The Outsider

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The Outsider

By:  Stephen King
Published:  2018
# of pages:  561
Challenges:  Full House (>500 pages), Monthly Motif (horror), R.I.P.
Quote:  “Anything is possible,” she said to the empty room. “Anything at all. The world is full of strange nooks and crannies.”

4stargreen

Goodreads description:

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face?

Review:  I finished the Bill Hodges series that starts with Mr. Mercedes.  There’s several references to the series and a recurring character in The Outsider.  I enjoyed the entire Bill Hodges series and this novel had a similar setup and the characters were similar.  However, The Outsider has more of a creepy/horror atmosphere.

The description of the book sums it up better than I can without spoiling the plot.  Overall, the book reminded me of an episode of the TV show “Supernatural.”  At the beginning I was trying to guess what was going on and even as I began to learn the truth, I was still curious about how the characters were going to deal with the situation.

King is great at writing creepy and disturbing characters.  But he’s also great at writing good characters who have compassion and a desire to find out the truth.  This book is no exception and I really liked the character Ralph Anderson who reminded me of Bill Hodges and Danny from Doctor Sleep.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Interesting story, good characters, intriguing horror atmosphere.

The Hunger

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The Hunger

By:  Alma Katsu
Published:  2018
# of pages:  384 (Kindle edition)

4Stars

Goodreads description:  

Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere. 

That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the brink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy…or the feelings that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it’s a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history.

As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains…and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along.

My review:  I’ve heard of the Donner Party before, but all I knew was that it was about pioneers who resorted to cannibalism on their journey.  I started reading The Hunger, but after the first page I realized it would be helpful if I read more about the true events before reading a horror version.  So I went on Wikipedia and read about the Donner family and their traveling companions.  I read it all and honestly, it was just as fascinating and horrifying as the novel.

What Katsu does in this historical fiction horror is expand on the true events.  It’s a great idea to take what really happened and instead of simply leaving it at this group’s methods of survival, Katsu made their thoughts and decisions into something more physical.

I think it’s always risky taking real people and giving them fictional personalities and thoughts.  This novel takes the real people of Tamsen Donner, James Reed, Mary Graves, and Charles Stanton and follows them along their arduous journey through the Sierra Nevadas.  The Wikipedia article didn’t give any clue as to their personalities, but Katsu made them interesting and realistic.  I liked that each had a secret that started to emerge as they passed the point of no return on their journey.

I would have liked a little more consistency.  Sometimes it was hard to understand why the characters were making their decisions and how they were relating to each other.  But perhaps this just added to the mystery.  There were a few things here and there that didn’t make sense, but it’s not such a deep read that I was upset about that, I just enjoyed the story.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Interesting and original re-telling of an historical event, creepy without being too disturbing.

Top Ten Tuesday – Creepy Books

toptentuesdayA weekly meme by The Broke & The Bookish

It’s my first time participating in Top Ten Tuesday and it’s a Halloween freebie day.  So here’s my top 10 creepy books in no particular order:

  1. Rebecca  by: Daphne du Maurier
    594139This is a classic tale about a young woman who moves to a remote estate after marriage.  She soon becomes suspicious of the house’s occupants and starts to investigate.  This wasn’t super creepy, but I do remember feeling concern and suspense as the main character goes about her investigation.

  2. The Shining  by: Stephen King
    11588This is one of the scariest books I’ve ever read!  It wasn’t just the obvious scary parts (although those scared me), but I was also very creeped out by Jack’s mental state as he remembers the past and processes his present circumstances.  Remember the “Friends” episode where Joey tells Rachel to read The Shining? 🙂 

  3. Black-Eyed Susans  by: Julia Heaberlin
    23746004I read this mystery last year for the R.I.P. challenge, and it definitely grabbed my attention.  I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next and sympathize with the character who knew something wasn’t right, but couldn’t always explain or prove what was wrong.
     

  4. The Woman in Black  by: Susan Hill
    37034This is a great classic Gothic novel!  I haven’t seen the movie, but this book is a great story that grabs the reader’s imagination, but doesn’t go overboard and cause nightmares.
  5. The Historian  by: Elizabeth Kostova
    10692Once again, this isn’t incredibly creepy, but it’s very atmospheric and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.  The main character is on a search for Dracula so you can imagine that there’s some suspense to be found within the novel’s 700 pages.
  6. Frankenstein  by: Mary Shelley
    18490This novel is probably expected to be on a creepy book list, but I wouldn’t say it’s as scary as people who think about the typical Frankenstein’s monster think.  Not only is the idea of a “monster” on a quest for revenge a scary thought, but the concepts of creating life and the responsibility of that creation is disturbing.
  7. The Quick  by: Lauren Owen
    18050175I would like to read this book again.  It has some chilling and suspenseful moments as well as being an interesting story.  A woman searches for her missing brother in Victorian England and discovers mysterious and dangerous people in the process.
  8. Bird Box  by: Josh Malerman
    18498558Wow, this post apocalyptic story had some very suspenseful moments!  There were times where I couldn’t put the book down.  It was easy to feel scared and horrified along with the blindfolded character.
     

  9. House of Leaves  by: Mark Z. Danielewski
    337907I didn’t enjoy all of this story, but it sure was creepy!  Also, creepy things kept happening to me while reading this book and I was beginning to think the curse at the beginning of the book was real.
  10. Dracula  by: Bram Stoker
    17245Like the previous book on the list, I didn’t enjoy the whole book overall, but it also had some memorable creepy moments that have stuck with me over the years.  It’s a classic and, like Frankenstein, worth reading just because of how influential it has been on modern culture.

 

 

What’s a creepy book you’ve read?  I’m always looking for ideas for the annual R.I.P. challenge and I actually enjoy suspense any time of the year!

Something Wicked This Way Comes

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Something Wicked This Way Comes
By:  Ray Bradbury
Published:  1962
# of pages:  289
Challenge: R.I.P., Full House (Published pre-2000), Monthly Motif (September)

 

3Stars

 

Goodreads description:

Few American novels written this century have endured in the heart and mind as has this one-Ray Bradbury’s incomparable masterwork of the dark fantastic. A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show’s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes — and the stuff of nightmare.

My opinion:  

This has been on my TBR list for a long time, but my book club finally gave me the motivation I needed to actually read it.  The story is about two boys on the verge of turning 14.  Jim Nightshade can’t wait to grow up and is already curious about adult themed things.  Will Halloway is content to hang out with his best friend, race back and forth to the library where his father works, and everything else boys find to do with their time.  Will’s father, a janitor at the local library, spends much of his time contemplating his life and how he ended up in his mid-50s as a father of an active son with whom he doesn’t have anything in common.

One night a very creepy carnival rolls into town.  Weird things start happening, including a few of the town’s residents disappearing.  Jim, Will, and Mr. Halloway find themselves wrapped up in a dangerous situation and must work together (and against their own desires) to save themselves and the town.

Bradbury’s descriptions in this book are very poetic.  At times it assists the reader in entering the setting and understanding the characters.  At other times, it’s overly poetic and breaks up the action.  Also, I didn’t like how the narrative is poetic, the way Mr. Halloway speaks is the same, and then his quotes of books/pamphlets is, once again, the exact same.  It isn’t natural and I found myself spacing out while reading entire paragraphs.  There often isn’t anything to distinguish between the dialogue and the narrative.

However, I did enjoy the overall story and there were a couple of points where I felt the suspense so strongly.  This book is technically the second in a series, but I never would have known that and it isn’t necessary to read the first book.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Suspenseful and interesting story, characters are easy to relate to, but the poetic descriptions were often over the top and the action was disjointed.

Other reviews:

Have you reviewed this book?  Let me know and I’d be happy to post a link.

Doctor Sleep

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Doctor Sleep

By:  Stephen King
Published:  2013
# of pages:  
528
Challenge:  
Full House (More than 500 pages)

5Stars

Goodreads description:

Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.
On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky 12-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted fans of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.


My opinion:  

I was nervous about reading the sequel to The Shining because I didn’t think it would do the first novel justice.  However, Doctor Sleep was a great and well written book that I very much enjoyed.  It’s good that King didn’t try to make this novel the same as the first.  It does have some of the creepy elements, but I wouldn’t say that it is a true horror story.

The book starts out describing how Danny Torrance has grown into a troubled alcoholic. While summing up how Dan arrived at rock bottom, the narrative also sums up key parts of The Shining, which is good since it’s been 2 years since I read it and I didn’t remember everything.  This could also help readers who have never read the first book, but I recommend reading The Shining first.

Although the beginning is depressing, the story takes a turn for the better when he joins an AA group and turns his life around.  After that, the story follows his journey as “Doctor Sleep,” providing care for hospice patients in their final moments.  But mostly the story is about his relationship with a little girl named Abra, who is similar to Dan in many ways.

The parts where Dan helps his elderly patients “pass on” was part of what makes my feelings about this book hard to express.  This past June, I held my grandfather’s hand as he took his last breath.  I stayed with him in the long, excruciating last hours of his life.  I wanted so badly to give him some peace, but it was hard since he was struggling to breathe and was very restless.  In the last 2 hours he fell asleep and thankfully was peaceful when he died.  I do wish I could go back and say more, but I did the best I could, especially since it was very unexpected.  Watching him die changed me forever.  I haven’t talked about it very much.  The only people who understand are my mom and sister since they were there too.  Nobody else I know has been through anything like that.  And reading the parts of this book where Dan holds the hands of the dying and reassures them made me remember and made me appreciate the character.

My overall thought of this book: it’s mature.  Part of it is the characters.  Dan is mature and Abra is mature for her age.  Much of the maturity is Dan and the rest of the characters taking responsibility for their actions.  AA is discussed a lot which is great.  Dan and a few of the other characters participate in that program.  Both Dan and Abra care so much about other people and that is a large part of their motivation for fighting against a great evil.  Remember Dick Hallorann from the first book?  He plays a part in Doctor Sleep, but I feel like parts of him are embodied in Dan, Abra, and many of the other characters.  Dick’s willingness to reassure the scared Danny, become involved in a physically and mentally dangerous situation for people he doesn’t know well, and his outlook on good and evil can be found throughout Doctor Sleep.

I appreciate the fact that Stephen King wrote this story the way he did.  It’s incredibly encouraging.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Well written sequel, the characters are great role models while still easy to relate to, interesting action.

Other reviews:

Have you reviewed this book?  Let me know and I’d be happy to post a link!

The Winter People

The Winter People
By: Jennifer McMahon
Published: 2014
# of pages: 317
Challenge: R.I.P. XI
Official description:

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, she discovers that she’s not the only person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

My opinion:  I was going to read The Night Sister by the same author, but it wasn’t available at the library.  The Winter People was, so I checked that out instead.  I’m glad I did because this book was a suspenseful read for the R.I.P. Challenge!  I was hooked the entire time.  I’m not going to lie; I’m not sure I was happy with the ending.  The pace at the end was a little rushed after all of the build up.  I didn’t quite follow why Ruthie’s story ended the way it did.  She made a decision that I didn’t understand.  Overall, this was a fun, suspenseful read that I’d recommend to lovers of suspense, ghost stories, etc.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Mostly well written, characters I liked and related to, original story

Other reviews:

chrisbookarama

Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.

After Death…

After Death… An Anthology of Dark and Speculative Fiction Stories Examing What May Occur After We Die
Edited By: Eric Guignard

Published: 2013

# of pages: 330

Quote:  “‘Careful, though—she likes tearing apart soft flesh.’
Revel wanted to argue that his flesh wasn’t particularly soft, then considered it from an alternative perspective. Dancing, drinking, lolling about—he wasn’t exactly a Hercules.”  – Revel “Like a Bat Out of Hell” pg. 109

Official description:  Death. Who has not considered their own mortality and wondered at what awaits, once our frail human shell expires? What occurs after the heart stops beating, after the last breath is drawn, after life as we know it terminates? 
Does our spirit remain on Earth while the mortal body rots? Do remnants of our soul transcend to a celestial Heaven or sink to Hell’s torment? Are we offered choices in an individualized afterlife? Can we die again in the hereafter? Is life merely a cosmic joke, or is it an experiment for something greater?
Included within this critically acclaimed anthology are answers to these queries alongside tales and suppositions relating from traditional ghosts to the afterlife of e-coli. Explore the afterworld of an Australian cowboy. Discover what the white light really means to the recently departed. Consider the impact of modern, or future, technology on the dead. Follow the karmic path of reincarnation. Travel from the 999th level of Fengdu’s Hell to the gates of Robot Heaven.
Enclosed are thirty-four all-new dark and speculative fiction stories, individually illustrated by Audra Phillips, and exploring the possibilities “after death.”

My opinion:  Alright fellow bloggers, this would be a perfect read for the R.I.P. Challenge!  I was very impressed with the quality of writing.  I wondered if it would be, with it being short stories from multiple authors, but each story was very well written.  My favorites were “Like a Bat Out of Hell” and “Mall Rats.”  I enjoyed the different, thought provoking perspectives of what could possibly happen after death.  Each story is an original peep hole into the “other world” – each story’s version being unique.  For example, “Like a Bat Out of Hell” is about what happens to mythical characters after their time on Earth has passed.  If those creatures had existed, what happened when the world moved on and stopped believing in them (keeping them alive)?

I highly recommend this to lovers of dark fiction or horror stories.  Keep in mind that it is an anthology of short stories (perfect for a short story challenge as well as R.I.P.!).  It is obviously dark just because several of the stories mention the death of characters or describe “hell,” so if you struggle with depression you may want to skip or at least take it slow and possibly pick and choose stories.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars: Well written, original, thought provoking short stories.  The only reason it isn’t five stars is because I’m not going to lie, some of these were difficult for me to read (the whole depression thing?) and this is my personal opinion after all.

Other reviews:
Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.