Bites
December 9, 2017

Published: June 25, 2014
Publisher: Image Comics
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Kyle Barnes has been plagued by demonic possession all his life and now he needs answers. Unfortunately, what he uncovers along the way could bring about the end of life on Earth as we know it. (goodreads.com)

This is definitely an interesting comic. I’m not strictly blown away by the art. It’s not bad. It tells the story without getting in its own way, which is nice. But the story is really what’s driving the book here.

It’s compelling and so far (having only read the first issue) it’s sort of toying with the idea that this may or may not be an actual demon possession but someone who’s just mentally ill. Maybe. But I like that psychological horror aspect of it.

While I’ve watched the first few seasons of The Walking Dead (I stopped after they escaped the Governor’s town there) I haven’t read the comics and THE OUTCAST is my first Kirkman comic that I’ve read. So far so good. It’s nabbed my attention, that’s for sure. I look forward to reading more!

4

I received a copy of this comic from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

December 2, 2017

Published: October 1, 2011
Publisher: Darby Creek Publishing
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

I thought the bus was filling with smoke. But then the smoke took the shapes of shadowy, faceless people. …

Lamar takes the late bus home from school after practice each day. After the bus’s beloved driver passes away, Lamar begins to see strange things – demonic figures, preparing to attack the bus. Soon he learns the demons are after Mr. Rumble, the freaky new bus driver. Can Lamar rescue his fellow passengers, or will Rumble’s past come back to destroy them all? (goodreads.com)

This was a great freaky little read for reluctant readers. I’ve enjoyed all of the books I’ve read in the Night Fall series and THE LATE BUS was no exception.

Jasper mixes terrifying elements of the supernatural with the psychological for a blended story that really plays with the mind. Considering the way things disappear, how not everyone can see these things, and the voices Lamar hears, it really toes the line of what’s real and what isn’t. And Jasper does it in a way that doesn’t invoke the cheese card (a la RL Stine). The characters are realistic and relatable, truly scary things happen to them, and things are resolved in a way that doesn’t require huge blow-outs and contrived situations. It all really works.

And even for a story that’s written for reluctant readers I don’t feel like I’m being talked down to. The writing is simple and to the point but it has a job to do and it does it. It tells the story. It gives me characters struggling through these scenarios. It gives me creepy, scary elements. But it doesn’t moralize me or condescend to me at all. I think the people at Lerner/Darby Creek really nailed the line for that.

Two thumbs up for THE LATE BUS! A great little chiller to read right around Halloween.

4.5

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

November 18, 2017

Published: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Sometimes the past is better off buried.

Senior year is finally over. After all they’ve been through, Dan, Abby, and Jordan are excited to take one last road trip together, and they’re just not going to think about what will happen when the summer ends. But on their way to visit Jordan’s uncle in New Orleans, the three friends notice that they are apparently being followed.. And Dan starts receiving phone messages from someone he didn’t expect to hear from again—someone who died last Halloween.

As the strange occurrences escalate, Dan is forced to accept that everything that has happened to him in the past year may not be a coincidence, but fate—a fate that ties Dan to a group called the Bone Artists, who have a sinister connection with a notorious killer from the past. Now, Dan’s only hope is that he will make it out of his senior trip alive. (goodreads.com)

For the most part Roux’s moved away from supernatural horror and into more of a thriller realm with a bit of a gothic twist. Which I like. Don’t get me wrong. I just wish the supernatural elements in CATACOMB weren’t added for the sake of being added. They didn’t really add to the story in any meaningful way and the one element toward the beginning didn’t actually go anywhere. It was there for the sake of being creepy and convenient but it didn’t otherwise add anything.

But the story itself was good if a little thin. The prevailing issue with the Bone Artists and their so-called debt wasn’t explained very well or fleshed out all that much. It provided what was needed to get Dan where he needed to be but even in hindsight I’m not sure I fully understand the purpose of the debt beyond a plot tool. But it still worked, at least. The concept of the debt doesn’t come in until closer to the end anyway so it wasn’t something that was constantly being brought up without purpose and pulling me out of the story at all.

The setting was excellent. Roux’s always painted a good scene and she certainly didn’t fall short when it came to New Orleans. In CATACOMB I think the pictures didn’t add a whole lot to the story, especially when it came to Dan’s parents and some of the more recent elements they were trying to capture. The pictures work for the old stuff that’s exceedingly far out of reach, in my opinion, but they were just kind of eh for me when they were just pictures of things in the kids’ lives currently. It felt like the thing (added pictures) that worked really well at the start of the series had run its course and what was added in CATACOMB just became filler.

CATACOMB definitely trended more toward thriller than horror this time around because it departed from the supernatural element. It’s still creepy in a bone deep sort of way, aided by New Orleans as a backdrop. The idea of this insidious cult controlling things from the bottom all the way to the top is kind of terrifying. But by now I think the quirk of the series has run its course. The book isn’t bad, but I think it’s exhausted and it’s time for a rest. Not sure if that makes any sense, but it did in my head.

3.5

November 14, 2017

Published: July 1, 1994
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

It was Julian’s last challenge before he disappeared into the Shadow World, taking Jenny Thornton’s boyfriend Tom and her cousin Zach: “If you want them, come on a treasure hunt. But remember: if you lose, there’s the devil to pay.”

Jenny, Audrey, Michael, and Dee have burned their bridges, leaving their families behind, to enter the Shadow World with a set of runes, magical letters that open the doors of hell. They’re lost in an amusement park of nightmares, at Julian’s mercy as they look for Tom and Zach. Jenny’s only clue is a gold coin, Julian’s gift, and Julian himself, more beautiful, more seductive, and more dangerous than ever. And determined to make her his bride . . . (book back blurb)

I really hate the ‘make her his bride’ part. Because it’s less about that now and I think Julian just wants to finally win a game against Jenny. Odds aren’t in his favor here since she’s got two out of three, but points for perseverance.

THE KILL is probably my favorite book out of the whole series. I thought it was the best written, had the most heart, the best character development, and it was certainly the creepiest. An amusement park of nightmares? Yes, please. You had me at amusement park.

I like THE KILL because the characters have real consequences for their actions. People aren’t unscathed as they go through all of this. There are repercussions to things. They’re not just coasting through, trying to hit certain tasks and getting out of tight spots through a series of conveniences. For how unrealistic the story it, this only works to ground it more in reality.

The setting is killer. I love me a good creepy amusement park. I think they’re sinister anyway but to have this mock up of one in the Shadow World is just perfect. I especially liked the museum arcade with all the really old arcade games with creepy clowns and dolls in them that made all these weird clanking, grinding sounds when you used them. There’s a place in San Francisco that it reminded me of, Musee Mecanique, that’s also a penny arcade that doubles as a museum with really creepy dolls that repel and fascinating at the same time.

Jenny’s morphed into total BAMF territory and is so fed up with Julian’s crap that she just barrels through this world with only thoughts of Tom and Zach driving her. She stands firmly on her own two feet and I love how it’s the woman rescuing the men. Michael is actually the only man in the rescue party and he’s effectively worthless (still). So it’s Jenny, leading a charge of angry women into Julian’s world to take back what’s theirs. And Smith’s othering of Dee has been brought back down to a minimum. It’s still there but nowhere near as pervasive and cringe-worthy as it was in the last book.

My recap will be going up on 11/23 over at The Devil’s Elbow so be sure to check that out when it posts! The Forbidden Game is an excellent series that I think with just some small tweaks would stand up in today’s market. It’s creepy and empowering and unlike many series it actually gets better as it progresses. Love that.

4.5

November 7, 2017

Published: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Madeline Usher is doomed.

She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.

Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.

In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down? (goodreads.com)

I’m kind of ambivalent about THE FALL. On the one hand it was excellently moody and set a great scene, but on the other the Usher curse isn’t really explained and this “madness” isn’t really madness and it’s all just there and as a reader we’re supposed to be spooked by it and I’m not.

I think the concept is a neat idea, that a house is sentient and somehow tied to the DNA of the Ushers. It calls to them and effectively forces them to do its bidding (mainly procreating, I guess, so it can have more Ushers to torture). But I think Griffin’s intent was to blur the line between reality and illusion more and it just didn’t work. I think as a reader I’m supposed to question Madeline as a reliable narrator and how much of what she’s seeing is real and isn’t and how much is self-fulfilling prophecy but I never doubted for a second. I mean, it works out in the end because it’s all still kind of creepy. But that “is it or isn’t it” isn’t there like I think it was meant to be.

I do like the idea of a sentient house, but there also seems to be a lot of inbreeding going on here and there’s supposed to be a creature in the tarn and I’m not sure what that’s all about. I mean really this book is all over the place for me in terms of actual story. Because it’s a house that “chooses” an heir and it wants Madeline to live and beget to bring it more Ushers but at the same time it tries to kill her and punishes her for doing things it doesn’t like. Seems rather contradictory.

I don’t know. THE FALL is definitely a moody book and if you’re looking for something to read on a gloomy, chilly, autumn night I think THE FALL will fit that bill nicely. But in terms of plot . . . eh. It leaves too many things hanging open, there are too many elements that seem to be there simply for shock value and don’t really serve any real purpose, and I’m not compelled by Madeline’s voice enough to really care about any of it. It’s been a long time since I’ve read The Fall of the House of Usher, but I imagine you’d be better off just reading the original. Not sure what THE FALL really contributes to the story at all.

2.5