F is for (Books About) Family #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

I’m a big believer that families don’t have to be blood; we create our families. There are many reasons to create family; the important thing is to know that they’d always have your back no matter what.

This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab (YA horror): Kate was born into a family with a father who doesn’t seem to love her. August was adopted into a family who just wants to protect him. Their families are at war over control of a dangerous city where violent acts create monsters. Kate and August both have to decide what family means to them, and how they fit into the war. This is a fantastic, gripping book that kept me turning pages. I had just as much trouble putting it down the second time I read it as the first.

If I Stay, by Gayle Forman (YA): When a car accident kills her family and puts Mia in a coma, Mia realizes that she can choose whether to live or die. She thinks about her life while her boyfriend tries to remind her of all the things she has to live for. This novel basically ripped my heart to shreds. So you should definitely read it. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it’s on my list to watch. But since the preview made me cry, I’m guessing I’ll love the movie too.

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon (YA contemporary): Both of her books are fantastic (and now that I think about it, both speak to the nature of family). This one is all about the ways families simultaneously lift us up and drag us down. Natasha and Daniel both love their families, but they both expect them to be different people. The majority of this book takes place on a single day in New York City, but what an unforgettable day!

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone (and all of them, really), by JK Rowling (MG through YA fantasy): Harry’s parents died, so he ends up stuck with his horrible aunt and uncle, who don’t love him. During his first year at Hogwarts, he finds a family that will stick with him through all seven amazing books. Some people might call this friendship, but when you have people willing to die for you, isn’t that family?

The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (contemporary): Victoria is an orphan who had one shot at a family, and blew it. Now an adult, she has another shot, and it scares her to death. She’s only comfortable with flowers and expressing herself through them, as she was taught as a child. This story is told with dual timelines between 18-year-old Victoria and 8-year-old Victoria. It’s moving and fascinating.

What are your favorite books about family?

E is for (Books About) Evil #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

This is the last grim topic for a while. The next few days will be much more positive and uplifting!

Evil is one of those timeless topics, as we all like to see good triumph over evil. Good doesn’t always win in horror novels though. For many of us, there’s something exciting and interesting about exploring our darkest fears. After all, what’s worse than evil?

Pet Sematary, by Stephen King (horror): This book starts with a simple premise, a local graveyard, where if you bury something, it comes back (though not the same as before). Locals have used this for pets, to ease the transition for their children. But when the Creeds’ son dies, Louis buries him there and isn’t prepared for what returns. Horror, at its finest, takes a simple, familiar idea and makes it terrifying. This book is one of my favorite Stephen King books, and one of the few books that actually scared me sleepless. (I was a teenager at the time… but it still counts.)

House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski (horror): Johnny falls into possession of a book that claims to be an academic study of a documentary, The Navidson Record, though he can’t find any documentary by that name. The book draws him in, sending him spiraling further and further into an obsession. Both what happens to Johnny and what happens inside the house in The Navidson record are terrifying. It’s a fresh and awful spin on the haunted house trope.

A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay (horror): Merry’s older sister claims to be possessed by an evil demon, and no one is sure if that’s true or if she’s mentally ill. She does terrible things. The family is broke, and to fund her mental health treatment, they allow a documentary crew to come in and film her possession and exorcism. The ending of this book is unforgettable.

Hideaway, by Dean Koontz (science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, etc.): When Hatch Harrison dies and is revived, he becomes psychically connected to a serial killer who believes he’s doing Satan’s bidding. As the book goes on, it gets weirder and weirder, blending religion with science fiction, fantasy, and horror. There’s also a love story and the adoption of a sassy and interesting child. Koontz books are never just one thing.

What are your recommendations for books about evil?

What Scares Me

img_6722I often tell people that the only movie that ever scared me was the Blair Witch Project.  I suppose that’s not entirely true.  As a kid, I caught Children of the Corn on TV, and I remember it giving me nightmares.

Not everyone who saw Blair Witch thought it was scary.  But I saw it back in 1999, when it first came out in theaters, before “found footage movies” were a thing.  Someone told me it was true, and I believed them.  I was living in Pennsylvania at the time, in a rural area, with a scary, dark forest in my back yard.

While all that scared me, what really did it for me with that movie was the fact that you never actually see the witch.  All these movies that conjure up monsters with teeth and claws and dripping blood make me laugh.  Because for me, it’s not what I can see that’s scary; it’s all the things I can’t see.

I don’t find comedies funny, but if you show me most horror movies, I’ll laugh and laugh.  The Ring had potential up until the bad guy was a little girl, crawling out of the TV.  With that scene, it went over into silly for me.  Intellectually, I found the first Paranormal Activity scary, but it didn’t make my heart speed up or give me any gut-wrenching moments.  It was more that I knew it was scary rather than I felt it.

Maybe that’s because I worked in mobile crisis for awhile, where bad things could actually happen to us.  I got lucky, and nothing ever did.  But other teams I worked with had some scary stories.

Nothing I can see is scary.  Blood and guts and gore don’t do it for me.  What scares me are the things I can’t see.  The monster who stays off-screen and won’t show it’s face, or the human monster who looks just like the rest of us.  Psychological horror, where something’s going on, and we don’t know quite what, but it’s messing with my head.

The Shining, by Stephen King, is one of the best examples of psychological horror.  Because yeah, there are ghosts or demons or whatever, but it’s what they do that’s so wonderfully horrible.  They make this mess of a man, who’s really trying to be better, devolve into someone who almost kills his wife and son.  That’s horror.

What scares you?



15 Best Horror Novels

Strictly speaking, these aren’t all horror, but they are all scary.  You’ll notice a lot of repeat authors on this list.  I’m a loyal reader and I tend to like a certain style of writing.  I tried to mix it up a little.  I thought I should confess that I could do a top 10 list of just Dean Koontz novels.  In my opinion, he’s the best author ever, and if I were half as good a writer as him, I could die happy.  His books don’t fit well in any one genre, so that made it easier for him not to be the only author on the list.  Here goes:

15.  When Rabbit Howls– Trudy Chase:  You may be familiar with multiple personality disorder or dissociative identity disorder as it’s called now from Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber or I’m Eve by Chris Costner Sizemore.  All good books (and true stories) but in my opinion, this one is the best of the bunch.  I don’t normally read nonfiction, but this is worth your time.

14.  Stealing Shadows– Kay Hooper:  Okay, she’s not really a “horror” novelist, but it’s a scary book.  Psychics, serial killers, and a small town… what more could you want?  If you read this book and fall in love, it’s a series.

13.  Shutter Island– Dennis Lehane:  This follows the plot of the movie pretty closely, but its much creepier in the book.  It’s definitely worth reading.  If you’re looking for outright horror, this isn’t it.  But if you’re looking for a psychological thriller, this may be for you.

12. Primal Fear – William Diehl:  There’s blood and gore along with psychological horror.  It’s a great read and if you haven’t seen the movie, it will keep you guessing.

11.  Presumed Innocent– Scott Turow:  Great book about an average guy whose life gets turned upside down.  Even the ending is a kick in the teeth.

10.  I Am Legend– Richard Matheson:  This is so much better than the movie.  The movies is loosely… let me say it again… loosely based on the novella.  It is a vampire novel about what happens when the last man on earth isn’t one.

9.  The Silence of the Lambs/ Hannibal– Thomas Harris: Again, the movie was great, but the book was better.  I highly recommend reading the books back to back.  They’re wonderful.  Ignore that Hannibal Rising exists.  I couldn’t even get through it.

8.  Watchers– Dean Koontz:  In my opinion, this one isn’t strictly horror, but many places classify it as such, and since it’s my all time favorite book, I’ll go with it.  It is scary on many levels and just an all around great read.

7.   A Whisper in the Dark– Louisa May Alcott:  Yes, that Louisa May Alcott.  This is an anthology of her short stories, and they’re wonderful horror fiction.  She also has a book called A Marble Woman (also an anthology) and A Long and Fatal Love Chase.  If you like her writing style and love horror, read them as soon as possible.

6.  Red Dragon– Thomas Harris: Scary, moving, fast paced, creepy.  Everything a book like this should be.

5.   The Bad Place– Dean Koontz: All around creep factor is off the charts.  There’s just nothing else quite like this book out there.

4.  Velocity– Dean Koontz: Fast paced, this novel keeps escalating until you get to the end.  It’s hard to put down and hard to forget.

3.  The Blackstone Chronicles- John Saul:  This is a series of stories about ordinary objects that are distributed in a town and cause people to go crazy and do extraordinary things.  It had an ending that will stick with you long after you’re done reading.

2.  Stir of Echoes– Richard Matheson:  This is a great book and one of my all time favorite horror books.  It’s a chilling look at human nature, with a touch of paranormal and the feeling that this could happen to anyone.

1.  Salem’s Lot– Stephen King:  As far as I’m concerned, this is the best vampire novel out there.  These vampires are not sexy.  They are scary and even Buffy would have a hard time going up against them.

Happy reading!  Please let me know if there’s something you feel I’ve left off the list, or if you have opinions on any of these you’d like to share.