Book Review: Scary Mary

Scary Mary

Why I read:  Book club book for November.  Ghosts.

Book blurb: “Mary just wants to be left alone, but the cheerleaders, jocks, guidance counselors, and ghosts won’t stop harassing her. When a new boy starts school, he surprises Mary by befriending her. That’s a rare thing for the school freak, but her unusual abilities put a rift in their budding friendship when Mary has to tell Cy that his home is haunted and not by Casper, the friendly ghost. Mary has to get rid of the ghost, thwart the school bully, do her homework, and not get detention. Mary’s sure she can do all of that except for the last part. 

 

My review

The kindle edition of this book is currently available for free on Amazon (Dec 17).  So if you love young adult stories with ghostly spookiness give this one a go.

I’m not a big reader of young adult novels so I found everything a bit too simplistic, the plot was predictable and was focused more on Mary’s thoughts than much happening.    Although I did enjoy the end sections where things kick of and get more ghostly.

Scary Mary is an independent teenage girl who thinks for herself and looks after herself. She’s a bit different from everyone else in that she can hear ghosts.   I really enjoyed this aspect of the story.  Even when I didn’t agree with or understand her actions or thoughts it was interesting to see how she interacted with other people and the supernatural.

“It was funny how saving a boy from danger didn’t guarantee him liking the girl.  It always worked for the guy in fairy tales.  The damsel always married the hero and they lived happily ever after.  Why weren’t there any stories about the damsel saving the hero?” Scary Mary

I only gave the book 2 stars as it was too simplistic and high school cliche for my tastes. But overall its a very quick fun read with a bit of spookiness thrown in.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: ghosts,  young-adult, school drama

**

 Kindle Edition, 144 pages

Published August 18th 2010 (first published August 16th 2006)
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Book Review: Cthulu and Other Monsters – gory horror shorts

Cthulu and Other Monsters  by Sam Stone

Why I read:  I love Cthulu tales and have enjoyed other books by the author.

Book blurb: “Sixteen tales of terror from the blood-soaked pen of Sam Stone. Enter if you dare and discover nine stories inspired by the nightmare visions of H P Lovecraft: Elder Gods returning to the Earth to wreak havoc, tales of death and destruction and betrayal and the last flickering embers of humanity … Alongside these are seven further stories featuring the monstrous creations of Stone’s own imagination: a hungry and jealous sea; wolf-creatures prowling the fashion industry; a terrifying creature held captive in a cellar … Open the cover and let Sam Stone’s nightmares guide your way into horror … ‘Entertaining and original’ Brian M Sammons ‘Mistress of the grisly and the glutinous’ Graham Masterton.”

 

Select quote ” Lucy could make out a bulbous shape, and long thick appendages that moved in a a sinuous flow as the creature shifted,  like a giant octopus or some creature from the deep.  This could not be a land dweller….”

My review

This collection of short stories featuring Cthulu’s Old Gods and a variety of other monsters is a fun read.   Its a very adult themed book with lots of gore, gruesome horror scenes and some sex sprinkled throughout the pages.  There’s a diverse mixture of themes contained as the author brings in elements of sci-fi, romance, steam-punk and tales set in the past, present and future.  There is a brilliant range of new takes on Lovecraftian ideas and wonderful twists in the stories that you don’t see coming.  My highlight was Of Gods and Blood – with plenty of references to Lovecraft and the Old Gods its an exciting read with so much packed into this short tale.

I really enjoyed the writers fun style and the originality  but overall found it a mixed bag.  Some stories I really enjoyed and got into, others I just skimmed through.   A wonderfully entertaining book perfect for fans of horror shorts.

You  can read a short extract of the book over on Amazon.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes:  horror, gore, cthulu,and  monster stories.

***

Book Review : Blind Side: gripping thriller crossed with love story

Blind Side by Jennie Ensor

Why I read:  intriguing thriller set in London.

Book blurb: “Can you ever truly know someone? And what if you suspect the unthinkable?

London, five months before 7/7. Georgie, a young woman wary of relationships after previous heartbreak, gives in and agrees to sleep with close friend Julian. She’s shocked when Julian reveals he’s loved her for a long time.

But Georgie can’t resist her attraction to Nikolai, a Russian former soldier she meets in a pub. While Julian struggles to deal with her rejection, Georgie realises how deeply war-time incidents in Chechnya have affected Nikolai. She begins to suspect that the Russian is hiding something terrible from her.

Then London is attacked…

Blind Side explores love and friendship, guilt and betrayal, secrets and obsession. An explosive, debate-provoking thriller that confronts urgent issues of our times and contemplates some of our deepest fears.

 

My review

An exciting read Blind Side combines a thriller and a love story.  One night Georgie makes a mistake and sleeps with her friend Julian who reveals he is in love with her.  Shortly after in a London bar she meets Nikolai, a Russian ex-soldier, and as she starts dating him she begins to suspect he has dark secrets.  What follows is a unique, gripping psychological thriller of  friendship, guilt, betrayal, obsession and love.

I really enjoyed following Georgie as she discovers more about Nikolai, unravels new truths and secrets and their relationship develops. It had me hooked from the start.  Most of the story is told through Georgie’s eyes but we are also given insights into the mind of Georgie’s stalker as his obsession escalates.  All 3 of the main characters Georgie, Nikolai and Julian  were really well written and realistic.  Their actions and motives were believable.  The story is full of twists and turmoil making it a great psychological thriller.    What impressed me most was the way numerous issues surrounding their relationship and the 7/7 attacks in London were explored and added a real depth to the story.  Issues such as racism, terrorism, fear, different classes and immigration are woven throughout the story making it a thought-provoking read.

Overall I’d give it a solid 4 stars for an exciting psychological thriller with real depth.  A brilliant debut I look forward to seeing what the author writes next.

I’d recommend to fans of: psychological thrillers, complicated love stories, suspense, mystery.

****

I received a free copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.  

Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 28th 2017 by Unbound
ISBN 1911586009

Book Review : White Bodies – psychological thriller about twin sisters

White Bodies by Jane Robins

3 star read

Why I read:   Dark, psychological thriller with unreliable  narrator

Book blurb: “Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless façade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies—or was he murdered?”

 

 

My review

A dark, twisted psychological thriller about two twin sisters obsession with each other. When Tilda meets Felix, charming but with controlling tendencies, Callie becomes fearful for her safety.    Callie narrates so we see the story unfold through her eyes and observations,  occasionally delving into the past to shed more light on their entwined lives. I found the relationship between the twins fascinating  and it kept me hooked throughout the book. With its themes of love, manipulation and violence.  Jane Robins writes the sisters characters brilliantly, neither are particularly likeable, they are flawed, weird and interesting to read about.  Tilda’s narcissism and Callie’s compulsion to consume things that belonged to Tilda demonstrate how their mental states distort their reality.  Which creates a dark book full of clues, red herrings, twists and suspense that keep you reading and guessing.

Overall White Bodies is an enjoyably unsettling page turner.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: psychological thrillers, unreliable narration, twisting storylines and sibling relationship drama.

***

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

297 pages
Published September 19th 2017 by Touchstone
ISBN  1501165089

 

Book Review : The Windup Girl – bleak dystopia sci-fi

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

3 1/2 star read

Why I read:  Science fiction dystopia that I kept on hearing about – just had to read it.

Book blurb: “Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko…

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.”

 

 

My review

A vast bio-punk dystopia set in a future Thailand.  The calorie companies whose mistakes brought new diseases including Blister rust and Cibiscosis are the ones who dole out calories and so control lives. Emiko is the windup girl, one of the New People, genetically engineered to serve.   She survives in a world brought to the edge of extinction by genetic manipulation.

“We are nature. Our every tinkering is nature, our every biological striving. We are what we are, and the world is ours. We are its gods. Your only difficulty is your unwillingness to unleash your potential fully upon it.” 
― Paolo BacigalupiThe Windup Girl

The world building is brilliantly descriptive, you are drawn into this brutal, dark, bleak future.  Set in a future Thailand within a world whose natural resources are dwindling, food is scarce, disease and disasters are everywhere.  Seed banks are owned by Calorie companies, limits on calories put a premium on muscle power.   Political manoeuvrings create twists and turns along the plot. There’s an abundance of new words which leave you searching for a meaning within the surrounding text.  Its a scary, distorted and exaggerated reflection of life with bio-technology, a disturbing vision of what our future could hold.

There are several interlocking character stories that run throughout the book.  I found I was more interested in some characters than others and ended up skimming some parts.  My emotional investments in most characters was low as viewpoints kept switching between the wide range of characters.   The title of the book,  Emiko, the Windup Girl, is a genetically engineered, Japanese-designed “New Person”, built to serve “real” humans.  Created with many modifications such as small pores to make her more sexually desirable, a “sex bot”yet she feels human emotions and pain.  Abandoned by her former owner she is now a slave in a sex club.  Through her character we explore the origin and meaning of the soul and survival in a hostile changing environment.  But there were numerous points I had to stop reading as you graphically witness the sexual degradation of Emiko, created to obey, to respond willingly to any  advances, seen by those who use her as an object created for pleasure, little more than a toy.   The numerous descriptions of her sexual objectification and abuse were sickening and often felt over described.  But still they drew out a critique and exploration of the issues.   It was deeply unsettling as the book questions does she have a soul does it matter?

“And we all know windups have no souls.” Gibbons grins. “No rebirth for them. They will have to find their own gods to protect them. Their own gods to pray for their dead.” Paolo BacigalupiThe Windup Girl

There are many references to “gene ripping” and DNA experimentation with examples of how this can go so terribly wrong.   Many of the usual sci-fi questions are presented in the book.  How far should we  play god? When is scientific/technological advancement good for humanity and when should we stop?  Should engineered humans be given the full rights and status of naturally biological humans?  This abundance of ideas was fascinating and impressive,  but at times the story itself is tedious and drags along.

A Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award winner its an epic book packed full of ideas.   But it took me a long time to finish, needing to escape from the terrible depressive bleakness Bacigalupi presents.        Its a nightmare vision of the future which kept drawing me back to read a bit more.  Nothing is black and white, characters are flawed, make mistakes, and the world is hollow and harrowing.  Very few happy moments are scattered within the pages, instead we see a future filled with despair and paranoia.  Overall a dark and brutal book, filled with questions and ethics,  but not an easy or particularly enjoyable read.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: science fiction, dystopia, science ethics.

“Even the richest and the most powerful are only meat for cheshires in the end. We are all nothing but walking corpses and to forget it is folly. Meditate on the nature of corpses and you will see this. ” 
― Paolo BacigalupiThe Windup Girl

***

Hardcover, 359 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Night Shade Books (first published 2009)
ISBN 1597801577

Book Review : Broadcast – unsettling sci-fi social-media thriller

Broadcast by Liam Brown

4 star read

Why I read:  Science fiction, dystopia, big brother, blogger.  A book relevant to our future with social media.

Book blurb: “The idea behind MindCast is simple. We insert a small chip into your skull and then every thought, every feeling, every memory is streamed live, twenty-four hours a day. Trust me – within a few months you’ll be the most talked about person on the planet.

When David Callow is offered the lead role in a revolutionary new online show, he snatches at the opportunity.

Rapidly becoming a viral sensation, David is propelled to stratospheric levels of celebrity. However, he soon realises the downside of sharing every secret with the world.

A prisoner to both his fame and his own thoughts, David seeks to have the chip removed, only to discover the chilling secret lurking at the heart of MindCast, and the terrifying ambition the show’s creator has for him.”

My review

A fast paced and thought provoking book, Broadcast explores what would happen if our every thought was transmitted to millions of viewers.   David  Callow is an egotistical vlogger who takes the chance to expand his fame by appearing in a new online show MindCast. We follow as he has a microchip inserted into his brain which transmits his thoughts, feelings and memories online 24/7 to MindCast’s viewers in a big brother style documentary.  As the show goes on David’s wishes to become a major celebrity are fulfilled but he also discovers the dangers and darkside of Mindcast and the shows producers terrifying vision.

Broadcast delves into what it means to be a celebrity. The instant fame of our generation.  It holds a mirror to lives in the public eye through facebook, twitter and online media where what we see is an edited online persona of an ideal life not a true reflection of reality.  It conveys a “Black Mirror” style social satire on the potential for abuse and evil within social medias future.  Freedom of speech, subliminal advertising, online privacy, social responsibility  and other moral dilemmas are thrown into the mix, as the plot speeds along adding interesting narration on today’s society.  At under 300 pages its a relatively short book which delivers a dark, unsettling vision of the future.   Despite having a base in technology there is very little tech talk which adds to the easy read though it might disappoint people who prefer more hard sci-fi.  The ending leaves many loose ends hanging which fit well with the style of the novel, echoing real life. Paranoia seeps out of the pages as you realise how plausible the story is with our increasingly digitalised world.  Although I did not completely agree with all the commentary the author paints a horrifying vision of an online future.

I found the main character David to be an air-headed celebrity obsessed with getting more followers.  It was hard to like him at all with his self-involved and obnoxious character that only seemed to care about fame.  However this didn’t distract from the book.  It was interesting to see how he reacted to each situation he got into and he does get less selfish towards the end.    Even though I did not sympathise with him, the fast pace of the book kept me hooked.  There are many plot twists as the book hurtles along through this near future setting.   I wanted to see what would happen next as the author explored the pros and cons of Mindcast and fame through David’s eyes.

Overall a thrilling, fast paced, sinister sci-fi  which was an quick enjoyable read.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Science fiction, fast paced reads, blogging, big-brother dystopia, near-future society.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 15th 2017 by Legends Press
ISBN 1787199932 (ISBN13: 9781787199934)
Edition Language English

Book Review : The Unremembered Girl – Prime October Pick

The Unremembered Girl by Eliza Maxwell

Why I read:  Thriller.  Amazon Prime pick for October

Book blurb: “In the deep woods of East Texas, Henry supports his family by selling bootleg liquor. It’s all he can do to keep his compassionate but ailing mother and his stepfather—a fanatical grassroots minister with a bruising rhetoric—from ruin. But they have no idea they’ve become the obsession of the girl in the woods.

Abandoned and nearly feral, Eve has been watching them, seduced by the notion of family—something she’s known only in the most brutal sense. Soon she can’t resist the temptation to get close. Where Henry’s mother sees a poor girl in need, his father sees only wickedness. When Henry forges an unexpected bond with Eve, he believes he might be able to save her. He doesn’t know how wrong he is.

Eve is about to take charge of her own destiny—and that of Henry’s family. As both their worlds spin violently out of control, Henry must make an impossible choice: protect the broken young woman who’s claimed a piece of his soul, or put everyone he loves at risk in order to do the right thing.”

 

“The stray thought occurred to him that if it weren’t for women, in all their cloaks of unfathomed mysteries, men would lead very boring lives.” ― Eliza MaxwellThe Unremembered Girl

My review

A fast paced thriller  The Unremembered Girl  is a tale about a dysfunctional family living in the backwaters of Texas and what happens to them when they encounter a feral girl Eve.  The story mostly focuses on Henry, his views and the decisions he makes and his relationship with Eve.   We are fed bits and pieces of information as the family discover more about  Eve.  There were many twists and turns and just as you think things can’t get any worse something else is thrown into the mix.

There’s a lot of dark and unsettling themes running throughout the book including human trafficking, child abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholism and murder.  Most are just there as an under layer never fully explored.  The book is filled with sadness and tragedy with a few hopefully moments thrown in. The plot jumped around a bit but  the language and writing style was easy to understand and skim through so it was a quick read.   The setting for the book was really well written and you got a real feel for small town politics and values and got drawn into the swampy Texas scenery.  I’m normally a fan of doom and gloom but the book lacked the full emotional dimensions to pull me totally  in.

Eve was extremely damaged, and I felt the family did not do much to understand her.  It seemed more they wanted to shelter and protect her. Eve does not say much and throughout seems to just be a pretty one dimensional “damaged girl”.    Henry was a much better written character and you see many layers to his thoughts as he battles with decisions of what is best for himself, his family and for Eve.  Henry’s mother Caroline was a likeable character, a women holding a family together.

There was some unrealistic romance  which to me seemed more of Henry having an obsession with Eve.  With a seemingly instantaneous “love connection” sprouting from out of no-where. The author seems to be trying to tell this as a love story, but it just  felt like Eve was a prop for Henry to try and save.

Overall I found the book a fast read but the sheer amount of tragedy just made me feel sad.   Its not a book for the faint-hearted  but there are few dull moments as the plot keeps hurtling along.  I  settled between 2 and 3 star rating.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: fast paced reads, dark tragedy themes.

**1/2

 

Kindle Edition, 334 pages

Expected publication: November 1st 2017 by Lake Union Publishing