Review: Strange Weather by Joe Hill

Strange Weather by Joe Hill

A brilliant collection of four short novels. This is the first book by Joe Hill I’ve read from start to finish but it’s definitely persuaded me to try some of his longer books. I did enjoy some stories more than others but all were incredibly well done. The shorter format, while frustrating at times (I didn’t want a couple of the stories to end), was used to it’s fullest effect by Hill who somehow managed to pack in a lot of action, well rounded characters and some truly memorable moments.

It’s a bit difficult to rate it as one book so instead I’m going to do some little mini reviews for each of the four stories.


Snapshot – 3.5 stars

This story while not my favorite of the collection turned out to be a strangely emotional read (yes I cried). It’s set in the 1980’s and follows a lonely overweight teenage boy who has a run in with “The Phoenician” a tattooed thug with a polaroid camera that erases memories snap by snap. I think if you know someone who’s been affected by dementia you’ll know how terrible losing your memories can be for both them and their loved ones. This really got to me in a few places as the portrayal of a certain character who’s losing what makes them them was just so real and so sad. As well as being sad this does have it’s creepy and edge of the seat moments. I did however find it a little bit slow in places and I wasn’t keen on the way the story was told from the pov of the boy some 30 years in the future. This is just a personal preference thing though.


Loaded – 4 stars

Despite being written some time ago this story about a mall security guard who courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero seems particularly relevant at the moment. All is not however as it’s being presented as one journalist finds out. This jumps around a little in terms of points of view and time which I struggled with a little particularly at the start but it’s very powerful at times and asks some big questions about racial profiling and gun control. The ending in particular is literally breathtaking.


Aloft – 5 stars

This story of a young man undertaking his first parachute jump only to land on something other than the ground was by far my favorite story in the collection. There was something about it that just instantly drew me in and there was something incredibly likable about main character Aubrey. It was just such an gripping story as Aubrey tries to figure out just what he’s landed on and how he’s going to get out of the predicament he finds himself in.

I loved how we got an instant sense of who Aubrey was and also how the author worked in little flashbacks to tell us how he got to that point and the realizations that he reaches about his life. Plot wise it’s completely unbelievable but Hill makes it seem completely real. My only gripe with this one is that it ended. I want to know so badly what happens next.


Rain – 4.5 stars

This apocalyptic story is the most horrific of the collection but is just sooo good. I find it unbelievable that the author managed to cram so much into so few pages. We have the apocalypse itself in the form of a rain of nails which instantly wipes out large swathes of the population, a bit of semi convincing science behind it, a harrowing journey, a bit of a dig at the current government (and the human race in general) but best of all some great characterization. There are a lot of characters in this one but each and every one of them left some kind of impression, mostly good but more than a few bad. All however felt real despite yet again the unreality of the situation they find themselves in. I did feel the ending was a little bit sudden (hence my knocking off half a point) but otherwise a really enjoyable read.


Overall therefore this is a great collection and if like me you haven’t really read any books by the author a great introduction.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

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Saturday Night at the Movies: 5 Great British Horror Films

I  know, book blog but Halloween is fast approaching and I am a BIG fan of horror movies so I couldn’t resist doing a post on some of my favorites. This, the first of two posts (I couldn’t limit myself to one), is all about British horror films.

I’m very possibly biased but I truly think that Britain has produced some of the best ever horror films. They do tend to be a little low budget but they definitely make up for it with good story lines and brilliant dialogue. There are a lot of great films but I think these are my favorites.


5. Dog Soldiers (2002)

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What’s it about – A group of soldiers versus a pack of werewolves in the Scottish wilderness.

Why I love it – There don’t seem to be many werewolf movies so that’s a big plus and this one while being pretty low budget is really well made. There are a few twists that I didn’t expect, great acting, a decent script and I really liked the military aspects. The werewolves themselves are kind of funny looking, it is low budget after all, but still very watchable.

Fear Factor – It has it’s moments but it’s difficult to take the werewolves seriously when they are so comical looking.


4. The Descent

Image result for the descent

What’s it about – A group of friends decide to go and explore some caves, but they’re not the only ones down there.

Why I love it – It’s dark, it’s claustrophobic, the things in the cave are properly scary and it’s very, very violent. The best thing though is that it’s really a survival story and it is brilliant to watch how each of them react to the situation, firstly when they realize they’re stuck in the caves and then when they realize they’re not alone. Some are all about the team work and others mean to survive by any means possible.

Fear Factor – Pretty high although that could be just me as I’m a little bit claustrophobic and you would never catch me down in those caves in the first place. There’s a lot of shocks, sudden violence and will definitely have you watching from between your fingers.


3. 28 Days Later (2002)

Image result for 28 days later

What’s it about – Zombies!!!! Kind of like the Walking Dead, bloke wakes up in hospital in London to discover most of the population has been infected with a virus.

Why I love it – Zombies!!!! I love a zombie film, they are the absolute best movie monster because they have literally no feelings, no conscience and no sense of self preservation. Also the scene where he initially wakes and is literally the only person on the streets of London is stunning.

Fear Factor – There are quite a few shocks and scares but it’s probably more gory than terrifying.


2. Severence (2006)

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Severance (#6 of 7)

What’s it about – A group of sales executives on a corporate retreat in Eastern Europe somehow end up at the wrong cabin, the very wrong cabin.

Why I love it – There is a lot of bad language, nudity, sexual references, drug use and over the top violence but it’s hilarious. The humor is definitely dark but it just makes me giggle. Danny Dyer is fantastic in the lead but the other characters are also perfectly cast. There are quite a few who remind me of aspects of my co workers and I love all of the little resentments between them.

Fear Factor – Yeah, there are a few bits that will make you jump and it’s a little bit creepy in places but this is much more about the humor and the violence.


1. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

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What’s it about – A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.

Why I love it – Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Do I need to say anything else? OK, I love the humor and just how long it takes the pair of them to realize the world is being taken over by zombies. It definitely makes a very valid point about how we kind of sleepwalk through life not paying attention to the things going on around us. Although I would hope I would notice the end of the world. I also love just how crap their plan is. I’m fairly positive that should there ever be a zombie apocalypse I will probably be the first to go.

Fear Factor – It describes itself as a RomZomCom so pretty low. There is the odd creepy moment and quite a bit of blood and gore but it’s more funny than scary.


So that’s my five favorite British horror movies. Have you watched any of them? What did you think? Are there any you think should be included in this list or that you would recommend?

 

ARC Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

There's Someone Inside Your HouseThere’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn’t quite the scary horror story I was hoping for but it’s definitely an enjoyable read.

There’s lots of diversity, a very sweet romance and just enough action and mystery to keep you reading till the very end. It may not wholly work as a horror story but there are plenty of other things that make it a worthwhile read.


The Blurb

Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.


Review

I have to confess I had my doubts when Perkins announced that she was writing a horror story. She’s my go to author for light and fluffy contemporary romance, so how could she possibly switch over to dark and scary horror. It was going to be either brilliant or terrible.

Having now devoured it in more or less one sitting, I would say it probably falls somewhere in between. There are more than a few problems with the horror side of the story (so it’s not brilliant) but there is a lot to love about it which goes some way to make up for any shortcomings. There is plenty of diversity, our main character is a POC with a friend who is trans, there are wonderfully real family relationships and none of the characters are perfect.

Main character Makani possibly wasn’t the most likeable character in the beginning but she did grow on me through the story. The romantic interest is probably not making my book boyfriend list but there is something kinda sweet (and also mysterious) about him, and the other characters, while not being particularly well fleshed out, are very believable and after only a few pages you get a real sense of them.

The story itself is very Scream-esque, beginning with the brutal murder of a girl from their school, followed by more sudden and seemingly unconnected slayings of their fellow students. Speculation over who the killer could be is rife and with no pattern in the victims anyone could be next. It’s classic horror and is absolutely packed full of all of the horror tropes and themes, something I absolutely loved.

Unfortunately however it lacks the tension and sense of danger to make it a really scary read. The characters who are bumped off are for the most part pretty minor so it’s difficult to care about them, Makani spends most of her time obsessing over a boy (there’s a LOT of kissing) and worrying the dark secret from her past is going to come out and the killings are a little ridiculous at times. I also think too much is revealed too soon and some of the characters motivations and secrets just don’t make sense or aren’t properly fleshed out. 

Despite these problems however, I did find it quite an addictive and enjoyable read, although I have to confess that was probably more for the romance than anything else.

It is a book that seems to be getting some very mixed reviews at the moment but I would recommend you give it a go, and if horror is not your thing I promise, it’s not that scary.

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Is this a face that would lie?

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Review: Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

Charlotte Says (Red Eye)Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Those creepy little dolls are back and they’ve got some new games they want to play.

This, the prequel to the wonderfully chilling Frozen Charlotte, is just as good if not better. The Edwardian setting really brings something to the story and it’s packed with all of the best horror tropes to keep you reading late into the night (with all of the lights on of course).

(Note: While this is the second book in a series there’s very little overlap so no spoilers in the review or syposis)


Synopsis

Following the death of her mother in a terrible fire, Jemima flees to the remote Isle of Skye, to take up a job at a school for girls. There she finds herself tormented by the mystery of what really happened that night.

Then Jemima receives a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls from a mystery sender and she begins to remember – a séance with the dolls, a violent argument with her step-father and the inferno that destroyed their home. And when it seems that the dolls are triggering a series of accidents at the school, Jemima realizes she must stop the demonic spirits possessing the dolls – whatever it takes.


My Review

I’m always on the lookout for a creepy horror story but despite someone recommending Frozen Charlotte to me ages ago it was only after I was approved for an ARC of Charlotte Says that I finally got around to reading it and I’m so sorry I didn’t pick it up sooner. That book is seriously creepy and I literally couldn’t put it down.

Needless to say as soon as I finished it I couldn’t resist getting stuck in to prequel Charlotte Says and do you know what, I think it might be even better. I don’t know whether it was just that by reading them back to back I was more into the author’s writing style or if it was the change in time period that worked better but, while this had possibly fewer chills (I knew what to expect so was prepared), the writing just seemed so much better. There was less bluntness to it and consequently it seemed less forced and more natural, drawing me into the story completely.

It’s predominantly set in a girl’s boarding school in 1910, so we have a much wider cast of characters but there is still this very real sense of isolation and remoteness which brings a chilling atmosphere to the story.

The story is told from the point of view of Jemima Black, a wonderfully complex character who makes for some fascinating reading. She comes across as weak and subservient a lot of the time but there’s a real strength, determination and slight deviousness within her which, combined with the mystery of her past, make her very unpredictable. From the very beginning when she wakes from a nightmare of fire and blood to arrive alone at the boarding school to take up her post you know there is something dark in her past.

Some of the other characters do feel a little bit stereotyped, there’s the tyrannical head teacher, the pretty but mean maid, a pupil who sees things no one else does (and no one believes) and the love interest who’s too good to be true but these are part of what makes it such an enjoyable (and creepy) read.

For those who have read Frozen Charlotte you will know pretty much what to expect when the dolls arrive at the school, strange noises in the middle of the night, odd behavior, violence and death and some of the events of this story are uncovered in the previous book but there are still some surprises and twists in store.

I do feel like I should add a little warning here that as you would expect from a horror there are some violent scenes and abuse. Some of the descriptions are pretty graphic, particularly around violence towards animals (I don’t consider myself to be squeamish and I found a couple of scenes difficult). It might be better avoided if this is likely to be a trigger (or go read Frozen Charlotte which isn’t quite as bad)

You can get away with reading this if you haven’t read Frozen Charlotte as while there is some overlap between the two stories they are set in completely different time periods with minimal crossover. I would still recommend Frozen Charlotte first though as Charlotte Says explains away a lot of the mystery (and it’s a great read too).

Overall a wonderfully creepy read and definitely one I’d recommend if you’re a fan of the genre and not too squeamish.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all thoughts are my own.

Review: The Devil’s Colony by Bill Schweigart

The Devil's ColonyThe Devil’s Colony by Bill Schweigart

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Bigger, better (maybe?) and even more gruesome (definitely), the third and final book in Bill Schweigart’s Fatal Folklore Trilogy is a brilliant conclusion to what has become one of my favorite horror series. I’m really going to miss Ben and Lindsay but I honestly don’t know how Schweigart could possibly top that.

Note: as this is the third book in the series this review contains spoilers for the previous stories. If you haven’t read them go get them now (honestly they are a bargain) or go read my review of the first book The Beast of Barcroft here.


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Book Review: Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

SweetpeaSweetpea by C.J. Skuse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Liked this a lot. It’s a cross between Bridget Jones Diary and Dexter. Hilariously funny at one moment and rather gruesome the next. I am slightly concerned with how often I agreed with main character Rhiannon’s thoughts but so far I haven’t actually killed anyone so I’m not quite at psychopath yet.

Definitely a story I’d recommend to anyone with a black sense of humor.

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Book Review: The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the GiftsThe Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Warning: mild spoilers after the synopsis

This is one of those books that I saw a lot of hype around but for some reason didn’t really know what it was about. A quick read of the synopsis doesn’t give much away but I thought what the heck I’ll add it to the TBR and get to it eventually. Now I’m asking myself why on earth did I wait so long.

This book is incredible and in my opinion deserves all of the hype and the praise around it. The author creates such a real and vivid world and characters that you feel like you’re there with them. It’s a beautiful, gruesome, gripping and absolutely heartbreaking story and like nothing I expected it to be. If you haven’t read it you need to right now (mostly so I have someone to rave over it with).


Synopsis (from GoodReads)

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

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