Not-So-Horrific Halloween Read: “The Woman in the Window” by A.J. Finn

woman in the window

If you’re the type who likes to curl up with a twisty, suspenseful Hitchcock flick on Halloween, here’s a novel you should try!

Anna Fox lives as a recluse in her New York City home.  She spends most of her time watching Hitchcock movies, drinking, and spying on her neighbors.  Then one night she thinks she witnesses a murder in the house across the street.  From there it’s a downward spiral into trying to decide what’s real and what isn’t, who’s lying, and what Anna actually saw that night.

Anna isn’t very likeable, nor is she very reliable, but she’s compelling to read about.  The Woman in the Window is a page-turner of a thriller, with quite elegant writing and an absorbing narrative voice.  The twists and turns and reveals of the book are a slow build, and there’s a constant air of uncertainty and menace as events unfold.

The references to Hitchcock movies and other thriller/film noir pieces abound, and the book really does have the feel of a black and white psychological suspense film.  Perfect for unsettling you on a Halloween night!

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Halloween Read: “The Troop” by Nick Cutter

the troop

Nothing like some good old-fashioned paranoia and body horror come Halloweentime!

The Troop follows a group of scouts on a camping trip on an island.  Scoutmaster Tim takes the troop out every year for a three-day camp in the Canadian wilderness.  And this year, there’s a ravenous, sickly something at the campsite with them–and this something was created to infect as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

The scares in this story come both from the goriness of it (and it’s pretty cringe-inducingly gross!) and from the paranoia and claustrophobia of the island.  The boys in the troop quickly find themselves on their own and open to infection–who’s still safe?  Who’s been infected?  Can they get themselves safely off the island, or are outside forces going to keep them there?  It’s very reminiscent of the classic The Thing, though our monster originates far closer to home.

The Troop is a profoundly creepy and unsettling book, in the very best possible way.   The characters are great, too–you’re really invested in each of these boys (uh, except one, but I won’t spoil it), and it’s both scary and sad to watch them all fight it out and try to survive.

If you’re an old-school Stephen King fan, definitely give Cutter’s work a look!

 

Halloween Read: “The American Resting Place: 400 Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds” by Marilyn Yalom

american resting place

Graveyard iconography is everywhere at Halloween–from decorations to haunted history tours to hanging around in cemeteries on Halloween night to see if there are ghosts.  Particularly  here in New England, where in some places you can’t even take a walk in the woods without tripping over an old boneyard.

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Old German Meetinghouse Cemetery, Waldoboro

The American Resting Place examines the history of the graveyard in America over four hundred years, moving chronologically.  She talks about Native American practices as well as those the many different kinds of colonists brought along with them.

October_2014_Portland_Maine_20141025-DSC_5105 By Corey Templeton Eastern Cemetery Fall Sunset small
Eastern Cemetery, Portland (Corey Templeton Photography)

The overall vibe of this book is one of peace, reflection, and restfulness.  The photographs, taken by Yalom’s son Reid, are beautiful–all different sorts of American graveyards are represented.

mount hope
Mount Hope Cemetery, Bangor

Striking photographs, fascinating history, and the feeling of taking a nice (if slightly macabre) walk–if you can’t make it to a local cemetery tour this Halloween, this book is the next best thing!

ancient cemetery
Ancient Cemetery, Wiscasset

Halloween Read: “Strange Weather” by Joe Hill

strange weather

The four short novels in this collection are weird fiction at its finest–a little bit Horror, a little bit Dark Fantasy, a little bit Science Fiction, all creepy.  If you’re not a “scary book” fan but you still want something dark for the season, Strange Weather might be just the thing.

Snapshot tells the tale of a tattooed man with a Polaroid camera that can steal memories.  Aloft has an almost old-fashioned sci-fi feel to it–it’s about a man in a hot air balloon accident who winds up stranded on a cloud.  Rain is a more contemporary apocalyptic story, with the original idea of the end coming from nails raining down from the sky.

The most realistic story, and thus the most terrifying, is definitely Loaded–it’s an examination of our country’s relationship with guns, and it is one that stays with you for a very long time after you read it.

Every story, each with a different feel, is compelling.  They each pull you right into the action, and you just go with each tale’s flow until the disturbing conclusions.  I love Hill’s descriptive powers and the mood he’s able to create.

Definitely give this collection a try for Halloween!

 

Halloween Read: “Thornhill” by Pam Smy

thornhill

In 2017, Ella moves into a new house right next door to a crumbling mansion that is covered in DO NOT ENTER signs.  Soon, she begins to see the shadowy figure of a girl in the windows and in the garden of the abandoned property.

Ella's room

In 1982, Mary keeps a diary of her days at an orphanage called Thornhill, in the very top room, all alone but for her puppets.  She is tormented and bullied by another girl, referred to only as she.  After months, as the orphanage is getting ready to close, Mary is finally pushed too far.

Ella has lost her mother and her dad is always at work, so when mysterious puppets begin to appear in the garden next door, left as gifts, she’s more than happy to accept them.

All Mary wants is a friend.  And as scary story fans know, that’s never a good sign.

Mary

 

 

 

Happy Horror Month!

Rosena-Fung-Library-Halloween
Rosena Fung, “Halloween Library”

Yes, I’m a day early, but who cares?  This is Horror Month, who can wait?!

My most favorite time of the year here at the Readers’ Corner Blog: Horror Month all October long!  Stay tuned for the creepiest books I’ve read this year, a list of Halloween Staff Picks, and suggested reading!

Play us out, Danny Elfman.

What I Read on My Maternity Leave

My son spent most of the first couple months of his life on my lap.  He’s a real snuggler and likes to nap on people instead of in his crib.  Not that I minded–not only did I get baby snuggles, it was the perfect reading time!  Here’s what I managed to read one-handed and carefully balanced:

The Outsider by Stephen King
I liked how much of a mystery this book turned out to be.  There are seriously chilling sequences, and the foe is indeed supernatural, but The Outsider plays very much as a detective story.  Great characters and pacing, compelling, and I like the cross-over with the Bill Hodges books.

The Ruins by Scott Smith
I’d been meaning to read this one for years.  A disturbing horror story (lots of body horror and paranoia) set in a Mexican jungle, this is a great one to keep in mind for future Horror Months!

Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean by Jonathan White
A fascinating and fun book about how the tide works.  Covers history, travel, and science, all told in a very engaging and personable way.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Boy do I love Hill’s ghost stories.  They’re so elegant, dark, and spare.  This one, a story about revenge from beyond the grave, is wonderfully chilling and atmospheric.

Batavia’s Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History’s Bloodiest Mutiny by Mike Dash
By far the craziest historical incident I have yet read about, and I’ve read about the Crusades.  In 1628 the Dutch ship Batavia ran onto a reef off the coast of Australia.  A total psychopath happened to be on board, and he proceeded to take control and terrorize the survivors.  Includes lots of great historical background about the Dutch East India Company and life on a Dutch trading ship, but mostly an affecting telling of a truly insane and horrifying incident.

–Marie