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review 2017-02-24 05:54
Review: As I Descended by Robin Talley
As I Descended - Robin Talley

Quick review for a prolonged read (I had to recheck this book from the library several times because it kept getting holds placed on it, but I finally found a stretch to read it the whole way through). This is my second narrative experience from Robin Talley. "As I Descended" is touted as a retelling/reimaging of Macbeth, centered on two girls (Maria and Lily) at an elite school who enact upon a dastardly scheme to take a scholarship opportunity from a popular queen bee (Delilah), but their plan goes several steps too far and unleashes a downward spiral involving a haunted campus, vengeful spirits, revenge games, and overarching obsession with power. Added bonus: a diverse cast of characters including characters of color and prominent GLBT relationships at the forefront. By the summary/plot promise itself, I was definitely going to pick this up, even excited to have the opportunity to do so.

My thoughts in the aftermath of reading this are more mixed, however. I loved how darkly textured this novel was, some of the scenes are downright creepy not just in the visual aspects of the spirits and conflict involved, but actually have some well placed scenes of internal conflict among the characters, especially Maria - who starts off the novel rather naive and good at heart, but takes this downwards spiral as more events in the novel transpire and she gets more obsessed with the power in her grasp. She gets to the point where she denies reality, denies opportunities for herself to lose given what she's lost, and ultimately it's a consuming process that doesn't flinch on showing the burn. The tone and the intention of the novel were well noted.

The execution of this novel, on so many levels, was not good however. The problematic pacing stood out in my mind on one hand. I had to read this book in stretches and those stretches seemed more drawn out - taking me a while to get "in medias res". Part of the reason might've been the rambling musings of the characters within, many times with self-deprecating anecdotes (because, let's be real, this cast of characters is complicated and very, very flawed). The narrative moves in and out of the action, in and out of the creepiness, and that's an issue in itself. The characters also feel like they're missing an extra layer of depth. I get on some levels they're players on a stage (*cough* pun *cough*), but I kept wanting to have more than just a surface level of connection with them.

Which lends me to discuss my next point of contention in this book: while I love the fact this book FEATURES a wide range of representation (characters of color, bisexual characters, gay characters, character with a disability, etc.), the ACTUAL representation of these characters in the context of the story gives me pause, even to the point where I was really uncomfortable reading and had to put the book down in spaces. I didn't expect some of the rampant homophobic/biphobic slurs and commentaries that some of the characters in here spout. Granted, there are FEW opportunities where the characters shut this kind of language down, but it's still so prevalent that you can't separate that from the experience of the novel. I thought some characters really didn't have good representation at all, if by absence of said representation (i.e. Lily's disability in many places was masked) or representation where it was marred by very notable cliches (i.e. Maria and Mateo were very distinct caricatures of their race in places, and the fact that a group of Latino guys were essentially labeled as criminals just because of Maria's story to try to throw blame away from her...nah, dude. That didn't sit right with me at all).

It's hard to reconcile the good of this novel when there's so much of it that just didn't work well with the material it had. It's not the fact that this is a retelling/reimaging of MacBeth that's the issue, it's the way the narrative chose its focus. The focus could've been inclusive and thrilling without necessarily ceding to these cliches and problematic portrayals.

In the end, I'm willing to give credit to it having thrilling images and power plays for the horror novel it chooses to be, but at the same time I think so much of the narrative aim and presentation could've been better to make it more enthralling as well as inclusive. While it's difficult to say - with how darkly toned this novel is based on its source material - the inclusions could've been completely positive, it could've had more impact if the characters had more solid foundations and the focus was maintained on how they manipulated each other for their own goals and ends rather than using their identities in negative portrayals. Even if the intention was dark humor, dark humor does better when punctuated with characters fleshed out and situations developed enough to support it.

Overall score: 2.5/5 stars.

View all my reviews

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text 2017-02-23 22:35
I've listened to 30% and
Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower, Book 4 - Stephen King,Simon & Schuster Audio,Frank Muller

I am ditching this audio re-read of Wizard and Glass. This narrator is just not for me.


I'm going to go ahead and reserve the next book in the series, because the narration goes back to George Guidall. He did the audiobook of The Gunslinger and I just loved it. I will leave my rating  as it stands: at 4 stars as I did so love this book.

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review 2017-02-23 18:30
The Disembodied by Anthony Hains
The Disembodied - Anthony Hains

The Disembodied starts out like a coming-of-age story and then it turns into a psychological horror story of familial love and abuse that will keep you guessing to the very end!


Griffin is a boy on the verge of becoming a man, when he loses his father to a somewhat violent death. Luckily he has a sweet and caring grandfather that loves to spend time with him, and a close cousin to hang out with. Unfortunately, he is experiencing feelings of what his psychologist calls depersonalization disorder, but Griffin describes it as feeling like he isn't attached to his own body. His mom is worried, and his aunt is convinced he's possessed. So which is it? You'll have to read this book to find out!


The characters here were well developed. I really got to caring for Griffin and Tanner and I quickly got to the point where I couldn't care less what happened to either of their fathers. I think the best part of this story was its telling. The author did a great job of releasing bits of information steadily along the way which kept me interested and looking forward to whatever was going to happen next. A few of the twists I did guess, but I did not accurately predict where this tale was going to go, and I always love when that happens.


Even as a seasoned fan of horror, there were parts of this book that seriously disturbed me. Mr. Hains is a psychologist himself, which is probably why the bits about depersonalization disorder rang so true. However, there were certain characters that behaved very differently from what I would expect, (like Griffin's mom, for instance), and thinking about why she did what she did added a layer of sadness to this tale. I guess it's a sad truth that sometimes we like to bury our heads in the sand rather than face what's happening right in front of us.


Overall, The Disembodied was an excellent psychological horror tale, and even though it involved tweens, this is not a YA story, in my opinion. There are some ugly, ugly truths here and incidents of abuse that made even this horror fan cringe. That said, this book was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the mysteries as they unraveled. I think you would too! Highly recommended!


There's currently a giveaway at HAD for 1 signed copy of this book: Giveaway (US only)


You can get your copy here: The Disembodied


Find this review and others like it at: HorrorAfterDark.com


*I nominated this book for the Kindle Scout program back in the day, and when it was accepted and the book published, I was given a free copy with no strings attached. All of the opinions expressed in this review are my own.* 

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review 2017-02-23 01:34
Cat O' Nine Tales
Cat O' Nine Tales - Krystal Lawrence

Cat O' Nine Tales is a collection of nine (plus one bonus!) stories in the horror, thriller and suspense genres. The stories cover a wide array of topics in the horror genre. From blood and gore, planning the perfect murder, the supernatural and animal attacks, you will find it in here. Each story was short enough that I could read in one sitting, but absorbing enough that I felt connected while reading.

Some of my favorite stories were those where humans had a deep connection to animals. As the Crow Flies, Let Sleeping Cats Lie and The Dogs of Riverview Estates all used animals as a protector of those that treated them well, but something much different to those that threatened the people they trusted. These stories all had a eerie and gory feeling, but as someone who loves and protects animals, they were also reassuring.

Another story that captured me was The Eternal Sheriff. I have always loved the idea that a book could come alive; but for Grant Hudson, author of the Sidewinder series, that is truly a nightmare. After a good run, he needs to kill of his sheriff character, only the sheriff refuses to be killed. This story, while keeping an apprehensive atmosphere, also showed a bit of humor as the characters played with their creator. I would have loved to see this story as a longer version.

Overall, a good set of horror novels that will appease a wide variety of tastes. With all short story collections, I like some better than others. Some of the stories were very predictable for me, however the characterization was done well.

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text 2017-02-22 22:30
I've read 93% of The Disembodied and WOW, ...
The Disembodied - Anthony Hains

I can't believe what just happened! 


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