Sunday, January 27, 2019

Book Review: Providence

ProvidenceProvidence by Caroline Kepnes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

DNF at 50%
There is a first time for everything, right? I am giving a book a did not finish two stars (instead of 1).

While Providence is not for me, I believe that any moderate to large H.P. Lovecraft fans will likely love it. Additionally there may be some literary fans that will also enjoy Providence. For me it was really simple; I just didn't care about any of our characters. The first 1/3 of the book was great! I loved the teenagers perspective with Chloe and Jon. And I was stoked when a huge bombshell event happens... yet I was severely disappointed that the next page after said bombshell the book jumps forward 6 years!! It felt too abrupt and took away from my interest and the pacing that had been established.
Additionally I do not like the detective character who is introduced in the 6 years section. He is dull, obsessive in a creepy way and frankly a pretty crappy husband. I do not really enjoy reading contemporary settings where the husbands treat their wives like background noise or with a nonchalant attitude. This may be a reflection of my own fear that my (now 10 year) marriage is at risk of this (as are almost all marriages after a certain period of time); but for whatever reason I am just not interested in these stories.

Overall I think there is probably some genius buried here in the Lovecraft references and story arc of the characters. I am happy that this book had me read my first Lovecraft short story "The Dunwick Horror" which is reference a multitude of times in the first half of the book. So I suppose 2 stars for sending me to classic literature (which I did enjoy) and because I do believe there is an audience for this book, it's just not me.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Follow me on Goodreads...

Monday, January 21, 2019

Book Review: Mother of the Chosen

Mother of the ChosenMother of the Chosen by Janeal Falor

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The introductory chapters of Mother of the Chosen are superb. There is a pace that is quick and a clear and obvious plot. Unfortunately after those first few chapters things start to head downhill and become a hot mess. There is a lack of focus on this novel overall. Even before I read the afterword/acknowledgements at the end of the book I could have told anyone that it was not properly edited past the first few chapters. It's unfortunate as Janeal Falor has writing potential but this is not a fully formed book yet.

Title & 'plot twist'
So you pick-up a book named Mother of the Chosen. You expect to find out who said Mother is fairly quickly right? Or at least have multiple Mothers in your character scope that it could be. Instead you will read an entire book until the Mother is 'revealed' and you will know from page 50 (or so) that there is only one option of who it could be! I don't deem this a spoiler as it's so obvious it's painful. If nothing else happens with my comments below I would say that changing the title is the most critical piece of feedback I could give.

Using Prophecy
I love fantasy books that use prophecy in them, from Wizard's First Rule to Harry Potter it teases something to the reader and (if done well) makes me feel dumb for not figuring out the meaning of the prophecy sooner! Prophecy is such a strong foreshadow (that can be as convoluted as the author desires) and create a sense of foreboding to a situation that is otherwise a survival plot.
In Mother of the Chosen I was disappointed that the text of the prophecy isn't explicitly written out. I would also have liked our characters to all spend more time on the wording and nuances of the prophecy to try and determine if it affected one of them. This might have helped with the giveaway in the title of the book. I'd still change the title but I'd also create more atmosphere around the prophecy.

A Few Highlights of Issues
I have a plethora of notes for the author on Mother of the Chosen. As such I will keep most of them back from this review and send them to Falor direct. Here are some highlights of things I did not understand throughout this story:

  • If you are trying to escape being caught by guards and your husband why would you go to your parents house? Isn't this the first place anyone is going to check?
  • Our leading lady comments back and forth about being married to her husband and then subsequently her 'running away' makes it seem like she's no longer married. Then another plot point happens and she says she's married again. I'm confused...
  • Why is the magic evil? Who can have magic? The magic is only used at convenient moments instead of a factor throughout the whole book. In my top three pet peeves for fantasy novels; using magic when it's convenient.
  • There are at least 5 different 'beasts' or monsters we encounter in the forest. Instead of a rich description and showing of the beast, the battle, etc. we are treated to 2-3 pages for most of the beasts and with such limited descriptions throughout that I can't even tell you what the monsters were anymore; never mind what they looked like.
  • The story is experienced in first person from our leading heroine. This is all fine and good until she starts thinking like this "if x is 1 then y is 2; wait but could y be 2 and x be 1, or could it be x is a and y is b." Readers don't need our 'narrator' to explain all the possible outcomes. Assume you have explained the situation appropriately and don't leave one-liner after thoughts like your reader is watching a bad CSI episode.

I think this is a case of too quick to publish. I know it's painful for writers to actually spend hundreds of hours on their manuscript, pay copy editors, proofer readers and content editors; but the thing is that these people are absolutely critical to a good book. The fantasy books out there that are top notch have gone through dozens of edits (yes even Brandon Sanderson needs edits and feedback on a multitude of levels).
I really liked the overall concept of this book and our characters were okay. They could be more fleshed out in personality but overall I wouldn't change the characterizations. Unfortunately there are just too many rookie mistakes in this one for me to recommend it (or at least not yet). The potential is there and I hope it undergoes more work and edits and a re-release prior to the second book hitting the market.

Please Note: I received a free copy of this book from BookSirens in exchange for an honest review.

Follow me on Goodreads...

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Book Review: The Chrysalis

The ChrysalisThe Chrysalis by Brendan Deneen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really had no business reading this book. I don't read a lot of straight-up horror and so it's difficult for me to compare this to other horror as my experience with it is very limited. However, my husband is a horror buff and as I read this and told him about it he was intrigued. I stopped giving him plot points later on as I'm hoping he will read it. What I can say for certainty is The Chrysalis kept my attention and hooked me right from the opening pages.

The Plot
While there is nothing special about the concept of Brendan Deneen's latest book; there is a creepiness to the writing and portrayal that permeates throughout and got to me. A weird 'thing' exists in the basement of a creepy house bought by a couple who are trying to find their place in life as they are forced to leave their New York apartment and buy (in a low price bracket) in New Jersey. The main plot is about the house itself, about our couple and the deterioration of their marriage, and (of course) the 'thing' in the basement called the chrysalis. Where did this thing come from? What does it do to people? How does it live? And what are our lead characters going to do about it? All questions that Deneen gives us answers to throughout the story.

Lead Man
I enjoyed the perspective of the leading man in this horror story. He's an unambitious bartender who seems (more or less) content with his plot in life. He doesn't make a lot of money and doesn't mind until his wife gets pregnant and they need to pay for a new baby and their mortgage. I think the depression and emotions of our lead guy are very genuine. At points I wondered if author Deneen hasn't lived some elements of the story and experienced some of the same thoughts. Looking at my own life, (I have a mortgage and a husband) I couldn't help but wonder if my own spouse has had some of the same thoughts of our leading man. He feels so genuine and authentic. Perhaps that is what makes this story so compelling and creepy; not that the chrysalis exists, but that the man who is affected by it is so realistic that you can't help but understand why he does what he does in the end.

Again, I can't speak to the scariness for the regular horror reader; but I can say that for me it was creepy enough and that there were points at which I was concerned I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. I did not read this before bed for that very reason. As I read more than one book at a time that works for me. While I would have liked to learn more about the chrysalis itself and it's origin there is not a lot else to really criticise in terms of content and plot. However, there were points during the wife's pregnancy that seemed a bit unrealistic or de-emphasized. While I've never been pregnant myself, I have known many women who have been and it seemed that some of the difficulties of the wife during her pregnancy were downplayed.
As an aside, I loved the authors note and acknowledgements at the end. He gives a lot of credit to others and I must agree with his assessment that the brilliance of doing the story over 9 months of a pregnancy is one of the best elements in the story (even if he didn't come up with that idea himself). I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good supernatural, alien, x-files, horror-like story; with the caveat that while it disturbed me in places I'm not sure it's 'scary enough' for most horror fans.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Follow me on Goodreads...

Book Review: Ida and the Whale

Ida and the WhaleIda and the Whale by Rebecca Gugger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those children's stories where the adults might not really get it but the children hearing (or reading) it feel like it's come from their own minds. The watercolour backgrounds and unique illustrations complement the gorgeous writing of Rebecca Gugger so well. From storms to growing to loneliness, Ida and the Whale is a special little book that I could see becoming a favourite for any child whose imagination leaves them feeling inspired and yet alone at the same time.

I was a child like this. I imagined all these wondrous things and then was always disappointed that the real world wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped. However at some point I started to learn about how plants breathe or planets orbit or eggs hatch babies and suddenly I'd be reminded that the world is a special place. I feel like Ida and the Whale has captured some of that magic, both real and imaginary that many children have. This is a wondrous book that any child is likely to connect with on some level. Although the Discworld fan in me kind of wishes the whale was a turtle.

The writing is gorgeous in this children's book but my favourite line is:
"Sometimes you can only understand others if you stand on your head yourself."

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Follow me on Goodreads...

Friday, January 18, 2019

Book Review: Chainbreaker

Chainbreaker (Timekeeper, #2)Chainbreaker by Tara Sim

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Be prepared, I'm about to gush. This is probably the most underrated Young Adult/Teen series of the last 5 years. I am so disappointed every time I see how few people have read Tara Sim's Timekeeper series. Not only does this series have a cool time premise, but it also features a male hero who is gay. And oh my goodness is his boyfriend just the best!

No Second Book Syndrome
Generally in most trilogy series (especially fantasy) there is second book syndrome that happens. It's when the book is really just a stepping stone from book 1 to book 3. Second books tend to have little real action, no true climax curve and end on a cliffhanger. And while there is a cliffhanger in Chainbreaker, there is no way you can say nothing happens or that there isn't enough action. In fact there might be more action and events happening in Chainbreaker than in Timekeeper.

NOTE: Spoilers for book 1 are below! You're been warned!

Diverse Depth
There are so many topics Sim tackles in Chainbreaker; the most prevalent being the relationship between our lead hero Danny and his yummy (if I do say so myself) time spirit boyfriend. We are lucky enough in Chainbreaker to see the world from multiple points of view including that of the time spirits and other stakeholders around Danny.
Chainbreaker takes on politics (not unlike London's political climate today), racism (towards India's population), homosexuality and even the dynamic of having a best friend or colleague that are the opposite gender of you. For an easy to read, fairly fun series, it really does tackle a lot of every day realities that teens are living and breathing. The average adult reader might find there's nothing special about some of these comments or moments; but if I imagine myself as a teen I feel there is a lot of nuggets of information to be gained just by reading the story. Most important is these tidbits of social culture and tactics to use are not lectured but subtly placed in a way that people will consume them without even realizing they've consumed an ideal or perspective. It helps that more than half the book takes place in India (which our author knows well and portrays honestly).

I know my book 1 review rants and raves about the time construct in this series but I just have to bring it up again. As Sim progresses in the story of book 2 we learn a lot more about how time got set-up the way it is and why. Without giving away any spoilers let me just say that it's beautifully constructed and I adore the worldly span that we are given in regards to how time passes on Earth.

Male Lead
A lot of young adult books these days are female leads who went from being no one to being a 'chosen one'. This past holiday I was searching for a new series for my 13-year-old nephew and I realized how few teen books have a male lead AND aren't just about a boy falling in love with some fancy girl. It's so refreshing to have our lead boy in love with another boy in the Timekeeper series. Additionally there isn't a lot of macho crap (like Maze Runner) or wooing the 'princess' type concepts here. Instead Sim gives us an average boy who is good at his job and falls in love with a spirit that complicates his life. There's such a genuineness to the core story that I can easily relate to and I feel will reverberate down the age groups. I also like that because we jump perspectives enough (and Danny isn't an annoying macho hero) this is a book that both girls and boys, men and women will equally enjoy because it has enough diversity and changing points of view. But even if we stayed with Danny 80% of the time he's such a well-built, realistic character that I believe anyone could find a way to relate to him.

I won't hide that there is a good chunk of romance and yearning in this middle book; but I wasn't annoyed by it and so I can confidently say there is a lot of action and plot that happens throughout so I don't think it's overwhelming (like some recent teen books).
Truly this is an underrated series that I'd love to see get a lot more attention!

Follow me on Goodreads...

Book Review: Lady Mechanika Vol 3

Lady Mechanika, Vol. 3: The Lost Boys of West AbbeyLady Mechanika, Vol. 3: The Lost Boys of West Abbey by Joe Benítez

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As always Lady Mechanika delivers in this (very) short volume. With only two comics that were in this story line, if you are looking for a quick fix this third volume is perfect. This shorter story is my favourite to date!

Added Content
As someone who collects the actual comics and the trade paperbacks that hold the comic collections (so I can read stories without damaging my comics); it is very frustrating to find that a trade paperback has more content than the comics did. The usual cover spreads or pencil sketches is one thing, but to have extra content pages is something else.
I am not a fan of this as those who only afford the comics are missing out. I know Joe Benitz and team have had a lot of trouble in the past getting comics out on time and I can't help but suspect that is what happened here. It's disappointing that putting out a sub-par comic, with missing content, was deemed acceptable.

The good news is if you buy this trade paperback you are getting the 'complete' story. Like all Lady Mechanika books there is a lot of dialogue, thought bubbles and other content to actually read on the pages. And the art is only second to that of Monstress (and Monstress only barely edges it out).
This is a good point to jump off with your first Lady Mechanika story or is a good story (with some Easter eggs about Mechanika's background!) to add to an existing collection. Either way, if you're new or existing fan of this series I believe this story has some continuity content that will be important later on and is therefore a must read.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Follow me on Goodreads...

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Book Review: The Verdun Affair

The Verdun AffairThe Verdun Affair by Nick Dybek

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In today's historical fiction market if you are choosing to write about WWI or WWII you really need to feel confident that you have a special story to tell; otherwise you are just contributing to the over saturation of the market.
Unfortunately The Verdun Affair didn't hold anything truly new or interesting to me. A few side stories that were very good; but then we'd get back to the main story and it was dull and drab again.

The way Nick Dybek has written The Verdun Affair is to jump back and forth between people's memories and their current day. However it's not always clear which timeline you're in or even which character POV is you are in. This created confusion for me at numerous points. At first I would read back to try and figure out what I missed; but after it happening a few times I'd just plow forward with the narrative and hope I figured it out before the POV or timeline changed again. There was just too much crisscrossing to really keep a good handle for me.

Side Stories
The best part of Verdun Affair was the little side stories that were told. They felt very truthful (as they likely are) and genuine. Additionally they were personal in a way that the rest of the novel did not match up with. My favourite side story of them all discussed a man in the trenches whom the enemy has just bombed, and if you were lucky enough to survive the bombing then you saw the enemy bearing down on you with guns a blazing. And of course you saw this through the smoke of the battlefield created by the bombs. Then suddenly the enemy falls dead. As if by magic. What actually happened is a high concentration of CO2 flowed up in a pocket and killed the front-line men racing towards the trenches.
I can't even imagine what you would think in those moments were you in the trench; but obviously many would go to religion or other spiritual thoughts as their life was saved, seemingly, by an invisible force.

Now that I've given you the gist of the best side story (above) you can confidently (in my opinion) leave this book to the side and move towards some of the better war literature out there. I would recommend one that doesn't chase amnesiacs around Europe or encourage delusional thoughts about a husband whilst sleeping with another man...
Or even better, one that is based on a true story with far more meaningful relationships and characters than described here.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Follow me on Goodreads...

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Book Review: Artificial Condition

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
Book 2 of The Murderbot Diaries

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I want to write a song about how awesome Murderbot is... Although I'm not sure where to start. But it should be accompanied by a video that involves a lot of "BAM", "CRUNCH", "WHOOSH" like graphics like in the old school Batman TV show (with Adam West as Batman). And in said song there would be lines that quote Murderbot's funny quips and thoughts on ridiculous humans. But alas I am not a song writer so you'll have to settle for my review about how great this book (and series) are!

Murderbot is still a girl to me
I dunno what is, but just like in the first book Murderbot (our androgynous AI robot lead character) is still female to me. Maybe I just really like women who are strong, powerful and fight? Whatever it is I cannot get this image of 'her' out of my head. Maybe that's the real power of Murderbot overall is that you can make them anything you want. Whatever race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, etc. that you identify with.

Kicks a lot of butt
The best part of this series is when Murderbot turn it all on in a fight and takes people out. It's not super violent, and never a graphically described way; more fighting in that fun 'old Batman' style. In Artificial Condition we are taken to a sketchy out of the way mining area to see if we can learn about the 'incident' that resulted in Murderbot naming themselves Murderbot. Lots of action, new friends (and enemies) and hacking happen in Martha Wells follow-up to All Systems Red. Very much like the feel and attitude of the first one.

Read in any order!
It's really rare that I feel it's okay to read a book out of order in a series. But Wells does a fabulous job of recapping what we need to know, without boring the reader to death if they just read the first book. I loved how succinct Wells is with her moments where she reminds us that Murderbot did this or that happened in the past. While this book is less than 200 pages, a lot happens and very little is redundant.

This is the funnest series I've read in a long time. It's over the top at times without being outrageous, Murderbot is so relatable (considering they are a robot) and it's a nice easy read. I laughed, cringed and gasped during this novella; and at the end immediately ordered book 3. I hope The Murderbot Diaries keeps going for a long time as it's quickly becoming my go to for a need-a-quick-break book series. As always the best thing I can ever say about a book is that I bought a hard copy of this ARC for my personal library.

To read this and more of my reviews visit my blog at Epic Reading

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Follow me on Goodreads...

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Book Review: The Last Watchman of Cairo

The Last Watchman of Old CairoThe Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me about 30% of this book, a good 100 pages or more to really 'get' The Last Watchman of Old Cairo. At first it felt very disjointed. There were multiple timelines and people but none of them were meshing in my brain and I couldn't figure out how each generation was related to the next as we jumped around. However, there is a point at which it just clicked for me. I hope for other readers that point will come earlier than it took for me as this is a wonderful story once you get into it.

It's all about a scroll. That's not clear from the beginning but if the One Ring in LOTR is the plot driver then the Ezra Scroll is the plot driver in Michael David Lukas historical story. Where is the scroll? Who has the scroll? Is it magical? etc. These questions are asked over and over again by each of our characters in all the different generations that this story spans. There's other things happening as well. Lots of hiding, sneaking, and even some minor spying. But for the most part this is a story about protecting a synagogue and it's treasures (of which the scroll is purported to be one).

The two older ladies in this book are my absolute favourite. They are not a part of the line of watchmen that we follow in the other timelines; but they are just as adamant about protecting and 'watching' over the previous documents than any of our watchmen are. Additionally I felt like I got the most out of their analysis of the situations and things that may have happened. Without them in the middle I do not know that I would have been able to understand all the nuances of this book as easily. While all the other characters are men I don't think this is a gender bias (as I am female); but instead just the overall way the ladies can look at the larger situation helped to see the whole picture at a different level than our watchmen can see it.

There is an interesting tone throughout The Last Watchman of Cairo that I was not expecting. This is actually a book about forgiveness and knowing when it's okay to say a mistake is tolerable. Our characters make lots of mistakes in Cairo and many of them are forgiven in some way or another. This was a piece of the story I didn't expect based on the blurb or the beginning. It was nice to see such a clear morale in the book that didn't have anything to do with revenge or vengeance; but merely with what a measure of a man (or woman) might be. If they are a worthy person then they should ultimately be worthy of forgiveness.

Writing Style
The best part of this book isn't even the exotic (to me) setting of Cairo (which I learned lots about!), nor is it the religious 'clash' between the Jews and the Muslims; instead it is the style of author Lukas. There is a melody, pace and cadence to Lukas' writing that is stunning. Once I got into the story and was really pulled into the events and characters I realized that part of my struggle to get into the book was to find the beat that Lukas used to write it. Similar to some poetry where you need to understand the cadence of a poem for it to sound right. I don't know at what point I realized it was a gorgeous and unique style of writing; all I know is that by the end I was sad to let the beat go.

The Last Watchman of Cairo was a truly magical book, even if it held little to no actual magic. There is a gentleness with which Lukas has set-up the religious clash and dangers of Cairo (in each time period) that contributes to the way we view the characters and actions. If you have interest in reading about a different history than you've probably ever heard, in a city that is not often written about; then I definitely recommend this book. Lukas has really captured a story that intrigued me; and the best part of it all, much of the story is true! I do love these historical books that have nuggets of truth in them and where the authors have spent time to research and understand the place, people and times that they are writing about. I will be on the lookout for more stories from Lukas and I hope they are just as unique and interesting as this one is.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Follow me on GoodReads...

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Book Review: A Little Snake

The Little SnakeThe Little Snake by A.L. Kennedy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I clearly missed something in this book. I did not get it.
Obviously it's an allegory about life and circumstances in life but I just couldn't get into it. There may be one obvious issue that held me back here, and it's not the literary writing...

Personality of Snakes
I am a long time snake owner (10+ years). My husband and I have fostered over a dozen snakes over the years and had many of our own. Today we have 3 (an 18-yr-old cornsnake, a 4-yr-0ld ball python, a 4-yr-old boa) and so I intimately know that snakes have personalities, and they are all different. No one snake is the same as another.
While the snake is the star of A. L. Kennedy's book The Little Snake; what it's really missing is a feel for the snake. I wanted to love this snake (even if his purpose in the world is dark), I wanted to connect with him and feel alongside him. I believe you are meant to sympathize with the snake and connect with him. For me it fell flat.
There were too many weird descriptions of the way the snake moved, changed and otherwise interacted with the humans it encounters. Now, before you get all upset with me, yes I know it's a mythical talking snake; and yes I get that it's fiction. But imagine a book where a cat or dog is the lead character and where the descriptions of the animal don't match up to what you personally know about that type of animal. Say they describe a dog that can't swim or a cat that likes water; you'd be put off too right? This is the kind of feeling I got about the snake.

It seems to be a theme lately with literary books that they are seriously lacking in plot. Something needs to drive the story forward and I'm getting tired of it being 'just because time passes'. This is really not a good enough reason for me. Existing is not plot. Even though this is a short story I'd have liked to see there be more purpose given to our characters (including the snake) so that it felt like the story was propelling forward.

Honestly, this was sooo boring. Even if I hadn't disliked the snake characterization I don't think I'd have liked this book. It was just dull, predictable and all around boring. It's not an original idea necessarily, we have lots of literary fiction about learning about love or pursuing a life built off love. And so I wanted more from this. There are a few quotable lines for sure; but this feels like a book written just to bore some poor future high school students into trying to find minding behind the words. *yawn* I just don't want to work that hard. A book can be an analogy or allegory, written at a high literary standard and still be interesting and readable. Unfortunately, The Little Snake is not one of these.

The best part of this book is that it's short. So If you really want to read it (even if you end up hating it) not a lot of time is lost. Perhaps for someone besides me this is a life changing book that connects with them in an intimate way. And if that is the case then I'm very happy it was written and so important to others. For me it just misses the mark in a lot of ways. But hey, it's short and I can't complain about that.

To read this and more of my reviews visit my blog at Epic Reading

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Follow me on GoodReads...

Book Review: Krampus

Krampus: The Yule LordKrampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes we are very lucky to read an author that has thoughts and sentiments so close to our own it's as though we were cut from the same cloth. For me, at this moment, it is Brom. Ironically I met him many years ago (before he had written any books) at a comic expo where he was showcasing his Gothic art. Brom came across as a quiet and thoughtful person who didn't have much to say that wasn't shown in his art. I wish at the time that I met him I'd known how alike our thoughts might be! I also wish I had talked to him more to get a real sense of him as a person.

I intentionally savoured this book. I read it slowly, thoughtfully and made it last. I haven't done this with a book in a long time and didn't plan to do it with Krampus; but I just didn't want this amazing story to end too soon. This book had a real voice to it that sang to my soul and (as cheesy as this may sound) reminded me of who I truly am.

As a raised Christian, converted Wiccan (15+ years ago); I really wanted to read a book about Christmas that wasn't about Christmas being wonderful; but instead was about how it ripped off Yule. I could not have asked for a better book than Krampus to do this. The devil figure of Krampus, while largely unknown in North America, is prevalent in European history. He beats children who don't behave or pay Yuletide tribute to him and blesses those children who do pay tribute with gold coins. It's all or nothing with this demon. Yule falls on the Winter Solstice (Dec 21) and was practiced long before Christmas existed (a fact many like to forget or look over to make their holiday seem more sacred than it might otherwise appear).
I loved Brom's use of Asgard, Loki and other ancient gods to bring together the backstory of Krampus, Santa and others. It gave a solid backing (with little explanation needed) to base these mythical characters on. Of course you didn't need to have a huge imagination to see the Krampus that Brom envisioned as there are gorgeous full colour, and pencil sketches in this book that show our characters at different levels of detail. The artwork really adds to the telling of this story and I was thrilled at every chapter break to have a new pencil sketch to look at.

The Story Itself
Plot wise Krampus (the book) is quite simple. Krampus (the character) has escaped a thousands of years prison that Santa Claus put him in and is out to destroy Christmas and bring back the traditions and beliefs of Yule. For those not aware many of the items used in popular Christmas traditions today originated from Yule; including decorating a fir tree and using shoes or stockings to fill with treats.
Brom has created a story about (mostly) awful humans and their struggle to survive. Without Krampus' involved at all the story of the humans is interesting enough. Add in some demon slaves (Belsnickel's), magic sand, a flying sleigh and a powerful sack of items (not always toys); suddenly you have a story that is complex, yet easy to follow. I loved the plot so much in Krampus. It drives forward our characters and forces them to make decisions throughout the book. This is not a passive plot by any means. Brom ensures the plot is forced forward whether our characters are ready or not.

Is it horror?
I've read in a few places that people are unsure about picking up Krampus because they believe it might be too gory or involve child abuse. Let me dissuade you from these thoughts, while many deaths happen (and a lot of blood is spilled) there is no more violence or graphic nature to this book than in your average CSI episode or best selling thriller. A few moments might be a bit much for some but they are fleeting and so short it's hard to even remember them amongst all the other details provided.
This is not so much horror as it is Gothic fantasy. There is a darkness to the entire book; but not one that fits the horror genre. Instead Krampus focuses on the horrors of our world that we have become immune to. Examples like alcoholism, strip mining, mindless video gaming and other 'normal' activities that most of society today has accepted are the true horrors. You may come away from this book feeling like your outlook on the world has changed some; but it won't be because you're horrified by gore, instead it will be because you're horrified by what we've allowed our society to become.

Nature and Respect
At it's core Krampus is really about the balance between nature and humans. We are a parasite to our planet (like it or not). We've created holidays and mass marketing to support our consumerism and endorse the greed that humans are naturally subject to. As a Wiccan I found that Brom really spoke to my heart about things I wish I could change in today's society. And even if I can't make any more of a dent in some things than I already am; it's nice to know that someone else in the world understands that what we've done is wrong; even if irreparable. We've lost respect for the 'old ways' and forgotten why they were important (and still maybe should be). Krampus reminds us of these lost traditions and thoughts in different ways and at different points during the book. There is no one moral at the end; instead values are exquisitely threaded throughout the book so that you don't ever feel overwhelmed by it; but also so you cannot close your mind to accepting the reality of our circumstances.

There are so many more things I could say about this book! Adorable characters like Isabel and her panda hat stand next to the ancient Shawnee who are more demon than human in some ways. Brom brings all our characters together by having them affected by one common thread, Krampus has influenced them in some way, shape or form. It's brilliant the way Brom has allowed everyone to find a small part of themselves in each of the Belsnickel's (Krampus' followers/slaves).

If you love Christmas and Santa Claus this is maybe not the book for you; unless you want to learn a little more about Yule. Brom has included an afterword talking of some of his research and narrative choices that may not be as accurate as they could be or evolved as he wrote. I really appreciated reading this. I knew from the introduction that Brom had to have done research but for anyone that is unsure or doesn't know many of these stories this afterword is reassurance that some thought was put into the scenarios, characters and rituals chosen.
I could easily see myself reading this book every few years in December. A nice reminder that there are others out there that dislike Christmas as much as I do and for similar reasons.

If you are looking for a Gothic read that forces you to look at the world for what it is then I highly recommend Krampus. If you're nervous about it because it is not a 'happily ever after' setting then I recommend reading the first 5 or so chapters to see if it's for you. I think almost everyone will be hooked by that point and unable to put this brilliant book down until the last page. So you better not pout, you better not cry because Krampus is coming to town and he will judge your loyalty to him and his Yuletide traditions.

Follow me on GoodReads...

Buy Krampus on