Category Archives: horror

Friday Five …. a Day late ;)

So I’m a little late on the whole Friday thing….

I was inspired by this amazing list from one of my favorite book review blogs The Book Smugglers. I love a good, unsettling story ( a la Gone Girl) so I thought I would put together a list of more classic novels that are still a great horror read.

Here is my own list of classic Halloween reads :

1) The Shining by Stephen King

This book has scared the bejeezus out of me ever since I read it one cold and rainy night in the basement of my soon-to-be MIL’s house. I was all alone and it was dark and creepy. There was a lot of me laying in the dark freaking out much later but I could NOT put the book down! King manages to infuse the empty Overlook Hotel with as much malice and evil that a house can have. Between alcoholic unstable Jack Torrance, strange, telepathic little Danny and other crazy shenanigans you will absolutely be hooked. Trust me when I say that you should probably not be alone in the house when you pick this one up. Love!

2) Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Ok, bear with me on this one…it is obviously not the standard horror fare but still has plenty of creepiness to spare. One of the most famous first lines ” Last night I dreamt I was at Manderley again ” starts out the classic romantic suspenseful novel. It starts out with the heroine (we never actually learn her name)meeting Max de Winter on vacation. After a whirlwind romance, they marry and she returns with him to his ancestral home, Manderley. But all is not well at Manderley, where the presence of Max’s first wife – Rebecca – is felt everywhere. The creepy housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, makes our poor heroine’s life hell while slowly messing with her mind. Soon she begins to doubt everything. Is Max still in love with Rebecca? What happened on the night that she drowned? So good…this is a classic – also if you like old movies then this is a great one. One of Hitchcock’s with Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier.

3) Dracula by Bram Stoker

As you all know, I love the vampires…..sparkly or not, I cannot get enough of the undead. This is the book that started it all and there is a reason that it is a classic. This vampire is no romantic figure, he is cold, cruel, and purely evil. Written in epistolary form (one of my faves!!), it follows Jonathon Harker to Dracula’s castle where he is abducted and fed on. Eventually he escapes but he has some serious PTSD issues. Dracula follows him back to England and craziness ensues. Can it get a little bogged down in old-timey wordiness? Yes but the story is absolutely riveting and I just feel like occassionally you should start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. (I’m not sure how Sound of Music crept in there…)

4) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

This is one that I have not read but I keep reading about and I want to try it. Stephen King named it one of the greatest horror novels of the 20th century so it has to be pretty good right? The story follows four people who are staying in the house. The house has a reputation for the paranormal – some are there to debunk this theory, others are there to prove it. Obviously, lots of paranormal stuff starts to happen and more creepiness settles in. Lots of you, I know, have read Shirley Jackson (remember “The Lottery” from high school?) and I always liked that short story but found it very disturbing so I’m looking forward to checking this one out.

5) The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

Another one I haven’t read but again heard lots of good things about. Here is how Fantastic Fiction describes it :

Their love would never be the same.
Colquitt and Walter Kennedy enjoyed a life of lazy weekends, gathering with the neighbors on their quiet, manicured street and sipping drinks on their patios. But when construction of a beautiful new home begins in the empty lot next door, their easy friendship and relaxed get-togethers are marred by strange accidents and inexplicable happenings.
Though Colquitt’s rational mind balks at the idea of a “haunted” house, she cannot ignore the tragedies associated with it. It is as if the house preys on its inhabitants’ weaknesses and slowly destroys the goodness in them — ultimately driving them to disgrace, madness and even death.

Sounds interesting, right?

Have you read any of these books? How did you like them?

Trina

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Filed under Friday Five, horror

The Night Strangers or Why are twins so creepy?

I am an unabashed NPR lover and I am especially an unabashed Diane Rehm lover. She occasionally has fiction authors on to discuss their books. I heard Chris Bohjalian on her show discussing this newest book and it sounded like my cup o’ tea. Also, it was Halloween time and I was in the mood for a ghost story. So now that it is winter time and you will likely be trapped in a house somewhere with nothing but reading to do, doesn’t a nice scary ghost story sound fun?

Chip Linton, his wife and their young TWIN daughters (already you know something crazy is going to happen) are moving to New Hampshire to escape. Chip tried to land a plane in a lake Sully Sullenberger-style but instead of being a hero, a wave caught the wing and capsized the plane. In the end, thirty-nine people died in the accident. Chip is super haunted by the whole deal even thought it was technically not his fault. He needs a new start in a small town in a rather large, Victorian, isolated house and a greenhouse. The town seems to be divided by those people with strange plant names and greenhouses (the “herbalists”) and the regular townspeople. The herbalists seem unnaturally interested in the twins and this is causing all sorts of anxiety for their mom. Meanwhile, Chip is going a little cuckoo trying to deal with the accident but is especially having issues when he discovers a door in the basement that has been sealed shut with large iron nails – thirty-nine of them to be exact…. Chaos ensues.

This book was a lot of things rolled into one – family drama, creepy ghost story, psychological thriller, New England small town story. Most of the time it is successful but I felt like sometimes the author was trying to do too much and veered off the path. The door and the ghost story were pretty creepy and reminded me very much of The Shining (one of my faves.) The herbalist stuff was strange. In the end, I enjoyed it but sometimes I thought it was a little too heavy handed. The family trying to deal with the accident was also pretty effective and I enjoyed that portion of the story. It definitely got me thinking about what would have happened if Sully hadn’t saved all those people. I enjoyed this book although at times it felt rambling – I give it seven and a half shoes….my green desert wedge boots – love them!

Title : The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

Three Appeals : Atmospheric ghost story, developed characters, twins

Red Flags : Some violence and language, too intense for children

If you are looking for more ghost stories check out :

1) The Dead Path by Stephen M. Irwin (also known as The Darkening)

Nicholas Close has always had an uncanny intuition, but after the death of his wife he becomes haunted, literally, by ghosts doomed to repeat their final violent moments in a chilling and endless loop. Torn by guilt and fearing for his sanity, Nicholas returns to his childhood home and is soon entangled in a disturbing series of disappearances and  murders – both as a suspect and as the next victim of the malignant evil lurking in the heart of the woods. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)

2) Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman (previously reviewed)

3) The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

A classic ghost story. The narrator is a young governess, sent off to a country house to take charge of two orphaned children. She finds a pleasant house and a comfortable housekeeper, while the children are beautiful and charming. But she soon begins to feel the presence of intense evil. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)

4) The Shining by Stephen King

I know this is an obvious one but it is a really good book! Definitely a 10 shoe for me. Jack Torrance moves his family into the Overlook Hotel as the overseer during the winter months. They are trapped up there, there is super intense evil in the house, and of course, creepy twins.

Read any good ghost stories lately??

Trina

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Filed under Bohjalian; Chris, book review, horror, seven and a half shoes, The Night Strangers

Trick or Treat!! A Halloween Post

In honor of one of my favorite holidays of the year, I thought I would read some scary horror. Personally, when it starts to get chilly and there is that kind of cloudy gloom in the air indicating the presence of fall – I feel like it is time for some scary books served with a warm mug of coffee (or hot cocoa or possibly some alcoholic beverage – you choose). So for you my readers I have two (yes TWO) book reviews and a list of some horror reads that you may want to check out for Halloween.

The first book I read is Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlmann, the author’s first novel. It has such a good title…replete with images of shadowy evil figures just waiting across the river but just out of sight. Here’s the dl : Frank Nichols and his almost-wife Eudora have moved to his ancestral plantation home in Georgia in order to escape their lives. Frank was a successful academic until he took up with Dora, most recently another powerful professor’s wife. Now he has no job, no prospects, and no money and it is right in the middle of the Depression so he is SOL. When his aunt dies and leaves him the plantation Savoyard, it seems like a gift from God. However, he receives a strange letter from his aunt asking him NOT to move to the plantation because there are horrors that are waiting for him. Frank decides that he doesn’t really have a choice and they move there anyway. Besides, Frank has decided to write a novel about the horrific crimes his ancestors perpetrated on this plantation, mostly having to do with some sort of sexual sadism and misuse of slaves although this is only hinted at and not fully explained.

Enter creepy Southern town in Georgia, chock full of bigotry and weird Tennessee Williams-like alcohol-soaked townspeople. Frank and Dora try to fit in but have a hard time doing so. Frank is warned away from the woods over on the other side of the river, but of course he goes there only to be encountered by a strange half-naked little boy who doesn’t speak. CREEPY. For a little more added fun, the townsfolk typically send two pigs into the woods to appease “whatever is out there.” Suddenly they decide they can’t afford to send out pigs anymore and decide to stop. That is when the craziness really starts to happen…

I really enjoyed most of this novel. The creepy and stifling feeling of the town, the people in it, the weird boy in the woods, the strange goings-on all gave me that unsettled feeling. I had no idea what would happen next. Where I think the book was not very successful was the climax…it felt like a little bit of a let-down after all the tension that had been built up. The actual horror across the river was not as crazy as I had built it up in my mind. After that, it felt like Buehlman was desperately trying to rush and finish the story. It was a good ending but certainly didn’t live up to the first three-quarters of the book. All in all, I give the book six and a half shoes – definitely worth a read but maybe didn’t live up to all my expectations. I will be on the lookout from more books from Buehlman…let’s hope he gets better with age.

Three Appeals: Creepy Atmosphere, Interesting Characters, Tension-filled

Red Flags: Sex, Violence and Gore, Language No drugs unless you count lots of alcohol

Next book review : a graphic novel named Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft Vol. 1 by Joe Hill with art by Gabriel Rodriguez. That’s right I said a graphic novel! I know many of my readers will scoff and make faces at the though of reading comics (said with sneer and pulled face) but you have GOT to try it. So many of these are fantastic stories with creative plots, interesting characters, original ideas plus awesome art! What’s not to love….so stop judging and give it a try. Plus all of the graphic novels I read are meant for adults, no kiddie stuff allowed.

Locke and Key is the story of the Locke family. We jump back and forth through time showing what is happening in their lives. The husband and father has been murdered. The wife is moving the family with their three traumatized kids, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode back to their ancestral home in Lovecraft, MA. Bode is only six years old but sees things that the other do not at the house including a seemingly friendly spirit in the well and using keys to open doors in the house that seem to have strange powers. Meanwhile, one of the teenagers who murdered Mr. Locke is also talking with the spirit in the well who is helping him with a plan to escape the mental asylum he is in. When he does escape there is only one place he is going to go: Lovecraft.

This was an awesome graphic novel. The story was interesting, full of plot twists, sinister evil, teenage angst and family issues. The characters are slowly developing. The art is amazing having both a realistic and cartoon-like quality that serves the graphic nature of many of the events well. I really enjoyed this novel and am looking forward to reading Vols. 2,3 and 4. I give the novel eight shoes – a great read.

Three Appeals : Complex and Scary Story, Interesting Characters, Visually Stunning

Red Flags : Violence, Gore, Scary, Sex,

Now on to my list off good Horror reads from 2011. This was partially taken from the blog http://raforallhorror.blogspot.com – please check them out for even more horror recommendations.

1) The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

In a dusty corner of a basement in a rambling Victorian house in northern New Hampshire, a door has long been sealed shut with 39 six-inch-long carriage bolts. The home’s new owners are Chip and Emily Linton and their twin ten-year-old daughters. Together they hope to rebuild their lives there after Chip, an airline pilot, has to ditch his 70-seat regional jet in Lake Champlain due to double engine failure. The body count? Thirty-nine. A creepy ghost story with  literary leanings (taken from Fantastic Fiction)

2) Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

‘R’ is a zombie. He has no name, no memories, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He is a little different from his fellow Dead.   Amongst the ruins of an abandoned city, R meets a girl. Her name is Julie and she is the opposite of everything he knows – warm and bright and very much alive, she is a blast of colour in a dreary grey landscape. For reasons he can’t understand, R chooses to save Julie instead of eating her, and a tense yet strangely tender relationship begins.   This has never happened before. It breaks the rules and defies logic, but R is no longer content with life in the grave. He wants to breathe again, he wants to live, and Julie wants to help him. But their grim, rotting world won’t be changed without a fight…(taken from Fantastic Fiction)

3 ) American Vampire Vol. 1, 2 & 3 by Rafael Albuquerque, Stephen King and Scott Snyder

Volume 1 follows two stories: one written by Snyder and one written by King. Snyder’s story is set in 1920’s LA, we follow Pearl, a young woman who is turned into a vampire and sets out on a path of righteous revenge against the European Vampires who tortured and abused her. This story is paired with King’s story, a western about Skinner Sweet, the original American Vampire– a stronger, faster creature than any vampire ever seen before with rattlesnake fangs and powered by the sun.

4) Bed Bugs by Ben Winters

FOR RENT: Top two floors of beautifully renovated brownstone, 1300 sq. ft., 2BR 2BA, eat-in kitchen, one block to parks and playgrounds. No broker’s fee.

Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment. Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric. And the elderly handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the basement. But the rent is so low, it’s too good to pass up. Big mistake. Susan soon discovers that her new home is crawling with bedbugs . . . or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. An exterminator searches the property and turns up nothing. The landlady insists her building is clean. Susan fears she’s going mad—until a more sinister explanation presents itself: she may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from Hell. (taken from Amazon.com)

5) Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

It’s been 14 years since First Night, when the dead came back to life. Six billion people have died (and reanimated) since then, and America has collapsed into isolated communities living within the great “Rot and Ruin.” Benny is 15, which means it’s time to get a job or face cut rations, but his general laziness leaves him with only one employment option: join his stuffy, sword-swinging,
Japanese half-brother, Tom, as an apprentice bounty hunter. This means heading beyond the gates to slice and dice “zoms,” but Benny quickly begins to see the undead in a new light—as well as realizing that Tom is much more than he ever
let on. (taken from Booklist)

6) Willy by Robert Dunbar

In an isolated school for boys with emotional problems, a disturbed adolescent struggles against a mire of superstition and oppression. Then he meets Willy, and the other boy – charismatic and strange – saves him … or damns him. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)

7) Houdini Heart by Ki Longfellow

Weeks ago, she was one of Hollywood’s biggest writers, wed to one of its greatest stars. The doting mother of their golden
child.  But now?  She’s alone, tortured by a horrifying secret no woman could bear. Pursued by those she can’t outrun, anguished by a guilt she can’t endure, and driven close to madness, she flees to the one place she’s ever called home: a small town in Vermont where River House still stands.  To a child, the splendid hotel was mysterious and magical and all its glamorous guests knew
delicious secrets. Cocooned in its walls, she will write one last book.  Her atonement? Or her suicide note? But life is never as you dream it, and River House isn’t what she’d always imagined it was. (taken from Amazon.com)
Holy Crap Balls….that was a lot of writing! Enjoy my readers and let me know if you are or have read one of these books. How did YOU like it???
Trina

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Filed under book review, eight shoes, graphic novel, horror, six and a half shoes, YA