What to Read During Hispanic Heritage Month

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia, a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, follows the experiences of a courageous socialite in 1950s Mexico who is drawn into the treacherous secrets of an isolated mansion. It is also the subject of the December 17th meeting of our horror book discussion group, Novel Scares. Register now to join us, via Zoom.

Read Before You Watch

Do you like to read the book before you watch the film or television adaptation? Or are you someone who doesn’t mind seeing the screen version and then reading the book? Or, perhaps you are one of those people who only does one or the other. I must admit, there have been times that I chose not to read a book because the movie was not that interesting to me (looking at you Divergent series).

We’ve got some great television and film adaptations to look forward to, and below are a few of my top picks for books you should read before their adaptations hit your screen.

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

A brand new HBO series just launched based on this awesome book by Matt Ruff. I really enjoyed the book, a smart mash-up of historical fiction, Lovecraftian horror, and sci-fi fantasy elements. Readers follow a series of of inter-connected stories about an extended African American family in the 1950s, mostly taking place in Chicago, and their dangerous encounters with the supernatural (sorcerers, inter-dimensional portals, a haunted house) and the terrible, rampant racism they constantly faced during the Jim Crow era.

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

The film adaptation of this book is slated to hit Netflix September 16th so you have plenty of time to pick up this book (which is what I plan to do as I haven’t read it yet!). Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s, including a husband and wife team of serials killers and a disturbed war veteran. The book, Pollock’s first novel, was described as “violence-soaked” from it’s first pages by The New York Times Book Review, so be prepared for a dark and disturbing read.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This newly published horror thriller has already been put into development by Hulu according to recent news. The drama series will be based on Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s bestselling novel, and produced by Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos’ Milojo Productions and ABC Signature. Set in 1950s Mexico, Mexican Gothic follows glamorous and young socialite Noemí from her home in Mexico City to the dismal grounds of High Place, a gloomy English manor styled estate in the Mexican countryside. She is there to check in on her newlywed cousin after receiving a frantic letter begging for someone to save her. What will she discover about this odd family and strange house?

Are there any big or small screen adaptations that you are really excited about this year? Share in the comments!


Book Review- The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

I recently finished Stephen Graham Jones’ latest novel, The Only Good Indians, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The book is amazing, and unlike anything I’ve read. Teetering along a fine line between literary horror (yes, there is some disagreement as to whether that exists but I strongly support the notion that it does), a straight-up revenge story, and multi-faceted narratives of various Native American experiences, it delivers some serious gore alongside real emotional pain. It’s wildly atmospheric and to put it plainly, weird. Weird in the very best way, of course.

The revenge plot centers on four Native American men getting their just deserts after disrespecting the sacredness of an elk herd while hunting on elder tribal lands. The group’s excessive spray of bullets decimates an elk herd that includes a pregnant elk, who struggles with every thing she has to survive for her calf. She succumbs to her wounds and the Blackfeet reservation’s game warden discovers their trespass which results in them being forced to leave all the elk meat behind, except for the cow who fought so hard. The four pals are banned from hunting on the reservation for ten years as further punishment, but their real punishment arrives years later.

Without spoiling too much of the story, because there are indeed some surprising twists and turns, I can say this moment of carelessness and disregard results in very serious repercussions for the four men, their friends and family, and even their pets. In the beginning readers increasingly question what is real and what is being told to us by an unreliable narrator. Eventually, through a very clever shift in perspective, readers see the truth of what is happening and the story really picks up speed as we hurtle towards a conclusion.

The Only Good Indians is a stellar example of how horror can also be literary, as Jones has crafted a deeply felt look at cycles of violence, identity and the price of breaking away from tradition, and perhaps most surprisingly, the power of forgiveness and hope. I can’t promise it will all make sense in a neat, tidy way in the end but it doesn’t really need to honestly. A #ownvoices title that is highly recommended reading for fans of horror, literary fiction, strong character writing, and twisty plots.

Trigger warning: When I say there is gore in this, I am not exaggerating. It does include some brutal ends for specifically dogs. I assure you, the book overall is worth reading and you can breeze past some of the grisly paragraphs if need be.

Check out the ebook here or request the print copy here.

The Only Good Indians is the November selection for Novel Scares book club, my book club devoted to all things horror. Please join us for a lively discussion on Zoom November 12th @ 7 pm! Registration for fall programs begins September 1st and you can register for Novel Scares here. This program is also part of the county wide One Community Reads, taking place now through September, inviting you to read and reflect about race, injustice, history, and a better future.

Happy reading and stay safe!

Favorite Books of 2020 (So Far)

Can you believe that we are more than halfway through 2020?! I know I surely cannot. Little did we know in January how very different this year would look compared to years past, and really March to now have been a bit of a foggy blur. Not only does my handy dandy planner help me with my to-do lists now more than ever, it also helps me remember what day it is (which was not so much of an issue pre-2020).

One thing that remains constant though is the joy of reading. Despite whatever madness might be occurring, I can always find a comfy perch somewhere and escape into a book for a few hours. Books have been a reassuring friend to me these past five months and I hope you have been able to curl up with a fabulous book as well.

Below you’ll find some of my most favorite books I’ve read so far this year!

Circe by Madeline Miller

Miller’s novel is absolutely amazing. Circe is a beautifully written, smart, feminist tale that takes readers into the world of Greek mythology but with an entirely new vantage point. Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of sun and mightiest of the Titans. She is strange, empathetic, and viewed as weak by her family and peers, turning to mortals for friendship and comfort. Eventually she discovers she holds the power of witchcraft, particularly the power of transformation, and is subsequently banished to live in exile on a remote island. Here is where she truly finds herself and her power. This complex story has it all- complicated heroines, magic, monsters, romance, tragedy, and adventure. It is also very much a story about families and finding our own paths independent of our familial bonds. I wept at the ending not only because of how perfect it was, but because I could have easily read another 300 pages of this masterpiece.

The Strange Bird by Jeff VanderMeer

I’ve written about my fangirl love for Jeff VanderMeer’s work on this blog before, but this is perhaps my most favorite book of his to date. It is also the one that ripped my heart out. It is an exploration of the beauty of humanity, conversely also about the cruelty humanity is capable of, and the endurance of love- all packed into under 100 pages. Readers will be mostly lost if they haven’t read any of the other Borne stories (Borne; Dead Astronauts) so I would highly recommend picking up at least one of those before diving into The Strange Bird. Here we follow a new character- a biotech bird mixed of human, avian, and other creature’s genetic material, known only as the Strange Bird. Following her escape from the lab that made her, she is plagued by mysterious dreams, drawn by some invisible beacon inside her to a faraway location. A difficult and gorgeous story that will stay with you long after you close the cover.

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt

Perhaps my favorite spooky book so far this year (and you know I love spooky books!). An eerie and atmospheric horror story of women and witchcraft, that also reads as a psychological thriller. The story is set in colonial New England and follows a young woman who is lost in the woods while picking berries for her family- or did she leave her family on purpose? Much is unclear about her circumstances. Eventually she runs into a helpful older woman in the woods, who leads her to yet another mysterious and generous woman with a cozy cabin and plenty of food. Quickly it is made clear that all is not what it seems in this forest and these women may not truly be trying to help her return home. Elements of classic fairy tales and folklore, combined with an unreliable narrator and surreal, dreamlike moments unfold into a disturbing story that I could not put down.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

I wasn’t sure I liked this book until I was more than halfway through it, but I’m glad I kept reading, because it turned out that I actually loved it. The writing is extraordinary and what kept me turning the pages, but I wasn’t confident this tale of wealth, white-collar financial crimes, and ghosts would all come together and hit me with the emotional impact I expect of a book. Well, The Glass Hotel delivers and in many unexpected ways. The story looks at multiple characters, but begins and ends with Vincent, a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass palace on a remote island in British Columbia. Readers travel to Manhattan, a container ship, the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, and back, as we follow the connecting threads of one devastating Ponzi scheme and the various people it’s long tendrils dragged down with it.

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

This book is tricky- it wants you to think it is one story, but it twists and turns into another story and then yet another story. It is difficult to share why it is so captivating and amazing without spoiling too much of the plot, but I can say the early parts of the book introduce you to two particularly irritating white hipster men. They have an obsession with “real” music which essentially means any music that is from black culture and eventually this morphs into a hyper-focused interest in blues from the pre-war era for one of them. There are some seriously funny but bothersome passages discussing audiophile interests, vinyl collecting, and expectations of “real” musicians. I assure you, it is worth it to keep reading through the annoying narrator. The story really goes off the rails maybe halfway through and takes readers on a a new narrative that shifts our sense of reality and time, eventually ending with a note of satisfying and thought-provoking vengeance. Alternatively, this is also a story about white privilege, appropriation of black culture (especially music) in America, white wealth created from the exploitation of black bodies, the industrial prison system, and many more deep seated themes.

Have you read any of my favorites? What are some of your favorites that you have read in the past six months? Share with me in the comments!

Greg’s Top Reads of 2018

The Elements of Spellcrafting : 21 Keys to Successful Sorcery
by Jason Miller

A great read for any practitioner or follower of any path. Gives some very practical tips for spellwork and working with spirits.

The Chaos Protocols:Magical Techniques for Navigating the New Economic Reality
by Gordon White

A practical guide that is based in chaos magic but has some great tips for all. Looking about how one can use your individual spiritual/occult practice to deal with the practical concerns of life.

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The Invisibles
by Grant Morrison

Though this comic has been out for decades, it was only this year that I got to it. An absorbing graphic novel that explores themes of oppression, control, and the various prices of bucking the status quo.

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The Ballad of Black Tom
by Victor D. LaValle

A great example of not only building on top of but expanding the source material. This book starts with the framework of Lovecraft and addresses historical and contemporary issues.

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Sheila Hicks : Lifelines
edited by Michel Gauthier

A wonderful visual retrospective of the artist’s work, this volume explores every stage of the artist’s career. Hick’s is a master of color and form and her work is carefully reproduced here.

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Promethea
by Alan Moore

Again another graphic novel that had been on my radar but I hadn’t gotten to. Promethea is a story that not only explores mythology and the the last 100 years of occultism but seem to reflect many of the author’s own beliefs.

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The Power
by Naomi Alderman

Alderman’s work explores the dynamics of power and gender and how old patterns can reemerge when the world is made new again.

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The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror
by Daniel Mallory Ortberg

A collection of stories about stories, archetypes, and culturally created gender. These tales are filled with horror or uncanniness as Ortberg picks apart the very idea of a fairy tale and our own “norms”.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Book one, The Crucible
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Read the graphic novel that the Netflix show is based on. There are many differences from the show and this source material and it guaranteed to help tide fans over as they wait for season two.


Clive Barker’s next testament. Volume On
by Clive Barker

A truly terrifying look at what it would be like if our creator came back. An engrossing story, but Barker definitely maintains his horror aesthetic throughout.

Greg’s Top 10 for 2017

First off is a book I previously reviewed, Books of Blood: Volumes One to Three. As the title describes this is a three books of short stories in one not so compact volume. This had to make my list for the sheer variety it offered fans of horror. Much like Barker’s films there is a balance of psychological and visceral horror. Recommended for the horror fan who needs an introduction to Barker’s writing.
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I know I am cheating a bit with these picks but these two volumes are distinct enough in their tone and their personal achievement to deserve their own spot on this list. A retelling/reworking of the Hercules myth, David Rubin’s graphic novel The Hero breaks new ground in the telling of this millennial old story. An odd combination of ancient and contemporary motifs (there are ancient Greek news casts) Hero keeps the reader on their toes. Book One focuses on the labors and the development of Hercules as hero. Book Two takes a darker tone and starts asking what happens when the campaign is won and yet life, and its tragedies, continue on. A humanizing take on a hero who’s story is told again and again.
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Possibly a very bold claim, but for me, this collection was the work that got me interested in poetry again. I am a working visual artist who has had a desire to investigate poetry but just didn’t seem to be my medium or speak my own creative language. Smith’s work shares many of the research veins that I am interested in and gave me a gateway to the work and the art form of poetry. A Finalist for the National Book Award, these poems are both challenging and enjoyable.
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What can I say, I am sucker for short story collections that explore magical realism. Russell gives us everything from lemon sucking vampires to a silk factory who raw material comes from silkworm/human hybrids. More so than any of the other short story collections on this list Vampires offers the readers stories are truly a mixed bag of setting and tone. I haven’t had a chance to read Russell’s novel Swamplandia! but from how much I enjoyed this work its on my reading list.
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If you are familiar with Sedaris’ work you know that you are in for more of the same awkward, funny, cringe-worthy, and relatable stories. Told in his signature style, Sedaris focuses on the minor (and so minor) faux pas, social foibles, and daily disasters that everyone else will forget about but will mar you for life. Like all his work, I recommend reading before large family gatherings, for perspective.
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If I had to give Gaiman’s work a subtitle it would have to be “Translated for Clarity and Entertainment.” Master storyteller, Gaiman makes traditional Norse and Northern European mythology digestible for a wider audience. If you ever attempted to read traditional translations of Norse sagas you know that they can be a bit dense and at times confusing. This is a great introduction to the Norse religion and for fans of Neil Gaiman’s wider body of work.
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Maybe too dry (pun intended) for some, I found The Drunken Botanist an informative and intriguing romp into the history of alcohol and the cultures that made them. I enjoyed this book as an audio book while on a long drive to a conference and think it may be its best in that scenario. Filled with moments of “huh didn’t know that” and the science to back it up, Stewart’s work is great material for parties or possible future games of trivia.
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A subversive and unconventional take on the idea of a romantic comedy. We follow Oaf Jadwiga (former professional wrestler, owner of a cat sanctuary and maker of stuffed animals) as he tried to catch the eye of black metal front-man Eiffel. Now what would be romantic comedy without a few mishaps? Oaf has to deal rival bands, exes (his and Eiffel’s), and cats with emotional problems. With moments of tenderness, gross out humor, and an in your face attitude this book was always surprising.
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If you enjoyed the Alan Moore’s Watchmen’s take on the world of cape crusaders there is a good chance you will enjoy Black Hammer : Secret Origins. Lemire’s take on a super hero team takes a decidedly dark psychological tone. Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien are the a superhero team who have been trapped in a reality that they cannot escape. Rather than Superman’s Phantom Zone, their prison takes the form of a small rural town. This first volume gives us a look into the hero’s previous lives, the baggage they hold, and how they cope in a world where they have little to do but reflect.

What’s So Scary? Horror books- of course!

We did it! We talked about dark, scary things that go *bump* in the night and we survived! Don’t forget, horror books are written to frighten the reader and are distinguished by supernatural or occult elements, often featuring the power of the natural world gone awry. So, are you ready for a scary read?

Megan: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt and translated from the original Dutch by Nancy Forest-Flier, is the story of a picturesque Hudson Valley town that lives under the curse of a 17th century witch. With her mouth and eyes sewn shut she wanders the streets and enters homes and buildings. The residents, all cursed to remain in Black Spring, have protected the town from the outside world, keeping their secret and themselves safe. When a group of frustrated teenagers rebel against the long-standing virtual quarantine, they set in motion a dangerous and deadly series of events. The juxtaposition of the tragic story of a 350 year old witch with the modern day is fascinating. This is a compelling and truly creep read sure to satisfy any horror lover.

Lauren: Dawn is the first book in Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Series. Planet Earth has been ravaged by atomic civil war and Lilith is one of the survivors. She has survived because she is in the care of an alien species, the Oankali. However, whether she has been rescued or captured remains debatable. When the Oankali wake Lilith from suspended animation aboard their spaceship she is tasked with learning their language and culture and preparing to assimilate the other humans as they are awakened, before they can make their return to Earth. But it is the mission of the Oankali to genetically merge with the civilizations they discover. Though they initially prevented the total extinction of the human race it becomes clear that Lilith’s children and the generations that come after them will be less than human.

Gina: Knowing of some of the many adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I thought it would be a horror. I did not expect for this novella to be as calm as it was. The book begins by following the lawyer Mr. Utterson investigation of an encounter between a young girl and a man known as Mr. Hyde. Through this investigation, Mr. Utterson becomes aware that Mr. Hyde is the beneficiary of a friend and client named Dr. Jekyll. After a confrontation, Mr. Hyde assures Mr. Utterson that everything is alright and in order. Time passes, and another incident happens- evidence points towards Mr. Hyde, but he is nowhere to be found. Instead, Dr. Jekyll appears with a note showing that he has ended any relations with Mr. Hyde. The narration changes to follow Dr. Hastie Lanyon, a collogue of Dr. Jekyll; upon being a witness to the strange transformation of Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde, he dies of shock. Before his death he writes to Mr. Utterson explaining what he witnessed. Mr. Utterson receives the letter and with concern from Dr. Jekyll’s butler, rushes to the doctor’s home to find the body of Dr. Hyde died from an apparent suicide. Mr. Utterson discovers a note written by Dr. Jekyll; explaining his experimentations and hypothesis of the duel personalities. Dr. Jekyll writes that what began as a simple experiment, easily controlled, became something he could not handle and feared for what more damage could happen and so he decided to end his life, to stop Mr. Hyde.

Sara: I read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. This book was a combination of mystery/thriller/horror. Camille Preaker is a Chicago journalist who has recently been hospitalized for self harm-carving various words onto her whole body. She has been suffering for years since the unexplained death of her younger sister Marian, her mother’s favorite child. She reluctantly goes to her tiny hometown to cover the murder of one young girl and the disappearance of another. Camille is reunited with her estranged, unloving mother and her half-sister Amma. As secrets of Camille’s past are revealed, she becomes close to her half sister and learns that her mother is capable of unspeakable things. This book is a page turner, but also deeply disturbing. The twist at the ending makes the journey worthwhile.

Carol: In Come Closer by Sara Gran, Amanda and her husband move into their new trendy loft and all is perfection—until Amanda begins to hear noises in the home and have strange dreams. Amanda’s life begins to spiral out of control. Is the loft haunted; is Amanda losing her mind; or is there something more sinister at work? Read this “scariest book of 2004” and find out!

Steve: Mrs. God by Peter Straub is a creepy, slow moving tale with a letdown of an ending. Professor Standish heads to England for a fellowship at the spooky Esswood House, owned by the aristocratic Seneschal family and home to their renowned library of literature. Odd characters and happenings abound, like servants that vanish or really don’t exist, doors that lock by themselves and whispering mystery voices. Is it Standish’s drinking, madness, or a dark secret of the Seneschals? Unfortunately the end is a train wreck which doesn’t really come to a conclusion, too bad as the first 75% was quite good.

Emma: The book In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters takes place during the height of the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. Sixteen-year old Mary Shelley Black is sent to San Diego to live with her aunt. Despite the ever present fear of the flu and war, Mary Shelley is eager to reunite with her childhood friend, Stephen. When she learns that Stephen’s brother has made a name for himself among the Spiritualists by claiming to photograph the spirits of the dead, she is determined to prove him a fraud. Her plans are derailed when she is visited by an unsettled spirit. A must-read for fans of historical fiction, the paranormal, and spooky ghost stories.

Dori: Dori: In Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s I Remember You: A Ghost Story, an Icelandic couple buy an abandoned vacation house in an isolated village in hopes of turning it into a vacation rental. They go there in the off season to work on the house and quickly encounter disturbing sights: moving crosses, mysterious footprints and odd smells. Meanwhile, psychologist Freyr, who’s 6-year-old son has gone missing, is asked to help with an investigation into an incident of crude defacement in a preschool. This snowballs into further inquiries into mysterious suicides which involve strangers that are obsessed with the disappearance of his son. This is an eerie, disturbing ghost story that builds to a surprising and tragic conclusion.

Stacey: Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things is the kind of story that will have you looking over your shoulder, avoiding dark hallways, and jumping at unexpected noises -for days and days …and then… many more days! A group of women, without any discernable connection, have been kidnapped and taken to a desolate bunkhouse in the middle of the remote, Australian Outback. With no way to know who’s responsible for their brutal imprisonment or why they’ve been selected, these women begin to form a social order to match their dark world. Just as disturbing as what readers learn about these conditions is the lack of explanation or information. This is a really smart, psychological horror story!

Next time? We’re going to lighten the mood with -Holiday Stories! This is another one that you can read pretty much anything you’d like as long as a Winter holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve) is prominently featured in the story.

Enjoy!
—Stacey

So Horror(able) -I *did* leave the the lights on!

Are you getting into the spooky spirit of Halloween? Did you find an unnerving book written to frighten the reader? And did it have supernatural or occult elements that would spotlight the power of the natural world gone awry? Then you read a book from the horror section -just like we did! Maybe you’re even looking for some more suggestions…? How about one of these:

Emma: Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen is a hilarious book with a little something for everyone. Mr. Gabriel is the new librarian at Cynthia’s high school. He is also a demon who has charmed her best friend, Annie, and is sucking the life spirit from the other students. Cynthia has an unusual immunity (she’s a super roach) to his charms. While Cynthia juggles school and the set design for the school’s production of Sweeney Todd, she also has to save her best friend.

Dori: A mix of horror, thriller and fantasy, Stephen Lloyd Jones’ The String Diaries, opens with Hannah frantically driving to one of her safe houses, her young daughter asleep in the back seat, her husband bleeding profusely by her side. She is escaping Jakab, a beast of a man who is one of Hungary’s hozzu eletek, a race of people who can shapeshift, disguising themselves to infiltrate into the lives of humans. Jakab is consumed with finding Hannah, as he was her ancestors before her, because of an incident that occurred when he was a young man. Hannah has been schooled in surviving Jakab through a set of diaries that have been handed down from her family. She, however, wants more than to survive; she wants to put an end to Jakab once and for all. Violent, creepy, page-turning and spooky, I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Written in the Blood.

Maureen: The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender starts out with the typical teenage angst of best friends, boyfriends, and fights with parents. What is not typical, however, is inheriting a former female mental asylum that looks like a castle from your great-great aunt and dying the first night there with your parents on a planned remodel and flip. So begins the tale of Delia Piven, who along with her parents, go on a visit to her inherited property. What Delia doesn’t know is that the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females has a lot of secrets. After her death, Delia becomes a ghost who is determined to escape Piven and return to her family. Will she make it out? Who is this mysterious male ghost, Theo, who she befriends on the Piven grounds? Will the other ghost girls in the house help her or try to harm her? Why does time speed up and slow down for Delia during various events and why does the house seem to have a particular hold on Delia? A hauntingly good story, especially for teens who like scary but not gory.

Lauren: In Sophie Jaff’s Love is Red the story is told from two points of view: the novel’s central character, Katherine Emerson, and the Sickle Man, a serial killer stalking women in New York City. Katherine is a young woman torn between two lovers. David is smart, kind, and charismatic in stark contrast to Sael who is brooding and serious—but towards whom Katherine has an undeniable attraction. While Katherine is preoccupied with the fate of her love life, the Sickle Man is obsessing over her. Jaff does a spectacular job at keeping the reader guessing at every turn. Love is Red is the first book in a planned trilogy.

Carol: The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon is a combination of a secret-filled mystery, a ghostly supernatural horror tale, and a multi-layered emotional family tragedy. Weaving its tale from the 1960s, to the 1980s and 2013, this creepy and mysterious read tracks the dark events that take place in an old run-down motel and the demise of the seemingly-cursed family who own it. A slow-paced read, this novel reveals just enough in each chapter to keep you reading until its final pages.

Beth: In Donna Andrews’ Lord of the Wings, the town of Caerphilly, VA is transformed into Spooky City, USA. As the head of security, Meg Langslow takes it upon herself to save Halloween as things go from frightfully fun, to downright scary. This was a spooky mystery with passionate and eccentric characters. This is a great read for someone looking to get into the Halloween spirit without the lingering haunts of traditional horror.

Megan: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is a 1959 classic horror story. Considered one of the best ghost stories of the 20th century, The Haunting of Hill House is the story of Dr. Montague, an investigator of the supernatural, and his mission to prove the existence of ghosts. To this end, he invites a number of people to accompany him to a famously haunted house for his experiment. In the end only four respond to his invitation. They intend to spend the summer at Hill House, but disturbing things begin to happen immediately. The danger escalates to a final terrifying conclusion. Chilling terror, unreliable characters, and a house with as much personality as the people make this a spine-tingling, emotional read!

Stacey: I went all in with NOS4A2 by Joe Hill -and now I’m pretty confident I will never be accepting a ride in a vintage Rolls-Royce… The son of Stephen and Tabitha King, Joe Hill does a fabulous job of upholding the family tradition of creating a menacing atmosphere in even the most ordinary moments. But it’s the intricately plotted, bloody and brutal struggle between good (Victoria ‘Vic’ McQueen) and evil (Charlie Manx) that will make this story a classic of the genre.

We’re keeping the excitement going by reading a suspense or a thriller! If you want to read along with us you can choose either: 1. a suspenseful book that emphasizes the danger faced by a protagonist or 2. a thrilling book uses a specific world such as the courtroom, medical laboratory, or government agency, with an emphasis on the defeat of the villain and his conspirators.

Enjoy!
Stacey

Oh, the Twisted Tales of Horror!

What a scary thing it would be if we had to fight for survival in a world where the supernatural, or the unnatural, that resembled the landscapes found in the horror category. Of course these books are meant to get a strong reaction from the reader, so I’d say the books we shared at our discussion were pretty darn successful. But of course you can also judge for yourself after you see what people had to say about what they choose to read:

Carol: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon is adult ghost story that opens in 1908 in Vermont. Sara Harrison Shea is racked with grief — her young daughter Gertie has died. Sara cannot bear to live without her, and so she turns to magic taught to her by the tribal woman who helped raise her, in order to bring Gertie back from the dead. Meanwhile, in a present day storyline, 19-year-old Ruthie now lives in Sara’s old farmhouse with her younger sister and their mother. When Alice goes missing, Ruthie searches for clues, and discovers Sara’s long hidden diary along the way. As Ruthie reads the diary, she gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, and realizes that she’s not first person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. What do these missing people have to do with the young girl who supposedly died a century? This creepy ghost story is suspenseful and you’ll want to read it until it’s climactic end. Reader beware: you might need to leave a night-light after you are done with this one.

Emma: Classic horror novel, The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin is the story of Joanna and Walter Eberhart and their two children. The family moves to suburban Stepford, Connecticut from New York City. Joanna soon discovers that the women of Stepford are too perfect, too beautiful, and too submissive. The husbands of Stepford spend a lot of free time at the local men’s association while their wives are content at home cleaning and cooking, ignoring their previous occupations and interests. Joanna is afraid she will become just like them. A fable of male bonding or female bondage.

Steve: Misery, by Stephen King, is a terrifying psychological horror novel with one of the worst villains ever created. Author Paul Sheldon is in a car accident in Colorado and found by retired nurse Annie Wilkes, who happens to be his “number one fan.” She keeps Paul hostage in her home and makes him write a new novel featuring her favorite character, a character from his best-selling Misery series that he had previously killed off. Annie has a long history of violence and mental instability, and her treatment of Paul is terrifying. The book includes some incredibly gory descriptions, not for the faint of heart.

Dori: Chris Bohjalian’s Night Strangers begins with a harrowing plane crash: Pilot Chip Linton loses 39 passengers as he tries to land his failing plane in Lake Champlain. After the accident, he, his wife Emily, and twin girls try to start over in a remote town in New Hampshire. They buy an old Victorian and begin to fix it up, but soon Chip discovers a door in the basement, held shut with 39 bolts and soon after, the ghosts of a little girl and her father killed in the crash begin to visit him. Meanwhile, Emily and the girls meet a local group of herbalists, all named after flowers and plants and oddly obsessed with the twins. As so often happens in these kinds of stories, you want to tell them to run…and fast, but the Lintons stay on and are drawn much too deeply into the horrible secrets of the town. Suspenseful, engaging, and altogether creepy, this Gothic horror is the perfect Halloween read.

Megan: Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen. There is a new librarian at Cyn’s high school and he is hot! He is also a demon who has enthralled her best friend, Annie and is sucking the life essence from the students. Cyn has an unusual immunity to his charms so while she juggles school and the set design for the school’s production of Sweeney Todd, she also now has to save her best friend. This devilishly hilarious book has a little something for everyone-horror, humor, romance, as well as musical theater! And while a soul-sucking demon is not necessarily an improvement, I find this librarian to be a refreshing change of pace from the stereotypical shushing old lady librarian!

Lauren: If at times campy and cliché, Hell House by Richard Matheson is a classic horror story. At the invitation of an eccentric millionaire with terminal cancer, four people go to spend a week alone at the abandoned Belasco House in Maine. “Hell House” is believed to be haunted by the beings who were subjected to the depravity and perverseness of its original owner, Emeric Belasco, who delighted in torturing his guests and driving them towards debauchery. Dr. Barrett (along with his wife Edith) is seeking to explain the house’s strange phenomena from his viewpoint as a physicist. Also invited are two spiritual mediums, Florence Tanner and Benjamin Fischer. Fischer was the only survivor of the last attempt to investigate the house some thirty years prior. As the four set to work on solving the mystery of Hell House, Hell House sets to work on destroying them.

Ann: The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb is a modern day haunted house story set on the shores of Lake Superior. When her mother dies, Grace Alban returns home to Alban House after a twenty year absence. Almost from the beginning, Grace and her young daughter Amity encounter strange happenings at the house. In addition, secrets from the past are unearthed that rattle Grace. Are the halls and passageways of the family home haunted due to some long ago family curse? A spine-tingling gothic novel.

Stacey: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith is an unique mix of humor, ethical issues, and super creepy ( horrible!) events. In Ealing, Iowa, Austin is a sixteen-year-old whose best friend Robby and girlfriend Shann all hangout together, during and after school. Fixated on some of the average teen boy stuff: skateboarding, sex, smoking and drinking, Austin finds himself woefully unprepared to fight against the Unstoppable Soldiers, dedicated killers who also happen to be six foot tall praying mantis created from a man-made plague mold, accidentally released. This book almost defies any attempt at an accurate description- it’s so packed with all kinds of crazy details- but any reader who enjoys Libba Bray, Michael Grant, or Lish McBride will devour this book -almost as quickly as an Unstoppable Soldier!

Our next genre will be narrative nonfiction, or real and true stories that are written as if they were fictional. This category is wide open as it can be on any topic from any year, it just needs to be an easy-to-read nonfiction book. Ta-dah! So we’ll see you back here with your narrative nonfiction title in tow, very soon!

— Stacey

Happy Horror-ween!

What timing! That our discussion of books that fit into the Horror Genre fell into October is nothing but coincidence! (That is, if you believe in coincidences -which don’t seem to happen much in this particular genre…) The broad definition of horror could be that these stories are meant to frighten the reader through strange and unnatural occurrences, which may or may not be attributed to the supernatural world. Some of these books are more violent than others, but there are also plenty of stories that are even more frightening because it’s about perception and how your own mind might be turned against you. -Did you just get a shiver down your spine? Me too!- Mostly, I’d say everyone found a book they found satisfying, and few nightmares were reported, so there is a strong chance you too can find something in the following list that you just might enjoy!

Julie: Johnny Dixon is a reoccurring character in a John Bellairs series that has 13 year old Johnny and his friends, Professor Childermass and schoolmate Fergie, getting into supernatural trouble. In The Revenge of the Wizard’s Ghost, Johnny lies near death as a long dead enemy of the Childermass family has taken possession of him in hopes of wreaking revenge on the Professor. It’s up to his friends to save him from sure death! While Bellairs is considered to be for children/young adults, anyone looking for a creepy story with a nostalgic feel can enjoy.

Megan: In the Shadow of the Blackbirds by Cat Winter is a chilling debut novel set in 1918, during the height of the Spanish Influenza epidemic. Sixteen-year old Mary Shelley Black is sent to San Diego to live with her aunt after her father is arrested as a traitor. Despite the ever present fear of the flu and war, Mary Shelley is eager to reunite with her childhood friend, Stephen. When she learns that Stephen’s brother has made a name for himself among Spiritualist by claiming to photograph the spirits of the dead, she sets out to prove him a fraud. Her plans are derailed when she herself is visited by an unsettled spirit. Illustrated with haunting photographs of the era, this is a must-read ghost story!

Emma: The Picture of Dorian Gray was the only novel written by Oscar Wilde. Dorian’s portrait is painted by Basil Hallward as a gift to 20-year-old Dorian. It is such a beautiful painting, Dorian wants the portrait to age and not him, and he gets his wish. As Dorian and Lord Henry Wotton become close friends, Dorian’s life becomes more corrupt and the portrait changes. Suicides, murder, and accidental shootings occur, and the portrait becomes more grotesque. Dorian is determined to change his corrupt ways and decides to destroy the portrait, but he himself is destroyed. The novel received harsh criticism when it was first published in 1891 but today is considered a great classic work.

Maureen: Night Shift by Stephen King is the first collection of short stories ever published by the author. The book was published in 1978 and covers a wide variety of typical King creepiness, from a deadly new flu virus strain to a serial killer to deranged trucks demanding humans do their bidding to a college student stalker. Most of the stories in the book were later made into motion pictures (most notably “Children of the Corn”) or adapted for television, even though several of them are less than 20 pages long. One of the best and most interesting things about this book was the foreword, which King wrote himself, and which provides a good deal of insight into his reasons for writing in the horror genre. He describes writers as filters and his theory of writing surrounds the different types of material (which he calls “sludge”) that make it through different peoples’ filters. For him, it is the stuff of fear. As bits and pieces catch in his particular filter, over time he pieces them together into a horror story. One of the best stories I read in this collection was called The Man Who Loved Flowers. In typical King fashion, he takes a simple, everyday action like a man buying a woman flowers, and turns it into a twisted, psychotic, demented tale of murder in broad daylight. A very interesting read and a peek into one of the greatest horror writers of all time at the beginning of his career.

Steve: The Ruins, by Scott Smith, is a creepy horror story that starts with a great premise. Six college age vacationers in Cancun set out to look for the brother of one of them, who has disappeared while off exploring some Mayan ruins with a girl he has met. On their way to the ruins, the tourists find a covered trail and soon notice Mayan villagers following them. When they step over what seems to be an imaginary line in a clearing, the Mayans pull out guns and arrows, keeping the vacationers trapped with-in the perimeter. Stranded on a hill above the clearing, on their own for survival, the group soon discover the horror that they must fight. If you are ok with the events not being explained at the end, this is a good enough read, but I would have liked more of a conclusion.

Ann: In The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz the main character is Amy Redwing who rescues dogs. When she rescues Nickie, a golden retriever from an abusive home, she immediately senses a connection. Her own dogs, Fred and Ethel also sense that Nickie is special and defer to her as the Alpha dog. Amy and her boyfriend Brian both have baggage from the past, and when evil comes back to haunt them, the dog Nickie is right there with them. The horror in this thriller is the horror that one person inflicts on another. There are lots of twists and turns in this story with supernatural elements. Ultimately this is Dean Koontz’s book to honor his own beloved golden retriever Trixie.

Dori: In The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle, Pepper is admitted to an underfunded, urban psychiatric hospital in New York City after accosting a couple of policemen. Quick to anger, but not mentally ill, he’s brought there for convenience, but is then drugged and forgotten. As he gets to know his fellow inmates, he learns about a monster who is kept at the end of one of the hallways behind a steel door, but escapes at night to terrorize, and sometimes kill, the patients. Banding together, the patients form a plan for eliminating the monster and escaping the hell of their hospitalization. Black comedy mixes with social commentary in a book where the monster may not be what he seems.

Stacey: For readers interested in finding something classic *and* unnerving, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft,in graphic novel format, should be just right. Charles Dexter Ward began looking into his family’s past to unearth the truth of local gossip. It was said that one of Ward’s ancestors remained youthful beyond when it would have been reasonably possible, it was rumored this man was a necromancer. The more Charles discovers about this ancestor, the more he seems to lose touch with reality. Finally committed to a hospital for his own safety, there is a good chance that Charles might be in as much danger from outside sources as he is from the workings of his own mind. The gifted illustrator of this graphic novel took a dark, mysterious story and boosted it into something even better.

See? Not so “horror”-able! Next time? Well, we’ll be looking for you cowpokes around the campfire! That’s my hint that we’re reading… Westerns! If you want to read along, you should hunt down a story that takes place in the western North America. There should be a clearly defined conflict and resolution, with heroes that might be flawed but get the job done! Enjoy!