Halloween Read: “The Cabin at the End of the World” by Paul Tremblay

cabin

Tremblay is an old Horror Month friend.  I especially loved his novel A Head Full of Ghosts.  His latest is a tense, compelling, and intimate story about the end of the world.

Wen and her dads are vacationing at a remote cabin in northern New Hampshire when a group of four strangers arrives.  They carry homemade weapons and insist that Wen and her parents have been prophesied to help them save the world from the coming apocalypse.

Stories about home invasion always  make my skin crawl, and this one is no different.  You’re as tense and frightened and uncertain as the protagonists, which always makes for the best scary stories.  Later on, when you’re finally in the heads of the invaders, it’s even creepier.

For a Halloween read packed with some shocking violence, surprising humor, an eerie open ending, and a compulsively readable style, give this one a try!

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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

 

“A Head Full of Ghosts” by Paul Tremblay

Exorcism and possession story fans, have I got one for you this year.  Let me introduce you to A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay.
head full of ghostsWhen Merry was a little girl, her older sister was possessed by a demon–and her cash-strapped family made a reality-TV show about it.  In the present, Merry is the only surviving member of her family, and she’s agreed to let an author write a book about her.   And in a third narrative, there’s a horror blogger discussing the TV show and its impact and background.  What really happened to Merry’s sister?  And why is Merry the only one who made it out alive?

I’ll go ahead and say I absolutely loved this, especially the construction.  I love how Tremblay uses the blog narrative to train you to think in horror references, and then how he uses that to set up the reveal at the end.  If you’ve read Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (and if you haven’t, do pick it up either before or after you read this one!) you’ll figure it out, but it’s great either way.  (Sorry. I guess I just sort of spoiled both books with that, but I enjoyed it anyway, and having some idea of what was going to happen didn’t lessen the emotional impact for me at all.)

A reviewer on Goodreads who didn’t like the book used the phrase “warmed over Shirley Jackson.”  I don’t think this is fair.  I’d say Tremblay took the chili that Shirley Jackson made and then made tamale pie with it.  He didn’t just microwave it and slop it down in front of you.  He added and mixed and spiced and topped until, while you can still taste the chili, there’s an entirely new dish.  I’d go so far as to say he even made his own topping from scratch, he didn’t use Jiffy mix.

Anyway, you see what I’m getting at.  Tremblay pays an homage while making the story his own.  And it’s a great story with wonderfully drawn characters, particularly Merry.  Horror, like Romance, is a genre where you have to care about the characters, at least a little.  The best Horror makes you care, so that the terrifying things that happen and the fight against darkness seems to be happening to you personally.  It’s a very visceral experience.  Tremblay succeeds in depicting a family in full break-down, and choosing to narrate through Merry’s eight-year-old eyes makes that storyline even sadder, more confusing, and scarier.  Is it mental illness, or a demon?  Is Merry remembering correctly?  How much did she create in order to make sense of her family falling apart?

It’s also jam-packed with frightening sequences, described in atmospheric, chilling detail.  Possession stories, like The Exorcist, always make a lot out of how scary a human being behaving in unnatural or unusual ways can be.

All three of the voices ring true, the imagery is genuinely creepy, and the story is an affecting mix of scary and melancholy, with enough jumps and twists and unsettling scenes to keep you on the edge of your seat.  A really wonderful blend of horror and psychological suspense, one of the best ones I read this year.

–Marie

P.S.
It’s October, the season to be a cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater!  #5 complete, a book published this year.  Boom.

Marie’s Favorite Scary Books, Part IV: Scary Book Massacre

Horror Month 2015 brings us yet another installment of Marie’s Favorite Scary Books!  It’s an official franchise now!  Maybe someday Marie’s Favorite Scary Books, Part IV: Scary Book Massacre will be a name spoken in the same breath as Halloween 4: The Return of Michael MyersFriday the 13th: The Final ChapterAmityville 4: The Evil Escapes, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, and Bride of Chucky.

One can hope.

Here are my favorite scary reads from the past year!

Marie’s Favorite Scary  Books Part IV: Scary Book Massacre

small shadowsThe House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill
Antiques valuer Catherine is sent to the Red House to catalog the collection of World War I veteran M.H. Mason, a taxidermist known for his dioramas of preserved rats enacting battle scenes from the Great War. Soon she finds there’s a darkness still lurking in the house, a mysterious secret that Catherine is drawn into and unable to avoid uncovering.  A stifling and dark atmosphere, a pervasive sense of dread, and horrifying images that leap from the page make this a book to read strictly in the daytime.  You can find the blog post about it here.

pleasure and a callingA Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan
A real estate agent keeps the keys to every house he’s ever sold, and makes himself a frequent visitor in the now-occupied homes.  Sometimes when the residents are there, never realizing they have company.  It’s a creepy set-up with an unbalanced narrator, an understated horror offering.

head full of ghostsA Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
When Merry was a little girl, her older sister was possessed by a demon–and her cash-strapped family made a reality-TV show about it.  In the present, Merry is the only surviving member of her family, and she’s agreed to let an author write a book about her.  Tons of references to the horror genre (especially Shirley Jackson!), a wonderful narrator, and truly scary scenes, this is one of the most compelling scary books I read in 2015.

Trigger WarningTrigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
These pieces have been collected under the umbrella of being unsettling (hence the title).  Each tale wrongfoots you in a different sort of way. There’s darkness, there’s humor, there’s deep understanding and wisdom.   His characters feel timeless.  There’s an ease to his style, and he can work in so many mediums and different styles that it’s amazing all this work comes from one imagination.  For a lighter not-so-horrific read this Halloween, give this collection a try.  You can read more here.

night sister

The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon
Like The Winter People, McMahon’s newest novel has full-on supernatural elements.  It’s a monster story, but also a story about sisters, friendship, and growing up.

the lottery

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
I’ve recently rekindled my relationship with Shirley Jackson, and it’s been wonderful to enjoy all over again how creepy and menacing and atmospheric some of her pieces are.  This collection is classic and contains some of my favorite dark pieces.

Have a horrific time with these!

–Marie