Felix Allsey is a travel writer with a keen eye for the paranormal, and he's carved out a unique, if only slightly lucrative, niche for himself in nonfiction; he writes travelogues of the country's most haunted places, after haunting them himself. When he convinces the owner of the infamous Rotterdam Mansion to let him stay on the premises for two weeks, he believes he's finally found the location that will bring him a bestseller. As with his other gigs, he sets rules for no leaving the house for any reason, refrain from outside contact, and sleep during the day. When Thomas Ruth, Felix's oldest friend and fellow horror film obsessive, joins him on the project, the two dance around a recent and unspeakably painful rough-patch in their friendship, but eventually fall into their old rhythms of dark humor and movie trivia. That's when things start going screams from upstairs, figures in the thresholds, and more than what should be in any basement. Felix realizes the book he's writing, and his very state of mind, is tilting from nonfiction into all out horror, and the shocking climax answers a question that's been staring these men in the face all In Rotter House, who's haunting who?
While I love reading horror, I often struggle when reading haunted house stories. I just find that the subgenre tends to be overdone and exhausted. So it is always a wonderful experience when I find a haunted house story that actually feels fresh.
So often, I find haunted house stories to be quite slow, but this one moved along at a good pace. I was pulled into the story from the first chapter and stayed immerse the entire time, flying through the pages in just a few days. I tend to prefer shorter horror fiction and I thought this novel was just about the perfect length.
Told in first person perspective, I found the main character, Felix, to be an entertaining narrator. The story was filled with good humour as the characters poked fun at the cliches of the haunted house genre. As someone who does not believe in the supernatural, I particularly loved reading from the perspective of a fellow skeptic.
This story was also incredibly meta. From the start, the characters were completely aware that they were acting out a haunted house story, purposely recreating the classic trope of the subgenre. Further to that, the characters made so many pop culture references to haunted house movies and books. Some readers might find these sections a bit excessive, but I personally really enjoyed fangirling over all the references. Given all these meta aspects, I think this book will appeal to readers who loved Kill Creek by Scott Thomas, which is another self-aware haunted house narrative.
While this novel felt like a fresh take on the haunted house story, I would still consider the actual plot to be quite predictable. The characters purposely played out the cliches of the genre and experienced the creepy results that one would expect. Other reviewers have gushed about a twist ending, but I correctly predicted most of the ending within a few chapters. Granted, I should acknowledge that I probably consume more horror than the average reader so I am very familiar with the various horror story endings. Unfortunately, this happened to be one that I have read too many times. I was slightly let down by the ending, only because I thought it would be unguessable, yet I still thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the story.
Overall, this novel was an absolute blast to read. I would highly recommend it to any horror fiction reader looking for a gripping house story that is smart and self aware.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher, Turner Publishing.
Review originally published in SCREAM Mag Nov/Dec 2019 The premise of this one goes like this, Felix Allsey writes travelogues of notorious haunted houses. He finds one called, Rotterdam Mansion that’s a little under the radar--not much information on it. Felix decides he will spend thirteen nights in the haunted house with nothing but basic essentials and a trail camera to video everything.
It’s the perfect horror story set up! Two chapters in and I was pretty hooked. I’m always one to show up for a quality haunted house story. Somewhere along the line, the main character’s friend shows up. I wasn’t even entirely sure if I was on board with there being two people spending the night, things felt creepier when it was just the one guy. My skepticism proved correct. Alex’s friend, Thomas is a bit of a chatty-cathy and the two men get into these long conversations about the past and their friendship that made me want to skip ahead. They also play this game several times called “Film Fight”--a movie trivia game that would probably be really cool for horror cinephiles but for someone with basic horror-movie knowledge, those chapters (yes, whole chapters) were boring. The parts are broken into “Night One” and “Night Two” and so on, by Night Six, nothing very eventful has happened in the house. There was one paranormal event that got me all excited but then the men talked about it to death and took all the fun out of it. Later, the men explore their friendship (again) and the demise of what once was a healthy relationship between them. They reminisce about the old times of when they would hang out--Alex and Thomas and each other wives. Some uncomfortable memories begin to surface creating tension between the two friends. All the while, they are sitting in a haunted house and I was getting impatient with their lack of enthusiasm about their surroundings. Check on that trail camera for crying out loud! The climax and conclusion could be easily spoiled and I am one who protects reader discovery at all costs so I won’t even hint at what happens towards the end of the book but the story does take a dark and unexpected turn that I really enjoyed. I’m just afraid that it was too little, too late. 2 out of 5 skulls
The main plot of Twelve Nights at Rotter House is overdone - a writer stays in a haunted house to write about his experiences (I just read another book which did it better). But this one had its own unique twist.
I enjoyed the book but it isn't one I'd read twice. There wasn't enough horror for me and way too much drama.
Such a great way to start off the reading year! Although there were a few incredibly violent and scary scenes, this overall was a cozy horror because of the dynamic between Felix and Thomas. I could have listened to them banter about horror movies for 500 pages and would have been happy.
Yet another promising read whose ending ruined everything.
What began as a lighthearted yet spooky haunted house story, with an entertaining protagonist and lots of lore, slowly morphed into something very different.
I loved the writing style at the beginning. The dynamic between the protagonist and his friend, Thomas, was interesting, and the tongue-in-cheek inclusion of several haunted house tropes was entertaining. The novel provided an atmosphere that was incredibly eerie and had me on the edge of my seat while simultaneously poking fun at itself and having a certain levity. The story was fast-paced and engaging, and I loved that the protagonist was a skeptic of the supernatural.
And then something shifted.
Strange sexualization of violence and racist undertones began to materialize, followed quickly by disturbing sexual content and overt racism, culminating in a “twist ending” that plays on an incredibly damaging racist stereotype that has claimed far too many lives.
I don’t think I’ve ever gone from loving a book to being absolutely disgusted by it in so few pages.
I would not recommend this book to anyone and am absolutely shocked by the author’s choice to write this story.
Trigger Warnings: racism, deeply offensive racist stereotypes, disturbing sexual content, violence, murder, blood, body horror, mention of suicide
I read this book in a single sitting. The writing flowed well. The premise, although unoriginal (semi-failed horror writer stays in haunted house to hopefully get one more shot at glory), was treated with enough old school horror references and tongue-in-cheek-meta-breaking-the-fourth-wall (characters in the book wondering how the scenes they were in would play in a book, discussing whether they should or should not act out horror tropes during their stay, etc) to be amusing to me, even though I saw from reading some of the other reviews that it wasn't everyone's thing. The writer set the atmosphere very well. Rotter House was a great setting. It seemed like the perfect sort of vaguely creepy light horror to lay in bed and read on a rainy day in November. I thought I was really going to enjoy it up until: (and seriously, don't click unless you want the entire thing spoiled, because you're about to get the blunt summary of the 'twist'...)
It would have been a four if everything in the spoilers hadn't happened. The first two-thirds of the book I enjoyed, which is why it's a two instead of a one. If the first two-thirds had been marginally less enjoyable, it would have been a one. As it is, I only managed to finish because it wasn't a very long book and I was so close to the end by the time I determined that I wasn't actually going to enjoy it that it seemed a shame to not finish it, at the very least so I could add it to my total for my Goodreads yearly challenge.
Goddamit, this was a five out of five star read until the nth hour twist made it clear it's just some dudes racist cuckold fantasy. I'm so mad I enjoyed three quarters if this and skeeved out the blurb etc tricked me into thinking it would be a regular haunted house story. Gross.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
"Where else was I fundamentally wrong about life and the universe and how everything worked? Is life a cycle of us realizing how stupid we are over and over again until we die?"
For me, this is on the slow-burner end of the horror spectrum. For much of the novel, I wondered if anything was going to happen. There are some disembodied screams, unexplained noises, figures that disappear, and of course the quintessential dumbwaiter that never reveals anything good, but it was all just kind of boring and typical.
The main character, Felix, was a little overwrought in how skeptical he was of everything, and his extreme rationalizing aided in creating a slower atmosphere. Scary moments were consistently downplayed, sucking the spooky out of the story. Any time I thought something creepy was afoot, Felix came in and just Debbie Downer'ed all over the place.
But, at the same time, this overly skeptical take on the haunted house story was fresh (for me) and different and believable, if not insistent. It kept me intrigued enough to pay attention to the more mundane elements. Because seriously, was anything ever going to happen? There was only one way to find out: keep reading.
A lot of the book is focused on the personal issues between Felix and his former BFF, Thomas, revealing bigger and bigger secrets as to why they had a falling out. Eventually, their relationship becomes so sordid as they work through their issues with long conversations and reminiscing, that it didn't really matter to me if there were murderous ghosts in the house or not. TELL ME ABOUT BLACKING OUT AND TOUCHING BODY PARTS, GUYS!
Oh, I've said too much.
All of this drama that I was absolutely living for, didn't start to ramp up until the last quarter of the novel. So for me, the pacing is wholly uneven. I believe it was an effort to throw the reader off as the ending drew closer so it was that much more shocking, but to a reader with a lower DNF threshold, it might have stopped them from finishing a novel that truly had a fucking amazing twist ending.
I mean, seriously. It's just...
The last quarter of the book ALMOST makes up for all the nothing-nothing that somehow manages to fill up the pages before it.
I like to think of myself as a reader who can catch the red herrings and clues, but this book so cleverly used the expectation of ghosties - and the vagueness in which they do or do not appear - to bury the hints pretty much in plain sight. The ending completely threw me for a loop, but I also totally should have seen it coming. I consider that a testament to the author's writing abilities.
If only the first part of the novel hadn't been so slow I'd be rating this closer to five stars, probably.
Felix Allsey is a travel writer. Well, he wants to be a travel writer....one that focuses on the macabre. But his previous works have been largely ignored. So, he decides to spend 13 nights totally immersed in a haunted house. No leaving the house. No contact with the outside world. Just the house. Nothing else. No electricity. No internet. No cell phone. No distractions. And it's not just any haunted house. It's Rotterdam Mansion. Or Rotter House, for short. In its 200 years, the house can boast 3 stories, 40 rooms, 3 suicides, 8 murders, 2 deaths of undetermined cause, 4 deaths of a weird sort, 2 disappearances, and a stint as hideaway for a murderer. Not to mention its years as a boarding house of ill repute and a bordello. Felix is determined to stay for 13 nights in the house. He even invites a friend to join him. His friendship with Thomas has been on the rocks for awhile....and maybe this adventure will help work things out.
I love haunted house stories, so thoroughly enjoyed this book! There are a lot of film and book references sprinkled in the dialogue between Felix and Thomas. I took many reading breaks to check if certain films were on Netflix or Amazon Prime.....and to check if my library had a copy of certain classic haunted house stories. Not to mention all the reading breaks for looking up the history of Ouija boards, the Amityville Horror scandal, Gail Russell's difficulties on the set of The Univited, etc. I have enough horror films and creepy books on a list to last me for a few months. :) Fun!
This story is a tale about a haunted house....but also a story about the relationship between Felix and Thomas. They talk a lot while investigating the house. I liked how their friendship and investigating the house intertwined together. The story definitely kept my attention from start to finish. It is well-written, definitely creepy in spots, and the ending was great!
This is the first book by J.W. Ocker that I've read. I like his writing style, all the movie/book references and the plot. I will definitely be reading more of his work!
**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
My, where to begin. First and foremost - if you enjoy reading books that: have vaguely racist undertones, withhold info that the main character knows but does not verbalize for sake of a 'twist' to surprise readers, pseudointellectual conversations that say absolutely nothing and you completely forget about them a page later, unnecessary descriptions like "two white cylinders" repeated several times when they're just stupid candles, baffling switches in thought and personality with no set up for it being caused by stress or a mental breakdown, more racist comments that are acknowledged as racist so you can't call them out, a side dish of /someone/ brandishing their knowledge of horror movies and books with an incredible grandiose sense of self-importance and satisfaction, and three more twists that would make M. Night Shayamalan proud, then this book is for you!!
If not, then stay away. Nothing happens until the end, and even then, the ending is completely unearned and poorly done. It's a twist for a twist's sake. If you haven't read anything better, I can see the appeal.
This was bad. No amount of nodding at Shirley Jackson and Stephen King's 1408 is going to save it. Totally recommend if you want to rage-read!
Usually if I hate a book this much I just don't finish it. I finished this because it was cruising along pretty well, and was probably gonna get around 3 stars, until the ending ruined everything.
It took me awhile to warm up to this book, but I like a classic haunted house story, so I stuck around to see if it would get good. By the time the character of Thomas, his best friend, was introduced, I was in. I liked the character of Thomas and what his perspective added to the narative. The spooks started in earnest once he arrived as well, so that was fun.
The next development was that I realized I really, really hated the narrator. Despite what he says, he is racist! And insecure! And a bad friend and husband! I stuck around anyway because by then I really wanted to know what was going on with the house, and the narrative itself didn't seem racist (yet), just the character. (It's worth mentioning here that Thomas is black).
So that got me up to the ending, at which the whole plot is basically thrown in the garbage. This is one of those "nothing happened the way you thought it did" twist-endings, but not well executed at all. Here are my grievances: 1) looking back, you can see the clues the author was dropping that reality was not what it seemed. It was not enough. 2) several interesting plotlines were brought up and just completely dropped at the very end, because it was all fake anyway. 3) it completely destroyed the theme of transition from skeptic to believer and what it means to give up a belief that you've based part of your identity on. This point and the last point I think are why the story doesn't work mechanically - to have a big twist ending like this, you still have to satisfyingly answer the questions you've raised, and the ending still has to fit thematically. 4) Similar to the point above, the emotional arc between Felix and Thomas is made completely moot because Thomas has been a figment of his imagination the whole time. So you can forget about the emotional investment of repairing their friendship. 5) there is a lot of racist undertones to the final reveal being that Felix's wife is cheating on him with his best friend, especially since so much attention has been called to Thomas's race. Felix's rage toward Thomas and the whole situation has very weird cuckholdery undertones. It's an old, racist trope that could have been avoided with better handling.
Anyway, I was having a good time until the end completely destroyed everything I liked about the book. Sorry that this is more of a rant than a review!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
A well-written and completely immersive haunted house story with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. The main character drives the story with his vivid descriptions and riveting dialogue, interacting with an ambivalent companion while we as his audience are along for an ominous and breathtaking ride. Rewarding and recommended.
TWLEVE NIGHTS AT ROTTER HOUSE is the first I have read from author J.W. Ocker. The premise was unique--Felix Alley, a travel writer, wanted to write a non-fiction account of his stay at Rotterdam Mansion for two weeks. The catch? Felix is a nonbeliever in the supernatural.
". . . We feel ghost-like in these houses, so we put ghosts in them . . . "
To make the account more interesting, he invites his one-time best friend, Thomas Ruth--who DOES believe in the supernatural--to join him.
Through their banter, we realize that there is a mystery waiting to be unveiled as to why they had "fallen out" over the past year.
"It sounded as if we had both been living in haunted houses of our own for the past year . . . "
Despite the incredible atmosphere of Rotter House, and the comedic interactions between our main characters, very little actually "happens" during the first three-quarters or so of the novel. Mainly dialog (internal and to each other) over-discussing each and every minute event . . . or more often, "non-events".
". . . Haunted houses don't give us the stories. We give the stories to them . . . "
Naturally, I made my predictions early on in the book, as the characters' repetitious conversations really weren't keeping my attention.
However, when we finally get close to the end, everything changes.
"Anger . . . is the most powerful antidote to fear . . . "
This is where my entire opinion of the novel changed. The revelations that began to unfold far surpassed what I was expecting. Perhaps this was because of the relative inactivity up to this point. Whatever the reason, I loved that last quarter enough to increase my rating of the book as a whole.
Overall, I would definitely read more by this author in the future. While the ending really panned out, I wish the rest of the novel had carried more of the "spark" to keep my interest all throughout.
Thoroughly managed to spook myself by reading this one, especially on a stormy cold night :D Would have given it a solid 5 stars but the climax kind of ruined the book for me. I am left with SO many questions. Wanted to do a better reaction-review, this'l have to do for now
I had a lot of fun with Twelve Nights at Rotter House - but I also have to warn hardcore horror only readers that this is not a tale of bone chilling terror. It is the story of unsuccessful writer Felix who decides to give his luck another chance by staying thirteen days at a haunted mansion to gather inspiration for his hopefully breakthrough novel. He is accompanied by his buddy and also horror nerd Thomas with whom he had some serious differences in the past. Both start to investigate the old and creaky house and pass the time by referencing genre tropes and playing with the creepy props they just found in the cellar. But after messing with a Ouija board and some very strange incidents later on, the two men start to feel more and more uncomfortable inside these walls.
This novel really has a lighter tone than most horror books I read in the past and you could almost call it a satire for a good part of it. It is packed with genre references that the characters throw at each other (and the readers) and if you are familiar with these sources it will certainly increase the level of enjoyment. Even odd Italian gore classics like The House by the Cemetery are named at several occasions as if the author wanted to say: Hey, if I wanted to I could have given you a load of blood and guts here! Now, I won´t ruin the experience by giving more informations - let´s just say: If you prefer more modern approaches of haunted house stories - like Ti West's The Innkeepers - or enjoyed the Netflix movie Creep, you should have a good time with this one.
Thank you to the author and publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can check out my full video review HERE.
I've been a fan of Ocker's for a few years now. His love of the spooky and macabre is infectious, and I find myself revisiting his nonfiction book A Season with the Witch on a regular basis, so when I heard he was working on his first horror novel, it quickly became one of my most anticipated books of the year. Overall, it did not disappoint. This is a meta take on the haunted house subgenre, referencing many other books and films about haunted houses as well as turning those basic tropes on their heads. It's a fun read that gave me the creeps once or twice and kept me invested in the characters' drama.
So, let me tell you that I have been listening to the unabridged version of this book while working on a piece of art since last night.....I just finished!!! Are you ready to read my review of 'Twelve Nights At Rotter House"? Here it is:
What makes a house Haunted? What makes us all do or say things that we regret later in our lives? Is there real EVIL in this world.....and do you believe in Ghosts? I went into this book not knowing anything about it, or its author. I found out that the author; J.W. Ocker is a travel writer/author as is the main character in this book; Felix is. It is the story about an author whose horror novels have not sold very well, so he gets the idea to spend 13 Nights In Rotter House. This is a huge victorian house that was built by a very wealthy and childless man who was a sex addict, and loved to entertain in the early 20th century.
Felix has a best friend ( Thomas) that has been in his life forever, like that friend we have all had in our lives, or even some of us are lucky enough and still do. When Thomas decides to join Alex in Rotter House all hell breaks loose. Human evils, secrets from the past and ghosts of all shapes, sizes and colors come out from these walls of Rotter House.
Ocker, is a writer who has taken every SINGLE horror movie, tag line, horror trope, and urban legend and has woven it into a story that made me scared at times, laugh my ass off at others, and even made me cry making me think of things that have happened in my own life. If you are a ghost story fan, a Haunted House fan, or just a person who loves an incredibly well written book, this is for you. But let me warn you......Rotter House is NOT what you think it is. Are you ready? My video review of this book will be appearing tomorrow on my YouTube Channel; AreYouIntoHorror , make sure you check it out. Here is the link to it: https://youtu.be/igVGVhnwGk0
...and make sure you get your own copy of this book......you'll be glad you did.
There were signs this was not going to go well. I wanted a ghost story. I got some kind of weird psychosexual fever dream that seems to have been written by an incel who has spent way too much time reading Freud.
Yes, there were signs where this was going. From a woman's horribly mutilated face being described as "vaginal" in appearance to a prosthetic arm that doubles as a sex toy.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not a prude. I enjoy well written adult literature as much as anyone. Heck, I have been known to sneak a trashy romance novel into my repitore from time to time. What I can not handle is a book that amounts to a white panic cuckold fantasy where the author is clearly simultaneously titillated and horrified by the images he conjurs of the protagonist's pure, white wife debauched by two black people. In the end, it really is just a gross book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
"The first floor had plenty of furniture, surely bought and left by countless past residents who dared call this behemoth home. When you flee in terror, you rarely stop for the ottomans."
This was not at all what I was expecting from what sounded like a "typical haunted house" novel. Yes Felix moves into an abandoned house in order to write a book about his experiences, but from the start the alleged haunted history of this home is a bit vague which only serves to emphasize that it may not be the main theme in this story. Enter Thomas, the estranged best friend. We don't really know why these former best buds have stopped speaking to each other, only that Felix has reached out to him for help with his book and although it is the first time they've bothered with each other in a year, Thomas has agreed. The pace is a bit slow here and we are given only the briefest of hints as to what could have caused their falling out. At this point I thought I had it all figured out and that the ghosts were not meant to be literal but whether or not this ghost of a friendship could be resurrected from it's death. I can't share much more of my thought process or tell you if I was right or wrong in my assumptions without ruining the reveal at the end but I will say that although it was a leisurely arrival the pay off was with the wait.
Nothing infuriates me more than when a good story is told poorly.
There are several really fantastic twists in this book: two regarding the beef between Felix and Thomas, and one huge one that changes the way you read the story. The problem is that Ocker does very little to lay the groundwork for them. The reader is told repeatedly over the course of the novel that something happened that affected Felix and Thomas's friendship, but the reader isn't given any clues to set up what it might be. Not even a vague allusion to some concrete detail of what happened. When I found out , the story got a hell of a lot more interesting, but I felt cheated out of having all that tension from the get-go because Ocker wanted the cheap twist and not the slow build-up it should have been. The fact that this came not even 100 pages from the end definitely didn't help. It's a juicy plot point! I wanted to linger with it in all its implications!! If Ocker had spent more time plumbing the depths of those implications and the horrible, uneasy relationship between his two protagonists, and less time having the same two (2) conversations over and over again, it would have been a better book.
Also, all writers steal things, but Ocker cribbed so blatantly from Crimson Peak at one point that I had to close the book and swear for a minute or two before I kept reading. Which is another thing--I love horror movies, and I love meta, but the meta-criticism in this book got so old so quickly. I wanted to die.
That said, this book has some excellent scares. were particularly effective.
I had to sit with this one before I could write a review. Not because it was extra scary or creepy but more so because of some of the issues with this book (I'll get into them later).
To start, I enjoyed the writing style of J.W. Ocker. The humor he infused into this story just worked for me. It may not be for everyone however because there is a lot of conversation throughout the novel. Don't go into this expecting a lot of things to happen right away. It takes a minute. And usually I get bored with this type of narrative but I was really into the dynamic between Felix and Thomas. I even found myself rushing back to read this book. Some others have said in their reviews that they were annoyed with the constant horror movie references but I enjoyed them. I loved their Film Fight game! I also enjoyed the fact that Felix was a skeptic while Thomas was a believer, so I feel that readers could find a way to identify with one of them.
There are also ghosts, unlike in another popular book that I read. Who knew this would be a big deal in a haunted house book? But yes you will get ghosts and blood and guts and gore and I was here for all of it. Was it scary to me? No. Was it creepy at parts? Definitely.
And the mystery of Twelve Nights at Rotter House... I was pleasantly surprised by. I know others said that the twist was predictable but this was definitely not the case for me. I may even reread it later down the line to look for the clues that I missed. With the twist, this story is creepiest because it's about the flaws in humanity. This also brings in a psychological element which I thoroughly enjoyed.
What keeps this from getting 5 stars? Well... There were many times in this book where I felt J.W. Ocker went too far with the sexual content to the point where I found quite a few things to be perverse and disgusting. When I have to question the author and why there was a need to include something(s) in their story then there is a problem. Then there is the issue of race which other reviewers have mentioned. Was this my experience while reading it? No. Can I understand why others had an issue with this? Yes.
So for these reasons this could not be a 5 star book for me. And I would just like to read an adult horror novel that is not problematic. Is that too much to ask for?!
Regardless, even with my minor grievance I was still able to enjoy this story and it's still one of the best horror novels I've read lately.
TW: Murder, scary scenes, language, sexual content, cheating, racism, violence
About the book: Felix Allsey is a travel writer with a keen eye for the paranormal, and he's carved out a unique, if only slightly lucrative, niche for himself in nonfiction; he writes travelogues of the country's most haunted places, after haunting them himself.When he convinces the owner of the infamous Rotterdam Mansion to let him stay on the premises for 13 nights, he believes he's finally found the location that will bring him a bestseller. As with his other gigs, he sets rules for himself: no leaving the house for any reason, refrain from outside contact, and sleep during the day.When Thomas Ruth, Felix's oldest friend and fellow horror film obsessive, joins him on the project, the two dance around a recent and unspeakably painful rough-patch in their friendship, but eventually fall into their old rhythms of dark humor and movie trivia. That's when things start going wrong: screams from upstairs, figures in the thresholds, and more than what should be in any basement. Felix realizes the book he's writing, and his very state of mind, is tilting from nonfiction into all out horror, and the shocking climax answers a question that's been staring these men in the face all along: In Rotter House, who's haunting who? Release Date: October 29th, 2019 Genre: Ghost horror Pages: 304 Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
What I Liked: 1. The story flowed 2. The writing was pretty good
What I Didn't Like: 1. All the sexual content 2. The ending being silly
Overall Thoughts: I started listening to this book this morning while I was at the gym, then while I was making vegan Au Gratin potatoes for dinner, and then doing the dishes (yes I am a peasant and have to wash them by hand). It wasn't a long book at all and so that was nice. We jump right into the action. I was never bored listening to it. I felt it kept you guessing what was going to happen as it continued on.
Usually I am the most judgmental when it comes to ghost stories. I think it’s a genre that is hard to nail down and get right. You have to entertain as well as scare the reader, a talent I rarely see. This book had serious moments where I was creeped out. The way the author described the floor boards creaking above him made me hold my breath
I liked horror game they played. I loved that The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons was mentioned because I really enjoyed that book a lot. Also the movie Housebound is mentioned too and I adore that movie. It has horror and humor, think Shawn of the Dead kind.
What is with all the sexual undertones?? Do men that are this old talk about "a lot of masturbation in that room" actually happen? Right in the first few chapters when Felix gets to the house you start hearing about sadistic sexual murders and that rooms were used for S&M. Once mentioned...okay...twice....ummmm okay...three times.....we get it dude! So imagine how annoyed I was at every mention of some kind of kinky sex that went on. In that instance I felt as though I was reading a book with two dudes that were 16-24 years old. I really feel like these moments took away from the creepiness that this book was putting out. Then we get to parts where Felix jerks off onto a doll. The sex was just way too much for this ghost story. If you want a book about sex maybe separate the two. Don't suck me in with a ghost story and then talk about sex, masturbation, and three-somes. It is SERIOUSLY weird.
To me the ending was kind of predictable. That's not always bad. Sometimes you need the breadcrumbs to know the ending. I can't stand books that just throw the ending at you and it's so out of the blue you'd never have a chance to guess what was going to happen. *cough cough Riley Sagar cough cough The House Across the Lake* The ending felt silly though in a way that made me laugh. It felt rushed. How did the cops find him? I am assuming it took them 6 months to find him since they say they have been looking for Thomas' arm but the way the cop says it was like it was a joke. Why did Felix take the arm? How did Felix get to the house and why did no one find him? No one tried to break into this famous haunted house in all the time he was there? Why is Thomas tormenting Felix? How did Felix stay in the house for so long and not leave to get more food? Did the beginning happen with the lady that bought the house and she knew he was there? I left this book with too many questions. I just thought the ending of the book would have been better had Felix just murdered his wife (weird to write that), Thomas, and Thomas' wife and then Felix hung himself from the light. That would tie up that no one could remember what happened to them. It would also explain why Thomas and Felix hadn't talked in so long. Like maybe Thomas was trying to get Felix to finally admit that ghosts are real so they all can move on.
Final Thoughts: I wasn't disappointed in this book. I was entertained. I hated all the sexual stuff. It felt like such a main point of the story that didn't need to be there. Every sentance beyond a few mentioned like too many.
Recommend For: • Lovers of ghost stories • Complicated friendship drama • Isolated settings • Creepy house
Hilariously, this novel is about a man who has written a handful of nonfiction spooky travel books and wants to write about the events of Rotter House, and it's written by J. W. Ocker who turns out to be a man who has written a handful of nonfiction spooky travel books and decided to write a fiction book about Rotter House, and yeah that should have been a warning. I fell victim to one of the classic blunders- writers writing about writers writing. Hindsight is 20/20.
What this book could have been was a 3 star standard haunted house story. Nothing mind-blowing but a fun jaunt, a little spook-em-ups for your week to distract you from reality. It almost got there. The writing was snappy and easy-reading without feeling hollow, the characters and interactions felt grounded and interesting. The humor wasn't bust-a-gut but I got a few chuckles, at the very least out of the dramatic irony of two dudes talking about the structure of haunted house stories stories while being main characters in a haunted house story. This might be too eye-roll-inducing for some people to enjoy, but I (like the main character) am into both spooky aesthetic and armchair analyses, so I had fun. And there were some spooky moments- a palpable chill went through me when The setting was creepy and had plenty of weird and wonderful details of all the awful things that allegedly happened in this house. But I think the scares were too few and far between, the characters too eager to discuss every frightening thing to death (as realistic a coping mechanism that would be when you're stuck in a haunted house) that it stole a lot of the tension of those moments and made me wish for more.
The awkward racial comments brought down the book, though, eventually dipping into "black men stealing our white women" territory. And honestly, the story wouldn't have been so bad by itself: if you excise the basic plot points and lay them out autopsy-style, it's not anything terribly offensive. But the subject of race comes up too often- not just the concept of race but literally the brownness of skintone, explicitly pointed out and discussed and thought about by the main characters, and it's mentioned even in the last few pages. That combined with the events of the book just made it kind of embarrassing to read. At best it's painfully awkward. Made it feel like watching a scary movie after biting your cheek- you keep hitting that weird little sore spot and it takes you out of the moment, eventually you get absorbed in it again and then bump it again, and it just keeps happening.
Without the awkwardness of that, the build-up of the book was fun.
But the biggest downside, which makes this book, to me, especially disappointing, is the ending. Spoilers from here on out.
“Because you trust your house, right? It's your house. It protects you from the world and, even more important, all the people out there. It sees you naked every day. It knows your sins. It's the only place where you are your true self. So when that gets corrupted, when that becomes haunted, that's terrifying.” Twelve Nights at Rotter House J. W. Ocker ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Felix, a travel writer with fondness for the supernatural, has made an okay living traveling around to supposed haunted places and writing about them. He convinces the owner of Rotterdam Mansion to allow him to stay 13 nights for his new story, one that will [cross your fingers] be the best seller he has dreamed about.
To make this the most immersive experience he sets rules. His rules are simple. Once inside, there is no leaving for any reason, no contact with anyone, and stay up all night to experience the most creepy of occurrences.
Felix seems to break these rules and allow his best friend, Thomas, to join in on the project. During this seclusion, they focus on some painful secrets and strive to work out their friendship.
Did I mention there are a fuckton of porcelain dolls all over? No? Okay, well they are like everywhere and seem to be moving by themselves, mocking Felix. Maybe that is the liquor though.
From the start of this book, I was hooked. I normally don't care for haunted house stories as they are all pretty similar. However, his one had nice twisty turns to keep my attention. The ending was particularly satisfying.
I was just given another J. W. Ocker book, Cursed Objects, to read and review and I am definitely excited for it.
It is hard to be sure what makes a good haunted house novel. One would think that by now I have read enough of them to know. Sadly, that is not yet the case. I am still working on it. But whatever the formula is, this book has it.
Somewhere between the relatable protagonist, the intriguing story, the twist ending, etc. this book delivered. Or, at least it did for me.
In the case of this book, I think most of what really worked for me was the style of writing and the protagonist. To be honest, the “mystery“ of the house and the spooks were a little on the anemic side. The “twist ending“ was something that I saw from a mile away. However, none of that kept me from enjoying the book. And I can only assume that is because the quality of the writing and the characters.
Giving this one four stars, appears to be on the upper end of ratings for this book. I assume that is because of the problems that I mentioned above.But the truth is, I’m not sure how much new ground there is to break in the story of a haunted house. I’m not sure that it is fair to hold a story about a haunted house accountable for its inability to do something totally new and outside of the box. That said, this story did about as much as anybody could to shake up the normal haunted house tropes. I especially enjoyed the ways in which the book directly addressed haunted house archetypes and tropes, it’s use of them, and their efficacy in telling scary stories.
This was a good book that got better the further inI got. And then character was a little bit overly goofy for the first half. Spending too much time that’s off horror movie tropes, and all the haunted house movies him and his friend can think of.
It wasn’t until the second half of the book the horror of it really played any part. That’s where I found the real fun of story came from. Plus, there was a lot of extra drama alone the two main characters. That was good and added a lot the story, but if they want to rush been introduced that late into the story, even with the light foreshadowing that it did before hand.
Overall, this was a Front Reid, and if you want to read more by this author.