The Horror! Two Unsettling Reads for a Hot Summer’s Night

23019294I’m proud to say that I got my greedy paws on this book before it hit the shelves! This is the first time I ever tracked down the author to ask beg for an advance copy. You see, his most recent book Head Full of Ghosts was the scariest thing I’ve ever read. That’s saying a lot because I devour all things horror. Sorry, Stephen King, but this book even trumps The Shining and Salem’s Lot. I never thought there would come a day when I would say such a blasphemous thing!

This is not hyperbole. Even The King said it himself:
“A Head Full of Ghosts scared the living hell out of me, and I’m pretty hard to scare.” (Stephen King)

So you get the picture, right? I’m a Paul Tremblay fan girl. I’ll get to Disappearance at Devil’s Rock in a moment, but let me just give you some backgrounder on Head Full of Ghosts. That book scared the I-don’t-know-what out of me! It’s like the author knows that I’m a jaded horror movie/book junkie. He knew just how to hit that sweet spot—that part of me that is scared to pieces of the unknown, the uncanny, the dark forces that drift between this world and the great beyond.

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 wit 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 27064358end. 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 got exactly what I wanted.

Now let’s get to Devil’s Rock, shall we? This book follows on the heels of THE SCARIEST BOOK EVER so I lowered the bar just a tad. That proved to be unnecessary. Though it’s an entirely different story, the same dark undercurrents course through the chapters, drawing questions about the possibility of demonic possession vs. mental illness. I have my own theory about what happened when Tommy met his fate at Devil’s Rock. I’m sure the Scullys of the world will draw their own rational conclusions. However, thanks to the final teaser in the very last chapter, I’m willing to bet my entire collection of Stephen King books that evil forces were at work.

It’s really hard to review this book without revealing any spoilers, but I will say that it is an addictive read that’s riddled with elements of the uncanny. I’ve always been creeped out by the idea of the doppelgänger. How creepy would it be to see an exact replica of yourself running around at night? Tremblay took this concept to a very dark place and I’m getting the pricklies just thinking about it!

Oh how I wish I could tell you more about the sequence of events, which are gradually unveiled through the pages of Tommy’s journal. What really happened the night he disappeared? Why does it seem that his friends are all hiding a deep-dark secret? Who or what is lurking outside in the shadows and leaving pages of Tommy’s diary on the living room floor? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

I’ll stop right here before I give anything away. Just please read this book and share your thoughts with me. I would love to compare theories! I’m still pondering the meaning behind the phrase, “The Devil’s in the Coincidence,” and whether or not life is just one big connect-the-dots puzzle.

In the meantime, I’m going to pick up a light and fluffy cozy mystery to balance things out a bit. Then I’ll embark on a book that reviewers have been comparing to Tremblay’s work: House of Leaves.

Gizzy’s Halloween Treat!

gizzy_dracula (2)Happy Halloween, fellow bookworms! In honor of my most favorite holiday, I bring you a roundup of incredibly spooky reads for a blustery, or in my case muggy, Halloween night!

Last October I rounded up a handful of nostalgic Halloween reads, but this year, I’m much more in the mood for balls-to-the-wall frightening tales of blood-sucking fiends, demons and nightly visitors from the great beyond. Here are a few deliciously creepy books that are sure to keep you glued to the page way past the midnight hour.  Pleasant nightmares…and pay no attention to the scratching on the window. I’m sure it’s just the wind….

The Shining by Stephen King
11588From Goodreads: Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

 Ghost Story by Peter Straub 51Y3oJ8duSLFrom Goodreads: For four aging men in the terror-stricken town of Milburn, New York, an act inadvertently carried out in their youth has come back to haunt them. Now they are about to learn what happens to those who believe they can bury the past — and get away with murder. Peter Straub’s classic bestseller is a work of “superb horror” (The Washington Post Book World) that, like any good ghost story, stands the test of time — and conjures our darkest fears and nightmares.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
153025From Goodreads: Aging death-metal rock legend Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals…a used hangman’s noose…a snuff film. But nothing he possesses is as unique or as dreadful as his latest purchase off the Internet: a one-of-a-kind curiosity that arrives at his door in a black heart-shaped box…a musty dead man’s suit still inhabited by the spirit of its late owner. And now everywhere Judas Coyne goes, the old man is there—watching, waiting, dangling a razor blade on a chain from his bony hand.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
179780From Goodreads: Four decades after it first shook the nation, then the world, William Peter Blatty’s thrilling masterwork of faith and demonic possession returns in an even more powerful form. Raw and profane, shocking and blood-chilling, it remains a modern parable of good and evil and perhaps the most terrifying novel ever written.

The Right Hand of Evil by John Saul
6573From Goodreads: When the Conways move into their ancestral home in Louisiana after the death of an estranged aunt, it is with the promise of a new beginning. But the house has a life of its own. Abandoned for the last forty years, surrounded by thick trees and a stifling sense of melancholy, the sprawling Victorian house seems to swallow up the sunlight. Deep within the cold cellar and etched into the very walls is a long, dark history of the Conway name—a grim bloodline poisoned by suicide, strange disappearances, voodoo rituals, and rumors of murder. But the family knows nothing of the soul-shattering secrets that snake through generations of their past. They do not know that terror awaits them. For with each generation of the Conways comes a hellish day of reckoning. . . .

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
293101From Goodreads: In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their new home on suburban Long Island. George and Kathleen Lutz knew that one year earlier, Ronald DeFeo had murdered his parents, brothers, and sisters in the house, but the property – complete with boathouse and swimming pool – and the price had been too good to pass up. Twenty-eight days later, the entire Lutz family fled in terror…

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
11279From Goodreads: In the summer of 1960 in Elm Haven, Illinois, five 12-year-old boys forge the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. An ancient, sinister evil lurks in the dark, and when a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the deepest night, the people know it marks the beginning of terror. Now Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a fraternal war of blood against an arcane abomination.

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
5413From Goodreads: Something strange is going on in Jerusalem’s Lot … but no one dares to talk about it. By day, ‘Salem’s Lot is a typical modest New England town; but when the sun goes down, evil roams the earth. The devilishly sweet insistent laughter of a child can be heard echoing through the fields, and the presence of silent looming spirits can be felt lurking right outside your window. Stephen King brings his gruesome imagination to life in this tale of spine tingling horror.

What’s your favorite scary story? Post a comment and tell me all the gory details!

An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James

15808471There’s nothing I’d rather do on a cold wintery night than to curl up with an atmospheric Gothic ghost story. So you can imagine my excitement when a rep from Penguin offered me a copy of this dark and tragic ghost tale set in post-WWI England. Although I’m not familiar with this author, I had a hunch that she would earn a spot right next to Barbara Michaels in my dirty dozen of top Gothic mystery writers! 

Set in the Roaring 20s, the story revolves around Jillian Leigh, a headstrong Oxford student who gets thrust into the middle of a mystery after her uncle Toby’s tragic death. Leaving at the beginning of the term is downright unthinkable, but Jillian has no other option but to drop everything to straighten out his affairs. 

You see, Toby wasn’t really much of a family favorite, probably because of his rather unorthodox profession. Despite his brother’s plea to do something more socially acceptable, like becoming a banker, Toby spent his waking hours tracking ghosts. And for some inexplicable reason, he was drawn to the sleepy seaside village of Rothewell. 

Now here’s where the story gets really good! As Jillian settles in for her first night alone in her dead uncle’s lonely old house, strange things start to happen outside in the dark thicket of woods. Inexplicable noises keep her awake at night…as if something or someone is beckoning her to walk outside along the cliffs where her uncle plummeted to his death. 

It gets even creepier when she starts snooping through Toby’s ghost-hunting tools and finds his journal of haunted happenings. As she starts asking the town locals about Rothewell’s ghost lore, she comes up with more questions than answers. Is the town haunted by the ghost of an angry smuggler named “Walking John”? Or are the locals just trying to keep people out of Blood Moon Bay for other reasons? Who – or what – is to blame for Toby’s staged suicide? And why was Toby so enraptured by a woman named Elizabeth? 

With some help from a sexy Scotland Yard investigator and a scrappy orange cat, Jillian searches for clues and digs up some dark secrets about the strangely enchanting town. 

I’ll leave it at that to save you from any spoilers. I will say that this book is kick ass – and if you’re a fan of supernatural historical mysteries, this one’s a surefire winner! The scorching romantic tension, the complex characters, the plot twists – everything about it is spot on. 

The biggest selling point, however, is the setting. This author has a talent for transporting a reader into England’s lush and misty coast – the perfect setting for a chilling ghost tale. As I lost myself in her lyrical descriptions, I could practically smell the sea salt and hear the waves crashing against the jagged cliffs. 

This isn’t just a tale of ghosts and mystery; it’s also a journey of self-discovery. As Jillian delves into the legends and lore of Rothewell, she also stumbles upon some life-altering family secrets. I loved watching her grow from a self-conscious, sheltered bookworm into a fearless crime-solving sleuth. I’m really hoping I’ll get to see more of her in the future. There’s plenty of opportunity for a sequel, so fingers crossed!