Tag Archives: Horror

Important tip: Leaving broken cups in the family mausoleum may remind your relatives that they’re dead if they get up.

23. The Elementals – Michael McDowell

Have I ever mentioned on here that I hate sand? I really, really hate sand. I was unaware that this Southern Gothic brilliance was going to involve so much sand and that made it extra scary for me. However, I also have to say the fact that it got off and running from the start also helped. Weirdo southern family tradition stories are always of interest to me in the same way that British manor family dramas are not, which is weird because both types of stories involve secrets that the servants are aware of and totally not telling and stiff silence in place of helpful information. Oh, that family trauma’s going to show up whether you tell them or not. At least in The Elementals, Odessa eventually came around and did explain the whole “let’s stab people at their funeral” thing early on to thirteen year old India, the My Cousin Rachel of the story except for the whole liberated sex thing (Thankfully! I kept waiting for her and her father’s really close relationship to get blatantly incesty and…so happy that wasn’t a thing. They live in New York City. Far away from their family. He takes photos of her all the time. I blame recent television hit Game of Thrones and way too many recently read books where the incest was a total surprise inclusion for making me worry about this.) and the inheritance thing and the possible poisoner thing.

So there are two families, and they both have Victorian summer houses on a little area at the bottom of Alabama called Beldame where they’re going to hang out after the funeral of the mean matriarch of the Savages dies. Side note, the area they’re going to was amazingly easy for me to picture because the nearest town was Gulf Shores, a place I’ve been several times. They don’t really describe it as more than having a laundromat, but, I can tell you it was quite pleasant in the 1990s for Easter. And the new family patriarch of the Savages is Dauphin, which happens to be the name of an island that’s also nearby. When I was there I was not as troubled by sand as I am now. Anyway, there’s a third house and no one lives in it. No one LIVES in it. And those things in there, creating bodies out of sand and making sure it gets into every possible crevice and nook and cranny and other small places, those are not ghosts. They’re a whole different kind of spirit.

Fun fact: There’s a parrot in this book named Nails. Excellent name.

Murderface will not tell the southern guinea pig family secrets. Pickles might though, if you offer her the right produce, like, any produce.

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“This is how we do things in the country”

78. The Family Plot – Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest is one of those authors I feel like I should have already read lots by. Boneshaker was a great big deal as I recall and I was super into the idea of Maplecroft because I love some lady murderer stories. I tried to read Maplecroft multiple times but I was just not getting in. Just not. And that made me pretty sad.

Fathom is the only book of hers I managed to get through and I liked it okay…but was not wanting MORE! on any level. However, with The Family Plot, I think I finally found the Priest for me. I absolutely loved it.

Because of the existence of dust and me in the same universe, I will never become a salvager or a picker or the sort of person who finds antiques and cool pieces of house until they end up at a store. So, as abbreviated and possibly inaccurate as the operations of Music City Salvage may be, I don’t care, novel-level accuracy got me wholeheartedly into this story. Main character Dahlia was very relatable for me – she has allergies (not as bad as mine, clearly, or she couldn’t do that work, but they like never get mentioned anywhere and so many people have allergies that do work involving old things), she’s relatively fearless, she recognizes the value (sometimes exact) in antiques, and she knows how to organize disparate elements into a task well-finished. So I was entirely content to follow her through southern-style trying not to lose her shit while the ghosts in the Withrow house got stronger and more insistent and actually scary.

Pere and Ozy know the best way not to lose your shit is to turn away from the photographer and still look cute.

 

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“Hey, there’s some strange stuff going on around here.”

67. Children of the Dark – Jonathan Janz

An escaped serial killer, a different kind of wendigo than I’m used to, teenagers of both the complete asshole and not variety, little kids, and a shitty town that doesn’t care about the “undesirables.” That’s what we’re dealing with in Children of the Dark.

At the start, all I could think about was Richard Laymon and how annoyed I got reading the endless clothing changes and teen erections of The Traveling Vampire Show. Thankfully, that didn’t stay. Janz did not make the characters continuously change clothing and I didn’t have to sit through too much of teen boys being teen boys slowing down the overall plot. Although, he did basically replace the teen boy erections with monster erections and that was both funny and irrelevant. They’re monsters, do they have to be discussed as rape threats as well? Is that really necessary? Most women have to deal with the possibility of rape as a consistent threat anyway, especially when they make the mistake of walking somewhere, standing somewhere, just existing, alone, so it’s pretty unnecessary to make a monster that easily kills also a rape threat. For example, I was once threatened with rape while walking through the reference area of the library I worked in, so, it happens all the damn time. Let the monsters just be threatening because they’re monsters.

Children of the Dark ended in a completely different place than I expected it to and that was nice. It’s a bit Richard Laymon and a bit Stephen King with the ensemble of town folk and the kids taking on the lion’s share of dealing with the threats, and a little bit H.P. Lovecraft. The world of monster-threats was expanded widely at the very end and that was great. That said, I am not sure if this has a sequel. I stumbled across Janz and then sorted out that this one was at the library. I have to research whether or not this has a sequel or an adjoining story or anything, but I do hope it does.

Sometimes just big pointy teeth can be intimidating enough. Or I guess not at all if you’re my little Salem.

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Sportsmanship……Books!

Tomorrow, I will be at Walker Stalker in Chicago! Tomorrow.

And this time, I am also planning on showing how my book cover parodies have become far more plentiful than they used to be. In the beginning, it was just Danger Crumples transforming Christopher Pike’s 1990s YA output, as seen here –

I do think with Danger Crumples I may actually have parodied these covers into being more coherent stories. Oops.

However, now that most of these are only available as postcards and I had more plays on piggie names in mind – more pigs have gotten their own book series and three of the paintings will be on display for the first time and also possibly the last time, I tend to make new things for every show that I do because I have a lot of ideas and very inspiring piglets.

Peregrine, crime boss and queen of my herd, finally got her own book series – Prey Street. And once again she meets with her most frightening enemy – the phone. This time she let Merricat pick it up, as if that would help.

 

Finny got a series too! Finnybumps, it’s very specific and allows him to intimidate Salem, just as he tries to from across the room every day.

 

This is my favorite new book cover parody. Ozma’s 80s horror paperback. There’s always been something ominous and yet flashy about how cute she is, which could only be expressed by painting her while drinking a lot of Tab.

 

Walker Stalker! Tomorrow! I know I’m no Jerry, who I won’t be able to see because I’ll be at my table, and I’m clearly not King Ezekiel, who I won’t be able to mention Hellraiser: Hellworld to (um, that movie has Khary Payton, future apparent (I haven’t seen it) downer Superman Henry Cavill, and the best but somewhat -to put it lightly – misused person on Vikings, Katheryn Winnick all in it, what a strange world we live in), but I hope someone comes and sees me anyway because I have a very wide range of stickers this time.

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Veal Scallopini, Steak Diane, or human souls?

16. Burnt Offerings – Robert Marasco

Marion and Ben and Aunt Elizabeth and David live in the city. It sucks during the summer. It’s like really hot and there are too many people and Marion doesn’t feel like her antiques get their due unless she’s obsessively polishing them and so she’d really like to escape. Just this once.

Well, a house that’s only $900 and way out in the middle of nowhere comes up for the summer. It’s full of antiques, it’s by the beach and has a pool, the only catch is Marion has to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for an old lady she’ll never see. Perfect!

Everything goes fine and they all end the summer with a nice family chuckle as they drive back to the city. The end.

Okay, not so much. But it’s not ever really clear what is happening exactly or why that title was used if the very life is being sucked out of the adults. But I guess “Burnout Offerings” just sounds like a post-graduate school group therapy session title. Too contemporary.

Danger and Horace are waiting for me to get the movie so we can all figure out if we like that better. These boys really loved their 1970s horror cinema.

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“Where certain fungal infections are common…”

61. Come Closer – Sara Gran

Extremely short at 168 pages, and not a young adult book, this was a bit of a surprise take on possession – from the inside.

The demon has apparently been fond of Amanda since she was a young child but didn’t try to take full possession then. She waited. Then, once Amanda was basically getting her shit together, she pounced.

One of the amusing parts of the book involves the failure of self-help for Amanda. She finds Demon Possession Past and Present, a book that has a checklist and levels of how possessed one may be. As she becomes more and more possessed, she isn’t allowed to read books that might have helped her, she even finds that she’s burned several of them in her fireplace. The doctor recommended by her husband tells her to eat more salt and turns out to be possessed too – somehow salt makes the demon stronger in this story as opposed to being a purifying element and something demons can’t cross. The psychiatrist recommended by the doctor before she knows the doctor is possessed is also concerned as to why she wouldn’t want to be more active in her own life, taking control, doing weird stupid stuff that’s detrimental to her health and relationships but also more active…he’s possessed too.

And for once in a possession story, there’s no fight. No holy water. No “The power of Christ compels you!” Just a girl and the demon that tells her she’ll never leave her.

Peregrine is the pig that will never leave me. She’s not even a demon; she’s just nice that way.

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“The maiden’s waiting for her knight in shining corduroy.” – Creepshow

74. There’s Someone Inside Your House – Stephanie Perkins

This little slice and dice of teenagers has some interesting elements. It’s a pretty accurate depiction of high school in the Midwest, especially if you are different from the normies in any capacity. The inclusivity is a change of pace from most of what I’ve seen in YA that’s supposed to be horror even though this book isn’t really scary or thrilling. There is a lot of blood, so that’s interesting considering that it’s not particularly suspenseful. The best part of the whole thing really is the reasoning behind the killings. It’s also very small-town Midwest but deployed in a totally new way.

Whoever’s in the house woke up Murderface. They better watch out or she’ll cute them to death.

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“All good scientists are from Missouri: in other words, they should continually be saying, ‘Show me’.”

73. Unbury Carol – Josh Malerman

“Hell’s heaven” was uttered so, so, so many times that it distracted me from the plot. Everyone says it. The husband, the sheriff, the assassin, the outlaw, Rinaldo, the helper girl, the funeral director, some guy…I’m not entirely exaggerating. As we know, if something distracts me so much that I lead with it, I may not be entirely complimentary to the story.

One thing I will say, I believe Malerman spent a lot of time organizing the world he wanted to portray and yes, the Western can be a repetitive genre. Hell’s heaven.

There were definitely a lot of concepts that deserved a less distracting phrase interruption than “Hell’s heaven” or, the other one, “Shudders.” We have a greedy husband with a wife who has a condition where she looks dead but can still hear everything going on around her – and she’s rich. We have that wife’s lost love who totally screwed up – James Moxie, who went on to become a very famous outlaw and holed up on the other end of the “Trail” from where Miss Not Dead Carol lives.

We have an important journey, a very austere inventor mother who really comes through in an unexpected way, and an assassin with an interesting method of walking and he’s so evil he doesn’t even need a hat. And then there’s Rot, the fantastical character who continues to lead the good characters astray to hopeless places and the bad characters to what they need. I’m still not sure how I felt about that character and whether or not he was really necessary. At the end I definitely felt like he was just butting in randomly to delay the plot and it would’ve been tighter if he hadn’t. He definitely got in the way of the main scene that really needed to be there for the title character. Show, don’t tell, Malerman. Hell’s heaven.

Ozma’s distinctive face makes her a guinea pig of certain distinction on any and all trails. She’s a sweet little legend in her own right.

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Reindeer Hell

2. The Ritual – Adam Nevill

Wet. Cold. Brutal. The Ritual is a lovely book. I truly enjoyed reading it, but I do gravitate toward journey stories and when that journey ends up involving an ancient cemetery, metal, hooves, and a single person who keeps having to defend their life choices to their bitchy friends who are, in the end, kinda envious of their freedom and fortitude, I know I’m going to love it. And it was scary too.

Nevill’s description of that upper floor of the first creepy-ass cabin they ran into did my head in- it’s always better to describe the unnatural in increments – plus he said the sculpture’s tail was mouse-eaten and that is truly terrifying when coupled with the knowledge that the lost middle-aged men went into that cabin with wet jeans…and also came out with wet jeans and nightmares.

If being chilled to the bone and unable to get warm doesn’t scare you, then this won’t really work for you and you’ll probably get annoyed by the amount of environmental description but for me that worked very well. I also really, really liked the little old lady who doesn’t say anything. She’s pretty much my favorite character, even if she is technically against our protagonist.

If you’ve seen the movie, then what I just described might sound odd – because they pretty much took out all my favorite parts. The cabin sculpture’s not the same, the little old lady is missing, and so are most of the hooves and the metal and the cemetery (or maybe they found that but I don’t recall the super cool church that went with it). The movie is as pretty and full of trees as I expected, but, as per usual, the book is better.

This is Finny. He has been turning to calcium from the inside while keeping the most feisty attitude long enough that I am pretty sure he is a mythological beast creature. Brutal.

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“There’s been a murder almost everywhere in this house.”

75. Anna Dressed in Blood – Kendare Blake

It took me a bit to realize the head I was in was male. I’m so used to YA books with supernatural elements being told from female perspectives that it was a bit of a shock to figure out this was a young guy’s head. Also, he didn’t constantly think about boobs and changing his clothes, so how was I supposed to know? Anyway, the head belongs to Cas (Theseus Cassio) and his father was killed by a ghost. Now he and his mom follow other ghosts and kill them, along with their cat, Tybalt. Somebody likes Shakespeare. The titular ghost is up in Thunder Bay, Canada, and she is a doozy. She’s sixteen and she’s killed a lot of people. A lot. Pretty much anyone who comes in her house.

I didn’t expect this to be as good as it was. It was very teen and yet involved pop culture references that would probably work better for people in their 30s, so that worked for me; but it was just better than it seemed like it should be. The characters seemed natural, the gory parts were gory, and one of the characters attempted to stop library vandalism – good. The one thing that was pretty off-putting was the design choice of printing the book in dried-blood-brown ink. It makes sense, but it hurt my eyes a little to read it all the same. And it really wasn’t necessary for such a compelling narrative to have that kind of gimmick.

Salem’s ready for some in your face ghost hunting too.

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