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review 2019-11-02 22:08
The House of Small Shadows ★★★☆☆
The House of Small Shadows - Adam Nevill

After spending so much time in online book communities and getting recommendations from people I trust, I almost never take a risk on a book I know nothing about. But it's good to step out of your comfort zone once in a while, and how risky can a book be that's been labeled "British Fantasy Award Winner for Best Horror Novel of the Year"?


Well. Hmm. On the one hand, this book is hilariously awful. I'm not sure when I've last seen such intrusively awkward writing. On the other, though, the story was so interesting and inventive that I just kept reading in spite of it. I was even able to forget to be annoyed by the writing style, for brief periods of time. 


The writing features frequently incomplete sentences, commas missing or randomly inserted, and seemingly premature periods. I sometimes had to stop and re-read sentences to understand them. For example: 


Catherine glanced again at the doorway. And realized Edith's silhouette was no longer looking in her direction, but to the side of the unlit room, opposite the door. From which direction there now issued a scraping. Sharp metal against masonry, but faint. And then a flap of cloth. She would have screamed if her air wasn't sealed inside her petrified lungs. 


I get that he's describing sounds that Catherine is hearing, but my first thought was still, "what about the flap of cloth?" before realizing the author meant she was hearing the sound of cloth flapping, not describing an object. 


I suppose it's possible that the writing style represents some kind of local speech pattern that I'm just not familiar with, as little attempt has been made to "Americanize" the word choices, etc. for the US edition. The author does demonstrate standard sentence structure and punctuation in the acknowledgements, so it's clearly a choice of writing style on his part. 


As for the story, I'm evidently not the only one who finds both puppets and taxidermy super creepy. And that awful doll in Trilogy of Terror. Now just combine them all into a single concept and be prepared to sleep with the lights on.


Hardcover edition, picked up on a whim from a Halloween display at my public library. 

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review 2019-09-22 11:18
All humans are red on the inside
The Reddening - Adam Nevill

I am humbled, both by the fact that Adam Nevill sent me this ARC and that I am mentioned in the acknowledgements. This is a horror author who I have long admired and whose work "The Ritual" has been made into a major film. All of this and he takes the time to thank me. I mean who am I that I warrant any thanks? I still haven't managed to process this properly.


Even without the tears I shed reading the acknowledgements I would have given five stars to this story. The hardcover book is gorgeous, a real treat, formatted and presented beautifully.


The story is dark and claustrophobic, like the caves it frequently dwells inside, yet expansive like the wild countryside of Devon that is described beautifully and evocatively within its pages. It is the land, both beneath and above the surface of Devon that is the star of the story, and that character is brought to life, warts and all.


The human characters are flawed yet strong like so many of Nevill's characters. No one here is truly good although some are truly evil. Those who serve the red queen and her white pups follow a long tradition that consumes them from within, giving strength to their rage in ways Kat (one of two heroines) comes to understand intimately. We are left questioning what Kat may become and that lends a haunting tone to the conclusion. We know that this is not over, nor will it ever be. The horror is cosmic in the Lovecraftian tradition. 


I intend to record a video review to share at a Facebook event "Horror Weekend" in October. I'll share it on my blog as well should any readers/listeners be understandably averse for Facebook, and on my You Tube channel. By the time I record it perhaps my thoughts with regards to Nevill's affection for me might be better articulated. 


I claim the "Masters of Modern Horror" square on Halloween Bingo with this book.


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review 2018-09-29 16:51
Corn, corn, corn. Nothin' but corn
No One Gets Out Alive - Adam Nevill


Haunted by girls sacrificed to the corn through terror, some raped, and psychological intimidation.


Another book with a demented earth goddess who needs human sacrifice so the corn will grow.

Perpetuated by the ancient Welsh.

I thought corn wasn't introduced to Europe til after the conquistadors hit central America.


This one was way nastier than one in the previous book.

At least that one was content with one every 7 years.

This one keeps pieces of the sacrifices close by so they can haunt the next victim or helper into insanity before moving to the next.


And why is it always corn!

What makes corn so creepy!

There are other crops than corn.

Makes me leery of my corn patch every fall! LOL


A lot of distracting inner musings.

The tension would build, then we get inner dialog from Stephanie trying to rationalize and explain. For pages. In detail.

Poof. Mood gone.



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review 2018-09-26 20:41
House of Small Shadows
House of Small Shadows - Adam Nevill

Again, on my phone. Wooo slow days at work!


I found The House of Small Shadows to be a really beautiful story. I adored Catherine and really related to a lot of her emotional struggles. There were some points when I had to stop reading because her emotional pain was far too similar to my own. Nevill does an amazing job of capturing emotions and the imagery in the book was really beautiful.


Think this book is a good example of a horror story that’s not about ghosts but has ghosts in it (if they are ghosts, anyway). The real horror of the story, to me anyway, is trauma. All the characters appear to have gone through it in some form or another and the ways those influence the story is what puts this book in the horror genre for me. Also if you’re creeped out by dolls, those would freak you out too.


The biggest critique I have about the book is the climax and resolution were really confusing to me. Like, I understand how we get to the final destination but there are many things left unanswered in the end that leave me dissatisfied. It could be I just missed them or maybe Nevill got too excited about the world he created that he didn’t realize elements of the story seemed out of place with confusing results. It’s hard to say. 


Final rating: 4 out of 5. Beautiful story overall. If you’re a fan of the movie The Orphanage, I do believe you’ll quite like this book.

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review 2018-04-07 16:42
The Ritual by Adam Nevill (2016 Review)
The Ritual - Adam Nevill

The Ritual by Adam Nevill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The reunion of four University friends not only offers a chance to escape from the stresses of the everyday, but also an opportunity to behold the wonders of the outdoors... Or at least that was the plan. The last thing Hutch, Luke, Phil and Dom needed was to get lost within a virgin forest in a foreign country; a Scandinavian wilderness that just feels wrong. When they bare witness to something hanging up a tree - something dead, everything changes from then on.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

Collecting dust on my bookshelf, amongst the other two hundred unread books (more or less), for a few years now, I finally decided to pick this one up and give it a go. I didn't know what exactly to expect at first, but the whole "man versus nature" aspect appealed to me, and thus I found myself thoroughly impressed with the initial direction of the plot. Even to imagine getting lost in such an ancient maze of untouched forest, where daylight itself refuses to penetrate, definitely makes my skin crawl. Even so, I'm not usually all that affected by horror in general, and even though I didn't feel terrified or frightened, I certainly felt a sense of unease and foreboding. The writing was a main factor in creating such responses; so darkly atmospheric with sentences that conveyed so much, from every stab of fear to every thread of hope. If not for the very drastic change in story in the second half, I'd have rated it five stars.

I didn't even find the characters entirely likeable, but not because they were poorly written - on the contrary, they were painfully realistic. The ones who picked on another out of a jealous attempt to hide their own crumbling lives, the one with obvious commitment issues and lack of purpose, and lastly, the one with the level head. However, even despite Hutch being the one to try and keep everything civil and together, he shared a particular shallowness with Luke in regard to continuously calling the other two "fatties". They had their flaws, as we all do, and as all good fictional characters should. Luke, whom I eventually came to feel sympathy for, was probably the worst, as his views on women were verging on being downright sexist. He clearly had his problems with anger management as well, but what that man experienced, his helplessness - I couldn't help but hope he'd survive the whole ordeal.

As for the complete shift titled "South of Heaven"; I didn't hate it, but admittedly it appeared quite silly at first. Going from the struggles of survival in the wilderness whilst hunted by a mysterious creature, to being held captive by a metal band consisting of face-painted teenagers - it was confusing to say the least, but after a while I settled into the craziness and accepted it for what it was. The trio; Fenris, Loki and Sutr, were void of sanity of any kind (as you can tell from what they called themselves), but even though they were all sorts of ridiculous, the old woman and what dwelled within the attic succeeded in returning the eerie tone. From stitching together the pieces given, the inhabitants of the house were children of the "moder", which added a nice touch. It then begs the question, why did the woman need Luke to do her dirty work in dispatching of the disrespectful teens when she could've called the monster? Well, if you revere something, if you worship something, it stands to reason you don't want to piss it off by expecting it to do pest control.

Still, the rambling on of Christianity, and of how evil they were as Vikings, it got a little tedious after a short time. I'm all for Norse mythology and how religion played a role in the origin of the forest, but I don't need dialogue that seems never-ending to get the point across. I rolled my eyes, I facepalmed, and I missed the simple yet effective quality of the first couple of hundred pages. Again, I state it was close to being a well-deserved favourite, but the last half just wasn't as good.

In conclusion: I'm definitely interested in Nevill's other works now, as I appreciated his ability as a writer. I favoured the first section of this particular novel, but the change in direction jarred me.

Notable Scene:

Luke took three mouthfuls of water from his bottle. It tasted of rubber and of the forest around them: the cloying of damp wood, rotting leaves and cold air. He detested it. He smelled of it too. They were almost a part of it now. Just a few bright colours of the man-made fibres they wore marked them out as any different to the thoughtless, relentless decay of season and nature. It would be so easy now to just sink to the ground and get recycled, to be eaten or rot away. The endlessness of it, the sheer size of the land and their total insignificance within it nearly shut his mind down.

© Red Lace 2016

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/04/07/the-ritual-by-adam-nevill-2016-review
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