This one was a slightly controversial genre for us. There was actually some debate on whether everyone was willing to read a horror book. Obviously, we choose to bite the proverbial bullet and picked something we were hoping to enjoy. I was more on the side of horror sounds horrible and how will I possibly find something I can stand to read? Then I really thought about what this particular genre is defined by and most commonly there are: supernatural or occult elements, a strong emotional response from the reader, and the natural world has often gone awry. I read those books. Actually, I read a lot of those books! Then it became a matter of narrowing my choices to one from my list of many —who knew?— horror reads. Even more interestingly, while we were discussing our titles, it was surprising to find most of us enjoyed what we read. Hmm, maybe horror isn’t so horrible?
So, here are the books we read and again, they written up by the person who read the book. Are you ready?
Stacey: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. It’s the first book in the Mortal Cup Trilogy and it was fabulous! Clary Fray discovers she’s a Shadowhunter by birth after her mother disappears from their New York City apartment. Jace, another Shadowhunter, finds Clary before her true nature has been fully revealed. Together they work to find her Mom, Jocelyn, and the Mortal Cup that Jocelyn has hidden away for the safety of Downworlders and Humans alike. This book has multiple layers of myth, magic, and supernatural beings who co-exist in an uneasy and complicated truce. There are more shades of gray than good vs. evil, and the action, the characters, and the suspenseful drama of who is on whose side made this a fun book to read.
Emma: The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski. Originally published in 1965, this is the story of an unnamed little boy in Poland during WWII. He is sent by his parents into hiding living with a foster mother who soon dies. He spends the next years wandering the countryside being horribly mistreated by locals because he looks different. He is Jewish. The little boy is a survivor. He ends up in an orphanage after the war and is eventually reunited with his parents. Unable to adjust to living with his family after the war, he is sent away to the mountains for his well-being.
Carol: Lost Boy, Lost Girl by Peter Straub. The story is told from the viewpoint, journals, and email exchanges of Tim Underhill, a writer who travels from his home in New York City to his hometown of Millhaven, IL to offer support when his sister-in-law commits suicide. Tim’s brother Philip is a pretty crummy guy who is hard to like, but his son Mark, Timothy’s nephew, is described as a beautiful fifteen-year-old on the cusp of adulthood who charms all who encounter him. Mark disappears a week after his mother’s funeral and Tim returns to assist in the search. It is believed by most in the community that Mark is the latest victim of a serial killer that is stalking the city’s youth. Tim, believes otherwise, and uncovers Mark’s recent obsession with an abandoned house and the mysterious man who had been quietly stalking Mark in the days preceding his disappearance. In his investigation, Timothy learns what Mark has figured out–there is an evil connection between the house and his own heritage, and his obsession with the house is awakening dangers from the past. This spooky book won the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel of the Year. It kept me up at night with visions of a mysterious undead young girl and the combination of a frightening haunted house, a serial killer on the loose, and the undercurrent of evil that permeates the novel until it’s very last page.
Evelyn: Worst Nightmares by Shane Briant. After accepting a big cash advance, award-winning novelist Dermont Nolan has hit a dry spell. Desperate for an idea, he passes off a homeless man’s bizarre manuscript called My Worst Nightmare–My Delicious Memoirs as his own work of fiction. Now Dermont may be facing his own worst nightmare as the killings in his book turn out to be real, with him as the prime suspect. A very creepy, psychological blend of thriller and horror that will keep you turning the pages. Even when you think that you know who is behind Dermont’s problems, there are several more twists and turns.
Rosemary: Watchers by Dean Koontz. This is considered one of the author’s very best stories. Einstein, a beautiful and loving golden retriever, escapes from a top-secret government lab. There is something else that has escaped from the same lab, an unspeakable force of evil that is relentless in its pursuit of Einstein and the young couple who befriended him. Scary and suspenseful!
Chris: Duma Key by Stephen King. Trying to start over on a remote island in the Florida Keys, Edgar Freemantle takes up painting and creates artwork with the power to destroy life. Filled with suspense and the supernatural, Stephen King’s Duma Key will entertain and frighten you until the last painting goes up in smoke.
Megan:Clay by David Almond. Davie and Geordie are typical teens growing up in England during the 1960’s. When they aren’t serving as altar boys at church they are exploring the local woods and avoiding the neighborhood bully. Things change when Stephen Rose moves to town and the priest asks the boys to befriend the strange newcomer. As Davie gets to know Stephen he learns that Stephen is more than just a talented sculptor. He has the ability to bring his creations to life. Davie learns he can do this as well. Together the two boys create a life sized clay man and bring him to life. By the time Davie realizes that Stephen’s intentions for their man are sinister it may be too late to stop him.
Ann: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. Aging rock star, Judas Coyne buys a ghost at an online auction, but he buys nothing but trouble. The ghost, who is a stepfather of a former girlfriend, is bent on destroying Coyne, and has the otherworldly powers to do so. An old-fashioned ghost/horror story in the vein of Stephen King. (Joe Hill is Stephen Kings’ son)
Dori: Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. This is the story of two best friends on the cusp of turning 14 in late October. Will, cautious and innocent, and Jim, wild and adventurous, are both thrilled when they see handbills advertising a carnival coming to town. The carnival, however, is not seeking to entertain; it sets up in the dead of night, hoping to lure town residents who suffer from fear, desire, jealousy, or regret. Its centerpiece is a carousel that makes you younger or older with every revolution. After angering the carnival’s proprietor, Mr. Black, the boys go into hiding and are helped by Will’s father, who discovers that only acceptance and joy will counter the evil carnival. Bradbury’s prose reinforces the creepy, nightmarish atmosphere of the book.
Next time, we’re discussing Science Fiction. This genre is based on the scientific and physical world as we know it, but with a twist that allows for exploration of new ideas, political agenda, and societal changes. Hard scifi is more about the technological aspects of this new world and soft scifi is more about the mental or emotional aspects. They can run the full range of hopeful stories to doom and gloom. Sounds like plenty to choose from, no?