Review: Eat Him If You Like by Jean Teulé

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Gallic Books (October 14, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781906040390
  • Source: Publisher

Alain de Monéys is a twenty-nine year old man who, unlike others in his social class, refuses to buy his way out of military service.  Instead, he plans to join the ranks of Napoleon III’s army and fight against the Prussians. Before he departs, he visits a fair held in a neighboring village. This decision has lasting implications for, moments after he arrives in Hautefaye,  Alain is wrongly accused of supporting the enemy. Within moments, an angry mob attacks him, made up of the very same people he held a casual and friendly conversation with just moments before.

The mob grows in both size and intensity. Their actions are reinforced by comments and accusations not at all related to the current situation. The attack is not brief, instead lasting over two hours covering the area of an entire village. By the end of the attack, the mob has lynched, tortured, burned, and, yes, eaten him.

Teulé has taken an actual historical event and reconstructed it, turning it into a brutal account of mass hysteria. One false accusation has a domino effect, turning an innocent young man into a brutal killer, thereby giving the villagers permission to torture him to death.  Throughout the attack, a few people step forward professing Alain’s innocence. At this point, however, the beatings have rendered him unrecognizable. Rather than stopping the attack, it increases to a horrible intensity.

I’m not going to lie; Eat Him If You Like is a pretty brutal read. Yet, Teulé’s styled prose adds a sort of eloquence and beauty to this brutality.  Additionally, the way the author described some of the scenes made me laugh hysterically, despite the obvious intensity and seriousness of the moment. Through all this, however, a message stands out loud and clear: one small action could have devastating consequences.  Adding a group of drunk, unruly villagers and a small misunderstanding backfires. The plausibility of this situation is not impossible; it has happened in modern times repeatedly.

While there are some pretty graphic scenes that might be difficult to stomach, the message that comes out of this novella far outweighs any negative (or nauseous) feelings.  Additionally, the wide range of emotions this story evokes is wholly unique, never have I been so fascinated and compelled to read something so devastatingly ghastly.

Give it a read. I guarantee it will be unlike anything you’ve ever read before. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: Red Hill by Jamie McGuire

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (October 1, 2013)
  • ISBN: 9781476759524
  • Source: Personal copy

When an outbreak hits without warning, everyday people are forced to do the extraordinary if they are going to survive.

Scarlet is a divorced, single mom to two girls. After sending her daughters to spend the weekend with their father, she’s off to work at the local hospital. She is one of the first to see the outbreak when it hits. Initially, they believe that an outbreak of rabies is responsible for the strange behavior. Then, when the dead awaken with an insatiable hunger they realize it is so much more.  Scarlet barely escapes the hospital unscathed, desperate to be reunited with her daughters.

Nathan hears of the outbreak and rushes to pick up his daughter from school. His marriage is a failure, becoming even more obvious when he returns home to find that his wife has left him.  Determined to protect his daughter, he flees town in search for a place of safety.

Miranda is a college student traveling with her sister and their significant others. Her VW may not be much, but it saved them from the attacks of the hungry walkers.  She’s desperate to reach Red Hill, site of her father’s cabin and hopefully, salvation.

These three individuals converge at the cabin at Red Hill. Individually, they are quite different. Yet one goal is common: to stop at nothing to save and protect their loved ones.

I know, I know. Another zombie outbreak novel. Yet Red Hill has the qualities of a novel much more than “just” a zombie novel. Yes, there are zombies, but they aren’t the focus of this novel. Instead, the concentration is on the survivors and how they react to a horrifying and traumatic experience:

Scarlet is a fierce, no-nonsense woman. Despite all odds, she’s determined to be reunited with her daughters. She willingly risks the lives of those around her, including her own, on this mission.  It was easy for me to connect with this character. Having two children myself, nothing would be able to stop me from finding them.

While Nathan has his daughter beside him, he’s still searching for something in life. His marriage wasn’t a loving one, so the outbreak gives him a reason, an excuse, to seeks something more out of his life.

Miranda is a bit more complicated. She’s accustomed to taking what life throws at her, taking control, and dealing with it. Since the outbreak, her lack of control is devastating and she must adjust to her new life in a completely different manner.

I’ve owned a copy of this book for some time now. Unfortunately, it’s often the case that I buy a book, put it on my shelf, and forget about it for a while. This is exactly what happened in this case.  I discovered it again when I was planning my posts for Murder, Monsters & Mayhem. What better excuse to give it the attention it deserves? I’m thrilled to know that it exceeded my expectations. We all know I’m a huge fan of zombie fiction & movies. Not for the gore or the killing, but because they, like so many other pieces of horror fiction, are about far more than the monsters that inhabit them. In most cases, they are an exploration of our society and how we, as human beings, respond to unbelievable situations.

Red Hill is the perfect example of this. Yes, there are zombies. Yes, there are killings. Yet they are minor in the overall outlook and intent of this novel.  The character study McGuire provides is intense and terrifying, yet genuine and provoking.  Honestly, I don’t know how I would react if their fate was dealt to me; I hope I have a modicum of their determination and survival skills.  Yes, there are some overly optimistic scenes, but we all need a bit of hope & happiness in our lives (especially in the midst of a zombie apocalypse)!

Red Hill is a perfect read for fans of The Walking Dead who tend to shy away from gore. The violence is minimal, never overdone or exaggerated. The people are the key to this story.  Highly recommended.

Review: Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; First Edition edition (September 4, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781592408702
  • Source: Publisher

We’re all familiar with Dr. Mütter’s Philadelphia museum of oddities, filled with abnormalities of the human anatomy.  However, very few of us know that Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter was a pioneer in the field of medicine and surgery.

Exposed to tragedy at an early age, Mütter came to be a renowned plastic surgeon in his twenties. Unlike most of his peers, he genuinely cared about his patients, treating them with kindness and sympathy. At this point in medical history, there was no anesthetic; patients were fully conscious during the very painful surgery. Additionally, they were sent home immediately after the surgery was performed; no convalescing in a hospital under the watchful eyes of nurses and doctors. For this reason, the majority of patients died after surgery due to infection and other ailments that would now be considered minor.

Dr. Mutter’s Marvels goes far beyond the life of Mütter himself; it’s a well-researched, truly captivating exploration of the history of the medical field in the early 19th century. Despite being a non-fiction title, the prose and flow of the book made it read like nonfiction. While there was some creative liberties taken, the benefit it provided far outweighed any negatives. Honestly, I was completely intrigued by the amount of historical detail the author added to the storyline, truly immersing the reader in the time period.

Scattered throughout this volume are detailed illustrations of Mütter’s patients with their ailments as well as excerpts from Mütter’s personal journals. These multimedia additions add another dimension to this reading experience, giving readers a visual component that truly drives in just how big of a trailblazer Mütter was for the medical profession.

Additionally, the reader is granted a glimpse inside the mind of Mütter himself. Having lost his entire family from various illnesses at an early age, it’s obvious as to why Mütter was so enamored by the medical profession. His eccentricities, like his obsession with clothing rich not only in color and detail but in quality, made him stand out as a truly unique individual.  He was a genuinely captivating person; getting a glimpse of his history and his contributions to the medical profession make me respect him, and his museum, even more. His collection of macabre medical specimens wasn’t created for shock value, instead as a means for Mütter, and the medical profession, to understand human anatomy, and these shocking ailments, even more.

Dr. Mutter’s Marvels is a book that will be appreciated by a wide fan-base. It is a book that will remain a part of my permanent collection, a truly unique and rewarding reading experience. Highly, highly recommended.

 

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TSS: Murder, Monsters & Mayhem Week 2 Wrap-Up

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This post comes a little (ok, a lot) later than I hoped. Last night, my teen went to his first Homecoming dance. Upon dropping him off for the dance, I learned they didn’t have enough volunteers. Guess who stayed until after midnight checking in hundreds of kids? Yep, that would be me. Thankfully, the fam let me sleep in until 9. I needed the sleep. I’m still suffering from a pretty wicked headache.

Speaking of wicked, we’ve come to the end of yet another week of Murder, Monsters & Mayhem!  I was particularly fond of quite a few posts this week. Can you guess which ones?

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Also, I announced the concept of this year’s Murder, Monsters & Mayhem contest: Do You Believe in Ghosts?

It’s been a cold & rainy weekend here. I have a roast in the crock pot (Thank you, Andi, for the recipe!) and I’m curled up on the couch with a spooky read. How was your reading week?

If you’ve posted reviews of horror/thriller/supernatural titles, be sure to link them up on the Murder, Monsters & Mayhem Link-up Page. There will be prizes!

Murder, Monsters & Mayhem Contest: Do You Believe in Ghosts?

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My teen son turns fifteen next week (!!) and we’re in the midst of planning a ghost-hunting adventure for his party. It’s generated oodles of questions from his friends and their parents about the existence of ghosts.  I do (obviously) believe in ghosts and often reflect upon my own experiences with those who have passed.  So, for this year’s Murder, Monsters & Mayhem contest, I want you to share your experiences with me!  The story or photograph or video that terrifies me the most will win all the books I will feature as part of Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem! Here’s just a small sample of what that includes:

 

 

To submit your ghostly experience, share it in the comments below or send me an email at jennsbookshelf@gmail.com. Having a chilling photograph or video to send? Feel free to email it!

The winner will be announced on Friday, October 31. The winning entry will be posted on this blog, so make sure you are comfortable with this information going public! I’ll accept entries through October 31, the winning entry posted as part of the Murder, Monsters & Mayhem wrap up!

Good luck to all who enter!

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Review: The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780316220750
  • Source: Publisher

Alix is a high school senior who lives a privileged life.  She has the all the right clothes and attends an prominent private school.  Never once has she questioned the source of her family’s affluence, until an activist group known as 2.0 targets her school.  The school isn’t the target, however.  According to 2.0, Alix’s father, head of a public relations firm, is responsible for countless deaths. The firm, nicknamed the Doubt Factory by 2.0, makes money protecting prominent companies from lawsuits by inspiring a feeling of doubt about the claims against them.  The members of 2.0 not much older than Alix herself, all orphans after their parents died after health warnings about various drugs were covered up by the Doubt Factory. It is the hope of Moses, one of the members of 2.0, that Alix can aid the group in their attempts to bring down her father’s company.

Alix is forced to question everything and everyone around her. Initially, she stands behind her father’s prestige but her resolve is weakened as she begins to do some research. Everything about Alix’s life begins to crumble down around her. Only she can put an end to all the senseless deaths, even if it means bringing down her father with her.

The Doubt Factory is a thought-provoking thriller that forces readers to reevaluate our feelings about big business corporations and the power they wield.  While it’s terrifying to contemplate that a situation like this may reside in our nation, it’s not that far from the realm of possibility.

Bacigalupi has crafted a novel rich with dynamic, well-rounded characters.  Alix’s transformation from snotty, privileged teen to a determined, passionate young woman was quite pronounced. Readers, like Alix, will question everything they know as they embark upon this journey of discovery. Initial opinions about certain characters will shift dramatically, with a multitude of questions not answered until the end. A truly exhilarating read, The Doubt Factory is a novel that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.  Highly, highly recommended.

 

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Review: Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill

  • Series: Locke & Key (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing; Reprint edition (August 18, 2009)
  • ISBN: 978-1600103841
  • Source: Library

The Locke family’s life is shattered after their father is murdered by a high school student. The three children – Ty, Kinsey and Bodie- are uprooted, moving to New England to live in Mr. Locke’s family home in Lovecraft.  There, the children are forced to individually deal with the grief that surrounds their father’s death. Ty feels the most guilt, feeling solely responsible for his father’s death. While Kinsey was responsible for saving her younger brother, she feels guilt for not being as brave as everyone assumes. Poor young Bodie misses his father tremendously and is desperate for someone to answer his many questions about his father’s death.

Their new home, Keyhouse, is a dark and mysterious mansion. If you have the right key, the doors will open to something much more than a room.

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There, young Brodie finds a friend with a ghost that lives in a well.

Untitled picture There are many who are interested in gaining access to the keys that will unlock Keyhouse’s mysteries. There is an evil that lurks among the Locke children; an evil that has already resorted to murder once, not likely to stop at just one.

 

When I was planning this year’s Murder, Monsters & Mayhem, I knew I had to feature at least one review of Locke & Key. Now that graphic novels are starting to be noticed  more, this is definitely a series that deserves attention. This series is a must-read for fans of well-crafted horror. Hill’s chill-inducing storyline is further pronounced by the richly detailed and haunting illustrations by Gabriel Rodriguez.  Each character is expertly developed, both visually and in the written word.

Hill takes readers through a path that alternates between past and present, before and after Mr. Locke’s brutal death. This shifting of time adds a starkness to the storyline; the reader is jolted from past to present much like the Locke children were forcibly removed from a “normal” family life to a life far removed from anything and everything they knew.

Rodriquez’s illustrations add to the cold and dreary tone of the storyline. This certainly isn’t an uplifting read and the illustrations compound the dark and haunting move. There are some pretty graphic scenes, limited however as to only induce terror when appropriate.

This volume is a collection of the first six comics in the series. I do recommend holding out and reading the volumes rather than each individual comic issue. Additionally, I’d order the first several volumes for I can guarantee with certainty that this is a series that will capture your attention immediately. The Locke & Key series just proves that Hill’s talent has no boundaries.  Highly, highly recommended.

 

What are some of your favorite horror/supernatural comic/graphic novel series?

 

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Audiobook Review: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio; Unabridged edition (June 3, 2014)
  • Listening Time:14 hrs and 22 mins
  • Narrator: Will Patton
  • ISBN: 9781442371347
  • Source: Personal copy

Hundreds of unemployed, desperate for job placement, line-up in the predawn hours for a job fair.  A driver in a Mercedes plows through the unknowing crowd, killing eight and wounding fifteen. The killer is never apprehended.

Months later, that horrid day still haunts now-retired Detective Bill Hodges. His retirement has been less than thrilling; he spends his days contemplating his own suicide. Then he receives a letter by a main claiming to be the “Mercedes Killer,” eluding at another mass tragedy. Determined to prevent another attack, Hodges awakens from his retirement and once again immerses himself in the mind of the brutal killer.

Brady Hartsfield is the Mercedes killer. He still fantasizes about the rush the killing gave him. Living with his alcoholic mother in his childhood home (the same home where his younger brother met his demise) and working two unrewarding jobs, Brady doesn’t have much else to look forward to than experiencing that rush again.

In this classic tale of good versus evil, it is quite apparent early on that Hodges is the only person who can bring Hartsfield to justice. The attention of the police is elsewhere; they recently apprehended a brutal serial killer. So, using his keen detective skills and his continued law enforcement connections, Hodges risks life and limb to bring Mr. Mercedes to justice.

Using alternating points of view, readers get a glimpse inside the mind of both Hartsfield and Hodges. While this isn’t technically one of King’s horror novels, the demented mind of Brady Hartsfield, to me, is more terrifying than an horror character King has created (yes, even more terrifying than Pennywise).  Filled to the brim with plot twists that will having you yelling expletives, I personally found myself pausing the audiobook and taking a deep breath to absorb it all.  While this isn’t the standard size King novel of 800 pages, it has the tremendously developed characters and details of a much longer novel. Fans of King know that he doesn’t cut corners in his writing; every single word is intentional and has meaning.

A note on the narration: I don’t need to tell you how outstanding a narrator Will Patton is. His voice has the edge required to narrate the voice of a deranged killer and also that of a heartfelt, well-intending retired police officer. I honestly can’t imagine anyone else narrating this book.

So, if you are looking for a Stephen King fix until Revival is released next month, Mr. Mercedes is a must read/listen for you! Highly, highly recommended.

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#Mx3 Review: Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagen

  • Age Range: 9 – 12 years
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (August 26, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780385371032
  • Source: Publisher

Twelve year-old Gabriel Finley has lived with his Aunt Jasmine in her old Brooklyn brownstone since his father disappeared three years ago. As he gets older, he has increasingly more questions about his father’s disappearance.  As he approaches his thirteenth birthday, his aunt presents Gabriel with his father’s journal in hopes of answering some of these questions.

Called the Book of Ravens, the journal tells of a time when humans and ravens spoke to each other as equals. Partnered for life, humans and their raven partners, known as an amicus, rarely parted ways.   This relationship ended after  group of ravens, enticed by immortality, did the unthinkable and killed their human partners. Now, these evil ravens, known as valravens, were punished with an endless life of darkness and despair.  The only way to tell the evil ravens from the good was to ask them a riddle. Valravens, unable to laugh, would not be able to answer the riddle.

Unbeknownst to Gabriel, he has the ability to communicate with ravens.  Gabriel would never be confused for a super hero. Quiet, with just a few friends, Gabriel suddenly realizes that he holds the power to save his father. Always quite skilled at solving riddles, Gabriel and an unlikely group of allies begin their quest  to a secret world beneath the city in hopes of saving his father.  His nemesis in this journey is his uncle Corax, shunned from his family at the age of twelve. Also skilled with the ability to speak with ravens, Corax’s life took a darker route than Gabriel and his father.

Rich with unusual characters and a fantastical world full of imagination, Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle is a genuinely captivating middle-grade novel perfect for younger fans of Harry Potter or The Hobbit.  The themes of friendship, family, and loyalty combined with the fantastical journey form a well-rounded and enriching read.  That said, there are some darker aspects of this novel that might lend itself to be read with a parent.  I read it with my nine year-old and we found ourselves eagerly looking forward to reading time each night.

Readers will quickly pick up on the novel’s similarities with Harry Potter and its homage to Norse mythology. Beyond this, the author excels at making this book stand out on its own merit.  Hints at sequels have my son & I clamoring for more. Highly, highly recommended.

 

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TSS: Murder, Monsters & Mayhem Week 1 Wrap-Up

Brrr! The week has come and gone, Mother Nature leaving us with brisk Fall weather. I shouldn’t complain; it feels nice to have the windows open with a cool breeze blowing coming in!

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This is the perfect weather for the first week of Murder, Monsters & Mayhem.   There’s nothing like curling up with with a scary book on a dark Fall evening!

Following are the first few posts of Murder, Monsters & Mayhem! Remember, if you posted a horror or thriller review recently (it doesn’t have to have been in the last week!) link it up here!  I love seeing all the dark and twisty books everyone is reading!