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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-07-13 20:34
Wild Blood by Nancy A. Collins
Wild Blood - Nancy A. Collins

Wild Blood by Nancy A. Collins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When tragedy befalls Skinner Cade, he sets out to discover his origins - just who was his biological parents? Unable to keep his temper in check, his search soon takes a detour as he lands himself in prison, where an incident results in an all-out bloodbath. A monster resides within Skinner, one he's unsure how to handle, and when he's introduced to the world of the vargr, he's not even sure he wants to learn of his ancestry.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

This was an impulsive buy at the local secondhand bookstore, as first and foremost, the cover caught my eye. It seemed almost comedic, so I was under the impression it would include some sort of black humour. I was wrong, however, and was confronted with over the top depictions of rape and incest that were heavily integrated into the plot itself. Don’t get me wrong, I love werewolves; the more brutal the better, but this was the first time where such disturbingly sexualised topics dominated the pages. It became apparent that important story elements were sacrificed in order to rush the plot along, and focus primarily on graphic content. I should also mention that I don’t have any issues with graphic content concerning sex, however if I feel such matters damage the overall story, then that’s where my problems lie. Despite being a short book, a lot actually happens; there’s before, during and after prison, as well as the rut melee with a lot in between. There certainly were interesting characters and predicaments that Skinner got himself into, but they were so underdeveloped that I just couldn’t get a proper sense of them.

Let’s start with the prison and Skinner’s relationship with Cheater. There appeared to be a connection between them, or something I couldn’t quite grasp. Cheater’s dream and use of the term “Prince” was certainly interesting, but it was so ridiculously vague. I also felt that the friendship in itself was bewildering, as Skinner, of whom was supposed to be a “good guy”, was perfectly fine with his companion stealing and murdering. If this had of been fleshed out, with time given to properly establish them both, then it just might have made sense. This goes for the later half of the book as well, where things rapidly progressed until Skinner was suddenly of great importance.

I actually liked Skinner to an extent, and I enjoyed that his life took a radical turn into the world of claws and teeth, but I couldn’t attach myself nor particularly care what came of him when his development left a lot to be desired. As a person, Skinner often fluctuated between being decent and being rather questionable, with what actually drove his actions leaving nothing but confusion. I think the intention was for him to be the unexpected hero; the good man thrown into the fray and always coming out on top - which I, ultimately, didn't care for. Don't even get me started on the last minute romance attempt, because it was positively absurd.

The shock factor loses its value if overexposed, at least in my case. Sure, the first rape scene (of a dog, I might add), was very much unpleasant, but each taboo subject thereafter only numbed me further. By the end, I wasn't even remotely surprised by what transpired. It was, without a doubt, very curious that Collins decided to go down the route she did - painting the species of "vargr" in a very ugly light, moreso than the usual bloodthirsty monsters of the genre. As it was, I had a hope that the entire race would perish.

In conclusion - I've changed my initial rating to accurately reflect my thoughts, from three stars to only two. It was overly rushed to appropriately develop the plot and characters, instead relying upon disturbing content to carry it through. A shame, as the concept itself was intriguing.

Notable Quote:

"The vargr are all belly and eyes. They desire all that they see. And that which they can not have - they destroy. Completely and utterly."

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/07/13/wild-blood-by-nancy-a-collins
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-23 20:50
NOS4R2 by Joe Hill
NOS4R2 by Joe Hill (6-Nov-2014) Paperback - Joe Hill

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Victoria McQueen discovers her mind can do something very special - it can summon a bridge that can transport her anywhere she wants to go. One day, in a fit of dangerous thinking, she finds herself within the vicinity of a very unstable child abductor; Charlie Manx. Escaping Manx was a turning point in her life, and now, years later, she has a son of her own, and Manx seeks revenge on the one that got away.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

Imaginative would be one word I’d use to describe this; crazy would be another. Not only does it implement so many different things, it does it exceptionally well. If I were to list off the elements that Hill includes, I’m sure you would (if you haven’t already read it) raise an eyebrow or two - I certainly did at first. I had no idea just what I was getting myself into, until it was too late and I was swept up into the mind blowing and twisted biography of Victoria McQueen. It started when she was just eight years old; a child that had a mind filled with fantasy, seeking some semblance of freedom upon her Raleigh Tuff Burner. I do favour tales than span a character’s life, from a young to adult age, as it truly highlights development and progression. The journey of Victoria was a rollercoaster of tragedy, and at times I deeply felt for her. This isn’t to say I particularly liked her throughout the entire book, because there were moments she was depicted as a very selfish individual, but over time, I came to love and accept her. Due to her trauma, life shaped her into a broken soul, and none of it was fair.

As for the numerous other characters, there were an interesting mix of personalities. Lou was a hero in his own right, and seriously a lovely person, whilst Bing was quite the opposite. He was the primary source of sexual violence, even if it was mostly glossed over rather quickly. Child molestation in fact didn't play a part at all in this book, thank goodness, so when I mention sexual violence, it relates purely to the abuse of adults. I just wanted to get that out of the way.

Moving on to Manx himself, he wasn’t my most favourite antagonist. I prefer the charming, deceptive sort of bad guy, instead of the Joker-esque insanity, however he was most assuredly entertaining. The version of his inscape, “Christmasland”, had an undeniable, nightmarish vibe to it, and every time more and more of it was revealed, I became increasingly more fascinated. He truly had lost his mind, and I often wondered about his origins and how he came to be. I'm going to come outright and state that he wasn't a vampire, but the play on the title was pretty much summed up in the book itself. Needless to say, I'm sure there's a significant amount of history pertaining to Manx, that Hill could delve into, if he ever wanted to.

Despite Christmas being a prominent theme, it in no way diminished the bleakness that radiated off every page. I found there to be a particular beauty in the dark atmosphere coupled with Charlie Manx’s eternally joyful outlook. I even appreciated the occasional sprinkle of humour, as Manx and his partner in crime truly weren’t the most coordinated of villains. The plot itself was padded out with unnecessary information, yet it’s something I’ve come to associate with works similar to King - and of course the son would be inspired by the father. Sometimes I don’t really mind the veering off; it’s dependant upon the overall story, and if I feel the distractions are worth the outcome. With NOS4R2, it was definitely worth it.

I expected nothing less from the bittersweet ending. I got an idea of what would transpire, and I can't say my prediction was wrong.

In conclusion: A masterpiece of weird. Vic "The Brat" McQueen was a star, in all her tattooed glory. I can't say just how much I loved it, and since it was my first experience with Hill's storytelling, I can't wait for more.

Notable Quote:

She had said she could bring her bridge into this world but that in some way it also existed only in her mind. It sounded like delusion until you remembered that people made the imaginary real all the time: taking the music they heard in their head and recording it, seeing a house in their imagination and building it. Fantasy was always only a reality waiting to be switched on.

© Red Lace 2018


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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/06/23/nos4r2-by-joe-hill
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-05-22 17:13
Erinyes by George Saoulidis (2016 Review)
Erinyes - George Saoulidis

Erinyes by George Saoulidis
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Egotistical Mahi is beyond ecstatic when she's presented with a new phone by her father; it's top of the line and a new model, one that offers tech never yet seen before. However unbeknownst to the selfie-loving youth, there's more to the phone than meets the eye.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to George Saoulidis for giving me the opportunity!

Initially the synopsis caught my eye when I was first directed to this novella; it sounded like just what I wanted at the time - a creepy tale, something to pull me in and keep me entertained. In this case, it was of a frightening Greek deity stalking her victim through phone selfies (of all things, but why not?), perhaps even escalating to increasingly terrifying events, or at least that's what I expected. I was optimistic, very much so, however the execution proved less than thrilling and failed to induce the desired effects; irritation rather than fear, boredom rather than interest. I'm being brutally honest here, in that I didn't consider it a finished work, but rather a draft piece that could've been largely improved upon.

Indeed technology has become a very significant aspect of life, and I'm sure it'll continue to evolve and play a major role in everything we do, but due to the main characters obsessive and downright unhealthy attitude toward social media, I found it difficult to read her narrative. I even questioned; are the adolescents of today really like this, or is this merely an exaggeration? Do underage girls continuously post pictures of themselves for the attention of older men, and depend upon "likes" for their happiness?

It's sad, because I know the answer. All I have to do is take a look at Facebook, or some other similar website.

Mahi was such a dislikeable person. Utterly childish, painfully narcissistic and ridiculously naive, I didn't come to care for her at all. I'm all for teenagers as main protagonists, but when they're portrayed in such a way that makes me want to gouge my eyes out, then I know there's very little that can save the book in terms of my enjoyment. As for the few other characters (her two friends, mostly), they left little impression and ultimately added very little overall.

I feel that with some proper editing and development upon the storytelling, then perhaps this could've been a decent read. As it was, it lacked the build-up of tension and anything remotely eerie. The plot and ending could've been more fleshed out; the ending itself was abrupt and offered no closure. I can't say, even if I had of liked the story, that I would've been satisfied with the conclusion. No questions were answered (what did the phone have to do with anything?), and all in all, it was disappointing.

In conclusion: Like many indie works I read these days, it suffers from grammatical errors and has an unfinished feel to it. I deeply disliked the main character and I feel she had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It could've been improved greatly with a little TLC, but otherwise I consider this not my type of book.

© Red Lace 2016

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/05/22/erinyes-by-george-saoulidis-2016-review
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-05-19 21:32
Needful Things by Stephen King
Needful Things - Stephen King

Needful Things by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's a new store opening in Castle Rock, and the whole town has noticed its special green awning. Questions arise as to what it will sell, and whom exactly the proprietor is, but nobody ever expected the severity in discovering such simple things. Treasures that appear otherworldly in their perfection start to become prized possessions, soon enough causing disarray in the town's day to day activity. There's something too good to be true about Needful Things.

(WARNING: This reviews contains minor spoilers.)

Whilst it felt like this one took me far too long to finish, I really shouldn't forget that at nearly a thousand pages, it's one of the longest books I've picked up in years. Being a relatively slow reader in general, the weeks seemed to fly by as I continued to be in thrall of Leland Gaunt's brilliantly wicked schemes, thus it was approximately one month before I reached the end. I admit, such lengthy novels can be intimidating to me, whereupon I feel I'm not making much progress, but I found myself very much intrigued by King's use of development; rather than everything happening all at once, a considerable amount of time was taken to form an almost intimate relationship between character and reader. I do admit that despite this intention and my enjoyment for the majority of the time, my interest dropped now and again by a slight margin with all the backstory and slow trudge toward climax. There was just so much, and sometimes I had to place the book down and have a break.

I feel like in the past, I dismissed King's work as I considered it largely not my style, however, after several years of my tastes morphing and expanding, I believe I can finally appreciate his format of storytelling. He has a very precise way of writing, and it truthfully jarred me at first, but it really does work within the setting he creates. Of course, this is strictly a personal matter, but one I wanted to briefly touch upon.

The plot of this beast of a book deals a lot with obsession and greed over material objects - something we have all experienced in our lives. Materialism in general is a huge part of humanity, and Leland Gaunt was able to immensely exploit and amplify the deepest desire of each victim, going so far as to greatly influence their every paranoid little thought. He was a truly an excellent villain; one of the best as far as I'm concerned. He implemented himself into people's lives, and quickly became integral; as far as they were aware, he took their best interests at heart. It was his expertly woven manipulation, as well as his cool demeanour, that struck me as quite fascinating. Whether he was a demon, a dragon, or the devil himself, I won't soon forget how much he impressed me.

At times I found myself confused over the abundant cast of characters, but soon enough they all had their own particular and memorable differences. The two that drew me in the most, gaining my favouritism and attachment, was Polly and Alan. They were both painfully realistic in their emotional and physical ailments. I wished time and time again for them to survive the horrific events Gaunt set in motion, and most of all, for them to remain together. With so many diverse personalities, I experienced a range of reactions, from laughter to pity and much of everything in-between. You see, there's definite comedic value with such a man as Buster, and a sense of tragedy with someone like Brian - all in all King was able to bring their unique situations to life.

In conclusion - I'm glad I plucked up the courage to read this. I'd describe it as a slow burn, leading to an explosive finale. The evil mastermind behind the whole thing, Leland Gaunt, had to be the highlight; at first subtle in his transgressions, but then going all out on the poor citizens of Castle Rock.

Notable Scene:

The two women lay draped over each other like lovers, their blood painting the cinnamon-colored leaves in the gutter.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/05/19/needful-things-by-stephen-king
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-04-12 04:10
Violet Eyes by John Everson
Violet Eyes - John Everson

Violet Eyes by John Everson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fresh start was the plan, but for Rachel and her son, Eric, the quiet town near the Everglades proves to be anything but suitable. The news reports of an unknown breed of fly, migrating through the area, but when said species of fly begins to attack people in swarms, things only seem to get progressively worse from there. Black spiders with violet slashes across their backs, appear from seemingly nowhere, making their presence known as they start to take over.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

Who isn't afraid of spiders? Well, me actually, but the way in which arachnids were presented here was no doubt alarming. Instead of the eight-legged critters that want nothing more than to live human-free lives, were abominations hungry for the warmth of living (and dead) flesh. And flesh they got, copious amounts of it, from animals to humans of all ages; everything that breathed appeared to be fair game. The very life cycle of these unnatural creatures made my skin crawl; a bizarre rotation of fly and spider, with bites that could implant eggs, as well as paralysing venom. The greatest and worst biological weapon, their only instinct to wipe out life. Whilst Everson did a good job in capturing the nastiness of their sudden invasion, I found myself wishing the focus back upon Rachel and Eric, as I felt more committed to them in the long run. Most of the other characters introduced had only one sole purpose, and that was to die in the most horrific ways possible, each instance trying to outdo the last. This served as brief entertainment, but as I said, I'd would've preferred more time with the main protagonists.

Let's get into the little irksome details throughout that I just couldn't ignore. For starters, it struck me as unrealistic that almost everyone talked to themselves. This may seem like a nit-picky, largely irrelevant complaint, but it actually affected my immersion. I've no issue whatsoever with inner dialogue; it's something we all do, but to outright speak, out loud, in conversation to ourselves? No, not everyone does that, and it gives the impression that it's for the benefit of the reader - that they're not talking to themselves, but to us. It's a highly personal opinion, of course, and one I had to mention, for my own peace of mind.

The next thing's story related and it involves what you might consider a spoiler, so heed the warning at the beginning. Whilst the incursion spread throughout town, with reports of hostile swarms of flies biting people and houses covered from roof to ground in webbing, Rachel didn't think to leave town? I didn't understand, that for the safety of her child, why it didn't occur to her that it just might not be safe. Again, it brought distraction through its impracticality. I prefer rational thinking that brings the person on the page to life - I very much dislike questionable events that only seem plausible to serve the plot.

Obvious issues aside, I did like the primary characters. I found Rachel's determination to live independently, free from her abusive ex, to be respectful. It was nice that she found romance in someone far better than Anders, of whom was composed in a way that did him absolutely no favours. I couldn't much care for his death - it appeared to be an attempt at redemption, which failed as far as I was concerned. I have to say, I was expecting the ending, but when it came I felt a twinge of sadness. I do appreciate when what I read induces emotion, so I was pleasantly surprised in that regard.

In conclusion: I'm sticking with three stars, however I very nearly settled on two. The spider aspect I enjoyed, but some things (other than the spiders) got under my skin. I just couldn't overlook them.

Notable Quote:

The best things in life were usually killed by ignorance, ambivalence, age, wisdom and sometimes, outright malevolence. Whatever the reasons, the things you loved most always seemed to die long before you were ready to let them go.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/04/12/violet-eyes-by-john-everson
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