Shannon's (sturlington) Horror and Thrillers


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Shannon's (sturlington) Horror and Thrillers

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Editado: Dez 3, 2015, 1:38pm

I'm planning to read a lot of horror and suspense thrillers next year, so I thought I'd start a journal of what I'm reading, since I might not follow the month-by-month categories too closely.

First a recap of what I've read since joining this group in 2015. This has been a good reading year for me, as I feel like I've really rediscovered this genre after having been away for a long time. I've about gotten through the major classics in the genre (rereading some) and am actively seeking out horror/thrillers written by women.

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux -- listened (3★)
The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells -- listened (4★)
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman -- short stories (4★)
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman -- short story (4★)
Annihilation/Authority/Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer -- weird (4-5★)
Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco -- ghost story (4★)
Dark Places/Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn -- psychological thrillers (4★)
American Gothic Tales edited by Joyce Carol Oates -- an anthology of gothic stories ranging from classics to contemporary; reread (4★)
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe -- short story (4★)
Rooms by Lauren Oliver -- ghost story (4★)
The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson -- gothic; both rereads (5★ each)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley -- gothic; reread (5★)
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor -- humorous/light (4★)

I'm currently reading a thriller by Patricia Highsmith, The Blunderer, and listening to Dracula. Looking forward to 2016!

Dez 2, 2015, 2:18pm

I've only read a few of those: Phantom- agree with your 3, wasn't bad but nothing exceptional, Yellow Wallpaper- excellent, and Frankenstein- enjoyable; Moreau is on my shelves waiting though, and Hill House has been on my "list" for ages. :P

No worries on not following the months precisely, but do feel free to chime in on any applicable threads at any time, if you read it earlier and post when the thread goes up, or if you read later and "revive" the thread, happy to have all conversation about the topics whenever! :)

Dez 3, 2015, 1:41pm

>2 .Monkey.: Yes, I've been making my way through the horror classics, almost done. In recent years, I've read/reread Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Turn of the Screw, The House on the Borderland and The Picture of Dorian Gray, besides those listed above. Also some of the newer "classics," like Rosemary's Baby and The Other. I elected not to revisit Lovecraft, though. I don't have the stomach for him anymore.

My previous project was to read the sci-fi classics, but I consider that done.

Dez 3, 2015, 2:18pm

I quite enjoyed Jekyll & Hyde, Stevenson's work is mostly very enjoyable. Turn of the Screw is another on the shelves I've not yet gotten to. Rosemary's Baby I read a couple years ago, loved it! I'd seen the movie of course but it still kept me riveted from the start. Dorian Gray I also read several years back and liked. Lovecraft I have also not yet delved into, but his complete fiction is yet another awaiting my attention on the shelves. :P

Dez 9, 2015, 12:59pm

The Blunderer by Patricia Highsmith
Category: Psychological thriller

Highsmith had a reputation for misanthropy, which she does nothing to dispel with this thriller. First, let's take a look at the women characters, such as they are. Two of them are shrill, nagging wives who both die violent deaths, and it seems they deserved them. The last is pretty much a non-character, who falls in love with Walter (the most non-romantic person imaginable) without any provocation whatsoever and spends the rest of the novel not doing much.

But Highsmith is obviously more interested in her men than her women, specifically three men. The first is Walter, the titular blunderer, who when his wife supposedly commits suicide by jumping off a cliff during a rest stop on a bus trip, he does pretty much everything he can to make himself look guilty of murder. Walter has none of the misplaced charisma of Highsmith's well-known Ripley character. He is milquetoast, indecisive with his feelings, slow on the uptake, "nothing but a pair of eyes without an identity behind them." After reading a news story, Walter becomes obsessed with a man named Kimmel, who really did murder his wife at a bus stop (as revealed in the first chapter). Kimmel is in every way repulsive, who considers himself so much above the rest of humankind that he can get away with murder; he thinks of himself as "powerful and impregnable as a myth." Highsmith takes care to mention Kimmel's physical appearance at every opportunity, his fatness, his lack of grace and bad eyesight, his repulsive thick lips like a heart.

It takes a lot to get the reader to feel even a modicum of sympathy for such a man, who did, after all, brutally strangle his wife without any sense of remorse whatsoever. However, when Corby, Highsmith's third man, comes into the book, she almost manages to do so. Corby is the police detective obsessed with pinning both deaths on the husbands, by any means necessary. While Walter is stupid and Kimmel is arrogant, Corby comes across as nothing less than evil, which is all the more shocking because he represents justice.

Highsmith turns our expectations upside down and has us rooting for Kimmel and Walter to triumph over Corby. She is an expert manipulator, and it shows in this novel, but after finishing it, I felt icky, contaminated. These are not people I'd care to know, and Highsmith offers no alternatives, not even a hint of one. The world is full of people like these, she seems to be saying; take a close look at anyone and you'll find something to disgust you. So while The Blunderer is a well-written novel and an effective piece of horror, it is not a book I can say that I liked.

Dez 10, 2015, 3:22am

>1 sturlington: Congrats on reading so many good ones this year! :) I had a few high-rated books, but there were a few 1 or 2 stars. Anyway, I hope to see you around next year! :)

Dez 10, 2015, 6:41am

I'll be here ;-)

Dez 10, 2015, 11:17am

>1 sturlington: This year I also read Frankenstein, The Yellow Wallpaper, and The Fall of the House of Usher - all good reads, I enjoyed all three hugely. I fancied reading Annihilation next year - which category do you think it best fits?

Dez 10, 2015, 1:27pm

>8 Moomin_Mama: Annihilation is a great book, one of my favorites of this year. The only category I think it would fit in is paranormal, though.

Editado: Dez 15, 2015, 8:10am

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
Category: Modern gothic horror

Carter's reworked fairy tales revolve around the theme of young women (and sometimes men) crossing the threshold into adulthood, generally through sexual experiences. While each story in this short collection is a retelling of a well-known fairy tale, Carter actually incorporates allusions to many folktales and children's stories into each one. It would be fun to read through carefully and pick out all the references. Using children's literature in this way contrasts with the lush sexual imagery and the frequently earthy language (Carter doesn't shy away from having her characters fart and piss and show their genitals). The stories are set in a fantasy version of Europe, one with isolated castles and dense, wolf-filled forests but with a foot in the modern world. Her mostly female characters usually begin as fairy tale tropes--girls who are not in control of their own lives but who are sold or taken by men--but these girls soon discover their own power and use that to regain control over their lives. This transformation typically begins with a disrobing, a stripping away of all the expectations and assumptions of what it means to be a girl, so each women can define herself for herself. Carter explores different ways this can happen, usually by subverting the original tale in some way: Red Riding Hood seduces the wolf; Beauty reveals her inner Beast. Carter's style is lush and overflowing with sometimes overwhelming, frequently horrific imagery. This was a rereading for me, and I absolutely loved this kind of stuff as a young adult, but it's less affecting now that I'm in cynical middle age. However, this is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in feminist literature or who enjoys grown-up retellings of fairy tales.

Dez 20, 2015, 4:22pm

Oh, I like that you've done a 2015 recap! I think I'll do that, as well, once I set up my thread (after I'm finished work on Wed, and the family has come and gone after Christmas!).

Dez 26, 2015, 2:10pm

Read for modern gothic category in December: House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy.

Editado: Fev 6, 2016, 3:04pm

My early modern horror for January was really a thriller, not horror: The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes

Just finished listening to Dracula, a reread (on audio) of a book I last read as a pre-teen or youngish teen. I don't remember exactly when I read it, but I do remember the book: it was a large hardcover, text printed in columns, with deep blue and black illustrations. I wonder what happened to it. Still a five-star read for me, despite the now-apparent bloat, purple prose, and sexism. But that imagery! Dracula crawling down the wall of his castle, those creepy vampire women--still gives me shivers.

Editado: Fev 21, 2016, 11:49am

For horror in translation in February, I read: I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, translated from the Icelandic. I also read Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, translated from the Swedish. The first is a decent ghost story with two many coincidences. The second is a decent vampire story ruined by too many characters and its unrelenting bleakness.

Editado: Mar 23, 2016, 12:54pm

Not read for a monthly category but definitely would appeal to horror readers was The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. The style reminded me of Neil Gaiman but more bloody, not as funny. I had a few criticisms but technically it's very well done. I also posted my review on the work page.

Mar 30, 2016, 12:45pm

Two reads for women in horror month: The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff, a so-so ghost story with a bit too much romance; and The Cipher by Kathe Koja, a weird splatterpunk that was well written but a touch too long for what it was. I got both of these on Kindle for a pretty low price.

Abr 1, 2016, 10:36am

I finished Victor LaValle's novella The Ballad of Black Tom, which is both an homage to Lovecraft and a refutation of his racism. Probably better if you're familiar with the Lovecraft story, The Horror at Red Hook, before you read it. I enjoyed the writing, but all things Lovecraft tend to leave me cold. I'm looking forward to reading The Devil in Silver later this year sometime, maybe for diversity month.

Abr 4, 2016, 10:47am

Finished The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy, a horror-apocalypse in the style of Swan Song and The Stand but not nearly as good. A disappointment.

Abr 10, 2016, 3:00pm

Finished A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay -- a great read for horror fans!

Abr 17, 2016, 1:32pm

First book for psychopath month (April) was The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. Really did not care for it.

Editado: Maio 1, 2016, 5:26pm

I finally got around to reading Geek Love. Whew, what a book! Still processing, but me likey.

Oh, yeah, there's a psychopath in it so I'm counting it for April.

Editado: Maio 27, 2016, 9:59am

Completed Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, a terrific anthology of noir short fiction by women writers. Highly recommended.

I also finished The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, a nice collection of short stories by Stephen King (although I had read many of them previously).

Editado: Jun 3, 2016, 4:34pm

In honor of Stephen King month, I'm posting some photos of my King shelves. Hoping this works.

Jun 3, 2016, 4:35pm

Here are my limited/signed Kings:

And my precious (hope you can see it behind the Gorey cat):

Jun 3, 2016, 4:36pm

Niiiiiiiice. Also, special Insomnia! Hate you! That's one of my top favs!

Jun 3, 2016, 4:47pm

Thanks. Unfortunately I had to cut off the paperbacks. I think I have just enough room for his latest before I run out of shelf space. I'm feeling a bit superstitious about that.

Jun 3, 2016, 4:56pm

Hah. I have almost exclusively paperbacks. Cheaper and less space-taking! xP

Jun 3, 2016, 5:11pm

I generally prefer them myself but I've been collecting King a long time and I feel a bit sentimental about those doorstoppers.

Jun 3, 2016, 5:11pm

Oh if I had the money and space I'd love to have nice editions of all my fav authors, but, well...

Editado: Jun 3, 2016, 5:13pm

Paperbacks are definitely easier on the hands and wrists, especially when reading in bed!

Jun 3, 2016, 5:55pm

Sweet King shelves!

Jun 3, 2016, 8:03pm

>23 sturlington: Wow! Very nice! :-)

Jun 20, 2016, 11:07am

For Stephen King month, I read End of Watch, the last in the Bill Hodges trilogy. I would not call it horror but a crime thriller, although it does have a supernatural element. It did not horrify me. It was my least favorite of the trilogy, as a matter of fact.

I've been on a ghost story kick lately, and I read three ghost stories this month: a classic one from the '70s, Sweetheart, Sweetheart by Bernard Taylor; and two short stories, The Grownup by Gillian Flynn and Springtime: A Ghost Story by Michelle De Kretser. Of all of these, I liked the Flynn the best and wished it had been longer.

Jul 27, 2016, 6:41am

>21 sturlington: I remember liking Geek Love until events turned more supernatural at the end. I gave it a 3 as I did enjoy it, but I wouldn't read it again. It's quite a story though! Definitely worth a read.

Editado: Ago 3, 2016, 10:36am

For August, I finished up the excellent vampire apocalypse trilogy by Justin Cronin with The City of Mirrors. All three books were great.

I also read a couple of decent thrillers: Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (historical, based on a true story) and Heartsick by Chelsea Cain (serial killer).

I did not read any young adult or graphic novels. :-(

Ago 3, 2016, 10:53am

How did you find Heartsick? I thought it was ok, but didn't continue with the series after the 2nd one.

Ago 3, 2016, 11:16am

I liked it. I don't know if I will continue but I rarely read series, as they often seem to deteriorate as you go on.

Ago 3, 2016, 11:29am

I think that's a wise decision. The second one was pretty awful.

Ago 3, 2016, 11:47am

Good to know!

Editado: Ago 29, 2016, 7:30am

I read one excellent thriller this month: Descent by Tim Johnston. It's more literary than the average thriller, definitely dark with some horrific elements. Reminded me of Cormac McCarthy.

Also read one so-so thriller: Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta. A bit cartoonish, but nice setting.

Read one gothic short story, The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, and one southern gothic novel, Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest, for the theme.