Halloween Horror

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Happy Halloween! In honor of the hauntingly horrible holiday, I have a throwback review to share. Enjoy and have a bewitching evening.

Dracula

by Bram Stoker

Themes: love, death, blood, sex, evil, gender roles, mental illness
Setting: Transylvania – duh!, and England, late 19th century

Is there anyone who doesn’t know something about the story of Dracula? I think it would be almost impossible to come into this book, knowing NOTHING about it, but I am sure there are lots of others who haven’t ever actually read the book. (Or seen the real movie, either, for that matter.) But I decided it was time to read this one and see what it’s all about.

It was harder to read at first than I thought. We start off with young solicitor Jonathan Harker, on his way to stay at Dracula’s Castle. WHAT! What are you thinking! Don’t go there! Then I had to remind myself – he’s not being an idiot. He’s never heard of the count. Nobody has. This is where it all begins. It came up again later, when I was exasperated at how slow these people are to recognize what was going on. Don’t they know a vampire when they see one? Well, no. They don’t. This was one of the very first vampire stories, and much of the myth begins right here.

Other than that, it was really very easy to read. It was exciting and well written. The story is told in first person, in journal form and a few letters, which makes it easy to know what the participants are thinking and feeling. It makes it even spookier to here Dr. Seward describe what he saw when they broke into the Harker’s bedroom to find – well, I won’t give it away, but it was VERY creepy.

It wasn’t perfect. There was a long, somewhat slow section when Lucy Westenra is being pursued by this PRESENCE, that comes in through her window at night. I couldn’t believe how long that took. That was when I reminded myself that no one was supposed to know about vampires, so they could hardly be expected to figure it out. But it still took too long. Lucy would be attacked, she would almost die, they would save her, they would relax their guard, and then she’d be attacked again. Hurry it up, already! But once that came to it’s dramatic conclusion, the story picked up pace again and didn’t slow down after that.

I really am not a vampire fan. I am absolutely in the ‘vampires are evil’ camp, Team Buffy for me. But I don’t read vampire books much. Still, this is a classic, and I think that anyone who likes a good scary story would like it. I really liked my edition, which had a couple of essays in it. (As always, don’t read them until you finish the book!) The one in the front covered the history of the vampire myth, and the significance of Dracula in creating many of the things we think of when we think of vampires. It also had a run down on some of the classic movies, including a version starring Christopher Lee as the count, which I would like to see, just for fun. But the essay in the back highlighted some of my basic reservations when it comes to bloodsucking fiends – the sexual perversion inherit in the story. He goes through the book’s most graphic scenes and explores the sexual subtext in each scene. Very well written, and very persuasive as well.

It’s not a total gorefest or anything, but I wouldn’t recommend this book to my 13 year old, for example. But if you haven’t read it, thinking it’s too old-fashioned, or too hard to read, or too over the top, you should reconsider and give this one a chance. 5 stars.

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Monsters I Have Known: Review

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

35534791 Title: Monsters I Have Known: A Collection of Short Stories

Author: Jess Hartley

Genre: paranormal, thriller, and horror short stories

Synopsis:

Come take a walk in the shadows alongside award-winning writer/editor/novelist, Jess Hartley, as she leads you through 13 intriguing tales of monstrous beings – supernatural or otherwise. In this, Hartley’s first solo anthology, readers will find a broad offering of genres – horror, romance, steampunk, fantasy and more – including her never-before-published murder mystery novella – Love Never Dies. Monsters I Have Known collects both well-loved favorites from previously published anthologies and never-before-seen fiction, presenting them with insightful introductions to share with readers some of the circumstances surrounding each story’s creation. A must-have introduction for those new to Hartley’s work.

My review:

Wow, what a great collection of stories. I’m not normally a fan of horror, but I love a good spooky ghost story. When I was approached to review this book, I wasn’t sure I would like it. I’m glad I took a chance.

It’s hard to pick which story I liked best, but the first one, Love Never Dies, was the longest. In this one, the main character finds herself walking up the beach to her house. Nothing feels right, but it’s only her and her husband. What could be wrong?

My favorite story was Immaterial Witness. Liz gives tours in Bisbee, Arizona, the most haunted town in America. She gets a chance to be on a podcast, but the slimy host has plans of his own. He wants all the dirt, but Liz has a big secret. She can see ghosts, and she’s not about to expose them to a third-rate journalist looking to exploit the dead. Really good story.

This month is a perfect time for this collection. You should totally check this one out. It’s available on Amazon.

10 Spooky Stories

woods from below (2)

It’s dark and spooky out there. And only going to get darker and spookier.

Why not stay inside in a nice warm room and read? I’ve got some suggestions here for some perfect books to fit the season. Let’s start with the family friendly stuff before getting into the truly terrifying, shall we?

  1. Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Honestly, my kids found this much less scary when they were young. But when they got older – that sewing on buttons instead of eyes?! Pretty freaking horrifying.
  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, also by Neil Gaiman. More atmospheric than truly scary, but a lovely ending. Perhaps more late summer than fall.
  3. The Thief of Always by Clive Barker. All four seasons in one day. Sounds charming, but maybe a little too possessive?
  4. 163919 Full Tilt by Neil Shusterman. An evil carnival. Still appropriate for this time of year, and as a bonus, let me include Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury if you’ve never read that one. Both get right inside your head.
  5. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. Odd sees ghosts. Mostly it’s guys like Elvis. But sometimes they’re not so friendly.
  6. The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier. This one makes you think more than scares you, but it’s so good that it’s worth reading.
  7. Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. Timely and terrifying.
  8. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. Who are they and why do they come in winter?
  9. The Keep by Paul F. Wilson. When even the Nazis are afraid, you know there’s trouble.
  10. Dracula by Bram Stoker. If you haven’t read the original, you’ve got to do it. So. Creepy.

That’s my list for this time of month. None of them are very new, with the exception of Lovecraft Country, but there good scary reads all the same. What’s on your list?

Creepy YA Horror!

Title: Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, Book 1

Author: Candace Robinson

Setting: Texas, present day and inside the vault

Deer Park, Texas isn’t unusual, except for two things – people have been disappearing, and there’s a new museum in town. Perrie Madeline doesn’t think the two are connected until her cousin gets a job at the new museum and never comes home. Then her ex-boyfriend goes missing. Perrie decides if the police can’t put a stop to this, she’s going to look for them. Only her new friend August believes her, and pretty soon, the two of them are trapped inside the vault.

I got this book for free from the author, which was extremely nice, because I hosted the  Mega Blitz Launch Party Giveaways. I was intrigued by the story and wanted to read more, but also, I admit it, I was mesmerized by that cover. Can you blame me? It’s really something! As you might guess, this has got elements from several fairy tales or folk tales in here. There’s Snow White, Rapunzel, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and then Jack the Ripper. It’s creepy and violent, not your typical YA retelling. Those are generally sweet Happily Every After type story. This is really, really not.

I did enjoy this book, and I give Robinson credit for embracing the horror element. I mean, she didn’t tiptoe around it. The ending is bloody, that’s for sure. But I think in the end, it wasn’t really a good fit for me. For that reason, I’m not going to rate it. I admire her; I think she took some risks with this book and I hope they pay off for her. If you’re into horror, give this one a try. It’s something different and I hope you like it.

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell

22304616._SY540_Review: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Fantasy/Horror Novella

Silence is an innkeeper, but if you’re thinking of a friendly, garrulous sort who likes to gossip with the patrons, you’re far off. Silence is grim. Most folks are pretty grim, here on the outskirts of the forest. She’s also a bounty hunter, and between both jobs, she’s barely making enough to provide for her 14 year old daughter and her ward. Now she’s heard of a fat bounty on a known criminal, currently sitting downstairs in her tavern.

Silence and her daughter William Ann wait for the right moment, then follow to get the bounty. They’ll have to track a whole group of men, kill them, and bring back the body of the one they want, all without getting killed by the men or attacked by the shadows who dwell in the forest.

Of the two, the forest shadows are far more deadly. One touch and you’ll start to wither. Only silver can stop you from becoming like them. There are rules to keep you safe, but even when you follow the rules, there’s never any guarantee. But Silence needs that bounty.

Sanderson is really one of my favorite writers. I loved how he painted such a vivid picture of a grim world and a tough woman determined to keep her family together no matter what it took. Haunting and mesmerizing, you have to read this one.

Vampire book review!

xmasvamp

This one totally should have been up for Halloween, but I didn’t finish it in time, so Merry Christmas, bloodsuckers!

Something in the Blood: The  Untold Story of the Man Who Wrote Dracula

by David J. Skal

genre: non-fiction, biography, and horror

where did I find this: Received by Library Thing for an early review – Thanks!

I’ve always been bugged by the sparkly vampire type of story. Vampires should not sparkle. They shouldn’t be the heroes of any story. They are the villains. I’m okay with them as silly, campy villains like in Bugs Bunny or Scooby-Doo. I’m fine with them as menacing villains like in Buffy. I like a good comic vampire. But as a possible romantic partner? A misunderstood sort of fellow who agonizes over his need for blood but at the same time keeps it PG and clean, avoiding any real mention of the violence inherent in its very existence? No thanks.

In a new book by David Skal, the writer confronts head all the most disturbing aspects of vampires, and he does it with a scholarly thoroughness. The blood and gore, the violence, the sexual dominance, the violation – he really examines it, what it all means, and where it fits into Victorian society of the times. He uncovers all the little secrets of Bram Stoker and his influences. If you are a reader who thought Dracula was just a crackling good horror story, you would appreciate it so much more when you see what you missed.

But.

Why are we reading so much about so many other things? Where are you going with this, Mr. Skal? So many times listening to this, I  would just be getting into the story of Bram Stoker, when the writer would introduce a new character, like Oscar Wilde, or Oscar Wilde’s mother, or Oscar Wilde’s brother, or a friend of Oscar Wilde – seriously, why so many Wildes? – and we’d wander totally off the into somewhere else. By the time we meandered back onto Stoker, I had completely lost track of what he was talking about before.

So I don’t know how to rate this. I think I’m going to take the easy way out and give it 2.5/5 stars and split it right down the middle. Also, if it does sound interesting to you, I would recommend the print version instead of audio. The author read it, and he did a fine job, but like I said, sometimes I wanted to skip ahead and the tracking made it impossible for me to know when a chapter was coming to an end.