Tag: horror

September 12, 2016

Review | Delphine by Richard Sala

Review | Delphine by Richard SalaDelphine by Richard Sala
Publisher: Fantagraphics, January 2013
Pages: 128
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

A mysterious traveler gets off the train in a small village surrounded by a thick, sinister forest. He is searching for Delphine, who vanished with only a scrawled-out address on a scrap of paper as a trace. In his newest chiller, Richard Sala takes the tale of Snow White and stands it on its head, retelling it from Prince Charming's perspective (the unnamed traveler) in a contemporary setting. This twisted tale includes all the elements of terror from the original fairy tale, with none of the insipid saccharine coating of the Disney animated adaptation. Yes, there will be blood.
Originally serialized as part of the acclaimed international series, Delphine is executed in a rich and ominous duotone that shows off Sala's virtuosity just as much as last year's full-color post-apocalyptic horror fantasy The Hidden did; punctuated with stunning full-color chapter breaks.

Delphine, a twisted take on the famous Snow White tale, tells the story from Prince Charming’s perspective as he searches to save his lost love. In the guise of a young university student, the hero traverses roads, woods, dangers and disguises to find out what happened to Delphine, his girlfriend that returns home at the end of the semester to help her struggling father. However, his journey changes him in ways that he can’t imagine.

I’m split on this book. To start, the good:

Sala does an amazing job of evoking emotions: fear, danger, sadness, and hope all pour through his pages, his images. I was surprised at his basic color palette, but as I read, it suited Delphine well. The neutral colors allowed the hero and his task to jump through the pages.

I didn’t realize Delphine was a graphic novel and, unfortunately, I’m not much of a graphic novel fan. Yet I was surprised how hooked I got in the story despite myself.

Now, let me explain the “despite myself” comment. Delphine follows in the history of the Grimm fairy tales, not Disney. In short, it’s dark, gruesome, a little violent, and a little more disturbing. It was entirely too violent for my taste, and the depiction in the images pushed me a little too far at times.

This isn’t a story to read to your kids at bedtime, or even for young teens – there’s a lot of cursing and graphic content. I expected this to be a little more like Coraline – creepy, but not violent. Delphine dives into the dirty, graphic, scary side of forests, spells, witches and fairy tales.

In the end, I’m not sold on the graphic novel or the dark side of fairy tales, and especially not together. Yet, there’s a majesty to Sala’s work that I can’t help but admire. While Delphine isn’t exactly my cup of tea, it’s a great piece of work.

2 Stars

Posted September 12, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 30, 2014

The Canon Classics | The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Title: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Publication Date: 1886
Source & Format: Library; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

In this harrowing tale of good and evil, the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll develops a potion that unleashes his secret, inner persona—the loathsome, twisted Mr. Hyde.

This is a story that I have known since middle school when I acted in a (heavily adapted) version of this story. The twists of the dual personality and good versus evil has always made this story memorable, but this is the first time that I actually read the book.

There are so many amazing elements to this story, but what really stood out to me was the narration. I loved how Stevenson depicted Jekyll’s world – it felt shrouded in darkness. This darkness created the base for the plot, set the scenes for the mystery, and this incredible story. 

I loved the decision to make a different character the primary narrator of the story. Utterson’s role as narrator reminded me a lot of Nick’s narration in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – the focus on characterization makes Jekyll and Hyde’s personalities stand out as well as emphasize the elements of horror.

Let’s put it this way – I read this book in broad daylight on my lunch break and I still had shivers run down my spine. Stevenson is an unsung master of the horror genre – there’s nothing quite like the story of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde


Posted October 30, 2014 by Ellen in the canon classics, Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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May 22, 2014

Review | The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

Title: The Iron Duke
Author: Meljean Brook {website}
Publication Date: October 2010
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Series: Iron Seas {Book 1}
Source & Format: Library; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power-and fear-of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.

But when Mina uncovers the victim’s identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans-and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen, as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.


I loved the characters. The gritty, dark characterization of the Iron Duke fascinated me from page one. He had the kind of legend and reputation that is reserved for those with deep, dark secrets – how on earth was I supposed to wait to find out what they were? Although the dark, brooding hero was a familiar stereotype, I loved his dry humor and his relentless pursuit of Mina. Mina, in turn, was an equally fascinating twist on another stereotype: the female who feels the weight of the world on her shoulders. She is unique in her role in the police department and helps to support her family throughout the story. I loved her stubbornness and her determination to take care of herself, no matter what. 


The mystery and adventure elements of the plot are strong and spectacular. Instead of reading, The Iron Duke felt like an intense thrill ride from beginning to end. Certain elements of the plot (such as a body dropping from an airship onto a house) were a little far-fetched, especially when taken out of the context of the book. Yet within Brook’s world, the strange and eclectic plot feels right at home.  

I can’t talk about the plot of The Iron Duke without mentioning the romance. *Fans self* Truly, from the tension to the scenes between the two lovers, the romance delivered without a doubt. I did enjoy the adventure, but the romance kept me turning pages until it was two in the morning. The matched stubbornness of each character keeps the tension high throughout the entire novel. 


This is my first steampunk novel. I’ll admit, I had my doubts… I loved it. The mix of Victorian scenes and science fiction was simply heaven for this book nerd. The world building was neat and concise, keeping me engaged in the story while explaining this slightly off-kilter world to me. From the dialogue to the atmosphere, I loved everything about it. 


Like science fiction? Romance? Steampunk? Adventure? Whatever you enjoy, read this book. It’s an intense adventure with a heart-stopping romance and engaging characters. I will be looking for the rest of the books in the Iron Seas series when I go to the library next. 

Posted May 22, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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May 17, 2014

Saturday Morning Coffee Date | Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Title: Coraline 
Author: Neil Gaiman {website}
Publication Date: January 2002
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Source & Format: Library; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Coraline’s often wondered what’s behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her “other” parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.
Gaiman has delivered a wonderfully chilling novel, subtle yet intense on many levels. The line between pleasant and horrible is often blurred until what’s what becomes suddenly clear, and like Coraline, we resist leaving this strange world until we’re hooked. Unnerving drawings also cast a dark shadow over the book’s eerie atmosphere, which is only heightened by simple, hair-raising text. Coraline is otherworldly storytelling at its best.

THE PICK-UP: Looking over my list of recommended horror books for my Literary Explorer Reading Challenge, I’m a little intimidated. Horror isn’t my thing – at all. I can’t even watch the previews for horror movies. Ooh, there’s a Neil Gaiman book…I read American Gods in college for Supernatural Lit and that wasn’t too bad. Maybe Coraline will work. 

THE FIRST DATE: The cover quote: “One of the most frightening books ever written”…what have I gotten myself into? Deep breath. *opens cover*

Oh, this isn’t so bad. There are definitely some creepy undertones (it is Gaiman, after all), but I really like Coraline. She’s so polite, even when the adults constantly get her name wrong. Her adventurous spirit is already a major characteristic in her character; I love her constant refrain of “I am an explorer.”

THE SECOND DATE: And here’s the full-on creepy. You know that moment in the movie previews when the heroine enters into the dark, damp hallway and that music comes on? I just wanted to scream at Coraline “DON’T DO IT!,” but she’s much too curious. I personally would have hightailed it out of there with the other mother produced those icky black buttons, but I’m more of a wimp than an explorer, like Coraline. 

The parallel world is uncanny and uncomfortable in the most intriguing way. I know bad things are going to happen, but there’s this atmosphere that keeps me reading. Most of it is due to my adoration of the main character. Many people might chalk up Coraline’s bravery to childhood innocence, but the way she handles herself in the face of her fears and adversity is remarkable. 

THE THIRD DATE: I’ve finally figured it out. It’s the storytelling that makes this story so remarkable and unnerving. The deceptively simple narration describes this frighteningly parallel world with both blase and bluntness that only serves to increase the ante on the events Coraline faces. I have to admire how she doesn’t waver in the face of her fears. I don’t know if I could look such terrors in the eye.

THE VERDICT: I’m Coraline’s new biggest fan. The simplicity of the narration and the complexity of the story itself created an addictive quality about Coraline that kept me reading through the rough and scary (to me) parts. Although I’m still a little queasy about horror, I might explore a little more into Gaiman’s works.

Posted May 17, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 1 Comment
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January 4, 2014

Review: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Title: Paper Valentine
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publication Date: January 2013
Publisher: Razorbill Books
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.

First impressions: Gorgeous cover! I love the simplicity of white, black and red. I’ve always been drawn to books with this kind of cover art. This gorgeous cover art hid the astonishing and unexpected novel inside. As this is my first Yovanoff novel, I’m pretty comfortable saying I’m a fan!


Although Hannah is the main character of Paper Valentine, I was most intrigued by the character of Lillian. Maybe it’s because I’m terrified of ghosts in general, but her Casper-the-friendly-ghost-quality was the first real connection I made with the characters in the novel. Her utter peace with her own death made some of the grisly scenes in the novel not so bad. I really liked Lillian’s role as Hannah’s sidekick; it was entertaining and helped move the plot along. 

Lillian’s biggest role was to show the soft side of Hannah. Hannah herself is a character I can really relate with. She’s got that sweet, good girl side that she struggles with throughout the story. Paper Valentine is unique because it is not only a book about murders in a small town, but it’s also Hannah’s growth period after her best friend’s death

I loved having Hannah as a narrator because she brought that same sweet girl-next-door flavor to a character struggling with constant changes in her personal life, with her friends, romantically, and the biggest struggle of all: losing her best friend.  


Paper Valentine has one of the most fun plots that I have ever come across. Lillian and Hannah’s antics reminded me of the old Nancy Drew mysteries I used to read with my mom when I was a kid. It has that same innocence despite the dark nature of the crimes. 

The paranormal aspect of this novel added a little extra to the murder mystery. Although it terrified me when they used a spirit board, I thought it was an interesting way to allow the mystery to evolve and leave Hannah clues to the murderer. 

I did not have a clue who the identity of the killer was. Truly. Knocked my socks off. Typically (even in my beloved J.D. Robb novels), I can finger who the murderer is. In Paper Valentine? Not a clue. 

My only critique is that I felt this great plot had a slow start. It felt like Hannah was just wandering around the town without a solid plot in place yet. Once I got past the beginning, the plot really took on momentum and had a fantastic ending. 


I was really impressed by Yovanoff’s writing. While I was writing my notes for this review, I realized that this book can’t be pigeonholed into a particular genre; it’s spread all across mystery, murder, thriller, YA, and a touch of romance. For me. this usually tends to be overload. I credit Yovanoff’s fabulous writing to this compilation of genres being so successful.  


Overall, an outstanding novel. There were a few loose ends that I wished were tied up tighter at the end of the book, but nothing critical. I loved how the main plot was wrapped up. I am definitely impressed by Yovanoff’s magic, and I can’t wait to read more of her works. 

Posted January 4, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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January 3, 2014

Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black {website} 
Publication Date: September 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Source & Format:  Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

I think most of us have a love/hate relationship with vampires thanks to Twilight (or whatever pop culture vampire currently drives you batty. Haha. Batty. …Ahem, sorry). I didn’t know quite what to expect when I opened Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, except I knew it had stunning reviews and a gorgeous/slightly creepy cover. I fell in love with the novel before the first chapter was done. 


Tana’s character was one of the more fascinating ones in the novel (and the book is chock full of them). The mix of tough girl exterior, innocent vulnerability, and her haunting past make an intriguing and complex young girl who doesn’t think twice about venturing through the gates of the Springfield Coldtown. Her history really shapes who she is, psychologically and physically. I loved watching how she adjusted to different situations, worked them out in her head, and occasionally came up with a completely different answer than what I would have expected. 

Gavriel, the mysterious boy with a dangerous secret from the book blurb, is my new favorite vampire after Dracula. His quiet, subtle manipulation and his strange kindness to Tana create this mystique about him that makes it impossible to ignore when he’s on the scene. His secret, which slowly comes out in the novel, is one of the most fascinating elements to the plot and creates within Gavriel a whole new character.

I admit, I loved the strange romance that evolved between the two of them. It was oddly endearing and gave the already fascinating novel a little spice.


I loved Black’s fascinating take on vampire lore. It fit her novel’s premise perfectly, and when Tana finally gets to the Coldtowns, it adds more mystery and tension to the plot. To be honest, if the vampire lore had fit the characteristics of another vampire story exactly, it would have distracted me from her novel. I loved her unique take!

The book blurb hints a little at a love triangle in this book, but the little romance in this book is only between two. Normally, I’m a big fan of romance in novels, but in this case, the side plot fit it perfectly. The main story focused on Tana’s motivation to find what she needed in Coldtown and get out before she becomes infected and Gavriel’s dark secret, which continues to evolve in the story.

Gavriel’s secret is like the secret ingredient to the story; it’s what makes it wonderful. When the narration begins to switch to his past, I became so engaged that I couldn’t have heard you talking if you were right next to me.


Black’s writing is the best of the best in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. It’s smooth, flawless, and essentially invisible, transporting from the page to a unique world with a hint of post-apocalyptic. Even in the chapters that transported time and space, Blacks’ writing was smooth and consistent.  


The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a fascinating take on the familiar vampire, unique in its own right. I loved the choices that Black made, and I will be definitely looking for more of her work. 

Posted January 3, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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August 15, 2012

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
Publication Date: August 2011
Hardcover: 316 pages
Source: Library
Links: AmazonGoodReads

My Rating: Five STARS!! YAY!

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. 

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

Initially, my expectations were really low for this book. I mean, everyone was talking about it, but for some reason, I didn’t expect a lot. Anna absolutely blew me away. 

First of all, the story of Anna has become so epic in Thunder Bay, WI that it has moved into legend. A young Finnish girl murdered on her way to the prom and now haunts her old home, killing all those who step foot inside. It has every ingredient of a hauntingly good ghost story. 

Okay, so let’s talk about Cas. I loved how he was introduced to us – actually, I think it’s my favorite part of the entire book! He is trying to find a hitchhiker ghost that ends up murdering his benefactors by grabbing the wheel as they go over a bridge and drowning everyone. Cas handles it all with such cool on the outside and a bit of frantic/panic on the inside. And the ghost was hilarious. 

Honestly, I did not expect this book to make me laugh. Cas’s sense of humor is wonderfully dry, and once he and his new friends make peace with Anna (aka make sure she isn’t going to devour them alive), she has one hell of a sense of humor too.

But…I have to say…I didn’t really understand the ghost/human love angle. I mean, realistically, there’s no way it could ever work. Besides, Anna still has this whole “I’m evil and I can kill you in an instant” thing going on. Not exactly soft and cuddly. 

Anna scared the baloney out of me at the beginning. I couldn’t believe they were all dumb enough to go into her house (and look how that one worked out…). This is where I definitely have to credit Blake’s writing style – I could see her standing in front of me in my mind perfectly. I knew exactly how Blake pictured her, and her fantastic writing style only honed the image more. And believe me, that ghost is frightening

As to the climax of the story…well, I live in an apartment. I have no attic, but there is an air conditioning vent in my hallway that could look like a trapdoor if it’s the middle of the night and you get up for water…yeah, I’ve never run so fast down the hallway in my life. My boyfriend thought I was nuts. I did not expect that ending AT ALL and I adored it.

And to be honest, I’m still kind of creeped out by that vent…it looks a lot like an attic trapdoor…

Posted August 15, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 2 Comments
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