Sunday, August 30, 2015

Beat the Heat Read-a-thon Progress

So far so good! I'm very pleased with my progress so far.

Sunday, August 30

* The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent - 210 pages

Total pages for today: 210
Total pages overall: 1,122
Total books overall: 3

Monday, August 31

* The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent - 61 pages FINISHED
* Deadtown by Nancy Holzner - 4 pages

Total pages for today: 65
Total pages overall: 1,187
Total books overall: 4

Tuesday, September 1

* Deadtown by Nancy Holzner - 4 pages (abandoned. Way too much going on, much like the book cover, and crazy amounts of infodumping in the first few pages.)
* Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry - 34
* Horizon by Sophie Littlefield - 20 pages

Total pages for today: 58
Total pages overall: 1,245
Total books overall: 4

Wednesday, September 2

* Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry - 31 pages
* Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith - 20 pages

Total pages for today: 51
Total pages overall: 1,296
Total books overall: 4

Thursday, September 3

* Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry - 17 pages
* Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith - 20 pages

Total pages for today: 37
Total pages overall: 1,313
Total books overall: 4

Friday, September 4
* Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry - 34 pages
* Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith - 20 pages

Total pages for today: 54
Total pages overall: 1,367
Total books overall: 4

Monday, August 24, 2015

Beat the Heat Read-a-thon Goals and Progress

Since the last read-a-thon didn't go so well, I'm persevering and trying again with the new one. I didn't finish any books during the last one, but I got close. My goal for this one is to finish all the books I've been reading and start a new batch and read at least 100 pages a day.

Monday, August 24

* Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong - 110 pages FINISHED
* Horizon by Sophie Littlefield - 72 pages

Total pages for today: 182
Total pages overall: 182
Total books overall: 1

Tuesday, August 25

* Hungry for Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance edited by Lori Perkins - 82 pages FINISHED
* Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - 14 pages

Total pages for today: 96
Total pages overall: 278
Total books overall: 2

Wednesday, August 26

* Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - 131 pages

Total pages for today: 131
Total pages overall: 409
Total books overall: 2

Thursday, August 27

* Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - 171 pages
* The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent - 21 pages

Total pages for today: 191
Total pages overall: 600
Total books overall: 2

Friday, August 28

* Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - 123 pages
* The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent - 16 pages

Total pages for today: 139
Total pages overall: 739
Total books overall: 2

Saturday, August 29

* Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - 130 pages FINISHED
* The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent - 43 pages

Total pages for today: 173
Total pages overall: 912
Total books overall: 3

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Nicolette was once rich and privileged. Her father was a successful merchant and her mother was a skilled and brilliant inventor. Both of her parents unfortunately died and now she's stuck living with her callous stepmother and her cruel stepsisters. She serves them like a slave and mostly doesn't protest because she doesn't want to leave her parents' home and her grief weighs on her greatly. On her sixteenth birthday, a letter from her mother is sent to her revealing the location of her secret workshop. Nicolette suddenly has a place safe from her stepmother and stepsisters, a new connection to her mother, and the means to possibly leave with her own business creating useful gadgets. Everything hinges on the technological exposition following the ball for the reclusive heir to the throne.

Mechanica is an interesting twist on Cinderella. Nicolette made the story for me. She is motivated to create her own way to leave her abusive step-family and will do anything she can to achieve this end. So many people in her situation would be beaten down, but she keeps persevering to change her circumstances. She has some help from automatons created by her mother and some friends she made along the way, but I like that she is largely self-sufficient. There isn't really a fairy godmother/deus ex machina to solve all of her problems with a magic wand. I also liked her realistic relationship with her parents. After people die, it's easy to idealize them and forget about all their flaws and annoyances. She sees her parents for who they are, flaws and all. Her mother prioritized her work and inventions about her husband and daughter. Her father took the credit for her mother's inventions and was incredibly intolerant of anything magic related after her mother died. Even though her parents aren't perfect, she sees both sides of them and as the people they actually were. I also liked that the focus of the story was on a chosen family and friendship rather than romance.

I had quite a few problems with Mechanica, one being the namesake. It's supposed to be a demeaning name like Cinderella, but it's not bad and there were some verbal gymnastics to get there. In the background, a faerie revolution is brewing with hatred towards faeries reigns after the humans invaded their land and treated them as inferiors. Nicolette made a few decisions I didn't agree with and had dubious thought behind them. For example, she decides to use Ashes, a magical mystery item, in her new invention. Magic is illegal to use in her city where the inventor's exposition will be and the faeries are offended that she even mentioned them. Maybe just leave them alone. Mechanica has way too many elements smooshed together: faeries (who are barely there), possibly sentient automatons, typical Cinderella story, friendship/almost romance, and steampunk-ish inventions while being completely absent of anything else in the style. It's just too much and not everything is even possible to properly cover in one book.

Overall, Mechanica is readable and entertaining, but has too many elements. I liked Nicolette, but I think her character development suffered because of this. I did like a lot about it and I might pick up the next book to see where it's going.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bout of Books Read-a-thon Challenge: Four Seasons in Book Covers

Bout of Books

This challenge, hosted by Kimberly Faye Reads, is to find 4 books to somehow correspond with the 4 seasons. It could be the cover, title, etc. Here are my picks:

* Winter - Snowblind by Christopher Golden

* Spring - Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

* Summer - I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan

* Fall - Autumn by David Moody

I'm off to keep reading!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bout of Books Read-a-thon: Scavenger Hunt

Today, I didn't read as much as yesterday, but the read-a-thon continues! This challenge is a scavenger hunt with 5 objectives: a book that begins with "B," a book I'm planning to read for Bout of Books, a blue book, a book from my favorite genre, and TBR books. I've opted to put all the books in one picture and my super fluffy cat Einstein has deigned to help me display them. (Please excuse my fuzzy bed. Einstein sleeps there a lot.)

1) Beauty by Sarah Pinborough starts with B, plus the cover is soooooo pretty.
2) I plan to read Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
3) Alive by Scott Sigler is blue.
4) Anna Dressed in Blood is from the horror genre, my favorite (also see the last challenge for some good horror novels).
5) The small pile in the back is a very tiny part of my TBR books: Alive by Scott Sigler, Armada by Ernest Cline, and The Familiar by Mark Z. Danielewski.

Join the Bout of Books Read-a-thon for more bookish fun!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bout of Books Read-a-thon: Progress and Goals

Bout of Books

It begins!!! My goal is to read at least 100 pages a day. I don't think it's super realistic with my new job taking up a lot of time, but we'll see. I'll be updating here every day on how many books and pages I read. Join in the fun!

Monday, August 17

* Hungry for Your Love edited by Lori Perkins - 135 pages
* Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong - 98 pages
* Horizon by Sophie Littlefield - 26 pages

Total pages for today: 259
Total books overall: 0

Tuesday, August 18

* Hungry for Your Love edited by Lori Perkins - 32 pages
* Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong - 18 pages
* Horizon by Sophie Littlefield - 42 pages

Total pages for today: 92 (so close!)
Total pages overall: 351
Total books overall: 0

Wednesday, August 19

* Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong - 50 pages
* Hungry for Your Love edited by Lori Perkins - 42 pages

Total pages for today: 92 (so close again!)
Total pages overall: 443
Total books overall: 0

Thursday, August 20

* Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong - 89 pages
* Hungry for Your Love edited by Lori Perkins - 28 pages

Total pages for today: 117
Total pages overall: 468
Total books overall: 0

Friday, August 21

* Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong - 19 pages
* Hungry for Your Love edited by Lori Perkins - 36 pages

Total pages for today: 55 :(
Total pages overall: 523
Total books overall: 0

Saturday, August 22 and Sunday August 23

* Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong - 18 pages
* Hungry for Your Love edited by Lori Perkins - 36 pages
* Horizon by Sophie Littlefield - 28 pages

Total pages for today: 82
Total pages overall: 605
Total books overall: 0

Bout of Books Read-a-thon: Fictional World Travel Challenge

Bout of Books

It's the first challenge for Bout of Books Read-a-thon! The task is to name and creatively display 3 to 6 books that take place outside of your home country. I chose books that all have elements of horror, so I got my plushy gravestone, Hannibal Lecter, and the Bride of Frankenstein to help me display my choices.

* Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko - Contemporary Russia
* Battle Royale by Koushun Takami - Dystopian Japan
* The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey - Post-apocalyptic England
* Perfume: A Story of Murder by Patrick Suskind - 18th Century France
* Let Me In (AKA Let the Right One In) by John Ajvide Lindqvist - 1980's Sweden

If you want to take your own Fictional World Travel Challenge, sign up for the challenge and let your imagination run wild.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Inner Demons

The reality TV show Intervention has chosen to center an episode around Carson, a sweet girl turned addict of pills, heroin, and just about anything else. What makes her different from other addicts is her insistence that she's possessed and takes drugs to protect others from the demon. Her teary parents eventually convince her to try rehab and she tries to get clean. Then weird things start to happen to and around her. The Intervention people just care that it's good TV except one camera man who believes her. Is Carson possessed or just a sad, drug addicted girl?

I'm not the biggest fan of possession films, but I always give films a chance when I see they are trying something new or interesting. Inner Demons isn't the typical possession film. First, the drug angle is new. Carson was an innocent religious girl who memorized bible verses for fun, then she became a heroin shooting goth girl. This seems fairly typical, but the reason behind it makes it fresh and new. Carson is self aware and doesn't want to hurt her family so she dulls herself with drugs. The drug use can be related both to growing up (as people typically at least experiment) and to the corruption of innocence, both of which are the usual meanings of possession in films. However, the drugs are saving her parents even though they are destroying her own life. She can no longer enter a church, but I interpret that as her rejection of her parents' faith because of the church's inability to help her out of her situation. Although Carson does do the typical demon face and creepy voice stuff, she's actually quite sweet and charismatic for most of the film, which goes with her motivation for doing the drugs in the first place. She deteriorates in rehab when the demon is no longer dulled by drug use. She is shown to be a genuinely nice person who has no support system. The people and organizations set up to support and protect her have all failed.

Carson has quite a few people in her life at the film, but only a few actually have her best interests in mind. The first are her parents who appear to be victims in this whole situation. They enable her behavior and are using this Intervention to put their foot down and stop. More on them later. Second is the camera crew who are mostly horrible people who exploit these drug users at any cost for entertainment and ratings. They even stoop to snooping through Carson's room to make her private diary a juicy part of their show. The only exception to this is brand new camera man Jason who hasn't let the industry completely jade him yet. He follows Carson through her rehab journey, looking out for her. He is the only person truly keeping her best interests in mind and one of the only people who believe her. Carson's school friends, who peer pressured her into participating in their stupid ritual that got her possessed in the first place, abandoned and shunned her.

Other people at the rehab facility attempt to help her, one being a therapist who quickly wants to push her off into a psychiatric facility when she becomes too violent. He doesn't even seem to want to figure out why she is in the state she's in. Another is a devoutly religious nurse who attempts to exorcise her. Before that, she places homemade crosses and other religious icons in Carson's room. The problem with the attempted exorcism is that it was really just another assault that Carson felt she deserved. The nurse mentioned that a past exorcism involving a beating with sticks had worked, but the possessed girl died. It shows how religion doesn't help people in this situation and how their brand of "help" is incredibly destructive.

The reason for Carson's possession becomes clear when the film crew goes back to her house after she was ejected from rehab for drug use. Her father is a raging, violent alcoholic and her mother simply enables him and allows it to happen. They admit that the violence has been present for most of Carson's life. This aspect along with her very religious upbringing reveals her life to be repressive and oppressive. The drug use and demonic possession are really her way of both coping with and railing against her living situation. The ending is horribly sad because Carson simply can't survive in this situation despite the one person who cares about her and doesn't hurt her in some way.

Inner Demons does a good job using tropes of the genre and subverting some of them. I don't like many possession films because they tend to be puritanical and misogynistic in nature, but this one isn't. It's not a perfect film: some of the special effects are lackluster and I don't appreciate jump scares in general. Other than that, I thought it was an entertaining film with interesting things going on within.

My rating: 8/10 fishmuffins

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Cyber Horror: Unfriended vs. The Den

Both Unfriended and The Den use a similar style of storytelling to tell very different stories: a supernatural story of murder and teen drama and the other a story of more realistic murder. We'll see which one will come out on top. These reviews contain spoilers.

* Unfriended

Blaire's best friend Laura committed suicide last year after an embarrassing video was uploaded onto Youtube. Blaire and her friends are trying to have a normal Skype conversation when a weird account won't leave them alone. They suspect it's a prank when photos of her friend Val surface drinking and smoking at a party, but realize it's serious when Val signs off to call the cops and then ends up dead supposedly by suicide. The night gets progressively worse as this unknown person plays sick games, reveals all their secrets, and kills them one by one.

Unfriended has an interesting and atypical format. The whole story is told through Blaire's computer screen. We see everything she sees on her screen. As the movie moves along, it becomes clear that the friends are being haunted by Laura's spirit and she wants revenge for her humiliation and her suicide. The transition from annoying hacker to evil spirit was a little abrupt and it might have been a little more effective to play with the uncertainty a little more before defining it as supernatural. I like that this movie shows the evils of technology. Anyone's mistake can be posted online and it will never be deleted ever. This is especially toxic for teens who will then be cyberbullied by merciless trolls on the internet who make it their life's work to make people miserable. Many teens have committed suicide because of situations like this.

The only other good parts are a few scares and kills, but the rest of the film is textbook slasher film dreck mixed in with pointless privileged teen drama. All of the teen's deep dark secrets are aired for all the world to see and then immediately killed before suffering the consequences. All of the characters were annoying  and I didn't care when they died. Mitch, Blaire's boyfriend, was the most insufferable of all. He kept focusing on the stupid drama and overreacting over his girlfriend's infidelity when people are being murdered all around him. Get your priorities straight, dude. The film feels like it drags way too much for a run time less than 90 minutes. The very ending is incredibly cheapened by one last, unnecessary jump scare.

My rating: 6/10 fishmuffins

* The Den

Elizabeth just got a grant to study the habits of webcam chat users from a university. Everything is going well even with the weirdos on the site until she witnesses a girl brutally murdered. She tries to get an investigation started, but everyone dismisses it as a prank. She continues her project, but she's plagued by harassing messages, account hacks, and escalates friend's and family being attacked. The police finally help her, but it seems it's too late. These assailants are everywhere she turns and manipulate her every move.

The Den is similar in style to Unfriended. All the footage is taken from webcams, digital cameras, and cell phones. Much of the film takes place right on Elizabeth's laptop screen where she does her research recording hundreds of conversations with hundreds of people on a Chat Roulette type website. The first half hour does a great job of setting up the story and just giving us the tiniest glimpse of the killer in a burlap mask. This killer infiltrates Elizabeth's life, hacking into her computer, making it look like her friend committed suicide, attacking her pregnant sister, and putting cameras in her house. One particularly chilling scene has one of the assailants return to the crime scene to retrieve his camera with police everywhere. He simply goes in, bags the camera, says some insensitive things to Elizabeth's sister, and leaves with no one noticing. The suspense is masterfully built up and culminates in a crazy finale with twist and turns. It's revealed that some faceless organization finds a girl, harasses her, victimizes her family, kidnaps her, and kills her all on camera for the entertainment of a paying audience on the deep web. Who knows how big this organization is or how many people it employs. The burlap mask for the assailants is perfect because the organization really is faceless and it doesn't really matter who is behind the mask because they seem to always have more people even if one or two die.

The overall message of the film speaks of the dangers of the internet, anonymity, and the deep web, but it's not as strong as Unfriended's message. People face harassment and the embarrassment of their online secrets and mistakes every day. People are not murdered for deep web entertainment every day. I also didn't like that everyone around Elizabeth simply dismisses her problems. Her bosses don't even take the time to hear her out before shutting down her project when hacking is a legitimate problem. The police dismiss her a few times even though her boyfriend being missing without any notice is a legitimate problem. Other than that, the film was enjoyable and suspenseful.

My rating: 8/10 fishmuffins

Verdict: Unfriended, while the inferior and more infuriating film, has a better, more relatable message. The Den is a better, more well crafted film that succeeds in being really creepy, but the message falls a little flat.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Beat the Heat Read-a-thon

It's read-a-thon time! I'm starting a new job (YAY!!!) soon and I want to keep myself reading and blogging during my first year of teaching. I've let my blog gather dust sometimes and I don't want that to happen now. I noticed Andrea at Bookish Lifestyle signed up for two readathons that span 3 weeks and it sounded like a great idea. I'm going to copy her and do both the Bout of Books 14 Read-a-thon and the Beat the Heat Read-a-thon.

Sign up with Novel Heartbeat or Phantasmic Reads. Just do a sign up post, set your own goal, and read, read, read. There will be mini-challenges and grand prizes.

My goal is to just keep reading. I'll probably be finishing up some books for September Zombies and reading books for the horror-fest that is October.

Bout of Books 14 Read-a-thon

It's read-a-thon time! I'm starting a new job (YAY!!!) soon and I want to keep myself reading and blogging during my first year of teaching. I've let my blog gather dust sometimes and I don't want that to happen now. I noticed Andrea at Bookish Lifestyle signed up for two readathons that span 3 weeks and it sounded like a great idea. I'm going to copy her and do both the Bout of Books 14 Read-a-thon and the Beat the Heat Read-a-thon.

Bout of Books

Here's what it's about: The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team Join in the fun by linking your sign-up page here.

My goal is to just keep reading. I'll probably be finishing up some books for September Zombies and reading books for the horror-fest that is October.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Unnoticeables

Angels aren't beautiful creatures of benevolence. They watch over us, but look for patterns and redundancies instead of protecting us. They eliminate the superfluous people to feed the Machine. Carey in 1977 New York and Kaitlyn in 2013 Hollywood both encounter these angels and their inhuman minions. Both just want to live their generally unsuccessful lives and have friends disappear around them. Both want to do something about it and try to despite crazy odds against them. Can two nobodies save their friends and other invisible people from being changed into empty puppets or flat out killed?

From the very first line ("I met my guardian angel today. She shot me in the face."), I was hooked. The story is split into three narratives: an unnamed narrator at an unknown time, Carey in 1977, and Kaitlyn in 2013. The unnamed narrator (the one shot by said angel) is rapidly losing his humanity and wants to tell his story. Carey is a punk whose interests are limited to punk rock, drinking, smoking, fucking, and stealing to get what he wants. He and his friends frequent clubs, create a bit of mayhem, and have fun. You see some pretty weird shit in New York, but Tar Men that melt people to goo is usually not one of them. He stays quiet because no one will believe him anyway, but when his close friends are targeted, he makes beating these creatures his personal crusade. However, Carey is a professional fuck-up, so his attempts are laughably bumbling at best and horribly inept at worse. I love his irreverence and self aware nature. He knows he's an asshole and most of the things he says are horrible, but that's just who he is. He's the most unlikely hero, but he has the best intentions at heart along with the drive to get drunk as cheap as possible and chase women.

The last narrator is Kaitlyn, waitress and out of work stuntwoman. She loves her work in movies, but she just sucks at networking, a vital trait to stay employed. Her best friend Jackie doesn't come home from an industry party after Kaitlyn is attacked by her childhood celebrity crush. Unfortunately, that crush talks in prerehearsed, mechanical sounding phrases and there's something off about him in addition to the huge alien tongue he shoved down her throat. This man is an Empty One who creates Unnoticeables, people who you can't describe even while looking at them. They blend in perfectly and lure people away in order to further fuel the mysterious Machine. Kaitlyn uses her background and cunning to save her fellow aspiring actors. She also has the bumbling help of a much older, crazier sounding Carey. He is pretty much the same, except closer to babbling homeless guy than sexy rugged punk. Both of them are considered expendable to these angels, but they couldn't be more different. This odd couple is hilarious to read and have some of the most fun interactions.

The Unnoticeables is a fun mix of urban fantasy and horror with vivid underground worlds in New York and Hollywood. I would love a sequel with more of Carey and Kaitlyn's adventures, exploring more of these underground, hiding in plain sight but no one sees it worlds. Carey is extremely entertaining to read while Kaitlyn is the more relatable one trying to make ends meet and being shunned from jobs despite being quite qualified. I would recommend this to fans of Richard Kadrey and Clive Barker.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Dead House

Carly and Kaitlyn Johnson are two people in the same body. They have been this way their entire lives no matter what Dr. Lansing tries to tell them.  Carly is awake during the day while Kaitlyn is awake at night. They each have their own journals, which are kept private even from each other, and they communicate through notes. After the accident, the girls stayed full time in a psychiatric care, but are now allowed to attend Elmridge High, a boarding school. One day, Kaitlyn sees a figure and dismisses it. These visions, whether real or imagined, then recur with alarming regularity and realism. Kaitlyn then seeks help for these attacks. Does Carly/Kaitlyn have dissociative identity disorder? Is she being haunted or is she just delusional?

The Dead House takes place years after Elmbridge High burns down and after a number of students die or disappear during that time. It's an unsolved mystery that has gained popularity over a decade and the authorities are still trying to find out what happened. The book is a compilation of all the evidence related to the case: singed journals, descriptions of video clips, post its, testimonies, transcripts of therapy sessions, flyers, newspaper clippings, and instant messages. The amount of detail is insane. The edges of Kaitlyn's journal are burned throughout the book. Tons of fonts are used to detail the different mediums and handwritings. Some papers have bloodstains or doodles. The different perspectives and sheer detail involved are the book's strongest aspects.

There are two interpretations of the plot: either Kaitlyn is plagued by demons and an evil spellcaster or she is delusional and others play into that delusion as reality. The two sides are pretty thoroughly explored. Dr. Lansing, Kaitlyn/Carly's therapist, insists that Kaitlyn is a personality created by Carly's mind to protect her from the trauma of witnessing her parent's deaths, which neither of them remember. The visions and attacks could simply be delusions that were worsened by improper medication that causes psychosis and improper treatment. On the other hand, one of Carly's friend is a practitioner of Scottish witchcraft insists that she is possessed by a demon and targeted by an evil magic practitioner. The text never really picks one side or the other. I didn't connect with the Scottish magic stuff and I greatly preferred the psychological thriller aspects. The demons and magic parts simply weren't as strong.

The first half of the story is the stronger half because it focuses more on the psychological aspects of the story and introducing all the characters. Even though Carly is assumed to be the more dominant personality, we only really get to know Kaitlyn. She has never seen the daylight and mostly keeps to herself. Her friend circle has only a couple of people. I like Kaitlyn even though she is sometimes selfish. She isn't perfect and copes in her own ways, but cares for her sister unconditionally. The second half of the book has her descending into all this magic stuff and doing uncharacteristic, horrible things. She really lost my sympathy at that point and the book felt like it lost its way. I would give another book by Dawn Kurtagich a try because most of the book was interesting and addictive.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins