Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Red Rising

Darrow is a Red of Mars, dedicated to slaving away his entire life for the good of the upper echelons of humanity to live on Mars hundreds of years in the future. He mines for an element needed to terraform the planet and lives in poverty with his family and his wife Eo. One day, they are found in a forbidden place, meriting a whipping, but Eo sings a forbidden song sealing her death. Darrow buries her (which is also forbidden) and is executed. He wakes up later to find he was saved in order to do greater things. He is sculpted and tortured to become a Gold, the highest caste of his society. After becoming educated, he is sent into the Academy to become an influential and powerful member of society. Darrow isn't prepared for the Academy, but it will shape him to be the leader needed to bring the Society down and change nit forever.

I honestly thought Red Rising would be a lame Hunger Games rip off, but I was wrong bothers are definite parallels and similarities between the two books, but Red Rising is a wholly different experience. The first half of the book sets up the world, shows who Darrow is at his core, and follows his transformation from Red to Gold. Reds work at hard labor and die uneducated and poor, never being offered any opportunities to rise above their station. Even though he's only 16, Darrow is wise beyond his years. He is a married adult who provides for his family and tries futilely to make their lives better, a victim of a biased system. He is broken after Eo's execution, but struggles to make her rebellion and her dream a reality. He endures the most painful torture in order to move forward with the insane plan. Surprisingly, his Red skills make him quite suited to becoming a Gold. I feel so much for Darrow. He was lied to by all of society and only wanted a good life for his family. The callous treatment by the Golds and the injustices against Reds fuel his hatred and drive him to push through the pain. The beginning of the novel starts a little slow, but delves into deep emotions and politics very early. This is easily an adult novel and only seems to have the YA label because of the age of the main character.

The second half of the novel is the Academy. Darrow thinks that it will be an easy, plush, and purely academic experience. He is incredibly wrong and his introduction is to kill a fellow classmate in order to get into the Academy. Afterwards, they are separated in to Roman deity themed houses and compete to take over every other house. This part of the novel is most like other dystopian novels (Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies), but as I read it, I was so engrossed in the story and the vibrant characters that I never made any of those connections until reflecting on it later. The Proctors don't interfere at all at the beginning, even if students are dying. There are no real rules and the students are left to take each other over in the way they see fit, whether it's morally sound or not. The students are hardened quickly, faced with starvation, death, violence, and rape. Darrow learns a lot about how to become a leader and also makes a great many mistakes. Through all the politics, real friendships and real enemies are made. Darrow's friends and enemies are all richly imagined with their own sense of morality and quirks. My favorite were Pax, a giant of a man who hated Darrow intensely then became great friends, and Mustang, the woman who helped him when he was at his lowest point and gave him some hope in humanity.

Red Rising is an amazing debut novel. The ending made me both excited and outraged at the same time. The plot had crazy twists and turns that I never saw coming. I highly recommend it. The only lament I have is that I read it before it was even released, so I have to wait even longer to devour the next in the series.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

* spoilers *

Violet White and her brother live by themselves in a decaying mansion by the sea. Their parents are flighty artists who have been gone for months on end. Because their money is gone, she decides to put up fliers around town for someone to rent the guest house. A mysterious and attractive stranger named River West comes to stay and chaos almost immediately ensues. Violet's best friend Sunshine sees a monster in a cave. Then a little girl goes missing and the local children are convinced it's the devil that they have to kill with wooden stakes. Violet is already completely infatuated with River even as she suspects him of creating the chaos in the town. Her grandmother warned her against the devil, but never expected him to be so charming.

The cover of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea doesn't do it justice. It looks dark, gothic, and twisted, which it is, but it's more than that. The setting is a sleepy little southern town by the sea. The atmosphere starts as relaxed, kind of like time doesn't matter and days can be spent lazing in the hot sun, drinking iced tea all day. It also has a vintage feel. The Whites don't lock their house at night and watch old movies in the town square with their neighbors, like in bygone eras. All of that changes when River comes to town. Before, people trusted their neighbors and acted friendly. Afterwards, everyone is on their guard and suspicious. The children are super creepy, running around at night with wooden stakes and attacking random people. They refused to go home at night and it was bordering on Children of the Corn with the kids attacking people.

The drastic change in the town also happens with Violet. Before River, she's carefree, trusting, and generally happy. She knows everything in her town and nothing really comes as surprising. The loss of her grandmother and the absence of her parents have affected her, but didn't make her jaded. She seems more determined to get the most out of the little things in life and has a more introspective view of life. After River, she is unhappy and suspicious. She doesn't know what to believe or even if her own feelings are authentic. I found Violet to be likeable until the end, but a bit on the naive, immature side. I liked the way she observed the small thing swithin the people and the world around her. Her falling in love with River was very instalove-y, but it is later shown to be intentional.

My big problem with the novel is River. His personality is fine. He's charming and he's got that rich boy attitude that everything is attainable. He has the power to create illusions and make people do what he wants through touch. He reminds me very much of Loki from the Thor films, creating chaos and causing death wherever he goes. Anyway, he constantly touches Violet and this shows why she becomes so very infatuated with him in such a short amount of time. He basically made her fall in love with him with his power, which is so not ok. Then he goes on to almost rape her in her sleep. This is besides the fact that he forces the town drunk to commit suicide in front of the whole town and he feels absolutely no remorse for it. After that point, he ceases to be even remotely attractive to me with his rapey, murderous, creepy ways. Violet and River's whole relationship reminds me of a woman that loves an abusive man, but can't leave him because she loves him. That's just not a healthy relationship and it makes me feel gross to read it. Ugh.

Although I liked the writing and the setting, River and Violet's attitude towards him ruined the novel for me. I'm ok with bad boys in literature, but there has to be something redeemable about them. The murder and mind rape just make him an awful character that I don't want to read about. I lose respect for Violet for being obsessed with him even after she knows all these horrible things about him. I guess it could just be River's power, but it looks like just another girl trapped in an abusive relationship.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

Friday, December 6, 2013


Ignatius William Perrish is miserable. His girlfriend was murdered and he is the prime suspect. His name will never be cleared due to the lab with the evidence catching fire, so his life remains a torment. One day, he wakes up groggy and hung over after a not-quite-remembered night of drinking, blasphemy, and wallowing in his own misery. He notices he now has horns growing out of his head. Wondering if their a hallucination, he goes in public to see others' reactions and finds that everyone suddenly confides in him their deepest and darkest desires. Plus he can convince them to give in to those horrific desires. Ig decides to use his new found power to find the real murderer and enact revenge.

From page one, Horns is an addicting read. I didn't have any idea what it was about before I read except some guy randomly sprouted horns, but I couldn't put the book down after I started. The situations were so bizarre. People would just start spouting off their deepest, darkest, most sinful desires and secrets as if they talked about them all the time. These are the types of secrets people would never say out loud to anyone and were often disturbing. It was amusing at first, but grew quite serious as Ig encountered the people closest to him and heard their real opinions about him, namely that they all think he's guilty and hate spending time with him except his brother. His power is not easy to control and leaves him vulnerable when faced with his family. With the horns came other powers that showed themselves later on in the book that made it clear he was a modern adaptation of the devil complete with horns, a pitchfork, and snake minions. Despite all this new power, the villain of the novel is formidable, much stronger than anticipated, and also supernatural. I personally think a lot of Ig's bad decision making leads to the villain being so difficult.

I like and dislike the way the story is told. It starts in present day after the murder and goes until he discovers the identity of the true murderer. It's then interrupted by flashbacks to Ig's childhood for a long portion and then hopscotches back and forth from past to present. I like that clues and revelations are doled out slowly and carefully instead of in a rush all at once. However, the fast tempo the book started with was completely destroyed. It took me a long while to warm up to the new story and just as it got really interesting, the narrative again switched to the present. I would have liked it if it started a little slower and built up momentum instead of starting crazy and slamming on the breaks. The only other complaint I have is the ending. Compared to the epicness of the story, it was a little underwhelming and odd.

Horns is a wonderful novel about guilt, love, good and evil, and revenge. My favorite part of the story is the love between Merrin and Ig. We get to see her through past memories and other people's view of her. Their story is beautiful, heartbreaking, and felt the most real among all the supernatural aspects. I am eager to read more books by Joe Hill because his writing is beautifully written and sticks with you long after you've read it.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Favorite Horror Themes Part 2

1) Bram Stoker's Dracula by Wojciech Kilar

This horror theme is epic. The low strings sound powerful at the beginning with the hammering of the piano in the background. It builds drama quickly and works perfectly with the intro of the film, which introduces Dracula when he was alive and his story with Elizabeta. The male choir in the middle of the piece sounds sinister and creepy and then the high soprano comes in with the mournful love theme. Then, the music builds with repetitive rhythms and adding instruments and voices into a huge crescendo, ending with a quiet, but menacing bass ostinato (a phrase that repeats over and over in the same voice). Kilar wrote beautiful and deeply emotional music that reflects the film perfectly.

2) Jaws by John Williams

This theme is incredibly simple, but never fails to instill dread in the viewer. This theme makes the entire film and makes it one of the most suspenseful and scary films I've ever seen. I've seen it countless times and I still jump at parts of it.

3) Psycho by Bernard Hermann

This theme is iconic and quite simple. It's just screeching high violins, but illustrates the scene insanely well. Although this theme is the most famous of the film, the entire soundtrack is amazing and worth listening to. It helps create and maintain the ominous atmosphere at the Bates Motel.

4) The Village by James Newton Howard

I don't enjoy this film, mostly due the poor twist ending, but there's no denying that the score is fantastic. This is my favorite part of it called The Gravel Road. The sweeping violin lines, the sparse arrangement, and the constant movement of the background instruments make for a beautiful atmosphere. The soundtrack definitely outshines the film.

5) Lady Vengeance by Choi Seung-Hyun

This whole soundtrack is simply gorgeous. It features newly composed music in a baroque style that goes well with the elegance and beauty of the film's cinematography. Harpsichord isn't a typical instrument and it adds something special to music.

What are your favorite film themes?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Through the Zombie Glass

Alice is getting used to the new world she has been thrust into with zombie, violence, and magic. She's lost family and friends along the way and is still healing. Then a zombie attack turns her world upside down once again. Mirrors come to life and a sinister voice whispers in her ear. She has the urge to do terrible, zombie-like things like bite her friends. Just when she needs her bad boy boyfriend Cole most, he pulls away because she has visions of the future with another guy. With her best friend Kat at her side, Alice must beat the darkness inside her, fight the zombies, and foil her human enemies' plans.

I was not a huge fan of Alice in Zombieland, but I had already had the sequel, so I figured I should just read it. I still like Gena Showalter's prose. The book moves very quickly and does keep my attention. However, there are just so many annoying elements to the story. I still don't like the type of zombies, which attack the spirit/soul of people, making a usually cool monster into a weird religious metaphor. Please label your Christian fiction as such so I don't mistake it for something I might actually want to read. The religious zombie metaphor holds true in the "darkness inside" plotline. Alice is bitten by a zombie and suddenly has to battle her inner Zombie Alice that wants to eat and kill people. Her main urges to do evil just happen to coincide with make out sessions with her boyfriend. Really? This is literally demonizing female sexuality by showing that temptation to have sex before marriage is turning her into a soul eating monster. I just shake my head. Male sexuality isn't seen as terrible and many of the male characters are experienced.

I hated Alice's little sister showing up all the time like a guardian angel and acting as a deus ex machina when it was convenient. I just found it to be lazy writing and really annoying to read. Cole pulls an Edward Cullen from New Moon and is in full douchebag mode for most of the book. Alice's visions of the future are still not explained at all, but are happening with a new guy as another lazy plot device to pull them apart and then stick them back together. The human villains are one dimensional and a stark black to the zombie hunters' white. The lack of shades of grey is what most bothers me about these books. Everything is either good or evil, with absolutely nothing in between and there is no questioning how things are. The shades of grey are what make life interesting and to show a world where there are only 2 extremes just doesn't excite me as a reader.

Overall, I did not enjoy Through the Zombie Glass. The religious aspects are too obvious for me and show a view of a world in two extremes. I won't be continuing the series.

My rating: 1/5 fishmuffins

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Wrap-Up

I did pretty well this read-a-thon! Here's what I read:

* The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (reviewed)
* The Queen is Dead by Kate Locke (reviewed)
* White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (gave up on at about page 150)
* The Shining by Stephen King
* Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters
* American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (still reading at page 180)

This was super fun and really motivated me to read this month. I enjoyed just about all of them and reviews for the The Shining, Bedbugs, and American Psycho should be up this month.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Susan and Alex Wendt have found the most perfect apartment: in Brooklyn Heights, 1300 square feet, 2 bedroom, 2 bath, top two floors of a beautiful brownstone, and recently renovated. The price is crazy low and is totally worth having a weird landlady with a creepy handyman and an odd fixation with the basement. The couple moves in with their daughter and everything is fine at first. Then everything starts to crumble. First Susan finds out a kitten died in her apartment, leaving a horrible smell. Then the bites come. She's absolutely convinced they have bedbugs, despite the rest of her family being bite free and an exterminator examining the house and reporting no bedbugs. Her mental health deteriorates as she becomes obsessed with the bugs, researching ways to get rid of them, covering their house with dirt to deter them, itching, and becoming increasingly covered in bites. Are the bugs real or are they all in Susan's mind?

Bedbugs is a very fast read that packs a punch and goes places I didn't expect. Susan Wendt used to be a high powered lawyer, but gave it up to focus on her art. I didn't really like her for most of the book because she claimed to want to do art and then spent all of her time on errands, chores, and generally agonizing over unnecessary things. She is high strung and quick to freak out about random things, so I personally thought the bugs were going to be all in her head. She treats people she views as subservient to her pretty badly, especially the nanny, and that never reflects well on people. The financial problems put a strain on her relationship with Alex, a photographer who want to return to art photography, but has to support their family. By paying an unnecessary nanny an exorbitant amount plus pushing to move to a more expensive location, Susan doesn't help matters and is combative instead of supportive to her stressed husband. This all before the bedbugs even come to light, but establishes Susan as not a very sympathetic figure.

Then the bedbugs come in. Just reading about them made me paranoid and itchy. Yuck. They are gross creepy crawlies that I hope I never encounter. After she starts freaking out over bedbugs, Susan becomes marginally more sympathetic than before. She freaked out really early about them before she even saw signs, which was weird. Plus when she researched them and read something about badbugs (bedbugs from hell), she believed it! How gullible is she? The solution to get rid of the bugs according to the book is just psycho and she attempts it. After that point, I felt sympathetic towards her. I think she was insufferable through most of the novel and it would have been nice to feel for her a little before the ending. I kept reading because I was curious where the novel was going rather than caring what happened to Susan.

Bedbugs is a fun horror novel. I read it within a few hours and the momentum really builds well. Although I really disliked Susan, the story and side characters were interesting and kept me turning the pages. The ending has a bit of a twist and I never saw it coming.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Shining

Jack Torrance is a recovering alcoholic, desperate for a new start. He drove drunk regularly, drank heavily daily, and was encouraged by his alcoholic best friend. Two events changed his life: breaking his son's arm in a drunken rage and hitting what turned out to be just a bike on the highway with his best friend. Now he's on the straight and narrow. Jack, his son Danny, and his wife Wendy move into the historical and grand Overlook Hotel for the winter to act as caretaker, running the heat, doing maintenance, and making sure the hotel can open easily in the spring. The hotel has other plans and mysterious things start happening. At first, the happenings are relatively harmless, presenting as horrific visions, but soon, the visions give way to violence and horror. Can the family escape the hotel before it's too late or will they perish in the Overlook Hotel?

I know the story of The Shining very well. I first read it when I was about 10 or 12 years old and I remember absolutely loving it. Afterwards, I saw the various film adaptations and the story is still creepy and effective. This is the first time I read it as an adult and parts of it still hold up. It's one of the few ghost stories I like. It doesn't bring in religion (which is a pet peeve of mine as few of them are done well). It focuses on real life problems through the supernatural and the struggle of good versus evil. The Torrance family never really talks about their problems at all. It's the big elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge. Poor Danny doesn't know what's going on frequently with the situation with his family, reading peoples thoughts, seeing horrific images around the hotel, and finally being attacked by the apparitions. The only way they actually mention anything about Jack's drinking or anger problems are after the supernatural phenomena are present. It allows the family to unite (for a time) and address their problems. Jack Torrance is an interesting and deeply flawed character. He has a drinking problem and anger management issues, but he's a good person at heart. He cares for his family and wants to succeed for them. This job at the hotel is his last chance at success. The hotel exploits his flaws and turns him in to a literal monster, tragically destroying any humanity left in him.

The Shining has a lot of flaws that I didn't notice when I was younger. The writing is mostly good. King writes characters well and gives them little habits and quirks to make them memorable. However, the descriptions of everything and delving into every single detail of the characters' pasts just grew tedious. I wanted to move forward with the story instead of constantly revisiting the same past events through different perspectives. There was a lot of telling rather than showing. The reader can make connections in the text without it being explicitly stated and I felt that it was overkill to do so. I also had issues with Wendy and her choice to stay with Jack after he broke Danny's arm and beat a student rather severely. Her passivity and willingness to stay with Jack despite huge red flags simply disgusted me. Her reasons for staying were rather selfish, centering around not wanting to live with her mother and show that she failed rather than thinking about saving herself and her son from abuse.

The Shining is a good novel that I enjoyed. Parts of it dragged along and the writing was not always engaging, but the overall story and characters make the novel a classic that will continue to be popular for years to come. I hope the sequel Doctor Sleep is as good as, if not better, than the original.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

Friday, October 18, 2013

Curse of Chucky

Nica lives with her mother and has been paralyzed since birth. She receives a mysterious package with a weird doll in it and thinks nothing of it. That night, her mother dies in a horrible accident. Her family visits for the funeral and stays with her for "support," including her sister Barb, her brother in law Ian, their 5 year old daughter, their nanny, and the priest who presided over the ceremony. As the night goes on, a storm brews and worsens, causing spotty power outages. Then people are found dead by mysterious circumstances one by one. Nica soon figures out who the murderer is, but the real challenge is getting the others to listen to her before it's too late.

Curse of Chucky is a complete turnaround in tone from the last few films. Bride and Seed of Chucky both focused on humor over horror and Chucky stopped really being scary. This film changes all that and makes an effort to create a creepy atmosphere and instill horror in the viewer again. The creepy historical house in the middle of a thunderstorm at night is the perfect setting for any creepy story. Suspense is built and maintained successfully, making this the scariest Chucky movie in years. Even the way Chucky approaches things contributes to the mood. He isn't seen moving around or speaking until about well into the film, making the viewer guess when he will decide to reveal himself. Nica's disability also makes Chucky more of a threat. She can't just kick him across the room and when the power goes out, her mobility is seriously hindered without the elevator to take her wheelchair between floors. Chucky is back to being a true monster instead of a laughable creature. It brought back memories of when I was a kid and I got rid of all my plastic dolls because I was totally frightened of him.

Nica is my favorite character of the film. She's the most sensible character and very self reliant. I grew frustrated as her family tried to push her into an assisted living home she didn't need in an effort to sell the house and collect the money. They viewed her disability as a weakness to be exploited and made efforts to insult and demean every aspect of her life. Nica is quick to act and doesn't make too many mistakes in her fight with Chucky. Fiona Dourif is admirable in the role and brings a genuine character that the viewer can actually sympathize with and root for. So many slasher films only have two dimensional characters that are only amusing during their horrific death scenes.

The film did have some flaws. There were a few too many cliches and expected scenes. There were a few small surprises, but fit in a little too well with typical horror movie tropes. Some of the acting was atrocious and over the top. The build up went on a little too long for my taste, especially when the reveal is well known to the audience. Suspense is only built up to a point and then annoyance sets in when he will be revealed as the killer.The CGI is terrible and probably shouldn't have been used at all if the quality was going to be so low. Chucky's face changes way too much throughout the film in the new state as if the filmmakers couldn't decide on a consistent look. The pros outweigh the cons and overall, the film was enjoyable.

Curse of Chucky stands as a sort of hybrid reboot and sequel to the franchise. This is also shown in the film when Chucky sheds his new face to reveal the scarred, old one hidden underneath. It acknowledges the past films and advances in a new direction. A bit of Chucky's past is filled in while moving forward with the story and setting a darker tone more focused on horror for future films. I don't know why this film was direct to DVD since Seed of Chucky was such a godawful mess and released in theaters. Hopefully, this new imagining of Chucky will spawn better, scarier films for the franchise in the future.

My rating: 6/10 fishmuffins

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wonderfully Wicked Challenge: Acrostic

For the Wonderfully Wicked challenge at the Happy Booker, I created this acrostic based on Stephen King's The Shining. The Overlook is the haunted hotel that Jack Torrance takes his family to for the winter.

Once Jack was an angry, out of control drunk.
Violent accident led him to change his ways.
Everyone still looks at him with pity and disdain.
Redemption lies in the position as caretaker at the Overlook Hotel for the winter.
Laughter and fun fill the halls at first.
One day the bar was full and Jack was thirsty.
Of course all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
Kid needs to take his medicine like a man, muses Jack.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Progress

I've now read over half of the books I listed for the read-a-thon! Here is my progress so far:

* 10/13 - finished The Evolution of Mara Dyer (reviewed)

* 10/14 - started and finished The Queen is Dead

* 10/15 - started White is for Witching

* 10/16 - gave up on White is for Witching after 150 pages, started The Shining

4 more days! It isn't to late to sign up if you want to get in more spooky reads.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Queen is Dead

Xandra Vardan recently discovered she is not only a goblin, but their queen. As a result, her world is thrown into turmoil. Her family has thrown her out and people are terrified of her, humans, halvies, and aristos alike. Various factions try to gain her favor because whoever has the goblins on their side has a distinct advantage over the others. Xandra doesn't even know if she wants to be the goblin's leader or what faction, if any, she wants to align with. The only constants in her life are Vex, her werewolf boyfriend, and the goblin plague, most of them loyal and there to support her. In addition to all the other things complicating her life, her brother Val is nowhere to be found.  Xandra must use all her resources to find out where her brother is before it's too late.

I officially love this series. The first book in the series is good, but the second books in series can really suffer because it's setting up to the final book. Xandra is a fun protagonist. Her observations and unique curses make me laugh and make her very endearing. She is a little annoying with wishy-washiness about whether to accept the goblin queen crown and fully accept who she is. I give her a bit of a pass because she has to relearn everything she knows about herself and her world. The people she relied on and knew in her previous life now regard her as savage and untrustworthy. Every faction both fears her and longs for the power she wields. She's grown a lot since the last book, but she's still growing into her newfound physical and political power despite her reluctance. I enjoyed reading about her journey even if there were a few missteps.

The only people who are true constants in her life are her boyfriend Vex and the goblins. Vex McLaughlin is the alpha of a werewolf pack, but doesn't fall into the stereotypical roles he would usually be put in. He is no way misogynistic, controlling, or dickish, the rare werewolf that is satisfied being strong without belittling those around him. He treats Xandra as an equal and expresses no interest in using her for her power as goblin queen. I love that he is frank about his emotions and intentions. No drama, no bullshit. He supports her unconditionally and doesn't try to force her to do anything. The goblins are known to everyone as savage monsters that eat babies. They are shown to be as varied as any person and just as intelligent. Xandra grows closer to them and finds that she's not so different from them. They come to be her family as she gets used to their odd looks and customs.

 The Queen is Dead is amazing: fast paced, action packed, and chock full of interesting story lines. The alternative England is delightful and explored a little more than the previous book. I can't wait to see what's in store for these characters. The next book can't come fast enough!

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Monday, October 14, 2013

Horror Movie Mini-Reviews: Trapped in a Room Edition Part 2

More trapped in a room horror movie reviews.

* Would You Rather

Iris is becoming desperate because her little brother is dying of cancer. Their parents died and they are barely hanging on financially, so they can't afford his necessary surgery and treatments. Enter Shepard Lambrick, rich philanthropist who invites her to compete for the funds. The competition turns out to be a sadistic game where the competitors are stabbed, beaten, and killed until only one remains. This film was middle of the road for me. The concept is interesting, but the challenges in the first and second round were quite repetitive, becoming kind of boring after a while. The possibilities were endless and the actual challenges didn't get surprising until the third round. Jeffrey Combs plays Lambrick and killed the performance. He was sardonic, casual, and cool as a cucumber while the contestants were shocked and obviously distressed. The ending was predictable, but had a big impact.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

* Grave Encounters

This is a bit of a departure from all the other films. It's more of a trapped in a building rather than a room. A Ghosthunters type TV crew locks themselves in a haunted insane asylum for a night to tape an episode of their show. The taping doesn't go as planned and weird stuff starts happening after dark: things moving by themselves, crew members go missing, and unexplainable things start happening. First of all, why would you really lock yourself in an abandoned building with no electricity? That's just an accident waiting to happen. You tell the audience that, but you leave the building unlocked to make sure everyone is safe. Beyond that, it was a pretty creepy movie. The found footage style has been done to death, but this was a decent film. As the film goes on, the crew loses sense of time, their electronics stop working, and they don't know what's real anymore. The asylum becomes endless and disorienting. Too many jump scares are used for my tasted, but other than that, a creepy, atmospheric film.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins

* Bad Kids Go to Hell

A bad boy expelled from an exclusive school is determined to gain entry back by attending eight hourse worth of weekend detention with other offenders: the awkward nerd, the jock, the mischievous goth girl, the overachiever, and the queen bee. The principal (ironically played by Judd Nelson) takes away their electronics and locks them in the library. Then the kids start dying one by one as the others frantically try to find a way out. This film was surprisingly fun! Based on the cover and the dubious plot, I figured I would be rolling my eyes and turning it off about half way through. I was wrong. It's a great dark comedy, kind of a twisted Breakfast Club. It's ridiculous and over the top, but strangely endearing. It's worth a watch.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Favorite Horror Film Themes Part 1

I love horror films and so many of them have classic, instantly recognizable themes. They also set the mood of the film and give the viewer the feeling of suspense and dread. Here are my favorites!

1) Halloween theme by John Carpenter

This theme is deceptively simple. It's essentially the same pattern repeated over and over, but the treble pattern with the slower bass line really creates an air of tension. Just hearing the theme gives me an ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach. The music is also what makes the film so effective. It isn't very gory and doesn't have a lot of jump scares, so it relies on suspense and the music is what creates a lot of that mood.

2) Ave Satani from the Omen by Jerry Goldsmith

The Ave Satani is one of the most creepy sounding pieces of music I've ever heard. It just makes my stomach drop with dread. Fun story: my sister requested I have this as her ringtone when she calls me and she called me when I was rehearsing with my flute trio. I was just going to keep going through the piece and wait to call her back, but the other girls were so freaked out they stopped and had to know where the music was coming from. This piece is amazing. The full orchestra with the choir work well together and sounds like a twisted, warped version of classical sacred music.

3) The Descent theme by David Julyan

The theme from The Descent isn't like the others in this list. It doesn't cause tension or dread. It's actually quite serene and relaxing to listen to. The mix of strings and horns is beautiful, but once the low brass comes in, there is a dark undercurrent that ruins the consonance of the instruments. It's a bit unsettling, but not overly so and lets you know that ending is not as much of a relief as it appears. The score for the whole film is ambient music at its best, but I could just listen to this track over and over again.

4) The Nightmare on Elm Street theme by Charles Bernstein

This theme is admittedly a bit dated, but the use of synthesizers in no way lessens the unsettling feeling. The beginning just builds tension with extended high pitches that go from consonant to dissonant and back until that creepy, mocking children's theme comes in. Then the theme comes in earnest with dashes of that mocking children's theme. I heard this theme in one of the scare zones at Knott's Halloween Haunt and I was immediately looking around for monsters and uneasy. It was odd to hear it there since there was no other Freddy related things during the event, but it was certainly effective in that scare zone.

5) Helen's theme from Candyman by Philip Glass

Philip Glass uses his classical style and his minimalist technique to provide the perfect ambience for the Candyman film. It has such an innocent but melancholy music box sound. It illustrates Helen and the Candyman's shared plight as tragic figures, one succeeding the other. This one is also not scary or tense, but it's memorable and focuses on the more subtle themes of the film, not painting the Candyman as a flat villain.

What are your favorite horror film themes?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Evolution of Mara Dyer

Mara Dyer believes her ex-boyfriend Jude, who supposedly died in a building collapse, is alive, well, and stalking her. She wakes up in a mental hospital after having gone to the police station to confess all her crazy sounding crimes, including causing the building to collapse with her thoughts. Her doctors and her parents think she's delusional, paranoid, and a danger to herself and possibly others. Her goal is to lie and appear normal to everyone in order to stay home and protect her family from Jude's attacks. Her boyfriend Noah struggles to help her, but can't be everywhere at once. As the harassment from Jude escalates, Mara is under more and more stress. She sleepwalks, loses time, and doesn't remember events. Is she really crazy or is her dead ex-boyfriend really after her?

I loved the first Mara Dyer book and I'm happy to report that the second book is just as good. It has a lot of elements I liked from the first book: the unreliable narrator and the mix of reality and fantasy. Mara doesn't have the PTSD hallucinations that she did in the last book, but she has a host of other problems now. She sleepwalks, doing things she doesn't remember. It throws her whole world into chaos. She has no idea if she actually did something or if it was Jude's harassment. It could be that she really is crazy since there is no hard evidence of Jude's existence and almost everyone in her life continually telling her she's overreacting and nothing is wrong. I like that uncertainty and the feeling that Michelle Hodkin can just pull out the rug on everything we think we know about the story. The mix of reality and fantasy works very well. Mara does have some psychological problems and has to go to outpatient therapy for most of the day, five days a week. She has do deal with real world things like not getting permanently committed to an institution, appeasing her parents, and appearing normal to those around her. So many other teen books remove the real world when things like supernatural powers come into play, but Mara desperately needs to conform to normal society in order to save herself and her loved ones.

Some things improved since the last book, mainly Noah and their love story. In the last book, he was tolerable, but I didn't like him because of his cliche bad boy image. In this book, much more is revealed about his character and why he acts like he does. His defense mechanism is to act like an asshole and push people away or act uncaring when he really does care. After this was revealed, it was easy to read who he really was behind that tough exterior. I grew to like him over the course of the book because he seemed much less mercurial and showed he was dedicated to Mara, even if he disagrees with some of her choices. Their scenes together were sweet and much less fraught with drama in the face of all their other problems. Their romance also wasn't the main focus of the novel as it was in the last book. I felt it was integrated into the rest of the plot well without overshadowing the main conflict.

My only problem with the book is that the pacing dragged a little in the middle and its similarity to the Jenny Pox series. I hope the big reveal goes in a different direction than that series, but the powers, the flashbacks into previous lives, and the relationships are quite similar. Overall, I loved The Evolution of Mara Dyer and the 500+ pages just flew by. I can't wait for the last book in the series.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Friday, October 11, 2013

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon

More spooky read-a-thons! I need to be motivated to read more spooky reads, so I am participating in yet another read-a-thon. This one is called Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon and is run by My Shelf Confessions. It runs from Octover 11th to October 20th and has some fun challenges to participate in. Here are the books I am planning to read:

* The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
* The Queen is Dead by Kate Locke
* White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
* The Shining by Stephen King
* Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters
* American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

I hope to read all these by the end of October even if I don't ready them all by the 20th. What spooky reads do you want to read this month?

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Josie Byrne's life is spinning out of control. Her parents are separated and her father just moved out. She discovered her boyfriend cheating with her best friend and everyone at school is talking about it, effectively making her a social outcast. She also lost her job because she passed out waiting for a train to pass. With everything in a downward spiral, Josie becomes excited when she sees visions of an alternate version of herself and finally sees that other Josie (called Jo) in the mirror at 3:59 am and pm every day. They pass each other notes through the portal and quickly decide to switch places for day, leaving cheat sheets so they will fit in to the other's role.The alternate world isn't as good as it seemed. Although Jo is rich and privileged, she has no friends, no boyfriend, and lives in a world plagued with horrific creatures. Then Jo doesn't want to switch back and Josie is stranded alone in an alien world.

I had read Gretchen McNeil's other two books (Possess and Ten) and I just wasn't a big fan. I decided to give her another try and I'm glad I did. 3:59 has unexpected surprises and goes beyond tired tropes. Josie is an enjoyable protagonist. She's interested in science and she actually talks about different theories and problems. A lot of other books add something like that and then don't follow through with showing the character doing anything that that subject they supposedly like. She was a little preoccupied with what everyone else thought of her, but that's high school. Her life as she knew it was falling apart around her and she was doing what she could to hold herself together. In the other world, she has to more than that: navigate a hazardous world with completely new rules and figure out an alternate way home. The double cast of characters is a bit complex and allows Gretchen McNeil to make large or small changes to the characters. It's a feat to create well rounded characters and a much more difficult one to make equally fleshed out dopplegangers.

3:59 is a wonderful mix of many genres: romance, adventure, science fiction, horror, and mystery. It has something everyone can enjoy. The romance elements were just right: significant without overpowering the story. The science fiction was more technical than it would usually be at a teen level and I enjoyed it. It had me questioning the scientific theories and how much of it was based in reality. I loved the horror aspect with the Nox, which are invisible flying monsters that eat people. Some scenes were surprisingly gory. I did not expect anything like these creatures and they are pretty scary. The plot had some serious twists and turns that actually surprised me and kept me guessing until the end. The only issue I really had with the book was one bothersome scene where Josie and her boyfriend survive a Nox attack and start making out next to a mutilated body (which they knew was there). Another similar scene was when they discover more mutilated corpses, Josie finds it an appropriate time to make a confession about the boyfriend from her world. How is that in any way relevant when one of friends is dead in front of you? These two scenes came of as incredibly insensitive and in bad taste.

3:59 is a fun read with complex concepts and a double cast of characters. The book went to fast, I was a little surprised when I got the end of it. Gretchen McNeil has a talent for sucking the reader into her story and controlling the tempo of the story. I can't wait for her next book, Don't Get Mad.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Internet Awesomeness: Horror Edition

* Sharon Needles - Call Me on the Oujia Board

Sharon Needles was the winner of the 4th season of RuPaul's Drag Race and wowed the judges and viewers with her dark, horror inspired look and quirky personality. She stays true to her roots with this super catchy song and video that references numerous horror films: The Omen, Poltergeist, The Bad Seed, The Exorcist, Children of the Corn, and It. The song is dancey and upbeat, which appeals to wider audience, while still having her signature style. I especially love the Pennywise outfit at the end.

* Carrie Prank

To market the new Carrie remake, MGM and Screen Gems orchestrated a prank to shock New York coffee shop customers. A girl seems to have telekinetic powers and wrecks havoc after a guy spills coffee on her laptop. The prank is fairly elaborate and looks realistic, using spring loaded pictures and books, remote control tables and chairs, and an impressive stunt. It could be put on a movie screen and look quite impressive. The reactions of the patrons are priceless.

* Rasputina - Transylvanian Concubine

I first heard this song as Drusilla danced to it on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It has a deliciously dark sound thanks to the cellos and captures the allure and danger of vampirism well.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Horror Movie Mini-Reviews: Trapped in a Room Edition Part 1

I watched a lot of films in the last month or so where a group of people are stuck in a room (or building). After Saw, this horror film trope has gotten way out of hand. Some of the films are excellent and some are just awful.

* Exam

Eight people vying for the same desirable corporate job have made it to the last round of selection. They are placed in the same room and asked to answer one question. There are a few rules: don't talk to the armed guard or the Invigilator; don't leave the room; and don't spoil their paper. The paper, however, is blank except for their candidate number. The entire film takes place in one room as the nameless candidates try to figure out what the question is. This world is an alternate history where a viral pandemic ravaged the world and this company produced a cure for the disease. I like that there is still a sense of the world inside this one room. These candidates try everything they can think of to find the question in addition to trying to get others out of the competition. The characters range from the most ruthless to the compassionate in their decisions to move forward. The answer is so simple that it's overlooked. I enjoyed this film and felt it was the best of this list.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

* Nine Dead

Nine strangers find themselves chained up in a room. A masked man tells them to figure out how they are all connected or die. Every ten minutes, he will ask why they are here and someone will die if they can't answer. The people range from a high powered lawyer to petty criminals and have seemingly nothing in common at all. They have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to survive. . Everyone there was guilty and did something wrong, whether it be big or small, that led to a tragic event they barely noticed. At first, it's all screaming at each other and hurling insults, but after a couple people die, they start to confess the horrible things they have done. I really liked this film because it was an interesting mystery that kept my attention throughout. The ending was awful and kind of ruined the film even though it was only the last 5 minutes. I removed a whole fishmuffin because it was so unbelievably bad.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

* Vile

A group of friends give a hitchhiker a ride to her car, only to get gassed and kidnapped. They wake up in a room with tubes installed leading from their brains to vials at the base of their necks. A scientist needs fluids from their brains that are only produced by being in extreme pain. They have 22 hours to produce the amount she needs or they will all die. Then torture, backstabbing, and lots of pain ensues. I wasn't a huge fan of this movie. It had a lot of logistical problems. Pain isn't just one initial sensation. It continues after the initial injury especially if it's a burn and should thus produce the fluid the psycho scientist needs. The film was really just to show a lot of torture for no real reason. Not the best.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Tana woke up from a party confused and in a bathtub. She didn't remember much from the night before except the drinking and her ex being a jerk. Instead of finding her sleeping friends, she find them slaughtered because of a vampire attack except for her ex-boyfriend, who has been infected, and a chained up vampire. Tana lives in a world where most vampires are walled up in Coldtowns across the nation, but some still roam free, feasting on humans. The only way to save the two boys is to take them to the nearest Coldtown, but once anyone enters, no one can leave. Tana may also be infected, so she'll stay there a while to save her family in case she is, but will she ever be able to return home?

I haven't read anything about vampires for a while because I was burnt out. There are a lot of good series, but the market is extremely oversaturated. My return to the genre could not have been better. Holly Black wrote a vampire book that explores what it is to be human and more than just a vapid romance. The vampires here are beautiful, but dangerous creatures. Their beauty and their reality shows about their glamorous lifestyle keeps the public romanticizing them and has plenty of young people trying to enter Coldtowns to either become vampires or allow themselves to be used by them. However, the atrocities committed by creatures is in the news everyday: attacks, mass murders, and disappearances. Disappearances are normal, although still traumatic, and have become just another part of living with vampires. Their loved ones may never know what happened to them. In short, this novel portrays a realistic view of how vampires would be both feared and worshipped in this dystopian world.

I love the characters, even the ones I hate. Tana is awesome and her own person. She avoids being all the tropes and feels completely real. She feels guilt over surviving when all her friends died and for her mother's death without being emo and annoying. Her pain isn't for attention or some badge of honor. What motivates her is doing what she feels is right and protecting those she loves. Her compassion leads her to make some foolish decisions, but ultimately proves to be worth while. I also like that she has no interest in becoming a vampire and sees beyond the facade of glamour and riches that vampires typically exude. Gavriel is a compelling character with a mysterious past. This vampire is kind of crazy and has a roundabout way of saying things that sound insane at first, but make sense when you think about it for a while. He is still quite dangerous and definitely has his own agenda, but he's oddly endearing. All of the characters, even ones that could have been small throwaways, are fleshed out and vividly written.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is one of my favorite vampire reads. The story is amazing and ignores the tired tropes of the genre. Although there is a slight bit of romance, it in no way overpowers the story. I had to find out what happened and found myself staying up way too late and forgetting to do things to read more. Holly Black writes the best books in each genre she writes in and I will read anything she writes.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Frightfall Read-a-thon Wrap-up!

This Frightfall Read-a-thon was awesome! These are the books I read:

* Asylum by Madeleine Roux - reviewed
* The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman - reviewed
* The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black - amazing! Love, love, loved it!
* 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil - I've only read 50 pages and it's intriguing so far.

This was a great read-a-thon! I got a lot of reading done and all of the reads were exceptional. :)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

New and Upcoming Horror Projects

I can't wait for these to release!

* Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

The sequel to Ms. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will come out January 14, 2014. I enjoyed the first book and I look forward to new vintage photos and creepy stories. Here's the description from Amazon:

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.

* The Dead and Empty World by Carrie Ryan

Carrie Ryan announced today that her newest edition to The Forest of Hands and Teeth world: a collection of short stories. It's for sale NOW on Amazon for the ridiculously low price of $2.99. I'm so excited for this! The world she created with that series is one of the best out there and I can't wait to get back there. Here's what she has to say about it on her blog:

"...I began writing short stories set in the same world as The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Some of them I used to explore characters from the books (Sister Tabitha in the story “Hare Moon”) and some of them I used to play out my worst nightmares (being stuck in a life raft with someone who’d been bitten as in “Flotsam & Jetsam”). In many I tested out escape plans to determine whether they’d be successful (“A Game of Firsts” and “Bougainvillea”) and in some I just wanted to know how to build a life in a terrible world (“Scenic Route”). The Dead and Empty World represents my own struggle to determine what it means to do more that simply survive – but to actually live life despite the obstacles – dead or alive – that stand in the way.

* Birth of the Living Dead film

This is a documentary about the making of George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. It was made on a shoe string budget and they created horror movie history. The film will be released October 18th in theaters.

"In 1968 a young college drop-out named George A. Romero directed "Night of the Living Dead," a low budget horror film that shocked the world, became an icon of the counterculture, and spawned a zombie industry worth billions of dollars that continues to this day.

"Birth of the Living Dead," a new documentary, shows how Romero gathered an unlikely team of Pittsburghers — policemen, iron workers, teachers, ad-men, housewives and a roller-rink owner — to shoot, with a revolutionary guerrilla, run-and-gun style, his seminal film. During that process Romero and his team created an entirely new and horribly chilling monster -- one that was undead and feasted upon human flesh.

This new documentary also immerses audiences into the singular time in which "Night" was shot. Archival footage of the horrors of Vietnam and racial violence at home combined with iconic music from the 60s invites viewers to experience how Romero's tumultuous film reflected this period in American history. "Birth of the Living Dead" shows us how this young filmmaker created a world-renowned horror film that was also a profound insight into how our society really works."

Any new or upcoming horror projects that you are excited for?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Knott's Halloween Haunt

My sister convinced me to go the Knott's Halloween Haunt with her this year, which features thousands of actors dressed as monsters to provide chills and thrills plus 12 different themed mazes. This is, of course, in addition to the rides, shows, and other attractions. I don't like people jumping out and scaring me. I'm skittish and easily startled. I did surprisingly well and went through all the mazes except for one that cost extra money to go through because my sister shelled out the extra $60 to get front of the line passes. Totally worth it!

The Good

* The Forevermore maze was one of my favorites because it was based off the magnificent and timeless works of Edgar Allan Poe. A murderer kills people in the manner of his favorite Poe stories, ranging from The Cask of Amontillado to Rue Morgue to The Telltale Heart. In the line, videos of news stories detailing the notorious actions of the murderer are on display. In some rooms, an ominous, an ominous voice recited the poems that were the focus of the room. It just added to the creepy atmosphere. Even the bird masked people were kind of creepy. One even threatened to peck my eyes out. The tableau were people are tarred, feathered, and posed on a table was the crowning moment of the maze. Some minor disappointments were the Masque of the Red Death room where zombies danced unenthusiastically with bad techno music (the video is actually much better than what I saw) and the Cask of Amontillado where no one was getting bricked up.

* The End Games maze is a cross between Hellraiser and Mad Max. The loud metal music got annoying after a while, but the gory visuals made it worth it. It's probably the bloodiest maze at the park. The giant creatures in cages plus the stone giant at the end were amazing. The detail on them and the obvious care that went into making them was unparalleled. This maze has the best ambiance. Even the metal music contributed to it and the set was probably the best crafted one.

* Trick or Treat is a fun maze that features a twisted version of childhood Halloween. There's the witches, deranged trick or treaters, creepy clowns, a macabre dinner part of corpses, and a general atmosphere of Halloween. I found it charming and fun. It was the first maze of the night and I was really tense, so this one got me to loosen up and enjoy the sights and sounds of Halloween.

* Dominion of the Damned is a vampire themed maze that shows the regal, cultured version of vampires. Although the actors mostly looked snooty and aloof, the set of the maze and the music are what made it for me. At the beginning, a charming Renfield tries to feed us to his carnivorous plants, but is foiled by his angry master. We then go into the house, adorned with beautiful paintings and playing ominous music. My favorite room is the one with the living statues. One stays still until you pass her and then lunges at you like you blinked at a weeping angel. The coffin room has a change of music from purely instrumental to mournfully operatic and had some good scares. I like when I don't know where the person is going to come from instead of seeing them coming from a mile away.

* Delirium was another well done maze. The disgusting mouth huge creature thing when you walk in sets the tone. The hallway where the walls come in on you and billow around you built suspense as to what was beyond that wall. I love the tableaus with the children and the bugs or the monster under the bed. The sounds were awesome: the buzzing flies, the garbled speaking, the discordant music, and the sinister whispers.

The Bad

* Most of the makeup and masks were just not very well done. When you get up close, it ruins the illusion. The darkness of the park and the mazes helped, but didn't obscure the fact that the masks look super fake and most of the makeup isn't very detailed. The actors tend to lose interest in you after the initial scare and that also affects the illusion. I like the actors that are in character all the time and creep after you even after the jump scare.

* Mirror Mirror is a maze entirely comprised of mirrors. It's much smaller than all of the other mazes and only has 2 actors in it. The mirrors were cool, but not very disorienting. The actors just walked around ominously and I just didn't find them scary. This video was much better in that the actors actually interacted with the public, not like when I went. Halfway through the maze, the lights turned strobe, which again looked kind of cool in the mirrors but was not in any way scary. The line was quite long because only one party goes in at a time and the walk through wasn't worth the wait. It also didn't help that the most annoying group of high schoolers were behind us pushing, shoving, and generally being extremely annoying.

* The Witch's Keep is the Calico Mine ride with a few witch themed props thrown in with narration. Boring and also not worth the wait. It was nice to sit down for a while after being on my feet all day though.

* Gunslinger's Grave wasn't scary at all. Judging by the title, I thought it was going to be outlaw zombies or some such thing. Alas, it was just random cowboys walking around and demanding my purse. I just said no and went on my way. There were no monsters and the maze as a whole was disappointing. The only part I liked was the saloon style Mad World played on the piano.

* Uncle Willy's BBQ Slaughterhouse was a maze I was excited for because I enjoy bloody stories of cannibalism. The maze didn't deliver. It wasn't bloody; it wasn't scary; and the body props looked extremely fake.

What are your favorite Halloween theme park events? Any favorite mazes or shows?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Waking Dark

The city of Oleander, Kansas is just a sleepy, rural town with god-fearing Christians and high morals. Then the killing day happens. Five people murdered twelve people and then killed themselves, except one attempted suicide but survived. The survivor has no memory of having killed anyone and why she did it. About a year goes by and then a huge tornado hits the town after a lot of healing and grief. The government comes and sets up a perimeter, allowing none to pass due to a toxic leak nearby. There is no word on when they will be allowed to leave and no one comes in except to ship in food and supplies. The town slowly descends into madness, where the laws mean nothing and only their raw impulses matter. Five teens who are survivors of the killing day are the only force fighting for sanity in the town. The only alternative is death at this point, so they have to put aside their differences and work together.

The Waking Dark is an amazing horror novel. Robin Wasserman takes a concept that's been used before, one where a city is enclosed and all hell breaks loose, and makes it new with a vivid voice and a large cast of characters. There are 5 main characters: West (real name Jeremiah) the jock who is in denial about being gay, Jule whose family makes meth but she wants more out of life, Cass who killed a baby during the killing day and is in hiding from the town that wants to lynch her, Daniel whose father is the town drunk and wants more for his little brother, and Ellie who became devoutly Christian after the storm. These disparate characters are each followed throughout the text and the point of view changes many times within one chapter. It's easy to follow because each character is memorable and detailed. Before they encounter one another, their issues, their trauma (surviving the killing day), and their innermost thoughts are laid bare. Their names didn't even really need to be mentioned because Wasserman painted such vivid characters. I also liked that although their alignment is generally good, they still had the urge to do the opposite and weren't boring, perfect characters. The writing was descriptive and rich, kind of like eating chocolate cake. I wanted to read the book quickly to know what happens, but I also wanted to savor each sentence. The writing style is so vastly different than most YA novels and it worked in the novel's favor.

The novel tackles a lot of heavy issues: murder, rape, misogyny, homophobia, religious zealotry, drug use, abuse, and the list goes on. Wasserman doesn't gloss over anything and shows human darkness in all its horrific glory. Teens are already exposed to a lot of these things already and I appreciate having a teen book that delves into these subjects as I haven't seen before. One issue is do people act amorally because it's true human nature or because of some outside force? It isn't really answered because it's a personal philosophical question about whether humans are inherently good or evil. The acts in the novel are frightening and all too realistic. Order falls away quickly to reveal the majority that will impose their own rule on everyone else under the threat of death. I found the religious zealotry to be particularly horrifying because it has many disturbing and bigoted tenets whose effect we see in our society every day. If those issues are taken to the extreme, using a twisted interpretation of the scriptures, it would resemble Oleander.

The Waking Dark is an amazing novel that I read as fast as I possibly could. The book is rather long and takes a bit to really take off, but I appreciate a well done, slow build-up. Once it gets going, I was on the edge of my seat, desperate to see what happens. I will now go out and read everything Robin Wasserman has ever written because I was so impressed with this novel. I would recommend this to readers not afraid of disturbing subject matter or imperfect characters.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Daniel Crawford is attending the New Hampshire College Prep program during the summer. He hopes to make some friends, take some classes, and enjoy the summer. This proves to be impossible after he discovers his dorm used to be an insane asylum for the criminally insane about 50 years before that used tortuous and inhumane methods on the inmates. Daniel does make new friends in Abby and Jordan and they explore the rotting disarray of the asylum, parts of it left completely untouched for years. He starts receiving creepy messages in spidery old fashioned script and e-mails that disappear when he tries to open them. It all becomes real when someone is killed in the manner of a serial killer that lived there. Daniel feels his life spiraling out of control and his new friends pull away from him. Is he the killer despite having no memory doing it? Or is someone trying to drive him insane?

Asylum interested me because I am fascinated with sanatoriums, particularly those in the past where torture was passed off and accepted as treatment and so much psychology was not understood yet. The descriptions of the creepy sanitarium rooms were phenomenally creepy. The creepiness factor was pushed with the dreams and visions with Daniel as both a patient and as the twisted warden. Then he starts receiving letters in the warden's writing and I have no idea what's going on. I'm questioning if it's ghosts, someone trying to mess with him, or if he's simply insane. This is before the murder even happens. The mystery is well crafted and I had no idea where it was going to end up. Pictures are interspersed throughout the book and they succeed in enhancing the mood of the story. My only complaint about them is that it's clear they are stock photos and don't always mesh well with the story. I also liked the short chapters. The story flows well on its own and the short chapters and many pictures make it seem like the tempo is much faster.

I had a couple of small problems with the book. Although Daniel felt like a real teen, Abby and Jordan were both prone to crazy mood swings. One minutes they were the best of friends and the next minute (and for no reason) they despised their friends. Their friendship didn't go through a lot of development before doing this either, so it felt really od. I felt Jordan was unnecessary to the story and Abby's revelation later in the book. I wanted more of the mystery and the asylum and less of their petty teenage drama.

Asylum is a deliciously creepy read. Near the end of the book, I was on the edge of my seat, constantly guessing what the resolution would be. I would love to get my hands on a finished copy so I can see all the pictures in their creepy glory.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Frightfall Read-a-thon

October is my very favorite month of the year. It's the only month when horror movies are on sale and on TV on a regular basis and Halloween is month long celebration for me. So of course October is going to be filled with dark, scary, and sinister reads. To aid my need for creepy reads, I've signed up for the Frightfall Read-a-thon. It runs from September 30 to October 6th. I hope to read the following books to start with:

* Asylum by Madeline Roux
* The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman
* 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil
* The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

IF I get through these, I'll worry about adding some more. Go to Seasons of Reading to sign up!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Goodbye to September Zombies + Upcoming Zombies 3

This is the last post for September Zombies! :( Tune in next year for more zombie goodness.

1) Mythbusters

Although Mythbusters is usually all about real science, they are exploring myths about zombies in The Walking Dead: how best to kill them and how do slow zombies manage to catch up to people? Michael Rooker AKA Merle Dixon and executive producer Greg Nicotero will guest star. The episode will air October 17, 2013 at 10pm on the Discovery Channel.

2) The Zombie Autopsies movie

George A. Romero recently finished the script of Steven C. Schlozman's The Zombie Autopsies, a book about a group of doctors performing autopsies on zombies in order to discover where the disease came from and how to cure it. He hopes to work on it soon, but finds difficulty finding funding due to the oversaturation of the zombie genre.

3) Z*Con

Z*Con is a film featuring teen broadcasters trapped at a comic convention during a zombie outbreak. This project is on Indie Gogo and their goal is $90,000. Only $5 gets you a digital download of the film, which is a steal! 100% of the proceeds will go to charity and any pledges are tax deductible within the US. The film sounds awesome and it goes towards a good cause. What's not to like?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Blogfest Winner!

I want to thank all the people who entered my Blogfest giveaway. It's awesome that a lot of you like Isaac Marion's Warm Bodies, which is also one of my favorite zombie reads. The Blogfest Winner of 2 zombie books is:

Congrats to Abigail Johnson!

There are still some chances to win on Fishmuffins of Doom. I have 2 more zombie giveaways ending in October: a zombie YA giveaway and a zombie romance giveaway

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Alice in Zombieland

Alice Bell is sick and tired of her parents. Her dad is crazy and believes in monsters exist to the point that the family is not allowed to leave the house after dark. Her mother stands by and doesn't do anything to stop him. It's Alice's birthday and she wants to see her sister perform in a recital at night. She gets her parents to finally relent and the performance is glorious. On the way home, her dad freaks out and their car spins out of control. Alice wakes up to see that her family is being attacked by horrible creatures that enter their bodies. Later she finds out they died. After she recovers from the accident, she moves in with her grandparents. She tries to forget about the monsters and just get through school along with her new best friend Kat, but distant, brooding, dangerous Cole Holland distracts her. He shows her that the creatures are very real and she is determined to fight them. Will she die avenging her family? Will bad boy Cole end up stabbing her in the back?

I have mixed feelings about Alice in Zombieland. It has a lot of things going for it. Alice is great for the most part. She proves to be assertive and strong, not letting people belittle her or drag her down for the most part. Despite having a lot to be upset about, she isn't the typical self pitying heroine. She deals with her grief in her own way and works through it in stages. I also really liked Kat, her best friend. On the surface, she just seems to be bubbly and airheaded, but she proves to be a good friend with unexpected problems. She added some much needed comic relief and was fun to read about. The second half of the book is my favorite because it's much more action packed and gets away from the petty high school drama. I also enjoyed Gena Showalter's writing. It flowed really well and kept my attention throughout the book even if I had issues with other parts of the book.

I had quite a few problems with the book. From the dedication page, it's abundantly clear that Gena Showalter is religious. Alice is not devoutly religious, but goes to church and generally believes in god. However, there are overtly religious comments and observations in the narrative that don't mesh with her character. They felt out of place and brought me out of the book.l The book also has heavily religious themes. It's good versus evil with absolutely no grey area in between (explicitly stated by a character). I hate this mentality. It's very simplistic and frankly not a good way to see the world. Zombies have been transformed from flesh eating corpses to spirits corrupted by evil that feed on other spirits. I don't like these types of zombies. They have a lot of limitations and they don't bring quite the same horror as conventional zombies do. I am thankful the book wasn't as overtly preachy as I expected it to be, but I tend to avoid Christian fiction because I don't enjoy it.

Cole is a big problem for me. He is the stereotypical bad boy that Alice just can't get enough of. He's controlling, obsessive, and volatile. Alice often completely changes her demeanor and does what he tells her because he's oh so hot. When they see each other every day, they each see a vision of the future, usually of steamy making out. This is never explained and a shoddy way of explaining their instalove and initial obsession with each other. The first half of the book is typical high school drama with a short lived love triangle, typical and way overused in YA.

Alice in Zombieland has absolutely nothing in common with Alice in Wonderland save for a few images and names. The novel probably would have benefited from the removal of the references, but it was probably a good marketing tool. Although I have mixed feelings about the novel, I would read the next book. I would not recommend this for fans of conventional zombies.

My rating: 2.5 fishmuffins

Friday, September 27, 2013

Blogfest 2013 Giveaway!

Blogfest is my very first blog hop! Since it falls during September Zombies, of course I have to give away some awesome zombie books. One lucky reader will win a paperback copy of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War and a hardcover copy of Fiend by Peter Stenson.

Just leave a comment about your favorite zombie read and your email address. Open internationally. Ends 9/29. Good luck! :)

For the rest of the participants go here. Follow the hop!

Meg Mims
Love is a Many Flavored Thing
The Write Path
Novels on the Run
Hope. Dreams. Life...love.