Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Deep by Alma Katsu

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Deep by Alma Katsu.  I am so excited for this book – this is an author who has never let me down so I’m bouncing up and down with glee to see this.  Take a look and see why:

TheDeep.jpgSomeone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.

This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner’s illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers – including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher – are convinced that something sinister is going on . . . And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not – could not – have survived the sinking of the Titanic . . .
Brilliantly combining fact and fiction, the historical and the horrific, The Deep reveals a chilling truth in an unputdownable narrative full of unnerving moments and with a growing, inexorable sense of foreboding.

Due for publication: March 2020

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The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Posted On 1 March 2018

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The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a fascinating story full of darkness and despair.  Using as inspiration a true life horror story and blending it with imaginary scenarios brimming with superstition and fear, the author has created a winning tale that gradually builds into a story packed with emotion, riveting to read and scary in scope.  To be honest, I expected to like this story. I’ve read this author before and loved her style of writing and her ability to recreate something from history in such a perfect and easy to read fashion, but, this story exceeded my (already high) expectations.

I confess that I’d not heard of the Donner Party before and I had no knowledge that this story was based on such a terrible tragedy.  Using this real life disaster Katsu weaves together a tale of fear, superstition and the supernatural.

I’m leaving any further detail about the plot out of this review.  If you’re already familiar with the historic events being recreated here then you probably don’t need me to detail them and if, like me, you are unaware of this particular event then I think it’s best to approach this with no knowledge at all.

So, what did I love about this story.

Firstly, the writing, the attention to detail and the clear research that has been poured into this project is exceptional.  Katsu has a style that flows very well, her dialogue is absolutely spot on and on top of that she seems to easily recreate a sense of time and place that makes the story fascinating and evocative.  I absolutely loved reading about the life on this wagon train and in fact felt like I had a real understanding of what people were experiencing not just in terms of the day to day struggles but also with their emotions.  On top of that there is a tension to the story.  Even in the earlier chapters the tension is palpable.  In frog soup fashion it gradually increases and builds until you’re sat in boiling water with no idea of how you wound up there.

I would mention at this point that although this is a scary read it’s more the author’s ability to create fear that achieves this.  This isn’t a blood thirsty horror fest.  Things happen.  They’re not always nice but the blood and guts are not the main focus.  It’s more a relentless barrage of creepy elements that, when combined with the sense of mounting fear that the travellers experience. becomes almost like a collective hysteria that is simply gripping to read about.  I had an almost overwhelming feeling of being caught in the headlights, a car wreck approaching – I had to read on, I had to know what was going to happen next, I wanted the characters I had become attached to to be okay, yet I knew things were going to spiral out of control.  Compelling indeed.

Secondly the characters.  We have a number of people to keep track of and yet it doesn’t feel arduous.  The author takes her time to allow you to become familiar with them and their way of life but you need that time to familiarise yourself with them all.  Gradually you start to have a real feel for who everyone is and how they all fit in together.  Tamsen, promiscuous or lonely?  Superstitious enough to make tokens that others regard with fear.  She’s not generally liked.  She’s far too pretty for some, a bit too witch-like for others and married to one of the most prosperous men on the trail not without a good deal of spite and envy directed her way.  Mary Graves.  Quiet, aloof and yet although softly spoken with an inner strength.  Charles Stanton.  A loner in a situation that it’s never good to be alone in.  His own standoffishness makes the others suspect him of wrongdoing and he’s a natural target for the fear and hate that gradually grows within the group.  There are plenty of others who you will either like – or seriously not – but what prevents this from becoming overwhelming is the back stories that are provided.  They’re delivered naturally as the story progresses and they’re quite fascinating.  Some of these people are running towards what they hope will be something better and some of them are definitely running away. from things they want to leave far behind  It’s all very curious and even more so when you realise that quite a few of them are already known to each other.  It’s a hotbed of emotions.  Fear, mistrust, jealousy, hatred, anger – when coupled with the hardships being encountered, the harsh weather conditions and the lack of food – well, it’s all a recipe for disaster.  Then throw in something stalking the travellers, children start to go missing, shadows in the dark, people who seem to change character, becoming almost feral.  The fear becomes almost unbearable, often times turning into anger and hate.

In terms of criticisms.  I think the start will feel maybe a little drawn out for some people – personally, I think the time is necessary to the overall plot, it leads you into a false sense of security whilst at the same time allowing you to develop connections with the characters.  The other thing, this is undoubtedly bleak – if you’re aware of the true story then you’ll already know that.  I couldn’t help at times thinking ‘for goodness sake give these characters (and me) a break’ – but of course that was never going to be a possibility.  This is a tale inspired by brutal reality.  It’s cruel and desperate and Katsu has taken it that extra step by adding something more in the form of the supernatural – it’s not achieved with a heavy hand though but very subtly done.

I’m going to wrap it up there because I’ve already rewritten this three times and frankly I’m never going to be satisfied. This is a powerful book.  It’s full of emotion.  It’s dark and scary and it plays on your innermost fears.  Utterly compelling, a horrifying story that with only a little bit of the supernatural thrown into the mix is quite a remarkable read.

I received a copy through Edelweiss, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu

Posted On 5 July 2012

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Just finished reading The Reckoning by Alma Katsu which continues the story of unrequited loved started in The Taker.  Once again we are taken into Lanore’s world and given a taste of the immortal life she leads.  I really enjoyed this book.   As with the first book we have a subtle mix of the modern and the historic.   The voice of Lanore is once again compelling and I must admit that I found myself liking her much more in this novel than in the first.  I also really enjoy Katsu’s writing style.  Her writing flows easily and appears to be effortless, which I’m quite sure isn’t the case.

At the start of this novel we immediately pick up with Lanore and Luke as they enjoy an evening out – only to be spoiled as Lanny is suddenly overcome with the absolute conviction that Adair is free!  I’m not giving anything away by that little revellation as it is already mentioned on the jacket.  Unfortunately in writing this review it will of course immediately give away spoilers for book one and to be honest I would advise anybody who wants to read this story to pick up The Taker first.  So, don’t read on if you don’t want spoilers!

In this novel Adair manages to escape his incarceration and is hellbent on revenge.  Revenge on the two people who entombed him after he had given them the gift of immortality, Jonathan and Lanny, but more so Lanny who he had also bestowed his love upon (albeit one of a bit of a twisted variety).  Now we start a dance of sorts as Lanny and Adair try to outwit each other not helped in Adair’s case by having missed over 200 yearsof development which he now has to become familiar with.  We once again come face to face with some of the other immortals who have over the years split apart and spread out in the world to lead lives without the tyranny of their former leader.  As with the first novel we get to look back at past events, which I found really interesting and entertaining.  We spend some more time with Adair and get to take a look at his earlier years and we get to travel back and look at some more of Lanny’s story once she became free of the tyranny of Adair.

I think that this novel definitely added more to the characters involved.  Lanny showed a more compassionate side – putting other’s feelings before her own but the most surprising change is in the form of Adair (nothing more on that though).  He really is quite a despicable character, in fact he’s brilliant in his cruel and arrogant behaviour.  Don’t get me wrong, I can see he’s not very nice but I like reading a well formed bad sort of character.

We get a little bit more insight into the beginnings of the magic that helps to make the immortals.  We explore the early start and we also delve a little bit into life after death.

What I was surprised about is that this is one of the few books about immortals where the grass doesn’t necessarily look greener on the other side of the fence.  It’s not the sort of book that makes you think ‘what if’ or make you want to recreate and drink that sludgy looking portion to give you the secret of longevity.  Things are definitely not as rosy as they seem when you get to live this long.  You don’t have the opportunity to be a real part of a family, to have your own name, to watch your children growing older or to form any really meaningful friendships.  Basically it’s a fairly lonely and secretive existence spent running from place to place to avoid recognition or unanswerable questions.  Also, the characters that Adair chose to embrace, were all damaged in some respect due to their prior history and being immortal doesn’t improve that fact, they have years and years to dwell on their own errors and dream of redemption.

The only criticism I would level would be that although we visit a lot of different places in this story I don’t feel that any of them were particularly well drawn.  If not for the headings at the start of various chapters telling you ‘Paris’ or ‘London’ , etc, I’m not sure that it would have been noticable.  But, having said that I imagine the author was trying not to go into overly lengthy descriptions which would have bulked the book out and also distracted from the tale as it unfolds.

All in all a very enjoyable read.  The only drawback is the long wait for the final instalment!

The Reckoning

The Reckoning

The Taker by Alma Katsu

Posted On 1 April 2012

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Just finished reading The Taker by Alma Katsu.  I enjoyed this story even though it actually wasn’t what I’d originally thought it would be.

The Taker is portrayed as a love story blending paranormal and history.  I would start by saying that I’m not sure that I would describe this story as an immortal love story.  It’s certainly a story about immortals but by describing it as a love story it gives you a certain expectation which I’m not sure is entirely true.  Personally, I would describe this as an immortal story of unrequited love.  A tale of obsession that reaches across the ages.

The story starts with Dr Luke Findley beginning his shift at the hospital where he lives in St Andrews, Maine.  Basicially Luke is not entirely happy with his lot in life.  He’s a doctor in a town where he doesn’t wish to live.  His family obligations have brought him back there and now he feels trapped.  His wife has left him taking his children and with his mother recently deceased he has very little to keep him in this small backtown and yet here he remains.  Until Lanore McIlvrae comes into his life.  Lanore, or Lanny, is brought into the hospital by the police as a potential murder suspect.  She’s brought in for examination by Dr Luke Findley who is going to become more deeply involved than he could have imagined when he set off for his shift that evening.

And, so we begin with Lanny’s story which spans back over the course of 200 years (in fact it goes much further back than that when we start to learn the story of one of the other characters from the story).

Firstly, the characters.  They’re an odd bunch.  We have Lanore.  Goodness knows she doesn’t always make the best decisions.  She can certainly be very selfish and cruel but she is aware of these shortcomings in herself.  I’m not sure at this point whether I exactly like Lanny which is a strange position to be in after reading her story and I’m not altogether sure I trust her either.  What I do enjoy about Lanny is how she relates her story.  Her voice.  Which is really quite compelling.  I found myself totally gripped to the story whenever we found ourselves going back in time and probably could probably have done without the more modern day elements completely.  The historical elements are fascinating to read about.  The details about the lives, firstly when Lanny lives in Maine and then when she goes to Boston are really well written and interesting to read about.  You certainly spend a lot of time with Lanny so in that respect she has plenty of character.  What I struggled to come to terms with is why she was so obsessed with Jonathon.  Jonathon is the son of the town’s benefactor.  He is perfect in all respects.  Absolutely gorgeous to behold, rich, intelligent and his full life is mapped out.  He is far and above Lanny in his station in life and without her practically throwing herself at his feet would never have noticed her at all.  However Jonathon is lonely, he has no friends and Lanny becomes his companion – platonic of course.  Jonathon is only really briefly sketched as far as I’m concerned.  He’s a total philanderer and basically seems to have sexual relationships with all the females in town – not helped of course by the fact that most of the women are so overcome with desire for him on account of his good looks that they simply throw themselves at his head.  The problem I have is that Lanny is obsessed with this guy for 200 years and yet apart from his good looks we have very little other reason to see why.  He also, isn’t the most likable character.  He’s quite weak at the start of the novel and appears to go through life with a very bored and abject expression.  I wouldn’t say I disliked him – just that I feel perfectly indifferent towards him and so apart from the fact that Lanny can’t have him – what exactly is the attraction that it remains so strong for that length of time.  I guess basically it seems a little bit fickle.  Yes, you may be attracted to a person’s looks initially but after that there has to be more?  Anyway, I digress!

We are then introduced to the character of Adair – and what a perfectly horrible little monster he is surrounded by his little crew of vipers – of which he is soon to make Lanny a member of.  We now take a further step back in time to hear Adair’s tale – which is really quite dark and twisted. This certainly isn’t a YA book although maybe it would cross over for the older element – that being said, there are a few elements that are rather brutal, not gratuitously so but the back stories include rape, beatings and elements of torture.  The thing with Adair is we are given a much greater insight into his character which makes him much more real.  Perhaps this is because Adair is set to play a much bigger role in the next novel?

We also, of course have the character of Luke.  Again, Luke,  feeling so/so about him.  Apart from his obvious unhappiness with life in general we don’t get a good feel for him really and clearly he’s there as a means by which Lanny can relate her story.

I don’t really want to elaborate further on the plot as I don’t want to give away spoilers and although it seems as though I’ve been quite critical above I think it’s almost in a good way.  Just that I had lots of ‘what if’s or ‘what’ moments!  This is a story about immortals – we are given some background into this and the end reveals a twist that I hadn’t anticipated.

Basically, in spite of the observations about the characters, I thought this was a really good story.  I’ve never read Interview with a Vampire but have seen the film and for me this has a definite flavour of that type of story.  I can’t say whether it read like Anne Rice but maybe others will have a better idea of that.

I’m hoping that with the developments at the end maybe Lanny will become a changed individual in the next instalment?  Anyway, time will tell and I look forward to picking up number 2.

I think that if you want a good historical/paranormal read then this may be for you.  It’s not always the most gentle read but it is definitely compelling.  Plus, the other thing that I do really like about this book is that although this is a trilogy there isn’t a cliff hanger ending and you could actually stop reading at this point.

The Taker

The Taker