Book Review: Spirit by Graham Masterton

16916Title: Spirit
Author: Graham Masterton
Genre: Thriller, Horror, Adult, Ghosts, Supernatural
Rating: 4,5 stars
Review copy provided by Dorchester Publishing.

Laura and Elizabeth Buchanan’s lives were changed forever when their little sister Peggy was found dead in the icy water of the family’s pool. But Peggy never left her sisters. As Laura and Elizabeth grow up, a string of inexplicable deaths threatens to shatter their lives. Each corpse shows signs of frostbite–and each victim’s dying moments are tortured by a merciless little girl in a white dress.

When I first read the blurb for Spirit, I knew that I needed to get my hands on this book, no matter what it cost. Even though I had to request it three times (due to my Netgalley profile not being completely filled in), I didn’t care in the slightest. I had this crazy, unexplainable, but very convincing feeling that this book was going to leave me scared, terrified and very, very impressed. I don’t know why I got this feeling, that turned out to be true, but I have my suspicions that it might be a supernatural thing of the kind we come across in Spirit, a part of me that instinctively knew, even by reading the smallest back cover blurb ever, that this novel was it. That this was the kind of scary story I had been waiting for since forever-and-a-day, that this was the story that would leave me paralyzed, hidden under my blankets at night, and unable to sleep. I was more than right.

Spirit reminded me of the first time I watched The Others, with Nicole Kidman as leading actress, and hid under my blanket because I was so damn terrified. It brought back memories of summoning spirits at band camp late at night, of shivers running down your spine when your friends tell you ghost stories around a camp fire, or hearing a weird sound and dismissing it as nothing, while you very well know it’s something. It reminded me of that time my friends and I broke into the local haunted mansion, and I saw what I firmly believe was a ghost. This novel is so haunting, so absolutely terrifying, that it reminded me of every single time I was scared by the supernatural, by the world beyond our own, by the possible existence of ghosts, and topped all of that. I don’t remember ever being so scared while reading a book before in my life. Now it leaves me still very much unsettled, but very much impressed at well. Wow, is all I can say, wow, and please hand me another one of those.

I cannot begin to describe how good it felt to actually be this scared again, right when I was starting to lose my faith in the horror genre alltogether. I mean, I’m one of those people who can’t be scared by watching Zombie flicks, or by reading about blood-sucking vampires (definately not after the whole Sparkly-vampires thing) or by insane serial killers following a group of stupid and ignorant teenagers. The only way to actually make me shiver in fear, is by involving ghosts. Why? Ghosts just have this whole sense of weirdness going on, one cannot be certain if they truly exist or not, and even if they do, it’s damn hard to get rid of them, since they are…you know, dead.

Spirit begins with the drowning of five-year-old Peggy, the little sister of Elizabeth and Laura Buchanan. While their parents suffer greatly from the loss of their beloved youngest daughter, the two sisters struggle with feelings of guilt. In an effort to put this past them, Elizabeth buries her copy of The Snow Queen, Peggy’s favorite fairytale, in the snow of their backyard, as a peace offering to God to let Peggy’s soul rest in heaven. Rest assured, that’s the last thing that happens.

Some years pass by and the Buchanan family is getting things together again, with their mother returning from the asylum (she suffered a mental breakdown after Peggy’s funeral) and their father getting back to work as a publisher. However, strange things are starting to happen. Elizabeth runs into a girl she swears is Peggy, although the girl looks nothing like her drowned sister. When people are starting to die in peculiar circumstances as well – from frostbite, for instance – Elizabeth suspects that somehow Peggy returned back from the dead. She finds encouragement for her thoughts when her parents start seeing Peggy as well, and when a local author and friend of hers tells her that he’s been seeing his dead brother, Billy, frequently during hte last couple of years. Although the boy he sees looks nothing like Billy, and isn’t even of the same age.

Elizabeth and Laura must stop their younger sister from walking this earth anymore, and must do whatever it takes to put her soul to rest. Before it’s too late…

The entire atmosphere, dialogue and descriptions of Spirit is eerie and haunted. From the first few sentences until the very last, Graham Masterton proves that he is a true master of the horror genre, as he pulls his readers in from his very first chapter, and doesn’t let them go. He describes his characters in a lot of detail, and I felt like I got to know them as real people, with real hopes and expectations, and real, substantial fears. Elizabeth was a gripping character with a moving and touching personality, who gained a lot of my sympathy as she struggled with the ghost of her undead sister. Sorrow, regret, guilt and raw, honest fear are all woven together in what I believe is one of the scariest novels currently existing. As the years pass by and the secrets unfold, I felt myself getting pulled more and more into the novel. When the ghost of Peggy appeared, first not much more than a vision, and later on a person you could actually touch, a murderous and over-protective, evil spirit, I looked behind my back occasionally, as shivers were running down my spine and I felt the temperature in the room had dropped several degrees. Although mostly only in my head, it was great to be experience so many emotions when reading a novel.

There were parts in the book that felt sloppy and not up-to-par as well. For instance, when they try to unravel the mystery of who exactly the spirit is, and why they feel like it’s Peggy although she looks nothing at all like their deceased sister. “Human imagination”, “Fairy Tales Come To Life”, that dropped the scare-level to halfway, in my opinion. Maybe it’s the science and logic behind it, although I did think this was interesting and an original perspective, or maybe it was that this wasn’t just some dead person’s ghost lingering about, but actually only a little girl’s imagination gone wild. Quite dissapointing in the scary-department but unmistakingly original nevertheless. I also felt like somehow these parts dragged a bit, and that some of the kills were rather random. I didn’t like the scene with Laura and the two TV producers, and I wasn’t sure if it was an essential part of the story – to show what exactly the spirit is capable of (but if it was, why did she not appear sooner then, and why wait till after Laura gets hurt?) – or if it was just to fill some pages. I am inclined to believe the latter, and wasn’t all that touched by it. The epic battle at the end left me dissapointed as well (I had a continuous feeling of: oh really?, and add a sarcastic tone to that), but all in all, I could live with that, considering how unnaturally frightened I had been with the first part of the novel.

What would have made Spirit stood out for me so much that I would rate it a 5 rather than a 4.5? Had the ghostly incidents started off more slowly, rather than immediately with the apparition of an actual ghost-like figure. I like the tiny little horror parts in novels, like when the protagonist leaves their keys on the counter, and then finds them on the table when he returns. Or when they hear strange noises at night, that can not be explained. Or when they see shapes out of the corner of their eyes, but dismiss it as being nothing. Lights suddenly shutting off, things going missing, those sort of things. And then, bring in the ghost. And then, a hundred-or-so-pages further down the line, make the ghost go totally murderous. I also would have liked to see more of Margaret, Elizabeth’s mother, and how she might have been effected by the supernatural events. She was an intriguing character, with her severe doubts about her life, her depression over giving up her acting career and her frequent visits to the asylum. There was a small part of the novel in which Margaret saw Peggy first, but no one believed her, and then Elizabeth saw her as well. I would have liked it if this had lasted longer, and they had announced Margaret crazy for seeing things that were actually real, and then have Elizabeth question her own sanity as she starts seeing the ghost as well. Alas, we cannot have it all.

I also liked the fact that this novel read like a mystery novel. There’s the case of the murderous ghost, and then our cast of characters has to find out who she is, where she comes from, and how to stop her, in a race against time – or against the next murder. I also loved the fact that not only our protagonists were seeing ghosts, but that other people throughout the story confessed to having seen dead relatives as well. A more thorough description of the house the Buchanans live in, would have been great as well, or if the ghost was somehow connected to the house as well.

Nevertheless, as I already mentioned, the first part of the novel was a whole new level of scary for me, and if the second part was a tad bit dissapointing, then so be it. I enjoyed reading Spirit, and I would definately read another novel by Graham Masterton in a heartbeat. Some parts of this book were actually beyond brilliant, and left me very impressed, and a tremendously happy reader. If you can get past some of the minor flaws, you will realise, just as I have, that this novel is a masterpiece of horror literature, a true symphony for all things horrifying and supernatural, and a statement on its own: that not all things dead, stay dead, and that ghosts might very well exist. Magnificent.

Book Review: The Banishing by Fiona Dodwell

10660843Title: The Banishing
Author: Fiona Dodwell
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Thriller
Publisher: Damnation Books
Published: February 27th 2011
Pages: 182
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by Bewitching Book Tours.
Goodreads | Author’s Website

When Melissa first notices the change in her husband – subtle at first – she thinks it may be the stress of moving into their new home. Or working long hours. But soon he turns into something far darker, far more sinister.Who or what is the dark shadow living beneath her husband? What is haunting him?
Melissa must quickly find the answer to these questions, because Mark is changing, and fast. Soon her fight will be for her life, as well as for her marriage.
The Banishing is a dark, disturbing novel exploring the world of demonic possession, spiritual oppression and domestic abuse.

The Banishing tells the dark and disturbing story of housewife and nurse Melissa, and her husband Mark. Although at first he turned out to be everything she desired, and was nothing if not a Prince Charming by the time they married, he is slowly changing into a person she hardly recognizes. This started happening from the moment they started living in their new house, and has grown worse over the passing months. Although at first Melissa is convinced this is just an unknown side of her husband turning up after ‘the honeymoon is over’, she grows suspicious when she sees him whispering to strange entities. When she herself encounters a strange figure in the middle of her living room, she is both puzzled and more and more convinced that whatever is happening to her and her husband, it has something to do with a presence from the beyond. In her search for the truth, she discovers some things about the history of her house that help explain what is currently happening, but are horrifying as well. Now Melissa is forced to make a choice: what exactly is she willing to give up for the man she loves?

The Banishing reminded me a lot of classics in the horror genre, like The Exorcist and Poltergeist, and it also has a lot of simmilarities with Paranormal Activity, a more recently released scary movie. Granted, the idea of a man being haunted/posessed by an evil ghost or demon isn’t all that original. A house in which the owners over the years all end up in the same pattern, that’s been done before as well. What makes The Banishing such a thrilling and exciting read however, is the way Fiona Dodwell handles her scary story, the way she builds up the tension, and how she makes her characters seem both admirable and loathesome at once and manages to turn them into realistic people with their own fears and emotions. We don’t get thrown right into one big mess of scary, but the volume of frightening things we are encountering, increases gradually, building up the fear slowly but most definately. Horror the way it should be, and I had a marvellous time reading.

Melissa is a very complex character. She is loving and caring towards the people she loves, and she has a profound love for her husband that doesn’t dissapear, no matter how many times he hits her, or how ridiculous he behaves. She keeps holding on to the memories of the life they shared before, and draws her strength from the fact she wants her husband back. Although I personally was rather fond of the idea of Melissa leaving her abusive husband, and although she herself knew it was the best decision logically-speaking, she had an instinct that this wasn’t entirely her husbands fault. Melissa’s strength and courage shows when she decides she would rather follow her feelings and instinct, than do what everyone tells her to do, namely leave Mark. I really liked Melissa’s personality, her determination to set things right, and her courage when facing the evil things that are hidden in her very own home. Although, I have question marks with her choices towards the end – I don’t know if I could have gone with that myself – but more about that later.

We don’t get to see a lot of the other character’s personality. We see one side of Mark, namely the abusive, twisted, disturbed and mentally unstable side. We see him talking to dark spirits, doing whatever he can to pain his wife, but it isn’t really him. When taken away from their little house of horrors, he changes, although only a little. I loved that when he took Melissa on a date, he seemed like a different man already, if only slightly. The rest of his personality, the normal, non-abusive, non-insane side, the reader can only gather from Melissa’s trips down memory lane, in which she recalls the loving and caring man he used to be. This left me with a double feeling towards Mark: on the one hand, I hated the guy, especially when he tried to hurt Melissa once again, and I was raging at her not to put up with his crap. On the other hand, I understood that the things that happened weren’t his fault, and I somehow felt sympathetic towards him for being mistreated and practically abused himself by the creature inhabiting their home. I love it when characters give me mixed feelings – that often means they have a certain depth to their personality – and I was very impressed by the way author Fiona Dodwell managed to make me feel about ‘bad guy’ Mark, both angry and sympathetic.

As I already mentioned, the tension builds slowly and gradually, which is always a bonus. It has no use bombarding your readers with one-hundred ghosts or ghastly occurances at once. Fiona Dodwell takes things slowly, and by doing so she managed to make me genuinely scared. Considering I’m not easily scared – although I must admit ghosts do manage to frighten me more often than any other supernatural creature – this is a considerable accomplishment. I also enjoyed the general atmosphere of the novel. The tension, the fear, it didn’t stop when Melissa left the house and went to work. It kept on going for the entire novel, from page one till the very end, and it was both nerve-wrecking and thrilling. Event after event unfolded, the secrets were slowly exposed, and I found myself neglecting my own promise to myself (to only read one chapter, then stdy a bit, then read another chapter). I had to finish this one in one single reading session – that’s how good it is.

Without trying to spoil anything, I must say that Fiona Dodwell adds one giant twist to the end of the story, that is both highly fascinating, and unmistakebly disturbing. I had mixed feelings about the choice Melissa makes at the end. On the one hand, I can understand why she made the choice. On the other hand, I find it rather cowardly, and not totally like the character I got to know. It did leave me wondering for a long while after reading this novel, whether or not I myself would have been able to make such a choice. I guess we’ll never know (unless I end up living in a house inhabited by ghost-like figures and my husband turns out to be possessed….but lets hope that doesn’t happen anytime soon!) but the fact that Melissa was able to make that particular choice, casts a spotlight on what humans are capable of when they venture into the darkest corners of their mind. We are, in essence, egocentric and egotistic creatures, but that some of us are able to make such choices, only proves that the real darkness, the real demons of the world, are hidden within our own minds, and in the things we are capable of when we choose to. The ending was nothing short but brilliant.

If I had to mention one thing I wasn’t all that fond of while reading The Banishing, it would be the relationship between Melissa and her psychiatrist Josh. I get the fact that she’s looking for a way out, and that every form of affection is welcome by now, especially considering the fact how she is treated by her own husband. What I don’t get, is Josh’s behavior. He’s supposed to be the profesional, the psychiatrist, not some twenty-something boy who instantly crushes on his new patient, albeit it’s obvious she has some serious trouble with her abusive husband, and looks more like a corpse than an actual human. I had a hard time believing the attraction between these two characters, and the fact that Josh would be willing to put his career in jeapordy simply to have an affair with a married woman.

The Banishing tells a dark and twisted tale, that will probably reminds its readers of the classics in the horror genre, back when horror was actually still scary and everyone could be possessed by a demon or every house in the neighborhood could be inhabited by vengeful spirits from the beyond. The cast of characters Fiona Dodwell introduces us to, is varied and interesting. The tension builds up slowly and gradually, but it never fails for one single moment during the entire reading experience. The written is excellent, the storyline full of unexpected twists and turns. The ending is nothing if not brilliant, and it will leave you thinking about this novel for a long time after reading it. If you enjoy horror, especially the classic horror involving ghosts and demons, then The Banishing is an excellent choice.

Book Review: Rabbits in the Garden by Jessica McHugh

10504227Title: Rabbits in the Garden
Author: Jessica McHugh
Genre: Horror, Psychological Horror, Thriller
Published: February 28th 2011 by Post Mortem Press
Pages: 226
Rating: 5 stars
Review copy provided by the author.
Goodreads | Author’s Website

At twelve years old, Avery Norton had everything: a boyfriend who was also her best friend, the entirety of Martha’s Vineyard as her playground, and her very own garden to tend. By thirteen, it was all over.The discovery of a secret crypt in the basement starts the Norton family down many unexpected avenues, including one that leads to Avery’s arrest for murder and her subsequent imprisonment in Taunton State Lunatic Asylum. Set in 1950s Massachusetts, Rabbits in the Garden follows Avery Norton’s struggle to prove her innocence and escape Taunton with her mind intact.

Avery Norton is your average twelve year old girl, albeit the fact her Mom is an overprotective, meddling and slightly disturbed woman. Although her mother’s behavior stands in her way of making friends, Avery is perfectly fine with the friend she does have: Paul. He is kind, considerate and caring, and he doesn’t mind that her mother says weird things or looks at them oddly. However, when Avery and Paul follow her mother one night in the back of her car, they discover some disturbing things. Is her mother really ditching a body, or are the two youngsters seeing things?

When Avery’s mom gives her a garden as a birthday present, she doesn’t like it at first. And when her mother tells this crazy story about rabbits cheating on each other, and that they need to be punished for such prudent behavior, she isn’t quite alarmed. That is, until her mother kills the rabbits to set an example. Traumatized, Avery is determined to take good care of the garden, so nothing happens to the water and the rabbits behave appriopriately, so her mother doesn’t see any reason to kill them. But when her world comes crashing upon her, and she incidentally kills one of the rabbits herself, and ends up in a closed shed in the garden with at least a dozen mutilated corpses, Avery is quite sure things couldn’t get any worse. Her own mother is a serial killer. And her long lost father, was her very first victim.

But thanks to some excellent manipulation from her side, her mom convinces every one that Avery is the one responsible for the murders. Locked up in a mental asylum, Avery is determined to prove the truth to the outside world: that it wasn’t her, but her mother who killed all those innocent people. But as she starts to question her own sanity, and wonders if perhaps her mother had been telling the truth, it gets harder and harder for Avery to keep believing in her own innocence.

I fell in love with Rabbits in the Garden from page one. The storyline is thrilling, suspenseful and highly original. But it’s truly the characters that make this book. Avery’s mother’s behaviour seems odd from the start, but I never paid much attention to it until it developed into plain disturbing. She has a firm belief in loyalty to one partner, she’s a very devote person, and wants Avery to believe in the same principles as she does. She’s very suspicious of Avery’s relationship with her neighbour Paul, although the two hardly did anything more than hold hands and share a brief birthday kiss. But Avery’s mother isn’t just delusional and paranoid, or slightly disturbed. The way Jessica McHugh builds the tension in this novel, by slowly revealing the amount of insanity that is possessing Avery’s mom, is really close to brilliant. I was both amazed and pitrified as the events unfolded, and the absurdity of the situation became clear.

I thought the scene with the corpses in the shed/basement was both gruesome and terrifying and really, really well-written. It felt more like being in a movie than like reading a book, and I imagined the heroine in the horror flick putting her hands on things hanging in her way in the dark, without any real clue as to what they are. And then when realisation hits her, the amount of terror she experiences is overwhelming. Naturally, this happens to Avery too, and her emotions, shock and despair are really well described in this scene. It’s probably my favorite scene from the entire book, and from a book as good as this one, that’s saying something.

Although life is far from easy for Avery, she has a very strong and willful personality, and I could not help but think she must have inherited some of these characteristics from her mother. Her sister Natalie, is a lot less determined and headstrong than Avery, perhaps that’s one of the reasons why their mother never saw her as that much of a treat. The scenes in the mental asylum were very authentic as well. I could imagine being there from the way Jessica McHugh described the building, the patients and the doctors. The sence of injustice I got at Avery’s treatment was so strong and profound that I found myself occasionally raging at the system, the police and Avery’s lunatic mother.

I enjoyed the fact that the author doesn’t only focus on Avery’s trials in the mental asylum, but that she provides her with a cast of friends with their own share of troubles. All the characters, from the protagonists to the janitor of the asylum (so to speak, there isn’t any janitor actually mentioned) were very well defined, with their own set of distinct personality traits and their own history. Jessica McHugh’s writing style is very fluent, very gripping, and the storyline is amazing enough to keep you glued to your chair for well over two hours. By the time I had finished reading, I had long left the day-to-day world, and entered the scary, threatening and terrifying world of mental asylums and delusional mothers with gruesome hobbies. When I turned the last page of the book, it did take me a couple of minutes to let go of the suffocating and slightly unnerved feeling I had felt the entire time while reading, and to relax again. I had barely noticed, but my muscles had tensed and I had crawled on the far edge of the  seat on the train, practically hiding myself in the corner. I love it when a book does that.

Rabbits in the Garden doesn’t have the most gorgeous cover in the entire world, but this is one of those books that you really cannot judge by its cover.  The storyline is paralyzing, the writing style is flawless, the characters are bizarre, intriguing and sometimes even down-right terrifying.  This is horror the way it should be – crawling under your skin slowly, from page one till the very end, and turning the world as you know it into something scary and unfamiliar. The kind of book that, after reading it, makes you look at people and think ‘what the heck goes on in their mind’ and wonder if maybe one of them is as sick and disturbed as Avery’s mother. The sort of book that doesn’t let you go, but keeps you in this tightening grip for a long while, and sometimes makes you question your own sanity.

If Hollywood finally grows tired of those zombie-apocalyptic novels, or those scary-monster-ones and needs a really good horror book to turn into a script, then I would recommend Rabbits in the Garden (if I had any connections with Hollywood directors, that is). It’s a master piece in the horror genre, and it left me very impressed. Feel free to read it for yourself, but don’t blame me if you have trouble sleeping afterwards, or if you start wondering if perhaps that old-fashioned and firm-on-principles lady in the apartment downstairs really is a serial killer, and you could be next on her list.

Book Review: Mojo by Kris Sedersten

9976979Title: Mojo
Author: Kris Sedersten
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural, Horror
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the author’s website.
Rating: 4 stars

When Scottie Brown, a New Orleans college student, is aggressively haunted by vivid nightmares and daytime apparitions, he begins a search for answers; unwittingly putting himself and those closest to him in a confrontation with evil. To defeat the energy that torments him, he recruits a team of paranormal investigators, friends from high school, and a psychic medium. Together, they pursue the ghosts of Scottie’s ancestors in a haunted plantation deep in the Louisiana countryside. They uncover dark family secrets and the spiritual energy of a malevolent patriarch who projects an unholy prophecy that has deadly consequenes for all mankind. The power of an elusive mojo amulet becomes central to fighting Scottie’s demons as the journey through the haunted mansion, filled with twists and turns, takes on a life of its own against time. Mojo is a fast-paced paranormal mystery-thriller. Edgy and fun, this book will show the reader how having faith in a power greater than ourselves will lift us through even the most unforseeable obstacles in life.

Scottie Brown is haunted by scary apparitions that would manage to scare even Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. It starts with Scottie having nightmares about an event that happened several years ago, but scarred him for life. But then, the nightmares start to follow him in his real life as well. Creepy visions through a mirror, his own truck turning against him, and a half-rotten but still walking corpse trying to kill him; that’s only the beginning of Scottie’s problems. When his girlfriend starts seeing strange things as well, he realises he’s not going insane, but is instead being tormented by real, actual ghosts and apparitions. As he recruits his best friend, and some of his old friends from back in high school to track down whatever it is that’s making Scottie’s life a living hell, he realises he needs all the help that he can get. Because whatever it is that’s haunting him, it has something to do with his heritage, as being the heir of the Bennet legacy. The latter, unfortunately for Scottie, were rather notorious for their ventures to the dark side, satanic rituals and human sacrifices. Like that’s not enough, his grandfather thought of a way to become immortal, and is determined to go through with his plans, even after death. Reluctantly, Scottie is forced to go back to his family’s old mansion, and destroy the root of all this evil once and for all.

I thought Mojo was an enjoyable read. The story is very fast-paced, and it literally pulls you in, like when two giant hands would suddenly appear from the book, grab you by the collar, and actually pull you into the pages – that kind of pulling. I felt like I was in the middle of the action from moment one, and was still in the middle of the action by the end of the novel. The storyline is fresh, original and very rich, it actually covers a lot of ground as it dives into old-world-voodoo-practices, ghosts and apparitions, hauned trucks, century-old family secrets, satanic rituals, devil worship, and the fact that some evil things just won’t stay dead. But there’s more. Kris Sedersten actually puts down a very accurate description of ghost hunters, as she brings Scottie and his friends to the devil’s lair and lets them go ghost hunting. It reminded me a lot of those ghost hunting tapes that were popular back in the 90’s, in which groups of friends entered ‘haunted mansions’ and tried to record ghostly noises, apparitions and those light-bulb-thingies, or orbs. Since it has been one of my aspirations to go ghost hunting one day, ever since I was like thirteen years old, this book brought back some nostalgic moments. Nostalgia = always a bonus.

Unfortunately, the main character of Mojo, Scottie Brown, and I have a lot of differences in opinion. I just didn’t like him, and this reached a climax when he voiced his opinion about Mojo towards the end of the novel. When I read that, I was solemly wishing that the ghosts of all his ancestors would come back from the dead, all attack him at once and shred him to pieces. Or do something else, as long as it was  very bloody. I just had the feeling that Scottie was a childish, immature and egocentric young man, although I must admit he often thought about others as well – but I just couldn’t shake this opinion away. It’s like he doesn’t even realise how lucky he is, especially not when a great group of friends comes to rescue him from the forces of darkness, he just takes it all for granted. I must admit that Scottie goes through a lot of character development throughout this novel, and he comes out at the other end as a changed man, a person I could easily endure. So I’m faintly suspicious that it was the author’s goal to initially portray him as some sort of selfish person, and then put his entire experience on him, which would change him forever. That said, the growth and character development Scottie goes through, is one of the most impressive examples of character building I have seen in quite a while. The Scottie we see at the beginning and at the end of the novel, are practically two different people. But the change is slowly, gradually, and as a reader you get to see it quite well through the pages of Mojo. Impressive.

I also enjoyed the fact that Mojo really is a prime example of all the things Team Spirit can accomplish. Scottie and his friends all have very distinct qualities and personalities, but together, they form a practically unbeatable team. And it’s only through their combined efforts that they can stand a chance at defeating the evil that lurks in the darkness of Scottie’s ancestor’s mansion. Talking about that mansion…I loved it. I loved everything about it, from the faintly lit bedrooms, to the architectural descriptions, to the ghosts that haunted it. The way Kris Sedersten described that mansion, it was like I could really see it in front of me, more even, like I could really walk up to it, open the front door and start exploring. This reminded me a lot of the novel The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, in which the author goes through great lengths to describe the house of the Mayfair family. That novel left me with the exact same feeling, like I could just walk out on the street, and there would that house be, right in front of me, and as real as possible. This might have something to do with the fact that I just love old houses, especially old and abandoned houses, as well, but I would like to give all the credit to the author for making the house actually come to live.

There were some parts I didn’t like as well. For instance, the dialogue wasn’t in plain English all the time, but sometimes it was more like one would actually speak the words than when one would write them. I can’t really explain this properly, but it made the novel a bit more complicated for me to read, as a foreigner, and at first, it actually distracted me from the dialogue a bit. But I got used to it after a few chapters, and then it started to make sense in my head, as well. The dialogue wasn’t always that great, though, and sometimes the characters seemed a bit too young or a bit too old to use certain sentences. But since I enjoyed the story so much, and rushed through the pages to find out what happened in the end, I didn’t mind that much about the dialogue being a little off at times.

The other thing is…I wasn’t all that scared. I would have liked to be genuinely terrfied but I wasn’t. And trust me when I say that usually, all you need to scare me, is a ghost. Or not even a ghost, just an object put on a different place, or a picture falling off the wall, or…Well, you get my drift, and I’m scaring myself as I write this. Well, Mojo does a little too much a little too soon to actually get me in the ‘scared as hell’ modus. For instance, we start with Scottie having a nightmare that still chases him even when he’s awake. Then he gets a visit from a very dead and very rotten apparition, then his own car is behaving weirdly, and eventually he goes to a mansion that is just full of ghosts. I mean, there actually were ghosts everywhere there. Like hundreds of ghosts. And that’s just a bit too much for me to actually be believable. I would have liked it more, had the author taken a slower start – perhaps by entering the nightmares first, then slowly things start happening, like objects being out of place, like weird sounds, etc. – and maybe not go over the top as well, for instance only having a couple of ghosts in the Bennet family mansion. Like maybe just the most prominent ones for the story. I had the feeling that Kris Sedersten wanted her readers to be on a rollercoaster ride of scaryness, but actually forgot to build up the tension by doing so. It’s the little things that scare me when I’m reading a book in the eerie hours of the night, the little things that could actually happen to me, as a reader, as well. Not the big ghost-blast-a-thon.

The character I liked the most in this novel? Mojo. God, I loved Mojo. His childish innocence, his protectiveness over his adoptive parents, the sad story of what happened to him and his mother, and of whom he really is. It made me feel so much for him, and then, well. He didn’t deserve to be treated so badly, and he didn’t deserve everything he had to go through. He seemed so pure, so fragile, so good, kind and friendly, as opposed to all the malice he had witnessed, all the evil that still haunted him, and all the wicked things that had been done to him. It was like the oldest of all contradictions: Mojo, the good, the pure, the innocent vs. The Bennet family, the evil, the hating, the wicked.

Although this novel might not have scared me to death and didn’t give me any sleepless nights, I do have to admit that the whole haunted mansion scene made me feel slightly uncomfortable. And I did enjoy this novel, I certainly did. You know, it might as well just be me. Maybe I’ve grown immune to scary novels because of my occasional ventures into the worlds of Supernatural, The X-Files and various scary movies. Let’s just say it’s me, and that this novel, to the average not-immune person would be frightingly scary as well. Because in all honesty, Mojo has all ingredients you need to make one hell of a frightening story. Hauntings, apparitions, devil worshippers, ancient secrets…Do I really need to say more? Add excellent character development and personalization, a cast of interesting characters, impressive descriptions and a fluent writing style, and you know you’re in for a thrill.

Book Review: Dead Man’s Eye by Shaun Jeffrey

9369354Title: Dead Man’s Eye
Author: Shaun Jeffrey
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the author’s website.

A corneal transplant does more than correct Joanna Raines sight. It allows her to see something that doesn’t want to be seen. Something evil. Something that threatens mankind. The only trouble is that no one believes her, and by the time they do, it might be too late …

Seeing is believing. Now Joanna just has to convince everyone else.

I have to admit that at first, I thought Dead Man’s Eye would be a lot like the scary movie called The Eye with Jessica Alba in the lead role. I liked that movie – didn’t love it to pieces, but that’s sort of difficult when it comes to horror movies anyway – but I did rather enjoy it, and thought it was fairly scary. Now in the movie the girl portrayed by Jessica Alba undergoes a cornea transplant (which basically means she gets a new and shiny pair of eyes) but ever since, she notices things lurking in the shadows. Evil things. She has visions of people dying, etc. In an effort to figure out what the heck is going out, she travels to Mexico to find the person who the cornea first belonged to, where she does a whole lot of things but eventually cannot forsake her destiny. I had a faint suspicion Dead Man’s Eye would be somewhat along this line. There are a lot of similiarities, but there are also some huge differences.

Joanna recently underwent a cornea transplant, and although her life should look a whole lot brighter now (no pun intended); it doesn’t. Because either something went wrong with the transplant or she has gone insane and started seeing things that aren’t there. Like black smoke crawling into a man who just fell under a train, and is now missing an arm due to that freak accident. Concerned that something is wrong with the transplant, Joanna goes to a check-up with her doctor, who convinces her that everything is fine and her cornea is working properly. Meanwhile, she finds out that strange things are happening at the hospital. These strange things are courtesy of Malachi, the demon who chose to inhabit Lincoln, the man who fell under the train. Although Malachi himself isn’t all too happy with his new body (especially with the fact it’s missing an arm, and the previous owner tries to regain control every once in a while), he does use it to summon his brethren. The plan? Well, rule the world, ofcourse. How? By inhabiting dead people’s bodies. Who can stop them? Joanna is the only one who can see the demons, but what can one woman do against an entire army of demons?

I have to state first of all, that I admire people who write novellas. It can’t be easy to develop believable and relatable characters, build a solid world around them, and then craft a storyline as well in less than 40,000 words. Like it takes a certain talent to write captivating short stories, I think it takes a particular gift to write successful novellas as well. Shaun Jeffrey managed to do such a remarkable thing with this mix of horror, thriller and the supernatural. I liked the characters, especially Joanna. She proved herself to be a strong, capable and intelligent woman who isn’t afraid to meet danger head on when needed. Her boyfriend, Stephen, is a remarkable person as well, and although he might not have supported her at first, I think that’s quite the natural reaction when your love interest suddenly tells you half of the people you work with have turned into demons. I also liked the way the author described the demon Malachi and his personality. It was a tad bit dissapointing that the supportive characters were nothing more than names on paper, with no personality whatsoever, but then again it’s normal to focus only the main characters in novels of this size.

The storyline was interesting. I certainly didn’t expect to see demons pop up in this novel, but they did nevertheless. Now the problem I have with demons is quite simple. They don’t scare me. I can’t help it: perhaps I’m immune because of an overdose of Buffy kicking demons action while I was younger, or because the good witches in Charmed always managed to defeat the evil demons, but for some reason as soon as the world “demon” pops up, I’m no longer scared. Same goes for vampires, by the way. I blame the media for enforcing the image of loving and caring demons and cuddly and shiny vampires in our mind. I’m convinced that if the shadows Joanna noticed wouldn’t have been works of a demon, but rather ghosts or something along those lines, I would have been a lot more scared by this story. Although I must admit that somewhere halfway Dead Man’s Eye, when Joanna was being chased by a couple of demons, I did have to surpress a feeling of dread and anxiety. Blame it on Shaun Jeffrey’s marvellous way of describing Joanna’s feelings during this chase.

There was one other thing about this novel that had me totally confused. When Joanna finds out that her cornea lets her see demons, she goes to find the person who has the other part of the cornea. A search which turns out to be totally useless, and made no sense to me in the first place. Personally, I would have gone to search for the reason why I was seeing things I shouldn’t be able to see, and I would try to track down the person the cornea belonged to originally. If that person had some connection with the demon world, it might have helped Joanna fight the demons. I have to admit that we do eventually discover who the cornea belonged to at first, but it’s an answer I find quite random, and it just seems a bit far off to me. The story would have been more interesting to me, had there been a more valid reason why the original owner of the cornea could see demons, and had it focused more on Joanna’s search for the reason why she can see demons all of the sudden. Ofcourse I know that’s a lot to cramp into a novella, especially considering the main character spends half the novel being chased by demons, but it would have added some more suspense to the story.

What I loved the most about Dead Man’s Eye, was the ending, without a doubt. Trust me when I say it ends in a blast, and with a nice twist at the end of an entertaining read. If you want some fun entertainment, or a scary story that isn’t going to give you some sleepless nights, but will instead put you on the edge of your seat during the entire experience, then Dead Man’s Eye is definately your kind of novella.

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

2767052Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Rating: 5 stars

Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives. In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.

Typically me to be ages behind with the best books of 2010, and only discover this gorgeous novel early january. On the bright side however, I now get to read the entire trilogy in one row – that is, when I find the budget to purchase the other novels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Now I know everyone and their pet chihuahuas has already read this novel and voted it the best thing since the invention of the wheel, but I thought I’d give my two cents anyway.

For starters, The Hunger Games really is amazing. It grabs you, puts you in your seat, eyes fixed on the novel, and the world around you starts to dissapear. It’s like some time machine thing. Then when you’re done reading and the world reappears, you somewhat expect that you’re in a TV show with your life at stake and you have to kill everyone else in order to survive. Thank God I didn’t respond to those feelings right away. No, but seriously: The Hunger Games doesn’t let you go, until you’ve finished reading it. And even then, it’s hard to put those thoughts aside about what will happen next, why “insert random person” had to die, etc. It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel as enthralling and surprising at this one.

The story focuses on Katniss, a young but independent girl who tries to take care of her family – her mother and younger sister Prim – by hunting rabbits and other small animals in the forest, accompanied by her best friend Gabe. Now although life in district 12, where Katniss lives, is difficult, and a lot of people die from starvation or working too much; the worst is yet to come. Because every year, two children, one boy and one girl, from each district are chosen to participate in The Hunger Games, a way for the Capitol to show they still hold power over the people they have supressed. Against all odds, Katniss’ younger sister Prim is chosen. However, unable to let her innocent kid sister participate in an event that might very well cause her to die, Katniss offers to participate instead of Prim. The other chosen one is a young boy called Peeta and whom Katniss is somewhat familiar with. Then, The Games have begun and it’s time again for the greatest hypocrysy thinkable, as The Almighty Capitol lets children murder other children.

How disgusting The Capitol may seem, it does make for a brilliant, well-written, fast-paced, exciting and highly original storyline. The characters are equally enthralling as the story, and not only did I start to feel for Katniss and the continuous trials she has to put up with, but for Peeta – who is so much braver than I at first anticipated – as well. Slowly but most definately I was starting to feel utter disgust towards the corrupted beings who choose to let innocent children murder each other for the entertainment of the public – not that most of the public is entertained, mind you. Most people hate The Hunger Games, which isn’t curious considering it might as well be them or one of their beloved who has to fight there one day. As the novel continues, the feeling of rebellion and revolution becomes very heavy, in the little acts commited, the little gestures done, both by the main characters and by the public. It adds a new sense of tension to the novel that I very much appreciated.

Well, what else can I say? The characters are wonderful, with a lot of good qualities, and their fair share of bad ones. Katniss and Peeta are so honest and loveable in every thing they do; I could not help but keep wishing they wouldn’t die. And as I already mentioned, The Hunger Games grabs you and pulls you in, and it doesn’t let you go, not even after you’ve finished the novel. It’s my best reading experience of the year (that includes 2010), and I would advise everyone: go grab a copy, and enjoy this amazing story that will keep you coming back for more.