Ya Asylum

Wednesday, October 8th 2014

Review: The Gateway Through Which They Came by Heather Marie

The Gateway Through Which They CameThe Gateway Through Which They Came Genres: Paranormal
on August 25, 2014
Pages: 218
Format: eBook
Goodreads
To seventeen-year-old Aiden Ortiz, letting the dead walk through his body to reach the other side comes with the territory. Being a Gateway isn’t an easy job, but someone’s gotta send Bleeders where they belong. Heaven. Salvation. Call it whatever you want. Dead is dead. But when his search for Koren Banks––the girl who went mysteriously missing seven months ago––leaves him with more questions than answers, he finds himself involved in something far more sinister and beyond his control.

With the threat of the Dark Priest's resurrection, and his plan to summon his demon brothers from hell, Aiden is left to discover his identity before the Dark Priest's curse infecting his blood consumes him, and before the world as he knows it succumbs to the darkness of hell on earth.
Buy the Book (Book Depository)Buy the Book (Amazon)

1UVPum4

Well. This won’t end well.

There are three types of psychological horror. The first is where a protagonist you like slowly loses their minds and you as the reader feel increasing dread as you realize you’re trapped in a book with a crazy person. The second is where the boring protagonist discovers they were CRAZY ALL ALONG and probably EVIL ALL ALONG. This is what writers who’ve only watched horror movies on Netflix that one weekend when nothing good was on TMZ think is clever. Then there’s the third type, where everything is such a confusing mess that you can feel your sanity slip into oblivion as you hopelessly struggle to figure out what the hell is going on.

I’m not sure what this book wants to be, this may sound like a nitpick, but knowing what a book is effects how I read it. I don’t read romance expecting monsters to jump out and eat the characters, and if I read splatterpunk I wouldn’t expect endless scenes of refined British ladies having tea parties and being perfectly pleasant to each other. In this case, I expected something along the lines of Anna Dressed In Blood, general horror with an occult/’mythological’ twist. That’s what the synopsis lead me to believe.

Then Aiden starts thinking he’s going insane by the third scene. But… there isn’t enough context or contrast yet to tell one way or other. This part was so jarring I thought my e-book was missing a section. At this point the book pivots and tries to evolve into a slow-burn psychological novel. These two sub-genres should work together, but the execution here makes everything such a confusing, frustrating mess that I that I still don’t know what the overarching story is.

tumblr_inline_mnzyr6BpKw1qz4rgp

Okay, let me back up.

First off, Heather Marie has a wonderfully diverse cast of characters. Aiden is Hispanic. His best friend is gay. Both are realistically portrayed and they are a welcome relief to all the Whitey C. Whitebread characters I’ve read lately. Aiden is the first MC of color I’ve read for review since The Merciless and Trevor is only gay character I’ve come across in the last seven books I’ve read. Full kudos to Heather Marie here.

Things looked promising for the first few paragraphs of The Window Through Which They Threw The Brick. Heather Marie has good flow and the best male voice I’ve come across since Daniel Kraus’ Scowler.

And then came the flow-breaking flashback to shoehorn in the angsty, out-of-place teen drama.

So Aiden Ortiz is a gateway, someone who the dead pass through to cross over to the other side. Here’s where the first snake in this tangle of snakes raises it head. Outside of getting really cold and occasionally passing out, there’s not really a cost to being a gateway. In horror, paranormalwhatever they’re calling it these days, there needs to be a high, nerve-wrecking cost in order to create a sense of dread. As it stands, being a gateway looks really easy, but Aiden complains about it endlessly. So he ends up sounding like he kicks the crutches out from under cute, wide-eyed orphans for the lulz. This bleed out my sympathy until I wanted to punch him every time he opened his freaking gop. They’re. Dead. Dude. Take time out from your busy moping schedule and bloody help them.

Another reason I’m still so utterly confused is that there’s never enough information or context to understand Heather Marie’s world. Endless paragraphs are devoted to telling me the context for all the relationships, but the book doesn’t dive into the rules of the world for over half the book. Every time it seems like someone will finally give some info, something happens to prevent it. For no good reason. One time the priest mentor figure had to reschedule because of something or other, a flat tire, I think. The scares work the exact same way. Something tense happens, then build-up, oh it’s another human being, drama talk, end scene. Every time. This was probably building to a twist, but I stopped caring.

At this point, I reread the synopsis of the book and thought I was going nuts. Aiden spends a flashback asking a school secretary about the girl he likes but then the girl shows up out of the blue by the fifth or sixth scene. So he never actually looks for her. The whole curse bit actually spoils the book because going by the text alone I never would’ve guessed curses were even possible. So the first part of the synopsis isn’t true and the second part needs a spoiler warning.

By the time I reached the multiple paragraph Firefly reference I finally said enough. My father was a Firefly reference, dammit. I’ll have none of this! I stopped at the halfway point before my confusion and questions and frustrations and irritations turned me into this:

tumblr_mb9aowSy1t1qgcra2o1_500

In spite of the tangled mess I’ve detailed here, Heather Marie does shows a lot of talent, she’s trying to do the things that make a good paranormal/horror novel—likable characters, ambiguity, atmosphere, etc, etc, etc, but her execution isn’t there yet. My only regret in DNF-ing this review is I won’t find out how Trevor and Evan ended up. (You deserve better, Trevor.) Once Heather Marie has a few more books under her belt I’ll probably read her again, like I said, there’s a lot of promise here, but The Browser Through Which They Read Tumblr is not that book.

timon

Tuesday, October 7th 2014

Horror October Line Up!

Hosted by Oh! The Books!

It’s OCTOBER! I love October, as I’m sure Timon and Topaz do too. It’s the best month if you ask me. Fall is beautiful. Plus, best of all, October has Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday ever. Love, love, love Halloween.

So, for Horror October, we’re going to talk about horrors here.

For example, I’m going to review the following books:

FERAL by Holly Schindler (who was so gracious as to send me a hardcover that’s signed just because I mentioned liking horror on Twitter!)

THE GIRL IN THE WELL by Rin Chupeco

COME CLOSER by Sara Gran

I’ll also be doing a few talks about J-Horror: Americanization of J-Horror movies v. The Original (Grudge, Ring, & Dark Water).

HOUSE KEEPING STUFF: I said I was going to do the Weekly Wrap-Up every week, but I lied. I’ll do a Monthly Wrap-Up the last Monday of every month!

For Timon, he’ll be covering some oft he following:

Hollow Pike by James Dawson

Horror Games

Why I Love Horror

Horror Atmosphere

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

The Gateway Through Which They Came by Heather Marie (TOMORROW!)

And Topaz?

She’s a wonderful free spirit that continuous surprises me (in only good ways!) so we’ll see what she has planned :)

Is there anything in particular you guys want to see from us? 

ya-signature

posted by admin
Posted in: Horror Love
tagged: , ,
2 Comments

Sunday, October 5th 2014

Bookish Playlist: “Destiny Laughed”

bookishplaylist

I’ve really been in an MG kind of mood lately, so when my little sister came home raving about a book she and her classmates were reading, I thought I’d give it a try, just out of curiosity. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, completely blew away all my expectations. It’s funny and heartwarming and there are some beautiful messages – not even going to pretend there weren’t some tears shed over here.

Plus, it turns out R.J. Palacio is a music buff! Those of you who’ve read the book will know that it’s divided into sections, each narrated by a different character, and at the beginning there’s a song lyric that encompasses either an overarching theme for the section or just a significant moment. So in honour of Miss Palacio’s awesome music taste – because seriously, the ones she chose are beyond amazing – here’s Destiny Laughed, containing some songs from Wonder and some of my own picks. Check it out on 8tracks by clicking on the cover below!

Album Cover

All bookish playlists contain major spoilers for their respective books!

i. The Outside // Taylor Swift

so how can I ever try to be better?
nobody ever lets me in
I can still see you
this ain’t the best view
on the outside looking in

At the very beginning, August is basically shunned by everybody expect for the people who were forced to befriend him. It’s terrible to read about the things that his classmates say and do to him – some of them are downright deplorable (but of course, it’s also the reality of elementary school bullying). This song talks about the feeling of desolation that comes from constantly being the outsider, and it’s a feeling Auggie knows too well.

ii. Space Oddity // David Bowie

for here, am I floating in a tin can
far above the world
planet earth is blue
and there’s nothing I can do

Oh my gosh, I was SO EXCITED that Palacio included this song in such a special way – it’s one of my favourites in the entire book. Of course, this is for Auggie and Miranda and their friendship, but also for all of the characters who are outcasts (and I’m about 99.9% sure that they all are in one part or another). There’s so much hopelessness in the feeling that you’re getting farther and farther away from earth and no one knows how to connect with you anymore.

iii. Best Shot // Birdy & Jaymes Young

I’ll be here, giving it my best shot
baby, your love’s got more than I need
here, crying from the rooftops
nothing can stop us if we believe
here, giving it my best shot
baby, I find that we can be free
when you’re here, here with me

Via and Auggie have a lovely relationship. They’re much closer than most siblings, and Via is protective of Auggie in a way that might be almost overprotective had it not been for Auggie’s situation. Still, she can’t save him from every single hurt, and I think she kind of feels the loss once Auggie starts school and is bombarded with bullying from all sides. This song shows beautifully how she finally learns to make peace with the fact that even though she can’t guide her baby brother every step of the way, she’ll always do her best to help him find his own path.

iv. Vienna // Billy Joel

and you know that when the truth is told
that you can get what you want or you can just get old
you’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
why don’t you realise Vienna waits for you?
when will you realise Vienna waits for you?

But at the same time, thinking about Via always makes me sad because I feel like she’s had to grow up so fast. After everything with August, she seems to be overlooked – she’s always known as “that girl with the disabled little brother”. Having to protect Auggie 24/7 has turned her into somebody who’s constantly on the defensive, waiting for people to call her out on flaws that, most of the time, don’t even exist. And there’s something bittersweet about this because, on the flipside, there are people looking out for her, just as she looks out for August. After all, as Justin says, the universe does take care of all its birds.

v. Count On Me // Bruno Mars

you can count on me like 1, 2, 3, I’ll be there
and I know when I need it I can
count on you like 4, 3, 2, and you’ll be there
’cause that’s what friends are supposed to do, oh yeah

And then there’s Summer. There are no words for how much I love her and the steadfast way she sticks with August – without prompting, without drama, just in her quiet and constant way. She’s always there to catch him, and I don’t think she gets enough credit for that. While the rest of the world is in turmoil over a) the way August looks and b) the way everybody else reacts to how he looks, Summer never wavers. She’s always there for him.

vi. Little Lion Man // Mumford & Sons

but it was not your fault but mine
and it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
didn’t I, my dear?
didn’t I, my dear?

I’ll admit it: I really, really wanted to hate Jack during the whole Bleeding Scream thing on Halloween. But I just couldn’t do it, especially after he found out and the sheer horror as he realised how much he hurt August. That scene is what I was thinking of when I chose this song, but now that I’m writing this I think it also ties into all of the characters in their lowest moments: August after the Halloween scene, Via when she’s questioning whether she’s a good sister, Miranda at camp, lying to her friends about her life at home. Weep, little lion man, you’re not as brave as you were at the start.

vii. Darling I Do // Landon Pigg & Lucy Schwartz

golden leaves looked brown to me
the world had less colour without you
shapes in the sky looked plain to my eye
the world had less colour without you
I know plenty of people with eyes closed
they don’t see you like I do, darling I do

But eventually Jack and Auggie do make up, and it just made me so happy to see how relieved Jack was to be friends with him again. It’s one of those things where he didn’t really understand what he was missing until he had it back – August and Jack weren’t quite complete without each other as friends. And I’m so incredibly amazed at how Jack held his ground even when everybody at school turned against him for sticking with August.

viii. Give Up The Ghost // Rosi Golan & Johnny McDaid

come here
it’s all worth the fight when it’s you, dear
we’re hitting our heads on the walls here
we don’t have to hold on so tightly

Besides the fact that this is a ridiculously beautiful song on its own, I think it encompasses the whole book so well. It’s about learning the right time to fight for what you want – and more than that, for what you deserve – but it’s also about learning when it’s okay to let go a little and just breathe. Bonus points because one of the lyrics also paraphrases Mr. Browne’s December precept: it’s fortune that favours the brave ones.

ix. Yellow // Coldplay

your skin, oh yeah your skin and bones
turn into something beautiful
and you know, you know I love you so
you know I love you so

I cried SO HARD when Daisy died, oh my gosh. I have a feeling Auggie would sing something like this to her, because she’s been with him since the beginning. She was the one person who always thought he was beautiful, and I think he saw her the same way (and yes, I am the type of person who includes a song for a dog. Don’t say a word). But this is also for the relationship between August and his mom, because I’m so in awe of how she walked the fine line between protecting him and teaching him to protect himself.

x. Wonder // Natalie Merchant

oh, I believe
fate smiled and destiny
laughed as she came to my cradle
know this child will be able
laughed as my body she lifted
know this child will be gifted
with love, with patience and with faith
she’ll make her way

Of course, for Auggie, who truly is a wonder.

Suggestions for future bookish playlists? Check out my Goodreads shelves and leave a comment below!

topaz2

posted by admin
Posted in: Bookish Playlist
tagged:
1 Comments

Thursday, October 2nd 2014

In Which I Rant About Feminism, Books are Powerful, and the Doctor is Right As Usual

I don’t know if you guys have seen the beyond beautiful speech Emma Watson gave for the UN last month on the new #HeForShe movement (if not, have you been living under a rock?!). But it got me thinking about something very important – feminism and the fight for gender equality. And, perhaps more to the point, how that relates to us as readers.

I’m one of those “inadvertent feminists” Emma Watson talks about in her speech. To be honest, I never really considered myself a feminist up until recently. I mean, of course I thought the genders should be equal – that always seemed like common sense to me, until I started reading the news and realising that, hey, it actually wasn’t really common sense at all.

Which is why we need to change that. And fast.

One of the things that stuck with me in Watson’s speech was this:

“No country in the world can yet say that they have achieved gender equality.”

I wish I could argue with it, but sadly, it’s the truth.

What I can say, though, is that we have a medium to go beyond the borders of countries. There’s something that every single one of you reading this post love, with all your hearts, with everything you have. It’s something you’re influenced by, something that has changed you irrevocably – no matter your gender or your age or where you live.

Of course. You knew the second you read the first sentence of that paragraph that I was talking about books, didn’t you? I don’t think there’s anybody sitting here who can say that books haven’t changed their view of the world, that they haven’t seen everything and everyone around them in so much more clarity because of some ink printed on paper. The thing is, books have such power – and what I’ve found is that it’s a power that we too often overlook.

So here’s our job as readers: to spread this love of books in a way that embodies the principles of gender equality.

Alright, so let me rephrase that in layman’s terms, shall I? ;)

Take J.K. Rowling, for example. One of the most popular authors in the world, yes? There’s a reason all but the most hardcore Harry Potter fans know her simply as “J.K.” – because she specifically chose to use only her initials on the front cover of the books.

Now, why on earth would she do something like that?

Oh, maybe because she was afraid boys wouldn’t want to read her books because they were written by a woman.

What is this Fuckery?

It’s things like this that we absolutely have to abolish in the literary world. It’s so incredibly imperative that we begin to stop and think about what we’re reading, what’s influencing our views on the world. Are we truly picking books that put female characters in situations where they can shine (whether that’s in the traditional “strong female character” archetype or otherwise)? Are we reading enough books that were written by women? When recommending books to kids, since I know a lot of us work in libraries and bookstores and schools, are we making sure that we expose them to a wide variety of books – written by men and women, with both male and female protagonists?

If not, there’s a huge, huge problem here.

I work in my school library, and just the other day I was recommending a book to a little boy. Sweet kid, fourth grader, seemed all smiles and charm. I gave him the lovely MG book A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeline L’Engle, and was rambling on about everything I loved about it when he halted me in my tracks with these words:

“Yeah, but it’s a girl book.”

Waitwaitwaitwaitwait.

girl book?

I guess I didn’t get the memo, because nobody ever told me that the books I read are girl books. What do you think would happen if I ever read a boy book? Or has that never been risked before?

Is it too big of a leap to think hey, maybe there doesn’t actually have to be a thing like girl books and boy books? Maybe we can all just read whatever the hell we want to. Maybe it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy who likes reading about sparkling vampires or if you’re a girl who likes reading about touchdowns and home runs.

Maybe – and stick with me here, everybody – just maybe books are actually a universal phenomenon, no matter what letter chromosomes you have.

So my dear fellow readers, this is where you come in. It’s your job to put books in the hands of people who have to figure out that gender equality is a thing we need, like right now. Perhaps no amount of speeches or long, ranty blog posts will ever change their minds – but hey, what if they start reading about strong and beautiful and brave and funny and diverse and amazing women who aren’t actually that set apart from men just because they happen to have different body parts? I don’t know about you, but I think there’s a pretty damn high chance that reading about that might just make them think a little differently about women in the real world.

In her UN speech, Watson has this to say about the parents, teachers, and mentors who treated her exactly the same as they would men:

“These influences were the gender equality ambassadors that made me who I am today.”

And it’s occurred to me that not everybody can have that same privilege to be judged not for their gender, but for the “content of their character” (because Martin Luther King did have a point there – whether that’s racism or sexism we’re referring to). So that’s why we need to give those people a substitute. We need to give them gender equality ambassadors that will speak to them just as loudly as any person. Books are by far the most potent catalysts I’ve ever come across – they can spur people into action, and we don’t talk about that enough. We can’t just leave such a compelling tool sitting off to the side, unused.

Watson talks about how in order to change the way we look at feminism, men need to take part in the discussion just as much as women do. But I think there’s an even greater medium that’s capable of reaching men and women alike: books. You guys, gender equality fundamentally starts with us, the readers. It’s so important that we spread the word – until our films and our television shows and our music and, most importantly, our books, begin to reflect the changing standards of our society, there is no way that women and men can achieve the standard of equality that we’re striving for.

To sum it up in one GIF:

Best Weapons In the World

It’s so vitally important that we remember this: that our books can change our lives. They can change our viewpoints. They can change the way we look at our friends and our family and the people we work with.

So who’s to say they can’t change the world as well?

topaz

posted by admin
Posted in: Opinion Piece
tagged: , ,
4 Comments

Tuesday, September 30th 2014

Upcoming Reviews

horrorlove

Alrighty folks, we’re got some exciting stuff coming soon to the Asylum, but for the moment here’s my reviewing schedule for the rest of the year.

New Releases: 

The Gateway Through Which They Came By Heather Marie

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Get Even by Gretchen McNeil

Amity by Micol Ostow (Only because Nova Ren Suma, Jonathan Maberry, and Ilsa Bick blurbed it.)

Witch Island by David Bernstein

Harrow by Amanda Troyer

The Fall by Bethany Griffin

The Violet Hour by Whitney A. Miller

Creed by Trisha Leaver and Lindsey Currie

Dog Days by Joe McKinney

Feral by Holly Schindler

(Kim will be reviewing The Girl in the Well in October)

 

Getting Caught Up Reviews:

Right now I’m operating under the delusion that I can review all the YA horror out there and make YA Asylum your go to site for horror reviews. We’ll see how this goes . . .

The Monster Variations, Scowler, and Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Hollow Pike, Say Her Name, and Cruel Summer by James Dawson

Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Opel

The Blood Journals by Tessa Gratton

. . . And others as well. Right now I’m drowning in this list so this will be every much touch and go.

 

Retro Reviews:

I Know What You Did Last Summer and Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

 

Only If You Guys Really Want Me Too:

Servants of the Storm by Deliliah S. Dawson (This book looks like every trope I hate had a baby together.)

Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto (It’s romance with a rubber mask.)

Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant (Doesn’t look like horror–but classified there on Goodreads.)

 

If I Run Out Of Everything Else And Need to Vent My Spleen:

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

 

If you know of any I’ve missed or want to make a personal request, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

And we have got to name the ghost on the main banner and the owl watching over the comments at the bottom of the page. Seriously, this has bugged me since new format was unveiled. Throw out some suggestions people!

timon

posted by admin
Posted in: Book Talk, Horror Love, Reviews, Uncategorized
tagged:
6 Comments

Monday, September 29th 2014

Discussion: Your Favourite Banned Books

This post is coming to you a little late since banned books week was officially last week, but I figure there’s never a bad time to celebrate the fact that great art scares the hell out of people. ;)

One of the coolest things I’ve stumbled on in relation to banned books is this great infographic by ACLU which details not only a relatively comprehensive list of banned books (if that’s not enough for you, here’s a longer one), but also why exactly they were banned. Needless to say, quite a few of the reasons are bordering on ludicrous. Still, it’s a pretty awesome tool for those who are curious as to just what offended people about their favourite books.

And there are most certainly some favourites on the list, YA and otherwise – including Catch-22, Bridge to Terabithia, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Giver, and, to top it off, Fahrenheit 451. It’s a banned book about banned books!

So here’s a question for you guys – what are your absolute favourite banned books? For me, I have to say I love a lot of books on the list, but my favourite would have to be either To Kill A Mockingbird (fyi, I will never ever be over Atticus Finch), Flowers for Algernon (THE LAST LINE OH GOD), or Matilda (because that girl is actually a little me. I mean, not the whole abusive-parents thing… or the ridiculously-intelligent-and-apparently-has-mind-control-powers… or the – you know what, let’s scrap that analogy, shall we? I JUST REALLY LIKE THE BOOK, OKAY).

What are your favourite banned books – and why are they your favourites? Let’s have a discussion!

topaz2

posted by admin
Posted in: Book Talk
tagged: ,
4 Comments

Thursday, September 25th 2014

FROZEN HEARTS by Topaz Winters Cover reveal!

Topaz Winters wrote this amazing book! She’s a remarkable talent and one of my co-bloggers over at YA Asylum. When I heard she was going to self-publish, I asked if she needed hep with the cover design. She was happy to accept it :)

(Which, yes, means I made this cover. I have some pre-made covers also made and ready for purchase if you so desire.)

option4v2

BLURB:

“Rose, don’t try to tell me what’s real or not real. I live and breathe impossibilities.”

Rosalyn Lawrence is not the type of girl who strays from the norm. She’s not the type of girl who goes on whirlwind adventures or travels across the world and beyond or fights fire-breathing dragons to the death. After all, fairytales exist only in books, and Rosalyn is happy to keep it that way.

But when her beloved little brother Benjamin disappears, Rosalyn’s entire world comes crashing down. Then a boy with a wand climbs through her window and she learns that the grieving queen of a shockingly desolate enchanted land has abducted Benjamin. If she chooses to be sucked into the magic of this land, its power – and the power of an enemy she isn’t quite sure even exists – could destroy her.

A world of frozen fantasy is waiting for Rosalyn – and if she will succeed in bringing Benjamin home, she must learn how to trust herself, use her wits, and perhaps discover an inner magic she never knew she had.

Excerpt

Rosalyn woke in the middle of the night.

Her head was clouded, cobwebs of sleep still lingering, a fog drifting over her senses. The surface she was lying on was soft. As she sat up she saw a figure, not quite near enough to touch, motionless on the floor. She couldn’t seem to recall his name.

As her eyes adjusted to the darkness she realised that his shirt was off and his back was to her, bare in the soft moonlight. She looked out the window. The stars seemed to glisten, impossibly dense confetti scattered over the blanket of night. The moon hung suspended as if from a child’s mobile.

She stood, moving closer to the figure on the floor. The rise and fall of his chest was almost imperceptible. His face was still just out of her line of sight, his name still just out of the grasp of her slumber-clouded memory.

In the moonlight she caught a glimpse of something on his back. Her fingers glided down to it and she traced it, feather light, afraid for reasons she could not fathom of waking him. The scar joined another and another, until all at once she realised that she was connecting a veritable constellation of pain across the canvas of his back.

She gazed down at them. They were old, she could tell, but they still looked painful. The skin was gnarled, as if some heavenly hand had reached down, ripped it off of his back, and then bunched it up and pasted it haphazardly back on – and she knew she should be horrified at the sight, knew she should be pitying him or turning away in revulsion, yet she could not bring herself to. All she felt was the inherent need toknow: how had he gotten them? Did they still hurt?

Was Chase all right?

And there was his name, pulled from the graveyard of her memory:Chase. A boy with a crooked smile and a secret she’d never been meant to discover.

Somewhere in the back of her mind a deep voice with a cold accent surfaced, murmuring something about his father. What had he told her? She struggled to remember, and finally it hit her. “Let’s just say he wasn’t the best role model,” the voice had said.

The gashes were long healed, yet so deep, so thick and ragged that she almost didn’t want to think about who might have put them there – his father? she wondered, and then wished the thought had never crossed her mind.

She couldn’t bear to look at them for a moment longer. Turning away from his pockmarked body, she glanced up at the stars once more before climbing back into the small cot and letting sleep overtake her – an uneasy sleep, riddled with nightmares of long, thin sticks of ice, dark men and evil laughter, unbearable pain lacing through her back. This time the stars did not look like confetti, but teardrops.

In the morning, she would have no memory of her nighttime awakening.

And the boy lying across from her would never tell her that his eyes had been open the whole time.

 

Isn’t she talented? Follow her on twitter and follow her wordpress site for more information on her indie debut release!

ya-signature

posted by admin
Posted in: Book Talk
tagged: , , ,
4 Comments

Thursday, September 25th 2014

Review: Floppy the Mystery Dog and the New Kid, by Denise A. Bloomfield & Diana R. Starr

Floppy the Mystery Dog and the New KidFloppy the Mystery Dog and the New Kid by Denise A. Bloomfield, Diana R. Starr
Series: Floppy the Mystery Dog #1
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Format: ARC
Source: ARC from author
Goodreads
Tommy is just about to start the 4th grade. He should be excited to be in Southern California this summer, but nooooo, his dad moved the family from Milwaukee and away from all of Tommy's friends. Tommy is bummed out, until one day when he discovers the new mystery in his life: a filthy, floppy-eared homeless dog, who has apparently just fallen from the sky!
Buy the Book (Book Depository)Buy the Book (Amazon)

Note: I received a free copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much, Denise and Diana!

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book targeted for an MG audience, and I wasn’t quite sure whether Floppy the Mystery Dog and the New Kid would really scratch that itch. I must say, though, I was proved wrong – Floppy was a quick but definitely fun read, and I enjoyed being transported back into a nine-year old’s world, one where boring summer days are the stuff of nightmares and talking dogs randomly fall from the sky to remedy them.

I LOVE Tommy, the main character. From the start, he’s cute and imaginative and relatable – I know a lot of kids will be able to see themselves in his place. There he is, sitting in his living room and bemoaning the fact that his parents were cruel enough to make him move houses in the middle of the summer, when, out of nowhere, it starts raining cats and dogs.

Literally. As in, cats and dogs start dropping from the sky.

So after that… somewhat unexpected event, all the animals suddenly disappear and then Tommy’s left alone, bored. Again. (Are you sensing a pattern here?)

But wait! Turns out all is not lost, because for some odd reason there’s one (talking) dog left behind. Introducing: Floppy the Mystery Dog! *superhero music begins playing in the background*

Floppy is actually the cutest character I’ve met in awhile. He’s cheeky and is forever teasing Tommy, but never in a malicious way – I knew I was rooting for him from the instant he stepped into the pages. The banter between him and Tommy is hilarious… plus, I mean, who can say no to a walking, talking orange mop? Not me, that’s for sure!

(Hint: YES. YES, YOU ARE.)

Tommy does have some unrealistic thoughts for a nine year old (for example, at one point he thinks “What the…?”), and I found it kind of odd that he wasn’t more surprised at the whole hey-there-are-suddenly-cats-and-dogs-falling-out-of-the-sky thing.

The other issue is that the parents seemed wildly underthought and underdeveloped. Firstly: when Tommy finds Floppy he’s home alone – and parents, do correct me if I’m wrong, but I find it very hard to believe that somebody would leave their nine-year old kid by themselves for a prolonged period of time after just moving to a new neighbourhood. Also, when Tommy asks if he can keep Floppy, there’s no deliberation, no consideration, no hesitation: just a resounding “yes”. The parents’ dialogue is unrealistic and almost cheesy in places – although they are major characters in the story, they’re very, very one-dimensional.

^This, pretty much. Although I felt like I knew Tommy and Floppy very well, I had no idea who the parents were – more fleshing out would make them much more real to the reader.

The other deterrents: there were a multitude of editing and conventions errors throughout, and some of the POV switches between Tommy and Floppy were rather sudden and clumsy. Although they were nothing more than a mild annoyance for me, the book really isn’t targeted towards people my age – rather, it’s meant for kids who are just beginning to read, and things like this might trip them up and make it hard for them to understand and enjoy the book.

But overall, there was nothing that truly took away from my personal enjoyment of the story. Although it’s narrated in the third person, the voice is very well done – I could hear a child talking. And – this is a huge huge plus for me – there are enough unanswered questions that it’s actually logical to have a sequel. I certainly didn’t feel like there were an extra five pages with a bunch of foreshadowing tacked on just for the hell of it; the buildup is very well thought-out.

The illustrations are cute, simple, and fun, and it’s short enough that it won’t take too long for beginning readers. Definitely a recommended book – I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, and especially if the authors fix the little errors I mentioned, I know kids will enjoy it.

topaz

posted by admin
Posted in: Reviews
tagged:
2 Comments

Wednesday, September 24th 2014

In The Rearview: Book Giveaway!

bookgiveaway

So I’m going to make this easy! It’s one of my best friend’s birthday today, Miss Maria Ann Green, and all she asked for was for people to buy her book and leave honest reviews. Well, I have already bought the book.

Therefore, I’m going to buy the book for some of you! Enter the giveaway to win a chance at a copy of In the Rearview

We’ve hosted a Book Blitz for this amazing book and I’ve always wrote a review.

BLURB:

When Meagan’s secret is found out, and she realizes there is no way to outrun her habit of cutting, she tries to work through it, and her depression, before she cuts too deep, making a mistake that can never be undone.

Meagan’s problems aren’t like every other adolescent’s no matter how much she wishes they could be. Hers are worse. They’ve pulled her down into the depths of a depression that is anything but normal. She begins her pattern of self-harm as her depression threatens to drown her. She starts with one cut that leads to the next, and the next. After starting, it’s apparent that there’s no stopping, and Meagan spirals into a dark and cruel world she doesn’t understand. Meagan cuts to feel better, but that comfort doesn’t last long enough, and soon life is worse than it ever was before.

While learning to quit cutting Meagan faces life-altering obstacles and grows up in the process. IN THE REARVIEW is a story of pain, loss, confusion, and hope told through Meagan’s poems, journal entries, and a splash of narrative

ADD TO GOODREADS + BUY ON AMAZON

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ya-signature

posted by admin
Posted in: Giveaway
tagged: , , ,
1 Comments

Tuesday, September 23rd 2014

Review: MARY: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan

MARY: The SummoningMARY: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan
Genres: Horror
Published by Disney-Hyperion on Disney-Hyperion (September 2, 2014)
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Goodreads
There is a right way and a wrong way to summon her.

Jess had done the research. Success requires precision: a dark room, a mirror, a candle, salt, and four teenage girls. Each of them--Jess, Shauna, Kitty, and Anna--must link hands, follow the rules . . . and never let go.

A thrilling fear spins around the room the first time Jess calls her name: "Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. BLOODY MARY." A ripple of terror follows when a shadowy silhouette emerges through the fog, a specter trapped behind the mirror.

Once is not enough, though--at least not for Jess. Mary is called again. And again. But when their summoning circle is broken, Bloody Mary slips through the glass with a taste for revenge on her lips. As the girls struggle to escape Mary's wrath, loyalties are questioned, friendships are torn apart, and lives are forever altered.

A haunting trail of clues leads Shauna on a desperate search to uncover the legacy of Mary Worth. What she finds will change everything, but will it be enough to stop Mary--and Jess--before it's too late?
Buy the Book (Book Depository)Buy the Book (Amazon)

I’ve loved horror all my life, but didn’t get pulled deep in the genre until I took a horror lit class in college. We read the greats and the obscure, but what I remember the most is the unbridled glee I felt with Stephen King’s ‘The Children of the Corn,’ Clive Barker’s ‘The Midnight Meat Train,’ and ‘Ring’ by Koji Suzuki. Each one left me exhilarated, haunted, and wanting more.

MARY: The Summoning brought back those feelings.

Imagine a huge asterisk next to that statement, there are some big flaws here, but in the end, I had a hell of a lot of fun.

The story begins when Jess talks her three friends–Shauna, Anna, and Kitty–into doing the old Bloody Mary sleepover trick. Only the real Bloody Mary shows up and the creepy and the grotesque begins. The girls soon discover not only can Mary appear in mirrors, but in anything reflective. I’m sure you’re already thinking what you can do with a premise like that and Monahan delivers like an automatic nurse in earth’s last maternity ward.

First the bad news of Jerry: The Maguiring, the writing. It’s not good. A large portion of the dialogue and exposition feels like someone nailing my eyelids to my lower lip. The characters repeatedly talk, shout, and exclaim to each other in the high tension scenes in the most aggressively unnecessary ways possible. Instead of using the word ‘reflective’ to talk about things Mary can appear in, they use  ‘shiny.’ A word that has never and will never hold an ounce of threat. In fact, I thought of this instead…

s2dqX99 - Imgur

The book is in the first person, but feels more like limited third, with me and Shauna on opposite sides of a mud-smeared window. With this distance between me and her, the book usually fails to pull on the dangling heart strings in my bleeding chest cavity. And it tries several times.

But you know what I could do in this book that I couldn’t do in Unbreakable? Tell the bloody characters apart. I actually gave a blue fart when one of them died.

As to the characters, they aren’t much, but they’re enough. In fact, the most well developed character is Mary herself. Think of her as an Americanized version of Koji Suzuki’s Sadoko Yamamura. Both are tragic and sympathetic without losing any of their menace or threat. I love when writers do this in horror. Call me crazy–or I’m finally succumbing to Stockholm Syndrome–but with a bit more polish I’ll probably like Monahan more than Suzuki.

Shauna, who’s an actual protagonist for once, is a fighter and she’s determined to stop Mary. Even better, she never waits around for Beefstake Hottiehips to show up and sort things out for her. The requisite plot induced stupidity makes a guest appearance, but thankfully the relentless pacing and the wonderful chills make up for it. I don’t think I’ve ever said this about any book, but the climax was worth reaching in spite of the preceding twenty pages of out-of-character, false emotional moments. Basically, if Shauna sends a  text to Kitty, like “X is on a murder spree ’cause Y, ttyl kisses smiley faces YOLO #drama” the climax doesn’t happen. Monahan’s justification for not doing this is a straight-up cop out.

Berry: The Fruiting compensates for it’s lack of atmosphere with more threat, dread, grit and menace than I’ve seen in awhile. Unfortunately, most of the cliches in the book come when Monahan does try to build atmosphere, like the literal, groan-inducing bats in a literary belfry. (Okay, a church, but I really wanted to use that line.)

giphy

And then came the twist.

And oh sweet hosanna, it was a good twist. It was foreshadowed, it made sense within the context of the characters, it illuminated the plot rather than making it dumber. My only problem with it is I don’t think the twist went far enough in explaining one particular character’s motivation. But this leads me to the next problem.

Saving stuff for the sequels. I’ve seen this issue a lot lately, where Page 1 content (or last page in this case) gets pushed to the sequel. I know YA editors are running around like headless chickens looking for the NEXT BIG THING out of a crippling fear their cash cow will stop spraying them with money, but this has to stop. Everything in Carrie: The Bloodying could’ve been wrapped up in another hundred pages or so, but no, hi-ho, hi-ho, off to the sequel it goes. Still, kudos to Monahan for delivering a satisfying ending regardless, one that didn’t leave me a slavering rage monster.

I think I’ve given all the possible irritations here. If you don’t have a problem with these, then I recommend reading the book. Monahan, I think, is only going to get better, and I’m looking forward to her future books. MARY‘s not Freddy Krueger sinking his knives into my back and scratching my horror itch, but it is Jason chasing me around a summer camp while I make out with the other councilors. I’ll take it.

timon

13 Comments
© Copyright 2013 YA Asylum. All Rights Reserved.
Designed & Developed by Anna Moore.