Now for something a little different! I follow a lot of book blogs and I’ve been greatly enjoying reading everyone else’s reviews, so I thought it was time I took a stab at it myself, so to speak. 😉 While I’m a little intimidated at the prospect of writing up my own reviews, I’ll start off easy and list a few books that’ve caught my fancy lately. I’ve been on a big horror binge, so following are my recent horror reads and non-spoilery thoughts on why I enjoyed them!
Title: The Girl From The Well
Author: Rin Chupeco
Date of Publication: August 5th 2014
Page Count: 267 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (taken from Goodreads)
You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.
A dead girl walks the streets.
She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.
And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.
Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.
The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.
First of all, I love the diversity here – main (ghost) character Okiku is Japanese and the main (living) character Tark is bi-racial with a Japanese mother and white American father. It’s always refreshing having protagonists who aren’t defaulted to white! I enjoyed the way Japanese culture and customs were integrated into the story as well. It wasn’t just a token ‘Tark-chan’ here and there, we were treated to traditional food, rituals, festivals and more.
Second, Okiku is basically a combination of Sadako from The Ring and Kayako from The Grudge, which in short means she is AWESOME. I picked this up because I couldn’t resist the allure of a horror story told from the point-of-view of the ghost and oh, it was glorious. The writing really conveyed her completely alien perspective, divorced from normal human emotions and reactions, and the author did a remarkable job convincing me that I was looking through the eyes of a 300-year old vengeful spirit.
A lot of times in YA, the supposedly centuries-old vampire or elf prince or what-have-you is portrayed as having the same mannerisms as the average 21st century teenager and it frustrates me so much that all their history and experiences aren’t reflected in their characterization. Okiku, on the other hand, is legitimately bizarre and warped and blessedly not romanticized – the third protagonist remains wary and afraid of her throughout the book, which is entirely reasonable and how any sane person would react!
Third, I have never seen this plotline before. The reason why Okiku is drawn to Tark, the strangeness she senses inside him, the course of action this pushes her to pursue and how she evolves as a result and what she becomes…it’s all completely original to me! I LOVE IT. I really want to see other authors do their take on this plot because it is my new favorite thing. ❤
Rating: 5 out of 5 creeped-out kitties!
Title: I Am Not A Serial Killer
Author: Dan Wells
Date of Publication: March 30th 2010
Page Count: 271 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (taken from Goodreads)
John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it.
He’s spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.
He’s obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn’t want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he’s written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.
Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat—and to appreciate what that difference means.
Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.
First we had a ghost’s POV, now we’re in the mind of a sociopathic serial-killer-in-the-making! I certainly had a fun couple weeks immersing myself in these decidedly atypical personalities. ^_^
I enjoyed this book for much the same reasons as above – its unique character perspective, with this being told in the first person by a teenager who is wrestling with his ‘Dark Passenger’, as Dexter would call it. John Cleaver has the perfect name for a killer and the murderous impulses to back it up, but the difference is that he recognizes this is a bad thing that he shouldn’t want and he comes up with strategies to keep himself on the side of the law.
There are a ton of books out there about serial killers, but this is the first one I’ve come across with a villain protagonist who’s actively combating this aspect of his identity, who’s actually attempting to deny his craving to hurt and maim and kill. There’s so much tension in watching him with bated breath, waiting to see if he’ll succeed or make a misstep, whether he’ll persevere in Doing The Right Thing or throw all his rules to the wind and turn to the Dark Side.
Again, I thought the first-person perspective was executed very well, with John’s inner thoughts and reflections convincingly painting him as a sociopath, instead of just paying lip service to it and building him as the typical brooding Tall, Dark & Dangerous hero common to the YA genre. Instead, his character isn’t romanticized at all – sure, there’s a girl he’s noticed, but his fantasies involve restraining and stabbing her, rather than holding hands and going on dates…
And the plotline was phenomenally inventive! On the surface, a killer hunting other killers is nothing new (shades of Dexter), but the nature and motivation of the killer John’s hunting is refreshingly original, as is his plan of attack for ending their reign of terror. I very much enjoy an intelligent teenage protagonist, and John’s calm calculating personality as he investigated the murders and worked out how best to apprehend the killer was riveting reading.
Rating: 4 out of 5 creeped-out kitties!
Author: Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Date of Publication: April 26th 2016 (original Dutch version published April 1st 2013)
Page Count: 448 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (taken from Goodreads)
Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.
Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters your homes at will. She stands next to your bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened.
The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting, but in so doing send the town spiraling into the dark, medieval practices of the past.
This one is tough. I loved 3/4 of the book and was well on my way to considering it one of the best books I’d read – then the last 1/4 happened. To provide some context, this was originally released in Dutch, and then the author translated it into English for publication this year. He also decided to revamp the ending while he had the chance, and it really shows. One minute, everything was bubbling along nicely, coming to the boil – and then suddenly the pot was knocked off the stove, the oven exploded and the house went up in flames. Instead of having a splendid 5-star dinner, it ended in a bloody mess.
I still think it’s worth reading. This is another amazingly unique concept (my personal catnip in this genre, as you can probably tell) with a witch haunting not just one person or one family, but an ENTIRE TOWN. They’re completely helpless against her and need to resign themselves to living their lives trapped with her presence looming large over all of them. It’s fascinating to me how people can adapt to an incredible amount of stress when there is no other choice, as portrayed here with the townspeople going about their daily lives, bracing themselves to come face-to-face with a hideously disfigured, ominously whispering witch lurking around the corner at any moment.
I adore the incorporation of modern technology in dealing with the supernatural, for eg. setting up the HEXapp to track the witch’s whereabouts at any given time, with the townsfolk texting updates when they spot her. The teenage protagonist also uses technology in clever ways to test the limits of Katherine’s influence and abilities.
Really, the main villain here is human nature – Katherine is a supernatural threat that has been tame and consistent for so long that the younger folks have become complacent. When the teenagers become rebellious and want freedom from the strict rules that have been safeguarding the town for so long, how far will the traditional elders go to restore the status quo? Are they justified in imprisoning and/or executing anyone who goes against their regulations when violating them could result in the death of every single person in town? Should human rights be sacrosanct and inviolable, or are there times when they can be compromised for the greater good? There are a lot of interesting philosophical questions that arise from their circumstances, and it made me deeply introspective and consider how I would react in their shoes.
But that ending. Does anyone speak Dutch? I’m dying to know how the original version ended, and the author was a dreadful tease in the afterword, coyly insisting that his lips were sealed and the reader would have to find a Dutch person to enlighten them. My curiosity consumes me! (the true horror)
Rating: 3 out of 5 creeped-out kitties!