Posted in Recommended Titles

Blogger’s Guilty Pleasure: A Stroke of Midnight

Image result for A stroke of midnight

Alright this one I do feel a little bit guilty about. Normally I don’t feel too badly about my guilty pleasures. Normally when I examine them critically I can find some element there that makes it worth the read.

This one…well I really am kind of ashamed of how much I liked it the first time I read it.

So back up several years when I was a sixteen year old Mary Sue. My family was planning to visit relatives in another state and I went to the library, seeking reading material to keep me entertained on the road. I found this in the audiobook section.

The cover art intrigued me (poor innocent thing I was, I didn’t recognize the glaring red flags that should have alerted me to the fact it was a “romance” novel). The blurb on the back sounded interesting as well. So I put the CD  in my Walkman and listened to it on the road.

Boy was I surprised. If I’d heard of this author before I would have known about the frequent sexual escapades of the main characters. I would have also known that all the interesting bits would be at the beginning and not be mentioned again until the end.

I did like two of the many love interests, and the magical lore was interesting enough to compel me to finish the book. All in all I found it sort of inoffensive on first reading.

Then I moved onto her other series, Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter and it was jarring. I disliked Anita intensely upon first reading and my contempt just grew with every successive book.

Most people read the Meredith Gentry series after Anita, since it was published after that series had been started. I had the opposite experience, and moving from this book to The Anita Blake series was a really rude awakening to Hamilton’s worst tropes.

They are there in this one too, which is why I feel sort of icky admitting I have some nostalgia for this book.

All in all the only justification I have for it at this point is that the Meredith Gentry series is more honest about what it is. It’s smut. Fantasy-themed erotica, with a plot to bookend all the sex. Meredith’s character seemed a lot less obnoxious than Anita’s (in this book at least). I would have to read the rest of the series to give a more complete analysis on Meredith’s character.

And yes, you can jump into this series at any point. It isn’t like some novels where skipping a few will completely baffle you. The book will give you the needed info through exposition whilst the characters gear up for another orgy.

So I guess in conclusion, I wouldn’t actually recommend this one unless you’re morbidly curious. And if you do read it, don’t take it with you to your grandparent’s house. You won’t be able to look your grandma in the eye over breakfast, trust me.

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Posted in Recommended Titles

Blogger’s Guilty Pleasure: The Demonica Series

Image result for the demonica series

Alright welcome to my new segment, blogger’s guilty pleasure. Unlike my recommended page, where I can make justifications for why a book is good, this page is specifically addressing books I know aren’t all that great. Something about these books  just appealed to me, despite my better judgement.

First up, a romance/erotica. See? I don’t hate the entire romance genre…just 90 percent of it. The Demonica series has several reasons for escaping my vitriolic reviews. First and most importantly is that I read it before I became a hardcore critic, so there is a bit of nostalgia on my part. I read these books in the summer of 2012, during my freshman year of college. Later that year I would go through an intensive writing course, which would  completely alter the way I thought of writing and criticism.

I have only read the first three books in the series. They detail the tales of three brothers( Eidolon, Shade, and Wraith), and the adventures they go through trying to find or protect their mates. The stories are fairly standard, as far as romance novels go. Ripped torsos on the cover? Check. Sexual references in the title? Check. Hackneyed cliched plots? Check.

What saves it from my poisoned pen? It’s world building actually. I find the world Larissa Ione paints very complex and fascinating. The premise of Underground General Hospital was not one I had seen before, and was a really interesting backdrop to the standard drama.

I like lore as much if not more than plot. If a book has interesting lore, I can sometimes forgive it’s faults. (It’s one of the reasons I don’t have The Host while I dislike a lot of Twilight.) 

I really liked how complex and thought out the world was. I have reread all three, and the world is still really good. Are there some groan-worthy one liners in this book? Yes. Are there some cheesy, unnecessary romance tropes in there? Without a doubt. Would I recommend it? To a person over the age of sixteen, probably.

I really have no excuse. This series have a lot of the horrible romance tropes, and would despise in another book. The only reason I can think of to account for the difference is that the characters are at least semi-interesting.

I won’t go into too much detail here, since I want you to check it out for yourself. You can buy the ebooks fairly cheaply here. Tell me what you thought of it in the comments below. I’d love to hear your opinions.

 

Posted in Recommended Titles

Recommended: Creepy Kids Books

I don’t know about you all, but I was a creepy kid. I loved scary/creepy books when I was young. I still do, to a point. That’s why I’m writing this article. From the mildly creepy, to the downright scary stories, I’m going to list some of my recommendations. Whether you’re looking to spook your little ones around Halloween, have a kid who likes such things, or want to read it yourself,  here’s some children’s books to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Anything Written by Eva Ibboston 

Ah, Eva Ibboston, may you rest in peace. I cannot stress enough how much nostalgia I have for these books. They were just so good. Not all the ones listed are incredibly creepy, and in the context of the rest of this article, the books are bit tame. I like the off-beat humor, and the world building that Ibboston brings us. For a child some of these concepts are rather creepy, especially the ones in Which Witch? and Dial-A-Ghost. I highly, highly recommend these books for both adults and children.

Goosebumps

Goosebumps books were a staple for a lot of kids when they first came out. Even now, they still remain fairly popular. Why? Because a lot of the monsters and concepts are timeless, and scare us still. Plus all that campy goodness.

Goosebumps plays with horror tropes in a way that is fun and can keep children on edge. I was never seriously scared while reading one, but I know plenty of people who were. It’s full of jump scares, and mildly creepy concepts. Goosebumps is a fairly easy read, and I recommended if you or your child like mixing your horror with 90’s cheese.

American Chillers

Much in the same vein as Goosebumps, American Chillers is 90’s camp at its finest. The book titles always use alliteration, and center around a mythical monster/creepy animal. It’s not a particularly long read, and it’s a lot of fun.

Bunnicula 

I loved Bunnicula as a kid. I have always been a big fan of vampire stories (yes, I know, shame on me. How very cliche of TheGrandHighMarySue.) It was a form of vampire literature that hadn’t been done much up to that point. It’s cute, it has a decent amount of suspense for a kid’s book. The book is also less than a hundred pages long, for those who would like to read a short book.

 Bruce Coville Books

Both series I’ve read by this author (The Magic Shop books and My Teacher is an Alien) are funny, while having some creepy/scary elements to them. My Teacher is an Alien is more irreverent tonally, and is much like Goosebumps and American Chillers. 

The Skull of Truth was more serious, and was very enjoyable despite that. The main character interacts with a skull throughout the book and it’s presence makes it so he must always tell the truth. It causes some awkward moments, as well as heartwarming ones. I recommend both series for adults and kids alike.

Coraline

Now we’re getting to the disturbing stuff. Coraline has gotten more hype since it’s movie release, but is still a rather underrated book. There is a lot of disturbing imagery and concepts in Coraline. The atmosphere is very spooky, and the resolution to the story is great. I recommend it for children who are in upper elementary or higher.

The Witches 

I personally never found The Witches that scary. Apparently I’m in the minority on that. Roald Dahl seems to have a thoroughly middling effect on most readers. Some readers really like the tone and word-building, others hate it. The Witches is well-known but not always well liked, since there were accusations of “perceived misogyny” in his work.

The movie of the same name actually has a happier ending than the book. So read it if you like, and let me know what you thought of it.

In a Dark, Dark Room and other Scary Stories

This is an anthology of different ghost stories and some poems. A lot of the stories are classic horror fare, like the ghostly hitchhiker. It’s not incredibly scary, but it is a good introduction to scary stories for young audiences.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I loved this series. The books are about as dreary as one would expect, with a name like A Series of Unfortunate Events. Despite the tone, these books are actually fun. There is some dry humor, and young readers will feel clever for understanding the vocabulary (and even if they don’t, they will certainly learn a lot of vocabulary while reading the series.)

There are a lot of interesting settings in the book, and Count Olaf’s schemes to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune get more and more ridiculous as the series goes on. It’s very entertaining, though I understand the tone and content might not be for everyone.

Oh, and bonus. Timmy Curry is the voice actor for the audiobook series.

The House called Awful End

This book series had a very interesting sense of humor. The premise that starts the ball rolling is sort of funny, and things get worse and worse for poor Eddie as the series goes on. It’s similar in tone to A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Eddie Dickens Trilogy is a little simpler and could be read to younger children.

Never Trust a Dead Man

I vaguely recalled reading this book in junior high. And the premise is creepy. It starts off with a murder. Our main character Selwyn was competing with a fellow teen boy Farold for the love interest. When Farold turns up dead with Selwyn’s knife in his back, the village passes sentence on Selywn. Even though he is innocent of the crime, he is trapped in a tomb with the bodies of the dead, including Farold’s corpse.

A witch comes in to the caves to get dead bits from the corpses and Selwyn swears himself to her service in exchange for her magical help. She revives Farold’s soul in the form of a bat and they try to solve the murder. It’s a really fun mystery, and has a really creepy tone. I recommend this series for kids and adults.

Scary Stories to tell in the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is one of the best kid’s horror books of all time, in my opinion. Why? Because it can still give me the heebie jeebies now. As an adult. A lot of these stories were based on tall tales or urban legends.

And if the content wasn’t enough, the illustrations are also incredibly creepy. A lot of the faces look like they belong in The Hills have Eyes. If you get this book, get the original copies. The new illustrations are tame and take away some of the punch of the first edition.

The Ghost and Mrs. Hobbs , The Ghost of Fossil Glen

Both of these ghost stories had me on the edge of my seat when I was reading them back in the day. They are well-paced, and the books maintain a creepy and suspenseful atmosphere throughout. The mysteries are good and the themes they touch on are good. I recommend these books for all ages.

The Dollhouse Murders

This book scared the hell out of me. I never owned a dollhouse, but I’m sure if I did I would have tossed it out after this book. Our protagonist finds an old dollhouse in the attic and discovers that it used to belong to her aunt.

After hearing sounds from the attic for awhile, the protagonist discovers that the dolls in the dollhouse reenact a scene every night. The grizzly murder that occured in the house years earlier, of which there were only two survivors.

The book will be scary to adult and children, though for different reasons. I highly recommend this book. I also highly recommend sleeping with the light on afterwards.

Wait Till Helen Comes

Wait Till Helen Comes touches on many troubling subjects, least of which is the ghost. The book centers on our main character Molly, and her struggles to accept her new step-sister Heather. With their parents recently married, and the family relocating, this book captures what a struggle sudden upheaval can be for children.

While the ghost elements can be scary, most of the drama and suspense are found in the real-life troubles that are going on in Molly and Heather’s life.

And a bonus:

Edgar Allen Poe

I was a weird kid. Yeah, in fourth grade I was tested, and I had a higher reading level than many of my peers. I was incredibly proud of it, and so I spent more and more time reading, trying to do even better. I really enjoyed Poe. My personal favorite was The Fall of the House of Usher. This might be a little beyond some children’s reading level, but it’s worth a try.

Or you can let them wait until high school, since it’s highly likely they’ll have to read some of Poe’s work, one way or another.

Alright hat was all I could think of. Let me know in the comments if you have a book I didn’t list that you’d like mentioned. Thanks!

 

Posted in Recommended Titles

Recommended: Harry Potter

Yeah, yeah I can hear the eyeballs rolling now. Of course this is a no-brainer. Of course Harry Potter is on a recommended titles list. Almost all of you out there have probably read at least one book in the series by now. It’s a favorite for good reason. I’m just going to state a few of those reasons here, and tell you why I recommend it.

The Harry Potter series predates the Twilight series by eight or nine years (depending on the UK or US publishing date). I mention Twilight only because it largely owes it’s success to the Harry Potter franchise. And that’s by no means an insult to Harry Potter. It opened the doors wide open, letting many authors through who otherwise would have had a more difficult time getting their work published. (Sometimes you can’t separate the wheat from the chaff. I’m grateful for all the good books it gave us.)

Before Harry Potter, many publishers were reluctant to take a chance on YA fiction. It was considered a niche market. I said in my first chapter review of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea that Twilight was the pioneer in YA paranormal romance. I want to make a distinction between that, and what Harry Potter accomplished. Rowling was the pioneer for YA in general. Before that most of the options were mostly, aim lower (at children) or figure out a way to make it more adult.

Harry Potter’s premise is relatively simple. The “chosen one” storyline is not really all that original, but it is what Rowling does with it that really makes this series great. Harry Potter is not a deconstruction per se, but unlike many magical boy narratives, it does make being the chosen one sound like it can really suck.

The story is well thought-out and it’s world-building is excellent. Its world-building is so good in fact that Rowling has been able to make a profit on selling school books that appeared in the text. Her world is that detailed and interesting.

The pacing is really good for the most part, and the story rarely drags. Overall her craft is good.

And the characters? Great as well. Our main leads are very believable, and its a lot of fun to see them grow and mature over the course of the series. More importantly, they have very real and human flaws which make appearances in the book regularly. It goes a long way in making them characters the reader can sympathize with. Even our secondary characters are great.

If I had one criticism of the series, it would have been the fact that she had the opportunity to flesh out Slytherins as a whole, and didn’t. With the exception of Slughorn, most of the Slytherin characters are thuggish, selfish, cowardly, or untrustworthy. Ambition doesn’t equal evil.

Overall though? I can’t complain. Harry Potter is a good read, and I highly recommend it. Ten out of ten.

Posted in Recommended Titles

An update+new page announcement

Alright folks, a lot has been going on with my extended family lately. I won’t go into details, but it’s been difficult. Its a challenge to slog through bad literature on a good day, but recently I haven’t had the heart to continue my reviews. I know you deserve content, so I’m starting a new section and will hopefully at least be able to produce more content a week this way.

Without further ado, welcome to Recommended Titles. Some of these I herald as great literature no matter what the intended audience, but some are my own personal favorites. I’ll be marking those as Blogger’s Guilty Pleasures. I largely read YA fiction, but I have a few favorites that fall in both children’s and adult series respectively.

I’ll attempt to update this page regularly, and I’ll try to justify why I think these books are worth buying (or at least checking out from the library.)

See you then!