Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco



The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco 

Genre: Teen Horror / Suspense

Reason for Reading: This book was provided by the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

SummaryTarquin (Tark) Halloway has been haunted his entire life. With a mentally ill mother and a caring father who works too much, he feels he has no one to talk to about the strange lady that slinks through mirrors and makes Tark do terrible things. But when he meets a roaming spirit, Okiku, they both begin to remember what it is to be human. With the help from Tark’s cousin Callie, Okiku and Tark must rid himself of his haunting. 

My Thoughts: Let me tell you, if I had read this book when I was 14, I would have been sleeping with the lights on for weeks. The spookiness / imagery is reminiscent of Japanese horror films that The Grudge (Ju-On: The Grudge) and The Ring (Ringu) were based on. (Have you seen the originals? Not the American remakes. Watch the real thing. Darn spooky! That’s what The Girl From the Well is like.) Same evil-ghost-child-with-long-creepy-hair-staring-at-you-in-crazy-fast-did-that-actually-just-happen-flashes feel to it. 

Part of Rin Chupeco’s spooky genius is her narration style. The story is narrated from the POV of the ghost, Okiku. Often, it reads like a 3rd person omniscient narrative, because Okiku mostly observes rather than acting. I often forgot I was reading a first person POV, and then suddenly Okiku would say something in the first person, and it was like she had just appeared out of nowhere. Like a ghost. Spooky. And then, sometimes Okiku would describe herself in the third person – a description of a ghost as Callie or Tark would have seen. This gave Okiku’s character a sense of otherness. She felt inhuman. Ineffable.

Overall, I think this was an fantastic book, and I look forward to reading more of Chupeco’s works. I miss the old days when ghosts were ghosts and monsters were monsters. I applaud Chupeco’s work as one more for the #reclaimhorror team. (Ok, I just made that hashtag up, so technically she’s the first on the team. But it’s all good.)




Rin Chupeco: 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. The Girl from the Well is her debut novel. Connect with Rin at www.rinchupeco.com.

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Deadly Offer, by Caroline B. Cooney

Deadly Offer, by Caroline B. Cooney

Reason for Reading: This book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. When I was a teenager, I read the second book in this trilogy, and I was curious what I would think of the first.

Review
Althea craves popularity. She wants to be a cheerleader – swooned over by all the jocks and the envy of all the girls. When, against custom, she opens the shuttered tower room in her house, she releases a vampire who makes a deal with her: If she brings him victims, he will give her popularity. Althea finds herself spiraling out of control as the vampire asks for more and more – and she feels she has to give it to him or suffer public humiliation. 

Looked at from a superficial point of view, there’s really not much to this book. It’s barely 200 pages long, and has little plot or character development. It’s pretty standard for those Point Horror books that were being pumped out in the ’90s. Teen readers should be wary – this is a quick, fluffy read with a (how dare Ms. Cooney?!) BAD vampire. Yes. That’s right. His skin looks and smells like soggy mushrooms. He feeds on the weakness of teenagers. And he doesn’t sparkle. He is in no way, shape, or form romantic. It was SUCH a wonderful change. 🙂 As long as bad vampires don’t insult your intelligence, you’ll enjoy this book if you’re 11-14ish. Or you might enjoy it if you’re older and enjoy exploring ideas.

What I liked about this book was that it was more meaningful on a deeper level. There were hints all along that Althea could have made herself popular on her own – that her own attitude ensured her unpopularity. She assumed no one knew she existed, so she hid from everyone. Result – nobody paid her any attention. This is also a story about how far some people are willing to go in order to gain what they want. She sacrificed her morals and trampled on other people in order to achieve her goals – and then she was dissatisfied with the results. It’s a story about being true to yourself and how your goals will be more lasting when you achieve them through hard work instead of back-stabbing. Any book that makes me think earns points with me! 🙂 

Another thing that made me think: where the heck were her parents through all of this?! They weren’t mentioned even once! Did Cooney mean to do that? I read the second book in the trilogy many years ago, and I remember THAT protagonist had parents…

Wanted! by Caroline B. Cooney

Wanted! by Caroline B. Cooney

Reason for Reading: This book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Review 
When Ally gets a phone call from her dad asking her to grab a couple of discs and drive (without a license!) in his corvette to “the place where she gets ice cream,” she knows something is wrong. But when someone breaks into the house while she’s in it, Ally makes a run for it – only to find out that her dad has been murdered and she’s the prime suspect. Will she be able to evade the police AND prove her innocence? 

This was a fun, fluffy, and clean teen thriller published back in the late ’90s and recently re-released. I read it practically in one sitting. There are certain aspects of the book that didn’t translate well to the 21st century. For example, this was written in a day when most people didn’t have a cellphone –  is that something today’s teenager can even fathom? 🙂 Ally made some stupid choices in this book (let’s face it, it’s hard to prove you’re innocent when you’re running away!), but in the end she managed to stay true to herself. This book would be appropriate for 11-14 year olds, and could be enjoyed by either boys or girls (i.e. it’s high on suspense and low on romance). In fact, it made me miss the day in which the love triangle wasn’t a required plot device for YA. Oh, those were the days!

Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

Reason for Reading: Real life bookclub

Review
Camille Preaker is a troubled young woman and a mediocre journalist. When her editor sends her to her home-town in Missouri for investigative reporting on a possible serial killer, she must stay with her emotionally-destructive mother and wild half-sister. As Camille struggles with ghosts from her past, including her own self-destructive behavior and memories of a dead sister, she discovers that the murders are darker and more complex than she’d originally suspected. 

Although this book certainly had a good deal of mystery to it, it wasn’t really for me. Although I generally liked Camille’s character, there were several times when I groaned inwardly at her choices. She was weak and self-destructive. Such characters are really difficult to write well, and Sharp Objects had a bit of a debut-novel feel to it – perhaps Camille’s character should have been created by a more seasoned author. Another issue I had with the book is it was simply too dark for my tastes. There was so much ugliness in the book. Violence, self-loathing, sexual exploitation, and more. On the other hand, I DO understand why some people like this book. The key question to ask is – how much ugliness can you deal with? If you like reading about emotionally troubled characters, then this book would be attractive to you. There was a slight redemptive feel to the story at the end. A ray of hope for Camille. I appreciate that I was given that much. 🙂

Congo Dawn, by Jeanette Windle



Congo Dawn, by Jeanette Windle

Reason for Reading: This is my first (and feature) book for the 2013 Social Justice Theme Read. An ARC was provided by the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. 

Review

When Robin Duncan takes on a security/translator contract in Democratic Republic of Congo, she doesn’t expect all of her old wounds to open. Then she meets a man that she hoped to never see again, and she is reminded not only of her disappointment in humanity but also of the senseless death of her brother. Duncan must struggle inwardly with these issues while she maintains military efficiency in her team’s efforts to capture a deadly insurgent leader. Soon, she learns that not all is as it seems – sometimes, good seems evil and evil seems good. Sometimes well-intentioned people can become monsters while fighting monsters. 

Most Christian Suspense I’ve read is fairly fluffy, so I was surprised (and impressed) with the meatiness of this plot. I found the intensity of the mercenary action against the insurgency convincing. Often, I found myself unable to put the book down for suspense. The romantic tension was delicious, and added emotional depth to the characters without distracting from the suspense plot. And, of course, I always find stories about social justice medical personnel heartwarming. I also learned a lot about the Democratic Republic of Congo while reading this book. Windle has done a lot of research to back up all aspects of her plot – and it really shines through.

The only con would be a con ONLY to people who specifically avoid Christian Fiction. At one point, the suspense is, well, suspended by a philosophical discussion about why God allows bad things to happen to good people. This discussion would be interesting to any reader of Christian Fiction (i.e. the target audience), and the philosophy is demonstrated in the story by action. For those of you who generally avoid Christian Fiction because you feel it is “preachy,” I recommend that you give this book a try anyway. Yes, there is that short section, but the rest of the book is all philosophy-demonstrated-by-action. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I am eager to read more of Windle’s works now that I’ve had this taste. 🙂 

Losing Christina: Fog, by Caroline B. Cooney

Losing Christina: Fog, by Caroline B. Cooney

Reason for Reading: I had hit a reading slump and wanted to perk myself up by reading something “exciting.” I was browsing through the ebooks at my library, and found this. I remembered how much I loved it when I was a child and thought “I wonder how bad it could be?” So I borrowed it. 🙂 I’m rather glad I did!

Review
Christina is excited because this year she is 13 and she gets to leave the island she grew up on and attend junior high on the mainland in Maine. Despite her excitement, she is torn by worry about whether she’ll be bullied by the mainland kids, who think islanders are stupid and poor. But those worries soon take second place when she realizes that the owners of the bed and breakfast where she and her islander friends lodge are using psychological torment to suck the souls out of girls. She’s terrified as she watches the beautiful and brilliant senior Anya fade away. And soon the psychopaths are after her own mind. 

When I was pre-junior high I used to gobble up these Point Horror books like a turkey dinner. (haha. ok, I know that wasn’t funny. Just work with it.) There are very few of those books that I actually remember liking though. This is one that has really stuck with me through the years. When I found it in the library recently I thought: “I wonder…” And I’m glad I did, because I found this book terrifying. When I was a teenager, I think I found the spooky psychological aspects of going insane scary. Now, the book is even more terrifying, but for a different reason. Those psychopath adults who have FULL control over those poor children were horrible! They were charming, and fantastic liars, and those kids’ parents weren’t around to see what was going on. They just believed whatever the adults told them rather than believing their own children. And the things those psychopaths said to the kids! Ohhhhh shudder. Yes, the book lacked subtlety. But the fact that it terrified me even now gets it four stars in my blog! My only complaint (besides the lack of subtlety – which is really due to its target audience) is that it ended in a cliffhanger. This is a trilogy of short books. It really should be one longer book. Even combined, I think the book would still be reasonably short. But it WAS Point Horror, after all. They had to be short.

The Black Sheep’s Redemption, by Lynette Eason

2012 Book 157: The Black Sheep’s Redemption, by Lynette Eason

Reason for Reading: This is one of November’s picks for the American Christian Fiction Writers Association online book club. Anyone is welcome to join. Discussions start on the 20th, and this book only takes a couple hours to read.


My Review

In this sweet little Christian romantic suspense from the Harlequin, Charles Fitzgerald has been accused of the murder of his nanny, and the only woman who is willing to replace the nanny is Demi Taylor, a young woman who recently suffered a head wound and can’t remember who she is. Fitzgerald’s family, who pretty much runs the town, is suspected of hiding evidence on the case. Will they be able to clear his name to everyone’s satisfaction? And just who IS Demi, and why does she feel someone is stalking her?

This book is the penultimate book in a romantic suspense series about the Fitzgerald family (who apparently has a very suspenseful and romantically inclined few months during the murder investigation). Although I hadn’t read any of the previous books in the series, this book had all of the information needed to understand what was going on. However, there are several loose ends in the book, leaving an opening for us to explore the romantic inclinations of Ryan Fitzgerald AND to discover *dum dum dum* the murderer. (At least I certainly HOPE we discover who the murderer is.) 🙂 I really needed some fluffy reading at the moment that I picked this book up, and this certainly delivered. Light, quick, fun, romantic, and suspenseful. I’m glad I read it, and I’ll probably pick up some of the others in the series.