Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Tag: horror

A new Spin on Vampire Books

Frankly, I never thought it was impossible to give vampire stories a new spin, but I was reasonably sure it was unlikely to happen. Until I read Sunyi Dean’s The Book Eaters, published 02 August 2022.

Our protagonist, Devon, is a mother. She’s hiding to protect her son, Cai, whom she kidnapped and ran away with two years ago. Her son has special needs. He’s always hungry. He cannot eat regular food. He has a skin condition that needs treatment. Devon, a fierce lioness protecting her cub, knows what helps her five-year-old, she has to get him humans to feed on.

Devon is a Book Eater. She is not human, but looks human. She escaped with her son from the strange customs of the Book Eater society hiding from humans in the northern parts of Great Britain. She can read, but Book Eaters cannot write. She doesn’t have a bank account, nor an ID. She and her son live on the edges of human society, always fearing they’ll be found out by the human authorities or by the Book Eaters’ knights who are hunting them.

Devon wants to take Cai away from Britain, but in order to do that she needs help, because of the limitations her origins put on her. Also, she needs a certain drug to quench Cai’s hunger that she can only get from one of the Book Eater families.

What’s Devon supposed to do? What price is she willing to pay to protect her son?

5/5 Harpy Eagles

I’d like to feel a shiver, please.

Lately I’ve read a few books that were supposed to send shivers down my back, or a tingle up my spine, or at least give me a mild case of goosebumps, but all they did was make me wonder whether my sense of thrill is broken.

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes, published 08 February 2022.

It was hailed as Titanic meets Event Horizon and that is more or less what you get. A luxury space liner adrift for two decades. An emergency signal picked up by a small crew. As soon as the crew enters the space liner they know something is wrong. The whole ship is frozen. The passengers are dead, but something moved. They all saw something move out of the corner of their eyes.

It wasn't that big of a surprise to me, what was behind the horror. Still, the book was interesting and entertaining enough for me to stick it out till the end.

3/5 Harpy Eagles


The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake, first published January 2020.

Take a secret society that is the heir to the Great Library of Alexandria, six young magicians, who are the best of the best, and a building that is very English and that is to be the home of the young magicians until the initiation, when one of them has to be murdered by the others.

Dark academia YA fantasy, unlikable characters that hardly ever interact with each other, lots of telling instead of showing, stilted dialogue, a big twist that just isn't. And this is the revised edition?! I do not want to know what the first - unrevised - edition looked like.

This book will have its following. It's been hyped on TikTok and has a wonderful cover. It just wasn't for me.

1/5 Harpy Eagles


Sundial by Catriona Ward, published 10 March 2022 (UK).

"... [A] twisty horror novel..." Erm, no.
Lots of animal cruelty and child torture? Yes. 
Did I enjoy the prose style? No. 
Did I guess the twist(s) beforehand? Yes.
Would I recommend the book to anyone? No.





1/5 Harpy Eagles

Talk dirty to me

Ha, made you look, right?

I love a good audiobook. What’s even better than a good audiobook? An audioplay. Better than an audioplay? [Yes, yes, there can be a superlative here.] Better than an audioplay is an audioplay based on a story by Neil Gaiman, played by a whole cast of gorgeous voices and narrated by Neil himself. That’s reason enough for me to not fiddle with the speed of my audioplayer, which I usually set to somewhere between 1.75 and 2.5.

The Sandman audioplay is based on the DC comics/graphic novels of the same title. I’m going so far as to say that I enjoyed the audioplay much more than the GNs, because the cast surrounding James McAvoy makes the story/stories really come to life for me.

I can’t say much more without either starting to go all CAPS, or gushing about details. Get yourself a copy of the original version – trust me, I dared to listen into the German version for a few minutes, just not the same feeling – and enjoy it. Each episode is worth your time, and, at the same time, you can pace yourself by at least trying to listen to not more than one episode at a time. Something I failed at spectacularly.

5/5 Harpy Eagles

Dead Detective and Purgatorial Politics

The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox, publishing day 22 July 2021.

Joe Lazarus is on a stake-out. It’s raining. He’s hunkered down in a ditch, his expensive coat splattered with mud. Can it get any worse? Sure! He’s only minutes away from stumbling over his own corpse. Supernatural detective story where the dead DI has to find his own murderer? Sign me up!

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that. The detective story is intertwined with a story-line about politics in purgatory, and both are overshadowed by a dark entity that waits for your dead soul, which is in purgatory already, to cross a certain line of interference just to drag you off into the deepest pits of hell.

The detective part of the story and the interactions between Lazarus and his ‘dead soul’s guide to the afterlife’ Daisy-May kept me turning the pages until I reached about 50% -although it was pretty bog-standard and obvious to me who-dunnit. Obviously the mystery behind Lazarus’s death is just part of a bigger picture. But, because the underworld/afterlife part of the world-building wasn’t fully realised, it bogged down the whole story and left me with many questions that weren’t answered.

2.5 – so 3/5 Harpies

Demons and Exorcists

Prosper’s Demon is a quirky short story/novella by KJ Parker, published 28 January 2020. We decided to read this story by a new-to-us author as a Buddyread to while away the time until our next buddy-book arrived.

The main character and unreliable narrator, a demon hunter/exorcist, takes us on a wild ride when he is facing off one of the 109 demons in his jurisdiction. A cunning tale which starts with a gripping first paragraph (s.b.), and will keep you on the edge of your seat, chuckling here and there, with it’s many twists and turns and double and triple crossings.

I woke to find her lying next to me, quite dead, with her throat torn out. The pillow was shiny and sodden with blood, like low-lying pasture after a week of heavy rain. The taste in my mouth was familiar, revolting, and unmistakable. I spat into my cupped hand: bright red. Oh, for crying out loud, I thought. Here we go again.

KJ Parker, Prosper’s Demon

If you are like the three of us, you’ll definitely want to dive into a whole book by this author afterwards. We have already decided to squeeze in Sixteen Ways To Defend A Walled City sometime this year.

Taking a Stand

You may have read about my struggle with Stephen King’s The Stand but today is the day I can finally finally finally announce that I did it. I finished it. It took me roughly seven months (and two weeks to eventually write this review, but that’s somehow very fitting).

The Stand is no doubt a masterpiece, albeit a very long one. But still, why did it take months for me to finish it? That was probably a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”. I had a hard time picking it up time and time again, probably because the page count is so daunting. Once I picked it up, I immersed myself easily. But after reading for quite a while, you still seem to barely make a dent in this huge doorstopper. Let us just say it was the wrong pick for this weird year, not because of the content, but probably because of the format.

Talking of content, I would maybe recommend reading it in 2022, or later. An apocalyptic horror novel about a virus gone wild is probably something that will sit better by then.

As always, nobody writes characters like Mr. King. This book has such a huge cast, and still he manages to make all of them memorable, interesting and fully fleshed out. Even with weeks passing between single reading sessions (cough cough), you step right back among them.

There is a certain ingenuity with which he lets the reader look at ordinary things and recognize the disaster that might lurk just beneath the surface. So, what happens if society has the chance to start over? If we can reshape the way humans are interacting in a social context, rebuild the way we are organized based on the knowledge and experiences we have right now? Well, in King’s opinion we get either a peaceful, benevolent community….or bloody mayhem. I think he has a point.

4/5 Goodreads stars

Vampires in the South

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, published 7 April 2020.

It was hailed as “Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meets Dracula,” a fitting description, I think. It’s a story about middle-class ladies from the US South, endlessly polite and tirelessly slaving away at home to make life easier for their husbands and children.

Did I say polite ladies? I did. Well, polite until you start messing with children, especially their children. Then the book club ladies forget all about their nice Southern manners and realise that their new neighbour is more than just very charming.

If you like your books bloody, with pop culture and some satire mixed with your horror, then read this book. Better yet, get the audiobook. It might take you a moment to get used to the Southern Drawl, but it adds to the atmosphere.

4/5 Goodreads stars

It’s that time …

… when supermarkets start stocking gingerbread, Stollen, and chocolate Santas – or in other words: It’s September!

Contrary to what I thought at the beginning of the month – that I might be happy if I get a few books off my TBR – I had a very productive August, thanks to the schools reopening. That offered me a lot of hours of audio-reading while doing the chores. You have no idea how much that has helped with regaining my equilibrium.

My August was filled with sci-fi, fantasy, (explicit) romance, a bit of horror and historical fiction. Goodreads, probably the only place that keeps a halfway accurate record of my reading, has 19 books logged for August. That’s not true. I read a couple of ARCs that are not in the Goodreads database yet; and a few excerpts of books, which I don’t count towards my Goodreads challenge. Which is looking fine, btw. Thanks for asking.

The Sceptre buddyread The Only Good Indians was interesting, although I wouldn’t say my favourite of the month. That honour goes to the romcoms I’ve read, Dawn with a Duke and The Switch and Erin Mallon’s Flirtasaurus. I needed a cozy feel-good read for a change. I had virtually thrown too many books at the wall in August.

Looking forward to September I have to admit, I might have said “yes, let’s buddyread this book/series/author” a few too many times. My plate is full.

There are, as always, books I’m reading with my kids; strangely that list is getting longer every month too. There’ll be the Sceptre buddyread; we’re busy speculating on which book it might be. It’s a book that’ll be published in early September, because the bookshop will send out the books later this time.

Buddyreads: There’s Katie MacAlister’s Improper English that I am reading with a friend in Australia. My postal book club book for August is still unread – Ugh! – and the next book is on it’s way to me. Pratchett’s Last Continent wants to be read by September 7th for the Litsy OokBOokClub. There is Shusterman’s Scythe, which I’m buddyreading with my son. Then I’m looking forward to Laura Lam and Elizabeth May’s Seven Devils, which I wanted to start but accidentally started reading Kit Rocha’s Deal with the Devil; I am also savouring the ARC of Turton’s next book The Devil and the Dark Water. Coincidence? I think it just means September is off to a good start.

If you’re wondering, the current state of the NetGalley-ARC-shelf-of-shame is 95. Hand me some gingerbread, please! I need something to snack on while I get through that pile.

August Buddyread Review

The August Buddy Read Book from Otherland was The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, published 14 July 2020. The Magpie’s prediction – in a private chat – was right. (If she’s right with the next three books too, we should consider buying a lottery ticket.)

Ten years ago, the week before Thanksgiving, four Native American men went on a hunt. The four Blackfeet shot and butchered a lot of elk, but came home empty handed. This event will haunt them.

The story has a stuttering start, because the four protagonists have to be introduced. Once the reader has an idea of who the players are and what went down ten years ago, it’s hard to stop turning the pages. (I overshot the buddyread mark twice.)

This is a horror story. There is suspense and lots of graphic violence. The switching POV heightens the characters’ feeling of fear that’s leading to madness. But, and here’s the main reason why this is not a five star read for me, this is where this revenge story stops tingling spines. The fear never left the page, I didn’t turn around and look for someone with a knife behind me once. The story’s outcome was clear from the start; and the title is a dead give-away (excuse the pun).

So what sets this story apart from all the other slasher horror novels? It’s the cultural identity, the #ownvoice, that makes the characters and story come alive.

Jones provides a background to his four protagonists that does not paint the idyllic picture most people conjure up first when seeing the word Native Americans. He shows us rusting trucks, tiny improvised sweat lodges, unemployment, guilt at not living a true-to-your-roots life, and lots of basketball.

This is a solid slasher horror read for anyone who is easily spooked. I’d recommend reading it for the glimpse into a culture we hardly ever hear about outside of history books.

4/5 Goodreads stars

May Buddy Read: If it Bleeds

If it Bleeds by Stephen King was the Sceptre May buddy read. Fetching the envelope with the yet secret book from the mailbox, I remember thinking, ‘Well, it can’t be a King, it’s too slim’. I laughed so hard when I opened the brown paper envelope a few minutes later.

Not having read a Stephen King book for ages, only partly Mr King’s fault (I wasn’t a big fan of The Dark Tower), I was a bit hesitant to start these novellas. Only a few pages into the first story I was hooked though. There was something about the writing, it felt like coming home to a favourite book. (Why did I put Mr King off for so long?) And the plots reminded me of The X-Files; a bit creepy, but nothing too scary.

There’s “Mr Hannigan’s Phone”, a story about a young boy who still gets messages from his former employer’s phone long after Mr Hannigan and his phone were buried. There’s “The Life of Chuck”, a story told in reverse chronology, from Chuck on his deathbed to Chuck’s childhood. Then the story about a writer with writer’s block who strikes a deal with the dev… “Rat” which allows him to finish his novel, but at what costs? And, of course, the title story, “If It Bleeds”. It’s basically a sequel to The Outsider starring Holly Gibney, who sees beyond some facial hair and smells a rat.

My favourite story? Can’t say exactly. I liked all of them for different reasons. “If It Bleeds” put Mr Mercedes and The Outsider on my reading list. “The Life of Chuck” was interesting because of the unusual timeline. “Mr Hannigan’s Phone” made me wonder who I might be able to reach with that ancient iPhone I keep in one of my drawers. “Rat” spoke to me, because I’ve had to battle writer’s block before, worst was staring at the blank page when I tried to write my MA thesis. Though that was not the main reason, it reminded me of one of my favourite childhood books, Jules Ratte. A story about a girl who finds a very intelligent, speaking rat and keeps it as a pet. She’s taking it to school too, so the rat can help her cheat on her tests.

Since I tend to read everything a book has to offer, yes truly everything from the copyright page to the acknowledgements, I must say that the best part of the book was the Author’s Note. That’s just be though, you might like a different part of the book best.

4/5 Goodreads stars

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