Tag Archives: fiction

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Book Review: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill | The Book SmugglersThe ...

I first saw The Woman in Black in theaters, when it first came out. I own it and watch it on a regular (at least once or twice a year) now. It is a very, very, very creepy movie. And I purchased the book not long after I saw the movie for the first time. Say what you will about the movie OR the book, but one thing is very true about both: they are very, very creepy. There is just such an eerie way that the story is told and presented. Its just anxiety-inducing and frankly, a little jarring. I reread the book for what I think is the third of fourth time to do this review, so it would be fresh in my memory, and I had forgotten how many differences there were to the movie.

First of all, Arthur Kipps is a VERY different man in the book than he is in the movie. He isn’t struggling, and hasn’t lost his wife. In fact, he is not even married yet and he’s practically a partner at the law firm he works at. He starts the book off telling the story from his perspective as an older man, not ‘old’ persay, but older than the events of the movie. Before the whole ordeal at the Eel Marsh House, he is a cheerful and happy person. Another key difference is that the innkeeper, the coach driver and Mr. Jerome are all very kind and polite to him in the book, whereas in the movie they are all…well…rude and cold. I think this made a pretty big difference. And while Mr. Jerome’s attitude towards Arthur does change, the others don’t. Also, Mr. Daily is actually kind of distant and cold in the beginning and then they slowly become friends.

One of the biggest things that is downplayed in the movie that is actually really important in the book is Spider, Mr. Daily’s dog that becomes Arthur’s companion in surviving the horrors of the Eel Marsh house. He becomes very, very attached to her (not in a weird way. like in a cute loyal way) and actually risks his life to save her. In fact, Mr. Daily says that he will give Arthur one of her puppies as soon as she has a litter. It is not until after Arthur leaves Crythin Grifford that he gets married and has a son (and makes Samuel Daily the godfather. Awwwww.) that tragedy strikes and his wife and son are killed due to the Woman in Black returning for revenge. Arthur, however, lives to remarry and be a father to several step children. Unlike in the movie, where Arthur dies with his son.

So, yeah, in short the movie is really good, AND the book is really good but there are definitely some huge differences between the two, to the point to where the kind of paint a different story. I think that the book had more of a slow-creepy-eerie-unsettling feeling to it, while the movie was definitely more jump-scary. I definitely recommend the book to any horror fans out there, however, especially those who like British Period Horror pieces. It’s very well written, and while it does have some slow parts, its still a fairly enjoyable and easy read. Overall, I give it a 4/5.

Radiance by Alyson Noel

Image result for radiance alyson noel

A few months ago I had the privilege of reading Alyson Noel’s masterpiece Evermore, a book following the life of Ever, the sole survivor of a family car crash. Radiance, on the other hand, focuses on Riley, Ever’s twelve year old sister as she tries to figure out how un-living works in the Here & Now. In Evermore, Riley stays on the ‘earth plane’ as a ghost to help Ever move on from her grief involving the loss of their family, and to also come to terms with her own recent death.

The events of Radiance take place after Riley has crossed the bridge into the afterlife, and her and her dog, Buttercup, are assigned as Soul Catchers, which is kind of like a Grim Reaper. Her guide, Bodhi, is a ‘dorky’ older boy who is a rank ahead of her and is assigned to be her teacher. She, however, has no respect for him and only does what he says out of spite for him saying ‘I told you so’ if she fails. The book follows their first mission and is kind of her ‘coming of age’ as she learns to convince souls to cross over, respect Bodhi, to fly and how to teach Buttercup to fly.

Noel’s writing is easy to read and flows nicely. Her characters are complex, relatable and very well written, and her descriptions of her setting are vivid and realistic. It’s not hard to find yourself pulled into the story and emotionally involved in Riley’s situation. I give it a 4/5 and recommend it to anyone who likes YA and Fantasy.

The Bargaining by Carly Anne West

The Secret Writer: 'The Bargaining' by Carly Anne West

The Bargaining is Carly Anne West’s second book I believe, (the first being The Murmuring, which I will probably read very soon) and it follows the tragic life of Penny, a child of divorce who has recently loss someone close to her. She suffers from dissociation and hallucinations, and struggles with depression as well. She constantly blames herself for what happened, even though West does not really give us a clear picture of exactly what that event was until near the end of the story.

The tension in this book is completely fathomable. It is so thick you could cut it with a knife. The characters are well written, each having a unique personality and a story. When Penny is dragged away for the summer to help her step mother renovate a dilapidated old house, you find out more about the step mom, April, as well. She is actually my favorite character and is really likable, dispelling the ‘evil step mother’ stereotype. Her parents, on the other hand, are both pretty awful.

The setting for this is small town Washington in the dense woods of the Pacific Northwest. I actually have family who live in that same environment or area, just south of Seattle. So that was really cool for me to know exactly what the author was describing. It is definitely a creepy setting, so well done, Carly! The personalities in the small town near their summer project are very colorful and spooky. The house itself, located in the middle of the woods, completely isolated from the world, has a certain air about it that makes you heart beat a bit faster, even as a reader. It is actually a place I would love to spend the weekend! I’m a sucker for haunted houses!

West is a master of leaving bread crumbs and holding back, so that the twists and turns are huge and hard to see coming. I picked this book up and two hours later I was finished with it. It was so good that I could not put it down! The introduction is captivating and terrifying. You really feel for these characters, especially if the reader has come from a broken home, lost a loved one, been abused, or dealt with mental illness. It really hits close to home for me, as I have lost many people that I love, some of which I blame myself for not being there enough for them (suicide). I also cope with chronic depression, history of suicide attempts and bouts of suicidal thoughts, and severe social anxiety. I guess that is why I relate so much to Penny, and what she has been through.

Penny also has a love of photography, and it is one of her coping mechanisms throughout the book. This I can also relate to, as I enjoy photography in my spare time with my Nikon. All of these personal ties really made the book easy to ‘get into’ and I enjoyed it a lot.

I will say that the ending left me a bit conflicted and wanting more. I reread the last two chapters over and over, trying to understand them better. I do not know if this is just me being silly or if the author did that on purpose to leave me stumped.

In conclusion, if you like ghost stories that have a lot of depth and are extensively creepy, this is the book for you!
You can search for the book on amazon to support this lovely author!

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you have a good day!

Buy it here!

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

book report for these vicious masks these vicious masks 1

I feel compelled to write a small review about this book, as I really enjoyed it. I picked it up on a whim, and now it sits among my other favorite novels. It’s a thrilling story set in 1882 England, and the back of the book described it as ‘Jane Austen meets X-Men’ (who WOULDN’T want to read that??). These Vicious Masks delivers what it promises, and so much more.

The main character, Evelyn is believable and her emotions are very easy to sympathize with as she searches for her kidnapped sister, struggles to trust Mr. Braddock, and holds her suspicions about Mr. Kent. I obviously do not want to give anything away, but the discovery of special powers such as healing, charming, teleporting, making people sick, etc are the driving force behind this novel, and yet somehow they still take a backseat to the very real and growing relationships that Evelyn forms throughout her perilous journey through the back alleys of London.

I was completely sucked into this book from page one. I love it. It’s sassy, mysterious, and oh-so Victorian. There is a pinch of romance, but not enough to make it the center of the plot. The character is totally and completely devoted to her sister, Rose, and the story stays true to that by displaying her resistance to being distracted by feelings, her own safety, and her reputation, all of which are put on the line and promptly tossed out the window in the process of her rescue attempt.

I rate this a 4 out of 4. If you enjoy fantasy, romance, horror, crime, science fiction, Victorian England, or anything of the sort, this is the book for you. If Pride, Prejudice and Zombies is on your ‘favorite books’ list, then this one will be quick to follow.

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The Light of the Oracle by Victoria Hanley

The Light of the Oracle (Healer and Seer, #3) by Victoria Hanley ...

The Light of the Oracle is another older book I decided to give some love and attention to, as it is one of the most beautiful fantasy stories I have ever read. It is listed as a companion to Victoria Hanley’s other books, The Seer and the Sword and The Healer’s Keep, both also incredible works. Last year was Light of the Oracle’s tenth birthday, it being originally released in 2005. I was in sixth grade, and was immediately bewitched by the haunting tale of Bryn, an oracle with an affinity for Wind.

In this world Hanley has created, oracles are chosen in a ceremony by a certain kind of bird, but to be chosen by Wind itself is a very rare and dangerous gift. Bryn must overcome many trials, betrayals, and even a curse, while also attempting to keep certain individuals from taking advantage of the Temple and using its power for evil. Her story is one of love and endurance, as she falls for Kiran, a swan-chosen stable boy who can speak to animals. Everyone seems to be out to get Bryn, and she has to really struggle to survive and succeed at the Temple of the Oracle.

The story speaks to me on many levels, and has since I was a child. I have reread it many times, as it is one of my favorite tales. Bryn has a certain innocence about her, even in the end of the story she retains a purity and a curiosity that most fifteen year olds have long since grown out of. It is one of the most appealing things about her. She is also very clever and humble, two qualities that are often lost in teenagers. Looking back, I think this book taught me a lot on what personality traits I wanted to nurture within my own life.

I give this book 4 out of 4, as it is beautifully written and easy to read, the plot is wonderful, the characters are dynamic and each one is unique, and the setting is vividly described. The only negative thing I could say about this story is that there is a large number of struggles that Bryn has to go through, which has caused me a quite a bit of anxiety because Hanley gets you to become so emotionally invested in Bryn as a person and character. That is not really a negative thing, is it? Hanley’s skill as a writer really wraps you up in Bryn’s plight, getting you to care about it as if it was your own struggle. I highly recommend this book to readers young and old who enjoy fantasy. It’s a fantastic, timeless story.

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Little Sister by Kara Dalkey

Little Sister by Kara Dalkey.

Little Sister by Kara Dalkey is one of my favorite books. It was published way back in 1996, so not a lot of people remember it. It follows the story of Fujiwara no Mitsuko, a Japanese child of a noble family in the 9th year of Emperor Shirakawa’s reign.The setting is beautifully painted in watercolor strokes by the author, who writes as Mitsuko. We follow her as she and her family go through fires and scandal, and she befriends Goranu, a Tengu. Tengu are a particular kind of Japanese Oni, or demon, that can shape shift, but are most often shown in paintings as men with the head of crows.

This book is particular in the way it describes daily life in feudal Japan, and is careful to pay homage to how things were and are. The Japanese mindset are very different from western mindset, but somehow the author conveys it purely and clearly. The mythology and religion in both Shinto and Buddhism is referenced constantly, as in Japan the religion is more of a lifestyle and therefore are integrated into all parts of every day life. From the haiku poems that her sister exchanges with suitors in the Imperial court, to the furisode kimono sleeves she hides her face behind, the setting of Mitsuko’s world takes center stage in this hauntingly beautiful story.

Mitsuko is such an interesting and dynamic character, who sees herself as nothing more than a dutiful sister and daughter. She embarks on a journey into the underworld to save her sister with the help of Goranu. But Mitsuko is so much more, and Goranu sees that. She is brave and creative. Their relationship goes from being a reluctant partnership to a willing friendship-and later much more. The interactions between the two are definitely my favorite thing about this book, aside from the historical and vivid setting.

The author is a master of immersion, and it is not difficult to get lost in the story and forget reality for a while. It falls just short of 200 pages, and is easy to breeze right through. To this day, I wish it was longer. The first time I read it, I was in middle school, and now at age 22, I still reread it once a year. It never gets old, and the story stays with you. It is a truly beautiful tale of honor, love and duty, with the added splash of historical accuracy and regional beliefs.

I give it a 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Japanese culture and is curious to learn more about their mythology from a fictional character’s point of view. It is a truly amazing book! Please consider looking it up and giving it a read. It is always a sad thing when such a lovely piece of literature is left to gather dust in the annals of time.

Buy it here!

Dust by Joan Frances Turner

Vamps R Us: Book By Its Cover - Dust

Dust by Joan Frances Turner is not your typical zombie book. Yes, there is the blood, gore, flesh eating delight that comes with every zombie work of fiction-but there is so much more than what meets the eye in this novel. Turner creates a post apocalyptic world and a brand new mythology surrounding the undead. They have lives, gangs, friends, emotions, their own language. It is so incredible!

I give this a 5 out of 5. I really, really enjoyed it. You get to see the main character–Jessie– go through the process of dying, undying, and dying, and then undying again. You feel her emotions, care about the things she cares about, and see the things that she sees. The author is incredibly clear, crystal clear, in her descriptions, making it very easy to let your imagination inhabit this world she has built for us to explore.

The story is easy to follow, and the writing flows so well. The characters are colorful and well thought out, making them very real considering they are supposed to be the dead walking and talking. I will admit I had a huge hankering for close-to-rare steak after reading this, as her description of the creatures consuming raw meat actually made it sound appealing (not the human bits, of course).

Turner gives zombie books everywhere a run for their money in this comedic, wonderfully written and vivid depiction of plague-ridden Michigan, and the events that caused it all. I personally am not much of a fangirl when it comes to zombie themed supernatural or paranormal novels– the walking dead and world war z just are not really my cup of tea, ya know? But this book is so much more complex and involved than rotting undead monsters. They are an actual species with behaviors and feelings, which puts a whole new spin on the mythology than anything I have every seen before.

If given the chance, anyone who likes horror, paranormal or macabre, bloody humor should definitely check this book out. It’s to die for. :wink:

Buy it here!

The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden

BOOK REPORT for The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden

The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden is a true work of art. It is set in post-storm New Orleans (Arden does not name this storm, so I deduce that it is based on Katrina but is a fictional storm) and the main character is a young lady named Adele. This book had two arcs actually, one in present day New Orleans, and the other in the past following a group of young girls making the Atlantic crossing a few hundred years ago.

All the characters are very well written. Adele, specifically, is such a real character, the emotions and the thoughts that Arden gives her are so believable and convincing that it is not at all difficult to put yourself in her shoes. There is a lot of diversity too, many of the main characters are people of color, and as a Native American it was really nice to see a character who quite possibly could have been from my tribe actually play an important part in the goings-on of the plot. (I am Muscogee and pre-colonization there were tons of Creeks in the south).

The atmosphere is breathtaking. I was actually in New Orleans for New Years a few weeks ago and purchased a signed copy of this book from Boutique du Vampyre (GREAT shop!) and I read it about a week after I got home. I immediately had the most intense longing to return to the city. The book is so descriptive and immersive. You feel like you are really there in NOLA. The sights, sounds, smells, it is all so vivid. It was also super cool to know exactly where and what she was talking about when she mentioned landmarks like Jackson Square, Café Du Monde, St. Ursaline’s Convent and the LaLaurie Mansion. At one point one of the characters, Ren, leads a ghost tour, and I actually got to go on one of those! It was such a treat to relive and revisit the city through Adele’s eyes.

This story is about vampires and witches, so if that is your cup of tea, this book is right up your alley! There’s a lot of history in this book, but I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to spoil anything! I loved this book and could not put it down, if you like magic, witches, vampires, history, fantasy, New Orleans, voodoo, art, fashion, murder, romance, mystery, comedy or horror-then this book is a must read! It’s SO good! Alys Arden is a wizard. This book has become one of my prized possessions and I have recommended it to all of my friends, because I just love it that much! It’s exciting, sexy, cute, funny, scary, intense, immersive and downright awesome. It has a little something for everyone and it is written SO well, almost like a poem.

Thanks for reading! Please consider supporting this amazing author and reading her book!

You can buy the book here!

 

Just for fun, here’s some selfies of me in front of St. Ursaline’s Convent!

and some of the places I visited in the French Quarter:

and of me and my hubbie at the New Years Eve Parade!