I am not an “experienced” horror reader. I read a lot of true crime and violent thrillers, but when it comes to books that are traditionally classified as “horror”, well, then I believe “The Only Good Indians” is my first foray into that. And the jury is still out on if I like this genre, but I don’t think that’s the book’s fault? “The Only Good Indians” follows four young men after an upsetting event of their childhood comes back to haunt them (literally) on the ten-year anniversary of the event. Mixed in with the horror of being hunted by a force you don’t see coming, the author weaves in a seamless social commentary on what it’s like for American Indians both on and off the reservation. I really enjoyed those aspects, even though I can’t speak to the cultural representation. I thought they added a unique level to an already disturbing story. But I did have a hard time getting through this book, and not because I was too upset to read it, either.
“A Dark Infection” is the sequel to “A Dark Inheritance” in which ten years have passed since Tina was taken by the vampire, Kalmar. Slowly, she is being turned into a vampire herself, as the properties in her blood allow for her to accept the virus that is being introduced to her bloodstream through Kalmar. And, just like its predecessor, this book does not shy away from the fact that much of Tina’s current situation was, and is, not one of her choosing. So few with her blood type remain that she is coveted by vampires in order to ensure the survival of their species, but, and more importantly, she is vital to Kalmar. While Tina still struggles with the idea that perhaps her feelings for her vampire abductor, even ten years later, are not real and just a form of Stockholm Syndrome (which is valid), Kalmar has bonded to her, and wishes to remain that way. Despite stronger forces wishing to claim him as their own, and giving Tina away to another vampire in the process, Kalmar wants no other. While the vampire world of danger and intrigue continue to sweep Tina up in its wake, the world Tina was forced to leave behind also comes back to haunt her, weaving into a new mystery that threatens to destroy both of the worlds Tina inhabits. Except Tina, once again, doesn’t seem to be given a choice about which world she gets to save.
“Wild Beauty” is a magical realism tale steeped in family, race, class, and beauty. We follow our main characters, Estrella and Fel, as they navigate defining themselves, or redefining in Estrella’s case and what space they occupy in the gorgeous gardens of La Pradera, a garden that has cursed the women of Estrella’s family to lose all their lovers, and if they themselves try to leave, it will kill them too. I loved the undercurrent of malevolence always present in the gorgeous botanical garden, and the slight mystery that, that posed, especially when it came to how Fel arrived in the garden in the first place. But that mystery was very, very slow to unravel, which is typical for magical realism I’m finding, but makes me think that this genre and I are just never going to get along.
I have never read a YA fantasy novelette quite like “Spellraiser” and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s a familiar storyline: a rich prep school where those of lesser means are constantly bullied and looked down upon, except that there is a magical mystery underfoot. In the world of “Spellraiser” magic is an accepted thing, so there’s no real need for the characters to explain what’s happening to one another, which helps given the novelette’s unique styling—100 chapters of only one hundred words. In this world, spells are basically spirits that give the wielder—or the person being possessed—a wish-like attribute, be it beauty, strength, invincibility, or even the ability to read minds. The catch is, you have to release the spell every day or risk being completely consumed, and you can’t have more than 5 in you at a time or you will literally burn up. That’s not our main characters problem though. Her problem is that students keep dying mysteriously and she, as an outcast, keeps getting blamed for their deaths.
“The Fair” is book two (of 5) in the Time Box series and, yes, you do need to read them in order and no, they are not stand-alone stories. In this second book, the Lanes are hiding from the billionaire trying to kill them for stealing two of his time machines, theoretically stopping the him from going back in time and changing outcomes of wars in favor of the losing party. Except Robert Devereux COULD still do that, he has his own Time Box, which is what his assassin uses when chasing the Lanes, but it's about the principle of the thing now—you do not steal from the boss and get to live after. So, the Lanes decide to hide in 1893 in Chicago. Chicago, during that time, was the place to be with their World’s Fair (the Columbian Exposition) in full swing giving the Lanes a huge crowd to lose themselves in, and if you know your history as the Lanes’ seem to, you know that this was also the exact place and time where the serial killer H.H. Holmes was operating his Murder Hotel. Between the excitement of the fair, and the danger from the assassin and a notorious serial killer, this book should have been brimming with tension and excitement, but its focus was on more gentler aspects instead.
Click the book images to see them on Amazon!