horror

All posts tagged horror

The Haunting – Alex Bell

Published January 18, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Some curses grow stronger with time…
People say that all Cornish inns are haunted, but the Waterwitch’s history is particularly chilling. Built from the salvaged timber of a cursed ship, the guest house’s dark secrets go further back than anyone can remember.
Emma is permanently confined to a wheelchair after an accident at the Waterwitch which took place when she was ten. Seven years later, she decides to return to the place where the awful event occurred. But the ancient inn still has its ghosts, and one particular spirit is more vengeful than ever…
A chilling new title in the Red Eye horror series from the author of Frozen Charlotte.

What did I think?:

I’ve been a fan of Alex Bell for a little while now and have really enjoyed her adult reads including The Ninth Circle and Jasmyn, which I read in my pre-blogging days and of course, her relatively recent release of Frozen Charlotte with Red Eye publishers. The Haunting is her second book for Red Eye and once I realised that it involved something “witchy,” I was completely sold. I’m loving Alex’s foray into young adult fiction, particularly horror as it’s something I used to read almost exclusively when I was a teenager. When I read things like Frozen Charlotte and The Haunting I’m reminded of the Point Horror books released in the 1990’s which I used to adore and spend all of my pocket money on. As a result, reading her books written in this vein are incredibly nostalgic and I find myself just as gripped by the narrative as when I used to read books under the duvet with my torch in the middle of the night.

The Haunting follows our disabled protagonist Emma, confined to a wheelchair after a horrific accident as she goes to visit her sick grandmother in Cornwall. Her grandmother owns an inn called The Waterwitch and begs Emma not to return there, swearing that it is haunted and therefore dangerous but when Emma sees a mysterious light in the inn one evening, she is determined to investigate with her trusty assistance dog, Bailey. Reunited with her old friend Jem and his sister Shell, strange and creepy things start happening at The Waterwitch and Emma begins to realise that one particular spirit has a mission she is resolved to carry out, which could prove deadly for anyone that stands in her way.

As with most thrillers/mysteries I don’t want to go much more into the plot than I already have for fear of spoilers. I really loved the whole atmosphere of this novel, including our plucky characters (and I’m always a sucker for a brave dog too!). It was wonderful to see a protagonist that was not able-bodied and I appreciated her unwavering need for answers, returning to the place where her accident occurred and facing things that would have most ordinary people running for the hills! Alex Bell sets the scene beautifully with an inn that is built from the remains of a shipwreck of the same name, The Waterwitch, to tell a story that will give you chills and have you checking the darkest corners of your room before you go to sleep. It’s delightfully eerie but the perfect level of fright for teenagers without giving them nightmares so for that I heartily recommend it. Finally, I really appreciated a young adult piece of fiction that wasn’t all about the romance, had friendship and family much deeper at its core and wasn’t afraid to travel to some very dark places. I can’t really compare it to Frozen Charlotte if you’ve read that – in my eyes, it’s just as uncanny and definitely has the potential to raise a few goosebumps.

For my interview with Alex Bell, please see my post HERE

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

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The Book Collector – Alice Thompson

Published January 11, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Alice Thompsons new novel is a gothic story of book collecting, mutilation and madness. Violet is obsessed with the books of fairy tales her husband acquires, but her growing delusions see her confined in an asylum. As she recovers and is released a terrifying series of events is unleashed.

What did I think?:

I had never heard of The Book Collector before until the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights recommended it when my sister and I went there for one of their glorious reading spas. Apart from it having the most gorgeous, eye-popping cover art, I knew I had to have it as soon as I heard the words fairy-tale, dark, disturbing and gothic. The Book Collector was all of these things and so much more besides and managed to pack in so much drama, intrigue and delicious murkiness into just 224 pages meaning that I flew through the pages with ease, enjoying every single minute.

Our main female protagonist is Violet whom is nineteen years old and an orphan when we first meet her but within a year she has a whirlwind affair with Lord Archie Murray who she ends up marrying and having a son with called Felix. Archie is a book collector by trade (hence the name of the novel!) and has many beautiful first editions that Violet enjoys looking through but he becomes very possessive and mysterious about a particular book of fairy tales that she is not allowed access to under any circumstance and he keeps under lock and key. Meanwhile, Violet is finding motherhood more difficult than she expected. Her husband is unexpectedly controlling and she begins to suffer hallucinations. Whilst trying to remove what she believes to be insects from her son’s body one day she unintentionally harms him and is marched off to an asylum by Archie until her mental health recovers. When she returns, Archie has employed a nanny, beautiful and enigmatic Clara whom she instantly resents.

There are bigger problems however. A number of young women are going missing and then being found in the most brutal of circumstances. Many of these women Violet knows from the institution and she is terrified, both for her sanity and for her own life. Can she find the connections between these vicious deaths? And what part does the intriguing book of fairy-tales have to play in this particular story?

Phew! I told you it packed in a lot right? This wonderful little novel is just as grim and deeply unsettling as the synopsis suggests. As a result, it’s probably not going to be for everyone, especially if you’re slightly squeamish or queasy as there are some graphic, no holds barred descriptions of some quite nasty stuff in here, therefore a strong stomach required! If you’ve been following my blog for a little while you might remember I’m a bit of a sucker for the words “fairy-tale” when describing a novel and I adored the way in which these elements were weaved into The Book Collector. It was morbid, a happy ending isn’t necessarily guaranteed, there’s always an evil “bad guy” to be vanquished but aren’t the best kind of fairy tales exactly like this? Occasionally whimsical, haunting and definitely troubling, this small novel is a little gem of literature. It’s quick and easy to read but the events you find within has the potential to stay with you many months after you’ve turned the last page.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Seeing Double by Sara Maitland from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

Published December 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Seeing Double all about?:

Seeing Double is the story of a young boy who lives with his father and is looked after by a nanny. He seldom sees anyone else and there is a terrible reason why he is being kept away from other people.

What did I think?:

Although I’ve never read any of Sara Maitland’s work before, I’m very familiar with her name and have her non-fiction book, Gossip From The Forest as a priority read on my Kindle that now I’ve finally read some of her fiction, I simply must make time for in the New Year. For this short story, all I can say is wow. This little tale really floored me, it was so powerful in its nature and the clever reveals throughout which led up to an explosive ending were simply stunning. I’ve heard that Sara Maitland has a bit of a talent for short story writing (that’s putting it lightly!) but I wasn’t prepared at all for how marvellous her writing actually was and I’m delighted to finally have discovered her.

Now, the only annoying thing about Seeing Double is that I’m going to have to be incredibly careful what I tell you about it! I really don’t want to ruin anything and if I reveal the “big secret,” that our young male protagonist has, I’ll be doing exactly that. Let’s just say that we have a young boy born whose mother sadly dies when she gives birth to him. The midwife who assisted at the birth ends up being employed by the boy’s father as a permanent nanny to look after him and they are ensconced in a large house in the country with his father who becomes increasingly distant as he indulges his passion for nature, although they do have some tender moments playing together with a train set. Our protagonist doesn’t see anyone else apart from Nanny and his father, this includes the various servants that help out in the house until one day a maid enters his room. Both her and the boy find out the reason why he has been secluded and because of this, his life is changed forever:

“Grown-ups, he learned far too suddenly, spoke with double voices, cunningly, so that true and not true weren’t like white and black, like either-or, like plus and minus, they were like the bogs on the hill side, shifty, invisible and dangerous.”

As you can tell from the above quote, the writing is absolutely glorious and I felt just the utmost happiness when I was reading this dark little tale, purely for the gorgeous lyrical style and the way that the author uses her words to beautiful effect. Yes, this story has murky depths and goes to some strange and fascinating places so if you’re not into twisted tales, this might not be the story for you BUT I urge you to give it a chance because I’m now desperate to talk to anyone who has read this before and hear all their thoughts on it. I immediately felt so sorry for our protagonist when we learn what he has to deal with but I certainly wasn’t expecting the direction in which Sara Maitland took it in one of the most dramatic conclusions I think I’ve ever read in a short story. Have I convinced you yet? I’ve undeniably convinced myself that I need to read something else by this author ASAP.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Published November 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands all about?:

The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands follows a group of friends who gather to hear spooky tales. The tale for this evening involves a man whom as the title may suggest does not under any circumstance shake hands… but why?

What did I think?:

You must all be bored of me professing my love for Stephen King by now surely? If you haven’t been here before or haven’t heard me gushing on about him before I’ll just say he is without a doubt my all time favourite author. However, I have come to realise over all the years that I’ve read him that at times, I do need to take those rose-tinted glasses off. I don’t love absolutely everything he has ever written and sometimes, I haven’t been as enamoured with one of his short stories as I would have liked but damn, Skeleton Crew has to be one of his finest collections so far.

It opens to a group of friends who are meeting to tell each other frightening stories. One of the men, George Gregson is particularly adept at holding his friends in utter rapture with his tales and that evening, he begins to tell a true story of a man that he professes to have been murdered in the exact same room that they find themselves in just over sixty years prior to this evening. This story involves George and a group of his friends who want to play a hand or two of cards but are lacking another man to make up the numbers. Enter Henry Brower, a friendly enough stranger to the group but with a strange tendency to shy away from anyone shaking his hand or in fact, coming near to touching him at all. We soon find out why exactly Henry fears the touch of anyone else when after a bit of drink, one of George’s friends takes his hand mistakenly to congratulate him on winning a hand. Henry’s reaction is extreme to say the least but it is only when George follows him outside when he flees that he begins to understand Henry’s reasons for keeping away from human touch.

Of course I’m not going to give anything away except to say I really didn’t realise where this story was going, even though it was hinted at merely a few pages in. The reason for Henry Brower’s complete terror of touch comes from an event in his past that continues to haunt his future and gives him little rest, making him almost an outcast from society and completely miserable to boot. To be honest, when the group were playing cards, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit disappointed. It was dull, I didn’t find it interesting and I couldn’t tell where Stephen King was taking the story. If like me, you decide to read this and feel the same, I beg you to please, please read on because as soon as Henry receives that well intentioned touch of a hand, the story explodes and becomes something entirely more horrific and wonderfully compelling. Stephen King often gets a bit of a reputation as a horror writer because of a few novels he has written (not necessarily because of the vast majority of his work) but when he chooses to write something a bit frightening, think there’s very few people in the world that can do it better.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Unplugged by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Shadow Out Of Time by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.

Published October 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Shadow Out Of Time all about?:

The Shadow Out Of Time follows our male protagonist as he struggles with what happened to his mind and body during a five year period of amnesia and hallucinations.

What did I think?:

I always approach the next H.P. Lovecraft story in my Short Stories Challenge with slight trepidation. It’s no secret that I haven’t been a big fan of some of the tales in this collection whilst others I’ve really enjoyed. The Shadow Out Of Time sits quite comfortably somewhere in the middle in that respect. One thing I might never understand though is the lengths H.P. Lovecraft goes to when telling a story. By lengths, I mean literally the sheer length of the story which could almost be an entire novel by itself and is almost epic in its content. Sometimes I feel as if he could have got a much more effective narrative by just trimming things down slightly and then I might not have felt as bored, wondering when exactly it was going to end.

The Shadow Out Of Time (as with many of his short stories) follows a male protagonist as he describes a horrendous and often fantastical event that he has been a part of and that has affected his life enormously. Our narrator for the journey is Professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee and he is describing a terrifying period of his recent history in the early 1900’s that he is intending to pass on to his son and other academics, hoping that they might make some sense of it. The period in question is when he was teaching one day and, all of a sudden was subjected to the most horrific headache and hallucinations that led to him losing consciousness for about sixteen hours. When he awakens, he is a completely different person, describing it as a “second personality,” that leads him to undertake long journeys for unknown reasons and to seek out strange and mysterious ancient texts where he scribbles weird hieroglyphics within the pages. He cannot look at himself in mirrors developing an odd loathing of his form and eventually, his wife divorces him taking two of their three children into her custody, adamant that he is a different man. This second person remains with Nathaniel for a period of five years until his true personality appears to return. However, he has almost complete amnesia about that time of his life although he is beginning to have erratic dreams and small flashes of memory that are terrifying him to his core.

Eventually (I say eventually as this story is absurdly and overly long) we find out the reason for Nathaniel’s amnesia and strange dreams and, as expected from a story by H.P. Lovecraft, it’s nothing short of bizarrely imaginative. There are supremely intelligent alien, cone-shaped creatures that are ten feet tall and ten feet across, journeys through billions of years of time and space and other, frightening species that although it’s difficult to picture them, appear very sinister indeed. I’ve got to give a nod to the author for the amazing detail that he puts into his stories, The Shadow Out Of Time is another prime example of a narrative that has been meticulously planned but at times I did feel like it was overly descriptive and, as I mentioned before, way too long to hold my interest. I may have given this a lower star rating purely because my attention wandered quite a while before the end if it were not for the ending. It was almost worth the long slog to the finish line just to read that final paragraph.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: A Place For Violence by Kevin Wignall from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

 

Horns – Joe Hill

Published September 28, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside.

What did I think?:

Regular visitors to my blog might remember that I have a teeny tiny Stephen King obsession. Seriously, I’m in love with (almost) every word he has ever written. However, I was absolutely determine to judge Joe Hill’s books on their own merits and not to compare him to his father and when I read his debut novel, Heart-Shaped Box, I was delighted to find another writer of such skill and panache where I would instantly pre-order and devour everything they have published and are due to publish. Next up on the small-ish Joe Hill back-list was his second novel, Horns which was also made into a film starring Daniel Radcliffe. Would it be as good as Heart-Shaped Box? The expectations were sky high and I’m happy to say, completely fulfilled. Horns is a disturbing, fantastical and eerily supernatural read that enthralled me from the beginning and was structured so beautifully that I was compelled to read it at the speed of light whilst savouring the deliciousness of Joe Hill’s prose.

Our protagonist for the novel is a young man called Ignatius Perrish (Ig for short) who hasn’t had an easy life. He was head over heels in love with his girlfriend, Merrin Williams until she was raped and brutally murdered. Worse thing is, everyone in town including some of his family, think Ig carried out the crime and it was only because of a lack of evidence that the case was thrown out of court and he didn’t go to trial. Ig has been beating himself up about Merrin’s death since it happened and is drinking heavily. One day he wakes up with the world’s worst hangover and two extra unexpected gifts on the top of his head – horns, that no-one else can see and that he soon discovers gives him the supernatural powers to find out what people are thinking and encourage them to act on their deepest and darkest desires. The novel follows Ig as he uses the horns to his own advantage, finding out some heart-breaking, disgusting and life-altering truths in the process. We also get a look back into the heady days of his youth when he was in love with Merrin, his relationship with his friends and finally, answers to what really happened to Merrin all those years ago.

I have to admit, when I read the premise for this novel I was a little unsure. Interested – definitely but I wasn’t sure if a story about “magic horns,” could grab my attention as much as it ended up doing. I needn’t have worried, within just a few pages Joe Hill, storyteller extraordinaire, had completely captivated me and I found myself both shaking my head at Ig and rooting for him in equal measure as certain secrets begin to be revealed and he begins to find some sort of closure after years of suffering and unhappiness. He makes some dodgy decisions, that’s for sure but I loved how flawed yet strangely vulnerable he was as an individual and this made him all the more easier to love. There are some real shocking moments in this novel as well, especially surrounding Ig’s family and friends but I must leave you to discover all the juicy and disquieting details for yourself! Once more, Joe Hill has written a novel that was so immersive and utterly brilliant in its denouement that I’m struggling to see how he could ever write a bad novel! I’m looking forward to dipping into his short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts soon on my Short Stories Challenge and I also have big plans for his next novel, NOS4R2 coming soon on bibliobeth.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Man In The Ditch by Lisa Tuttle from the collection A Book Of Horrors.

Published September 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Man In The Ditch all about?:

The Man In The Ditch tells the story of a shaky relationship between a husband and wife and how their relationship becomes even more fragile when the wife sees what she thinks is a body in a ditch.

What did I think?:

I went into this short story with little or no expectations at all. I hadn’t heard of the author, Lisa Tuttle before now although after a little research, I understand she is quite a prolific science fiction, fantasy and horror writer with more than a dozen novels, seven short story collections, some non-fiction and a reference book on feminism to her name. Well, after the unsettling short story that I have just read from her, I’ll certainly be checking out more of her work. The Man In The Ditch was slow to start but gradually built up the tension in such an accomplished way until the hideous climax of the tale which still continues to haunt me hours after reading it.

The Man In The Ditch is primarily the story of a relationship – between Linzi and her husband Jay /J.D. They are in the middle of moving out into the countryside, building their own property and trying to have a baby together. On the first drive to their new house, Linzi spots what she thinks is a corpse in a ditch near to their property. Her husband doesn’t seem to be concerned at all and dismisses her fears as being “all in her head.” However, when they eventually move into the house, Linzi is unable to settle. She becomes convinced that she is being watched with malicious intent by someone (or something) and is terrified to be left on her own. Linzi and J.D. already have a tenuous relationship due to an incident which happened in the past that J.D. still appears to hold over his wife’s head and we just know as a reader from the atmospheric scenes that Lisa Tuttle creates that things could end very badly for this damaged couple.

When I first started this story, I definitely wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did and this is, in part, because of the way the author structures the narrative, revealing certain aspects of the couples lives ever so slowly and carefully and then making us feel like we’ve been hit with a rather blunt object as she presents the “final reveal,” in a matter of just a few paragraphs at the end. I finished this short story feeling quite breathless, a little bit scared and disturbed but one hundred percent thrilled and satisfied by the direction that she had chosen to take it. Not only was this a supreme example of great horror writing, I also felt like it was a terrific character study and by the end, I felt like I knew Linzi, J.D. and the secrets of their relationship but was incredibly hungry to know and understand more about them. In this way, it could almost have worked as a novel as they were such fascinating characters and I also thought Linzi’s mother had a hell of a lot more to say that I would have been intrigued to hear. Fantastic writing style and THAT ending means this will be an author I’ll be coming back to again in the near future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: That Shadow Out Of Time by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.