I love to be scared and suspended in a state of heebie-jeebies. I crave the dread, succumbing to the paranoia and to that always elusive (but much des...more I love to be scared and suspended in a state of heebie-jeebies. I crave the dread, succumbing to the paranoia and to that always elusive (but much desired) sensation of epic creep. I don't mind when authors reach for the gross out (that's all fine for a good bit of schlocky fun); but where horror's beating heart really lies -- where it lives and breathes in the darkened shadows -- is in the dread and creep. That's how it all began with Gothic fiction. Those are its roots baby, and on some primal level as voracious consumers of the tale, this is still what we crave when we ask somebody to "tell us a scary story".
Of course, horror by its very nature and definition is extremely fluid and subjective (I would argue the most subjective of all the genres). What scares and unsettles us is so specific to the individual. Horror can be, and often is, in the eye of the beholder. It's an emotion that happens in the nervous system, not the brain. Horror can be smart and demanding of its reader/viewer, but the desired experience is to feel during and think later.
I'm always on the hunt for the next thing that's going to scare the pants off me. Over the years, there have been long dry spells. I'm getting older, and more critical. I don't scare as easy as I used to and most of my horror consumption of late has been of the film kind, not the book kind. That doesn't mean I stop looking.
I'm always looking.
When a co-worker brought I Remember You to my attention, I was intrigued. It was in translation from Icelandic. I had never read anything by an Icelandic author before and this particular one was being touted as terrifying. So I took a chance, and I'm really glad I did. This is a ghost story, and like a lot of the best ghost stories, there is a mystery that demands to be solved.
I Remember You is a duel narrative that switches off every chapter. The first narrative is of three friends who travel to a remote abandoned village in Iceland. Their plan is to renovate a property there and make it a travel destination for those seeking natural beauty and escape. From the first moments of their arrival, the friends begin to notice strange occurrences. As the days pass, things get stranger and more frightening as the group realize they are trapped with no easy escape.
The second narrative follows a doctor whose son disappeared three years previously. His body was never found and the loss continues to torment him and his estranged wife. As the chapters flip back and forth (often ending on a cliffhanger), the tension and stakes ratchet up accordingly. The two dueling narratives eventually collide and combine in a most satisfying way. This isn't a fast-paced story. It takes its time. Each reveal meant to be savored.
I recommend reading this late at night, preferably with the wind howling high and loud outside your window and if the lights should flicker, well -- don't be alarmed. It's just the wind.
I enjoyed this book a lot. It's moody and atmospheric and creepy as all hell in parts. This would make a fantastic movie (I'm going to betray my reader heart here and say it would probably make a better movie than book). I love ghost stories on film and if you love any of the following movies, you will probably love this book.
What a nasty piece of work this turned out to be living as it does at the seedy intersection of pulp and pornography, violence and depravity. I though...more What a nasty piece of work this turned out to be living as it does at the seedy intersection of pulp and pornography, violence and depravity. I thought I was a big girl and could handle stepping over the borderline into such dark corners, but this one shook me up quite a bit and left me feeling a bit sick and dirty. The only thing I can compare it to is how I felt after watching Requiem for a Dream.
I blithely walked into this one expecting a lighter, fluffier piece of pulp fiction -- an exaggerated "put your lips together and blow" Hollywood-style noir. Instead I got closer to a Larry Flynt fantasy than I ever wanted to get in this life. Kemper perfectly describes the experience this way:
This is a solid little piece of pulp with an edgy nastiness to it, like popping a piece of candy in your mouth and finding out it was actually a hunk of broken glass.
Yup. And I can still taste the blood.
So giving this a star rating is tough. I didn't enjoy it and found most of the story and the characters vile and despicable. However, the fact that I was so unsettled and left feeling so out of sorts is a testament to Block's ability as a writer. I'm really, really happy he found another way to make his living as a novelist however. (less)
This is a high three. High being the operative word here because the meth fumes wafting from its pages are strong enough to transmogrify the reader in...more This is a high three. High being the operative word here because the meth fumes wafting from its pages are strong enough to transmogrify the reader into a slavering crystal junkie. Buyer beware. If that's not enough, the uncompromising and relentless violence as well as the suffocating pall of dysfunctional rural living are such to jar anyone's safe suburban sensibilities and make you glad you're a city rat.
Matthew McBride is a welcome addition to the Rural Noir / Hick Lit crowd -- (i.e. Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin, Donald Ray Pollock and Frank Bill to name my favorites). McBride situates himself on the spectrum somewhere between the gorgeous prose of Woodrell and Franklin and the harsh chainsaw vernacular of Bill and Pollock. It is to McBride's disadvantage however, to be keeping company on the shelf with such esteemed writers who have proven their mettle. His inexperience and exuberancy to tell rather than show only serve to highlight some of the novel's weaknesses.
For all of that, there are singular awesome scenes in these pages, and the last forty are some messed up, edge-of-your-seat stuff. I will definitely be checking out more from Matthew McBride. (less)
3) Last but not least, the author's blog post entitled: God Bless Librarians. In case you didn't know, flattery will get you everywhere, and it just might make me read your book (joking! I'm really not that shallow or vain, I promise; I just thought it was a nice post).
This is a beautiful book that hits a lot of my kinks: small towns, seeecrets, family drama, and coming-of-age. Krueger's storytelling style was reminiscent for me of some of Stephen King's best work (when he's not trying to scare the bejesus out of us that is). Krueger's two main protagonists are young brothers -- Frank (13) and Jake (10).
Frank is hitting adolescence hard with a penchant for doing things he's not supposed to and an even worse habit for eavesdropping. Jake is his quiet sidekick who likes to listen and observe more than run his mouth because he is plagued by an awful stutter. As they run around small town 1961 Minnesota all the best elements of King's novella "The Body" are present. It will be a summer of tragedy and innocence lost.
Where it missed that fifth star I will put under a spoiler tag:
(view spoiler)[I saw the ending/twist coming a mile away, and it's not like me to "figure these things out" which probably means the author was not trying to hide it, but rather have the readers be in the know and sweat it out. I appreciate that, but I felt to have the jealous, mentally challenged sister kill in a moment of blind rage was too predictable in a very Gothic "woman in the attic" way.
It was interesting to introduce the element of racism as it applied to Native Americans in Minnesota in 1961, but I felt at times the reading came too close to mimicking To Kill a Mockingbird in that one respect and that Frank's dad was very Atticus Finch in a preacher's garb rather than a lawyer's suit. (hide spoiler)]
But these are VERY small quibbles in what is a gripping story, wonderfully told. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
If the plethora of J-horror coming out of Japan the last 15 years hasn't convinced you of the country's own unique brand of crazy pants in the best, m...more If the plethora of J-horror coming out of Japan the last 15 years hasn't convinced you of the country's own unique brand of crazy pants in the best, most entertaining way, then this book will. And there's a movie! Which I now have to hunt down.
Because crazy pants, did I mention? So much crazy pants.
This isn't horror, but it is really messed up. It's a revenge tale about screwed up, damaged narrators who each get to tell a piece of the story, so you won't have all the pieces of the puzzle until the very end.
No one is likable. If you are a reader who wants an emotional story and characters that you can relate to, then skip this one.
But if you're like me, and you like the crazy pants, then definitely check this one out.
I could really tear this book a new one if I wanted to, seeing as how it is plagued by incredulous plot twists and nonsensical melodramatic c...more 2.5 stars
I could really tear this book a new one if I wanted to, seeing as how it is plagued by incredulous plot twists and nonsensical melodramatic character motivations that at times positively scream daytime soap opera antics.
Despite these maddening shortcomings, I was able to overlook most of them most of the time as the novel fairly hums along with just enough speed and tension to keep you turning the pages. It's a beach read in the sense that if you are sun stoned and feeling epically lazy, this one has just enough salacious bite to keep you conscious and wondering just what the hell did happen to Amelia that day on the roof: did she jump? or was she pushed?
I liked how the author uses various bits of social media (texts, Facebook, emails, etc) to "reconstruct" a young woman's life and state of mind proving how much can be found there and yet how inadequate all that "sharing" can turn out to be when your goal is to really understand someone. But in the end, it just felt hollow and gimmicky anyway.
I was just expecting so much more here with such a fantastic premise fueling its engine. In the hands of Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbott, I'm certain I would have gotten exactly what I was looking for. Not here though. Not this time.
One thing that really bugged me:
(view spoiler)[when Amelia's case is reopened, why would Kate as her mother be allowed to become so involved in the investigation -- going on interview calls and asking questions. It seems to me, it would have been her job to sit tight and wait to hear the results, not chase them down side by side with the Detective assigned to the case. That took me out of the story every time. If Kate had hired a PI, and was going about this on her own without police involvement, that would have made sense. But to be working with the police and be so immediately included in the investigation in this way drove me mental. Because that would never happen. Especially once foul play was suspected. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Hot damn, what an utter hoot this book is. It's gravel and grit lit but with a lighter, sunnier touch, that bleeds zippy dialogue, colorful characters...more Hot damn, what an utter hoot this book is. It's gravel and grit lit but with a lighter, sunnier touch, that bleeds zippy dialogue, colorful characters and zany situations. It's a road trip buddy picture type deal that very nearly turns into a circus caravan. It's Breaking Bad meets Pineapple Express on the Mississippi Delta where "crackers" and "white trash" abound, as much fiscally as they are hygienically challenged.
Nick Reid is just your regular guy trying to get along as best he can as a repo man -- repossessing unpaid for goods. It can be a dangerous, sticky job coming to take from people what they already consider to be theirs. Nick finds this out the hard way when he comes to repo a plasma TV from Percy Dwayne Dubois (that's pronounced Dew-boys). Percy Dwayne gets the jump on Nick and smacks him upside the head with a fireplace shovel. It knocks Nick temporarily senseless, during which time Percy Dwayne flees the scene with his wife, baby, plasma TV and Nick's mint-condition 1969 Ranchero. The Ranchero is actually borrowed from Nick's elderly landlady who he's quite fond of so he feels honor bound to do everything in his power to get it back from the lowlife who drove off with it.
Thus kick-starts Nick's hunt and chase across the Delta to recover the '69 Ranchero. Joining him will be his best buddy Desmond -- extremely large, black, very fond of Sonic Coney Islands and averse to any place or situation that might have snakes or other biting stinging things.
"I don't go in attics. I don't go in basements. I don't go in bayous. I don't go in the woods."
Along the way, Nick and Desmond will pick up a cast of bayou misfits and miscreants in their bid to track down and steal back the Ranchero. There will be many mishaps and much mayhem along the way.
I laughed. A LOT. Fans of Frank Bill and Donald Ray Pollock looking for something less bloody and despairing, and more slapstick and outrageous need look no further than Nick Reid. There's two more books in this series so far, and I can't wait to see what Nick gets up to next.
Picking this one up I was not prepared for such a trip into dark and depraved waters. This is more than Scudder has ever gone up against previously an...more Picking this one up I was not prepared for such a trip into dark and depraved waters. This is more than Scudder has ever gone up against previously and definitely the strongest in the series since Eight Million Ways To Die. While we've moved along in years out of the 80's into the early 90's, New York City continues to be a seething trap of anger and violence and desperation with all those ways to die and Scudder has stumbled upon yet another one. This time, he didn't even go looking for it, not really. It sort of finds him in a weird, chilling series of coincidences.
Two words: snuff film. Yeah, like I said, dark and depraved waters.
Scudder is moving along nicely in his life these days. He's sober and regularly attending meetings. He's got his girlfriend Elaine (who one dewy-eyed reviewer wistfully and with no irony whatsoever refers to as Matt's snuggle bunny) no matter that she's a call girl and continues to see clients. He's also forged a pretty meaningful friendship with Mick Ballou, the Irish gangster who may or may not have carried around some guy's head in a bowling ball bag, the man who proudly wears his father's blood stained butcher's apron (and which of those stains are man or animal, nobody knows).
I keep coming back to these books mostly for Scudder. He's such a great character to spend time with. But also for the sense of time and place that Block is able to conjure. I find the Scudder books act like time capsules in a way. So much of the plotting of this story relies on VHS tapes and renting them from a video store. It made me remember what that was like and how long it's been since I've actually done it.
I remember when my family got its first VCR ever and it was this huge exciting moment, like we had finally arrived at a Jetsons' version of the future. And with Block, it's so authentic, because he's not writing these books from a 21st century perspective and recreating 1991, he actually wrote this one in 1991 without the long view and hindsight that we have as readers. I love that. That doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to Scudder aging and getting Block's take on a 21st century New York. I can't wait actually.
I'll wrap this up with a note on the ending -- holy shit snacks. (view spoiler)[If Scudder had done this in his heavy drinking days, I would have blamed it on the booze, but to do it stone cold sober, I'm positively shocked. Yet pleased. Satisfied. There was a time early on when I was so angry at Scudder for letting a child rapist walk free (forcing him to donate money to Boys' Town). I was so disappointed with his lack of action then. Well, no one can accuse him of lack of action here. Decisive. Unequivocal. Was this justice or cold-blooded murder? I loved when Scudder tells Ballou about his mentor who told him you don't ever do something with your own hands you can get somebody else to do for you. Well I guess Scudder decided that wasn't for him. If this was going to happen, he was going to have blood on his hands to show for it. I can respect that. (hide spoiler)]
Now I think I'll go for a walk among the tombstones. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is a case where the star system really fails me, or I feel like I must explain my rating. Four stars does not make Mr. Mercedes one of King's bes...more This is a case where the star system really fails me, or I feel like I must explain my rating. Four stars does not make Mr. Mercedes one of King's best. In fact, stacked up against some of his better known works, it pales and withers fraught as it is with giant plot holes, some incredulous leaps in logic and a hero who behaves more moronic than heroic (if you want a list of these weaknesses look no further than Kemper's excellent review where he takes King to task on all these matters and more).
Kemper has a point. King shouldn't be given a pass based on Constant Reader goodwill alone. If you're going to tackle a genre where others have excelled before you, you just better bring your 'A' game and be firing on all cylinders. And here, King most definitely is not. There are problems. A lot of them. Not the least of which is King's fanboy enthusiasm for the crime thriller genre and falling victim to so many of its tropes and letting other opportunities pass him by unexplored.
I was able to extract a fair amount of thrill from this thriller. I became tangled up in the cat and mouse game played out between the retired detective and the psychopathic killer. Brady Hartfield is a pretty compelling villain with a twisted and tragic backstory that makes him one of King's most memorable bad guys in a loooong time. Everything I wanted to feel for the stupid shit villains in Under the Dome, I felt here in spades with Brady. He is positively hateful. And genuinely terrifying without being supernaturally powerful.
Big spoilers ahead under the tag.
(view spoiler)[What bumped this from an average three star read for me to the more memorable four are two horrific scenes that I thought were so well done. First, Brady and his mom killing the baby brother. So gruesome and heartbreaking and absolutely chilling the way mom smothers him with a pillow as he lies there broken and defenseless on the basement floor. Second, the mother's death scene by strychnine. I should have seen that coming a mile off. Poisoned hamburger meat left in the fridge. But I didn't. And when Brady comes home and realizes what must have happened I feel like I was punched in the gut. Her prolonged suffering, while deserved, was excruciatingly awful. I actually couldn't help but be reminded of Thinner and the way that ends with the infamous gypsy pie. (hide spoiler)]
So the four stars reflect my state of mind while reading it -- engaged, turning the pages, and needing to know how it was all going to shake out. I was hoping for a very different ending (view spoiler)[I wanted Brady to succeed and for Hodges to be destroyed by his choices and negligence and to eat a bullet in remorse (which would have had a nice symmetry considering he's suicidal when the story opens) (hide spoiler)] -- alas, that is not the ending I got, but man, I was squirming in my chair HOPING King would have the ball sack to take it darkside. The dread and anticipation had to be enough however. And it mostly was.
This is a pulpy beach read and as an experiment on King's part I think it succeeds despite some serious problems. I hear now that this is a projected trilogy and I have conflicted feelings about that. I don't need King to write crime thrillers. That's not why I started reading him thirty years ago, and it definitely isn't why I've kept reading him. There are others out there in this genre who have been doing it longer and better. I'd rather see him continue his efforts in the King universe, where the sun might be shining, but there's something black and slippery in the shadows. Where small towns hold close their secrets and all is normal and safe, until it isn't. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Wow. This book -- flipping fantastic. But your enjoyment of it is probably going to hinge on the expectations you're carrying going in. Despite som...more4.5
Wow. This book -- flipping fantastic. But your enjoyment of it is probably going to hinge on the expectations you're carrying going in. Despite some superficial similarities -- The Silent Wife IS NOT Gone Girl. So if you loved Gone Girl and come seeking the same kind of tawdry, illicit, messed up thrills and shocking plot twists here you're probably going to be disappointed.
The Silent Wife is silent, as in very subtle. It's a train wreck that happens at 15 miles per hour as opposed to 120. But Jesus, if you're like me, and crave that slow inexorable build to a very bad destination that you can see waiting on the horizon -- absolutely unavoidable -- then this book is for you.
Also, I was pleased to discover that The Silent Wife is a modern noir piece with its roots firmly planted in the old black and white film noirs of the 1940's. The pleasure derived from classic noir movies is the opportunity to be the voyeur and watch the nasty transgressions unfold before you. It's the thrill of observing morally compromised characters carry out immoral acts -- greed, lust, and murder oh my!
From the get-go, you know the strait-laced, buttoned up Jodi is going to murder her common-law husband Todd (what a cheating, lying bastard asshole he is). But it's HOW we get there that's the addictive, sexy part. And there is a rewarding twist which I loved that gets slid in there at the very end.