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leah

Leah's Bookshelf

Likes: Horror, macabre, fairy tales, ghosts, hauntings, serial killers, zombies, werewolves, shapeshifters, vampires, time travel, orphans, clones, thrillers, classics, gothic

 

I like to read anything that tells a good story, duh ;) Genre doesn't really matter much but I tend to read dark fiction and fantasy the most. I skip chick lit and romance novels with a few exceptions for the extraordinary.

 

My ratings system:

5 stars - ADORED; plan to read over and over and over.

4 stars - ENJOYED; will likely read once or twice more.

3 stars - LIKED; may or may not read again ... someday.

2 stars - MEH; no plans to read again.

1 stars - I didn't enjoy the story and was lucky to finish.

0 stars - I couldn't or wouldn't finish for reasons that may or may not be listed in the review box.

Currently reading

The Oxford Book of American Short Stories
Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Ray Bradbury, Charlotte Gilman Perkins, Willa Carter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Stephen Crane, Washington Irving, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Katherine Anne Porter, Eudora Welty, Nath
Progress: 225/768 pages

Off Season by Jack Ketchum

Off Season - Jack Ketchum

Rating: 4 of 5

 

For what it's intended to be, Off Season succeeds; thus, I rate it four stars.

 

If I was rating purely on my personal (yes subjective) level of enjoyment, I'd rate it somewhere around two and a half stars.

 

Perhaps I should've waited longer to experience Ketchum's Dead River world, having just read The Woods Are Dark (Richard Laymon) and The Pines (Robert Dunbar) only last year. Both of those novels also featured inbred backwoods cannibals. Though I found Ketchum's writing more absorbing - I was on the edge of my seat and my pulse raced during certain scenes - it was all too familiar for movie geeks like me.

 

Because, basically, it's the literary equivalent to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Wrong Turn (2003), etc. Don't get me wrong, the premise is truly terrifying but, unfortunately, it's an overabundant and clichéd premise in the horror genre.

 

So if you're looking for a steady page-turning build to a heart-pounding climax, where the filler is scene upon scene of human torture, both physical and mental, and cannibalism, you should give Off Season a go. But if you're easily offended or squeamish in the least bit, skip this book.

 

Note: This was my first Jack Ketchum novel, but I had watched The Woman and The Girl Next Door, so I kinda knew what to expect from his books. I read the "author's uncut, uncensored version" June 2006 Leisure Book.

The Unusual Suspects (The Sisters Grimm #2) by Michael Buckley

The Unusual Suspects - Michael Buckley, Peter Ferguson

Rating: 3 of 5

 

The Unusual Suspects was another entertaining entry in the Sisters Grimm series; however, it's unlikely I will read any further than Book Two. I enjoyed the humor and the mash-up of different fairy tales. But it's all too simple for my current tastes. Even the cliffhanger ending just wasn't enough to grab my interest.

 

The Sisters Grimm would be a great fit for kids around 8-14 *or* people wanting to read aloud to kids those ages.

 

***WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILER FOLLOWS***

 

Note to self: Rumpelstiltskin and his children were thought-provoking ideas. Beauty and the Beast, the Frog Prince and Princess, and Little Miss Muffet and the spider had babies, were too poor to support them, and sold them to Rumpel (who is a 3' tall, troll-like creature). Why does he want first born kids so bad? He feeds off their emotions.

The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower, Book 2) by Stephen King

The Drawing of the Three - Stephen King

Rating: 3 of 5

 

Well, The Drawing of the Three offered more action than Book One in the Dark Tower series, but not much else. Roland was developed a bit more despite being injured most of the book; I really do admire his grit. As for Eddie and Odetta, meh. Not really a big fan of either at this point in the story. I'm hoping for at least a little headway in the true quest in Book Three.

House of Skin by Jonathan Janz

House of Skin - Jonathan Janz

Rating: 3.5 of 5

 

Slow build, patience required. The pace picked up around page 175, built steadily to climax, and ended strong. A couple good scares. No surprises though. I'd read another book by Janz.

 

***WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILER FOLLOWS***

 

I wouldn't classify this as a "ghost" story. Annabel seemed more like an ancient evil being like a demon or deity as opposed to an evil human spirit. That's the vibe I picked up.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles - Judith Kerr,  Arthur Conan Doyle

Rating: 4.5 of 5

 

For the record, I'm *not* a fan of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. But after watching BBC's Sherlock series with my daughter, who raved about it so much I had to see for myself, I'll admit my interest in the original stories was renewed. She was right, by the way; the BBC show is great TV!

 

As a result of that show, I was motivated to pick up the collection I own but hadn't started, The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes, and read The Hound of the Baskervilles. I enjoyed it immensely. The slow build of the case's introduction and clue after clue; the atmosphere of the moor; a cast of probable suspects; the twists that screwed up my deductions (darn it! LOL): all added up to an exciting mystery.

 

I'm now a tentative fan of the real (meaning literary) Sherlock Holmes and look forward to the next mystery, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, where I hope to become a loyal fan.

 

Side note: This was my first Arthur Conan Doyle story.

 

"The more outre and grotesque an incident is the more carefully it deserves to examined, and the very point which appears to complicate a case is, when duly considered and scientifically handled, the one which is most likely to elucidate it (p. 443)."

Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories by Diana Wynne Jones

Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories - Diana Wynne Jones

Rating: 3.5 of 5

 

Overall, I was delighted with these stories. Most swept me away immediately. My favorites were:

 

What the Cat Told Me - How could I *not* enjoy a story from a cat's POV? My fave quote, "But Boy wouldn't listen. He had to have Princess. Or else he would go into a trance and see her that way. I understood then. Boy wanted kittens. Very little will stop boys or cats when they do."

 

The Master - Actually enjoyed this "it was a dream" story because it was more a prophecy aka warning. It was the one story I would've liked to keep on with to see if she listened to that warning.

 

The Plague of Peacocks - I love it when nosy do-gooders get their comeuppance.

 

Side note: This was my first exposure to Diana Wynne Jones, literary that is. I watched Howl's Moving Castle with my daughter years ago.

Dead City (Dead World #1) by Joe McKinney

Dead City - Joe McKinney

Rating: 3 of 5

 

Typical zombie fiction: action-packed, moderate gore, fast-paced plot, and so-so character development. For anyone looking for pure entertainment, Dead City would certainly suffice.

 

Side note: This was my first Joe McKinney book.

Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

Zombie - Joyce Carol Oates

Rating: 3.5 of 5

 

Sad, disgusting, horrific: exactly what one would imagine the mind of a serial killer to be. I didn't realize beforehand that Zombie was inspired by Jeffrey Dahmer, but I figured it out after Quentin P. shared his fantasy about the creation of a living zombie. The narrative was entirely stream of consciousness from Quentin's perspective, which was super creepy, and it definitely felt like I was reading a real journal. Oates fully immersed herself in the mindset of a killer, so much so I don't know which was scarier: Quentin (and the real people he represents), or Oates' ability to connect with such a character and narrate his story.

 

Like with a few of Oates' other books, Beasts and A Fair Maiden come to mind, there's a select group of readers who will "enjoy" Zombie. Most everyone who reads it will be grossed out and, at the end, left with an overall dirty, unsatisfied feeling.

 

Serial killers fascinate me; I've done extensive research and even written a couple papers about the female variety, so I was somewhat prepared for Quentin's depravity. And, while Quentin was appalling, his very being an abomination, I can't help appreciate the story for its authentic, no-holds-barred look inside the mind of a serial killer. Yet I immediately had to pick up a fun read, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, in order to counteract the effects of Zombie.

 

Disclaimer: This book contains graphic sex and violence, some of which involves minors. I would not recommend it to anyone under 18.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (Scott Pilgrim #2) by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World 2 - Bryan Lee O'Malley

Rating: 3.5 of 5

 

Another fun read. My response to Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is pretty much the same as to Scott Pilgrim #1. The biggest difference being this one features one of my favorite scenes...

 

Scott: "Garlic bread is my favourite food. I could honestly eat it for every meal, or just all the time without even stopping."

 

Ramona: "You'd get fat."Scott: "Bread makes you fat??"

 

I look forward to reading #3.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey

Rating: 4.5 of 5

 

Dang near perfect. When I read a fairy tale (or its retelling) the element I look forward to most is that tricky blend of fantasy and reality: where I forget the world around me and believe 100% the story in which I've been transported. Ivey nailed it. The world within The Snow Child was brutal and cold but heart-warming and hopeful - all at the same time. Mabel and Jack were flawed and likable almost immediately. And, despite them being much older than I am currently, I could completely relate to them. There was laughter; there was crying. There were moments I was on the edge of my seat.

 

Basically, the story enchanted me, just like it was meant to.

 

My only complaint about the book, and why I didn't give the full five stars, was the rampant animal carnage. I understand that's part and parcel for survival in the Alaskan wilderness, living on a farm, etc. I'm just a big wussy when it comes to animals dying, and their deaths in The Snow Child were graphic.

 

This one deserves its high rating which, as of February 10, 2013, is an average of 3.97 stars from 17,130 ratings. I look forward to more from Eowyn Ivey!

Advent by James Treadwell

Advent: A Novel - James Treadwell

Rating: 3 of 5

 

Ahhhh! Another book I didn't know was the first in a trilogy beforehand. It's not that I'm against trilogies (or series in general), but there are nuances involved that some writers don't have right out the gate. For instance, the first book should possess a complete story all its own and not depend on its sequels to deliver the story promised in book one. I'm not referring to a few unanswered questions or natural curiosities or a hunger for more of a story's world, either. When Advent concluded, I didn't feel like I knew much more than before I'd read all 451 pages. Could be there was too much going on for one book? Maybe the author didn't quite know where he wanted to take the story (or which babies to kill during revisions/edits)? Perhaps Advent was meant to serve mainly as an introduction?

 

Having said that, for the record, Treadwell writes beautifully. Imagery and atmosphere were spot on. But characters and plot didn't coax me forward, it was the language. Yet something was lost in all those lovely words because, more than halfway through, I really didn't care much about the characters; I just wanted to know the truth already(!) and it was turning into work to get there. Not the fun kind of work, either. It was of the tedious variety. Plus, there was a mad dash to wrap things up in the last five or six chapters and Gavin's transformation seemed to come out of nowhere. I dunno why, I just know I'm left unfulfilled and ever-so-slightly disappointed.

 

The premise of lost magic, people and creatures of legend and myth crossing into our time and reality, plus orphans should all add up to five stars from me. Unfortunately, in this case, it didn't. And I'm not quite sure who the target audience would be.

How Children Succeed by Paul Tough

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character - Paul Tough

Rating: 3.5 of 5

 

Review to come after I review my notes.

 

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Deadly Desire (Riley Jenson Guardian #7) by Keri Arthur

Deadly Desire - Keri Arthur

Rating: 2.5 of 5

 

My enjoyment of Deadly Desire was definitely hindered by two things: one, I hadn't read any of the previous six books in the Riley Jenson Guardian series; and two, I'm not what you'd call a fan of "paranormal romance."

 

I bought this book on impulse years ago, not realizing it was the seventh in a series, thinking I might find a story and characters I liked as much as those in Laurell K. Hamilton's books. (Entertainment being the number one reason anyone would read these types of books.) Well, either my tolerance for "romance" is way lower than I first thought or Deadly Desire wasn't very good.

 

The biggest obstacle was I just didn't like Riley and, since this was the seventh book, there wasn't much in the way of character development. So it was really hard for me to connect with who she was, how I could relate to her, and why she did what she did. Also, there were several brief references to events from the past so I felt I was missing vital history.

 

Probably, for existing Riley Jenson readers, Deadly Desire would meet all their needs. Unfortunately, for anyone new to the series, it would probably be wiser to start at the beginning, and you most certainly should already love the "paranormal romance" genre.

The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood by Jack Zipes

The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood - Jack Zipes

Rating: 4 of 5

 

The high rating is strictly for content, not for Zipes' analysis. The prologue and first essay were jam-packed with Little Red Riding Hood's history - loved 'em both! But the epilogue, "Reviewing and Re-Framing Little Red Riding Hood," started to bore me about halfway through. The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood offered a wealth of information: LRRH's history, a chronological bibliography, notes on the authors, AND a collection of 38 Little Red Riding Hood texts (aka stories). Overall, it was well worth the time it took me to hunt down a copy and the price to buy one.

Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies - Isaac Marion

Rating: 4 of 5

 

I've watched numerous movies that twist the traditional zombie mythology (for instance, FIDO), a few of which even involved love stories (My Boyfriend's Back and Boy Eats Girl are fun examples). But, if memory serves, this was my first experience with the literary equivalent.

 

Warm Bodies was way better than I expected, yay! The underlying question of what makes one a member of the Living versus the Dead was prevalent; I never get bored exploring potential answers to that question. Free will was another thought-provoking theme.

 

The narrative was present tense - not the distracting, amateurish kind, either; the does-its-job right variety - and the narrator, a flesh-eating zombie called R, jumped off the page, grabbed my empathy by the throat and sunk his teeth deep. In other words, I liked R almost immediately. A huge element of the likability factor: R's existential crisis never felt whiny or angsty (thank you, baby jesus!)

 

Having read the cover blurb and seen the movie trailer, I'll admit to having been a little scared that Warm Bodies might do to zombies what that certain time-of-day book did to vampires. I'm happy to report there were no vegetarian, emotionally-abusive, sparkly zombies. There was nothing cool about being one of the Dead, and through R's eyes we understood why.

 

The story's quirks actually made it better. The anatomical illustrations as the chapter headings. The overabundance of ellipses. Frank Sinatra. The side effects of eating brains. All added to the book's heart-warming nature and overall individuality.

 

So why didn't I give it the full 5 stars?

 

Several reasons, but mainly because it started to feel rushed and a little too sentimental the last 30 pages, especially pages 233-239. Other than those minor flaws, Warm Bodies was a fun, post-apocalyptic, love story mixed with some coming-of-age. And like most love (coming-of-age) stories the two "people" have to overcome obstacles to "live" happily ever after.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Zone One: A Novel - Colson Whitehead

Rating: 4 of 5

 

Zone One is a perfect example of "literary horror." I love stories that dig under the surface of horrific events, like a zombie apocalypse, to show me not just the physicality (running for their life) of the situation but also the emotionality (why they're running, what they're really running from, and so forth) by way of meticulously selected words and expertly crafted sentences.

 

If you only read zombie or apocalypse books for the fast-paced plot and abundant gore, you probably won't enjoy this book.

 

If you're easily bored by literary fiction because of its "complicated" style and/or slow-moving or nonexistent plot, you should probably skip this book.

 

If you loathe expanding your vocabulary (aka having to look up the meaning of a word) whilst reading, definitely choose something else.

 

If, like me, you relish the [sometimes elusive] hybrid known as literary horror, then you may want to give this book a chance.

 

If you're not used to prose of this caliber, the first 40 to 50 pages may require some patience, but it's worth it. Whitehead writes beautifully (arguably too much so at times), and I found myself wanting to highlight sentence after sentence, yet I wouldn't put the book down in order to grab a notebook and pen. I should warn you, though: its characters' examination of humanity was a dark one, both before and after the zombies.

 

My biggest complaint: I wish Mark Spitz could've been as tenacious as Temple in The Reapers Are the Angels (Alden Bell) or as driven as the Man in The Road (Cormac McCarthy). But perhaps Mark's mediocrity was the point. Something to ponder, I suppose.