Oct 2022 Recommendations

We watched The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window on Netflix and while it’s a good parody of many female detective films, it’s blighted by huge plot holes and people doing entirely nonsensical things — because it’s a spoof… yes, I realise that, but I didn’t find it funny enough to fit the category. Fun entertainment as long as you’re not looking for anything special.

I was impressed with The Midnight Club (also Netflix) based on a book by Christopher Pike in which a group of terminally ill youngsters form a storytelling club which meets at midnight in the library at the hospice they all live in. Left enough questions for a second series, if that’s their intention — if not, they can be viewed as plot holes — and I don’t know how relatable the series is to the book, but it dealt well with the subject of death, especially for the young, in a thought-provoking way.

This being October, I set myself a pile of horror related books to read once I’d finished the last book I had started in September. Didn’t get through as many as I’d hoped and I’m currently reading Ghost Story, which I’ll review next time.

Dark Dawn Over Steep House, M.R.C.Kasasian
A sad book in multiple ways yet fitting for the tone of this series. It’s difficult to say more without giving too much away. The story revolves around many types of loss and deceit. It’s one of the best books in the series. Alas, I have to mark it down slightly as this could have done with a more eagle-eyed editor, one who could pick up on awkward sentences and added a few more dialogue tags to let us know who is saying what to whom, which appears to be a habit with the author. A minor irritation that doesn’t stop me from loving this series.

The Vessel, Adam L.G.Nevill
All the way through this book, I kept thinking this book should be a film, which makes perfect sense once I got to the end and read the author’s notes. The old woman struck me as the harbinger of evil, and there didn’t have to be anything supernatural about her to make me shudder. But this is horror, so nothing is straightforward. Present tense omnipresent isn’t really a style I love, but for this book, it’s perfect. We see the action from a wide camera lens, which does a good job rocketing up tension. I wasn’t terrified, but found this satisfying creepy with a conclusion I adored. A short but entertaining read that’s a perfect example of dark fiction, which I feel has a broader connotation than horror.

The Hideaway, Dean Koontz
A re-read for me. A man resuscitated long after death awakens with a strange connection to a killer. People often criticise Koontz for too often having religious themes in his books and this is certainly one of those, though an earlier and better example. If one is to read a supernatural thriller regardless of faith, then there must be some leeway for this, although any author can use a recurring theme too often at the risk of work sounding stale. Despite rolling my eyes a time or two, especially once toward the end, I’m giving this book a high mark for its tension, and excellently conceived and solid plot. I felt the book was a little overlong, but not to the point of frustration.

A Short Stay in Hell, Steven L.Peck
How does one even describe this novella of only 100 pages? At first I found it somewhat tedious, but that only seems right considering the events in the story. Slowly, I found I couldn’t put it down. As a lover of books, I thought eternity in a library doesn’t sound like such a bad thing… until I learned the truth of those books. Then the truth of love found and lost, which seemed even greater punishment. A truer horror was the inevitability of some human natures. Though a simple idea, here, the author proves hell doesn’t have to contain hellfire to be torturous. A horror novel? No. And certainly not horrific. But insidiously horrifying.

Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
An excellent book, surprising because most books I hear a buzz about don’t enthral me as well as this one did. Reviews on the cover include a recommendation to fans of books like Rebecca and that’s accurate. This is definitely gothic rather than visceral horror, though the situation Noemi Taboada finds herself in is horrible and even horrific. One particular kiss in the book will have everyone gagging. There’s an element of women coming under abuse, sexual and otherwise, but such is the truth in fact and fiction and is perfectly authentic to the plot, of which the author perfectly laid the stepping stones. I didn’t guess the family secret because it’s such an unusual dark mystery. I liked Noemi’s rebellious and tenacity; any weaknesses she shows fits in perfectly with the setting. Well-written and atmospheric, I enjoyed this book far more than I expected to. This is the first time I’ve heard of this author, though I see she has more books published, which I may well check out.

Scarlet Widow, Graham Masterton
Not at all what I expect from this author and a story majorly spoilt by a gratuitously graphic scene. For most of the book, this read much like Young Adult owing to the non-graphic nature of the murders — we see only the aftermath, not the murders while they occur. This could have been a good title to introduce a teen to the horror or historical thriller genre, but owing to content towards the end, it’s entirely unsuitable, yet it’s not what I’d class as true horror fiction for adults either. I enjoyed this story, though it’s a bit of a slow burn showing us Beatrice’s life from childhood to a grown woman, her background important. However, I felt let down by this intelligent and often capable woman doing little to protect herself when she should have realised how much danger she was in. I would still have given this 3 out of 5, if not for that unnecessarily abusive sexual scene, which made me want to toss the book across the room. Why, in a book that’s shows no graphic occurrences, are readers confronted with a description of an assault upon a woman? I only carried on because I was close to the end and had invested so much time reading. The assault might not have been entirely irrelevant if the intention was to turn the desire for justice to one of revenge, but I felt she had suffered enough to want vengeance by then without the need to pile on additional sorrow — it’s a fact people can feel more vengeful over what’s happened to loved ones than oneself. A simple fade to black would have been sufficient, and a woman burning for revenge would not have come up with so simple a solution. She would have been out to inflict physical pain and therefore I was expecting a more clever and vengeful conclusion.

A House at the Bottom of a Lake, Josh Malerman
Some books defy definition, and this is one. Some will love this; others loathe it. I honestly don’t know what I just read. I know I enjoyed it, but was it good, or was it bad? There are some creepy moments, in part (I feel) owing to the strange setting. The underlying sense of threat in being able to drown down in the dark is present like a character all its own, but drown in what? In water? In horror? In the hope and hopelessness of love? The book reads like an allegory of love. There is menace here, but those expecting a true horror novel may be disappointed. Those approaching the story with an open mind may be better rewarded.

About Sharon

Writer of Dark and Light Fiction. Fact, fiction, poetry, short stories, articles and novels. Cross-genre, slipstream, non-traditional romance, gothic, horror, fantasy and more... Visit this diverse writer's site.
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