Review for "The Good Demon" by Jimmy Cajoleas (2018)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Set in a small Southern town, “The Good Demon” is the story of Clare, a teenage girl who hasn’t been the same since her exorcism by a local preacher. The demon (named ‘Her’) wasn’t evil, but protected Clare from danger: the trauma of her dad’s death, her stepdad’s abuse, an attempted sexual assault. Her leaves behind a mysterious note, which Clare is compelled to follow. It reads: “Be nice to him. June 20. Remember the stories.”
Eventually, Clare falls for the son of the preacher who performed her exorcism. After following many clues, she learns about a secret cult in her hometown practicing a sinister form of magic. After a visit to the enigmatic cult leader, Clare is forced to make a choice to be reunited with her demon.
I liked the premise for this story. It’s very Southern gothic, with mystery and some fantasy thrown in for good measure. The tag line mentions True Detective (the first season, of course) as an inspiration and the plot is very much in that same vein, which I liked as well. The bad part is that it took me nearly two months to read this book, and that was no accident. I’d read 20-30 pages, lose interest, come back a few days later, repeat. Perhaps if there had been more character development I would have been more engaged, more history of the town. A lot of characters and situations here seemed thrown together and happenstance. Hmm.
Review for "The Grip of It" by Jac Jemc (2017)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
This book is the cliche of all cliches: the Haunted House. Of course I was aware of this before proceeding, because who knows, perhaps there was Something New in these pages, a grand twist on The Oldest Plot Known to Man. Needless to say, I was grandly disappointed. Not only is there nothing added to this classic genre that’s worthy of note, there’s really nothing here at all.
James and Julie are a pair of married yuppies who move out of the city and into the perfect country house. There’s a small beach nearby, room for a garden, surrounded by quiet woods, and to top it all off–the house is practically a steal. Immediately after they move in they notice strange things–ominous breathing sounds, secret passageways, child-like drawings on the walls, an old journal with indecipherable writing. Julie develops strange bruises all over her body. Their creepy old man neighbor can’t stop watching them from across the street. I have to admit that I did get swept up in the weirdness of this tale, because the occurrences are never really explained. Are they really experiencing something supernatural? Or is it just a dream?
But anyway, that’s where the enjoyment of this book ended. The story is told in short, alternating chapters of the POVs of Julie and James. There is very little discernible difference between the voices of the two. There were many times where I had to stop, flip back a few pages, and figure out who was speaking. There are also long passages where the characters’ actions run on and on and nothing’s really gained as far as knowledge to what’s going on.
And oh yeah, the writing…I didn’t like that either. The tone here was too objective, too matter of fact, and far too emotionally detached. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this kind of storytelling, but I don’t think it fit this narrative. There are no real thoughts or emotions given with either character, it’s just a kinda hmmm…there’s drawings on the wall we didn’t put there and the other’s nod of agreement. It’s weird.
The horror here is rather PG too. At no point in this book was I even remotely scared (pronunciation: “scurred”). I was just weirded out, counting the pages left, and wondering when it would be over with.
Review for "There's Someone Inside Your House" by Stephanie Perkins (2017)
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Whew Lawd this was bad…
First off, I love YA thriller/horror. If you spent your high school days reading R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, then you know what I’m talking about. So when this book came out, I was on it faster than a speeding ticket.
This is my first Stephanie Perkins novel. From my understanding she mostly writes YA romance and this was her first foray into horror. After reading this drivel, it’s my determination that she should probably stick to writing romance.
The run-down: Makani Young, the main character, is sent to live with her grandmother in a small Nebraska town following her parents’ divorce and after a mysterious incident in her Hawaii hometown that’s not revealed until the end of the novel. She has eyes for Ollie, a pink-haired emo kid, and after they meet they make like rabbits for most of the book. While Makani and Ollie are exploring each other’s anatomies, meanwhile, there’s a psycho running around killing members of their high school student body for reasons unknown.
So where do I begin? For the whole “Who will be next?” hook, this book had only about 5 deaths and still turned out to be 99.9% romance. The book pivots between Makani and Ollie’s relationship and the killer’s next victim, which we follow in a brief chapter as it happens. We’re never told why the killer is picking people off, and his identity is fully revealed at about 60% into the book. What happens after this? Nothing. For me, it’s was a hazy blur of wtf moments and skipped pages.
And Makani and Ollie…what a mess. For a romance writer, the author manages to make their relationship strictly about lust and nothing else. Despite all the physical fun these two are having, it’s mindlessly boring. Even an old pervert like me started flipping pages after awhile. On to the next slashing please…
I was expecting more blood and gore here. Two stars.
Review for "Black Mad Wheel" by Josh Malerman (2017)
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Oooh, no. Just…no. HELL NO.
Maybe my hopes were a little too high for this one, especially after the success of Josh Malerman’s first novel, Bird Box. My reaction to this one was: WTF? And not in a good way, either.
The U.S military hires a rock band of former WWII soldiers for a top secret mission in the Namibian desert, to search for the source of a mysterious sound that incapacitates people who hear it and makes their weapons useless. The band hesitates, but finally accepts the offer to go to the desert in search of the sound after the promise of a large salary.
There are a few moments early on that manage to pull you in and give you just enough hope that this book would be creepy, much like Bird Box. But this one just ended up being weird, boring, and just plain silly. Plus, I just didn’t get it. We also see the Big Bad Guy, which is a psychological thriller no-no.
Skip this one.
Review for "The Troop" by Nick Cutter (2014)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I liked this book.
Started off a bit slow, with Scoutmaster Tim Riggs taking five boys into the wilderness for their annual camping trip on Falstaff Island, a remote outpost near Prince Edward Island. On their first night, a very hungry stranger enters their camp. He isn’t well. He is unknowingly infested with a horrifying efficient, genetically modified parasite, which eventually takes each character to the brink of their own survival.
Now I will admit that there were some parts of this book that I didn’t want to read so I skipped it (i.e., scenes of self mutilation, a particularly detailed account of the torture of a cat, etc). Otherwise I didn’t find this book as gory as some other online reviewers have. I guess it’s a matter of personal taste. Otherwise it’s a great novel, with echoes of some pretty classic works–Stand by Me, The Lord of the Flies–all throughout.
If you like old school, 1980’s era Stephen King-esque horror, then this book is for you.
Review for "A Head Full of Ghosts" by Paul Tremblay (2015)
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Didn’t like this. I’m surprised by how many kudos it’s gotten on Goodreads. The plot is interesting enough: a middle class family with two daughters, the youngest bearing witness to her older sister’s supposed demonic possession and the family’s decision to share it on reality television.
The pacing of this book is slow, and trust me…’slow’ is a compliment here. After 150 pages, there’s not much happening beyond the standard cliched “Exorcist” fare, you know…green vomit, talking in different voices, etc. There are also major structural concerns here, one being the fact that much of the book is broken up with written anecdotes by an anonymous person critiquing the reality show of which the main characters are a part of. Other than a few pop culture references, these blog passages in the book are completely useless.
There’s a twist at the end if you care enough to make it there. I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Review for "Horrorstor" by Grady Hendrix (2014)
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars
I worked in a department store for almost 3 years. You name it and I’ve seen it–screaming kids who ruin displays, rude customers, disgusting things found in dressing rooms, thieves, bosses that love to scream at you, and the hell that comes with the Worst Day of the Year (otherwise known to the average person as Black Friday). I’ve worked early mornings, late nights in retail. I’ve been in the store when they turn the lights off and the alarms on, and let’s face it: stores can be very creepy places.
Enter Horrorstor, a horror novel about the goings-on at Orsk, an Ikea knockoff furniture store in suburban Ohio. Amy is a ‘substandard’ performing retail drone summoned by her boss, Basil, to investigate the strange goings-on after dark on the sales floor. It’s a neat little book, with color photographs, catalogue drawings, diagrams, and descriptions of Scandinavian-sounding furniture. This is my second book by Grady Hendrix (the other being My Best Friend’s Exorcism) and he has a knack for just good ol’ plain, standard, cheap horror: cheesy dialogue, the girl who stupidly runs back into danger, etc. Nothing happens here that you don’t expect, so it’s all totally fun and readable because anyone who takes this book seriously is nuts.
3.75 just for the hell of it, because I’d definitely read this again. I’d frame this book if I could.