Tag Archives: Horror

TEEN TAKEOVER: Scary Stories for Terrified Teens!

Love all things horror? Looking for a good story to scare your pants off? We’ve got our top 5 picked out for you right here!

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
A chilling mix of the paranormal and a psychological thriller! You will follow the diaries of Carly Johnson and her alter Kaitlyn Johnson as well as re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, and transcripts of video footage to find out what really happened in the Elmbridge High fire. Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?

Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano
Similar to The Dead House this story is told in diary entries, letters, and photographs that the main character Paige left behind. Paige has moved into a particularly spooky house after her parents divorce and starts to notice that strange happenings are going on during the night. Things only get creepier when she learns about the sinister cult that conducted experimental rituals in the house almost a hundred years earlier. The more Paige investigates, and the deeper she digs, the clearer it all becomes: whatever is in the house, whatever is causing all the strange occurrences, has no intention of backing down without a fight.

The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude
Rowan’s Glen is a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks with only three rules: Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night. Ivy Templeton knows that it’s old superstition and that kids at school think them weird, but she doesn’t care, she has her best friend Heather by her side. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind. Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets. A new take on the age-old “call is coming from inside the house” trope!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting – he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. A haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined!

Happy Reading! Hope we scared you!

All Hallows Read: Some Spooky Suggestions

Happy All Hallows Read!

It’s that time of year, beloved patrons, as the nights get longer and the winds a little louder, and there seems nothing finer in the world than curling up with a story.  If, like me, your taste runs to the kind of stories that cause the hair on your arms to rise, or that will leave you jumping at shadows, then journey on with us for a few stellar reading suggestions.  And don’t forget to check out our display of All Hallows Read books here at the Main Library!

We Are Where the Nightmares Go and Other StoriesIf you’ve read C. Robert Cargill’s other works, like Dreams and Shadows and Queen of the Dark Things will know that his imagination is limitless, and tends to flourish best in the twilight shadows between fantasy and horror.  These stories work so well because they blend the utterly real, the overwhelmingly banal details of everyday life with a twist of real terror–a voice in the static of a bad connection; a whispered phrase that grows increasingly menacing with each repetition–and then launch off into the fantastic, ensuring that readers will be hooked from the first sentence to the last.  There is plenty of fun here, as well, and fans of Colby Stevens (from Dreams and Shadows) will be thrilled to see he makes a reappearance in these pages, as well. The story from which this book takes its name, “We Are Where the Nightmares Go” is horror at its most insightful, prescient, and shudder-inducing best.

Little Heaven: Hey there, if you’re looking for an opening scene that will haunt your nightmares, then look no further than Nick Cutter’s novel about cults and powers beyond human conception….A trio of mismatched mercenaries—Micah Shughrue, Minerva Atwater, and Ebenzer Elkins–are hired by young Ellen Bellhaven for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven, where a clandestine religious cult holds sway.  The task should be an easy one for these professionals.  But nothing around Black Rock is what it seems, and there is something stirring in the woods and the soil and the wind around Little Heaven that breeds madness.  And no matter how willing our trio might be to stand and fight, their combined skills are no match for whatever is coming at them.  Cutter is a writer who revels in giving readers the screaming heebie-jeebies, as fans of this other work can surely attest.  But the atmosphere of this novel is so well-crafted and the characters are so quirky and believable that it’s hard to look away, even if you want to try.

The Grip of It: A brilliant, modern spin on the haunted house trope, Jac Jemc’s slim little novel is packed with chills and shocks.  While touring their prospective suburban home, Julie and James are stopped by a noise. Deep and vibrating, like throat singing. Ancient, husky, and rasping, but underwater. “That’s just the house settling,” the real estate agent assures them with a smile. He is wrong.  Although the couple moved to this idyllic place to escape James’ gambling problem and rebuild their relationship, it would seem their house had different plans.  It seems to be both growing and decaying around them, carving itself into Julie’s skin with each day that passes.  The result is a mind-bending book that will have you second-guessing every stray noise around you, every change in the light, and have you considering the very walls around you differently.  And what more could you ask from a haunted house novel?

Until next time, dear readers, Happy All Hallows Read!

 

 

Awards Season: The Bram Stoker Awards!

It’s awards season this year, and we at the Library are thrilled to bring you all the winners–not just from last night’s Academy Awards, but from this year’s Bram Stoker Awards, which were handed out this weekend in Providence Rhode Island!

Each year, the Horror Writer’s Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the horror novel to beat all horror novels (and Free For All favorite), Dracula. The Bram Stoker Awards were instituted immediately after the organization’s incorporation in 1987.  The first awards were presented in 1988 (for works published in 1987), and they have been presented every year since. The award itself, designed by sculptor Steven Kirk, is a stunning haunted house, with a door that opens to reveal a brass plaque engraved with the name of the winning work and its author.

How amazing is this?!

The Stoker Awards specifically avoid the word “best”, because it recognizes that horror itself is a genre that is constantly moving, changing, and pushing its own boundaries (and can often be very specific to a place, or a generation).  Instead, it uses the words “Superior Achievement”.  The categories of award have changed over the years, as well, as the genre has evolved, but since 2011, the eleven Bram Stoker Award categories are: Novel, First Novel, Short Fiction, Long Fiction, Young Adult, Fiction Collection, Poetry Collection, Anthology, Screenplay, Graphic Novel and Non-Fiction.

We’ll have some more information regarding Stokercon, the annual meeting of the Horror Writers of America from one of our library staff who attended part of convention, but for now, let’s celebrate the winners (and maybe find some new books to enjoy?)!

Here is a selection of the nominees and winners of the 2017 Bram Stoker Awards, with links to the Library Catalog in the title of each book where applicable:

Superior Achievement in a Novel

Winner: Ararat by Christopher Golden

Also nominated:

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen & Owen King

Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman

I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski (access this title via ComCat–check with your friendly reference staff!)

Ubo by Steve Rasnic Tem

Superior Achievement in a First Novel

Winner: Cold Cuts by Robert Payne Cabeen

Also nominated:

In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson

What Do Monsters Fear? by Matt Hayward

The Boulevard Monster by Jeremy Hepler (access this title via ComCat–check with your friendly reference staff!)

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel

Winner: The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

Also nominated:

The Door to January by Gillian French

Hellworld by Tom Leveen

The Ravenous  by Amy Lukavics

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel

Winner: Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and Octavia E. Butler

Also nominated:

Darkness Visible by Mike Carey and Ethan David Arvind

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

The Black Monday Murders by Jonathan Hickman (access this title via ComCat–check with your friendly reference staff!)

Monstress Volume 2 by Marjorie Liu

Superior Achievement in a Screenplay

Winner: Get Out by Jordan Peele

Also nominated:

The Shape of Water by Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor

Stranger Things: MadMax (Episode 2:01) by Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer (Season 2 isn’t available yet, but once it is, we’ll have it for you!)

Twin Peaks, Part 8 by Mark Frost and David Lynch

It by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman

Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction

Winner: Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of the ’70’s and ’80’s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix

Also nominated:

Horror in Space: Critical Essays on a Film Subgenre by Michele Brittany (access this title via ComCat–check with your friendly reference staff!)

Searching for Sycorax: Black Women’s Hauntings of Contemporary Horror by Kinitra D. Brooks

The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated History by Stephen Jones (access this title via ComCat–check with your friendly reference staff!)

Where Nightmares Come From: The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre edited by Joe Mynhardt and Eugene Johnson

 

Check out all the winners of the 2017 Bram Stoker Awards here!

Happy All Hallows Read!

We wish you the very best for this years official All Hallows Read, beloved patrons and readers!  May you sample all the candy you desire, may you be filled with treats and free of tricks.  And, for those who would like a little spooky reading for your All Hallows Read, we are happy to present you with a classic and shiver-inducing story: “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs.

Portrait of W.W. Jacobs by Elliot & Fry, via Wikipedia

 

Jacobs was born in Wapping, London in 1863, the son of a wharf manager.  He was well-educated, and eventually began work as a clerk in a post office savings bank.  The work afforded him both a living and time to write, and by 1885, he had his first short story published.  He married Agnes Eleanor Williams, a noted suffrage activist, in 1900.  Though Jacobs is remembered as a writer of horror stories (“The Monkey’s Paw” being the story for which he is most well-remembered), his career was mostly as a writer of humorous stories, predominately about mariners and sea-faring.  He was successful enough that he retired from the post office in 1899.

There are aspects of this story that are certainly dated, not the least of which is the “magical thing that comes from a faraway part of the Empire to destroy British people” trope.  It’s a theme that pops up everywhere in Sherlock Holmes stories, it was the basis for Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, it’s the main premise of Dracula…safe to say, it’s a well-worn theme that helped create the idea of the “other”–a figure that was frightening and dangerous and needed to be controlled.  And we should recognize that.  On the other hand, this story is still read, and still shared, because it is wonderfully constructed, finely wrought, and genuinely unsettling.  It is a perfect embodiment of the old maxim “be careful what you wish for”, but without feeling pedantic or rehashed.   Jacobs’ talents as a humorous shine through in places, as well, helping him create characters who are sympathetic and real, even down to their inability to play a good game of chess.  And it’s that connection to these people, and this ability to relate to them, even when they make the most dire of mistakes, that makes this story such an effective–and affecting–one.

So, we hope you enjoy “The Monkey’s Paw”, and that your All Hallows’ Read, or Halloween, or Tuesday evening, is one that brings you great joy.  And maybe a few shivers.  Just click on the title below to access!

The Monkey’s Paw, W.W. Jacobs

All Hallows Read: The Haunted House, Part 3

This week, we’ve been talking about the haunted house in literature, and detailing the kinds of haunted houses that one can find in traditional horror novels/ghost stories/All-Hallows Read selections.

Via The Business Journals

But as I was working on these posts, it occurred to me how many other kinds of haunted sites have been cropping up in fiction, especially lately.  According to many scholars of genre, the horror novel is entering a new phase, that isn’t wholly defined as yet.  Some of its core themes, however, deal with 1) our growing unease with the unknown, especially amidst the information explosion brought about by the internet, 2) a kind of existentialist despair–being faced with the realities and future threats of global climate change, nuclear armageddon, and other issues over which we have comparatively little control has introduced the fear that perhaps doom is inevitable.  That perhaps we can’t vanquish all the monsters with technology and fortitude.  Whether these genre tropes will grow and mature into a new era of horror has yet to be seen.  But what we do know is that we’ve already been treated to a host of horror novels that up-end conventions, while still providing the fears, dreads, and very human journeys that make horror novels so pleasurable to read.

Via Youtube

One of the noticeable themes that these books overturn is the notion of the haunted house.  In an age where fewer people are buying houses, it makes sense that the living situations reflected in horror novels needs to change, too.  You can’t really be scared of something if you have no frame of reference.  But while some of these books looks at a haunted apartment building, others keep pushing the line, giving us haunted superstores and haunted ships.  They enrich our thinking about the spaces we inhabit and the memories they carry inside them.  They challenge us to remember, even as we are told to look forward to the future, to not be held back by the past.  They also allow us to explore the dark secrets and troubling pasts that our characters carry with them, and how our own personal darkness can affect our perception of the world and each other.  No longer are our characters hapless victims of the spirit world–they are the dry charge themselves that make the spaces ugly and scary by bringing their very real-world ugliness and scariness into it.

So what are some of these new haunted spaces?  Take a look below and see what you think!

Horrorstör: Grady Hendrix is a really interesting author, who plays with conventions while still delivering interesting and engaging stories.  He’s also written a book that is laid out like a high school year book, which is perfect for those with 1980’s nostalgia.  But this book is very much of the moment, set in a generic Ikea, known as the Orsk furniture superstore.  Strange things have been going on in this Cleveland store, but when three employees volunteer to work an overnight shift to investigate, but what they discover is more horrifying than they could have imagined.  This book is a model of good design (thanks to designer Andie Reid, illustrator Michael Rogalski, and cover photographer Christine Ferrara).  It is laid out like a glossy catalog, complete with showroom shots and maps of Orsk’s labyrinthine layout, providing a delightful contrast between the ironic and the horrific.

The Graveyard ApartmentThis Japanese horror novel, originally published in 1986,  takes us into an enormous apartment building that was constructed next to a graveyard. The young couple and their daughter who move into this household are dealing with their own inner darkness and wrestling with secrets they are fighting to keep hidden.  The longer they stay in their new place, though, the stranger and stranger things seem to get.  People around them move out one by one, until this small family is left alone in the building.  Alone, except for whatever is living in the basement. Mariko Koike is a master of the psychological novel, and this book doesn’t always show, and resists answering all the questions it asks.  Instead, it leaves it up to the reader to slide their own fears and doubts to the reading experience, and playing on our inherent fears of the dark and the unknown to create a genuinely chilling reading experience.

The Apartment: Another haunted apartment, this one set in the glamor of Paris.  This young family and their daughter (is there a trend here?) move from Cape Town after surviving a violent break-in that left them traumatized.  At first, the house-swap plan they find sounds perfect.  But upon moving to their European haven, they quickly realize that nothing is as advertised.  This is a story where the ‘haunting’ is a way to get to the heart of these characters, breaking down their defenses and facades and forcing them to confront each other’s worst (and sometimes best) qualities.  This is very much a story about people bringing out the worst, not only in each other, but in the space they inhabit, and that interaction makes it feel very modern, indeed.

 

Happy reading, beloved patrons.  And Happy All-Hallows Read!

 

Found Footage Horror in Books?

It’s summertime, which means I’ve been indulging my love of horror novels, dear readers.   And I’ve found myself feeling a bit nostalgic…

…How many of you remember The Blair Witch Project?

Though it wasn’t the first “found footage” horror film–‘found footage’ being a sort of sub-genre where the film is presented as amateur video discovered after an event–The Blair Witch Project came along at precisely the right time, harnessing the power of the new technology that was the Internet to whip everyone into something of a tizzy.  Debates sprung up everywhere as to whether the events depicted in the film actually happened, what truly happened to the three young film-makers seen in the footage, and just what the Blair Witch really was.  I remember three people in Blockbuster video (yes, Blockbuster Video)  arguing together about whether the film was a ‘hoax’, and if so, what it meant for the horror genre as a whole that this film had so blurred the line between fiction and reality.

Because that’s what ‘found-footage’ does so well, and why it’s such a fascinating genre.  Found-footage creates a reality in a way that few other movies do.  It’s power comes from its incompleteness.  Real life usually doesn’t play out with a well-plotted beginning, middle, and end.  It’s messy.  There are plotlines that go nowhere.  And, in the end, we don’t get the answers to all our questions.

Horror as a genre allows us to deal with the unpleasant, the scary, and the overwhelming aspects of life in a safe way.  Found footage helps us deal with a reality where something are just un-knowable.  And for creatures whose brains are programmed to think in narrative form, that in itself is pretty terrifying.

Anyways, looking back on The Blair Witch Project today (not the sequel, for which I had such high hopes)…it’s a bit campy.  The plot doesn’t really hold up (they argue for 10 minutes out of an 80-minute movie about a map).  The steady-cam makes everyone a wee bit nauseous.  But what is does beautifully is harness our inherent terror of not knowing.  And even though ‘found footage’ is a tough genre to do successfully, especially with today’s passion for special effects and IMAX panoramas and computer generation, I don’t think that fear of not knowing has dimmed at all.  If anything, it’s probably gotten even stronger now that we have so many resources to look up anything we want, to know all we want…to dispel those shadows lurking in the corner…

But when that ability is taken away, when sentences end with ellipses or a comma, and not a period, when the camera is dropped and there is no resolution–it triggers something in our cave-brain that thinks in narrative to flip out and start climbing the walls.

And for those of you looking for a “found footage” fix in a book–there are any number of options from which you can choose.  Dracula and Frankenstein, the very foundations of the horror genre, are themselves ‘found footage’ of a sort, in that they are collections of media produced by the characters.  So let’s take a look as see how this genre has expanded and evolved–just don’t look too closely at those shadows in the corner……

The Supernatural Enhancements: We’ve covered this book here a few times before, but that’s because it’s so flipping good.  The plot centers around a twenty-something gentleman named A., who inherits a house in the backwoods of Virginia from an unknown relative who apparently died after jumping out of a window at the precise age that A himself is now.  Together with Niamh, a mute young woman who is a force in her own right, A sets out to discover the secrets of the house, and of his mysterious family.  The book is a mish-mash of letters written by A to his aunt, of transcripts of conversations between A and Niamh (who writes instead of speaking), and transcripts of video and audio recordings made inside the house.  And codes. So many, many codes.  Because A’s family has plenty of secrets, both fascinating and terrible–and while we learn a good deal of them, there is plenty in this book that is left up to the imagination, not the least of which is what precisely lives in the upstairs bathroom?

House of Leaves: Another old favorite here, and one that very well might take the found footage tale to a whole new level.  Mark Z. Danielewski’s book, ostensibly, is about a family who buys a house that turns out to be bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.  And not in a fun, TARDIS-kind of way.  This is a house with a mind of its own, and it’s quite easy to get lost forever.  But if that wasn’t enough, this is a found story about a found story–and, as such, this book is a chilling maze of footnotes, as the multiple layers of storytellers all work through their own issues with this tale–and reveal just how badly this house has affected them all.  This is one of the few books that can make citations scary.  Read it on a beach.  In the sunlight.  Probably, read it outside.  It’s just safer that way.

We Eat Our Own: This is a story less comprised of found footage, and more about found footage–specifically, about the first new found-footage horror movie, the Italian Cannibal Holocaust, which was widely believed to be a ‘snuff’ film when it was first released (a subsequent trial revealed that the human actors all survived, though the scenes of animal brutality were indeed real).  Kea Wilson’s novel follows a nameless, struggling actor in 1970s New York who gets a call that an enigmatic director wants him for an art film set in the Amazon…not because of his talents, but because he so closely resembles the former star who is unable to complete the film.  The conditions on-set are terrible–the atmosphere is so damp that the celluloid film disintegrates, the director himself seems near madness, and there are strange rumors on set about the goings-on in the village around them.  This book is less about Cannibal Holocaust itself than it is a book about violence, and what is does to people who cannot escape it.  It’s a twisty, twisted, thought-provoking, bizarre story that skips perspectives with dizzying ease, and ends with a scene as ambiguous as The Blair Witch Project itself.  Try it, and tell me what you think is going on!

And the (Stoker) nominees are….

Just in case you haven’t had your fill of awards this season, dear readers, we are delighted to bring you this year’s Stoker Award Nominees, celebrating the best in English-language horror writing!

Each year, the Horror Writer’s Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the horror novel to beat all horror novels (and Free For All favorite), Dracula. The Bram Stoker Awards were instituted immediately after the organization’s incorporation in 1987.  The first awards were presented in 1988 (for works published in 1987), and they have been presented every year since. The award itself, designed by sculptor Steven Kirk, is a stunning haunted house, with a door that opens to reveal a brass plaque engraved with the name of the winning work and its author.

How amazing is this?!

The Stoker Awards specifically avoid the word “best”, because it recognizes that horror itself is a genre that is constantly moving, changing, and pushing its own boundaries (and can often be very specific to a place, or a generation).  Instead, it uses the words “Superior Achievement”.  The categories of award have changed over the years, as well, as the genre has evolved, but since 2011, the eleven Bram Stoker Award categories are: Novel, First Novel, Short Fiction, Long Fiction, Young Adult, Fiction Collection, Poetry Collection, Anthology, Screenplay, Graphic Novel and Non-Fiction.

And can I just say, that the HWA also hosts an academic conference on horror alongside its annual conference, known as the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference, after the pioneer of the Gothic novel, and a lady author to boot?  I think that is the coolest thing ever, not only because the HWA remains so devoted to celebrating and studying horror as a genre in the past and the future, but it also creates a wonderfully inclusive atmosphere where all kinds of readers are accepted.

So here, without further ado, are the 2016 nominees for the Stoker Awards.  There are a few titles here that we’ve covered previously at the Free For All, which is proof that we know how to pick ’em, and many that I will be added to my To Be Read list promptly!   The final announcement will be made at StokerCon, the annual conference of the HWA.

Superior Achievement in a Novel

Superior Achievement in a First Novel

Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction

Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection

Superior Achievement in an Anthology

Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection

Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel

Superior Achievement in a Screenplay