Have You Heard

Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 1:30am

Have You Heard About... Bird Box

… the horror novel that preys upon our fear of the unknown?

Okay, a lot of horror novels are based around the idea that we are most afraid of what we can’t see, but Bird Box by Josh Malerman takes this idea to the extreme. According to news reports, there is something outside that is driving ordinary people to acts of extreme violence and suicide. The main theory is that these people are driven mad just by looking at whatever’s out there, but the only people who know what’s lurking outside are dead. Everyone else stays closed up in their houses, only braving the outdoors if they are securely blindfolded. And even then, something could be watching them. Something could be standing behind them, trying to follow them back in the house. NO ONE KNOWS.

Lured by the possibility of a safe, secure location twenty miles away, Malorie and her four-year-old children embark on a perilous journey downriver. They must remain blindfolded the entire time, but they must stay alert because the things that drove people to madness are still there, waiting in the woods.

The ENTIRE story is built around uncertainty, and since the characters are literally and metaphorically blind to what’s outside, the horror is created through noises, sounds, and little hints of unease. Technically, this would be considered apocalyptic horror, but the true genius lies in how the horror is created. And talk about a page turner…I literally finished this book in two hours.

The best horror is often simple and understated, and Bird Box is a masterful example.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 1:30am

Have You Heard About... Half-Off Ragnarok

… the family of cryptozoologists and some-time monster hunters? With Half-Off Ragnarok, Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid* series shifts focus to Verity’s brother Alexander Price. Officially, he’s working in the reptile house at the Columbus Zoo as a visiting specialist, trying to decide what to do about his interest in beautiful Australian Shelby Tanner who works with big cats. Unofficially, he is researching the wild fricken (feathered frog) population to find out how much longer it can stay hidden from normal humans and trying to keep his not-quite-girlfriend from learning about the cryptozoological side of his life. That second part becomes a lot more difficult when something or someone starts turning people to stone at the zoo.

Half-Off Ragnarok is a fun modern-day fantasy with plenty of action and romance. Although it is the third in a series, the shift in focal character means that you can start reading here without losing too much of the plot (although I highly recommend the previous books, too). Seanan McGuire’s attention to detail brings to life even minor characters, and she goes well beyond basic Greco-Roman mythology to bring in cryptids from around the world. Her quirky humor and believable blend of realism and the bizarre are also in full force, with characters that include an adorable miniature griffin and Alex’s assistant at the zoo, a Pliny’s gorgon who hides her snaky hair until elaborate wigs.

* Previous books in the series are Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special. Seanan McGuire also writes horror novels as Mira Grant.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, September 24, 2014 - 1:36am

Have You Heard About... I Remember You

… the book that’s part compelling Scandinavian crime thriller, part creepy-as-hell ghost story?

In I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, it feels like you’re reading two completely separate story lines. The first follows a group of three friends who travel to the isolated town of Hesteyri to renovate an old house. Problem is, the house seems to be haunted. The second follows Freyr, a psychologist, who is brought into a compelling mystery that somehow connects with the disappearance of his son three years ago. But as the book progresses, the two plot lines begin to converge until they are inextricably woven together at the very end.

Even though this novel isn’t considered pure horror, it’s still one of the creepiest ghost stories I’ve ever read. The buildup of suspense is done very gradually (odd odors, wet footprints, creaking floors), but holy cow, is it ever effective. One night when I was in the middle of reading the book, I had to consciously force myself to turn the lights off because I was afraid of what was waiting just around the door frame. It’s been awhile since I’ve been spooked like that after reading a horror novel. And no gore. These are honest-to-God scares.

I spent several late nights with this novel, but it was worth every moment of sleep deprivation. Great suggestion for fans of Nordic suspense, good mysteries, or haunting ghost stories.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 1:23am

Have You Heard About... The Cat with Seven Names

… the cat who brought together a neighborhood? In The Cat with Seven Names, Tony Johnston and Christine Davenier introduce us to a very social cat. He seems to be a stray as he goes to different houses and apartments begging for food. At each place, he is welcomed into people’s lives, but he doesn’t stay. He always comes back though, working his way into people’s hearts and earning a new name at each stop. Even though they all live close to one another, none of the cat’s new friends know the others until a near disaster brings them all together.

This is a sweet story about making connections with the people around you. Retirees and children, immigrants and long-time residents, well-to-do and homeless — they all feel isolated in some ways. The cat brings a little joy to their lives and also helps them connect with the other people around them.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 1:59am

Have You Heard About... Hyperbole and a Half

… the blogging sensation that has been turned into a best-selling book? When I heard that Allie Brosh was publishing a print version of her award winning blog, Hyperbole and a Half, I quite literally jumped for joy. I don’t usually keep up with blogs, but her expressive cartooning and poignant topics make for an utterly hilarious combination.

I read through the book cover-to-cover, but some of my favorite chapters included “Why I’ll Never Be an Adult,” “The Party” (a re-enactment of the time she tried to convince her mom to let her go to a birthday party while doped up on Novocain), and “Depression Part 1 & 2” (a surprisingly relatable explanation of how depression affects people). Her stories range from inane to serious, but they are always told with a healthy dose of humor. In fact, after reading about many of her experiences, I’m starting to wonder if we are actually twins separated at birth. Her stories are that relatable.

If you’re looking for honest laughs and thought provoking insight, Hyperbole and a Half is superb.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 1:24am

Have You Heard About... The Girl in the Leaves

… the real-life thriller that reads like a novel? I just got finished with Robert Scott’s The Girl in the Leaves. This really crazy guy breaks into a house, kills three people and kidnaps the daughter. It has lots of twists and turns you don’t see coming.

There is a lot of good police work in this story. Every time you think you know what is going to happen, it doesn’t. The girl in the book is a very strong character. All the way through, you have to root for her. I liked it because she was strong. She never stopped believing she was going to be saved. The Girl in the Leaves keeps you on the edge of your seat. I like books like this, where you can’t put them down.

 

Reviewed by Jean (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 1:53am

Have You Heard About... Hidden Treasures

… what you can find behind the scenes in museums? Around the country, museums have far more items in their collections than they could ever display at one time. Harriet Baskas gives us a quick look at some of them in Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can’t or Won’t Show You. Each of the more than fifty chapters gives a quick overview of an institution, then describes an item that is not on display to the general public, with a photograph if possible. In some cases, the materials are displayed as part of special exhibits or were displayed in the past but have been put into storage, but everything in the book is not available as part of a permanent exhibit.

The museums vary greatly, from small, specialized institutions to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and divisions of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The reasons an item is not on display are equally broad. In some cases, size is a problem — either too small to be easily viewed (like a pin with President Truman’s face etched on the head) or too large to fit in a gallery (like a flying pig from a Pink Floyd concert). Other materials are too dangerous (like a notebook of research in battery development, complete with chemical samples) or too fragile (like Neil Armstrong’s space suit). Some items are no longer available to the museum; they were stolen from the institution or returned to someone with a legitimate claim. Still others are restricted due to controversies, real or potential, about religious symbolism, nudity, cultural insensitivity, or other concerns. In some cases, a museum simply has more than it can display at one time, and staff must make decisions about what is on permanent display and what is kept in storage.

Whatever the reason, these items are fascinating, and we are lucky to learn more about them. The next time you’re in a museum, admire what is on display, but also think about all of the treasures that might be hidden in offices, back rooms, and storage facilities.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - 1:55am

Have You Heard About... We Were Liars

… the young adult novel that everyone’s reading, but no one is talking about? We Were Liars by E. Lockhart has generated a lot of attention over the last couple months, but the first thing you notice when you open the book is a note from the publisher asking to keep the plot a secret.

The story includes a privileged family, a terrible event that no one will talk about, a destructive friendship, and lies upon lies upon lies, but that’s all I’m going to say.

Prepare to scrape your jaw off the floor. And if anyone asks you how the book ends, LIE.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 1:44am

Have You Heard About... Games Creatures Play

… the ways ghosts, werewolves, and other monsters keep themselves amused? Check out Games Creatures Play, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner, to find out! The stories in this anthology feature psychics watching softball, a horrific game of hide and seek, ghosts who trash a supermarket playing baseball, an elf who races a bootlegger, and much more. They’re brought to you by some of the stars of fantasy and horror, including Joe R. Lansdale, Mercedes Lackey, Brandon Sanderson and Seanan McGuire.

This book includes a wonderful variety of stories, with tones ranging from light fantasy to dark humor to outright horror. Some of the “creatures” are protagonists or help the hero of their story, while others are definitely the bad guys (and girls). The writing styles are nicely varied, with something for pretty much every taste. The games may be the focus of the story or simply a background element, but all are worked in well and make a good theme for the collection. Give this book a try if you like fantasy and horror short stories — you’ll definitely find something you enjoy.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 1:21am

Have You Heard About... Mind of Winter

… the thing that followed a family home from Russia?

First rule of reading Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke: DO NOT LOOK AT THE LAST PAGE! Thankfully, I managed to avoid the temptation, although I wasn’t sure how one page could theoretically ruin everything. But it’s true. Don’t look at it!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…The story takes place on Christmas Day, when Holly Judge and her adopted daughter, Tatty, are snowed in by themselves. Holly, a poet with a massive case of writer’s block, wakes up in the morning with this thought running through her head: Something had followed them home from Russia. This thought crops up repeatedly as Holly thinks back on her visit to Russia years ago to adopt Tatty, and as she analyzes her daughter’s behavior and inconsistencies throughout the day. And as the day wears on, Holly’s thoughts become increasingly frantic as she realizes that she no longer recognizes her daughter.

This is one of those rare books where the last page makes or breaks the entire novel. If you aren’t sure if this story is for you, keep reading until you get to the last page. (It’s short enough to where this shouldn’t be a major sacrifice.) One of the blurbs on the back of the book described this story as a set of Russian matryoshka nesting dolls - everything carefully constructed to fit neatly inside one another, until you uncover the secret hiding in the middle. The story fits SO WELL with the ending that after I scraped my jaw off the floor, I wanted to turn to the front and read everything again to pick up on the things I had missed before.

This is a shocking little gem of a suspense story, and if you’re able to keep temptation at bay and avoid reading the last page, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)