horror

All posts tagged horror

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Published February 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

download-1

What’s The Raft all about?:

The Raft is about four college students who decide to celebrate the end of summer by swimming out to a raft on a remote lake. Unfortunately they come across a monstrous entity that puts an end to summer in a way they never could have expected.

What did I think?:

So, it’s Stephen King. If you haven’t been here before, I’m a bit of a fan. However, I like to think that I am perfectly honest when I think he hasn’t written a brilliant story – case in point, The Wedding Gig, also from this collection which I gave a shocking two stars. Luckily, Stephen King was back on top form with this latest story from Skeleton Crew, The Raft, which has to be one of my all time favourites of short fiction that he has written. It has everything you could ever want from a horror story and this is definitely where he gets his (often not accurate) reputation as a horror writer as this story is truly horrific. Not for the weak of stomach, I wouldn’t recommend this story for anyone who gets queasy at the thought of elaborate death scenes.

We have four college students – Randy, Deke, Rachel and LaVerne who are all drinking and having a good time at the end of summer. After a bit too much booze, they decide it would be a great idea to drive to a remote lake nearby and swim out to a raft placed in the middle of the lake. The boys are both having a relationship with the girls and a lot of it is posturing and ego but in the end, all four decide it would be a good idea even if Randy (whose perspective we hear from the most) is starting to regret the decision. Well, wise old Randy was right to be tentative because as the teenagers strip down to their underwear and one by one swim out to the raft, he notices a strange dark puddle in the water. It’s almost like an oil slick with a rainbow of colours amidst the darkness.

This is no ordinary oil slick however. It appears to malevolently come after the girls as they are swimming towards the raft. Of course, Randy’s fears are laughed at by the rest of the group but not for long as Rachel, transfixed by the colours in the darkness is compelled to topple into the water and is immediately gobbled up, albeit very slowly, limb by limb by the “oil slick.” This is now very dangerous territory for the group. They cannot swim to the shore as the oil slick is too fast and would engulf them. They cannot call for help as they are in a very remote area with little likelihood of someone coming by. They cannot even look at the oil slick for too long as the colours seem to have a hypnotic effect, inducing them to fall into the water and face certain death. This story is not likely to end well!

The Raft is Stephen King at his absolute greatest. As always with his writing, it’s not just a horrific event occurring. He really delves into the relationships between the members of the group – the bro-mance between Randy and Deke and the suggestion that ladies man Deke is also making a play for Randy’s own girlfriend which puts their friendship on very shaky grounds. As if they didn’t have enough to deal with coping with a carnivorous oil slick!! I did mention before though that the death scenes are incredibly graphic and I must emphasise that again. Anybody who doesn’t like too much blood and gore is definitely not going to get on well with this story. Strong stomach required! The only part that didn’t sit well with me is near the end of the story where Randy and LaVerne, overwhelmed with emotion, have sex with each other on the raft while the oil slick lurks nearby, awaiting its opportunity to strike. It didn’t strike me as realistic or necessary at all and made me roll my eyes slightly – for shame, Stephen King! It is my only gripe with the story mind you, but because of that, I sadly can’t give it the full five star treatment (otherwise it certainly would be) 🙂

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Short Stories Challenge – The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Published November 20, 2016 by bibliobeth

6594144

What’s The Haunter Of The Dark all about?:

The Haunter Of The Dark follows a male protagonist as he becomes obsessed with an old church which he can see from his own lodgings not far away. Of course, in typical Lovecraftian style, there is something evil within the church that leads our main character to a bit of a sticky ending.

What did I think?:

I think it’s fair to say that the Lovecraft stories I have read in this collection have been a bit hit and miss for me. Sometimes I can see the excellence in the writing, sometimes the stories are a bit eerie and give me a few shivers, then… there are other times that I find myself irritated by the over-flowery vocabulary and too many similarities between the stories. With The Haunter Of The Dark, I’m afraid I found myself of the latter opinion and didn’t really enjoy this tale too much.

The Haunter Of The Dark is famous for being the last-written of the author’s known works and is part of the Cthulhu Mythos (which I guess explains the similarities between other stories?). This is a shared fictional universe of Lovecraft’s where other authors have contributed work that can stand alone but may also fit into the development of the plot, characters or general world. I am in no way, shape or form an expert on this world from the few stories I have read that describe the creature Cthulhu or its genesis/development and must confess to feeling slightly confused over the whole thing – if any Lovecraft experts would like to explain, I’d be very grateful for some explanations!

As with many of Lovecraft’s stories, we focus on a male protagonist – Robert Blake, a writer and painter with an interest in the occult. He becomes intrigued and then rather consumed by an ancient church that he can see from his rooms in Providence, Rhode Island. Determined to investigate the old building, despite warnings from the superstitious locals he ends up releasing a primeval being and discovering the sinister history of the church, connected to a cult known as the Church Of Starry Wisdom. The being is kept constrained within the building by the lights of the town and can only work its mischief when there is complete darkness. So, of course the town undergoes a power cut during a thunderstorm, releasing the demon with severe consequences for our male lead.

Okay, so positive things about this story. The thought of an ancient (and evil) being that can only carry out its dastardly deeds under the cover of darkness is very creepy I grant you. It plays on on your old childhood fears of the dark, what might be under your bed or that panicky moment when the lights go out if you’re not expecting it. Apart from this, I have to admit I struggled with The Haunter Of The Dark. The story seemed so formulaic, there was nothing special or different about Robert as a character and, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have finished it if I didn’t have to write this review. We know it doesn’t end well when the beginning of the story opens with our main character’s death (which was probably the most exciting few sentences of the entire narrative). Hugely disappointing, I’m very much hoping that the next H.P. Lovecraft story I read will be a pleasant surprise!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

1194984978279254934two_star_rating_saurabh__01.svg

NEXT SHORT STORY: Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

 

Short Stories Challenge – Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Published October 18, 2016 by bibliobeth

12711120

What’s Getting It Wrong all about?:

Getting It Wrong takes a radio quiz show and the actions of “phoning a friend,” to horrifying new extremes.

What did I think?:

Ramsey Campbell is a name I’ve often heard in various circles as a master of the horror genre who has been churning out his work for the past fifty years, influenced and compared to H.P. Lovecraft by many. Even though he seems to have woefully passed me by, I was really excited to read some of his work and I’m happy to announce that his short story, Getting It Wrong, did not disappoint. It is obvious to me that the fluidity of the writing and chilling finale of this story comes from years of experience and he’s certainly mastered his craft.

This short story follows a few days in the life of Eric Edgeworth, who lives solely for films and the joy they bring him. None of this new rubbish you understand, but the classics, like Hitchcock and great actors like James Dean and Cary Grant. He works at the local cinema complex but sadly, doesn’t seem to have many friends, perhaps due to the age difference between them (usually a few decades) but he also seems to be somewhat of a loner. That is, until one night at midnight when he gets a strange telephone call to ask if he will be the expert friend on a quiz show for a lady he barely speaks to at work but is aware of, Mary Barton.

At first, Eric believes this to be some sort of joke that his colleagues are playing on him although he notices that Mary is becoming increasingly more terrified as he answers a question about a particular film wrong three times – unfortunately the maximum amount that is allowed. When he sees Mary at work the next day, he notices she has a rather large, bandaged finger but thinks nothing of it until once again that night, he is called to answer another film-based question for Mary of which she is desperate for him to get right. This is a radio show, there’s reasons for that and we begin to understand why it cannot/should not be broadcast on television. When Mary doesn’t turn up for work the next day and Eric has one final chance to help her, the tables begin to turn – NOT in Eric’s favour and this turns out to be the most deadly quiz show in history.

I really loved the way the author set this short story out, his brilliance in ramping up the tension, ever so slowly is undeniable and certain little lines, placed perfectly at certain points in the narrative gave me chills:

“It’s not a show for children, Mr Edgeworth.”

I had so many unanswered questions about both the characters and the narrative. Just why was Mary Barton doing this quiz show in the first place? Why didn’t Eric grab a moment to speak to her when he saw her at work after the first phone call? However, if these questions were answered for me, I don’t think it would have made the story as thrilling as it ended up being. Although I didn’t feel the characters were developed very far, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story-telling and I appreciated it for what it was, an exciting read with an ending that I’m still thinking about and wondering… just what happens next??

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.

Short Stories Challenge – Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Published October 10, 2016 by bibliobeth

18374015

What’s Red Letter Day all about?:

Red Letter Day tells the story of a grief-stricken mother who decides to go on a special journey to try and find peace.

What did I think?:

There are a few things I am really enjoying about this short story collection by Kate Mosse. The first one is the author notes she pops in after each story which lets the reader know what inspired her to write it, where the idea for the story first came from and why she chose to set it where she did. Occasionally I do like my stories to have a bit of mystique and decide things about it for myself but for some reason with this collection, the author notes really work and didn’t spoil the magic by any means.

Red Letter Day is quite a sad little tale, focusing on a grieving young mother who lost her young son three years ago when he was a baby and has never recovered from the tragedy, despite the usual cliches she is being subjected to by well-meaning friends i.e. “time is a great healer.” She feels a great connection to a village near the Pyrenees in France which has a horrific history that involved a lot of violence and bloodshed in medieval times. The decision for her is an easy one. She resolves to go to the castle where many years ago, hundreds of men and women walked into a fire rather than renounce their faith. After considering it for a while, and coming upon the knowledge that she had an ancestor there at that particular time, she is certain that this is the only way she will find peace. I think we can perhaps guess what she is planning to do?

I quite enjoyed this story for the most part and although I felt terribly sorry for our lead female character, I didn’t feel like I connected with her as much as I would have liked. Perhaps finding out more of her back story would have helped but I felt a strange detachment to her and what she was planning to do. What about her family – parents, husband/partner, friends? Were they even a factor in her deciding to take this path? I did however love the historical fiction part of the story and it reminded me very much of the author’s novels Labyrinth and Citadel, told with as much passion and knowledge as I have come to expect from the writings of Kate Mosse. She is also a wonder at setting a scene and although this story isn’t super-creepy in any way, there is something vastly unsettling and tragic about it, especially when you consider the subject matter and I certainly wanted to know what was going to happen at the end, even if it was slightly predictable.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

 

 

Under My Skin – James Dawson

Published October 9, 2016 by bibliobeth

23582973

What’s it all about?:

Meet Molly Sue. Once she’s under your skin there’s no getting rid of her…

Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally’s about as shy and retiring as they come – but all that’s about to change. Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour – and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling. Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back – hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.

But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head – or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue’s. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl – in fact, she’s mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realises that she is unable to control Molly Sue… and before long she’s going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody ‘under your skin’.

What did I think?:

Under My Skin is yet another fantastic YA read from the huge British talent that is James Dawson. After the brilliance of Say Her Name, I wasn’t sure if the author would be able to write another blinder and while this story isn’t as inherently terrifying as its predecessor, it’s an entertaining and compelling read and cements James Dawson as true YA royalty.

As I was reading Under My Skin, I kept thinking of a Point Horror book I read when I was younger called The Perfume where a teenage girl is taken over by a malign force that makes her do terrible things. In a similar way, this is what happens to seventeen year old Sally Feather although the wrestle of control is with a tattoo that Sally is talked into getting on her back, an American pin up girl called Molly Sue. At first, when Molly Sue starts to talk to Sally, she is excellent for boosting her fragile self-esteem and confidence but before long, Molly Sue starts to want more control of Sally’s body and mind, to do with as she pleases (and NOT good things by the way).

I loved Sally as a character, in fact she very much reminded me of myself when I was at school. I could have certainly done with a milder version of Molly Sue for myself perhaps! My favourite character had to be Molly Sue herself though. Bold, brassy, super-confident and just a little bit crazy she was the perfect villain in this exciting novel which was so easy to read that I pretty much finished it in one sitting. I also enjoyed the characters of Sally’s friends, who seem to be her only joy amongst the terrors and  deadly social politics of high school. I think I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of the author’s work that he has a real talent in writing believable teenagers and believable adolescent situations and this book took me right back to this confusing and to be honest, slightly traumatic time! This is a fabulous book for the target YA market but is also one that more than a few adults (like myself) would enjoy for sure.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill

Published October 8, 2016 by bibliobeth

22913648

What’s it all about?:

In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.

For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.

Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.

But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. ..
And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.

Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known. . .

What did I think?:

Oh my gosh, this book. There was a lot of buzz about Only Ever Yours on Twitter just before it came out and I really hoped when I came to read it that it didn’t fall prey to the dreaded “over-hype monster.” Luckily, I had absolutely nothing to worry about and this debut novel from the hugely talented Louise O’Neill is truly mind-blowing. It’s the kind of book you enjoy but not in the usual way that you would enjoy something. It’s a very uncomfortable piece of dystopian/speculative fiction that you can draw surprising (and horrifying) comparisons with the world we live in right now and a possible future existence.

In this alternative future, woman are now scientifically and genetically engineered to be as close to perfect as possible and their only function in life is for the service and pleasure of men. Groups of girls known as “eves,” are trained in special schools to fall into one of three categories: one (and the most desirable) to be a companion for a man i.e. bearing him children for life, two, to be a concubine and available purely to satisfy men’s sexual urges and three, to be a chastity who teach other eves but remain without a partner.

The school is absolutely brutal. Academic, it is not. In fact, being academic is actually a form of insult to these girls. They are taught merely how to be beautiful, how to look after a man and one of the most important things – how to remain slim and desirable. frieda and isabel are two of these girls, best friends but in fierce competition with each other and desperate to rank in the “top ten” of their final year which pretty much guarantees that they will become a companion. And no, grammar police, I didn’t make a mistake. The girls don’t even have capital letters to their names, that’s how worthless the life of a woman has become. However, when isabel begins to gain weight and the pressure cooker of so many girls together begins to explode, frieda must assess what’s most important, her best friend or her future?

This book was both hideous and amazing on so many levels. Hideous because of the issues it addresses, like self-esteem, bullying, eating disorders, objectification of women… the list goes on! Amazing because of the way it deals with them. Louise O’Neill puts a harsh and unforgiving spotlight onto a lot of real problems that both young girls and older women go through today and this honest, no holds barred exploration of these issues is both admirable and makes for an incredibly compelling and at times, nail-biting read. Be prepared to feel uneasy and disgusted by this narrative but if you’re anything like me, hugely relieved that we have a writer out there like this who’s prepared to speak about these kinds of things in a world where sadly so many women are still not equal.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

 

Banned Books 2016 – SEPTEMBER READ – Bone Volume One (Issues 1-6) by Jeff Smith

Published September 28, 2016 by bibliobeth

bannedbooks

106134

What’s it all about?:

After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins, Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone, are separated and lost in a vast uncharted desert.

One by one, they find their way into a deep, forested valley filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures…

Humor, mystery, and adventure are spun together in this action-packed, side-splitting saga. Everyone who has ever left home for the first time only to find that the world outside is strange and overwhelming will love Bone.

bannedbooks

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our ninth banned book of 2016! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2016…

OCTOBER – The Glass Castle- Jeanette Walls

NOVEMBER- Gossip Girl- Cecily Von Ziegesar

DECEMBER – My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult

But back to this month….

Bone, Volume One (Issues 1-6) by Jeff Smith

First published: 1993

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2013 (source)

Reasons: political viewpoint, racism, violence

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I can’t believe this graphic novel is over twenty years old! It was first published in 1993 which doesn’t seem that long ago to me and I don’t think attitudes have changed too much in the past twenty years so, as with most of our banned books, I don’t agree with the reasons for it being challenged when it was originally published. I was struggling with reasons why this book had been challenged as I read it and I deliberately don’t look at the reasons why until I write this part of the review. To be honest, I’m pretty dumbfounded. The violence – yes, I get to a point…but political viewpoint and racism? I must have been reading a different book?

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I was really searching for a reason why this book was banned. I read it over a week ago and nothing has stuck in my mind for a reason why it should be banned. Political viewpoint and racism- I really couldn’t pick out ANYTHING, so if anyone does know why then please enlighten me! Yes, there were certainly some violent scenes but nothing overly shocking, although I can understand why some educators wouldn’t want it in their classroom or libraries.

How about now?

BETH: In a open, liberal society (we would hope!) there’s even less reason for any book to be banned or challenged (the exception is if it is being considered as a taught text for some age groups in schools). As I mentioned above, I struggled with two of the reasons for this graphic novel being challenged as I don’t really remember any instances of either political viewpoint or racism in the narrative! The only thing that made me a bit wary of it being available for all age groups is that some of the monsters in it, known as the rat creatures, are a bit scary and I can imagine it being a bit too frightening for certain children. I still think it should be available in case they fancy scaring themselves a bit though!

CHRISSI:  I have said before that censoring a book can make children (and adults alike) more keen to try it out. Like Beth, I understand that the violence and scariness might be unsuitable for certain children, but in the main part, I don’t see that it should be banned now. Children can see much worse on the TV, in the news, or computer games.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This was a bit of a strange one for me. I liked the artwork and some of the characters like Thorn and her grandmother were very endearing, (others very irritating) and I did laugh out loud at a couple of points in the story. However, I wouldn’t rush to read the next one in the series. Apparently Neil Gaiman is a fan though, which makes me slightly more curious to read on.

CHRISSI: I didn’t really like this book. I wasn’t hooked by the story. The artwork was good, but it didn’t capture my attention.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Maybe!
CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

BETH’S personal star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Join us again on the last Monday of October when we will be discussing The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.