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!

#Mx3 Review: The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (October 7, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781250057150
  • Source: Publisher

Nearly three years ago, ten-year-old Jack Peter Keenan nearly drowned in the ocean. As a result of this near-death incident, Jack Peter is deathly afraid to leave the safety of his home. Trips to the doctor are filled with stress and anguish; his parents must wrap him tightly in a blanket just to get him inside the car. With his activities limited due to his phobia, his only connection to the outside world is his one and only friend, Nick, also present at Jack Peter’s near-drowning.

Jack Peter spends most of his time drawing elaborate pictures of monsters. Soon, however, the pictures begin taking on lives of their own. His parents, Holly and Tim, begin having strange experiences. Tim sees a white apparition running down the street or across the dunes on the beach. Holly hears voices and other unexplainable sounds coming from the ocean.  Caught up in these experiences, they don’t realize that Jack Peter’s drawings are connected to what is happening around them. Only Nick understands the power of the drawings.  Jack Peter’s imagination is manifesting right before their eyes. When Jack’s parents are finally able to embrace the impact of their son’s power, it overwhelms them with heartbreaking, emotional clarity.

Keith Donohue is one of those authors whose work I follow obsessively. With each and every novel he produces, he never fails to overwhelm me with his brilliance. The Boy Who Drew Monsters may be my favorite of all. I’m not going to lie; this was a truly terrifying read.  It’s a psychological horror like none other, for the monsters that we attempt to contain within us are often more terrifying than those in the world around us.  We all remember our childhood and our fear of monsters. Our imaginations ran wild and rampant with thoughts of what lurked under the bed or in the closet. Often, we found that our imaginations went far beyond the believable and we were finally able to understand that nothing so terrifying could actual happen. Young Jack Peter didn’t share that same fate.

Additionally, the setting of this novel is wholly terrifying in itself. The ocean, just feet from their home, was the scene of a horrific shipwreck, bodies never recovered still lying at the ocean floor.

All of these characteristics together culminate into a truly outstanding piece of fiction. If you haven’t read any of Donohue’s work (!!) I do encourage you to start. I promise you won’t regret it. Highly, highly recommended.

Other books by Keith Donohue:

Angels of Destruction
Centuries of June
The Stolen Child

 

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#Mx3 Review: No Time to Die by Kira Peikoff

  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Pinnacle (August 26, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780786034895
  • Source: Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc.

Zoe Kincaid isn’t your typical college student. Despite being in her twenties, Zoe’s body still resembles an early teen; her growth halted at age fourteen.  Though her maturity has grown with time, her parents still treat her like child.

Frustrated with the constraints her parents put on her, Zoe reaches out to doctors to find the cause of her stunted growth. Fearful she is dying of some undiagnosed disease, Zoe racks up thousands of dollars in medical bills without her parents permission. Her only ally is her grandfather. Unlike Zoe he is aging; the thought of losing him terrifies her.

When doctors discover that her stunted growth is due to a genetic disorder, Zoe goes against the wishes of her parents and agrees to work with a group of scientists working on technology to eliminate aging in the human race.  This technology is controversial, for obvious reasons.  Those against it are so determined to put an end, even if that involves murder. Zoe must abandon her friends and family, risking her own life in the process.

No Time to Die is a truly chilling, thought-provoking read. Don’t let the page count sway you; once you start reading this novel you will be swept away in a terrifying, adrenaline-filled reading experience.  What makes this book hit home is that it’s totally plausible.  We read news of breakthroughs in medical science every day; genetically altering a gene to stop aging isn’t that far-fetched.

Additionally, Peikoff successfully accomplished the difficult task of introducing medical information in a way that was easily readable and captivating, rather than overwhelming and dull. This, combined with her expertly crafted prose and dynamically developed characters all add up to a truly intense medical thriller.  I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel, DIE AGAIN TOMORROW, due out next year!

No Time to Die is a must-read for fans of well-crafted medical thrillers.  The impact of this one is lasting, forcing you to rethink your beliefs and what you would do in the characters’ positions.  Highly recommended.

 

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Mx3 Review: Brood by Chase Novak

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books (October 7, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780316228008
  • Source: Publisher

Twins Adam and Alice are reaching their teenage years.  Normal children would be joyful of this monumental change in life, but not Adam and Alice. With the start of puberty also comes the likelihood that they will become victims of the very fertility treatment that created them, turning them into feral savages.  In foster care since their parents untimely and brutal deaths, their aunt Cynthia takes them into her custody, returning them to the nightmarish home that was the scene of such brutality. While the home has been renovated, it still carries memories of its nightmarish past.

With promises to inundate her niece and nephew with unconditional love in an attempt to rectify and repair the horror they were dealt, Cynthia struggles to give Adam and Alice a normal life. Meanwhile, the twins starve themselves, hoping that the malnutrition will prevent the onset of puberty. They are aware of their fate, simultaneously drawn to and terrified by their future.

Meanwhile, a group of children who were also the result of this terrifying fertility treatment have already become feral. They sell their blood, a veritable fountain of youth, to the highest bidder. Unfortunately,  users become some enamored by the effect that they ingest it in increasing volumes. Along with the increased libido comes uncontrollable rage, inciting incidents of rage and murder.

The feral children will stop at nothing to bring Alice and Adam back into the pack. Love can’t stop their wrath; nothing is stronger than the blood that rages through them.

In this long-awaited sequel to Chase Nowak’s  Breed, I was hoping for more of the classic horror that I so appreciated in the previous novel. While there is certainly terror, unfortunately it doesn’t live up to its predecessor.  Perhaps this is intentional, perhaps Nowak wanted us to get inside the minds of Alice and Adam, this novel serving as a character-builder that will culminate in a third book that will exceed each and any hope and expectation of terror I may  have. I certainly hope so.

There is so much potential in this storyline, so many routes to potential greatness. So, while this wasn’t a jaw-dropping, chill inducing read, it was still enjoyable simply because of its ingenuity. Recommended.

 

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A Month in Review: September 2014


Books Reviewed

 

* Picks of the month

See which October books I’m exited about!

Upcoming Events!

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My annual Halloween feature, Murder, Monsters & Mayhem kicks off tomorrow! There is still time to sign up. Just click on the image above to join in!

 

So, what was your favorite book read in September? Or, are you like me and can’t narrow it down to just one? Share!

Review: Party Games: A Fear Street Novel by R. L. Stine

 

  • Grade Level: 7 – 12
  • Series: Fear Street
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (September 30, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781250051615
  • Source: Publisher

When Rachel Martin is invited to Brendan Fear’s birthday party at his family’s home on Fear Island, she can’t resist. Despite her friends’ warnings, her crush on Brendan clouds her judgement and she readily accepts the invite. Brendan’s infamous parties are known for their unusual party games.  This time, however, the party games turn deadly. One by one, the guests begin dying, their means of death mimicking childish games. As their hopes for escape vanish, Rachel and the other guests quickly realize they are stuck on this remote island with a killer.

Who doesn’t love the Fear Street novels? Like many others my age, many of us grew up reading these terrifying teen horror novels.  When a new book in the series was announced I was thrilled beyond measure. Unfortunately, however, Party Games didn’t really live up to my expectations.

Without revealing too much about the plot, there is definitely a supernatural vibe to this book. Isolated, mysterious island, hints of brutal deaths and possible haunting.  Unfortunately, Stine decided to take a pass on this and instead opted to go the path of a mysterious masked killer.  This was quite unfortunate as I tend to think Stine fans (young and old alike) tend to prefer his novels with a supernatural edge. Additionally, I felt the ending was wrapped up a little too quickly, almost as if Stine ran out of ideas and decided to end it quickly.

My devotion toward the Fear Street novels is so strong that I would still recommend this novel despite my complaints. Perhaps I’m too old to appreciate them? Or perhaps Stine does have a contingent of fans that would read and enjoy anything he’s written.  Like with his adult novel last year, Red Rain, perhaps my expectations are just too high? I’ll let you decide.  Have you read Party Games? What did you think?

 

Frightful Friday: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

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 Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix:

 

 

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (September 23, 2014)
  • ISBN13: 9781594745263
  • Source: Publisher

Something menacing is happening at Orsk, a warehouse furniture superstore outside of Cleveland, OH. When the employees arrive in the morning, displays are in a state of disarray. The security cameras reveal nothing. While Orsk is frequented by quite a few shoppers, sales are down.  They must get to the bottom of the mysterious activity before the corporate big-wigs arrive tomorrow morning.

So Basil, one of Orsk’s most dedicated employees, convinces two additional team members to join him in an overnight stakeout. Ruth Anne is a passionate, committed team member. Amy is…not.  It isn’t far into their mission before strange things begin to happen. A number of uninvited visitors make an appearance. Basil, Ruth Anne, and Amy soon realize what they thought would be a relatively uneventful evening has quickly transformed into a battle for their lives.  What walks the confusing and meandering floors of Orsk after hours isn’t human…at least not anymore.

The moment I read the premise of this novel, I knew I had to have it! A haunted house story, set in an IKEA-like setting? Simply brilliant.  The ingenious format added to the experience.  Laid out like an IKEA catalog, complete with illustrations of unpronounceable yet easy to assemble furniture, Horrorstor is a novel like no other! As the novel progressed into a darker, more sinister tone, so did the illustrated furniture. From mass-produced bookshelves to terrifying torture devices, Orsk has every furniture type imaginable.

PicMonkey CollageWhile the character development is minimal, Hendrix makes up for this with a truly chilling, albeit sometimes corny, plot line. That’s to be expected, of course, given that this is a spoof of the grand and simultaneously terrifying, IKEA.

The history of the land that holds this terrifying structure is just as terrifying, adding to the dark and brooding tone.  While the light formatting seems as though it would detract from the overall feel and mood of the book it actually does the complete opposite. As readers turn each page, they have no inkling of what comes next.

Bottom line: Horrorstor is a must read this Halloween season. It’s just spooky enough to send a chill down your spine, yet not too terrifying for the weak of heart.  Highly, highly recommended.