In My Mailbox (15) / Mailbox Monday (24)

mailbox

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here). This month it is hosted by Bluestocking.

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

In My Mailbox

Book Review: Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1)

11356211Title: Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1)
Author: Karina Halle
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Supernatural, Paranormal
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Publication Date: May 1st 2011
Rating: 5 stars
Review copy provided by the author.
Goodreads | Book Website | Amazon | B&N

There’s always been something a bit off about Perry Palomino. Though she’s been dealing with a quarter-life crisis and post-college syndrome like any other twenty-something, she’s still not what you would call “ordinary.” For one thing, there’s her past which she likes to pretend never happened, and then there’s the fact that she sees ghosts. Luckily for her, that all comes in handy when she stumbles across Dex Foray, an eccentric producer for an upcoming webcast on ghost hunters. Even though the show’s budget is non-existent and Dex himself is a maddening enigma, Perry is instantly drawn into a world that both threatens her life and seduces her with a sense of importance. Her uncle’s haunted lighthouse provides the perfect catalyst and backdrop for a mystery that unravels the threads of Perry’s fragile sanity and causes her to fall for a man, who, like the most dangerous of ghosts, may not be all that he seems.

If you’ve read my blog, then you know I’m always up for a good ghost story, an extraordinary supernatural thriller or just anything that’s scary enough to keep me up at night. When author Karina Halle contacted me asking if I wanted to review her debut novel, Darkhouse, I was especially thrilled. It had been quite a while since I’d read anything remotely scary, and the synopsis of the book seemed promising enough. But Darkhouse turned out unlike anything I’d expected. It drew me in from page one, with its easy-to-relate to, flawed but loveable characters, its fast pace, the unpredictable plot twists and its eerie, surreal atmosphere. If you’re searching for the scariest book of this season, then search no more. Darkhouse is exactly what you’re looking for.

Our protagonist, Perry, is a very interesting character. She has a great many flaws, which makes her all the more human. She isn’t fond of her job, which isn’t like she imagined it would be, although she’s in her twenties she doesn’t have a boyfriend and she isn’t confident with her appearance. Yes, ring the alarm bells, because we have an actual human heroine on our hands rather than a Mary Sue version of reality. Perry is very easy to relate to, mostly because she knows she has flaws, but tries to live with them. She’s worked on her appearance before, but like with all of us, it’s never enough. People used to tease her all through high school because she was overweight, and that never really goes away, no matter how much weight she lost. Especially not when, like in Perry’s case, her mom used to be a model and her kid sister has all the qualities to be one herself. When compared to these two, Perry thinks herself a bit dull, a bit ordinary, although she always hoped – like most, if not all of us – that there would be something extraordinary and special in her future. Well, Perry, it’s about to happen.

While on holiday at her uncle’s house, Perry and her sister Ada hang around with their cousins and a couple of their friends. Since hanging around with a bunch of teenagers is kind of boring her, Perry decides to check out the old and abandoned lighthouse near her uncle’s house. But she’s in for a surprise though. Not only is the lighthouse extremely terrifying, but there’s also somebody already in it. That, or the footsteps she hears on the first floor belong to a ghost.

Luckily for Perry, the person also investigating the lighthouse is anything but a ghost. In fact, he’s a rather handsome, charismatic and somewhat peculiar stranger. Although Perry’s first reaction is to be afraid of this Dex Foray guy, he sparks her interest when he tells her he went to the lighthouse to do some ghost-hunting. When the two of them hear more noises coming from above, they decide to check it out. While Perry is witness to something that can only be described as supernatural, Dex is nowhere insight. Feeling betrayed because he just ran off when things were getting dangerous, Perry decides to never think about this Dex-guy again. Although that’s not easy, considering the fact she found him quite attractive.

When Ada, Perry’s younger sister, falls ill and is unable to update her fashion blog, she asks Perry to write about something on her blog instead. Perry agrees reluctantly, but knowing nothing about fashion, she decides to write about her supernatural experience in the lighthouse instead. Luckily for her, she had her camera at hand, so she actually has some video/photo proof as well. When her post turns out to be the next internet hype , she suddenly receives a phonecall from aforementioned Dex Foray. Apparently he works for a youtube video company and the latest show he’s working on involves ghost-hunting. That, and he wants Perry and the haunted lighthouse on the show. Perry agrees, but she really has no clue what she’s getting into. The ghosts in the lighthouse might just be real, and they might have very special plans for Perry…

Since I already talked about how wonderful Perry is as a character because she has the same insecurities, problems and fears as more than half of the female population, which gives her this very humane and easy-to-relate to personality, let me talk about Dex now. You know how all those paranormal romance books feature a young, innocent girl and a more dominant vampire/demon/werewolf/other supernatural creature who has some typical bad boy charm, putting them in a peculiar relationship where one is always weak and the other always protective and strong? Yeh…well, not here. In fact, so far I’ve seen Dex portray zero supernatural abillities. He’s very much a human, and although he’s typically described as handsome by Perry, we also see a list of his many flaws indicating that perhaps not all of us would find him so handsome. He’s thin, with a bit of a moustache (personally, I’m not a fan of moustaches, but it seems to work for Dex!), and he leaves our heroine alone when in time of need. Granted, he apologises profusely about that, but still. Aforementioned Vampire/Demon/Werewolf would never do that. Unless they have to feed, or encounter another damsell in distress, or whatever. My point is: Dex has flaws at well, he isn’t the dominant male lead character some people look for when reading paranormal books. Instead, he’s human, he has a crappy low-paying job, he doesn’t look all that appealing when a night without sleep and he can get scared of ghosts as well. Which makes him one of my favorite male lead characters ever. Bonus points for Dex.

Perry and Dex’ relationship is really what drives this book. Sure, there’s the thrilling and suspenseful plot, the wonderful cast of supportive characters, the fast pace and unexpected plot twists, but in the heart of it, it’s all about Perry and Dex. It’s about two people who’ve made mistakes, who clearly aren’t perfect, and who are each desperately searching for love, who find each other. And they may not get there in this book, and maybe not even in the next, but eventually, they will. There’s a chemistry working for the two of them that they won’t be able to deny for long. The spark is there from the moment they meet, in the abandoned lighthouse, and it keeps on growing through this novel. Their interactions are at times hilarious, at other times sweet and always highly entertaining. I love them both, and I can’t wait to see what happens next to them.

As I already mentioned, the supportive characters are great as well. I especially liked Ada, Perry’s little sister, and her interactions with Perry. The two of them, albeit very different people, really do love each other.

The plot is not that original – I’ve read about abandoned lighthouses before, and protagonists dreaming about scary events about to happen to them before they actually happen…well, I’ve been there, done that. What’s original is the way the author deals with these things. She can take these clichés and turn them into something that doesn’t sound all that cliché anymore, simply because she adds the right amount of scaryness, and two of the best book characters ever created into the mix. The plot twists are unpredictable and suspensful, and kept me reading page after page after page until I’ve reached the end. Putting Darkhouse away was as impossible as travelling to the moon on foot. This is one of these books you just have to sit through to the end, or it’ll bug you forever. And even when I was done reading, I was still wondering: what’s going to happen next to Perry and Dex? Where will their next adventure take them? Will they finally get together? Yes, Darkhouse leaves you wanting more.

I would also like to congratulate Karina Halle on her excellent writing style. This book is self-published, but that really doesn’t show. It has the same high-quality writing as one would expect of a traditionally-published book, the editing is great and potential readers really shouldn’t scare away over the fact that this is self-published. There are some rare jewels in the self-publishing market as well, and the Experiment in Terror series definately is one of them.

I recommend this book to all readers who enjoy a mix of scary, creepy and supernatural occurences and romance. It reminded me a lot of the X-Files and the Scully/Mulder interactions, and of the television series Supernatural. If you’re a fan of either one of those shows, then you’ll most definately enjoy Darkhouse as well. This book can be read and enjoyed by both young adults and adults. Just don’t read it late at night when you’re home alone.

Darkhouse is the first book in a series of eight. The next book in the series is entitled Red Fox and takes Perry and Dex on an eerie and creepy adventure in New Mexico. My review for Red Fox is coming later this week. Karina Halle’s third book in the series, Dead Sky Morning will be released this fall. I can’t wait to read Dead Sky Morning and the other books in the series. I’m officially hooked.

Book Review: The Sky: The World by Jessica McHugh

9453982Title: The Sky: The World
Author: Jessica McHugh
Genre: Adventure, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Tours.
Visit the author’s website | Goodreads

Who is Doctor Azaz? It is the 19th Century, and Azazian England is at it’s pinnacle. Aeroplanes rule the sky, and crystalline technology has transformed life itself. But for stunt pilot Jack Racine, life is little more than an endless tailspin into liquor, laudanum, and loose women. But all that is about to change. For Jack Racine is about to have an audience with the architect of the age, the mysterious Doctor Azaz…

As you all probably know, I’m a big fan of Jessica McHugh’s writing. I’ve previously read and reviewed two other books by her: Camelot Lost and Rabbits in the Garden, both whom I enjoyed a lot. I was thrilled to participate in the book tour for another novel of hers, The Sky: The World. Although this book is something entirely different from the two other ones I mentioned, it was a nice and interesting read as well.

The Sky: The World starts out promising enough with pilot Toby and his pregnant wife Sarah crashing down with their plane. Unfortunately, the EPS appears not to be working properly, something which is unheard of because the only two people who know the location of the EPS are the pilot himself and his engineer. When the authorities investigate the bodies of the deceased, they realize two things. Number one, Toby was on laudanum at the time of the crash, and number two…he was a triap. In a world where its normal for people to be born out of a Fertility Pool rather than out of two people making love to each other, being a triap means being discriminated against, laughed at and a lot more. If the Royal Air Force ever found out Toby was a triap, it would have cost him his job. Even after his passing, it costs him his reputation.

Although Toby’s brother Jack is painfully aware of his older brother’s triap-status, he isn’t eager to believe that Toby was on laudanum. Drugs and opium are Jack’s trademarks, not Toby’s. He’s responsible, ambitious, and a good man. He won’t do anything like that, especially not with a baby on the way. Jack realizes right away that something else must be going on. Accidents don’t happen and EPS’s don’t just quit working for no reason. And when the organisation Toby worked for tries contacting Jack as well, he knows that this is his one change to find out what exactly happened to Toby. But although Jack’s suspicions may be correct, he is in for a lot more than he bargained for. The mysterious doctor Azaz, the sole inventor of aircraft, the fertility pool and most of mankind’s inventions might have something to do with why Toby was in Egypt as well…

The Sky: The World is a book with a lot of levels. On the one hand, it shows us a world other than the one we’re familiar with, where every major invention can be accocounted to one man only: the mysterious Doctor Azaz, who has lived for over a hundred years and is apparently immortal and all-knowing. On the other hand, we meet Jack, a young man who struggles not only with himself and the fact that he’s a bit of a loose canon, drinking, sleeping with several women, etc. but also with the fact that he has spent his entire life in the shadow of his father and of his brother Toby. Whereas Toby was the ambitious one, the good and reliable brother, Jack always was the wild one, the irresponsible one. But losing first his father and then his brother several years later, brings Jack to the verge of depression. Determined to clear his brother’s name and to prove he wasn’t on laudanum at the moment of the crash, Jack is willing to do whatever it takes to find out more about the accident, including working for Mr. Pratt, who was Toby’s previous employer.

Jack’s inner struggle will porbably look familiar to a lot of us, and I could relate to it fairly well myself. I was not a fan of his behavior, his constant switching between women (choose one, already!) and his sometimes cruel behavior towards Kat, who has loved him since they were both very young. At times, I didn’t like his attitude at all, although it is in a way understable. Jack grabs booze and laudanum when he cannot longer handle the world, and he has trouble commiting to one person for the same reason as well: whenever it gets tough, he wants to escape. Throughout the book, he does grow as a character, which was all the more reasons for me to like him better. He has sort of this James Bond-esque/Indiana Jones-esque style and attitude, and with the addition of Egypt, ancient Amulets, century-old secrets and the mysterious Doctor Azaz I could not help but imagine him as looking like Indiana Jones as well.

I loved the many notions of aircraft. I’ve never been in an airplane before in my life, but it must feel great to fly through the sky like that, freedom at your fingertips. The mystery surrounding Toby’s death, and how the intrige builds with every passing scene is excellently done as well. Add the dystopian myth of Doctor Azaz, the references to ancient cultures, and you have an adventure novel I personally greatly enjoyed. On the downside though, the pace picked up quite slow, and it took me several chapters to really get into the story, especially as Jack first reminisced about his childhood and his relationship with his brother Toby. I do have to mention that the pace picks up significantly in the second half of the book.

If you like Indiana Jones style novels, then you’ll probably like The Sky: The World as well, although Jack has a lot more depth than Indiana ever had. Jessica McHugh’s writing style, as always, was flawless. A nice read, but I have to admit that I did like her other books better.

Waiting on Wednesday (7)

waiting_on_wednesday
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Jill from Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

I’m waiting for…


Title: Dead Sky Morning (Experiment in Terror #3)
Author: Karina Halle
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Romance
Release Date: October 13th 2011
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Website | Goodreads

With the Experiment in Terror show finding some success, amateur ghost hunters Perry Palomino and Dex Foray embark on their most terrifying investigation yet. A tiny, fog-shrouded island in the rough strait between British Columbia and Washington State has held a dark secret for decades: It was a former leper colony where over forty souls were left to rot, die and bury each other. Now a functioning campground, Perry and Dex spend an isolated weekend there to investigate potential hauntings but as the duo quickly find out, there is more to fear on D’Arcy Island than just ghosts. The island quickly pits partner against partner, spiraling the pair into madness that serves to destroy their sanity, their relationship and their very lives.

After receiving books one and two in the series for review, Darkhouse and Red Fox by the amazingly talented author Karina Halle and enjoying both these books thoroughly, I simply can’t wait for the next book in the series to be released, Dead Sky Morning. If you’re in the mood to read something truly scary but with great characters, witty dialogue and a decent background story behind it, then I definately recommend the Experiment in Terror series to you.

Stay tuned for the reviews for Darkhouse and Red Fox later this week, and an interview with this amazing author.