The Troop by Nick Cutter: Revisited

The TroopThe Troop by Nick Cutter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

12/7/18: Continuing my reflection on books I read in 2018, The Troop is going to win my ‘Favorite Book of March’ award.

It was a tight race between this and Wizard & Glass: Book 4 of The Dark Tower. I decided on The Troop because it was my first ever Nick Cutter book and to say I was impressed would be the understatement of the year. This man can write some horror and I am down for that. Now one of my autobuy authors, this book placed him towards the top of my most loved author list. Well played, Mr. Cutter. Well played.

Original: I finished this book back on March 18th and still haven’t written a review. The main reason for this is that I am nervous about being able to adequately express how much I enjoyed it.

This is a horror novel that follows a group of boys who are taken by their Scoutmaster to a island off the coast of Eastern Canada for a weekend camping trip. When a very ill stranger stumbles into their cabin, a horror is unleashed that is beyond all expectation.

The characters were so well drawn and their relationships and inner thoughts so well expressed that in spite of being a horror novel, this can be appreciated as a true character piece. In a way, it reminded me a lot of Lord of the Flies. With this comparison I am thinking of how each character is sort of placed into a stereotypical societal role and then we see how those roles play off one another. Among the group of boys we have the tough guy, alpha male; the nerdy, know-it-all, mother of the group; the golden boy who excels at sports and gets along with everyone; a wiry, cagey little guy with the absentee father and bad temper; and finally the sociopath who’s inner thoughts are a horror story unto themselves!

I was so impressed with the quality of Cutter’s writing and have already purchased another book of his, The Deep, which I plan to read in May. One of my favorite aspects of this book was the incorporation of mixed media sources; I believe I read in the Author’s Note him citing being inspired by Stephen King’s, Carrie, for this which is also very cool. I am so happy to have found a new horror writer that is original and who I can enjoy for years to come!

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Review: The Mansion by Ezekiel Boone

The MansionThe Mansion by Ezekiel Boone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

…there’s no way we’re going to stay here and wait for Nellie to go all redrum on us.

What would happen if HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey were set up to run The Overlook Hotel from The Shining? This book would happen.

Billy Stafford and Shawn Eagle created ‘Nellie’ – a computer system built to serve, better than AI and continually rewriting herself for your ‘happiness’ – and installed her into a creepy old haunted mansion secluded in the woods of upstate New York. Then Billy and his wife go to live in the mansion, during the winter when they could be snowbound there for days at time, in order to work out the kinks. What could go wrong?

Heavy in The Shining feels…I mean REALLY heavy…I appreciated the ubermodern twist it took. The Shining is one of my all time favorite books, and I know some fans who I could possibly see not liking this or calling it a ‘rip-off’, but to me it was a solid doffing of the cap to one of Sai King’s masterpieces ((in my humble Constant Reader opinion)).

To me, this book reads like a techy-scifi with some horror elements sprinkled throughout. There were a few scenes that really raised my anxieties but I suppose it all depends on what you are afraid of. If you’re like me and more than slightly nervous about your Smart Phone, Smart TV or the ever-looming Smart House, this may be a good one for you to pick up. Additionally, I always love a good ‘haunted house’ story and there were definitely some ghosts woven throughout this book…and twins, don’t forget to add some creepy twins in there because regular twins won’t do.

The beginning started out a little slow for me but by the time Billy and Emily arrive at Eagle Mansion I was elbows deep in this horrifying goodness. Overall, I found the storyline very readable and I kept wanting to go back for more. I am happy with the way things turned out although the final scene seem a bit too rushed compared with the extended build-up. It all seemed a little too easy in the end. I would definitely read more books by Boone, this was my first, and have been told to check out his Hatching series.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I really enjoyed this and appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

The Cabin at the End of the WorldThe Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-WTH DID I JUST READ-STARS**

Well, this book launched me into the throes of a full-blown existential crisis.

What is life? What is love? What are words? What does anything mean? Did I just read this? What did I just read? Is there anybody out there? Are you there God, it’s me Meg?

Wen and her Daddies, Andrew and Eric, head off on a family vacation to a little cabin in the woods of New Hampshire to unplug from the world for a while. The cutest little family ever to family. I fell in love with them from the very first chapter and knew immediately that this book would crush my soul. It did.

As Wen is outside catching grasshoppers, cataloging and naming them (as you do), a stranger appears. Wen knows she shouldn’t talk to strangers but this man seems nice and eventually gets her to let down her guard. It’s not until his friends appear that Wen realizes something is horribly wrong.

What happens next is too messed up to even summarize for a review. I was so invested in this. I loved the format and really enjoyed how my mind was screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOOOO” pretty much the entire time. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a tense, slightly brutal read. If you are someone who likes everything to be tied up with a nice little bow at the end however, this may not be the book for you. Tremblay likes to make us think. Really well done!

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Review: The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

The Sea Was a Fair MasterThe Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Sea Was a Fair Master was so freaking fun to read!

I have never read a flash fiction collection before and I wonder, are they all like this? Are they all so good? I am guessing probably not. Calvin Demmer is a master at this style! There are 23-stories within these 83-pages and each and every one of them left me with chills. Mostly horror stories, with a sprinkling of scifi and crime fiction, there is something here for everyone. Whether your biggest fear is clowns (MINE), carnivals, the psycho next door, dolls, robots, etc., you will find something in here to make your blood go cold.

I recommend reading it at night, home alone, on your kindle so you can turn all the lights out…that’s how I read it anyway and it worked for me!

If you are someone who is participating in one of the 43,651 readathons in October, you should DEFINITELY pick this one up. Currently only $2.99 for your kindle and with a short page count this is the perfect book for any Spooky Reads challenge!

I really look forward to reading further works from Calvin Demmer. One to watch IMO!

Original: Thrills & Chills aplenty! Loved this. Full review to come…stay tuned!

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Review: Brother by Ania Ahlborn

BrotherBrother by Ania Ahlborn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rebel raised an eyebrow in approval. “Good idea,” he said. “A party ain’t a party without a splash of red.


Brother is my first Ania Ahlborn book. I cannot tell you how much it pleases me to have a new horror writer to obsess over! This book, set in the heart of Appalachia, is deeply disturbing. If you aren’t disturbed in some way by this, I’m not sure we can be friends…for real. One of the most disturbing aspects of this book is, it’s so realistic. At least the writing makes it seem so realistic. Why couldn’t this happen? It could totally happen. It is horrible and dreadful but it could happen. Nothing is scarier than mankind and their capacity to harm one another. At least not to me.

This book follows the Morrow Family, but in particular Michael Morrow, the 2nd son and the one who doesn’t seem to belong. Michael was adopted into this family but he has been well conditioned in their ways; bringing to mind the whole nature versus nurture argument. The skill of Ahlborn’s writing was on full display in the intricacies of the familial relationships. The relationship between Michael and his sister, Misty, was heartbreaking and that between Michael and his brother, Reb, the most disturbing and dysfunctional of all. I loved to watch the evolution of the relationships and the way Michael’s outlook begins to change when he befriends someone from outside the home. Even after this happens though, loyalty to the family remains one of the most important themes in his world.

His conscience wouldn’t let him abandon them. His mind wouldn’t ever let him disconnect.

I really became attached to Michael as a character. As morally grey as he was he seemed like the one shining light in this gloomy, hostile world. I wanted him to be free, to escape from the clutches of his grim reality. I wanted to help him. It’s weird to me how a character, by no means a perfect person, can become so loved, instilling such heavy feelings of empathy in a reader. This to me is a sign of exceptional character writing. I definitely plan to read more of Ahlborn’s books. If you have read any of her books, let me know in the comments what your favorite(s) are because I definitely want to put them on by tbr!

Also, just a side note, loved the references to The Shining in this one! I always love to see King references in other fiction – it makes my heart happy!

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Review: Eternal Frankenstein, Edited by Ross E. Lockhart

Publication Date: October 9, 2016    |    Rating: 3.5-stars

Eternal Frankenstein is a short-story collection consisting of various tales all inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I would actually give this a 3.5-star rating (if given the option Goodreads, ahem…). Frankenstein in its original form is one of my favorite books of all time. I think generally people automatically think HORROR when they think ofFrankenstein and although it is horrific in many ways, it is also lyrical, thought-provoking and darkly beautiful. This collection I felt paid lovely homage to that original text.

This is actually the FIRST short-story collection I have ever read that was not written by Stephen King. So, that’s something. I am glad I read it. There were 16 different stories in all written by different authors and all tales were unique and examined the original text in their own ways. Obviously, as I am assuming is the case with all such collections, some of these were much more tailored to my style than others – there were actually a couple that I just did not get at all – but overall I found them enjoyable and grossly entertaining. There is quite a bit of violence and gore in this collection, so true horror fans rejoice! There is no tip-toeing around grotesque and macabre subject matter. In this same line though, I would say trigger warning for self-harm, suicidal ideation, suicide and child abuse/murder.

If I had to choose my most memorable story of the collection, I would have to go with Wither on the Vine; or, Strickfaden’s Monster by Nathan Carson, solely because one of my idols, Nikola Tesla, makes an appearance in the story which I found super cool! I would definitely recommend this to any horror fan who happens to love the original,Frankenstein. I would say for those of us who are low-key obsessed with that book, this is a special treat! As a side note, I would love to see this same type of collection developed for Dracula, War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde if Mr. Lockhart would like to get working on that. Dare to dream.

What is the best short-story collection you have ever read? I want to know! Leave a comment below or contact me on my social media – links to the right!

Review: The Deep by Nick Cutter

Publication Date: August 16, 2016

3.5-stars rounded up to 4: 😧😩Emotionally exhausted and confused. This book was a complete mind f♤ck! Let me get that right out of the way! This is my second Cutter book – the first I read was The Troop which I gave 5-stars and absolutely loved from start to finish. This one was harder for me to get into and stay interested. Some of the things I liked were the basic premise, the claustrophic feel was creepy as hell and the Trieste itself, how it was a character in the story – this reminded me of how The Overlook Hotel feels. Cutter is excellent at writing creepy ass stuff – there are multiple times in this where ‘monster’ type entities gave me the complete heebie-jeebies and that is friggen fantastic.

However, other aspects of this didn’t work as well for me personally. If you follow any of my reviews, blog, etc., you may recall that I have a really, really difficult time reading anything where animals are harmed/killed, etc. – and even though, in The Troop, there were a few passages I had to skim over rather than actually read due to animal content it was just sprinkled here and there. This one had quite a bit more – if you are sensitive at all about that just know it going in. I was so worried about one of the dogs in the story the whole time that it was hard for me to enjoy – just sitting there with my dog, reading with this incredible sense of foreboding – but I know that is a personal thing for me and may affect others completely differently. I hated Clayton – he was just a terrible, horrible human being I would rate right up there with Professor Umbridge as one of my most hated characters of all time. There was not one redeeming quality about him and if I were his brother, I would never have even bothered going to the Trieste for his pompous ass anyway…but that would have made a pretty short story. ‘Luke, come, Luke…’ ‘No.’ THE END

I rate my books on my personal enjoyment factor – 3 is liked, 4 is really liked. This one fell directly in the middle of that – 3.5 stars. I recently bought Little Heaven and do look forward to checking that one out as well! Have you read any books by Nick Cutter? If so, what was your favorite – I am definitely voting for The Troop so far!  Let me know in the comments or send me a message – I would love to hear your thoughts!

Status Update: The Passage by Justin Cronin

This morning I reached the 50% mark on my reading of The Passage by Justin Cronin. I am reading this book along with my book buds, The Floatin’ Troopers group, from Bookstagram (the bookish subculture within Instagram). This is a long novel which had been recommended to me by a number of different book people whose opinions I respect. The paperback copy I am reading is 784 pages of fairly small font; quite an undertaking. We slated this book as our May/June read as we figured it would probably take a while for everyone to get through.

Up until this morning I have been listening to the audiobook version along with reading a hard copy. This has allowed me to progress fairly quickly so far through it. Unfortunately, my 2-week library loan expired this morning and someone else had a hold on it so now I am down to just my paperback copy.

The Passage is a post-apocalyptic survival story of epic proportions. It is actually a trilogy – I am little surprised by that, as I feel like the story could be wrapped up concisely in this one book…where is this story going to go? I am so curious. I am not sure I will end up reading them back-to-back as I may need a break after this one.

It reminds me very much of The Stand by Stephen King, which if you have been following me at all, you may know is my all time favorite book which I recommend to everyone! The ultimate good versus evil tale. This story, The Passage, starts off in a fairly similar vein – we all know the story – government experiment gone awry and the rest of mankind pays the price. Similar to The Stand, this story follows the survivors tales in the aftermath of the big event – in this case the time is called ‘AV’ which I am assuming means ‘after virus’. There is a lot of character development in this story and I love to see the converging story lines.

As luck with have it, news just dropped this week that FOX has greenlighted a television series adaptation of this story. However, I have heard that one of my favorite characters from the book, Alicia, is not going to be in the series. I don’t really understand how that is possible since she is one of the main characters in the story who affects a lot of other storylines…seems strange but I will definitely give the show a shot when it is released.

Do you enjoy reading post-apocalyptic fiction? If so, what are some books you would recommend in the genre? Have you read this series? What did you think of it? I would love to hear!  Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! Cheers~

April is here!!

Well, April is finally here!  Ahhhh, Spring…it actually snowed today which was really strange but yes, now the sun is out and it is finally Spring.  I just wanted to write my super exciting plans for reading this month.  I do not have any reviews currently that I am in a mental space to write so we will do a general status update today.

This weekend I finished my reread of The Shining by Stephen King which is one of my all time favorite books.  I have to say, I think it was even better the second time round or maybe it is because I am so much older now I can appreciate it more.  I first read The Shining in high school, so over 20 years ago, and I was so freaked out through the whole thing that I think I may have missed a few details. I did remember my favorite chapter though when I got to it, almost paragraph for paragraph.  Chapter 36, The Elevator.  Wow.  A chapter that could be a total workshop in horror writing – but honestly, this book is a masterpiece.  I think people forget just how groundbreaking it was for psychological horror when it was first released.  The year was 1977, people! This book is a classic.  A timeless classic and I will always love it.

This leads me in to my reason for rereading it now – I am joining a readalong through Instagram called the #traintoteenytown which is a large group readalong of Doctor Sleep. For those of you who may not know, Doctor Sleep is the sequel to The Shining which King released in 2013…quick math = 36 years later.  Little did I know when I bought it upon release day that it was the book I had been waiting for my entire life!  Danny Torrance, all grown up. After I finished Doctor Sleep, I thought to myself, ‘man, I would love to read them back-to-back someday’ – as it turns out, today is that day.  So, I finished The Shining on Saturday night and started my reread of Doctor Sleep this morning before work.

Quite literally, The Shining/Doctor Sleep combo is the most brilliant duology ever penned and I will stick to that! I am excited to be reading it this time with a group as well.  We have a certain number of pages to read each week, for four weeks, with discussion questions sent out on the Sunday of each week to discuss via group chat.  Most of the people reading it are reading it for the first time so I am really looking forward to hearing their thoughts on it.  I will be annotating it this time around so am hoping to bring some insight into the discussion as a 2nd time reader.

Also this month, I will be participating in a buddy read of Justin Cronin’s, The Passage, with a group of my book buddies (we are lovingly called the Floatin’ Troopers) – really looking forward to diving into this post-apocalyptic horror trilogy as I have heard nothing but good things about it.  It’s a pretty long book, the paperback edition coming in at 766 pages, so we are reading this one into May.  Our group usually picks one book a month that we all try to read – it is very informal though and discussions are usually steered more towards how the book is making us feel, what our thoughts are on a particular author’s writing style as opposed to plot points; that way we aren’t spoiling things for our buddies who may not have gotten as far in the book.

I have a couple other books I am hoping to get to this month.  Firstly, I hope to finish all of the 9 books I am currently reading! I have some ARCs I really need to get to this month and I definitely want to get to Tomi Adeyemi’s, Children of Blood & Bone.  What are you looking forward to reading this month? Anyone else doing any buddy reads or book club reads? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

Happy reading!!!

Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Happy Saturday bookish loves!  Today I finally feel ready to discuss NOS4A2. I finished NOS4A2, by Joe Hill, almost a week ago and still do not think that I have a truly cogent way of explaining my love for this book. However, one of my 2018 book goals is to review every book I finish so here we go….
This book was so unique, so dark and amusing, so full of references to King works, so replete with character and world development, I find myself still pondering it days after completion. Halfway through I ordered a copy for my sister and had it sent to her because I just needed to share this with someone. This book tests the line between the world around us and the world we create with our minds.
Our villain, Charles Talent Manx (the III, I believe), is a vampire of sorts and so devilishly charming that he almost fooled me into developing a soft spot for him. He was all kinds of evil and powerful and wonderfully creative.
Next comes Victoria McQueen – Vic is our heroine. She was powerful in her own right – using her powers to ‘find’ things that had been lost – losing a little of herself every time she used her gift. The loving, yet apprehensive mother of Bruce Wayne Carmody, Vic’s strength (both mental and physical) are pushed to the limits numerous times during the story, all on account of Manx. Unfortunately, her little Wayne feels the pull of Christmasland and we watch his soul go on one hell of a dangerous ride!
Then we have our minor characters, who were so well drawn and complete – my favorites, Maggie & Lou, were so important to this story and in my opinion, two of the most likable people in the action. Both misfits, they were real, engaging, loyal and brave.
This book is long, really long, but worth the ride if you put in the time. I may read it again next year around Christmas – making it a sort of tradition. After all, once you go to Christmasland, you never want to leave!