Category Archives: Horror

Frightful Friday: Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is the audiobook production of Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry:

  • Listening Length: 16 hours and 3 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio (March 25, 2014)
  • Source: Personal copy

*Note: This is a review of the sixth book in a series. Please proceed with caution if you have not read/listened to the previous books in this series*

 

Joe Ledger and the other members of the Echo Unit of the Department of Military Science (DMS) have had their share of interesting experiences. From battling the zombie plague to designer viruses, they’ve seen it all. Any remnants of these weapons have been stored in a remote and isolated location known as the Locker. Until now…

After other units of the DMS are decimated in attacks, the DMS is spread thin. Weapons they thought destroyed or locked up are appearing in public locations. Their new nemesis, Mother Night, has managed to break into the DMS’ impenetrable super computer system, Mindreader, gaining access to knowledge that shouldn’t be made available to the public. Even worse, she broadcasts a video of a rescue mission in which a team went in to put an end to a plague of zombies. The same plague the DMS thought they conquered and destroyed. Before doing so,  she dubbed over the sound to make it appear as though the individuals being shot upon are citizens begging for their lives.

This isn’t the first time the DMS has been under fire. The timing, however, couldn’t be worse. The must put an end to Mother Night and her league of rogue “soldiers” before she can unleash something more dark and devastating than before. In doing so, they realize that the individual responsible for their actions isn’t a stranger to the DMS. Her identity shatters the tough exterior of the DMS. Rather than weakening them, however, it makes them stronger, more dedicated and determined to put a stop to Mother Night.

Told in a series of flashbacks to the time Joe Ledger originally joined DMS, Maberry takes readers (or in my case, listeners) on a path through the history of the DMS and Ledger’s existing unit.

Maberry’s Joe Ledger series is one I rush to listen to as soon as it is released. Not only are they truly outstanding novels filled to the brim with action and less than natural enemies, but they contain truly outstanding characters that have grown tremendously since the culmination of the series. Joe Ledger, on the surface, is a mean, brusque, no-nonsense kind of guy.  Yet in the past several novels, Maberry has slowly unveiled a softer, more vulnerable side of Joe.  To me, this has created a more dynamic, more genuine character in Joe Ledger.

Fans of Maberry’s writing will appreciate the return of characters from the past (as well as one from another series). I’ve been a fan of this series from the beginning and have to say, without a doubt, this is the best one yet.

As with the other titles in this series, I listened to the audiobook production of this title. I don’t see myself ever “reading” them.  That’s not to say that the writing doesn’t stand on its own, it genuinely does. Yet Ray Porter’s narration has captivated me. To me, he is the voice of Joe Ledger and the other cast of characters. He completes the package for me, his narration capturing the essence of Joe and the rest of the cast of characters.  I won’t say I wouldn’t enjoy reading the titles, it would just feel different, not complete. If you are new to this series, I highly recommend going with the audio.  Some of the best out there!

I know this goes without saying, but this, and other Ledger novels, come highly, highly recommended.

Other titles in the Joe Ledger series (in order):

Patient Zero
The Dragon Factory
The King of Plagues
Assassin’s Code
Extinction Machine

 

Frightful Friday: The Seeker by R. B. Chesterton

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is The Seeker by R. B. Chesterton:

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus (March 6, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1605985007
  • Source: Publisher

Seeking remote solace to work on her dissertation, Aine Cahill travels to Walden Pond, the location of Henry David Thoreau’s own solitary place of retreat. When she uncovers a journal implicating a secret relationship her aunt had with Thoreau during his stay at Walden, Aine knows she has discovered the perfect topic for her dissertation.  Yet as she reads further, she releases something so powerful and dangerous, an evil that has plagued her family for generations.

Something is lurking on the woods of Walden Pond. A figure, clad in red, that darts from tree to tree, making her existence known to Aine. The evil that resides in Walden Pond isn’t new, it has lurked there, silently, for centuries. Terrible tragedy hits the village and Aine struggles to understand how her family’s dark and sordid past is related to what is transpiring at Walden Pond.  Further challenging Aine’s quest is proving her own mental stability. Haunted by a history of mental disease the Cahill family has battled a family curse for years. Now, Aine is its victim, the evil residing in the wood is determined to bring her life to an end, taking her as prisoner, like so many before her.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that The Seeker sent chills down my spine. Be it the cold chilling setting, the evil young “child,” or some combination of the two, I found myself reading this novel only by the light of day.  The author delved in to the world of madness, leaving the reader unsure of who, or what, to believe. Aine’s character, too, questions this as well: Is it madness, or something supernatural that has plagued her family for generations?

Admittedly, there was a lot going on in this novel, from the Cahill Curse to Aine’s aunt’s connection to Thoreau and an ever-pervasive Moby Dick theme (the allusive white whale). That said, I think the author greatly succeeded at pulling it all together. The ending (no spoilers) leads me to think that there will be a sequel…or perhaps this is just wishful thinking. There is no finite conclusion, no neatly-wrapped up storyline, to this dark and terrorizing tale. That may infuriate some, but for me, it simply fuels my desire to read more! I sincerely hope that this is not the last we hear of Aine and the Cahill curse. Highly recommended.

Frightful Friday: The Troop by Nick Cutter

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is The Troop by Nick Cutter:

 

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (February 25, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1476717710
  • Source: Publisher

Scoutmaster Tom Riggs leads his scouts on an annual trip to the Canadian wilderness.  On this trip, he leads a group of five young men to Falstaff Island, PEI.  The boys: Kent, Ephraim, Max, Shelly, and Newton, have known one another all their lives.  The camp out is relatively short; a boat will pick them up the following day to take back to the mainland.  Or so they think.

Their peaceful tranquility is severed when a strange man shows on the island. Emaciated, he appears to be quite ill. Riggs attempts to keep the strange man away from the boys, for his medical expertise tells him there is something very strong with the man. The man’s body is emaciated, he begs for food with an uncontrollable hunger raging within him. This hunger is endless and Riggs is stunned as he watches the man pick up anything he can getting his hands on and devouring it.  The troop is completely unaware that the military is hunting this man, aware of the bio-engineered horror residing within his body.

Riggs and the boys assume help will come the next morning. They don’t know that the military has established a no-fly zone over the island, the small island quarantined from the mainland just minutes away. Their hope for help is futile, only they alone have control over their survival.  Yet as the sickness spreads and the hierarchy within their group begins to collapse, they are faced with unimaginable terror, fighting for survival from not only the parasite that ravages the body of victims but also one another.

Using journal entries, magazine interviews, and military reports, Cutter provides readers with insight that the scouts themselves don’t have access to. The reader gets a unique glimpse about what is going on on the mainland, off the island, while they are fighting for their lives. A great deal of time is spent relaying  information on the science experiment gone wrong, the source of this terror, all  at the hands of a Dr. Clive Edgerton. Combined together, a novel that is so gruesome, yet so thrilling and addictive, those that have a strong stomach won’t be able to tear themselves away!

While the plot of the story alone had me sold on this book, the added dimension of the crumbling of the boys’ social structure and hierarchy added a completely unique element. The reader is an observer, watching the boys lives fall to pieces. A true story of a survival of the fittest, the conclusion left me completely stunned.

I most certainly won’t recommend this to the weak of stomach (and it would probably be best to avoid eating pasta of any sort while reading this), I would highly recommend it to fans of classic horror. Stephen King himself said “The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best. Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it’s a perfect gift for a winter night.”

In my opinion, the plausibility of such a scenario is what makes this novel so terrifying. Science is scary, people! Nevermind the fact the first time I read this novel, about six months ago, my own fourteen year old was away on a camping trip with his Scout troop. I don’t think I slept a wink until he returned!

If you are looking for classic, terrifying horror, this is the novel for you. Highly recommended…with warning :)

Frightful Friday: Snowblind by Christopher Golden

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.  This week’s featured title is Snowblind by Christopher Golden:

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; First Edition edition (January 21, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1250015316
  • Source: Publisher

Twelve years ago, the small new England town of Coventry was hit with a deadly blizzard.  People walked out in the snow, never to be seen again.  Now another blizzard is on the way and the small town is fearful of the past repeating itself.

Three “survivors” in particular are mindful of the looming storm. Jake was just a kid when his little brother, Isaac, was killed. Isaac kept warning of icy figures dancing out in the snow. No one believed him…except for Jake.  Now another young boy is missing. 

Doug Manning was out in the blizzard, drunk, when his wife Cherie was killed. He’s mixed up in a whole new series of crimes. Now dating someone who reminds him so much of his beloved Cherie, Doug doesn’t listen to the warnings of others about staying indoors when the blizzard hits.

Joe Keenan was relatively new on the police force when the first blizzard hit. Now a detective, he can’t forget the night he was unable to prevent the death of a young boy and the disappearance of his father, just feet away.

The impending blizzard brings with it the ghosts of those lost in the previous blizzard, awakened by the powerful storm.  The terror they bring proves to be more terrifying and deadly than before. 

In Snowblind, Christopher Golden has produced a chilling supernatural tale rich with all the aspects of classic horror. A dark and terrifying setting, vulnerable characters, and a small town with a deadly past. I don’t know about you, but there’s something about a blizzard that is absolutely horrifying. Beyond the obvious, is it the quiet that it brings down around it, the feeling of darkness and desolation, of abandonment that comes with being snowed in?  All of these characteristics are expertly combined producing a truly chilling read. Perfect to curl up with on a cold winter’s day (just don’t let the drafts get in!). Highly, highly recommended.

Frightful Friday: Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.  This week’s featured title is Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough:

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books (January 14, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1623650860
  • Source: Publisher (egalley)

The detectives of Scotland Yard are already immersed in the hunt for Jack the Ripper when another serial killer, dubbed the Torso Killer due to his practice of leaving behind a headless body, makes his presence known. The police surgeon, Dr. Thomas Bond, is so overwhelmed with horrific images of the dead that he turns to opium for some relief.

It is in an opium den that Bond meets a Jesuit priest, searching for someone…or something. The priest gives Bond a chilling and unbelievable explanation for the deaths and the identity of the Torso Killer. Something supernatural and horrific is at force. At first, Bond is quick to dismiss him but as the bodies begin to pile up, he begins to wonder of the priest is correct in his claims.  The more he investigates, the more Bond believes that he knows the identity of the Torso Killer, an individual quite close to his circle of friends.

Based on an actual series of killings that took place during the reign of the Jack the Ripper killings (but obviously didn’t receive nearly as much coverage!), Mayhem is a brilliantly executed blend of crime procedural and supernatural fiction. I’ve been intrigued about the Jack the Ripper killings for as long as I can remember so it’s no surprise that this book grabbed my attention.  There are quite a few portions of the book in which the reader must suspend disbelief, but this is to be expected in a novel of this sort.

Mayhem is certainly not a book for the weak of heart (or stomach), but fans of Victorian crime fiction and the supernatural are certain to be enamored by Pinborough’s truly skilled writing. She so expertly captures the essence of Victorian London, making it quite easy for readers to slip right into the rich atmospheric setting.

I’ve been a fan of Pinborough’s writing for some time, particularly her Dog-faced Gods Trilogy, largely due to her ability to combine two of my favorite genres: crime fiction and supernatural/horror.  Her writing introduced me to a whole host of talented UK horror writers and for this I am forever thankful.  If you have not checked out her books I highly encourage you to do so! Highly, highly recommended!

Mini-Review: Ex-Purgatory by Peter Clines

  • Series: Ex
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (January 14, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0804136610
  • Source: Publisher

George Bailey is your average, everyday kind of guy. During the day, he works as a handyman at a local community college. His nights, however, are filled with magnificent dreams in which he’s a super hero, battling hordes of zombies. In his dreams, he sees other individuals with similar powers, including an armored robot and a woman with stealth ninja-like moves.

One day George is stopped by a young, pale girl in a wheelchair, Madelyn Sorenson.  Madelyn tells George about the existence of another world, one in which he is one of the last remaining heroes.  In this world, society has fallen victim to a zombie plague. George, and the other heroes, are its only salvation.

It isn’t until his two worlds start colliding that George finally believes what Madelyn has been telling him. The sudden realization that this life, the only life this George has known, is all a facade is startling, to say the least. With the help of Madelyn, George locates the other heroes in an effort to bring down the individual responsible for what has transpired.

Although Ex-Purgatory is the fourth book in the Ex series, it could definitely serve as a standalone.  Cline once again manages to combine the very best qualities of zombie fiction and science fiction into a beautifully executed and highly transfixing novel.  Fans of Marvel comic series and The Walking Dead are in for a treat! If this is your first taste of Clines’ Ex-series I guarantee it will not be your last. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: Rise Again Below Zero by Ben Tripp

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; Original edition (December 17, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1451668325
  • Source: Publisher

It’s been two years since billions of the dead rose, hungry for human flesh. Sheriff Danielle Adelman now leads a band of survivors through the decimated Midwest.  The dead have evolved: mixed in among the savage zombies (or zeroes) are those that have retained a modicum of humanity: they speak.  Danny’s sister is one of these “talkers” and she’s torn between protecting the safety of the survivors from the zeroes and protecting her sister from the hunger that rages inside her.

They hear word of of safe place in the Dakotas but Danny knows that promises of safety are often balanced against danger and death.  Along the way, they pick up a young mute boy and his dog, both somehow surviving the horror of the past two years.  As they make the long and dangerous trek, they must not only fight against the hungry undead but troops of hunters who, for some reason, have started collecting children.

Upon their arrival, Danny is horrified to uncover a secret far more devastating than she could have ever imagined. Their haven is a small town in which adults are only allowed entry if they have a child with them, one adult per child is granted entry.  Those that hold power in the town are far more dangerous than the walking dead beyond the perimeter. While the children are promised safety, Danny learns that this safety is only temporary. Their purpose for keeping the children alive is unspeakable and Danny must use every ounce of strength and determination to destroy this ultimate of horrors.

Rise Again Below Zero is the sequel to Rise Again, one of my favorite zombie novels of last year. As I stated in that review, don’t let the fact that this is a zombie novel turn you off from reading it.  More than just your typical zombie novel, Tripp has created an intense and powerful examination of humanity, showcasing the lives of those who have been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have survived the attacks from the undead.  The characters he has created are expertly drawn, so genuine and full of faults and failures. Watching Danny evolve from a small-town sheriff to the only individual able to withstand the grasp of the undead is incredibly rewarding for she goes through enough trials and tribulations to last a dozen lifetimes.  The amount of loss she is dealt would be enough to bring the strongest of individuals down, but instead she uses the pain as a weapon, refusing to let those who feed on the weak (figuratively and literally) win.

I listened to the audiobook of the first book in this series and I was taken away by the audiobook performance. It was so breathtaking that, when the print review copy of this title arrived, I found myself worrying that reading the print version wouldn’t be as oustanding as the audio. Fortunatenly, I had no reason to fear for Tripp masterfully depicted a world so genuine that it was quite easy for me to become drawn into the story.

If you are looking for something to occupy your time as you wait for The Walking Dead to return, I encourage you to pick up this series. Much like this highly popular television series, the Rise Again series examines the lives of survivors amist a world decimated by death and destruction.  Highly, highly recommended!

#Mx3 Review: The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 10, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0375868771
  • Source: Publisher

The citizens of the small town of Oleander, Kansas call it the killing day: five people with seemingly no connection commit murders, killing 12 individuals, then attempt to kill themselves. In four out of five cases, they succeeded.  A year has passed but that terrifying date in history has awaken something in this small town.  Exacerbating the town’s pain and recovery, a devastating tornado hits the small town, destroying all but a small portion of the town.  The military is called in, setting up road blocks and barbed wire fences, shutting down any communication with the outside world.  Citizens who attempt to breach the quarantine are killed on the spot. Once peaceful citizens are rising up and committing horrific crimes, taking the law into their own hands.  It’s only a group of five teens – Daniel, West, Jule, Cass, and Ellie- that realize something is seriously wrong and band together to find answers.

Told from the point of view of these five teens, The Waking Dark tells each of their stories how it relates to the killing day and the aftermath.   They each harbor their own secrets, but opening up and banding together is the only way to avoid certain death. What they uncover is darker and more devastating than anyone ever could have imagined.

The characters Wasserman builds in this young adult horror novel are unique, flawed and, most of the time, not very likeable.  Personally, I found it a challenge to connect to any of them and I didn’t really care about their fate or survival.  What kept me invested in this novel was the storyline; I was desperate to uncover the source of the town’s evil.  I’m purposefully vague in the root of this evil for I feel that readers should uncover it on their own.  The execution of the reveal is one of this novel’s selling points.

While I didn’t connect with the characters, I did find the storyline compelling. It wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I though it would be, but I’d prefer a horror novel to have a strong plot than forced “terror.”  If you are looking for a unique piece of young adult horror fiction, The Waking Dark is the novel for you. Recommended.
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#Mx3 Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (October 29, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0316218952
  • Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

Sal nearly lost her life after being struck by a vehicle, so close that her family was days away from pulling her from life support. Then she woke up. Her miraculous recovery was attributed to the Intestinal Bodyguard, a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the worm boosts the host’s immune system, protecting it from illnesses. Now, six years after her accident, Sal is struggling to get her life back to normal.  When she awoke she had no memory of her life before. She had to learn to talk and walk again, essentially reborn. Now, nearly every human has this tapeworm living inside them.  SymboGen is ecstatic with the popularity of their miracle treatment.  However, as of late, a noticeable side-effect has reared its ugly head. In some cases, the tapeworm makes its way to its host’s brain, taking control of the body it once protected.  The repercussions are deadly, the “sleep” the victims experience varies; some simply “shut off” mentally while others turn murderous, striking out against those closest to them.

Although Parasite set over twenty-five years in the future, it is a very timely novel. As of late, a lot of studies have shown that our own bodies, so full of antibiotics after being inundated with them as both treatments of illnesses as well as in our food, do not have an immune system powerful enough to stand up to horrific diseases.  The flora that once resided in our digestive system has all but disappeared, forcing the creation of a whole host of innovative treatments for disease. Therefore, the world that Grant builds in this novel is so plausible, so believable, that it adds a completely different factor of fear.

Grant starts off each chapter with text somehow relevant to the storyline, including test from unpublished manuscripts and footage from SymboGen’s research.  This addition is ingenious; it gives the reader necessary backstory and additional information to the history of the Intestinal Bodyguard. Had Grant added this to the novel itself, it would have changed the pacing or would have added unnecessary bulk to the length of the novel.  That’s not to say that Grant rushes into the climax of the novel. Instead, she carefully builds up Sal’s character, allowing Sal to be the focus of the story, instead of the implant itself.

Sal’s character is extremely well-developed. Due to her accident, although she is in her mid-twenties at times she seems naive and infantile. She’s a blank slate, naive in how to properly interact with people socially. The reader can sense, and empathize, with her frustrations. Her boyfriend, Nathan, a parasitologisit, is her saving grace. Although he is extremely interested in Sal as a medical miracle, he is truly in the relationship due to love and commitment. He serves as Sal’s saving grace and sounding board, providing a level of understanding to her situation and what she must be experiencing.  Their relationship adds a sense of humanity and tenderness to a novel that might otherwise feel sterile and scientific.

Parasite is the first in a new series by Grant.  Fans of Grants Newsflesh series will be pleased to learn that her unique sense of humor and snark make an appearance in this series as well. While technically it’s too early to say just how fantastic this new series will be, if this first book is any indication of what is to follow, I am sold.  Parasite is an incredibly intense and addictive read. I will be impatiently awaiting the next title in this series, Symbiogenesis, due out in November of 2014.   Highly, highly recommended.

As if the novel was not enough, check out these ingenious videos to accompany the book:


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#Mx3 Review: The Raven’s Gift by Don Rearden

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pintail (June 25, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 014318749X
  • Source: Library copy

John Morgan and his wife, Anna,  are excited to start their next adventure in life as new teachers in a Yup’ik Eskimo village in remote Alaska.  While wary and anxious, they both see it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Sure, it will take some time to get used to living in conditions less than what they were used to but the rewards will more make up for their “suffering.”

Not long after their arrival, they hear word of a deadly epidemic striking villages close to them.  Shortly thereafter, villagers, including some of their closest friends, become ill. Due to their remote location, no aid of any sort can reach them.  People are starving around them. John realizes he must make the ultimate sacrifice and make a 1,000 mile trek across the Alaskan tundra to seek help.  On his journey, he meets a blind Eskimo woman and an elderly native who need his protection to survive. In turn, he needs their knowledge of the terrain to survive.  Along the way, John discovers a darker, more disturbing explanation behind this mysterious epidemic.

Told using three different timelines, The Raven’s Gift portrays the village before the epidemic hits, John and Anna’s early attempts to adjust, and John’s attempt to survive the harsh Alaskan elements.  The desolate and bleak setting truly becomes a part of the story, a character in and of itself.   A dark and devastating journey, reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Stand,  The Raven’s Gift will capture and engage the reader from the start.  A truly unique post-apocalyptic tale, it portrays a message that is destined to resound in the hearts of readers long after they read it.  What makes it most terrifying is that it is wholly plausible, a nightmare brought to life in our own country.

This title was suggested as part of my “Operation: Scare Me” challenge. I have to admit, when I read the premise I was doubtful. In the end, wow…was I terrified! If you are looking for a unique post-apocalyptic novel, I guarantee that The Raven’s Gift is the perfect book for you. Highly, highly recommended.

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