Book Review: Heartbeat (Morta Fox #1)

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

 

Synopsis:

When I first saw the monster hidden in the dark, teeth sharp and face covered in blood, the first thing I did was jump over Boston’s Wall of Protection to warn the people inside it. Turns out the people already knew, and all I did was turn myself into a delicious little snack for the most terrifying creature to have ever existed.

I was sure he’d kill me. He didn’t. Instead, he turned me into one of them.

Being saved against your own will is no fun, especially when the knight in shining armor is a vampire who calls himself Hammer. He’s arrogant, flirty, and even more stubborn than me. Left with no other choice but to make a deal with him, I soon find out that I’m not just your usual bloodsucker. I’m something far worse. But at least I’m no longer all alone.

Promises are not to be broken in my newfound world, and when my part of the deal is done, Hammer has seven days to complete his.

If he does, I will no longer be alive.

My First Thoughts:

The premise for this story sounded very interesting and I’m always looking for a good vampire story to read. Seriously, it’s hard to find good vampire fiction anymore which is a real shame. If you find the right vampire fiction it can be a whole bucket of angst and drama or a blood bath, anything else jut gets too boring or cliché.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

Warning: Mentions of attempted suicide, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and attempted rape.

For the life of me I could not finish this story and it really upsets me. I really wanted to like this book and I really wanted to read it to the end because it reminded me of a bad movie that people still found enjoyable because of its flaws. Unfortunately, I lost all interest and will to read this book and could only read a few pages a sitting before I got bored or frustrated. So, for the sake of all the other books I need and/or want to read I’ve decided to put this one down and I don’t think I’m ever going to pick it up again. At nearly 20% of the way though the book I had to shelve it.

In the beginning of the story I was a bit intrigued. Dystopians can be hard for me to get into, so most of the time I stay away from them unless they have an interesting story. So far I had never run into a dystopian novel that also had vampires, so that acted as the initial hook for me. However, it kind of dropped from there.

The one thing that really made this story hard to read were all the plot holes that were just so glaringly obvious that it became frustrating. Morta made decisions that made absolutely no sense just so that the author could have her in the right place to progress the story. The author describes how vampires were created, which at first I thought it was clever until I really started thinking about it. The author used a virus to create vampires. When infected, the body’s organs all fail and stop working except for the brain, which needs blood to survive. At first, I thought it was an interesting idea but then I really started thinking about it. If the stomach is no longer functioning, then how does the blood get to the brain? When the blood is consumed it goes down the throat and to the stomach. First thought is that the new blood just gets absorbed into the blood stream and is taken to the brain. However, that’s not how things work. For something to get into the blood stream it must either be immediately be absorbed into muscles, directly supplied by injecting into a vain, or it must be digested by the stomach. If swallowed, blood to my knowledge can’t be absorbed into the muscles so it would have to be digested, if that’s possible, which it can’t be because the stomach is no longer functioning. Also, if the heart stops beating then how would the blood, if it could, get to the brain? The pumping of the heart is the main mechanism for blood circulation, so how does the new blood get to the brain if the heart isn’t beating? There were several other issues I had with the virus approach, but I’ll stop there and spare you from my rant.

The mistakes I found in this book made it obvious that this was a self-published piece. At first they were quite humorous. Occasionally the author would use the wrong verb, ex: “I heard the smell of blood…” Other times there were issues with continuity, one minute a character would be one thing and the next they were doing an action that completely contradicted what they had just done with no real mention of it. After a while the mistakes just kept piling up and it made the story a little hard to follow, all of which could have been avoid if there was an experienced editor involved with this story.

I think I could have gotten past all of the errors in this story, because they really were funny most of the time, if I even liked the characters I was following. I hated Morta and I liked Hammer only a smidgen more than her. Morta is a pessimistic, childish, and frustrating character. It was like the author didn’t want to make her a Mary Sue, or the perfect heroine, but in doing so made an unrealistic character that just became too annoying to even care for. She doesn’t want to be a monster so she tries to commit suicide. At least four times she tries to kill herself within the first few chapters after she becomes a vampire. She is so determined to die that she keeps doing things that may get her killed and honestly I can’t stand those characters. As someone who had to talk a friend out of suicide I was extremely uncomfortable with this and many times pissed with how the author handled it. I can’t imagine what someone who actually has attempted suicide would feel when reading this.

Like I said, Hammer was a little more likeable than Morta but not enough to make me care what happens to him. When you first meet him he’s a cocky show off who just tries to convince Morta to sleep with him. Ignoring the impossibility of vampire sex, it made him come off poorly because he kept insisting until Morta gave him a firm, hard refusal. After Morta told him no though, he dropped the subject completely and then it felt like he was a teacher mentoring a young bratty child which doesn’t scream romance to me. Also, outside those two main characters nine out of ten people were complete scum and completely unredeemable. For instance, for some reason the doctors Morta ran into in the beginning tried doing nonconsensual experiments for no immediate reason. Slightly later, when Morta leaves the city she is immediately set upon by a group of men that try to coerce her into having sex with them. Not even a chapter later another guy tries forcing her to have sex with him and no one tries to stop him. And of course, because it’s a dystopian all government officials and law enforcement are sadistic, murdering scum.

Rating:

I got about 19% of the way through this book and decided to quit. This book needs some serious editing work because it read like the first draft of a manuscript, before an editor takes their red pen to the pages and make them bleed. The characters are unlikable. There are plot holes everywhere that distract from the story. The word building is lazy and reads like the author just took our reality and slapped a bunch of cheap stickers on it. I feel like I could have finished this book if I found that I had even a grain of compassion towards Morta and Hammer. Instead I doubt that I will ever pick this story up again. It’s possible that the story gets better from where I left off, but I have no motivation to find out.

I would recommend this story to anyone who likes dystopian or vampire stories, I feel like people should still give this book a try if they really want to. However, I must warn you that there are mentions of attempted suicide, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and attempted rape. If you are someone who has any experience with suicide I seriously suggest staying away from this book because the main character only wants to die and attempts to kill herself several times. If these things don’t bother you, then by all means give this story a try if you really want to.

Details:

Title: Heartbeat (Morta Fox #1)

Author: D.N. Hoxa

Publisher: self-published

Release Date: October 16, 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Dystopia, Romance

Pages: 326

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Manga Review: Noragami: The Stray God vol.1

 

Synopsis:

DIVINE INTERVENTION FOR SALE

Yato is a homeless god. He doesn’t even have a shrine, not to mention worshippers! So to achieve his ambitious goals, he’s set up a service to help those in need (for a small fee), hoping he’ll eventually raise enough money to build himself the lavish temple of his dreams. Of course, he can’t afford to be picky, so Yato accepts all kinds of jobs, from finding lost kittens to helping a student overcome bullies at school.

What I First Thought:

I watched the anime last year right before a set of finals and I was hooked. It isn’t your typical story and the characters aren’t what they first appear as. I had a coupon for Barnes & Noble one day so I decided to grab the first few volumes of the manga while I waited for the second season to hit the US.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

3/5

It never ceases to amaze me how different it is to read the manga vs. the anime, either the characters don’t sound like you imagined or the tone is completely different than expected. The humor reads a lot differently than in the anime. For the manga, some of the humor as it travels across the world, through translation and due to our standards of comedy. On the page some of the humor just losses its impact or is harder to pick up, it’s almost like how British humor can go over Americans’ heads. If you have an ear and taste for it, you’ll probably laugh as much as you should, if not it just looks confusing. For me, it a hit or miss, though I hope there were hits than misses.

A lot of the manga that I’ve read before spend a good chunk of the first volume to set up the premise of the story, going into some details about the world/setting to get the readers comfortable and on task. Noragami, however, does most of the set up in the first chapter and then subtly sketches out a rough outline of how the story will go. It’s a simple plot and definitely not completely unique in concept, but I think it’s the story telling that will make it stand out from others like it. It’s about gods and demons and wayward souls; it’s about some of the darker parts of humanity and where it might come from. It’s nothing new, but the characters are different than what they first appear and they have a depth that I can already tell will only go deeper as the story progresses. The first volume only gives you a taste of the main characters, but it makes you care enough to want to read further.

Overall, it’s a good start of a story. The plot is a little rough looking, but I’ll cut the writer some slack since it’s their first time actually writing the story. I can already tell that this will be a different kind of manga than I’m use to and I’m looking forward to continuing on!

Details:

Title: Noragami  (Vol. 1)

Chapters: 1-3

Written by: Adachitoka

Artist:  Adachitoka

Translation/Adaptation: Alethea Nibley & Athena Nibley

Publisher:  Kodansha Comics

Published:  September 2nd, 2014

Pages: 200

Genre: Manga, Shonen, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Mythology

Anthology Review: Thing in the Bucket (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: Thing in the Bucket (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: Eric Esser

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Paranormal, Historical fiction

Pages: 8 (134-142)

Thoughts:

The more I sit on this story, the more I realize that the Thing in the Bucket is creepy on several levels. First, it’s set in a time when blood-letting was considered a viable cure for various diseases and foul moods. The sight or description of blood doesn’t bother me, unless it’s my own, but the concept of blood-letting just makes me shiver because it’s such a gruesome technique that people willingly participated in. Second, after going back and thinking about some of the events that occurred they seem a bit surreal, impossible to have actually occurred naturally. Therefore, there was a subtle shift into the paranormal that may catch some readers off guard, like myself. Thirdly, there was a delicate transformation of the main character that isn’t overly apparent until the very end when the metaphor in the story was realized.

While the story’s diction doesn’t really allude to a past time, the events and various superstitions of the people described hint at an older time long gone. If there was more dialogue I would have preferred for the author to try and use older words and meaning to give this story more authenticity, but the time wasn’t the main focus of this story. Instead, it is the inner workings of one character’s mind and motives and how they change due to their choices. While there is gore within this story, it isn’t overtly described, just enough to paint a decent picture. Overall, this was a thoroughly creepy and interesting story that I’m sure some high school teacher would love to have their students dissect for hidden meanings.

Rating:

4/5

Thing in the Bucket is an odd kind of horror story. Nothing jumps out and screams ‘Boo!’ Instead Esser invokes a niggling sense of unease in the back of the mind that grows the more you think over the story. Not everyone will find this story chilling, but those who do may find it increasingly more enjoyable than others. If you’re not a fan of blood I wouldn’t give this story a read.

Anthology Review: A Game of Conquest (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: A Game of Conquest (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: David A. Elsensobn

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Paranormal, Historical fiction

Pages: 6 (128-133)

Thoughts:

A Game of Conquest is a simple paranormal tale that doesn’t contain much action. However it is still a strong story because of the imagination and details the author weaves into it. He turns a simple game into another story, one that reveals the true nature of each player and the conclusion of the tale. I can’t really say much more without giving anything away, but the author found an interesting way to portray his characters to the reader, giving them much about their pasts but still keeping the story interesting.

Set in the 1840s, the author tries to emulate the language and mannerisms of the time to help immerse the readers into the story. Elsensobn writes poetry with his descriptions, making them vivid and simple, but with a flare of the time through choice wording. Overall a brilliant and imaginative telling of a simple enough idea that is less than original.

Rating:

5/5

A Game of Conquest is a quick, fast paced read for anyone who wants a brief moment in a paranormal past! The language, while older, is still rather easy to understand and doesn’t hinder the pacing of the story. Anyone who wants a good, vivid read will enjoy this short story. The only people I doubt will like this one is anyone who isn’t a fan of historical fiction.

Anthology Review: Leonora (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: Leonora (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: Elise Forier Edie

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Paranormal, Historical fiction

Pages: 6 (122-127)

Thoughts:

Leonora was not what I was expecting when I started reading. At first, I thought I was going to read another boring story, but better written than the last one. Then the author started throwing out little hints to the direction the story would go. If you’re familiar with the mythology the author was playing with, then you would have known right away. However, if you’re like me and wasn’t aware, then you quickly and shockingly get turned on your head by the surprise. Eide uses that shock to change the tone of her story and to add to the overall emotion of the climax.

The author’s voice is spectacular in Leonora. The language and diction definitely gives off an older feel to the story, helping to transport you back in time. For those well versed in history you may be able to guess the time period this story was aiming for, but if not it doesn’t really hinder the appeal of the story. The descriptions are very deliberate, the author choosing what things to focus on to add to the experience and mood of the reader. Overall, it’s a fantastic short story that both horrifies and intrigues.

Rating:

5/5

Leonora is a fabulous, quick and easy read for most readers. I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone who is uncomfortable with gore, while the scene is brief it did make me a little queasy reading it. If you love mythology, gore, or want a good shock then I recommend this highly!

Anthology Review: The Funnel Tube (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: The Leather Funnel (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: Arthur Conan Doyle

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Paranormal, Historical-fiction

Pages:  8 (109-116)

Thoughts:

The Leather Funnel wasn’t quite what I was I expecting. At first I thought I might come across another story entirely driven by conversation, except this time you could read both characters’ actions and reactions. However, the meat of the story is told within a dream and it is described like something happening on a stage. Mainly this story deals with questions regarding dreams and objects with intense emotion surrounding them. The more frightening elements of the story, at least for me, are of certain archaic actions described in some detail. For those who love history, The Leather Funnel may intrigue you because it includes a fictional depiction of Madeleine d’Aubray, Madame de Brinvilliers, a convicted murder from France. I personally had to look up the history behind the woman, and when I did the things described in the short story were made all the more gruesome.

The story for the most part is well written. There are a few awkward transitions in which the author knew the direction he wanted to go, but not quite sure how to get there. The language is a bit dated, which is to be expected since it was originally published in 1922. Doyle properly introduces the two main characters in the beginning, though some of their exchanged dialogue read a little strangely and I wasn’t sure if it was done purposely or not.

Rating:

4/5

Overall, The Leather Funnel was an excellent read with a fantastic concept! I would recommend this to any history lover or French history buff. I would also recommend this to anyone who is fascinated with dreams or old forms of torture. Nothing is too graphically explained within this short story, it actually stops before the real events take place so there’s no strong depiction of what happens. However, it is hinted at strongly as to what will happen and it may be strong enough to disturb some people, so read at your own risk.

Anthology Review: The Screaming Skull (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: The Screaming Skull (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: F. Marion Crawford

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Gothic, Paranormal

Pages:  18 (88-105)

Thoughts:

Oh dear Lord in heaven! I’m too embarrassed to admit how long it took me to read this one, but I stopped so many times to keep my nerves from fraying, and not from fright but boredom. Have you ever listened to a person on the phone and not be able to hear the caller on the other end? Sometimes that one side of the conversation that you can hear is interesting, but usually you grow bored of hearing just the one person’s commentary. That’s what this story was, a one-sided conversation between two old friends, unfortunately there was no telephone involved.

The Screaming Skull first reads like someone is narrating a story, but after a few paragraphs the main character switches from one story to another that has nothing to do with the first. It’s then that I realized that the main character is having a conversation to an old friend, one who hasn’t heard the first story but shares in the memories of the second. By this time the second character, the old friend, hasn’t noticeably said a word. A little later, I finally figured out that I’m reading a two person conversation but the author is only acknowledging what the second person is saying by the reactions of the main character. There’s no action. There’s no real setting set up, other than the few things mentioned in the nonstop dialogue. There’s no he said she said, not even a single quotation mark, unless retelling what someone else said. So it’s basically an eighteen page conversation between two old friends, but the author only bothers to record the one side. Sometimes you get the jist of what the friend says to the main character, but other times it’s hard to tell if the friend spoke at all. While no action is described, it is narrated by the main character as he tells his friend exactly what he’s doing or has done since leaving the room. The entire story isn’t a nonstop conversation, towards the end it does shift but it’s so sudden that’s a little disorienting and it cuts the story off abruptly.

Rating:

2/5

The overall idea of The Screaming Skull was extremely interesting and at times chilling.

However, I hate how the author told the story. I normally don’t enjoy dialogue focused stories, especially if that’s the only thing driving the plot. It’s a shame I couldn’t like this story more because the concept is still quite original! The Screaming Skull would probably be a lot better and scarier if done as a play or some other visual media. Honestly, I don’t know who I would recommend this to…