Friday, October 30, 2015

Celebrating Scary Stories

Halloween is upon us. While the trick-or-treaters beat a path to your front door for their sugar fix, what better time to curl up on the couch wrapped in that fuzzy blanket and bury your nose in seasonally frightful reads. 

Contributors Melanie (Grab the Lapels), Drew (Raging Biblioholism), and Lindsey (Straight Forward Poetry) have recommendations galore:

Melanie's Scariest Reads

Santa’s Little Helper by H.D. Gordon

Four homes receive a mysterious white box with no return address. Inside is an elf and a book describing how the elf is “Santa’s Little Helper,” a companion to watch children for Santa come Christmastime. But Satan’s—sorry, Santa’s—Little Helper isn’t what he seems. This elf is out to murder, and readers learn that this elf is an evil demon that sometimes appears in different forms, and has in the past…A fun, scary book that I would recommend to fans of horror by authors like Stephen King because the pacing is a bit slower than modern consumers want (think about how most American horror movies don’t even reach 90 minutes), but it’s a scary-good time!

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann

The water color images in this graphic novel have a sort of innocent look about them, which is emphasized and shattered when the characters do awful things! There is a Lord of the Flies feel to the story, though the characters aren't on an island; they are for some reason released from the body of a dead girl that's rotting in the woods. Keep in mind that this book is a work of conceptual fiction, so you won't get the full resolution you seek in traditional fiction.

The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

The camera cuts, demonstrated with an arrow and paragraph break, tells us where to "look," as if this were a movie. However, if you're a fan of slashers, you know that you often yell at the TV and wonder why people do things (like repeat names awkwardly, notice certain details, end up in certain places). The book format allows the narrator to comment on what we're probably thinking, bringing you into a more intimate experience with the slasher film genre.

Strangerson a Train by Patricia Highsmith

A creepy stalker tale that terrifies me. The “killer” just can’t be stopped, and the “hero” makes the wrong choice at every turn. Funny, though, the setting is realistic, and you can just see this accidental arrangement for a murder actually happening.

Interviewwith the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

I really can’t read these books separately. While Lestat is the villain in Louis’s story, he is the tragic, tormented figure of his own. The two lead vampires have more in common that the first book lets on. Though part of a trilogy, I think of these vampires as a duo and forget all the history stuff presented in Queen of the Damned.

Lenore: The Cute Little Dead Girl by Roman Dirge

Take the darkness and make it adorable, and that’s what you get in these graphic novels. Lenore’s stories are a great October read, as she kills and terrifies people. She has a vampire doll named Ragamuffin, because what little girl doesn’t have a doll. Based on the Edgar Allen Poe poem, Lenore is dangerously loveable.

Altmann’s Tongue by Brian Evenson

This author really beat Eli Roth to the punch in the gruesome category. Evenson’s deeply religious roots come through, and he makes the faithful some of the most terrifying folks out there. You can pick up any Evenson collection of stories and be scared senseless, but start with this first book, the one that got him removed from his teaching job at Brigham Young.

Drew's Scariest Reads:

I spend the whole rest of the year prepping for October reading, at this point - I love devoting the month to scary/spooky/seasonally appropriate reads in a way that I don't really do at any other time. As a result, I've got a couple go-to recommendations for books sure to keep you up at night (in every possible way):

* The Other by Thomas Tryon.  

This book has some of the best gasp-inducing moments I've ever read. It's classic horror in the vein of early Stephen King or Rosemary's Baby or Ray Bradbury - full of heart and humanity while also giving you the absolute creeps. I don't want to spoil a whit, so all I'll say is that it involves two 13-yr-old twin boys - one of whom might just be evil...

* The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. 

Although it's written largely like a movie treatment (with plenty of hastily sketched character and plot work) and relies on the reader to do some heavy lifting, Barker slows down for depictions of truly horrific violence that he delivers with an unnerving relish. The movie has had a larger cultural impact, but the book will give you nightmares too.

The Shining by Stephen King. 

It's still the scariest book I've ever read. I have a vivid recollection of reading it while home alone on a stormy afternoon and - even as I write this, remembering - I get residual chills every time I think of it. King at his very best, showing both the evils that lurk in otherworldly places and the just-as-awful evils that lurk in the minds of ordinary people.

* The October Country by Ray Bradbury. 

Not so scary (at least, most of the time) as some other books, but it's hard to go wrong with Bradbury's most autumnal collection at this time of year. All of his greatest strengths are on display at one time or another and it's a great introduction for those who've only maybe read Fahrenheit 451.

Lindsey's Scariest Reads:

Resurrection Party by Michalle Gould

How do you handle death? How do you handle succumbing and returning? Being and not being? If the question of your own existence and the value of that doesn’t shake you to your core I don’t know what will.

Come On All You Ghosts by Matthew Zapruder

Not literal ghosts- at least not always, these are ghosts of the self, of the mind, of loved ones, of decisions made and decisions not made. Sometimes the toughed, most terrifying battles, are the ones you have with yourself.

God Damsel by Reb Livingston

Full of laments and prophesies, populated with mythical creatures in an emotionally torn landscape, readers wonder who they should root for, who to save, and who to condemn. Overwhelmed in the battle of good and evil (What actually is good? What is evil?) with characters who themselves fight their own natures, all in new world that is taking shape with each page readers are free to experience fear, wonder, love, humor, and hope. The power of raw emotion should really shake you to your core.

Lori's Scariest Reads:

Suckers by Z. Rider

A worn out musician takes a shortcut back to the band's hotel after a show, and is attacked by a slimy, bat-like creature. Within days, he becomes consumed with the need to drink human blood. Terrified of what will happen if he doesn't get his fix--and terrified of what he'll do to get it--he turns to his best friend and bandmate, Ray Ford, for help. But what the two don't know as they try to keep Dan's situation quiet is that the parasite driving Dan's addiction has the potential to wipe out humankind. It's a near-apocalypse-like contagion unlike any other and there are wonderous moments of extreme grossness. Remember that scene in the original Poltergeist movie where the dad vomits up the worm-not-worm? Yeah. Like that. Total page turner.

Birdbox by Josh Mailerman

Josh Malerman's Bird Box is one intense, suspenseful page turner. It plays on all of our irrational fears - our fear of the dark, of the unknown, of death and dying, of what we can't see - while also playing on our vanities - the need to know what is going on, to watch, to see, to understand. Imagine this. Imagine what it must be like to be able to see, but to know that SEEING could cause you to go mad, go nuts, get all murdery and die.This is a book that causes you to question every bump in the night, every knock at the door, every unseen breeze that tickles your skin, Bird Box puts its readers on high alert. While it might not invade your dreams in the way horror movies sometimes do, this cross-genre apocalyptic psychological horror-thriller grabs hold and  renders you incapable of putting it down. Clear your schedule before you crack this one open. You'll be up all night. I promise you that.

The Troop by Nick Cutter

THE TROOP is a slow-burn horror novel that grows in the deepest, darkest parts of your gut. It sneaks up on you from behind, like the villain in a monster movie, tickling the hairs on the back of your neck with its rancid breath, sending horrible shivers down your spine. And the very moment you become aware of its presence is the moment you realize it's already too late... Think Lord of the Flies meets The Ruins and you'll begin to understand the nightmare that is THE TROOP. Cutter did a great job of stretching out the tension by interspersing the main story with court hearing transcripts and scientific experiment logs that gave us a peek into the history (and future) of what, exactly, our troop was dealing with. While not a book for the extremely sensitive or weak-stomached, I highly recommend this novel to anyone who craves a well written, gut wrenching horror story - one that will challenge them, one that will push them to their very limits, and stretch those limits further than they ever thought possible.

Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie

Craig DiLouie walks a fine line between horror and the absolutely horrific in his latest novel when one day, without warning and for no immediately apparent reason, all of the children, all across the globe, die.They're calling it Herod's Syndrome - a parasite that resides inside every living person. What caused it to active and why it only affected the pre-pubescent is unknown, but three days later the children awaken in their graves and return home to their parents. Bloated with gas and in the early stages of decay, they reek of rot and moan about hunger. But they refuse the food their parents put in front of them. Because this is a different kind of hunger. They hunger for blood. Without it, the parasite stops functioning and they return to that state of rotting, stinking death. How far would you go to save your children? How much would you give to keep them alive? And at what costs? Suffer the Children takes vampirism to a new, chilling level as DiLouie masterfully tugs at your heartstrings while terrifying the shit out of you.

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