Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Serial Killers' Featured Review: Dead Sky Morning by Karina Halle

Want to know more about the idea behind Serial Killers? This post is the place to start.

This month's book is Dead Sky Morning the 3rd book in the Experiment in Terror series by Karina Halle. I'm the established reader and Odd is new to the series...

Synopsis (Goodreads)
With the Experiment in Terror show finding some success, amateur ghost hunters Perry Palomino and Dex Foray embark on their most terrifying investigation yet. A tiny, fog-shrouded island in the rough strait between British Columbia and Washington State has held a dark secret for decades: It was a former leper colony where over forty souls were left to rot, die and bury each other. Now a functioning campground, Perry and Dex spend an isolated weekend there to investigate potential hauntings but as the duo quickly find out, there is more to fear on D’Arcy Island than just ghosts. The island quickly pits partner against partner, spiraling the pair into madness that serves to destroy their sanity, their relationship and their very lives.
Odd's Thoughts: Man, I was rooting for the zombie lepers. Hoo.

Here's my problem with the book: it basically boils down to a slugfest between Awesome Setting, Kickass Plot and Characters Who Needed Their Heads Knocked Together. And they were being coached in that corner by Clunky Writing Style of Clunkiness.

Now I realize I bang on about clunky writing style all the time, because it is one of my pet peeves, but I can understand if you're skeptical what with the repetition. And I'm at the point that I get that all books, self-published and traditional, come with a certain number of typos and grammar issues, but in this particular book, my issue was with word choice. Coming up with metaphors and similes that haven't been done to death is tough work. Ditto crafting vivid descriptions, but...okay look, let's read the opening pages together and I'll show you what I mean:

--My mind reeled awake like the slow wind of undeveloped film...I couldn't bring my mind around fast enough to remember anything concrete. But there were thoughtless flashes. (How can things in your head be thoughtless?)

--The reel in my head spun wildly, more shady images skittering past the spokes. (Is your head a damn bicycle wheel? What spokes? Y'ALL THIS ANNOYED ME ENOUGH TO WIKI HOW PROJECTORS WORK. FOR THREE FULL MINUTES.)

--I concentrated, desperately finding some light my retinas could latch on to (...but it stays completely dark, so the light wasn't really found. Also: ow, don't latch your retinas onto things.)

--I had the distinct feeling that I was floating as my inner ear rolled and swayed inside my heavy head (Nope, not how ears work. Fluid can roll about inside your inner ear, but if your inner ear's rolling and swaying, we're talking severe head trauma)

--I felt dampness at my back and, bit by bit, the sensation that my hands were emerged in ice water. (...Were they *submerged* in the damn ice water?)

So, all of those are from the first two pages. Now, given that beginnings can sometimes be a little shaky, I wanted to give this author the benefit of the doubt but there was literally something that made me crazy every other page. Every other page!

--This anonymous coward was just reinstating everything I felt about myself already. (Repeating? Re-stating? Reinforcing?)

--I walked over to the meter where I had parked Put-Put and piloted him through the cold winds that ruffled my back (I seriously don't want to know what it looks like when someone's back ruffles. Especially not in a book about ghost lepers.)

--just hearing the music and the sound of his toothpick as it flitted against his teeth (is the toothpick animate?)

Whatever. Fine. I'm picky and I do too much editing for other jobs. There's a whole succession of descriptions that grated on me so much I had to make a list of them (I need a hobby) and figure out why they bothered me so much, and discovered there were physics and semantics violations at work that only like, four people in the world care about. Fine. Fine. I can take medication for that. But:

Picking what log to sit on was a bit like trying on underwear. Some had bird poop on it, some were too small for my ass to rest comfortably on. Eventually I found a nice broad one and took a seat.

Holy mother of pearl. What the fuck kind of underwear does this chick strut around in? And so, my hand to Heaven, when sexytimes came around and Dex goes for Perry's drawers, I thought, "I really hope those aren't the ones with bird shit on them."

Then there was this:

He was staring out at the sparkling bay as we hurried along on the wall. I had to agree. The way the weak sun hit the water was hypnotic and spread out in front of us like a wavering welcome mat. The far off islands were dark lumps of green and on some of them was a light sugar dusting of snow. The sky was cloudless and cheery, bouncing off the mixture of high rises that bloomed to our right. 

Do y'all even need me to--

I can't even--

It's just-- GRAH! Fine: I'm not sure how a sun can be spread out like a welcome mat, have no idea how a sky can bounce off anything, but most of all, sunlight appears weakened when it's coming through a layer of clouds, or haze, or smog. You know, the kind of things that are entirely absent from the cloudless sky.

Look, I am well aware that these things will not bother everyone, or even maybe half of everyone, but they drove me bananas. Every. Other. Page. Any maybe I could've gotten past this and enjoyed the creepy island full of ghost lepers, had I really liked either of the two main characters.

I didn't.

I get that Dex is supposed to be the tortured sensitive bad boy figure, and he was both bad and a boy, I'll grant you that, but there was nothing redeeming about him except perhaps that right in the middle of the sexytimes he suddenly grew a third hand (not joking, go back and read that section of the book again). Other than that, he was all douche, no bag. He was so belittling of Perry, and so manipulative, and this whole taking-her-phone business. Look, if a dude takes away your phone and acts like he has any right to do so, bring that knee up for glory, ladies.

Feel free to add a little in-step stomp for any dude who uses "gay shit" and "retarded" as adjectives.


In the beginning, I could not stand Perry one iota. And by "in the beginning" I mean, for about 70% of the book. Throwing things when you don't get your way is not cute. Throwing a tantrum when someone tells you to grow up? Less cute. She would not shut up about how much she loved Dex, and how did he feeeeeeeeel and did he like her? Or did he like-like her? She kept saying "He's a boy" when Dex did some stereotypically dumb male thing, and "Maybe it was a girl thing but--"

Look, it's probably not a girl thing, because I'm a girl, and at that point in the book I wanted to beat both Dex and Perry to death with one of those damn raccoons they were so blase about. I was pro-death-by-raccoon for both of them, plot bedamned.

But then, when things got crazy with the ghost lepers, she mysteriously grew a spine, told Dex off, then channeled the sainted spirit of Linda Motherfucking Hamilton as they went charging round that island.

And for a brief moment, I was Team Perry.

But by the time they got back to the mainland and she'd started whining about Dex's girlfriend Jenn again (oh yes, Dex is already spoken for, ladies. Likely because of his third hand.)

About 70% of the way through the book, the plot manages to strangle the annoying protagonists and kick ever'body into high gear. Eye-socket-mice! Cell reception of narrative convenience! Creepy dead baby! Ghost with a knife! Coffins! Flare gun! Zipline! Linda Hamilton! Deadly rose bush!

But 70% is a very, very, very long time to wait for a book to get started.

My Thoughts: Here's my disclaimer, folks: I LOVE this series so ridiculously much that I've been known to make embarrassing, high-pitched noises that only marine life and dogs can hear, wax poetic about the brilliance that is Perry and Dex, and recommend this series to EVERYONE who innocently asks for a book rec. This book in particular is one of my early in the series favorites. We get to see Dex and Perry's relationship begin to deepen -- Dex admits that he cares for Perry and I go all swoony because OMFG!YES! -- and they're on a freaking DESERTED LEPER COLONY ISLAND AND THAT FREAKS ME OUT SO MUCH THAT I HAVE TO USE ALL CAPS TO MAKE YOU UNDERSTAND!


Right. Okay. As you might know, I'm a hardcore sucker for stories where our hero and heroine are stranded somewhere with only each other to rely on. I just LOVE that. When Dex and Perry have to share a sleeping bag, I go gooey. When Dex and Perry play their drinking games, I GO ALL GOOEY. Do you sense a theme here? Them being on the island with no one else around puts me in my happy place. And then the leprous ghosts show up and things get BETTER! Because I'm also a sucker for grossness and unexplained things.

Between the ghosties and the crazy that's infecting both Dex and Perry, this book worked for me. Dex's manic mood swings are there but they're tempered by his need to watch out for Perry as the creepy island gets under her skin and she starts acting erratically. Perry confronts Dex on some things that have been building up since book 1. Plus, there might be some unexpected skin-on-skin contact -- which I fully approve of.

After rereading this book, I'm still a hardcore fan and I wouldn't be adverse to rereading the entire series again. Soon. Because Dex and Perry's story makes me very, very happy. I just love those two crazy kids!

Odd: And now I'd like to have a brief moment of silence for the raccoon...

Kelly:  I had no love for the nearly-rabid raccoon. NO LOVE.

PS: You and I did not see eye to eye on this book. Did you see the part about my hardcore love? It's true. I love this series like WHOA!

Odd: I was Team Raccoon, baby.

I did see your declaration of hardcore love for this book, and it gave me oh, at least two seconds of pause while writing my review.

Kelly: It was the island, man! The island drove both Dex and Perry nutty! Seriously, Perry was going off the boards in this book. More so than usual.

Odd: But see, if I only liked her when she was acting out of character...

Where'd I put my good raccoon?

Kelly: Hmmph. Well, at least you got some crazy lepers and skin-peeling madness.

Odd: You mad, boo?

Don't be mad....


Kelly: Nah. I'm not mad. It's like when I started the Logan McRae series at book 7 and just... couldn't get into it like you did. Different strokes for different folks and all that jazz. Amirite?

Odd: Gosh, I'm so relieved you're not mad I wanted to kill both main characters with a double-bore repeating assault raccoon that I'm... I'm.... *verklempt*


Kelly: I always end up making you read books that you hate. I'M SORRY!

Odd: I honestly find it hilarious at this point. Who are you, dude? Where do you find all these books?

Also, not yet part of a series, but I should point out I have a pararom on my shelves to read that I'm actually enjoying. I am not unredeemable. Just kind of an asshole. Seriously. Who else do you know would have a hissyfit (with raccoon) about lack of semantic feature-matching in adjectival descriptions? Like I sat down and made a list. There were diagrams.

Kelly: No one else. NO ONE! I still love you, though. Even though your book-lovin' radar is on the fritz.

Picking what log to sit on was a bit like trying on underwear. Some had bird poop on it, some were too small for my ass to rest comfortably on. Eventually I found a nice broad one and took a seat.
Kelly: You can't sway me I still have mad love for this book and series.

Odd: And more power to you. Do they wind up together? Does she punch him again?

Kelly: Let's just say that this is a slow burn romance. THINGS HAPPEN but it takes a while for them to both be in a place to enjoy it. I don't actually remember any additional punching but I wouldn't rule it out.

Split Decision

Books in this series
1. Darkhouse
2. Red Fox
2.5. The Benson
3. Dead Sky Morning [original review] - Paperback | Kindle
4. Lying Season
5. On Demon Wings
5.5. Old Blood
5.7. The Dex Files
6. Into the Hollow

Author Links
| Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon |


  1. I'm definitely Team Derry at this point, but I do have to admit that Odd makes very good points about the writing style. That's been the biggest hurdle for me with this series. (And I often find myself editing these books as I read, which I hate doing. But I do.) Many times, I think authors get caught up in what sounds good without looking at what their words actually mean. In this case though, the story outshines the writing style for me, and that's why I keep coming back.

    1. Team Derry? Damn. I've been Team Pex. I'M DOING IT ALL WRONG! For me, the slow burn of their relationship slays me. I want more. I don't want it easy for them (and it isn't) but I want them to get together LIKE WHOA! As you know.

    2. By the time things got Real Real Scurry and Perry summoned Linda Hamilton to be her spirit guide, I was like, Yeah! YEAH! ...and I could overlook the writing style. But that was 70% of the way in.

      And for the record, my semantic weirdness was that nouns were being modified by adjectives that required different physical properties to be successful. For instance: polished coffee.

      For me, you can't polish coffee because coffee's not a solid.

      Another one was where Perry was admiring the dots of color in Dex's pupils and described them as streaks of red and gold. Streak doesn't apply to dot because of a physical shape issue.

      I know, I know. Meds. There are meds for this.

    3. I still like you. Even in your unmedicated state.

    4. So. Fortunate.

      Also, if anyone wants to talk about how choppy my writing style is in this review, I'm here for that. I admit it. My glass house has a cupola on the top floor, y'all.

  2. Kelly, I am ON YOUR SIDE! My love for this series is so high! I'm sad that Odd didn't like it as much. :( BUT we can't all love the same things.

    1. Very true. I read one of her favorite series recently and couldn't get into it. We are all so different! It's what makes us wonderfully fun!