Book Review: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

Okiku walks the streets, hunting murderers of children.  She finds these murderers and sees the children they have murdered tied to them, and she feels compelled to act.  It has been this way for hundreds of years.  When she meets a strange boy with even stranger tattoos, she discovers that he is not alone, and he is in very real danger.  But can she save him when it’s not what she’s on earth to do?

Rin Chupeco’s novel is a near perfect blend of contemporary YA and supernatural storytelling.  Billed as a mix of The Grudge and The Ring, this is definitely a perfect novel for fans of J-horror. This is a fresh take on horror for teens (and adults), and it’s a standout of a debut.

Much of the novel’s success lies in the narrator’s unique, haunting voice.  Chupeco makes Okiku’s voice very formal and very detached, and the result is compelling.  Her ghostly telling of the story’s events offer readers just enough to understand what’s happening but also encourages the reader to figure out what lies beneath the surface.  As Okiku becomes more embroiled in the life of Tarquin, her voice becomes stronger.  It’s brilliantly done.

An unsettling story, this novel deftly blends many creepy elements: ghosts, spirits, old legends, and super, super creepy dolls.  Readers interested in legends, ghosts, and the like will eat this one up.  It’s bloody without being overly so, and the novel’s suspense is perfectly paced.  It’s a page-turner, and one that horror fans should eat up.  Highly recommended.

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco. Sourcebooks Fire: 2014. Electronic galley accepted for review via Netgalley.

Book Review: Scowler by Daniel Kraus

Ryan Burke’s father is a monster.  That’s why he’s rotting away in some prison, far away from their home.  Meanwhile, Ry, his mother, and his little sister are struggling to eek out a living on their failing farm.  Ry can’t escape the horrible memories of his father’s abuse, and when a meteorite falls, change is inevitable, and danger is near.  Ry uses his childhood totems to help defend himself against the evil threatening to take his family away: Mr. Furrington, Jesus, and Scowler.

Daniel Kraus’s novel is a taut, tense horror novel that will either entrap readers or scare them away.  A weird, mostly compelling story about a boy coming-of-age with the very real fear that he is a monster like his father, this one is overly long and gets bogged down in its own attention to detail.  Still, it’s a successfully scary story.

Definitely on the weird side, this story doesn’t pull any punches.  Ryan’s life is pretty crappy, even now that his horrendous, psychopathic and violent father is locked up.  He’s constantly haunted by the abuse his family suffered, and he feels trapped as the man of the house.  This is enough to lend the novel its tension, but the countdown to the meteorite crash and the subsequent terror of the return of his father ramps up the suspense.

Unrelenting and sort of brutal, this isn’t a title that is going to work for all readers.  Fans of horror novels that take their time and set the scene will find something here to love.  Those who want a whip-fast pace will be slightly less thrilled with the book’s meticulous attention to detail.  The book has literary quality for sure, which isn’t what all readers of horror are looking for.

Recommended for mature horror readers who are looking for a good bridge book to adult titles.

Scowler by Daniel Kraus. Delacorte Books for Young Readers: 2013. Library copy read for the 2013 Cybils.

Waiting on Wednesday: Snowblind by Christopher Golden

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Snowblind by Christopher Golden

Expected Release Date: January 21, 2014

The small New England town of Coventry had weathered a thousand blizzards…but never one like this. Icy figures danced in the wind and gazed through children’s windows with soul-chilling eyes. People wandered into the whiteout and were never seen again. Families were torn apart, and the town would never be the same.

Now, as a new storm approaches twelve years later, the folks of Coventry are haunted by the memories of that dreadful blizzard and those who were lost in the snow. Photographer Jake Schapiro mourns his little brother, Isaac, even as—tonight—another little boy is missing. Mechanic and part-time thief Doug Manning’s life has been forever scarred by the mysterious death of his wife, Cherie, and now he’s starting over with another woman and more ambitious crimes. Police detective Joe Keenan has never been the same since that night, when he failed to save the life of a young boy . . . and the boy’s father vanished in the storm only feet away. And all the way on the other side of the country, Miri Ristani receives a phone call . . . from a man who died twelve years ago.

As old ghosts trickle back, this new storm will prove to be even more terrifying than the last.

(summary via Goodreads)

I actually heard about this one while doing collection development work for the library, but it’s something that is right up my alley. Snow storms are one of my weird fears, and when you add in mysterious beings and disappearances, well…things are going to get scary and intense.  But it’s getting a lot of good buzz, and I could do with a good scare in book-form.  So I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on this one (and then maybe purchasing it for the school library, too).

What are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday: Insanity by Susan Vaught

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

 

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Insanity by Susan Vaught

Expected Release Date: February 18th, 2014

Never, Kentucky is not your average scenic small town. It is a crossways, a place where the dead and the living can find no peace. Not that Forest, an 18-year-old foster kid who works the graveyard shift at Lincoln Hospital, knew this when she applied for the job. Lincoln is a huge state mental institution, a good place for Forest to make some money to pay for college. But along with hundreds of very unstable patients, it also has underground tunnels, bell towers that ring unexpectedly, and a closet that holds more than just donated clothing….When the dead husband of one of Forest’s patients makes an appearance late one night, seemingly accompanied by an agent of the Devil, Forest loses all sense of reality and all sense of time. Terrified, she knows she has a part to play, and when she does so, she finds a heritage that she never expected. 

With her deep knowledge of mental illness and mental institutions, Susan Vaught brings readers a fascinating and completely creepy new book intertwining the stories of three young people who find themselves haunted beyond imagining in the depths of Lincoln Hospital.

(summary via Goodreads)

Is there anything scarier than a mental institution?  I’m pretty sure there’s not.  I don’t know why they’ve always fascinated and terrified me, but they have.  Probably this is leftover scarring from when I watched MTV’s Fear and they had to stay overnight in that abandoned mental institution.  HORRIFYING.  At any rate, this one looks like it might be a lot of scary, good fun.

What are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday: Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Expected Release Date: August 20, 2013

Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it’s a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it’s no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux’s teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.

(summary via Goodreads)

Okay, so I actually briefly went to college with Roux.  It’s sort of bizarre to recognize an author’s name as someone you knew when you were 18, but there it is.  At any rate, the novel doesn’t even begin to try to pretend that this is a great choice for fans of Miss Peregine, because it’s mentioned in the first sentence of the novel’s summary.  That being said, the photos in Rigg’s disappointing novel were the best part for this reader, so I can’t wait to see how Roux utilizes the same sort of narrative trick.

This looks like it could be a fun, creepy novel to finish off the summer with.  I’m eager to see how it all pans out.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by John Harstad

When NASA decides to hold a lottery for eligible teenagers to win a chance to go to the moon, the world pays attention.  It’s been decades since a human set foot on the lunar surface, but now NASA is hoping to drum up publicity for the space program.  Three teens are picked to spend a week on a station on the moon, and it’s certain to be a life-changing event.  The problem is that no one realizes just how life-changing it will be.  There’s something on the moon, and it’s not human.

This tense horror-suspense novel grabs readers from the start and doesn’t let go until the last page. A science fiction novel light on the science and heavy on the fiction, this one will keep readers up late into the night.  Part taut Scandinavian thriller and part straight-up horror novel, this is a story you’ll remember.

Harstad’s prose (translated from Norwegian by Tara F. Chace) is accessible, sparse, and tense.  This is a plot-driven novel, so readers looking for characters with a great deal of depth should look elsewhere.  Although the novel alternates between the three chosen teens’ perspectives as well as a few other characters, it becomes clear early on that this is Norwegian teen Mia’s story.  Tight pacing, especially in the last quarter, helps build the story to a thrilling climax and twisty, surprising conclusion.

Readers shouldn’t go into this one expecting much in the way of plausibility.  The mere fact that the story’s premise involves teenage astronauts should give you all the clues you need for whether or not the story is realistic, but once you get sucked into the horror, it doesn’t matter any more.  This is great suspense, and nothing else matters.

A good twist at the end will satisfy readers.  This is interesting, original, and extremely accessible.  There’s widespread appeal here, and the book’s simple prose makes it accessible to readers across many reading levels.  Recommended for those looking for a good suspense novel with some great thrills and chills.

172 Hours on the Moon by John Harstad. ATOM: 2012.  Borrowed copy.

On Re-Reading a Series: Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris

In lieu of a review today, I thought I’d talk a little bit about what it’s like to re-read a series.  I think I’ve talked about re-reading before, and how your relationship to a book can change over time, but I’m speaking very specifically about a particular series right now: The Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris.

With the start of the new year came a fresh reading rut for me, and it’s one that I’m still struggling to crawl out of.  I’ve had a great deal of changes in my personal and professional life over the past several months, and reading has taken a backseat to the demands of my life (see: graduating from a master’s program, applying for jobs, moving in with boyfriend).  It doesn’t help that I’ve felt listless whenever I’ve picked up a book.

Which is why I’ve started re-reading books in search of comfort and something that holds my attention.  I’m still reading new stuff when I’m on  the treadmill, and I’m enjoying a lot of it, but there’s nothing like something you know you like to bring you that cozy feeling.

Re-reading Charlaine Harris’s Sookie series is interesting, because I’ve grown as a reader since I started reading it.  I first read Dead Until Dark years ago, way before TrueBlood became a TV show and before the vampire craze went nutso.  I liked it, but it was definitely out of my wheelhouse.  Here was a mystery featuring a plucky heroine who spends much of her narrative in the minutiae of her life.  There is so much detail about how Sookie spends her time in really unremarkable ways that it’s astounding.

That being said, there’s something comforting about reading about Sookie’s small-town life as a telepathic barmaid who sometimes has really great sex with supernatural creatures.  I’m finding that I’m enjoying the series in a different way: it’s not particularly well-written or well-paced, but there’s enough detail about small-town life and Sookie is a nice enough narrator (for a while, at least) that it’s kind of fun.

Plus, I’m determined to finish the series.  I haven’t read the last few books because they’re so bogged down in the story’s mythology that it’s kind of like drowning.  But I have to finish the series and see if I’m right.

The bonus? Sookie’s clothes, especially in the early books, are HILARIOUSLY bad.  Seriously, why hasn’t someone started a Sookie clothing blog yet?  COMEDY GOLD.

Have you ever read these books?  What do you think?  How do you feel about re-reading series from start to finish?