Christopher is so grateful for his twins that seem a true miracle after he and his wife, Annamarie, had trouble conceiving. He can hardly believe it’s their 8th birthday already, and he won’t let anything spoil the celebration, not even an odd nightmare about being eaten by hellhounds he had the night before. But his children wander off into the woods after the party. When Christopher and Annamarie find them, they’ve stumbled upon an abandoned house. The children convince them to explore it. But the house quickly turns into a living nightmare. A nightmare designed and run by Azareal.
This is my second read of the twelve review copies I accepted for review here this year (see the complete list). I was looking for a shorter read after my previous two chunksters, and this short, fast-paced horror seemed like the perfect fit for my mood. The book puts a fresh twist on both haunted houses and trouble conceiving horror plots, although the writing style and dialogue struggle to support the excellent plot.
The story at first appears to be a straight-forward haunted/evil house plot. Right away, I liked that Azareal’s house isn’t the one the family lives in or one the family has just moved to. Instead, it is a house found in the woods, akin to Hansel and Gretel. That’s a trope I enjoy, and I liked seeing it used in the plot. Having the parents go into the house with the children was the first of several twists on tropes in the plot that made the book so engaging. From the point the family enters the house onward, the plot continues to twist and turn unexpectedly, yet believably. Gradually it becomes apparent that this is more than a haunted house book, it includes the occult, as well as a trouble conceiving plot. The fact that the results of using the occult to aid in conceiving doesn’t have consequences for eight years is a nice twist. Most books show consequences either during the pregnancy or immediately after the baby is born. The inclusion of new twists on both of these horror plots in one book makes the book fast-paced and engaging. It is a quick read that will propel you forward to see how it ends.
Unfortunately, the writing style doesn’t quite live up the high quality of the plot. Some of the dialogue feels forced and awkward. Similarly, while some scenes are set well, others are written in an awkward manner with focus on minute details that are irrelevant to the plot or the setting and not enough focus on other details that are. The writing style is good enough that it doesn’t ruin the enjoyment of the book, but it does knock it down a couple stars. The book is mostly well edited with the exception of one grammar mistake made quite a few times. Either using its for it’s or vice versa. Since it’s the same mistake made repeatedly, it’s easy enough to gloss over when reading it. However, I would advise for future books that the author keep an eye out for this particular issue during the editing process, especially since the rest of the grammar and spelling is so well-edited.
Overall, this is a fast-paced read that combines two horror plots into one book and puts unique twists on both. The writing style isn’t quite as good as the plot, but it’s still an enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to future works by the author. Recommended to horror fans looking for a quick, unique read.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
My final holiday cross-stitch was a present for my partner’s other sister. (He has two. The youngest one got pixel Thor). This sister is a journalist and a fan of emoticons. I thought it’d be fun to make her something small that she could hang in her office, maybe. Something that would both display her personality and be semi-related to work. I decided to stitch her the look of disapproval emoticon face and frame it in a classy hoop. Framing items this small is easiest with semi-flexible plastic hoops. I chose one that was made to resemble wood.
I enjoyed the final look so much that I was inspired to do an emoticon line in my shop. If you like the look of disapproval, you can buy a completed one from me. Although, the version I am selling is hooped in a red hoop.
I still have two cross-stitches I made for the holidays left to show you guys! I fully admit, I was waiting on showing you the last two since they’re related to my newly opened Etsy shop.
One of my good friends is a big fan of Sriracha rooster sauce. It’s a hot sauce made from chili and garlic, frequently used in Asian cuisine. Its bottle is rather iconic. It is red with a green cap and has a white rooster on it. I thought it’d be a cute piece for her to have in her kitchen. However, I couldn’t find a pre-existing pattern for cross-stitch, or even one I could adapt, anywhere. I wasn’t expecting that, since it has a big fan-base. But, oh well, I figured, I guess I’ll just design one myself. And design it I did! My friend was quite happy with her present. The pattern is now available for sale in my shop, Stitch-A-Stitch.
Danny Torrance didn’t die in the Overlook Hotel but what happened there haunts him to this day. Not as much as the shining does though. His special mental powers that allow him to see the supernatural and read thoughts lead to him seeing some pretty nasty things, even after escaping the Overlook. He soon turns to drinking to escape the terror. But drinking solves nothing and just makes things worse. When he sees his childhood imaginary friend, Tony, in a small New Hampshire town, he turns to AA to try to turn his life around and learn to live with the shining.
Abra is a middle school girl nearby in New Hampshire with a powerful shine. She sees the murder of a little boy by a band of folks calling themselves the True Knot. They travel in campers and mobile homes, seeking out those who have the shine to kill them for it and inhale it. They call it steam. They’re not human. And they’re coming after Abra. Abra calls out to the only person she knows with a shine too, the man she’s talked to before by writing on his blackboard. Dan.
A sequel that takes the original entry’s theme on overcoming your family origin and ramps it up a notch, Doctor Sleep eloquently explores how our family origin, genetics, and past make us who we are today. All set against a gradually ramping up race against the clock to save a little girl from a band of murdering travelers.
The book begins with a brief visit to Danny as a kid who learns that the supernatural creatures exist in places other than the Overlook, and they are attracted to the shine. This lets the reader first get reacquainted with Danny as a child and also establishes that the supernatural are a potential problem everywhere. The book then jumps aggressively forward to Danny as a 20-something with a bad drinking problem. It’s an incredibly gritty series of scenes, and it works perfectly to make Dan a well-rounded character, instead of a perfect hero of the shine. It also reestablishes the theme from The Shining that someone isn’t a bad person just because they have flaws–whether nature or nurture-based. That theme would have been undone if Dan had turned out to be an ideal adult. It would be much easier to demonize his father and grandfather in that case, but with the way King has written Dan, it’s impossible to do that.
The way Dan overcomes both his drinking and his temper, as well as how he learns to deal with his shine, is he joins Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). In contrast to his father who tried to quit drinking on his own, Dan attempts it in a group with accountability. This then shows how much easier it is to overcome a mental illness with community support. I appreciated seeing this. I will say, however, that some of the AA talk in the book can get a bit heavy-handed. Some chapter beginnings include quotes from the book of AA, and Dan can sometimes seem a bit obsessed with it when he relates almost everything to something he learned or heard there. AA definitely plays a vital role in many people’s recovery from addiction, and it’s wonderful to see that in a work of fiction. However, it would have been better for the reader to see the role of AA more than to hear quotes from AA so often.
The big bad in this book is a band of supernatural creatures who were once human and still look human. But they change somehow by taking steam and go on to live almost indefinitely. They can die from stupid accidents and sometimes randomly drop dead. The steam is acquired by torturing children who have the shine. The shine comes out of their bodies as steam when they are in pain. They call themselves The True Knot. This troop is a cartoonish group of evil people who try to look like a troop of retirees and some of their family traveling in a camper caravan. The leader of this group is Rose the Hat–a redheaded woman who wears a top hat at an impossibly jaunty angle. I was pleased to see Rose written quite clearly as a bisexual. Her sexuality is just an aspect of who she is, just like her red hair. Seeing a bi person as the big bad was a delight. Her bisexuality isn’t demonized. Her actions as a child killer and eater of steam are. She is a monster because of her choices, not because of who she is. I alternated between finding The True Knot frightening and too ridiculously cartoonish to be scary. I do think that was partially the point, though. You can’t discredit people who seem ridiculous as being harmless.
How Abra is found by The True Knot, and how she in turn finds Dan, makes sense within the world King has created. It doesn’t come until later in the book, though. There is quite a bit of backstory and build-up to get through first. The buildup is honestly so entertaining that it really didn’t hit me until after I finished the book how long it actually took to get to the main conflict. So it definitely works. Abra is a well-written middle school girl. King clearly did his research into what it’s like to be a middle schooler in today’s world. Additionally, the fact that Abra is so much older than Danny was in The Shining means it’s much easier for the reader to understand how the shine works and see a child, who understands at least a bit what it is, grapple with it. This made Abra, although she is a child with a shine, a different experience for the reader who already met one child with a shine in the previous book. Abra is also a well-rounded character with just the right amount of flaws and talent.
There is one reveal later in the book in relation to Abra that made me cringe a bit, since it felt a bit cliche. It takes a bit of a leap of faith to believe, and I must admit it made me roll my eyes a bit. However, it is minor enough in the context of the overall story that it didn’t ruin my experience with the book. I just wish a less cliche choice had been made.
The audiobook narrator, Will Patton, does a phenomenal job. It was truly the best audiobook narration I’ve heard yet. Every single character in a very large cast has a completely different voice and style. I never once got lost in who was speaking or what was going on. More importantly to me, as a New England girl born and raised, is that he perfectly executes the wide range of New England accents present in the book. Particularly when he narrates the character, Billy, I thought I was hearing one of my older neighbors speak. I could listen to Will Patton read a grocery list and be entertained. Absolutely get the audiobook if you can.
Overall, this sequel to The Shining successfully explores both what happened to Danny Torrance when he grew up and a different set of frightening supernatural circumstances for a new child with the shine. This time a girl. The themes of nature, nurture, your past, and overcoming them are all eloquently explored. There is a surprising amount of content about AA in the book. It could either inspire or annoy the reader, depending on their mind-set. Any GLBTQ readers looking for a bi big bad should definitely pick it up, as Rose the Hat is all that and more. Recommended to fans of Stephen King and those that enjoy a fantastical thriller drenched in Americana.
4 out of 5 stars
I am beyond excited to announce that my cross-stitching and patterns are now available on my new Etsy shop: Stitch-A-Stitch!!
For right now, the items available for sale are completed items, hooped into 3 inch hoops. They are either regular emoticons in black or bi pride emoticons in the bi pride colors. There is also one bi pride item that is simply the word “BI” in the bi pride colors. The pattern available for sale is one I designed to gift to a friend for Christmas. It is of the Sriracha rooster bottle. I couldn’t find one anywhere, so I designed one myself, and I thought it made sense to make it available for others! As time goes on, I plan to broaden the items I have available. The next category I am working on at the moment is the Avengers as pixel people.
The positive feedback I received here on this blog from you all encouraged me to pursue opening this shop. Thank you all so much for your support, and I do hope you will take a moment to check it out.
I’m sure most of you are aware of the intense cold snap that hit the United States this month, and Boston was certainly no exception. There were a few nights where, even with our heat cranked all the way up, it still wasn’t exactly what you’d call warm inside our apartment. The few times it did warm up, we got snow. In fact, the month rolled in with quite the blizzard. I got to get some exercise in shoveling out our steps and portion of the sidewalk, not to mention my boyfriend’s car (obviously, this was a joint venture). With it being so cold and me having a 30 minute walk as part of my evening commute home from work, I’ve had to get creative in how I bundle up. My dad had bought me some fleece-lined tights, and those have become my base layer. So cozy! Like wearing your jammies under your work clothes (but looks professional). However, when I tried to get more, I couldn’t find any for less than $20 plus shipping, so I’m stuck washing them a lot. Thankfully, today was our first warm day in weeks (43 degrees F!!) Yayyyy
Since it’s been so cold, and also since my dad gave us a Kitchen Aid for Christmas, I’ve been doing a lot more baking. Basically anything that will let me run our oven for justifiable reasons, since that heats up our studio apartment. I’d been struggling with getting my bread to come out right, so when we visited my dad back at Thanksgiving, he went over the process with me and caught two errors. First, I wasn’t letting the yeast grow enough before adding the flour (I’m an impatient person), and second, I wasn’t kneading it long enough. Well, the second problem was easily addressed with the Kitchen Aid. The first was addressed by setting a timer with a set amount of time to wait before adding the flour. My first loaf done with these tweaks and the Kitchen Aid came out perfect! I was very excited. Another recipe I finally perfected this month was vegetarian Thai red curry. I read a tip that combining soy sauce with seaweed replicates the flavor of fish sauce better. I also started using full fat instead of low fat coconut milk. It came out much more authentic.
Coming up on the blog this month, I’m hoping to read another one of my 2014 review copies and offer up another giveaway (enter the one currently running if you haven’t had the chance yet). I’m also hoping to read another book for the MIA Reading Challenge. I’m glad I already got one read for the challenge and enjoyed it! I’m also hoping to make an announcement this month of another project I’m working on, but I need to finish up some behind-the-scenes work first.