The Curse of the Wendigo

The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick YanceyThe Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
The Monstrumologist # 2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages: 424
My copy: paperback, bought from Bestsellers

While attempting to disprove that Homo vampiris, the vampire, could exist, Dr. Warthrop is asked by his former fiancee to rescue her husband from the Wendigo, a creature that starves even as it gorges itself on human flesh, which has snatched him in the Canadian wilderness. Although Warthrop also considers the Wendigo to be fictitious, he relents and rescues her husband from death and starvation, and then sees the man transform into a Wendigo. Can the doctor and Will Henry hunt down the ultimate predator, who, like the legendary vampire, is neither living nor dead, whose hunger for human flesh is never satisfied? This second book in The Monstrumologist series explores the line between myth and reality, love and hate, genius and madness.

* * *

I only really read The Monstrumologist last month because I got into this agreement with Aaron and Tricia that I will read the second book with them. What is it with me scaring myself silly all of a sudden, yes? I don’t know, either. If it were up to me, I would probably wait another year to read the next book in this series to give me (more than) enough recovery time. But because I can be such a pushover sometimes, I gave in and read The Curse of the Wendigo soon after I finished the first book, even if my nerves were still slightly wracked from all the Halloween scare and I was busy with NaNoWriMo.

So, The Curse of the Wendigo is the second book in The Monstrumologist series, and it features the older Will Henry’s journals, specifically folios 4-6. Here we find another adventure of Will Henry with his mentor, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop. Warthrop receives a letter that his mentor is about to make a statement in the next gathering of all monstrumologists that they were to include “supernatural” creatures in the roster of monsters that they know — creatures such as vampires, werewolves and the like. Warthrop adamantly believes that they do not exist, and was enraged to hear about this. As he was preparing for his rebuttal, a beautiful lady comes knocking at their door — it was Muriel Chanler, Warthrop’s old friend and ex-fiance. She asks for Warthrop’s help: her husband and his old friend John Chanler had gone hunting for the mythical Wendigo and had gone missing. Despite Warthrop’s misgivings about his old friend’s hunt for this creature, he goes out to bring him back, even if only to give him a proper burial if he is really dead. Will Henry, the ever loyal apprentice, tags along, and finds himself in another sort of horrific world that tests his loyalty and his beliefs in things such as love, hate and friendship.

I will come out and say it right now: if I really liked The Monstrumologist, I think I loved The Curse of the Wendigo more. The second book in the series gives us a bigger view the world that Will Henry lived in. The first book was really more on what monstrumology is, and how Will Henry has come to lived in such a world. It focuses more on how humans aren’t really at the top of the food chain and we can just be hunted as any other animal out there. There was a certain distance with the horror that the first book can give: at the end of the book, it never became really personal for Will Henry, much less for the doctor. It was, for them, another day’s work. There were casualties, but it was still work.

The Curse of the Wendigo makes things more personal, especially for the doctor. Rick Yancey excels in making Pellinore Warthrop’s character shine in this book. The first book tells us about his chosen profession, the second book told us all about his life: how he wanted to be a poet (!!!), how he was almost married, how he had a friend, how he lost both the love of his life and his friend when he made a choice. I always thought Warthrop was this old man who was passionate about the odd things, but in the second book, I saw him as an entirely different person. First impressions show Warthrop as a cold and scientific man, but here we see him as a real person capable of caring, loving and loyal even up to the end, to the point of dismissing everything that everyone is telling him.

The horror level in this book is also almost entirely different from its predecessor. I felt that the anthropophagi in the first book were considered as animals, but here, the wendigo is really more of a psycho killer that was out for revenge. The crime scenes were more a notch more brutal, almost downright disgusting. If I did not know that the book was set in the 1880’s, I would have thought it fit a modern murder mystery story. Not that it’s a bad thing — it made getting immersed in the story easier for me (although perhaps it was just because of all the CSI episodes I watched). Yancey writes the entire story of hunting the wendigo (and also, not hunting the wendigo) with excellent pacing that it came to a point that I cannot put the book down.

But the best part of this book for me really is how much we see of Warthrop here. I have to go back to that because that’s really the strength of this book. I don’t think this would count as a fictional crush, but it’s really more of the admiration of how strong and weak and broken a character can be. I also really liked that we see everything through Will Henry’s eyes, and through all that, we see that the doctor is not the cold and purely scientific man from the first impression. The tender moment at the end of the sixth folio was enough to induce tears, and I would have shed them if I did not finish the book while I was commuting. When I finished the book, I had zero doubt that Pellinore Warthrop thought of Will Henry like a son, and it kind of hurts to wonder what will happen to them by the twelfth folio.

I thought The Curse of the Wendigo is even better than The Monstrumologist, and it is one of the best books I’ve read in 2011. Once again I am very glad I allowed myself to be “bullied” into reading this. I promise, though, that I don’t have to be bullied to read the third book. Once the paperback is released (because all my series books must match), I will definitely read it without waiting for someone to push me into starting it. ;)

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
Good Books and Good Wine

Reviews of other books in The Monstrumologist series:
# 1: The Monstrumologist

One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four…and Five

I still have about four books left on my backlog of reviews (more to add soon, I think), but because I do not want to bore you all with just those posts, let’s do a combo breaker and answer this meme I got from Chachic, Janice, Angie and Nomes. :)

I should be writing my novel but you know how I love procrastinating sometimes? Maybe next year I should be a NaNoRebel and write a year’s worth of blog posts (or something like that) for NaNoWriMo. Hm.

The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey     Hallowed by Cynthia Hand     The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

1. Book I am currently reading:
The Curse of the Wendigo
by Rick Yancey. I was semi-bullied into reading this (haha, hi, Aaron and Tricia!), but if they did not do that, I probably would not have started reading this anytime soon. I really liked The Monstrumologist so jumping in to this one soon enough after reading that was actually a good idea because the characters were still fresh to me. So far this has been creepier than the first book, but also quite funny and sometimes heartwarming.

Also, Hallowed by Cynthia Hand (!!!). :) Got this from Netgalley and I’m reading it slow so I would get all the Tucker goodness. Seriously, if you ever read a paranormal romance novel ever again, pick Unearthly. It’s very, very good.

2. Last book I finished:
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. Thanks to Pinoy Book Tours for having this on hand and squeezing me in the tour. :D

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos     Fury by Shirley Marr    Protection for Hire by Camy Tang

3. Next book I want to read:
Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos. I just got this my TBR, and it’s been calling out to me for a while. Hmm. Although I think I may have to read a classic novel to finish some challenges, but I really want something comforting amidst the novel writing stress. So let’s see. :)

4. Last book I bought:
Fury by Shirley Marr. My friend Katia went to Sydney last October and because we know Australian books are just awesome, I asked if she could get me a copy of this. And she found me one. :) Yay. As expected, it was expensive, but it’s not everyday I get to buy a book from Australia. :)

5. Last book I was given:
Protection for Hire by Camy Tang. Okay this one I got from Netgalley too, but since I am on the author’s street team (you should join it, too), I knew about this way back and was expecting to receive an ebook review for this. :) Plus, I got an email that Zondervan has auto-approved me as a reviewer in Netgalley. I’m not sure if everyone gets that, but it’s nice to get that email. :) I cannot wait to read Camy’s newest book.

The Monstrumologist

The Monstrumologist by Rick YanceyThe Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
The Monstrumologist # 1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages: 454
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for nearly ninety years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me.

So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphan and assistant to a doctor with a most unusual specialty: monster hunting. In the short time he has lived with the doctor, Will has grown accustomed to his late night callers and dangerous business. But when one visitor comes with the body of a young girl and the monster that was eating her, Will’s world is about to change forever. The doctor has discovered a baby Anthropophagus—a headless monster that feeds through a mouth in its chest—and it signals a growing number of Anthropophagi. Now, Will and the doctor must face the horror threatening to overtake and consume our world before it is too late.

* * *

The main reason I bought The Monstrumologist last year was because of the cover. I thought it had a very good and creepy design, and the title’s font made it seem like someone was whispering it to you — “The Monstrumologist“. I didn’t really know what it was about, but I relied on the Printz medallion on the cover and believed it was good. Every time I see this on my shelf I felt like someone was whispering to me, but I never got around to reading it for so many reasons. When Aaron read it and said it was “…the type of book that should come with a warning: Caution: Not for the faint heart or weak stomach – that sort of thing”, I put it down further my TBR, thinking I’ll read it when I’m ready because I am so not the one who goes for gore. But alas, I’m pretty easy to bully when it comes to reading, so when my October Required Reading came around, I had no choice but to put this on my reading list.

You’d think The Monstrumologist is a pretty easy-peasy not-so-scary YA novel about monsters. You’d think. Twelve-year-old Will Henry is left orphaned after his parents died in a fire, and he was taken in by his dad’s employer, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop. Warthrop is not an ordinary doctor —  he is a monstrumologist. Warthrop is self-absorbed, often buried in his work and has young Will Henry at his beck and call. One night, a grave digger arrives at their doorstep bringing the most curious package: the cold remains of a young girl that is being devoured by a very terrifying and a very dead monster. It was an Anthropophagus: a monster shaped like a human but with no head, mouth on its stomach and black eyes on its shoulders. Anthropophagi feed on human flesh, but that is not the most curious thing that got the doctor wondering. Anthropophagi are native in Africa, so finding one in New Jerusalem was the singular curiosity — never mind that finding scary man-eating monsters was already the strangest thing for young Will Henry. Now it is up to the doctor and Will Henry (and some “friends” — and I use the term loosely) to figure out how these man-eating monsters got there, and to stop them before they go on an eating spree.

Aaron‘s review got me preparing for the worst for this book. Seeing that I’m such a big chicken, I was all set to read this in broad daylight. As luck would had it, I ended up reading this while I was on the Alabat Island trip with my Goodreads friends. Not that it’s bad, but because the part of Quezon province we visited wasn’t exactly an urban area. While it wasn’t completely rural (we did sleep on foam mattresses after all), it was still a quiet place with lots of trees, especially when we were on our way to and back from the beach. And it was dark, very dark at night. Somewhere during those trips there, I realize that it may be a bit of a bad decision to read this book while I was there. The Monstrumologist isn’t scary in the way ghost books are scary. It doesn’t really give that spine tingling feeling, or the type that makes me want to sleep with the lights on. Instead, The Monstrumologist gave me that creepy look-over-your-shoulder feeling after. While it did not make my spine tingle like how Paranormal Activity 3 did after I watched it, it did make me look over my shoulder a few times. I knew in my heart that this is all fiction, but a little voice at the back of my head was asking, “What if it is real?”

The Monstrumologist is a very vivid and well-written gothic horror novel and I have never been more captivated by a book like this. It was creepy scary all right, but it was so good that I could not stop reading it even if it was in a dark and moving jeep (while everyone was telling scary stories). Despite my misgivings and initial hesitation, I actually ended up loving this book. To say it was well-written is an understatement. It was extremely well written. The story was basically being told in from the point of view of the older Will Henry recalling memories of those scary nights, there was excellent foreshadowing and it made me fear for what could happen to the story. I remember having to stop a couple of times to take a breather or to shudder and squirm at how gory some parts were. But it wasn’t just pointless gore — the story was quite engaging as well.  The characters were very fleshed out, and I especially loved the relationship between Will Henry and the doctor. It was strained, but also I think they were just having a hard time showing how important they were to one another. I especially liked the last scene in the book, and if you’ve read it, I think you will also find it a bit heartwarming.

I think The Monstrumologist would fare very well not just a book but also as a movie. I could clearly imagine the final chase scenes of the book as a motion picture. Like I said, I’m not a fan of anything horror, but The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey may just have made my best of 2011 list. :) And it’s so good that I am actually reading the next book in the series (but this is because I got semi-bullied into reading it :P).

One final anecdote: soon after I finished reading this book, the electricity at home went out. I found myself straining to hear the hiss of the Anthropophagus in the silence and total darkness of the night. If that is not an effect of a great novel, than I do not know what is. If you haven’t read The Monstrumologist, well, snap to!

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – October

Other reviews:
Guy Gone Geek
The Book Smugglers
Good Books and Good Wine
Forever Young Adult

Breathe

Breathe by Cliff McNishBreathe by Cliff McNish
McArthur & Co, 232 pages

Jack is used to danger. His asthma has nearly killed him more than once. But his new home has a danger he’s never known before — the spirits of the dead.

The can’t breathe.

But in Jack’s house, they can chase, hide, scream.

Only Jack can see them. Only he can hear them. And only he can learn their secrets in time to save his mother — and himself…

I may be one of the biggest scaredy-cats in the world, or at least, among my group of friends. I know this doesn’t make sense when it comes to my love for all things zombie. I like all the shambling, brain-moaning creatures, but when it comes to ghosts and other supernatural stuff? I cower under my covers. When I was a kid I used to like scaring myself silly by watching those Halloween specials that all local TV shows air during those times and no fail, I always end up being too scared to sleep for at least a week after watching those shows. I finally got to the point where I told myself to stop — no more scary TV shows, no more scary anything, especially if I will lose sleep over it!

So to be totally honest, I was kind of apprehensive with my Required Reading challenge for October, given my state of being a chicken. :P But of course, what is a challenge if you don’t challenge yourself, right?

The thing that really got me to buy Breathe by Cliff McNish is the fact that the main character, Jack, has asthma. I’m an asthmatic, too, so reading about characters who have the same condition brings me comfort because I could relate to them1. Jack’s asthma attacks seem to be more dangerous than the ones I’ve been having lately, though, bad enough to almost kill him. It doesn’t help that his dad recently passed away. In an effort to stop him from stressing out or getting lonely, Jack and his mom moved out and into an old farmhouse, where they hope to find peace and quiet.

But instead of finding peace and quiet, they find something else. Little did they know that the farmhouse was haunted by four ghosts, all children, whose spirits can’t seem to leave the house Jack finds that he has the ability to sense who had lived in the house before, and to the ghost children’s surprise, he could actually see them. This makes Jack extremely curious to the point of triggering his asthma, but then he discovers that there is something more sinister living in the house, and only he has the power to save himself and his mother.

Like I said, I’m a big scaredy-cat, so I made it a point to read Breathe in broad daylight. The first few chapters of the book were creepy and the illustrations at the start of each chapter gave my imagination enough fuel to see practically the entire chapter. McNish’s writing is very vivid — it was easy to slip into the world he created and actually see the house and the characters. I admit to being spooked for the first few chapters (but then again, it may be just because I’m easily frightened), but I grew comfortable with it later on. Jack’s asthma attacks were also very accurate — and also really scary, in the actual physical sense because I know I could also experience something like that. The extreme measures he and his mom had to go through just to make sure his lungs would behave is something akin to what my mom used to do when I was younger. I’m really, really hoping my asthma won’t escalate to anything similar.

You know now that I think about it, it’s not really that scary. However, I think I can attribute that to the fact that the story is really quite linear. Somewhere early into the book, we already know who the real villain is, and a little bit of why. The other reasons and the story were gradually revealed, but by then it feels almost like a typical ghost story. While I’d really rather not read ghost stories, I still want for a twist that will leave my mouth hanging open in the end, at least to thrill the reader in me.

Breathe still manages to have a heart-warming moment somewhere in the end, which earns it more points for me. I liked how the Nightmare Realm (the place where spirits go when they don’t go to the “light”) is described, and how one of the ghost kids finds some kind of peace there. The actual ending was wrapped nicely and I think it would leave readers with pretty much a good sense of completeness that stand-alone novels can give. (Except if you decide to nitpick, like me. But I can’t offer another ending, so I should stop doing that :D)

Breathe by Cliff McNish may not fare so much with people who really love ghost stories (or who take delight in being scared), but for a casual reader (or for someone who doesn’t really like getting scared), it’s a pretty good novel. The first aid lessons for an asthma attack are a plus, too. This is my first Cliff McNish, but I think it won’t be my last. Now, are his other books scary, too?

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – October

My copy: paperback, bought from Bestsellers Galleria

Other reviews:
Goodreads

  1. If you want to know how it is to have an asthma attack, try breathing through a straw. Hard, right? :P []

Required Reading: October

So another month passes us by. I think I had a grand time reading my Required Reading books for September, because they were all so good. Don’t you like it when you have a good reading month? Here’s a recap:

  • The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians # 2) by Rick Riordan – One word: Tyson! :) I loved his character, and this book reminded me of how fun the first book was.
  • The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking # 2) by Patrick Ness – Ah, this book. I thought The Knife of Never Letting Go was more emotional, but this one was just as good. And intense! And dark! It has that Mockingjay vibe and it makes me wonder: if the second book was already intense, what more for the third?
  • The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta – I wanted to give Tom Mackee a big hug, just like everyone else who’s read this wants to. It’s so nice to get back to reading these characters I loved in Saving Francesca.

Required Reading: OctoberSo October. This means one thing: Halloween. And because of that, this means there is only one theme I can choose for this month: horror.

I’m not a fan of horror, and my friends can attest to that. I’m a big scaredy-cat. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from telling ghost stories sometimes…but anyway. There was this time when I used to watch some local news program’s Halloween special, and I always get terribly scared after that. :-s As in can’t sleep with the lights off scared. And running back to bed from the bathroom when I need to pee in the middle of the night scared.

But sometimes it’s fun to be deliciously scared… so I will dare to read horror stuff this month. Not as hardcore as my other friends, of course. :D

I have a feeling I’m going to regret this at some point during this month, though.

But on to the list!

  • The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
  • Breathe by Cliff McNish (yay for asthmatic characters!)
  • The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell (optional)

I know the word “optional” defies the “required” aspect of this challenge, but I am putting that there because I will also attempt to read the A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin this month, and have you seen how thick that book is? So I’ll see if I can still squeeze in Alden Bell’s book in my readings this month. :)