Review: What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

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Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

What Moves the Dead is Kingfisher’s retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.

What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.

Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.

Review:

After I read this novella, I did a Google search of T. Kingfisher and learned many things about her. The first is that T. Kingfisher is a pen name. The second is that she has released over 40 books. The third is that I should have been reading her works much earlier. As it is, What Moves the Dead is the first of her books that I have read.

A riff on the The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, What Moves the Dead is the story of Alex Easton going to visit their childhood friend at the house of Usher after they receive a letter requesting help. Their friend, Madeline Usher, says that she is sick and dying and needs help, so Alex rushes there as soon as they can. What Alex finds there is a perfect gothic story, brother and sister holed up in a damned house, along with a doctor they do not trust. Everyone and everything falling apart. The horror and mystery that Alex finds there makes What Moves the Dead a fast paced, thin novella that is really satisfying.

Much of the success of this novella can be attributed to T. Kingfisher’s writing. In a short period of time, she develops the setting and the characters with such detail that it feels as if I read a 400 page novel. The writing in this novella is masterful, and I found myself rereading sentences because of how gorgeous they are. This is one of those novellas that I will probably reread simply because of the writing. There is so much depth to some of the scenes and writing that I can really feel the dampness and sickness that is seeping from the walls and the pages. I cannot recommend What Moves the Dead enough. I know now that I have to read some of T. Kingfisher’s other works. 

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Beyond the Creek by Nico Bell

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Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

When Alex Foster accepted the caregiver position with the eccentric Nox family, she was issued a single rule. Don’t wander past the creek. Alex isn’t interested in exploring the Nox’s vast wooded property. After escaping an abusive past, her sole focus is building a safe future for herself and her unborn baby. Except, a series of chilling events threatens her happily-ever-after. Now, she must fight to survive an ancient evil before all hope is lost. There’s something beyond the creek, and it’s hungry.

Review:,

Nico Bell’s novella Beyond the Creek is a tale of two halves. The first half we are introduced to a situation that feels very much like traditional gothic horror. A woman, Amy, takes a job at an old mansion being the caretaker of Phillip Nox, a stubborn old man who has had a series of strokes. The house is creepy, the rest of the family is standoffish and unpleasant, and we are led in a direction that we have seen before. The way that Nico Bell builds the characters and the scenes keeps us engaged and entangled in the story. We really care about the characters, particularly about Amy who is running from a traumatic situation, pregnant with an abuser’s baby, doing her best to survive while staying hidden. This job for the Nox family is important and dire for her, so we feel her anxiety and fear when things are not going good with her relationship with the rest of the family. 

Halfway through the novella, everything changes completely, and this turns from a spooky gothic horror novella into a pure horror novella. We are so engaged in the story by this time that there is no way we can put the book down. The action is quick and sharp, and we are gripped with same horror that Amy is facing. 

There are certain themes in this novella that make me understand the choices that the characters make. Sometimes I read or watch horror and think, “Why is this character even involved? Why don’t they just run off and live the rest of their life?” Nico Bell really gives good reasons why Amy wants to stay and fight the horrors that await her at Nox House. There are themes of abuse, and these themes are so intertwine with the decisions the characters make. Everything action makes sense. I do not think that every author spends time with the “why” of the characters motivations as much as they should. Beyond the Creek is a fantastic example of writing characters who are fully developed with honest motivations and believable choices when confronted by some serious life and death horror. Nico Bell’s writing and storytelling should not be missed. 

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Review: 48 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister by Joyce Carol Oates

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Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

Marguerite, a beautiful woman, has disappeared from her small town in Upstate New York. But is foul play involved? Or did she merely take an opportunity to get away for fun, or finally make the decision to leave behind her claustrophobic life of limited opportunities?

Her younger sister Gigi wonders if the flimsy silk Dior dress, so casually abandoned on the floor, is a clue to Marguerite’s having seemingly vanished. The police examine the footprints made by her Ferragamo boots leaving the house, ending abruptly, and puzzle over how that can help lead to her. Gigi, not so pretty as her sister, slowly reveals her hatred for the perfect, much-loved, Marguerite.

Bit by bit, like ripping the petals off a flower blossom, revelations about both sisters are uncovered. And subtly, but with the unbearable suspense at which Joyce Carol Oates excels, clues mount up to bring to light the fate of the missing beauty.

Review:

I have been reading Joyce Carol Oates books off and on for about 20 years. Her writing has certain themes, particularly trauma toward women and the disappearances or deaths of loved ones destroying people. She has been writing variations of this theme since 1964 with over 150 published books to her credit. She is now eighty-four, and it seems as if her production is still as steady as it has always been. The first book I read was The Tattooed Girl, when it was new in 2003, and it blew me away. The story, about a girl with a tattoo on her face who becomes an assistant to an aging author, even though her goal is to destroy him, was so incredible that I read several of her novels back to back. She has a certain style to her writing and a certain gothic creepiness that nobody else can duplicate. Since 2003, I have tried to keep up with some of her novels and collections here and there, but there really are just so many and there is so much to read in the world that sometimes her newest book slip through the cracks.

We can tell that 48 Clues Into the Disappearance of My Sister is a Joyce Carol Oates book just by the title. We already know that there has been some foul play to a young girl and that the narrator, the sister, is trying to cope with her disappearance. The thing is we do not know what direction Oates is going to take this idea. We learn quickly that the woman who disappeared is Marguerite, a beautiful woman who disappeared one morning and was not found. The narrator of the story, is Georgene, her younger, not as pretty or popular sister, works at the post office, lives in her childhood room, and is jealous and angry toward Marguerite and how their lives are completely different. When Marguerite disappears, these feelings are really amplified, making Georgene deal with these feelings as well as the strangers who are now trying to butt into her very private life. Two greatest things about Joyce Carol Oates is her character studies and her creepiness. In this case, the character Georgene is placed under a microscope and every thought, feeling, and action really explains her bitterness toward life. As far as creepiness, Oates writes many of her stories in a way that there feels like there is an undercurrent of evil in every character and in every character’s actions. 

This novel is written in 48 clues that adds to the story, but not all of the clues are physical things. Some are reactions, feelings, and behaviors. The mystery is how this all adds up. Clues in her novels never fit perfectly together, and it is up to the reader to decide what really happened to Marguerite. We are given the tools but we have to build the conclusions ourselves. This makes for a novel that is equal parts fascinating and disturbing. For as much as people like true crime podcasts and documentaries, it is a wonder why Joyce Carol Oates is not having a resurgence. Much of her fiction is built in a way where the reader is to draw their own conclusions. 48 Clues Into the Disappearance of My Sister is one of those mysteries that can really lead to a debate with a group of friends over what really happened to Marguerite, because the clues point to several possibilities. This is the type of fiction Oates has been writing for a long time, and this makes stories just as interesting now as they were decades ago.

I received this as an ARC through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Reg E Rat’s Birthday Fun Center and Same Day Outpatient Care Facility by Frank J. Edler

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Amazon,

Godless.com

Bookshop

Synopsis:

For Mortimer, there are only two things in life to fear: kidney stones and children’s birthday parties. For his son, Ichabod, its bullies and lame birthday presents. The father and son duo are about to spend an afternoon facing their worst fears at the quirkiest place on Earth: Reg E. Rat’s Birthday Fun Center.

Reg E. Rat’s is full of fun and games for the whole family. It’s also filled with maniac animatronics, a questionable food menu and, somewhere in the back, the zaniest medical staff imaginable.

Spend a hellacious afternoon with Reg E. Rat and friends. You’re gonna have a bloody good
time!

“Frank J. Edler, the deranged mind behind BRATS IN HELL, and DEATH GETS A BOOK, is back with his most insane and hilarious book to date. REG E. RAT’S BIRTHDAY FUN CENTER & SAME DAY OUTPATIENT CARE FACILITY is batshit crazy—full of animatronic monsters, a giant humanoid rat and brutal kill scenes. Birthday parties will never be the same. Enjoy the pizza!” — Daniel J. Volpe, author of LEFT TO YOU

Review:

A few years ago, Nicolas Cage starred in a weird little movie called Wilby Wonderland. The premise is that he has to stay overnight at a children’s pizza place and clean. Of course the animatronic animals come to life and try to kill him. In Fank J Edler’s newest novella, Reg E. Rat’s Birthday Fun Center and Same Day Outpatient Care Facility, Mr. Frank (probably) said, “I can do this even better. Let’s have the pizza place be open and have the animatronic animals kill everyone in the middle of five birthday parties. Wouldn’t that be fun?” The answer is Yes. It is a lot of fun.

Mortimer’s son Ichabod is invited to a friend’s birthday party at Reg E. Rat’s Birthday Fun Center. Like every single parent in the entire world, Mortimer does not want to go because places like this are awful, with a thousand snotty screaming kids running around, awful pizza, and nothing but a desire to escape. Added to Mortimer’s suffering is the pain of some kidney stones moving around in his lower abdomen. Nothing could be worse. Until the animatronic animals in the band come to life with the sole purpose to kill everyone in sight.

This is Frank J. Edler. There is humor and a silliness to the killing of all of the patrons and the funny and even more bizarre ways that the heroes fight back. It is easy to focus on Reg E Rat, but we cannot forget that second half of the title, Same Day Outpatient Care Facility, which is linked to the story in major ways. The two places, Reg E Rat’s and the Same Day Outpatient Care Facility, are connected and ran by the same company, but it is also the different subgenres in the same story. The Reg E. Rat side of the building is survival horror and Same Day Outpatient Care Facility is bizarro body horror. The two of them melt together and with a huge dose of comedy, we receive a fun and hilarious book. 

I will always read Mr. Frank’s books because I will always be indebted to him for his “weird and wacky” fiction podcast called Bizzong!. I was introduced to so many authors that I love through this podcast that I was sad to see that Mr. Frank needed to end it for his family and for his writing. Since ending the show, he has produced some great books, and though I’ll be a Zonger for life, I am happy that he made the right decision, not only for himself but for his fans. Do yourself a favor and give one of his books a try. Reg E. Rat’s Birthday Fun Center and Same Day Outpatient Care Facility is a great place to start. Stat!

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Review: Aliens: Vasquez by V. Castro

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Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

A groundbreaking Latinx Aliens novel by a rising star Latina author, featuring the fan-favorite character PFC Jenette Vasquez from the hit movie Aliens and the family she is forced to leave behind.

For the very first time, the canonical background of the breakout Aliens hero Jenette Vasquez, as well as the story of the children she was forced to leave behind as written by the rising Latina horror star V. Castro (Queen of the Cicadas).

Even before the doomed mission to Hadley’s Hope on LV-426, Jenette Vasquez had to fight to survive. Born to an immigrant family with a long military tradition, she looked up to the stars, but life pulled her back down to Earth—first into a street gang, then prison. The Colonial Marines proved to be Vasquez’s way out—a way that forced her to give up her twin children. Raised by Jenette’s sister, those children, Leticia and Ramon, had to discover their own ways to survive. Leticia by following her mother’s path into the military, Ramon into the corporate hierarchy of Weyland-Yutani. Their paths would converge on an unnamed planet which some see as a potential utopia, while others would use it for highly secretive research. Regardless of whatever humans might have planned for it, however, Xenomorphs will turn it into a living hell. 

Review:

There are three types of people who will read V. Castro’s novel Aliens: Vasquez. One group is the people who love the Aliens franchise and read all of the extended universe novels. The second group is the readers who love V. Castro and her works and are excited to see what she will do with the story of one of the most iconic characters in the Aliens franchise, Jenette Vasquez.  The third group is the niche reader who loves both Aliens and V. Castro. I’m in that third group. The day the novel was announced in May, I preordered it. Nothing could have been more exciting to me than the talent of V. Castro telling an Aliens franchise story. 

The novel opens with Jenette Vasquez growing up, getting into trouble, and working hard to follow her dream of getting into the military and fighting in the stars. She has twin children in prison, and the next half of the novel is about her children. We know what happens to Jenette, but what happens to her legacy? Ramon wants to make money and Leticia wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps. In the end, their paths cross and they end up on a team, getting into a situation that is far from ideal, which is pretty standard when Xenomorphs show up.

 
This novel will appease fans of V. Castro much more than the fans of Aliens. The novel spends most of the time developing the characters, telling the story of the Vasquez family and the actual Xenomorph scenes are less than twenty-five percent of the novel.

Aliens: Vasquez is not action-packed and wall to wall danger. V. Castro writes a family saga, filled with history, expectations, and secrets. Xenomorphs happen to show up in the middle of it. The focus is more of a character driven story, and the action sequences honestly are a backburner to everything else. Having previously read and reviewed two of V. Castro’s books, I had a sense that this was going to be the way that an V. Castro’s Aliens novel was going to unfold. I was not surprised, but I can understand how some readers, particularly those looking for a rollicking action/adventure novel, can be disappointed. This is a novel in the Aliens franchise that really spends more time helping us understand Vasquez, her motivations, and the way that her legacy lives on in her children than on fighting Xenomorphs. As an Aliens fan it is still worth reading, but as a fan of the works of V. Castro, this is a must read.

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Review: Little Eve by Catriona Ward

Where to Buy:

Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

A heart-pounding tale of faith and family, with a devastating twist

“A great day is upon us. He is coming. The world will be washed away.”

On the wind-battered isle of Altnaharra, off the wildest coast of Scotland, a clan prepares to bring about the end of the world and its imminent rebirth.

The Adder is coming and one of their number will inherit its powers. They all want the honor, but young Eve is willing to do anything for the distinction.

A reckoning beyond Eve’s imagination begins when Chief Inspector Black arrives to investigate a brutal murder and their sacred ceremony goes terribly wrong.

And soon all the secrets of Altnaharra will be uncovered. 

Review:

Little Eve is the third book I have read by Catriona Ward, and even though this is her second novel from 2018, it has just been rereleased by Tor Nightfire. Even though it won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel that year, this is also the first American release. The last two novels released by Ward on Nightfire have been good, but I’ve been left a little underwhelmed by them, as if there is a better Catriona Ward novel coming, better than both The Last House on Needless Street and Sundial. I did not know that she had already written and published it.

The novel is a gothic novel, cult novel, and murder mystery wrapped into one. Set in a dilapidated castle, “Uncle” and his companions Alice and Nora have adopted four children, and they worship the Adder. The children spend most of their lives starving, trying not to get punished, and being gaslighted by “Uncle” who says that the Adder is going to come for them, and one of them will be chosen and will inherit the Adder’s powers. Everyone’s life is unhappy, the girls are always trying to escape in one way or another, and eventually things boil over when Inspector Black starts to look into the legality of the things that “Uncle” is doing. There are many layers to this story, and I did find myself reading this for hours at a time, getting engrossed in what might happen next. The tension and sadness between all of the characters is compelling, and I could not help but sympathize for the children who were just trying to be in the good graces of the adults in their lives.

Catriona Ward’s writing is superb, and her characters and settings feel alive. I like most of the story and loved it until the last quarter. I am seeing a pattern in her endings. Ward as a writer who has done the same trick that she has done in all three of the novels that I have read. That trick in the last two made me anticipate it in Little Eve so that by the time of the big reveal, it was already expected. I do not know how many more of her novels I can read if the twisty endings continue to be twisty endings because there really is no longer much surprise in it. I like the ending of Little Eve much better than the previous two, and of the three novels by her I have read, this one is my favorite. The complaint is that the ending of her novels are starting to get predictably unpredictable, like she is not going to use effective twists much longer before the readers grow tired of the gimmick. Even still, it is a pretty entertaining, engaging novel, and the Catriona Ward novel I would recommend most. 

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Full Immersion by Gemma Amor

Buy it here:

Angry Robot, Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

A traumatised woman with amnesia finds her own dead body and sets out to uncover the truth of her demise in a race against time, sanity, crumbling realities and the ever-present threat of the Silhouette.

When Magpie discovers her own dead body one misty morning in Bristol, it prompts her to uncover the truth of her untimely demise. Her investigations take her on a terrifying journey through multiple realities, experimental treatments, technological innovations and half-memories in a race against time and sanity. Accompanied by a new friend who is both familiar and strange, and constantly on the run from the terrifying, relentless presence of the mysterious predator known only as Silhouette, Magpie must piece together the parts of her life previously hidden. In doing so, she will discover the truth about her past, her potential, and her future.

Review:

Psychology is one of the youngest social sciences, and there are times when people are still testing new techniques to try to get a result from their patients. This trial and error throughout the history of psychology has caused some normal practices in the past to be viewed as unethical and/or cruel in hindsight, but the excuse is that some experiments go too long or too far because the data is needed. Data is needed to help future patients. This is the case in Full Immersion, the newest novel from Gemma Amor. The main character, Magpie, writes to the Department of Virtual and Experimental Therapy at the University of Bristol, to volunteer for their experimental therapy, simply because she thinks about jumping off the Bristol suspension bridge every day. 

The story that follows is filled with mystery, sci-fi, and some horror, most of it because the therapeutic techniques that starts the beginning go beyond the data that had been previously gathered. This turns Maggie’s session into an experiment. The further Magpie gets into the virtual world, the more the lines between the imaginary and reality blurs until they become nonexistent. This is when the ethics of do we stop because it is dangerous or do we keep going because it is beyond the previously gathered data.

The way that this story is constructed makes everyone’s complete focus on Magpie, the patient, really the only person who’s health is monitored. The only other characters are the therapist helping Magpie and the two technicians, Evan and his female boss, both on the outside but who are also supposed to be in control. With Magpie being the main focus of everyone else, and the setting being solely in the virtual world and the basement at a university, there is a tension that this claustrophobic situation naturally presents. By the end we do not know if we are trapped with Magpie or trapped with Evans and the Boss. We just know we are trapped, and like all of the characters, all we can do is hope for the best. This is the best kind of horror, one where you are led to believe that there is no way for anyone to get out. 

There is someone out there that might be helped by this novel, someone who has been struggling with the same problems as Magpie. Someone might get help after reading this because the biggest takeaway from Full Immersion is that we are not alone. We may feel alone, but we are not alone. There are people who are struggling and that there are people that can help. The potential importance of this book in someone’s life far outweighs what anyone thinks about the plot, the characters, or the ending. I can say that I liked the story and the characters. I can say that the writing is great, and the story unfolds in a way that are interesting and exciting. I can say that it’s a good sci-fi and horror novel. None of these things compare to how Full Immersion can be a help for someone who is going through the same situation that Gemma Amor found herself in after the birth of her child. 

It is no secret that Gemma Amor wrote this novel for herself when she was struggling with her own postpartum depression. (There is a good two part interview with her on This is Horror). She says that she did not plan to get this novel published, but when Angry Robot approached her, she decided to give them this. She is also happy with the way that Angry Robot has taken a book with extremely sensitive subject matter and made it into a novel that honors and respects the subject. In all of the advertising and marketing for this book, respect and empathy has been shown toward the books difficult themes. It is like it is an honest conversation and not exploitative. I have been reading and collecting Angry Robot books since I saw the original cover of Edge by Thomas Blackthorne in 2010, and I am happy that they have published Full Immersion.

I received this as an ARC through NetGalley. I also received a physical ARC from Angry Robot. Both of these were given in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: White Tears by Hari Kunzru

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Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

From one of the most talented fiction writers at work today: two ambitious young musicians are drawn into the dark underworld of blues record collecting, haunted by the ghosts of a repressive past.

Two twenty-something New Yorkers. Seth is awkward and shy. Carter is glamorous and the heir to one of America’s great fortunes. They have one thing in common: an obsession with music. Seth is desperate to reach for the future. Carter is slipping back into the past. When Seth accidentally records an unknown singer in a park, Carter sends it out over the Internet, claiming it’s a long lost 1920s blues recording by a musician called Charlie Shaw. When an old collector contacts them to say that their fake record and their fake bluesman are actually real, the two young white men, accompanied by Carter’s troubled sister Leonie, spiral down into the heart of the nation’s darkness, encountering a suppressed history of greed, envy, revenge, and exploitation.

White Tears is a ghost story, a terrifying murder mystery, a timely meditation on race, and a love letter to all the forgotten geniuses of American music.

Review:

I have had a copy of White Tears since it came out, but I was triggered to finally read it when I stumbled upon a podcast that Hari Kunzru made in 2020 called, Into the Zone. The first episode talks about the world of collecting 78 rpm records, records recorded between 1898 and the late 50s. Many of these were recorded regionally, and they were made in a way that the records physically did not last long. This combination makes some of the recording have been lost forever, and some of them are so rare that there is only one or two copies in existence. The plot of White Tears starts with Seth and his friend Carter. Seth spends most of his time walking around the city with a microphone, recording whatever he can hear. Carter spends his time searching for 78 records. They open a recording studio, and Carter makes a record using some of Seth’s field recordings, and when it becomes a hit amongst 78 collectors, one person is aggressive, asking where they got that record, because he has been looking for it for years. 

The first half of his novel is a mystery, some of it due to the Mandela effect and some of it due to the fact that some of these 78s are so rare. While Seth works at the studio, Carter becomes more and more erratic, and there is a definite split between the first and the second half of this novel. The second half falls into complete chaos, where Seth is on a mission to figure out what is happening because of this mythical record, whether it really is real, even though he was part of making it himself. The further he goes, the more confusing and convoluted the story becomes, to the point where the reader starts to feel the same confusion that Seth is feeling. The second half is surreal. Some parts and some sentences do not make sense to the scene or even the sentence before it. And as the story tailspins further and further into this confusion, the more we start to feel like we are Seth as well, that the things happening to him are happening to us too. 

There are some things about Seth that are alluded to but not explained. When he is recording the city with his microphone in the beginning, there are times when he feels like he got a snippet  of something, but when he plays it back, he has recorded much more than he thought. He has other lapses in memory, and there are times when he does not understand some of his problems even when they are obvious. It is not exactly frustrating as it is interesting, like why is Seth like this, and how does not understand the situation he is in until it is almost too late. 


White Tears has it’s moments where it is purposefully confusing and chaotic. We are supposed to be just as confused as Seth. We are supposed to be empathetic to the things he is going through because we are going through the same sort of chaos. Hari Kunzru’s attempt to submerge us into his psyche is somewhat effective, but not fully because unlike Seth, we can stop at any moment. We can stop reading, shut the book, and do something else. Seth seems caught in his story, but we are not, and there are points where it is uncomfortable and I did stop reading for a while, so that I could get away from the problems he was facing. I enjoyed the two halves of this novel for different reasons. I like the first half for how interesting and constructed everything is, and I like the second half because it is the complete opposite of that. This type of book may be off putting to some readers, but I love it. I should have read it sooner.

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Review: Daphne by Josh Malerman

Buy it Here:

Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

It’s the last summer for Kit Lamb: The last summer before college. The last summer with her high school basketball team, and with Dana, her best friend. The last summer before her life begins.

But the night before the big game, one of the players tells a ghost story about Daphne, a girl who went to their school many years ago and died under mysterious circumstances. Some say she was murdered, others that she died by her own hand. And some say that Daphne is a murderer herself. They also say that Daphne is still out there, obsessed with revenge, and will appear to kill again anytime someone thinks about her.

After Kit hears the story, her teammates vanish, one by one, and Kit begins to suspect that the stories about Daphne are real . . . and to fear that her own mind is conjuring the killer. Now it’s a race against time as Kit searches for the truth behind the legend and learns to face her own fears—before the summer of her life becomes the last summer of her life.

Mixing a nostalgic coming-of-age story and an instantly iconic female villain with an innovative new vision of classic horror, Daphne is an unforgettable thriller as only Josh Malerman could imagine it.

Review:

Daphne, the newest novel by Josh Malerman and the first novel after the reissues of Goblin and Pearl, starts with Kit Lamb at the free throw line to win the basketball championship. This is the beginning of the summer before she goes to college so this is the culmination of her high school basketball career. She has her routine and does a simple superstitious thing that all of her teammates do during free throw practice: ask the basketball goal a Yes or No question. In this case, Kit asks, “Is Daphne going to kill me?” The answer is a game winning free throw. Kit had only heard about Daphne the night before when the team was having a sleepover and trying to tell stories to scare one another. Daphne is a town haunt, supposed to be over 7 feet tall, smelling like smoke and whiskey, and killing anyone who thinks about her for revenge. This description has stuck in Kit Lamb’s head, and the legend of Daphne comes to town after this game, after this winning shot, and Kit thinks Daphne’s return has everything to do with her and her basketball team. 

The first half of this novel starts slow, setting up a much better second half. There are times when I was reading the first half and wondering how much setup we need to go into the second half. This novel seemed to be wandering around, trying to figure out where it wanted to go. The second half brings everything together, and honestly we are rewarded for our patience. Malerman uses Daphne as a metaphor for the changes in Kit Lamb’s life, which is filled with uncertainty, a large amount of anxiety and fear. We do not know if some of this anxiety is what manifests Daphne or if Daphne is what manifests the heightened anxiety.

Daphne is not a flawless novel. There are questions that are not answered and scenes that do not make much sense to the rest of the novel. I think about this like many classic horror films, because so many of them are not perfect but they are so beloved. Horror enthusiasts find so much merit in stories even if there are many stories that take much longer to develop than they should. Horror in general is not perfect. Whether it be Jason and Michael Myers always returning from the dead, to giallo movies as a whole, to the bloated novels of Stephen King, most is not perfect, there are things that do not make sense, things that do not add up, but horror fans love horror regardless. Daphne is one of those horror stories. Despite it’s problems, Daphne is a great horror novel, and definitely worth reading. 

I received this novel as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Where to Buy:

Bookshop, Amazon

Synopsis:

A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized–someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

Review:

I read this a month or so back, but this is one of those books that I had to really think about what I wanted to say before I reviewed it. First off, I love the way Grady Hendrix writes. I read The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, and I loved every sentence of it. The women are fun characters, and the story is great. I picked up The Final Girl Support Group almost immediately after finishing it, and this novel definitely does not reflect the same sort of charms that The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires has.

A final girl is a phrase coined for the girl who makes it through the slasher movie until the end, when the killer is finally defeated and the girl can ride off, bloody, into the sunset. The plot of Hendrix’s novel is that a group of these girls meet in a support group, but someone is starting to hunt them. While the girls get killed off one by one, it is up to Lynnette Tarkington to get to the bottom of who is the killer and how to survive again. The tone of the entire novel is very dark, and I think that this is why I did not like it as much as some of his other works. There is no joy in this novel. There is no fun. It is all about running and survival, and even though the plot sounds like it could be a little silly, there is very little lightheartedness or joy in this novel at all. It is about the final girls becoming the final girls again.

I was on the last one hundred pages of this novel when I realized another reason why I was not really enjoying The Final Girl Support Group. In the films, final girls tended to be the good people in the story. Whether they were virginal or not, there is a wholesome aspect to them and they are people that we want to survive. In this novel, none of the final girls are good people. I did not care who survived and who did not survive because they were interchangeable to me. There was not a single one that sticks out as not being a horrible person. By the end, I was rooting more for the killer than the girls. I suppose that this could be a real thing. These women are not good people because the trauma and anxieties they have endured have changed them for the worst, and this causes them to betray one another. Only looking out for themselves is a trait that could be the result of living through their individual ordeals, but as final girls who are becoming final girls again, every one of them lack the element that causes us to feel any sympathy for them.


This is a good novel because it is written by Grady Hendrix and he is very masterful at storytelling. Unfortunately for me, I did not enjoy The Final Girl Support Group, and this will not be the book of his that I recommend to new readers.

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