I love horror films. LOVE THEM. But, I admit, I am no aficionado of horror books. I read a few Stephen King novels over the years and they usually led to me having horrible nightmares. Now, I know, nightmares aren’t fun for anyone but the ones I have tend to be bad for anyone in the same house as me. I have a tendency to wake up screaming as though I am being violently attacked. I’ve had more than one person run into my room with a makeshift weapon of some sort to try to stave off the attacker they assumed was in there with me based on said screaming.
Watching horror movies actually helped with the nightmares. I’m not sure if it was facing my fears or just releasing some of the terror I had built up over the years but the nightmares were way less common as I got older and embraced horror movies. Then I would read a Stephen King novel and boom, nightmares.
Two years ago, I read IT and while it’s certainly creepy, I didn’t have a single nightmare. I also read a couple of Joe Hill books and was almost done with The Girl With All The Gifts before I realized that it was even supposed to be a horror novel. All of that is to say that I slowly realized that horror novels no longer gave me nightmares. By the way, The Girl With All The Gifts is creepy enough, I just wasn’t even thinking about it as I read through the story.
With that realization, I wanted to read several of them this year in preparation for the best holiday of the year, Halloween. As an adult, it gets harder to find ways to celebrate Halloween in ways that don’t involve eating too many sweets or going to a bar in costume. This year, I decided to merge my two favorite things: storytelling and Halloween. I’m watching 31 Horror Films in 31 Days and reading several horror books. You can read my short, dumb reviews of the movies on my twitter page. I’m not very good at writing short blurbs. It’s one of the reasons I write novels and not short stories.
Anyway! On to the books.
First up is Hellworld by local Phoenix area author, Tom Leveen. I loved so many things about this book! For starters, the beginning freaked me out so much that, when reading it at night, I had to read a few pages of something else before I would let myself drift off to sleep. I love that! More books should start by scaring the crap out of you. As the book went on, it had a lot of other good stuff including something I love a lot, monsters. Hellworld is full of action and it makes a lot of unexpected turns. This book was clearly written by someone who loves several aspects of horror and bent them to his craft.
Next up, My Best Friend’s Exorcism. Did I buy this book based solely on the amazing cover? Why yes, yes I did. And you know what? I wasn’t disappointed. This book was endlessly entertaining to me. If you were involved in church culture at all during the 80s, and don’t mind some mocking of said culture, you will love this book. I don’t want to give anything away but I was particularly tickled by the identity of the exorcist. I also loved the moment when the best friend gets possessed. It’s like all of the worries from an afternoon special come true. The only thing I didn’t like (and thankfully saw coming) was a scene with a dog. I HATE it when a dog shows up in a horror story because you typically know what is going to happen. I have developed a thicker skin for many things but dang it, don’t hurt the dog! Otherwise, I enjoyed this book that got plenty creepy at points and made me laugh or grin like a maniac at others.
I read I’m Thinking of Ending Things in one sitting on a lazy Sunday. It was the day football started and my husband had gone to a sports bar to “bask in the glorious return of football” – his words. I don’t share his enthusiasm so I stayed home to read. I think this book is technically more of a “literary thriller” but it’s scary as all get out and I kind of abhor subgenres. So, I’m calling it horror. This book has layers and layers of creepy goodness. There were moments where I was talking to myself out loud trying to figure out what the heck was going on. I honestly don’t want to give anything away with this one because while you start to get the idea of what is going on before it’s fully revealed, you are left guessing and confused and creeped out for much of the book and I don’t want to take that away from you.
I saved the horror book from one of my favorite authors for last. When I found out that Stephanie Perkins was writing a horror novel, I was immediately fully on board. I love her romances but her twitter account made it obvious that she wasn’t just a casual horror fan. (I found the 31 horror film challenge there a few years ago!) So I was thrilled when her next book was announced and it was a horror novel. I loved There’s Someone Inside Your House! It has all of the things I love about her other novels: a sense of place, authentic characters, and even a sweet love story. It also has a high body count and is a lot of fun. I loved, loved, loved the corn maze scene. It reminded me of that amazing movie theater scene in Scream 2 which I have always enjoyed. I liked that the focus switched from a whodunnit scenario halfway through so that you got to focus on the fear of the killer and where they would strike next. And, might I add a huge thank you to Stephanie Perkins for putting a dog in her book and not killing it??? I think I’ll go add it to https://www.doesthedogdie.com/ (bless the people who made this site.)
I want to keep reading horror books through to the end of the month and welcome suggestions!