The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp

The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp

atrocities“You see, Ms. Valdez, we require a governess with very specific qualifications. And this goes beyond a mastery of math and science and linguistics.”

Ms. Danna Valdez is summoned to a gothic mansion filled with grotesque artwork to tutor a girl who has died.

But no one told her about the special circumstances of her pupil before she arrived.

“Isabella isn’t coping well with this new phase of her existence. A few months ago, she started breaking things. At first it was only a lamp or a vase every few weeks, but things are… escalating.” pg 29

Within the mansion lives Mr. Evers, an artist and the creator of many of the grotesques, and his wife, Mrs. Evers, a cook named Robin and a gardener/handyman named Raul.

The emotionally-charged atmosphere of the place gives Danna nightmares as soon as she arrives. And something seems to be a little off…

The premise of this story was very exciting, but I didn’t enjoy its execution or ending.

The grotesque artwork seemed to hold more meaning than I was able to glean from it.

“The parishioners would stop and reflect on each Atrocity. And what would they see? Not a hideous statue. They would look beyond the violence and suffering to the metaphysical core of the image. They would see a manifestation of God’s power.” pg 13

The artwork is creepy, disturbing and sets the scene. But it didn’t make the story.

“Each canvas houses an emaciated figure draped in tattered strips of gossamer. Wings made of human fingers spread out from their backs, and their ashen skin stretches tight over their bones like shrinkwrap.” pg 16

Recommended for readers who prefer complex imagery over plot development.

Thanks for reading!

Here’s some other horror stories I have reviewed:

The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson

Hyde by Daniel Levine

All Darling Children by Katrina Monroe

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Bloodsucking Fiends (A Love Story, #1) by Christopher Moore

Bloodsucking Fiends (A Love Story, #1) by Christopher Moore

bloodsucking fiendsJody was attacked by a man who bit her neck and left her for dead in an alleyway. She woke up a vampire. What is she going to do now?

“(Jody) was twenty-six and pretty in a way that made men want to tuck her into flannel sheets and kiss her on the forehead before leaving the room; cute but not beautiful.”

C. Thomas Flood wants to be an author, but where he comes from (Indiana) that’s not an acceptable trade for a man. He flees to San Francisco to “starve in the city.” After some misadventures with too many roommates and turkey bowling at the Safeway, he meets Jody and his life is never the same.

“Turkey bowing is not recognized by the NCAA or the Olympic Committee. There are no professional tournaments sponsored by the Poultry Farmers of America, and the footwear companies do not manufacture turkey bowling shoes. … Despite this lack of official recognition, the fine and noble tradition of ‘skidding the buzzard’ is practiced nightly by supermarket night crews all over the nation.”

Christopher Moore takes on the “vampire genre” and it’s not his best effort. If you’re going to read one of his books, I recommend Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

It’s still ridiculous fictional literature, but I enjoyed the characters in Lamb more. In Blocksucking Fiends, everybody reads like one cliché after another.

“In another time she would have called a girlfriend and spent the evening on the phone being comforted. She would have eaten a half gallon of ice cream and stayed up all night thinking about what she was going to do with her life. .. But that was another time, when she had been a person.”

And perhaps that was Moore’s point. It was as if he was mocking the sub-genre of vampire novels by his one-dimensional characters and thin plot.

Or maybe it is just a sub-par effort.

I don’t think I’ll be picking up the other books in this series.

Thanks for reading!

The Sun King Conspiracy by Yves Jégo

The Sun King Conspiracy by Yves Jégo

sunkingA historical fiction about a French King, his mistress, his minister, his mother, an aspiring actor with a secret past and a secret society with hidden knowledge that could change the world.

“A chief minister is dying, yet people are interested only in counting the supporters and detractors of an entertainer…” pg 9, ebook.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for The Sun King Conspiracy.

I felt like it was trying to be a mystery like The Da Vinci Code with the complexity of an epic historical fiction. It didn’t quite reach either pinnacle.

“According to Colbert’s report, the murderers took nothing else of any worth from my apartments. From this, I deduce that their only concern was to seize those papers.” pg 36, ebook.

It was probably just me, but I kept getting the ministers and their roles confused. Also, their alliances and reasons why they hated each other never really made sense to me.

“The truth is,” said the scholar with a sad smile, “that this question of succession seems to be the only matter that interests anyone in Paris, when the real subject that ought to occupy us, the only one worthy of any interest, is entirely different: it concerns the stability of the Kingdom.” pg 142, ebook.

It felt like there were nuances to the court relationships that were never explicitly stated.

Maybe the author assumed a familiarity with the court of the Sun King that I don’t possess.

The whole secret society part of this story was just flat. I felt like I’d read the same conspiracy in half a dozen other books.

“I am more aware of this than anyone else. I have paid so dearly for it that my belief in its ultimate success is perhaps the only thing that still keeps me alive…” pg 229, ebook.

I didn’t connect with any of the cast of characters either. They were so cookie cutter.

Here’s hoping I like the next read more. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

The Wicked We Have Done (Chaos Theory, #1) by Sarah Harian

The Wicked We Have Done (Chaos Theory, #1) by Sarah Harian

wickedIn a not-too-distant future, humanity has developed the technology to see inside the mind of criminals. Through simulations and tracking responses, the law claims to have the ability to measure motivation and “goodness.”

Evalyn Ibarra says she is guilty, but not of the crime she is on trial for. Rather than rely on a jury to prove her innocence, she chooses the “compass room,” the new technology, to prove her innocence.

If she is truly evil, the compass room will kill her. If she is innocent, she will walk free.

“My throat tightens, but there is no time to reflect. I had months to imagine this moment, months to mourn. That time is over, because today is the beginning of my inevitable execution in the Compass Room.”pg 7, ebook.

I found the premise of this book to be interesting, but it suffered in its execution and characterizations. Both were rather flat.

“The tension after Stella leaves is awkward and volatile. … We’ve been given provisions, so it’s obvious that, if this is the Compass Room, we are meant to head out. It’s either that or stay in a house full of psychopaths.” pg 25, ebook.

Did I mention that the compass room tries more than one criminal at a time? Very Hunger Games-esque.

“The one thing I do know about the Compass Room is that this test is supposed to see who you truly are, despite your research. Despite good acting or the lies you tell yourself.” pg 27, ebook.

Wouldn’t it be something if detecting evil was as simple as marking a chemical or hormonal response of the brain?

But then, of course, you wander into the problem: what if the technology gets it wrong? Or glitches?

“A terrorist attack finally convinced the Supreme Court. All charged in the bombing were forced to undergo the Compass Room’s exam. And they were all found to be, as reporters said on the news, ‘morally tarnished.'” pg 12, ebook.

The thing about execution is that there are no second chances or second guesses. Evalyn believes herself to be innocent. Will the room think so too?

I think if the author had fully explored the compass room and the psyches of those involved, I may have enjoyed it more.

As it was, I felt like we only skimmed the surface of what was possible. It lacked complexity because of the number of characters she wrote into the story.

Also, the author includes some half-baked romances, perhaps to prove this is in the “new adult” genre? I don’t believe it added much.

There’s also some non-spooky horror elements, that are meant to evoke the harrowing nature of the compass room. They felt overdone.

If you must read The Wicked We Have Done, I recommend borrowing it from the library.

Thanks for reading!

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

peopleofthebookThe story of an extraordinary book and the people who surround it.

And I did not enjoy it.

My reaction to this one was a huge surprise. I adored Geraldine Brook’s Year of Wonders and I thought this would be an easy hit for me.

I think the problem is fairly simple- never connected with the main character. I loved Anna from Year of Wonders. I couldn’t stand Hanna.

The small details of her work that she found so absorbing, I didn’t enjoy.

I didn’t like how she treated people sometimes. I thought she seemed rather arrogant.

I also didn’t like how the timelines bounced around from character to character. I was listening to People of the Book as an audiobook. Without being able to look back and check, I found myself getting confused when I stopped in the middle of a passage and picked it up again after a work day.

Brook’s writing is just fine. Again, I can’t believe I didn’t like this.

Highly recommend Year of Wonders. I give this a solid pass.

Thanks for reading!

Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig

Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig

missburmaA layered and subtle historical fiction about a family in Burma and how they make it through all sorts of terrible things that happen there.

This is an incredibly dark book based on the true family history of Charmaine Craig. My book club had a tough time discussing it.

“Your problem is that you believe in right and wrong. Don’t you know evil will find you no matter what?” pg 11.

First of all, the introductory portion doesn’t make sense until the last half of the book. The pacing is glacially slow. A few of our club members couldn’t make it through the first couple of chapters.

Secondly, the constant warring and torture of innocents by the conquering forces is really difficult to read.

“We welcomed them because we’d been persecuted by the Burmans for centuries, we’d been their slaves – our villages perpetually attacked, our people perpetually preyed upon, stripped of everything from our clothing to our lives.” pg 37.

It is an important history, certainly, but the darkness of it made me feel sick.

A third problem club members had with Miss Burma is it feels disjointed.

At first, readers thought Khin and Benny were the focus of the book. But then, the point of view drifted around to Louisa, their beautiful daughter, and her story took over.

We must find a way to rejoice in our circumstances. We must find a way to do more than endure.” pg 145

Basically, the Karen are an ethnic minority in Burma, now Myanmar. For centuries, the Karen have been enslaved by the Burmese. The underlying story is about how the Karen tried to unite against the ruling government to create a federation.

“Our modesty that runs so deep it is almost self-annihilating. But now.. our relative invisibility strikes me as very sad. … If you stand for a moment behind their eyes- behind the eyes of anyone for whom modesty is not an ultimate virtue- we appear to value our lives less than they do.” pg 168

Against this background, the family of Khin and Benny tries to survive and do what they believe is right.

This story is full of flawed characters and whole passages where most of the action takes place in people’s minds.

There is fairly graphic torture, rape and violence. If any of those are triggers for you, beware.

Recommended for patient readers and those who can handle a very dark history. The book club certainly learned a lot about Burma from this book. And bullets still fly in Myanmar today.

Thanks for reading!

Romancing Miss Brontë by Juliet Gael

Romancing Miss Brontë by Juliet Gael

missbronteWarning: minor spoilers ahead if you don’t know the history of the Brontë family. Read with caution.

A disappointing historical fiction about Charlotte Brontë, her sisters Emily and Ann, and how they came from obscurity to write some of the most enduring fiction the West has known.

The first part of this story was the best. The reader gets a unique glimpse into the minds of the Brontës, what their lives were probably like and how unfortunate their brother’s existence turned out to be.

I loved hearing Juliet Gael’s vision of their character and personality quirks.

The second half of the book, focused primarily on Charlotte and her relationship with Arthur, was a drag.

Up until that point, the women were surprisingly self sufficient, considering the times in which they lived. Yes, they coddled their alcoholic and opium-addicted brother. Yes, they indulged the whims of their ailing father, but for the most part, they acted how they pleased.

Once Arthur enters her life, Charlotte centers every action around him. He tells her who she can write. He controls their social schedule.

The book enters a repetitive loop: Charlotte does something Arthur doesn’t like, he reprimands her, she writes her friend a letter about how annoying it is but she simply adores her husband so it’s ok… and repeat.

This was probably the reality of her situation but it sucked. I can’t imagine that I would have been happy living like that. I don’t believe she was either.

The cringe-inducing letters Gael describes in the story actually exist. I also think that if I was a sensitive and reclusive person like Charlotte Brontë, having my personal letters published after my death would be a nightmare situation.

Charlotte and her sisters were forced to live a sub-par existence because they were women.

Traditional roles for women left so little room for living. It’s astonishing that the Brontës were able to write anything at all, when you consider when they lived and the disadvantages to their station.

They were poor, lived in the middle of nowhere and had no one they could rely on except themselves.

Add to the mix a dose of religious guilt and social expectations… again, the world is fortunate to have their stories.

I suggest reading Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights instead of this.

Thanks for reading!