11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Apocalyptic, Fiction, Helen, Horror

The Stand by Stephen King, read by Helen, on 12/31/2012

This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.

And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides — or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail — and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.

In 1978 Stephen King published The Stand, the novel that is now considered to be one of his finest works. But as it was first published, The Stand was incomplete, since more than 150,000 words had been cut from the original manuscript.

Now Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil has been restored to its entirety. The Stand : The Complete And Uncut Editionincludes more than five hundred pages of material previously deleted, along with new material that King added as he reworked the manuscript for a new generation. It gives us new characters and endows familiar ones with new depths. It has a new beginning and a new ending. What emerges is a gripping work with the scope and moral complexity of a true epic.

For hundreds of thousands of fans who read The Stand in its original version and wanted more, this new edition is Stephen King’s gift. And those who are reading The Stand for the first time will discover a triumphant and eerily plausible work of the imagination that takes on the issues that will determine our survival.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Horror

Hater by David Moody, read by Helen, on 12/30/2012

A modern take on the classic “apocalyptic” novel, Hater tells the story of Danny McCoyne, an everyman forced to contend with a world gone mad, as society is rocked by a sudden increase in violent assaults. Christened “Haters” by the media, the attackers strike without warning and seemingly without reason. Within seconds, normally rational, self-controlled people become frenzied, vicious killers. As the carnage mounts, one thing soon is clear: everyone, irrespective of race, gender, age, or class, has the potential to become either a Hater or a victim. At any moment, even friends and family can turn on one another with violent intent. In the face of this mindless terror, all McCoyne can do is secure his family, seek shelter, and watch as the world falls apart. But when he bolts the front door, the question remains: Is he shutting the danger out or locking it in?

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Horror

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons, read by Helen, on 10/30/2012

In the summer of 1960 in Elm Haven, Illinois, five 12-year-old boys forge the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. An ancient, sinister evil lurks in the dark, and when a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the deepest night, the people know it marks the beginning of terror. Now Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a fraternal war of blood against an arcane abomination.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Horror

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk , read by Helen, on 06/30/2012

The newest Palahniuk novel concerns Madison, a thirteen year old girl who finds herself in Hell, unsure of why she will be there for all eternity, but tries to make the best of it.

The author described the novel as “if The Shawshank Redemption had a baby by The Lovely Bones and it was raised by Judy Blume.” And “it’s kind of like The Breakfast Club set in Hell.”

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Horror

The Ruins by Scott B. Smith, read by Helen, on 01/30/2012

Trapped in the Mexican jungle, a group of friends stumble upon a creeping horror unlike anything they could ever imagine.Two young couples are on a lazy Mexican vacation–sun-drenched days, drunken nights, making friends with fellow tourists. When the brother of one of those friends disappears, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him. What started out as a fun day-trip slowly spirals into a nightmare when they find an ancient ruins site . . . and the terrifying presence that lurks there.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction, Horror

11/22/63 by Stephen King, read by Helen, on 01/30/2012

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 reading the brain-damaged janitor’s story of childhood Halloween massacre by their drunken father. On his deathbed, pal Al divulges a secret portal to 1958 in his diner back pantry, and enlists Jake to prevent the 11/22/1963 Dallas assassination of American President John F. Kennedy. Under the alias George Amberson, our hero joins the cigarette-hazed full-flavored world of Elvis rock’n’roll, Negro discrimination, and freeway gas-guzzlers without seat belts. Will Jake lurk in impoverished immigrant slums beside troubled loner Lee Harvey Oswald, or share small-town friendliness with beautiful high school librarian Sadie Dunhill, the love of his life?

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Horror

The Terror by Dan Simmons, read by Helen, on 02/28/2013

  The bestselling author of Ilium and Olympos transforms the true story of a legendary Arctic expedition into a thriller worthy of Stephen King or Patrick O’Brian. Their captain’s insane vision of a Northwest Passage has kept the crewmen of The Terror trapped in Arctic ice for two years without a thaw. But the real threat to their survival isn’t the ever-shifting landscape of white,the provisions that have turned to poison before they open them, or the ship slowly buckling in the grip of the frozen ocean. The real threat is whatever is out in the frigid darkness, stalking their ship, snatching one seaman at a time or whole crews, leaving bodies mangled horribly or missing forever. Captain Crozier takes over the expedition after the creature kills its original leader, Sir John Franklin. Drawing equally on his own strengths as a seaman and the mystical beliefs of the Eskimo woman he’s rescued, Crozier sets a course on foot out of the Arctic and away from the insatiable beast.But every day the dwindling crew becomes more deranged and mutinous, until Crozier begins to fear there is no escape from an ever-more-inconceivable nightmare.

03. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Classics, Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction, Tracy

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, read by Tracy, on 01/10/2014

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Teen Books

Asylum by Madeleine Roux, read by Courtney, on 12/06/2013

Ugh. I got suckered into reading this one for a few reasons: 1)it’s about an old asylum and things really don’t get much creepier than places like that, 2)it has pictures and those pictures looked pretty creepy and 3)in spite of mostly bad reviews, I found one positive review and decided to give the book a chance. The premise is pretty simple: Dan Crawford arrives on campus for one of those college-prep-for-high-school-kids summer programs. He’s pretty excited about it since he’s a bit of a nerd and looks forward to taking college level classes with other smart kids. The weird thing is, the college is renovating its dorms and has decided to house the high school kids in the abandoned asylum that the college bought since it was adjacent to their property (and, presumably, for some sort of research/historical purposes). So all the kids are staying in the old asylum, and the desire to go exploring in the closed-off parts of the building is too strong for Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan. During the course of their explorations, they discover a bunch of old photographs and documents from the old hospital. Then Dan starts having strange dreams and the occasional hallucination. Jordan gets inexplicably mad at Dan and Abby moves on to another group of friends. It continues like this for awhile, with none of the main characters talking to each other, until a townie turns up dead and all signs point to a former serial killer who was held at the hospital prior to its closing years ago.
There are a lot of problems with the premise and the characters that I simply couldn’t look past. First of all, what type of college/university decides to renovate ALL their dorms at the EXACT same time and thus sends a bunch of minors (for whom they are legally responsible) to live in a building that probably violates a ton of building safety codes (from the sound of it, anyway)? Seems a bit on the irresponsible side, right? Then there are the main characters. Dan is probably the most well-developed of the bunch, but even he reads like a stock character. There’s evidently some sort of mental health issue that he’s dealt with in the past, but the reader never really finds out what or how it connects to the rest of the story. His roommate, Felix, is a painfully stereotypical nerd, right down to his manner of speaking. Jordan is similarly stereotypical, except his stereotype is “flamboyant funny gay guy” who also may or may not have some sort of bi-polar thing going on (that’s not really developed much either). Abby is the love interest that’s really not all that interesting. Her stereotype? The artsy “manic pixie dream girl”. Yawn. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters. The photos that part of my reason for picking the book up in the first place were so-so. The vintage ones were cool, but there were quite a few more recent photos that were altered to fit the story, which was disappointing. I was really hoping for photos more along the lines of those seen in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children or Shadow of Blackbirds. Alas, it’s clearly what the author and publisher were going for, but fact that some were constructed exclusively for the book takes a lot of the excitement out of it. What kept me going was the pervasive sense of dread that the book did manage to accomplish in spite of all its shortcomings. It was genuinely creepy. There’s definitely going to be a readership for this book, but I have a sneaking suspicion that many will be just like me: hoping for more and being left empty-handed.

04. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Horror

Severed by Scott Snyder, read by Courtney, on 11/17/2013

A young orphan is stalked by cannibalistic, sharp-toothed psycho. Set in the early 20th, this comic is slightly reminiscent of Snyder’s other work, American Vampire. Unfortunately, the characters here are nowhere near as memorable or interesting as those in some of Snyder’s other work. While Severed is billed as being super scary, it’s really not all that horrifying. It’s not because the artwork is lacking, rather because the story itself is rather pedestrian. There’s really nothing all that original going on here. What really redeems the comic is the artwork itself, which is nearly perfect and absolutely lends itself not only to the tone of the story, but creates atmosphere where the story is lacking in it. A serviceable entry in the horror comic genre.

06. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Horror, Paranormal

House of Secrets Omnibus by Steven T. Seagle, Teddy Kristiansen (Illustrations), read by Courtney, on 10/03/2013

Rain Harper is a teenaged runaway who has just arrived in Seattle. She needs a place to stay and finds an abandoned mansion that is miraculously unoccupied by other squatters. It’s only a matter of time before she finds out why: the house is not a normal house. It’s inhabited by a host of other-worldly spirits that form a jury who summon humans to account for their secrets. Rain finds herself in the position of “witness” to the proceedings. Rain, however, has more than a few secrets of her own. So do the friends she picks up along the way. When will the house finally demand to pass judgements on their secrets?
This omnibus collects the entire House of Secrets series, which means that it’s a massive tome and quite a bit to take in all at once. Rain is a fascinating, if unreliable, narrator, but the house is really what caught my interest. It has its own terrifying history and tends to show up in various locales at various points in time. Witty and dark, this is a great series.

The Lovecraft Anthology is a graphic collection of Lovecraft’s tales, adapted and illustrated by a variety of authors and artists. Featured in this first volume are several classics, including Call of Cthulhu, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

Beyond the artwork, these adaptations also are quick verbal sketches of Lovecraft’s work. I enjoyed them, but often regretted the stories weren’t covered in more detail. Creating artwork is very time consuming, though, and being exposed to the styles of multiple artists was worth missing out on a few story details. As with any multiple-artist anthology, I had style preferences (D’Israeli!), but this will vary by reader. Recommended as an introduction to dark Lovecraftian worlds.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Teen Books

The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, read by Courtney, on 08/02/2013

When Irene Sauvelle’s father dies, she and her family find themselves moving to a small coastal village in Northern France where her mother, Simone, finds employment as a housekeeper for an eccentric toymaker named Lazarus. At first the small family is enchanted (if slightly caught off-guard) by the sheer volume and intricacy of Lazarus’s automatons. Village life treats them equally well. Irene quickly becomes friends with one of the house’s other employees, Hannah and then is introduced to (and quickly falls for) Hannah’s cousin, Ismael. The family appears to lead a charmed life until Hannah turns up dead in the forest near the estate. The house and its contents cease to be amusing as things take a turn for the menacing.
The narrative shifts from character to character, which means that the reader will have multiple perspectives with which to decipher exactly what sort of evil is at play here. The plot has echoes of other famous tales, most notably Wuthering Heights and Faust, though the book itself has a distinctly “Zafon” feel to it. The setting is characteristically atmospheric and the juxtaposition of the beautiful against the terrifying is also very much in keeping with Zafon’s other work. The plot is merely OK; it manages to be both a bit confusing and predictable at the same time. The end comes crashing to a close, which feels somewhat anti-climactic after the action leading up to it. It’s OK though; the intriguing setting and evocative language more than make up for any plot-based missteps.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Horror, Paranormal, Teen Books · Tags:

Personal Demons by Nimue Brown, read by Courtney, on 08/24/2013

Enter the dark and eerie world of Hopeless, Maine. You may notice that there are an awful lot of orphans for such an isolated place. You may also notice a girl named Salamandra who refuses to stay put in the orphanage that she’s been placed in. While this is going on, you’re probably trying to squint through the enveloping fog to see if there really are monsters crawling through the shadows. Hopeless, Maine is the type of town where anything can happen and where the most monstrous of the monsters may not even look like monsters at all.
Beautiful, atmospheric artwork and a dark sense of humor make this a comic series to watch.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst , read by Courtney, on 09/14/2013

Conjured is one of those books that’s incredibly difficult to describe. Our protagonist (sort of), Eve, is in witness protection but she doesn’t really know why. In fact, there’s really not much that Eve remembers at all. It’s not just her long-term memory that’s missing, she continues to lose chunks of her short-term memory every time she uses magic. She does know that if she attempts magic, she will lose consciousness as well as her memory. When she loses consciousness, she has horrific nightmares that evoke images of a macabre circus, an evil magician and a mysterious storyteller. Each nightmare is vivid and disturbing yet none will make sense until the book is nearly over. Life in WitSec (the witness protection program that’s taken Eve in) isn’t easy. Eve feels compelled to lie about her memory lapses and frequently worries about how she can be a witness if she knows nothing about her case. There are others that are kind of like her in that they can perform magic and are protected by WitSec, but none of them seem to suffer from the same types of memory issues. If anything, they revel in their talents. Eve’s handlers and the other “witnesses” all seem to know what the case is all about and who they’re in hiding from, but Eve is still clueless. They all appear to hope that her memory will return on its own, but Eve has trouble making sense of anything. In the meantime, Eve is given a job at the local library, where she meets a boy named Zach who is fascinated by her. Eve’s relationship with Zach grows from friendly acquaintanceship to something resembling a romance. All Eve knows for sure is that when she kisses Zach, they float (literally) and she doesn’t pass out. It is only this new human connection that prompts Eve to try and figure out more.
Eve is not a character that readers will relate to. Most of us, if in Eve’s position, would be desperate to find out what’s going on and would demand answers of those who did know more. In that sense, the narrative might be frustrating to some readers. The unconventional plot structure will further frustrate those readers. Those who don’t mind a bit of confusion along the way will be rewarded by a truly unique tale. The reader never knows more than Eve does, so each revelation adds more to the story. As the clues slowly start to form a coherent picture of Eve’s pre-WitSec life, the story becomes more and more nightmarish. The deliberate pacing may put some readers off as well, but others will relish the mystery and macabre setting. This is not the book for everyone, but it certainly sets itself apart from the pack.

26. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Tammy

Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill, read by Tammy, on 09/24/2013

heart-shaped box   Retired rock star Judas Coyne has a thing for damaged young women and for the macabre. He has a list of ex-girlfriends that he found entertaining for awhile but then sooner or later tired of. He doesn’t even call them by name but by the state they are from. He also keeps a mysterious collection of objects in his home including sketches from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a trepanned skull from the 16th century, a used hangman’s noose and Aleister Crowley’s childhood chessboard. So, he’s thrilled when his assistant tells him a ghost is for sale on an online auction site. He ends up winning the sale.

But then the black, heart-shaped box arrives in the mail. It not only contains the suit of a dead man but his vengeful ghost. The ghost is the stepfather of an ex-girlfriend who committed suicide after the 54-year-old Coyne sent her home on the train. Let the vengeful haunting and soul searching begin!

16. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocalyptic, Fiction, Horror, Teen Books · Tags:

Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee , read by Angie, on 09/15/2013

Gospel and Merciful Truth live in a cabin in the woods with their mother, who has just died. Their only neighbors are Widow Cally and Jenny Gone and the Minister, a made thing who preaches the word of God. They are surrounded by a closing fog that leaves nothingness in their wake. Merciful thinks her mother is up and moving even though she is dead. The minister is keeping secrets. The world is ending and strange things are happening.

I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book about the world ending because God is punishing humanity. Most apocalyptic books have some references to God and religion (not always positive), but I don’t think God is often shouldering responsibility for the end of the world. This is an interesting mix of horror and spirituality. The characters are confined to the cabin because of a snow storm for the majority of the book which makes it very claustrophobic. Gospel and Merciful have to rely on themselves for most of what they know. Everyone is hiding things from them or lying and it is up to them to discern the truth. I’m not sure it all makes sense; the backstory is not adequately explained in my opinion. There is a sense of mystery and unknowingness that permeates the entire thing. There is also a beauty in Merciful’s story as she tries to figure things out. Ultimately she is responsible for her choices and the decisions she makes and she accepts that. There is no happy ending for our characters; just choices, mistakes and an ending.

I received a copy of this book at ALA 2013 and from the publishers on Netgalley.com.

16. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman , read by Angie, on 09/15/2013

Oleander is your typical small town in Kansas, nothing much happens there until the day people went on a crazy murder spree. It is now one year later and the town has settled down, but they can’t forget the horror of the Killing Day. Daniel was the only survivor of a drug store shooting; Jule saw her aunt and uncle die; Ellie witnessed the crucifixion of a man; Matt, closeted gay jock, watched his lover get hit by a car repeatedly; and Cass is the only killer who lived, she killed a baby she was babysitting and has been in an institution ever since. So life returns to normal until a massive F5 tornado destroys half the town. Now everyone is going a little crazy, impulse control has been tossed aside, and the town is quarantined by soldiers. Oleander turns into a powder keg of religious zealots, power-hungry politicians, meth lords and crazy football jocks. Everyone is out to get someone and nowhere is safe. Daniel, Jule, Matt, Ellie, and Cass band together for survival, but will all of them survive?

This is a seat-of-your-pants horror thrill ride. It would actually make a great movie. It reminded me of Stephen King in its cast of characters and storytelling. You feel very claustrophobic in this small town with nowhere to go and no one to trust. Even a little old lady can be a killer in Oleander. I’m not sure I buy the science explanation behind the crazy, but if you take that with a grain of salt and just enjoy the ride you will not be disappointed. I really couldn’t put this book down. Wasserman is not afraid to go dark or to kill off characters. I like the question of whether the drug made everyone crazy or if it just brought out what was already there. Any author who starts a book off with the killing of a baby and then makes you sympathetic to the baby-killer is one twisted writer…and makes for a great book!

I received a copy of this book from the publishers at Netgalley.com.

09. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Horror

Funland by Richard Laymon, read by Helen, on 08/29/2013

The Funland Amusement Park provides more fear than fun these days. A vicious pack known as the Trolls are preying on anyone foolish enough to be alone at night. Folks in the area blame them for the recent mysterious disappearances, and a gang of local teenagers has decided to fight back. But nothing is ever what it seems in an amusement park. Behind the garish paint and bright lights waits a horror far worse than anything found in the freak show. Step right up. The terror is about to begin!

09. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Apocalyptic, Fiction, Helen, Horror

The stand by Stephen King, read by Helen, on 08/25/2013

This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.

And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides–or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail–and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.