Halloween Read: “Meddling Kids” by Edgar Cantero

Meddling kids

A crack team of animated teen detectives, The Blyton Summer Detective Club, solved their last case thirteen years ago.  Though they caught the culprit (a guy in a costume with an evil scheme), all four of the kids never forgot that terrifying night they spent in a haunted house.

Now young adults, the members of the detective club are not doing so well: Kerri is a bartender with a drinking problem, Andy (deemed too aggressive for the military) has escaped from prison and is on the run, Nate is in an asylum, and Peter has killed himself.  Andy is the one who decides the team has to get back together and revisit the scene of their last case, and put the true mystery to rest at all costs.  That way, she figures, they’ll all be able to move on with their lives.

And it turns out there’s a lot more than just a guy in a mask waiting for them at the haunted mansion.

It’s inventive, original, and funny, with truly creepy scenes, lots of monsters, a suspenseful climax, tons of action, and a great mystery.  It’s like Lovecraft blended with Scooby Doo!

If you like horror that doesn’t skimp on the comedy, give this a read this Halloween!

 

 

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Halloween Read: “20th Century Ghosts” by Joe Hill

ghosts

A troubled teen awakes and finds himself transformed into a giant insect.  An inflatable boy deals with schoolyard bullies.  A girl haunts the movie theater where she died.  A boy is locked in a cellar with a phone that connects to the afterlife.

The stories in 20th Century Ghosts are a fantastic blend of horror, weird fiction, and dark fantasy.  Several of them have references to classic works, like Dracula and The Metamorphosis (and those are just the most clear-cut ones).   They’re all very subtle and strange, and have a range of tone and mood.  Hill’s style, as always, is incredibly absorbing and completely readable–he puts you right there in the tale he’s telling, and he can create a world of amazing detail in just a few pages.

This is a fantastic collection for readers who enjoy their Halloween reads more on the weird fiction end of the Horror spectrum.  If you’ve enjoyed Hill’s novels, give these stories a look!

 

 

Halloween Read: “Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places” by Colin Dickey

ghostland

American history and haunted places are two of my favorite things!  What a treat to find them both together in one book.

Dickey has this to say in his introduction:

If you want to understand a place, ignore the boastful monuments and landmarks, and go straight to the haunted houses…Tune out the patriotic speeches and sanctioned narratives, and listen instead for the bumps in the night.

That is so true!  The haunted places in a town or city are where you find the dirty secrets, the underbelly, the stuff nobody wants you to know about.  Stories of ghosts are usually stories of some kind of trauma or betrayal or tragedy–and these stories also give these tragedies some meaning after the fact.  There can be justice or understanding where there wasn’t any in life.  A community can make sense of a terrible occurrence through weaving tales of hauntings.

Ghostland is a tour of haunted places which never delves into whether ghosts are real or not.  The fact that ghost stories endure is real enough, and that is what matters to Dickey.  The focus is on what ghosts do for the living, what purposes they serve to individuals, communities, and cultures.

The tour travels all across the United States, from houses to hotels to restaurants to prisons to graveyards to whole towns.   Dickey is a wonderful tour guide.  He’s informed and passionate and a great storyteller.  The atmosphere he creates makes you feel that you’re traveling along with him.

The book also addresses the fact that we live in a changed world.  What do the ghosts of the digital age look like, of the information age?  He mentions how digital lives on social media continue after death, and how that’s a kind of haunting.  But in the end, we’ll always need ghosts, because we’ll always need a way to deal with death and mortality.  The guises and trappings might change, but ghosts and haunted places will always be with us in one way or another, and they’ll always adapt to meet our needs.

Only four days to go until the big day!  Plenty of time for some ghostly armchair travel to get you in the mood.

 

Halloween Read: “Little Heaven” by Nick Cutter

little heaven

Little Heaven is an intense read.  Three bounty hunters are hired to save a boy from a cult called Little Heaven in New Mexico.  It’s obvious something is very badly wrong in Little Heaven–monsters lurk in the woods and children have been disappearing.  Our bounty hunters, Micah, Ebenezer, and Minerva, just want to get the job done, but they find themselves drawn into something dark and otherworldly, threatening everyone’s lives.

The narrative goes back and forth in time from the 1980’s to the 1960’s.  In the present, Micah’s daughter has been lured away from home by a creature.  And in the past, we get the history of Micah, Ebenezer, and Minerva’s first encounter with this same creature, and how they ended up bound together as well as bound to the darkness.  There’s also the story of Little Heaven itself, and the Reverend Amos Flesher, who founded it (and who has his own dark secrets and leanings).

Little Heaven is gory and dripping with dread all the way through.  There’s also a feeling almost like a Western.  The sense of foreboding, and of an otherworldly threat, saturate the story, but the mercenaries are lone-wolf types who just do the jobs they’re hired to do.  The desert setting is gritty, vast, and lonely, well-suited to the bleak mood.

Yet, the ending has a tiny, tiny shred of hope, both for the characters and for humanity.  It’s not happy by any stretch, but there is that hope.  There’s also some black humor throughout which helps to balance the dark imagery.

If you like gory horror with great action, monsters, and an intense mood, give this one a try this Halloween!   There’s also a lot to like if you’re a fan of vintage Stephen King–the tone and themes are pretty similar.

 

Halloween Read: “You Should Have Left” by Daniel Kehlmann

you should have left

Claustrophobic and bizarre, and super creepy! Daniel Kehlmann’s You Should Have Left is a very tightly written and strange horror story.

Our narrator is a screenwriter with a bad case of writer’s block.  He’s spending a few days in a rented house in the mountains with this wife and daughter.  He’s keeping a notebook of ideas and false starts for his screenplay.  Soon, though, weird things start to happen.  Strange shadows appear.  Things he doesn’t remember writing end up in his notebook.  And, as is traditional, the locals are very weird about the house he’s rented and look at him funny when he’s in town.

The first-person format allows you to go crazy right along with our narrator.  What is actually going on?  Is this all actually happening?  Is he truly going crazy?  Or is he right, and the house is haunted?

That isn’t quite right.  It’s not the house that’s haunted.  It’s the place.  The very ground where the house is built is just one of those weird, off-kilter places where human beings don’t belong.  That idea is a striking one, and kind of reminds me of those creepily weird stories about missing people and staircases in the woods on Reddit.

Read this in one sitting in a quiet room to get the atmosphere and tension just right!

Halloween Read: “Brother” by Ania Ahlborn

 

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.

 

Halloween Staff Picks

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!