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Let's Talk About Books

An out of practice reader discussing the books I get around to reading. 

SPOILER ALERT!

Spooky Scary Skeletons

Ararat: A Novel - Christopher Golden

All right. Home and I have a nice glass of Yellowtail Wine so let's get going!

 

In Ararat, an earthquake reveals the Turkish mountain to be the resting place of Noah's Ark. Of course the archeological world is fascinated and chomping at the bit to study it. As they investigate, though, they find a sarcophagus with a decidedly not human corpse inside. Paranoia and fear start to spread like a virus. Then the murders start...

 

As I mentioned earlier, I really liked this book. I find biblical history fascinating and this take on the Great Flood was ridiculously interesting to me. It's an original concept that I haven't seen done before, investigating why Noah's Ark may have been remained hidden, what the flood was really meant to wash away, etc. Great premise and for the most part, great investigation. The elements of fear were lovely and I had a lot of fun reading it. 

 

One thing I particularly liked was the way this book is similar to The Thing. Spoilers, the demon can body hop and it's very similar to The Thing, right down to body horror-esque face ripping. The John Carpenter classic is one of my favorites so it did help me enjoy the book a lot more than I may have otherwise. I do wish Golden had played on the themes of paranoia and Man v Nature more, the story still embodied those themes enough for it to be enjoyable. 

 

Also, the ending. Amazing. The last line in particular is one of my favorites in a book ever. It wasn't super poetic or anything, it just had a punch to it that I loved. 

 

There are three reasons why I gave this 4 stars instead of 5: the pacing, the characters, and a lack of originality. Let's start with the middle one . Overall, I found the characters kinda meh. There were too many, in my opinion, so I wasn't able to really form a connection to any. That said, I did really like Walker's squad and Adam. Still, in horror I think it's really important that you make at least one really loveable character for the reader, or else it won't be as scary. 

 

In regards to the pacing, there was something just kind of off about it. I would never say the book was boring, but there were many places where that wasn't a ton actually happening, mainly characters reflecting on their lives/relationships or archeology work. Then things got super actiony super fast and it had an odd beat about it. It wasn't enough to keep me from continuing to read, but I could definitely feel the off pace. 

 

Lastly, it felt like Golden took the easy way out. This book is original in it's concept. I stand by that. But, the concept in action became kinda standard demon horror. I was expecting the demon to be like manipulating the people into worshipping/sacrificing it, or that they'd flee deeper into the cave where things go even worse. Instead the demon just wanted to brutally mass murder them all, which is kind of demons are portrayed as doing traditionally. I feel like Golden missed an opportunity to follow up on an incredible set up and settled instead for standard survival plot. It went from The Thing to Predator and, while both are good, the latter is kinda the standard angle. So it was a little disappointing on that front. 

 

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Definitely recommend and would read again. Just a little underwhelming. 

 

Final thought: After reading the part about the nail gouges in the door, the kittens started clawing at the door and spooked me. 

Ararat: A Novel - Christopher Golden

At work so no full length review until I get home. Overall though I liked it. Wasn't amazed by it but I liked it. Excited to discuss it once my shift ends. 24 minutes left to go. 

The Tux Kitties

I'm about halfway done with Ararat, so I figured I'd celebrate with pics of the fosters we got a few weeks ago I mentioned. No pics of Betty and Stratos since they're a little harder to get good ones of. Hopefully soon. 

 

This is Orko. He's kind of an ass but he's friendly at the same time. 

 

 

This one is Skeletor. He's a ridiculous cuddle bug and likes to sit on your shoulders and nuzzle your face. You can't tell in this picture, but he's very unusual looking. Like, he's built like a Sphinx. 

 

 

Last but not least, Teela. She's my mom's favorite, in part 'cause she looks like a foster we had a few years ago. She's also very sweet. 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 33 out of 448 pages.

Hex - Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Not sure how to feel about this one so far. The writing's a little clunky and I've gotten lost a few times. Still, there's a charm to it (pun kinda intended) that makes me want to keep reading. So we'll see. 

 

Separate note: Got 5 new fosters in addition to He-Man and She-Ra. They're Skeletor, Teela, Orko, Stratos, and Betty. They make it impossible to read but damn they're cute. Unfortunately no group photos yet. They wiggle around too much. 

I know there's a book by the same name, so I'm fairly confident this is an adaptation of said book. Just got it from the library too, which makes me pretty excited to read it.

His Name Is Justice

Hard Justice (Body Armor) - Lori Foster

Not gonna do one of my long, in depth reviews for this one 'cause really, I just read it for the giggles. 

 

I really enjoyed this one. Like I said, not normally into romance but when I do read them I prefer them overdramatic and silly. This one fit both the bills. So many points where I laughed and just HAD to text a line to my friends 'cause it was just so ridiculous. It's a decent plot, a cute story and a quick read. And, as a romance novel, it was delightfully steamy and romantic. 

 

That said, Lori Foster is not allowed to use the word "hard" every again. You could turn it into a drinking game how many times the word was said. 

 

This was such a fun read. A nice break from the more serious novels I've been reading. 4 out of 5 Stars. 

Reading progress update: I've read 88 out of 384 pages.

Hard Justice (Body Armor) - Lori Foster

I don't normally read romances but this one came through at work and I found it so delightfully funny that I had to read it. So far it's not disappointing. 

Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 320 pages.

Ararat: A Novel - Christopher Golden

I'm really excited for this one. The concept is fascinating and I think this will be a really fun ride! 

SPOILER ALERT!

The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out...

The Troop - Nick Cutter

Alternative name for this review: Fifty Shades of Fuck That, pardon my french. 

 

This book is the definition of horrifying. It pushed on literally one of my worst fears. Despite all that, I devoured it and that's really ironic considering the subject matter. 

 

In The Troop, Scout Troop 52 is taking it's annual camping trip to Falstaff Island. They're cut off from the mainland for a whole weekend with no cell phones or computers, only a radio for communication and the trust that a boat will come for them at the end of the adventure. Then The Hungry Man shows up, impossibly thin and carrying something within that will challenge every boy's worst nightmare. 

 

I loved this book. It was simply incredible. Part of it was how unique it really was. When I first read the premise I thought it was going to be a zombie-like situation. Which, I was fine and down for, but come on. Zombies are not the most unique thing in horror. Then I get worms and when I realized that my heart sank and sped up at the same time. Seriously, when was the last time a horror movie had worms that weren't exactly monsters, just animals? It was original, incredibly unique and that made it all the more horrifying. 

 

One of Cutter's greatest strengths is he knows how to create a suffocatingly ominous atmosphere. The kind that makes you read something super innocent and go, "Oh no." Like when Scoutmaster Tim wanted crackers. Or when Kent had the sip of scotch. Or just an article in a magazine written after the incident. It was nothing overt. Just a little sentence that immediately connected all the dots in your head and made you go, "Oh no." And made me not want to read on because I knew what was going to happen but I HAD to read on and see what was happening. It's like the worst (read: best) kind of horror because I was pushing myself into the situation further, despite the anxiety and terror it caused me. It's just so well done I'm floored. 

 

If I had to describe this book in one sentence, I would say Lord of the Flies meets Alien. There are so, so many threats to the boys' safety - the worms, surviving stranded on an island, fucking Shelley - that it creates sort of the perfect disaster. Best of all, it had a natural rhythm too it. At no point did it feel like, "Oh, things are fine, better throw this in to stir drama up". Every obstacle in the story had a place and a purpose and I really applaud Cutter for that because I have read survival stories in particular that don't do it as well. 

 

Along with being scary, this book is heartbreaking. You come to really know these boys and they're very complex characters. Sure, maybe they're little shits in the same way all teens are little shits but I loved them. I didn't want to see them suffer but it's horror so of course they have to suffer. That made it hard to read at a lot of points but the story is so intense and had me so sucked in that I had to read it.  Which really, I think that's a sign for a terrific book. 

 

Final rating: 5 out of 5. Won't read it again any time soon because it scared the bejesus out of me but I want to. I hunger for it, if you will. 

 

Final thought: Last time a book shook me up as much as this one, it was The Mist by Stephan King. Fog still makes me uneasy.

 

 

 

New Foster Kittens!

We have new foster kittens! 

 

This one is She-Ra. She is skittish but proud. 

 

And this is He-Man. He is a cuddle bug. 

 

 

They were feral when they were found so I like sitting in the kitten room and reading to help them get used to humans. They are excellent reading buddies. They don't eat books or get in the way while I'm trying to read. 

Reading progress update: I've read 110 out of 355 pages.

The Troop - Nick Cutter

Oh god, this book is my worst nightmare in the best possible way.

 

I'm having flashbacks to middle school when I would gleefully tell my mom what we learned about tapeworms while eating dinner.

Reading progress update: I've read 43 out of 355 pages.

The Troop - Nick Cutter

Thank you all for the well wishes on my interview! I think it went really well though I'll have to wait a few weeks to find out. 

 

This book is so eery. Kinda reminds me of the trailers for It Comes At Night, which I still need to see. 

Reading progress update: I've read 16 out of 355 pages.

The Troop - Nick Cutter

This one's good so far. Spooky. I have to go up to Denver for a job interview tomorrow (finger's crossed) so I think this book will be a fun way to spend my down time. 

SPOILER ALERT!

Just Keep Swimming

Pressure - Brian Keene

It's late and I'm sleepy so let's keep this brief, shall we?

 

In Pressure, the sea floor is falling apart and something has awakened. Something hungry. As diver and oceanographer Carrie Anderson tries to figure out what's going on, she must contend with a super predator from someone's nightmares, ex-boyfriends, sassy companions, and corrupt business conspiracies. All the while, she's got to be aware of something cold that's only growing colder. And hungrier.

 

I liked this one a lot. It was totally ridiculous and read like a B-movie but I appreciated it. The creature itself was fantastic and just thinking about it hunting the characters made me uneasy. There were many parts where, despite telling myself the famous last words of "just one more chapter", I wouldn't be able to stop reading because a) I had to know how Carrie escaped and b) I was too terrified to go to bed. The scares in this are great, especially if you're like me and are uneasy around open water and  giant monsters. This is the creature feature I've been craving for a while and I loved it. 

 

The characters were also terrific. I loved Carrie. I thought she was fun and enjoyed following her journey. I would have liked to have seen more of the conflict between her and her family play out and feel an opportunity was missed with that but overall she was satisfying. I adored Abhi. He was a great character, super humorous, and just a nice, light addition to the cast. The other characters were nice as well, if not a bit more shallow. I didn't mind too horribly though. The action was more than enough to keep me interested.

 

Major spoilers, so be aware.

 

The biggest issue with this book is that after part one, the story just becomes slow and about corporate espionage. I wanted to read the book because I wanted a good creature feature and I got that for the first hundred and fifty or so pages. Then Keene kills the creature off. I thought for sure it would pull a 90's Godzilla and come back or the eggs would hatch and there'd be a bunch of new baby monsters but no. Just even agents chasing after Carrie's crew. It was definitely a let down. Still interesting but not what I was wanting to read. The explanation for the source of the creatures was also underwhelming. The book felt like it needed to be another hundred pages OR just have ended after Carrie crashes the ship into one of the creatures. That would have been more satisfying. Ah well. 

 

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars. It's very good and fun, I'd read it again, but the second part is definitely underwhelming. 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Do You Believe In Ghosts?

Help for the Haunted - John Searles

This book was a nice follow up after The Demonologist since I started reading it right after I returned the latter. Not saying the characters were based off the Warrens but they were totally based off the Warrens. 

 

In Help for the Haunted, Sylvie Mason, the daughter of renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Sylvester and Rose Mason, is trying to make sense of the world after said parents are murdered in a church. Sylvie herself was almost killed that night, though her memories of the event are lacking. There are so many questions that must be answered, like why did her troubled sister call their parents to the church last night? Did Sylvie really see the father of one of her parents' clients that night or was she just telling the detectives what they wanted to hear? Trying to answer all these questions as well as coming to terms with her own beliefs, Sylvie finds herself facing all sorts of ghosts, both the paranormal and the mental kind. 

 

I really liked this one. It sucked me in and held a grip on me the whole read. It was emotionally difficult to read at times, simply because some of the people and things that happened to the characters was just so awful. Gillian Flynn reviewed this novel for a blurb and I believe that was appropriate. Help for the Haunted is very much in the same vein of Dark Places and Gone Girl. No punches are held when it comes to describing Sylvie's life and it made the book feel eerily realistic. I was so mad when I had to stop reading to get back to work. Fifteen minute breaks are not enough. 

 

For me, my favorite part of the book was Sylvie. I absolutely adored her. She wasn't exactly a reliable narrator, as you come to realize as the story moves along. The fact that she knew what really happened to Abigail (mostly) really surprised me and wasn't something I saw coming. Most of all I just found her endearing. She reminded me a lot of how I was in middle school, since I was concerned about being the "good" daughter too. It made me feel for her. 

 

The other characters were also very realistic, though I didn't always find them endearing. The parents felt a bit like caricatures at times, though they were dimensional. I hated Rose but thought she was a terrific character. It made sense why she was the way she was but that didn't mean I had to like it. I loved Dereck and wished he were in it more but ah well. 

 

There were only a few elements to the book I didn't care for. The non-linear story telling was confusing at first, going back and forth so much. It worked in the end but it made it difficult to get into the story. There were also times where the story became a little slow and I was more interested in my phone than the story. At times the characters were just 

 

I wouldn't really call this one a mystery. I mean, it's classified as one in the library and I think bookstores too, but it's not really mystery. There is A mystery, but the story is more about Sylvie and her question over her beliefs and her relationship with her family. Figuring out who killed the Masons really took a back seat to everything else. That said, the pieces all meshed together in the end and the resolution was satisfying and made sense. 

 

Final rating: 4.5 out of 5. I'd definitely read it again. Great, sad story. 

SPOILER ALERT!

The Grey Man Comes

Whispers in the Mist (A County Clare Mystery) - Lisa Alber

Finished it a day late of my deadline. Ah well. Still finished it before the due date, which is a relief. 

 

Whispers in the Mist is an Irish mystery taking place in County Clare. When a unknown boy ends up dead in a field, the members of the small village he's found in can't help but rumor that the Grey Man, a Slenderman like figure, is responsible. Detective Danny Ahern tries to solve a growing string of Grey Man murders, the key to which may be a mute girl who is also an outsider to the village. Things get dramatic, no one is quite what they seem, and the mystery just keeps growing. 

 

I have to admit, when I first started getting into the book, I was a little let down. I thought the Grey Man would have a really creepy presence. I wasn't expecting it to be a supernatural mystery necessarily, just creepy. Sort of like the Slenderman stabbing a few years ago. He didn't have much a presence at all, though. Aside from people calling the killer the Grey Man, the book hardly mentioned him. I feel like Alber missed out on an angle that could have been really fun.

 

That said, I really enjoyed this novel. It's one of the better mysteries I've read and my heart was hammering in my chest as I was finishing it. Alber was really skilled at dropping clues throughout to the point where I was able to connect them just enough to figure out a who-done-it, but not so much that everything was given away. Even with the clues I didn't completely guess right, which I appreciate. It really was a skilled mystery.

 

The characters themselves were okay. I didn't dislike Danny, the main character, but I wasn't too interested in him either. He was just a bit to angsty for my tastes. Merrit was also okay but she felt a little unnecessary, like the novel could have functioned mostly well without her. I absolutely loved Alan and Gemma though. Gemma especially was such a sweet, amazing character to me. I loved the descriptions of her anxiety since those felt so real to me. Her and Alan's relationship was absolutely adorable and I'm glad this book is part of a series so I can continue to see it bloom. 

 

The biggest drawback to this book is it had a slow start. Like, when I first started reading it I wasn't too into it. It just felt like a summary of village drama, more of a Desperate Housewives kinda thing than the mystery I expected. I almost gave up on it. I'm glad I didn't though because once you push through and the mystery heats up, it became really amazing. So stick with it if you choose to read it. Don't let the slow set up in the beginning keep you from finishing. 

 

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Little slow and misleading in the premise, but the payoff was well worth the build up. I'd read it again.