November 26, 2017

Dawn Kurtagich: "The Creeper Man"

Title: The Creeper Man (UK edition) [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
   And the Trees Crept In (US edition) [on Amazon | on Goodreads*]
[*Friendly advice: beware the And the Trees Crept In pages on Amazon and Goodreads though. They will tell you THE WHOLE STORY, twist included...]
Series: None
Author: Dawn Kurtagich [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: SPOILER - click on the Spoiler button below if you want to know, since revealing the genre(s) would ruin your reading experience...If you want to go into the book without knowing anything vital about it, I recommend you not to read the Labels at the end of my review either. No need to worry though - the review itself will be spoiler-free...
Year: 2016
Age: 14+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Baffling, deliciously disturbing (apart from the snake-in-the-toilet incident 😖), based on an interesting premise that it's only revealed at the end.
Cons: The story itself, the lack of answers (not to mention questions) and the romance are very frustrating at times, and only make sense when you get to the final reveal (well, the romance not so much).
WARNING! Horror and gore. Domestic abuse.
Will appeal to: Fans of unreliable narrators and claustrophobic, haunted setting.

Blurb: When Silla and her little sister, Nori, escape London and their abusive father, Aunt Cath's country house feels like a safe haven. But slowly, ever so slowly, things begin to unravel. Aunt Cath locks herself in the attic and spends day and night pacing; every day the surrounding forest inches slowly towards the house; a mysterious boy appears from the enclosing wood offering friendship, and Nori claims that a man watches them from the dark forest. A man with no eyes who creeps ever closer. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: This one will be a challenge for me. I have so many feelings about this book, and every one of them might trigger a spoiler. Then again, we don't want spoilers, do we? So I will employ all my best tricks in order to avoid them 😉. Or better, I will use my magic spoiler button that you can hit in case you've read TCM already, or you don't plan on reading it. Because I need to take a few thing off my chest, and I would be a happy bunny if you felt like discussing this book with me (in that case, please be a darling and mark your comment as SPOILER - thank you!). And now, onto the actual review...

LAND OF CONFUSION

The Creeper Man is Dawn Kurtagich's second book, and you can easily see a pattern here: she's clearly a fan of creepy houses, stories told via multiple media (especially diaries) and unreliable narrators. But while those all worked for me in The Dead House, I found The Creeper Man frustrating in more than a way. Everything came together in the end, sort of - but though I'm a firm believer in rereading books in order to appreciate them more (and this causes me to up my first tentative ratings sometimes), they still have to make sense while I'm reading them...not only after the grand final reveal. For a while, I was filing all the weird occurrences or the things that didn't add up under "your average creepy stuff that will fall into place at some point"...until Aunt Cath locked herself in the attic. That was the novel's turning point, after which I started getting frustrated by the chapter, and even if I was still enjoying the horror aspect of the story and the mystery behind it, I couldn't believe how everyone was carrying on. [...]

November 19, 2017

Offbeat YA: Behind-the-Scenes Footage

Hi beautiful creatures!

Just a quick post to let you know what I'm up to these days, since it may look like I'm on a hiatus or something...but the truth is, I'm working backstage 😉. So come into my lair and see what I'm plotting...

November 11, 2017

James Wymore: "The Last Key" (ARC Review)

Title: The Last Key [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Actuator (book 4 of 4)
Author: James Wymore [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Year: 2017
Age: It's marketed as an adult book, but it can be read by teens, though a bit heavy on horror/gore
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Creative premise. Breathless adventure, though there's a time for reflection as well. Poignant ending. Female characters finally get more screen time and weight.
Cons: As with the rest of the series, the premise is somehow better than the execution - there's more telling than showing, and the storyline is a bit too hectic sometimes. Some editing issues (among them, a character changing name midbook*).
(*Edit: after posting my review, I was told the issue would be fixed prior to pub date).
Will appeal to: Alternate realities enthusiasts. RPG fans. Readers who get bored easily.

Blurb: The Actuator, a machine capable of literally changing reality, was created to make a utopian paradise. Before it happened, a saboteur used it to transform the world into patches of every kind of genre fiction, scattering the keys necessary to put it back across the globe. Everyone alive found their lives radically altered, some living in fantasy realms with real magic and others in incomprehensible horrors. Thrown into chaos, people struggled against aliens, pirates, orcs, and vampires. Many died. Only a handful of people on the planet, called Machine Monks, even knew why it happened or how. Now they have to put it all back before humanity is destroyed. Even if they could get all the keys, the small group opposing the tyrant don’t know what to do when they get to the final one - a key they’ve never seen before. If they don’t find the answers fast, the world will be lost. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased. And all the books I received from them were generously sent with no strings attached.

OUT WITH A BANG

It's kind of funny, you know. I went into this last installment expecting it to follow the same pattern of the previous ones, and in a way it did - lots of jumping around the world in a teleporter, epic fights, interior moral dilemmas. But I was pleasantly surprised by a few tweaks that made this book stand out - and not only because duh, it gives us closure. Here are the things I didn't expect:
  • The Actuator finally becomes its own character, what with everyone wondering if it might have turned into something more than a supercomputer that feeds on thoughts and ideas, and have developed a coscience of sorts - and if that's the case, is its conscience good or bad? does it have plans for the world? can it be reasoned with? and, last but not least...does it have a gender? Of course, the living computer is far from being a new concept, but Wymore puts a spin on it. I should probably have seen it coming...but I didn't.
  • Time travel is introduced! Though it has a few limits and can't ultimately save the day, but it would have been a cop out if it did, so I'm happy about that.
  • The female Machine Monks get more space and finally kick ass 😀. [...]

November 05, 2017

C.W. Snyder: "Child of Nod" (ARC Review)

Title: Child of Nod [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Balance (1st of 3 books)
Author: C.W. Snyder [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Fantasy, Mythology
Year: 2017
Age: 14+ (it's marketed as NA, but since I don't have a NA section on my blog, I shelved it as YA. However, it's a complex and dark fable that will appeal to adults as well)
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Imaginative, multilayered tale weaving lots of literary and mythological references into a fresh story. Evocative prose.
Cons: All the different characters and their stories - and Nod's many facets - might not come together smoothly until a second read.
WARNING! Contains elements of horror and gore.
Will appeal to: Both the young and the adult reader seeking a strong, dark-but-poetic example of revisited and enhanced tropes.

Blurb: Alice wakes one day to find herself on the other side of death, in the corrupted fairy tale land of Nod. Unknown to her, the man responsible for her death, Jack, is on a mission to find her spirit and end her second life. Along the way, Alice meets a cast of characters that include a madman with a dark secret, her faithful companion, Dog, and woman made of memory. Together, they help her on her journey as she uncovers the truth of Nod and the woman behind it all, the Red Queen. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review:  First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this book from Curiosity Quills in exchange for an honest review. To be more precise, I specifically requested a review copy. That didn't affect my opinion and rating in any way. All the books I've received from CQ so far have come with no strings attached, and it's always a pleasure for me to work with them and discover more (sometimes underrated) gems.

BLOOD SUGAR DEATH MAGIK

Afterlife books are my biggest weakness, as this post testifies. But CON is so much more than that. Building on a classic prompt - Lewis Carroll's Alice slipping into the alternate world of Wonderland - C.W. Snyder spins a dark, yet poetic tale about loss, pain, fear, courage, loyalty, violence and purity of heart. Alice - our Alice - travels in a rich, imaginative version of the afterlife, pursued by an unknown enemy and aided by a bunch of sometimes suspicious, sometimes charming, always quirky characters. This afterlife has lost its Balance and has been partly turned into a wasteland since the Red Queen was born; for reasons we are to uncover through the story, Alice is the only one who can fight the Queen and restore the Balance. It's a classic Chosen One story, except it's not, since Alice's peculiarity is rooted in facts, not in random gifts granted by a superior entity. And though, while traveling through Nod, she does pick up information and abilities that will be needed for the final showdown, she still manages to retain her humanity and a sense of wonder. [...]