Bites
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

Published: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Skypony Press
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Have you ever wished you could receive a little guidance from your favorite book boyfriend? Ever dreamed of being the Chosen One in a YA novel? Want to know all the secrets of surviving the dreaded plot twist?

Or maybe you’re just really confused about what “opal-tinted, luminous cerulean orbs” actually are?

Well, popular Twitter personality @broodingYAhero is here to help as he tackles the final frontier in his media dominance: writing a book. Join Broody McHottiepants as he attempts to pen Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me, a “self-help” guide (with activities–you always need activities) that lovingly pokes fun at the YA tropes that we roll our eyes at, but secretly love.

As his nefarious ex, Blondie DeMeani, attempts to thwart him at every turn, Broody overcomes to detail, among other topics, how to choose your genre, how to keep your love interest engaged (while maintaining lead character status), his secret formula for guaranteed love triangle success, and how to make sure you secure that sequel, all while keeping his hair perfectly coiffed and never breaking a sweat. (goodreads.com)

This book is adorable. I’m sure Broody would hate to be called adorable but I never read books with him in them anyway so I don’t care what he thinks. I really don’t, though. Read a lot of YA books with this kind of stereotypical character in them. Luckily those types of books don’t really pique my interest anyway (plots are usually way too romance-centric and I find a lot of that kind of YA romance pretty insufferable for all of these Broody-type reasons) so I don’t have too much experience with them, but just enough that I can appreciate the satire.

I love how he exists in this ever-morphing main character village just waiting to get plucked up by an author to be used in yet another cookie-cutter book. Blondi was the best part of the book, if I’m honest. Always the voice of reason cloaked in a sarcastic tone and totally discredited because she likes to wear lipstick (how very CS Lewis).

Believe it or not there are some excellent writing tips in here. Basically do the opposite. All the opposite. I was writing a short piece of erotica at the same time as I was reading this and I had my characters have matching heartbeats. And then I get browbeaten with that term in BROODING YA HERO and I just couldn’t live with it. I had to change it. Because it really is so incredibly stupid.

I laughed a lot reading BROODING YA HERO. It’s very heavy with satire and it is a lot to take in. I was bordering on it having been just a bit too much but I ultimately got through it just fine. I can’t wait to get myself a finished copy so I can see all the artwork that will be included.

So if you like satire and you can laugh at all the ridiculous tropes and cliches that run rampant in YA, you’ll love BROODING YA HERO. Not sure whether it’ll make you want to become a main character or not. At least not one in one of Broody’s stories. How droll and unnecessarily dramatic. 🙂

4.5

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

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

My recap for book number two in LJ Smith’s The Forbidden Game series, THE CHASE, is now up over at The Devil’s Elbow! Stakes are high when evil Shadow Man Julian comes out of his world and into Jenny’s, threatening her safety, her comfort, and her friends as he kidnaps them one by one in order to force Jenny to comply with her promise to him. The dick. Don’t miss it!