Marie’s Reading: “American Elsewhere” by Robert Jackson Bennett

american elsewhereIf you’re a fan of Stranger Things and/or Twin Peaks, you should give American Elsewhere a try!

Mona, a former cop, inherits a house in New Mexico after the death of her father.  Apparently the house belonged to Mona’s long-dead mother.  It’s in a tiny town called Wink.  Wink is a strange place that doesn’t appear on any map.  The people there are strange, as well.  The streets are all perfect and the houses are pretty, but no one goes out at night.

Lurking behind it all is a long-defunct laboratory and mysterious creatures that live in the canyons.  As the story goes on and Mona uncovers more and more about this mysterious town and its secrets, the more she finds herself in danger.  And more connected to Wink than she realizes.

The general creepiness of the atmosphere is great.  There’s always this sense of mystery and danger, and the style is very cinematic and evocative–in many places it really feels like a lost episode of Twin Peaks.  The tiny town with its secrets and seedy underbelly gets metaphysical in American Elsewhere, and the setting of the New Mexico desert adds an isolation and a strange beauty to the story.  And for all the weird fiction creepiness, this story is also about motherhood, family, and belonging.

If you like claustrophobic small-town horror with entertaining characters and a dash of alien/monster invasion, you might enjoy this!

–Marie

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Marie’s Reading: “Unbury Carol” by Josh Malerman

carolHappy Less-Than-Halfway to Halloween, everybody!  I couldn’t wait until October to share this one: a great mix of horror and Western called Unbury Carol.

In a town called Harrows on the dark and dangerous Trail, a woman named Carol lives with her husband.  Ever since she was a girl, Carol has suffered from a disorder without a name or treatment.  This disorder causes her to go into a coma every once in a while.  To the outside world she looks dead, but she’s still aware of things happening around her.  She usually wakes up in a couple of days.

But when Carol goes into her coma-state this time, her husband has nefarious plans.  Only one other person knows about her condition: her former lover and notorious outlaw James Moxie.  As Carol’s husband makes plans to bury her alive so that he can steal her fortune, Moxie sets out on the Trail to return to Harrows and save her.

This is such a rich book.  It’s atmospheric and vividly described, and the whole story has a sort of threatening darkness to it.  There’s menace on all sides–both Carol and Moxie find themselves in danger, and all the while there’s the suspense of wondering whether or not Moxie will make it to Carol in time.    There’s also a supernatural element in the form of an entity that calls itself Rot, which attaches itself to Moxie out on the trail as well as to Carol.

If you want to get in the Halloween spirit a little early, and your tastes run toward the suspenseful and slightly Gothic, give this one a look!

–Marie

 

 

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 Read: “Through the Woods: Stories” by Emily Carroll

I first became acquainted with Carroll’s work when I followed a link to her website a couple of Halloweens ago.  The link was to a creepy comic about guilt and murder called His Face All Red.

his-face-all-red

That comic appears along with four others in her collection of horror comics, Through the Woods.

through-the-woods

All of Carroll’s horror comics have the feel of dark fairy tales.  There are abandoned children, mysterious strangers, dangerous husbands, vengeful ghosts, and monsters in the woods.  Every piece is shrouded in mystery and a sense of foreboding.  Her art evokes small villages of bygone eras, with lots of stark whites, deep blacks, and startling blood reds.

My particular favorite in this collection is the Bluebeard-esque story of a young bride who uncovers a grisly secret in her new husband’s house.  It’s called A Lady’s Hands Are Cold, and I found it terrifically creepy and incredibly well-told–the art and script work perfectly together, and the sense of place is fantastic.  It’s visibly gory and has several beautiful Gothic touches.  It’s a perfect dark, gruesome fairy tale.

32-33ladieshands
A Lady’s Hands are Cold

If you enjoy old-fashioned horror, give Emily Carroll’s work a look!  And be sure to visit her website for more.  While you’re there, check out Out of Skin.  You’re welcome in advance for the nightmares.

the-wolf

Marie’s Reading: “Revival: A Rural Noir” by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

I was going to wait for Halloween to tell you about this one but I can’t because it’s too good and I want to talk about it now.

Revival

For one day in rural Wisconsin, the dead come back to life.  Now this small town has been quarantined by the government, the so-called “revivers” try to go back to some kind of “life,” and Officer Dana Cypress is put in charge of dealing with those who came back from the dead and the media attention that came with them.

Haunting, compelling, and gruesome where it needs to be, Revival works as a police procedural, as a horror story, and as the story of an isolated and struggling small town. It’s also a nice examination of life and death, and the complex relationship people have with both.

Full disclosure: I found out about Revival while eagerly gorging myself on the latest installment of Chew, which included a preview of the cross-over story that the creators of both comics put together.

chew-revival
From the crossover comic.  Gives you a sense of the spirit of the endeavor.

I can’t wait for the next installment of Revival.  You’ll be seeing this one again during Horror month.

–Marie

Marie’s Favorite Reads of 2015

2015 was a tough reading year for me, in terms of favorite books.  In years past I’ve always had a few stand-outs, books I loved and devoured and then went off in search of more like them.  This year, not so much.

The sole honor in that category goes to Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, which I discovered and adored this past year.  French rekindled my love of Crime fiction, and I’ve been gravitating more and more toward that genre after spending quite a long time in Horror and Thriller/Suspense.  So the first in the series, In The Woods, is at the tip-top of my favorite reads list.

This past year has been tough in terms of getting out of my reading comfort zone as well.  Thanks to the lovely nonfiction reading group I belong to, I’ve been guaranteed to read at least one nonfiction title a month for the past year and a half.  I’m still really slow about it, though.  For some reason I never tear through nonfiction as I do a novel, despite the fact that we’ve read some great ones in that group.  You can check out our reading list here.  Though I loved them all, I starred my particular favorites.

All that said, here’s the pretty short list of my faves from 2015.  These aren’t necessarily books published in the past year, just ones I read.  Clicking on the title will take you to the blog post I wrote about the book.  Enjoy!

Marie’s Favorite Books of 2015

In the Woods

florence gordon

eileen

browsings

head full of ghosts

Chew

Tune in next time for the post where I’ll admit defeat on the Reading Challenge.   Happy reading!

–Marie