Kill Creek

Kill Creek

By: Scott Thomas
Published: 2017
# of pages: 416
Challenge: R.I.P. XVII
Quote:
“There’s something about letting another person lead you into darkness that is both unbearably terrifying and exquisitely thrilling.”

At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, is the Finch House. For years it has remained empty, overgrown, abandoned. Soon the door will be opened for the first time in decades. But something is waiting, lurking in the shadows, anxious to meet its new guests…

When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country’s most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.

Goodreads

This has been on my TBR list for a couple of years and I finally picked it up, not expecting anything extraordinary, but I was wrong! I loved it and I thought it would be a 5 star read…up until the last fifth of the story. So close!

Most of the story is a subtle horror and suspense. The story follows four horror authors, who each have their own style of writing the genre. At one point they are asked what horror means to them and they each have a different answer, but each answer is correct. I believe the author of Kill Creek is also incorporating different styles into one book. The reader will experience Gothic, indirect, dreams, supernatural, evil, subtle and graphic descriptions, etc, all in one story.

I personally appreciate subtle and Gothic style horror, but others may like the more graphic, spelled out horror. What disappointed me was that the ending of the book felt a little rushed. After all the build up and intricate details, the end was very “basic.” However, that also made me wonder if it was planned to be that way, because of one of the plot lines of the authors becoming “slaves” to their writing. Maybe Thomas felt the same way about Kill Creek!

Anyway, I was very impressed with how deep the characters and plot were many times throughout the novel. I do wish it had stayed that way to the end, but the very end redeemed itself.

I recommend this to fans of horror. It definitely had a Stephen King feel, so if you enjoy his books I think you’ll like Kill Creek as well.

The Cabin at the End of the World

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The Cabin at the End of the World

By: Paul Tremblay
Published:  2018
# of pages:  272
Quote: “Wen never felt more proud of herself as when she made one of her dads laugh.”

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Goodreads description:

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”

Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined. The Cabin at the End of the World is a masterpiece of terror and suspense from the fantastically fertile imagination of Paul Tremblay.

Review:  It’s been a crazy summer at my house so I haven’t written a review in months and I feel a little rusty.  I’ll start by saying this is the first book by Tremblay I’ve read, but it won’t be the last!

Wen is 7 years old and on a vacation with her parents in a remote cabin.  Wen is introspective and compassionate and it isn’t fair that her life is suddenly and violently interrupted by a group of four strangers who intrude into her family’s vacation.  Sudden and violent are the perfect words for how the rest of the book progresses.  The reader feels horrified and helpless reading the sequence of events.

I wanted to jump into the book to comfort Wen and her dads, talk sense into the intruders, and try to change the plot.  At the same time I wanted to put the book down and save myself the horror of sharing in the story.  It’s odd how the book can manage to be filled with hopelessness and hope at the same time.

Overall the book was intense, suspenseful, and unpredictable.  I very much enjoyed reading it in spite of the violence.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Original, well-written, interesting characters, thought provoking.

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.”

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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.

The Haunting of Rookward House

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The Haunting of Rookward House

By:  Darcy Coates
Published:  2017
# of pages:  225
Challenges:  A to Z

4Stars

Goodreads description:

She’s always watching…
When Guy finds the deeds to a house in his mother’s attic, it seems like an incredible stroke of luck. Sure, the building hasn’t been inhabited in forty years and vines strangle the age-stained walls, but Guy is convinced he can clean it up and sell it. He’d be crazy to turn down free money. Right?

The house is hours from any other habitation, and Guy can’t get phone reception in the old building. He decides to camp there while he does repairs. Surely nothing too bad can happen in the space of a week.

But there’s a reason no one lives in Rookward House, and the dilapidated rooms aren’t as empty as they seem…

A deranged woman tormented a family in Rookward forty years before. Now her ghost clings to the building like rot. She’s bitter, obsessive, and jealous… and once Guy has moved into her house, she has no intention of ever letting him leave.

My opinion:  I received a Kindle from my dad for Christmas.  I’ve thought about getting one over the years, but overall I’m a large supporter of physical books made of ink and paper and didn’t want to “give in” to technology.  However, since my dad was so nice and thoughtful, I figured I would give the Kindle Fire a chance and I’m really enjoying it!  It came with a month of Kindle Unlimited and had some suggestions for books on the first page.  The Haunting of Rookward House was the first cover that caught my eye so I downloaded it just to try out the Kindle settings.  I didn’t expect to actually read the whole book, but I was hooked very quickly and ended up really enjoying this book.  So far, it’s one of my favorite Gothic/ghost stories and I’ve read quite a few over the years what with taking a Gothic literature class in college and then participating in the R.I.P. challenge every year.

The story is about a man named Guy who unexpectedly finds out his mother owns an old, isolated house a few hours away.  He’s living with his mom after some sort of tragedy and he’s going crazy living with her and being unemployed.  He decides to take on the project of renovating the old house to keep himself busy and hopefully sell so he and his mom can have enough money for a fresh start.

The house is so far away from civilization that he can barely find the driveway when he goes to check it out.  As you can imagine, things go downhill from there, but Guy handles it all in a realistic way, even after he starts having nightmares about the previous owners of the house.  Eventually he realizes what he’s experiencing is more than nightmares and creaky floors, but by then it’s too late.  The past and the present have collided and Guy is horrified to discover that he’s been caught in the middle.

One of the things I’m often disappointed with in horror/ghost stories/modern Gothic tales is that authors seem to feel that they need to go overboard in the descriptions of what’s supposed to scare the reader.  Sometimes less is more and I often find myself rolling my eyes while reading instead of shivering with fright or suspense.  Also, authors in these genres tend to use the supernatural as a convenient excuse to veer away from the story or explain something afterwards instead of naturally steering the story.

Thankfully, Darcy Coates didn’t do any of these things in The Haunting of Rookward House.  It was incredibly well written and I found myself caught up in the suspense and, at times, felt a chill while reading.  Guy is a complex character and it was interesting how his recent tragedy and personality traits blended with the past tragedy that occurred in the house.  I definitely recommend this book to readers who enjoy Gothic, horror, ghost stories, and suspense.  It would be a great pick for the annual R.I.P. challenge!

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Better than average ghost story, I’m close to giving it 5 stars, but it’s not quite at the same level as my other 5 stars.

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.