“Life’s fucked up. It just is. It’s got ups and downs and I say it’s worse not appreciating the good things, because then what’s the point? It’s like the Native Americans used to say, right? Gotta use all of the buffalo. Life is a whole damn animal, and you can’t waste any part of it.”
Del Rey Books | 2021
Filed Under: It’s only missing Voldemort
Oooo shit, this is one hell of a novel.
Coming in at nearly 600 pages, it looks like an intimidating read and ya girl is definitely not a fan of thicc novels, but let me tell you, this does not read like a big ass book.
There is so much happening all of the time in every single chapter, that the pace never takes its foot off the gas. You fly through this fat-bottom girl like… I don’t have a metaphor for this, but whatever. It’s a fast read is my point. You get it. And that’s a testament to Wendig’s plotting and writing voice.
I’m calling Wendig the Tolkein of horror because this book is an epic. This couldn’t be a movie. It would need to be a TV series to fit in every scene – they are all important and if anything was cut out I would fucking riot. Don’t get it twisted though, I don’t mean Tolkein in the boring, over-detailed way J.R.R. does fantasy.
Don’t come for me Tolkein stans! I don’t care! You know reading about thirty different kinds of rocks and trees is boring AF.
I love gothic horror and I love haunted houses, so this book had all the balls in its court from the jump. Big balls, little balls. Balls of all sorts. We don’t discriminate around here.
But there was one serious downer that stood out for me: this is a wordy motherfucker.
When it comes to a genre novel that should be building suspense, dread and thrills because the story requires it, being too long or a maniac with purple prose can be a serious issue. The only time length isn’t an issue, is when the plot events are making up that length, like so much is happening it requires extra pages.
In this case, it wasn’t that there was so much story to tell, and certainly the page count isn’t very high, but rather that the author was far too interested in metaphors and purple prose and just couldn’t stop using them. Like, an intervention was needed. Without all that filler, this would probably be closer to being a novella.
Filed Under: A casserole that gets jail married to a serial killer and then does an episode of Dateline to explain why he’s actually innocent.
There are so many pieces of this novel that, individually, are dark and spooky and twisted and should have been captivating. But all those pieces put together in this way, in this particular narrative, just didn’t grab me by the literary bits like I was hoping it would.
When Heather Evans’ mother dies by suicide, she is left with a suicide note that doesn’t make much sense and a box full of letters from serial killer Michael Reeve, aka the Red Wolf.
No one ever truly knows another person because our inner lives are impossible to share. That coupled with how complicated it can be to know your parents outside of their roles as your parents, leaves Heather reeling.
Let’s be honest, if you found out your mom was besties with a serial killer who had hacked up some woman twenty years ago, you’d have a few fucking questions, too. And Heather, a journalist by trade (though currently disgraced,) has got some questions that she just can’t resist investigating. Who was her mother? Why was she so close to a serial killer? And I know Heather didn’t say it outright, but we’re all thinking it at some point – did her mother fuck a serial killer?
“Every house has a story. Ours is a ghost story. It’s also a lie. And now that yet another person has died within these walls, it’s finally time to tell the truth.”
Dutton Books | 2020
Filed Under: I’m not in the habit of blaming Satan for every phenomenon.
I wish this had fully been a horror story because, from the bottom of my bottom, I know Riley Sager could totally kill a haunted house horror novel.
But, this is like haunted house horror adjacent. It’s intentionally walking that line of fact or fiction, skepticism or belief. You never really know what you’re going to get with each new chapter.
Home Before Dark isa little bit spooky with a touch of Amityville vibes and lots of that signature Sager misdirection and twisty-twists. But it does read like more of a mystery-thriller.
When Maggie Holt’s father dies, she inherits the haunted house she lived in for 15 days when she was 5-years-old, totally unaware that her father still owned it. She and her parents fled in the middle of the night from Baneberry Hall and never returned, claiming the house was going to murder them, basically. Her father even wrote a bestseller about it that gained the family national fame and scorn. Just like the real Amityville – who many believe was a long-con by the family – not everyone believes the Holt family’s claims. Not even Maggie.
Now a house-flipper and designer, Maggie was too young to really remember what happened, but she’s sure her father’s book is whole ass bullshit. Any time she’s tried to get the truth from her parents they are dodgy and shady AF. Now her dad’s gone and her mom is all “I’m leaving for Paris!” so if Maggie wants the truth, she’ll need to search for it herself.
What is one to do with an abandoned haunted manor that probably holds the key to all Maggie’s questions? Flip it and sell it, obviously. But to do that, Maggie needs to move back in. And she’s like I ain’t afraid of no ghost! and she moves the fuck in even though her father used his final words to be like don’t fucking do that. She did it.
The vibe had so much potential, but for me, it was a bit of a letdown. I wanted it to be more sinister than it was. But I still liked it. Does that make sense? Well, I wish it would, but I have no intention of working on my clarity.
Bloodline is about Joan, recently knocked up and engaged and mugged, she moves from the city to her fiance’s small hometown where everything is Stepford Wives meets Rosemary’s Baby, but mostly without any of the things that make those stories fun and spooky.
This novel even gets a little meta, with Joan stating how much she loved Rosemary’s Baby and wishes she could cut her hair as short as Mia Farrow, but oh nooo what would people think? I’m happy to report she ultimately does cut her hair when she realizes the people whose opinions she was worried about fucking suck. And isn’t that always the way of it – spending our energy on people who don’t deserve it.
So, honestly, I spent a good chunk of this novel being like “good for her.” Fuck with them. Sneak into their houses and steal their shit. I’m cheering you on, Joan!
Filed Under: I see you found my trophy room, Dalton. The only thing missing is your ass!
Ugh, damn it…
This is such a bummer.
I really wanted to love this, but nope, couldn’t get there. It was just meh for me. It’s got all the things you expect from a slasher story – unsuspecting victims being gruesomely murdered in the woods by a psychotic killer – but, really all it has are things taken from other slasher stories. A lot of this felt off, like it was simply a copy of a copy rather than a story with something of its own to say. And it wasn’t exactly scary.
The plot invests in giving the cannibal killer a backstory, but I found it kind of boring, with pieces that didn’t totally connect. He was living independently off the grid, has excellent hunting skills, can make pants out of human skin and has escaped detection as a prolific serial killer for years, but he’s also intellectually disabled with the linguistic skills of a third grader? And he’s a cannibal, but also interested in keeping women as pets? Um, okay.
The killer was a mishmash of every other killer from other slasher stories and that felt kind of lazy. Like, just put Leatherface, Jason and TheHills Have Eyes cannibals into a cabin in the woods and then fold in the cheese. And voila! It’s this fucking guy.
“What Keyes was describing was the textbook progression, from childhood, of a sadist and a psychopath. Torturing and killing small animals, pets especially, is experimentation in controlling and killing another living thing for pure pleasure. It is practice, the last step before graduating to humans.”
Viking | 2019
Filed Under: Gen X Serial Killer
Like so many who have read this true-crime book, I am shocked and confused as to how I’d never heard of Israel Keyes before. He does ask the police to keep his serial killing ways on the D.L. so that his family (particularly his daughter) never finds out what he did as a hobby, but like, dude – they were going to find out one way or another. You don’t kill three people (possibly eleven) and keep that a secret after you’ve been arrested.
It’s also kind of a strange concern to have considering he’s a psychopath. Like does he really care about his daughter’s emotional and mental well-being? I highly fucking doubt it. Most of these guys want to be famous. And it’s a real shame that even after death, we keep making Ted Bundy movies.
This book was a surprise in all the right ways for all the wrong reasons. Those reasons being serial murder and committing general criminal chaos. There is nothing better than being shocked and appalled while learning about a true-crime case for the first time. Well, there are lots of things better than that, but you know what I mean. If that makes me sound weird, so be it. I don’t know how else to explain it.
All of the –
– and –
– and –
– that comes with reading some fucked up shit for the first time can’t be duplicated. Kind of like a first kill that serial killers keep trying to replicate. See what I did there? Comparing myself to a serial killer? Shit. Alright, this going off the rails. Let’s just start over.
“This is what ordinary people are like. They don’t want to be bothered. They don’t want to care. They would rather let a few people disappear, a few families suffer and never recover, than ruin everybody’s vacation.”
Berkley | 2021
Filed Under: Two shakes away from Texas Chainsaw
Well, this was fucking weird.
I don’t know if this review is going to make any sense at all, because I’m still not sure how I really feel about this novel. So, uh, good luck reading my stoned thoughts.
First of all, the main character, Sera, is wildly unstable. Like, break into Sandra Bullock’s home and get into her bed unstable. Like, John Hinckley unstable. Did I enjoy being in the head of a character like that? Fucking no! But was it captivating, very yes. And fucking uncomfortable the whole time. Sera is so unlikable, watching her exist was akin to an embarrassing American Idol audition.
“And to think you were worried about a damn shower curtain. Nothing says ‘serial killer’ like a chest freezer in a garage.”
Minotaur Books | 2021
Filed Under: Contract killer is yoga pants
This must be the year where I just can’t take anymore terrible shitty shitty shit, that all of my favourite things have become fun, light, optimistic good times. I’m as shocked as you are, I’ll creep it real.
I did not see this shift in my life coming, I just know it’s here so I’m leaning into it. If we want to get all therapy-lite about it, I definitely know it’s a response to these COVID times.
I’ve had it up to my double chin with this planet, so all the things that have lit my feelings on fire in 2021 have been good good stuff, you know?
For the last couple months, there hasn’t been a true-crime doc or horror movie insight. I’ve rewatched Notting Hill and You’ve Got Mail like half a dozen times.
Ted Lasso? I am fucking IN LOVE with him. I wait for Friday nights like a child waiting for Saturday morning cartoons. Not because I’m excited for the weekend, but because I need me some Lasso sweetness and Roy Kent grunts. Simple as that.
And when it comes to books? Finlay Donovan is Killing It might just be my favourite read of 2021 (so far – it’s only September, so who knows what the end of the year will bring.) Trust me when I tell you, I was not fucking expecting that when I borrow this from the library, but here we are.
Filed Under: “Everything all right?” / “Yep, two corpses, everything’s fine.”
If you are looking for a modern Agatha Christie/Clue style locked-room mystery, may I suggest this fucking book to you?
Because I’m gonna.
This novel is such a throwback and I ended up liking it a lot… once I got past my assumptions of what the novel was going to be.
Apparently, it’s very easy for me to get used to the vibe of those fast-paced thrillers that are constantly trying to outdo the previous new release with twists and shocks. Read enough of them and I guess I can forget about the beauty in a subtle, classic mystery. Death in the Family was a needed reminder for me.
When I first started this, the tone and pace weren’t working for me. But that’s because I’m a stupid bitch. And almost immediately I realized I was looking for that other kind of thriller in the writing, which is actually really shit of me. Obviously, I need to switch up my current genre choices because it’s clouding how open I am when I start a new book.
I mean, not to get too fucking deep about it, but yeah…