Review: Brayan’s Gold by Peter V. Brett

Humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction. Each night, the world is overrun by demons—bloodthirsty creatures of nightmare that have been hunting the surface for over 300 years. A scant few hamlets and half-starved city-states are all that remain of a once proud civilisation, and it is only by hiding behind wards, ancient symbols with the power to repel the demons, that they survive. A handful of Messengers brave the night to keep the lines of communication open between the increasingly isolated populace.

Arlen Bales is seventeen, an apprentice Messenger in brand new armour, about to go out for the first time alongside a trained Messenger on a simple overnight trip. Instead Arlen finds himself alone on a frozen mountainside, carrying a dangerous cargo to Count Brayan’s gold mine, one of the furthest points in the duchy. And One Arm, the giant rock demon, hunts him still.

But Brayan’s Gold may offer a way for Arlen to be free of One Arm forever, if he is willing to wager his life on the chance. Continue reading

Review: The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong

Unfortunately this review will have spoilers thanks to it being the second book (here’s my review of the first) in The Darkest Powers trilogy and so making them a tad unavoidable. Sorry about that, but they’re more or less just spoilers for those who haven’t read the first book, if you’ve read it you can relax and read on.

If you had met me a few weeks ago, you probably would have described me as an average teenage girl—someone normal. Now my life has changed forever and I’m as far away from normal as it gets. I’m a living science experiment—not only can I see ghosts, but I can raise the dead without even trying.

Trust me, that is not a power you want to have. Ever. I’m running for my life with three of my supernatural friends and we have to find someone who can help us gain our freedom back before the Edison Group finds us first. Or die trying

This is one of those stories where your opinion can be completely decided by how you feel about the characters instead of being a food for thought piece. I really liked Derek. I liked him as a character in the first one because he had a level of intrigue, but I like him more in this one because he is just a likeable character. Or at least to me he is. Simon is the one I can’t figure out; he is slightly confusing. I try to figure out what his game plan is from all sorts of different angles, but it’s a little difficult. I guess maybe I should stop trying to figure him out and just see where the story goes.

I should also probably stop going, ‘awww’ every time Derek does something nice with Chloe or interacts with her in a nicer way, even if it’s small. I know that might sound like this, ‘awww they should be together,’ but it’s not. It’s more ‘awww aren’t they adorable youngins.’ I know, that’s terrible, I should be ashamed of myself. If it’s any consolation I’m feeling kind of old now. Yes, I’m going to stop it.

The Awakening was interesting reading for me because Simon is a type 1 diabetic. I don’t come across that often in movies or books to read of one that actually has their medication plan explained appropriately rather than some of the things I’ve heard or read in stories before where it’s completely off or close to. It is refreshing and kind of exciting. I’m a type 1 diabetic (if you haven’t already figured it out) and I appreciate that even though it’s not a big thing in the story, not really, that the proper detail is there and the proper information. So I sympathised with Simon because of it, and because he was diagnosed at an age that is the same as mine, but other than that I still like Derek more out of the two boys. Simon is one of those characters I can take or leave and really just feels like a filler or a bridge between two characters. Poor Simon, I think you might be a little flat.

Also the way Chloe is interacting with both of them or more so how they are interacting with her (the two boys) leads me to believe there may be some sort of love triangle developing. I really hope not because I can’t handle another love triangle (three in a row without planning on reading them? What are the odds? If this keeps up I’ll have to swear off YA Urban Fantasy for awhile).

Even with my developing fear of love triangles and the sneaking suspicion one is creeping up on me, I still am reading the next one. Pretty much straight away and judging by how fast I’m reading these books (less than 24 hours each, I’m really enjoying the start of the year so far), by the time this review is posted I’ll probably already be finished.

One last thing, if you’re not sure about reading Kelley Armstrong, but are curious, or if you’ve read one of her books besides these ones and wasn’t too impressed, then this trilogy might be a better option. I read her book Bitten and I think Armstrong is a good writer, but that book pissed me off (I hate how female characters can be written by men sometimes, it’s worse when it’s a woman writing them in a certain way and that ending… Best not to ever mention that book to me), so when I first read The Summoning quite some time ago I was very surprised. I guess my point is not to write off a novel just because of a previous experience with an author.

I also realised I didn’t say much about the book, writing style, or the other characters. I’m quite sick of Tori’s bitching so maybe that’s why I don’t pay much attention to her. Apart from that it’s a pretty good read and I like the way the story has gone. It’s mixing it up a little.

  • Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
  • Demographic: YA, but enjoyable for adults too if you’re into Paranormal reads
  • Reminds Me Of: Dark Angel in a sense, but more Dark Angel back story and less sci fi.
  • Rating Out of Five: 4 1/2
  • Challenges: Off The Shelf

Review: The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

Chloe Saunders sees dead people. Yes, like in the films. The problem is, in real life saying you see ghosts gets you a one-way ticket to the psych ward. And at 15, all Chloe wants to do is fit in at school and maybe get a boy to notice her. But when a particularly violent ghost haunts her, she gets noticed for all the wrong reasons. Her seemingly crazed behaviour earns her a trip to Lyle House, a centre for disturbed teens.

At first Chloe is determined to keep her head down. But then her room mate disappears after confessing she has a poltergeist, and some of the other patients also seem to be manifesting paranormal behaviour. Could that be a coincidence? Or is Lyle House not quite what it seems…? Chloe realizes that if she doesn’t uncover the truth, she could be destined for a lifetime in a psychiatric hospital. Or could her fate be even worse…? Can she trust her fellow students, and does she dare reveal her dark secret?

This is the second time I have read The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong, the first in her Darkest Powers trilogy, as a re-read in preparation for the next two that I hadn’t read till now, making it hard to review with the same amount of enthusiasm as someone who had read this without knowledge of it. Yet maybe it’s a good thing because I enjoyed it thoroughly the next time round, haven’t changed my rating or opinion on it either, and surely that must tell you it is a readable story?

It’s one of those books, at least to me, where it is such an easy read. It goes so fast, it’s like you’re sucking the words up akin to a vacuum cleaner. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is a light read, albeit it is lighter than most (such as classic lit for instance), but it still delves into a few darker and heavier issues such as ostracism. Granted that is almost in every young adult novel, or at least the pressure of feeling outcast when they are not, and yes it is in a lot of books that aren’t young adult, but I think I appreciate the delivery more compared to a lot of other novels.

However, I think when it comes to the use of ostracism in a novel, it’s a ploy that is so worn out that it can be too overly done in a story and ruin it. I like how Armstrong takes it and uses it in this scenario though without a major emphasis on it. The emphasis feels more like an internal struggle of acceptance, and when it involves acceptance, it doesn’t take that long before the characters start getting there. Of course there’s always something going on, but it’s nice when a novel has some intrigue and you don’t learn everything about the characters – personality or otherwise – before the end of the book. I probably wouldn’t keep reading otherwise.

Basically it’s a pretty good read. It’s entertaining, easy to absorb and be taken in by, has enough intrigue to keep you reading, and I think it has just the right amount of supernatural without being saturated (sometimes that’s better).

  • Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
  • Demographic: Mid-Late teens, but good for Adults as well.
  • Reminds Me Of: I’m sure there’s something Urban Fantasy-esque out there that involves an institution of some kind.
  • Rating Out of Five: 4 1/2
  • Challenges: N/A

Review: sWitch by Scott Norton

Barbara Ducharme’s got a plan: she’s going to stitch her fraying family back together with a little help from… Satan

Mired in a homogeneous suburban hell where happiness is always one impulse purchase away, what’s a housewife to do when her frozen marriage refuses to thaw, and her children’s lives are falling apart before they’ve even had a chance to begin? A trip to a run-down, mountain home she’s inherited from a mysterious relative sounds like an ideal way to break the routine, and break the news she’s been dabbling in the dark side.

Then they showed up––three masked assailants on their own little adventure filled with terror, torment and torture. Of course, there’s no accounting for the toll years of family dysfunction has taken on their victims. For Barbara, the brutal assault may be just the thing to bring her twisted family together. For the intruders, it could be wrong family, wrong time.

I have been lucky enough to be given a copy of sWitch by Scott Norton (thank you), the author himself (I also reviewed his novella HorrorCon not long ago), and seeing as I have been hanging to read this one I had to read it straight away didn’t I? Yes, I did.

See the thing is, it’s hard for me to find a decent dark fiction that is just enough humour and just enough dark, without being too overdramatic (sometimes they try too hard to be disturbing and it’s rather disappointing), for me to enjoy so it’s really nice when I come across a book that has all those elements presented in the synopsis alone. This is why I have been looking forward to reading sWitch.

After a little hiccup in the beginning because of a migraine, I read sWitch so fast I am still reeling from losing track of time. I love novels like that! It may be annoying to some because you may feel you have all these things to do, but I embrace a novel that makes me forget what’s going on and makes me want to go ‘yeah, whatever. Fuck it I’m reading.’

I think sWitch is what I like to call delightfully gothic. It starts out as all homey and domestic, of course families have their problems so that’s not surprising, but sWitch is darker in undertone; darker in undertone, but not morbidly or depressingly so. To explain what I mean by delightfully gothic and my appreciation of it, I’d have to discuss the ending and I hate giving away spoilers so I say just read it and get back to me.

The first two lines of the novel were used in my first post of Book Beginnings and in that post I mention how I enjoy those first two lines because it can be taken in any direction afterwards, all you need is imagination! And in interesting directions it did go because to me it was almost chaotic. Not chaotic in a bad sense at all, on the contrary, the story had a flow to it that you couldn’t help ride along with. It was well written in plot, environment description, and character description, so there was no chaos in that sense. The chaos is more in where the story goes, at one point you can see where it is headed, but there’s also another aspect being slowly introduced, and when you think the story has established itself it brings in that other aspect and completely disorientates you, but not in a disconcerting way.

Also, rather than following a select number of people or telling the story from their point of view only, the story is told from numerous perspectives. At some point I was wondering if this would be too much and I’d end up being confused, but fortunately it worked with the characters being defined enough for you to be able to tell when the perspective switched. I think it helped too that you’re introduced to all the family members from their perspectives straight away rather than slowly.

In the end all the different perspectives helped the story along instead of impeding it and one thing I love about different perspectives is when they’re utilised to not only show the good guys view, but also the bad guys. To me it shows there is no good or bad, but maybe just a little nuts or maybe psychotic… The point is you get to see it from different point of views and how one man’s idea of insane is another one’s idea of normalcy.

As for descriptions, I admit I am a sucker for interesting descriptions laced with a sense of humour; therefore naturally I loved the descriptions. Add on to that the Goth side of my personality and I was pretty much done for by the time the introduction to Satan in the form of dyslexia and Santa showed up.

I don’t know about readers who don’t usually read dark fiction, or for those who like overtly disturbing, but for me this is the type of book that a Goth loving book reader who appreciates a darker sense of humour should pick up and give a go, because it is a fun read with a dark twist and I look forward to reading it again sometime.

  • Genre and Demographic: Dark Fiction, Goth and DF lovers
  • Recommended By: Scott Norton and Some Guy’s blog (don’t remember who, sorry)
  • Reminds Me Of: Not a story, but 1950’s mixed with some Satan worshippers. Also Carlton Mellick III and Joe Hill, but in the use of abstract ideas only.
  • Would I Read More By This Author?: Yes
  • Rating Out of Five: 4.. and a half
  • Challenges: N/A

Review: Horns by Joe Hill

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with one hell of a hangover, a raging headache …and a pair of horns growing from his temples. Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned American musician, and the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – with Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, Ig was and always would be guilty. Now Ig is possessed with a terrible new power – with just a touch he can see peoples’ darkest desires – to go with his terrible new look, and he means to use it to find the man who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due.

I quite enjoyed Horns, by Joe Hill, but it’s not what I would call horror. Then again I think I’ve pretty much established in other posts that I’m desensitised to certain levels of disturbance. Really, maybe that doesn’t say much, but even so not what I would call horror and yet I would still say it is dark fiction.

I don’t know what I enjoyed more; the characters, the descriptions, or the idea and I found it to be a really good idea told with a refreshing take. A man, Ignatious Perrish (Ig for short), has the love of his life taken from him in a most horrendous manner and rather than a stale or predictable reaction, instead an element is added to throw him off from what one would expect; the horns.

There was a bit of back and forth motion with telling the past and present stories of these people involved, which did throw me at times, but I think that also added to the story because you can read parts of the story from both the point of view of the main character and the bad guy.

I have to say the bad guy is a sick fuck and even though I hated him, even though I enjoyed reading Ig, one of my favourite parts was reading from the P.O.V. of the bad guy.

Another thing too is Ig could have gone in so many directions with those horns, I was expecting certain directions given my imagination, but I’m really glad it didn’t go in any of those. I’m really glad the story ended how it did. It wrapped up well and the only thing left to be desired is a want to spend more time reading the story and getting to know the characters better.

I would love to have spent more time with the character  Ig, but I appreciated being able to read different point of views. Also, when you’ve finished reading a book and you’re wishing you had of been able to read more about a specific character, is it not better to be grateful a character has wormed their way into your afterthoughts instead of lamenting the author not writing more of that character?

I find myself wishing that there was more time spent on Ignatious, but at the same time I’m glad that there isn’t and that the character has intrigued me enough for me to wonder about them afterwards. I think it helps that Ig is not only readable, but given his condition, it makes him more intriguing as well.

That’s another thing I love is, the concept behind everything to do with the horns. I don’t want to go into it and give it away for anyone, not that it will be much of a surprise, but I still love the mythology behind it and the transformation the character goes through because of it. I would love to be able to read more about that or characters experiencing such as that, but I guess I’m going to have to make do with re-reading the book instead.

And one thing too, if you know who his father is, give him the benefit of the doubt and don’t judge what his writing will be like before hand because he is a writer and not his father. I only say this because I’ve known people to pick up the book of someone because they know who that person’s parent (or parents) is and they not only judge, but compare, before they’ve even opened the cover. I think that’s not only slack, but you might end up ruining a story for yourself.

  • Demographic: Dark fiction lovers and maybe people who enjoy devil stories.
  • Genre: Dark fiction
  • Recommended By: My Mum
  • Reminds Me Of: A little bit of Memnoch the Devil, but I can’t divulge why without getting into it. Otherwise it’s not like that story at all.
  • Would I Read More By This Authors?: Yes
  • Rating Out of Five: 4
  • Challenges: N/A