each winner will take home one book and one goody bag filled with all sorts of Halloween sweets!

This time I'm not using a Google form. For this it'll just be easier if I use my comments set-up. My comments can be used for discussions with the reply feature. But you guys are going to use them for extra entries by replying to your original entry comment. Here's the deal -

In your initial entry comment, post the following -
  • Name
  • Email address
  • Google Friend Connect name (Blogger profile name)
That gets you entered into the giveaway. For extra entries, reply to your original entry comment with links to your spooky posts. They can be reviews for horror novels, horror movies, a monthly October feature or anything generally scary or Halloween-related. For each extra link you want to post, reply separately to your original comment (one link per reply). And this is retroactive! I will accept links dating from October 1st through the end of the giveaway.

For anyone that doesn't have a blog, you'll get extra entries for promoting the giveaway. Just leave the links like those with blog posts would above. Each link to your promo (Twitter link, Facebook link, whatever), gets its own reply to your initial giveaway comment. This is exclusive to blogless entrants only! You will not get extra entries for promotion if you're listing post links! I had to make it even somehow.

Make sense? If not then just yell. I'll do an example to start, just so you can see what I'm talking about. Of course, I have the details for the giveaway, just like I do the rest of them -
  • Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only.
  • One entry per person per email address.
  • Duplicate entries will be deleted.
  • Following my blog is required in order to be entered.
  • Giveaway ends October 21st at midnight, EST.
Good luck, my Halloweenies! Before you go, here are the blurbs for the books.

SLEEPLESS

SOMEONE ELSE WILL DIE SOON she tells herself.

SOMEONE ELSE WILL DIE AND I WILL BE RESPONSIBLE.

A few days after the first time you walk in your sleep, you kill someone. That's how the end begins.

Emma Montgomery has been having gruesome nightmares. Even worse, when she wakes up, she isn't where she was when she fell asleep. And she's not the only one. One by one the students of Saint Opportuna High start having nightmares, and sleepwalking. And the next morning one of their classmates turns up dead.

Something is making them kill in their sleep. Emma and her friends need to band together, to keep themselves awake until they can figure out what's behind the murders--before anyone else dies.


THE SORROW KING

The papers call it “The Suicide Virus.” The teenagers of Gethsemane, Ohio, are killing themselves at an alarming rate.

Steven Wrigley is trying to survive his senior year of high school, still reeling from the death of his mother and adjusting to life with his father. Along the way, he meets a girl who becomes another kind of obsession: Elise Devon.

Elise’s secrets keep her distanced from everyone. She has a special place she calls the Obscura. She goes there when she is depressed or angry. The Obscura makes her feel like nothing she’s ever felt before. When she loses herself to the Obscura, she fears she also gives herself to something much darker, something much more powerful. Something calling itself the Sorrow King.

Who is the Sorrow King?

He is carved from wood and bone.

He smells like wax, dead leaves, and memories.

He travels by moonlight and drinks the sorrow of others.

Can love exact vengeance on a monster made from madness, depression, and misery? Or will the Sorrow King bleed the town dry before satiating himself and moving on?


CRYER'S CROSS

The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on... until Kendall's boyfriend Nico also disappears, and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. She knows it's crazy, but Kendall finds herself drawn to the desk, dreaming of Nico and wondering if maybe she, too, will disappear...and whether that would be so bad. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. Can he possibly be alive somewhere? Where is he? And how can Kendall help him? The only person who believes her is Jacian, the new guy she finds irritating...and attractive. As Kendall and Jacian grow closer, Kendall digs deeper into Nico's mysterious disappearance only to stumble upon some ugly—and deadly—local history. Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried.

The Paradise Prophecy by Robert Browne

Published July 21, 2011.

THE MYTH:

When God cast the archangel Satan into Hell, ending the War in Heaven, peace prevailed on Earth. Until the fallen angels took revenge in the Garden of Eden. Ever since, mankind has been in a struggle between good and evil, paradise and apocalypse: the fall of Rome, the Crusades, world wars, nuclear proliferation, the Middle East crisis. The War in Heaven never really ended-it just changed venues. For millennia, God's angels have been fighting Satan's demons on Earth to try to prevent Satan's greatest ambition-the apocalypse.

THE REALITY:

Satan has never been closer to his goal than right now.

Agent Bernadette Callahan is a talented investigator at a shadowy government organization known only as Section, on the trail of a serial killer with nearly supernatural abilities. Sebastian "Batty" LaLaurie is a religious historian who knows far too much about the other side-and that hard-earned knowledge is exactly what Callahan needs. This unlikely duo pairs up for a race across the globe, decoding clues left in ancient texts from the Bible to Paradise Lost and beyond. In the process they stumble upon a vast conspiracy-one beyond the scope of mankind's darkest imagination.
(netgalley.com)

I'm gonna be honest. I probably wouldn't be as interested in a title like this if it weren't for Supernatural. Do you blame me? C'mon . . . have you SEEN Castiel? And maybe a little bite of Crowley, if for nothing more than his snarkitude?

But I liked what this book was promising. It's got religion without too much Jesus going on (actually there was hardly any at all); there isn't much god about it either, believe it or not. The focus is really on the angels, and the demon angels (in this world there aren't any demons a la Supernatural, the "demons" are fallen angels on Lucifer's side), and the fight to open up Hell's door and release Lucy from his cage. I liked that. There was a heavy theological element without it being preachy or, in Callahan's words, all woo-woo with the divine. It had a purpose and it stuck to it.

I liked this book to the point that I want to go out and read more of Browne's works. This guy writes up my alley, and not all of his stuff is like THE PARADISE PROPHECY either. But he does write thrillers and, judging just by this book, he writes them well.

It's been a long time since I've read a non-YA book that had me rocketing through it and Browne's PARADISE did just that. He writes in such a way that even when there isn't any action going on in the chapter, it feels like it. There's always some kind of threat lingering, even if it's off the page, and he makes sure that his characters feel it.

And his characters! They are haunted, damaged beings and he torments them with it. And I love it, the sadist that I am. Both Callahan and LaLaurie have some very large chips that they have to carry around on their shoulders but it doesn't sour them as characters. They don't sit around and pity themselves. They're not a drain on the plot. They have their issues but they turn them around into strengths. Even the most gruesome of pasts turns out to be helpful to the overall cause.

The only part that I was less than thrilled with was the ending. I felt it was a bit anticlimactic and ended a bit too abruptly for my liking. Like a button was pushed and poof! Over! It could have been set up for a sequel but I'm not sure if PARADISE is anything more than a stand alone. Other than that, even the fallen angels he uses are multidimensional. They, too, have weaknesses. Even angels aren't perfect and I like that.

Everything I was reading just felt so real. It felt like Browne had a firm grasp on the Christian mythos and what he created eased seamlessly into it, making it read as if it were something that really did/could happen. PARADISE never felt kitchy or over the top. I never felt like it was reaching for something that wasn't there. It was a level-headed, action-packed jet through the apocalypse. I'm willing to take another ride.

I think THE PARADISE PROPHECY would appeal even to readers of YA that have a thing for the angels and demons mythos. Even thought the characters aren't young, their ages aren't factors in the story so while reading it, they could have been much younger (although with Callahan's experience, that would have made the story reaching). But it's not about the age. The story is just great. If you're looking for an angels and demons story that DOESN'T revolves around some thinly-veiled abusive relationship between angels and humans, you'll find it with PARADISE. In fact, there really isn't much love interest at all in this. It keeps to the point and it's a point you'll want to ride all the way to the end. And then it'll leave you craving for more.


Ban Factor: High - Really? With how this book bastardizes Christianity? The banners would want to light it on fire. Irrespective of the sexy times.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

YA Gets All Growed Up

If you happen to read Publisher's Weekly on a regular basis, then you would have caught this article about YA coming of age and how it's morphed from something that was barely a blip on the radar to an overwhelming presence in the marketplace. While I'm all for YA blowing up, because it needs to, I'm wondering what's being sacrificed in the process.

Trends emerge quite readily in the YA world. HARRY POTTER brought about the fantasy, TWILIGHT gave rise to paranormal romance and THE HUNGER GAMES paved the way for dystopians. But in each of those wakes washed up a slew of wannabes. Of course the wannabe isn't exclusive to the YA realm but YA has to work ten times harder than those other categories because people don't take it seriously. It doesn't hold the same merit to many people as"adult" titles so I believe the wannabes have a larger ability to hurt the integrity of the category more than they help it. A flood of good YA is one thing but a flood of mediocre knock-offs is something else entirely.

I wouldn't call myself a book snob. I'm not asking much from my reading. But when I come across title after title of lazy writing, I can't help but wonder why the book community as a whole is enabling such obviously craptastic fakes. And it's because of those titles, despite their small numbers, are what people remember of the category.

That's not to say wannabes can't be good. They most certainly can. But even the good ones blend in with the crowd after a while. With a category like YA, where the publishers want to keep cashing in on the waves, what they keep punching out, at times, can be a bit insulting, if I'm to be honest (why wouldn't I be?). It appears that they're making the assumption that if we liked this first huge book, then we're sure to like the slew of similar books they're pushing out, irrespective of quality because we'll be so hungry for something similar to that original book. I'm sure you can see where this thinking can spiral to, where YA readers are of a lower caring level with what they read and so on. Basically it looks like quantity over quality right now in the YA world and it's a bit disheartening.

I love YA. I wouldn't be doing this is I didn't. And I want to see it grow even more and for people to finally start taking it seriously, like it deserves. But right now, YA has to struggle for every reputation point it gets. Shit gets published all the time, regardless of category. It's inevitable. But when it happens in YA, it makes that much bigger of a mark because people are constantly looking for an excuse to invalidate YA and keep it simply "kids' books." We need to stop making the category look like a shameless shill for dollars and more like the rest of the book store or library where quality takes a slightly higher precedence than riding the wave.

Publishing is a business and businesses need to make money. That doesn't mean quality needs to be sacrificed in order to do so. Plus it's insulting when mediocre shit is published and we're expected to like it because it's kind of like this other title. YA readers need to be treated like the rest of the reading world. We know good and bad writing when we see it. We know when we're being sold to. We know when yet another "insert genre here" book is being shoved onto the wave. It's really obvious. Let's keep YA growing, but let's do it with quality over quantity. I don't know about you but I'd much rather see far fewer books with phenomenal characters, amazing world building and a story to die for than a shit-ton of lazily written books with cardboard characters, barely existent plots and insubstantial worldbuilding all in the name of a dollar. Let's ride the waves, but not everyone needs to have the same cheap surfboard.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm A Phony


I've been a phony for years, always too ashamed to man up to my fault. My big, glaring zit at the end of my nose. But I think now it's time. Now it's time to come clean and own my issue, my phoniness. It's time to make it all go away and expose myself for the big fat phony that I am.

For years, really for as long as I can remember, I've touted Stephen King as one of my favorite authors ever. A master of horror, one could never get any better than him. When people would go 'oh yeah! remember when . . ." I'd bug my eyes at the right moments and vigorously agree. Or "wasn't it horrible when . . ." Oh yeah! Absolutely!

The truth? I've barely read any of the man's books. THE STAND, CARRIE, CHRISTINE, IT, not on my list. In fact, I barely take up a hand naming the titles I've read by Stephen King. And I feel like a dick because of it. Does that change my opinion of him? Of course not. From what I've read I've loved. I will still applaud King as being a horror master (with due rights to tell people like SMeyer that they suck at writing). I'm just probably not as well read as I should be, claiming I'm such a big fan of his.

What I've read?
  • PET SEMATARY
  • GREEN MILE
  • EVERYTHING'S EVENTUAL
  • NIGHT SHIFT
  • NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES
  • ON WRITING
How much has the man written over the last 30 years? And that's ALL I've read? I'm ashamed of myself. No more will I lie! No more arbitrary head-nodding! It's the truth . . . and finding some time to not make myself look so much like a dick.

Are you a phony? What authors or books make you hang your head in shame and then lie to the world so you can fit in?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Supernatural Noir, edited by Ellen Datlow

Published June 28, 2011.

A hit man who kills with coincidence... A detective caught in a war between two worlds... A man whose terrible appetites hide an even darker secret...

Dark Horse once again teams up with Hugo and Bram Stoker award-winning editor Ellen Datlow (Lovecraft Unbound) to bring you this masterful marriage of the darkness without and the darkness within. Supernatural Noir is an anthology of original tales of the dark fantastic from twenty modern masters of suspense, including Brian Evenson, Joe R. Lansdale, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Nick Mamatas, Gregory Frost, and Jeffrey Ford.
(goodreads.com)

I've got a short line-up of anthologies lately. First and foremost, the formatting on this digital galley was absolutely atrocious. To the point where I couldn't even read it on my eReader, atrocious. There were a few pages a story section that I could read but then the pages would double up and snap to microscopic print that I couldn't enlarge. I tried reading it but I ended up giving myself a migraine. So I ended up tethered to a computer to read this one and had the stories been bad, I would have dropped it like a bad habit. Not only did this take me longer to read but, as I said, I was tied to a computer to read it and since I don't have a laptop, it was a major inconvenience. But I kept reading it because I really liked what I was reading.

So putting the formatting issue aside, I really did like these stories. Trust. For how put out I was reading SUPERNATURAL NOIR, I would have stopped REALLY quickly if I didn't like it. Even if I somewhat liked it, I would have stopped because the format was an issue. But I didn't. I kept reading. Had I had this book in a normal print version, I would have flown through it, I liked it that much.

And now I'm back to reviewing an anthology of stories; an issue for me as I stated in my review of FEAR last week. Well, with SUPERNATURAL NOIR, each story was distinct enough to showcase the uniqueness of each author but at the same time all of their themes blended together seamlessly, each complementing the last as the book went on. Datlow did an amazing job of compiling such similar yet vastly different stories into one book.

What you have to understand with noir is that it's a bit over the top. Normally it's not really my thing but seeing as this was of the supernatural variety, I wanted to see what it was all about. And I really liked it. Yes, some of the stories read a bit like DICK TRACEY meets SUPERNATURAL but all of the stories had personality and I certainly can't deny them that. They stood out against the rest of the "normal" supernatural stories out there because of that noir effect, and I think it made them all the better.

My favorites were 'The Getaway' by Paul G. Tremblay (about a guy driving with a semi-prostitute that ends up at an inn, stalked by wooden gnomes), 'Comfortable in Her Skin' by Lee Thomas (about two women escaping battered pasts only to be sucked into a whole new world thanks to a wayward wolf hide) and 'The Maltese Unicorn' by Caitlin R. Kiernan (about a post-WWII female detective working for the wrong side trying to make a run for a crazy whore house owner). There's just this overwhelming grit to all of them that will leave you a little uncomfortable when you're done. I like it when my stories do that. It means they've actually moved me.

I wouldn't say the stories are inherently scary but there is some level of horror aspect to all of them (although the one with the gnomes was pretty freaky). The noir is more underlying, existing more in the personalities of the characters than in the overall story itself so if you're not big on it, you'll still probably get a kick out of them anyway as they're not dripping in it. But they definitely should be read for the supernatural aspect. They're different kinds of horror stories, playing into all manner of horror, not just your standard spooks. For that I can greatly appreciate what SUPERNATURAL NOIR has to offer, as would any genuine horror fan. It's a deviation from all of the other regular horror out there and will certainly leave a lasting impression even after you close the cover.


Ban Factor: High - Between the gratuitous sex, swearing and godlessness in the supernatural, the banners would be wetting themselves to get their nasty little claws into this one.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Added to the Pile + 94

Three books this week, all from the lovelies at Macmillan -


AFTER THE SNOW by SD Crockett

Things I've Learned from Books + 121


Don't eff with the supernatural. It'll totally pwn you each and every time you try.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

80s Awesomeness! ~ 130


The My Buddy doll. Cute, harmless companion doll that children liked to play with. Then the Child's Play creators came along and decided to model their evil seed, Chucky, after the My Buddy doll, calling him a Good Guy doll. Enter my absolute horror for anything doll-like. Which is fine. Children are meant to have nightmares.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Freaky Friday :|: 130


Title: Nightmare Hall: The Vampire's Kiss
Author: Diane Hoh
Published: April 1995
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Summary:

There's a vampire roaming Nightmare Hall. A Salem University co-ed, still mourning the loss of Lucas, her recently deceased boyfriend, is suddenly drawn toward death. Which one of the new men in her life is really Lucas come back as a vampire to lure her to the other side? (fantasticfiction.co.uk)

Yup. There's the cheesy cheesiness I know and love. How many "new men" does this chick have in her life? Is this smut in disguise??? *peeks*

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ashfall by Mike Mullin + Giveaway!

Published October 11, 2011.

Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don't know it's there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.

Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience that he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth.
(goodreads.com)

I've known about the caldera for a while so when Mike approached me to review ASHFALL, it was an instant yes. How I missed this one in my NetGalley wandering, I have no idea but Mike was kind enough to send me a copy and OMG am I glad he did.

The first couple of chapters were absolutely horrifying. Like literally had me shaking, horrifying. The thing is, I think what made it really horrifying is that this is something that's going to happen. Not if, but when. We have no idea and we can only pray to whatever god exists that we'll have some kind of warning sign to help prepare us but that doesn't make it any more palatable. Knowing that a popular tourist attraction can and will annihilate us can tend to keep one up at night.

The story is told from the POV of Alex and almost immediately it starts into the destruction in Iowa from the erupting volcano. Alex's house gets hit by a volcano-projected meteor, nearly trapping him inside of it. It's a total down-slide from there but the sheer resilience of this kid is absolutely astounding. Of course he had help along the way (he'd literally be dead if he didn't) but his will to reconnect him with his family was so strong that he pushed on to walk from Iowa to Illinois to find his parents and sister that were only supposed to be away for a weekend. You see Alex start from a little boy (despite his 15 (16?) years) and morph into this young man that can field dress a pig and survive the elements.

Of course, Darla helped him along there. If it wasn't for her, Alex would have been left at the curb well before the end of the book. Darla starts off overly strong but it's a logical strong. It's not the type of attitude where it's 'I can do anything better than you' but more like 'holy crap, we don't have enough food to feed a drifter, we need to think of ourselves first.' Her logic really grounds out Alex's inherent altruism that, at times, can really bite them in the ass. What's even better is when they actually point out his stupid altruism. Self-deprecation is always a win for me.

But Darla functions as his rock and, quite frankly, it's nice and refreshing to see the boy having to get rescued time after time after time in a story. Not that Alex is a little pansy weakling but Darla's a farmhand. Her ability to survive and adapt is a little better than his. And the relationship they form is something unlike what I've seen in other books. I liken is to Alex in Ilsa Bick's ASHES and her relationship with Tom. ASHFALL'S Alex's relationship with Darla is a little more intense but there's something purer about it. Their survival depends on each other. They actually have to work at it. Where they are didn't come free. They earned every second of it and, for me, that makes it that much sweeter and far less lust-at-first-sightish.

As I said before, this book had me shaking. The setting was realistic to the point where I could feel the ash on my skin, taste it in my mouth, hear the roaring of the erupting volcano. And the fact that it actually reads accurate makes it all the more realistic. I had a little bit of issue with how the military was portrayed (I could ask soldier boy for clarification, just haven't gotten around to it yet). The whole situation seemed a bit dramatized for the sake of, well, drama. Although I do know that true martial law is quite possibly one of the most horrifying things on the planet and while they'd get shit done, it'd be at the sacrifice of a lot of people, the individual actions of the soldiers that Alex and Darla interacted with just didn't seem right to me. They just seemed far too douchy. I am a touch biased but I'd like to think that even in martial law, most soldiers would maintain a modicum of humanity and douche nozzles like those guys would be the exception, not the norm. That could just be me being hopeful. Like I said, I could get more accurate clarification on that but it's based in hypothetical, technically. There's some experience there when dealing with vets so I guess it'd be a little less hypothetical than normal.

ASHFALL was easy to read and while I felt, at times, it read a little too simplistically (I would have liked some greater detail in some parts, less inane description in others), it made its point. It got Alex's story across without flowery prose and without pretense. I really felt like I was reading about Alex from Alex. For the most part I didn't read the book and feel like I was reading anyone other than Alex (there were a few times where I felt the wording was a bit out of character but not enough to have a major effect).

The best part, I think? There's nothing paranormal about ASHFALL. No zombies, no mutant hybrids. Just science. The earth's biggest zit explodes and this is the aftermath of that. Really, people losing their minds was scary enough. And that's what made this book really hit home: just how real it was, and could be. You don't close the book and go whew! That was freaky! Glad I don't have to worry about it. You close the book when you're done and go, oh shit. I need to stock up on bottled water. The lack of anything paranormal, to me, makes it all the scarier because it's that much more rooted in reality.

For apocalyptic stories, ASHFALL comes in second to ASHES by Ilsa Bick for me. Everything that happens is based on science, nothing seems out of place and at the end it'll leave you shaking just a little bit harder than when you started. The ending leaves a few things open but the sequel comes out next year so you won't be left hanging for long. Yet another apocalyptic book that I'm proud to say rockets itself up and over nearly everything else that's out there. Read it and get scared.



Ban Factor: Medium - There is premarital sex but it's fade to black and I believe subtle enough that the banners wouldn't be smart enough to pick up on it. Swearing's on the low side but it's there a little. If anything I think it'd be the sex that'd kill it but they'd be happy about the Christianity (not that it's a Christian book).

Giveaway Time!!!

Want my ARC? Then just fill out the form below for your chance to win!
  • Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only.
  • One entry per person per email address
  • Duplicate entries will be deleted
  • Giveaway ends October 20th at midnight, EST.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
 
Blog designed by TwispiredBlogdesign using MK Design's TeaTime kit.