Mini Reviews – Part 2 (The One With ALL the Horror Short Story Read-a-Thon Stories)

Short Story Read-A-Thon

The last review post had the first 6 horror short stories I read last week and this one will have the rest! Can I just say it was an awesome week of lots of great horror writing? Love that I managed to work this into my week, along with some great audiobooks and horror novels! I hope I can do the same next year and maybe read the stories I missed this year!

When The Darkness Presses and The Hole the Fox Did Make by Emily Carroll

I just found out about Canadian graphic artist and writer Emily Carroll earlier last week and I am SO in love with her! I’m also very intrigued by the whole web comic format! She had posted on Twitter about When The Darkness Presses being finished, so I thought I’d check it out. I think some of it went over my head, but I’m eager to go back and explore it again. I think one of my favourite parts of the whole story is the layout of it. It’s just so beautiful and unique … not to mention, you feel that creepy vibe almost instantly!

The Hole the Fox Did Make is also gorgeous and creepy … both stories are those that left me wanting more in the end, or at least wanting to go back and explore more and really dig at the themes of the stories. There are TONS of comics on Emily’s website — definitely worth checking out!

What’s In My Sandwich? by R. L. Stine

When I was on Twitter last week, CBC Books tweeted out a link to a new R. L. Stine Halloween short story. Since I had just been listening to some good ol’ Goosebumps by the author, I added it to my list! I didn’t realize that it was a story he tweeted out. Super short, this story packed a punch! And it made me very thankful that I had different lunch plans.

The Signalman by Charles Dickens

Talk about your effective horror! I’ve actually never read anything by Dickens (though I am a ways through A Tale of Two Cities), so I didn’t know what to expect. This story had such a creepy vibe throughout, and an ending that sent shivers up my spine. I love how it really unnerved me while reading. I knew something was up and there was a little bit of tension and then BAM! By the end, I was terrified! I definitely want to read more Dickens now.

AND I didn’t realize until I finished and looked up some reviews that this is the Doctor’s favourite Dickens. Convenient that I picked this one to read!

The Veldt by Ray Bradbury

I had heard somewhere along the way that Ray Bradbury is the master of horror. I expected a LOT from this story. In a way, this story wasn’t terrifying at all. It was another one of those stories with a subtle horror throughout, something you just couldn’t put your finger on. It’s funny because this is an older story and it kind of predicts what kind of conveniences we have in the future — some of them are absolutely bizarre, but it’s interesting how there was a truth in how much the people in the story relied on those conveniences, much like we rely on ours, even if they’re not quite the same. Another story, just like the Dickens, that had me a little on edge by the end, this one was completely different from what I expected, but still an intriguing little read.

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

Maybe I’m not a total Edgar Allen Poe fan. I always expect something terrifying from him, but usually end up not being scared by the end. This one is pretty much what I expected, but I did find the story interesting, the descent into madness the main character experiences. It would almost do better to have this story as more of a full length story than such a short story. I think it would’ve been more effective and set a better mood that way.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

It had been a LONG time since I read this one, but every now and again I whip it out for a reread. This story is terrifying! It’s amazing how much joy Jackson conveys in the first pages of this story, how the reader thinks that it’s such a wonderful thing to have the lottery, only to find that it’s actually quite horrific. And the horror doesn’t really come until the last paragraphs. Why is the woman so upset? Only reading until the very end will tell you why … seriously scary story.

Have you read any of these stories? What did you think? 

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Mini Reviews – Part 1 (The One With ALL the Horror Short Story Read-a-Thon Stories)

Short Story Read-A-Thon

Since I spent ALL of last week reading horror short stories (among some other books and graphic novels, which I reviewed over the course of the week), I thought it would be best to compile my thoughts about the stories in one LONG mini review post. As the week went on, I added in my thoughts of each story. Some I liked, some I hated, and some I just didn’t get. Maybe it’s just the nature of the story story? Maybe I need to go back to school to learn what they’re all about? You be the judge. I’ve also included links to the stories, if you wanted to check them out yourself.

The Babysitter by Robert Coover

What the hell did I just read? Maybe it was because it was early morning when I read this one, but I didn’t get it at all. Was part of it fantasy? On the TV? Was it all real? Is it a character study of the various degrees of what actions could have been taken? It’s incredibly dated, but a super quick read. The writing is different, from different points of view and different scenarios throughout the book, it took a while to really get into how the whole story was laid out.

Was it horror? To me, not really. I read it in the dark, early in the morning and still managed to get up and wander around without the lights on. Perhaps it’s because the story is so old, but it just wasn’t scary at all. As a mother, it made me think about the whole babysitter aspect of it (no one will be bathing my child — I’m even on the fence about babysitters right now). And as a former babysitter, I wonder who the hell takes baths when they’re babysitting?!?

(Fun fact: Did you know that the 1995 movie The Babysitter with Alicia Silverstone was adapted from this story?)

Quirk Books’ Suburban Legends Short Stories

These were a treat! Not scary, necessarily, but definitely a blast from the past. I am an avid lover of those Ghost Stories From … books that are published in Canada and remember reading them late at night and being so freaked out because they were TRUE stories. These ones were kind of like that but with a few theories debunking some of these scary legends. All super short, but definitely a spookiness to them. I think the scariest one to me was the one about the school bus that was hit by the railroad tracks, which leads ghostly children hands to push your car over the tracks if you’re caught there. Spooky children get me ALL THE TIME.

Dial Tone by Benjamin Percy

Maybe it’s the fact that this one was more of a modern tale (i.e. not, the mid-1900s), but this one definitely had more of a spook factor to it. It actually made me think, as the narrator goes on about how we catch ghosts of conversation on the telephone line when we’re speaking with someone (and who hasn’t heard something on their phone line?), about my baby monitor, of all things. I only use the monitor during naps, since I like to make sure the little guy is sleeping, but sometimes he wakes up from his nap and starts crying and I’ll turn the monitor off and go get him. Then, when I put him down again, I’ll turn on the monitor and for a few seconds there’s crying on it, like a memory in the monitor. It didn’t creep me out before, but it kind of creeps me out now.

This is another story that I had to wrap my head around once I finished it. Just like the ghosts of conversations, it’s like the events in the story were ghosts themselves. I don’t want to give anything away, but all I can say is that it’s a neat little cyclical story and definitely kind of creepy. You’ll definitely never look at a telemarketer the same again …

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman

It’s amazing how I can start reading a Neil Gaiman story, whether it’s a full length novel, a graphic novel, a kid’s book, or a short story, and I always can tell that it’s a Neil Gaiman story. He has this certain quality to his writing, this fantastical, almost dream-like something or other that’s always in his work. At first I thought this story was going to be about vampires, and maybe it still is? I’m not really sure. It’s a bit of a retelling of Snow White and it’s very creepy. I love how the whole story was just twisted and disturbing and nothing like the story of Snow White I read growing up.

Out of Skin by Emily Carroll

So creepy! I didn’t think anything of this title when I first added to my list, but since I just finished reading Carroll’s Through the Woods the other day, I knew that I had to read this one soon. Before I clicked on the link to read it, I thought it was a story in written form, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a web comic. I started reading it in the dark at about 4:30 in the morning after the baby got me up, so it was a nice change to be reading something spooky completely in the dark (well, along with the glow of my iPad). This story was quite spooky and very disturbing to read. You’ll never drink or eat anything without checking that your bowls and plates aren’t made of skin ever again …

The Landlady by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl, you ask? Yes! Roald Dahl! The guy who writes all of those children books! This one, while very subtle, was quite creepy. I liked that it wasn’t written in some fancy, over the top way, but it was more like, say, Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. You know something is wrong, but you just can’t pinpoint what it is. I liked how there were these little bits and pieces to the horror part of the tale that were dropped here and there throughout the story, visible to the reader, but not the poor guy in the story just looking for a place to stay. Very clever story!

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates

Out of everything I read so far, this was probably the least scary. I can understand where its creep factor comes from, how it was almost a hypnotic trance that took over our main character. I finished the story wondering who the bad guys in the story actually were. There was a lot of talk, not a lot of explanation, and it kind of reminded me more of what I read in my English lit classes in university, more so than a horror story. I guess a lot of the “scary” stuff in the story is what’s not being said. Was the bad guy the devil? Or was he just a bad guy? At any rate, it makes me want to think twice about being home alone …

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{Book Reviews} A Blast From the Past and Something Spooky & Hilarious

Like I said yesterday, this week has actually been pretty crazy for books! I promise, this is the last of the major review posts and soon, after sharing my short story reviews, I’ll be back to ONE review per post! These are the last of the horror stories I’ve read and listened to this week — it’s been a bit of a whirlwind!

revenge of the living dummyFirst up, I decided to find a shorter audiobook to listen to yesterday morning, so I found a blast from the past, some good ol’ R. L. Stine, on Hoopla to download. It was only a few hours long, which was perfect AND it had a creepy doll. Is there anything creepier than a doll? I think not.

This book was a little bit confusing to me since it was broken up into two parts. The first part is about the doll and the second part is about Horrorland. I think I liked the part with the doll a lot more than the second part. The second part just seemed so disjointed from the rest of the book, BUT maybe that’s just how the stories are laid out. I’m not 12 years old anymore — I’m not sure how these are supposed to work.

At any rate, it was a fun listen and it made me want to maybe check out some more of the books in the future. I think my favourite thing about this audiobook was that there were sound effects! Can ALL horror stories on audiobook come with sound effects, please? I felt like that added a whole new element of scariness to the story and it made the whole thing really fun to listen to.

Sad that this book didn’t totally live up to my expectations (again, book for 12 year olds), but I was happy to have given it a chance. From what I can see, the second part, the Horrorland part, continues on in the next books in the series, so I guess that’s a good enough reason to continue on!

a grimm conclusionNext up, I read the final book in Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm series, The Grimm Conclusion. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that these books are not only clever, but absolutely hilarious and a great addition to any child’s library.

That being said, these books are extremely dark and gory, which is something I love about them. Being a person who studied children’s lit in university, it’s fun to visit these tales the way they’re meant to be told. No Disney here, that’s for sure. Of course, not only are they told in an extremely dark way, but there’s so much humour sprinkled throughout the story! It’s a great balance of horror and humour, and Gidwitz really is a natural born storyteller.

This book was a lot of fun, especially one part — and don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoiled! — where the main characters, Jorinda and Joringel, meet the author. SO much fun. And really not something I expected in the story, but it really gives the reader a good idea as to what Gidwitz does in real life and what led him to actually write stories like this.

End spoiler.

The other nice thing about this book was that it teaches the readers that it’s okay to make up stories and change stories and be creative. Yeah, we go through a lot of blood and gore (let’s just say I’ll never look at a box of apples the same way), but the whole execution of these stories is done so brilliantly that I feel like these will be treasures in childrens’ libraries for some time to come. If I were a kid’s author, I’d wonder why I didn’t think to write something like this.

Utterly charming, completely horrific, and laugh out loud funny, these are definitely keepers — and one of the top series in my collection. So happy to have stumbled upon this series AND I hope Adam Gidwitz releases more fun stories in the future.

Have you read either of these books? Have you seen the Supernatural Bloody Mary episode? 

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