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Archive for October, 2013

Halloween Bats Full MoonThis month, I have been gearing up for Halloween by reading books about Murder, Monsters & Mayhem, a spookfest from Jenn’s Bookshelves.

Here are some scary book suggestions for after the trick-or-treating. And don’t forget to give a book for #AllHallowsRead!

The First Books That Terrified Me

Join the Readalong of 11/22/63 by Stephen King

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Death in the City of Light by David King

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

Two Brilliant, Haunting Short Shorts

Give a BOO-k for All Hallow’s Read!

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OrangeCover“What was the first book to terrify you?” asks Jenn of Jenn’s Bookshelves.

For me, it was A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

These two books first terrified me in a way that I hadn’t known reading could do. Neither is a typical horror story, but both of these books gave me nightmares… more

Read my guest post at Jenn’s Bookshelves!

 

What was the first book that terrified you?

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Ocean at the End of the Lane lgPhantasmagorical is how I would describe Neil Gaiman’s novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

That is not to say this is a book of pure fantasy. Gaiman grounds his story in the ordinary, as told from the viewpoint of a seven-year old, unnamed boy. His father burns the toast each morning, his sister annoys him, and his great excitement is the weekly arrival of the new SMASH! comic.

This story feels real even as it veers off into the fantastic. The monsters are both human (his father, the opal miner) and supernatural (Ursula Monkton), and the shadows that lurk are predatory. There’s also a clever and creepy-crawly twist on the space-time theory of wormholes. All of this becomes plausible via Gaiman’s dark magical realism.

However, it is the emotional pull that gives this book its heft. Gaiman really taps into the fears of childhood, whether it’s the need for a hall light at bedtime or the helplessness of being in the grip of a menacing adult. The reader feels how important a kitten, or a new friend, can be to an awkward, bookish boy.

The whole story is permeated with a sense of loss—the loss of childhood, the loss of familiar things, the loss of loved ones. We first meet the narrator as a middle-aged adult, returning to his boyhood home for a funeral. The house is gone, replaced by tract housing, and most of the area is beyond recognition.

This particularly resonated with me, as I too went back to my childhood home to find that all the places once sacred to us kids were gone. The forest, where we believed a witch lived; the apple grove, where we climbed trees; and the tiny fish pond—all scraped and replaced by new houses with manicured gardens.

Though most of the novel takes place when the narrator is seven, this is not a children’s book. There are some very mature and disturbing themes. The bathtub scene, in particular, really rattled me, and my one complaint is that Gaiman never fully resolves this. I think best for parents to read first.

Early on, the young hero tells us that he “liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories.” This seems to be exactly what Gaiman is aiming for with The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It is a mythical, frightening, and mostly satisfying read.

This would be perfect pick for a gift for Neil Gaiman’s own #AllHallowsRead or as a scary read for the Halloween meme #Mx3 at Jenn’s Bookshelves.

Halloween Reads on Word Hits:

Join Us for a Readalong of 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Death in the City of Light by David King

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

Give a BOO-k for All Hallow’s Read

Like Word Hits On Facebook

Follow @WordHits on Twitter

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Mx3 is a pre-Halloween celebration of books about Murder, Monsters & Mayhem!

death in the city of lightDavid King’s true account of a serial killer who roamed Occupied Paris during World War II served up an Mx3 triple play: murders, a monster, and mayhem. “The Monster of rue La Sueur” is what the French press dubbed Dr. Marcel Petiot, a well-respected and charismatic physician who led a macabre double life.

Petiot was convicted of murdering 26 people and suspected of killing nearly 60. The total body count could not be confirmed because most of the victims were chopped up and later found scattered around the city.

The doctor had set up a SAW-esque torture chamber, fitted with large hanging hooks and also a sophisticated Lumvisor viewer, so he could watch his victims suffer a slow, confused death. King offers an interesting look at the emerging field of forensics, as the police tried to identify Petiot’s victims from a mound of smoldering body parts.

The mayhem of wartime Paris worked to the killer’s advantage. Chillingly, he would lure desperate refugees to his lair by the dark of night, offering a safe passage out of France. At that time, people often disappeared at the hands of the SS, so few questions were asked when they did. French detectives initially held back on their investigation, believing that they had stumbled onto the work of the Gestapo. Petiot managed to elude authorities for months during the chaos of the German evacuation, the Allied Invasion, the Liberation of Paris, and the subsequent purge of the French police in which the detectives on his case were arrested for collaborating during the war.

King imbues Death in the City of Light with a smoky, atmospheric look at life in Occupied Paris: shrouded street lamps, air raid sirens, food shortages, a thriving underworld, and growing distrust among neighbors. As such, this book reminded me of Erik Larsen’s Devil in the White City.

The patient, determined French Police Chief Georges-Victor Massau came off much like the lead in a detective novel. Turns out, Massau was a great friend of mystery writer Georges Simenon and was in fact the inspiration for Chief Inspector Maigret.

2013MX3My one beef, however, is that some of the most spine-tingling and conclusive revelations came in the Epilogue.

King dwells on the sensational trial, but relegates the harrowing, firsthand account of the only victim who escaped to the endnotes.

Halloween Reads on Word Hits:

Join Us for a Readalong of 11/22/63 by Stephen King

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

Give a BOO-k for All Hallow’s Read

Like Word Hits On Facebook

Follow @WordHits on Twitter

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112263horizontalClick here to sign up via Mr. Linky

Today we kick off the #112263Along! This two-month readalong of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 is hosted by Kristin, of My Heart Little Melodies. And, I am very excited to be her sidekick co-host. Check out Kristin’s introductory post:

Life Turns on A Dime—a Readalong of 11/22/63 by Stephen King

The group read runs until Dec 22. The midway point will be *the* date of the title, November 22, which this year is the 50th anniversary of the day JKF was shot (a pivitol plot point).

We thought this would be a perfect timing to read 11/22/63, which has a time-travel angle. Though its not a horror story, it does seem fitting to start a Stephen King book in the run up to Halloween.

More on the 11/22/63 by Stephen King Readalong

Sign up for the 11/22/63 Readalong via Mr. Linky

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Join us in a readalong of 11/22/63 by Stephen King!! #112263Along

my little heart melodies

Inspired by Natalie at Coffee and a Book Chick‘s summer 2013 readalong of Stephen King’s Under the Dome, the DomeAlong, Sarah at Word Hits and I decided to take on King’s 11/22/63 this fall! Special thanks go to Natalie at Coffee and a Book Chick for the inspiration and Sarah for getting things started on the back end for this readalong.

#112263Along

Almost everyone in the discussions during/after the DomeAlong agreed that 11/22/63 was one they either loved or wanted to read eventually. Sarah and I were thinking what better time then this fall, in honor of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, on which the book is based. Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you? Would the consequences be what you hoped?

Jake Epping, 35, teaches high-school English in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and cries…

View original post 475 more words

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Ghost Stories of Edith WhartonIf a book could at once be chilling and cosy, that is how I would describe The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton. The settings of these tales will be familiar to Wharton’s readers: old New York, rambling country estates, wintry New England, and the Europe of American expats.

Moody and atmospheric, each story quickly drew me in, and I felt that wonderful, familiar pleasure in reading Wharton. But very soon, things begin to go off.

As I read, I grew tense and unsettled. While these are not horror stories, they leave you feeling creeped out and vulnerable. (I had to switch to lighter fare at bedtime.)

Wharton evokes the mysterious and supernatural. As she does to her characters, Wharton keeps the reader guessing about what is actually going on. These stories reminded me very much of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw.

Ironically, this ambiguity gives the stories a realistic, firsthand quality. You get that same tingle that you would when sitting around a campfire in the woods. Except in Wharton’s version, it’s a dwindling fire in the dark library of a “damp Gothic villa.” Wharton sets one of these villas in Irvington, New York—named for Washington Irving (famed for “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”). Wharton was also a great fan of Edgar Allen Poe.

In the book’s introduction, British crime writer David Stuart Davies explains that Wharton was at once terrified of and fascinated by ghost stories.

“I could not sleep in a room with a book containing ghost stories and that I have frequently had to burn books of this kind because it frightened me to know they were downstairs in the library.”—Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance

Perhaps this fascination with the paranormal has carried on into Wharton’s own afterlife? Her home The Mount has been the scene of many ghost sightings. They’ve even posted online gallery of spooky images and offer “ghost tours.”

I highly recommend this book. It offers all the joy of reading Edith Wharton, plus some very spooky moments. Said Wharton of a good ghost story:

“If it sends a cold shiver down one’s spine, it has done its job and done it well.”

She has achieved just that!

This would be perfect pick for a gift for Neil Gaiman’s #AllHallowsRead or as a scary read for the Halloween meme #Mx3 at Jenn’s Bookshelves.

NOTE: There are several collections of Wharton’s ghost stories. I chose the Wordsworth Edition (paperback; published 2009;  ISBN: 9781840221640) as it had the most stories. I also really enjoyed the forward by Davies.

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