Wednesday 31 October 2012

Me on Halloween


-Why do you read scary things?
I love the thrill of being scared. Good horror will make me feel as though I'm being followed or chased or hunted or watched or something else. And while I'm reading, I'll be loving it. And when I finish it, I'll step out of the fantasy world and be glad for my (relatively) stalker-killer free life. Or I'll still be scared, jumping at every creek of the house as it settles. Either's fine. Both is good.

-What flavour of scary do you like reading about?I like things to be on the line between really suspenseful and developing fast enough to get things done. This normally comes in ghost stories and other kinds of hauntings. I like reading other things like vampires and serial killers, but whether I find it scary is dependant on the story.

-Out of everything in the world, what do you find scary? The news. Oppression. Ignorance of really major issues. Women's rights, lack of in certain places. Religious extremists who use their religion as an excuse to do some really screwed up things. Sure, I'll get creeped and paranoid from fiction and shadows, but the real world is, in my opinion, where the real monsters live.

-If you could insert yourself into any horror novel, which would it be, who would you be, and why?
I'd like to see how I'd get on in a haunted circus, dark carnival type thing, or in a mental asylum. I believe Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes satisfies the carnival side of things, and I'm sure there's a few asylum based horror things around, but I can't think of any off the top of my head. In either situation, I think I'd probably end up dead pretty early on though.

-Classic (pre-1970s) or modern horror-which do you prefer and why?
Classic. It plays more on your mind and makes you think,  relying less on gratuitous gore.

-What's the scariest thing you've read to this day?
A bit scary, but mainly disturbing, the Unwinding scene in Unwind. It was written in such a way that you feel as though you're getting unwound with the character. It really messed with my head for a few days.

-What books scared you most as a child?
Anything involving a skeleton, the Funnybones series excluded. When I was about five, we randomly came across a huge one in Blackwells, an Oxford bookstore, and the skull really terrified me. I stopped disliking them about age 9.

-What do you do to celebrate Halloween?
Seeing as my birthday is the day after, I'm normally hyping up for that. In the evening, I try and hunt out a scary book, or I'll spend the night on the internet. F yeah nightmares tumblr is a really good way to spend a Halloween night.

-Any fun Halloween stories you have to tell us?
Yes! For my thirteenth birthday two years ago, my dad made me some cakes from Lily Vanilli's A Zombie ate my Cupcake. A picture should be around. They were really good (the sugar glass was a pain though) and everything was amazing. The real fun came that night, when we finished off my birthday party with a round of Trick or Treating. And we went round to Ju's house. And we knocked on the door. And we got no response. And so we rang her.
"It's Lottie. And Su. And Katy. And Nina."
"Oh! Having fun at your party?"
"We're outside your house."
"Oh my god!"

-Any other spooky books you want to share? should know my love for Hollow Pike and Ring and such...not really, no.

My book club on Halloween....

You know that interview our some people have been answering throughout the month? I kind of forced my book club to do it too...
Everyone here is either twelve, thirteen or fourteen, aside from Harris who is our generally awesome librarian who supplies us with sweets.

-Why do/don't you read scary things?
Laura :Scary books are pointless.
Starcrux: Because I enjoy scary things.
IfOnlyFredWeasleyHadLived: I don't really. I like feeling safe when everything is over.
ILoveDogs: I don't-they scare me.
Sarah: I read "scary" things but they're not very scary, so I mainly read them for the plot.

-What flavour of scary do you like reading about?
IOFWHL: Murder mysteries are my limit.
Katy: I love urban legends and cryptids.
TheFreeElf: Whatever people recommend.

-Out of everything in the world, what do you find scary?
TheFreeElf: Being trapped.
Starcrux: Wasps!

-If you could insert yourself into any horror novel, which would it
be, who would you be, and why?
Katy: I would be an innocent bystander because it is a cool phrase.
ILoveDogs: I wouldn't.
Mimz: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I could kick Bella's arse and take the Cullen's money.

-Classic (pre-1970s) or modern horror-which do you prefer and why?
Katy: Modern day because it's funny.
Harris:Pre-70s-more suspense, not always graphic descriptions-I prefer my imagination to scare me.

-What's the scariest thing you've read to this day?
Katy: I've not read anything scary.
ILoveDogs: Zombies.
Mimz: Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses.
Starcrux: The Enemy by Charlie Higson.

-What books scared you most as a child?
Harris: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl because of the insects!
Sarah: When I was younger I was really scared of Voldemort. Now, it's Weeping Angels!

-What do you do to celebrate Halloween?
TheFreeElf: Sleep. Eat chocolate. Basically the same as I do every day!
IOFWHL: Give out sweets.
Katy: I raid the cupboard for sweets.

-Any fun Halloween stories you have to tell us?
[Edit: None of them have one! Kind of disappointed in them because three of my book club shared in the fun of what you'll be told about for my thing tomorrow...oh well.]

-Any other spooky books you want to share?
TheFreeElf: I read mostly sad depressing books, not scary books.
Sarah: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake.

Further discussion threw up Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Henry James' Turn of the Screw, Eggy Ally/Edgar Allan Poe, The Signalman and Dickens in general, The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler, Daphne de Maurier and The Birds, Unwind by Neal Schuesterman and last but not least, Misery by Stephen King.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Author interview and GIVEAWAY- James Dawson

If you're part of my book club, you'll have noticed me generally fangirl over Hollow Pike. And so here's James Dawson answering our questions on Halloween.

-Why do you read scary things?
I think horror novels and horror films are important for teaching us what fear feels like, and also an opportunity to do so in a capacity that we can control. If a book gets too scary I can put it in the freezer like Joey does in Friends. Personally though, I love to be scared.

-What flavour of scary do you like reading about – paranormal creatures, serial killers, chill up your spine hauntings, or something different?
I have a weakness for ghost stories. I find slasher horror exhilarating, but malevolent ghosts really scare me. I find the best stories are those in which the characters have no control over their situations, like in MR James-style ghost stories and films like The Ring or A Nightmare on Elm Street.

-Out of everything in the world, what do you find scary?
See above. Also I have a fear of getting lost (especially abroad) and the perennial ‘dying alone’.

-If you could insert yourself into any horror novel, which would it be, who would you be, and why?
I already did with Hollow Pike! Jack is a thinly veiled version of me, albeit a much cooler, funnier version! But into someone else’s novel I’d go for one of Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror – they’re particularly grizzly!

-Classic (pre-1970s) or modern horror – which do you prefer and why?
That’s so tough! Without those Turn of the Screw/MR James stories we wouldn’t have modern horror. There is something elegant about gothic horror (look at the success of The Woman in Black), but I’m a sucker for cheerleaders and babysitters in peril. Clive Barker, Stephen King and Dean Koontz were my teenage years basically.

-What's the scariest thing you've read to this day?
It’s relatively new but I was terrified reading Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. She cranked up the tension like never before. Gloriously scary novel.

-What books scared you most as a child?
I got a reputation in nursery school for FREAKING OUT at the old ‘In a dark, dark woods, there was a dark, dark, house’ short story. When it got to the ‘and in the dark, dark cupboard…’ line in would lose my composure entirely.

-What do you do to celebrate Halloween?
Without fail every year I watch the classic film Halloween. It’s a tradition. Last year I finally saw it on the big screen at the BFI and it was glorious.

-Any fun Halloween stories you have to tell us?
I once convinced my sister that trick or treaters were coming to take her away in a bin liner. I’m nice like that.

- Why did you choose to write a horror novel/include horror aspects into your novel?
As a homage to all those teen slasher films I loved when I was a young adult. They’re out of fashion right now, but they come around in cycles. I used to read Point Horrors back to back – it was a simpler time when you didn’t have to worry about love triangles or the plot making any sense.

-What's the scariest thing you'd write about?
I’m tinkering away at a ghost story at the moment. I’m forcing myself to write it at night, to try to create the right mood. I’ve had to sleep with the lights on a few times.

-How much inspiration do you take from other horror writers?
Oh, masses. As a writer, you’re always borrowing. Not so much words or phrases but techniques to crank up the fear. For example, I mentioned Michelle Paver earlier and she’s great at drip feeding the terror, nothing feels rushed.

-You incorporated both modern and historical aspects to witchcraft in Hollow Pike-why was that?
I think you can have both. ‘The Wicker Man’ is a great example of mixing the modern and the arcane. I felt that taking ‘The Crucible’ strands and putting them in a modern school setting hadn’t been done; it was either period witches swooning around cauldrons or candles and ribbons stuff like in The Craft.

-Hollow Pike can be shelved as lots of things-supernatural, horror, mystery, thriller etc. What do you think of novels blurring genre lines like this?
I think there’s always a mixture. In any thriller you might have a romantic subplot or in a mystery you can have scary bits. I always say Hollow Pike is a supernatural thriller, but I forget that to a lot of people it’s a black comedy!

-Any other spooky books you want to share?
Other than the ones I’ve mentioned above, I’d also say Cliff McNish, who I feel doesn’t get the attention he deserves. Check out Breathe and The Hunting Ground. He’s also one of the nicest men in the world.

James can be found on twitterand at his website.

Finally, a giveaway! It's not an overnight one, so it closes on the 9th November. Three pretty purple edged copies, kindly provided by Indigo, up for grabs.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday 29 October 2012

Book Review- Psycho by Robert Bloch

Title: Psycho
 Author: Robert Bloch
Series:  Psycho #1
Published:  1959
Length: 208 pages
Source: Won from Midnyte Reader
Other info: Alfred Hitchcock made this a film.  Sequels are Psycho II and Psycho House. Bloch wrote other things.
Summary : Norman Bates loves his Mother. She has been dead for the past twenty years, or so people think. Norman knows better though. He has lived with Mother ever since leaving the hospital in the old house up on the hill above the Bates motel. One night Norman spies on a beautiful woman that checks into the hotel as she undresses. Norman can't help but spy on her. Mother is there though. She is there to protect Norman from his filthy thoughts. She is there to protect him with her butcher knife.
Review: First thoughts- This is really short for something that got turned into probably the biggest slasher film ever.  I've not seen the film, so I can't comment on similarities/improvements. But the book has its own merits.
Mary Crane is getting away from it all. Leaving her work and her old life, she's trying to get to her fiancé Sam with some stolen cash and traded cars. But it's raining horribly, so she stops at a motel off the motorway. Run by Norman Bates.
What happens next. I'm sure everyone knows the shower scene (my dad introduced me to the fact that a girl got stabbed in the shower while we were making cake. My age-seven.) After not hearing from Mary, her sister and her fiance, Lila
Like the name suggests, it's psychological based horror with tension and suspense. It's a lot less bloody than i expected it to be, but that doesn't make it any less gripping.
Mary, while being dead for the majority of the novel, is a really interesting character. She's quick thinking, covering her tracks and making up loads of different stories to keep herself hidden. there's lots of revelations about her, what she did, why she did it and so on. By default, Sam's quite interesting too-it's him (well, his inherited debts) that indirectly sets off this chain of events.
Norman is the most intriguing character, possibly with the exception of his mother. He is heavily dependant on his mother, who has drummed into him lots of things that suppress his development and makes him how he is. He may hate her for this, but being old and with no one else, he must look after her. His mother views the world in a different way. She sees the world as being full of sinful women, and has made her son think the same. Both together make for a study in psychology and what drives people. 

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a must read for horror fans.
 Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Saturday 27 October 2012


The thing I've been planning the month around! Giveaway time!
 Alright, UKers probably get the most out of this. But I can't afford postage to other places. Sorry. But there is a chance for international people to win!

First though, here's some other giveaways you guys should enter...

And now for my one!

So, there's FOUR prize options!

Prize pack 1 UK Only
Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley
Dark Lord-The Teenage Years by Jamie Thomson
Premonitions by Jude Watson

Prize pack 2 UK Only
Ghostwalk by Rebecca Scott
Zombies Don't Cry by Rusty Fischer
Secret Lives by Gabriella Poole

Prize pack 3 UK Only
RIP MD by Mitch Schuaer
iZombie by Chris Roberson 
Bizenghast by M Alice LeGrow 

Up to £10 worth of scary books from The Book Depository!

So how can you win?
First, you have to follow Death Books and Tea via GFC and say what prize you'd like to win for one entry.
To earn extra entries, spread the word in various ways and leave links. These earn 3 entries each.
To earn even more, just comment on ANYTHING in The Month Before Halloween. Each comment on each post counts (one comment per post. So if you comment twice on one post, it's one entry. If you comment once on post a and once on post b, that's two entries. It works in my head).
If noone wants a prize, then the next person drawn will get it.
Entries close at midnight 1st November (you have all Wednesday to enter) and the winners will be announced sometime before next Sunday.

Also....If we get to 500 followers by 31 October, I'll add another £10 TBD prize! 

To enter, fill in this form.

Good luck, all. Don't forget my other two giveaways, for Henry Franks and Gearteeth. There'a another up on Monday. And Happy Halloween (for Wednesday)!

Friday 26 October 2012

Book Review by Lilia Tombs- Dark Water by Koji Suzuki

Final thing from Lilia! Send her big thanks for the excellent reviews this month, and go enter her really cute giveaway!

Dark Water by Koji Suzuki (author of Ring and Spiral) is a collection of short stories that are all connected to the theme of water in some way. You might recognise the title, as the film, Dark Water directed by Hideo Nakata, was based on the first story Floating Water. The book was originally released in 1996 in Japanese as Honogurai mizu no soko kara (Translation: From the Depths of Dark Water), which I think makes more sense in the context of the theme, but it's not really important.

The book opens with a prologue and closes with an epilogue, both of which are half of a story about a grandmother weaving eerie plots to entertain her granddaughter. These frame the collection of tales well, although only the last story Forest Under the Sea seems to be directly linked to them. I'm not sure if the other stories are supposed to be the ones which the grandmother is telling, but they don't really seem like something you'd tell a little girl, so I assume not.

Koji Suzuki's writing style is fantastic! Admittedly, I haven't read the original Japanese version, but the translation manages to make a detailed account of a man fixing a tap (in Watercolors) really interesting. I'm not sure how that's even possible, but Suzuki managed it. He's also extremely talented at building up tension and creating creepy scenes, which makes Dark Water a lot of fun to read.

However, there are two big problems with this book: the characters and the endings. For the most part, Suzuki portrays the female characters as neurotic or annoying and the male characters as violent and cold, but doesn't really add anyone with a personality that makes you care what happens to them. Adrift, Forest Under the Sea and, to a certain extent, Dream Cruise had somewhat likable characters in, but the endings were predictable.

In fact all of the stories had predictable or unsatisfying endings to them and that, more than the characters, was the disappointing aspect to the book. Some felt unfinished, whilst others just made very little sense. I don't mind open-ended plots or fantasy / paranormal-based tales, but it often seemed like Suzuki had begun writing a full-length novel, couldn't think of a good ending and so turned it into a short story instead.

Overall, while I did enjoy Dark Water and Suzuki's way with words is wonderful, the endings ultimately let the book down. It's worth reading, but it's not, by any means, Koji Suzuki's best work.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Guest post by Sister Spooky- Books That Scared Me But You Might Not Call Horror

Today we have Laura, aka Sister Spooky, with a post showcasing that horror isn't the only thing that's scary!

I love a good old scary story but the scariest thing of all can sometimes be when you don't see the bad guy. Your imagination is scarier than anything you can see. It's the dark that scares you when your little; the things you can't see. So for me the scariest books I've read are what you may not even consider horror stories but they have horrific tales to tell; I can assure you. Here are my favourites and what made them so scary.

1984 by George Orwell
This is one of those "classics" that you may see crop up on school and university reading lists but it's really worth a read even if you're not being told to read it for educational purposes. This book is where the die oaf Big Brother began and not the Big Brother full of z-list celebs and wannabes either. A terrifying look into a world where every step you make is watched and individuality can lead you to being put in the dreaded Room 101 where no one returns from. A word of warning: if you have a fear of rodents……you may want to skip this book or at least read it in the day time.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Another "classic" where a dystopian society seems like a place of perfection but when things all begin to crumble when an outsider goes to the big city and the "perfect" world is a horror he can't even begin to understand. I loved it and think if you like the dystopians of recent times in the YA world then this is worth a look.

Torn by Cat Clarke
Cat Clarke writes likes no one else I know and I loved her first book Entangled but it was Torn that really scared me witless. It all about a school girl prank that goes wrong and the fall out from it but it's so creepy that I had to read it mainly in the day time.

Heart Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne
I ADORED this book like you wouldn't believe because it was about the fear and horror of the human mind rather than anything like the bogey man or ghosts. It's a tale within another tale and both are just as scary because it's the horror within us all as human beings that is the most frightening. Read this. READ

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
The modern master of YA horror in my mind. He finds a way to tap into that part of your mind you keep looked away because it's full of scary things. Midwinterblood is a layer of stories that all interweave and link up in the most amazing way. From romances to murder and the mystery of an island and souls almost lost in time it is a glorious book.

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
What happens when you can sense the dead and it haunts your life? What happens when not only death comes knocking on the door of your small town but a serial killer? This and you think you may be in love with your best friend. Kimberly Derting lets you step into the mind of a young girl dealing with all these issues as well as the mind of a serial killer. This is by far the scariest part of the book because I find reading lets me get into the mind of a character and being in the mind of a killer is weird and awful.

Laura can be found at her blog and on Twitter.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Book Review- Beautifully Broken by Sherry Soule

Title:  Beautifully Broken
 Author:  Sherry Soule  
Series:  Spellbound #1
Published:  30 August 2011
Length: 344 pages
Source: Author
Other info: Moonlight Mayhem, the sequel, came out recently.
Summary : Sixteen-year-old Shiloh Ravenwolf is a heritage witch from the Broussard family, a family both destined and cursed. After she takes a summer job at Ravenhurst Manor, she discovers a ghost with an agenda. That’s where she meets the new town hottie, Trent Donovan. But Trent may be the next victim on the supernatural hit list, and Shiloh is the only person with the power to save him.
Complicated much?
After receiving cryptic messages from a creepy wraith, and then frightening threats from a demon, Shiloh finally begins to understand the mysterious significance of the strange mark branded on her wrist. Now Shiloh must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice to protect the other teenagers in town.
Unfortunately, for Shiloh, not all ghosts want help crossing over. Some want vengeance
Review: For a long time, Shiloh Ravenwolf has been able to see shades. And auras. And other things. This is because of her family background, which she doesn't know about. So she doesn;t know that she's a witch (I think-sorry if I'm wrong) and she doesn't know why there's a ghost stalking her. So when she starts a job at Ravenhurst Manor, she finds a ghost. She also finds Trent Donovan, who she instantly falls in lust with. Obviously. Then teenagers start going missing, and it's all being blamed on some spirit in the house. And Trent's on the list for disappearences. And maybe Shiloh is too.
There's a lot going on in this. Demons. Witches. Ghosts. Haunted house. All really good stuff to go in a YA paranormal novel. And then there's also Trent, the typical love interest. All these things come together after a good amount of anticipation and time to get really invested in the story.
I liked Shiloh (rather surprisingly as I'd recently watched a film with a MC called Shilo who was one of the most irritating characters ever for the majority of it). I especially liked her heritage-even though we don't know fully about her mother and such, the Native American side of her ancestry isn't the kind of thing we see often so it's a really nice change. She takes things well, ie realistically. Seeing her develop her powers and her understanding of the supernatural world she's in is really nice.
Trent. He's cool. i don't really like characters when they're described as being "the hottie" (I respect the character's opinions but I'll decide that for myself) but I liked his relationship with shiloh. Not the instalove aspect, but the way they work together makes them a great team. At times, I got a little confused with the other side characters, what they were for and what their motives were. They're all important in some way though.
There's a lot of build up so if you like suspense built stories, this is definitely one for you. The manor, the murders, the parents, the powers. Four side plots that end up coming together to a conclusion that leaves you wanting more. It would have been nice if it could be a little bit faster paced, and also have a bit more emphasis on the family who seemed a bit left out for the start of this.
I don't normally comment on settings, but I really loved Ravenhurst Manor. Lots of things happen there, a little spooky and very thrilling.
The writing is nice. Somethings like Shiloh's thoughts about Trent were a bit repetitive, but it doesn't detract too much.
The last fifty pages. So good! With everything simmering to start with, as it ends, it's all really exciting and you just don't want to stop reading.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a promising start to what should be a really good paranormal series.
Links: | Goodreads | Author website

Guest Review by Teos- Halloween Horrors by Alan Ryan

Teos is back! This review also appears on The End of Summer. 

Alan Ryan’s 1986 anthology, Halloween Horrors, is probably the best short story collection out there concerning our favorite dark day of the year. An author of the macabre himself (some novels being Dead White and Cast a Cold Eye), Ryan knew just which authors to solicit for his celebration of All Hallow’s Eve. Luckily, the stories aren’t just creepy, but they re-imagine both the many myths of Halloween and the ambiance of autumn—which any proper Halloween story should do. My biggest annoyance with modern Halloween anthologies is the willingness for authors and editors to just write a horror story, set it on October 31st, and call it a day. Such a thing is entirely lazy—a killer or ghost on the loose on Halloween is no different from one loose on Christmas. The myths of Halloween are literally waiting to be plucked and re-imagined for proper literal celebrations. Ryan's collection aptly does so, with tremendous results.

“He'll Come Knocking at Your Door” by Robert R. McCammon is an interesting choice to begin the collection, as it is the most fantastic and unusual. Alternating between creepy and morbidly funny, a man named Dan, who is a brand new citizen of a small town, is invited to a Halloween meeting at a neighbor’s house. At first expecting a brief Halloween get-together, he is shocked to hear an itinerary being read out loud – more specifically, a list of demands – that each person present at the party is responsible for placing outside their front door that same night…items to appease the dark, mysterious figure who awards the town with good luck and good harvest during the year. Most of the items appear to be innocuous – an old sweater, a model boat someone had assembled – but when Dan is told he must offer this figure the first joint of his young daughter’s finger, he leaves in a huff, thinking it was a joke gone too far. How very wrong he is. "He’ll Come Knocking at Your Door" is trick-or-treating at its most deviant and dangerous. And not only that, but it harkens back to the times in which food and animals were offered and effigies were burned in order to appease the Celts' Pagan gods of harvest. In the story, you’ve got two choices:  appease the figure, or don’t, but if you don’t…he’ll come knocking.

In the mini introduction to “Eyes,” editor Ryan explains that for this story by Charles Grant, he wanted something “nasty.” Well, he asked for it, and he got it. Ron, the story's pro(an?)tagonist, is an angry and haunted man, whose son is recently deceased. The accidental death of the son, who had suffered from mental deficiencies, is the catalyst for Ron's horrifying Halloween night, as his son returns every October to punish his father. And all during this day, when Ron knows his son’s revisitation is inevitable, sets of eyes hover everywhere in the darkness and judge him with their orange orbs of light. Why eyes? You'll have to read this haunting story for yourself.  Grant uses short but very blunt sentences to tell his story, much to great effect. It just might be the darkest and perhaps angriest in the collection, but it's also filled with immense regret, mourning, and sadness. The innocence of the son is enough to bring tears to your eyes—and that’s saying something for a story with an ending as “nasty” as this one.

“The Nixon Mask” by Whitley Strieber might be the only dud, though to be fair, it may have been a bit more politically relevant in 1986. The legendary paranoia of President Richard Nixon is brought to its near breaking point as trick-or-treaters come to the White House begging for candy. President Nixon attempts to keep his cool, but the suspicion that these costumed kids want more than just candy begins to mount until it becomes unbearable. Nixon sweats and mumbles and suffers abject terror. If it's supposed to be funny, I don't really get it, and if Strieber was going for humor, it's a joke that lasts too long. The concept of the story was an interesting idea, but it doesn’t quite feel it belongs in this collection, which is otherwise straightforward and more outwardly horrific.

Peter Tremayne’s “The Samhain Feis” resurrects the past in a big way by setting the story where Halloween all began: Ireland. Katy has escaped her abusive and hurtful husband with her young son, Mike, and high-tails it for a week to a small, remote village in Ireland. It’s there she meets an older gentleman named Flaherty, who warns her of the time of year that is fast approaching: Samhain, aka Halloween—not one about trick-or-treaters and costumes, but pure, undeniable evil. Katy laughs off these stories, just happy to be away from her husband, but when Mike begins to spend all his time with an imaginary friend named Seán Rua – a name that sends Flaherty into a paranoid frenzy – and when Mike's physical appearance seems to gradually change, Katy begins to believe that maybe the stories are real after all. Especially when the evil follows her home. “The Samhain Feis” successfully recalls the origins of Halloween, even setting the story right where it all began. The characters and descriptions of Ireland are very genuine and realistic (courtesy of its author, who spent time living there while working at a newspaper). And it certainly helps that it, too, ends with a creepy shock.

In “Trickster,” by Steve Rasnic Tem, Greg mourns his deceased brother, Alex, whose memory comes alive every Halloween. The story alternates between the present, in which Greg believes he is catching glimpses of Alex moving in between the rowdy crowds of San Francisco during a Halloween celebration, and the past, where random recollections of Alex’s pranks – becoming increasingly morbid – are remembered. Greg pursues his dead brother more and more persistently until…what? Is the Halloween festival bringing back memories of his dead brother, or has he really come back from the dead – complete with clown costume and mask – to say hello? While the whole story is intriguing and a quick read, the more interesting parts of it (for me, anyway) are when Alex’s pranks are broken down and explained in graphic detail. What Greg remembers as harmless and silly are actually quite graphic, and it becomes a game of “Can Alex top himself?” as each prank is recalled. If I had a brother whose "pranks" consisted of pretending to stab a baby to death – complete with bloody knife and decimated doll – I'd start to wonder if there were somethingseriously wrong with him.

Michael McDowell’s “Miss Mack” doesn’t really kick into horror gear until the last few pages. What starts off with the burgeoning of a rather unusual friendship between two schoolteachers, Miss Mack and Miss Faulk, soon becomes a tale of spite, revenge, and…well, it’s hard to say. Unrequited love is definitely at play here in the form of a love triangle (and to what extent the two school teachers love each other is left completely ambiguous), and it impacts the resolution to the story, which doesn’t end so well for one of our characters. “Miss Mack” is a different beast from the rest of the stories in that, for this one particular character, he/she has no idea what has happened to them. There are no inklings, no motives, and no clues as to if he/she has done something to deserve what’s taken place. The other characters in the other stories are flawed in some way, and through either their actions or inactions, have set things in motion, if not downright deserved the horrid thing that’s happened to them. But for the character in “Miss Mack,” you can’t help but sympathize with them, as they truly and utterly did not deserve the fate they received.

In Guy N. Smith’s “Hollow Eyes,” a father catches his daughter in a rather…er…uncompromising position with the boy she has been seeing—and the boy that he detests with nearly every of his fibers. A chase ensues, leading him (with a gun in his pocket) to a neighborhood bonfire. It is there that his momentary hatred of his daughter’s boyfriend is forgotten as he gasps at the horrid sight hanging just before him from a tree branch. And he soon realizes that he’s in a lot bigger trouble than he ever could have imagined. “Hollow Eyes” feels more like a nightmare than anything else—fragments of thoughts cobbled together from hazy memories and reiterated quickly almost as if the story's teller were working against an imminent deadline. There are lapses in logic that feel nearly several pages long, as if you’d missed one piece of information that explained why the father is doing the things that he is doing, why he detests her daughter's boyfriend so much, and why is it he's gone so mad so quickly...but that works as a strength to the story. You’re barely just figuring out what the hell is up with Point A when Point B is already showing up to muddy the waters.  It’s probably the most abstract story in Halloween Horrors and one that is not afraid to get its hands dirty—and bloody.

If you can allow all the suspension of disbelief in the world, then editor Alan Ryan’s own contribution, “The Halloween House,” is fun and rewarding. What starts off as a typical haunted house story ends as anything but, and four high school kids learn the hard way that Halloween isn’t just a holiday, but a living thing that literally surrounds them. “The Halloween House” has a charming beginning, in which Dale forgoes all common sense in order to try and impress Colleen, a girl with whom he is very much infatuated. The first few pages’ worth of descriptions can be tedious, but the story soon moves at a clip, ending in a twist that would normally be heavily forecasted midway through the story if the twist itself weren’t so completely absurd (in every way that’s good, that is).

"The Three Faces of the Night" by Craig Shaw Gardner is told in three time periods: the past, the immediate past, and the present, which serve as interludes between each jump in time. The first act – the past – is fairly straight forward, and tells of a young boy named Colin who gets into random mischief on Halloween night, leading him to the house of a man the town's children have dubbed Creep Crawford. A man Colin always just assumed to be crazy turns out to be more than that...much more. After a brief interlude, we jump a bit more in time to a college-aged Colin as he attends a Halloween party, where a siren named Lenore shows him more than his fair share of attention...but because she has a motive. (Don't they all?) The story begins horrifically, continues with something nearly erotically charged and surreal, and ends so ambiguously that you can only begin to put together what exactly has transpired. Gardner's description as the dangerous and sexy Lenore more than adequately paints her as a femme fatale who is not to be trusted...but then again, neither is Colin. If any story in this collection will leave you scratching your head at its conclusion, "Three Faces of the Night" would definitely be the one.
Bill Pronzini's "The Pumpkin" is a nightmarish little story about an award-winning pumpkin farmer who yearns to take home the ribbon again in the coming year's Pumpkin Festival. A ghastly discovery in the corner of his field, however, leaves the farmer's wife shaken, and a farmhand repeatedly making signs of the cross. Together, they beg him to leave the pumpkin right where it is, for to unearth it would be to unleash an ancient evil the world has never known. The farmer laughs at their request, but agrees anyway, figuring why bother otherwise? That is until he fails to bring home that year's prize at the Pumpkin Festival. His anger leads to boozing, which leads him to make some rather foolish decisions...and go back on his word. And carnage ensues. There's not much to say about "The Pumpkin" other than it's an effective and pulpy little yarn that manages not only to give you the creeps in that innocent and harmless sort of way, but also recall the feeling and mood of Halloween that I'm sure we all look back on and yearn for in some way every year. The descriptions of small-town festivities and the all-around blanket of autumn-tinged foliage is a nice pleasant interlude to the horror that ends the story...and perhaps even existence as we know it. Not bad for a pumpkin!
Much like Halloween itself, "Lover in the Wildwood" by Frank Belknap Long is a reflection on death. It is told from the point of view of Nurse Helen, tasked with looking over a nearly invalid old woman named Kathy in a nursing home. Kathy is confined to a wheelchair, and her claims of meeting up with her lover of many years past at first falls on deaf ears. After all, many things can be heard throughout the halls of nursing homes, some coming from those with dementia. So when Kathy begs and pleads Nurse Helen to take her to a spot in the woods so she can use the power of Halloween to see her long-dead lover after so many years, Nurse Helen obliges, simply because she feels to get the old woman outside would do her some good. But is Kathy's lover really waiting for her in the woods? Will October 31st make it possible for the couple – separated by death – to once again embrace? "Lover in the Wildwood" is not at all horrific, and of course that's fine. While Halloween is known for its more lurid myths and traditions, it's also a time to remember those of our loved ones that are no longer with us. It's a time to be thankful for life just as much as it is to dress up as monsters and murders. It's a time to remember our lost loves and appreciate having known them, regardless of how that union may have ended. In that regard, "Lover in the Wildwood" is a sweet diversion before heading back into the darkness. Speaking of...

As we approach the end of this collection, Ramsey Campbell's "Apples" pops up to remind us that there is no such thing as a harmless prank on Halloween. Harry and his friends, Colin and Andrew, think it's fun and funny to sneak into Mr. Gray's yard and steal apples off his tree—something he's intent on guarding, as he's gone as far as placing broken glass beneath the hedges that line his property. The kids won't be deterred, however, and they hop the fence to help themselves to the old coot's apple tree. In a surprise move, Mr. Gray bursts from his house with hedge trimmers and chases them, but soon suffers a mortal heart attack in the process. The kids flee and his body is soon removed...but if he's dead, why does Harry see a face appear in the window of Mr. Gray's house? Why does the rotten stench of apples seem to follow him everywhere he goes? "Apples" ends in a very creepy, if not too-cleanly-concluded fashion, and the moral of the story remains dangerously clear: don't steal apples from crazy old men.

And the book, as they say, ends with a bang. The name “Robert Bloch” should be ingrained in your memory, even if you’ve never actually read his works – namely Psycho, which would go on to inspire perhaps the greatest horror film of all time (and kick-start the slasher movement). Made up of little vignettes featuring neighborhood parents, the story’s concept is difficult to grasp at first until you realize the purpose behind constantly jumping from household to household – each of them with a child late coming home from trick-or-treating. Very late. And within one of these households, something very sinister and unnatural is unfolding under the dark Halloween sky. “Pranks" is the eeriest story in the collection, and boasts the best ending. It's one that doesn't even become inherently creepy until the rapid final pages, in which you begin to play catch up and realize just what's going on. And it's an ending you will reread over and over, finding it so completely unbelievable that you'll feel the need to make sure what you've read isn't just your mind playing tricks on you. Or pranks.

Halloween Horrors, sadly, has been out of print for the last several years, but keeping an eye on Amazon or Goodreads from time to time might reward your diligence. Here's hoping the genre- and Halloween-loving Cemetery Dance will resurrect this tome for another generation to pour over every October. The stories, though going on thirty years old, still pack a mean punch, and many of them – especially "Eyes" – will leave you feeling haunted long after you finish the collection's last page and set it down until Halloween returns the following year.

Monday 22 October 2012

Book Review- Birthday

Title: Birthday
 Author:  Meimu, based on the Ring series by Koji Suzuki, and Hiroshi Takahashi
Series:  N/A
Published:  3 November 2004
Length: 160 pages
Source: Library
Other info: Based on the Ring series, one of which is reviewed here.
Summary : Based on a series of novels by Suzuki Koji, The Ringbecame a media franchise in Japan with its fascinatingly creepy, yet scientific and otherworldly subject matter. Not to mention its very scary "monster," the spirit of a girl whose body was dropped in a well many years past. As you'll find reading through Dark Horse's series of Ring manga, this story is rich with an undergrowth of science and hatred, of strong will behind the murderous ghost of Sadako.
"Birthday," the fourth in a series of five Ring manga, is a trilogy of stories, each enriching the main storyline of the Ring series. "The Casket Floating in the Sky" centers on Mai Takano, and how she becomes wrapped deeper into Sadako's grasp. "Lemon Heart" tells of one of Sadako's early loves, and eerily wraps itself back into the plotline of Mai Takano. And finally the "Sadako" story goes into the depths of both Sadako's death and her rebirth. Slowly, the details of how The Ring truly works are trickling out into the daylight.

Review: So...this is a collection of three short manga stories with the intention of furthering the understanding of the world of Ring (review here). The first one, Coffin in the Sky, follows Mei, after unknowingly allowing the next Sadako to take over her body. I never understood this whole concept in Ring, Spiral or Loop, so I didn’t understand it here either. Therefore, in relativity to the novel trilogy, I’m going to ignore it. On its own, it’s a story about a young girl who knows she’s going to die soon, and thinking about it for a long time. it’s done nicely, with a literal coffin coming from the sky.
Next up is Lemon Heart, following Toyama, the boy who Sadako fell in love with.  This story, and Sadako, make a bit more sense to me, because they follow Sadako, her young love, and what made her so upset that when she died she did what she did so she could carry on in the world.
I really liked the first Ring story. So I always find it interesting when you get spin offs. Yay for extended universes! This does help you understand the reasoning and motives behind many characters, new and minor and major. This spin off collection of manga is good for building character, and it’s very interesting to anyone who has read or seen the originals.
Plotwise, not that much happened. Actually, it wasn’t really tense or really epic. As standalones, they work quite well. If you didn’t know what happens in Ring, and the mythology, then you might not get some of the things in Birthday, specifically one man’s horror when he sees Sadako naked,
I liked Toyama for some reason. Maybe because we see him most of all in the three of these stories. Or maybe because he treats Sadako so well. You feel so bad for Sadako!

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a good book extending the back stories of the major characters from Ring.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Guest Post- How some folks view scenes and get squigged out... by Timothy Black

We have Timothy Black, who once had a bowler hat made of angry weasels, here today, sharing a lengthly, but very interesting, post with the full title of "How some folks view scenes and get squigged out while others can eat their Cheerios."

I want a pony.
Made of pie.
That screams when I eat it.

Quick, what's the first thing that pops into your mind (other than an overwhelming urge to contact the local authorities)? Did you read the above and snicker because you thought of a cartoonish equine related to Gumby running around screaming while greedy little children chase it laughing? Did you flash to a hyper-realistic mutated horse that reminds you of all the horrors of real animal cruelty interbred with terrible genetic engineering, despite the absurd situation set up by the second line? Which way was it meant? Only context can tell us.
But even with the framework, sometimes it is the initial idea itself that cannot shake loose from your brain. Some folks are just going to get this Tromaville crime-against-reality monster running around in their heads, neighing for the release of death from its torturous existence. Was that what I meant? Nope. But it is one possible outcome, and once I become aware of it I'm left with either keeping my demented ramblings quiet or cackling madly as I spread the warped image around while watching to see who shudders. So do I spread the plague of my imagination around in its pure form or do I try and tone it down to different levels of comfort?

The question has occurred many times to me in life, most recently when the publisher released my new steampunk werewolf novel, GEARTEETH. It's a gritty alternative-history tale set in the dying days of the Old West, where the outbreak of the lycanthrope virus dooms most of humanity and the rest flee to the skies. To me this was all a rather logical progression, assuming Nikola Tesla's genius had full funding and a bit of fantasy science tossed into the mix. In many ways as I plotted out the history of the ravaged land I found my plotlines were only logical extensions of my starting premise, a thought carried to completion. In fact, I was more concerned about getting the science and history correct along with creating characters that lived and breathed than I was with making my readers scream and hide under the covers. Imagine my surprise then when the book earned itself a horror tag with its plot of werewolves, mad medical experimentation, and torsos tortured to be used as processing facilities. After writing the preceding sentence you'd think I'd be aware of the effect it might have on other folks of less demented dispositions. But instead I just tried to be descriptive as I crafted what seemed to me to be an intuitive series of events given the people involved. That's the nature of the beast: the creator oftentimes does not know the precise effect their works will have on the viewer.

Miss Nina asked if I'd like to tackle the whole “horror in steampunk” issue, but I'm woefully under-qualified to make even a basic postulate of the idea. Is the setting by its nature a benign world of manners and fantastic technology shrouded in gears and steam, or does it have room for the people who view a rusting scrapyard as the womb of horror and disquiet? The definition of 'steampunk' is fluid, dependent largely on the person asked; the same can be said of horror. Situations and critters some find comical will have other people hiding under the covers and complaining the gun they've got isn't big enough, will never be big enough, to blast the terror stalking them in the face.
I'm actually rather flattered that some people are disturbed by my work, although I couldn't tell you where the nightmare begins and ends for each person. Edgar Allan Poe once said that he didn't understand what all of the hubbub about his mysteries was about: it was plainly obvious to him what the ending would be of each story. It's the old problem of 'you can't see the forest for the trees,' especially when you're forcing the damn thing to grow. The stitching on a Frankenstein-monster of an artistic work is always visible to the guy who remembers the troubles getting the blasted oversized arm to fit and work as envisioned; he never even contemplates the reaction of a frightened villager getting crushed under the behemoth's fist during the inevitable rampage.

The nightmare fuel of some is by its nature a comforting thought to others. I can happily sit down and watch Aliens with my morning bowl of cereal, admiring the sleek killing power of the alien along with its unique and elegant design, the genre-defining interaction of guns and space marines and Vasquez (family fave), and just generally enjoying the explosions as fireworks. Other people cannot tolerate the movie I regard as an old friend, yet they can endure the sight of simple medical procedures that would squick me out. Yes, my secret weakness is reality itself. Cartoonish over-the-top violence and buckets of blood don't freak me out; no, that nightmare realm is reserved for things like scabs, old bandages, and other unsavory but completely indispensable medical accoutrements and body processes. The even weirder part is that such things don't bother me in the least when it's me suffering the indignities of necessity; it's when I see someone else's stitches and scabs that my brain wiggles like a prude at a pride parade. Contrast that with my wife, who used to work with and handle dead bodies on a regular basis, and grins when she can't discuss a thing about her studies with me. Yet at the same time pedestrian social crudeness that I can endure with only a disapproving headshake makes her see blood-red.
So the question often becomes: is what you're seeing/reading/experiencing cool or horrifying? Or is it just boring to you? Some folks can shrug off the most traumatic of events but lose their minds over minutiae other people regard as trivial. The very issue of what we consider important ties into the concept of 'what is horror' in that every single one of us has varying taste and predilections. The key for any creator though is to be content that they evoked a reaction at all from their audience, rather than a yawn and a 'meh.' Whether it's inspiring or terrifying, laugh-out-loud silly or pained revelation, horror or wonder, an author should just be damn proud that they managed to touch a chord within their readers.

And with that, I'm off to go get a bowl of Cheerios, which I promise only contains dehydrated mass-produced oat circles in milk. There's no horrific monsters lurking within the depths of the bowl, no portal to some nightmare cow level where infectious fragments of victims from Bessie's rampage against the injustices of the world bob to the surface masquerading as bits of cereal, waiting for you to consume it and begin the growth of a bovine monster within your stomach that will burst forth and bring about the Cowpocalypse.
Just oats and milk.

Timothy can be found at his website and twitter. Gearteeth is available on Amazon and there's a sample chapter here. There's also a few novellas for reading too.

Want to read more than the first chapter? Timothy is very kindly offering two e-copies of Gearteeth. Any major file type available, we can sort that out if you win. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday 20 October 2012

Author interview- Bethany Griffin

It's coming up kind of late...oops. Anyway, today, Bethany Griffin, author or Masque of the Red Death, reviewed here, is answering our Halloween questions!

-Why do you read scary things?
 I don't actually think I seek out scary things, but I seek out real things and reality can be very scary. I like the way normal people become heroes and villains under duress.

-What flavour of scary do you like reading about-paranormal creatures, serial killers, chill up your spine hauntings, or something different? 
 I think I like quests for survival (I don't love zombies, but I like the scope of a lot of zombie stories) another good example of the kind of horror I love is Stephen King's It. I like a combination of discovering what is going on and the quest to fight the horror. I really like darkness--dark settings, dark characters, etc. 
-Out of everything in the world, what do you find scary?
 Snakes, alligators/crocodiles/ serial killers/ being trapped in some way. 

-If you could insert yourself into any horror novel, which would it be, who would you be, and why?
 I don't think I would want to be in a horror novel? But I guess (if you count it as horror, Frannie from the Stand by Stephen King. 
-Classic (pre-1970s) or modern horror-which do you prefer and why?
  I think that overall I like more modern horror, because it's what I'm more familiar with. (Anything Poe is obviously an exception). 

-What's the scariest thing you've read to this day?
 The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It is just so bleak, and so hopeless, and it shows the darkest depths that people are capable of. Certain scenes still haunt me. 

-What books scared you most as a child?
 I read The Exorcist in middle school. I don't think I slept for several weeks. 

-What do you do to celebrate Halloween? 
Well, this year I'm co-hosting a Poe-inspired Masquerade ball with author Kelly Creagh (Nevermore) but usually I take my kids trick or treating and also go to a costume party with some of my best friends. I imagine we'll do the same thing this year. 

-Any fun Halloween stories you have to tell us? 
Three years ago I cut off all my hair, and dressed as Harry Potter for Halloween. It was a pretty darn good costume, if I do say so myself. I still have the stuffed Hedwig l (for some reason it wouldn't attach to my robes so I had to sort of carry him under my arm, which wasn't very dignified for him). I had a light up wand that my kids promptly "borrowed" and never returned. I attached a picture. 

-Why did you choose to write a horror novel? 
I think for the same reason that I like horror, I like to explore heroism and the nature of evil. I like to imagine how characters would handle extraordinary (and horrific) circumstances. 

-What's the scariest thing you'd write about? 
There is a suggestion in Masque that people might have been sacrificed to crocodiles. I remember reading a horrific news story about someone who fed a mother and a child to alligators in Florida. The thought completely horrified me in every way. But it came out in Masque as just a rumour, nothing detailed. I think those are the sorts of human possibilities that haunt me and those things are the scariest things I'd consider writing about. 

-How much inspiration do you take from other horror writers? 
 I think Stephen King shaped certain perceptions about characters for me, and I read his books repeatedly at a fairly impressionable age. Other than that, if you consider Anne Rice horror, I am very inspired by her. 

-Why were you attracted to The Masque of the Red Death in particular, as opposed to any of the other Poe stories? 
I think because Masque seemed a timely story to retell because of the state of the world, and because the themes seemed fresh, and because I felt it had a lot of possibility since the story had no antagonist, to create my own antagonist in Poe's world. 

-Kind of similar to what we had earlier, but if you could put yourself into any of Poe's stories or poems, which would it be and why? 
I don't think it's a very good idea to put yourself into ANY of Poe's stories or poems. I wouldn't mind a quick tour of The House of Usher, as long as I didn't get trapped there! 

-Any other spooky books you want to share? 
 My favourite horror book is Shadowland by Peter Straub, Another favourite is It by Stephen King, I recently really enjoyed Ashes by Ilsa Bick, and I really liked the Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy. 

 Bethany can be found at her website, twitter and facebook. Masque can be found at Amazon and both Masque and Dance are on Goodreads.

Friday 19 October 2012

Guest Review by Lilia Tombs- Raggy Maggie by Barry Hutchison

It's Lilia and her third review! Quick heads-up- on HSL,she's got a giveaway going! Three totally adorable prizes! Go!  

Title: Raggy Maggie
Author: Barry Hutchison
Series:  Invisible Fiends #2
Published:  2010 Harper-Collins
Length: 284 pages
Summary : Billy is a horrible bully. So Kyle could almost find it funny that Billy's childhood invisible friend was a little dolly named Raggy Maggie.
Almost, but not quite. Because now Raggy Maggie is back, and she wants Kyle to play a game: find where she's hidden Billy - or Billy dies...

Raggy Maggie, the second installment of the Invisible Fiends series by Barry Hutchison, continues the story of Kyle, the 12-year-old boy who is forced to battle against vengeful, forgotten imaginary friends whilst confronting painful memories from his past. Whereas the first book, Mr Mumbles, dealt with Kyle's own made-up pal, this second book sees the imaginary friend of Billy the school bully returning. She isn't quite what Kyle expected: Caddie, a little girl with a doll named Raggy Maggie. That doesn't make her any less dangerous though and she kidnaps Billy, threatening to kill him if Kyle doesn't play a game with her.

Although this is the second book in the series, apart from quoting short sections of Mr Mumbles near the beginning, it doesn't really further the plot threads started in that book. The "Darkest Corners" is explained a little more and Kyle's father is introduced as a more important character, but many questions about Kyle's parents, his mother's invisible friend and Ameena's background aren't really even mentioned, let alone answered. That's not necessarily a negative though, as the series spans six books in total and revealing everything in the first two would make the other four somewhat redundant.

Hutchison's writing style is still quite vivid, although, unlike Mr MumblesRaggy Maggie definitely seems more like it was written for children and young teenagers. The descriptions of the friendship / fights between Kyle and Billy are particularly written in a style more suited to older children but it is, after all, a children's book. This didn't, however, cause the characters to become annoying. Kyle and Ameena's "battle talk" was once again trying too hard to be sassy and just ended up being embarrassing though.

Overall, I don't think Raggy Maggie was as good as Mr Mumbles, as it felt much like a filler in a series. While it did progress the plot surrounding Kyle's father a little, missing out this book wouldn't be greatly detrimental to the set. Still, it was an enjoyable and easy read and I'd recommend it to anyone who liked the first Invisible Fiends book. On the other hand, if you haven't read Mr Mumbles yet, then definitely start with that one instead.

I would give this 3 out of 5.