Horror

Book Review: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
Author: 
McBride, Lish
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I chose to read this book because it was featured on a list of horror books.
I wouldn't really call it horror but I really enjoyed reading it even if it wasn't what I expected. It's about a fast-food worker named Sam who lives in Seattle and is a necromancer, though he doesn't know it. There is another powerful necromancer in the area who wants to find and destroy Sam. I loved all of the characters, particularly Sam's sidekick Ramon and the evil necromancer Douglas. This book is a perfect balance of humor and dark fantasy and I aboslutely loved it. The only reason I give it 4 stars instead of 5 is because of the ending. So much was just left open and it left me unsatisfied and wanting more. That aside, however, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes horror and fantasy and is looking for a laugh. This is totally one of my favorite books!
Reviewer grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Lizzie W.

Book Review: Frankenstein

Frankenstein
Author: 
Shelley, Mary
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a book about the horrors of creating life. The book succeeds in developing most of the sidecharacters. You learn in depth about all of their pasts, and the story fits together well. The tragic plot line of the book shows how the decisions made by Frankenstein, the creator of the monster, comes back to haunt him. It almost becomes a game of cat and mouse when Frankenstein chases around his creation for revenge when really, the monster is haunting Frankenstein for his own revenge. Most of the book's themes include loneliness and rejection, and are explained well throughout the back stories of the characters. I feel that the book's only weak point is how the characters face their end. While the characters do indeed learn many life lessons, they never really accomplish anything. None of the characters have sentimental deaths, other than Frankenstein; the book just tells the reader that the character you have just grown attached to...well, dies. The book moves on from their deaths, and then the cycle repeats for the rest of the book. Overall, Frankenstein is a really good book, and I'd recommend it to people that like horror or mystery fiction.
Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Steven L.

Book Review: Frankenstein

Frankenstein: or, The modern Prometheus
Author: 
Shelley, Mary
Rating: 
1 star = Yuck!
Review: 

Frankenstein was a disappointment to me. As per the Romantic period, this novel used lots of scenes in nature to explain the characters’ emotional states. I do not mind a few good cries in a storm, but this novel borders on incessant outdoor melodrama. I decided to disregard both the plot and the setting in a vain attempt to enjoy the novel. I would only focus on the characters. As this was written by a female author, I looked forward to the female characters, which were awful. One, Justine, is a servant and seems only to exist in order to die. Elizabeth, who also seems to share this quality, is regarded as an object to be owned in a creepy incestuous manner by her cousin; she is apparently superior and virtuous only because of her noble birth. So, I dismissed the female characters to focus on the males, none of which were believable. Victor, his friend Henry, and his monster all were overly emotional, and they inspired no sympathy from me. With no likable characters and emotions running everywhere, I would only read Frankenstein if required.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: 
Caroline J.

Book Review: House of Furies

House of Furies
Author: 
Roux, Madeleine
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Louisa is on the run. Leaving the private boarding school she attended, and with no family to speak of, she plans to masquerade as a fortune teller in order to obtain enough money to leave Britain for America. After one fortune telling session goes awry, she finds herself at the mercy of an old crone who offers her a position as a scullery maid at a nearby mansion, Coldthistle. Louisa is excited to have employment, but after seeing strange, solid apparitions in the night, she learns that Coldthistle Manor is a house that attracts the most horrid of visitors, and that their punishment (death) is meted out by the employees of the house. She has to decide whether or not to stay and try protect new visitor and possible romantic interest Lee, or to resuscitate plan A and flee to the Americas.

I enjoyed this entertaining, gothic style horror story. Louisa, our protagonist, is fairly interesting, especially as you learn more about her upbringing and experiences with abuse at her boarding school. She doesn't lack a backbone, which is something I appreciate in a protagonist, especially in a Victorian setting. However, for this reader, Coldthistle and Mr. Morningside are the interesting parts, and as this book is the first in the series, we only scratched the surface of discovering more about them. The mythology of the peoples living in the house is revealed by short vignettes at the beginnings of some chapters, and those creature's appearances were illustrated by someone quite talented. The occasional chapter was also preceded by artwork - pictures have meaning in the book, and some chapters featured a creepy looking wall featuring random, old school looking pictures of things that were usually relevant to the next few chapters.

Some readers have complained that the pacing of the book is a bit slow at the start, but I did not find this to be the case as I was pretty instantly swept up in the mystery of Coldthistle. I will say that I didn't find the book to be especially scary, even after a few extremely gruesome murders, but it was definitely a bit creepy. The lack of scariness, for me anyway, was because despite the pictures and fabulous illustrations, I never really bought into the creepy, gothic atmosphere. The lack of chills notwithstanding, I enjoyed the characters, setting and new-to-me mythology enough to ultimately enjoy the book. I think that teens that read horror novels will find a lot to like here, and I'll be booktalking this one (in high schools, it really is quite gory) in the fall. 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Author: 
Grahame-Smith, Seth and Jane Austen
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Back in the zombie heyday of 2009, the idea of combining one of the most feminine pieces of literature with the oft masculine-marketed gory violence seemed like an interesting idea. I, for one, didn’t particularly care to read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice , but this take on the romantic classic certainly piqued my interest. Because of the addition of zombies to this plot, I was impelled to read this story to see how these drastically different archetypes were combined. I certainly wonder if the book would have been more enjoyable if I had read Pride and Prejudice beforehand, or if I would have remained far abreast of it altogether.

Partly due to the severe dichotomy of the original story and the zombie additions, there were certainly moments where I could tell what segments of Jane Austen’s plot were modified to fit the new, apocalyptic sensibilities.
The two concepts worked together somewhat, occasionally adding action to a scene that would have likely been boring in its predecessor, but in maintaining the story and outcomes of the original, the whole experiment didn’t quite “gel” as it could have. Perhaps the addition of the prequel and sequel to this book helps to round out these distinct edges, but I have yet to read those books yet.

When it comes right down to it, I struggled to get through this book. With the language and verbiage retaining is feel from the original, the archaic nature of the dialogue was not as easy to read as I would have hoped. In the end, I was practically just reading Pride and Prejudice, but occasionally “changing the channel” to a zombie film whenever anything became boring.
I applaud Seth Grahame-Smith for following through on this ambitious idea, but it almost seems like anyone could easily merge zombies to a romantic classic if they maintain the majority of the source material.

An intriguing idea that never quite fully “connects,” I give Pride and Prejudice and Zombies 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: Psycho

Psycho
Author: 
Bloch, Robert
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Once again, I find that the source material on which a famous movie is based is equally as good and equally as famous. What strikes me as interesting is that the quick turn on some of these literary masterpieces from page to screen has largely remained unchanged. Gone with the Wind only took three years before its film debut, The Martian took four years, and Psycho only took one. Clearly, these stories are practically screaming to be made into movies, and most have done quite well as the cultural icons of their age.

Of course, having already seen the film on which this book was based, I was well aware of the twist ending. Nevertheless, reading through this book was almost enhanced by this a priori knowledge as one would probably not have guessed the twist if they were reading it for the very first time. There are just little hints here and there that something is off, but it’s not until close to the end that we find out that everything is not as it initially seemed. Even the visuals provided in the film version helped to aid my imagination in establishing the setting and characters.

And yet, as there always is, there are some differences in the book that did not make it into the movie. I wonder if Norman Bates was made a lot slimmer in the film partly due to Hitchcock’s portly frame. In the book, his overweight body adds a layer to the character (both literally and metaphorically) which helps flesh out (Har har. OK, I’ll stop) more of the explanations as to why Bates ended up this way. Much like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, being able to get into the mind of Norman Bates was a fascinating examination of someone with a severe mental illness.

A fantastic read equally on par with the Hitchcock classic, I give Psycho 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions
Author: 
Gaiman, Neil
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

As someone who has to read many short story submissions for the anthology my writing group puts together each year, I can appreciate a well-written short story. I have not read much of Neil Gaiman, but in his collection of anthology short stories, Smoke and Mirrors, I was able to see what kinds of stories a professional writer writes for an anthology. While quite a few stories were interesting, not all of them were necessarily in genres I typically read. Then again, I consider erotica and stories submitted to Hustler as pornography, which is why I do not read these kinds of short stories.

Furthermore, it is a little more uncomfortable listening to erotica, as was the case with this audiobook. Fortunately, Gilbert Gottfried did not read it, but it still is uncomfortable to hear it nonetheless. Sure, the concepts in these short stories were somewhat interesting, but the sex ruined it for me. At least there were enough other stories that I found fascinating to make it worth my while to get all the way through it. The simplicity and genius of these ideas merely verify Gaiman’s writing talent, even if a few were hard to follow. At least a few of them followed the title of the book, which helped tie these separate stories together.

Perhaps my biggest qualm with this book was its structure. Moreover, maybe it was a limitation of a direct transferal to the audiobook format, but it is almost impossible to go back to the first section of the book and listen to the intro for each story before reading that story. Instead, it dispensed pertinent information on every short story before I even had a chance to get to them. If I were to appreciate each story fully, it would have been better to introduce each one with background information, so the context is fresh in the listener’s memory.

A collection of well-written short stories, I give Smoke and Mirrors 3.5 stars out of 5.

For more reviews of books and movies like this, please visit www.benjamin-m-weilert.com

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: Grand Guignol Orchestra Vol. 1

Grand Guignol Orchestra Vol. 1
Author: 
Yuki, Kaori
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Volume one of the Grand Guignol Orchestra was a wild ride. Set in a world where people have begun to be transformed into monstrously possessed doll creature called Guignols, the Unofficial Royal Orchestra travels to allegedly only bring relief to the remaining civilians by performing for them, but they do so much more. The story begins when the Orchestra comes to a town where there are no children besides the crippled young earl, the son of the man who hired the musicians.

I loved this manga because it was a taste of an idea renowned into something new. The character development was so slight, and yet I felt as if I'd known the Orchestra for years. There was an excellent balance of adventure, fear, and comedy implemented into the story, and the only reason I do not rate Grand Guignol Orchestra a 5/5 is because I've only gotten to experience one novel so far. This is an incredible manga for those wanting something frightening and tense, but desiring strong characters as well as a great story.

Reviewer's Name: 
Julia I. R. H.

Book Review: Swamp Thing: Volume 1, Raise Them Bones

Swamp Thing: Volume 1, Raise Them Bones
Author: 
Snyder, Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

"Swamp Thing: Volume One, Raise Them Bones" is the beginning of Scott Snyder (author) and Yanick Paquette (illustrator)’s visceral, mythic run on the comic, which I recommend heartily to fans of horror/grotesque gothic stories.

Detailing the eternal conflict between the Green (plant life), the Red (animal life) and the Rot that would consume and twist everything, Snyder’s interpretation of Swamp Thing is full of haunting imagery and interesting worldbuilding. Later on, the comic run is taken over by Charles Soule, who does a lovely (albeit very different) job carrying on the story.

For now, though – renowned botanist Alec Holland has been chosen by the Green to shed his humanity and become their knight. Will he go willingly? And what will become of him now that he’s been claimed, whatever he chooses to do?

Warnings:

-- This book is suited for older audiences, in my opinion, and definitely not children. The illustrations are often what one might call “graphic.” Be warned. It is something of a horror comic.
-- If you like this first volume and keep on with the series, just know that during the Rotworld arc, "Swamp Thing" crosses over with Jeff Lemire’s "Animal Man." It may behoove readers to pick up "Animal Man: Volume Three, Rotworld," at least, in order to get a complete look at the story. :)

Reviewer's Name: 
Kate

Book Review: Through the Woods

Through the Woods
Author: 
Carroll, Emily
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

“Through the Woods” by Emily Carroll is a comic book collection of whimsically morbid fairy-tales, each mostly self-contained but serving what I would call an important, human theme: the uncanny waits, and surrounds, especially where you wouldn’t expect it. I love the stark yet evocative art throughout this book, and some of the stories did manage to surprise me. I personally love testaments to the monsters under our beds, particularly those intended for adults, and if you do, too, you may carry something interesting away from this collection. At any rate, the art is gorgeous, feeling “classic” even as it’s so unique.

Reviewer's Name: 
Kate

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