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172 Hours on the Moon – Johan Harstad

24 Apr

Everyone said sending teenagers into space would be their opportunity of a lifetime…

It’s been decades since anyone last set foot on the moon. But three ordinary teens are about to change that–and their lives–forever. Mia knows this will be her punk band’s ticket to fame and fortune. Midori believes it’s her way out of her restrictive lifestyle in Japan. And Antoine just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible. But little do they know that something sinister is waiting for them on the dark side of the moon. And in the black vastness of space, no one is coming to save them…

I love the premise of this book. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi and I dig the idea of crossing sci-fi with horror. I just, well, I wish the execution of the idea was a bit better. Now, this was a translated work, so maybe something got lost during the translation, but 172 Hours on the Moon left me feeling a bit cold and definitely wanting more (and sometimes less) from the story.

Overall the book wasn’t bad. I really enjoyed the diversity of the three teens that were chosen to go to the moon. I just didn’t necessarily need as much background information about them. As I was reading about them before they were chosen, I couldn’t help wishing that the author had cut out some of that part of the book and had concentrated more on the actual time on the moon. I already knew from the blurb that they were chosen, so I didn’t really need a lot of lead up to it.

I loved the space training part and also when they actually go to the moon. I just wish it had been a bit more detailed and that the author would have spend more time there. I would have been perfectly happy if the book had started with them at the training base or even with the shuttle launching.

The story is told in third person from the point of view of the three teens and some other secondary characters. I really, really didn’t get the point of some of these secondary characters. For me they didn’t add a thing to the main story. Antoine’s ex-girlfriend gets a couple of chapters as does a former janitor with NASA. I honestly think that if these sections had been cut out, the book wouldn’t have suffered and would have been a lot tighter.

But I absolutely LOVED the tone of 172 Hours on the Moon. The whole feel of the writing and the story reminded me of The Thing, one of my favorite horror movies. I also whipped through the latter part of the book when they’re on the moon. Shit goes down and it was awesome, in a scary way. And I also loved the fact that the author didn’t wimp out at the ending. At all. It was horrific and as far as I’m concerned, perfect.

So while I had a lot of issues with this book, there were also some things I loved about it. Would I recommend it? I’m not sure. I think this one is going to appeal to some and not others.

Thanks to Hachette Group Canada for the review copy.

The Devouring – Simon Holt

3 Feb

When Reggie finds an old journal and reads about the Vours, supernatural creatures who feast on fear and attack on the eve of the winter solstice, she assumes they are just the musings of some lunatic author. But soon, they become a terrifying reality when she begins to suspect that her timid younger brother might be one of their victims.

Risking her life and her sanity, Reggie enters a living nightmare to save the people she loves. Can she devour own her fears before they devour her?

Ah, sometimes you just need to read a scary, creepy book to get your juices flowing and your heart beating, you know, clean out of your chest. And for me, that’s what The Devouring was.

Here’s a little story: see, I wasn’t always the reader that I am today. I was what you could call a late bloomer. In my early teens I’d read a book or two a month, but that was it. Until I discovered Stephen King. Then I couldn’t read enough. And horror was the only way I would go. For years it was all I would read. Not so much anymore, so when I dug into The Devouring it took me back to those days of furiously reading and scaring the crap out of myself.

This was gross, creepy and several times I was pretty damn happy I wasn’t eating. Now, for you hard core horror fans, you might not find it all that scary. But for someone delving back into the genre after a long hiatus, it was just scary enough.  And I seemed to have discovered a love of legends that come to life, which is kinda cool.

The Devouring read like a scary movie, which is high, high praise in my books. I’ll definitely be devouring the rest of the series. (Yeah, I couldn’t help myself.)

The Thirteen – Susie Moloney

11 Jan

Haven Woods is suburban heaven, a great place to raise a family. It’s close to the city, quiet, with great schools and its own hospital right up the road. Property values are climbing. The streets are clean, people keep their yards really nicely. It’s fairly pet friendly, though barking dogs are not welcomed. The crime rate is practically non-existent, unless you count the odd human sacrifice, dismemberment, animal attack, demon rape and blood atonement. When Paula Wittmore goes home to Haven Woods to care for a suddenly ailing mother, she brings her daughter and a pile of emotional baggage. She also brings the last chance for twelve of her mother’s closest frenemies, who like to keep their numbers at thirteen. And her daughter, young, innocent, is a worthy gift to the darkness.

A circle of friends will support you through bad times. A circle of witches can drag you through hell.

Ah, what a delish read!

The Thirteen is the perfect combination of mystery, horror, paranormal and chick-lit. I mean, this book was kinda like Desperate Housewives on some major  ‘shrooms.  It was fast-paced and juicy and scary and full of Holy shit moments. And it wasn’t a deep book, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. This is the kind of book that you can get 100% wrapped up in, enjoying it simply for what it is: a Hell of a good read.

The whole time I was reading The Thirteen, I was picturing it as a movie. Moloney’s writing really made everything very vivid and the scenes just popped off the pages. The writing was witty and campy and there was just enough ew factor to make me happy. And I loved the whole everything is not what it seems angle. Kinda makes you look at your own neighbors a bit closer. :D

Thanks to the folks at Random House Canada for the review copy.

Run – Patti Larsen

14 Nov

“Sixteen-year-old Reid thinks life is back to normal. His sister Lucy pulls herself together and cuts him free from a year of foster care. She promises to take care of him, that her new boss and her new life are what they both needed to start again. Until Reid is taken in the middle of the night, dumped in a wild stretch of forest far from home with no idea why he is there. Lost and afraid, he learns to run from the hunters who prowl the darkness, their only pleasure chasing down kids like him. And killing them.”

What an adrenaline rush! From the opening words of Run it was a constant run for your life kinda situation. Patti holds nothing back. I mean, if I were Reid, I would have been curled up in the fetal position, sucking my thumb by page 4. And he did have those moments when he wanted to give up. But then he’d go on. There was a lot of this back and forth in Reid, and I thought that it was very realistic for the situation he was in.

I really liked the fact that I was as lost and confused as Reid was as to where he was and why he was there.  And there was some mystery surrounding the hunters, also. Who were they? Why were they hunting kids down? Why did they pick Reid? I really felt like I was there with Reid, trying to survive and figure out what the Hell was going on.

Run is definitely not for the faint of heart. There’s some pretty icky scenes throughout. Stomach turning scenes. Stop munching on chips while you’re reading them scenes. The combination of scary, suspense and gruesomeness had me only reading Run during the day.

If you’re a fan of YA books that make your heart pound with the unknown and leave you cringing at places (but in a wonderful Holy Shit kinda way) then Run‘s the book for you.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin

26 Oct

I love when I get a book I wasn’t expecting for review and it rocks my reading world. This was definitely the case with The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, which arrived as surprise book love from Simon and Schuster Canada.

Sometimes when I love a book so freaking much, I have a Hell of a time reviewing it. I usually sit on the review, trying to tone down my gushing a bit before I write it. Well, I read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer way back in June. And I’m still not sure what to write for my review. That’s how much it blew my frigging mind.

This was such a different book. But in a totally “Holy crap I want to marry this book and have it’s little book babies” kinda way.  It had a touch of almost every genre: romance, contemp, mystery, horror, thriller, paranormal. While it may seem that all of these genres coming together would make for a messy, disjointed book, this was far from the case.  The different elements fit together perfectly. Hodkin’s writing style made it seem like all of these genres were made for each other.

What did leave me feeling off balanced for most of the book was Mara’s story. From page to page I was never 100% sure what was going on. But instead of pissing me off like it sometimes does, I loved it. This uneasy feeling of not knowing added another layer to the story, making it even more enjoyable.

To say I didn’t see the ending coming would be putting it mildly. It was a major “What the Hell?” moment that had me rereading passages to make sure I was understanding correctly. Actually, through the last part of the book this happened a few times.  But it wasn’t that Hodkin was writing in a confusing manner or that the plot twists and turns were unbelievable. It was the fact that she so brilliantly tied things together in such a surprising manner that I was once again caught off guard. It was wicked.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was a freaking amazing read and will definitely be on my best of 2011 list. I usually don’t reread books, but I anticipate wearing out a couple of copies.

Fury – Elizabeth Miles

19 Sep

Creepy, creepy, CREEPY! Fury was so creepy, and, yeah, scary, that I was bundled up in a sweater and wrapped in a blanket while I read it. With all the lights on. Constantly checking over my shoulder. For realz. And it was wonderful. I’m so happy that Simon and Schuster Canada sent me an ARC.

I LOVE when paranormal books cross over to horror. And Fury totally did that. You got the sense from the beginning that something wasn’t right, was drastically wrong and that things weren’t going to end well. There would be no last minute flury of rainbows and cupcakes, no. Things were going to end BAD.  And I was totally okay with that.

Miles holds nothing back in Fury. The readers aren’t coddled so that they’ll walk away feeling all bubbly and light. I love these kinds of books. Where, at anytime, someone can die or lose everything. Where you think you know what’s going to happen, but of course, you don’t. It’s awesome. Like Fury was.

Em and Chance, the two main characters, were far from perfect. So, when shit starts to happen to them, there’s this moment of, “So what? Maybe they kinda deserve it.” I found I struggled throughout, bouncing back and forth between “No, they don’t” and “Yes, they do.” Which, to me, is part of the brilliance of Fury. Way to make the reader struggle with moral issues. Just like the characters do.

The ending took me completely by surprise, but in a good way. Can’t wait to read the sequel. And I hope the publication of Fury sees a return to YA horror. Cuz I dig it.

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

11 Sep

Published by HarperCollins Canada, 2009
Reviewed by Colleen McKie

I love vampire stories. Way before Twilight ever hit its stride I was reading about nasty, blood sucking vampires.  You know, the kind without a conscience, only concerned with drinking blood and nothing else.  Sure, I was a huge Buffy and Angel fan, but at least those shows had the odd bad guy vampire. In today’s vampire market, most of the vampire are brooding, sexy guys that are merely “misunderstood”.

Well, thankfully Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan decided to put some of the nastiness back into the vampire genre, moving as far away from the romantic notion of vampirism as possible.

When a plane lands safely at JFK airport, only to go completely dark the_strainand silent, a biological attack is feared, and the CDC is called in. Dr. Eph Goodweather takes charge of the situation and as the head of the Canary project – a fast response team that only investigates sensitive biological threats – it was assumed that he would not only be up for the job, but that he could successfully contain whatever had happened on the Boeing 777.  But no one was prepared for what was about to happen as a plague – vampirism – spread its way throughout New York.

As soon as I realized that this was a book about a plague that spreads vampirism, I knew I would be hooked. And I was. From the opening scene the tension is high, and remains so. I rarely ever deem a book scary, but this one had me shivering in a few spots and wanting to actually warn people in the book about what was happening.

The story was an amazing meld of horror, medical drama, action and urban fantasy. At the base of any great disaster book is a team of unlikely heroes, and The Strain has that in Dr. Eph Goodweather, his colleague and sometimes love interest, Nora Martinez, Abraham Setrakian (perhaps the oldest vampire hunter ever written) and Vasiliy Vet, an exterminator.

And if you are looking for a bad guy, The Strain offers up The Master, one of the ancient vampires who is up to a whole lot of not good.

For me, the most interesting and inventive aspect of the story was how vampirism was portrayed as a disease and how the authors had scientific explanations behind some of the most common vampire lore, such as vampires adverse reaction to sunlight and the fact that they appear to have no reflection.

But for you die hard fans looking for more traditional vampire lore, there is plenty of that, too, and we get some of the back story to the Master through Abraham Setrakian’s story. And towards the end of the book we get a taste of some of the more ancient vampires.

The Strain is the first in The Strain Trilogy, with the second book, The Fall being released in 2010 and the final book, The Night Eternal out in 2011.

I loved this book and this story so much, I’m not sure how I will manage to wait a year for the second book but one thing is for sure: I will be at the book store bright and early on the release date.

Browse inside The Strain.

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