Quickie Review: Laughing All the Way to Crazytown

We moved 10 days ago. All our boxes are unpacked, we’ve got power and interwebz, the commute to work is smooth sailing.

We also have no washer and dryer, no curtains, and my bank account is lookin’ real sad. Such is life.

Between moving and having a couple meltdowns about moving, I’ve actually managed to get some reading done.

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque, Zarqa NawazA series of short stories by author and television writer Zarqa Nawaz about growing up Muslim in Canada. It’s like Love, InshAllah, but with way more laughs. It’s a peek into a culture about which most Americans know little. Nawaz is an excellent writer, both thoughtful and hysterical. Her television series Little Mosque on the Prairie aired for six seasons in Canada — I need to get my hands on it.

Hex

Hex, Thomas Olde HeuveltThis translated edition of Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s Dutch novel made me as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I was wound up as tight as a drum a few chapters in, and Heuvelt spent the rest of the book winding me tighter. The final few chapters are gruesome and absolutely horrifying. The book’s theme — what is the true definition of a monster? — is intriguing and repulsive. Much like The Seeker, Hex terrified me and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. So good.

Coming up next on my TBR is…well, I don’t know. I need to make a run to the library to renew my card; maybe I’ll see what’s on display when I go in. If you’ve got any recommendations for me, drop ‘em in the comments!

Review: The Haunting of Hill House

(I read this book as part of the Pay it Sideways Challenge. Join in anytime, we’d love to have you!)

Dr. John Montague is a doctor of philosophy, but his true passion is “the analysis of supernatural manifestations.” He’s been searching many years for a truly haunted location, and believes he has found that location in Hill House, an off-kilter, terrifying mansion tucked away in the countryside. He selects three people, Eleanor, Theodora, and Luke, each with a connection to the mansion or the supernatural, to be his assistants.

So it is that one bright summer day, the four adventurers arrive to plumb the secrets of Hill House. Everyone is instinctively afraid, but the mansion has no fear of its guests; rather, it likes them so much that it may make one of them stay — forever.

Heck yea (or ahhhh)!

Prior to picking up The Haunting of Hill House, I’d had two brushes with Shirley Jackson: I had to read her short story “The Lottery” in high school (freaking terrifying), and I’ve read and re-read Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons, the chronicles of her life in Vermont raising her four kids and dealing with boxes of books and rapidly-multiplying cats (freaking hilarious).

I’ve always known that Jackson could craft a story, and wow, does that talent ever shine in The Haunting of Hill House. The mansion is tilted and grotesque, and its malevolence makes it a character unto itself.

Nothing solidly “paranormal” happens until about 90 pages in (and the book tops out at 174, so it’s a quick read), but I spent that entire first half feeling like a string being ratcheted tighter and tighter — there’s a sick feeling welling up through the narration, and I got almost as jumpy and frightened as the novel’s characters.

Most haunted houses are scary because there was supposedly a murder there, or it was built on a burial ground, etc. But The Haunting of Hill House proves that some houses are simply evil to the core.

And if that’s not enough to convince you to give the book a try (or avoid it altogether) consider that author Stephen King called it “one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to turn on every light in my apartment and sleep with my eyes open.

About the recommender

Two Bibliomaniacs is manned by a couple that, by their own admission, has “more books than are probably healthy.” I believe I discovered them through my participation in the Top 10 Tuesday meme, and their eclectic taste in books—and well-developed sense of humor—keep me coming back.

They’re on a big Shakespeare kick at the time of this posting, but they’ve reviewed everything from Martin’s Game of Thrones to Rand’s The Fountainhead. They recommended The Haunting of Hill House for its “impressive” character development and the fact that “every sentence makes you want to hide underneath your covers and close your eyes.” Check out their review here.

I’ve followed Two Bibliomaniacs for awhile now, and I’m glad to say they’ve never steered me wrong! Check ‘em out when you have a minute.

Review: Heart-Shaped Box

(I read this book as part of 1book140. Keep up with the latest over at The Atlantic!)

Aging death-metal rockstar Judas Coyne is a collector of awful things, including a cookbook for cannibals, a used hangman’s noose, and a genuine snuff film. He’s always been intrigued by the macabre, and so when the chance arises to purchase a suit supposedly haunted by the ghost of a dead man, Judas goes for it.

But the black, heart-shaped box which arrives contains more than a suit. Judas really has purchased a ghost, and now the frightening figure lurks in hallways, behind doors, and even inside Judas’ television.

Forget campfire stories and episodes of “Scooby-Doo”; this is a very real—and very angry—ghost. It has a score to settle with Judas Coyne, and it won’t stop until Judas and everyone he knows is dead.

Good, but too much for me

This book gave me nightmares, which I suppose was the point. It’s extremely well crafted, and absolutely terrifying. I picked up the book early in October and felt like I wasn’t able to exhale until I finished it last night.

I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the read; horror is not a genre in which I often dabble, and many of the situations and scenes were simply too much for me, for various reasons. I will say that I was caught up in the story, and never saw the twists coming. Author Joe Hill has written a great novel, but I wasn’t at all sad to put the book down.

If you’re into horror, gore, and the occult, check out Heart-Shaped Box. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What genre do you find it hard to enjoy? What do you think of horror stories?