An Illustrated MG GSQ Review: Megan’s Brood…

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I’m letting the little psyches out of their brainbox today, as it seems appropriate for the book we are about to review.  I came across Megan’s Brood by Roy Burdine and illustrated by Shawn McManus while browsing Goodreads…or possibly Amazon…or possibly someone’s blog, I can’t quite remember, and downloaded it on a whim.  I’m so glad I did, because I have now discovered a fun new series to chase after!

I know I said that this is a middle grade title, but I think this one will have wide appeal, from middle graders right up to adults, so don’t be put off by the MG tag if you’re a snooty grown-up.

Let’s get into it. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Megan’s life is uprooted when her family moves to a new house in a far away town where she discovers a tiny brood of mysterious creatures living in the attic. As she raises them each begin to manifest unique traits of their own — one that blows fire like a dragon, one who sprouts wings and flies, and a girl with a hypnotic singing voice, are just a few among the group.

The mystery of where these fantastical creatures come from and what their ultimate purpose might be leads Megan down an exciting path to adventure and discovery (and not just a little danger!)

megans brood

The Good

There are many things about this book that combined to make it one of imagethose “aaaaahhhh” reads.  In case you’re unfamiliar with the definition of an “aaaaahhhh” read (and don’t feel bad if you are, because I only made up the concept just now), it is the kind of read that comes along and averts a looming reading slump by restoring your faith in the existence of original and unexpected books.

Firstly, this is a quick read, with short chapters and action that rolls along.  The story is tightly written and while there is plenty of detail to establish the non-human characters in the world, the author doesn’t waste time by drawing anything out.  This was, unbeknownst to me, exactly what I needed when I picked this book up, and it was wonderful escapist reading experience and the perfect antidote to some longer, slower books that were cramping my style slightly as I read them concurrently to this one.

Megan’s brood of little creatures are just adorable and I’m sure young female readers will just love the idea of having a little family of fantastical beast pets hatch in their bedroom.  Casper, Megan’s next door neighbour, is developed nicely within the constraints of the story length, and it was also good to see parents who are alive, well and unwittingly involved in the story.

The ending of the tale – that is, the ending that appears as an epilogue – took me by surprise and hooked me wholesale into wanting to follow the series when the next book is released.  The promise of darker and more sinister happenings in the coming tome is too much to resist!

The Sadimage

There isn’t really too much I can knock about this book.  Some readers may be disappointed with the brevity of the tale.  It does have a bit of a sense of the graphic novel about it, in that they always tend to end with the reader wanting more (or they do for me, anyway).

Cutter, Megan’s cooler, skating neighbour, is a bit of a stereotyped character, but his appearance is brief and action-driven and so this wasn’t as much of an irritation as it could have been.

The Quirky

The full page illustrations at the beginning of each chapter are absolute imagewinners and hit exactly the right spot for flagging what’s about to come while bringing Megan’s world alive.  I often wonder why more books for this age group don’t have illustrations because they almost always elevate a book above the common herd.

I also loved the fact that Megan is both confident and idiosyncratic.  So often in middle grade and young adult books, main characters who dress differently or have their own style end up being solitary or bullied, but Megan, at least in this initial instalment, is happy to be a bit quirky and eccentric looking, while also being approachable and confident enough to interact with and get to know her new neighbours.  Refreshing!

Overall, this fun little read manages to blend edgy fantastic beastliness with a typical “new girl in town” story but leaves out the overdone plot line involving the outsider being ostracised.  If you’re looking for a quick read that packs a lot of punch into a small, eyeball-placating package, then I’d definitely recommend getting your claws on Megan’s Brood.

Until next time,

Bruce

A Nonfiction “Five Things I’ve Learned” Review: Owls…

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Who doesn’t love the bug-eyed, stealthy swoop and quiet wisdom of the majestic owl? Nobody, that’s who.  Today’s book, as you may have guessed, is devoted to these mystical, mysterious, mouse-eating birds and as it is a factual tome, I am submitting it for the Nonfiction Reading Nonfiction 2015Challenge hosted by The Introverted Reader.  Keen-eyed readers will know that I’ve already technically completed this challenge, but I’m going to see how many nonfiction books I can knock over in the remaining months of the year anyway.

But we were discussing owls, weren’t we?  We received the delightful little illustrated tome, Owls: Our Most Charming Bird, by Matt Sewell, from the publisher via Netgalley.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

In this beautiful follow-up to Our Garden Birds, Our Songbirds and Our Woodland Birds, street artist Matt Sewell captures the world’s most evocative bird: the owl. In his much-loved pop-art watercolours and accompanied with his whimsical descriptions, Matt Sewell expresses the individual characters of owls as never before.

From tiny Elf Owls to huge Eagle Owls, from the mysterious creatures of the night to an impossibly fluffy baby owl, they are undoubtedly one of the world’s most intriguing feathered friends. These wise, magical birds are otherworldly in their striking colours and stature, and it’s not just birdwatchers who are obsessed. With 50 hand-selected, hand-painted owls, this is a delightful gift which appeals to owl lovers, bird-watching enthusiasts, children, adults and art and design fans alike.

Owls

So here are five things I’ve learned from

Owls: Our Most Enchanting Bird

  1. Owl facial expressions can be unintentionally hilarious.
  2. “Flammulated” is an evocative and exciting word which should be used far more often.
  3. “Flammulated” means red-hued.
  4. The Flammulated Owl is reddish.
  5. Owls tend to creep people out and as a result, have become the basis of many myths and legends.

This is a fetching and enchanting little book featuring short, witty descriptions and gorgeous illustrations of some fifty types of owl.  Not being possessed of a great expanse of knowledge about owls, this was the perfect, whimsical introduction to these masters of nocturnal stealth.  The descriptions of each owl are only one to two paragraphs in length and so the book is perfect for dipping into as the fancy takes you, but is equally suited to a cover-to-cover type of attack.

My favourite, in case you hadn’t guessed, was the Flammulated Owl both for its stimulating name and its interesting reddy-brownish colouring.  The illustrations in this book are just wonderful and perfectly compliment the light-hearted tone of the text.  Apart from our flammulated friend, I was also quite taken with the Collared Scops Owl (looking set for a walk-on role as an alien in a Doctor Who episode), the Greater Sooty Owl (a mystical looking Australian owl with excellent night camouflage) and the Crested Owl (unmatched in eyebrow prowess).

The last few pages of the book are devoted to a spotter’s checklist, featuring smaller pictures of each of the owls, so that keen readers can tick off the exotic owls as they spot them.  This is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek feature I suspect, but fun for inspiring the latent bird-watcher inside the armchair enthusiast.

Progress toward Nonfiction Reading Challenge: 12/16 

Until next time,

Bruce

An Unconventional YA Double Dip: Goldfish and Geriatrics..

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Grab a snack and assume a comfortable semi-reclined position and let’s dip into a pair of YA titles…well, actually one is upper middle grade… featuring teen girls and their relationships with their fathers. I received both of today’s titles from the publisher via Netgalley and having looked at some of the early reviews on Goodreads, it appears I enjoyed these quite a bit more than the average punter. Let’s dive in though, shall we, starting with the more conventional of the two of these unusual stories.

Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart by Jane St. Anthony is the gentle and understated tale of a young girl working through grief. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

In Milwaukee, Isabelle Day had a house. And she had a father. This year,Isabelle Day on Halloween, she has half of a house in Minneapolis, a mother at least as sad as she is, and a loss that’s too hard to think—let alone talk—about.

It’s the Midwest in the early 1960s, and dads just don’t die . . . like that. Hovering over Isabelle’s new world are the duplex’s too-attentive landladies, Miss Flora (“a lovely dried flower”) and her sister Miss Dora (“grim as roadkill”), who dwell in a sea of memories and doilies; the gleefully demonic Sister Mary Mercy, who rules a school awash in cigarette smoke; and classmates steady Margaret and edgy Grace, who hold out some hope of friendship. As Isabelle’s first tentative steps carry her through unfamiliar territory—classroom debacles and misadventures at home and beyond, time trapped in a storm-tossed cemetery and investigating an inhospitable hospital—she begins to discover that, when it comes to pain and loss, she might actually be in good company. In light of the elderly sisters’ lives, Grace and Margaret’s friendship, and her father’s memory, she just might find the heart and humor to save herself.

With characteristic sensitivity and wit, Jane St. Anthony reveals how a girl’s life clouded with grief can also hold a world of promise.

Dip into it for…

… a leisurely pace and an authentic representation of a grieving young person trying to adjust to loss and a new environment. Nothing really bad happens in this story and there aren’t really flashpoints or dramatic upswings in action, but Isabelle certainly experiences some significant growth over the course of the book. This really reminded me of the impactful and gentle stories in Glenda Millard’s exceptional Kingdom of Silk series, that deal with difficult topics in an accessible way, but pitched at slightly older readers.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re looking for an upper middle grade book that features familiar tropes and episodic action. This has neither. In the early reviews I’ve read for this book, a number of reviewers have noted the lack of action as a negative feature, and I agree that there is something that does feel lacking in the sense that there doesn’t seem to be a discernible climax.

Overall Dip Factor:

I suspect that this is going to be a bit of a niche read, appealing to those who prefer relationship-driven tales to those featuring lots of action and the usual YA tropes of cliques, bullying and boys. I was quite impressed with the warmth and hope of the ending and while I wanted there to be more development in Isabelle’s relationship with her elderly neighbours, the ending sort of made up for that. I think the author has done a good job of authentically relaying Isabelle’s feelings of grief and disorientation and as this is at the crux of the story, younger readers who haven’t had these life experiences may find it hard to relate to Isabelle and the importance she places on milestones such as making a new friend.

Overall, I have to say I enjoyed Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart and found it to be a solid upper middle grade choice for those young readers who are ready to explore a difficult life experience in narrative.

Next up we have a supremely unconventional YA story that also features some startling conventionality. I immediately related to the main character of Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher, and I’m still dissecting the layers of this book. Like a good trifle. Anyway, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

My name is Tess Turner – at least, that’s what I’ve always been told. I silence is goldfishhave a voice but it isn’t mine. It used to say things so I’d fit in, to please my parents, to please my teachers. It used to tell the universe I was something I wasn’t. It lied. It never occurred to me that everyone else was lying too. But the words that really hurt weren’t the lies: it was six hundred and seventeen words of truth that turned my world upside down.

Words scare me, the lies and the truth, so I decided to stop using them.

I am Pluto. Silent. Inaccessible. Billions of miles away from everything I thought I knew.

Tessie-T has never really felt she fitted in and after what she read that night on her father’s blog she knows for certain that she never will. How she deals with her discovery makes an entirely riveting, heart-breaking story told through Tess’s eyes as she tries to find her place in the world.

Dip into it for…

…a selective mute with an imaginary talking goldfish for an ally, weathering the storm of family drama, cyberbullying and teenaged identity confusion. I related to Tess straight away and reading of her solitary, passive, silent protest made me wish I’d thought of it as a young gargoyle going through various mental health dramas. Pitcher has written Tess as an incredibly authentic 15-year-old: immature, naïve, self-focused, struggling with issues outside her control and desperate for connection. I particularly enjoyed the way in which Tess grew throughout the story, eventually claiming her appearance and existence and using this knowledge to achieve her ends.

Don’t dip if…

…you don’t think you can relate to a rendering of a teen as immature, naïve and self-focused. I suspect that some people will find Tess to be just irritating, particularly if they have never experienced any kind of major mental upset. Also, as Tess becomes a selective mute for much of the book, there is a fair bit of monologue here…or at least, dialogue between Tess and her imaginary fish friend…which some might find tedious after a bit. I’m not the greatest fan of monologuing and I did feel there was a bit of a sag in the middle of this tale.

Overall Dip Factor:

Admittedly, there were a few things that I didn’t love about this book, including the oft-used clique of three popular bitch girls (why is it always three?!) and the quick change in friendship fortunes early on, which seemed unlikely to me. On the other hand, one of the strengths of this book is that Tess is clearly naïve in that she wants her imagining of certain relationships to be real, and it is clear that while she knows that some people may not be working in her best interests, she prefers to rely on what she would like to be true than to accept the signs that are pointing to reality.

One of the interesting things about this book is that it will be obvious to the reader where the wind is blowing, so to speak, with many of the plotlines in the book, but knowing what is likely to happen didn’t dampen the satisfaction I found in going along with Tess toward the inevitable discoveries that were going to be made. It was like reading an interesting case study: because I already knew (or suspected) what the outcome would be, I could better observe Tess’s actions and appreciate her journey through denial to acceptance – of herself and the circumstances.

Clearly, this book isn’t going to be for everyone. But it was for me. I think I shall reserve a special place for Tess (and Mr Goldfish) on the shelf should they ever wish to visit.

That’s it from me for now.  I’m off to find out if they sell Eccles cakes in Australia, so I’ll be prepared for the next double-dip outing.

Until next time,

Bruce

Monday is for Murder: The Moving Toyshop…

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It’s been a while since our last Murderous Monday – apologies for skipping August’s instalment – but I will hopefully redeem myself today by bringing you a decidedly humorous and downright silly classic murder mystery by Edmund Crispin, The Moving Toyshop. I’ve had a bit of trouble selecting a murder mystery to get stuck into recently, and after a few false starts I decided to give Crispin’s work a go, given that it has been described as both clever and funny. The Moving Toyshop is the third adventure for Oxford Professor of English Literature and hobbyist detective, Gervase Fen. I haven’t read the first two in the series, but decided to take a punt on number three, due to the intriguing blurb. Thankfully, I don’t think jumping in midflow has caused any trouble in getting to know the character of Fen at all.

But let’s get on; I’ve kept you waiting since July after all! Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

One night, Richard Cadogan, poet and would-be bon-vivant, finds the body of an elderly woman in an Oxford toyshop, and is hit on the head. When he comes to, he finds that the toyshop has disappeared and been replaced with a grocery store. A quirky and appealing mystery for fans of classic crime.

the moving toyshop

Plot Summary:

Richard Cadogan is travelling late at night to Oxford, and in an act of incredible coincidence and bad luck, wanders into a toyshop along the way (to investigate a door left open, mind) only to discover the strangled corpse of a harmless looking old lady. After being unexpectedly whacked on the head by person unknown, Cadogan awakes, escapes the vacant scene and dispatches himself to the police to report what he has seen. Upon returning to the toyshop, Cadogan is astounded to note that a grocers stands in its place. Of course, finding a grocers with no sign of a dead body causes the police to attribute Cadogan’s story to a recent blow to the head. Once Cadogan relates his story to friend Gervase Fen however, the cogs begin to turn and the two quickly become embroiled in a mystery that takes in spotted dogs, an unnaturally thin physician, a seedy solicitor and one eccentric old lady whose dying wishes seem to have led to no end of bother.

The Usual Suspects:

There is rather a closed pool of suspects in this particular hunt, and all of them relate to various nonsense poems by Edward Lear. I quite enjoyed this little twist as it was both amusing and a nice change from the usual cast of retired Colonel/disgruntled adopted child/estranged former business partner etc that usually appear in classic mysteries of this vintage.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

This is where Cripsin’s work really stood out from the crowd of murder mysteries that I have read.   For starters, all of the witnesses and suspects in this particular story were quite incredibly verbose and forthcoming, so there wasn’t much need for intellectual puzzling over red herrings and possible clues hidden in coded speech . Also, the hunt for the murderer/s involved some hysterically funny bicycle/foot chases that were quite ridiculous but added greatly to my enjoyment of the whole affair. As well as Fen and Cadogan (and a bunch of ragtag hangers on, Wilkes being my decrepit favourite) chasing the suspects, the police are chasing Fen and Cadogan and it all becomes quite silly but I did appreciate the action.

Overall Rating:

 poison clip art poison clip art poison clip art poison clip art

Four poison bottles for the breathless anticipation of an unexpected bequeathing of extreme riches

I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure because while it has all the hallmarks of a classic English murder mystery, it never takes itself too seriously and there are plenty of light-hearted shenanigans to bump things along. Crispin has a way with vividly amusing imagery – I’m still giggling at the image of a withered old professor sitting on Fen’s knee during an overcrowded car ride – and I will certainly be putting the others in this series on my reading list. I suspect that these books would be the perfect choice for those times when you feel like a murder mystery, but don’t want to have to work too hard at figuring out who did what to whom for what reasons.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Yarning with Mad Martha…about Book Week!

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yarning with mad martha_Fotor (2)

Welcome to an all new feature here on the shelf – Yarning with me, Mad Martha! Bruce has kindly given over some extra space in our posting schedule to yours truly so that I can share with you my passion for crochet (and yarn craft generally). I can feel your excitement levels growing, and I thank you in advance for the deep love and affection for what will no doubt become your favourite feature.

Essentially, yarning with me will involve either reviewing a crochet (or craft) related book, or sharing some of my latest projects as they relate to books that we have been reading. I already have a very exciting project book lined up for late September (wherein you can crochet your own camping adventure!), as well as an amigurumi pattern for a very popular contemporary children’s book character (hint: he’s Irish, large and hairy).

Let’s start things off with everyone’s favourite dress-up day: Children’s Book Week! This wonderful week has just passed here in Queensland, along with another year’s worth of parental anxiety over having to fashion some sort of complicated, homemade costume out of rubber bands and superglue, because their offspring neglected to mention that it was, in fact, their school’s dress up day tomorrow, until about 8.15pm of the evening before.

Happily, the only mini-fleshling in this dwelling that was required to dress up has a strong aversion to cosplay of any description and so I was called in to provide a “prop”, to ensure that said mini-fleshling could participate in the dress up in a non-stressful way and to avert any teacher-held suspicions that mini-fleshling’s parents are just (a) indifferent to reading/literacy/dressing up or (b) the negligent sort.

Enter: Mad Martha, cape neatly tied and undies on the outside, to swoop in and create the perfect bookish buddy: an amigurumi Fly Guy!

fly guy posing

If you are unfamiliar with the Fly Guy series, I can guarantee that you are missing out. Essentially a picture book disguised as an early reader, Hi Fly Guy! is the series opener, in which we meet the titular fly and discover how he forms a firm friendship with a young boy, Buzz. There are currently about fourteen books in the fiction series, with a half dozen more recently released nonfiction tie-ins, Fly Guy Presents. The nonfiction books feature Fly Guy and Buzz exploring a range of kid-friendly topics, including space, sharks and insects.

hi fly guy fly guy presents

Our collective favourite at the moment is I Spy Fly Guy! in which a particularly challenging game of hide and seek is carried out in a location that tends hilariously in Fly Guy’s favour. Poor Buzz! The delightful friendship betwixt boy and fly is the champion of all the Fly Guy stories and the books are a perfect blend of humour and calamity, minus the bodily-function related content that often plagues books aimed at boys of the targeted age group.  It is easy to see why the first book in the series won the Theodore Seuss Geisel award.

This series, with its bright cartoon-style illustrations and clear, short sections of text, will appeal greatly to young male readers particularly and seem to be designed to slot neatly into that difficult space between picture books and early chapter books, in which young readers want to feel like they’re reading big-kid books, but aren’t quite ready to manage longer books independently. The stories are divided into chapters, but the whole book can easily be read in a single sitting, much like a standard picture book. An added bonus, of course, is the fact that kids can become familiar with the enjoyment of reading a series – particularly the anticipation of waiting for another book to appear – and gain a sense of familiarity with the characters, settings and in turn, language used in each story.

fly guy and back catalogue

I must admit to being incredibly proud of my finished Fly Guy plushie – almost as proud as the mini-fleshling was of writing Fly Guy’s jar label allfly guy and jar on his own! Having brashly agreed to save the day, I immediately jumped onto that giant of time-wasting, Pinterest, certain in the knowledge that someone, somewhere, would have definitely created such a plushie before, and as such, all I would have to do would be to follow a simple pattern and enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labour.

I was wrong. Pinterest let me down. Apparently, no one, anywhere, has ever had need to crochet a cuddly version of everyone’s favourite insect. Who’d have thought? And so I toiled and frogged and toiled until I had created a friend that one could cuddle with pride. Given the short time frame (and the rage-quitting that occurred during the creation), I neglected to note down my stitches as I was working, and therefore I cannot provide the illusive pattern for Fly Guy that Pinterest so sorely needs. For this, I am not at all sorry. Pinterest didn’t help me, so Pinterest is on its own when the time for a Fly Guy amigurumi comes.

Welcoming Fly Guy to the shelf. Bruce is stunned at my crochet prowess.

Welcoming Fly Guy to the shelf. Bruce is stunned at my crochet prowess.

Well, that about wraps up our first Yarning session – I hope you have enjoyed it! I’d love to hear what you think of my work, the Fly Guy series or Book Week, so don’t leave without commenting, will you?

Yours in craftiness,

Mad Martha

 

Unmissable Sequel Alert (and Giveaway!): Rin Chupeco’s The Suffering…

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Sound the alarm! I have a sequel today that you really shouldn’t miss, particularly if you’ve read the first book in the series and even more especially if you haven’t! Today’s book, The Suffering by Rin Chupeco is the follow-up to her 2014 debut The Girl From the Well, which I described (rather enthusiastically) at the time as “a hands-down, five-star, should’ve-got-it-in-print read”. The Suffering is a satisfyingly terrifying instalment and as I am now a confirmed, card-carrying fan of Ms Chupeco’s work, I have jumped in on the blog tour giveaway for the book, allowing YOU the chance to win a copy of The Suffering. Thank me later!

But let’s get on with it. Here’s the blurb:

Breathtaking and haunting, Rin Chupeco’s second novel is a chilling companion to her debut, The Girl from the Well.

The darkness will find you.

Seventeen-year-old Tark knows what it is to be powerless. But Okiku changed that. A restless spirit who ended life as a victim and started death as an avenger, she’s groomed Tark to destroy the wicked. But when darkness pulls them deep into Aokigahara, known as Japan’s suicide forest, Okiku’s justice becomes blurred, and Tark is the one who will pay the price…

the suffering

The most interesting thing about this sequel from my point of view is that it has a completely different feel to the first book, but retains that sense of mind-numbing IT’S BEHIND YOU! terror with which the first book was replete. While The Girl from the Well was stomach-churningly intense from the very first pages, The Suffering is more of a slow burn, with the early chapters seeing Tark living a relatively normal teenage life, albeit with an invisible dead girl for company.

The first part of The Suffering felt suspiciously like your standard YA with a bit of paranormal chucked in, but once Tark and Callie arrive in Japan, things quickly take a shuddersome turn. Aokigahara, Japan’s famed “suicide forest” seems to be having a bit of a day in the dappled sun in fiction at the moment – I’ve already reviewed another fiction book featuring it as the setting this year, and have noted a few others about – but Chupeco has done something clever here by twinning the acknowledged fear of the forest with a hitherto undiscovered village of the damned, you might say, within the forest’s clutches.

I won’t say too much about it here, because it would be a bit spoilerific, but by the time Tark and Okiku discover the village of Aitou, that familiar sense of ghoulish eeriness will have settled in the base of your brain, preparing you nicely to jump at the slightest noise or shadow. (Is that a bony finger stroking the back of your neck?). This book focuses on a centuries old curse that affected the young people of the village and the pace during most of this part is break-neck (literally, for some characters) as Tark and Okiku try to stay alive (well, Tark does, anyway) in a ghost-town that clearly wishes them otherwise.

The final chapters of the book are quite touching and unexpected and I gained a renewed respect for Chupeco’s ability to cap off a horror tale by refocusing on the important relationships in the book.

Take it from me, if you haven’t read Chupeco’s work yet and if you like horror even a tiny bit, then you really should try these out. You will be surprised at the quality of the storytelling that can come out of what could easily be branded just another YA horror tale.

That’s all from me, but keep reading for an excerpt from The Suffering and your chance to win! Many thanks to Sourcebooks for sponsoring the giveaway and for providing a copy of the book for review!

The Suffering

By Rin Chupeco

September 1, 2015; Hardcover ISBN 9781492629832; Trade Paper ISBN 9781492629849

Book Info:

Title: The Suffering

Author: Rin Chupeco

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Rafflecopter Giveaway:

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Excerpt from The Suffering:

It’s still early morning when our group is given clearance to enter. Aokigahara is a deceptive forest. It has all the hallmarks of a popular tourist destination: narrow but well-­maintained hiking trails with a surprising amount of litter, not to mention strips of tape and ribbon wrapped around tree trunks. The leader explains that hikers use them as markers to maintain their bearings. Later on, one of the other volunteers whispers to us that some of the tapes were left by those who came here to kill themselves, in case they decided to change their minds. The revelation horrifies Callie.

A few miles into our hike, anything resembling civilization disappears. Roots crawl across the hard forest floor, and it’s easy to trip if you’re not constantly looking down. We’re outside, but the trees make it feel claustrophobic. They reach hungrily toward the sun, fighting each other for drops of light, and this selfishness grows with the darkness as we move deeper into the woods.

It’s quiet. The silence is broken by the scuffling of feet or snapping of dry twigs as we walk. Every so often, volunteers call back and forth to each other, and rescue dogs exploring the same vicinity that we are will bark. But there are no bird calls, no sounds of scampering squirrels. We’re told that there is very little wildlife in Jukai. Nothing seems to flourish here but trees.

This deep into the woods, any roads and cleared paths are gone. At times, we’re forced to climb to a higher ledge or slide down steep slopes to proceed, and there’s always some root or rock hiding to twist an ankle.

And yet—­the forest is beautiful. I like myself too much to seriously think about suicide, even during my old bouts of depression, but I can understand why people would choose to die here. There is something noble and enduring and magnificent about the forest.

That sense of wonder disappears though, the instant I see them. There are spirits here. And the ghosts mar the peacefulness for me. They hang from branches and loiter at the base of tree trunks. Their eyes are open and their skin is gray, and they watch me as I pass. I don’t know what kind of people they were in life, but they seem faded and insignificant in death.

Okiku watches them but takes no action. These are not the people she hunts. They don’t attack us because they’re not that kind of ghosts. Most of them, I intuit, aren’t violent. The only lives they had ever been capable of taking were their own.

I’m not afraid, despite their bloated faces, contorted from the ropes they use to hang themselves or the overdose of sleeping pills they’ve taken. If anything, I feel lingering sadness. I can sympathize with their helpless anguish. These people took their own lives, hoping to find some meaning in death when they couldn’t find it in life. But there’s nothing here but regret and longing.

And there’s that tickle again, so light it is nearly imperceptible. Something in this forest attracts these deaths. It lures its unhappy victims with its strange siren’s call and then, having taken what it needs, leaves their spirits to rot. A Venus flytrap for human souls.

Something is wrong here, and suddenly, the forest no longer looks as enticing or majestic as when we arrived.

 

Praise for the Suffering:

 

“Rin Chupeco’s The Suffering is a horror lover’s dream: murders, possessed dolls, and desiccated corpses. I cringed. I grimaced. You won’t soon forget this exorcist and his vengeful water ghost.”

–Kendare Blake, author of Anna Dressed in Blood

 

“Chupeco deftly combines ancient mysticism with contemporary dilemmas that teens face, immersing readers in horrors both supernatural and manmade. The Suffering is a chilling swim through the murky waters of morality.”

–Carly Anne West, author of The Bargaining and The Murmuring

Summary:

 

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24789796-the-suffering?from_search=true&search_version=service_impr

Buy Links:

Amazon- http://ow.ly/PrKxL

Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/PrKLh

Books A Million- http://ow.ly/PrL7j

iBooks- http://ow.ly/PrLCI

!ndigo- http://ow.ly/PrLOZ

Indiebound- http://ow.ly/PrLXu

 

About the Author:

Despite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living. Connect with Rin at www.rinchupeco.com.

Social Networking Links:

Website: http://www.rinchupeco.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RinChupeco

 

 

New in Paperback from this Author: The Girl From The Well

Praise for The Girl From The Well:

“[A] Stephen King-like horror story.” -Kirkus Reviews

 

“Told in a marvelously disjointed fashion.”  -Publishers Weekly STARRED Review

 

“This gorgeously written story reads like poetry.” -Brazos Bookstore

 

“Darkly mesmerizing.” -The Boston Globe

 

“A superior creep factor that is pervasive in every lyrical word.” -Booklis

Summary:

The Ring  meets The Exorcist in this haunting and lyrical reimagining of the Japanese fable.

Okiku has wandered the world for hundreds of years, setting free the spirits of murdered children. Wherever there’s a monster hurting a child, her spirit is there to deliver punishment. Such is her existence, until the day she discovers a troubled American teenager named Tark and the dangerous demon that writhes beneath his skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. Tark needs to be freed, but there is one problem—if the demon dies, so does its host.

With the vigilante spirit Okiku as his guide, Tark is drawn deep into a dark world of sinister doll rituals and Shinto exorcisms that will take him far from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Japan. Can Okiku protect him from the demon within or will her presence bring more harm? The answer lies in the depths of a long-forgotten well

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25263927-the-girl-from-the-well

Buy Links:

Amazon- http://ow.ly/PrQwE

Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/PrQFa

Books A Million- http://ow.ly/PrQQU

iBooks- http://ow.ly/PrR6c

!ndigo- http://ow.ly/PrRlE

Indiebound- http://ow.ly/PrQp2

Until next time,

Bruce