Spooktober Book Review: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Title: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Publisher: Orbit

Publication date: 14 November 2017

Genre: Horror | Adult

Page extent: 440 pages

Rating: FIVE / FIVE GLORIOUSLY SPOOKY STARS 👻👻👻👻👻

Goodreads blurb: Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

***

“Do I think they found mermaids? Yes. Of course I do. And I think the mermaids ate them all.”

IT GIVES ME CHILLS

Well I’m never getting on a boat again. Continuing my dive (hahaha) into horror, which started with Wilder Girls, I picked up Into the Drowning Deep after seeing it recommended on Twitter. And holy smokes, this book is goddamn incredible and I am now officially a fan of horror. Cue immediate reserving of several titles at the library. Into the Drowning Deep is a psychological horror set in a world where mermaids exist. Except, instead of the ‘lovely ladies of the sea’ we expect to find based on all our myths, we find creatures who want to eat our faces. 

7 years before the start of the novel, the Atargatis set off to film a mockumentary about the existence of mermaids. Instead, they were devoured alive. Now, Imagine, the entertainment company who had arranged the mockumentary 7 years ago, are launching a new mission to fix their reputation. They will prove that the mermaids are not a hoax, by capturing one and bringing it back to land. Accompanied by an army of scientists driven to either find the mermaids and make the discovery of a lifetime, or just to study parts of the uncharted ocean, the Melusine sets off on its mission. 

The trouble with discovery is that it goes two ways. For you to find something, that thing must also find you.

From the very first page of the novel, there is SO MUCH tension. I was immediately enthralled from the very first page. Short extracts of interviews, talks, videos appear at the start of each ‘section’, and these really add to the sense of tension and fear. They add brilliant insights into the mermaids, as well as hint at some of the terrible things about to happen. Another tension enducing technique I adored was the way Grant would compare the mermaids to very specific animals, the second before something awful happens. There is a split second of realisation for both the characters, and the reader, as you realise oh shit yes that’s what the mermaids are doing, and then immediately the shit happens. It was so terrifying and so amazing, my stomach was like a rollercoaster. It was just SO INTENSE. I cannot express how incredible it was to be swept on this ride.

Cats chitter when they see a bird. They make this little squeaky noise…Cats chitter, because they’re excited, because they’re about to start hunting. But when the hunt begins, they’re silent. They don’t make a sound. They come at their prey as quietly as they can, because a hunt only counts if there’s a kill at the end.

I loved the hugely scientific focus of the book. It was so detailed and made everything so much more ‘real’ by adding the science element – and by real I mean, I could imagine this all happening in real life. One of the things I love most about scarier stories is making it as realistic and believable as possible. It’s why I really love stories about viruses/pandemics, because they are so believable. And that believability really does add to the sense of fear! I feel like Into the Drowning Deep really had that believability, in part because there was such a scientific focus. I loved all the descriptions of the different scientists and their work, and loved that many of these different characters got focus. There are lots of POVs, but it works! There is such a diverse range of characters and I love that they all got to feature so heavily. Whilst there are main characters, the side characters POV still add a unique and interesting take to the story, sometimes having some of the scariest POVs in the book.

Our ‘main’ crew can be narrowed down to:

Victoria (Tory) Stewart: bisexual icon, sister of Anne, one of the people who died on the previous mission, and who has got NO TIME for her foolish asshole scientist ex who also happens to be on the boat (Jason, he’s a total ass, I shall mention him no further).

Dr Jillian Toth, half-Hawaiian world-leading expert on mermaids, who has dedicated her entire life to studying mermaids and who feels deeply guilty that her research led to the massacre on the previous Atargatis expedition (Jillian is probably my favourite character because she just has her shit together so much, and I just absolutely hung off every word she uttered).

Olivia: autistic, lesbian TV personality from Imagine who is documenting the events on board the ship.

Theo Blackwell: physically disabled, representing the Imagine management on board, and Jillain’s ex-husband – and probably the one character I’ll say I wish we’d had more character development from. He’s definitely not a good character (as in “morally good”), and I wanted to find out more about his motives.

These four are joined by a host of others, including three sisters, Holly (chemical data analysist, deaf twin) and Heather (also deaf, twin to Holly, and underwater explorer, HOW COOL IS THAT?!), and Hallie (sign langauge extraordinaire); Luis, crytozoologist and Victoria’s lab partner and funder; Michi and Jacques, gun loving monster hunters. Honestly, this cast list is just amazing. Every single one is so damn unique and different, and every POV felt really different. Whilst the four main characters get more page time, I loved that we still got to read from the smaller characters POV. Their short POV sections were excellent and added so much to the book and the tension. 

On top of all this awesomeness, it all features a f/f relationship (though this is definitely not the focus of the book). We get to watch the romance bloom – and there was a part of the book, right near the end, where something happens, and I’m just like NO NO NO this can’t happen, because SHE will be causing it AND JUST I need someone to talk to about this book.

Finally, Into the Drowning Deep goes into some really deep discussions on the commercialisation of science, our treatment of species we consider “other”, and the impact humanity has on the world around us, which I thought were all handed brilliantly and really shows how terrible the human race can be.

“Humanity was cruel, and if you were prepared to try to find a bottom to that cruelty, you had best be prepared for a long, long fall.”

All in all, I loved this book! My first adult horror, I really wasn’t sure what to expect and I certainly didn’t expect to love it as much as I did (because I’m a visual media horror wimp). But everything about this book was fantastic, the plot, the science, the characters, the prose. It all added up to a superbly terrifying and intense novel, and I can’t recommend it enough! 

***

After this book, I am now so exicted to expand my reading into the horror genre! So, since I’m such a newby, do you have any horror recs? Let me know!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Spooktober: Cats cats cats!

Hi everyone,

Cats have so long been associated with Halloween. Maybe it’s because every good witch needs their trusty cat companion? Maybe its because cats are so often associated with good or bad luck. Maybe its because cats are portrayed as evil beings who don’t care about anyone? Even though we all know that’s not the most untrue statement to ever be uttered!

So to celebrate all things cats, here is a post I have been longing to do for a while now: I am finally featuring my beautiful little baby, Draco! By matching pictures of him to books….

I apologise in advance for my photo skills, they are….really not great at all. I could blame “the light” but…I feel like it’s probably me.

Draco meets Octopus = The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

This is Draco on one of his birthday presents – a scratcher post shaped like an octopus. It’s name is Barnabus. Now I’ve always found octopi very odd, I’m not fond of the sea or sea creatures, and so The Abyss Surrounds Us, a story about sea monsters, seems like the perfect match!

The Abyss Surrounds Us – Emily Skrutskie

Goodreads: Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

Draco Dressed Up All Fancy = Red, White + Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

This is one of, I think maybe two photos, where I have managed to get a picture of Draco in some form of clothing. We’ve also tried putting him in a shark hat but his head is too small so it just falls off. Here, I feel he’s just so dashing in his bowtie, he reminds me of Henry from RWRB, so fancy and royal!

Red, White & Royal Blye – Casey McQuiston

Goodreads blurb: What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic. 

Draco fights Crocodile = We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Okay this match might be a long reach. BUT. Draco attacking his cute friendly crocodile who just wants to be friends totally reminds me of Nasir and Altair from We Hunt the Flame. Altair is obviously the friendly neighbourhood croc, whilst Nasir is the vicious (yet cute and soft) assassin who must bite.

We Hunt the Flame – Hafsah Faizal

Goodreads blurb: People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

Draco Shines = Crier’s War by Nina Varela

I think the colours of the two images below show exactly why I matched these two. Because the cover of Crier’s War is just so damn shiny! It is absolutely beautiful and reflects one hundred different colours depending on the light, and it reminds me of Draco in the Christmas tree with so many shiny things around him.

Crier’s War – Nina Varela

Goodreads blurb: After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war. 

Baby Draco = The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

So this is Draco maybe a day after we picked him up from the shelter, about two years ago. HE SO BABY. I just want to protect him so much. Which is exactly what Nana’s owner, Satoru, is trying to do in The Travelling Cat Chronicles. It’s such an adorable, and yet heartbreaking book about the love between human and cat.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles – Hiro Arikawa

Goodreads blurb: Sometimes you have to leave behind everything you know to find the place you truly belong…

Nana the cat is on a road trip. He is not sure where he’s going or why, but it means that he gets to sit in the front seat of a silver van with his beloved owner, Satoru. Side by side, they cruise around Japan through the changing seasons, visiting Satoru’s old friends. He meets Yoshimine, the brusque and unsentimental farmer for whom cats are just ratters; Sugi and Chikako, the warm-hearted couple who run a pet-friendly B&B; and Kosuke, the mournful husband whose cat-loving wife has just left him. There’s even a very special dog who forces Nana to reassess his disdain for the canine species.

But what is the purpose of this road trip? And why is everyone so interested in Nana? Nana does not know and Satoru won’t say. But when Nana finally works it out, his small heart will break…

***

So this post was actually so much harder than I thought it would be, and I put the blame solely at my photography skills. Most of my photos of Draco are blurs, or have a million other items in the background…Perhaps if I improve my photo skills, I might do another of these posts in a few months from now.

Do you have any cats? What book characters do they remind you of? Let me know in the comments below!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Spooktober: Autumn Covers

Hi everyone,

Welcome to Day 2 of my Spooktober week! Autumn is such a beautiful season – pretty much every time I see a leaf, I am tempted to pick it up and try preserve it so that when I one day buy a house I can paint myself, I can pick up said leaf and say ‘I want THIS colour!’ I adore all the reds and purples and oranges associated with this season, and I can’t wait to show you some gorgeous Autumny book covers! Some are from books already published, quite a few are 2020 releases, because red and gold really seems to be the theme of 2020 publishing!

Published titles

Ziggy, Stardust & Me – James Brandon

I can’t believe I still haven’t bought a copy of this, but it is TOP of my list in my next order! Set in the 70s when homosexuality is still a crime, this is a coming of age story about Jonathon as he undergoes conversion therapy to “cure” him. But then he meets Web, who turns his life around and shows him how to accept himself.

Like a Love Story – Abdi Nazemian

This is one of my favourite books of the year. It is absolutely astoundingly beautiful and emotional. Set in the 1980s AIDS crisis in the US, it follows three teens as they fall in love and learn how to be true to themselves. There is far too much to say about this book, so all I’m going to do is direct you to my full review of this title (here!) and beg you to pick up a copy of this book, because it is magnificent!

We Set the Dark on Fire – Tehlor Kay Mejia

Dahlia at LGBTQReads helped pick this book out recently, as part of her patreon subscription offer, after my request for “either a political fantasy like Descendent of the Crane or a fantasy with enemies to lovers’ to which she replied ‘How about something with both?’ Whilst I haven’t had a chance to read this book yet, I can’t wait to start!

The Deathless Girls – Kiran Millwood Hargrave

This is one of my favourite covers ever. It’s even more stunning in real life!! I was lucky enough to catch one of the special edition Waterstones editions (even if I did have to spend more on shipping it to Australia than on the book itself…), where it comes with stunning blood red sprayed edges. Brides of Dracula retelling – need I say more?!

The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevedo

I haven’t actually read this one yet, but I did read Acevedo’s second book With the Fire on High and really enjoyed it, so I’m keen to get to The Poet X soon! The way these colours all blend together is just gorgeous. I imagine this book is so so different to anything I’ve read before, as I haven’t read much poetry, but from all the reviews I’ve seen, this book sounds so powerful.

Before Mars – Emma Newman

So this one is here because of that glorious red. I love the image of the planet sort of slowly disintegrating on the cover. This was one of the books which really helped me get into science fiction this year. Emma Newman has a phenomenal way of blending discussions around mental illness into her work. Before Mars follows Anna, who has been sent to Mars to create artwork for her very rich boss. However, when she lands, she finds a note in her room warning her about the psychologist at the base. But the note is in her own handwriting… This book is part science fiction, part thriller/mystery, and I absolutely love it!

The Stars and the Blackness Between them – Junauda Petrus

A story about two girls in love. That’s it, that’s my pitch to make you go read this. Audre has been sent to America, from Trinidad, after her mother caught her with her girlfriend, the daughter of the local pastor. There she meets Mabel, a girl suffering from an illness she doesn’t know about. Together “they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.”

Empire of Light – Alex Harrow

How stunning is that cover?! The colour, the detail, it looks so dystopian and sci-fi. This book is about revolutions and magic and assassins and falling for the person you’re meant to kill.

Caster – Elsie Chapman

I’ve heard a lot of great things from a lot of book people on Twitter about Caster – and I think the cover is just amazing. There is dangerous (and illegal!) magic, gangs, tournaments, and murder mystery!

2020 titles

2020 looks like it’s going to be killing it with dark and moody Autumn covers. So here’s a selection of some of the goregous Autumnal covers for some of the books I’m looking foward to reading next year!

***

I hope you enjoyed checking out all these gorgeous covers in what I really feel is like my most beautiful blog post yet, thank you all cover designers. Let me know what your favourite Autumn cover is in the comments below!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

SPOOKTOBER: My favourite creepy books

Hi everyone!

I’ve been a little slow on the blog recently because I’ve recently added a million things to my already hectic life…including writing a novel! This year I am going to be doing NaNoWriMo and starting writing a book! My angsty bisexual pirate fantasy is going to be taking up a lot of my time, and so for the month of November I will be going on a semi blog hiatus, to concentrate on writing as close to 50,000 words as possible!

So to celebrate my renewed desire to write my novel, I decided to tag along for the last week of Blogtober, with 7 spooky (mostly) posts for you! Today we’re starting with my favourite creepy books…

Wilder Girls – Rory Power

This was definitely going to be top of this list, as one of the creepiest books I’ve read all year! Wilder Girls is a psychological horror, with deadly forests, a virus outbreak, and shockingly distubring body horror. I always find myself loving virus outbreak books and I think it’s because they’re always so realistic – it could literally happen to us tomorrow. And so I always find these books even more creepy because its so easy to imagine it happening in real life. Full review here!

Other Words for Smoke – Sarah Maria Griffin

Other Words for Smoke is just as creepy but in a very different way to Wilder Girls. The setting is really what makes this book so creepy to me – set in a small Irish town, there is such a sense of disturbing fairytale in the prose. The way Sweet James can control and twist the minds of those around them just adds to this creepy atmosphere. Full review here!

Missing, Presumed Dead – Emma Berquist

Missing, Presumed Dead was a book that really surprised me this year! It had such an interesting premise, but I didn’t expect to be quite so blown away by this book as I was. IT IS AMAZING! It is so dark (way way more dark than I thought it would be!), so gritty, and there is such a haunting depiction of how magic could impact mental health, it’s just stunning. Also it has terrifying revenge driven ghosts – definitely fits my favourite creepy books… Full review here!

The Grace Year – Kim Liggett

This book only released a few weeks ago, and brings its own unique perspective to feminist dystopia, in the style of books like The Handmaids Tale, or The Natural Way of Things. Set in another creepy forest, where masked killers wait to pick off girls if they escape, a group of girls must live out a year. The insidious way the girls slowly turn on each other is just incredible, and perfectly matches the creepy atmosphere of the forest. Full review here!

Sealed – Naomi Booth

This was probably one of first body horror reads and it is TERRIFYING!! Rumours of an epidemic have started to appear, one in which skin seals over holes…like your mouth….nose….eyes…. This book is so atmospheric, the fear of the main character is so evident on every page as she tries to escape the epidemic. She’s also pregnant which gives everything such a different take as she tries to survive motherhood, and dreams of her baby being sealed inside her. It’s just horrifying and terrifying and so so creepy.

The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood

I mentioned this book above, and like The Grace Year, its another take on that feminist dystopia story, with themes very similar to The Handmaid’s Tale. Set in Australia, a group of women wake up drugged and trapped in the middle of the Australian outback. There they are watched over by three captors, and made to work, and slowly try to discover why they’re there… Again it’s the setting which really makes this so creepy – the Australian outback can be such a terrifying place, as it is for these women, and the emptiness and lonliness of this setting is so fantastic.

All the Things We Never Said – Yasmin Rahman

To turn this list on its head, I’m ending with this brilliant book I read very recently. The creepy, horror aspect doesn’t come from the setting – instead it’s from the terrifying plot. Mehreen, Cara and Olivia want to die. But they need someone’s help to do it. So they join a suicide pact website, which matches you with partners to commit suicide Mehreen, Cara and Olivia are matched, but as they become friends, they begin to regret their decision. But, the website is deadly, and doesn’t want to let them go…. This book was so fantastic, so gutwrenchingly, heartbreakingly emotional and personal. It’s so scary and just a beautiful story. Though, as a note of warning, I wouldn’t advise reading this when going through a rough mental health patch (which is what I did – and I strongly regret it). Absolutely brilliant book – but keep yourselves safe and well first!

That’s it for today’s Spooktober! Check back in tomorrow for another post!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco