31.10.13

Books by Theme: Halloween Reads v.2



This is Halloween, this is Halloween, 


         Halloween

Halloween
                                                      Halloween

Halloween!

Welcome to Halloween 2013!  In honor of my FAVORITE holiday, I've compiled a list of books, reviews, movies, and more for your Halloween enjoyment.  Here are the books; look for more Halloween lists later in the day! 

Also enjoy:
Books by Theme: Halloween Reads

Behind the Scenes: The S&L Crew discuss their favorites
Teaser Tuesday: Insomnia and the Cutting Room Floor



Halloween Books 







Insomnia by J.R. Johansson
I've been pushing this a lot because it was just really fantastic.  Looking for something that crosses the line between horror and fantasy?  Look no further.  Parker is immediately likable (even when I wanted to slap him) and his voice adds a snarky, unique tone to the narrative.  His incredible power is a talent that many people crave, but Johansson adds a dark twist that makes it nightmarish.  Add a mystery stalker and Parker's world becomes a dark race against time, with no easy way out.
My Review





Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
This one isn't for the kiddies.  But it is (in my opinion) one of Palahniuk's most exceptional books.  Heard of Fight Club?  This is your guy.  Only this time, he has 26 writers trapped in a writing retreat--by a psychopathic homicidal maniac with a ghostly secret.  It's 26 creepy short stories about these horrible people and their gory secrets, embedded in an eerie narrative.  If you aren't sold: the first story, "Guts", has made more than one person faint during public readings and has been banned from schools.  Yeah.  Chuck takes his horror seriously.  




Flowers by Darnell Dickerson
This is a delightfully sick short story I had the pleasure of receiving from the author.  It's indie, not well known, and it blew me away.  Meet George, a troubled guy with paranoid suspicions and a terrible secret.  I didn't exactly know where it was going from the beginning. I watched the pieces forming into a puzzle, unable to stop it.  It's hard to describe, but you feel reading this book the way you do watching a horror movie, at the opening, when the character is first walking down that long dark hall but nothing horrid has happened yet.  It's just beautiful. 
My Review





Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves
I have a joke for you. What do you get when you mix American Psycho with Alice in Wonderland? If you guessed “this here book,” you’re one smart cookie. Slice of Cherry is sick and twisted in the most delightful of ways.  Kit may be a stabbing torturer and Fancy a megalomaniac control freak with a creepily stalkerish affection for her sister—but they’re also just teen girls with some hardcore abandonment issues. It's a book about live, love, and murder.  (Also pictured is the companion novel, Bleeding Violet.)
My Review





The StalkerThe Haunting, The Seance, and A Deadly Game of Magic by Joan Lowery Nixon
I read these (and many of Nix's other books) in fourth grade.  They really stuck with me.  She was the first horror I'd read besides your basic scary stories and she was utterly terrifying--because everything was real, possible, hiding outside your bedroom window.  Here, we have one girl entangling herself in a psychopath's snares while investigating a murder; and then, we have an ancient and powerful evil; and then, a seance gone terribly wrong  Top it off with my favorite, four teens trapped in a magician's evil game.  It's clean for kids but plenty terrifying for anyone.




What are some of your favorite Halloween books? 





Musing: C.J.'s Friends Discuss Halloween Books and Movies

musing
                             behind the scenes

For this special Halloween, I've sort-of-willingly co-opted my lovely friends and boyfriend to share their favorite Halloween literature and film.  Sort of.  Check for my favorites later in the day.  

Warning: There are one or two instances of strong language. 





Happy Halloween!  


29.10.13

Teaser Tuesday: Insomnia by JR Johansson and Dead Girls Don't Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf



teaser tuesday
             mini excerpts


"Teaser Tuesday" is a weekly feature hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  


insomnia was amazing!  check out my review.  i also just finished dead girls don't lie and it was very good, so look for that one soon. 








INSOMNIA
jr johansson 

Goodreads




DEAD GIRLS DON'T LIE
jennifer shaw wolf 







  



books are an escape. they put into words what we can't. if you're suffering in silence, you're not alone. 


ARC Review: The Cutting Room Floor by Dawn Klehr


review
                 book














title:  The Cutting Room Floor

author Dawn Klehr

pages: 312

format: Netgalley Kindle

isbn/asin: 978-0738738048

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads  B&N

rating: 3/5 [in the genre] or 5/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of horror movies, thrillers, and romance gone dark.  Anyone who loved Cruel Intentions, The House at the End of the Street, or similar teen flicks.  Yes, I said "flicks." 

My Ratings Explained

Behind-the-scenes secrets could turn deadly for Desmond and Riley

Life in the Heights has never been easy for seventeen-year-old Riley Frost, but when she's publicly dumped and outed at the same time, she becomes an immediate social outcast at her high school. So Riley swears off romance and throws herself into solving the shocking murder of her favorite teacher, Ms. Dunn.

Riley turns to her best friend, budding filmmaker Desmond Brandt, for help. What she doesn't know is that Dez has been secretly directing her life, blackmailing her friends, and hoping his manipulations will make her love him. When his schemes go too far, Dez's web of lies threatens to destroy both of their lives.





the basics
I admit, I was a little let down.  The concept is great.  Manipulative best friend?  Clueless victim?  Sounds like the plot of a good SVU episode.  Unfortunately, it just missed the bar a little bit.  The plot was full of holes and seemed to have no real direction at times.  You knew the twist from the beginning, so it wasn't until about halfway through that I really felt any suspense--which is kind of key if you're going for a thriller.  I'll admit, for most of the second half, I couldn't put it down.  Even though it wasn't my cup of tea as far as characters or writing, it became really compelling.  Klehr clearly has talent.  I just didn't connect with this the way I wanted.   It did have it's high points, however.  The ending defied my expectations, it shows lesbian relationships in a super normative sweet way, and it takes a good stab at making a sympathetic villain.  However,  in the end, it was an entertaining but forgettable read.  I think it has a lot to offer someone looking for an entertaining, quick read, but it just didn't have what I personally was looking for.  




plot . 3.5/5
A book can work really well when you know the twist from the outset.  It's a great technique for literary fiction and, ya know, dramatic irony is cool.  Unfortunately, this one just didn't do it for me.  For one, it feels a little too over-the-top in places.  The nefarious Tori Rollers are a little too Disney channel to feel realistic, and not in the right story to work as humorous.  Dez's schemes also don't take center stage for a while, and the murder mystery doesn't build right away, so it took a while to get into.  I'm actually having a hard time remembering what even happened--except that Riley jumps to some pretty unbelievable conclusions after watching a tape.  That shifts in the second half.  The murder mystery becomes central, Dez's schemes start to pick up in a way that really affects Riley's future, and everything becomes more dangerous.  It was really compelling, and unfortunate that it hadn't happened earlier.  The twist was also a little unexpected.  It was actually similar to Insomnia by J.R. Johansson (which I actually read second), but didn't have the rest of the pieces working for it.  

concept . 5/5
Even though I wasn't impressed with the execution, the concept shows a lot of cleverness.  You don't see a lot of books that deal with controlling, creepy behavior as a bad thing.  Instead, some of the same things Dez does are done by other guys in other books and it's supposed to be "cute".  Gag me with a spoon.  Klehr takes those behaviors and looks at how damaging they are to both perpetrator and victim.  Honestly, I thought the whole murder thing was a little superfluous and that she could have done more with the main concept, but it does add some higher stakes.  

characters . 3/5
The characters were okay, I just couldn't connect with them enough.  Riley felt pretty flat, even in her first-person bits.  She didn't have as strong a voice as Dez.  I actually enjoyed a lot of his voice.  The way he narrated parts of his life as movie scripts was unique and added a lot of depth to his character and how he views the world.  The director of movies / director of Riley was a clever touch.  Riley, on the other hand, just felt like damsel in distress.  I couldn't really connect with her pain as clearly as I could connect with Dez's.  I think that's what made it hard for me to get into the book, because Riley was clearly the victim and I didn't see her as a real person.  Unfortunately, Riley and Dez don't always seem to act like real people.  For example, Riley sees a tape early on and jumps to some crazy conclusions about her friend--but anyone who doesn't know they're in a murder mystery would never logically think that.  They just seem to act in ways that serve the plot but not the realism of the story.  Also, I love Fight Club, but I'm not sure a real film buff would worship it as much as Dez.  

style . 3/5
The style was a little inconsistent.  Dez's parts are pretty good, with the script scenes, but a lot of the dialogue in both his and Riley's parts is a little stilted.  Nothing else was super glaring, but nothing really stood out for me either.  

mechanics . 3/5
The pacing needed some work.  If the first half had had the pacing of the second, I'd be giving this book a much higher score.  Instead, it dragged a lot and took too long to catch me up.    


take home message
This young adult thriller is entertaining but ultimately didn't live up to my expectations.  





Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.



28.10.13

ARC Review: Insomnia by J.R. Johansson


review
                 book













title:  Insomnia

author J.R. Johansson

pages: 360

format: Paperback 

isbn/asin: 978-0738735931

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads  B&N

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of Jeannine Garsee's The UnquietKendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood, and Supernatural. People looking for likable characters and good psychological horror.  

My Ratings Explained

Her eyes saved his life. Her dreams released his darkness.

After four years of sleeplessness, high school junior Parker Chipp can't take much more. Every night, instead of sleeping, he enters the dreams of the last person he's made eye contact with. If he doesn't sleep soon, Parker will die.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that is utterly addictive. But what starts out as a chance meeting turns into an obsession; Parker's furious desire for what he needs pushes him to extremes he never thought he'd go. And when someone begins to terrorizing Mia with twisted death threats, Parker's memory blackouts leave him doubting his own innocence.





the basics
Finally, the book I've been looking for!  It's a rare book I just can't put down, and I finished this one in a day and change.  It's what I wanted The Asylum by Madeline Roux to be.  Once you get through the slowish start, it races to the end, taking twists and turns that I never expected.  Parker is immediately likable (even when I wanted to slap him) and his voice adds a snarky, unique tone to the narrative.  His incredible power is a talent that many people crave, but Johansson adds a dark twist that makes it nightmarish.  Add a mystery stalker and Parker's world becomes a dark race against time, with no easy way out.  I loved that even though the plot is breakneck, it doesn't sacrifice the characters.  Even the side characters feel as deep and real as Parker, and I loved that they were real friends that didn't disappear when "neat new person" Mia came to town.  And her role?  Not what I expected, which made it even better.  I thought the ending was a bit of a cop-out, but not enough to knock it down a star.  This was an exciting, well-paced, tightly written book that could stand well alone--but if you read it and aren't dying for the sequel, I'll be surprised.   




plot . 4/5
It took me a little bit to get into.  I was kind of afraid, considering how much I'd looked forward to this book.  The slowness didn't last long.  Once I was oriented to the dream lore and Parker's life, and once Mia really became central, I was hooked in the mystery.  On one hand, you have Parker's race against the clock.  If he doesn't sleep, he'll die.  But saving himself may require sacrificing others.  Not to mention something dark is happening to Mia, and Parker has no idea if he's a part of it.  The tension between Parker's desperation to save himself and his longing to save his friends not only makes him feel real, but it keeps the plot strong through the whole book.  I was never sure which Parker would choose, or whether he would ultimately find himself to be innocent or guilty.  

Like I said, the end was a little too easy.  I wasn't sure it was set up enough, and I kind of wanted it to go the other way.  However, I liked that not everything was roses in the end.  It left a lot open for a sequel, and also made the consequences of Parker's decisions more real.  All in all, it was well done.  Parker's friends play a much bigger role than most friend characters do, which was refreshing.  There's also a touch of absolutely breathtaking romance, murder, and mystery.  What more could you want? 

concept . 5/5
I've never read anything like this before.  Dreamwalkers aren't a new concept, but the way Johansson writes it is fresh.  Being able to see dreams is Parker's living nightmare.  He can never sleep, never dream, never escape from the secret thoughts of others.  And if he doesn't sleep, his brain will go first, and then his body.  The many layers of reality--dream, waking, hallucination--keep you on your toes, never quite knowing what's real and what's imagined.  There are a few holes (hem, four years without real sleep and you're still alive?) but suspend a touch of disbelief and it doesn't matter. Where young adult horror is concerned, this goes way beyond your typical slasher.  

characters . 5/5
The characters were so good that they made up for the few holes I saw.  Parker is a complex, endearing narrator.  He's snarky, sincere, and flawed in real, dangerous ways.  He can be foolhardy and selfish.  His flaws get him into a lot of trouble and take the plot in new directions.  But he has such love for his friends that I could forgive him a lot.  Then there's Finn, his best friend, who's quirky, silly, and loyal--but doesn't let Parker get away with any crap, either.  Addie was possibly my favorite.  Unlike your typical girl sidekick, she's there for the hero, but she's going to make sure her own needs are met too.  She's fierce, smart, and uncompromising.  And in a way, she saves the day as much as Parker does.  Mia is a little less fleshed out than I'd like, but that's part of her character, too.  She's closed-off, so we don't get to know her as well.  Even so, she plays a damsel in distress who's terrified and hunted, but still desperate to fight her own battles. 

style . 5/5
When I dog-ear a bunch of pages, it's a good sign.  There were a bunch in this one.  Parker's voice is just so clever.  It's parts lyrical, parts sardonic.  I laughed a lot at his internal monologue and his banter with his friends.  It's part of what gives him dimension.  There are also some beautiful metaphors and a romantic scene that gave me chills.  I look forward to seeing Johansson's writing mature even more in the next book.  

mechanics . 5/5
Like I said, the pacing was a little off in the beginning, but it picked up quickly.  I liked that there were some common threads and motifs sprinkled through, and the dialogue was so much more believable than a lot of young adult books.  I could totally buy them as teenagers.  


take home message
Young adult horror that takes on the blurred lines between reality and dreaming, sanity and madness, with a lovable cast and a plot that keeps you guessing. 





Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.



27.10.13

Musing: Guess who's back? (Deliberate Eminem reference)

musing

I'm back, just in time for Halloween week!  In honor, I'll be posting a ton of reviews I've had on the back burner--of books that will give you chills and add a bit of horror to your end of October.  Enjoy! 


21.10.13

ARC Review: Asylum by Madeline Roux


review
                 book












title:  Asylum

author Madeline Roux

pages: 320

format: Paperback 

isbn/asin: 978-0062220967

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads  B&N

rating: 3/5 [in the genre] or 5/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of Jeannine Garsee's The Unquiet, ghost movies, supernatural thrillers, and creepy boarding schools.  Anyone looking for a quick, fun read for Halloween. 

My Ratings Explained

Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it's a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it's no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.





the basics
I was really excited about this book, but it just fell a little short.  It wasn't bad by any means.  It was pretty entertaining and the concept was a fun horror-movie revamp.  Some of the plot twists were even pretty clever.  However, it just seemed loosely put together.  There were pieces that didn't add up.  Plots that added too much complexity where it didn't need to be.  I also had a rough time really connecting with Dan.  It felt like Roux was grasping for something like Looking for Alaska with the characters and fell a little short.  Abby and Jordan have big subplots that don't get fleshed out enough, making me feel like they were just there to add drama.  The main plot is pretty interesting, however.  It toed the line between supernatural and real for a long time, which really ramped up the suspense.  Not to mention, some of Roux's descriptions of the asylum were truly creepy.  It's an entertaining read, but it just wasn't as tight and well-done as other supernatural ghost stories (try Jeannine Garsee's The Unquiet, which also deals with mental illness).  




plot . 3/5
This is a case of the overburdened subplots.  The main plot itself was pretty good.  People start to get murdered, the characters get creepy notes, and someone is messing with Dan's head.  What's even cooler is that Roux sidesteps your average slasher movie or The Grudge type haunting and puts a lot of the action off-scene.  So when Dan hears creepy voices and blacks out, we're left to wonder what was really going on while he was away.  It's a great premise.  What clogs it up is the extra baggage.  Jordan telling his parents he's at gay reform school, Abby searching for a long-lost aunt who might have been in the asylum as a child.  It's a lot to put in one story, and the Abby plot is especially far-fetched.  You could include all these and do it well, but I just didn't think that Roux gave these plot lines enough attention to make them feel like more than extra material that should have been cut.  In the end, they don't add much to the story.  

concept . 4/5
Mysteriously vanished serial killer, mad scientist doctor, criminally insane population, teenagers living in an old asylum--it's a great horror story set-up.  Asylums are always creepy, especially the old kind, and it's even more interesting to have this building being the subject of controversy in a small town.  The college wants to keep it, the townspeople think it's cursed.  It has a lot of potential for conspiracy and intrigue.  Roux did this pretty well, but I think she could have pumped up the history aspect even more.  

characters . 3/5
I couldn't get on board with Dan for a lot of the book.  He struck me as kind of whiny and jealous.  Right when we meet him, he's complaining about his roommate in what seems like a pretty entitled way.  That gave me a sour taste.  He does get better through the book and I started to sympathize with him over his emotional struggles.  He just never feels fully developed.  Plus, his mysterious background feels gimmicky.  Then there are Abby and Jordan.  They're both pretty flat, but they serve their purpose as sidekicks.  I just wish we could have spent more time with them, especially since they're going through painful emotional struggles of their own.  

style . 3/5
The writing style is what you'd expect of most young adult horror.  Concise, clear, leading you along without attracting much notice to itself.  Not as rich as it could have been, but decent.  Except when you get to some of the descriptions of the asylum.  There were chunks of description that were truly eerie, with unique metaphors and really tight, punchy phrasing.  I'd have liked to see more of that kind of writing.  The dialogue was a weak part, with all the characters sounding a little stilted.  

mechanics . 4/5
For the most part it was good and polished.  What bugged me were the pictures.  The real ones were amazing and added a ton of creepy-factor to the book.  However, a bunch of them were computer-generated, which made it seem low-budget instead of creepy.  


take home message
A fast-paced supernatural horror that plays on your fear of the dark and the damned. 





Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.



13.10.13

Musing: Sick Week

musing

I'm sick. 

So I'm probably not going to post much this week. 

Since I also have about 5 HUGE important things due this week. 

So

instead

here's a pumpkin.  


Love. 


11.10.13

Book Buys: C.J.'s Picks for October 11, 2013

book buys
                    c.j. recommends


 

Daily (or as often as I can), I'll share my favorite deals of the day.  This will include Amazon daily deals as well as sales on Better World Books and from indie authors.  It will also include things I've just come across that happen to be cheap.  So check back often, because every post will have a ton of cheap deals!  I'll post a review if I have one, but a lot will be ones I want to read or ones I think young adult readers might be interested in.  


Deals are for the Kindle versions unless stated otherwise!  




$1.99                          $1.99                          $0.00                          $0.00                          $2.99 


 
$0.00                          $1.99                          $1.99                          $0.99                          $3.99 




Authors and publishers: have a deal? 
Send me the link 24 hours before it goes live (or more) and I'll post it! 




8.10.13

Book Buys: C.J.'s Picks for October 8, 2013

book buys
                    c.j. recommends


 

Daily (or as often as I can), I'll share my favorite deals of the day.  This will include Amazon daily deals as well as sales on Better World Books and from indie authors.  It will also include things I've just come across that happen to be cheap.  So check back often, because every post will have a ton of cheap deals!  I'll post a review if I have one, but a lot will be ones I want to read or ones I think young adult readers might be interested in.  


Deals are for the Kindle versions unless stated otherwise!  


       
$3.99                          $0.99                          $3.99                          $3.99                          $3.99 


$3.99                          $0.99                          $3.99                          $3.99                          $2.99



$0.99                          $1.99    






Authors and publishers: have a deal? 
Send me the link 24 hours before it goes live (or more) and I'll post it! 



Cover Reveal: Circus of Lost Souls by Riley J. Ford and Rebecca Hamilton

 
I don't usually plug adult books, but this one was just so exciting and Halloween-y that I couldn't help it.  I also happen to think these two lovely authors are delightful people.  And what an idea!  Circuses?  Snuff acts?  Um, yes please!  I'll take something gory and eerie any day.  It reminds me of Are You Afraid of the Dark...? for adults.  Check it out!  

CIRCUS OF LOST SOULS

horror ebook

Cirque du Lune is killing off teenagers, but it’s all part of the act.   
Or is it?
  
As the body count rises with each performance, one girl at this infamous theater-based summer finds herself contemplating what’s real and what’s not.
  
What if it's not just a horror show, but a live snuff performance? What if the murders . . . are real?
  
* * *
Sign Up For Release Notification -- When you do, you are automatically entered to win a free copy of the book, and you will also have an opportunity to purchase the book at the new release discounted price. We will only email you once for these purposes, and your email from this list will not be used for any other reason at any other time.


3.10.13

Review Recap: August and September 2013


Review Recap
                    august-september


Waiting for new reviews?  What about all the old ones you haven't seen yet!?  </excessive excitement>  Every month or so, check Review Recap for a list of Sarcasm & Lemon's recent reviews.  Find some books you missed and satisfy your review cravings!   






 The Pirate's Wish
Cassandra Rose Clarke

High fantasy, Assassins, Magic, Middle East 
8/10 stars 
Crown of Midnight 
Sarah J. Maas

High fantasy, Assassins, Magic, Romance 
8/10 stars 
The S-Word 
Chelsea Pitcher 

Contemporary, Depression, Suicide, Mystery 
7/10 stars 
Relativity 
Cristin Bishara 

Science-fiction, Alternate universes, Romance 
7/10 stars 
All the Truth That's in Me 
Julie Berry 

Historical, Romance, Murder, Sexual assault 
8/10 stars 
Shadows 
Robin McKinley 

Science-fiction, Dystopian, Fantasy, Magic 
6/10 stars 



buy me 
(not me, weirdo)


 


Book Buys: C.J.'s Picks for October 3rd, 2013, Part 2

book buys
                    c.j. recommends


 
Daily (or as often as I can), I'll share my favorite deals of the day.  This will include Amazon daily deals as well as sales on Better World Books and from indie authors.  It will also include things I've just come across that happen to be cheap.  So check back often, because every post will have a ton of cheap deals!  I'll post a review if I have one, but a lot will be ones I want to read or ones I think young adult readers might be interested in.  


Deals are for the Kindle versions unless stated otherwise!  


$0.99                          $2.99                          $0.00                          $3.99                          $0.00 






Authors and publishers: have a deal? 
Send me the link 24 hours before it goes live (or more) and I'll post it! 




Book Buys: C.J.'s Picks for October 3rd, 2013

book buys
                    c.j. recommends


 
Daily (or as often as I can), I'll share my favorite deals of the day.  This will include Amazon daily deals as well as sales on Better World Books and from indie authors.  It will also include things I've just come across that happen to be cheap.  So check back often, because every post will have a ton of cheap deals!  I'll post a review if I have one, but a lot will be ones I want to read or ones I think young adult readers might be interested in.  


Deals are for the Kindle versions unless stated otherwise!  


$0.00                         $0.99                          $1.99                          $1.99                          $2.99 


$1.99                          $1.99                          $0.99                          $0.99                          $0.99 






Authors and publishers: have a deal? 
Send me the link 24 hours before it goes live (or more) and I'll post it!