Geeky Girl's Graveyard Reads

Geeky Girl's Graveyard Reads

i love horror, fantasy, and other random genres. 

Wielder: Apprentice - Mark  Tyson

I won this book on a Librarything giveaway.
What I liked: I liked the main character, Sheyna, an orphan who learns about her powerful destiny during the course of the story.
What I didn't like: The writing was clunky at times. The characters' dialogue was often used to describe other character's traits, especially with the main villain. The adult characters are pretty silly, which may have been intentional.
Overall: This was just OK. Nothing about this story blew me away, but I didn't really dislike anything about it either.

Cinders by VM Sawh
Cinders (Good Tales For Bad Dreams) - V.M. Sawh

Modern takes on classic fairy tales are quite popular these days. I don't read much in this genre but I did get a chance to review Cinders for the Online Book Club. It was a fun, quick read, and it was a little naughtier than the cartoon version that I remember as a child!

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5 Stars
The Sea of Ash
The Sea of Ash - Scott Thomas, Mike Davis
The Sea of Ash is told from a first person perspective by a school teacher who has won the lottery and taken up a hobby of collecting rare books. He has become obsessed with a rare copy of a Victorian doctor's journal. The teacher goes on a journey to see the sites that are described within the journal. He starts off as a self-proclaimed "tourist" but ends up getting touched (literally) by the mysteries and horrors described by the doctor.

While the setting is assumed to be modern-day, much of the details relate to 19th century New England. The story features Victorian occultism (automatic writing, brass and steam contraptions that contact the spirits, quaint graveyard rituals that call up benevolent spirits.) There is also nautical feel. I look at trilobites in a whole new light since reading this tale! The otherworldly realm he describes is consistent throughout the story, making it more believable.

Thomas has a clean and concise writing style which contrasts with the otherworldly scenes he describes. Each word serves its utilitarian purpose but still somehow increases the sense of fantastic horror. The first few paragraphs of the tale build interest to the mysteries within but do not grab you or jar your senses. The story builds up with an ever-increasing amount of disturbing events. The pace is fast enough to keep one's interest but slow enough to keep the reader holding their sense of disbelief as the mystery builds.

The plot is well-developed and progresses at a solid pace. There is no meandering or dreamlike fragments that some tales of this nature seem to feature. The tale wraps up satisfactorily, but the mysteries are not fully explained. As the author himself says, "The fact that there are missing parts to the story just adds to the appeal for me....I suppose it's like burlesque in that sense. How interested would we be in Nessie if she were stuffed, stretched out in a glass case at a Scottish museum, her mystery expunged by genetic science?"

There were no flaws in this book that I could find. No typos, break of character or stylistic inconsistencies. There is nothing that seems tacked on or out-of-place. The book is relatively short at 88 pages. While I could have read it in one sitting I read it in three because it was genuinely creepy and I needed to take a break.

This is one of the best and most original pieces of fiction I have read recently. I look forward to reading more stories by this author. Any fan of weird fiction, fantasy, or horror would appreciate this book.
4 Stars
Elder Sign End Times Trilogy Book One: Arkham
Elder Sign End Times Trilogy Book One: Arkham - Jennifer Stanfield
*I received a free copy of the ebook in exchange for an honest review.*

A young adult novel set in a Lovecraftian universe is an unusual combination, but the author makes it work. While the writing is uneven in places, the overall story is solid and the style is engaging. The ending wrapped up the main event but still left me very curious as to what happens next. I am looking forward to reading book two: The Dreamlands. I’m not sure if this book would appeal to every Lovecraft fan. This book is light on cosmic dread and heavy on character relations. Overall I liked it and think it is worth a read.

I'm not a big fan of the star rating system. I would give this book a 3.5, so I rounded it up to a 4.

I’m guessing the intended audience for this book is teenagers who have never read anything by weird fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft. I wanted to read this book because I am a fan of HPL. I am not sure what someone who has never read Lovecraft would think of it. Also, I am an adult who loves young-adult fiction series like Harry Potter and The Golden Compass. I can’t speak to what an actual young adult would think of this book.

The author excels in character dialogue. The three main characters, Saeko, Kelsea, and Dell, were all very different and I liked seeing how they each responded to different situations. Saeko was my favorite. I like strong female characters, often a rarity in horror and weird fiction. I hated Kelsea at first but grew to like her. The characters started off with a one-dimensional feel. However, the two female characters progressed and grew over the course of the book. I enjoyed reading about their relationship. Dell was a bit of a bull-headed butt-head from start to finish. Sometime I was incredulous at the choices the characters made, but then I thought, well they are 19, so it makes sense!

I loved the descriptions of the various groups of survivors and some of the technology being used by certain groups. The details of how the world ended were interesting, but the retelling of it was a bit dry. I enjoyed the descriptions of the various creatures that populate the world. I liked the premise; this is the first story I have ever read about what happens after Cthulhu rises.

The Lovecraftian elements of this book are quite pastiche. I did not mind; I have a special place in my heart for Lovecraftian pastiche. However, the story could have benefited from Lovecraft’s techniques of subtly and not-quite-explaining everything. While the overall storyline was good and had some surprises, the Lovecraftian plot elements were obvious, and at times over-explained. Anyone who has read Lovecraft would know what was coming. I did enjoy revisiting some of the Lovecraft stories the author pulled from: The Shadow over Innsmouth, The Lurking Fear, Nyarlathotep, Call of Cthulhu, and The Unnameable. Some aspects are a flat out retelling of the original stories. I found the author’s own ideas interesting enough to stand on their own without retelling certain Lovecraftian plot points, but I enjoyed the winks to HPL nonetheless.

The writing was uneven at times. The combat scenes felt rushed, some felt like more of a bland report of the events. Some of the scenes could have evoked feelings of horror, as the events were terrible, but they did not. Perhaps the author wanted to tone down the horror for a younger audience. I think there could be some improvement in this area.

The main characters frequently had their beliefs challenged and their prejudices exposed; we see the main characters analyze their falsely held ideas in light of events they have to face. Growing up, taking on responsibility, and adjusting to change are also themes approached in this tale. Post-apocalyptic settings are great for exploring the best and the worst of human nature.

I couldn’t tell which way the author’s viewpoints leaned; often the situations in the book had no obvious right or wrong choices. Overall, I would say a message of the book would be that assumptions and prejudice can blind us to the big picture.

The characters have to deal with life or death situations and wrestle with the moral complications. Not ever having had to face a life and death situation myself; it reminded me of a time when my kids and I read a choose-your-own-adventure book about surviving the Titanic. My son incredulously pointed out that any time you chose to help someone else, you died and the only way to survive was by being selfish. This goes against what we are taught about being kind and helping others at all costs. Most stories show the hero risking their life against unbeatable odds to save others and succeeding. But how realistic is that? In a world where everything comes crashing around you, sometimes you need to make tough choices. Is it OK to do something you don’t agree with if it will benefit your community? Is it OK to leave others to die if it means you survive?

This book was amateurish at points, excellent at others, but overall it is a good effort for a first novel. I found this Lovecraftian YA fiction strangely appealing. Sometimes I get bored with a story and start skimming. I did not do that at all in this book. I am looking forward to reading book 2.
5 Stars
The Strange Dark One
The Strange Dark One - W.H. Pugmire, Jeffrey Thomas
This book features eight tales of Nyarlathotep, one of HP Lovecraft’s most popular creations. The title of this collection, “The strange dark one,” is taken from the second line of HPL’s poem Nyarlathotep.

According the Robert E Price in the forward to The Nyarlathotep Cycle (Chaosium, 1997), Nyarlathotep has three roles to the Great Old Ones: The messenger, the soul, and the “crawling chaos.” Pugmire is able to capture all three elements in this collection

The character Nyarlathotep came to Lovecraft in a dream so it is fitting that dreams play so prominently in this book. There is repeating imagery of the moon, the nighttime sky, piping, and rare occult tomes. The senses are described thoroughly and the reader is acquainted with the dark scents and hot dry temperatures that accompany the crawling chaos. I don’t see many writers of this genre focus on all of the senses the way Pugmire does, and it adds another dimension to the stories.

All but one of the stories in this collection are set in Pugmire’s sensual and mystic Sesqua Valley. Sesqua Valley is a place that appears to exist tenuously in our world but touches other realms as well. Many of the residents are silver-eyed shadow people; immortals that have taken mortal form. There are some repeating characters, Simon Gregory Williams being most prominent.

Rare, occult books are a favorite of the denizens of this place. Humans who have read the arcane lore found in occult books such as the De Vermis Mysteriis or the Necronomicon often gain a sense of the other-worldly and find themselves drawn to Sesqua Valley. There are many strange artifacts in Sesqua Valley, one of note is the stained glass window from the Free-Will Church of Providence from HPL’s The Haunter of the Dark.

The tales (in order):

The Strange Dark One: One of the longest tales in the collection. A women inherits her grandfather’s bookshop and enters Sesqua Valley to sell books. She becomes enmeshed in the mysteries of the valley after finding an altar to Nyarlathotep.

Immortal Remains: Simon helps a woman re-experience her strange childhood dream after visiting a mummy in an ancient tomb of Sesqua Valley.

Past the Gates of Deepest Dreaming: A tale about Nyarlathotep’s sister, Selene, told from three different perspectives. Bonus points for the scene in which a nightgaunt braids Selene’s hair while she sits by a pond talking to Nyarlathotep (I love, love love nightgaunts and their faceless faces and tickling claws).

One Last Theft: A ne-er do well comes back to Sesqua valley for a celebration in honor of Nyarlathotep.

The Hands That Reek and Smoke is a direct nod to Lovecraft’s prose-poem Nyarlathotep. It also includes my favorite line in the book: “I tell you, go see Nyarlathotep, and he will drench your dreams with wondrous vision.”

The Audient Void: A woman finds the Book of Eibon and uses it to inspire dreams of the crawling chaos.
Some Baccante of Irem: Simon leaves Sesqua Valley to see an art exhibit modeled after the lost city of Irem. He meets with the artist and helps her reach her dreams.

To See Beyond: If you ever wanted to know what happened to Erich Zann, you should read this. A writer who is about to commit suicide rather than live with the horrible truths he has discovered is instead transported to Sesqua Valley. There he has a tenuous relationship with Simon Gregory Williams and meets a violin player who has been given the gift of voice.

Criticisms: Dialogue is difficult, and I don’t always think it is Pugmire’s strong point. In addition some tales really are more fragments that fully developed short stories. Also, as with most small press and e-books, there are some typos.

A casual reader unfamiliar with the works of Lovecraft might find themselves lost when reading these tales. However, HP Lovecraft fans should read this work that not only pays homage to the Mythos but actually progresses it. Much like outsider artists who do not use the established conventions to express their art; Pugmire does not always use conventional writing techniques. However his methods work in these tales of weird fiction; where is can be difficult to describe sights that can barely be understood by the human mind! Overall a great read!
4 Stars
Autobiography - Morrissey
When I saw that this book came out, I knew I had to have it, even if it meant ordering it from the UK. After waiting breathlessly for this book to arrive from overseas, I was not disappointed. One can open this book up at any page and read a sentence, preferably in a British accent, and fall in love with Morrissey all over again. Moz can make the most mundane event appear epically tragic. My husband and I take turns reading passages from this book, doing our best Morrissey impressions. This is a must read for any Morrissey fan. He is a legend in his own time, and all of his quirks just make him more fascinating.
4 Stars
Bigboobenstein - Jeff    O'Brien
A title like Bigboobenstein gives the reader certain expectations. Well, this book delivers! The story lives up to the book's title and is pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be, complete with mad scientists, hunchbacked assistants, and jerk bass players. The trolls are an added bonus.

I picked the ebook up for free during a sale on Amazon. I figured I didn't have much to lose at that price, and I could not resist the cheesy title. The plot is extremely simple and linear, but it is well-executed. There is even a nice message at the end. If John Waters made a Frankenstein movie it might be something like this...
4 Stars
Red Equinox
Red Equinox - Douglas Wynne
This is a wonderful story in a modern-day Cthulhu Mythos setting. Lovecraft would have loved Mr. Wynne’s detailed descriptions of Boston. The author was able to capture some of the cosmic dread that Lovecraft was known for, while still having strong human characters.

***Mild spoilers ahead..big spoilers are hidden***

The book started off well, but I soon felt restless reading the first 90 pages of this 260 page book. While it seemed that there should be a sense of urgency to what was going on, there wasn’t. The characters and descriptions were fabulous but events were just meandering on. I was worried this was going to continue throughout the book.

At about 35% into the book, the action revved into 5th gear and did not stop until the last chapter. Looking back, the slow set up was necessary to build the characters and the events. I was rooting for the main character, Becca, and enjoyed seeing how the author showed her overcoming her inner doubts. The reluctant heroine grew emotionally from the events in the story and I loved that.

I was really upset when Raphael died. I was glad to see that Becca had some closure after his death; I needed some too! I loved the twist at the end. Does this mean there will be a second book?

I would have liked to learn more about the Starry Wisdom cultists, what drew them to the church in the first place. It seemed that two of the cultists were actually SPECTRA agents but their back stories weren’t fleshed out. The descriptions of Nyarlathotep in his various forms were amazing. Mr. Wynne did a great job expanding on this entity.
Overall I really liked this book!
1 Stars
Deadlocked - Charlaine Harris
My adoration of this series has ended. I couldn't even finish this and I won't bother with the last book.

Later Sookie...

3 Stars
Dead Reckoning
Dead Reckoning - Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris’s novels are like junk food; no nutritional value but so good you can’t stop eating (well reading)!

I love reading about Sookie Stackhouse and her supernatural adventures. I found the last three books at the library and picked them up. It’s been a few years since I read the previous books. It’s nice to be transported back to Sookie’s familiar world. No matter how many bloody events she has to deal with, Sookie is still serving up homemade iced tea to her guests and cleaning her old house with vigor like a true Southern lady.

Business at Merlottes is bad, and the violent events that plague the restaurant don’t seem to be letting up. Two of Sookie’s past boyfriends show up and profess their love. Sookie is dealing with her blood bond to Eric, and her fairy cousins are living at her house. Pelt is out to kill her. Her cousin Hunter, a telepath is about to start kindergarten. Victor, the vampire regent of Louisiana, seems intent on provoking Eric. Businesses are bad at Fangtasia and Merlottes. Sookie finds a letter from her grandmother and an elven magic item. She finds out more about her family’s past. All this and Sookie has a baby shower to host!

The plot is a bit mish-mashed. The story jumps around, not building up tension on any one event. Mostly everything is resolved at the end of the book, except what the fairies are up to.
Sookie and Eric basically break up at the end of the book, which is weird because they seem truly in love at the beginning and nothing really happens. She decides to break her bond with him on a whim. There is talk of continuity issues in this book, but since I read the previous books years ago I can’t really say. I’m almost afraid to finish the series because I am worried that I will be annoyed by the choices Sookie makes.

Even with the weak points, Sookie Stackhouse novels are fun reads that I don’t want to put down until the end. This was no exception.
4 Stars
Night Shall Overtake
Night Shall Overtake - Michael  R. Collins
Night Shall Overtake by Michael R. Collins is an urban fantasy, set in a world like our own but full of supernatural creatures (there are no vampires, thank goodness.) The protagonist is a detective with special powers. What starts out as a standard case turns into more than this detective and her coworkers bargained for.

I received this book in the Lovecraft ezine winter sale. I was not drawn in by the cover, which I don’t think does the book justice. When I started reading and saw that it was about a detective that solves supernatural mysteries, I assumed it would be a Harry Dresden knock-off. I kept reading, anyway. And kept reading. The story and writing sucked me in and couldn’t stop reading until the end!

Many of the creatures found in Night Shall Overtake are familiar: demons, lamia, shades, and boogeymen. A new monster is introduced in this book: a Ry’leth. The Ry’leth is a creature that starts out as humanoid Cthulhu-thing and then grows up into a big insanity-inducing nightmare.

The protagonist, Twila, is a woman. Her sidekick is a gay man. Her other sidekick is a black man. That’s different than your average horror character set. These facts were pointed out and neutral; I didn’t feel that the author was beating you over the head with the fact that he was adding some diversity to the mix as if to win some politically-correct brownie points.

Overall, the character development was pretty basic, but it worked fine in the context of the book. I was skeptical of the lead character being a woman since the story seems to be written by a man, but I actually liked Twila. While the character was more masculine than your typical woman, I do know a few women who are like her.

There is some graphic sexual content in this book. I usually enjoy sexuality in weird fiction the way good Lovecraft wrote it; so repressed you need a shovel and a psychology textbook to unearth it. However, the sexual content in this book was not bad. And to be fair, this book is not weird fiction, although there are definite nods towards horror-writer HP Lovecraft. Night Shall Overtake is pulp horror with a sprinkle of cosmic terror and a mystery on top.

While there were no misspellings, there were a few typos in this book. One word was replaced for another similar but incorrect word in some spots. Two women with similar names were mixed up a few times towards the end of the book, and that was pretty confusing. Also, the e-book had chapters but you could not access them from the kindle side bar which was annoying.

This book has a fun premise, solid pacing, and powerful ideas and descriptions. I highly recommend it and look forward to reading more by this author.
4 Stars
The Stars Were Right
The Stars Were Right - K. M. Alexander
The Stars Were Right is a great effort for a first book. Author K.M. Alexander creates a vivid and complex fantasy world with likeable characters.

The book is set in the city of Lovat, which is built up in levels. The higher levels are occupied by the rich and the lower levels are where the poor reside, not unlike a caste system. This reminds me of the city of Sharn in the Eberron setting of Dungeons and Dragons (which was one of my favorite 3.5 edition worlds). The world has a steampunk-fantasy feel, with modern elements; the police check for fingerprints, old people play Sudoku, and people watch black and white television. There are a variety of different humanoid races that populate the word.

A caravan owner, Waldo, gets charged with a murder that he did not commit and the story is of his efforts to clear his name and find the real killer. Religion is a focus of this story. Time periods are defined by religious events: the Pre-Aligning and the Aligning.

This story started off slow but picked up with a solid, well written ending. The descriptions at the end were great (very Lovecraftian) and the fight scenes were well-written. The protagonist loves food and there is much space devoted to him thinking about and descriptively eating food. I almost think this could be a new genre of hero: the foodie crime-solver? Food-porn horror fiction?
I wasn’t sure when the book would get Lovecraftian, but it became apparent towards the end. I don’t know if this would be an issue for most readers. I picked this up in the Lovecraft E-zine holiday sale, so I had some expectations. I would not consider this book horror or weird fiction, but more of a fantasy/adventure and mystery.

I figured out what was going on before the protagonist, not sure if the author intended the reader to pick this up or not. I spent part of the book just waiting to see how Waldo would handle things when he realized what was going on. I found myself falling out of suspension of disbelief at times, for instance when two people won a fight against fifty.

This was not a bad book; it could have been a little shorter in my opinion. I found myself skimming over some descriptions that I felt were somewhat repetitive or did not add to the story. Overall, the world and its inhabitants are wonderful, and I will be interested in reading more by this author and in this world. I was also impressed by the editing; I did not notice any typos, which usually plague small or self-published works.
5 Stars
D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths
D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths - Ingri d'Aulaire, Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, Michael Chabon
I read this to my son. We loved looking at the beautiful illustrations. The stories were nicely written and perfect for reading aloud. Loved the pronunciation guide in the back; I'm notoriously bad at pronouncing things right and this helped me not butcher the names too bad.
4 Stars
Horror for the Holidays
Horror for the Holidays - Scott David Aniolowski, T.E. Grau, H.P. Lovecraft, Joseph S. Pulver, Pete Rawlik, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Ann K. Schwader, James Robert Smith, Don Webb, Will Murray, Kevin Ross, William Meikle, Tara Vanflower, Donald R. Burleson, Mollie Burleson, Tom Lynch, Michael G. Szyman
Horror for the Holidays is a collection of 26 Lovecraftian tales. The figure of Krampus is featured on the cover. He is standing beside a 19th century-garbed evil elf-child and what appears to be a sack full of dead children. Despite this cover, the collection features holidays throughout the year, not just Christmas.

There are reprints from horror masters H.P. Lovecraft, Thomas Ligotti and Ramsey Campbell. Lovecraft guru Robert Price also has a tale in this tome. Interestingly there are two stories that feature Ramsey Campbell’s creations. Campbell has been on my read-more-of list for some time, and after reading this collection I would like to pick up either Cold Print or Alone with the Horrors.

There is a little bit of something for everyone here and a real variety of writing styles; some more polished than others: Most of the stories are firmly planted in Cthulhu Mythos territory and feature some of Lovecraft’s most popular entities: Deep Ones, Shub Niggurath, Cthulhu, ghouls, Elder Things, Yog Sothoth, etc.

My top three favorite tales of this collection:

The Tomb of Oscar Wilde by Wilum Pugmire. A quick read featuring an obscure (to me at least) holiday. Those who have ever wished to be in the presence of their favorite long-dead author will appreciate this tale.

Love and Darkness by Oscar Rios: A campy but well written short story for Valentine’s Day. Good pacing. Clues are dropped throughout the story as to which entity the story is about, with the answer at the end. I have been lucky enough to play in one of Oscar’s Call of Cthulhu games, and his story is as fun as one of his games, and by that I mean very! This tale wins the “Most likely to make Lovecraft blush” award for its sexual content.

Wassail by Tom Lynch: A concise, well written tale. The deity at the end was a surprise, but makes perfect sense in regards to the theme of the story. It was a fun take on combining paganism with the Mythos.

Honorable Mention: Joshua Reynolds had two stories featuring Charles St. Cyprian here: The Dreaming Dead and Krampusnacht. St Cyprian the Royal Occultist, accompanied by his sarcastic female assistant, fights off eldritch beasts in early 20th century England. I’m not always a fan of these types of characters but this one is done well and I enjoyed both tales that were featured in the collection. St Cyprian also has the funniest quote in the book, “That which is not dead is eternally annoying.”

Overall this was a fun book that I think fans of Lovecraft will enjoy.