Category Archives: horror

Alice, by Christina Henry

Alice, by Christina Henry

Alice, by Christina Henry

While “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll is considered to be a children’s story, I have always found it to be an odd, non-nonsensical tale with more than its fair share of darkness. The Tim Burton movie version is closer to how I see this story, as many of the characters clearly show more of their unsavory inner selves on-screen. Author Christina Henry, with her version of the story, simply titled “Alice,” may have written my favorite Alice story to-date. But let me be clear…this is not a children’s story. This is not even a young adult story. This is an adult story full of adult themes and will appeal to those readers who like horror, magic, and the justice meted out with blood and guns in old Western stories.

When the story opens, Alice has been held in an asylum for the insane for ten long years. Her only persistent memory is of a vicious rabbit with a missing eye. When the asylum catches fire, she is helped to escape by fellow resident Hatcher, and as they run through the Old City seeking safety, they realize that something escaped with them–the Jabberwock is also free. (Beware the jaws that bite, the claws that catch!) The Jabberwock brings death, and Alice and Hatcher must try to stop it. And down the rabbit hole we go, into the depths of Old City, a place full of violence, evil, fear, magic, and just the faintest bit of hope. Hope in the form of mad Alice, axe-killer Hatcher, the cunning Chesire, and the assortment of desperate folks they meet along the way, including a giant, vindictive rabbit named Pipkin. Will the Jabberwock meet his end? Will the Vorpal blade go snicker-snack? Read, and find out. The second book in this series, “Red Queen,” comes out next year. Not for the faint of heart, and meant only for adults, this is still highly recommended.

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In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware

Nora is a reclusive writer, and she likes it that way. Unexpectedly, she receives an invitation to attend the “hen,” or bachelorette party, for Clare, a friend she hasn’t seen in ten years. The invitation is puzzling and curiosity getting the better of her, Nora accepts. Soon, she finds herself in a glass house in the woods, cut off from civilization, with a small group of Clare’s supposedly closest friends. As they start the partying in earnest, Nora tries to figure out her purpose with the group. When they use the Ouija board for their evening party game, things start to slip into weirdness. Murder is the Ouija word of the day, a threat backed up by mysterious footprints in the freshly fallen snow. Is this a party game gone wrong, or is the group truly in danger?

This debut novel’s storyline reminds me of one of those scary movies that kids like to watch at sleepovers. Hints are dropped here and there about friends with hidden grudges and people with mysterious pasts. Shadows lurk in the corners, and monsters hide in the closets. While that may make this story seem trite, it is not. You immediately connect with Nora, and alternating chapters tell details during and after the story’s main event, keep the pacing strong and the tension high. A fast read, with the creepy atmosphere of the glass house in the woods providing an eerie setting. Without any graphic or explicit details, this psychological thriller is a fun read.

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The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco

The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco

The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco

You know those Japanese movies that feature creepy, dark-haired, evil spirits that go on a killing rampage as they seek vengeance for some perceived wrong? You know, like “The Ring” or “The Grudge.” If you haven’t seen the movies, you’ve seen the movie trailers, so you know what I mean. (View the trailer for “The Grudge” here, if you need a reminder.)

Okay, so this book, “The Girl from the Well,” features such a ghost. She was wronged in death and tossed down a well. And now, she seeks vengeance against those who kill children. Sounds creepy and scary, right? Well, not so much, but perhaps, in this case, that fact does not matter.

“The Girl from the Well” is told from the point of view of the ghost, and as the story opens, she is drawn to a young man named Tarquin who bears some unusual tattoos. The boy seems to be cursed, as an evil energy follows him like a dark, angry cloud. The ghost is intriqued, and soon, she meets Callie, Tarquin’s older cousin. Callie has always been close to Tarquin, and continues to try and look out for him. Callie is very aware of Tarquin’s tattoos, and the unusual aura he seems to project. Yet, she doesn’t know the true reason for Tarquin’s trouble until she meets the ghost. And then, facts and dead bodies start to pile up like cordwood. Can Tarquin be saved? Callie and the ghost race to find a way to do just that.

This is not a scary book. Rather, it is a gothic tale, one reminescent of a fairy tale or myth. The point of view of the ghost is an interesting one, and the bits of Japanese folklore and history add a nice bit of exotic spice. While the book was not perfect…the point of view voice at times was odd, as it seemed to “float” over the story and reveal it from different characters’ perspectives randomly. The initial change of location to Japan caused the plot to slow down, and I found myself skipping a few pages in order to get back to the ghostly action. However, the story was unique enough for me to finish. This is listed as book 1 of the Girl from the Well series, and while I don’t know if I would be interested in reading the series, the first book was quite enjoyable. This title is a young adult title, but would be appropriate for younger teens who’d like to read a creepier tale.

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The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey

Melanie loves school, and she loves her teacher, Miss Justineau. Yet, a school day for Melanie involves being strapped into a chair at gunpoint, restrained through all of the lessons. Regardless, Melanie thrives, soaking up knowledge and stories and culture. Soon, Melanie will have to act on her knowledge, and her actions may change the world. A brilliant coming of age zombie novel. Who knew there was such a thing?

Zombies seem to be the creature of choice today, where once vampires definitely took top billing. The Walking Dead, World War Z, Zombieland, Warm Bodies–all zombie stories. Most zombie stories don’t have a happy ending, due to the nature of the beast. Zombies eat your brain and make more zombies, after all. However, in “The Girl with All the Gifts,” we have different take on zombies. Zombies may have ended the world, but one young zombie girl may be the start of a new one. I really can’t say more, but Mike Carey, the author, has written for Hellblazer, Marvel’s X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere comic adaptation. He has great skill in not only writing a good zombie story full of great action, but he gives us very strong characters as well. This is an excellent book, and one I highly recommend.

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The Winter People, by Jennifer McMahon

The Winter People, by Jennifer McMahon

The Winter People, by Jennifer McMahon

Most of us have lost loved ones, and we have grieved the loss. Some people carry the weight of their grief far longer than they should, and a very few let their grief consume them. Sara Harrison Shea is such a person. When her eight-year-old daughter, Gertie, is found dead at the bottom of a well, Sara is overwhelmed by her grief. But for Sara, Gertie’s death may not mean an end; for Sara may know of a way they can still be together. Yet, what is the cost of Sara’s knowledge, and how far will other people go to get it?

“The Winter People” is a ghost story set in West Hall, Vermont, a quiet little town whose quaint appearance hides dark secrets, all of them centered on a local landmark called the Devil’s Hand. Sara Harrison Shea, from the past, is the keeper of the secrets, and she passes them on in her diary to those in present day. Ruthie and Katherine both learn Sara’s secrets, and together they learn a bitter truth: knowledge of dark secrets demands payment, and the payment may change more than just you own life.

Jennifer McMahon is a master storyteller and she deftly drew me into her story. The story is compelling, and I literally couldn’t stop reading it. Creepy, and thought provoking, this is a book that maybe you don’t want to read in the dark.

The Winter People, by Jennifer McMahon
Publisher: Doubleday
Published: Feb. 11, 2014
ISBN: 9780385538497

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Snowblind, by Christopher Golden

Snowblind Cover, by Christopher Golden

Snowblind, by Christopher Golden

The New England town of Coventry is no stranger to bad weather in winter, but one blizzard in particular will be remembered for years to come. In this particular blizzard, people die, and under the most mysterious circumstances. Was it natural, or something more? Jake, whose little brother Isaac was killed in the storm, has convinced himself that it was just a natural event, that Isaac simply fell to his death out of his bedroom window during the storm. The icy hands that seemed to clutch at Isaac through the window screen and pull him to his death? Surely those were the nightmare memories of his younger self, images created by his grief in losing his little brother. Detective Joe Keenan was a beat officer then, one who saw two children die in that storm, and who has never gotten over the loss. Sometimes he wonders why one of the boy’s father disappeared in the storm without a trace, but figures his body was simply lost in endless drifts, and never found. And yet, Jake and Joe wonder, in the dark of the night, when they are all alone with their thoughts…maybe, just maybe, events cannot be explained so simply. Maybe, just maybe, something more terrible than the storm came to town that terrible day, something evil and deadly…

“Snowblind,” by Christopher Golden, is the type of story you do not want to read alone. Even if you read it in a room full of people, you will feel the bite of the bitter winter chill, and the menace that taints the blustery blizzard wind. This is a story of something mysterious, something waiting beyond your rattling door and frost covered windows. Something that can turn your nightmares to ice and freeze your screams in your throat.

I’ll admit it–I’m not a fan of horror stories. However, I read this book because I was a fan of Christopher Golden’s other works, namely his Peter Octavian series. (Which isn’t really horror, as anything with vampires I consider to be Darn Fine Fiction.) And this book blew me away. Chris Golden creates characters I care about in this book, characters who are touched by the initial terrible blizzard and changed by it. Twelve years later, the blizzard returns, and these same characters are given a chance to confront their fears from the last storm, and perhaps, for some of them, they can face this new storm so as to change their own fates as they come to understand the fates of the ones they love.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you like the works of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Christopher Golden is a heck of a writer, and I hope that this book gains him the recognition his deserves.

Advanced reading copy provided by Netgalley. “Snowblind” is available January 21, 2014.

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