Book Review: Shutter (Shutter #1) by Courtney Alameda

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Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced before . . . or die trying.

reviewThis is a bit tough to rate because I did really enjoy this book but there were a lot of parts where I felt really bored and had to kind of force myself to read. So a middle rating is kind of perfect!

Trigger Warning: Physical Abuse/Child Abuse

PLOT

The cover on this is actually a little misleading as you would think it was a horror book when really it’s just kind of an urban fantasy featuring paranormal/supernatural creatures. There wasn’t anything super creepy or horrifying about it which, in my case, was slightly disappointing since I wanted to be scared out of my mind but that’s okay it was still pretty interesting. Was it completely non-creepy? No, there were a few parts that were awesomely creepy but I wouldn’t say this book is really scary.

I really loved the world building in this book and I was not expecting there to be any but it was a pleasant surprise. “Shutter” is set in a world where the existence of supernatural creatures is public knowledge and the descendants of the characters in Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”, including Stoker himself, fight these creatures. It’s pretty badass and being the fan of “Dracula” that I am I was in love with all of the references! Unfortunately it was a lot to take in at first since there is quite a bit of info-dumping at the beginning of the story.

The pacing was pretty fast and full of action throughout most of the book but there were also quite a few parts that got really bogged down and I’m not sure why. It would just slow down a ton and I’d have to force myself to read through which wasn’t fun.

As for the plot itself it just kind of felt a little lacking? Plus the twists were utterly predictable and I was not surprised at all when they came to light because I’d guessed them right away, which isn’t any fun. I hate when things are predictable!

The ending is left with quite a few things unresolved leaving the way open for a sequel but one that I don’t think we are going to get. The ending also felt pretty rushed and big plot elements were kind of quickly resolved but not really in a satisfying way, in my opinion. It was all a little abrupt.

Alameda’s writing was pretty decent as well and a little heavy on the metaphors at times but I enjoyed it, looking forward to whatever else she’ll write up!

One last thing about the “plot related story elements” though, as you can see in the trigger warning I listed above there is an instance of physical abuse from a parent towards a child (teenager but legally still a child). I don’t like how it was skated over and the character didn’t want to mention it ever and deal with it even though it was child abuse, I also don’t like how easily the parent was forgiven.

characters

The characters were just kind of “meh” in which I mean I didn’t really love them or hate them. They were all kind of likable enough and there’s no denying that they’re good at their jobs which is pretty badass. However, I kind of felt like no one was really developed or complex and the characters didn’t really change at all throughout the story, at least not with reason.

There’s Micheline (the MC), Ryder, Oliver, and Jude that make up our main ghost butt kicking squad. Ryder is the love interest and honestly he’s just kind of there for that reason alone and never really grows as a character, boring and I didn’t get what was so great about him. Jude is extremely sexist and kind of annoying, also he “changes” by the end of the story but there really is nothing to justify why he did which annoyed me. Oliver was my favorite character but guess what? Hardly any “page time” for him which was a disappointment.

As for Micheline, our protagonist, I didn’t really think much of her at all, she wasn’t a terrible character but she was pretty self-absorbed and I didn’t like that. She runs headfirst into danger thinking only of how great it will be for her to exorcise this ghost and be the hero and instead she gets her team into a life threatening situation. Yeah, not my favorite kind of character.

There are a few side characters such as Micheline’s dad Leonard Helsing, Oliver’s dad Dr. Stoker, Father Marlowe, and Damien Drake which they were all pretty interesting in their own way and I would have liked to have learned a bit more about each of them. Especially Damien Drake who seems like a total badass and I would have liked to have learned more about his and Jude’s strange powers. That would have been awesome!

romance

The romance was another “meh” aspect for me. I liked that it was sort of a forbidden romance because that’s the one romance trope that I really enjoy but it just didn’t feel like there was any chemistry between the characters. It was kind of romance for the sake of romance. On the plus side the romance never takes over the plot and it’s more on the side lines which I appreciated.

in conclusion

Overall as I mentioned earlier there were both pluses and minuses to this book and I did enjoy it for the most part, it was definitely entertaining.

What I Loved:

  • Mostly fast pacing
  • Plenty of action
  • Great world building
  • Characters were okay
  • Good writing
  • “Dracula” references!

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Pacing slowed down in some parts
  • Not as creepy as I would have liked
  • Predictable twists
  • Rushed ending
  • Self absorbed main character

RECOMMEND

I would recommend this book if you’re looking for something slightly on the creepy horror side but you don’t want the crap scared out of you, it’s full of ghosties but wasn’t terrifying! I also recommend checking this one out if you’re a “Dracula” fan, like myself, because the references made reading through a lot of fun!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository / Book Outlet

The Sassy

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Halloween Non-Horror Recommendations!

Top Ten Tuesday(93)

So as I promised I’ve done up a post for those of you who want to read some spooky books for Halloween but don’t necessarily like horror or want your pants scared off! These are mostly all thrillers or have a paranormal factor present.

If you want to see my Halloween Horror Recommendations you can check that out here.

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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

(Review Here)

A great diverse read featuring a Latino family of brujas (witches) and when Alex tries to rid herself of her powers her entire family vanishes. This is a very magical adventure full of family love and who doesn’t love a good witch book?


The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

(Review Here)

This is a thriller about a girl who lied about who murdered their babysitter when they were younger and must now hunt for the true killer. This doesn’t have much for Halloween vibes but it is a very dark and twisted story full of surprises. It definitely gets gritty and you’ll get chills reading through it!


Coraline by Neil Gaiman

(Review Here)

Who doesn’t think “Coraline” is a Halloween classic now? Because I sure do! It’s subtly creepy and just absolutely perfect for reading this time of year.


The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook

(Review Here)

Another thriller but this one has some psychics involved making it all the more perfect for some Halloween reading. A girl who fakes being psychic must now help the police find a missing girl but she may just have some insider information….


Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel

(Review Here)

Harbingers of Death? That screams Halloween in my opinion! A mysterious boy shows up in town accompanied by flocks of strange crows and when he saves Angie from something supernatural she realizes he may not be human either. Paranormal elements and a slightly creepy atmosphere makes this another great read for non-horror fans!


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Another book that shouldn’t surprise many of you but “The Graveyard Book” is about a boy who is raised by the supernatural residents of a graveyard. It’s full of adventure and just straight up adorableness.


I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

A mystery thriller revolving around Jasper Dent the son of the most infamous serial killers in the world. Jasper was being groomed to take over the “family business” and therefore can see crime scenes from a criminal’s POV so when a new serial killer shows up in his small town he’s determined to prove it’s not him.

So, so, sooooo many twists and turns with this one it’s especially great if you have a morbid curiosity about serial killers, like me.


The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

(Review Here)

I could honestly recommend any of Flynn’s books but this short story fits the best in my opinon. It’s about a woman who fakes psychic readings and help from the beyond for money. When a woman wants her help ridding her house of something evil our main character may just start believing in ghosts….

Super quick read and open ended so if open endings aren’t your thing I’d skip it.


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

(Review Here)

Psychics, ancient sleeping kings, ley lines, and magic trees I think it’s safe to say this isn’t your run of the mill paranormal romance or urban fantasy. It’s full of magic and sets a very fast pace not to mention you will definitely fall in love with the characters!


The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

This is more Middle Grade than YA but it’s still super interesting and full of supernatural spirits and creatures and there’s more than a few creepy moments too as Thomas learns about how to be a Spook.


The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

(Review Here)

This one is filled with monsters, demons, undead, and spirits and while it has a few dark moments it mostly follows a girl named Tea learning to control her powers of necromancy.


This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

(Review Here)

This book fits into a kind of neat genre but it’s about a girl who wants to hunt monsters and boy who is one of those monsters in a city torn into two sects. The monsters are very unique and fun to read about and the characters are a bit morally grey, definitely a fun read though and the monsters aren’t TOO creepy either!


Bad Blood by Demitria Lunetta

(Review Here)

Another witch book makes the list! This one is about a girl who visits Scotland and learns a bit more about her family’s past as she continues having visions of two women and a bit more about witchcraft and blood magic. Honestly the background of Scotland makes this book worth the read as well!

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Have you read any of this books? What did you think?

Will you give any of these books a try?

What are some of your favorite non-horror Halloween reads?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

ARC Review: Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel

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A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

review

**** Big thank you to Entangled Publishing for sending me an copy in exchange for an honest review!****

This was definitely a very unique and dark story and unlike anything I’ve ever read before, I won’t be forgetting this one any time soon! Remember when paranormal romances were big? This is how a majority of them SHOULD have been, engaging and well written! However, there were just a couple things that didn’t work enough for me to full rate this at 4 stars.

PLOT

I loved how the story opens up with some interesting happenings right away, there are some mysterious new neighbors next door in the house where a family was brutally murdered. Pretty good attention grabber, right? From here the plot takes off with Angie being drawn to the new boy next door, Reece, and she starts to notice odd things happening around town such as a significant increase in the local crow and bee populations and she thinks Reece has the answers.

The plot is very fast paced and stays that way for the duration of the book, which was nice, and there definitely isn’t a lack of action at all! You’ll be able to zip right through this book! I loved how Kassel kept things interesting and kept you reading for answers and when you finally got them she’d leave you with more questions too! Her writing was spectacular and I’ll be interested to see what she’ll write next.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the world building and mythology, it was extremely creative and I wanted to know everything about it! The curses of the Harbingers and Beekeepers were really interesting but I would have liked to have known a bit more about their origins as well as the history of the magic and other magical entities that are mentioned, such as Strawmen. I would have loved a lot more depth into the world building for sure, it would have made the story even better but I did love what I got!

I also really liked how the general atmosphere of the story was kind of creepy as well since we are dealing with Harbingers of Death after all, it’s a perfect book to read for Halloween coming up here if you don’t like horror but like something a little spooky!

I also have to say that the second half of the book is where things got pretty dark and dangerous but it was also really thrilling to read through. Best part of the book, in my opinion! However, the ending to the book felt a little too…..convenient for me? I didn’t like how they are dealing with a problem for the majority of the story and then at the end it is magically solved for them, just a little too cheesy for me.

characters

The characters were a little tricky for me in this book, while they were decent I just didn’t feel connected to any of them and felt they lacked depth.

Angie was an alright narrator and main character, she had a pretty tough break as a child but has learned to deal with it. I think one of my favorite parts about her character was her love for making and mixing music and the parts where she would DJ were a lot of fun! When she DJs she uses an alter ego she likes to keep separate from herself which she has completely understandable reasons for. However, there is a moment where she has to choose between learning more about why her life might be in danger or to reveal her DJ persona to Reece and I thought it was a bit ridiculous because come on girl your life could be in danger!

Other than Angie there are a few other characters who get “screen time” such as her friends Deno and Lacey, her father, Roger (her dog), and of course Reece. I did really like all of these characters and they did have a little background and personality but overall they just didn’t have a whole lot of depth. Like I said though I really like them, they were very supportive of Angie the entire story. (I adored the dog though, seriously)

Reece is the other central character and love interest and he does get quite a bit of background as well but he doesn’t ever really develop. He doesn’t change or grow, the only character that did that was Angie. Overall I thought Reece was just sort of okay, I didn’t love or hate him he was just kind of…there.

One character I did not care for AT ALL though was Kiera Shaw who is basically the “high school mean girl” trope and she lives to make Angie’s life miserable. I did not see the point to her character at all and even towards the end where Angie and Kiera’s pointless “rivalry” is resolved it still felt really flat and not genuine. Even Rafette who was technically the story’s main antagonist was way more sympathetic than her!

romance

I actually did enjoy the romance between Angie and Reece and while there is an instant attraction the romance is not insta-love at all. I liked how it was slow at the start but it did feel a little rushed towards the middle of the book but it is explained so I forgive it. I actually really liked the tension that was between them at the beginning where they felt that attraction initially and it just had me rooting for them from the get go!

There was a sort of side romance between Angie’s two friends and honestly I felt it wasn’t needed at all. I liked the two characters but did we really need a side romance?

in conclusion

Overall I loved how unique the concept of this book was and the world building and mythology were fantastic, although I didn’t care a lot ton for most of the characters. So I’d like to give this a full 4 stars but the issues I had with the book it just doesn’t feel right to rate it anything more than 3.5.

What I Loved:

  • Concept and general plot
  • The writing was engaging
  • World building and mythology were creative
  • Very fast paced and full of action
  • Loved the musical side of Angie, the main character
  • The romance was slow burn and adorable
  • Roger, the dog, was just the best

What I Didn’t Love:

  • The ending felt WAY too convenient
  • Could have used a little more expansion with the world building
  • Characters were just kind of alright, didn’t really connect
  • Pointless girl on girl rivalry with school mean girl

RECOMMEND

I highly, highly recommend checking this book out though especially if you’re looking for a very unique story concept or a creepy (but not terrifying) book to read this fall!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

The Sassy

Book Review: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys stories selected by April Genevieve Tucholke

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description

Each story draws from a classic tale or two—sometimes of the horror genre, sometimes not—to inspire something new and fresh and terrifying. There are no superficial scares here; these are stories that will make you think even as they keep you on the edge of your seat. From bloody horror to supernatural creatures to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, this collection has something for any reader looking for a thrill.

review

This book was freaking amazing no amount of praise will ever do it justice. If you love YA Horror or if you’re looking for your next “make me sleep with the lights on” book, then look no farther than “Slasher Girls and Monster Boys”. 

It contains 14 short stories by some of the best YA authors out there, and it definitely shows. It promises horror and thrills, and it delivers them. I haven’t ever read an anthology book before and I am glad I chose this to be my first. All of these stories were mostly enjoyable, which I think is really saying something, since you’re reading a book with 14 short stories in it. There were a couple I wasn’t overly fond of, but more often then not I loved these creeptastic stories.

At the end of each story it’s revealed where the authors drew their inspiration from, various music, books, and movies. I’ll be reviewing each story individually so buckle up kids this is gonna be a long one!


The Birds of Azalea Street by Nova Ren Suma

3.5 Stars

Tons of people that have read this book will say that this short was their favorite story in the entire thing. I disagree. I disagreed the minute I was done with this story, because I knew that there was no way this was the best the book had to offer. It was confusing, I honestly STILL don’t understand it. Perhaps there’s just a lot of symbolism that just “flew over” my head. Get it? Because it’s a story about birds……. anyways. The plot was a very realistic type of creepy (who doesn’t think perverts are creepy?) and there’s a bit of a supernatural twist that made it just…..weird. The story was interesting enough but it really took a turn for the worst for me, it wasn’t explained enough. It left me with tons of questions. So if any of you have read or do read this please come back and comment and let me know your thoughts, I’d love to discuss it with you!


In The Forest Dark & Deep by Carrie Ryan

4.5 Stars

Probably my favorite story in the whole book, I read Ryan’s “The Forest of Hands and Teeth” series and I loved them and so I had high hopes for this one right away. It was truly horrifying, I found myself looking over my shoulder while reading this one! It’s also pretty disturbing, a little gory, and more than a little unsettling. It also has an emotional touch, I was definitely affected by this as well. I loved the sentiment of “not all monsters are filled with darkness”. The ending really comes full circle and it wasn’t as confusing for me as “Birds”. For me, “In The Forest Dark & Deep” was the scariest story in the entire anthology.


Emmeline by Cat Winters

3 Stars

When I started reading this story I had no idea how it fit into this book, then it hit me half way through, there’s a bit of a paranormal twist. “Emmeline” isn’t creepy, scary, or gory at all. It’s just sort of…disquieting. It was also very quick to read through, not one of my favorites but still very entertaining. The writing was beautiful and the atmosphere was haunting, Cat Winters does creepy historical-fiction extremely well. It’s more of a sad romance than a horror story, it’s a little emotional, you definitely feel a pang of sympathy for Emmeline.


Verse Chorus Verse by Leigh Bardugo

4 Stars

This one was very entertaining to read through although I found the horror aspect to be somewhat lacking. The story revolved around the lives of the characters more than anything, so a lot of it was gossip. The ending was almost abrupt and I felt I really didn’t understand how it happened or why. Certain things are brought up throughout the story but are never revisited to show why they MATTERED in the story. Still had a creepy moment or two, and one of the better shorts in this anthology, even though it left me feeling a little vexed.

Hide-And-Seek by Megan Shepherd

5 Stars

“Don’t expect death to play by the rules.”

This one along with “In the Forest Dark & Deep” are tied for my number one favorite story in the whole book. It is absolutely engrossing, “Hide-And-Seek” focuses on a folktale that revolves around Death. A girl who dies must play a game against Death to win her life back, sound interesting? It is. For a short story the mythology within it is FULLY explained, it was very well built and keeps you informed throughout. Now the inspiration for this particular story is a very clever horror movie, therefore making this story VERY clever and creative. The ending was fantastic everything is explained and resolved nicely, I was completely satisfied. Definitely one of the best reads in “Slasher Girls & Monster Boys”.


The Dark, Scary Parts and All by Danielle Paige

2 Stars

I didn’t enjoy this one, even though it wasn’t TOO horrible to force my way through. This story wasn’t even really horror at all, it also lacked any kind of creepy or dark atmosphere. Mostly it’s a bunch of high school mean girl-ness with a supernatural love interest, it’s the dullest story in the ENTIRE BOOK. One thing I did like was the (very) small inclusion of Greek mythology, such as the tale of Hades and Persephone. Our MC wasn’t complex, twisted, or even vaguely interesting compared to other MCs in the book, she’s pretty much a Mary-Sue. Not a fan of this story.


The Flicker, The Fingers, The Beat, The Sigh by April Genevieve Tucholke

2 Stars

I think I disliked this one even more than Paige’s story (above), it’s by far one of the least enjoyable stories. Basically the entire thing is about a bunch of douchebag teenagers, seriously, they’re the worst sort of people. They’re all extremely unlikable, you will not give a crap what happens to them at all, hopefully that was Tucholke’s point because if it was she nailed it. If that wasn’t bad enough it’s also PAINFULLY obvious what two horror movies this story draws its “inspiration” from. I put quotes over that because it isn’t so much inspiration as much as it’s taking the two plots of the movies and mashing them together, it’s practically like watching both movies play out in one. There’s nothing new or added it’s the exact same, which was super irritating because it just wasn’t that original.


Fat Girl With a Knife by Jonathan Maberry

3 Stars

I’m starting to think of Maberry as becoming a bit of a one trick pony, it was so predictable what horror element he was going to bring to the table. Zombies. His story wasn’t scary, or creepy, and it was kind of lacking the overall mood the other stories set. Mostly it focused on your typical high school drama, bullying, and mean girls. However, what the story lacked for in outright horror and scariness it made up for in our MC, Dahlia. She’s a high school “fat girl” but she doesn’t lay down and take shit from anyone, she’s a very strong character. Dahlia was so much fun to read about and she’s what really drove the story. I’d give her an A+ but unfortunately I wouldn’t for the rest of this story.


Sleepless by Jay Kristoff

4.5 Stars

Brilliant, creepy, and a very captivating story. “Sleepless” is definitely one of my other favorite stories in this book. It starts out a little slow and tedious, but trust me when you get a little further into it it gets downright intense. Also as you read through you’ll probably notice right away the similarities between this story and a very classic horror movie. There’s a couple of twists throughout and you won’t see them coming, I know I didn’t. Now I can’t say too much without giving away the twists but this is certainly one of the better stories in the book, it fits the overall themes perfectly.


M by Stefan Bachmann

3 Stars

This one, to me, didn’t really fit in with the rest of the stories, I didn’t find myself horrified or creeped out at all. Although with the inclusion of a blind narrator the overall atmosphere is very well developed, it’s an eerie feeling on its own. There’s nothing supernatural here, so it really wasn’t very engaging for me. I don’t understand why it was selected to be in this book, it’s surely the odd one out. “M” is more of a murder mystery than anything else, not really impressive to me.


The Girl Without a Face by Marie Lu

4 Stars

I found this story to be a bit of a disappointment, it was 100% me and not the story though. I was expecting it to be the most terrifying thing I’ve ever read just because of the title. “The Girl Without a Face” that just SCREAMS horrifying, right? However, it was scary enough to be enjoyable, for me. It took a bit of a psychological turn and I hated that, I just wanted a good old fashioned REAL monster and it would have been so much scarier because we can’t EXPLAIN a real monster. But someone who did bad things? We can justify them being haunted by their mistakes. Therefore I was disappointed, I wasn’t getting my pants scared off it felt more like I was being taught a lesson in morals and karma. Still, I liked this story and it had a pretty high creep factor going on and a GREAT ending.


A Girl Who Dreamed of Snow by McCormick Templeman

3 Stars

This one is hard to review because it’s also hard to explain. I’m not even sure I knew what was actually going on towards the end. The story starts slow but finishes with a bang, the characters all fell pretty short and weren’t interesting at all. They did, however, talk about “night creatures” stalking them through the wilderness and that was enough to get me excited. There was a pretty interesting back story explaining the actions of the characters and that ,for me, is what really made the story. The night creatures were really the best part though, they sounded so creepy.


Stitches by A.G. Howard

4 Stars

“Stitches” started out strong and ended the same way, it grabs your attention right away and holds onto it until the story is over. It’s gory, graphic, and full of surprises. There are a few moments that are actually very touching and emotional, which is a BIG surprise in a story that’s so gruesome. Caution to those of you who are a bit squeamish!


On the I-5 by Kendare Blake

3.5 Stars

I love Blake’s writing style in “Anna Dress in Blood” and it shows the same in this short story. There’s a twist or two that ended up not being all that surprising after reading an entire book full of them. It would have been better off being placed earlier in the book. Still a very compelling story with a bit of a paranormal angle.


So in the end “Slasher Girls & Monster Boys” is a fantastic read and I HIGHLY recommend it. See if you can pick it up this Halloween (coming up), I guarantee you’re in for some scares!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon

The Sassy