fiction · horror

Review: Tales of the Lost

Author: Richard Howard

Publisher: Matador

Genre: Horror, General Fiction

Summary from Netgalley:

“Something in that magical atmosphere had subtly changed as if the previous stillness had been merely a portent to some mysterious event… He tilted his head to catch whatever sound it was that suddenly made him feel that someone, or something, was watching him.”

Tales of the Lost is a book of short stories for adults, ranging from realms of fantasy to modern-day settings. Richard Howard’s stories are born out of a lifelong love of ghost stories and ‘curious tales’, which he read as a child. Some are ghost stories, others are simply scary, and most have a twist in the tail. In each story, there is a character who, one way or another, feels lost.

One story, Flora’s Return, takes its main character from Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw, which was filmed in 1960 as The Innocents. Richard takes this story, which he believes is one of the finest ghost stories ever written, and continues it with an exciting new twist.

Richard’s stories are based on his experiences of growing up in a house with its own ghosts during his childhood. Ghosts created by the author M.R.James, the many aspects of horror and disquiet by William Hope Hodgson, the dark humour of Saki and the relationship between man and the forces of nature in Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood have all inspired the author to contribute to the short story genre.

From science fiction to fairy tales, stories have been written that allow us to enjoy feeling scared in a safe environment. This collection will not disappoint.

Comments:

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

I don’t usually read a book of short stories so this was a welcome change. I got to admit that I also was drawn to this because of the pretty book cover. After finishing the book, I think the cover could be more interesting and could perhaps be more connected with the stories.

The short stories in this collection varies in length and introduces different creatures from ghosts, to folklore, to even Greek mythology. I enjoy the horror genre, but not particularly some of those which were presented in this book. Still, it was an enjoyable read. I did have a couple of favorites – Flora’s Return and Outrage. There was an air of mystery on both accounts and although they were predictable, still made me excited to have the whole plot revealed.

Overall, I would recommend this to those who would delight in short and easy reads, mostly on fantasy-horror.

My Rating: ★★★ (3)

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horror · sci-fi · zombie

The Enemy

Author: Charlie Higson
Series: The Enemy #1
Summary from Goodreads:
They’ll chase you.

They’ll rip you open.

They’ll feed on you . . .

When the sickness came, every parent, policeman, politician — every adult — fell ill. The lucky ones died. The others are crazed, confused and hungry.

Only children under fourteen remain, and they’re fighting to survive.

Now there are rumours of a safe place to hide. And so a gang of children begin their quest across London, where all through the city — down alleyways, in deserted houses, underground — the grown-ups lie in wait.

Date finished reading: March 06, 2014

Comments:

I haven’t read a lot of zombie books, but I find this one interesting. Charlie Higson used the unique concept of kids being survivors and the grown-ups as contractors of the disease. Nobody knew where and how it started. But one thing is for sure – they need to survive. And to survive, they needed each other.

One of the biggest things I liked is how realistic it can be. Not that zombies are real, but if it were, the scenario would probably be like what was depicted in the book. Deaths, hunger, fatigue, fear – these join the enemy forces. Throughout the book, there were major deaths. In most plots, main characters somehow miraculously survive because they are needed in the story. Here, a lot of them ended up being beaten protecting others or defeated in skirmishes. That’s what made things believable.

A crucial player in the book is the concept of loyalty. When we talk of surviving, we somehow put ourselves above all others. When the tables are turned, do we remain loyal or do we sway to the stronger faction? Their trust in each other was tested when they reached Buckingham palace, a supposedly place of safety. As it turned out, they were to be used as pawns to serve David’s purpose. I for sure thought that it would be a lost cause. It ended up with the kids being smarter than I thought, in fact too smart, and set a plot to overturn the tyrant.

A lot of questions remained unanswered and hopefully the next installment would shed some light on them. It wasn’t too gory as I thought it would be. Since we have different levels of tolerance though, I would still advise that readers should see for themselves if they can handle it.

Enjoyable read and looking forward to reading the next one!

“There was a reason these boys were still alive, though. Something made them stronger than the other kids, the ones who had died in the early days, who had simply lain down and given up, unable to cope with the terrible things that were happening in the world. These boys were survivors. The will to live was stronger than any other feelings.”

My Rating: ★★★★

fantasy · horror · paranormal

Bad Girls Don’t Die

Author: Katie Alender
Date finished reading: February 19, 2014

Comments:

The first thing that caught my eye with this book is the cover. I am guilty of judging some books by its covers and this looked interesting for me. The good thing is, I am also into the paranormal genre making me more excited to read this book.

Dysfunctional is how Alexis was described in the book; she can’t hold onto relationships with anybody – schoolmates, friends, even family. She is definitely smart, but she used that edge to fend people away and stand her ground. Photography is her creative outlet and that is when she started noticing strange things happening. Her sister Kasey is not her usual self and it would be up to Alexis (with the help of new found friends) to save her, or maybe save them.

I’ve read a lot of stories where the heroin is usually rude and anti-social so I had to kind of roll my eyes as I was getting acquainted with Alexis. To my surprise, I liked her! I like the fact that she wants to be real and hates people who tries so hard to be someone they aren’t. I liked how the author gave a back story on why she acted that way with the unfortunate incident of losing her best friend. Kasey was way different from Alexis; she is very dependent but was more social. So it actually came as an astonishment to her family when she began speaking up for herself. I feel bad for their family situation but I’m glad of how it was taken care of in the end.

There are different elements that made this story creepy. Dolls are on top of the list. Isn’t it ironic how toys that were supposed to be cute and cuddly actually turned to be evil? I had to say though that it if a scary factor. The back story involving Sarah showed us how the doll was the start of her losing friends and eventually losing herself. I kind of imagine them together.

There is also possession by the a very hostile ghost who wants to everyone responsible for her death to be erased from the face of the earth. Seeking revenge makes anything possible. That what makes this story more believable for me. It wasn’t just some random ghost trying to scare the wits out of you. Alexis almost fell for Sarah’s trap the last minute! Way to go Shara for helping out.

Although I admit some parts were predictable, I still couldn’t bear myself to put the book down until I was finished with it. The romance was downplayed and it was just perfect! The ending was awesome and I have to agree that Alexis deserved to the good girl. I look forward to reading the next books in the series.

“Just say something real. Everyone just always tries so hard, and it all comes out the same. I just want someone to say something real.”

My Rating: ★★★★

fantasy · horror · paranormal

The Graveyard Book

Author: Neil Gaiman
Date finished reading: February 13, 2014

Comments:

Nobody “Bod” Owens, referred to as the living boy, was raised in a graveyard on the top of a hill. His family was murdered and he was adopted by a dead couple who gave him to the care of Silas, his guardian. Bod took lessons from the dead, listened to their stories, played with them, and the graveyard was his home. But the man who murdered his family is still out there looking for him and Bod has yet a lot to learn in order to survive the real world.

I love the story! Again, Neil Gaiman winds me over his writing style that is entertaining yet thought provoking. Death is not usually a theme used in composing children’s stories, but this was done in such a manner that death can only be but a threshold waiting to be discovered. We find the irony that it was the dead who wanted to bring Bod to safety; as soon as he tried his hand being with the living, he had gone to trouble.

When Scarlet met with Bod for the second time, it regrettably didn’t go as well. I couldn’t blame Bod for how he can be socially awkward, given his upbringing, but Scarlet was also right when the things she had seen led her to think that Bod was heartless – even a monster. I hope there would have been a better resolve instead of her having to leave and forget all their memories.

The ending was right. And by that I didn’t mean happy or sad – it was both. Sad that he had to leave his home and his friends, happy that he now has a whole lot ahead of him to write his own story. My heart ached at the last words given to him by his parents – I’m proud of you my son. If ever he stumbled upon the graveyard again, it would just be another place. I hope that in his heart, there would always remain that part of him who once walked with the dead.

“You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

My Rating: ★★★★★

fantasy · horror

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Author: Neil Gaiman
Date finished reading: January 24, 2014

Comments:

This is my first shot at Neil Gaiman’s writing. Obviously I’m not familiar with his style, but this book is personal because we can interpret into hundreds of ways depending how we see it.

The past always seem so distant and unreal. On the protagonist’s case, the past was twisted so as to be remembered differently – his childhood filled with a surreal mix of facts and fantasy. Throughout the book, we were presented on the supposedly “real” turn of events, although it doesn’t look very real. It was infused with wonder, strange creatures, nightmares and shadows, too much for a little boy to take. But the best part lies in how he was able to go through all of it – a friend.

I enjoyed the relationship of the man and Lettie as portrayed in the book. He, being a boy of 7, became a little brother dependent on Lettie, who kept her promise till the very end. Friendship lasts! That is the message I got from this book. It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to be uncertain. In the end, our true friends would be there to look out for our best interests.

Hauntingly beautiful but did not really leave a mark on my hardened soul.

“Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.”

My Rating: ★★★

fantasy · horror · sci-fi

This is Not a Test

Author: Courtney Summers
Date finished reading: January 15, 2014

Comments:

“This is not a test. Listen closely. This is not a test.”
But I think she’s wrong. I think this is a test.
It has to be.”

Before reading this book, I wondered what the relevance of the title is. My question was answered not long after. This is Not a Test is a book of survival – not just surviving as to be alive, but a survival from all other nightmares. Six teenagers were thrown together in their school campus in an attempt to outlast the horrors waiting beyond the walls. There’s Sloane, Rhys, Cary, Harrison and the twins, Grace & Trace. They are not even friends, but when everything’s gone, what exactly do you hold on to?

This book centers around Sloane, a girl whose world shattered when her sister Lily decides to leave. I find it hard to connect with her which I’m thinking is the reason why I didn’t find this book amazing. I tried my best to put myself in her shoes. How would I feel if I grew up in an abusive environment and my only source of hope was taken away from me? Betrayal and hopelessness are what surfaced. Still, I could not put myself to see how I could still revolve my life on that person. The haunting of Lily and her dad makes Sloane disconnect from the others, keeping to herself most of the time. In spite of this, I don’t seem to find remorse for her or her situation. I’d rather learn more about the other characters than her.

The action part of story comes near the end, but I think this book isn’t about the action nor facing the world outside. It is mostly facing the monsters inside of us; letting us see who’s is about to win. I love the way that I can differentiate the characters throughout the books. Courtney Summers is a creative and passionate writer. I would love to read more of her books in the future, hopefully this time I would connect to the characters more.

I liked it, but I can’t say I’m inlove with it. 🙂

My Rating: ★★★

horror · series

Anna Dressed in Blood

Anna Dressed in Blood cover

Author:  Kendare Blake
Date finished reading: January 2, 2014

Comments:
My brother recommended this book for our book club after hearing some library people talk about it in school. The title sounded catchy – I am definitely into horror/thriller genre so it made me excited. The book cover is a work of art because it leaves the reader to his imagination what Anna really looks like. The first few pages of the book immediately escort us to Cas’ life – how he is unique and how the whole story might revolve on. I like how direct the author is because I became instantaneously comfortable with the lead character. Then came the business with Anna. It was an exciting read as to what really happened and how they could help her. I thought the story would focus mainly on them, but then it revealed a twist that haunts Cas’ childhood. I cringe imagining the boy-meets-girl love story because the way ghosts were portrayed in this book is far from usual. I like the content and the mystery side of things, but not really the romance part. Overall, it was enjoyable and I would still read the next installment in the series.

“You make me want things I can’t have.”
― Kendare Blake, Anna Dressed in Blood

My Rating: ★★★★(4)