Book: Horns

"Horns"

Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician, the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star. Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more–he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone–raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances–and Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, he was and always would be guilty.

Now Ig is possessed of horns, and a terrible new power–he can hear people’s deepest, darkest secrets–to go with his terrible new look. He means to use it to find whoever killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due.

It’s wonderful. It’s amazing. It’s… It’s more than I expected. And I already had expectations, after reading the equally astounding N0S4A2.

Knowing Joe Hill’s background, I always assumed I wouldn’t like his works. See, while I respect Stephen King and I love his premises, I was never a fan of his writing. I don’t know why. So when I picked up N0S4A2 before, it was with trepidation. After all, Joe Hill was being hailed as someone who is carrying on his father’s legacy. I was wary. But I ended up liking his style of writing. Horns, my second foray into Joe Hill’s world of horrors, cements the fact that he is not like his father at all.

Yes, he has Stephen King’s knack for creating a mythology so complete that anything that happens within the story is unquestionable. But in their handling of words, I would lean to Hill as being the more accessible one. Maybe because he has a younger voice, and has a better hold on how readers now take in words. But that can’t be true, right? After all, Stephen King continues to be widely read. More widely read than his son, if you think about it. But this is a topic that’s separate from Horns, and this is a post about said book, so let’s get on with the discussion.

Horns is a book of ironies: the devil performs miracles, while the good guy is awarded horns. And what I like about the book is that it plays with these ironies, it explores these characters, and we are not spoon-fed information about why something is happening. Things happen. Shit happens. And everything is taken in stride. The story is messy. Realistically messy. Nothing feels preordained, even when you think you know where the story is finally going.

I loved how Hill presented Ig as someone who doesn’t see himself as a good guy. He is presented as the most hated man in their community. And yet, as we get to know him, page by page, we decide for ourselves who Ig really is. That he isn’t the devil he’s being painted out to be.

And I love how Hill tackles the idea of people doing things that aren’t the things they want to do; that their innermost voice can say vicious things while presenting a virtuous front. It’s the idea of identity, and how we consciously shape how other people see us. And what happens when that ability, to create our own identity, is taken away from us.

Horns tells the story of Ig, but at one point in life or another, Ig has been us. Subjected to judgment by the court of public opinions. Given a verdict without the proper trial. And all we can do is to keep on keeping on. To live our lives despite what other people are saying. To give the effect of not being affected, while doing our best to set things right–to set us right.

Horns is a study of people at their most base form: as creatures who want to be liked.

Suffice to say, I loved the book and I think people who share my taste would too. If you find yourself agreeing with most of my reviews here at the blog, then this book is probably for you too.

But, if you need more opinions, then why not check these blogs out:
The Write Place
The Horror Hotel
Empires and Mangers

Book: Frozen Heat

"Frozen Heat"

NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat gets more mystery than she imagined when she arrives at her latest crime scene. The body of an unidentified woman has been found stabbed to death and stuffed inside a suitcase left sitting in a freezer truck. A startling enough death, but an even bigger shock comes when this new homicide surprisingly connects to the unsolved murder of Detective Heat’s own mother. Killed gruesomly, the Jane Doe on ice launches Heat on a dangerous and emotional investigation, rekindling the cold case that has haunted her since she was nineteen. Paired once again with her romantic and investigative partner, top journalist Jameson Rook, Heat works to solve the mystery of the body in the suitcase while she also digs into unexplored areas of her mother’s background–areas Nikkie has been afraid to confront before, but now must.

Facing relentless danger as someone targets her for the next kill, Heat’s search will unearth painful family truths, expose a startling hidden life, and cause Nikkie to reexamine her own past. Heat’s passionate quest takes her and Rook from the back alleys of Manhattan to the avenues of Paris, trying to catch a ruthless killer. The question is, now that ther mother’s cold case has unexpectedly thawed, will Nikki Heat finally be able to solve the dark mystery that has been her demon for more than ten years?

The title of this novel is very apt. It’s frozen, and it takes time (and some chapters) before it completely thaws. Once it does though, it definitely takes you for a ride. But first, a detour.

I haven’t been a very good fan of Castle, the television series, for a couple of years now. Work has me tangled up in a lot of things, and my viewing habits suffered a little. Not that I’m complaining about the work. I love what I do. It does create an interesting predicament for me with regards to Frozen Heat though.

See, most of my complaints about the Nikki Heat novels is that they read too much like an episode of Castle. In some cases, events in the show also appear in the novels. And with a cast of characters that are very similar in both medium, it’s really hard to distinguish one from the other. And I have been wondering what the point is in providing new content when it’s a retread of what was already shown.

Of course, because I haven’t been watching Castle regularly for two seasons now, I have no idea if that’s the case for Frozen Heat. I do know for sure though that the new person in-charge of the precinct in the show is nothing like the one in the novel, but that’s just one difference. That’s pretty much the only thing I can say to compare the two nowadays.

On Frozen Heat alone though, I have more.

Now, as I already mentioned, the novel starts our at glacier pace. Well, no. Not really. But because it starts much like most mystery novels do, it feels glacier-like for me. There’s nothing new. And, once again, it reads too much like a novelization of a Castle episode–even if it’s one I haven’t seen.

That is, until they take the show on the road–and, in one case, overseas. That’s when things become interesting.

In Frozen Heat, we delve deeper into the mystery of Nikki Heat’s mother. Parts of the mystery mirror events that happen in the show, but I think this is finally where the novel separates itself from its source material. And I’m loving it.

As we unravel the death of Cynthia Heat, we also get a new look at who Nikki is as a person. And while past Nikki Heat novels has her pretty much being a printed copy of Kate Beckett, the one we get to know in Frozen Heat is someone new, someone different. And as the case blows open, we are introduced to a new arc that I hope will carry on (and get solved) in the next novel.

Another thing I loved about the latest book is the development of new characters introduced in Heat Rises. These character don’t exist in the show, for budgetary reasons I’m presuming, which is great for the novel because it adds to the series’s identity.

I must say, this is the first time I’m actually looking forward to the next Nikki Heat novel. Let’s check out if I’m the only one who is:
If You Like Books
Book Him Danno!
Doux Reviews

Book: Moonlight Masquerade

"Moonlight Masquerade"

After being abruptly jilted, Sophie Kincaid flees to the place her friend Kim Aldredge calls heaven on earth. But Sophie’s first taste of Edilean is far from heavenly: after her car breaks down on a country road, she is nearly run over by a speeding sports car. A small act of revenge brings satisfaction, and word quickly spreads that a gorgeous newcomer gave the driver, the notoriously bitter Dr. Reede Aldredge, a dressing down! But it isn’t the first time the fiery artist has gone too far for payback; a secret possession she carries with her could shatter her ex-boyfriend’s future. Reede Aldredge has secrets, too, including a desire to get closer to the beauty who is turning his dark world upside down. Under the night skies, their masquerade is magic–but will it turn to dust by the light of day?

Magic definitely turned to dust with this latest romance novel by Jude Deveraux.

Now, I think it’s no secret that I’ve been following Jude Deveraux’s romance novels. Heck, she’s the only romance author I’ve been reading so far for this blog. Save for Kristin Hannah that one time. So it saddens me to say that I am extremely disappointed with Moonlight Masquerade.

Oh, it starts out good enough. Jude Deveraux is still a great writer for easy-reading. But it’s the plotting and the pacing that’s gotten sloppy.

Romance novels usually end one way: with a happy ending. Sometimes, they’re open-ended enough that a second or third book might be in order. With this trilogy, Jude Deveraux gives enough of an ending for the first two books that you don’t long for more. Unfortunately, she has overdone it a little for this last book.

In Moonlight Masquerade, we get one fully-formed heroine in Sophie. Reede is a little too cut-out for my taste, but he has more character in him than Travis from Stranger in the Moonlight, definitely. Unfortunately, those are the only two good things I can say about this book.

Let’s list down the bad:

Number one: we have meddlesome characters who push the story forward because the story doesn’t want to move on its own. That, I feel, is lazy writing. Especially for someone like Jude Deveraux who I don’t remember having to resort to such tricks before.

Number two: the love story doesn’t sweep you off your feet. Jecca and Tristan, from the first book, had the love that defied what was expected. Kim and Travis, from the second book, had the love that was deep-rooted. In Moonlight Masquerade, Sophie and Reede had a love that made them miserable. How are you supposed to feel romantic after that?

Number three–which, I think now, should have come after number one–we have way too many characters to care about. There’s Carter, the ex-boyfriend, there’s the robbers, and then a guy named Henry who appears out of nowhere. I mean, come on. Are they really that important to the story? Well, Carter, maybe. But the others?

Number four: too many subplots. Isn’t this a romance novel about the love story of Sophie and Reede? Then why do they disappear at times? Why do we have to find out what’s happening to them through the eyes of other people who are better off in the background? And what the heck was up with Sophie starting a sandwich shop?! Really? What did that add to the story? Aside from the excuse it gives Sophie to stay in Edilean for a few weeks more? It reeks of deus ex machina.

And number five: a forced happy ending. There’s nothing less romantic than compromise. It’s a reality of life, yes, but isn’t that what we’re supposed to escape when we dive into books like this? We don’t want reality! We want true love! We want passion! We want to see two characters so in love that they would do anything in their power to be with each other! Compromise can work–but did we really need to see how miserable they were with their compromise?

And the novel had the gall to cite The Gift of the Magis! That short story worked because the sacrifice the two characters made didn’t make them miserable. It made them better people, and made them appreciate each other more. If that was the intent for Sophie and Reede, it did not translate.

I could probably go on and on about what I didn’t like about this book. But I’ll stop there. Instead, let’s see if other people felt the same way as I did–or if they saw something in it that I didn’t:
Oh Damn Books
Wakena Runen’s World
Fresh Fiction

Book: The Knife of Never Letting Go

"The Knife of Never Letting Go" by Patrick NessTodd Hewitt is the last boy in Pretisstown. But Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.

Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him.

And now he’s going to have to run…

This is one of those books that everyone keeps recommending, but I never really found the desire to read—much less, buy. But whilst killing time at the mall, I found myself being drawn to the bookstore. And though I still had around a dozen books left to read, and an Ilustrado that’s still waiting for me to finish reading it (and maybe because of this), I decided to give The Knife of Never Letting Go a chance. This time, learning from the Twilight mistake, I only bought the first book from the Chaos Walking trilogy.

After the first couple of chapters, I was happy with my decision not to buy the second and third book—because I found the story absolutely boring. I did not love The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Well, not at the beginning anyway. The author’s choice of storytelling was confusing and infuriating.

And then there was no Noise.

And then there was a girl.

And then, I understood.

The way Patrick Ness, the author, structured the story is for the reader to discover the secrets at the same time as the protagonist. Infuriating, as I said earlier, but it made for compelling storytelling—once we got to the part where something actually starts happening, when Todd first encounters the gap in the Noise. Prior to that though? I was ready to strangle Todd myself.

As the story commences though, it becomes tough to put the book down. You wouldn’t want to. Because the world Patrick Ness creates, a real New World if there ever was one, is so complete, so real that you can’t help but picture yourself in it.

No, it doesn’t have minute descriptions of the moss that grows on the rocks that our protagonists pass by. But the atmosphere created by the way our hero describes how he feels about everything, about the new things he’s seeing, it’s enough to create the world. You fill in the blanks with your own experience of the world we’re in.

And for me, that’s better than describing the texture, the color, and the other what-nots. Because by letting us, the readers, color in the world, we’re giving part of ourselves to the story. We’re becoming part of the story. And that in itself, I think, makes the book engrossing for a reader.

And that feeling of connection, how to book draws you in into its world, is enough for me to recommend this book to anyone looking for anything to read. Seriously.

I’m not going to write about how well-written the story is, or how I’m not a fan of the spelling that Mr. Ness employs for the dialogues. I think that’s been done enough by other people who’ve read the book and written about it before me.

I’m basing my recommendation on the fact that The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the most engrossing books I’ve ever read.

Still, if you’re the type of person who wants a review, here are some blogs where people actually do a review:
Dodging Commas
District YA
Chachic’s Book Nook