Friday, May 25, 2012

A Great Horror Story

The Boo Hag (The Lenny Chronicles #1) by David Morgan (Self-Published, 2012, 328pp.)

Boo Hag (n): a creepy, skinless female demon from folklore that preys upon humans by stealing their skins and then masquerading as the now-deceased—at least until it’s time for a new wardrobe.

Is your skin crawling yet? Just be glad you’re not Lenny Petrakas. Lately, she’s been having problems with one of these pesky demons who just can’t seem to take a hint! Fortunately, she’s got a few loyal friends who are as determined as she is not to let that happen.

Reader, you will be glad to know that this isn’t your usual horror story. In your standard fare, the hapless heroine does all sorts of stupid things to advance the plot. You know, the kind of moments that will either make you cry, “Don’t go in there!” or “Ha, ha! You’re going to get it!”, depending on whether or not you actually care about the characters. In the case of Morgan’s leading lady, Lenny at least goes armed with her wits and a hockey stick.

The story’s pacing is fairly quick, and although the suspense is sometimes slackened by pointless scenes of Lenny’s friends swooning over their crushes (get back to the boo hag, already!) the novel ends on a cliffhanger that will guarantee your interest in any sequel. The Boo Hag will appeal to teens of any age who like scary stories, as well as fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Click on cover for image source.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

For Fans of the Parallel World Premise

Have Book – Will Travel by Kfir and Yonatan Luzzatto (Pine Ten, LLC, 2012)

(Warning: Spoilers Ahead!)

Whether it’s off to Narnia through the magic wardrobe or falling down a rabbit-hole into Wonderland, transport to parallel worlds has always been a favorite in fantasy. In Have Book – Will Travel, the method of transportation happens to be a book – specifically, one Book of Dreams found by two friends, Darla and Max, in the storage room of an old fortress. Read a line aloud, any line, and within seconds, you’re in another dimension.

Plot-wise, the novel chronicles the adventures of Darla and Max as they flit from world to world. Max and Darla only visit two unnamed parallel worlds. The first, only briefly touched on, is ruled by gentlewomen who consider men to be second-class citizens. Upon the teens’ arrival, Max is thrown immediately into prison to await execution. After a few chapters spent trying to rescue Max, the two escape into a second world, one somewhat similar to their home world except for a few tweaks in the laws of physics. To be more exact, it’s not uncommon for people to find their spirits separated from their bodies, either by fever (you literally go out of your head from sickness) or, in Max’s case, dropping from the sky and landing on some poor unfortunate below – only to realize once you’ve gotten up and dusted yourself off that you’ve somehow knocked yourself out of your body and into that of the other person (whoops!).

Personally, I found the “Book of Dreams” premise to be a neat idea, but one that is not as fully explored as I had hoped. The two alternate worlds are not equally developed, which makes the flow of the story feel somewhat unbalanced. In all, I would recommend this for younger teens interested in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy or C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, both of which employ the “parallel world” premise.

Click on cover for image source.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Only Recommended If You Plan on Reading Vampire Diaries: The Return

Dark Reunion (The Vampire Diaries #4) by L.J. Smith (1992; HarperCollins, 2010, 312pp.)

Months after Elena sacrifices herself to defeat a powerful foe in The Fury, her psychic friend, Bonnie, has disturbing dreams that foretell of another oncoming menace: a vicious, terrifying killer who seems to be unstoppable. Trying to decipher Elena’s clues from the beyond, she summons Stefan and Damon from Italy for help. Like its predecessors, the action is unflagging, and the villain is really creepy. Unfortunately, that’s the only good thing I can say about it. The events that wrap up the novel are confusing and left unexplained, leaving some confusion in their wake for the reader. And the ending? It’s more than disappointing--it’s painfully abysmal. I can’t go into too much detail without revealing the ending, but trust me - awful. However, if readers plan on tackling the second series in the Vampire Diaries universe - Vampire Diaries: The Return - then this volume is essential to understanding later sequels.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Convincing Treatment of the Well-Worn Doomsday Scenario

Source: Author Website
The Faustian Host (Apocalypse Signs #1) by Dave Becker (Self-Published, 2012, 221pp.)
After his religious nutcase grandmother dies, teenage Tony Marino is sent to live with foster parents in Clement, Massachusetts, where he is given the opportunity to attend an exclusive private school. Kalos Academy is sort of like Hogwarts if Hogwarts was A) American B) a private day school C) not overtly magical and D) catered to children whose IQ is off the charts. To attend Kalos, you’ve got to be smart. Really, really smart. Class attendance is encouraged, though not required. There’s no grading system, only a pass/fail option.

Although he has a rocky start at first, Tony feels like he’s finally settling in—of course, this is before weird things start happening. In religion class, he touches an ancient scroll the teacher has on display for the students—and it bursts into flames! On a class fieldtrip to Plymouth Rock, the historical stepping stone bleeds and stains Chesapeake Bay a dark red. Later, the town of Clement is set upon by swarms of flies. Since Clement was a relatively normal little town before Tony the New Kid’s arrival, his classmates naturally think he’s cursed. But Tony doesn’t believe in that kind of nonsense. Of course, this being a fantasy story, there has to be a little bit of magic—just not the Hogwarts kind. Actually, it’s more of the Satanic-doomsday-cult kind. And the cult is after Tony.

The Faustian Host
is definitely an interesting story. Becker’s descriptions of Kalos build a colorful picture of a unique academic institution that will make public school students envious, and his treatment of the well-worn doomsday scenario is convincing. However, it’s not without its flaws. The overall pace of the novel feels somewhat rushed, and the cast of supporting characters is left underdeveloped. Although apologies must be made for mentioning Harry Potter, comparisons become somewhat inevitable as the plot develops. A restless young man plucked from obscurity, Tony is sent to a special school and turns out to be “the Chosen One.” Pursued by a Death-Eater-like cult, he is later entrusted with the safekeeping of an all-powerful ancient artifact. However, despite these technical criticisms, teens eager for new urban fantasy/adventure epics will definitely enjoy what they find here. Recommended for Ages 14-16.