Book Review: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

book cover for peeps
Click here for the Amazon page.

Overall Rating: 3 stars (Liked It)

When I first saw this on the shelf and read the summary on the back, I couldn’t help but think, “Ooooh! Vampires meets Scott Pilgrim!”

And so, naturally, I picked it up.

Cal is a carrier of a parasite which infected all of his ex-girlfriends. They have all become vampires, parasite-positives, or “Peeps” for short. Cal may just be a carrier, but he’s got the strength, the night-vision, the craving for meat, and the horniness of a Peep. After catching all of his ex-girlfriends for the Night Watch, he is charged with finding the girl who infected him in the first place.

Cal is also a biology major, and just a little bit nerdy. Between chapters he gives mini-biology lessons on parasites, which are usually quite entertaining, and a little icky. He makes vampires scary in a completely different way, by relating them to intestinal worms.

The book doesn’t earn one of the highest ratings from me, but it was very entertaining and I read it in two sittings. I appreciated that, while sex is a common theme to the story, it successfully avoided being explicit, or in making me tired of the subject (which generally happens very quickly for me). It also avoids being gushy, which seems to be the weakness of most vampire stories, especially those marketed to teens.

So the book earned three stars simply because when I post this up on Goodreads, I won’t be able to give it three-and-four quarters, and I don’t quite feel like it earned an even four. Even so, if it sounds like something that’s up your alley, I highly recommend it as a fun read and an interestingly original take on teen-vampire stories.

 

Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

cover of the graveyard book by neil gaiman
Click here for the Amazon link

Overall Rating: 5 stars (Loved It!)

Hands down, one of the very best books I’ve read… not just this year, but ever! The Graveyard Book is gripping from the first moment, and sends chills down your spine. At the same time, it is written in such a way that it should be read aloud, and shared by the entire family.

The Graveyard Book begins with a baby, who narrowly escapes the man who murdered his entire family. The baby is taken in by the Owens – a pair of ghosts who had never been able to have a child of their own.

The problem with writing a review about a book THIS good is that you feel wholly inadequate to really describe it. It’s hard to put words to how great the entire experience of this book is. So instead, I’ll include a personal experience with the book.

I was reading the Audible version, read by Neil himself (coincidentally, @neilhimself is his Twitter handle if you’d like to follow him). I had three wisdom teeth taken out, and the dentist allowed me to listen to my Ipod during the surgery. So, hopped up on Nitrus Oxide, Neil Gaiman became like my father figure – reading softly to me as they pounded on my jaw with a tiny jack-hammer. It was incredibly calming, although I’ll admit I had to rewind and listen to those parts again… I wasn’t paying too much attention to the story. Just Neil’s voice. =)

So pick up this one. If you only pick up one of my recommendations, this should be it. It’ll thrill you, chill you, make you laugh, and cause your eyes to sting. Well done, Neil.

Content

Age: Marketed to Children and Young Adults

Language: No.

Violence: Yes, but not at all graphic.

Sex: No.

Book Review of I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells

image of book cover
Click here for the Amazon page

Overall Rating: 5 stars (Loved It!)

Genre – Thriller/Horror/Supernatural, Adult and Young Adult

While still following the Dan Wells tradition of being disturbing, thrilling, fast-paced and funny all at the same time, this book was possibly the most beautiful thing I have read this year. You may wonder how vivid scenes of embalming can be juxtaposed with anything that might be considered “beautiful”; it’s all in the journey.

I Don’t Want to Kill You was a book well worth waiting for. The series began with I am Not a Serial Killer, followed by Mr. Monster. The book series begins with a bang, and gets better as it goes. Although I try to keep spoilers out of my reviews, if you haven’t read the other two books it may be hard not to spoil the endings of the first two books; fair warning.

John Cleaver is a 15-year old sociopath who is convinced he will become a serial killer, but he doesn’t want to. He develops a list of rules designed to keep others safe, and himself out of trouble.

Character

John Cleaver is back, keeping a lookout for the demon he invited into town at the end of Mr. Monster. In this book he experiences a lot of growth, continuing the inner struggle of wondering what he will eventually become. John is also dating, dealing with the complexities of relationships and going to school dances. Other characters are written very well, and a few of them are incredibly lovable.

Story

The third addition of the series takes more time to explore other aspects of life, such as dating, while tracking this book’s killer. This means the book slowed down a bit more than the others did in places, which was a good thing, but I don’t know how to tell you why without giving spoilers.

Speed

I read this book in one day, two sittings. The book stays true to the tradition it set in book 1, which I also read in two sittings. Mr. Monster I read in one sitting, firstly because it was as captivating as the others, but also because I had more time that day. This book delivers the entire story in a rush, leaving you to take time to digest it all after you are finished.

Content

This book’s title may scare some parents, but don’t let that deter you. As a horror novel, sometimes the scenes can get vividly graphic or disturbing. However, the author keeps the content at a PG-13 level. The scenes with corpses and embalming are very detailed, which is part of the mood-setting for the entire series. I felt the content of the book was handled very well for Young Adults.

Age Recommended: 14 and up.

Language: Nothing memorable.

Violence: Yes, action sequences and horrific/thrilling/death scenes.

Sex: No. The closest you will encounter is vague references to sex appeal (Such as John following his rule not to look at girls’ chests.)



ZOMG, Horror

I’ve been fascinated in horror lately. Most especially “My Last Dutchess”, “A Tell-tale Heart” and “I am Not a Serial Killer”

One of my “writer-weaknesses” right now is that I’m not practiced in making things as dark as I want them to be. When I read a really good Fantasy, I often sit and ponder in dismay at how the author was able to make the villain so bad/ the main characters so flawed/ have something so horrible happen to the characters we love.

I know I have my own tastes, as well. Reading some horror has helped me find where the parameters of these tastes end.

I used to say I hated horror. Now I know I was wrong, but not about modern horror – most modern horror falls under “slasher” or “demonic possession”, and I am still not in the least interested in these stories.

But classic horror involves a character facing an external darkness, and at the same time dealing with an internal darkness. In this way, horror is a very moral genre.

Take “I am Not a Serial Killer” for example. The main character is John Cleaver, a fifteen-year-old sociopath. He his a messed-up kid, and thinks about some really awful things. However, he is very strict with himself. Having a fascination with serial killers, he noticed some parallels between these killers’ early behaviors and his own. For this reason, he sets himself some very strict rules. Thematically, the second book goes even further into John’s struggle with “Mr. Monster”, and so far it is my favorite in the series.

The parameter was very comfortable for me. John thinks and says some pretty disturbing things. Sometimes, when life is getting out of control and his grasp on things loosens, he is capable of some pretty disturbing things as well. But John does not want to do bad things – in this way, he’s a very good person.

So far, that’s where I feel comfortable. Yesterday I wrote my first draft of a horror short-story, about a man becoming a demon. The whole story is based around what could happen to turn a good man into an evil one; and because it is being told to you past-tense by the demon himself, it can be very disturbing.

What I hope will be most disturbing about it, once it’s been through a couple more drafts, is the amount of human you can see in him. The story is meant to be dark and tragic; but is there a little bit of the man left in the demon, when all is said and done? Is he beyond salvation still?

Writing Horror

I can’t quote it perfectly, but I once heard Stephen King define horror as the little teenage girl in alone, clutching a knife that she won’t ever get to use. In other words, it’s not James Bond. In a James Bond thriller, we put our capable hero in situations that may be overwhelming – but it’s James Bond! We just wait to see how he gets out of this.

In a horror, we involve characters who are not capable. Or, not capable in comparison with the situation.

I, on the other hand, have never written horror. Suspense, yes – It’s always been the fantasy/adventure for me. If my character doesn’t beat the bad guy, he hasn’t leveled enough yet! (Okay, well not that bad, but close enough.)

I wrote my first scene with Wes with him staring death in the face, completely helpless to it. No heroic bravery involved, just whimpering, empty, choking sense of vulnerability. To me, this was new and amazing! As an author we need to be able to do things to our characters that the reader would never do… and I got to flex some of those muscles. The scene itself may be bad… I wouldn’t know (I’m too close to it, it’s got my fingerprints and scent all over it) but I feel like I’ve grown a lot as an author for writing it. My first real horror scene. Huzzah!