Review: Among the Living by Tim Lebbon

Among the LivingAmong the Living by Tim Lebbon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Among the Living is an Eco-Horror novel from Tim Lebbon.

I was so excited when I read the synopsis for this one, as we all know, there’s nothing better than reading Arctic Horror in the Winter. I was super stoked to get into it.

This story is set in a very remote area of the Arctic Circle, specifically, on Hawkshead Island. We follow two groups of individuals. The first, a team of illegal miners who essentially exploit natural resources, is led by Dean.

The second, a group of climate activists, who try to stop illegal activities such as those Dean and his team engage in. The activists are led by Bethan, an old friend of Dean’s.

Dean and his team go to the island to explore a vast cave system. Their exploits lead to a horrific contagion being unleashed. This contagion has laid dormant for many millennia, but now that it’s free, it’s ready to wreck havoc.

Bethan and her team, wanting to stop Dean and his associates from exploiting this rare and special environment, rush there to try to stop them. Spoiler alert: they’re too late.

Dean, Bethan and their rivals teams are now on a survival mission from hell. They can’t let this contagion escape the island. If they do, it could mean an end to life as we know it.

But, hey, no pressure…

The concept of Among the Living is great. I love the idea of exploring what could happen if some sort of ancient contagion, or virus, is unleashed, either due to ice melt, or humans uncovering it from underground.

I think it’s such a horrifying idea. I actually think about it quite a bit. I was really excited to see Lebbon tackle that potentially species-destroying topic here.

Sadly, the execution left me feeling majorly underwhelmed.

This is a good book. I know many Readers will enjoy it. For me though, I just couldn’t care less about the characters, or their interpersonal issues. I was bored by them.

There were some extremely vivid horror scenes, where I feel like the horror imagery was very well presented. Those were the parts I enjoyed the most. They were a little few and far between for my tastes though.

IMO, the beginning of this was the most exciting part, even though in terms of action, that definitely gets more amped up towards the end. It gets crazy!

What I enjoyed about the beginning though, and found most exciting, was the unknown. The anticipation of entering the cave, of what they found there and what it meant. Those aspects were so well done. I wish it could have carried that hauntingly-ominous tone throughout.

Once Bethan and her crew came on the scene, however, it just felt that the interpersonal issues started to outshine the suspense and the horror.

Because of my fluctuations in interest, this book, coming in at just over 300-pages, took me almost 20-days to read. It just went so incredibly slow for me.

With this being said, I understand this is 100% personal taste. It’s nothing the author did wrong, it just wasn’t a good fit for my tastes. Nevertheless, I can appreciate the creativity and the concept itself is absolutely terrifying.

I would recommend this for Readers who enjoy more Literary Horror, but also aren’t afraid of a blood and gore.

It is thought-provoking and could also work very well for Book Clubs, Group Reads, or Buddy Reads.

Thank you to the publisher, Titan Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am definitely interesting in reading more of this author’s work.

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Review: What We Harvest by Ann Fraistat

What We HarvestWhat We Harvest by Ann Fraistat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

What We Harvest, a 2022-debut from Ann Fraistat, is a YA-EcoHorror novel set in the farming town of Hollow’s End.

We follow Wren, a teenager, whose family descends from one of the founding families of the town and is well known for their rainbow wheat fields.

Each of the founding families has their own unique, somewhat magical crop. For decades Hollow’s End has flourished. Tourists come from miles around to marvel at the miracle crops. That is until 5-months ago, when the blight set in, ruining crops, animals and people alike.

Now the town is at the edge of total destruction, with curfews and quarantines in place, there’s no more marveling at the crops. It’s all running and hiding for your life.

After Wren’s parents fail to return from helping at a neighbor’s farm, and Wren gets herself in a bit of a pickle, she needs help. She ends up having to call the last person she wants to reach out to, her ex-boyfriend, Derek.

Unfortunately, Wren and Derek will have to put past issues behind them in order to survive. In fact, the teens may be the last hope for Hollow’s End. Will they be able to stop the blight before it gets them as well?

What We Harvest is a cracking debut. I love small towns filled with big secrets, and not only did this town harbor a lot of secrets, they were also very dark and dangerous ones.

This story kicks off very quickly, with the blight already having been taking over the town for a while. I liked Wren’s perspective right away and learning about the blight, as well as the history and dynamics of Hollow’s End.

You know right away that something very dangerous lurks here, hiding in the woods during the day, but you don’t really know what. I loved the ominous tone this sets. Right from the start, you know to be on edge.

Scattered amongst the more dangerous scenes, we also get some quieter moments, reflecting on Wren and Derek, and the various relationships in their lives. It was a nice balance between those more personal moments and the intensity of what is going on with the blight.

I enjoyed Wren and Derek’s relationship a lot, as we got to the bottom of what was really going on between them. I also liked learning about the founding families and the lore that surrounds how the town came to be.

Those elements did remind me of The Devouring Gray. If you enjoyed that book, I do think that you could really enjoy this. Another one with similar vibes would be Burn Our Bodies Down, although I did enjoy this story more.

The entire drama of this narrative played out so well. I feel like it was paced brilliantly and did have some super intense, edge-of-your-seat, nail-biter moments.

The Horror elements were well executed too, particularly in regards to the effects of the blight. There were definitely moments I was truly scared for these characters that I had grown attached to.

Overall, this was a great reading experience and I’m sure glad that I finally made time for it.

If you are a fan of any sort of Eco-Horror, YA or Adult, I think this one is worth giving a try. There’s some interesting elements in here that could keep you up at night. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author!

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Review: Road of Bones by Christopher Golden

Road of BonesRoad of Bones by Christopher Golden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Felix Teiglund is a documentary filmmaker. Along with his camera operator and close friend, Jack Prentiss, he sets out to Siberia for their latest project.

Their plan is to film along the Kolyma Highway, a 1200-mile stretch of roadway known as the Road of Bones, due to bodies that lie underneath it; unfortunate souls who died during their labors and were plowed over where they fell.

It’s one of the coldest places on Earth, but in spite of that, there are small communities that still exist along the road.

Teig and Prentiss are in search of a ghost story and this seems like the perfect place to capture one. How cold could it possibly be anyway?

It turns out, pretty freaking cold. Nonetheless, Teig and Prentiss are determined. They need to make this work. There’s a lot riding on this project.

They have a great rental truck, made for these conditions, and a capable local Yakut guide and translator, Kaskil. They’ve set themselves up well, but in these conditions anything can happen.

As the men slowly make their way to their final destination, Kaskil’s native community of Akhurst, they stop along the way at a small roadside bar for some rest and food.

There they have the best reindeer burgers ever and are feeling confident and happy as they depart for the last stretch of their journey.

Not long after, they come across a broken down SUV. A young woman, Nari, who Teig had noticed back at the bar is stranded.

Obviously, they cannot leave her there. She would certainly freeze to death before too long. It’s at that point, the trio becomes a quartet.

Arriving in Akhurst, Teig and Prentiss just get settled into their accommodations when they hear a disturbance outside.

It’s Kaskil. Something is wrong. He tells them that the settlement is abandoned. Everyone is gone. They just up and left. His whole family, gone. Doors left open, dinners still sit on tables, footprints in the snow; some indicating that some people were barefoot.

What the hell happened here?

There must be some sort of explanation. Teig and Prentiss agree to help him and Nari search. They find no one except Kaskil’s nine-year old niece, who is catatonic.

Then absolute hell breaks loose. The travelers are forced to flee the settlement, fearing for their lives and something that defies all explanation is following them.

Road of Bones is an intense and horrifying story. I had such a fun experience reading this one, staying up way past my bedtime in order to finish it.

I really enjoy Nature Horror, or Eco-Horror, as well as Folk Horror and to me, Christopher Golden was giving me all of that in spades. The way this was told, it was so well done. My anxiety was definitely super high after the showdown at Akhurst.

I loved getting to know the characters, particularly Teig, and the setting was absolute perfection. I was so cold. I kept having to turn up my heat and I’m totally serious about that.

It was unnervingly realistic, the dangers of the road. That alone would have been anxiety-inducing enough, but then the parnee, an animistic shaman, and other forest spirits get thrown in, holy smokes!! It was freaking intense!!

Golden really did a great job working his way through this one. In some Eco-Horror, or Folk Horror, I have read in the past, I’ve had a difficult time deciphering what the author was trying to get across. I had no problems here.

There was a point behind it and I could picture it all perfectly. I loved the ending, Golden didn’t pull any punches, but it still left me with a feeling of hope, which sounds really strange, yet it’s true.

I also feel intrigued to learn a bit more about Siberian legends and folklore now, so that’s an added bonus.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

This was a perfect Winter read for me. I may even read it again next Winter!!

❄️🦌🖤🐺❄️🦌🖤🐺❄️🦌🖤🐺❄️🦌🖤🐺❄️

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Review: The Nesting by C.J. Cooke

The NestingThe Nesting by C.J. Cooke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Lexi is at rock bottom. Her life has never been easy, but at this point, she has days where she would rather not be alive.

After her long-term relationship ends and her best friend basically tells her that she has become too much too deal with, Lexi knows she must find a way to make a new life for herself.

Riding a train one day, she overhears a conversation that provides her the opportunity to do just that.

Stealing a woman named Sophie’s identity, Lexi applies for a position as a nanny for a wealthy widower and his two young daughters. The best part is, the post is in the beautiful country of Norway.

She’s astounded to learn that she has been hired on. Obviously, she’s also nervous. She has a lot to pull off.

Lexi, now Sophie, knows absolutely nothing about home-schooling, infants or any other general duties of being a nanny.

From the very first day, she’s quickly swept up into the lives of the other staff members, Derry, Clive and Maron; the two children, Gaia and Coco, and the handsome widower, Tom.

The house itself, is a drafty, historic home that the family resides in temporarily while Tom and Clive construct the main event: Aurelia’s Nest.

As her days inside the house go on, Sophie begins to hear and see strange things.

She also starts to learn about Tom’s deceased wife, Aurelia, and the days leading up to her apparent suicide.

Interspersed throughout the story, we do get some chapters told from Aurelia’s perspective.

Sophie also stumbles across a diary that appears to be Aurelia’s, so she gets a little bit of glimpse into her life as well, which causes her to come to some startling conclusions regarding Tom and Aurelia’s marriage.

I enjoyed my time with this novel. The beginning felt very An Anonymous Girl meets Turn of the Key, but once the narrative arrives in Norway, it really takes on a life of its own.

Cooke excels at setting the atmosphere; a perfect Autumnal read. This entire novel is dripping with a cold, dark, ominous feeling throughout.

Part ghost story, part domestic drama, part ecological horror story, there’s also a lovely sprinkling of Norwegian folklore to sink your teeth into.

While I enjoyed many aspects of this story, I also felt like there were a few too many plot holes, as well as aspects that felt too much like other stories I have read recently.

However, with this being said, overall, this is a captivating book. I would absolutely read anything else C.J. Cooke writes. She definitely has a style I am interested in watching grow.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. As always, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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