31 Days of CeeCee-o-Ween: Stephen King’s ‘IT’

We did it! CeeCee and I tackled the Mt. Everest of horror stories! It was a little touch and go there, but we climbed that dark mountain and made it out unscathed…well, for the most part. Did this massive monolith give me the willies? Yes. Did Stephen King take this story to dark places where no other author would dare venture? Absolutely. Did it need a ton of editing? OMG YES! Here’s my short assessment for a VERY long book.

Synapsis: If you haven’t already seen the movies (which I doubt!) here’s the gist. A bunch of misfit kids are terrorized by a demonic force in a clown getup. The force possesses the entire town in various way, yet the gang of kiddos (known as the “Losers Club”) are mostly immune to its powers. Only they can stop Pennywise the Dancing Clown with sheer bravery and goodness!

What worked: I’ll start off  by saying that the new movie is the perfect blend of camp and cheese, yet it doesn’t hold a candle to this massive tome. I mean, how could it? Stephen King took his sweet time with every character, allowing me to almost become one with all the kiddos. In horror stories, this is crucial because the fear isn’t real unless you can truly get inside the characters’ minds. And trust me, there are some truly frightening scenes involving oodles of monsters and ghoulies. Just to name a few, we’ve got Frankenstein’s monster, a man-eating bird, a pervy homeless leper — even an animated Paul Bunyan statue. Mister King really pulled out all the stops on this one!

Perhaps the most frightening villains were the ones without fangs and fur. The ones who could’ve intervened but chose to cower inside their dingy little houses. And then there’s the bullies—holy cow! When the kiddos weren’t being chased by psychopaths with switchblades, they were verbally or physically assaulted by their parents. It’s pretty sad when your only refuge is a creepy place in the woods near the sewage treatment plant. And I thought junior high was rough. Wow.

But I digress…were these living, breathing monsters truly evil? Or was a sinister force pupeteering their every move? You see, it’s not just about a creepy ass clown going gangbusters on the local kids. It’s about the evil that lurks within all of us. Imagine a world in which our inner demons overshadowed our goodness.  A world orchestrated by a nefarious entity that feeds off of weaknesses. Without Pennywise’s influence, would the schoolyard bullies resort to cold-blooded murder and animal torture?  Would the parents turn into belligerent tyrants? Would the entire town succumb to the bystander effect? Guess you’ll have to read the book to figure it out!

What didn’t work: This book is LONG! And sadly, in many parts, it felt tedious. Did we really need an hour-long character sketch of Stan’s wife? Considering that she had nothing to do with the story, probably not. In fact, all the subplots  involving the spouses seemed like a lot of filler to me. Also, I could’ve done without that chapter involving a periphery character and animal torture. I want a nightmare-inducing horror story, but not in that way.

And then there’s the super taboo ending that will forever haunt my dreams, again, not in a good way. A friend of mine warned me about this, but I had no idea it would be so disturbing! It’s hard to bemoan my disappointment without giving away spoilers, but I will say that Mister King must’ve been on some bad 80s cocaine to write such an outrageous scene involving 11-year-olds.

Since I’ve read his memoir On Writing (amazing book, by the way), I know he was in a dark place back then, so I’ll just chalk this up to a bad trip and leave it at that.

Side note: I “read” all 48 hours of this via audiobook, which I highly recommend! Stephen King fans will appreciate that the narrator, Stephen Weber,  had a cameo in the new movie (Bill and Georgie’s absentee dad) and he also starred in the TV remake of The Shining. There’s a fun trivia fact to know and share!

The 31 Days of CeeCee-O-Ween: Lost Among the Living


Egads! Only a few days left ’til All Hallows Eve and CeeCee still has oodles of scary stories to review–not to mention a boatload of costumes to wear–before the big day! While reading this book, I was compelled to pick up this fabulous vampiress bust (now known as Drucilla) because she looks just like the woman on the cover.  It’s like she called to me….ooooh spooky!  Either way, here’s the scoop on my latest literary conquest.


Synapsis:
Grieving war widow Jo Manders takes on a job as a paid companion at a spooky ol’ manor surrounded by haunted woods, a rabid dog and a ghostly girl who leaves a snail trail of leaves in the drafty hallways. Soon Jo finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery and everyone’s a suspect—even her dead husband! But of course, his body was never found…dum dum duuuuuum!

What worked: When I’m in the mood for a deliciously atmospheric gothic thriller/romance, Simone St. James always delivers. However, I must warn you that this is what I call “horror light,” so you’re not going to have to worry about sleeping with the lights on. I just really enjoyed the mystique of the haunted manor house that frightens the provincial townsfolk. And then there’s the threat of a man-eating ghost dog roaming the haunted woods. Such fun!

What didn’t work: One of my biggest literary pet peeves is the dreaded info dump. Sadly the story took a turn for the worst when I got hit with a barrage of information after the big plot twist. I had to hit the rewind button on my audiobook numerous times to catch it all. And to be honest, I was not all that surprised by the bombshell, which sadly watered down all the spooky ghostly goodness. I won’t reveal any spoilers but I will say that spy games aren’t my thing. Also, I should add that the main character seems to be cut from the same mold as all the other mopey women in St. James’ books. Might be time for her to mix things up in the next one.

Overall: Of all of St. James’ works, this one isn’t her best. We were off to a good start with the creepy Wych Elm House and the creepy nocturnal encounters with the desperate ghost girl. But after the focus shifted to wartime conspiracies, I lost interest. All things considered, this author is still in the same league as Wendy Webb and Barbara Michaels, two of the best gothic romance writers in the biz!

 

31 Days of CeeCee-o-Ween: Head Full of Ghosts on Sale for $1.99!

Horror fans, eat your cold, black hearts out! The scariest book I’ve ever read (sorry, Stephen King and Joe Hill) is on sale for two buckeroos! I PROMISE YOU, this book will make those tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention! So get on the Amazon or the Nook Shop and download this book today!

Synopsis: Two sisters battle sinister forces in a slow-burning tale of demonic possession. It’s up to the readers’ to determine whether or not this is Satan’s work or a toxic concoction of teenage hormones and schizophrenia. Essentially Turn of the Screw meets The Exorcist.

Why it gave me the creeps: There is nothing more unsettling than the thought of living under the same roof with someone who may or may not be possessed by demonic forces. However, I did have some doubts about my sister from time to time. Kidding! Well…sort of. Head Full of Ghosts got under my skin because it seemed so real. I could totally relate to the dysfunctional, blue-collar household because I lived in one. I could especially connect with the two bickering sisters. I remember scaring my poor sister silly with my “demon voice” at night when we were forced to share the same room. To be honest, I even scared myself! Could you imagine the horror of hearing that voice, knowing that your sister really could be possessed by the devil?

Jeepers!! I’m giving myself the willies just thinking about that book…and how it all came to a head in the end. Don’t worry! I won’t tell you what happens, but I will say that it’s the scariest—and most satisfying—ending. The genius of Tremblay’s storytelling is that he doesn’t spell it out for you. It’s up to the reader to pick up on the subtle clues and draw their own conclusion at the end. Like Mulder, I want to believe. Judging by the little hints—and one big nudge at the end—I’m pretty sure Tremplay gave me what I wanted.

Overall: A dark and twisted masterpiece pulled off by a relatively unknown writer. When it comes to the uncanny, Paul Tremblay is the master!

31 Days of CeeCee-O-Ween: Friday the 13th Special

Why is CeeCee in a banana split costume, you ask? Well she’s gone bananas over our newest literary acquisitions! Somebody let me loose in BookPeople’s super secret half-off section and I ended up with a stack of spine-tingling tales of horror, mischief, murder and mythological gods of death destruction!

Here is our latest book haul! In the wise words of R.L. Stine, readers beware, you’re in for a scare!

Which one will I read first? My Best Friend’s Exorcism, of course! I mean, look at that cover! It evokes memories of my most favorite campy 80s horror movies. Here’s the synapsis:

A heartwarming story of friendship and demonic possession. The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act…different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby. Abby’s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries–and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil? Like an unholy hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist, My Best Friend’s Exorcism blends teen angst, adolescent drama, unspeakable horrors, and a mix of ’80s pop songs into a pulse-pounding supernatural thriller.

If I wasn’t going to ACL, I would spend my entire Friday the 13th consumed with this book!

 

The 31 Days of CeeCee-o-Ween: Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead

Shiver me timbers! CeeCee just sunk her alligator teeth into this swashbuckling “alternative history” story filled with vigilante pirates, opulent balls, murder and mayhem!

Synapsis: A feisty independent young woman, Mira, must partake in the Glittering Court shenanigans so she can marry into wealth and rescue her brother from a life of indentured servitude. She, along with all the other glittering girls, must be auctioned off to the highest bidders to pay off their contract and ultimately live an unfulfilling, soulless existence in the lap of luxury. But lucky for us, Mira has other plans that involve sneaking off in the middle of the night and gallivanting with the dregs of society!

What worked: The Glittering Court concept is rather disturbing, yet intriguing nonetheless. Imagine living in an oppressed society, where your only chance of survival is to be married off to an aristocratic stranger. With my luck, I’d end up with an old fat man with halitosis.

But I digress…I enjoyed accompanying Mira on her many midnight escapades in the seedy underbelly of Cape Triumph. Through the author’s descriptions of the bustling port city, I felt like I was right there with Mira as she and her gang of spies carried out their covert missions. And, of course, there’s some fun romantic chemistry with her fellow spy, which soon shapes into a love triangle with a rather mischievous pirate. Ahoy matey!

What didn’t work: At the risk of sounding like a big dummy, I honestly don’t understand the reasons behind the spying and subterfuge. Amidst the world-building, the Glittering Court drama and Mira’s tragic backstory, I somehow got lost. Filled to the max with plot threads weaving in and out of Mira’s double life—not to mention her two friends’ unfolding storylines, the book is rather convoluted and disjointed.  I’d go back and read some parts again, but I have 50 million books on my TBR pile, so that’s out of the question!

Overall: This is a fun, action-packed story for fans of steampunk or dystopia. I’m not really into fantasy worlds or action adventure, but I might give this series another shot since I need to know if Adlaide and Tamsin (Mira’s besties) will ever get out of the Glittering Court unscathed!

31 Days of CeeCee-O-Ween: And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich


Synapsis:
Two sisters, Silla and Nori, seek refuge in their creepy aunt’s dilapidated manor deep in the dark, dark woods. What begins as a fun family reunion soon turns into a world of nightmares. Evil lurks within the woods and the encroaching trees seem to have a mind of their own.

What worked: If you’re looking for a creepy, atmospheric book, this is it! We’ve got a cursed English mansion, enchanted woods, spooky dolls and an evil entity hiding within the dark nooks and crannies. Of al the creeptastic elements in this book,  I was most unsettled by the aunt’s rapid decent into madness.  Could you imagine being trapped in a house with a crazy old lady pacing nonstop and speaking gibberish in the upstairs bedroom? Jeepers creepers!

Pretty soon, the line between reality and crazy town gets blurred when Silla starts questioning her own sanity.  Are the trees slowly but surely smothering the house that seems to be sinking into the ground? Is a “Slender Man” lookalike really stalking her and Nori? And what’s with the beautiful boy who seems to randomly appear out of thin air?  Does he really want to nourish them with red apples, or does he have other plans in mind?

Pretty soon, I was starting to feel like I, too, was slipping into a starvation-induced hypoglycemic fog.  My mind was spinning with questions throughout the girls’ dark and twisted journey into the unknown. Summed up in a word, this book is truly unsettling.

What didn’t work: The mute little sister was terribly annoying. Like all creepy little kids in horror movies, she quickly befriends the evil entity that’s vying for her soul. What’s wrong with these kids? Can’t they see that these fiends are pure evil!?! This “I see dead people” horror movie cliché is getting so old. By the mid-point of the book, I was ready for Mister Stickman to whisk her away so Silla could finally be free of the albatross around her neck. Yet, I know the moral of the story is sisterly love, so I guess I’m missing the whole point. What can I say? I’m heartless.

Overall: This is the perfect Halloween read for YA readers who are looking for a good spooky story without the standard monster mash tropes and obligatory love triangles.

 

Thirty-One Days of CeeCee-O-Ween: The Mist in the Mirror


Synapsis:
A brooding Englishman spends his days skulking inside a haunted estate on a quest to understand his enigmatic childhood hero. Like a silent movie, readers must endure his inner monologue as he deciphers who—or what—is behind the bumps in the night.

What didn’t work: The story was drowning in the pages upon pages of setting details. When James Mommouth walks into a room, we get flooded with every painstaking detail – from the wallpaper patterns to the specks of dust on the bookshelf. Typically with audiobooks, I tend to appreciate these long, meandering riffs because I don’t miss out on anything important when my mind wanders. But geez – this lady takes mood and setting to a whole new level of overindulgence. After the first couple chapters I was already tired of this stuffy man’s inner monologue as he crept around dark rooms. I really didn’t care for this dude, especially when he likened himself to a “scared silly woman” in one of his many eventless eerie interludes. Needless to say, this is my first and last Susan Hill book. For gothic horror, I’ll turn to Barbara Michaels or Wendy Webb.

What worked: If your mind tends to wander while listening to audiobooks, this one’s for you. Trust me—you can space out for a half hour and not even miss a beat! Also, the dramatic prose is most impressive and I thruoughouly enjoyed the British narrator’s posh accent. Bloody brilliant—I dare say, good man!

Overall: I think you’d have to be a die-hard fan of Susan Hill to appreciate this book. I, for one, need more action and bloodshed!