Sunday, June 19, 2016

Advance Review: The Ouija Trials by Fiona Dodwell


Title: The Ouija Trials
Author: Fiona Dodwell
Release Date: June 13, 2016

I'm pleased to have the chance to read and review another work by Fiona Dodwell. For full disclosure's sake, I am friends with Dodwell and I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest review. 

SIX STRANGERS. ONE BOARD. WHAT CAN GO WRONG? 

When three students decide to make a documentary about the Ouija board, they think it'll be an easy project. What can go wrong? They invite six strangers to attend a séance, and what unfolds during the course of filming their project changes their beliefs - and lives, forever. 

Will they survive the night with their sanity intact - will they survive at all? The Ouija Trials is a chilling story that explores the subject of spirit communication - and highlights the negative outcome it has for many.

There's just something very interesting about Ouija boards. They're firmly entrenched in pop culture, which is pretty intriguing considering that they're a fairly recent invention. Spirit writing has been around in various formats for hundreds of years, however Ouija boards in specific are credited as being invented around the 1890s. That the paranormal and the need to discover what lies beyond the veil have long enjoyed their own individual popularity goes without saying. 


The story's opening, a series of e-mails about a university project, is reminiscent of one of Dodwell's earlier works, the 2015 short story "The Redwood Lodge Investigation". It's worth mentioning in general, but especially as both stories deal with people exploring the supernatural, albeit in very different ways. 

What's fun about this story and Dodwell's work in general is this sense of creeping dread that worms its way in, slowly but surely. This story is no exception, although I will note that it's surprisingly lighter fare than some of her other tales. It's still dark, but it's likely going to be an easier read for some than say, The Banishing. That one dealt with domestic abuse and demonic possession and its resolution still haunts me, just so you know what I'm comparing it against.

This is a fairly quick read and while it's not my favorite Dodwell short story, it's still something that I'd recommend overall. It admittedly lacks a bit of the punch delivered by "The Redwood Lodge Investigation" and "Juniper's Shadow", both of which tie as my favorite short stories of hers, but I still found myself eagerly reading as quickly as I could in order to find out exactly how things would end.

It's well worth checking out, in my opinion.

(4/5 stars)

(Reader copy provided by author)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The 100 Scariest Horror Novels of All Time per Horror Novel Reviews

If you haven't guessed, I'm a huge horror buff and I can't get enough of the stuff, much to the joy and irritation of my boyfriend.

The horror themed website Horror Novel Reviews has compiled a list of their top 100 scariest horror novels and I'm pleased at some of the titles on the list, especially Penpal by Daniel Auerbach. I haven't read the full novel but I've read his reddit posts and they're genuinely unnerving to read. The Stepford Wives made the list as well, much to my joy. Granted our society isn't at the level where we could replace people with lifelike robots, but the horrifying thing is that I can still imagine that a good many would willingly ship their spouses (male and female both) off to a factory to get "upgraded".

I'm also pleased that it doesn't fall predominantly in any one direction. Granted there are more recent books than old-old ones, but they aren't going for any one specific theme or direction. If you're looking for something to read this summer like I am, this is a good place to start.

Further reading:

Coming soon to an e-reader near you: The Ouija Trials by Fiona Dodwell



If you've seen any of my other posts, you'll know that I'm a fan of Fiona Dodwell's work. It's not always an easy read, given that she's unafraid to tackle tough subjects like domestic abuse, but I've always found her work to be exciting and captivating.

Her newest piece is another short story called "The Ouija Trials" and it's slated to release next month in the US and UK, on June 13. Here's the synopsis:

SIX STRANGERS. ONE BOARD. WHAT CAN GO WRONG?

When three students decide to make a documentary about the Ouija board, they think it'll be an easy project. What can go wrong? They invite six strangers to attend a séance, and what unfolds during the course of filming their project changes their beliefs - and lives, forever. 


Will they survive the night with their sanity intact - will they survive at all? 

The Ouija Trials is a chilling story that explores the subject of spirit communication - and highlights the negative outcome it has for many.

This sounds freaking amazing, in my opinion and you can pre-order the book on Amazon US and Amazon UK for only one dollar.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mixed feelings: Comixology subscription service

Recently Comixology announced that they would be adding a subscription service, Comixology Unlimited. This isn't anything absurdly abnormal and subscription services for digital comics are actually fairly common. My Facebook feed is usually cluttered with offers for various manga subscription services and I know that Marvel has already launched their own subscription service, Marvel Unlimited. (On a side note DC and Marvel's comics are not part of this service.)

Part of me is always leery, however, of this sort of thing. You don't really "own" digital comics since the publisher can always yank them whenever they want and copies tend to only restored to buyers (or they're given a refund) once the media catches wind of things. A rental service (since that's essentially what this is) gives us even less control over things. There's also the obvious bit about digital copies not living up to paper, but that's sort of a given.

Still, the idea of being able to try various comics is fairly enticing - especially since comics (digital or paper) are pretty expensive. It's always a bit of a crapshoot when it comes to picking out new things. Sometimes you can rest a little easy if you're familiar with the author, but even that's no guarantee of enjoyment.

I do wish that there was a way to know exactly what comics are available under this service. We're given a list of some of the publishers, but not really any way to verify which ones will be offered as not every digital comic will be available under this service.

EDIT:

It looks like you can tell which ones are offered by checking a little box at the top of the search function and when you search through genres there's a little bar across the book that says "unlimited".

So far the selections aren't really making my heart race since they're just the first 1-2 volumes of various series, some of which are already fairly long running. It's not a terrible way to get into a series, but it will prove to be frustrating for people who cannot afford to purchase digital volumes at $8-10 a pop.

RIP Jo Beverly

I just read on Dear Author that Jo Beverly, a popular author of historical fiction. Beverly had been fighting cancer for years and it had been thought to be in remission until only recently, when it was discovered that it'd returned.

When I was working at a local chain bookstore I remember her books being fairly popular and there were many who looked for her works specifically, especially the Malloren books.

Rest in Peace, Jo Beverly. You will be missed.

Chapter review: The Long Drop by Denise Mina


Title: The Long Drop
Author: Denise Mina
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: April 1, 2017
ISBN: 0316380571


I was kind of excited when I saw this on Netgalley. Granted it's only a one chapter preview, but it's a literary novel about a crime that actually happened. I always maintain that the scariest stores are the ones that about real life events where we can't laugh the monsters away as a Jason-esque figment of an overactive imagination. Deep down we know that they aren't real. It's what makes books like The Devil in the White City so chilling, as we cannot deny the existence of serial killers like H. H. Holmes.

The "trial of the century" in 1950's Glasgow is over. Peter Manuel has been found guilty of a string of murders and is waiting to die by hanging. But every good crime story has a beginning. Manuel's starts with the murder of William Watt's family. Looking no further that Watt himself, the police are convinced he's guilty. Desperate to clear his name, Watt turns to Manuel, a career criminal who claims to have information that will finger the real killer. As Watt seeks justice with the cagey Manuel's help, everyone the pair meets has blood on their hands as they sell their version of the truth. THE LONG DROP is an explosive novel about guilt, innocence and the power of a good story to hide the difference.

 A disclaimer is needed here: this review is based solely on the first chapter of the book and I also was unaware that Peter Manuel existed prior to reading this chapter. The latter will likely work in my favor slightly, since it's always more entertaining when you discover true crimes via books or other entertainment media. (Within reason, of course. Some of those Hollywood flicks will occasionally distort the truth to the point where the entire thing might as well be fiction.) 

When I went into this I was expecting this chapter to open more along the lines of The Devil in the White City, where we're given a nice little info dump about the time period and the basic plot of the book. We get this to a certain extent, but for the most part we're left to figure things out on our own. This wouldn't be an issue except for the fact that two of the chapter's central figures (Manuel and Watt) start a conversation by shouting at one another across a table in a manner that was frankly quite disorienting. I'm not sure if this is intentional or not, since I only have the first chapter to go by - if it's intentional then it's well done, but if not then it makes me a little leery about the rest of the book. 

Still, the idea of a handsome, charismatic serial killer is one that intrigues and horrifies, as it's all too easy to picture serial killers as creepy, ugly, or anything other than ordinary or handsome looking. It's those murderers that always sink beneath our skins the quickest since they're not just a boogeyman (or boogeylady), they're an anti-NIMBY (Not In My BackYard) and proof that terrible things can happen anywhere and to anyone. Despite being a little disoriented, Mina does a decent job of setting Manuel as a creepy individual whose physical appearance belies his inner, monstrous personality. 

Rating: N/A, since it's just a chapter

(Chapter ARC provided by Netgalley)


Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: Wandering Star by Teri S. Wood


Title: Wandering Star
Author: Teri S. Wood
Publisher: Dover Publications
Release Date: June 15, 2016
ISBN: 0486801624


As someone who grew up loving indie comics mainstays like ElfQuest and Sandman, I'm honestly surprised that I didn't discover Wandering Star until now, so many years later. It's entirely the type of thing that I would've been into as a teenager, with its moody but strong main character Cassandra and its plethora of other interesting characters. Odds are I would've shipped some of the characters together, regardless of their expressed interest in one another. (Shipping is odd like that.)

This much-praised space drama follows the far-flung adventures of Casandra, daughter of the President of the United Nations and the first terran accepted into the Galactic Academy. Casandra discovers to her woe that Earth isn't the most popular of planets and joins the outcasts working on the Wandering Star, the Alliance's prototypical spaceship. When the Bono Kiro, the Alliance's longtime enemy, makes a sudden reappearance, Casandra and her misfit crew just might turn out to be the galaxy's last hope. 

This is an incredibly ambitious series and I'd be lying if I said that at times it was a little frustrating, given that the overall universe and its stories are so much larger than what we're shown here. To use a modern equivalent, it'd be like if Saga had only covered Hazel's birth rather than its current sweeping goals. It could very easily be expanded upon and Wood has expressed interest in creating a webcomic, which I think would work fairly well nowadays.

The artwork here is well done and has a fresh style that helps showcase the characters' feelings and drives. Characters are equally well designed and I'd have to say that one of my favorites had to have been Mek, who first appears in the comics as a fervently anti-Earth student of the Galactic Academy. To say that he undergoes a lot of changes and problems throughout the series would be an understatement. What's most interesting about this series, however, is how much it applies to today's societies. Prejudice and war are sadly still very much a part of today's world and I think that many will be able to sympathize with Cassandra's plight.

Ultimately this is a series that has gotten far less attention than what it deserves and hopefully Dover's release will help rectify that at least in part. It's one heck of a story and one that would work well as a feature film.

5/5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)