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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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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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Give a fright this Halloween with a scary BOO-k as part of All Hallows Read. The book-gifting event was dreamed up last year by Science Fiction and Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman in his blog post, A Modest Proposal (that doesn’t actually involve eating anyone). “Spread the terror,” he explains in his video below.

Since then it has started to spread through the UK, the US, and Canada. This year there were several organized book drops to get books to school children. Countless tweets are streaming to #AllHallowsRead on Twitter. You can join in by giving a child or friend a scary book for Halloween. No you don’t have to skip the candy.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said horror master Stephen King. “It can be one of mine but it doesn’t have to be. Have a great Halloween!”

Check out the links below for All Hallow’s Read Book Recommendations

All Hallow’s Read Website Book Suggestions

Creepy but Gore-Free Halloween Books for Kids (USA Today)

Dreadful Tales Month of All Hallow’s Reads

Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem from Jenn’s Bookshelves

No Tricks Just Treats in These Halloween Reads

Spooky Reads for Halloween (CNN)

Spooky Reads from a Librarian for Teens and Grown-Ups

30 Spooky Story Suggestions for All Hallow’s Read by The Mary Sue (Classics, Contemporary, Comics, Kids & Adult)

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Both these stories left me aching and unsettled, marveling at what could be done with so few words. Each is spooky, not in the traditional sense, but visceral and devastating. Perfect reads for this week leading up to Halloween.

The Pines by Alan Heathcock
Beautiful may seem an odd word to use, but this is a beautiful, alluring ghost story that stayed with me.  Alan Heathcock’s short story collection, VOLT, is available now in bookstores.

Daisy Chain by Eugene Cross
This deft mercurial story at once had my heart racing and my emotions twinging. Eugene Cross has a short story collection, Fires of Our Choosing, forthcoming from DZANC Books in March of 2012.

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My review of Touch, by Alexi Zentner is a guest post as part of Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem.

“Stay off the ice,” wrote Alexi Zentner, as he signed my copy of Touch. I hadn’t yet read the book, so I didn’t understand that loaded and ominous warning…

Each day in October, Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem at Jenn’s Bookshelves features a chilling new post or book review to get us spooked for Halloween.

Click over to read my review of Touch and don’t forget to register to win a free copy!

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I don’t know why, but scary books freak me out more than scary movies. Maybe because the imagination conjures up the worst, but when you see it played out on film, you start to rationalize. That can take the thrill out of it. I remember gripping the armrest during one of the Jason films, as he started to impale someone  from under a bed. A sort of spear thing poked up out of the guy and blood spewed like a geyser … but then half the theater burst into laughter. Debunked (sorry for the pun).

Likewise, the mysterious earlier deaths in The Ring felt much creepier than the final scene. Spoiler Alert: the swamp creature thing didn’t work for me. “The Master of Suspense,” Alfred Hitchcock, was a big proponent of the unseen out spooking the visual. Even his famous shower scene in Psycho was a montage of cutaways (ouch, another one) of Janet Leigh’s grimacing face and blood running down the shower. Hitchcock wanted us to imagine the really gory stuff in our own heads. Just like when we’re reading.

For Spooktober, I’m taking part in Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem (Mx3)—a group read sponsored by Jenn’s Bookshelves. Mx3 is a celebration of spine-tingling books that include: ghosts, magic, monsters, suspense, murder, mystery, the supernatural, thriller plots, or anything just plan scary!

Every day, Mx3 features a chilling new post or book review to get us in the Halloween spirit (argh, not again). I especially liked reading about the lore of monsters and the human condition by Chelsea Quinn Yasbro, a Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award winner and author.

On Twitter, follow #Mx3 hashtag for spooky links and suggestions.

Book bloggers, add your scary and Halloween-themed posts to the Mx3 linkup.

I will be chosing among the books below to celebrate Mx3!

The Book of Lost Things—John Connolly

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton—Edith Wharton

Hallowe’en Party—Agatha Christie

The Mysteries of Udolpho—Ann Radcliffe

The Night Circus—Erin Morgenstern

NightwoodsCharles Frazier

Touch—Alexi Zentner
Reviewed as a guest post at Jenn’s Bookshelves.
What are your Halloween reads and scary suggestions?

Check out scary posts at Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem (Mx3)

Add your own scary post to Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem (Mx3) linkup.

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