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Anno Dracula

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by guest tagged horrorhistorical fiction

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@bookblurb Dracula won. He married Queen Victoria, and vampires are present at every level of British society.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

Link to this review by billba tagged science fiction

Nicholas Halloway is a mild-mannered Wall Street analyst visiting MicroMagnetics, a startup developing nuclear containment technology. Their press conference is so boring he decides to takes a nap in a vacant office. While he snoozes, an inept group of protesters inadvertently causes the company’s equipment to malfunction. Everyone is evacuated, but no one knows where Nick is. When he wakes up, he (and the facility) are completely invisible.

Why I picked it up: Who hasn’t thought of what they could accomplish unseen?

Why I finished it: This book is totally thrilling. By the time Nick emerges, the military has completely surrounded the building. He immediately grasps that his fate is to be a lab specimen and manages to escape with some helpfully invisible supplies. But a covert government agency soon cottons on to his existence, and the chase is on. As he gets better at living invisibly, they get better at tracking his movements around Manhattan. His only choice is to turn the situation around and destroy them first.

It’s perfect for: My son Theo, who will love how nerdily the author walks us through the daily challenges of invisibility. It sounds like fun, but the devil is in the details. At one point Nick needs to build an invisible gadget. He has a telephone from MicroMagnetics, so he teaches himself electronics, deduces which model it is by touch, and dissects a visible version before he is ready to harvest the invisible parts. And if you think it’s hard to find a place to live in Manhattan, it’s even harder when no one can see you. And now that Theo is thirteen he is ready to read the sexy parts, though I’m sure he’ll be thoroughly embarrassed in the knowledge that his father has read them, too.

@bookblurb Mild-mannered analyst Nicholas Halloway is targeted by a shadowy government agency when he becomes invisible.


Link to this review by danritchie tagged horrorcoming of age

While out on a field trip, two boys discover a large, strange-looking beetle with silver markings like a computer chip. When one of the boys is bitten by it, a terrifying virus is set loose that turns students into silvery machines bent on death and destruction. Half the student body is gone for the weekend, but the remainder suddenly find themselves amid horrific chaos as the virus spreads uncontrollably.  Nineteen students manage to follow their teacher, Mr. Sutton, into the science hall and barricade themselves there. Sutton relies on the five oldest teens to help him calm the rest and to figure out how to keep them all safe from the constant attacks by the Infected.

Why I picked it up: I read and enjoyed Wooding’s Malice series and hoped his new title would be as creepy. 

Why I finished it: It is, and it might be even better! Amid the chaotic struggle to find a way to survive, each of the older kids is also dealing with their perceptions of one other and the dynamics of working as a team: Paul, the angry loner who lost his parents to a plane crash; Erika, the perfect student, athlete and beauty; Caitlyn, always the follower, always in the background; Adam, the bully; and Mark, extremely smart but socially dysfunctional. After the Infected kill the electricity and Caitlyn is scratched, the frantic terror and tension becomes palpable.

It’s perfect for: Jason. He’s a big fan of biomechanics and will enjoy Wooding’s take on nano machines and how the virus was created, and how it adapts as the number of the Infected continue to grow. They can communicate wordlessly, and slowly change from mindless, vicious monsters to a horde bent on consuming all human life.

@bookblurb A virus turns students into machines bent on death and destruction.


Link to this review by flemtastic tagged horrorparanormalcoming of age

Ava is not conflicted about her relationship with her boss, Venus; Ava is crystal clear that she hates working as an enforcer for the woman who ordered her mother killed. (Ava’s mother had tried to keep her daughter away from Venus.) Now, Ava is being forced to use her pyrotechnic abilities as part of Venus’s group of supernatural creatures, the Coterie. But when Venus orders Ava to kill a good friend, Ava chooses a different path, one that will involve all-out war against Venus and her pet enforcers.

Why I picked it up: Lish McBride wrote a snarky, two-book series with clever titles, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and Necromancing the Stone. Because of their fast pace, snappy dialogue, and odd supernatural characters (one is a reanimated, perky cheerleader’s head carried around in a bowling bag), I will always give McBride’s books a try.

Why I finished it: It’s unexpectedly funny. While on a mission to capture a rogue supernatural for the Coterie, their target disappears into a house which then rises up on its chicken-feet and runs away. (It’s a Baba Yaga house, common in Russian folklore.) There is a Sam-and-Diane-type romance, too, where everyone in the book (as well as the reader) is rooting for the characters to get together. Included are great details about what it would be like to live as a firebug, such as having to sew fireproof material inside Ava’s jacket pockets, so that when Ava gets angry or feels out of control she can put her smoldering hands inside her jacket.

It’s perfect for: Brandon, who was in my library the other day complaining about having to read twenty pages before the action started in another book. I asked him sarcastically whether he thought every book should start with explosions on the first page, or whether he should be a little more patient. He chose explosions. He’d like this one because it starts with a bang in the first ten pages and never lets up.

@bookblurb Ava is forced to use her pyrotechnic abilities as an enforcer for the woman who ordered her mother killed.

Notes from a Hairy-Not-Scary Werewolf

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged horrorcoming of agehumor

Luke, a teen who studies for exams months in advance and never misses a chance to brag about being a hall monitor, is bitten by a werewolf. His body starts changing; he soon has an instant unibrow and the backs of his hands become hairy. After he figures out what happened to him he begins training with a local pack to learn to control his new body, its embarrassing displays of wolfishness, and werewolf battle skills.

Unfortunately, Luke has come to the pack at the worst possible time. The overly aggressive leader is ordering the werewolves to reclaim their old hunting grounds on an island populated by vampires. Luke and his friends (a girl werewolf and a boy vampire) must stop both sides before they arm themselves with silver weapons and wooden stakes and start killing one another.

Why I picked it up: I have one of Collins’s other books about pimply teen vampires, Prince of Dorkness: Notes from a Totally Lame Vampire, in my collection at school. and they are funny to adults and kids alike.

Why I finished it: Collins has a knack for describing truly horrific events in a humorous manner, much like the “my most embarrassing moments” articles in the back of teen magazines. For example, Luke unwillingly changes into a wolf and then back to a human at school. His torn clothing necessitates a hasty retreat to the janitor’s closet because Luke doesn’t want everyone at school to see his junk. (He sneaks home in clothes from the PE lost-and-found later that night.) Luke is also constantly embarrassing himself. When he tries to give a speech to stop the impending war between werewolves and vampires, his appeal to the wolves’ higher natures fails because most of them are more interested in World Cup soccer.

It’s perfect for: Xavier, who has read Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid books many times because he likes the heavily-illustrated format that includes some comics. This one doesn’t have as many pictures, but I think it will be a perfect step up for his reading ability. And it’s also going to captivate him with the impending vampire/werewolf battle and the humor as Luke’s well-ordered life goes down the tubes.

@bookblurb A hall monitor bitten by a werewolf must learn to control his new nature, and must stop a werewolf-vampire conflict.

Black and Bittern Was Night

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged horrorpicture bookpoetry

Skeletons invade a neighborhood, frightening everyone and trapping them inside their houses. If something isn’t done, they’ll ruin Halloween. Luckily the kids are there to scare them away.

Why I picked it up: “Bittern?” Had no idea what that meant. My dictionary said it was either a large bird or a concentrated solution of salts. How could a night be bittern?

Why I finished it: Like “Jabberwocky,” it’s a nonsensical poem full of made-up words whose meanings are (somewhat) clear in context.

”Black and bittern was the night, that Halloween night, when SKUL-A-MUG-MUGS spled out skellety fright.”

I just read it aloud, which was a lot of fun, though my mother-in-law (the only other person at home right now) is looking at me like I’m slightly insane.

Readalikes: Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody, another Halloween poem picture book that also features monsters that aren’t very scary and won’t induce nightmares.

@bookblurb Kids splook away skeletons who invade their neighborhood and try to ruin Halloween.

Alexandro Jodorowsky's Screaming Planet

Link to this review by wally tagged graphic novelshort storiesscience fictionhorror

Alexandro Jodorowsky resurrected Métal Hurlant magazine in 2002, and commissioned eleven artists to illustrate a series of short stories revolving around the sudden presence of the screaming planet.  In the first story, a planet of warmth and abundance watches in horror as its own inhabitants destroy it. In the final scene, in despair and rage, it destroys its own denizens and is flung into interstellar space. Each story that follows shows this screaming planet flying through the atmosphere of some new world, bringing with it “infinite sorrow” which catalyzes the action. In “The Guilt” a man’s encounter with the planet causes him to grow wings and to contemplate leaving his horribly stratified society, but the authorities first try to make him confess to a crime they cannot name. In “Tears of Gold” the screaming planet’s sorrow transforms a young boy’s tears into gold. His poor family takes the gold, and wanting more, beats him, kills his pets, and whatever it takes to make him cry. At last his tears transform from gold into a panacea, allowing him to heal the sick and the poor and to silence his family once and for all by giving them eternal life — in Hell.  

Why I picked it up: One of my patrons told me about Jodorowsky’s work and the great artists in this graphic novel. The long-running magazine Heavy Metal has always had great artists, and this volume pulls some of the best and most distinctive of them together.

Why I finished it: Some of the stories take place on Earth. Others are set in faraway times and places and feature beings we would never recognize outside of nightmares. There’s humor and horror, sometimes in the same tale.

It’s perfect for: Alisa, who loves the darker fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and the weirder tales of Poe and Lovecraft. She would especially appreciate “The Eucharist Sun” in which a pretty young vampirologist meets a suave, handsome vampire who tells her how he adapted to sunlight. The change also made him unable to drink human blood, though, and so he must live off of rats. Will she be his queen?

@bookblurb Eleven short horror stories involving a rogue planet that flies too close to other worlds, bringing infinite sorrow.

The Ghost Box

Link to this review by danritchie tagged paranormalcoming of age

While attending her mother’s new exhibition of her sculptures, Sarah sees a painting of their home when it was still just a barn. Next to the old barn is a huge tree, just about where her bedroom is now. In its leaves she sees a face.  

Later that night, Sarah has what she thinks is an astonishingly vivid dream. The tree has grown up through her bedroom and in its branches is a small silver box. She climbs the tree and gets the box, and then, suddenly awake, is tapped on the shoulder by the ghost of a young boy. He demands Sarah find a way to unlock the box and set his soul free.

Why I picked it up: Initially, the cover and the title. I am always up for a good ghost story.

Why I finished it: Sarah and her new step-brother have never hit it off. Sarah’s involvement with the ghost boy coincides with a change in Matt’s behavior. He seems more attentive and concerned for her. When she visits an old locksmith in hopes of finding a key to open the box, Matt is nearby watching her as she leaves. At home he questions her about the box and where it came from. His interest perplexes Sarah and she wonders if she should tell him about the ghost. (Matt talked with the locksmith, who explained to him that the ghost box will exchange the soul inside for one one who opens it.  Both fear what the ghost has planned for Sarah.)

It’s perfect for: Laura, who has just recently discovered chapter books and loves a fast, creepy read. She will enjoy the suspense in the things the ghost does to pressure Sarah, like trashing her bedroom and taunting her everywhere she goes.

@bookblurb After Sarah sees a spooky painting of her house, she is contacted by the trapped ghost of a young boy.

Personal Demons (Hopeless, Maine Volume One)

Link to this review by snow tagged coming of ageparanormalgraphic novel

The dark forces that beset Hopeless, Maine, have left many kids parentless. Salamandra has powers that set her apart from the others in the orphanage. When a malevolent spirit gloms onto her, she has to rely on her new friends to help her save the life of an innocent, lonely girl.

Publisher’s Rating: T/Teen

Why I picked it up: The moody greens on the cover caught my eye. I wanted to know why the girl looked both angry and sad at the same time.

Why I finished it: I liked the slightly choppy narrative — it gave me little glimpses of the story that I had to put together into a whole. The Browns used it to their advantage, giving me just enough insight into the world of Hopeless to capture my imagination and insuring that I’d stick around to see what happened next.

Readalikes: The Courtney Crumrin series by Ted Naifeh is the original, gothy teen graphic novel. Courtney is a bit quicker to stand up for herself than Salamandra, but the two girls share a love of their powers that could lead them astray if they aren’t careful. Another paranormal graphic novel that started on the web like Hopeless, Maine is Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell. Siddell’s art is brighter than the Brown’s, but it has the same cartoonish, otherworldly quality, and the story does a lot of purposeful meandering, too.

@bookblurb In a town beset by dark forces, Salamandra and her friends try to save an innocent girl from a malevolent spirit.

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