Friday, September 23, 2011

Virals by Kathy Reichs

Virals is the first is a YA series by Kathy Reichs, who came to popular culture through her books about Temperance Brennan and their t.v. show adaptation, Bones. The main character, and our narrator, is Tory Brennan (Temperance's niece). I have only read the first Bones book, though I've watched the t.v. show regularly, so I can't say whether this series is a true spin off or not. I plan on reading more of both the Temperance and Tory Brennan series.

I ear-read rather than eye-read this books. The young lady, Cristin Milioti, that did the voice work did a fabulous job. This book even had a few sound effects related to certain occurrences. This surprised me at first, most audiobooks I've read don't include sound effects but rely solely on the actor's voice. Maybe this one was different because it was a YA book, it was well done and didn't distract from the story.

Tory has just moved from Pennsylvania to South Carolina. The reason for her move? Her mother has died in a car accident and she has moved in with her father, Kit. Neither of them has known of the others existence for the 14 years of her life. Considering the circumstances, Tory is exceedingly well adjusted. She is a genuinely good kid, if her actions aren't always careful or legal. Like her famous aunt, she is very intelligent and loves science. Her father's house is on a small island owned by the University, only other university employees live on it. As a result, Tory becomes with the three teen boys that also live on the island. They also love science, though different aspects. The kids go to a fancy prep school on the mainland, this is one of the perks offered by the college to attract researchers to take the job on the remote research island.

The kid's love to go the research island by boat and observe the wolf-dogs and the wild monkeys (yes, you read that correctly). This habit annoys their parents' supervisor, and he is always trying to prove that they have broken a rule so that he can ban them forever. They have noticed that one of the wolf-dog pups is missing and that the pack is acting strangely (its because the missing pup is locked up in one of the labs), while trying to discover the cause of the strange behavior Tory discovers a pair of old dog tags. Being an ever curious teen, and solver of puzzles, Tory insists they find out who the dog tags belonged to and how they got on the island.

This discovery in turn leads to the discovery of a dead body. Shortly, after discovering the body they all become very ill. It turns out that they caught an unknown disease when they rescued the wolf-pup, dubbed Cooper. Once they are over the sick symptoms, they begin to notice heightened senses and unusually high levels of strength. But these powers are interment. In the course of their investigation into the dog tags and dead body, they have angered a mysterious person that is trying to stop their investigation by any means possible.

The story is fast paced, entertaining, with moments of true and deep emotions (some sweet, others sad). It is a YA book, but due to some of the language it contains I would say it's best for upper middle school or high school. I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

I suppose it's fitting that I began exploring Joe Hill's work with his debut novel. I know that it is no longer a secret that he comes from a family of writers, and that his father is one of the most prolific horror writers of all time. Many would argue that his father is the most popular horror writer of all time. I am declining to opine on that front to avoid: a) the hate mail on the one end of the debate and b) the total loss of respect on the other. I am also not going to do what so many others have done and compare the father's and son's work. I'm sure it has been done to death, and bores both them and the readers at this point. I will say that it is clear that the father passed along his love not only of the horror genre, but his love of music to the son as well.

Our tale is that of an aging rock star, Judas Coin, who is fascinated with the macabre and has a unique collection of dark oddities including a witch's confession to her crimes. Jude was once married, but has had a string of young lovers since it fell apart. His current partner is Marybeth, whom he refers to as Georgia (he refers to all his girlfriends by their state of origin). His only constant companions are Danny Wooten, his personal assistant, and his German Shepherds, Bon and Angus. The adventure begins when Danny sees an online auction that he knows will interest Jude, a man's ghost and his suit.

The individual auctioning off the ghost implies that it is harmless, this turns out to be a rather large falsehood. It very quickly becomes obvious to the reader, as well as Jude and Georgia, that this ghost plans on doing more than just rattle some windows or moan in the night. Georgia is hurt almost right away, and Danny goes running for the hills as quick as can be. The situation continues to deteriorate as the story progresses.

I listened to the audiobook as I drove to and from work, Stephen Lang captured the feel perfectly. He can even do a very good southern accent, and a reasonable facsimile of a woman's voice. The production quality was quite high. I felt myself tense up for the characters, my breath shortened in anticipation and worry. I even cried in several places in sympathy for them. Joe Hill makes you wonder if there will be a happy ending, or if the story will end like Japanese stories so often do when they star an angry, hateful ghost. If you are looking for a good ghost story, I recommend you pick this one up.