Apathetic Flesh

Title: Apathetic Flesh

Author: Darren O. Godfrey

Genres: Horror | Paranormal | Short Stories

Length: 328 pages | 5124 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.75/5

Premise:

A creepy short story anthology.

Review:

This has got to have been one of the first books I requested from Netgalley. I am not sure why it sat on my virtual shelf for so long. Maybe it was the amateur cover or I was just not in the mood for short stories – which I have to admit I seldom am. Alas, I picked it up and I have to admit it was quite intriguing.

I also have to admit I am surprised there do not seem to be barely any reviews about it anywhere. This was actually pretty good. The stories are linked by comments which I am not even sure are real or not but definitely sound that way, which of course is extra creepy.

This is a very particular kind of horror. I for one had never read anything quite like it. There is a generous amount of gore but most of all plenty of mystery and psychological horror. The narratives built up suspense at a steady, nail-biting pace and several ended in crafty and mesmerising plot twists.

Both the characters and the situations they were in were quite unique. The prose was, for the most part, very engrossing, even if it lost me at times. The author definitely has a way with words, though, and I was quite enthralled during some of those tales.

Alas, at times, I wasn’t sure what to make of the stories. The blurb says they are about normal people but I have to tell you, some of those main characters did not strike me as very normal, least of all their reactions. So I guess you have to put that aside for a bit, that ‘how would a normal person react in this situation?’ and go with the flow.

That did bring an extra macabre edge to the stories. So even though I didn’t enjoy all of them greatly and did not even understand some, I have to admit it was a pretty cool ride.

It’s quite good, I recommend it to fans of horror and short stories.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Apr 26 to Apr 29, 2016
GR Review

The Skeleton Key

The Skeleton Key

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A hospice nurse working at a spooky New Orleans plantation home finds herself entangled in a mystery involving the house’s dark past.

Review:

Of all the movies involving a spooky house with a bunch of secrets, this one wasn’t so bad.

Kate Hudson’s character has some depth – After falling estranged with her father and later finding out he had died alone, she now dedicates her life to caring for the elderly. Upon seeing a newspaper ad requesting a live-in hospice caretaker, she decides to grab this opportunity.

Arriving at the 30-room mansion, she meets the family’s attorney and then sour Mrs Devereaux. Caroline is supposed to take care of Ben, Mrs Devereaux’s husband, who is paralysed, unable to move or speak. She is given a skeleton key which unlocks all doors in the house. Well, except a mysterious one in the attic.

As Caroline’s days in the house pass, she encounters mystery upon mystery. What really happened to Ben? What secrets lie in that mysterious room? Is Ben in danger?

I have to admit that, while watching the movie, I felt Caroline stumbled upon the information much too easily and ultimately that is what brought my rating down. Considering the fabulous twist at the end, I can now see why that happened, but back then I didn’t really appreciate it and it took out a fair amount of enjoyment.

Also, sometimes night scenes and storms add to a movie, particularly horror ones, but in this case they felt much too convenient and overstretched. It was all said and done. The movie deserved more. Also, the daytime scenes were spooky enough, with those creepy surroundings. Such beautifully haunting landscapes, I loved it.

The ending really was quite well achieved and, even though the theme itself is not new, I do recommend The Skeleton Key.

A Nightmare on Elm Street – 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street – 2010

Rating: 2/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
The spectre of a dead child rapist haunts the children of the parents who murdered him, stalking and killing them in their dreams.

Review:

Well, first of all, IMDB’s blurb is quite a spoiler.

Regarding the movie, it was nothing that special. I never watched the original version, so I cannot compare, but for a long time it just felt like people were dying left and right and no one seemed to care or even be serious about what was happening, even potential victims who knew they were such.

The CGI were ok and I particularly loved the opening credits. The images along with the soundtrack made an eerie beginning to the film, as well as the opening scene. From then on, sadly, it went downhill for me.

I could not care for the characters – even Krueger was sort of boring – and the violence was simply gratuitous, so it was just an ok movie to me.

Fellside

Title: Fellside

Author: M.R. Carey

Genres: Fantasy | Horror | Mystery | Paranormal | Thriller

Length: 486 pages | 7224 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

Jess Moulson wakes up disfigured from a fire she seemed to have set and as a consequence killed a 10-year-old boy.
Her memory is hazy but the evidence is overwhelming. She decides to starve herself to death as atonement.
But then she begins having visions of the boy and suddenly she is on a mission she does not comprehend but will bring her the peace she craves.

Review:

After reading The Girl with All the Gifts, I have to admit my expectations were not only high but I had hoped for a totally different kind of tale. I am a big fan of horror/paranormal and I have to admit prison settings always put me off. I could not even watch TV series or movies because I am not even remotely interested in the subject. When I gradually found out that the story did centre itself around the prison events and characters, and not the paranormal ones, I was largely disappointed.

So most of the first half of the book failed to grasp my attention because I was simply not interested in the subject. Also, I felt a bit overwhelmed with all the names and characteristics I had to memorize. At some point I had no idea who some of the more secondary – or rather tertiary – characters were. Therefore, the narrative seemed to stretch on and on, and I just lost interest, having to struggle not to skim through the text. I kept wondering when the prison stuff would be over and the interesting, paranormal one would begin and be developed.

Due to the author’s wonderful writing, I was engaged at some point. The second half picked up the pace and things finally started to come together, but sadly most of all the twists I had expected in one form or the other. Some were very surprising though, particularly the one about Leah – didn’t see that coming. The characterization was quite well done as well, for the most part. However, I have to admit I never really connected to Jess. I get that she had a lot on her mind but I could not understand why she would never even think of her disfigured face, for instance, or want to know why she could not properly remember that night’s events. There just wasn’t much emotion/dimension. She wanted atonement for a murder she could not recall and that was it.

Something felt off throughout the story, right from the premise. Not only the main character’s development as I just mentioned, but the initial trial itself. What the hell was done there anyway? Why could they not find the evidence then? Why did it have to take the entirety of the book to develop this strategy? I don’t know, it just seems too convenient.

Still, Carey is a very talented author and I was interested at some point. Even if I did not like the characters, I enjoy most of their development. I also had a fair amount of closure. And if there is one thing Carey can do brilliantly it’s the endings.

So, in the end, I do recommend Fellside, just don’t go into it thinking it will be similar to TGWATG and make sure you enjoy stories that involve life in prison.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Apr 16 to Apr 23, 2016
GR Review

10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane

Rating: 4/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack.

Review:

This movie surprised me on so many levels. I thought I would be bored, to be frank. I mean, three people stuck in a basement can’t provide much fun. I have to admit I was a bit at first, but that quickly changed because of the dynamics between the characters.

The film starts with Michelle leaving her old life, driving through beautiful landscapes and then having a having a car accident – which was quite well achieved in terms of filming and sound effects. When she wakes up, she is lying on a mattress and chained. She soon realizes she is in a bunker owned by Howard, who claims there has been an attack of unknown nature and by unknown forces and that the outside is off limits because the air is contaminated. Then Michelle meets Emmett, Howard’s neighbour who he was also kind enough to allow shelter.

So you’re faced with this woman who is trapped in a fully functioning bunker with a menacing guy who is obviously a crackpot and yet… Is he really? Why is Emmett so keen on believing him? What exactly have they experienced»

Yes, there were things that felt off, particularly in Michelle’s character (She is supposed to be weakened by her daddy, not even being able to defend a little girl in a hardware shop, and yet she proves over and over that she is actually a resourceful survivor) and the very last couple of scenes were just plain silly (Seriously? A molotov cocktail destroys that and she is suddenly a warrior? but, boy, there were so many layers to this movie.

John Goodman was so good. Just amazing. His interpretation and the character he plays are the main reason why I am giving this movie such a high rating. As soon as you thought you had it figured out, something would happen to prove you otherwise and add more to that guy. The levels to that guy just blew me away.

And then there is the plot twist at the end which not everyone will appreciate – I didn’t mind it exactly, just the resolution felt weak, as I mentioned in the spoiler.

All in all, if you are looking for a good psychological thriller that just keeps evolving and do not mind a dramatic plot twist that will lead you in a totally unexpected direction, you will most likely enjoy this very much.

The Ice Twins

Title: The Ice Twins

Author: S.K. Tremayne

Genres: Horror | Mystery | Psychological Thriller

Length: 373 pages | locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Premise:

After losing one of their twin daughters, and the remaining one acting odd saying she is actually the one who died, a couple decides to move to a remote Scottish island, looking for a fresh new start.
However, instead of improving, Kirstie now claims she is actually Lydia. Could her parents really have made such a tragic mistake? What really happened on the day of the accident?

Review:

Having finished this book last night, I still don’t quite know how to feel about it because a lot of what I read seemed to be thrown out there as plot devices to drive the reader in a certain direction and not being properly explained.

Also, as much as I found it interesting to get in the mind of Sarah and Angus, I trudged a bit through the first half of the book. The long island descriptions lost me for a while and at some point I was pretty annoyed at Sarah constantly bringing up Angus’ masculinity, amongst other things.

I wanted to empathize with her. Most of the times I couldn’t because, even though I don’t have to like a character to enjoy a book, when there is a child involved that changes things for me. I thought Sarah put herself and her well-being above her child’s much too often and it was uncomfortable to read. It’s like she does all these nasty things to find out the truth but she doesn’t really want to know it? I don’t know. I suppose by the end I can see why that happened but it just wasn’t enough to placate the feeling I had while reading.

The book alternates between two voices: first person for Sarah and third person for Angus. I found that very engaging and easier to follow, as well as get to know what really was inside each mind – and boy, was it troubling. What started out as a couple fairly united by a tragedy, wanting to make a fresh start, devolved into something quite grotesque. The tension took its time to build but when it did and I finally got fed bits and pieces of what had actually happened, I was enthralled.

It was an eerie book, for sure. Even though I kept being told the island was beautiful, I only felt dismayed by its description and more particularly the house’s, which totally translated the characters’ disintegrated minds.

In conclusion, although the build up and writing were fantastic and I felt gripped watching these characters grow, a lot still felt out of place by the time I finished. I did not understand why Sarah would not properly talk to her daughter. The kid would say something totally creepy and she would go shhh. In the end, one of the things that bugged me the most was not knowing if this was a ghost story or not. There were plenty of big hints that it was (particularly Emily’s reaction to the mirror and Angus’ vision in the fog) but most of it made me think it was only a result of Sarah and Kirstie’s fragmented minds, so I truly don’t know.

I need to be able to finish a book and be sure about the resolution to the main mysteries. When that does not happen, no matter how brilliant the rest of the novel was, I am left feeling uncomfortable and even cheated when done. Hence the rating down of 3.5 stars, though it really is a solid 3.5 for me because it was very well written.

I am sure this book will please several psychological thriller fans, but it just did not deliver completely to me.

Note: If you have read this book, I would really like to know your take on it and the things I have mentioned, so please post below!

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Apr 12 to Apr 15, 2016
GR Review

Dark City

Dark City

Rating: 4/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A man struggles with memories of his past, including a wife he cannot remember, in a nightmarish world with no sun.

Review:

This was a cool one. The narrative unveiled in such an interesting way. This normal guy wakes up in a tub, obviously has trouble remembering where he is or even who he is.

From then on, there was intrigue, suspense, tension and freaky aliens who could change your memories, amongst other very nifty things.

Granted, some things were a bit too much, like Kiefer Sunderland’s character, who seemed to be an odd mix of Dr Frankenstein and Quasimodo and always short of breath, as well as the oversimplified process of handling memories but, overall, a cool sci-fi flick.

I was sad about the ending, though. I had hoped for more resolution.
I cannot imagine anyone remaining sane, living like that, growing old in that rock. I had really hoped they’d make it home. I am pretty sure the Doctor mentioned Earth in the beginning of the movie so he should know of it, right?

A Monster Calls

Title: A Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness

Genres: Children | Contemporary | Fantasy | Horror

Length: 240 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

Thirteen-year-old Conor has had a terrible nightmare ever since his mother fell ill.
When a monster starts visiting him, he is not scared. That is, until it tells Conor what he wants from him… The truth.

Review:

I never knew children fantasy fiction could be weaved quite like this. This book had me intrigued, excited, curious and immensely sad. I wish I had gotten the illustrated version, since I have heard wonders about it.

The story stands on its own, though. Conor’s life was turned upside down ever since his mother got ill and he deals with it the best way he can, in all aspects of his life.

This is the first book I have read by Patrick Ness and I thoroughly enjoyed his writing. It was clear and unpretentious and yet it made me feel so emotional at times.

Conor’s character had a lot of depth. He is 13, dealing with a horrible situation that has several repercussions on his life. He is incredibly brave but he is also a young boy and I found him very believable. Most of the other characters were very well conceived as well, particularly his grandmother.

I am not giving it 5 stars because I was not quite swept by everything, such as Harry’s character for instance; I simply cannot see a kid that age choosing to bully like that or his father actually going back to America when he knows his son’s mother is about to die.
Also, it was fairly predictable and I am sure I would have related much more if I were younger.

However, as a whole this was a pretty amazing, emotional book about love, loss, grief and guilt and I think everyone should read it at some point in life.

Read from April 10th to April 11th, 2016

GR Review

The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen #1)

Title: The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen #1)

Author: Aliette de Bodard

Genres: Fantasy | Mystery | Paranormal | Science Fiction

Length: 402 pages | 5189 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 2.25/5

Premise:

Philippe lives in a post-apocalyptic Paris, one devastated by the big war between Houses of Fallen angels, trying to survive as independently as possible.
His encounter with a recent Fallen will see his relative freedom come to an end, as he is taken prisoner by a capricious Head of a House who wants to both punish him and know his secrets. Philippe will struggle to break free, while dealing with unknown forces wanting to destroy the house that holds him prisoner and trying to convince everyone he did not intentionally cause such evil to be unleashed.

Review:

Well, one more that drew me in because of the gorgeous cover. You would have thought I had learned my lesson by now.

It took me a while to get adjusted to the narrative. The sentences were very long and descriptive, and the author did not waste time with proper introducing of the characters and what exactly they could do. Since they were all very foreign concepts, I felt overwhelmed. There were angels and alchemists and magicians and immortals and witches and fallen and others, each with their own abilities or lack thereof, and then there were Houses and gangs and Ammen and Heaven and the City…

The book wasn’t badly written per se. The descriptions of Paris were definitely well conceived, as was the contrast between said decay and the House’s struggle for appearances. The concept of all Fallen being arrogant made sense, as did a few other things. At this point I really cannot tell much more because my brain is still jumbled from all the stuff that went on. I felt that it should have been more clear what each character, or chaste, or whatever you want to call it, had the ability to do, so that when something happens that is uncharacteristic it is obvious and an explanation of what the heck went on would be nice as well.

Maybe I am just not able to appreciate this kind of literature with angels and whatnot. Or maybe it just felt like too much for one book. I would have preferred a more focused storyline. I wanted to know more about certain characters, while others I felt did not add much to the story. There was definitely mystery and suspense but every single character seemed to have an agenda and I left the book wondering what the heck it was for most of them.

I also yearned for a more engaging pace. Just when things were beginning to get interesting, there came another bout of lines and lines of description. Take a look at this one single line: At the back, behind the dais, was what looked like a secretary of wood inlaid with gold tracings, adorned with two large porcelain vases, and a large three-tiered bronze container with elaborate handles, and a crouching lion at the top of its dome, and two incense sticks in a hollow halfway up the structure. Pretty? Yes. Sadly, after waiting ages for something exciting to happen, you lost me at secretary.

This would go on several times, where I just felt I kept reading the same sentence or paragraph over and over, and could not move on because I did not want to skim but also felt stuck. So yes, I would say the book dragged on.

Also, I could never really connect to any of the characters. Just when one was beginning to gain more depth, the storyline would change. When it got back to that character, some of the previous things would be repeated. And I was sitting there like… ‘Ok… Is there anything more to you?’

There could have been something special between the main two, for instance, and it did not necessarily have to be any romance, just something more. And yet you start with these two characters, neither of whom belonging anywhere, who somehow share this incredible link that binds them and makes them vow to keep each other safe and somehow that wanes throughout the story and you don’t even know why because there’s so much stuff going on.

Most likely it was all the darkness. I have read my shared of dark books and enjoyed some quite a lot, but this story just seemed pointless no matter where I turned. There was either vengeance or darkness or hopelessness or power struggles. Not one single light at the end of the tunnel. Even the main character yearns to return to a place where he knows he won’t be welcomed. Man, talk about bleak.

I enjoy post-apocalyptic literature but this was just too much. As it is, I am afraid this one will not stay in my memory for long and I have to admit I have no interest in reading the sequels.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Apr 04 to Apr 10, 2016
GR Review

They Live

They Live

Rating: 2.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A drifter discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to wake up to the fact that aliens have taken over the Earth.

Review:

Ah the good ole gaudy 80s!

I can tell why this movie became a classic back in the late 80s and 90s. John Carpenter is a masterful director and some sequences were full of tension, particularly when the main character finds out what is going on.

Alas, in 2016 the movie just doesn’t have the same impact. Even the soundtrack sounded lame.

Not only did I want to know more about the story – like who found out about the whole plot or who made the glasses – some scenes just seemed excessive, especially when it involved violence. I mean, at one point I was like – is this fist fight ever going to end?? Just put on the freaking glasses, for crying out loud.

I didn’t feel much of a balance. The sequences were either too slow or too nasty. Some characters, the main one included, stood expressionless in the middle of all the mayhem for the longest time, which made the scenes drag on. So yes, in the middle of all the violence and noise, I was actually bored at times. Towards the end, the movie just felt rushed.

Then there was that thing that seems to happen in all action movies, especially of this time, where the heroes never run out of bullets, always hit the professionally trained bad guys and only get shot if it involves a dramatic ending. Oh and every single piece of information or access to what they need is served on a silver platter. I mean, really, a hallway that accesses everywhere important? Obviously not underground, although by all accounts it should be. A guy in a major elite party showing those two drifters the ropes to the place and master plot? Seriously?

Maybe I just don’t have the right type of humour to appreciate it but I cannot say I was impressed.
Mostly predictable, save for the director’s self-reference, which is not exactly a good point in my book but hey, I am sure it was hip back in the day, and very last shot.

Mix sci-fi with George Orwell’s 1984 at the hands of John Carpenter in the late 80s and this is what you get.
Gaudy as it is, it’s still food for thought at a time of frenzy capitalism and consuming, which most certainly remains very real.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A writer and wall street trader, Nick, finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbor, Jay Gatsby.

Review:

I know I am a tad late, but I finally got to watching The Great Gatsby.

Not having read the book, I am not sure what I was expecting, but this sure wasn’t it.

The narration of the movie between now and then and the transition to written form is such a brilliant touch, as is the contrast between present day and the narrative time.

The imagery was stunning. At times, I felt I was looking at something coming out of a modern fairytale.

I suppose that was the purpose of the movie. It was the Roaring Twenties. Anything was allowed.

I have to admit I was not quite sure why this new guy who no one really knows much and who has no money gets shown around to people’s darkest secrets. I felt that needed more build-up. On the other hand, the movie’s pace was insane and I guess that would have spoiled it.

One of the things I did not expect from this movie was that it had such a romantic component. The characters’ development, particularly Gatsby and later Carraway, was excellent.

I think I postponed watching this movie for so long because I thought I would be bored. I couldn’t be more wrong. I definitely recommend it.