BOOK REVIEW | The Other by Thomas Tryon

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4/5 stars

From the publisher:
Holland and Niles Perry are identical thirteen-year-old twins. They are close, close enough, almost, to read each other’s thoughts, but they couldn’t be more different. Holland is bold and mischievous, a bad influence, while Niles is kind and eager to please, the sort of boy who makes parents proud. The Perrys live in the bucolic New England town their family settled centuries ago, and as it happens, the extended clan has gathered at its ancestral farm this summer to mourn the death of the twins’ father in a most unfortunate accident. Mrs. Perry still hasn’t recovered from the shock of her husband’s gruesome end and stays sequestered in her room, leaving her sons to roam free. As the summer goes on, though, and Holland’s pranks become increasingly sinister, Niles finds he can no longer make excuses for his brother’s actions.

My thoughts:
Niles, look at me…You have a secret. Tell it to me. Tell it to Ada.

This is the sort of book that makes you want to start reading it again as soon as you’ve finished the last page. I went into The Other expecting a quick read, and ended up getting more than I bargained for. This is the dark tale of twin brothers Niles and Holland; a story full of plot twists and chilling imagery. Reading keeps you wondering if things are things what we think they are, or if we are at the mercy of a disturbed mind? As with many works that centre around disturbed children, expect some animal violence as well.

As Dan Chon mentions in his Afterword in the NYBR edition, The Other calls to mind works by Shirley Jackson and Patricia Highsmith – not bad company to be in for Tryon. While this was a bit slow in pace, I really enjoyed it and loved reading the final chapters on Halloween!

BOOK REVIEW| Revival by Stephen King

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5/5 stars

From the publisher:
A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life.

In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs—including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of thirteen, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties—addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate—Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.

This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written.

My thoughts:
This book is the definition of a page turner! I blasted through it and loved every second.

We follow Jamie from age 6 into his early 60’s, enduring his highs and incredibly dark lows along side him. All the while Pastor Jacobs, a constant in Jamie’s life, his fifth business, decends deeper and deeper into his obsessions.

King is notorious for taking a bold stance on controversial topics, and this book is a poignant statement on organized relgion and how it can be used to exploit hopeful believers.

Religion is the theological equivalent of a quick-burn insurance scam, where you pay your premium year after year, and then, when you need the benefits you paid for so – pardon the pun – so religiously, you discover the company that took your money does not, in fact, exist.

King is an absolute master of suspense – the final chapters were so intense as we wait to discover Pastor Jacobs has planned. I could feel my heart beating in my chest as I raced through pages into the startling conclusion.

There was a little missing for me in regards to character development. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t fully connect with Jamie. I really enjoyed following him through his life, but somehow I wasn’t completely wrapped up in his story.

Revival was pure, creepy fun – I look forward to re-reading this one again!

BOOK REVIEW | ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

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4.5/5 stars

From the publisher:
‘Salem’s Lot is a small New England town with white clapboard houses, tree-lined streets, and solid church steeples. That summer in ‘Salem’s Lot was a summer of home-coming and return; spring burned out and the land lying dry, crackling underfoot. Late that summer, Ben Mears returned to ‘Salem’s Lot hoping to cast out his own devils… and found instead a new unspeakable horror.

A stranger had also come to the Lot, a stranger with a secret as old as evil, a secret that would wreak irreparable harm on those he touched and in turn on those they loved.

All would be changed forever—Susan, whose love for Ben could not protect her; Father Callahan, the bad priest who put his eroded faith to one last test; and Mark, a young boy who sees his fantasy world become reality and ironically proves the best equipped to handle the relentless nightmare of ‘Salem’s Lot.

My thoughts:
I have loved vampire stories for as long as I can remember (please tell me someone remembers the Are You Afraid of the Dark? vampire episode), but somehow I had yet to read ‘Salem’s Lot.

I absolutely loved reading one of King’s early works – this book is so distinctly his. His style is already in place early on, and it’s no wonder that he has become one of the greatest writers (not just a horror writer!) of our time. Simple moments like this are classic Stephen King to me:

<i>He was sitting on the rocker next to her, and without stopping it’s slow movement forth and back, he leaned over and pressed his mouth on hers…She began to rock also, and the movement made the kiss into something new. It waxed and waned, light and firm.</i>

King brings classic horror to the table with awesome tension building and just enough gore to satisfy fans of the macabre. I highly recommend Stephen King’s introduction on the audiobook – it’s an awesome listen and does not spoil the book!

BOOK REVIEW | The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

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4/5 stars

From the publisher:
A teenage girl is held captive and brutally tortured by neighborhood children. Based on a true story, this shocking novel reveals the depravity of which we are all capable.

This novel contains graphic content and is recommended for regular readers of horror novels

My thoughts:
It seems to me…likely that it was precisely because she was beautiful and strong, and we were not, that Ruth and the rest of us had done this to her. To make a sort of judgement on they beauty, on what it meant and didn’t mean to us.

This book was incredibly difficult to read, and at times I wondered why I was. In fact, Jack Ketchum said his “aim was to make you feel guilty about turning the goddamn page” – as a reader, you feel complicit in the torture of Meg and Susan. As horrific as this book is, the true story of Sylvia Likens is much, much worse. If you take this on, please know that is is extremely violent, explicit, and involves kids.

BOOK REVIEW | We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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5/5 stars

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

My thoughts:
I can’t help it when people are frightened; I always want to frighten them more. 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is my second Shirley Jackson read, the first being The Haunting of Hill House, and I am completely sold. Jackson is an absolute master of atmosphere – her books are creepy, and I mean that as a huge compliment. I felt incredibly uneasy while reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle; I love the slow burning tension and the look into Merricat’s thoughts. Reading this book has made me that much more interested in Jackson herself – she writes about women who are descending into madness, and I have to wonder where that inspiration came from. I may pick up Ruth Franklin’s new biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life to learn more about the woman behind the books.

If you’re looking for an atmospheric and unsettling read for October do not hesitate to pick this up!

BOOK REVIEW | The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

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3.5/5 stars

From the publisher:
A fast-moving, eerie…tale set on Halloween night. Eight costumed boys running to meet their friend Pipkin at the haunted house outside town encounter instead the huge and cadaverous Mr. Moundshroud. As Pipkin scrambles to join them, he is swept away by a dark Something, and Moundshroud leads the boys on the tail of a kite through time and space to search the past for their friend and the meaning of Halloween. After witnessing a funeral procession in ancient Egypt, cavemen discovering fire, Druid rites, the persecution of witches in the Dark Ages, and the gargoyles of Notre Dame, they catch up with the elusive Pipkin in the catacombs of Mexico, where each boy gives one year from the end of his life to save Pipkin’s.

My thoughts:
A fun and quick Halloween read! I enjoyed this little book and really enjoy Bradbury’s style. I can see so much of Neil Gaiman in this book – magical realism with a lot of heart. It’s always awesome to read the books that influenced current writers, and I look forward to continuing through Bradbury’s work.