October has a special place in my heart. Pumpkins, changing leaves, cold weather, boots, and, of course, Halloween. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. The idea of ghosts and all types of monsters is just fascinating to me. Which is interesting in itself because I really don’t like being scared. You’ll rarely find me watching a horror movie. But scary books—those I can do, and I love them. Here are some of my favorite creepy books.
For his first published novel, cartoonist and writer Edgar Cantero has given the world an exquisite and mysterious work of speculative fiction in The Supernatural Enhancements. The narrator, a twenty-something European man who only goes by A. Wells, inherits the Axton House, an old plantation mansion in Point Bless, Virginia, after he learns of a second cousin, (“twice removed”) who has recently committed suicide by jumping out of a window. To A.’s surprise, the suicide follows a familiar pattern in the Wells family tree: the same age, the same time of the year, and the same method of suicide…and the worst of it is, A. is getting especially close to falling in with the same death pattern himself.
In Long Lankin, by Lindsey Barraclough, it’s 1958, and Cora and her small sister Mimi have been taken from their London home and dumped in the middle of the English marshes where something is waiting for them.
Johann had been terrible to her, absolutely terrible! Beautiful, 17-year-old Giselle told him that she loved him, and he had waved her away. He thought her family was not rich enough, not important enough for him to consider a relationship with her. But Johann was wrong. Shortly after he humiliated her, she and her sister discovered that they did come from an important family—and they were rich. For Giselle and her identical twin Ingrid are Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters.
A relative of one of my customers called me from Hawaii to tell me that I had to read this book. I can always tell it is he when I pick up the phone and hear, "Aloha!!!" He didn't want to tell me too much about Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist, because he didn't want to spoil anything for me. However, he did want me to call him to discuss the book as soon as I finished it.
After reading it, I have to say that if you like Stephen King, you would enjoy Little Star, which focuses on two girls—one of whom is a sociopath and another who idolizes and wants to be just like her.
He was happy enough to share his dinner with the lanky man as they were both seekers. He sought the beauty of the Wisconsin countryside in the early autumn. The fellow who sat down beside him, his wool shirt buttoned tight though the day was a warm one, sought the relief of his misery in the beginning of The Illustrated Man, a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury.
At last he stripped off his shirt in the heat.
"…he was a riot of rockets and fountains and people, in such intricate detail and color that you could hear the voices murmuring small and muted, from the crowds that inhabited his body. When his flesh twitched, the tiny mouths flickered, the tiny green-and-gold eyes winked and the tiny hands gestured. There were yellow meadows and blue rivers and mountains and stars and suns and planets spread in a Milky Way across his chest. The people themselves were in twenty or more odd groups upon his arms, shoulders, back, sides, and wrists, as well as on the flat of his stomach. You found them in forests of hair, lurking among a constellation of freckles, or peering from armpit caverns, diamond eyes aglitter. Each seemed intent upon his own activity; each was a separate gallery portrait."
He was an Illustrated Man, he explained tiredly. A witch from the past and future had stitched the glowing colors into his flesh forty years ago. He had wanted it done so he could always find a job at a carnival, but the pictures, all eighteen of them, came with a curse, and ultimately no traveling show would hire him and no man or woman would be his friend.
My son and I were discussing books the other day, and he asked me, “Would you recommend a book in a blog that you didn’t completely love?” I thought for a minute and said, “No”. He asked why not, and I replied, “What if someone noticed the blog who didn’t love books? What if they just wanted to try reading a book for the first time in a long while? I couldn’t recommend a book that I thought maybe they would like or maybe not. I have to feel strongly about the book. I want people to love books as much as I do.”
Nocturnal, by Scott Sigler, is a detective novel that involves the supernatural. So if you love both genres as I do, this is a glorious combination. The characters are so well-developed that several reviewers described this novel as Sigler’s attempt to write like Stephen King. I don't know if that is true, but I just think that Sigler has always been known as a fast-paced horror writer. In Nocturnal he adds more character and depth to the plot.
Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby will not comfort you, or soothe you, or ease you into a restful slumber. It will most likely disturb and haunt you, though. Palahniuk is a master of modern horror, as clearly demonstrated by the fact that this novel’s title refers to a sweet song which has the power to obliterate humankind.
Lullaby is narrated by Carl Streator, a bitter misanthrope who works as a journalist. When Streator is assigned to investigate a series of crib deaths, he fixates on the minute details associated with each case. This strategy allows Streator to keep thoughts of his deceased wife and child from overwhelming him, but it also brings him closer to a terrible revelation. Each time he visits another stricken home and memorizes another tragic scene, he gets closer to identifying the pattern lurking within these seemingly random deaths.
You can tell a book by its cover. So, if a book’s cover or title “calls” to you, it's karma - pick it up! A couple of years ago I was in the library and a book by a debut author was in display. The Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill was definitely calling to me. I thought, “Who is this Joe Hill? I don’t know him and maybe his book isn’t good.”
A couple of weeks later a patron came into my office and asked me, “Have you ever read anything by Joe Hill?”
“No. Why? Is he good?” I asked.
“Well, you know that he is Stephen King’s son. I wanted to see if he writes like his father.”
Now I am kicking myself mentally! I should have listened to the book calling me! I ran to the display and thankfully it was still there!