Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

A Continuous Book Review and Vocabulary Assignment

February 24

Comments: 1

Short Story Review: The Imaginary Friend by D.W. Cropper

by Ann-Katrina

Bonechillers cover The Imaginary Friend is a 16 page short story from the anthology Bonechillers: 13 Twisted Tales of Terror by D.W. Cropper.

Short Synopsis

After moving into an old house on Hudson street, Henry, the youngest, makes a new friend named Bonnie. His parents believe Bonnie is imaginary, but Henry’s older sister suspects otherwise…and she’s right.

My Thoughts on The Imaginary Friend

There was an air of familiarity to the story—family moving into an old house with a restless spirit seeking something it once lost—but it didn’t feel stale.

Although I could easily predict that Henry’s imaginary friend wasn’t imaginary and that bad things would happen, I still held my breath at certain sections and even gasped at a certain revelation about Bonnie. That’s how this story garnered my respect, because it’s not easy to write a truly creepy story while still respecting your audience’s sensibilities.

Rather than rely on blood and guts for scares, Cropper uses vivid language that gets under your skin and for truly young (or sensitive) readers it could cause nightmares.

Final rating: B+

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October 17

Comments: 6

Book Notes: Until I Get Around to Proper Reviews

by Ann-Katrina

Hold on to your bookmarks, I’ve got a lot of book notes. I figured that since I have so many books waiting for their proper spotlight, I should give a few quick updates in the interim.

Koko Be Good by Jen Wang

Koko Be Good The artwork is heart-stopping, but the story is lukewarm. I cannot speak enough about Wang’s artistic style and eye. I even got a bit envious. However, when it came down to the writing, pacing, and clarity of the story, I winced. That’s why I’m ambivalent.

I want to tell you to run out and buy it just so you can stare at the pretty pictures, but I fear you’d hate me when you got around to reading the convoluted and mediocre story. So, for now, I’ll just say if you’re going to buy it, get it used.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely There was something about this book that dug into me and made me continue reading, but there’s something else that made me say meh when I finished. The writing was adequate (though it could have used some more editing), and so was the storyline. ‘

I think where this book failed for me was in the characterization. None of the characters truly felt genuine and I never did latch on to the plot. In ways it felt too convenient and had too many holes. Still, it wasn’t the worst book I’d ever read, plus it was quick. I’d recommend this when you’re bored and just want something quick and fluffy with a slightly dark edge.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger GamesCatching FireMockingjay

I did it. I finally drank the Kool-Aid. I don’t even know where to begin with this series. I saw the first book while I was walking through a department store, it was $6 and I’d been hearing so many people talking about it that I just plopped it down in my cart. And for about a week it sat unread and unloved on my bookshelf. Then, out of the blue, I saw it and grabbed it and devoured it.

I was near tears because I was coming up on the last few pages and didn’t have the second book. But I couldn’t stop myself, I had to finish and when I did, I was numb. It was three whole days before I was able to pick up another book to read. Eventually I read all three of the books with the same zeal (the third book less so mostly because I was afraid of what was coming).

This series is raw, bleak, and unforgiving. Collins held no punches and I think that’s why I was so enamoured. I laughed, I cried, I balked right along with Katniss. I felt all of her emotions so vividly. The books sucked me right in.

The third book, I will admit, took some prodding since I was reluctant to read more than two chapters at a time. Everything in it was so bleak. I just didn’t understand how anyone was to recover. Then it picked up toward the middle and I simply couldn’t put it down. I’m going to have a hard time putting into words everything these books have done to me. I can’t wait for the movies to come out and I hope they don’t frack it up.

Radiance by Alyson Noel

Radiance This is my first book by Alyson Noel and only grabbed it on a whim. The cover looked interesting, the synopsis grabbed me (to be honest, because it sounded similar to a short story I’d written), and I pegged it for a light read. Ultimately I made a good decision. The book was a quick, light read although it dealt with some heavy subjects (death and coping).

It was also interesting to learn that it was a spinoff of the Evermore series I’ve been hearing about, but never felt compelled to read. Even after reading Radiance I still don’t feel compelled to read it, but probably will eventually.

The writing was well done, spare and evocative; the protagonist was spunky and felt natural; and the storyline held my interest, but I didn’t care much for the heavy new-age spin. Overall though I have few complaints about this book.

The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle

The House of Dead Maids Perfect book for the Halloween season. It’s a prequel to Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, but you needn’t have read it to enjoy The House of Dead Maids. This book stands well on its on and is truly a chilling gothic ghost story—well-written, and strange.

It’s a rare thing when a contemporary horror novel, especially written for children, can get me to think twice about the sounds I hear outside my window, but this book did exactly that. Worth every penny.

The Amulet Books 1-3 by Kazu Kibuishi

The StonekeeperThe Stonekeeper's CurseThe Cloud Searchers

I have a new favorite graphic novel series. Or, at least it’s in the Top 5. The illustrations are amazing, as is the coloring, as is the story. OK, I’ll admit the story is a bit reminiscent of some other hero tales of the past, but the other areas of the graphic novel series makes up for that. Plus the characters are quirky and entertaining. Plus, the editing and pacing are worthy of note.

With as many graphic novels as I’ve seen published with shoddy writing and inconsistent stories and art, it’s clear that Kibuishi takes his time and carefully crafts his graphic novels before sending it off to the masses. I cross my fingers and hope that it doesn’t change with future issues.

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh

Mrs. Kimble This is the product of a commenter’s recommendation. And I’m glad I listened. This book held my interest from the beginning to the very end.

It starts on a strange note, with a mysterious man dying in his car while waiting for a drawbridge to lower, and then travels back through time and shows us who this man is and how he affected the lives of three (actually more) different women.

This book is a tapestry. All of the lives, though separate, are connected. Though there were some editing faux pas, noticeable writing quirks, and few areas where the thread was dropped, it was still an expertly woven story.

This is a book for people who enjoy gawping at the lives and inner workings of others rather than plot-driven tales. It’s languid in its telling and will leave you with much to ponder afterward.

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July 12

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Memorable Scenes Monday (3): Pharos: A Ghost Story by Alice Thompson

by Ann-Katrina

Every so often I come across a scene that is so potent that it lingers long after I’ve finished reading it. That’s where the idea for this feature came from. Each Monday I intend to share with you a memorable scene from one (or more) of my reads.

If you like the idea I invite you to join me in sharing a memorable scene on your blog and link to it in a comment or just share the scene in the comment itself. (Please remember to include the book’s title and author so our wishlists and TBR stacks can grow. Also, if your scene is a spoiler, please clearly mark it as one.)

Pharos This week’s scene comes from Pharos: A Ghost Story by Alice Thompson.

The next day the pain from the burn developed into a fever and she was forced to retire to bed. Late afternoon, someone knocked on the door and she lifted her head from her pillow to see the young assistant keeper enter. Her heart sank. His looks disconcerted her. He had a very still face with green eyes that reminded her of a snake or wild creature, something from the sea. His hands moved delicately, like anemones. As if they had a life of their own, quite apart from the rest of his body, which was lithe and fluid like an acrobat’s. His body looked as if it were always alert, as if it were about to jump up and do a somersault in the air, that sitting down never quite satisfied it. But he was sitting down in front of her in the small, round room, on a wooden chair, his hands nervously twisting in his lap.

She wondered what she looked like to him. But she hardly cared and neither, it seemed, did he, as he was acting as if it were quite normal for him to come into a strange, ill woman’s bedroom and make conversation.

‘Would you like to see a trick? It might help while away the time for you.’

She tried not to smile. Being cooped up in a lighthouse must make people strange, she thought. She nodded.

He bent towards her and at first she thought he was coming towards her to kiss her, until she saw him keeping on bending, clasping his hands over his head. He moved himself over and round until he was a circle in the middle of the room. He rolled around in the center of the room like a wheel.

‘That’s not a trick,’ she said rather disappointedly.

Then she watched as suddenly, to her astonishment, he seemed to catch fire. Flames were coming out of his body as he was turning, now on the spot, as if he had been transformed into a Catherine wheel. He lit up the room in the encroaching twilight. Bright red, orange flames spun out of his curved body as he turned and she could no longer see where his head met his hands or even his body at all. He had turned into a wheel of fire.

-pg 26-7

This book had been sitting on my TBR stack for a while and for some strange reason, I was struck with a desire to read it. So far, Thompson’s writing has a tactile quality to it, which engages all the senses. It really is rather beautiful. The story is shaping up to be a mind-bending one as clues have been dropped that not everything on Jacob’s Rock is as it seems.

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September 3

Comments: 4

Review: Being Dead by Vivian Vande Velde

by Ann-Katrina

Being Dead Cover

Back Cover of Being Dead

They may be dead, but thee certainly not gone. They dance with the living, sleep under your bed, and follow you home from school.

In this deliciously creepy collection of seven stories, Vivian Vande Velde follows the haunted souls of yesterday beyond the grave into our world–a place they just aren’t ready to leave.

Three Quick Points About Being Dead

  • Point 1: The cover is creepier than the stories. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some level of nerve-altering in at least one of the stories.
  • Point 2: A mixed bag. A few of the stories seem like incomplete thoughts, but the remainders have the power to make one gasp, laugh, or misty-eyed.
  • Point 3: Smooth and fast reads, all. Each story flows from one page to the next making this book an exceptionally fast read.

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