Tuesday, October 29, 2013

SHOCKTOBER Undercurrent by Paul Blackwell YP FIC BLACKWELL

Callum Harris has no idea how or why he went down Crystal Falls. All he remembers is the sensation of being puled down, down, down into total blackness.  When he wakes up he can't see, move, or talk, which is a big problem while his best friend tries to kill him. Aster, he finally is able to communicate he notices everyone is treating him different, hostilely.  He tries to blow it off, but there are other changes.  The town has shut up building which used to be stores only Callum remembers.  Everyone is treating him like he's a completely different person.  His home, his family, even his own dog are all different, all wrong.  either everything in town has changed or he's losing his mind.  Either way he needs to figure out which fast, because it isn't just his former best friend that wants him dead and reality itself seems to be pulling him under.

This book is so creeeeeepy! It's like a really awesome episode of the Twilight Zone. It will keep you spinning and wondering which way is up.  It starts with a very tense and harrowing description of slowly coming out of a coma and not being able to communicate.  These opening chapters totally hooked me.  Blackwell perfectly conveys the panic and powerlessness of the situation and will have you feeling as trapped as poor Callum.  Then the next chapters have him awake, but deeply paranoid as to why people suspect him in the disappearance of someone he never met and who is trying to kill him. It really draws out the eeriness of hospitals late at night.  After that you feel like you can finally get a breather, but you're hit left and right with impossible changes to Callum's reality. He's constantly bouncing from situations that are both familiar and horribly foreign while trying to act 'normal' to people that see him as an almost totally different Cal. It will keep you totally off balance and as unsure as Callum if he's losing his mind or reality itself has shifted.  Either way it makes for a unsettling experience. I especially liked how Callum reacts to the changes.  He behaves totally realistically and is in a near panic that he has to do his best to hide. This is a lot more interesting than if he accepted his situation straight away or immediately went to theorizing and trying to 'fix' his problem. Undercurrent is the rare example of a great idea for a unique plot paired with great execution.  If you want your mind bended, definitely check it out.

You can find Undercurrent in our catalog here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

SHOCKTOBER Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green YP FIC GREEN

Truth or Dare?  It's just a stupid game, right?  Not for Tenley, Caitlin, or Sydney it isn't.  Sure it started as a game, but when they start receiving messages that if they want their most painful  'truths' hidden they'll have to complete more and more dangerous dares, they realize it's deadly serious.

This is a very twisty and exciting thriller from a debut author.  The novel starts off fairly quickly with the basic set up, but takes its time revealing the dark secrets of our three protagonists. Splitting between their viewpoints is a good way to keep the reader more in the loop than the heroines and build tension.  Green really populates her novel with plenty of characters that are more than just set dressing.  It makes the book more than just a Pretty Little Liars knock off, and something special of its own.  It has a great 'just one more chapter' quality that kept me flying through its close to 400 pages! I think there are enough reversals and false clues to keep most readers guessing, but even if you DO figure out the culprit...YOU DON'T!  The book ends with a twist cliffhanger that means you'll have to wait for a sequel to unlock more secrets...if you dare!  

You can find Truth or Dare in our catalog here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

SHOCKTOBER You Know What You Have to Do by Bonnie Shimko YP FIC SHIMKO

Mary-Magdalene (Maggie to her friends) Feigenbaum seems like your average 15 year old.  Sure she has a weird name and her step-dad is the local mortician. Sure her mom dresses like a trashy teenager from the 80s (coincidentally when she had Maggie) and acts more like her sister, but relatively normal. Except for the voice.  The one that tells her she has to kill and how to get away with it.  The one that's already had her kill once and wants her to kill again. 

This is an engrossing thriller that will garb ahold of you and keep you reading as fast as you can to the very end.  It's a sick sort of thrill to be in the mind of a teenage serial killer.    Since we get the entire story from her perspective, we share in her fear of getting caught instead of rooting for it.  It's also really creepy that she spends so much time worrying about her relatively mundane boy problems and issues with her once-dorky friend joining the Cool Kids Table. The focus of this, distracts from the fact that we're being told the story from a cold blooded killer until the voice comes back and brings us back to sobering reality. Maggie's drive for murder is just one aspect of her life.  It's normality to her is genuinely unnerving and way more unsettling then if she was more conflicted outwardly. Maggie is also genuinely funny, with a dry sense of humor she shares with the reader and hides form the rest of the world.  This makes her both weirdly likable and made me feel complicit, like I was keeping her secrets. 

Unfortunately, the book has some notable flaws that keep it from being as good as it could have been.  Most the characters seem sort of thinly fleshed out, without much deep personality.  However, we are getting the viewpoint of a cold blooded murderer, so that could be partially why we don't get to know them very well.  Also, there's some occasional clunky dialogue and the book sometimes feels sanitized for your protection.  This is clearly a deliberate choice to make the book less graphic and bleak, but it will seem unrealistic to some readers.  however, it really worked for me.  Maggie is a bit shy and her best friend is woefully naive, so that fit their characters relatively well.  Also, keeping a lot of cursing and gory details made the book more medium dark than out and out bleak.  It reminded em of Lois Duncan, R L Stine, and Christopher Pike.  Always creepy and dark but usually not very explicit, but I think Shimko has the potential to out-write them all.  However, I think many readers will dislike the ending.  Without spoiling anything the book ends pretty abruptly and some people you expect to get the bloody justice they deserve don't.  Personally, I found the ending sort of ambiguous.  It definitely did end a bit too quickly and neatly for my tastes, but Maggie isn't the most reliable of narrators, so I'm not convinced as she is that her troubles are really over. Instead of feeling cheated by an anticlimax, I found it clever.  It made me realize that I was looking for more violence!  I was getting as bad as Maggie! I will admit that not getting more real answers about Maggie's condition was galling, but the faults are never enough to keep the book from being seriously gripping.  I highly recommend it to thriller fans. 

You can find You Know What You Have to Do in our catalog here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

SHOCKTOBER The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman YP FIC WASSERMAN

In Oleander they call it the Killing Night.  One night, five murderers, no motives.  Only one of the five lived and she's locked away. Locked away like the memories.  Until the storm.  The storm that rips the city wide open. The town is surrounded by troops, quarantined. Something dark has woken up in Oleander.  Something that can make anyone a killer. And it's inside everyone.

The story is told from the perspcetives of Ellie: a girl that thinks God is speaking to her, West: a popular jock with a secret, Daniel: son of the local crazy man, Jule: unwilling part of the town's infamous meth family, and Cass: the only killer to survive Killing Night.  The jumps in perspective help keep thing interesting and help build a sense of closeness to the book's characters.  It also helps us see lots of the town slowly unraveling from different points and builds the tension to a fever pitch.  Wasserman does a good job of developing the characters, so that even if you won't be crazy for all of them, at least one will speak to you.  Then she starts the slaughter and no one is safe, so the fear gets ratcheted up fast and furious.  I've read several reviews that compare this book to early Steven King and I think that is accurate and very intentional.  It has a secluded small town going crazy, authority figures turning into mad despots, and several other classic King touches.  It is bleak, depressing, terrifying, and totally riveting.  It is definitely a long read and after some early mayhem goes for a long slow build, but it truly pays off.  Wasserman handles the emotional moments and the building relationships with a deft hand.  This makes the first deaths all the more shocking and the later violence almost numbing, with jolts of terror.  It's quite effective as horror and also a clever look at the idea of the violence within our society.  I'd definitely only recommend it to people that can stomach dark and violent reads, but for fans of serious horror this is one of the best books in a long while. 

You can find The Waking Dark in our catalog here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

SHOCKTOBER Zom-B series by Darren Shan YP FIC SHAN

Having already reviewed the super awesome Zom-B, I waited for three more volumes to do an update. Just in time for Shocktober!

SPOILER ALERT: Do NOT read this review if you don't want Zom-B Volume 1's big secrets revealed.

B (AKA Becky, that's right twist ending B is a girl lady!!!) wakes up months after being attacked by a zombie and having her HEART RIPPED OUT OF HER CHEST!!!  Now she is a Zom-B, but unlike the shuffling masses she has her memories and her own mind.  Unfortunately, she is a prisoner/test subject of a secretive military force that is keeping her Underground. She may just find that there really are fates worse than death!

B has left the underground military installation (NO SPOILERS ON HOW!) and is roaming the ravaged remains of London.  Holding as best she can to the semblance of humanity as she tries to find other survivors and escape the horrors of the dead, the living, and the worst: The mutants and the demonic clown of death, Mr. Dowling.

B has been found by others like her. Revitalized, zombies that think.  They call themselves the angels and say they can save the world, but can she trust them? And is she willing to walk away from the only people left on Earth that are like her?

This series is getting better, creepier, gorier, and more nightmare inducing.  It's already up to four volumes with a fifth volume soon to hit our shelves, so you have some catching up to do.  however, with Halloween around the corner this is the perfect time!  Each volume is a quick read, that leaves you wanting to tear open a fresh volume like the shambling undead tear open skulls!  Sorry, that was a little gross, but NOTHING compared to the fiendish horrors and atrocities that Shan has nightmared up for us! Mr. Dowling is absolute nightmare fuel and every time he shows up something gut wrenching (often literally) is sure to happen.  It filled we with a perverse sense of dread and eagerness to see what he would do next, which is the perfect thing in a horror book.  I think Shan has really got a great protagonist with street tough B.  She's just good enough and bad enough to both root for and be believable.  Shan has also populated the world with some fascinatingly freaky survivors for her to run into and keeps thing fresh by introducing just enough new faces to feel lively without getting confusing as to who is who.  It helps that he often slaughters loads of characters to keep you on your toes.  Sometimes I think that the REAL zombie plague is how many new zombie books and movies keep coming out, but this is one of the few shining stars in the field.  Its fast paced, creepy, gross, and filled with some truly clever twists.

You can find Zom-B: Underground in our catalog here.
Zom-B: City in our catalog here.
Zom-B: Angels in our catalog here.