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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 24-- Reviews by Me

Yesterday's and today's posts could have both been titled, "stop what you are doing and read/order for your collections what Becky is telling you to.” Seriously,  listen to me, I literally wrote the book on this-- how to help you help horror readers.

Today I have 4 more suggestions- plus all of the readlaikes I provide too; that makes 10 recent books for you to buy and suggest to your readers in two days!

The first book is a reminder that Joe Hill’s newest release, Strange Weather, comes out today. I cannot overstate how great this collection of 4 short novels is. Seriously, I expect a lot from him already, and when I read this back in June it blew me away. Here is my starred review from Booklist. with more details from me. This is a collection that should not only be given to horror readers; it is something many readers will enjoy especially fans of King, Gaiman, Mieville, and even Murakami. Yes, Murakami, especially “Aloft.” My experience helping readers is that just about everybody likes one of those authors.

Now on to my three reviews from the first ever print issue of IndiePicks Magazine. You can click here to read today’s post on the general blog about IndiePicks and even get a free copy of our first digital issue, but here on the horror blog, I have just the horror reviews. And like my Booklist reviews, I will add bonus content here on the blog.

And, you can always see my IndiePicks reviews by using the IndiePicks tag here on the horror blog. That tag will be a good quick way to pull up indie press horror that are good for general library collections, but it is not every good horror book. My Horror Review Index is the best place to find good "Horror For Libraries” options.


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Short, Thought-Provoking Scares

In his remarkable, character driven, debut collection of nine horror stories, BEHOLD THE VOID [JournalStone, $18.95, 9781945373497], Philip Fracassi demonstrates that horror can still be thoughtful and lyrical even while it probes our deepest, darkest, most brutal fears. The stories within contain cosmic horror and weird fiction elements and feature an intensity of atmosphere juxtaposed by a restraint in advancing the action, a masterful storytelling skill rarely seen in the genre. Tension and unease build in these stories until they literally burst open. This makes the stories compelling but it is the intimate, familial relationships and the people entangled in them at the heart of these stories that makes them stand out. Take the previously published and already cult hit, “Altar” for example, a story about a brother, sister, and mother on a summer trip to the local pool, a common memory shared by most readers, but Fracassi slowly adds in layers of strangeness and terror, as this ordinary day builds to a horrific conclusion. Or the new and more subtle story, “Fail-Safe” which shows a loving family facing a very difficult decision in this original take on the well-tread monster trope. These are engrossing and detailed stories about flawed people put into extraordinary situations. Do expect to enjoy the ride, but don’t expect any neatly tied up happy endings along the way. As Laird Barron, in the introduction to this collection, sums it up, “Nobody is safe and nothing is sacred.” This is a perfect title to pair with 2016’s critically acclaimed A NATURAL HISTORY OF HELL: STORIES by Jeffrey Ford.

Becky’s Bonus Blog Content
Further Appeal: These stories are strange, but in a good way. Strange because they are beautifully written, yet the dread builds to almost unbearable limits. It is a very cool reading experience for readers who like that sort of thing-- like me! But seriously, all of your domestic suspense readers who don’t mind a speculative element and want the dread kicked up a notch-- these stories are for them.  
I cannot stress enough how these stories are so familiar at their start but then turn terrifying very quickly. It’s like Shirley Jackson times 50. Fracassi is able to tell a story with the style and skill normally seen in “literary” writers, but these are 100% genre tales. He is yet another example of why those who disparage “genre” writers are ignorant buffoons.  
Three Words That Describe This Book: thought-provoking, lyrical, atmospheric 
Readalikes: Award winning speculative fiction author Jeffrey Ford is a great readalike author here. And the link in the review goes to my Booklist review of his most recent and now award winning collection. Laird Barron, who wrote the introduction is also a good readalike. Use this link to read more about Barron from me.
I would also suggest this collection to people who have enjoyed Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado which i just gave a star review in Booklist and is a finalist for the National Book Award. Fracassis book does not have the feminist and LGBTQ frame of Machados, nor is it as experimental in style, but the feel of the stories, how they build, how they are beautifully written, and how they incorporate a menacing speculative element that overtakes you, are very similar. That review also has more readlike options. 
I wouldnt be surprised if this collection was nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award [another resource you could use to find readalike options].

The Horrors of Reality TV

SplatterPunk meets satire in the bloody, frightening battle of ancient evil versus reality TV in Daniel I Russell’s ENTERTAINING DEMONS [ApexBook Company, $15.95, 9781937009564]. Molly is not your typical English teenager. She lives alone with her grandfather, her mother is institutionalized, and her father, well he’s been missing most of her life. But that’s just the beginning of her problems.  Molly is also newest star of the popular reality TV show, “PI: Paranormal Investigations, ” but unlike some of the fake paranormal experiences followed by the show, Molly is living a 100% real nightmare on view for the world to see. What begins with strange noises and things that go bump in the night quickly escalates as Molly is being targeted by a very real and dangerous ancient evil, one that has survived millenia by any means necessary. With an alternating point of view between our protagonists and the demons who are descending upon Molly’s small British town, this is a non-stop, edge of your set, bloody thriller. But it is also a darkly humorous and sharp witted send up of modern media, reality TV, and humanity’s wrongly placed attentions. The demons have been observing, interfering with, and even altering human history for far too long to be fooled by this new obsession. Molly, her family, and friends are heroes you can believe in and root for, but the demons have centuries of experience and absolutely no morals. ENTERTAINING DEMONS has all of the violence, gore, and satire of Brian Keene’s classic, CASTAWAYS mixed with a similar frame and storytelling style of Benjamin Percy’s recent, THE DARK NET; both titles that are popular with a public library audience.
Becky’s Bonus Blog Content
Further Appeal:  I need to stress how this book is in equal turns a hilarious and biting satire AND an extreme horror thrill ride. There are graphic scenes of sex and violence, but they are part of the subgenre tropes within which this story is written. So, if you don’t like SplatterPunk, this book is not for you. But it is also not so over the top that libraries should’t carry it. This is a perfect extreme horror title for libraries because it will satisfy fans of the subgenre while also enticing new readers.
Back to the humor-- the satire of modern human existence and specifically the skewering of reality TV is very funny-- again funny with the disclaimer that amidst the humor there is carnage. The demons are VERY evil but they also have a unique take on humanity having been around for millennia.
This is a great title to try if you want to see what all the extreme horror fuss is about. 
Three Words That Describe This Book: Extreme Horror, Satire, Dark Humor
Readalikes: If you use the links to the two readalikes in the review, you will go to my reviews which both have even more readalikes 
Also, SplatterPunk is making a comeback in general, a trend you should be aware of.  One of the best current practitioners of this subgenre is Wrath James White. Speaking of, White, along with the aforementioned Brian Keene,  just founded the SplatterPunk Awards for the Best in Extreme Horror. Click here for details. Once they have a long list,  you can start using that for readalikes too. 
The Devil Inside


When William Peter Blatty published THE EXORCIST in 1971 he started a brand new subgenre of horror literature that, while waxing and waning in popularity over the years, has never completely disappeared. However, very few have lived up to the evil and terror of the original, until now. Jonathan Janz is a horror star on the rise and in EXORCIST FALLS [Sinister Grin, $18.99, 9781944044510], which includes the previously published novella prequel, “Exorcist Road,” Janz puts a 21st Century spin on the demonic possession story and puts his talent for entertaining and frightening through his prose on full display. Chicago is being held hostage by the Sweet Sixteen Killer, who targets, violates, and then brutally murders young women of all races and classes, just as they turn sixteen. Jason Crowder is a young priest in Chicago who is called to the home of a wealthy parishioner after their son begins acting weirdly. He is clearly possessed, but he also knows way too much about the serial murders. In the struggle for his soul, the demon enters Crowder, but that is just where our story begins.What follows is a bloody and graphic tale part demonic possession story, part mystery, and part family drama. An intense first person narration allows for the reader to see Crowder’s struggle with the demon inside him as he tries to maintain moral control of his body while also, at times, allowing the evil to surface if it will help him to catch the human killer. Janz keeps readers turning the pages as they root for Crowder while still being utterly appalled by him. This is the perfect read for people who loved HORNS by Joe Hill, another tale where readers root for a protagonist who is controlled by the devil. And with the popular TV series, “The Exorcist” back for a second season, there will be an increased demand for the demonic possession tale.
Becky’s Bonus Blog Content
Further Appeal:  As I mention in the review, The Exorcist television series is very popular right now, so expect this subgenre of horror to make a comeback. You need to be ready with suggestions for fans of the show who want more possession tales, and this title is an excellent place to start.
The intense first person is very cool here. It keeps you riveted and has you fluctuating between rooting for and being disgusted by the protagonist. That alone keeps you on edge the entire time-- and horror fans want to be on edge.
Also, the thriller aspects of how the story is told will appeal to many readers of that genre as long as they don’t mind the supernatural aspects. The cat and mouse game between Crowder and the killer is very well done.
Three Words That Describe This Book: Demonic Possession, Intense 1st Person, Thriller-esque
Readalikes: Besides the books and TV show listed in the review, ARARAT by Christopher Golden which I reviewed here would be another good recent suggestion.
You can also use this link to see other books I have reviewed which use the devil as a frame. Plus I have an entire chapter on the subject in my book. 

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