Tag Archives: horror

Book Review : The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Author : Stephen King
Series : The Shining
Volume : 1 of 2
Published By : HarperCollins, Harper Voyager
Year Published : 1977
Genre / Tags : Horror, Thriller, General Fiction, Stories-About-Families (this should be a genre)
Formats : Paperback, Hardcover, Audiobook, eBook
# of Pages : 450 pages (Hardcover) 688 pages (Paperback)

Summary

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

Review

After intending for years and years to read a Stephen King novel, I’m glad to have waited so long. That might sound weird so let me elaborate. His style (or at least, the style present in The Shining) requires a level of patience and maturity, I think, that might have had me DNF’ing this book years ago and not getting along with the characters. The Shining in particular is so utterly character-driven, digging deep in the psyche of its three main leads and seeking to bring them to life via lengthy flashbacks, nitty-gritty details of their reactions and feelings, and occasional use of repetition to really drive home their demons and struggles. This is particularly true of who could be considered the main character of the three, Jack Torrance.

Characterization

Jack struggles with anger and addiction. Though he’s tried to stay clean and sober, not drinking has been a constant and daily battle for him. He also has a history of abuse toward his wife and son. He feels regret for his actions and has changed at the start of the story but like the matter of his addiction, the circumstances that led him to act out in violence are not completely resolved and the trust between he and his wife, Wendy, is strained.

I’m not usually drawn to domestic fiction but the way abuse is handled in this story and the portrayal of Jack is interestingly balanced in a way that provides nuance to the character. I didn’t have a sense that the reader is meant to excuse his actions at all, but he’s not treated like an otherworldly one-dimensional villain either. He’s a very flawed, yet human character. While some of what he’s done (even before reaching the hotel) is frankly beyond forgiveness, I did sometimes feel compassion for the guy after we learn about his upbringing and the way a dark multi-generational trauma in his family repeats itself.

The main star of the story in my view is his son, Danny. He’s such a preciously lovable character. Some of the more heartwarming moments involve him, along with the most tense ones when he is in danger and facing some serious odds. One thing about Danny though, he reads older than five years old. He’s gifted beyond his years but I had to suspend disbelief at least somewhat. He probably should have been aged up a bit to 8 or 9 years of age.

While Wendy is given some good moments and is a solid character overall, I do feel like she comes in a marked third place for deep character development and a vivid interior. While her past, upbringing, feelings, and heroic later efforts are well-described enough, I always had a keener sense of Danny and Jack. Her past warranted more delving. I was really curious about how she and Jack even ended up together before all the problems that erupted. Given how much exhaustive detail is already given to the characterization and especially Jack’s portrayal, it could have been a worthwhile inclusion.

These nitty-gritty details might seem like a head scratcher given that this is supposed to be a horror novel. However, the greatest focus of these characters is in their down-to-earth facets. Unfortunately, the ghosts and prior generations that roamed Overlook Hotel are not afforded much in way of back story. This is a considerable drawback, as I wanted to know more about what led to Overlook’s predatory, creepy power.

There is one more character of note, Dick Hollorann. I was pleased to see King infuse this character with some notable back story and a prominent voice. His first interaction with Danny is a great moment.

General Storyline and the setting : Overlook Hotel

I was fortunate in liking the characters and this book’s broad emphasis on them- but even if I’d hated it, the whole concept of the hotel would still be an undeniable high and inspired point of this novel.

Overlook Hotel is situated in the Rocky Mountains, in oppressive and eerie seclusion. Nothing about this structure is trustworthy, even the outside topiaries are immediately suspicious. There’s a “forbidden” room the characters shouldn’t venture into, an elevator that has a mind of its own, and the whole structure’s uncanny ability to make its inhabitants see visions of the past or hallucinations. Things start off gradually though and build in momentum.

Overlook is like a character, brimming with history to unravel and unpredictable actions. It has a power and energy that is adversarial, seeking to control or destroy its visitors. I think most people getting into this novel expect these things. But King writes this setting well, with an air mystery and moments of deceptive tranquility wherein the characters can explore its nooks and crannies.

Overall, I greatly approved of the development of Overlook as a central location and source of horror, but I wanted more from it. Throughout The Shining, I would describe the focuses of the book being a battle between the haunting of Overlook or the ‘family’s story’, with the family’s story given limitless range to take over most of these pages.

Toward the final third of this book, intensity and plotting does ramp up toward survival, frenetic action, and the Overlook as an entrapping, spooky entity.

The Film Adaptation VS The Book

I usually wouldn’t make such a section but I’ve seen the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film and now having read the book, there are some interesting comparisons to make. While sharing the same names, locations, and basic skeletal plotline- the two have very little in common. I’d even go as far as to say that the atmosphere of each feels different. I saw the film before reading the book and honestly, the movie comes off as if it were written with no major knowledge of the book. Maybe a second hand flurry of basic details and even many of those are reimagined. I think people who love the book might very well hate the movie, and vice versa. But in my view, and this might be quite unpopular, the two balance each other out in a quirky way and fill in each other’s shortcomings.

Kubrick’s The Shining is thick with atmosphere and symbolism. It includes many small and horrific moments that were never in the book. I actually liked several of those moments best of all. Very surprised to find them missing (never existing) in the source novel. In terms of effective horror moments and gearing toward a keener sense of the Overlook’s terror and strangeness, I actually prefer the film’s approach. For example, Wendy finding out a certain shocking detail about Jack’s play was such a horrifying, haunting moment that’s more iconic than the animated topiary animals of the book.

But when it comes to characters, the film fails magnificently at its characters in perhaps the worst way I’ve encountered in any adaptation. Kubrick’s The Shining characters are nothing like King’s. They don’t resemble the descriptions, don’t behave in any similar way, and are even pointedly unlikable and/or paper thin. Just the film version of Danny is practically the antithesis of his novel version.

At the end of it all, I feel like that the book could have used a little more of the scary moments of the film that build Overlook as a setting of convincing terror, and the film could have used more (or any) of the book’s nuanced and detailed attempts at making these characters seem real and sympathetic. The rebalancing of these properties in both mediums would have resulted in perfection.

Overall Rating – 8.75/10

Why You Should Try It – In-depth exploration of the characters and what makes them tick. The Overlook Hotel as a setting and concept is brilliantly intriguing, oppressively remote, and full of potential. The last third or so flows at a hurried pace enough to call this a compelling page turner. The writing style just flows- effective and incisive yet simply approachable.

Why You Might Not Like It – The narrow focus on these three main characters can be a lot to carry and often seems like too much when there’s a giant creepy evil hotel that deserves more attention (and perhaps more aggressive ghosts?) If you end up pointedly disliking any of the three main characters, the incessant focus on them might become a serious issue.

The Shining (Amazon Affiliate Link)


I’m very glad to have read and finished The Shining this October! Definitely interested in reading more Stephen King novels and The Shining’s sequel, Doctor Sleep. Have you read The Shining or want to? Do you have recommendations for other great Stephen King novels? I’m curious about The Tommyknockers since I like small towns and the film gave me a ton of nightmares as a child. It’s funny being an adult, how that negativity can turn into something positive. Now I look for the more effective horror and want for these ghosts/supernatural entities to make their best attempt at creeping me out, lol. Thanks so much for your thoughts, comments, likes, and for just being here. ~ Kitty

Top 10 Tuesday – 10 Horror, Thriller, Or Mystery Novels I Want To Read Next October.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

October 29: Halloween Freebie

I interpreted this topic as being one to bend however you want, just as long as it’s Halloween-related somehow.

This post will be covering books that I am considering (most of them strongly so) to read during October of 2020, titles with a sort of horror, thriller or mystery theme to them that are perfect for the month. Some of these titles I might read far in advance though. These genres are appealing all throughout the year after all!

Pretty much wrapped up my reading for October. Unfortunately, I didn’t read as many horror, thriller, and mystery titles as I was originally intending due to several ARCs capturing my attention and a sort of mini-reading slump (by my reading standards anyway!) that had me reading a bit less than usual. But without further ado, here is the list-

1.) The Annotated Dracula by Bram Stoker. Edited by Leslie S. Klinger, Intro by Neil Gaiman, et al. A part of the Annotated Books series.

My library has another book in the Annotated Books series that compiles all of Lewis Carroll’s Alice-related work into the most grandiose and beautiful giant coffee table hardcover ever. Dracula has been given similar treatment and if it’s anything like The Annotated Alice, boasts a large amount of extra content like illustrations, photographs, interpretations, and historical info. I’ve found that these sorts of things in addition to annotations in general can really help put classics into perspective. They can also really highlight moments and passages that carry a specific depth of meaning or contextual tidbits worth knowing.

2.) The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

This title is $4.99 on Amazon Kindle, not sure if it’s a sale price or the list price. If it’s the latter I must say it’s awesome to finally see some eBook prices going down to 75% of physical book prices. Anyway, The Deathless Girls is a feminist retelling of the Dracula myth, focusing on his brides as main characters and there is some f/f. It sounds all-around dynamic and intriguing, very curious about anyone’s thoughts if they’ve read it. Also of mention is the hardcover- perhaps this is a special or limited edition, but someone posted pictures of the book and it really belongs on some list of prettiest hardcovers in the world.

3.) Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

There are so many thrillers I’m excited to read but know almost nothing about since I like to limit known info as much as possible so every plot twist and surprise hits just right. I just remember hearing this author’s name often and this seems like his most intriguing title in addition to his newest.

4.) Doctor Sleep (Sequel to The Shining) by Stephen King

I finished The Shining for the first time this October! Review coming soon. But just want to say, just reading the description I am super excited for Doctor Sleep. So curious about how an adult Danny is like, he was such an endearing character in The Shining. Also there are about a million unanswered questions and possibility for exploration of the magical powers and forces in The Shining so I’m hoping this book tries to delve in a book way into that.

5.) The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Currently $2.99 on Amazon in Kindle format. I might try to make room for this tite on my November TBR since it’s a new release and this is described as a dark fairytale. For my tastes, those are always appropriate all year ’round.

6.) The Phantom Forest by Liz Kerin

On Twitter I mentioned being a sucker for haunted forests and someone recommended this title. I know little of it but this description was an immediate attention-getter. TBR’d.

Seycia’s father told her this story as a child — a story of the most holy place in the Underworld, The Forest of Laida, where all souls go to rest before embarking on a new life. But Seycia’s father is dead now, and his killer has put a target on her back.

After being chosen for her village’s human sacrifice ritual, Seycia is transported to the Underworld and must join forces with Haben, the demon to whom she was sacrificed, to protect the family she left behind from beyond the grave. In this story of love, survival, and what it means to be human, Seycia and Haben discover that the Underworld is riddled with secrets that can only be unlocked through complete trust and devotion, not only to their mission, but also to one another.

7. Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

Another title I know little to nothing about, but saw it recommended in relation to The Haunting of Hill House. Must say the house on the cover is a sure deadringer. Has anyone read it?

8. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

I own four copies of this book across four different mediums and have taken it with me to various places on multiple occasions. Still very eager to read it but I think the length of it put me off for years. After finishing so many giant tomes this year, I’m hoping 2020 will be the year I get into this 10+ years TBR’d title.

9. Red Dragon & The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

I love the movie version of The Silence of the Lambs. Have been looking forward to digging into these books for years, especially Red Dragon which should be far removed enough in content to be thrilling and surprising.

10. The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

If gothic mystery novels written a few decades ago with dramatic cover title fonts were an aesthetic, it’s definitely my type of aesthetic. Had been meaning to read Anne Rivers Siddons for a while now but had forgotten her work until coming across a rec of it in this 3-part October series on horror novels written by female authors, I mentioned it in some earlier Bookblogger Bookmarks posts but it’s always worth mentioning again.


This was a fun post! Please do let me know if you’ve read any of these titles and your thoughts on them, always loving your comments. ❤ Also, are there any books that you wanted to read this month but didn’t get around to? It’s almost Halloween, hoping everyone has fun as this month comes to an end. Thanks for reading! ~ Kitty

Top 5 Saturday : Creepy Books

This Top 5 Saturday prompt is from Devouring Books, original post here.

10/19/19 — Gothic Books Creepy Books

Even though this prompt was changed to just creepy books, a lot of books on this list will also be gothic as well. Going by the dictionary.com definition ” causing an unpleasant feeling of fear or unease. ” that’s definitely what each of these books will embody in some way. I’m very much a fan of books like these and am reading quite a few this month, so there’s definitely some good material to include here!

5.) House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

This book is a re-telling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses fable, re-imagined as a horror tale complete with a big haunted house, death around every corner, and sinister magic. This was an enjoyable fairytale retelling and consider it one of the most unique YA I’ve encountered this year.

4.) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Looking on Google, this book has SO MANY unique and interesting covers. I read it earlier this year and had mixed feelings but have come away from it over time with positive feelings. This is more of a slow-moving, psychological creepiness. Not
bone-chilling terror, but a more classical approach to horror. I’m currently reading We Have Always Lived In The Castle, also by Shirley Jackson, and it’s perhaps an even more fitting choice.

3.) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Feels a bit weird to include such a beautiful and elegant classic novel, but it fits the theme for having such a questionable lot of characters, a beautiful house full of foreboding atmosphere, and a slowly creeping dread leading up to a startling end.

2.) Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

I was not expecting to include this title here but upon finishing it, I was surprised by how prominent the horror factor can be. The main character can see dead people (typically called Greys, because a few other gifted people can also see them but only in grey) in full color as if they were alive and injured. In one scene, she’s in a room with a dead body and the ghost of that same person also visits her, making for their dual presence in that room. My mind’s eye vision of that scene is still creeping me out so this book definitely deserves a spot on this list.

1.) My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews

It’s been more than a decade since I read this book so am definitely due to a re-read, but this book’s ending shook me like no other. If you decide to read it someday I recommend never looking up anything about it. This title is most deserving of first place because not only is it one of the creepiest books ever, it even has one of the creepiest fan-made songs ever to listen to after reading. (Warning- song has kind-of spoilers, probably best to save for after finishing the book if you do read it.)


Hope you enjoyed this week’s Top 5 Saturdays picks! This topic is definitely my forte and perfect for gathering up some fitting October reading choices. I look forward to reading your list if you’re also covering this topic. Moreover, have you read any of the books on this list or have them on your TBR? What is the creepiest book you’ve ever read? Thanks as always for your thoughts and hope you’re having a great weekend. ~ Kitty

Book Review : Cruel Works of Nature by Gemma Amor

Cruel Works Of Nature (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Author : Gemma Amor
Year/Date Published : November 2018
Genre / Tags : Horror, Short Stories, Anthologies
Mood : Fun yet disturbing
Formats : Paperback, eBook
# of Pages : 342 pages (Paperback)

Summary

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but supernatural curiosities brought it back. 

A Jack-in-the-Box made from skulls. 

A monster egg in the mail.

A sketchbook bridging imagination with reality. 

What other wondrous and terrible secrets will these survivors tell?

CRUEL WORKS OF NATURE is a collection of 11 horror novellas about strange and exciting supernatural encounters. Reality and the fantastic are blended seamlessly in these immersive tales, with plenty of mystery to lead the reader on a thrilling journey. Some stories are dark and macabre while others whimsical and lighthearted, together ensuring constant surprises and terrifying twists to keep you reading until the very last page. 

Review

Content Warnings – Violence, death, some gore, killer spider apocalypse in one particularly story. If you have arachnophobia, very much beware.

When perusing the Kindle Unlimited selection for the first time during a 3-month trial I tried a couple of months ago, my first impression was that there are so many books to choose from- including many little known indie titles. Who knows what’s worth checking out and what isn’t? I could just sense that, as is the case with traditionally published books, there are so many great gems that just slip through the cracks. I go on this tangent because Cruel Works of Nature is one of those books I would have never found or thought to read. Turns out, it’s so good and worth the while.

The writing style is very inviting and conversational, often making use of first or second person narrative. Very subjective, but I really love second person narration, draws me immediately into a story. When toying with giving this a four or five stars on Goodreads, I finally just went for five stars. Reason being that if you like short horror stories- think Fear Street/Goosebumps, but for adults- this is a collection well worth checking out. It also gives me some strong Tales From The Crypt-like vibes. The nostalgia factor from that made this one of the most fun reading experiences I’ve had in a long time.

I’ll start with the most praise-worthy element. The variety among the stories and voices there-in is impressive and broad. Each of these 11 stories has a differing protagonist, setting, theme, tone, horror subject, and voice. I bring up voice because each protagonist really comes off uniquely. There were some I liked and some I disliked. They vary so much in age, personality, and of course the horror element of each story is wildly different.

We have silly types of horror like killer cows and an apocalypse spurred by giant man-eating spiders. And there are more serious stories too, centering around the loss of a child or spouse, or the dissolution of a marriage. Some of the stories give off a sci-fi or dystopian vibe. I was constantly surprised by each new story. Even the prevailing moods of the characters caught me off guard several times. Most of the styles of horror present here vary from cheesy fun to thought-provoking, and a few of them are grisly and gory.

The only downside I’ll mention is that the quality of the stories can be uneven in both appeal and writing. A few of the stories were in need of better proofreading. One of the earlier stories had a serious over-use of commas. However, this was only an issue in a few stories and the vast majority of them are solidly written with only minor issues. The last two stories had, by far, the best writing and characterization. They’re also two of the longest in the collection. It was at that point I realized that most of the stories- while fun and consistently enjoyable- were lacking in lovable characters. This is more of a personal preference, but the tension in a horror scenario is so much more impactful when I’m desperately worried if character(s) are going to die or not.

Also of note are the illustrations. I wish there were more. There is so much horrifying imagery within these stories that could make for some fascinating artwork. What’s here is well drawn and I always thumbs up the presence of bonus artwork in books of this type, but the style is kind of subtle.

In closing, this is a unique collection. A perfect read for October.

Overall Rating – 9/10

Why You Should Try It – Eleven highly original and wildly varying short stories. Lots of different horror elements and a sense of unpredictability about what will be the next subject. The protagonists are very unique from one other and run a wide gamut. It’s great to see fun horror anthologies geared toward adults.

Why You Might Not Like It – Some of the protagonists are unlikable. While I liked nearly all of the stories, the last two really outclass most of what comes before. Do heed the content warnings if needed.

Cruel Works Of Nature (Amazon Affiliate Link)


Have you read Cruel Works of Nature or want to? Are there any horror anthologies/short story collections that you highly recommend? I look forward to your thoughts as always and thanks for reading this review. ~ Kitty

Book Review : A Lush And Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs

A Lush And Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs (Preorder Link, Amazon)

Author : John Hornor Jacobs
Published By : Harper Voyager
Year Published : October 8st 2019, Preorder Available At Link Above.
Genre / Tags : Adult Fiction, Dark Fiction, Psychological Horror, Horror, Literary Fiction
Mood : Grimdark, but the smart kind.
Formats : Hardcover, eBook
# of Pages : 384 pages (Hardcover)

Review

The award-winning and critically-acclaimed master of horror returns with a pair of chilling tales—both never-before-published in print—that examine the violence and depravity of the human condition.

Bringing together his acclaimed novella The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky and an all-new short novel My Heart Struck Sorrow, John Hornor Jacobs turns his fertile imagination to the evil that breeds within the human soul.

A brilliant mix of the psychological and supernatural, blending the acute insight of Roberto Bolaño and the eerie imagination of H. P. Lovecraft, The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky examines life in a South American dictatorship. Centered on the journal of a poet-in-exile and his failed attempts at translating a maddening text, it is told by a young woman trying to come to grips with a country that nearly devoured itself.

In My Heart Struck Sorrow, a librarian discovers a recording from the Deep South—which may be the musical stylings of the Devil himself.

Breathtaking and haunting, A Lush and Seething Hell is a terrifying and exhilarating journey into the darkness, an odyssey into the deepest reaches of ourselves that compels us to confront secrets best left hidden.

Review

Content Warning : Torture, Violence, Self Harm, Mild Sexual Content

This title contains two novellas, one is perhaps shorter than an average novella and the other is longer than average.

I’ll start with the first, The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky. It takes up about 30% of the book. Or somewhat over 100 pages. This story gave a fantastic first impression and would get five stars on its own. The writing style is immediately noticeable for its artistic and insightful range.

The story takes place in a South American country not unlike Chile and makes references to dictatorial regimes and political figures. Augusto Pinochet and Pablo Neruda for example. There are allusions made to victims of the atrocities during that time. Having some minor familiarity with the subject matter, this story was vastly effective and gut-wrenching.

I recall watching this film from 1982 called Missing, directed by Costa-Gavras. It’s about a young journalist that was one of the 10-30k people “disappeared” during the regime, likely tortured and killed as many were around that time of political upheaval. I had felt a sense of dread wondering what all he likely went through. This story really brought back memories of watching that film for the first time and provides a grisly example.

I highly recommend reading this novella in one sitting. A break between can really impact one’s feel for the mood and nuance leading up to the finale.

If this entire book was in line with that first story, this would be an easy 4-5 stars. But, and admittedly for mainly subjective reasons, I did not find the second story appealing.

There is a quiet dignity and sophistry to the writing at large and I would like to emphasize that in terms of technical quality, both stories are consistent. But where The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky deals with heavy subject matter that lends a pulse to the proceedings, My Heart Struck Sorrow struggled to capture my interest.

The lead character, Cromwell, has lost his wife and child. Though still in a state of mourning, he keeps busy with as a librarian of arts. He and a co-worker find a hidden door that leads to a bunch of journal entries and old recordings from the 1930s. They proceed to explore the collection as its very relevant to their area of expertise.

Most of these chapters have to do with a character named Harlan Parker who traveled throughout the southern states of America during that time, archiving folk music. I was so uninterested in Harlan himself. Those sections with him permeate the vast majority of this novella.

Worse yet, his lengthy journals are in full italics. I’ve seen books get criticized before for overuse of italics. I did not fully understand why this could be such a problem until encountering a good example of such in this novel. A petty complaint perhaps, but it’s consistently irritating. Do note that this review is based on an ARC. I plan on hunting down the final version and if italics are not overused in those sections, I will update this review accordingly.

Another pet peeve- songs being transcribed in novels. While there is nothing wrong with the songs here and they seem thoughtfully poetic, they are numerous and were often lost on me.

So between the italics, the plentiful song lyrics, and Harlan and Cromwell being less than thrilling to read about, this novella wasn’t quite a hit with me.

The final thing I’d like to note is that this book’s month of release, its cover, even its title- A Lush And Seething Hell- brings it to the forefront as a perfect Halloween read.

It could be, depending on your tastes. The horror present here is very down-to-earth and psychological in nature and mainly only frightening in its violence. This isn’t a spooky/scary or heart-pounding type of horror and this novel’s best strength is in its literary prose which could be off-putting for people looking for a more fast-paced scare. A Lush and Seething Hell is a meditation on humanity’s ills and best catalogued as dark fiction.

Rating – 6.5/10

Why You Should Try It – Two novellas that are extraordinarily different in setting and scope but consistently written. Fabulous literary prose and sophisticated style. The setting and aims of the first story really got to me and cover a topic that is little explored in fiction, much less horror. Fantastically researched, complete with a bibliography at book’s end.

Why You Might Not Like It – For mainly subjective reasons, I really didn’t care for the second story and struggled with Harlan’s point of view. As much as this title has to offer, my ambivalence toward a whole two-thirds of it has influenced the above rating.

Disclosure : I received this title as an e-ARC from Netgalley for the purpose of review.

One last end note, I might have a pretty unpopular opinion on this title. Based on perusing some Goodreads reviews, some people really love the second story. Same dislike the first story. Some love both. Quite polarizing really, and fitting as both stories are massively different.


Have you read any works by John Hornor Jacobs or plan to? Are you interested in A Lush And Seething Hell or have read it already and have thoughts? Thanks for reading this review, I look forward to your thoughts. ~ Kitty

Discussion Post : What Is The Scariest Book You’ve Ever Read?

pizza ghost GIF by 100% Soft

I’m making this post in preparation for October and thinking about my reading plans. Barring some ARCs and library waiting list titles, I’m planning to hunt out some thrillers and horror novels with an emphasis on heart-pumping moments. Still not sure what my October TBR will be though!

I haven’t come across many books that left me truly terrified, and mainly turn to videogames or movies/tv for that sort of thing.

But as a kid I was massively a fan of the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark series. It has some of the most impressive and memorable artwork out there. I still live in fear of spiders laying eggs in faces. And whatever the lady in the second picture is. She does kind of look like a drawing of me in the most unflattering way possible lol..

Back then, I also devoured Goosebumps, Fear Street, some Christopher Pike books, and another series called Nightmare Hall. Here are some of my iconic faves from each. They definitely warrant some nostalgic re-reads!

Honestly, I don’t remember these titles very much- just that they are the ones I was most scared by as a kid.

Scratch that somewhat, I do remember The Betrayal and its sequels quite well and oh what I’d give for some 800 page adult fiction epic that was anything like it.

This is mainly a nostalgia post but there are a few recent horror (or thriller) titles that come to mind as having high tension or effectively scary moments. Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky and The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware.

Imaginary Friend is a sort of grab bag of different horror conventions thrown into one long, artsy book while The Turn Of The Key has a creepy, nefarious ultra-modern ‘smart’ house with mysterious hidden rooms.

There’s one older book that I can’t remember very well called Servants of Twilight by Dean Koontz. In that one, we see the story from multiple perspectives so you’d know some horrifying stuff is about to go down, then an immediate switch to another perspective for cliffhanger chapters.

One thing to mark off my reading to-do list is reading something by Stephen King. I’m leaning toward Misery for its shorter length (370 pages, less massive than ‘It’ for sure.) But I’m also thinking of Tommyknockers since the film version truly terrified me many years ago, though it’s page count is on the high side as seems usual for King. He has so many books, it’s tough to choose. Was thinking of Carrie but after being unabashedly #TeamCarrie in the 1976 film, I worry I’ll just spend the whole time feeling sorry for her instead of being terrified.

Discussion

  • I’m still deciding on what to read, but what are your reading plans for October? Do you plan on reading any horror or halloween-themed titles?
  • As mentioned in the title, what is the scariest book you’ve ever read? Or if not applicable, a book with a scary or tense moment that really stuck with you. It can be in any genre.
  • Very open to horror or thriller reading recommendations if you have some or Stephen King best-first-book recs, if you have read his work and have some guidance to offer.

Many thanks in advance, as always, for your comments and thoughts.

Book Review : House of Salt and Sorrows

House of Salt and Sorrows (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Author : Erin A. Craig
Published By : Delacorte
Year/Date Published : August 6th, 2019
Genre / Tags : YA, Gothic, Romance, Mystery, Fantasy, Horror, Fairytale Retelling
Mood : Glum yet beautifully mysterious
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 416 pages (Hardcover)

Summary

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

I made a mood board for this one.

Planning to make more mood boards in general for the books I’m reading. ♥️

Review

Content warnings – Dark themes, death

What drew me to House of Salt and Sorrows immediately is the gothic atmosphere. Even the book’s summary seems promising of an atmosphere rich in baroque or victorian-style imagery of massive manors and grand halls and sumptuous aesthetic, blended with spooky-yet-sophisticated horror and an air of mystery.

Add that to the approachable nature of YA conventions and it seems like an unusual recipe for a book I’d love. What this title does have in abundance is description. Over use of description is very hit or miss for me. Generally speaking, I don’t care for it and prefer an emphasis on fast-moving plot. My feelings change a bit when regarding beautiful or immersive description. Thankfully, House of Salt and Sorrows does well in that area.

However, it’s still very worth mentioning that this is something of a quiet book, shrouded in a mystery that moves gradually and with subtle tones. The storyline is often distracted by talk of the main character’s large family of sisters and their goings-on. Our main character is Annaleigh and she has a lot of sisters. This book is veritably drowning in sisters, I at times felt that their personalities blended together. The ones that stand out in a big way are Verity, her youngest and very cute little sister who sees ghosts. And Camille, one of the older and more outspoken sisters.

Annaleigh herself is a good character, but she didn’t inspire intense or outstanding feelings. The story’s earlier parts can be described similarly. The romance between Annaleigh and Cassius is a bit insta-lovey as they both develop feelings for each other nearly on sight, but it does take a long time for the pair to be frank with their feelings so I wouldn’t necessarily shelve this as insta-love. The appeal of this book hinges largely on one’s bond with the atmosphere and aesthetic. I flew through this one easily due to those aspects.

A major drawback or criticism I have is about what a whirlwind of excitement and fun the last 20% or so of the book is. The plot goes from gradual to fast-moving, lots of important things are revealed that had me questioning all previous events and it just reaches such a fantastic height at that point. If this book reached that grand point halfway through instead of so late, it would easily get a 10/10 rating or 5 stars.

As it stands, I still enjoyed my time and really want to see more books adhering to this theme. If you look up the gothic section on Goodreads for example, this is nearly the only book of its type within YA and even amidst gothic books in general, most are from 20+ years ago. House of Salt and Sorrows has a good writing style and a good storyline, but definitely gets some extra accolades from me for its rarity.

Further, the Twelve Dancing Princesses Grimms fairytale seems rarely adapted. I had not even heard of this fairytale until hearing of this book, and there have been so many The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast retellings, so it gets credit for that bit of differentiation as well.

Overall Rating – 9/10

Why You Should Try It – House of Salt and Sorrows is a dark fairytale retelling that has a unique blending of characteristics, along with a source material that seems rarely adapted (12 Dancing Princesses) It’s great to see a gothic mystery with some romance and spooky horror atmosphere. Some beautiful imagery. In the last quarter of the book, very interesting and more thrilling story elements are revealed. I found Annaleigh likable enough as a heroine.

Why You Might Not Like It – I felt like the story winds up slowly, and takes too long to reach its more exciting points. Some of the sisters come off vague in characterization. There is a lot of death and a somber tone.

House of Salt and Sorrows (Amazon Affiliate Link)


I’m glad to finally have read this book! It didn’t quite match the extreme enthusiasm I had built up for it- but I still flew through this experience in two days and enjoyed the time spent. I will definitely keep an eye on this author in the future. Have you read House of Salt and Sorrows and have any thoughts on it? Or do you plan to read it in the future? As always, your comments and likes are always appreciated.

Book Review : Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky (Amazon Link)

Author : Stephen Chbosky
Published By : Grand Central Publishing
Year Published : October 1st 2019, Preorder Available At Link Above.
Genre / Tags : Horror, Adult Fiction, Mystery
Mood : Dark
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
# of Pages : 720 pages (Hardcover)

Summary

Christopher is seven years old. Christopher is the new kid in town. Christopher has an imaginary friend. The epic work of literary horror from the #1 bestselling author of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.

We can swallow our fear or let our fear swallow us.

Single mother Kate Reese is on the run. Determined to improve life for her and her son, Christopher, she flees an abusive relationship in the middle of the night with Christopher at her side. Together, they find themselves drawn to the tight-knit community of Mill Grove, Pennsylvania. It’s as far off the beaten track as they can get. Just one highway in, one highway out.

At first, it seems like the perfect place to finally settle down. Then Christopher vanishes. For six awful days, no one can find him. Until Christopher emerges from the woods at the edge of town, unharmed but not unchanged. He returns with a voice in his head only he can hear, with a mission only he can complete: Build a tree house in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same again.

Soon Kate and Christopher find themselves in the fight of their lives, caught in the middle of a war playing out between good and evil, with their small town as the battleground.

Review

Content Warning – Violence, some sexual content. 18+.

Disclosure – I received this book as an e-ARC for the purpose of review, many thanks to Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for this opportunity.

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky is a bit hard to explain. It’s bitterly cynical and disturbing yet “fun” is the word that comes foremost to mind in explaining my time with it. I was always engaged and enjoyed nearly every page. Yet, nearly every page has some aspect that seems rough and not well thought out. Next, this book is too long, bloated, and filled with repeated lines. Yet somehow, I would also describe the overall flow as fast-moving and rarely boring.

It’s hard to make sense of how to even describe this one- which is fitting! Since the last 200 pages or so are best described as chaotic and vexing. That said, I really enjoyed my time with it as a whole. It’s messy, but my kind of mess and brings up all sorts of memories of schlocky 80s horror movies that I have a weakness for. Disclosure- I adore several horror films (and games, oh man, horror games) but have rarely read horror novels. Going to need to rectify that in the near future. I might feel differently about this book after reading more within the genre. So consider these thoughts as being from someone new-ish to horror novels.

Lets start with the good.

  • The protagonist, Christopher, is endearing. He is likable and easy to support, so when things get horribly dangerous for him (which is often) the tension was effective.
  • A spooky, haunted environment. In this case, a forest full of secrets and an alternate world with surreal horror imagery, some of which is effective and some isn’t.
  • The family bond. Aside from Chris I also adore his mom. They struggle so much and I was ready to riot in the streets if they didn’t end up okay. There are a couple pages toward the end that really tear at the heartstrings. I can’t remotely relate to a mother-son bond yet was touched by this aspect
  • Cerebral horror instead of gory horror. There are some gross passages but the horror is by and large surreal, psychological, or just spooky/creepy and makes thoughtful references to past traumas of the characters.
  • The storyline is reminiscent of other horror series/stand-alones I’ve liked. Some horror properties come to mind like Stephen King’s It with the endearing kids, Nightmare On Elm Street with the constant and horrible nightmare sequences, and mystery/horror series about towns that gradually succumb to hostile forces like Twin Peaks, Stranger Things, The Tommyknockers. The concept of peacefully productive days and terrifying nights is also a theme. Basically, this book tries it all which is good considering the length.

Some other good things worth mentioning..

  • There are a handful of tense chase scenes that are well done. I had the urge to skim them because of the tension.
  • The description calls this literary horror and the narrative does seem concerned with delving into the psyche of the characters.
  • Christopher, Ambrose, and Chris’s mom Kate are fantastic characters. There was a section of the book where I was all but screaming that nothing better happen to Kate, she is everything.

Now for the drawbacks.

  • This book is too long. I can imagine this being a DNF for many people. The length does not feel justified, and I really think this book could have been better if a lot of aspects were re-thought, truncated, or removed altogether.
  • There are repetitive moments used for artistic effect that came off as awkward rather than insightful. The typographical eccentricities usually came off as silly. The writing in general veers from good to questionable. Some of the horror imagery doesn’t hit the mark.
  • There are some deeply unlikable side characters along the way. Too many of them, so many that I barely cared what was going to happen to the town at large. There are some good reasons why the side characters act the way they do but it can be unpleasant to read about their behavior. The occasional shifts to other points of view frequently doesn’t serve a marked purpose aside from adding to the bloat.
  • The female characters are often poorly written (minus Kate) honestly, I think just having Christopher’s POV would have been better. There were some scenes having to do with Mary Catherine that were laughably unconvincing for a teenage girl.
  • There is a thick atmosphere of depression that permeates this story. Plus a cynicism to the writing that just had me convinced all things would end badly.

So long story short, I recommend proceeding with caution on this one and there are definitely some bones to pick. But I rate based off of enjoyment and it’s undeniable how persistently readable this ended up being. Messy, but engaging. There was no point where I wanted to DNF and honestly, as aforementioned, every bit was fun albeit in a morbid way.

Overall Rating – 8/10

Why You Should Check It Out – Spooky, lengthy horror. A haunted forest and alternate worlds, horrifying dream sequences, and a likable mother-son team. The pacing was good enough to make this one engrossing despite several flaws. The likable characters, while few, really captured my attention. The literary horror aspect can sometimes be effective.

Why You Might Not Like It – If you’re looking for a consistently thrilling novel, this isn’t it. The writing style makes use of repeated lines and weird typography that is more silly than insightful. Too many deeply unlikable side characters. Needlessly long. There is a grandiosity to the scope of the mystery (this is a good thing) but whether it is followed through with properly will be up to individual readers, I found the ending to be messily handled but not the total loss it could have been.

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky (Amazon Link)


Thanks so much for reading my review! Have you read Imaginary Friend and have any thoughts on it? Are you interested in reading it? I appreciate your thoughts at any time.

Book Review : The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics)

Author : Shirley Jackson
Published By : Penguin Classics
Year Published : 1959
Genre / Tags : Mystery, Light Horror, Gothic, Classics
Mood : Atmospheric, spooky, sinister.
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 208 pages

Summary

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Review

This is going to be a complicated review.

I didn’t like this book. Not in the traditional way that one likes books. I sat down. Read it. Finished it quite fast actually, and left to go write a Goodreads review that was a 2/5 stating that I enjoyed the beginning and very end but didn’t like the characters.

I didn’t care for where certain plot lines went, was dissatisfied with the house- more on that silly-sounding bit later- and just felt like the concept is so ingenious but everyone who has borrowed it has managed to expand all aspects to greater heights. The movies (even that schlocky 90s one) and tv show come to mind.

Fast-forward 8 months in time.

This book has stayed with me like no other. As if it’s crept its way into my heart, unbidden, in a way that books I actually like haven’t managed to do.

Every so often I’ll be watching a movie or tv show that is horror-themed or gothic-themed and think “Oh, that part reminds me of The Haunting of Hill House.” Or I’ll randomly hear or read something and think “I remember a line like that in The Haunting Of Hill House.” Or I’ll not sleep properly and my brain will ask “Hey, remember when that thing happened in The Haunting Of Hill House?”

I have a wait list with various ebooks on it from Overdrive, waiting to eventually get checked out. My eyes keep flitting to a pending book also by this author called “We Have Always Lived In The Castle.” I’m very much looking forward to reading it- whether I like it or not. It’s like my brain says “I don’t like that.” But my heart says ” Shirley Jackson is our kindred spirit, Kitty.” Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Here is the main gist of the story.

The main character, Eleanor, has led a largely empty life and is suddenly free yet frightfully aimless. To my understanding the author suffered from agoraphobia around the time of writing of this book. I definitely sense some of that here, as I’ve also struggled with the same. Eleanor’s journey is this book comes of as someone who is finally trying to overcome a long period of isolation, but without guidance. She ends up moving to Hill House, a mysterious estate that may or may not be haunted. The story has daytime parts where she gets to know some new companions and wander around the grounds freely. Then we get to night time parts where a bunch of creepy events begin to unfurl.

By 2019 standards, nothing very scary happens but there are some scenes that stuck with me. And some scenes that are no doubt valuable as an influence on slowly creeping horror properties like The Turn Of The Key by Ruth Ware.

I adore the idea of having a day and night sequence in horror/mystery and I’d probably instant-TBR any book that has that.

I didn’t particularly like any of the characters that Eleanor meets. There is one that shows up toward the end who goes out of her way to be annoying and break up moments that could have been full of tension.

Also, the conversations between the characters were constantly a source of puzzlement. Did people in the 50s really talk so differently from people in the 70s-90s? I have never had such problems with books from those decades. And honestly, I have been fine with some books from the late 1800s or early 1900s.

I had no issues with the way characters communicated in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, for example, which is from the 1930s. Not sure if my issues with the dialogue are a product of a poetic writing style or that I’m just out of my depth in understanding what anyone is trying to say due to a generational gap.

So, about the house. I adore Manderley from Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. It’s described as having a beating heart, being full of secrets, and just beautiful and creepy in general. Hill House is structurally similar. I love how Hill House and its grounds looks on all the adaptations I’ve seen.

I could read about its mysteries and eccentricities all day. But there is a strange vagueness to the house in this narrative. A short book this may be, but there were so many of those little aforementioned conversations between characters, enough to be irritating. I was constantly wondering what’s going on with the house. Are there secret passages? Is there more depth to what really happened to people who lived here prior? Can we just explore it more please? Etc.

Such details just seemed insufficient and the adaptations have creatively expanded on the lore in such a sprawling and impressive way. For example, Netflix’s The Haunting Of Hill House is one of my favorite shows, ever. I’m a total fangirl for it.

Also of note is that some Penguin editions of this book contain an extensive introduction by a writer who delves into the themes of the book. There are spoilers in this intro, but I found it well worth reading AFTER finishing the book. A lot of enlightening tidbits helped me to better appreciate things I’d missed or didn’t interpret appropriately. This should have been an afterward instead of an introduction though.

In closing, some time has caused me to look much more favorably upon this novel and be more focused on its place in influencing some of my favorite works ever. The ending is beyond bleak but beautifully written, haunting, and effectively open to interpretation. However, it is also of a grim and hopeless nature that could be triggering for people who struggle in ways similar to the way Eleanor struggles though, so be forewarned.


Overall Rating – 8.5/10 (Subject to change.)

Why You Might Like It – An influential classic that helped paved the way for quietly creepy, and atmospheric gothic horror. I truly enjoyed the beginning and ending. A pretty quick read. Many bright ideas and the whole distinct day and night sequences are just a perfect horror concept that I’ll always be on the look out for.

Why You Might Not Like It / Critiques – I didn’t enjoy the side characters or their dialogue. The book’s shortness made the development of some of its cleverest concepts quite vague, though perhaps purposefully so.

The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics) (Amazon Link)

Have you read this book or are interested in reading it? Are you familiar with other Hill House adaptations or are a fan of any similar books with haunted houses? Please feel free to share your thoughts, I read and appreciate all your comments and likes.