REVIEW: Chatterbox

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review


I going to start off this review like I usually do when it comes to collections like this: I’m honestly the worst person when it comes to analyzing poetry and that’s why I don’t often read it. However, I still enjoyed this collection from fellow Canadian author, Sandy Day.

Chatterbox is a collection of poems written during a terrible time, the end of a marriage. The poems the book contains are vivid with metaphors and imagery that expresses the harsh reality of coming to know someone you once loved is no longer that person. That they no longer love you back. The feeling of loss and loneliness comes through with a vengeance.

Although I have no actual negative thoughts with the collection, I did find Chatterbox has an older vibe to it. This isn’t a bad thing, more an observation as I am more used to younger voices like Michael Faudet, Lang Leav, and Amanda Lovelace. For older readers fond of the topic covered by said authors, I would certainly recommend Chatterbox as Sandy is able to combine a more “classic” style of poetry with a kind of youthfulness that keeps her words from being stuffy.

A solid three out of five from me.


38209664 Author: Sandy Day
Published: 
January 18th 2018
Pages:
132
Publisher:
CreateSpace
ISBN:
9781981942503

Summary: Chatterbox is a collection of one hundred and ten poems, tiny tellings written during a year of marriage disintegration. The poems explore a world of bewildering emotions ranging from sadness and terror to anger and enlightenment. The reader enters a world conjured from fairytales and dolls, the Garden of Eden, and the Wizard of Oz; the pages abound with moths and mice, dogs and horses, roosters and crows, oranges and apples, the moon and the sun.

A creative force, exploding after decades of silence, inspires the Chatterbox poems. The poet struggles to attend to a Muse that wakes her each morning, urging her to capture a spirit igniting inside her. The poet observes her own life as it falls apart and fragments then miraculously turns her outward toward others.

Whose heart hasn’t cracked open and broken? Do any of us withstand the pain and transcend to the other side? Can we leave betrayal and abandonment behind without bitterness and resentment? Can we move on and find our true soaring spirits? Chatterbox answers these questions with a resounding, yes!

REVIEW: The Women in the Walls

Review originally written for Unnerving Magazine.


The Women in the Walls is the second novel from Amy Lukavics, published through Harlequin Teen. The story is a first person narrative from the perspective of a young woman, Lucy Acosta, as she recounts several horrific tragedies that have happened in rapid succession upon the vast grounds of her family’s estate.

28367592From the synopsis alone, I purchased a copy of the book, hoping for a ghost-filled good time that lasted a few hundred pages. What I ended up with was a 278-page novel full of twists and turns so terrifying that they were set to keep me up at night. Every time I thought I knew where the story was going, Lukavics took it in the exact opposite direction, torturing poor Lucy in ways I did not think I would see in a teen novel, let alone one published by a company primarily known for its romantic fiction.

Ghosts in the walls, grotesque suicides, even bloodier murders, this book has it all and far, far more. Lukavics manages to combine all of the classics when it comes to psychological tension throughout her story. Being written in the first person narrative gives the reader less of an idea of what is really going on, as we only know what Lucy knows, we only see what she sees. Her paranoia as the story progresses becomes our paranoia and Lukavics masters getting entirely inside the reader’s head and twisting reality as Lucy falls deeper and deeper into a dark, and possibly magical, conspiracy that is haunting, and poisoning, her family and her reputation in the upper class society she lives in.

While reading, several titles popped into my brain that are reminiscent of The Women in the Walls. The first-person paranoia is just as chilling – if not more so – The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein (or directed by Mary Harron if you want the film). The conspiracy and trauma is spot on with Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak. The general aesthetic of the novel on par with Stoker from director Park Chan-Wook. If any of these titles are in your favourites, pick up this novel and I promise you will not put it down until you have finished it.


Author: Amy Lukavics
Published: September 27th 2016
Pages: 278
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
ISBN: 9780373211944

Synopsis: Lucy Acosta’s mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They’re inseparable—a family. When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she’s ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother’s voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin’s sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.

REVIEW: Nine Candles of Deepest Black

I received a free advanced copy of this novel in exchange for the review.


 

It has been a long time since I have be unable to finish a book (not including library books), but this one has broken my streak. I could not finish it.

26832363Nine Candles of Deepest Black follows 16-year-old Paige and her friends as they seek to gain their deepest desires by way of Witchcraft that they do not entirely understand. The YA horror novel has an interesting premise, but fails to live up the hype its own synopsis.

Paige is pale with long, black hair and purple eyes. Major scares mainly involve tropes that were popular in late 90s to early 2000s horror films – including spiders crawling out of people. The humour primarily involves nods to outdated references to pop culture that are several years old when the book seemingly takes place within the last year or two based on the cell phone technology they have. The characters are tacky stereotypes of several kinds of high school girls yet they are all “the outcasts” – even the rich, blonde one who is referred to at one point as a Barbie doll. Even the way the girls speak feels dated and unnatural.

However, my biggest problem with the novel, and the reason I could not bring myself to go further than the half-way point, is the sexual implications.

Several times throughout the first few chapters, author Matthew S. Cox keeps referring to the girls’ breasts – a word that no teenage anything thinks of when referring to boobs outside of a medical context. Along with that, there is a scene where Paige is having a “nightmare” while in the shower and is attacked by sentient branches while entirely naked. Most people in this age bracket might not see the similarities to the scene in the Evil Dead films (both the 1983 and 2013 versions) when the lead girl is sexual assaulted by the trees, but I caught it and it made me feel more than a little uncomfortable. The most upsetting, however, was when the girls of the novel go to a frat party and one of them – despite being warned by the clairvoyant Paige – is roofied and then sexually assaulted. The party had no point to the story outside of giving Paige another reason to have a vision of something terrible coming in the near future, and given that all of the girls are 18-years-old at the most, I found it an entirely inappropriate scene to include in a YA-horror novel. Rape is not a plot point. Ever.

On top of all of this, Paige’s mother is borderline abusive until twelve or thirteen chapters in. Typically behaviour is meant to add more “backstory” or “motivation” to the character experiencing the abuse, but – much like the party scene – does not seem suitable or even approached in the appropriate manner. Yes, Paige’s mother is grieving the death of her other daughter, but that is not an excuse for her behaviour.

The bottom line on this one is that there is a lot in it that feels very irrelevant to the plot.

I can usually get through a book when I have an obligation to fulfill, but I was just too uncomfortable to push through to the end of this one.


Author: Matthew S. Cox
Published: September 15th, 2016
Pages: 300
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
ISBN: 9781620076699

Synopsis: Almost a year after tragedy shattered her family, sixteen-year-old Paige Thomas can’t break free from her guilt. Her mother ignores her, doting on her annoying little sister, while her father is a barely-functioning shell. He hopes a move to the quiet little town of Shadesboro, PA will help them heal, but Paige doesn’t believe in happiness anymore. On her first day at school, a chance encounter with a bullied eighth grader reawakens a gift Paige had forgotten, and ingratiates her into a pack of local outcasts. For weeks, they’ve been trying to cast a ritual to fulfill their innermost desires, but all they’ve done is waste time. After witnessing Paige touch the Ouija board and trigger a paranormal event, the girls are convinced another try with their new fifth member will finally work. Once the darkness is unleashed, it’s not long before they learn it will give them exactly what they asked for―whether they want it or not.

REVIEW: The Graveyard Apartment

Originally reviewed for Unnerving Magazine

I received a free advanced copy of this novel in exchange for the review.


Translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm and written in a style typical in Japanese ghost stories, The Graveyard Apartment follows a young family residing in a building surrounded on all sides by a massive graveyard and crematorium. Slowly, the Kanos come to realize that there is far more to the building that the creepy view, as they are harassed by things unseen over the course of several months.

28220806As I mentioned, Mariko Koike’s novel unfolds in a way that is very similar to popular Japanese stories like The Ring or the The Grudge, as in the pacing is slow and steady with scattered, intense moments that increase as the story draws closer to its conclusion. This pacing works for the story, but tends to get more or less sidetracked earlier on in the novel. Not everything seems entirely necessary and I found my mind wandering over sections often while reading.

When it comes to the scares themselves, Koike knows her stuff, and the entities lurking in the apartment building are truly terrifying in such a subtle way that it becomes more terrifying when you’ve put the book down to venture into your own dark basement. As the siege begins on the family, I was hit with a sense of claustrophobia that I normally don’t encounter while reading and quite enjoyed how well that sense was conveyed.

All in all, I would primarily recommend this novel to those who are familiar with and or enjoy Japanese ghost stories or even those who are fans of a more subtle form of horror.


Author: Mariko Koike (translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm)
Published: October 11th, 2016
Pages: 336
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
ISBN: 9781250060549

Synopsis: A terrifying tale of a young family who move into an apartment building next to a graveyard and the horrors that are unleashed upon them.

This tale of a young married couple who are harboring a dark secret is packed with dread and terror, as they and their daughter move into a brand new apartment building built next to a graveyard. As strange and terrifying occurrences begin to pile up, people in the building begin to move out one by one, until the young family is left alone with someone… or something… lurking in the basement. The psychological horror builds moment after moment, scene after scene, culminating with a conclusion that will make you think twice before ever going into a basement again.