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review 2018-02-12 01:18
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix, designed by Andie Reid, illustrated by Michael Rogalski
Horrorstor - Grady Hendrix

Horrorstör is a ghost story that takes place in an Ikea knockoff called Orsk. Amy, one of the main characters, is low on cash, convinced she's about to be fired, and desperate to transfer to a different Orsk. She thinks her boss, Basil, has it in for her, which is why she's horrified when he calls her in for a special meeting. It throws her off a bit that Ruth Anne was also called in. Ruth Anne is a model employee, so why would anyone want to fire her?

As it turns out, Basil isn't planning on firing anyone, at least not right now. No, Basil has a problem. It appears that someone has been hanging around Orsk after hours and breaking things. In one instance, the person even pooped on a Brooka (sofa). The security cameras are no good - whoever's doing this has been limiting their activities to sometime between 2 and 7:30 AM, the time period when the store lights power down to twilight mode. Basil figures that he, Ruth Anne, and Amy can sweep the store and either find the culprit or at least prevent them from damaging anything else before the store's general manager and Regional arrive in the morning. This is a horror novel, so of course things don't go nearly that well.

Several people I follow on Booklikes read this a while back. I kept seeing the cover art pop up on my Dashboard, and the slightly creepy "catalog page" look of it intrigued me. It took me a while, but I finally requested an interlibrary loan copy.

I've never been to an Ikea and was a little worried that that would interfere with my enjoyment of the book. Thankfully that didn't seem to be the case, although having experience with big-box stores in general probably helps. Horrorstör gave readers an exhaustive employee's eye view of Orsk and how it operated, going so far as to include a floor plan, order form, and product images and descriptions (which took an unnerving turn later in the book).

The details about the haunting didn't strike me as being very exceptional or original, and the things that happened to the employees in the store occasionally caused me to pause and wonder how they hadn't died of shock yet. The thing that made Horrorstör more than just an average horror novel for me was the way it incorporated Orsk details. One of my favorite parts involved Amy being trapped inside a Liripip wardrobe. It mattered that it was that particular kind of wardrobe and that Amy was a store employee with special knowledge of its particular problems.

Hendrix did a great job at emphasizing the creepiness of an empty Orsk, with its peculiar layout that required customers to go through the store in a particular way. Even before the real horror started, I found myself getting creeped out by Amy and Ruth Anne's efforts to sweep the store for intruders.

The characters were a little thin, and their actions didn't always match the background info readers were given - for example, I found Basil's actions at the end a little difficult to believe considering he's his little sister's primary caretaker. That said, I still loved this. Hendrix left just enough loose ends that I could imagine a Planet Baby sequel, although it's probably for the best that, as far as I know, no sequel has been planned.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-02-11 00:32
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
A Head Full of Ghosts - Paul G. Tremblay

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's something wrong with fourteen-year-old Marjorie Barrett - her mental health seems to be declining, yet treatment from medical professionals isn't helping her one bit. Desperate to pull through the tough time where money is dwindling and Marjorie's sanity is failing, the Barretts decide to sign up for a reality TV show, where the "possession" of their daughter can be documented every minute of every day.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

This was Horror Aficionados' January group read! Once again, a book that wasn't even on my radar, and I never expected to like it as much as I did. What I assumed to be a story of a typical, run-of-the-mill possession, turned out to be a very thought provoking tale about the hardship (and destruction) of one family. It also touched upon several controversial subjects relating to religion and the patriarchy that dominates the Catholic faith. There certainly was a narrative here that presented itself in the form of blog posts that were periodically included amongst the chapters, and whilst the posts themselves were rather long-winded, they added a contextual dissection of events, often including an abundance of pop culture references. I found that my appreciation of these interruptions varied - one moment I enjoyed Karen's rambling, the next I felt disinterested.

Back to the story itself - Merry's account of her younger self instantly pulled me in; I found how her eight-year-old mind worked to be endearing, despite at times seeming to have a great deal of maturity for her age. What she, as a child, had to go through was nothing short of appalling, but rather than some evil force being the obvious villain, it was a lot more close to home, or should I say, close to Merry.

The plot heavily relied upon the interpretation of the reader, as it's essentially up to you to make your own conclusion as to whether Marjorie was indeed inhabited by some demonic entity. As for me - I leaned toward the non-supernatural explanation. There was just nothing concrete; she didn't display anything remotely inhuman. Sure, she appeared to be knowledgeable, but as stated in the book, she owned a laptop and spent most of her time on it, and we all know that literally anything can be found on the internet if you know where to look. I believe that she was a very sick girl that was exploited for money. A blunt way of putting it, but it's the ugly truth - in the face of serious financial struggle, her parents made a decision to forgo conventional medicine, and instead used their own daughter's aliment to save their nice house. What thus followed was the moronic reliance upon a priest and the accommodation of a TV crew. If you haven't already guessed, I one hundred percent believed the parents to be at fault. They were the villain.

Of course, I could be completely wrong in my thinking and theory. Perhaps Tremblay's intention was indeed to tell a tale of a devilish presence residing within a teenager. I'd just have to question the lack of paranormal activity if that were the case; unlike The Exorcist, there was nothing that couldn't be rationally explained. It also crossed my mind how unreliable Merry was as a protagonist. She admitted to making things up, to embellishing the truth, and it struck me that she probably had some mental issues of her own. The very last twist only proved how inaccurate her initial account turned out to be.

In itself, fellow reviewers tend to either love or hate this one. In no shape or form would I describe it as poor, quite the contrary. I couldn't wait to pick it up and continue reading, despite little happening in the grand scheme of things. It's not full of blatant scares and gore, but a slow burn of the foolishness of humankind.

Also, reality shows are stupid.

In conclusion: A different sort of horror; one that made me think and question everything. My first experience of this author, and it won't be the last!

Notable Quote:

"On the last day, their father left the house to go find food. He told Merry not to open the front door no matter what and to stay out of the basement. Hours passed and Merry didn't know what to do because Marjorie was coughing and moaning and speaking gibberish. She needed food, water, something. Merry went down into the basement to look for some secret stash of food that they'd forgotten. Instead she found tips of the growing things poking out of the basement's dirt floor. She watched them grow and grow, and as they grew, they pushed up a large shape out of the dirt, and it hung off the growing things like a broken puppet. It was the body of their mother."

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/02/11/a-head-full-of-ghosts-by-paul-tremblay
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review 2018-02-08 21:19
Ghost gangs and murder teens go atomic
Everfound - Neal Shusterman Satisfying conclusion to the series. Shusterman seems to have a genius for setting multiple characters and plots off in different directions, and them weaving them back together for a smashing, dizzying finish. I generally enjoyed the series as a whole, but didn't find it as gripping as some other recent reads. Might be because there's so many characters and different perspectives. Neat to see a lot of the stuff that went into the Arc of a Scythe series emerging here. Might need to take a break from my Shusterman marathon, since I slowed down on this trilogy, but I've got at least one more series to go.
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review 2018-02-06 19:16
More ghost gangs and murder teens
Everwild - Neal Shusterman

I wasn't going to continue after book 1 in this trilogy, but I'm glad I did. The stakes and shape of the rest of the series surge in this second adventure. The kids are learning more about the nature, limitations, and opportunities afforded by their state. Particularly the skinjacker situation. Murder and manipulation, control and chaos, and good old world-domination via terrorist acts of destruction on the horizon. It's cool to see the seeds of conflict that birthed the Arc of the Scythe series popping up in this context. I'm not as glued to the page as I might be, but there's enough going on to keep me invested for the final book in the trilogy.

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review 2018-02-05 21:34
Dead kids and their afterlife feuds
Everlost - Neal Shusterman

Interesting premise and entertaining quick read, but this left me with less of an impression than other recent Shusterman books.

 

Nick and Allison die in the same accident and knock each other off the path to the light. They wake up still on Earth, but stuck on the ghostly side. They discover there are others - lots of others, and they're all under 17. Gangs form, sides are taken, monsters are fought and discoveries made.

 

Interesting, mildly creepy young YA action. I'm reading the sequel, but I almost stopped after this first book because I was entertained but not really all that invested in spending more time with the characters and story world. But the blurb for book 2 had a good twist, so I'm going to keep going. I should stress that it's not at all a bad book, just a matter of taste, I think.

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