Tag Archives: horror

Friday Faceoff – Always do what you’re afraid to do… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is something SCARY, so I’ve selected The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

 

This edition was produced by David R. Godine in December 2001. While I’m never a fan of boxes containing the artwork, I think this one gives a sense of the period in which this creepy book is set. I’ve seen this on the stage at it is mesmerising – the haunted look of the man in the picture very accurately reflected the way the marvellous actor played the main character. And please don’t judge this by the dreadful film starring the hapless Daniel Radcliffe…

 

Published in 1998 by Vintage, I really like this stylish offering. The diffuse sun shining through the fog… the woman wandering alone… and the looping font all give a real sense of the book. I also rather like the decorative scrolling around the edge. Does it give a sense of menace? I think so, but maybe I’m biased, given that I know what an issue that fog is to the story…

 

This edition, published by Vintage Classic in October 2007 has called my bluff. I am always moaning about cluttered covers and how much I’d like to see a more minimalist approach. This one, however, has gone too far the other way. The outline of those tangled branches is wonderfully menacing, but would it have killed them to actually give Susan Hill her full name? Or maybe – perish the thought – actually lend a bit of style to the painfully plain title font.

 

Produced by Profile Books in September 2011, this is also a very attractive offering. I like the purple and black colour scheme and the Victorian woman walking alone. And then they go and over-egg it by having an owl flying overhead… I can’t recall if there is a hooting owl – while the sound of that rocking chair is one that I’ll never forget – the problem I have with its addition, along with the colour scheme, is that it now looks like a shapeshifting paranormal fantasy cover…

 

This edition, published by Vintage in October 2011 has so much going for it. I love the fog-shrouded forest and the lovely looping title font. And then they go and completely spoil it by putting a lot of chatter on the cover about the dreadful film! Otherwise this one would have been my outright favourite. As it is, it ties with the second cover. Which is your favourite?

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Friday Faceoff – Something wicked this way comes… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is HALLOWEEN, so I’ve selected Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

 

This edition was produced by Simon Schuster in October 2017. It certainly catches the eye and makes the fabulous title the attention-grabber. The bold graphics and bright red background is designed to look like the carnival posters of yesteryear and is also relying on the fame and respect this amazing book has garnered. While I love it, there isn’t much here that shouts HALLOWEEN…

 

Published in June 1999 by William Morrow, I love the conceit behind this cover – that of a headless carousel horse with unspeakable things emerging from the severed neck – and the skull floating above the mayhem. However, they then go and ruin it by slapping one of those award blobs right in the middle of the artwork which ruins it. It’s a real shame, as they also went to the trouble of producing a cracking font, too. The only snag is that this design doesn’t work as a thumbnail.

 

This edition, published by Gollancz in August 2008, is both simple and eye-catching. The lurid green works well against the black, with the back of the ringmaster matching the lettering. It works well as in thumbnail and again, effectively trades on the fame of this book by paring down the design. I really like this one – it’s my favourite.

 

Produced by Bookspan in January 2001, this is also an intriguing cover. The wafting title rising from the paved ground like an evil spell works really well, while dark closes in, threatening and full of unknown terrors… This is a cracking cover that looks awesome full-sized, but the title shrinks to something indecipherable in thumbnail. It is so nearly my favourite…

 

This edition, published by Gollancz in March 2006 for the Fantasy Masterworks series is fabulous. I love that threatening sky… the bolt of lightning… that long road stretching onwards towards the something wicked. And then they make the title as small and insignificant as they possibly can – even the textbox announcing this is a Fantasy Masterworks book is punchier than the actual title! What is the point of a book cover where the title is all but invisible? But never mind about me and my rantings – which one is your favourite cover?

Friday Faceoff – The grave’s a fine and private place… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is A HORROR NOVEL, so I’ve selected The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

 

This edition was produced by HarperCollins in September 2008. I really like this one – the blue-black background is both effective and attractive and the gravestone is striking. But what stands out is the treatment of both the title and author fonts, which I love. And then they go and RUIN it by plastering that large gold blob right in the centre! Couldn’t it have gone in a corner? Just asking…

 

Published in December 2008 by Bloomsbury, this cover is the exact opposite of the above cover. Rather than going for the minimalist approach, this cover is full of wonderful detail, featuring the two main protagonists scowling out at prospective readers. I could have done without the endorsement by Diana Wynne Jones impinging onto that glorious artwork, but overall I like this one, including the funky title font. This is the cover of the copy we own. The big problem with it is that it doesn’t look good in thumbnail.

 

This Spanish edition, published by Roca Editorial in October 2010. I really like it – the design is  clever, featuring the blade of a knife with the cityscape running along its length and young Bod running along the edge of it. I think it’s attractive and eye-catching – and again the author and title fonts look fabulous. However, the snag for me is that there is no graveyard in this cover, which features so heavily in the book – and the title.

 

Produced by Polaris in September 2008, this Czech cover does feature a graveyard. I like the design and appreciate that the ghosts also feature. However, unfortunately the execution of the otherworldly characters lets down this cover – they look like they’ve been painted onto material and then photoshopped into the cover. It’s such a shame, because I think the idea and the rest of the image is really strong.

 

This French edition, published by J’ai lu in April 2012, is also set in a graveyard and I love it. I think it’s the strongest of all the designs. It sings off the page with the eerie lighting and the silhouetted figure of the small boy against the wrought iron gates of the graveyard looks fabulous. This is mine – but which is your favourite?

My Outstanding Books of 2016

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Last year was an amazing year for reading. I cannot recall when I last read so many exciting, engrossing and well crafted books. Below are the ones which have left a niche in my inscape so they may not have initially got a 10/10, but nevertheless these are the ones that have stayed with me…

The Just City – Book 1 of the Thessaly series by Jo Walton

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This amazing, thought provoking series is essentially examining Plato’s ideas for an ideal society striving towards excellence as propounded in The Republic. It’s quirky, imaginative and clever – vintage Walton in other words. She has to be one of the most exciting, talented writers of our age.

 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

uprooted

This is a variation of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story that is filled with mystery, magic and a strong sense of place. The isolation and brooding sense of being at the whim of someone who is perhaps not wholly stable permeates the book.

 

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

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This hard science fiction tale of a shape-shifter is an extraordinary book, rich with techie detail and some of the most vivid sensory writing I’ve read. In addition, the story takes you in one direction – until you suddenly realise it is about something else altogether. Clever and original, this impressive debut novel marks Geen as One to Watch.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

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The cover of this book is lushly beautiful – which is also an accurate description of the prose spinning this story into a classic tale that wouldn’t be out of place if it turned up as one of the tales of Scheherazade. What really sold it, though, was the carnivorous horse with smart mouth…

 

The Annihilation Score – Book 6 The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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Unlike the rest of this clever, readable series, this book is told in the viewpoint of Bob Howard’s wife, Mo. She has a bone violin as a weapon to battle the Lovecraftian monsters emerging from another dimension and threatening life on Earth as we know it. You won’t be surprised to learn that wielding such an instrument exacts a heavy cost. Stross has depicted a heartbreaking heroine who leaves a lump in my throat.

 

The House with No Rooms – Book 4 of The Detective’s Daughter series
by Lesley Thomson

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I love Thomson’s clever, layered writing that assumes her readers are capable of joining the dots and her leisurely pacing that steadily builds a creeping sense of wrongness. Stella’s quirky world view prevails and in amongst the tragedy and pain, there are welcome shafts of humour. I’ve dreamt about this book…

 

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

mebeforeyou

This book, rightly, has garnered a huge amount of attention and I nearly didn’t read it because of the fuss. Which would have been a real shame, because the story is gripping, funny and painful and without an ounce of sentiment. I certainly didn’t think it would end the way it did.

 

An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows

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This portal fantasy gripped me from the first page and still hasn’t let go. I was completely caught up in the adventure, which quickly took me out of my comfort zone and captivated me. I still find myself wondering what I’d do if confronted with the same circumstances and hope that Meadows writes quickly, because I badly want to know what happens next.

 

The Fifth Season – Book 1 of the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

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I love her Inheritance series, but blogging buddy Sara Letourneau kept banging on about this one, so I got hold of it. And I’m so very glad I did… The writing is extraordinary. Jemisin takes all the rules about writing by the scruff of the neck and gives them a thorough shaking. I stayed awake to read this one, caught up with Essun’s furious grief and felt bereft once I came to the end of it.

 

Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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This clever, unsettling adventure takes the classic fantasy trope of the band of heroes and bounces it off the walls. The result is funny, creepy and poignant by turns – and absolutely engrossing. It also raises some tricky moral questions.

 

Spellbreaker – Book 3 of the Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charlton

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This fantasy adventure vividly depicts a family where every one of them is lethally powerful such that it seriously gets in the way of their love for each other. The result is riveting and original – it has lodged itself in my brain like a burr, because if you have the power to level cities or predict your father’s death, then it’s probably going to make the inevitable family tiff somewhat tricky.

 

The Summer Goddess by Joanne Hall

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I’ve always enjoyed Hall’s writing – but this particular tale of abduction and slavery tugged at my heart from the first chapter and kept on doing so throughout. Her heroine is painfully fallible and yet doggedly courageous – and the writing is always so well crafted. It’s another one that won’t leave me in peace…

 

Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

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This disturbing portal novel is about revenge and bloodshed – and how those that pay the price often are innocent. It grabbed me from the beginning as we learn about the three sisters and I read through the night to learn what befalls them – and I’m really hoping that Houghton is busy writing a sequel, for I want more of this savage, magical world.

 

A Natural History of DragonsBook 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series
by Marie Brennan

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What’s not to love? A dogged, adventuring Victorian lady who defies convention to go adventuring to learn more about dragons in their habitat. The book is written after the style of a 19th century novel and enchanted me – happily there are more in the series and I’m going to be plunging back into this world just as soon as I can.

 

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s
by Jodi Taylor

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This time travelling novel is set in a Government-run establishment that has the same feel I imagine Bletchley would have done during WW2 – though the attrition rate is definitely higher at St Mary’s. The time-travelling historians – or ‘disaster-magnets’ as they are described in this punchy, amusing adventure – tend to die rather a lot.

So there they are – my outstanding reads of 2016. I highly recommend each and every one of them as offering something special and unique. And if you insist on forcing me to choose only one of them, then you’re a cruel, unfeeling monster – but if I HAD to, then it would have to be N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. The intensity of the writing, the cool premise and the way she builds on the characters has this one etched into my mind.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review KINDLE Ebook American Monsters – Book 3 of the Demon Road series by Derek Landy

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This is the final instalment of this YA horror series, featuring Amber, a demon who shape-shifts when the going gets tough – see my reviews of Demon Road and Desolation. And the going is continually tough…

americanmonstersBigger, meaner, stronger. Amber closes in on her murderous parents as they make one last desperate play for power. Her own last hopes of salvation, however, rest beyond vengeance, beyond the abominable killers – living and dead – that she and Milo will have to face. For Amber’s future lies in her family’s past, in the brother and sister she never knew, and the horrors beyond imagining that befell them.

Amber has teamed up with Milo and his magical car to fight a series of lethal opponents. However, they all rather pale against her struggle with her seriously unpleasant parents, who raised her for the sole purpose of eating her once she came into her demonic powers. I really like the fact that when she isn’t a tall, red-skinned demon she is a rather plump, nondescript-looking girl. And her prospective girlfriend is attracted to the human side of her, rather than her charismatically fearsome alter ego.

Once again, the story starts with a bang and doesn’t let up as we are whisked from one crisis to another. There are a range of unpleasant monsters and creeps in this story, the most memorable being the murderous clown fixated on killing sixteen-year-olds. The action is vividly portrayed, with plenty of gore and a number of key characters dying off – to an extent that I was a tad winded when one of them met his end…

I’ve enjoyed this series, but I’m not quite sure who it’s aimed at. There is an awful lot of violence and murder, with not quite enough emotional bonding for it to truly appeal to the teenage girls I know – and while the non-stop action would definitely tick the boys’ boxes, I can’t see them warming to a gay shape-shifting female who beats up several men who bad-mouth her in sexist terms. While it is marketed as YA, I’d recommend that you check it out before you allow your younger teens to read it. Many, no doubt, will be perfectly able to cope with the action, but it is very graphic and there are some horrific moments that could upset sensitive children with vivid imaginations.

I received the arc of American Monsters from the publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
7/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Demon Road – Book 1 of the Demon Road series by Derek Landy

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I read Desolation, the second book in this series earlier this year – see my review here. It seemed to make sense to read the first book when I saw it also available on NetGalley, so I finally got around to it.

demonroadDemon Road kicks off with a shocking opener and never lets up the pace in an epic road-trip across the supernatural landscape of America. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers: they’re all here. And the demons? Well, that’s where Amber comes in… Sixteen years old, smart and spirited, she’s just a normal American teenager until the lies are torn away and the demons reveal themselves. Forced to go on the run, she hurtles from one threat to another, revealing a tapestry of terror woven into the very fabric of her life. Her only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be.

The blurb isn’t kidding. This book starts with a bang and just goes on delivering one shock after another as Amber is hurtled from life as a solitary teen into running for her life under terrible circumstances. She is an appealing protagonist – initially unsure with low self- esteem – until a dramatic change also affects her personality. Fortunately, she isn’t having to face this road trip alone. Milo ends up looking out for her, with his vintage Charger car. Inevitably, they run into yet more trouble and pick up another passenger, Glen.

I really enjoyed Glen joining the team – although I was a little uneasy at the racial stereotype that the Irishman who came to America looking for adventure isn’t the sharpest tool in the box… However, his humorous intervention was very welcome in amongst the death and mayhem that follows their desperate race against Time.

I’m aware this book is aimed at YA, but I would not be happy if the youngsters in my life got hold of it before they were sixteen plus. The violence is visceral and gory. While I appreciated the sheer wicked ghastliness of the antagonists pursuing the teenager, I can see why young, inexperienced readers may find some of the scenes upsetting. And Landy doesn’t flinch from killing off some of his main characters, either…

All in all, I found it an enjoyable, engrossing read, full of thrills and excitement – but it isn’t for the faint-hearted, or highly imaginative, sensitive young teens. I received a copy of Demon Road from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 7th June 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
The Passage – Book 1 of The Passage series by Justin Croninthepassage
page 346: He couldn’t have said how old she was. Thirteen? Sixteen? Her hair was long and dark, and thick with mats; she was wearing a pair of threadbare gaps cut off at the ankles and a T-shirt stiff with dirt, all of it too large on her boyish frame.

BLURB: Amy Harper Bellafonte is six years old and her mother thinks she’s the most important person in the whole world. She is.

Anthony Carter doesn’t think he could ever be in a worse place than Death Row. He’s wrong.

FBI agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming. It is.

Unaware of each other’s existence but bound together in ways none of them could have imagined, they are about to embark on a journey. An epic journey that will take them through a world transformed by man’s darkest dreams, to the very heart of what it means to be human. And beyond.

Because something is coming. A tidal wave of darkness ready to engulf the world. And Amy is the only person who can stop it.

I picked this one up at Fantasycon a couple of years ago and it’s been stacked in my TBR pile ever since. And if I hadn’t requested City of Mirrors from NetGalley, it would probably still be there, but I thought it might be a refreshing change to read a series in the right order… If your taste runs to apocalyptic science fiction, then this is the daddy, coming in at 766 pages and – as you might imagine – not brimful of fun. But the writing is spare, pacey and lyrically beautiful. It’s a book that’s going to stay with me for a long time.

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Desolation – Book 2 of The Demon Road Trilogy by Derek Landy

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This was a sudden impulse – I’ve got Demon Road sitting on my Kindle, waiting to be read, and when I suddenly spotted this book was shortly due to come out and wanting a chance of pace, I decided to get hold of it. Was it a wise decision?

DesolationReeling from their bloody encounter in New York City at the end of Demon Road, Amber and Milo flee north. On their trail are the Hounds of Hell – five demonic bikers who will stop at nothing to drag their quarries back to their unholy master. Amber and Milo’s only hope lies within Desolation Hill – a small town with a big secret; a town with a darkness to it, where evil seeps through the very floorboards. Until, on one night every year, it spills over onto the streets and all hell breaks loose. And that night is coming…

When a book starts with such a bang, the action and pace need to be sustained or the subsequent chapters can feel like an anti-climax, which isn’t ideal in an action adventure novel. However, Landy is far too deft to allow Desolation to suffer such a slump – the narrative in this YA horror adventure continues to hurtle forward, providing plenty of twists and turns throughout. Despite not having read the first book, at no stage did I flounder – slices of necessary information were provided without any loss of momentum as the story rolled forward.

I quickly bonded with Amber and the team including Two, the dog, who also end up at Desolation to fight the forces of evil. Their resemblance to the Scooby Doo adventurers is a nice touch in a story where in amongst the murder and mayhem, there are plenty of humorous moments. I found myself chuckling aloud in several instances. That didn’t stop the action scenes being full of drama, with both Milo and Amber continually in all sorts of danger and regularly involved in lots of violent action.

Given this is a YA read, Landy is treading a tricky line, but he is clearly experienced at doing so, as I didn’t feel at any stage he stepped over it. The main antagonists are all suitably vile and pose a significant threat. We are also aware of their motivations and why they made the choices they did. One of the strengths of this book is that in amongst all the action, there is a thorough examination of good and evil – and how fine that distinction can be – without any moralising. While I wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable with my eleven-year-old granddaughter reading this, I’ll have no problem with her picking it up in a couple of years, should she wish to.

As for me, will I be backtracking and reading the first book, Demon Road, in this series? Oh yes – and I’m also looking forward to getting hold of American Monsters as soon as it becomes available in due course. I very much want to know how Amber and Milo cope after the big game-changing climax at the end of Desolation.

The ebook arc copy of Desolation was provided by NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 5th April 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Desolation – Book 2 of The Demon Road trilogy by Derek Landy
1%: It was safe in here. None of these people wanted to kill her. She was getting good at spotting the Desolationtelltale signs.

BLURB: Reeling from their bloody encounter in New York City at the end of Demon Road, Amber and Milo flee north. On their trail are the Hounds of Hell – five demonic bikers who will stop at nothing to drag their quarries back to their unholy master.
Amber and Milo’s only hope lies within Desolation Hill – a small town with a big secret; a town with a darkness to it, where evil seeps through the very floorboards. Until, on one night every year, it spills over onto the streets and all hell breaks loose.
And that night is coming…

I hadn’t PLANNED on reviewing this book – but when those nice people at NetGalley told me I was auto-approved and I looked twice at the cover, I somehow couldn’t resist. Yes… I know, I know – I’ve cheated, I’ve posted THREE sentences instead of TWO. And? They’re short sentences. So, bite me. Um – erm – no… please don’t! What I meant to say was…

A review will be along shortly, given this book is due to be published on 7th April.

Review of Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

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oddWell, you won’t find a book more aptly named. Odd by name and odd by nature… Twenty-year-old Odd Thomas takes pride in his work as a fry cook. His fame has spread, bringing strangers to the restaurant in Pico Mundo. Odd cannot say what it is that disturbs him about this particular stranger, but his sixth sense is alert… This is a man with an appetite for operatic terror. The violence he craves is of the extreme variety: multiple untimely deaths spiced with protracted horror. Tomorrow.

Odd’s fears are first for Stormy Llewellyn, his one true love. Stormy believes that our passage through this world is intended to toughen us for the next life – that the many terrors we know here are an inoculation against worse in the world to come. But Odd Thomas knows more than Stormy about this world. Many people in Pico Mundo think he is some sort of psychic, perhaps a clairvoyant, a seer, something. None but a handful know that he sees the restless dead, those with unfinished business and sometimes, plenty of post-mortem rage.

Now, I generally don’t do too much Horror – I dream far too vividly to be able to cope with anything liberally gore-drenched. But this offering was vetted by Himself, who assured me that it was both worth reading and reasonably spatterless and I thoroughly enjoyed this accomplished, well-written book. There is a touch of Gothic otherness in a small-town American setting that had me feeling fiercely protective of the likes of Stormy Llewellyn, Odd’s girlfriend, Police Chief Porter, Mrs Sanchez and Little Ozzie – characters who bounce off the page with their eccentricity and niceness. Writing nice without descending into sentimentality takes skill, which Koontz amply demonstrates in this slow-burn thriller than had me reading far too late into the night/early morning, given I had a poorly grandson to tend.

I enjoyed the fact that Odd’s facility for encountering ghosts has kept him in his hometown, away from busy city streets where sudden deaths are far more frequent, so that he appears to be under-achieving. Whereas in actual fact, he strives to be the best breakfast cook he can be – while keeping track of the creepy black shadows that gather when something terrible is about to happen and trying to avert the impending catastrophe.

Yes, I know it’s not staggeringly original – but Koontz’s particular handling of this plot device is slick and accomplished. I love Odd’s first person narration – that as a bookish, nerdy kid, he is rather wordy. That his terrible upbringing has left him… odd – with a strange innocence alongside his otherworldly gifts and a knack for making friends. It is a refreshing change when so many young protagonists spend their time angst-ridden over their own emotions and feelings, to encounter a character who rarely will address his own pain – turning his emotions into trying to keep everyone he cares about safe. Which brings its own terrible urgency, as a terrible evil continues to circle the heartbreakingly vulnerable community of Pico Mundo.

If, like me, you’re a tad allergic to horror that describes dead bodies in loving detail, but appreciate a tension-filled, paranormal thriller of above average quality, then track down this 2004 offering. You won’t be sorry if you do.
9/10