Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review: The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn

Title: The Shuddering
Author: Ania Ahlborn
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Publisher: 47North
Pages: 307
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Ryan Adler and his twin sister, Jane, spent their happiest childhood days at their parents' mountain Colorado cabin - until divorce tore their family apart. Now, with the house about to be sold, the Adler twins gather with their closest friends for one last snowboarding-filled holiday. While commitment-phobic Ryan gazes longingly at Lauren, wondering if his playboy days are over, Jane's hopes of reconciling with her old boyfriend evaporate when he brings along his new fiancée. As drama builds among the friends, something lurks in the forest, watching the cabin, growing ever bolder as the snow falls - and hunger rises. After a blizzard leaves the group stranded, the true test of their love and loyalty begins as the hideous creatures outside close in, one bloody attack at a time. Now Ryan, Jane, and their friends must fight - tooth and nail, bullet and blade - for their lives. Or else surrender to unspeakable deaths in the darkened woods.

The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn is one of the rare books that really kept my interest from start to finish. I blew through it in a couple nights and actually thought about getting back to it during the day. There were multiple aspects of this book that all came together to create something that I just couldn't bring myself to put down. Romance, suspense, horror - this book has it.

Ania Ahlborn has a way of creating characters that are believable and easy to empathize with. I identified completely with April. While the other characters in the book were irritated and hating her, I was thinking to myself, "That's me!" Well, at least until she totally flipped her lid... The romance in this book was actually convincing as well (most of it, anyway), something that not all horror novels are able to get right. I felt Jane's pain and I believed Sawyer's internal struggle. That's not to say that there were no flaws in the character department, however.

Ryan was an annoying character, a little too full of himself (this is one of those places where I identified with April). While I did believe the love he showed for his sister, the relationship between Ryan and Lauren was rushed and a little implausible. While I'm sure she was a nice girl, the speed with which he decided she was something special was pretty farfetched.

"What about the horror in this horror novel?" you ask. I was on the edge of my seat. The bad guys in this book were something entirely new and not just your generic ghostie or beastie. They were in every way terrifying, even more so once it's revealed that they really aren't "bad" for the sake of it. My only regret is that they were not further explored. Where did they come from? Why are they there? Why haven't they been discovered yet? That being said, I loved the creatures in this book and I'd love to see more original content as opposed to the standard rehashing of old ideas.

The one thing that really irked me in this book was the constant cutting to other characters that no one cares about. While I realize this is meant to build the suspense and show the terrifying nature of the "big bad," I really wish the author had stuck to the main storyline a little more closely in the first half of the book.

I really had to think this book over for a couple days before reviewing to decide how I felt about the ending. All said and done, I think it was perfect. While this ending may upset some, I think it really does work with the rest of the story. I highly recommend The Shuddering to anyone who enjoys horror with a cabin-in-the-woods feel and a whole new type of monster. Perhaps reading it during daylight hours is the best option - otherwise you may end up sleeping with the lights on.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Review: Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbot

Title: Sleep Tight
Author: Rachel Abbot
Publication Date: February 24, 2014
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Pages: 300
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I don't often read mysteries. In fact, I believe I have six books on my Goodreads "mystery" shelf and the other five are by Dan Brown. But as I was browsing the Kindle Lender's Library, I came across this book. The cover was spooky and the description sounded promising. I mean, the last line is "Sleep tight - if you can. You never know who's watching." Chills.

So, I decided to try something new, and it definitely paid off.

From the very beginning I was hooked. The first word I wrote down was "tension." It starts with Olivia in panic mode - her kids are missing. Right away there's no clear way of knowing who to trust or who the "bad guy" is. Much of the mystery is easily solved in the early chapters, however.

By chapter two, I had Robert figured out (yeah, so he's insane), by chapter three, I had a pretty good idea of what had happened to Olivia's parents, and by chapter ten, I thought I knew what was going on with Olivia's disappearance. Still, there were a few huge revelations at the end of the book that I had not expected (at all).

The writing style was different, switching often between chapters from first to third person and between storylines about Tom and Olivia. While it was a little off putting at first, the constant switching had me turning pages late into the night to figure out what happened to Olivia and her children.

Apparently, there are previous books in this series, which revolves around DCI Tom Douglas, but I don't feel like I've missed anything terribly important by starting in the middle of things. There were personal details inserted here and there about Tom and his associates and perhaps those are explained in more detail elsewhere, but I was truly reading only for Olivia's story.

I give this book a 4 instead of 5 primarily based on what I felt was a too-clean last chapter (combined with the early predictability I've already mentioned). Everything came together perfectly, though not necessarily happily. Overall, this was a fantastic read and I'm thrilled that I gave it a chance! I hear Abbot's first novel, Only the Innocent, was excellent as well. I may have to give that one a try soon.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Book Review: Walt Disney, An American Original by Bob Thomas

Title: Walt Disney: An American Original
Author: Bob Thomas
Publication Date: May 31, 1994
Publisher: Disney Editions
Pages: 379
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I've always steered clear of biographies for fear of being bored to tears, but I knew I had to give it a shot when my Disney book club decided to read a Walt Disney biography. While I have a borderline-obsessive love for Walt Disney World and a healthy appreciation for the man himself, I didn't know nearly as much as I'd prefer, so in I dived. The book selection was Walt Disney: An American Original.

The book began at the beginning, telling the story of Walt's childhood and the difficulties of his adolescent life. His father was a hard man to please and Walt learned about hard work early on. Like his other brothers, he found a way out early in life and ran off to help the War effort overseas. Upon his return he ventured into cartooning and his life truly began.

Walt believed in progression. He was never satisfied with the status quo. When people (including his brother, Roy) came to him with a price tag, he didn't have any interest. He is quoted as saying, "I have a theory that if it's good enough, the public will pay you back for it," in reference to Disneyland. Because of a psychic reading during childhood, Walt always feared that he would die before he could complete his work, and so he always strived for perfection - he wanted everything to be completed (and perfectly) before he died.

This book chronicles the Disney films from the first one until Walt Disney's (*spoilers*) death in detail. We also learn of his love for railroads and miniatures, as well as the personality traits you could never pick up on just from loving the Disney films or parks. One thing that stuck out in my mind was when Walt Disney said in a meeting, regarding a particular feature film, that giraffes could not talk because they had no vocal cords. Meanwhile, all the other animals in the feature talked! Ultimately, despite some strange quirks, he clearly knew what he was doing.

The most depressing part of this book (besides Walt's untimely death, of course) was the descriptions Walt gave of EPCOT as he saw it. I have always known that he never intended it to be an amusement park, but his passion for the experimental city was almost tangible and knowing what it became makes me sad, despite my love for Epcot as it exists today.

An American Original was a pleasure to read and left me feeling like I had a much deeper understanding of Walt Disney and his accomplishments. When reading about his walk throughs of Disneyland, I couldn't help but feel a strong desire to get there as soon as possible (and I'm planning to visit next summer)!

I highly recommend this book to any Disney fan who wants to know more about Disney the man and everything he produced. Following the joy of reading this book, I can definitely see more biographies in my future.