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Feb - Shirley Jackson - psychological suspense
Mar - Richard Matheson - creatures
Apr - Daphne du Maurier - books made into films
May - J. Sheridan le Fanu - ghosts
June - Ann Radcliffe - gothic
July - Clive Barker/Neil Gaiman- GN/YA
Aug - Flannery O'Connor - Women
Sept - Poppy Z. Brite/Tananarive Due - diveristy
Oct - Joyce Carol Oates - modern
Nov - Edgar Allan Poe - short stories & poetry
Dec - Marjorie Bowen - crime & mystery
Locke & Key. Vol. 4. Keys to the Kingdom / Joe Hill
The two older Locke kids are having trouble with their relationships, while the youngest, Bode, continues to explore the keys and his mother wants him to make friends. He does make a friend of Rufus, who lives with Kinsey’s boyfriend, Zack.
It was good. I love the artwork in this series. I have to admit, though, that because I always have such a long gap in between books in the series, it takes me a while when I start reading to remember what had happened previously. Great ending in this one!
Though, unfortunately, I didn't really feel like it fit the theme.
Still Life With Crows / Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
In this 4th book of the series, FBI Special Agent Pendergast shows up (while on his vacation!) to a small corn-farming community in Kansas to help solve a recent murder. He hires a high school girl, who is often in trouble herself and who just wants to get out of town as soon as she’s done high school, to be his assistant and chauffeur. The local sheriff is surprised that Pendergast thinks the killer is local… in this small town of fewer than 400 people, where everyone knows everyone! Unfortunately, the killings don’t stop at one…
I thought this was really good. I liked the change of location for this book. It was very creepy at times, in amidst all that corn!
Laura and Chyna are college students and friends. When Chyna goes with Laura to her parents’ place for a weekend, she is awakened the first night by screams. Someone has broken into the house. Chyna hides, then tries to help Laura and her parents without the guy realizing she is there…
Wow! The book is titled well – it was definitely intense! After a brief set-up to the story, it was just bang, bang, bang, one thing after another! I think the audio helped with that. At first, I wasn’t sure I would like the narrator. She spoke quickly and mostly in a monotone, but after it got going, I think she was the perfect narrator for the story and it really highlighted the “intensity” of the book to do it that way. The story alternated between Chyna’s and the intruder’s (Vess’s) points of view. I was briefly uninterested in Vess’s philosophy, and I didn’t agree with some of Chyna’s decisions, but the rest of the story + the audio still made it 5 stars for me. Ever since I started listening to it, I’ve been trying to recommend it to people, but there are so many who don’t read horror!
A Stir of Echoes / Richard Matheson
It started with a party at a neighbour’s place and one friend who said he’d like to hypnotize someone. Tom said he’d be hypnotized, but later that night, he couldn’t sleep… and there was a “woman” in his house. That is, possibly a ghost? From there, Tom seemed to be able to sense what others were feeling… then he seemed to be able to “see” things happen before they happened… And on and on…
I really liked this. Not only was all this going on with Tom, but Tom has a wife and young son. His wife, in particular, was very upset about the whole thing, so in addition to Tom trying to figure out what was going on with himself, the book also explored how this was affecting their relationship. And there was a surprise ending.
Fatal Vision / Joe McGinniss
In February of 1970 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Green Beret and physician, Jeffrey MacDonald, survived what he said was a break-in that resulted in the murders of his wife and two little girls, aged 2 and 5 years. It was only after 9 years that Jeffrey himself was finally charged and put on trial (though there was a hearing via the army back in 1970). Unfortunately, there were many errors during the army’s investigation into the murders. Jeffrey’s father-in-law, and early supporter, was later convinced of his guilt (after reading the transcripts of the army hearing) and pushed for years to get MacDonald on trial for the murder of his stepdaughter and grandkids.
I’ve had this book since high school and I don’t believe I ever did read it back then. I’m glad I’ve now finally read it. There were some chapters interspersed, mostly at the start of the book, but also occasionally later on, called “The Voice of Jeffrey MacDonald”. At the start, much of this was recounting his and his wife Colette’s history. I didn’t find these parts nearly as interesting, though I suppose it gives the reader a bit of insight into Jeffrey, himself. Overall, though, it was a fascinating read.
Personal opinion on the case: I have no doubt that he did it. He story just doesn’t hold up for me, not even a little bit. And this is before the physical evidence.
The Mystery of Grace / Charles de Lint
Grace is of Mexican descent, is a mechanic, and is covered with tattoos. John is a really nice guy, an artist. When John and Grace spend a night together, they seem to be super-connected. Imagine John’s surprise when Grace literally disappears from his bathroom the next morning! I’d like to say more about the book (much more is revealed in the second chapter), but the big reveal is not mentioned in the blurb about the book, so I will keep it to myself (but you can see it based on tags if you look; don’t look if you don’t want to see!).
The chapters were told from alternating points of view. I really liked this. Really good urban fantasy (which de Lint is so good at!). I liked both main characters and I liked Grace’s world and the friendship she made with Conchita. The mythology/superstition was interesting, as well.
It is1888 in London, England. Three prostitutes have been murdered and they say it’s likely the same guy who has done it. Bram Stoker is running the Lyceum Theatre, and Henry Irving is playing the lead in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They are approached by the police to shut down the show, as it may be encouraging the killer. Bram gets interested in what’s going on and starts doing some research for a book he might like to write. He also becomes obsessed with the killer and may be getting a little too close…
I liked this. Far fetched, but I still found it entertaining. I thought it interesting the way the author weaved in the various author characters into the story (Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde are friends of Stoker’s). To be honest, though, I’m not sure Jack the Ripper needs to be fictionalized; this is one true story that certainly holds its own as true crime.
Rachel has just gotten out of an abusive relationship, but her husband doesn’t want to let go. She has a job and only a couple of good friends to help her out. Little does she know, she also has an “admirer” (a peeping tom, really) who will come to her “rescue” when she needs it. But, from his perspective, the perfectly beautiful Rachel will need to be “tested” herself.
Ok, I tried to keep that somewhat vague, as the blurb on the book doesn’t say a whole lot, so I didn’t want to give anything away. This is one of the books de Lint wrote as Samuel Key, a pseudonym he took to distinguish his darker works from his fantasy. It was told in the third person, but the reader got to know more about what was going on, as we did follow a few different characters, than the characters knew, themselves. Certainly by the end of the book, it was a page-turner, keeping me on the edge of my seat, wanting to keep reading to know what would happen! I really really liked this one!
In the meantime, though it's another that doesn't really fit horro, it's what I attempted to read for this month:
August: Flannery O'Connor/Women
The Book of Speculation / Erika Swyler
Simon is a librarian who has just lost his job. His old house is falling apart around him and he can’t afford to fix it. His has pretty much raised his sister, Enola, but she’s been gone for a long time. She reads tarot cards for a travelling circus. When a bookseller gives him a book with his grandmother’s name in it, he starts researching. He discovers that the women in previous generations of his family all drowned on July 24. When Enola comes home to visit close to that date, he is worried.
The book goes back and forth in time, following Simon’s life and back in time, following the circus that one of his ancestors belonged to. At first, I didn’t mind the historical portion of the story, but somewhere along the way, much of that part of the story lost my interest, though I still enjoyed Simon and Enola’s portion of the story. Overall, it was ok.
The Manhattan Hunt Club / John Saul
Jeff has been falsely convicted of a crime. But when he is “transferred” out of the prison, he is taken… somewhere and locked in a room with another man. It’s not long after that they are released into the tunnels underneath New York and are told that they’ll “win” if they make it to the surface. Meanwhile, his family and girlfriend think he died in a crash.
I really liked this. It didn’t take long to get sucked in, though it takes a little bit to figure out what’s going on in the book. It’s told from different viewpoints, so the reader is partial to things that the characters aren’t as they try to figure out what’s happening, as well. This was one I didn’t really want to put down – I wanted to keep reading. And, there were a couple of twists!
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Hell House / Richard Matheson
It is just before Christmas, 1970. Parapsychologist Lionel, his wife Edith, and two mediums, Ben and Florence, are hired to spend a week in “Hell House”, the “Mount Everest” of haunted houses. Lionel brings with him a machine he’s built to prove that ghosts do not exist. Ben was an amazing medium at only 15 years old and was in Hell House the last time a group of people entered in 1940; he was the only one to come out alive. Florence is clergy in a small town and a “spiritualist”, or “mental medium”, and very much believes that ghosts are there.
It started off a little slow, but it kept building until the end. Overall, I liked it. Just a warning that the women in the house are pretty much terrorized via sexual violence; whereas, for the men, it’s physical violence. It’s unfortunate that sex was used so much in this book against the women, but rarely any other form of scare tactic.
Blood Bound / Patricia Briggs
This is book 2 of the series. Mercedes (Mercy) is a mechanic and a shapeshifter (coyote) who was raised by werewolves, so she knows them and their society well. There are also vampires in the area with whom she is acquainted. She owes Stefan, one of those vampires, a favour, so she accompanies him in her coyote form to see someone. When they arrive, Stefan is put under a spell while they watch a hotel maid murdered; other hotel employees have already been murdered this night. They discover that the guy who brought them there, and who did the murdering is a sorcerer-vampire, and Mercy is warned away while the vampires and werewolves try to hunt him down to destroy him before he murders more.
I really liked this one. It especially picked up in the second half when Mercy (of course!) had to get more involved again. There was a particularly tense (i.e. scary!) scene, at one point (at least for me it was!). There are a lot of characters and I did get a few mixed up occasionally (Stefan/Samuel, Adam/Andre, and a few others who I just couldn’t remember if they were introduced in book 1 or if I “skimmed” a section where they were introduced earlier in this book). However, that didn’t diminish my enjoyment very much.
The Sandman. Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes / Neil Gaiman
Dream (aka The Sandman) was captured and imprisoned 70 years ago. Once he escapes, he goes looking for his objects of power, at least one of which is being used by a madman.
I liked this, particularly the last issue in this volume, the introduction of Dream’s sister, Death. I also enjoyed the bit in the diner. Some parts were hard to follow, but I enjoyed the parts that were a bit easier. Funny most of the parts I liked best (except for Death) focused more on human characters. I guess I can’t do a very good summary because I suppose I missed too many things. I did like the artwork and I do plan to continue the series, though.
Scarecrow / Alyssa Wong
This is a horror short story. I don’t think I really want to summarize it, as I think part of the story is about figuring out what’s happening. It took a little bit to realize what was going on, but once I did, I thought the story was good.
IT / Stephen King
When Bill is 11 years old in the late 1950s, his younger brother is murdered. He and his group of friends are being bullied, while kids, in general, are disappearing from their small town of Derry, Maine, in way too high numbers. Although the results are obvious to everyone (the disappearance of kids), it seems only the kids can see some of what’s happening.
I listened to the audio, narrated by Steven Weber. He is very good; he did so well with all Richie’s voices! One thing I didn’t like (though it’s a small thing), and it’s only due to the audio, is with the back and forth in time – only close to the end – it was sometimes hard to tell if it was the adult characters or the kid characters we were following. In the print book, it should be easy enough to figure out. To reiterate, throughout most of the book, the back and forth in time was easy enough to follow, but there was just a little bit near the end where I had a bit of trouble.
The other thing I didn’t like (possible spoiler, though I’m still trying to keep it vague):
The Sleeper and the Spindle / Neil Gaiman
There is an entire kingdom asleep next to one where the dark-haired queen (no names are used) will soon be getting married. She feels she and her dwarfs must go save the princess in the sleeping kingdom before her own wedding.
Beautiful illustrations, but very detailed and mostly pencil, so hard to see on my e-reader. I reread it on my PC where the illustrations were larger and easier to see; also couldn’t see on my e-reader, but there were bits of gold in the illustrations, as well. I think, because it’s a short story, I felt like I could read through fairly quickly, but there is some complexity to this one, so I reread the end of it (while on my PC) to get a better idea of what actually happened and the twist at the end. I would recommend reading this one in print, or at least on a larger screen with colour. Quite good, though, and I liked the twist!
Meat / Joseph D'Lacey
In this town, survival is all about the meat. The Magnus Meat Processing Plant, or MMP (which includes the “farm” itself, the slaughterhouse, meat cattle, dairy cattle, veal calves, etc.) pretty much runs the town. Well, that and the religious group that worships meat; the cattle at the MMP are the “Chosen”. The people who work at MMP are the best paid in town and are highly regarded. But, there are a few people in town (including Richard, the man who stuns the cattle before they are killed) who are questioning it all. Richard won’t even eat meat, anymore, and his wife begs him to bring meat home for her and their twin daughters. When things start going badly, there is a showdown between the MMP workers and owner, the bishop and parsons, and the few who are questioning if this is really how it has to be.
Be warned that there are slaughterhouse descriptions in this book. I very rarely eat meat, but I have read and seen enough online to realize that what’s described in the book (the treatment of the cattle, anyway) is, sadly, probably all too real. Also, sadly, very little actually shocked me, though it’s still so horrible. I’d describe the book as a dystopian horror and I’m rating it “good”. I found it very dark and bleak, but also an interesting story.