Hello my lovely readers! Many book bloggers are familiar with Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings’ two big reading challenges he runs every year. I often participate in the fall challenge for reading horror/thriller/mystery/etc… but I have never participated in the spring challenge for reading fantasy, because I used to think I don’t like fantasy. I’ve discovered that I’m wrong. I do like fantasy, just mainly urban fantasy and fantasies that are not set in a Medieval Europe style setting. So I thought that this year I would participate in Once Upon a Time IX!
Once Upon a Time IX focuses on reading books that fit into the categories of fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, or mythology between March 21st and June 21st. I’m signing up for the level called “The Journey.” Read at least one book in any of those categories. I’m hoping to read more than one but I was worried if I signed up for a higher level it would feel like too much pressure to me. My personal goal right now is three books.
Books I already own that fit the challenge are listed below. I’d love to hear from you in the comments if there’s one you’d particularly like to recommend to me from my list!
- Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
- Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King
- Deadtown by Nancy Holzner
- Fables Vol. 1 by Bill Willingham
- Fated by S. G. Browne
- A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
- The Nonborn King by Julian May
- Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft
- Unshapely Things by Mark Del Franco
- The Veiled Mirror by Christine Frost
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
- The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
Tomorrow marks the official end of Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings’ RIP Challenge, and since I know that I will not be finishing another read for the challenge, I decided to post my wrap-up today.
I got really into the reading challenge this year, as I’m sure you could tell from the influx of creepy books on my blog! Most of the books I read over the last two months fit into the parameters of the challenge, which is to read something sufficiently creepy in any of the following genres to set the tone for Halloween:
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.
I read a total of 10 books for the challenge. I’ll break the list down by rating for you all.
5 star reads
- A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts by Ying Chang Compestine (review)
- Still Missing by Chevy Stevens (review)
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (review)
4 star reads
- I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead by E. A. Aymar (review)
- Beverly Hills Demon Slayer by Angie Fox (review)
3 star reads
2 star reads
- Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker (review)
- Barely Breathing by Michael J. Kolinski (review)
- The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part One by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (review)
- Favorite read: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (review)
- Least favorite read: Barely Breathing by Michael J. Kolinski (review)
- Most disturbing: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens (review)
- Most amusing: Beverly Hills Demon Slayer by Angie Fox (review)
- Most unique: A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts by Ying Chang Compestine (review)
- Biggest gross-out: From a Buick 8 by Stephen King (review)
Of these 10 reads, 3 were review copies and 3 fit into my Bottom of the TBR Pile Challenge. As for format, 4 were print, 4 were ebooks, and 2 were audiobooks. A nice distribution, I think!
The challenge really put me in the mood for Halloween. It maybe did too good of a job! I’m ready for some light-hearted romances now, people. Lol. The focused selection of reading materials really helped me take a good chunk out of my TBR pile, which I appreciated. Stay tuned in November for a return to the wide variety of reading you’ve come to expect here at Opinions of a Wolf!
Did you enjoy seeing me participate in the challenge? Did you participate in the challenge too? What was your favorite review I wrote for the challenge?
When Leslie married Alex, she knew they both agreed on wanting children. What she didn’t realize, though, was how fiercely Alex, the last son in a long line of wealthy and powerful New Yorkers, would want only their own biological children. He’s willing to try anything to get them biological children, and she feels she can’t deny him one last-ditch effort with a doctor in Slovenia that a couple from their infertility support group swears worked for them. And the woman has the baby bump to prove it. So they fly off to Slovenia, and from the first instant in the doctor’s office, Leslie feels that something just isn’t right….
I’m a real sucker for evil pregnancy/children stories. Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen are two of my favorite movies. So when I heard about this new take on a classic trope, I knew I had to try it out. The book ends up being much less about pregnancy and more about the perils of genetic modification, providing an interesting twist on the evil pregnancy trope that carries out through the childhood of the babies that were conceived.
Essentially, the parents’ genetics were so messed up by the treatments performed by the doctor that they start turning into something different from human. Something a bit more animalistic. The children, of course, also have some of this animalistic genetics, but most of the differences don’t show up until puberty. This allows the children to be innocents for most of the book while their parents have gone off the rails from their very first treatment. My favorite part of this book is how it offers a smart critique of pushing our bodies to do something they don’t want to do. Where is that line? How far should we push things with science and at what point will using science make us something different from human? And is that something different going to necessarily be better? Leslie clearly feels that her children were ultimately worth everything she, her husband, and their bodies went through, but the book itself leaves the answer to that question up to the reader.
Beyond this concept, though, the actual execution of the characterizations and the plot get a bit messy. The writing can sometimes wander off onto tangents or become repetitive. Some aspects of the plot are explored too much whereas others are glossed over too quickly. The book starts out tightly written and fast-paced but toward the end of the book the plot gets disjointed and goes a bit off the rails. Part of the issue is a bit of a lack of continuity regarding just how messed up Leslie and Alex actually are by the treatments. Are they still at all human or are they completely untrustworthy? Is there any possibility of redemption for them? At first both seem equally far gone but then Leslie seems to pull back from the edge a bit, thanks to a MacGuffin. It’s hard to be frightened of the situation if the frightening aspect of the parents comes and goes at will.
Similarly, in spite of the book wanting us to root for Alice and Adam (the twins Leslie and Alex have), it’s hard to really feel for them when they come across as extraordinarily two-dimensional, particularly Alice. Children characters can be written in a well-rounded way, and when it’s well-done, it’s incredible. Here, though, Alice and Adam seem to mostly be fulfilling the role of children and not of fully fleshed characters.
Most of these issues are more prevalent in the second half of the book, so it’s no surprise the ending is a bit odd and feels like it leaves the reader hanging. I was surprised to find out there’s a sequel, as I thought this was a standalone book. On the one hand I’m glad there’s another one, because the story isn’t finished. On the other, I’m not a fan of such total cliffhanger endings.
Overall, the first half of the book offers up a thrilling and horrifying critique of just how far people should be willing to go to get pregnant. The second half, however, is not as tightly plotted and drops the well-rounded characterization found in the first half of the book. Recommended to pregnancy and/or genetic modification horror enthusiasts who may be interested in a different twist but won’t be disappointed by a cliffhanger ending.
3 out of 5 stars