Halloween Read: “Brother” by Ania Ahlborn

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Brother

This story is absolutely heartbreaking on top of being dreadfully creepy.  Brother is about a deeply, deeply dysfunctional and warped family dynamic.  The cannibalism is nearly incidental, though Ahlborn certainly doesn’t skimp on that side of the story.

Michael Morrow is different than the rest of his family.  He wants to get out of Appalachia someday.  He wants to have a normal life.  He doesn’t want to be a monster.  But his brother, Rebel, is determined to keep Michael in the family.  And he won’t stop at anything to teach Michael his place.

The ending is a kick in the gut.  There are tons of kicks to the gut in this story.  You’re on Michael’s side even as you cringe at him.  His situation seems so hopeless.  The sense of inevitable tragedy runs all through this novel.

If you liked the movie We Are What We Are (and I sure did!), you should give Brother a try.

 

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Halloween Staff Picks

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Halloween Staff Picks

You know what I read when Halloween-time rolls around.  You probably know more than you want to.  So below you can discover what other librarians here read during October.  I opened the field to any kind of autumnal read, not just horror.  Not everyone enjoys Horror, as we have discussed during previous Halloweens.

Cayla always thinks of Anne of Green Gables around this time of year, and the fitting quote, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!”

As a kid, Sarah enjoyed a little book called Spooky Tricks, perfect for planning just the right trick in case you don’t get a treat on Halloween night.  You can learn to make a ghost on the wall!

Diane went for classic frights with Edgar Allan Poe (particularly “The Tell-Tale Heartand The Cask of Amontillado”) and Rod Serling’s scripts for The Twilight Zone–“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” being one that stuck with her.  As far as Halloween viewing goes these days, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and From Hell are must-watch every year!

What’s Halloween frights without some childhood trauma?  Loraine recalls reading Six Months to Live by Lurlene McDaniels at a very impressionable age–it’s about a thirteen-year-old girl who is diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live.  Yikes.

We’re two weeks from Halloween, so it’s time to buckle down and get your spooky or autumn reading on before the big day!

 

 

 

 

Halloween Watch: “What We Do in the Shadows”

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What the what?  What We Do In the Shadows didn’t win the Bram Stoker Award?  Seriously?

I hope this fawning blog post is some small comfort to all those involved with the film.

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To be fair, technically the Bram Stoker award is for a written screenplay, not just a really cool, original, and funny idea.  If there was an award for that, this movie would win.

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What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary about four vampires in Wellington, New Zealand.  As one of them explains, not all vampires like to live in spooky old castles.  Some prefer a flatting situation with other vampires in small countries like New Zealand.  There’s a loose plot, involving the lead-up to a big vampire social event, but mostly the movie is a documentary film crew following the vampires around as they go about their business, eventually including an accidental new recruit.  And a pack of werewolves.  And a nemesis simply called The Beast.

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It’s hilarious and charming, and looks fantastic–the vampires’ flat is kind of shabby and old and filled with antiques.  The characters are wonderful.  The flatmates include Viago, an uptight 18th century dandy; Vladislav, a vampire since the Middle Ages who once had a thing for torture; Deacon, the “young bad boy of the group” at 183; and Peytr, a Nosferatu-type who is 8,000 years old and rarely leaves the basement.

Really, this is the cutest vampire comedy you will ever watch.  Every bit of blood and every horror trope is played for laughs. Give it a try at this year’s Halloween party!

You can watch the first couple of minutes on YouTube for a sense of the style and humor!

Halloween Read: Two by Susan Hill

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The Man in the Picture and The Small Hand today on a ghost story double feature!

Both of these tales are little gems of revenge from beyond the grave.  In The Man in the Picture, a mysterious painting of a Venetian scene becomes a tool for malice.  And in The Small Hand, a ghost reaches out of the past and quite literally touches someone.

Hill has a very elegant but spare style that suits these stories well.  Both employ lots of wonderful tension-building and atmosphere, and a fantastic sense of the strange and foreboding.  They’re slim stories, and Hill manages to pack a lot into a small frame in each one.

There’s a sort of dusty old feel to these, as if you’ve uncovered a box in an attic with a lot of forgotten, oddball items inside.  And then those items somehow unleash the supernatural on you.

Pick these stories up this October if you like barely-there scares and old-fashioned strange tales.  They’re straightforward ghost stories with some elegant layering, perfect for an afternoon during the witching season.

Halloween Read: “This House is Haunted” by John Boyne

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A lovely, old-style ghost story, with echoes of Dickens and James.  Perfect if you’re in the mood for a Halloween read with a classic feel.  It’s old-fashioned and creepy, relying on a sense of foreboding to up the scares.

Following the death of her father, Eliza Caine takes a governess position at Gaudlin Hall in Norfolk.  Right away, the strangeness begins–there are no adults anywhere at the Hall, and the children have run through several governesses.  Something is clearly very wrong.  The more Eliza learns about the history of the house and its family, the more dangerous the situation becomes.  Eliza must figure out how to stop whatever force is in the Hall before she and the children become victims.

This story is very rooted in its time and place (London and Norfolk in 1867), so you might enjoy it as an historical novel as well.  The atmosphere is rich, and it’s poignant and melancholy on top of being creepy–as the best ghost stories are.

Halloween Read: “The Monstrumologist” by Rick Yancey

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The-Monstrumologist

Presented as a real document found and edited by Yancey, this is a gory and gruesome tale of monsters with a classic feel.

Will Henry is an assistant to a monstrumologist in 1880’s New England.  A group of anthropophagi is discovered in the cemetery near Will’s town of New Jerusalem.  So Dr. Warthrop leads the investigation into how the monsters came to be there, and how to best exterminate them.  Anthropophagi are headless creatures, with faces in their stomachs and brutal strength.  They eat people.

The New England setting adds a layer of cold, dark atmosphere.  The scenes in the churchyard are especially effective, as is the climax deep below the ground.  Will Henry’s complicated relationship with Dr. Warthrop adds a nice dimension to the tale.

Also: when I said gruesome, I meant it.  It’ll make you squirm it’s so gross.  The writing is vivid and the carnage is gory.  The graveyard.  The basement.  The flies.  The worms.  It’s intense, but so beautifully done, and none of it seems out of place.  It just adds to the Gothic horror.

“Enmity is not a natural phenomenon, Will Henry. Is the antelope the lion’s enemy? Does the moose or elk swear undying animosity for the wolf? We are but one thing to the Anthropophagi: meat. We are prey, not enemies.”

Nothing like a good monster story to remind you that human beings are part of a food chain, too.

If you like The Monstrumologist, there are more in the series!  Find out more here.

 

Marie’s Favorite Scary Books Part VI: Get Freaky

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I used a Creepypasta name generator to come up with this year’s title, as I’m sure countless horror movie screenwriters have done before me.  The title I used is the one that made me laugh first.  (“Marie’s Favorite Scary Books Part VI: Pull My Finger” was runner-up)

I started my creepy reading nice and early this season, so I’ve got a whole bunch of favorite freaky reads for you this time around.  There are some ghost stories, some haunted houses, some cannibals, some crazy VHS tapes, and some cartoon kids solving mysteries.  I think this year’s list covers a broad area of different kinds of Horror, so no matter what your taste, you might find something you like here!

Several of these will have posts of their own this month, so stay tuned!  This list is also up on the Suggested Reading section of the blog, which you can find here.  If you’re the type who must enjoy things in order, you can begin with the very first Marie’s Favorite Scary Books and work your way up.

Marie’s Favorite Scary Books Part VI: Get Freaky

Brother by Ania Ahlborn
It’s obvious fairly early on that this family is a family of cannibals.  But the story is tragic and gruesome and sad, with one of the most downer endings I’ve ever read.

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
Creepy and weird.  It’s extremely unsettling, particularly if you’ve got a vivid imagination.

The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill
A taut and atmospheric tale of revenge.

This House is Haunted by John Boyne
A deliciously old-fashioned ghost story, with shades of The Turn of the Screw.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Atmospheric and disturbing, a great tale of monsters and science in the 19th century.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
A delightful mix of weird fiction and horror, with plenty of truly unsettling images and stories.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Scooby Doo meets Lovecraft in this comedy of horrors, all about a crack team of kid detectives who have grown up and have one last mystery to solve.