Unseen Moon

Unseen Moon by Eliza VictoriaUnseen Moon by Eliza Victoria
Publisher: Independent/Print-on-demand
Number of pages: 220
My copy: ebook review copy from the author

Ghosts in a mansion. A home invasion. A group of friends haunted by a murder. An unlikely friendship, a dead body in an abandoned house. A girl falling to her death, and another falling into the viewless darkness.

Unseen Moon collects five suspenseful stories by award-winning author Eliza Victoria.

* * *

When Eliza Victoria sent me an email about sending a review copy of her newest book, I couldn’t say no. Note that I’m not really a fan of dark fiction, or horror or suspense, but this is Eliza, guys. I read her stuff and liked it, even if they’re not the usual things I go for. I’m not really one for scaring myself, but I make certain exceptions especially when the author just writes really, really well.

Unseen Moon is Eliza’s newest collection that contains several of her short stories, most of them never been published in print. They’re part horror, lots of crime and suspense…and well, lots of dead bodies. Like her other works, the stories are well-written and I think they are exactly what she intended them to be — dark. Sometimes, a bit too bloody. But definitely dark. Here’s a mini-review of each of the stories, and my rating for them.

Needle Rain (3/5) – This is the story of Cleofe, Cedric, Brian and Emily, their friendship and the murder that happened in their town. For some reason, this story felt distinctly Filipino. The combination of the small town, hanging out with friends in the afternoon while eating, and the storms that raged in the story reminded me of my own younger years, where I would work on projects at home while a storm happened outside and it was only a matter of minutes before the house is plunged in darkness because the storm caused a power interruption. Of course, that’s the only thing that I related to in this story. :P Needle Rain comes off as a murder mystery story at first, and then it spirals into something else. I was quite prepared to be scared at first, but in the end I felt more sad. If only the characters were wiser, then it wouldn’t have turned out that way.

The Ghosts of Sinagtala (4/5) – This is a story of Ben and Emma, who inherited a mansion from their grandparents that had a dark history. Oh what a creepy, creepy story. Tricia was tweeting about this when she read it first, so I knew well enough to read this in broad daylight. And even then, I still got terribly creeped out. This is my favorite in the book, and I really liked the connection between the mansion’s past to Ben and Emma. This is the story that successfully made me not want to go out of my room at night to get a glass of water because I was afraid to find a little girl crying in the darkness. O_o

Summer Evening (2/5) – Twins Amarilis and Carlos were left behind by their older brother, Nathan, to his ex-girlfriend, Alicia, because he had a job to do. The twins hate Alicia, so when two guys entered their house to do something to her, they turned their backs. I wasn’t really a big fan of this because it felt too violent for me, and it kind of took me by surprise. That, and there was just something a little too disturbing with the characters — perhaps I just refused to believe that they are capable of what they are doing in the story? It’s still well-written, though, and the ending kind of made me want to wring one of the characters’ necks, but this was one story that I kind of wanted to end quickly because the events made me just a bit queasy.

December (3/5) – Gabriel makes an unlikely friend in an orphan named December, who has her own issues with the people around her. A dead body in an abandoned mansion, a dead body in the lake and lots of music form the core of this story. This one sort of reminds me of Summer Evening, but it was less violent and a little more melancholic than the previous story. In some ways it was a little bit disturbing, but I was able to sympathize with the two main characters in the story more than I did for the previous story.

The Viewless Dark (4/5) – I read this back in October 2012 and I really liked it. I didn’t exactly reread all of it when I read this book again. I still read parts of it, though, and felt the same chill I had when I first read it, and felt the same attachment to the characters, both dead and alive. I think this is a good story to end this collection.

Overall, Unseen Moon is another good collection of Eliza’s stories. It’s not as scary as I expected (except for The Ghosts of Sinagtala – remembering several scenes still gives me the creeps), but it was really quite dark. This collection is a little bit more similar to Lower Myths than A Bottle of Storm Clouds, sans the paranormal aspect. If you want to get to know Eliza’s works but you’re not a huge fan of anything that is out of the normal world, then Unseen Moon might be the right Eliza book for you. If you’ve read Eliza’s other works and you want more, then you won’t want to miss this one. :)

The ebook edition of Unseen Moon is available via Smashwords right now (four stories only, since the ebook edition of The Viewless Dark is available via Flipreads), but if you’re a print person, you can pre-order a print copy of Unseen Moon until May 10 through Eliza’s blog. An excerpt of the stories is also posted in the same blog entry.

Rating:

In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Publisher: Vintage Books
Number of pages:  343
My copy: ebook

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

Five years, four months and twenty-nine days later, on April 14, 1965, Richard Eugene Hickock, aged thirty-three, and Perry Edward Smith, aged thirty-six, were hanged from the crime on a gallows in a warehouse in the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, Kansa.

In Cold Blood is the story of the lives and deaths of these six people. It has already been hailed as a masterpiece.

* * *

I love watching crime shows, but I only really like watching fictional ones. Any crime show or documentary that is “based on a true story” automatically creeps me out. I can do a marathon of CSI all day, but when someone tells me that someone near us was robbed or a friend of a friend of a friend is killed, I automatically shut my ears because I don’t want to imagine it happening to the people I care for. Case in point: there was a time when I learned that our neighbor was robbed, and for the next week, I slept with a scissor beside my bed (not a wise thing, actually) because I was afraid that someone would get in our house and do the same thing to us. I figure the scissor is a good enough weapon, right?

So I’m not really sure why I voted for In Cold Blood by Truman Capote when we had our poll for our September 2012 book. I guess I was swayed by the good reviews on the book, plus it seemed the most interesting among the choices. I guess I also totally forgot about that certain part of my paranoid childhood until I started reading the book.

In Cold Blood is Truman Capote’s account of the murder of the Clutter family in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas by Richard Hickock and Perry Smith. It’s not really a simple account of the murder told in a boring old non-fiction narrative. This is classified ascreative nonfiction so it read like a novel, and instead of just focusing on the murders, we are given a peek into the lives of the accused, their trial, up until their execution five years later.

Here’s the thing with In Cold Blood: it reads like any other crime novel until you do a little research and realize/remember that the characters in this book were actually real people. I was really just enjoying Capote’s writing while I was reading the first part, until someone from the book club posted photos of the Clutter family on our thread and I got major creeps because I remembered that the story was real. I’m not as paranoid worried now as I was when I was a kid, but realizing the truth in this story made my skin crawl. I can’t imagine the horror of that night.

But again, the story didn’t really focus much on the victims but on the killers. It’s an interesting angle that actually made me feel sorry for them despite the grievous sin they committed. I’m not saying that what they did was excusable — it’s just that seeing their side of the story, or at least, their background, made me just a little bit sympathetic to them. They could have been better people, I thought. There could have been something that could have changed their past so they won’t have to do what they did. And end up that way.

In Cold Blood could spark discussions on numerous topics, especially on the death penalty and justice, and that was exactly what happened during our face to face discussion. Interestingly, I got one of the hard ones again, something about justice and it started a pretty long debate/discussion on what justice really meant for everyone of us. I admit that it’s one of the things that I need time to really understand, and that right now I just really, really pray hard that nothing like this ever happens to anyone I care for.

In Cold Blood reminded me of the time when I did a Criminal Minds marathon a few years back. I really enjoyed it, but I didn’t really go out of my way to watch it again. Once is enough, I guess (unless it’s for research or something). Likewise, I liked In Cold Blood, but I don’t think I have the heart to read something like this again.

Rating:

Other reviews:
marginalia
Book Rhapsody
The Page Walker
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac

Stalker in the Shadows

Stalker in the Shadows by Camy TangStalker in the Shadows by Camy Tang
Publisher: Harlequin
Number of pages: 224
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

“Consider this a warning.”

Lately, nurse Monica Grant feels she’s being watched. Followed. And then she receives a threatening letter—accompanied by a dead snake. If she doesn’t stop her plans to open a free children’s clinic, she’ll end up dead, too. Terrified, Monica turns to former lawman Shaun O’Neill—who believes the same madman murdered his own sister five years before. She understands how much it means to the handsome, heart-guarding man to save her—and her dream. Even if he has to lure a deadly stalker out of the shadows—straight toward himself.

* * *

It’s been a while since I read a Camy book, and honestly, I didn’t even know she had another book in the Grant sisters’ stories. It wasn’t until after I finished reading Protection for Hire that I found out, and I immediately got the book for my Kindle.

In the third installment of Camy Tang’s Love Inspired series, Stalker in the Shadows we meet the third Grant sister, Monica, a nurse with a heart for social work. With her trusty nurses shoes, she plans to open a free children’s clinic in their town, and she knows it wouldn’t be easy but it shouldn’t bethat hard either. Until she starts receiving threatening letters and “gifts” from someone who tells her that if she doesn’t stop her plans, she would end up dead too. Scared out of her wits, Monica seeks help from Shaun O’Neill, who believes that the same person threatening Monica was the one who caused his sister’s death. As the threats come and the stakes get higher, Monica wonders if maybe she should quit, while Shaun is constantly haunted by the thought of failing to protect Monica the way he felt he failed to protect his sister.

I haven’t read a lot of suspense or mystery novels lately so it took me a while to get inside Camy’s world in Stalker in the Shadows. I liked Monica right from the start, maybe even more than how I liked Rachel or Naomi. She was a level-headed and determined character, always putting someone else first before herself — her father, her investors, and even the children who will benefit with the clinic. I also liked her dynamics with Shaun, and I liked how Camy wrote him as a “heart-guarding man”. It’s not often we find heroes like that in fiction. :) There wasn’t much surprises in the romance (except, as always, for the first kiss!), but it wasn’t too predictable, either.

This book is probably the least preachy of all – and by that, I mean that the Christian aspect was shown more instead of being told. There were some God talk, of course…I don’t know how exactly to describe it, but it felt more natural when Monica realized things and Shaun realized things and they felt God more in their own realizations and with the things that happened to them. The climax felt a little bit too CSI-esque, but it was exciting enough for me to really fear for the main characters.

The mystery was pretty…well, mysterious, for the lack of better terms. I had several hunches about the culprit, and even one hunch that I was so sure was correct…and it wasn’t. Oh well. But that makes for a good mystery, don’t you think? Overall,  Stalker in the Shadows is a very good installment to the Grant sisters’ stories, and I was glad at where Monica (and Shaun) ended up. :)

Rating:

Reviews of Camy’s other Love-Inspired Suspense books:
Deadly Intent
Formula for Danger

BoneMan’s Daughters

BoneMan's DaughtersBoneMan’s Daughters by Ted Dekker
Publisher: Center Street
Number of pages:  410
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Would you kill an innocent man to save your daughter?

They call him BoneMan, a serial killer who’s abducted six young women. He’s the perfect father looking for the perfect daughter, and when his victims fail to meet his lofty expectations, he kills them by breaking their bones and leaving them to die.

Intelligence officer Ryan Evans, on the other hand, has lost all hope of ever being the perfect father. His daughter and wife have written him out of their lives.

Everything changes when BoneMan takes Ryan’s estranged daughter, Bethany, as his seventh victim. Ryan goes after BoneMan on his own.

But the FBI sees it differently. New evidence points to the suspicion that Ryan is BoneMan. Now the hunter is the hunted, and in the end, only one father will stand.

* * *

He is called BoneMan and he is a father in search for a perfect daughter. He takes innocent teen girls and tries to make them love him and when they fail to be the daughter he wants, he breaks their bones without breaking their skin (or using a teflon hose). On the other side of the world, Ryan Evans thinks of himself as a failure of a father — after an especially harrowing abduction in the Middle East, Ryan comes home only to find that his wife and daughter had written him out of their lives. Then the BoneMan abducts his daughter, Bethany, and Ryan goes after him. Instead of helping him, though, the FBI finds evidence that points to Ryan as the BoneMan, and he becomes a hunted man. Desperate, Ryan Evans set out to go through hell just to save his daughter.

I’ve been a fan of Ted Dekker since I read Thr3e, which I think is also one of the first books I reviewed on my old blog. I liked the fact that he wrote Christian suspense and back then, I was having a hard time looking for books with the same themes. I meant to read more of his books but he writes and comes out with new books faster than I can get my hands on them and read them. I’ve had BoneMan’s Daughters for a while now but I never got around to reading it. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because I was concentrating more on YA and chick lit instead of suspense. I did kind of look forward to reading this, thinking that it would be nice to go back to Dekker’s world.

True to form, BoneMan’s Daughters has everything that Dekker offers in his other books. Not that it’s repetitive, but it’s exactly what you’d expect in a Dekker book. There’s the psycho serial killer whose point of view we get a glimpse of every now and then, the father who would do everything to save his daughter, and the police who are willing to help but don’t really know what to do. In a way, it’s almost like reading a CSI episode — I can easily imagine Mac Taylor/Gary Sinise as Ryan Evans. Dekker is also still very descriptive, but not too much that it gets gross — just a tad disturbing, enough to make you look over your shoulder or wonder at the things that bump at night, or develop an aversion to Noxzema, in the case of BoneMan’s Daughters. It’s still very well-written and you know in the end that the good guys will still prevail.

That being said, however, I felt that this wasn’t really at par with the other Dekker novels I’ve read. I thought some parts were a bit repetitive and I wanted to skim some parts that felt a little unimportant to me. The ending wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be, either — and I felt that there wasn’t much change in the characters as there should be. The Christian concept wasn’t fully explored, too, IMHO, and you’d need to read the author’s afterword to know why he wrote the novel (that story, I loved). As good as the details were done in the emotional and brutal scenes, the overall story kind of lacked. In the end, I was just happy I finished reading it, not because it was such a good story.

I’m kind of sad that this latest Dekker read is kind of disappointing compared to his other books that I really liked. I will still read his other books, of course, and I’m hoping one of them will be as good (or even better) as Thr3e or the Circle series.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Gahome2mom
Novel Reviews
Emily is Smiling
My Friend Amy

 

Required Reading: April

Wow, look at where March went. My favorite month always ends too soon.

However, that means it’s time for another Required Reading post. :) Once again, here are the rules (one day I will make a separate page for this):

  • The books should be read within the specified month
  • These books should be in my TBR and not yet to be acquired
  • These books cannot be used for any other reading challenges I am participating in.

But first, how did I do for March?

Despite my busy-ness for March (you would not believe how much we raaaaageeeed! at work the past month), I was able to do a bit better for this mini-challenge. I think I was more than determined to get through all the books? That, and I find that I had a lot of waiting time during the past month, especially when you had to sit for six hours straight in the salon chair for a hair rebond treatment). Here are the books I finished and reviewed:

  • The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell – such a fun read. :) I love Damien.
  • Storm Front by Jim Butcher – another book with such a fun hero voice. Finished this one real quick while waiting for my hair to dry before my birthday party. :D
  • Being Jamie Baker by Kelly Oram – not exactly what I expected, but still enjoyable.

I still didn’t get to finish all four books for March, but I’m halfway through the last book (A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly) now and that’s so much better than how I did last February. :)

I think my problem with the books I pick for this challenge is I always pick books in print. I can usually juggle reading two books at a time if one of them is an ebook. However, 3 out of 4 books I chose are in print, and I find it hard to read two print books at the same time. That, and March had two releases I was really excited about, books that made me drop everything else I was reading just so I can read them. But still, it’s a pretty good month, IMHO.

Now for my Required Reading for April!

Required Reading: AprilThe month of April usually means two things for me: the start of summer and Holy Week. Last year’s Holy Week barely touched April, but this year, Holy Week is right smack in the middle of the month. I usually go offline during that week and pick a slightly difficult book to read because not being online means I have more time to tackle a hard-to-read book.

I would pick summery books this month, but Holy Week has more bearing for me than that, so this month’s Required Reading theme is all about faith.

This is a pretty varied selection of books. Ted Dekker is usually a pretty fast (although far from light) read. I was browsing through The Screwtape Letters and it’s a short book, but knowing Lewis, it’s not going to be an easy read, either. Losing Faith is YA Contemporary, which should be a welcome break, and I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now. The hardest, I think, would be Mother Teresa’s book. It’s my first non-fiction for a while, and I have a feeling I will cry with this book. I think I’ll reserve this one for Holy Week, when I’m offline.

I’m actually quite excited to tackle these books. :) I’m sure it won’t be easy, but if there was anything I learned about my faith in the past years, I know it’s been anything but. :)

What about you? Any specific books you’ve lined up for this month?