One of the books I was incredibly excited about reading earlier this year was Simone St. James’s latest novel, The Sun Down Motel. A mystery novel with a synopsis that had me asking “People or ghosts?”, this was just what I needed to get me out of my reading funk as brought on by my attempt to get through A Little Life.
The story follows a double timeline between Viv in 1982 as she works at a dodgy motel after leaving her home life, and Carly in 2017 as she digs into the past to discover what happened to her long-lost Aunt Viv who went missing thirty-five years earlier. Right away there is tension and suspense to chill your veins and I absolutely loved it from cover to cover.
The way the story jumps around between the timelines is impeccably done as the story unfolds and honestly, I just want to scream about the setup and the characters as both Carly and Viv uncover the mysteries of the Sun Down, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers. If you’re also asking “People or ghosts?” about this book in regards to the cause of what’s going on, I’m going to leave you asking.
Forgive me for this short review, but I highly recommend picking up this book.
Thank you to NetGalley and VIZ Media for providing me with a review copy.
The Promised Neverland is one of those series that looks super cute but you can just tell that it is going to get really messed up, really quickly. I’ve got to say, I was not wrong with my prediction of this one.
The story mainly follows Emma and her friends, Norman and Ray, at their picture perfect little foster home where they and about thirty other children are being taken care of by a woman named Isabelle (but they all call her mom). The children do daily tests of intelligence and treat one another like they’re all family, and every two months one of the children is lucky enough to be adopted and gets to leave the house by way of the gate that the children are forbidden from getting close to. The only other rule is that they aren’t to cross the fence line in the forest that surrounds them. When one of the children being adopted, forgets her favourite plush rabbit, Emma and Norman learn the dark secret being kept from them…
While this first volume didn’t go too deeply into the horror that I’m sure is to come the further I read into the series, it definitely did a good job at setting up the tone of what’s to come next. I loved the heart in the story, though, and the way it captured the innocence and love shared between children while also keeping the advanced intelligence of Emma, Norman, and Ray still within believable range. The art work is very stylistic and cute, with all of the children having the most squishable little baby faces.
With the way this volume ended, I’m intrigued enough to keep going and giving a better judgement of the series off of subsequent volumes. But over all I thought this was a really great way to start a series like this, especially with the artwork being so cute only to get all murder-y. A solid four out of five.
On Monday, I mentioned I was swapping things around and doing a regular book review so that I could share my review of the manga adaptation today.
The book in question is Dazai Osamu’s novel, No Longer Human, but adapted to the manga format by Japanese body horror king, Junji Ito.
Before I continue, this review contains trigger warnings for suicide, infanticide, violent imagery, and sexual assault.
So similarly to the novel (the review of which you can read here), this was a difficult one to get through. While I am very familiar with the content and the story of No Longer Human, Ito took this one to a whole other dimension. The story, itself, is heavily inspired by Dazai’s own life and there were certainly more elements of truth in the manga as well as far more fantastical horrors.
Unlike Ito’s other major works, his adaptation of No Longer Human was less focused on body horror and far more tuned into the psychological trauma that comes with the tortures Yozo faces. What was merely implied in the source material, was presented without apologies in the manga, and I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing or not. The sexual assault in the beginning and even throughout the story was intense and felt like it was too much given the format of the storytelling, however the ways Yozo is consistently taken advantage of is still so important to his story arc and the way his relationships (or lack thereof) are formed.
On top of that, there was far more death, far more suicide, and a lot heavier darkness. Dazai was not a happy man, and it can be seen throughout his short life by reading his novels and his stories. But the way that Ito really needles out the underlying sadness and turns it into something so solid and real it’s impossible to ignore as he beats you to death with it. Again, I’m conflicted by the emotions this manga drew from me because on the one hand it was a lot to process and manage, but on the other hand, it felt so real when it comes to how dangerous unchecked mental illness can be. It shows how important it is to really care for those who are suffering.
I loved the inclusions of Dazai himself as a character. I loved Ito’s artwork as I always do. But this was a rough one. Junji Ito is one of those mangakas who I rarely recommend because of how tricky it can be to navigate horror tolerance thresholds, but if you’re already familiar (and unbothered) with his work this is one to check out for sure.
Every now and again a book comes around that entirely blows my mind. I don’t mean a five-star rating, I mean that five stars is the most I can give because my feelings can’t simply be expressed with a book rating.
This is one of those books.
In the best way possible, the only thing I can really think to describe my feelings is that this a book that makes me, as an author, feel like I will never write anything even remotely close to this book. It was such an amazing story that made me sad, scared the crap out of me, and left me in awe at the end.
Imaginary Friend is Stephen Chbosky’s first novel since Perks of Being a Wallflower, and other that it being a horror novel, I mostly went into it blind. The story follows the occupants of a small town in Pennsylvania, but focuses primarily on Christopher Reese, a little boy with dyslexia and trauma based around his father’s suicide. Christopher goes missing for six days, putting the town in a panic and when he returns, he is changed. His dyslexia is gone, his math skills are well above his classmates…but he also hears a voice in his head. The voice of “the nice man” who is telling him to do things in order to save the town from a monstrous creature who is set to kill everyone.
As time passes, the town becomes affected by the same things Christopher has dealt with, but with none of the knowledge that he has. It is a rollercoaster of twists that flip the whole story 180° with every few page turns.
If I needed to compare the book to other things, I would have to say Stand by Me, Stranger Things, IT, and a little bit of Hansel & Gretel meets Slenderman. It’s a huge mash-up of familiar and incredibly original new-ness which makes the 700+ pages just zip by when things aren’t so stressful I needed to put the book down.
I loved the wide cast of characters. I loved all the context of where they’re coming from. I loved the twist that I only figured out before it was too late. I was desperate to get to the end while also never wanting it to end. Believe me when I say that it was a horrifying thrill ride from start to finish and I will never forget this book. I highly recommend it for people looking for a good scare when they have a good chunk of time on their hands because I promise you that you won’t want to put it down, despite being such a beast of a book.
One final note I will mention about this book is some trigger warnings: this book contains child abuse, suicide, sexual assault of minors (more than implied but nothing happens on-page), domestic abuse, substance abuse, body horror, and lots of general violence.
I love scary movies, especially old ones. However, when it comes to The Omen, I’ve shamefully only seen the 2006 version with Julia Styles and Liev Schreiber (dir. John Moore)…
When browsing the small horror section at my favourite local used bookstore (Westside Stories, yes that is the real name of the store), I spotted this sweet movie-tie in edition of The Omen, but the 1976 tie-in! I couldn’t say no when I also found the second movie tie-in as well, so I picked them both up. Perfect timing on my part, as my internet was down for the majority of the weekend, giving me some distraction free time to sit down and get some real reading done. Given the slump I’ve been in lately, this was the perfect book to pull me out of it.
For those unfamiliar with the story, The Omen follows the lives of the Thorn family after a grief fuelled decision changes everything… for the worst. As their son, Damien, seems to draw disaster after disaster, death after death, to the family, Jeremy Thorn is faced with a dark choice of murder or mayhem before more people die.
As mentioned, I have only seen the remake of the film and never want to watch it again as the [spoiler alert] death of Kathy is one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen on screen. Despite my strong feelings towards it, the 2006 film is also one I consider strangely cast and more on the cheesy side. This original novel (and by original, I mean the novelization that was released prior to the 1976 film as a marketing shtick) is so much more. The atmosphere of The Omen is so thick and eerie, it drew me in immediately and did not hesitate to fill me with anxiety.
While there are significant differences (obviously) between the book and what I remember from the remake, I found myself absolutely loving the book. It was horrifying, fast paced, and brutal. When I first started reading, I felt the reveal of Damien’s birth came early, and I was worried for the sake of the pacing to come, but I was pleasantly surprised that there was still so much to learn about where the boy came from. The violence was graphic without going overboard and still more or less realistic when it comes to demonic horror. This is definitely a book where you want to yell at the characters for being stupid while also seeing that these characters aren’t stupid, they are conflicted people given a choice to tell a small lie to make their lives better overall. These characters are human. Even if that makes them flawed.
Given that this novelization is written by David Seltzer, himself – the screenwriter for the 1976 film – I do want to watch the film and actually get an eyeful of what he served on the page.
Today is Valentine’s Day and, love it or hate it, there’s a lot going on today. I definitely fall into the later category myself. So whether you’re up for romance or in the mood to avoid it at all costs, I’ve come up with a list of books to read for either category.
Bring on the love!
Here’s a list of my top 5 favourite romance/romantic novels to read today.
5. One Day In December by Josie Silver
[ goodreads | review ]
Yeah, okay, this one is more of a yuletide centric book, but the love story crosses over ten years and that’s what makes it a great read for any time of the year. Definitely for fans of Love, Actually and also for those who want a real love story with a feel good ending
4. The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli
[ goodreads | review ]
This debut novel is about the difficulties of finding love when you’re both looking and not looking for it. It’s about culture pressure and the important of being yourself no matter what any one else tells you to be. A great read for those looking for a romance novel that’s not 100% about the romance.
3. When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
[ goodreads | review ]
Who doesn’t want some f/f contemporary on Valentine’s Day? A story of self-discovery in sexuality with some humor and delightfully witty banter, this is a fun queer read about hard working women who also just want to have fun and be happy.
2. A Date With Darcy (Bookish Boyfriends #1) by Tiffany Schmidt
[ goodreads | review ]
A YA retelling of Pride & Prejudice but with a bit of a twist. Despite having a 15-year-old protagonist, this book is definitely a relatable one to all ages and has strong feminist notes about being more than your partner and remembering that your opinion counts, especially when it involves the word “No.” Fluffy with a hint of drama to keep things interesting, this one caught me by surprise when I read it and loved it to pieces.
1. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
[ goodreads | review ]
Allow me to scream to the high heavens once again about how the book is almost always better than the movie. This phenomenal novel is a queer romance and a coming of age story all in one. Heartbreaking and beautiful as well, this book takes you to Italy and forces you to feel all of Elio’s vivid emotions to the fullest extent. You can’t go wrong with this book.
Down with Valentine’s Day!
And here are my top 5 books that are very much against this Hallmark Holiday.
5. The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman
[ goodreads ]
This is an incredible look at the birth of the novel Lolita and the very real and very traumatic events that happened to young Sally Horner. Despite how mezmerising and misleading Nabokov’s novel is, Weinman dissects just how horrible men like Frank La Salle (or his fictional counterpart, Humbert Humbert) truly are.
4. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
[ goodreads | review ]
An eerie narrative of why eccentric, Min, broke up with her popular boyfriend, Ed. This is a YA novel but written in such a memorably bizarre fashion that almost gives away Handler’s alter ego (as he is more commonly known as Lemony Snicket). A great break-up story with a twist.
3. The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion by Margaret Killjoy
[ goodreads | review ]
A Tor.com novella of magic and horror that brings out of the dark side of people and what they will do for power when it should belong to no one. Since it is a novella, this is a great book to bang out quickly and so atmospherically pleasing, you’ll completely forget it’s Valentine’s Day in the real world.
2. The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein
[ goodreads ]
Boarding school + mental illness representation + potentially vampires = this wonderful book that also has f/f undertones. Incredibly spooky (and so much better than the movie adaptation of it), this book is well suited to those who want a creep factor on Valentine’s Day.
1. All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
[ goodreads | review ]
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog recently, you’ll know I’m obsessed with this series. Want to forget about the real world and bond with someone fiction who also doesn’t care for humans? Murderbot is definitely for you. This novella series is so much fun you won’t want to put it down.
And there you have it! My list of books to read to either join in on or hide from Valentine’s Day. Personally, I plan to spend my evening binge watching some true crime documentaries (for anyone wondering, I’m eyeballing the Paradise Lost trilogy) since I’m not a fan of today.
Do you like Valentine’s Day? What are your plans for tonight? Let me know in the comments!
Ever since I was a kid I have loved learning about the different cultures of Indigenous people across Canada and as I’ve grown up, I’ve become more and more heartbroken by the hardships those who live on the rez have had to deal with. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an interview with author Waubgeshig Rice about his new release, Moon of Crusted Snow. In the article, Rice describes how he “wanted to offer up the perspective of people who had experienced apocalypse already” and pay “an homage to the everyday people on reserves across Canada”.
Right from the get-go this book had me hooked. The Anishinaabe community of the novel is full of a wide range of characters, both likeable and not, prepping for the coming winter when all of their utilities go out. No electricity, no satellite, no cell service. Having never had reliable services from the get go, no one thinks twice… until two of their own return from the city and tell them what’s really going on.
On it’s own, the story is a terrifying concept alone, but the stakes are truly raised when an intimidating, survivalist, white man manages to make his way to the community and kicks them all when they’re down.
What I enjoyed most about this story is that not only is it an incredibly atmospheric end-of-the-world story, but it is a great framing of how hard life is for those in Native reserves as well as the racism First Nations peoples still face. The character, Justin Scott, even goes as far to say “the white man saves the day” as he is clearly taking advantage of the hospitality of the community.
Mixed into the everyday narrative are dream sequences and stories from the elders of the community that bring in warnings and foreshadowing from the tribe’s folklore adding an extra layer of intensity and knowledge.
This is definitely an incredible story with so many layers behind each sentence that I truly hope people pick it up and learn something from it. I look forward to the movie deal that Rice should definitely be offered for this novel.
I have not read any Halloween brand spooky books this month and I’m so disappointed in myself for that. But better late than never, I picked up The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson looking for some scares. Although I didn’t get what I was expecting at all, this is still quite a ride of a story.
The novel follows Jake, now an adult and a neurosurgeon, as he reminisces about the summer spent ghost hunting with his Uncle Calvin. His eccentric uncle takes Jake, his friend Billy, and Cal’s best friend, Lex, on several tours of the Niagara region looking for the sad, the spooky, and the haunted. But, as always, things aren’t always as they seem.
Normally I am not a fan of books that heavily mention exact locations of things. I find it takes my out of the story a lot of the time (especially in American novels) but in Canadian stories it comes across as “overly Canadian” and kind of lame. However, I am so familiar with the tourist trap strips of Niagara Falls and the neighbouring areas, that I felt comforted and at home with all the street names and locations. It made it feel like home and added to the tone and the context of the story, especially since I’ve been twelve and bored and hot and stuck in Niagara Falls on more than one summer camp trip.
Here’s where this review might get a little spoilery so stop here if I’ve already got you wanting to read the book.
Although the gang of misfits do visit one or two truly haunted locations, what they are really doing is seeing how a brain injury has effected a man who doesn’t even remember getting hurt in the first place. A la 50 First Dates, the townspeople who know what happened to Calvin pretend it never did for his own well-being and that’s what Jake is bearing witness to on that fateful summer when he was twelve.
I went into this book really hoping for ghosts and demons to fill the need of something scary in October, but what I got was a story about how people care for each other and I almost thing that’s the better way for this book to have gone. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the Strangers Things comparison being marketed in regards to Davidson’s novel, but I would completely agree with the strong Stand By Me vibes that it gives off.
A wonderful story with one of the best covers I’ve seen this year.
Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin TEEN for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
I have now read three out of four of Amy Lukavics’s books and I have to say that she is my absolute favourite horror author of all time.
First off, there is definitely not enough teen horror in the world, but Lukavics’s writing surpasses a recommended reading age. Every single one of her books is a different sub-genre of horror and yet never falls in line with tropes to the sub-genre of the work. Daughters Unto Devils was pure A24 arthaus horror aesthetic as well as one hell of a messed up ride in the times of settlers. The Women In The Wallswas a gothic gore-fest and every time I thought I knew how it was going to end, the entire dynamic of the story shifted. Nightingale is no less genius.
The entire time I was reading Nightingale, my filmmaker brain wouldn’t shut up and I kept thinking that the best way to describe this book is if body horror master David Cronenberg decided to remake all of those black and white sci-fi classics from the 40s and 50s but with a badass lead who knows in her very bones that she is destined for far more than the life of a housewife.
Told in a non-linear fashion (which we all know, I’m a sucker for), the story follows June Hardie during her time in an asylum and her time at home. At home she is stifled by the gender roles of the time, and in the asylum she struggles with reality itself. Having made friends with other patients, June is truly forced to dig into her own mind and figure out what is happening.
I adored this story. It was dark, it was bloody, and it was trippy as hell. I have come to expect the unexpected from Amy Lukavics, but that still doesn’t make her hard hitting endings predictable in the least. As well as being a sci-fi/horror/retro story, she takes all of the problems with gender roles and beats the reader with them so there is no way anyone could possible think “But what’s wrong with staying home all day?” while also not necessarily looking down upon being a housewife. It’s a fine line to walk and this story did it wonderfully. The story does get graphic and there were some cases where it made me entirely uncomfortable but I wouldn’t call it excessive and it only adds to the atmosphere and the pure terror that this story conveys.
Nightingale is available in stores everywhere on September 25th, 2018.
Author: Amy Lukavics Published: September 25, 2018 Pages: 384 Publisher: Harlequinn TEEN ISBN: 9781335012340
Synopsis: At seventeen, June Hardie is everything a young woman in 1951 shouldn’t be–independent, rebellious, a dreamer. June longs to travel, to attend college and to write the dark science fiction stories that consume her waking hours. But her parents only care about making June a better young woman. Her mother grooms her to be a perfect little homemaker while her father pushes her to marry his business partner’s domineering son. When June resists, her whole world is shattered–suburbia isn’t the only prison for different women.
The only way I can truly think to describe Margaret Killjoy‘s novella The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion is through this tweet I posted when I first started the book:
The story follows Danielle as she hunts for any clues as to the cause of her best friend’s suicide, and ends up in the middle of an anarchist community on the verge of self-destruction.
At 127 pages long, the story is a fast read but so full of atmosphere and action it’s captivating. The characters a wide range of diverse people, including very strong LGBT+ representation.
To stay much more about this novella would risk giving away the magic of the story so I’m going to leave this review with: read this novella. Just do it.
Author: Margaret Killjoy Published: August 15 2017 Pages: 127 Publisher: Tor.com ISBN: 9780765397362
Synopsis: Danielle Cain is a queer punk rock traveller, jaded from a decade on the road. Searching for clues about her best friend’s mysterious and sudden suicide, she ventures to the squatter, utopian town of Freedom, Iowa. All is not well in Freedom, however: things went awry after the town’s residents summoned a protector spirit to serve as their judge and executioner.
Danielle shows up in time to witness the spirit—a blood-red, three-antlered deer—begin to turn on its summoners. Danielle and her new friends have to act fast if they’re going to save the town—or get out alive.