Posts tagged ‘Horror’

Picture Monday – Literary Horror

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Nobody Can Believe I’ve Read This One…

I’ve mentioned before that I’m absolutely terrified of zombies in pretty much any shape or form. Don’t tell me that this one is funny or cute – I won’t believe you. And, even if they are, I’ll have nightmares anyways. Seriously, I’m the girl who had a zombie apocalypse nightmare, woke up, and immediately checked the Beloved Husband’s pulse… if I couldn’t find one, I was so outta there!

So, it comes as a bit of a shock to anyone who knows me that I’ve read The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks three times cover-to-cover. Not only are they shocked that I’ve read it, but that I made it through in one mental and emotional piece. Overall, it’s a good book – if I wasn’t so creeped out by the subject matter, I’d probably dig into it a lot more.

The reason for this repeated foray into realms of personal horror is pretty straight forward – I had hoped that by bludgeoning myself in the brain with zombies repeatedly, I’d cease to be scared of them – after all, that approach worked with vampires. Alas, this time, no dice. Shawn of the Dead sent me running for cover.  I barely made it through I Am Legend, and don’t even get me started on Night of the Living Dead

Anyways, I now know that I will survive a zombie apocalypse – I have my escape route planned (gonna go hide up in our local mountains for starters then head up to the Sierra Nevada – rural areas mean less food for the undead, thus a lower concentration of undead, and altitude and cold should kill it if it’s a viral infection). All I have to do now is learn how to fire some sort of long-range weapon accurately. 😉

So, there it is – the one book no one would ever guess that I’ve read. If you’re a zombie fan, you’ll love it. If you’re just a casual fan, I’d bet you’ll find it entertaining and interesting, and if you’re scared to death of them like I am, you’ll take those tips to heart and figure out where you’re going to run to!

Book of the Week – “The Hollow” by Nora Roberts

So, way, waaaay back at the beginning of this blog, I put Nora Robert’s Blood Brothers up for Book of the Week. Well, at long last, here’s the second book in the series, The Hollow.

I think this one is my favorite book in the series. Whereas the first book focuses on Cal and Quinn, this one focuses on Fox and Layla. I enjoy Fox more than Cal as a character because he’s more prone to jokes and laughter than the ever-serious, straight-arrow Cal. Layla, on the other hand, is not nearly as fun as the perpetually bubbly Quinn, as she’s torn between leaving and staying for most of the book.

Don’t get me wrong, that struggle is very believable, and a huge part of her character development which helps her become a very strong force in the third book, but it still gets a wee bit grating as we watch her circle and hedge and worry about her decision over and over and over again.

Luckily for me, Fox comments on this at around the half-way point and basically tells her to make up her mind. I was right with him there and cheered, both at the fact that my gripe was being echoed within the book, and that Roberts is an astute enough writer to realize that readers would probably be fed up at this point and therefore she forces Layla to take some definite course of action.

Once again, Roberts maintains a good blend of horror, humor and romance, though I must admit that Fox and Layla’s romance seems a bit more contrived to me than that of Cal and Quinn, but that’s just me. Since this story is told predominantly through Fox, it has a slightly more lighthearted outlook than Blood Brothers, which is told mostly through Cal. That underlying sense of humor is what makes this installment in the series my favorite – it provides needed relief from the scary bits and, as it’s Fox’s way of coping with the horror, it helps readers cope with it as well.

So, a very good second book in an excellent trilogy. Despite its few small rough patches, as a reader, I prefer The Hollow to the other two books, but they are in no way inferior. Overall, I’d recommend the whole series to anyone who enjoys a supernatural romance with a heavy dose of creepy.

Day 27 – Most Surprising Plot Twist/Ending

My cousin is responsible for introducing me to many a good book. Linda Howard’s Mr. Perfect is one of the best. It’s a wonderfully creepy, suspenseful murder mystery with a little bit of romance thrown in there.

The plot’s premise requires some suspension of disbelief from the reader. Four friends make a list of the qualities that their ideal man would have and title it “Mr. Perfect”. This list gets out and before anyone really knows what’s happening, it’s all over the news, on the internet, and appearing in local newsletters (totally improbable, I know… in fact, the characters themselves even comment on how unbelievable the whole situation is).

As The List grows in popularity, someone begins killing off the four friends one by one. Like any good who-done-it, the whole book builds up the question of who the killer is. The aftermath of the murders shows that he hates women,  whoever he is and is especially intent on getting rid of these four ladies in particular.

When the killer is revealed, everyone – characters and readers are alike are dumbfounded – it’s a plot twist that no one saw coming. When I reached the end of the book, I called up my cousin to rave about the whole thing and her response was an excited “I know, right!?”

The best part is that, when I reread the book and looked at all the clues again, the killer’s identity was totally obvious! I found myself asking, “How could I have missed that??” That, to me, that makes the twist all the more satisfying, The author carefully wove it in and built up to it, instead of just springing it on us out of nowhere. None of this “Hey look! A twist!” nonsense – just a carefully crafted plot that unfolds beautifully to have maximum impact.

So yeah, best plot twist that I’ve read to date. It’s going to be a hard one to top!

Day 24 – A Book You Wish More People Would Have Read

I first read Frank Peretti’s The Oath when I was in 10th grade. I read it Halloween night, starting at 9pm and ending around 2am, huddled under my covers. My mom came in several times to try and get me to sleep, only to be met with startled squeaks and a flashlight to her eyes.

I should pause now to say that this is hardcore Christian fiction – a modern-day horror story mixed with Biblical allegory. So if that isn’t really your cup of tea, feel free to skip over this one – I won’t be offended. 😉 As a Christian myself, I found this book to be incredibly satisfying, entertaining, and inspiring.

The plot revolves around a small town with a very tight-knight community – one that keeps shrinking. Every once in a while, someone will go missing. Usually they’re last seen acting drunk, talking and laughing loud, while a black ooze that smells of death drips from their chest. The town quietly accepts it and since they’re all alone, their deadly secret stays hidden and they live out their lives.

But one day, an outsider goes missing. His body is found, ripped completely in half, but the local police write it off as a bear attack and let it be. This outsider’s brother isn’t convinced though, and heads out to the town to investigate for himself. In true small town fashion, the townsfolk close ranks against him and he begins the difficult and dangerous process of uncovering their hidden legacy. What he finds is unbelievable and very, very hostile.

Themes of sin, redemption, temptation, and the power and protection of faith are woven into an incredible, suspenseful novel. Peretti mixes history, metaphore, and the supernatural together with a deft hand to create the perfect creepy atmosphere – you know, the kind that seems benign at first, but is rotten underneath?

Anyways, this is one book that I wish was more widely read. The themes are good, the writing clever, and the story engrossing. It really is worth checking out.

Book of the Week – “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

So, thanks to extended Jury Duty, I’ve had the opportunity to finally read Dorian Gray. Whee!

The premise is that Dorian, an intensely beautiful young man, stays beautiful and young no matter what he does while a portrait of himself grows older and more hideous as it reflects the ever worsening state of his body and soul.  The artist who painted the portrait, Basil, looks at Dorian as the ultimate muse – the thing that gives his art a soul. Basil’s friend, Lord Henry, looks at Dorian as an intriguing young man who can be influenced, and Dorian, in turn, looks as Lord Henry as a fascinating older man who should be emulated.

It’s a fun story – very atmospheric and creepy. A bit verbose at times, but that’s all in the style of the day, so it’s not too bad. The various allusions and themes within it are fun and not always what you expect. See, you’d think, being a story about a young man’s fall into a life of debauchery, we’d have a focus on sin, redemption, and damnation – and we do, to some extent, but  I found the theme of art and aesthetics to be the real focus.

See, it all hinges around Dorian (as the name of the book implies) and how he is viewed and used by other characters. Basil looks at him as a wonderful aesthetic to be captured while Lord Henry treats him as a lump of clay to be molded. These two attitudes shift Dorian from a living character to a representation of art itself.

Art is shaped by others and shapes others. In this same fashion, Lord Henry shapes Dorian into a selfish and depraved man and Dorian influences his friends and shapes them into various forms of ruin – Alan Campbell commits suicide, another friend becomes addicted to drugs and lives a half-life in a seedy opium den, and every woman Dorian touches leaves with a sullied reputation.

Art is also an entirely neutral entity – it stimulates others, but cannot be stimulated itself. Dorian captures this in his absolute naivety. He blindly emulates everything he sees in Lord Henry, seeming to be incapable of making any sort of judgement about what he is doing. Everything simply is. While he claims to be enraptured by all of life’s sensations, Dorian really drifts through life rather matter-of-factly, often projecting indifference and boredom with everything around him while he fascinates and inspires everyone around him.

It is said throughout the book that Basil’s painting of Dorian has become a visual representation of his soul and this continues the theme as Dorian as art. Art itself does not have a soul of its own, but people often see bits of their own soul within it. Dorian is able to live his life of vice without any pangs of conscience for most of the book because he has given up his soul. In the end, conscience intrudes, his soul wakes up within him in the recognition of how evil he has become. This almost instantly drives him mad and destroys him because art is not a thing that can have a soul of its own. As soon as Dorian connects with his, as art, he ceases to be.

So, intriguing stuff. 🙂 I know, I know… I am such a Lit. nerd – I do this stuff for fun. Now I have a solid basis for an interesting paper, should Dorian Gray ever be assigned in one of my English classes.

Book of the Week – “Blood Brothers” by Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts is definitely one of my top favorite writers! Blood Brothers is the first in her Sign of the Seven trilogy and possibly one of the most enthralling books I’ve read in a while. A quirky mix of charming and terrifying, this book straddles the line between campy horror and the truly chill-worthy, silly romance and steaminess.

On their shared birthday, three boys celebrate turning ten by taking a forbidden hike in the local woods. At midnight, after indulging in junk food and other pre-pubescent delights, they swear a blood oath, binding themselves as brothers for life. Their combined blood breaks an ancient seal and unleashes a demon upon their unsuspecting town. From then on, every seven years, the town goes mad – burning, looting, murders, and suicides abound for one hellish week in July. While this premise may be pretty standard for the average supernatural horror novel, Roberts spices things up with real-seeming characters and witty dialogue.

The  three boys grow into strong men that the reader can relate to.  They are loyal, brave, and fiercely protective. They are also pig-headed, rather rough around the edges at times, and prone to snapping at each other when stressed. Neither saints nor bad-boys, they stay in that realm of realism that makes them all the more likable. Readers rejoice at their successes and sympathize with their troubles.

Roberts’ greatest strength as a storyteller lies in the vividness of her writing. As I read, I could clearly see every scene that she wrote. Her ability to weave the visual details into the story while keeping the action going makes this level of description enjoyable rather than tedious. Whether it be spiders and blood raining from the ceiling or the peaceful main street on a winter morning, Robert’s skill as a wordsmith enables readers to see it as clearly as she does.

At times, Roberts strays towards the silly. This becomes charming instead of eyeroll-worthy because, in the case of romance, the characters usually comment on it, and in most other cases, it is combined with enough sarcasm that it provides a good laugh (much needed relief after some of the chilling scenes in the novel).

I thoroughly enjoyed this entire trilogy. Blood Brothers sets it off to a good start with strong visual writing, good characters, and an engrossing blend of horror, humor, and romance. Hurrah for Nora Roberts!

Blood Brothers
Copyright 2007 © by Nora Roberts

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