Atmospheric and haunting: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson [REVIEW]

we-have-alwaysWe Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
First published in 1962
Tags: Adult, Classics, Gothic, Horror

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | B&N 

Source: Purchased

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Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

First off I just have to say how much I love this particular edition of the book. The cover is beautiful and creepy, and the edges of the pages are frayed so they look old and worn. Gorgeous. My original plan with this had been to get it on my kindle, but I was powerless to resist it when I saw it in a bookstore. RIP wallet. 

Second, this is such an atmospheric book. It’s beautiful and gothic, but don’t be mistaken, this book (probably) won’t scare you, it’s not that kind of horror book. The horror is subtle and psychological, you won’t find anything supernatural here. If you go into it expecting that then you might be disappointed. It left me with a haunting feeling. 

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Kind of Doctor Who-ish: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad [REVIEW]

15790843172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad
First published in Norwegian by Cappelen Damm in September 2008
Pages: 376
Tags:
Young AdultScience FictionHorror
Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryB&N

Source: Library

Rating:  photo three stars_zpsohkkn6ww.png

It’s been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA’s unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space–and change their lives forever. Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band’s ticket to fame and fortune. Midori believes it’s her way out of her restrained life in Japan. Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the desolate surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space… no one is coming to save them.


In this chilling adventure set in the most brutal landscape known to man, highly acclaimed Norwegian novelist Johan Harstad creates a vivid and frightening world of possibilities we can only hope never come true.

I want to read more Norwegian books and I decided to start with this one, because it sounded fairly interesting, plus it has an English translation and is thus relevant on this blog. Yay. 
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I listened to this on audio and I think listening to it made me enjoy it more than if I actually read it. I feel like if I was reading it then I would have been more bored than I was during the first half of the book. 
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Because the first half of the book is a little bit slow. I don’t think they leave for the moon until the second half and there’s a lot of background information for the characters as they go about their every-day life back home. Speaking of the every-day, I found the chapter from Antoine’s ex pretty unnecessary. That’s not to say the first half isn’t interesting though, because it is. Especially the chapters from the old man in the retirement home, those were great. 

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Review: Carrie by Stephen King

Carrie by Stephen KingCarrie by Stephen King
First published by Doubleday in 1974
Pages: 253
Genres: Horror, Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository
Rating:
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Carrie knew she should not use
the terrifying power she possessed…

So this one was meant to be my Halloween read, but I ended up not finishing it until recently. Not because it wasn’t good, but because I’m lazy and I procrastinate.

Everyone most likely already know what Carrie is about, even without having ever read the book or watched any of the movies, but this review needs a short summary anyway.

Carrie White has the power of telekinesis. She’s in high school, badly bullied and completely alone. Her mother isn’t much help, a religious fantastic, probably psychotic, who shelters Carrie to the extreme. When one of the school’s most popular boys asks Carrie to prom she can’t believe it’s actually happening and for the first time in her life she’s happy and hopeful. Little does she know that someone has a horrible plan for her and that that prom will be referred to as the Black Prom for years to come.  

Finally, helpless, she said: “Do you like me?”
He said: “You’re beautiful.”
She was.

After that dramatic summary, let’s move on. I didn’t actually know much about the story of Carrie before I read it. Unlike the rest of the world I hadn’t seen any of the movie adaptations, so all I knew about it is from what I read in King’s On Writing (though I skimmed some of the stories about Carrie because I didn’t want to be spoiled). I knew about the bullying and the telekinesis and shit going down at the prom, and of course the infamous locker room scene, but that was it. That sounds like a lot but it’s not really. 

If you don’t know the locker room scene, oh boy, let me tell you. The novel starts off with that scene and it really illustrates both Carries problem with bullies and her mother’s abuse and neglect. Carrie gets her first period in the showers and thinks she’s going to die, as she has no idea what it is because her mother never told her (she’s 16 years old). The other girls notice and start to throw hygiene products at her while laughing and screaming “Plug it up!” Meanwhile Carrie cries, still thinking she’s dying. One of the girls end up with a bloody hand-print on her skirt. It’s awful and  humiliating and so effective. Damn ballsy way to open up a novel. 

Carrie is an extremely uncomfortable book to read, mostly because of Carrie’s mother Margaret, who is the real monster here. Carrie is just the victim of her “religious mania,” there’s only so much you can take before you snap. What an awful woman, she gave me major creeps. She’s abusive, both physically and mentally. She’s obsessed with “sinning” and locks Carrie inside a closet every time she “sins” (getting your period is a sin, by the way, because that means you haven’t been able to stop yourself from having dirty thoughts). Margaret calls breasts “dirtypillows.” That says something. 

I didn’t know that this book was written in an epistolary form. That was neat. It consists of parts from Carrie’s point of view, but it also contains snippets from books written by survivors of the Black Prom, interviews with various people, research papers and essays (about Carrie and telekinesis) etc. It makes the events seem real when you see things like “From The Shadow Exploded (p. 131):” and “My Name Is Susan Snell (p. 45).”

“Nothing can change [Carrie] back now from something made out of newsprint into a person. But she was, and she hurt. More than any of us probably know, she hurt. And I’m so sorry and I hope it was good for her, that prom. Until the terror began, I hope it was good and fine and wonderful and magic…”

I gave this book 4/5 stars. I thought it was great but I could have been a little bit more invested in it, so that pulls away a star. I wanted it to be a little bit scarier to, but to be fair, what’s scarier than Margaret White and the wrath of bullies? Not much. 

Carrie by Stephen King
Have you read it? What do you think? 
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Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs


MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs
Series: Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1
Published by: Quirk Books
on January 1st 2011
Pages: 352
Genres: Young Adult, Horror, Fantasy
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository
Rating:
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SUMMARY

Sixteen year old Jacob has throughout his life been told fantastical stories about the house where his grandfather grew up, a house on a remote island in Wales filled with children with special powers. One kid is invisible, another has bees coming out of his mouth, another (as seen on the cover) can levitate, etc. Jacob’s parents and his psychologist try to convince him his grandfather’s tales are just make-belief, but Jacob needs to know. He leaves with his father to go to Wales to uncover the mystery. Does the house exist? Did the children? Who is Miss Peregrine?

I’m going to start off this review saying that this book really disappointed me. It didn’t do what it promised. I’m very very reluctantly placing it in the “horror” genre because it read more like a much less compelling Gone by Michael Grant with a few pictures thrown in there because they look cool. 

I bought this book back in 2012 because of the cover and the title, because both things promised me horror with creepy children. Creepy children are the best. They aren’t creepy. At all. That wouldn’t even have been a problem if the book hadn’t lied to me and pretended they were. Like I said I bought this in 2012 but I didn’t read it until this summer because by then I’d heard some things about how not scary it is. I was still disappointed even with that in mind because the whole format of the book just didn’t work. Don’t judge a book by its cover, kids.

The book consists of a mix of both text and pictures, like the one you see on the cover. The pictures are supposed to accompany the story, but I don’t think they were very seamlessly woven in at all. Sometimes the introduction of a picture felt forced. I could tell, even without consulting google first, that the author had intended this to just be a collection of some awesome pictures he’d collected but then was told he should write a story around them instead. I could tell. I wasn’t convinced at all.

The characters were all quite flat. I can’t really say much about them because they weren’t anything special. They all seemed to talk in the same voice too no matter if they were 5 of 18 years old.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography,Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
– Goodreads

Spine-tingling? No. No no nooo. Haunting vintage photographs? Sure. Delight adults and teens? Some maybe, but the entire time I read this I just felt like it comes across a lot younger than young adult. I’d say I would have enjoyed it when I was around 11-12 years old and read a lot of Goosebumps.

I quite liked the story up until a bit past the point where Jacob got to the house on the island. Up until then the atmosphere was quite eerie and mysterious (I also liked the gloomy Wales setting), but that all disappeared pretty quickly and it became a bit of a chore to finish. 

The only reason I want to read Hollow City is to figure out what happened to one of the characters and if she will be all right. Though I don’t really feel like trudging through the entire book just for that, so I don’t know. I’ll probably pass.

All in all this book has a great concept that unfortunately didn’t work. The pictures are great, some are even really creepy, but it all falls flat when you compare it to the actual story written around them.

I’m looking forward to the movie adaptation though (yasss Tim Burton), maybe it’ll be better.

I’m so sad because I really wanted this book to be good. Have you read it, what did you think? I know I’m not alone in having this opinion but a lot of people rave about it too. Do you know any books about actual spooky children?

Review: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Published by: Quirk Books
on September 23rd 2014
Pages: 248
Genres: Adult, HorrorParanormal
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository
Rating:
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No, that is not an IKEA catalog. OR IS IT? 

Horrorstör is a horror novel that takes place in a knock-off IKEA called Orsk. Every morning, the workers at Orsk notice that someone has been in the store, breaking things, but nothing shows up on the security cameras. Three employees volunteer to stay the night and figure out what’s going on. Naturally that was a bad idea. 

A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör comes packaged in the form of a glossy mail order catalog, complete with product illustrations, a home delivery order form, and a map of Orsk’s labyrinthine showroom.
– Goodreads

I read this one in early June so it’s not 100% fresh in my mind but I do have some things to say about it.

This is a fun one. It’s a very quick read and every new chapter starts with an illustration of a piece of Orsk furniture. The illustrations get gradually more and more sinister as the book progresses, starting with regular innocent chairs and ending up with torture devices. 

I enjoyed the setting a lot, there’s just something inherently creepy about a store or a mall after closing time. That’s what made me buy this book, it’s an awesome concept. A horror story set in IKEA. Hell yes. Just that large, empty space… Or is it empty? 

I wanted it to be even scarier than what it was though. I wanted MORE COWBELL GHOSTS. That said, Horrorstör is very much creepy and unsettling, and maybe even scary to some people depending on what scares you and what you’re used to. One scene in particular really freaked me out, it had to do with a woman inside a wall. Shudder. I definitely didn’t see what happened coming, there was one major WTF moment (or maybe several WTF moments) that was just so bizarre I don’t even know what to say about it. It’s just gotta be experienced. 

If you speak a Scandinavian language this book will be very amusing to you at times because the furniture will have names such as “Kjërring” (as seen on the cover), “Asle”, and “Drittsëkk”. I died. (The words mean bitch/old lady, ass, and bastard/dirtbag respectively). This should also tell you that this book is not just a horror story, it’s meant to be humorous too, and it did bring a few chuckles out of me. If you’ve ever worked retail I think you’ll find it amusing too. 

The Nostalgic Book Review Tag

Jenna @ Reading With Jenna put an “and YOU” at the end of her tag list, so I jumped on that and considered myself tagged because this is a great idea for a tag and it’s sorely needed.

In this tag you review a book from memory (no googling allowed!) that you read 3 or more years ago. Separate your review into three sections: synopsis, thoughts, and epilogue. Check Read, Think, Ponders guidelines for more info on what to put in each one. As they say, sometimes you don’t remember the details about what made the book so good, but you remember the feeling it gave you and that’s the most important thing.

Here are the rules:

  • Please link back to Read Think Ponders post, so that the original rules are always accessible to anyone who is curious and wants to participate!
  • Remember: do not look up your book when writing its Summary and Thoughts.
  • Acknowledge the person who tagged you in your post.
  • Tag your friends and fellow bloggers – it’s up to you how many!

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Published by Ordfront Förlag AB
on December 28th 2004 (Swedish)
Published by Quercus
on August 2nd 2007 (English)
Pages: 513
Genres: Adult, Horror, Mystery, Paranormal
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository 

THE SUMMARY

When did I read this… I don’t even know. 2007? 2008? No clue. It’s a long time ago. I read it while on a family vacation because my mom had just finished reading it and she thought I’d like it.

The book is originally written in Swedish, so I read it in Norwegian. The languages are very, very similar so I always prefer reading Swedish or Danish books in Norwegian rather than picking up some English translation. It’s been since made into a movie, one Swedish and one American remake because America needs to remake everything always. I believe the remake is called Let Me In.

So, what is this book about. Well, let’s see what I can remember. The story is set in the 80s in Stockholm, and is about a young boy who’s bullied at school (Oscar???) who meets a strange and creepy 12 year old girl called Eli. Eli lives with a creepy middle-aged pedophile in their strange bolted up apartment next to Oscar’s. They meet outside and I think it’s cold but she’s not wearing many clothes, but I could be wrong. And she’s never seen a rubik’s cube before and is very intrigued by Oscar’s but to Oscar’s disappointment she solves it on her first try. They bond and become friends (and something slightly more than friends, but in a sweet and childlike way), speaking to each other with morse code tapped against their bedroom walls. It’s very cute. Why is Eli so damn weird? She’s a vampire. The raw and bloody kind, not the sparkly kind.

What happens when a vampire comes inside without being invited is so so creepy, especially in the movie adaption where you see it happening. Yikes. It’s gross and brilliant. 

The POV changes, and there’s also some POV parts from one of the alcoholics that frequent this bar. And a crazy cat lady???? I seem to remember a crazy cat lady. But it could have been a crazy cat man.

THE THOUGHTS

This is a gritty vampire novel that’s not afraid of being disturbing or taboo. It’s a very realistic novel even if it’s got vampires in it, I think that’s one of my favorite things about it. And it’s so, so dark. And there’s a plot twist at the end (or, rather, character twist) that I didn’t see coming and that only made me love this book even more even if the twist is actually quite horrifying.

I really loved this book when I read it and I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads when I added it in 2011.It creeped me out, it really is very disturbing, and I was probably left with a WTF feeling after reading it. I don’t know if I can say that it “changed me” in any way, but it definitely made me appreciate vampires in their “true form” instead of the Twilight kind.

I don’t know what I’d think about it if I read it again, I’ve wanted to try it but I don’t know if I’ll have the time. I can’t guarantee I’d give it 5 stars again but I don’t think I’d dislike it. I’d definitely still find it disturbing, it’s supposed to be disturbing. It deals with issues like pedophilia and murder and anyone should be creeped out by that. But it’s also got a beautiful friendship in it and as far as I can remember, Lindqvist writes really really well.

THE EPILOGUE

This is the Goodreads summary:

It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night….

Book Depository says it is an “unique and brilliant fusion of social novel and vampire legend, a deeply moving fable about rejection, friendship and loyalty.” This is true. The fusion of a social novel and a vampire legend was, like I said, one of my favorite aspects of it.

I can’t believe I actually forgot the whole starting point of the book, namely the murdered teenage boy they found strung upside down in a tree.

And it’s Oskar with a K, of course. This is Scandinavia.

I did remember the rubik’s cube though. I remember quite a lot of scenes but I don’t know if I should mention them, they might be too spoilery.

This didn’t tell me much about the alcoholics or the crazy cat lady/man so onto wikipedia I go. Oh right, Lacke and Jocke! Ooooh, and Virginia who gets attacked by Eli, I can’t believe I forgot this subplot. I couldn’t find anything about the cats but I remember a lot of cats, they might have been Virginia’s. Yes, that makes sense now when I think about it.

Even if you’re not interested in the book might you might want to check out the movie(s):
Swedish trailer (w/ English subs)
American remake trailer 

This was a lot of fun, I might do this again with another book at a later time. Thanks for a great tag! 😀 Because I don’t know that many people here yet I tag everyone who wants to do it!

Review: Tabatha by Neil Gibson

Tabatha by Neil Gibson
Published by: TPub
Expected publication: November 3rd 2015
Pages: 141
Genres: Graphic Novel, Horror, Sci-Fi
Buy: Amazon
Rating:
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READ A FREE SAMPLE HERE.

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I received a free eARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads synopsis

Luke works as a mailman in Los Angeles and moonlights as a thief – the empty houses on his postal route are rich, easy pickings for him and his friends. Everything goes to plan until one house turns out to not quite be so empty. The situation spirals out of control, leaving the happy go lucky thieves battling for their lives. And all because of Tabatha.

I don’t read graphic novels often, but I’ve always wanted to get into the habit. I read a lot of comics as a kid though and I had a manga phase that lasted a couple of years. I figured this sounded pretty cool and since it is a “read now” book on Netgalley I decided to go for it. 

The art is pretty awesome and colorful, I liked the look of it. I would have liked it to be a touch scarier at times, but that’s all right. I thought the villain looked quite stereotypical, and I don’t even read that many comic books or graphic novels but I know I’ve seen villains like that before. But for all I know it’s an intentional reference/homage so I can’t say anything about that. 

The story itself is pretty dark and contains a bit of gore. I like that, but some don’t, so I’m just putting it out there. But the genre is horror, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s dark. 

I had no idea what this would be about except from what’s in the synopsis, and that’s how I prefer it. I like being surprised (as long as it’s a good surprise). I didn’t think Tabitha would be what she was, I thought that was really interesting. I liked that we got to see the villain’s backstory so we could gradually see him losing it. I think most people will see the ending coming, but it was still pretty creepy. I’d read a continuation to find out what happens. 

I also liked the relationship between the two brothers, I thought that was sweet. Oh, and the older brother’s music taste (Backstreet Boys and Carly Rae Jepsen) made me laugh. Loved that little detail. 

Something prevented me from being in love with it though, I’m not quite sure what, but I did enjoy it. Maybe I’d have liked there to be a bit more to the characters.