Tag Archives: horror

The Read List: Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, by Paul Tremblay

disappearance at devils rock

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, by Paul Tremblay:

Late one summer night, Elizabeth Sanderson receives the devastating news that every mother fears: her thirteen-year-old son, Tommy, has vanished without a trace in the woods of a local park.

The search isn’t yielding any answers, and Elizabeth and her young daughter, Kate, struggle to comprehend Tommy’s disappearance. Feeling helpless and alone, their sorrow is compounded by anger and frustration: the local and state police have uncovered no leads. Josh and Luis, the friends who were the last to see Tommy before he vanished, may not be telling the whole truth about that night in Borderland State Park, when they were supposedly hanging out a landmark the local teens have renamed Devil’s Rock.

Living in an all-too-real nightmare, riddled with worry, pain, and guilt, Elizabeth is wholly unprepared for the strange series of events that follow. She believes a ghostly shadow of Tommy materializes in her bedroom, while Kate and other local residents claim to see a shadow peering through their windows in the dead of night. Then, random pages torn from Tommy’s journal begin to mysteriously appear—entries that reveal an introverted teenager obsessed with the phantasmagoric; the loss of his father, killed in a drunk-driving accident a decade earlier; a folktale involving the devil and the woods of Borderland; and a horrific incident that Tommy believed connects them.

As the search grows more desperate, and the implications of what happened become more haunting and sinister, no one is prepared for the shocking truth about that night and Tommy’s disappearance at Devil’s Rock.

I have a hard time writing about books I really enjoyed, because I usually find myself reduced to wanting to say stuff like, “Read this already, okay?” and “Oh, wow” and “This was good. Really good. I mean it. This was good.”

Which is not particularly helpful. And, since I really enjoyed Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and find myself wanting to say, Just pick this one up and read it! I’ve been trying hard to figure out exactly what I should write (other than “You really should read this”).

So to make it easier on both me and you, I thought I’d do this in a list. That way, I can be incoherent and ramble on a bit, which is probably a lot more helpful than waving the book in the air and saying to everyone and anyone near enough to hear, “You need to read this!” (which is what I actually did say when I finished reading it).

  1. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock is billed as a horror, and yes, it is an eerie read, with lots of atmosphere and I think you’ll like it if you like horror … BUT this isn’t really a horror novel. At its heart, it’s about love and it’s about loss.
  2. So if you were thinking, this read isn’t for me, because I don’t like horror novels, I think you should still give this a try.
  3. It made me cry. I read this nearly a month ago, and even now, thinking back to that last scene, I can still remember why it made me cry.
  4. I read this in one long gulp. I literally couldn’t put it down, so it ended up being one of those books where you read the last words with a deep sigh and then realize, oh, crap, it’s 3 in the morning. I’m getting kind of old for this kind of thing, but at the same time, I’m very happy when I stumble across a book that keeps me reading deep into the night.
  5. Even though I couldn’t put the book down, this wasn’t a purely plot-driven novel, the kind that keeps you madly flipping the pages quickly, sort-of-kind-of taking in the words because really, you’re just hell-bent on getting to the end and finding out WHAT HAPPENED. Sure, there was plot, a good one at that, but  for me, it was the characters that really made this book work.
  6. I liked the way the narrative went back and forth between the present and the past. It worked well. And I was never confused about when in time I was. Always a really good thing.
  7. I think it could have used a better title. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock doesn’t really work for me. Actually, it makes me think of the Hardy Boys, so maybe it would work for me if I’m feeling like reading the Hardy Boys. Which I used to do all the time, back when I was 13. But not so much now. (Don’t ask me what would be a good title, though, because I’m not good at stuff like that.)
  8. I really enjoyed this book.

So a huge thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me a review copy. And of course a huge thanks to Paul Tremblay for penning this one. And did I mention, you should read this already, okay?

 

The Read List: Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

hex

Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt:

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

One of the most impressive things about Hex is that the original version was written in Dutch, and for the North American/UK release of the novel, author Thomas Olde Heuvelt decided to revise the novel and Americanize it—and while I haven’t read the Dutch version (I don’t, unfortunately, have any familiarity with the language), I can say that this version of Hex worked for me.

In this interview from Rue Morgue, the author had this to say about both versions of Hex:

The original Dutch edition was set in an existing small town in The Netherlands. It’s the town of Beek, in the east of the country, in the hills near the German border. My grandmother used to live there, and I always thought: if there’s any place in a country so densely populated and neatly cultivated as The Netherlands where something like this could happen, it’s here. Even more so: Beek has a history of witchcraft persecutions and hangings that goes back to the middle ages and is still visible today. The woods around the town are gloomy. There are witch-references in the naming of places and streams. They even have an annual ritual at Carnival, where they hang a big straw witch doll from the town hall, and after the festivities, they burn it. (And believe it or not: I did *not* know that when I wrote the wicker burning scene in HEX, which was a perfect and very creepy coincidence). The English edition, however, is set in Black Spring, New York. You could say it’s a remake from the Dutch original, and Black Spring is based on the town of Beek (the early settlers called it “New Beeck” for obvious reasons). For me as a writer, it was a fantastic challenge to see if I could pull it off to make the book work in a totally new, culturally different environment. Plus, it was an excuse to revisit the town, the characters and the storylines that I loved so much, and spend some more time with them without having to fall in the trap of a sequel. The Dutch ‘soul’ of the book I kept very much alive during the process.

I enjoyed Hex. While this is a horror, there were also several humorous passages that made me laugh, and the horror deepened in intensity in a way that really worked for me. Aside from one scene of extreme violence (which I flipped over, as I don’t like reading stuff like that—lucky for me I wasn’t listening to the audio version—and which was necessary for the narrative rather than gratuitous) the violence was more muted than anything, which is another thing I appreciate in a horror novel. It seems to me it takes far more skill to build that horror feeling in a novel without using a lot of graphic violence, and that’s something the author does well.

The Dutch version has a different ending, and I’m rather curious about the difference, although I did enjoy the ending of the version I read: it was rather bittersweet, which is unexpected in a horror novel.

 

 

Let’s Celebrate: I’m Reading Again!

I’ve been feeling rather self-congratulatory lately, because YES! I’ve started reading again! And by reading, I don’t mean my comfort listens of Agatha Christie mysteries. I mean new-to-me novels.

Yes, I’m back in my reading seat. Which alternates right now between my sofa and my bed. Neither feels ideal, so I have a feeling I’ll be spending a bit of time rearranging things furniture-wise.

But still—I’m reading!

Here’s what I recently finished:

The House on Cold Hill

The House on Cold Hill by Peter James. Peter James writes mostly mysteries, none of which I’d read before (I rectified that after I finished The House on Cold Hill by putting a hold on some of his previous books). The House on Cold Hill is a standalone, and as you might be able to tell from the cover, it’s a haunted house book.

I like a good haunted house book, although I haven’t read that many in this genre. I definitely enjoyed this one. I read the occasional horror, and one thing I find is that often, what’s labelled as “horror” is really all about the gore. I prefer horror stories that scare the crap out of me without diving into too much gore. The House on Cold Hill is that kind of book. It has a slow, almost soothing build-up and of course I ended up finishing it late at night, which increased the scary quotient quite a bit.

Opening Belle

Opening Belle by Maureen Sherry. Yes, I’ve actually managed to read a fairly new book for once! Not only that, but it’s apparently already been optioned by Reese Witherspoon …

But really, how could I resist? It’s not that often I get to read a book where the protagonist bears my name (well, okay, so she’s “Isabelle” but people often call her Belle, which works for me). Plus there were certain things about her life that really resonated with me (not, however, her salary—to that, I can only say “if only!”)

It was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I particularly liked learning about women on Wall Street—and it’s amazing how caveman-like the environment continues to be. I think this will make a good movie, although there were a couple of things about the ending that didn’t particularly thrill me. I won’t say anymore, though, because they’re definitely on the spoiler side.

I’m looking forward to settling back into reading again. Here’s what I might (or might not, because I’m persnickety that way) be reading in the next few days/weeks:

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. I was at the library a few weeks ago picking up some holds so I decided to browse the New Books section. I came across the trade paperback copy of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. I’m not sure what prompted me to pick it up—it’s not in my usual genres of mystery, horror, fantasy or science fiction. But the cover was so obviously of a bookish nature. And then there’s the “Readers” in the title.

So I flipped it open and began reading, and I liked what I read.  Such a quirky bookish book! Hopefully I’ll get to it before I have to return it (I’ve already renewed it once).

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories by Stephen King. I’m looking forward to dipping into this one, especially since I’ve started a re-listen of King’s On Writing in the hopes of getting myself back on the writing track, so dear Uncle Stevie has been on my mind a fair bit. (I love listening to On Writing, partly for the inspiration and partly because King narrates it himself, and he does some great voices). And maybe the best part of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams will be the forward King’s written for each of the stories that are included in the collection, which details why he came to write that particular story. I love stuff like that—it’s like getting a lovely peak straight into an author’s “writing mind”.

The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney. This was sent to me by the author; I don’t normally accept a lot of review books that come my way, but the storyline for this one was very intriguing:

While investigating the murder of an American missionary in Ethiopia, rookie State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane stumbles upon a Latin palindrome embedded with a cryptographic time bomb. Separated by half a millennium, two global conspiracies dovetail to expose the world’s most explosive secret: The real identity of Christopher Columbus.

Glen Craney also sent me a link to an instant preview of the book, which was great, as I always like to read the first chapter or two before saying yes to a review book. I took a look, and liked what I read. And while I’m not big on historical fiction, things change when you throw in a modern-day component, plus mystery and a great deal of suspense.

So this is what’s (tentatively) on my reading agenda right now. But no matter what, I know I’m back on the reading track, and that’s definitely something this particular writer is celebrating!

My RIP X Reading List

rip10300

Better late than never! So this weekend I decided to sign up for RIP X after quite a few years of thinking, “oh, that sounds like such fun.”  Yes, even though in the past I’ve always sucked at reading challenges – in fact, signing up for a reading challenge pretty much guaranteed I wouldn’t touch a single book that met that particular challenge criteria.

But I’m in the midst of embarking on a new life right now, and I’m determined to stop doing what I’ve always done in order to effect some hopefully awesome changes. Who says enjoying a reading challenge or two can’t be part of my new future, right?

And to make it pretty easy on myself, I’m signing up for the following levels:

ripnineperilsecond

Peril the Second: reading two books of any length which fit within the RIP categories (mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror and supernatural).

ripnineperilshort

Peril of the Short Story: I’ll be (hopefully) reading RIP-related short stories during the challenge period as well.

And now the real fun begins:

MY RIP X READING LIST

Even though I’m only aiming for Peril the Second, I am such a moody reader I always work better if I’m working off a long list of potential reads than otherwise. And then it occurred to me I should also try to use this opportunity to get through some of the books in my TBR, instead of new and exciting titles yet to come my way. So here are the books I might be reading for RIP X, all of which come from my TBR piles:

Pieces and Players by Blue Balliett (middle grade mystery)

Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong (dark fantasy)

The Hanged Man by P.N. Elrod (mystery, dark fantasy)

The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie (mystery)

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson (supernatural, dark fantasy)

Bag of Bones by Stephen King (horror)

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor (dark fantasy)

Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub (horror)

Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake (horror)

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (horror)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (horror)

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (mystery, horror)

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons (horror)

Short story collections:

Dark Screams, volume 1, edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror (I have several of these volumes)

The Best Horror of the Year (I have several of these volumes as well)

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, edited by Laird Barron

The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler

The Weird, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Actually, I have a lot more horror short story collections scattered around the place. Once I start packing my books, I’m sure more of them will surface …

So this is my RIP X reading list! Surely with such a large selection of books, I’ll be able to finish two between now and the end of October, right?

Reading Journal: Working Stiff, The Damned

Since I don’t write a whole lot of reviews (although I’m hoping to change that—but the idea is still a speck in my mind’s eye, so to speak), I thought I’d start a weekly “Reading Journal” post. More for myself, really, to help me keep track of my thoughts about my reading.

Because, you know, Bad Book Memory. Oh, so bad. I’m surprised sometimes I remember what I read last week.

Anyway …

Working Stiff

I just finished Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell and it was so good. I listened to it in audio, which was a great choice; narrator Tanya Eby was a good fit to the material. As you might expect, there were some (well, okay, lots of) gory bits but I was so enthralled with this behind-the-scenes look at a medical examiner’s life, I winced but easily moved on.

Near the end, Melinek recounts her time working in the aftermath of September 11, and these scenes stole my heart. She was right there—cataloguing the bones and fragments of bones, because for the most part that was all there was to catalogue. If you’ve been thinking about reading this one, you should definitely take the plunge.

What’s next? I have three books that I need to get to. Three scary novels by Canadian authors! I missed the Dark Side Tour—partly because I had a heck of a time finding the website for the tour and then when I did, I could have sworn I added it to Todoist but I can’t find the link now and Google’s no help. My memory tells me my last chance to meet Andrew Pyper, Rob Pobi and Nick Cutter here in Toronto was this past weekend, and I wasn’t able to make it (and I really really wanted to “do” an author event! *wails*). But it’s okay, because I have their books to read still. That’s what really counts, right?

I’m probably most excited about Andrew Pyper’s The Damned, because I had quite enjoyed his previous book, The Demonologist (my review here– yes, I actually wrote a review of it!). The synopsis for The Damned:

Most people who have a near-death experience come back alone…

After he survived a fire that claimed the life of his twin sister, Ashleigh, Danny Orchard wrote a bestselling memoir about going to Heaven and back. But despite the resulting fame and fortune, he’s never been able to enjoy his second chance at life.

Ash won’t let him.

In life, Danny’s charming and magnetic twin had been a budding psychopath who privately terrorized her family—and death hasn’t changed her wicked ways. Ash has haunted Danny for twenty years and now, just when he’s met the love of his life and has a chance at real happiness, she wants more than ever to punish him for being alive—so she sets her sights on Danny’s new wife and stepson.

Danny knows what Ash really wants is him, and he’s prepared to sacrifice himself in order to save the ones he loves. But to do this, he’ll have to meet his sister where she now resides—and hope that this time, he can keep her there forever.

Sounds good, right? And I’ve read a few reviews that say it’s a good read. So The Damned is definitely up next. Along with Good Omens and A Dark and Twisted Tide, both of which I’ve started.

What have you been reading recently?

Reading: IT, by Stephen King

It by stephen king

I was inspired to read Stephen King’s IT when Care recently posted her List of King, where she gave IT five slices of pie. Very high praise indeed, and since it was on my list of “Stephen King books to read”, I decided to put a hold on it at the library.

The only thing I knew about the book was that it was the one with the clowns. Or, as Care put it, The Clown.

I put a hold on both the ebook and the audiobook versions. The audiobook came first, and I started listening to it a few nights ago. I’m really enjoying it so far. I love the narrative structure, and how easily King handles the large cast of main characters. I like how he goes back and forth in time without losing me, the reader. I like how he builds the suspense in one scene and then spins some more, equally interesting non-related scenes, so you’re immersed in what he’s telling you and at the back of your mind you’re still wondering, what will happen with that other situation? Because you know he’ll show you, soon, and you can hardly wait.

And then he brings you back to that scene. And it’s all edge of the seat stuff, well worth the wait.

I’m at the point now where all the forces are converging on the town of Derry. It feels to me like I’m nearing the end of the book, but I just checked, and I’m only at just under the 60 percent mark!  To say this is edge of the seat stuff would be putting things mildly.

In fact, I’m not sure if I will be able to take listening to the rest of the book in audio, especially as it nears its resolution. I tend to be a “page skimmer” when I get to those gripping, suspenseful sections of novels, at least on a first read, and the thing with an audiobook is, you can’t skim – you can only flip ahead and then who knows what you might have missed.

So I’m probably going to have to stay on the edge of my seat for the rest of the book. It’s either that or wait until I can get my hands on the ebook. But it’s not the kind of book you can put down, so it’s highly unlikely I’ll wait …

And no, I haven’t seen the movie.

Have you read IT? If you did, what did you think of it?

{Want} The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, annotated and edited by Leslie S. Klinger

Annotated HP Lovecraft

I’m so excited about this one – it’s on my Christmas wish list and I know I’m getting it! (I love surprises, but when you know you’re going to get something? The anticipation makes up for the lack of surprise.)

I had requested it from the library but cancelled the hold on it because surely I can wait until Christmas. And I don’t want to ruin the surprise of holding this book in my hands, reading Alan Moore’s introduction (yes, Alan Moore!), flipping through looking at all the illustrations.

The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, annotated and edited by Leslie S. Klinger, is a massive tome, clocking in at nearly 900 pages. It contains over 1,000 annotations and nearly 300 illustrations, including original artwork from various pulp publications like Weird Tales and Astounding Stories.

The book covers twenty-two Lovecraft stories comprising the best of the “Arkham Cycle” stories (Arkham is the fictional New England town these tales are centered around), including “The Call of Cthulhu”, “The Dunwich Horror”  and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”.

I love the thought of going through the annotations. Lovecraft’s writing style isn’t necessarily the easiest style to read – he had a tendency to be verbose and use a lot of antiquated words. From the reviews I’ve read, the annotations are very helpful in shedding light on some of the more denser passages. According to Bookgasm:

The notes, which for the most part appear on the same page as the story under consideration, are of three types: Klinger defines the antiquarian and obsolete words Lovecraft was so found of; he discusses the historical and cultural background to many of the events and people mentioned; and he verifies (or, when necessary, corrects) the assertions of fact Lovecraft used to embellish his stories.

Klinger also annotated and edited the New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories and the The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Novels), both of which are on my wish list. But I’m not so sure either of these will show up under the tree this year. The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, though? It’s definitely going to be mine!

New to Lovecraft?

If you’re new to Lovecraft, you’re probably not prepared yet to go through a massive book like The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft. Luckily, though, all of Lovecraft’s works can be found in the public domain. The version I recommend is from The Cthulhu Chick. She’s put together The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft  in a variety of ebook formats and it’s available for download for free here.  It’s a nicely formatted version, with all of Lovecraft’s stories included in chronological order.

And if you’d like to learn more about Lovecraft? The Speakeasy blog at The Wall Street Journal recently posted an excellent read on “Why H.P. Lovecraft Matters More Than Ever“, including some insightful quotes from both Klinger and Moore on Lovecraft’s racism.

Listening: ‘Mr. Mercedes’ and ‘The Supernaturals’

I’ve got a couple of new-to-me audiobooks on the go right now (I say “new-to-me” because when I’m working, I like to listen to an audiobook but usually have to listen to something I’ve read before – like an Agatha Christie or a Nero Wolfe – because I do end up missing huge chunks of scenes if something takes over all of my focus).

mr mercedes by stephen king

I’m in the last half of Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King right now. It’s an interesting read, and very character-driven. Unlike what you might expect, it’s not a horror story. It’s actually a thriller, with some police procedural aspects thrown in. Lots of humour in the dialogue, too. I’ve really been enjoying it.

the supernaturals david golemon

I also just started The Supernaturals: A Ghost Story, by David L. Golemon. This one is, as its title implies, a horror novel. I’m only at the beginning, but the tone has already been set. (Actually, it was set in the author’s foreword.) It’s been good so far, and I have high expectations of it. Based on the reviews at Audible, it’s quite the spooky tale.

What about you? What good audiobooks have you been listening to lately?

Book Cravings: Salem’s Lot

Have you ever had a book craving? Where you find yourself really wanting to reread a book, usually one you haven’t read for quite a while?

I have book cravings occasionally, and the past couple of weeks, another one crept up on me.

salems lot

It’s been quite a while since I read Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I’m pretty sure I was still in my teens, during a period when I was reading a lot of horror novels. I’d been reading King’s Danse Macabre recently, and that might explain the craving.

So it’s loaded up on my iPod now. I’m on Chapter 5, and yes, it’s really as creepy as I remember it to be.

“…old horrors colliding with modern technology and investigative techniques.”

Stephen King on Dracula in the Introduction to Salem’s Lot

Do you ever have book cravings? What was the latest reread you absolutely craved?

Review: The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The StrainA Boeing 777 packed full of passengers lands at JFK and begins its way across the tarmac when it suddenly stops dead – the engine’s turned off, all window shades are down, all the lights are off, and no-one on board is communicating with the outside world, not even passengers screaming about delays through their cell phones.

The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, begins with this eerie situation, and continues to pull you deep into the story at a full gallop. If you’ve been reading MsBookish.com for a while, you’ll know that I saved this book to take with me on holiday to Nova Scotia, where I then proceeded to read it one fog-filled morning, and didn’t put it down until I finished the book, late that same evening.

Perhaps not surprisingly, considering Del Toro’s film credentials, the book reads very much like an action-packed movie. Chapters are filled with shorter scenes that take the reader back and forth from place to place and character to character, all at a wonderfully thrilling speed that makes it difficult to put the book down until the very end.

Can you tell I enjoyed this book a lot? You’ve got a vampire virus thing going around, tons of suspense, the beginnings of some dark and evil mastermind plot and a motley crew of unlikely heroes – so yes, I loved it!

Be warned, though. The vampires in The Strain aren’t dark and handsome. They’re not about to play the romantic lead in any play, that’s for sure. Think more along the lines of brain-dead zombie-like creatures that just happen to want to suck your blood, and you’ll be on the right track.

Even though these ugly zombie-like vampires are involved, I wouldn’t call the book a horror novel. Nor did I find it extremely violent, either (although there are ample chopping and slashing scenes). I would put this book in the suspense thriller category, with just the right touch of spine-tingling suspense – the kind of suspense that makes you jump if someone comes up behind you while you’re reading it, especially when you’re reading it at a cottage by the Atlantic Ocean on a dark and foggy early summer night.

You don’t really want to read this one on a dark and stormy night when you’re home alone by yourself. But then again, maybe you might …

Where to buy The Strain:

U.S. (Amazon.com) | Indiebound | Canada (Chapters) | UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by William Morrow/HarperCollinsPublishers, 2009, Hardcover, 401 pages