Category: horror

Wilder Girls by Rory Power18 months ago, the T…

I loved this book.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

18 months ago, the Tox came to the Raxter School for Girls and infected everyone. Teachers died. Girls died and those that didn’t were changed– their bodies became horrors. The forest outside the school grounds is now unsafe, with Tox-infected wild beasts roaming. The island was put under quarantine and the school was locked down. A cure was promised, but has yet to arrive. Hetty is managing the Tox as best she can, with the help of her best friend Byatt and the third of their trio, Reese. But then Byatt goes missing and Hetty will do anything– anything– to find her and bring her back.

I found this book disturbing, gross, moving, thrilling, horrible… So many feelings! The devotion Hetty feels towards Byatt, the burgeoning relationship between Hetty and Reese that Byatt’s absence engenders, the web of secrets and betrayals that begins to unravel as Hetty starts pulling strings in her quest to get Byatt back. It’s all so breathtaking. I read the book in two days, eyes glued to my kindle, turning pages as quickly as I could. The book was powerful and extremely well plotted.

This is truly not a book for the squeamish, either emotionally or physically. Power describes the effect of the Tox in all it’s brutality and gore. But Power also delves into the realm of female friendships, exposing both the beautiful and the horrible. No one here suffers nobly, for the benefit of mankind. People make selfish, brutal choices that leave you the reader and the other characters reeling. And yet, there is sweetness and light in the book. The tenderness between Reese and Hetty, as they begin to explore their feelings for each other even as the world around them is crumbling is a wonder to behold. 5 stars.

You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno Review

Title: You Must Not Miss

Author: Katrina Leno

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Horror

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Katrina Leno is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve been following her work ever since she wrote The Half-Life of Molly Pierce. I’ve been curious about You Must Not Miss since before I came out, and I was finally able to snatch it at my local library. As soon as I was finished with Under the Moon, I dove into this novel, not really knowing what to expect. This book was like a crazy fever dream that reminded me of Stephen King’s early work, like Carrie and several of his creepy, fantastical short stories. I loved every dark, scary moment, and this book is one of my favorites of Leno’s work, even though the ending seemed a little forced. Nonetheless, Leno has penned a book of darkness, dreams, rage and revenge, and the monsters that hide within us all.

               Margaret ‘Magpie’ Lewis once had the perfect life. A great best friend, a loving family and home. But that all unravels when she accidentally walks in on her father and aunt having sex. Her family, as a result, falls apart. Her mother becomes an alcoholic, her older sister, Eryn, leaves, unable to cope with her mother’s neglectful behavior, and Magpie loses everything. She is labeled a slut and quickly becomes a social pariah. Friendless, alone, and desperate for revenge, she begins to write in a notebook of a mysterious, magical place called Near. But when Magpie discovers that Near is actually real, a dark reflection of her town of Farther that she alone can control, she begins to realize that revenge is indeed possible. But once her world continues to spin out of control, Magpie must decide whether to give in to the monsters inside of her, or to begin the journey back into the light…

               I really loved this book; it might be my favorite in Leno’s entire body of work. Her prose is signature, dreamy and sparse and not altogether real. It was a book practically written with a scalpel. It made me want to rage, scream, and howl; I will never, ever forget Magpie or the dark, cruel trail of violence she leaves in her wake. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound by Magpie’s story, as ugly and awful and monstrous as it was. The transitions were also good; I liked the way the book flowed between the past and present, explaining the before and after of Magpie’s life. I also adored the way that Leno portrayed her; the way that she was so unapologetically wrathful. I could understand why Magpie felt that horrible, awful need for revenge; some wounds just require retribution. I liked the way that the book was written; it felt as if I was caught up in a compelling but terrifying nightmare. The only thing that I didn’t like was that the end, and Magpie’s bloody revenge, seemed really forced. But nonetheless, I really think that this book is my favorite of all of Leno’s books. I love stories about angry girls, and You Must Not Miss really fits the bill, despite its minor flaws. The bottom line: Dark, furious, and bloody, I loved You Must Not Miss! Easily Katrina Leno’s best novel, despite its flaws. Next on deck: Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Ruth Rendell!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/07/you-must-not-miss-by-katrina-leno-review.html

(WP) Paint It Black

(WP) Paint It Black

               It seemed that her associate’s degree in Art History would finally come in handy.

               One of the best artists in the country had chosen her to be her assistant, and Camille could not be happier. To celebrate, she and her friends had gone out to a bar, just for a quick drink. She couldn’t be out until the wee morning hours as usual; she started in the morning.

               “I can’t believe it!” Cammie’s best friend, Liz, wrapped an arm around her waist. “I cannot believe that The Yolanda Jimenez chose you to be her assistant. Talk about being born under a lucky star.” She grinned and pressed a quick kiss to Cammie’s temple before ordering her a dirty martini, extra olives.

               Truthfully, Cammie couldn’t believe it either. She’d spent her whole life in pursuit of a career in the arts, painting in particular. Yolanda was a titan in their industry, one dominated by men. To be chosen by her was to be given a leg up into their hushed, exclusive inner circle. She hadn’t been able to believe it when she received the call announcing that she’d won the position. But for now, she chose to bask in the glow of her victory, accepting the drink from Liz.

               “To new beginnings,” Liz said, holding up her own glass of wine in salute. Cammie grinned and clinked her glass against it, then took a large sip.

               Their friends were out on the dance floor, promises of an early night all but forgotten in the haze of alcohol and old 90s tracks on the old jukebox at the front of the room.

               But she didn’t mind the distraction; it made it easier to face the fact that she’d be meeting one of her idols tomorrow. Even if she was tired, it wouldn’t calm her nerves.

               “After this drink, Liz, I need you to take me home, please. I have to get up early and I don’t want to get lost.”

               “Okay, fair enough,” Liz said, smiling ruefully at her mostly untouched glass of wine.

               **

               The next morning dawned bright and clear, and Camille dressed nicely in a pair of black trousers and a gray tunic top. Something to look professional in, but comfortable to work in also. She had to be at Yolanda’s house by nine, and she was still feeling a bit tired, even after her usual yoga session.

               Cammie grabbed a giant iced coffee on the way out of town and made the unfamiliar forty-five-minute drive out to the house.

                She pulled up a long dirt drive and found Yolanda in the yard, nursing a cigarette, standing under a lemon tree. Her long, dark hair was piled up on top of her head, and eyes keen and sharp met Cammie’s as she got out of the car.

               “Camille Masterson, I presume?” The words were accented and came out like music.

               “Yes, ma’am. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.”

               She was rewarded with a warm, soft laugh. “None of that ma’am business. I’m only a few years older than you. Come on inside.”

               **

               Camille decided that she loved the farmhouse immediately; it was airy and clean and colorful, exactly what she’d imagined. Yolanda’s art adorned the walls, from her most famous painting to her more obscure works.

               Yolanda kept up a steady, calm flow of commentary as they walked through the house. “Your duties will be simple: making appointments, getting coffee and supplies as needed, running errands. Think you can handle all that?”

               “Yes, ma’am,” Cammie replied before she could stop herself, and she saw her new boss smiling back a smile.

               “And I know this is an internship, but I insist on paying you. I don’t believe in that ‘soak in my greatness’ bull. You’re giving me your time, and I can afford to pay you.”

               Cammie nodded.

               Her eyes were drawn to a painting on the wall. It was a self-portrait of Yolanda, and when she looked at her, she noticed that compared to the painting, the rich, dark tone of her skin was paler, even wan.

               She didn’t know why, but that painting gave her a bad feeling, a yawning pit of dread opening in her stomach.

**

(WP) Restless Souls

(WP) Restless Souls

               After
the accident, I thought the first spirit I saw was a hallucination, a side
effect of the pain meds they had me on. It happened to be the lady from the
room across the hall, who’d been hospitalized with a harsh, wracking cough.

               I’d
been limping to the bathroom when she passed, her soul rising out of her body,
dressed in a fine black dress that hugged her hips, the full skirt sparkling as
if full of the night’s stars, meeting a man in midair, dressed in a fine gray
suit. And then they disappeared, as if they’d never been.

               And
then I heard the high-pitched squealing of her machines. “The patient has
flatlined!” A doctor walked down the hall at a brisk clip, gray eyes grim and
dark.

               I tried
to shake off the woman’s death, but something inside of me lingered, worrying
at the memory like a kid with a loose tooth. It had to have been a crazy dream,
a side effect; people didn’t really see ghosts. Or perhaps I was going crazy. I’d
lost everything in the car crash that had killed my family. Maybe my mind just couldn’t
take the strain.

               Once I
was out of the hospital, I forced myself off of the meds, even when the pain
was enough to nearly knock me out. When the hallucinations didn’t persist, I thought
I was home free.

               But
that was before The Cataclysm, before the Veil thinned, and the death numbers
climbed. Everywhere I went, souls departed from their bodies in pale, opaque
clouds, and I wept, hearing their voices, feeling their emotions, receiving
flashes of their memories. I stayed in my bed for three days, my job be damned.

               But
unfortunately, I wasn’t crazy, cracked, or mad. It was our world’s rules that
had gone all screwy. Our world’s balance had been thrown all out of whack, and
by some strange twist of fate, I was dealing with the fallout of it all.

               I
couldn’t make it stop, no matter how I tried. I tried to sleep, tried to lose
myself in my hobbies, anything to distract from the constant, discordant noise
within my own head. It was tempting to call the doctor, beg for some more
medication. I’d denied it at the hospital, but the thought of an escape was so
sweet that I got halfway through dialing the number before I changed my mind.

               Then I
noticed that a spirit was hovering over my head, a young woman who looked a few
years younger than I.

               I
blinked, and my mouth opened as I met her eyes.

               “You
can see me!” She said, and her voice was a low, quiet rasp. “Oh, my God, you
can see me! Finally! I’ve been so lonely!” She was in a wedding dress, the
pristine white fabric marred by something dark and tacky, and it was completely
at odds with the sunny smile upon her face. She was still holding her bouquet:
roses, lilies, baby’s breath and peonies.

               “What
happened to you?”

               “Oh, my
ex murdered me on my wedding night,” The ghost said airily, waving her free
hand as if shooing away an errant butterfly. “But that’s all right, because
now, I finally found someone to talk to!”

               What
had I gotten myself into?

               **

Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

Title: Girls with Sharp Sticks

Author: Suzanne Young

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Science Fiction/Horror

Series: Girls with Sharp Sticks, book one

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Suzanne Young is one of my favorite authors; I’ve been obsessed with her work ever since I read The Program. So, when I found out that she was writing a new series opener, I was super excited. It’s been in my library stack for a while, and once I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of my stack after I finished Grim Lovelies. I devoured this book in a day and a half, a strange fever dream reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale. Visceral, timely, vicious and thought-provoking, Girls with Sharp Sticks was a series opener that I will never forget, and I can’t wait for Girls with Razor Hearts! This book is one of my favorites of 2019; it was unforgettable.

               The Girls at Innovations Academy are beautiful, obedient, and pleasant. Under the watchful gazes of their male Guardians, the all-girls school trains its students to be the best society has to offer. They are perfect, free of ugly emotions like arrogance and defiance. But Philomena, or Mena for short, begins to realize that their carefully curated lives are not as perfect as they first appear. As she and her friends begin to unearth the dark secrets of what’s really going on in Innovations Academy—and who they really are—they will discover what they’re truly capable of, because the most beautiful flowers have the sharpest thorns…

               This book. This book! I absolutely loved it. It reminded me of a mashup of The Handmaid’s Tale and Westworld, with spare, gorgeous prose and a sick feeling of dread throughout. The pacing was breakneck; Mena’s voice grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go until long after the last page. The whole book, I knew what was coming, but I was dreading it all at once. The twists turns, and secrets had me gasping or shrieking. I also loved the characters, especially Mena; her character development as someone who was content to be used into a young woman who grows into her own agency and learns to fight back against the men imprisoning her and her friends. I also applaud the way that Young pointed out rape culture through the narrative; this book was vicious, visceral, and pulled absolutely no punches. It was shocking and timely, especially in our current America, where women’s rights are being steamrolled as I write this review, including in my own state of Ohio. The ending was shocking, and more than a little scary. This book read to me like a horror novel, with a sprinkle of science fiction thrown in for flavor. But it was absolutely necessary, and it should be required reading for everyone. I loved its message: Down with the patriarchy and the way it tries to control girls and young women under impossible double standards they cannot possibly keep themselves. I can’t wait for Girls with Razor Hearts next year! Suzanne has knocked another one straight out of the park, and I can’t wait for more! The bottom line: Dark, dreadful, necessary and visceral, I loved Girls with Sharp Sticks, and I can’t wait for the sequel next year! Next on deck: Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/05/girls-with-sharp-sticks-by-suzanne.html

Slayer by Kiersten White Review

Title: Slayer

Author: Kiersten White

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Horror

Series: Slayer, book one

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I won a signed copy of this book in a contest from Fierce Reads. Thank you so much!

               Shows like Buffy and Angel were things that I was obsessed with as a teenager because they contained all of my favorite things: monsters, magic, darkness, high stakes, and forbidden love. I haven’t seen either of them in years. But I ordered this book from my local library and before I could finish it, I had to take it back. Which was just as well, because a few days later, I received a copy of Slayer from Fierce Reads, and it was signed! I was so excited. It’s been sitting on my ever-growing book stack for a few months now, and once I was finished with The Everlasting Rose, I started Slayer. Taking place in the same universe as Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer but after the events of the comics. Dark, hilarious, heartfelt and scary, I loved this take on the Buffyverse by one of my favorite authors! One of my favorite books of 2019!

               Nina Jamison-Smythe knows her place in the world. She and her twin sister, Artemis, are both in training to become Watchers, the organization of individuals that help guide Slayers.  She is the healer, the medic, the gentler of the two. She lives in her sister’s shadow, something she both takes refuge in and resents. But when Buffy literally breaks magic, The Watchers are rendered obsolete. Consumed by rage and hatred toward Buffy and Slayers in general, whom she blames for her father’s death, Nina is determined to make a difference in the world. But everything changes when she becomes a Slayer. And not just a Slayer, but the very last Slayer in existence. Forced to bear the burden of powers she never wanted; people begin to die around the castle. Enmeshed in the mystery, Nina must use her newfound powers to save the people she loves. But is she meant to save the world? Or to destroy it?

               Kiersten White is one of my favorite authors, and so when I found out that she was writing a novel set in the Buffyverse, I was so excited! And I was lucky enough to receive a free, signed copy! I loved this book; it felt like I was returning to a place that I had dearly missed, without even knowing! Right out of the gate, I loved it so much. It had all of the darkness, humor, and mystery of Buffy. It’s not a requirement to be a Buffy fan to read this book; it can be read without knowing anything about the comics or show. But I loved the little Easter eggs I kept finding. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved the characters, but especially Nina; I really related to her. I loved her character development, her growth from a timid, resentful child to a fiercely powerful and kind young woman who uses her Slayer powers for the good of her loved ones. Artemis, Leo, Honora, and the girls’ mother were also distinctive characters who provoked a strong reaction with me. Dark, terrifying, and full of humor and heart, this book felt like coming home. I very much enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to read Chosen! At times, Nina butting heads with everyone got on my nerves; it kind of took away from the book, but overall, this series starter was strong, and I can’t wait for the next book! Next on deck: The Guest Book by Sarah Blake!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/05/slayer-by-kiersten-white-review.html

Desperation

               Desperation

This has been going on for weeks, and I don’t know if I can take any more.

               The cold stone floor bites through my clothes, and I grit my teeth, tears of exhaustion pouring down my face.

               I do not know when my captor will come back, though I am praying to the gods that I have a reprieve.

               The size of my cell is tiny, barely enough room for me to lie down. In the corner there is a dirty metal plate, a chamber pot, and a pail of dirty water that is beginning to smell.

               There are no windows, so I have no way of keeping track of the time. My days have all bled together, a blur of violence and nightmares. My memories of life before this existence as a prisoner are few and far between.

               I am broken from my thoughts by the deafening screech of a door swinging on rusty hinges. I scramble into a sitting position, putting my back against the wall. The cold, heavy manacles around my wrists and ankles have rubbed my skin raw, and I bite back a cry of agony.

               The sound of slow, sure footsteps echoes throughout the cavernous chamber, and I find myself wishing that I had the company of the rats and insects that live in this hovel.

               If only I could rip out his eyes… The thought brings me a burst of dark, unexpected pleasure.

               After all, there’s not much else to do but dream up ways to revenge, in my position.

               After what seems like a whole eternity, my captor finally shows himself, standing in front of my cell door.

In the weak torchlight, he looks sallow, washed out, his eyes like tiny black pebbles in his face. His red, bulbous nose is swollen, and when I look closer, his eyes are bloodshot. There are food and sweat stains on his fine silk coat, and it’s all I can do not to let my disgust show on my face.

“Have you given any consideration to my offer, my dear?” He asks me, his words slurring.

“What does it matter? My answer is the same, always. No.”

At this, his mask of a fine courtier slips, and his lips curl. He spits, and I barely manage to dodge it.

“I believe I’ve been quite generous, considering your… situation. But fine. If you wish to rot in your cell for the rest of your days, that is your human right.”

Despite myself, despite aching for every bit of control I have, I laugh. The sound edges on hysterical, and I can feel my power coiling like a snake in my chest, calling upon the rats and the bugs and everything hiding under the flagstones. I don’t have much left; I’ve had very little sustenance.

“But know this, my love. You’re not the only one who suffers from your choices.”

I know who he is referring to. My family, outside of the palace.

Heat builds in my chest, and I murmur a command under my breath, disguised as a prayer to the Father Earth and Mother Sky.

The creatures within this prison hear my call, and heed it. The rats and flies descend on him in a black cloud, enveloping him until there is naught but dust. His screams echo off of the walls, but they are as music to me.

In his place, there lays a shining metal key, and I just barely manage to reach through the bars and snatch it. My hands are shaking so badly I almost drop it.

But my power has won me my freedom. It is finished.

**

Desperation

               Desperation

This has been going on for weeks, and I don’t know if I can take any more.

               The cold stone floor bites through my clothes, and I grit my teeth, tears of exhaustion pouring down my face.

               I do not know when my captor will come back, though I am praying to the gods that I have a reprieve.

               The size of my cell is tiny, barely enough room for me to lie down. In the corner there is a dirty metal plate, a chamber pot, and a pail of dirty water that is beginning to smell.

               There are no windows, so I have no way of keeping track of the time. My days have all bled together, a blur of violence and nightmares. My memories of life before this existence as a prisoner are few and far between.

               I am broken from my thoughts by the deafening screech of a door swinging on rusty hinges. I scramble into a sitting position, putting my back against the wall. The cold, heavy manacles around my wrists and ankles have rubbed my skin raw, and I bite back a cry of agony.

               The sound of slow, sure footsteps echoes throughout the cavernous chamber, and I find myself wishing that I had the company of the rats and insects that live in this hovel.

               If only I could rip out his eyes… The thought brings me a burst of dark, unexpected pleasure.

               After all, there’s not much else to do but dream up ways to revenge, in my position.

               After what seems like a whole eternity, my captor finally shows himself, standing in front of my cell door.

In the weak torchlight, he looks sallow, washed out, his eyes like tiny black pebbles in his face. His red, bulbous nose is swollen, and when I look closer, his eyes are bloodshot. There are food and sweat stains on his fine silk coat, and it’s all I can do not to let my disgust show on my face.

“Have you given any consideration to my offer, my dear?” He asks me, his words slurring.

“What does it matter? My answer is the same, always. No.”

At this, his mask of a fine courtier slips, and his lips curl. He spits, and I barely manage to dodge it.

“I believe I’ve been quite generous, considering your… situation. But fine. If you wish to rot in your cell for the rest of your days, that is your human right.”

Despite myself, despite aching for every bit of control I have, I laugh. The sound edges on hysterical, and I can feel my power coiling like a snake in my chest, calling upon the rats and the bugs and everything hiding under the flagstones. I don’t have much left; I’ve had very little sustenance.

“But know this, my love. You’re not the only one who suffers from your choices.”

I know who he is referring to. My family, outside of the palace.

Heat builds in my chest, and I murmur a command under my breath, disguised as a prayer to the Father Earth and Mother Sky.

The creatures within this prison hear my call, and heed it. The rats and flies descend on him in a black cloud, enveloping him until there is naught but dust. His screams echo off of the walls, but they are as music to me.

In his place, there lays a shining metal key, and I just barely manage to reach through the bars and snatch it. My hands are shaking so badly I almost drop it.

But my power has won me my freedom. It is finished.

**

Rise and Fall of the Roman Vampire

Rise and Fall of the Roman Vampire

(WP) Dream a Little Dream of Me

(WP) Dream a Little Dream of Me

               The
Dream Police hadn’t been an official unit for very long when a rather unusual
case was brought to my desk.

Never mind that I was just a
rookie, the head of a brand-new department, designed to combat the rampant
crimes that took place inside of the subconscious. The stew of dark thoughts
that brewed in the human mind had the power to manifest in real life if not
eradicated from the brain properly.

It scared the hell out of me, and
it reminded me of a Lovecraftian tale; but being the greenest on the squad, I’d
been stuck with it. Of course, there was a senior detective above me, ‘overseeing’
what me and my guys did, but that was more for show than practice.

I was just about to head home to my
husband and children when I noticed a fat manila file sitting on my desk, with
a bright purple post-it note on it. Blocky red writing ordered me to ‘look into
this as soon as possible!’.

I took off my coat and put it over
the back of my desk chair; I needed to make coffee, but first, I needed to let
my family know that I wouldn’t be home for dinner.

I pulled my phone out of my coat
pocket and dialed home, cradling the device between my ear and shoulder.

When Jasper picked up, I could hear
the kids shrieking in the background; the sound brought a smile to my face.

I loved my job, but I loved my
family more.

“Hello?” Jasper’s voice was
breathy, as if he’d been running around, chasing the children.

“Hey, Jasper.” I said, already
dreading having to say the words. “I’m not going to be able to make it for
dinner tonight.”

There was a short pause, as if he
wanted to say something, but chose not to. If he was angry, I couldn’t really
blame him; recently, work had been taking up most of my waking time. I hated
it, but I didn’t want to let my boss down either. He’d chosen me for this.

“All right, honey,” He replied. “I
can just save a plate for you, put it in the fridge.”

“I’m so sorry! I know that this is
the third time in a week. I promise I’ll make it up to you.”

“With a date with me and the kids?
They miss you, Darius.”

“Of course. I’ll ask for time off
this weekend, and I won’t take no for an answer. You know how important you and
the kids are to me.”

I could hear Jasper’s smile in his
voice, and almost feel him softening.

“You better, or you’ll be in
trouble, mister! I love you. I’ll see you when you get home.”

“I love you too, Jasper. Kiss the
kids for me. I’ll try not to be all night.”

We said our goodbyes, and I got to
work.

**

I spent the night poring over the
case file, and as I gathered details and took notes, I became more and more
disturbed. A kernel of unease began to grow outward from my chest.

The dreams always had the same
theme: someone running through a dark marsh, slogging through mud and brackish
water, unable to find their way through the dark. And then something springing
from the water and dragging them under. There would be some struggling, and
bubbles floating to the surface, and then the person being chased bobbed on the
water, eyes staring up sightless at the sky.

It appeared that we had a serial
killer haunting everyone’s dreams.

**