Category Archives: Murders, Monsters, & Mayhem

2013 Murder, Monsters & Mayhem Wrap-Up

2013MX3Yet another year of Murder, Monsters & Mayhem has come to an end! Its always a lot of worth but well worth it in the end!  This year I introduced a new series of guest posts, The First Book to Terrify Me and I truly loved reading all the submissions!

So, in case you missed it, here is a wrap-up of the 2013 Murder, Monsters & Mayhem!

There are still quite a few giveaway items available! All you need to do to be entered is comment on one of the above posts or submit your own link to the link-up page!

Even though Murder, Monsters & Mayhem has come to an end, that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything new and exciting coming up!  Once again, I will be hosting Thankfully Reading Weekend, an excuse to curl up with a book (or two or three) during the Thanksgiving holiday. Also, in early December, I will be hosting Cozy Mystery Week once again.  Sign-up posts for both will go up in the next week.

I hope you have enjoyed Murder, Monsters & Mayhem as much as I have! If you have any comments, suggestions, etc.  I would love to hear them! I’m always looking at ways to improve it!

#Mx3 Guest Post: The First Book to Terrify Me (The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs)

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I know, I know. Halloween is over! That said, I received so many great contributions to The First Book to Terrify Me! series that I couldn’t turn them away! I will continue to feature them over the next few Saturdays!

Today’s guest post comes from Belle from Ms.Bookish.com!

Middle Grade Shivers: The House with a Clock in Its Walls, by John Bellairs

 

the-house-with-a-clock-in-its-wallsIt was a dark and stormy night. And actually, it really was a dark and stormy night the night I first read John Bellairs’ The House with a Clock in Its Walls - or at least, that’s what my memories tell me.

I was sitting in my special armchair in the living room. It wasn’t really my armchair, but I liked to sit there to read, with an apple or two by my side. In those days, I was always munching apples while I read – totally unaware of how good they were for me, of course.

I pulled The House with a Clock in Its Walls out of the big duffel bag I used just for library books. I was ten at the time, and that duffel bag – I can see it now, with its beige canvas and brown leather straps – was nearly as wide as I was tall. It was a big bag. Because I needed a big bag. Even back then, going to the library was like going on a a really good treasure hunt. I never knew what I’d find, but I did know I’d find a lot.

That day, one of the treasures was The House with a Clock in Its Walls. I remember reading the tagline on the cover: “The thing was ticking away, marking off the minutes until doomsday”. And the cover itself! It was probably the scariest cover out of any book I’d ever read up until then.

Even now, so many years later, I can remember being deep into the book, barely breathing, as I read about Lewis, who’d been orphaned and had come to live with his eccentric Uncle Jonathan in Uncle Jonathan’s big old mansion, with its secret passages and all those rooms. I can remember the shivers of delight when I discovered that Uncle Jonathan was a wizard, as was Mrs. Zimmermann, his neighbor and best friend.

I loved the zany whackiness of Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann, the way they sniped at each other good-naturedly, the way they both cared about Lewis. I loved Lewis, too – on the plump side, shy, eager to fit in – and his new best friend, Rose Rita, who was spunky and brave and maybe a little too headstrong sometimes.

And then there was Isaac Izzard, the dark warlock who had owned the house before Uncle Jonathan had bought it. Old Izzard made such a very creepy, scary bad guy. I can remember reading this book and being scared to go down our dark hallway to go to the bathroom. It was a fun, scared feeling, though – not the stuff of nightmares, just enough to make you feel deliciously frightened.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls was also my first introduction to the illustrations of Edward Gorey. There are delightful pieces by Gorey throughout the book, and Gorey’s style is a perfect match to the tone of the story.

I read and reread The House with a Clock in Its Walls so many times after that first read. And being a true reader even then, I sought out as many of John Bellairs’ books as I could find. Lewis and the gang appeared in some of them, others were populated by different sets of characters. I eventually read them all, and I loved them all.

But out of all of Bellairs’ tales, The House with a Clock in Its Walls will always hold a special place in my heart. I reread it earlier this year, after a long hiatus away from it, and sadly (but inevitably), the scare/suspense factor wasn’t there any more. I still loved the characters and the relationships, though, and the wave of wonderful memories that accompanied my re-read more than made up for the loss of the scariness.

Woooooo! That is a spooky cover!  Thank you, Belle, for your contribution!  Come back next Saturday for another edition of The First Book to Terrify MeI

#Mx3 Guest Post: The First Book to Terrify Me (Pet Sematary by Stephen King)

2013MX3I am really excited to share today’s First Book to Terrify Me guest post!  This one comes from Jennifer Connor of Literate Housewife.  When Jennifer indicated an interest in participating in this series, she opted to face her fears and do a reread of the first book to terrify  her, Pet Sematary, in preparation for her post.  I’m so proud of her for taking on this mission!

 

When I was in junior high, Pet Sematary was the book to read. It was published in 1983 and by the time I was in the 8th grade, it was readily available at the library. I remember the Saturday I road my bike to the library and found it sitting there on the shelf waiting for its next reader. I can still it sitting on that shelf although it’s been a good decade since I’ve been to that library.

I brought Pet Sematary with me to my babysitting gig across the street the following Saturday night. My goal was to finish the book that night. Finish it I did, amidst the creepiest house noises you’d ever want to hear.  They were real enough to make me feel as though I’d better check on those innocent sleeping babies, but it took every ounce of courage in me to get up off the couch and walk back down that darkened hallway. I was waiting for an evil cat to jump out at me the entire time. No cats appeared, but the creaking floor boards were just as terrifying. Care to imagine what the sound of the garage door opener did to my heart that night? It was with relief that I greeted the neighbors and told them how angelic their babies were. I wanted to go home and jump into my own bed in my own room.

There was one small problem. I had to walk home by myself and it was after midnight. There is no more than a football field’s distance between my parent’s house and the house where I was babysitting. There is a street light nearby so it wasn’t completely dark. It was by far the longest walk of my life. I was terrified of some resurrected entity popping out between houses. Surely pets had to be buried all over the place. I wanted to run, but I could barely move. I had to be a site to see shuffling across the street and then bounding up the steps to nearly hug the front door in relief. To this day, that night is one of the strongest reading memories I have.

There was no question I would write about Pet Sematary for this series. I realized, however, that what I remembered about that book was that trip to the library and the feelings I had that night. I couldn’t remember anything beyond the most basic plot (basic as in what could be told by looking at the cover). I decided to make this guest post an experiment and I bought a copy to read, curious to see how I would react to the book today.

The sections that frightened me at 13 or 14 still scared me today, but the underlying themes that would have gone over my head in junior high are what gave me tiny bouts of insomnia and more anxiety dreams than I have had in a very long time. It occurred to me that at the root of real horror, at least for me, are my responsibilities. Suddenly I’m a little nervous taking the wheel for fear of hitting a jogger. The tiniest worries about my children’s safety and their schedules kept me up at night. As the book progressed and Louis did what he did in the cemetery, I was horrified. Not really because of the way exhuming a grave feels or smells, but it was the thinking about how I would handle my own baby lying dead in the cold ground that put me over the edge. I wanted to vomit with Louis for fear of having to live through that experience. What was real and could happen to any parent is what scared me to death while I was reading Pet Sematary the second time around. I very much see why Stephen King, in his introduction, finds this to be his scariest book. Crossing that street in in the mid-1980s I had absolutely no concept of the true horror I’d just read.

I learned that I am still a big old chicken when it comes to horror. I quickly nixed the idea of recreating that terrifying walk. My neighborhood today is much more rural than where I grew up and I’m no fool! Scary books don’t necessarily get less scary as you reread them or as you leave childhood behind for the adult world. It is a testament to Stephen King’s writing and storytelling that a chilling junior high dare of a book can make your heart pound even harder in adulthood. Although I’ll never regularly read horror, there’s nothing quite like the reading experience.

Thank you so much for contributing, Jennifer!  Although since today is technically the last day of October and should be the end of Murder, Monsters & Mayhem, I still have quite a few posts like this to share. Stay tuned!

 

Guest Review: Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic by Mark Tatulli

  • Age Range: 7 – 12 years
  • Series: Amp! Comics for Kids
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing (October 1, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1449435483
  • Source: Publisher

Today, I’m excited to welcome my youngest son, Justin (8), for a guest review! He’s only reviewed a few books for me but, as he gets older, he’s interested in following his brother’s footsteps in providing fairly regular reviews for this blog. Take it away, Justin!

Even though I am only in third grade, there are a lot of things that the character in this book likes that I like too. Desmond is in sixth grade and loves monsters, just like me. He likes to create special effects and stunts to scare people. I haven’t done any of these things myself because I don’t want to get into trouble but that doesn’t stop Desmond! Luckily (like me!) he has a mom that sticks up for him and gets him out of trouble!  The problem with Desmond is that he is really smart and doing good things with his talent instead of bad. There are so many people who try to get him to do this, but Desmond is more interested in terrifying and scaring people.

One person is out to get Desmond and that is his principal, Mr. Needles. Mr. Needles knows Desmond is up to no good and really wants to catch him in the act. Desmond can’t stop misbehaving but knows if he gets caught he won’t be able to attend the class field trip at the end of the school year.  So, he is forced to enroll in three after school activities as a way to keep him out of trouble. Will it be enough to stop Desmond? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

My mom asked me to tell you why I liked this book. In addition to really liking Desmond, I also liked all of Desmond’s cartoons and drawings that are included. It reminded me a lot of two other series I like, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate.  These drawings made the book seem shorter and made me want to read faster so I could get to the next drawing.

Also, at the end of the book Desmond tells people how to make monster magic (like making fake blood!) at home! I think this is probably the coolest part of the book. But I’m going to ask my Mom for permission first!

If you are a kid in third grade and higher and you like Halloween, monsters, and books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid I think you will like this book too! If you do, let me know, ok?

Thank you, Justin! Here is where I will add a bit of a parental advisory! Desmond’s antics are a little out of control at times! As Justin read, he and I discussed Desmond’s behavior and why it was inappropriate. I do highly recommend this book for the audience Justin suggests but with a caveat that you have a discussion with your child to remind them that Desmond is a fictional character, in a book, and why duplicating his behavior is ill-advised!
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#Mx3 Guest Post: The First Book To Terrify Me (A Clockwork Orange and Nineteen Eighty-Four)

2013MX3In today’s edition of The First Book to Terrify Me, I am pleased to welcome Sarah Woodberry, who blogs over at WordHits!

The Book(s) That First terrified Me: A Clockwork Orange and Nineteen Eighty-Four

There are two books that first terrified me in a way that I hadn’t known reading could do. Neither is a typical horror story, but both of these books gave me nightmares.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is the first graphic, gory book from which I simply could not turn away at the gruesome parts. Before that, I had rather perfected the art of skipping over violent passages just as one might hit fast-forward during a movie when, say, a clueless woman walks down a dark hallway calling out a tentative “anyone there?”

But Burgess mesmerized me with his syncopated, almost sing-song, writing style, and before I knew it, the teenage antihero Alex and his droogs were boot-stomping a shop-owner and his wife into a bloody pulp. Things only get worse and much more violent, but just like Alex when they have him strapped into a chair for the Ludovico Technique, I simply could not look away. Instead, I read every single, nausea-inducing word. Unlike the typical villain, Alex isn’t really evil to the core. And that’s what makes the book so chilling. Alex is a restless fifteen-year-old knocking people around for kicks. He has a thing for classical music (especially church hymns and Beethoven) which he hums as he fantasizes about violence. It freaked me out that Burgess’s writing lulled me into sympathizing with and somewhat rooting for this awful character. The novel is a sort of twisted morality play in reverse. “Is a man who chooses to be bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?” asks the prison chaplain. The book’s original bleak ending was banned in the U.S. when it was first published. So make sure your edition ends with chapter seven, it leaves you wondering about people.

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is another one that shook me up. This book kept me awake at nights because until to the very last lines (spoiler alert!), I expected it to have a redemptive ending. I was right there with Winston when his eyes caught O’Brien’s, the flash of hidden understanding. I too felt a kinetic sympathy with O’Brien. I was all ready for the ‘David trumps Goliath’ plot thread which is hallmark of these dystopian evil-empire tales, like The Lord of The Rings, Watership Down, Star Wars, and most recently, The Hunger Games. But (nuclear spoiler alert), Orwell delivers the mother of all plot twists: the resistance movement only exists as a trap set by Big Brother and the Thought Police. “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself,” Winston realizes. Still, I kept on hoping, believing, that the human spirit would triumph, if only in a small way. Orwell brutally stomps this out with torture, brainwashing, and betrayal in a novel that really made me think.

Maybe it’s the defeatist nature of these stories that terrifies me. Images from both haunt me at that witching hour, when you’ve woken up at 3 AM and everything seems bleaker and scarier than it would by daylight. Ok, sometimes it’s Freddy Krueger who haunts me. But, sometimes, I think of Alex or of Winston, and I think scary thoughts.

Thank you, Sarah! Please come back on Thursday for yet another edition of The First Book to Terrify Me!

 

#Mx3 Review: The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 10, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0375868771
  • Source: Publisher

The citizens of the small town of Oleander, Kansas call it the killing day: five people with seemingly no connection commit murders, killing 12 individuals, then attempt to kill themselves. In four out of five cases, they succeeded.  A year has passed but that terrifying date in history has awaken something in this small town.  Exacerbating the town’s pain and recovery, a devastating tornado hits the small town, destroying all but a small portion of the town.  The military is called in, setting up road blocks and barbed wire fences, shutting down any communication with the outside world.  Citizens who attempt to breach the quarantine are killed on the spot. Once peaceful citizens are rising up and committing horrific crimes, taking the law into their own hands.  It’s only a group of five teens – Daniel, West, Jule, Cass, and Ellie- that realize something is seriously wrong and band together to find answers.

Told from the point of view of these five teens, The Waking Dark tells each of their stories how it relates to the killing day and the aftermath.   They each harbor their own secrets, but opening up and banding together is the only way to avoid certain death. What they uncover is darker and more devastating than anyone ever could have imagined.

The characters Wasserman builds in this young adult horror novel are unique, flawed and, most of the time, not very likeable.  Personally, I found it a challenge to connect to any of them and I didn’t really care about their fate or survival.  What kept me invested in this novel was the storyline; I was desperate to uncover the source of the town’s evil.  I’m purposefully vague in the root of this evil for I feel that readers should uncover it on their own.  The execution of the reveal is one of this novel’s selling points.

While I didn’t connect with the characters, I did find the storyline compelling. It wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I though it would be, but I’d prefer a horror novel to have a strong plot than forced “terror.”  If you are looking for a unique piece of young adult horror fiction, The Waking Dark is the novel for you. Recommended.
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Murder Monsters & Mayhem: Week 4 Wrap-Up

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I can’t believe we’re down to the last week  of Murder, Monsters & Mayhem. I’ve certainly enjoyed it; I hope you have too! Before we start the final week, let’s do a wrap-up of last week:

If you’ve reviewed a horror/thriller/mystery  book or movie, or done a Halloween post of any sort, be sure to include your your link on the Mx3 Link Up Page!  Or, if you don’t have a blog, you can comment on any of the Mx3 posts to be eligible to win as well! Each week I will pick a winner, who gets to select a prize from the Mx3 Prize Page!

#Mx3 Review: Suburban Legends: True Tales of Murder, Mayhem, and Minivans by Sam Stall

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  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (October 1, 2013)
  • Source: Publisher (via Edelweiss)

In this collection of horrifying true stories, Stall proves that living in the suburbs isn’t as quiet or calm as one would tend to believe.   In stories ranging from hauntings to brutal killings and supernatural creatures, Stall terrifies readers with tales destined to be retold around a campfire or at a slumber party.  Stall focuses on well-known stories of murderous individuals we’ve all hear about on the news, but also focuses on local, lesser-known stories. Included, when applicable, are chilling photographic evidence of the haunting, or, even more terrifying, of the killer.  For those more sensitive, Stall does share stories that are more humorous than terrifying, a perfect combination of hilarity and horror.

This collection of 60 stories is broken down into the following categories:

  • Inhumanly Bad Houseguests (hauntings, poltergeists, paranormal activity)
  • The Ghoul Next Door (Do you know what your creepy neighbor does behind closed doors!?)
  • Hellish Commutes (haunted roadways, hotels, etc)
  • Backyard Beasts (unnaturally odd creatures)
  • Really Desperate Housewives (murderous wives/mothers)
  • Lawn of the Dead (Horrifying things found buried in backyards or uncovered during construction)
  • Sundry Cul-de-sacriliges (Miscellaneous hauntings, paranormal activity)

Each story only has a page or two devoted to it, so if you are anything like me, you’ll find yourself wanting to know more. I caught myself hitting Google to find out more, especially when I discovered that one of the stories was based just a few miles down the road (gulp!)

Recently re-released in ebook format, Suburban Legends: True Tales of Murder, Mayhem, and Minivans is a must needed addition to your Halloween reading collection! Highly, highly recommended.

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Mx3 Guest Post: The First Book To Terrify Me (The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood)

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image00 Welcome to yet another edition of The First Book to Terrify Me! Today’s guest poster is Nicole Wolverton. Nicole  (pictured here at the age of 14 on a day when she was not horrified, except perhaps by her awesome 80s hair) is an adult and young writer of thrillers and horror fiction. The Millions calls her debut novel, The Trajectory of Dreams (March 2013, Bitingduck Press), a “wholly original and fearlessly dark novel.” She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she is represented by Michelle Witte of Mansion Street Literary Management. Visit her at www.nicolewolverton.com, or find her on Twitter or Facebook.

Some girls like to read romance novels. Me, I read Stephen King and Clive Barker growing up. I knew horror. I knew what it was to gaze into the Nietzschean abyss and know the abyss was gazing into me. Or, you know, so my fourteen-year-old self thought. I didn’t know a damn thing. That is, until I read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. That was the year—1986—that I learned to truly be afraid.

I was like any other small town girl. I wanted to be let loose into the world, to go someplace bigger, be something more. At fourteen, I already had a sense of pride that, as a woman (or as much of a woman as you can be at that age), I could choose for myself—whether to have sex and with whom, whether to have kids or not, whether to get married or have the career of my choice or both. And whether it was the influence of the books I read or the pop culture I was exposed to or my mother’s example as a single parent . . . well, that was my identity, and I couldn’t imagine a world where I could be coerced to be something less because of my gender.

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was frightening in a far different way than the usual horror novels I devoured. I remember seeing the novel highlighted at my local library, and I checked it out on a whim. Every time I tried to put the book down, I had to pick it back up because I had to see the reversal of fortune for Offred that I knew would come. In some ways, the epilogue provides some hope . . . but not enough for me. Not then and not now. The rest of the book was too gruesome.

What makes it so frightening is that as time went by and political and religious culture wars grew bolder and louder, I could see the possibility of it actually happening. I don’t want to turn Jenn’s Bookshelves into a platform for my political or religious views, so I’ll just say this: The Handmaid’s Tale was the most frightening book I’d ever read when I was fourteen because it represented an oppression that was completely foreign to me. I’m forty-one now, and the novel is even more frightening . . . because I understand much more about the insidiousness of political and religious culture wars and how that impacts my rights as a woman.

Since I’m a young adult fiction writer, it seems only fair that I point out some great YA novels that give me a lot of hope that feminism and thoughtful discourse about reproductive choice is alive and well: Unwind by Neal Shusterman, Megan McCafferty’s Bumped series, and Anna Carey’s Eve trilogy. Murder, monsters, and mayhem don’t have to involve paranormal figures and serial killers . . . because the real monsters are humans with what they believe to be good intentions. Stephen King and Clive Barker have nothing on Margaret Atwood.

 Thank you, Nicole! Come back next week for yet another edition of The First Book to Terrify Me!

 

#Mx3 Review: Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (September 17, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0765331829
  • Source: Personal Copy

Delia Martin is a wealthy young woman living in early 20th century San Francisco.  She holds a unique gift; she can see, and communicate, with spirits of the deceased. She’s returned to her home, certain that it holds an explanation for the powerful spirit that follows her. Referred to as Shadow, this woman is unable to verbally communicate with Delia, yet is desperate to lead her to something. Shadow haunts Delia’s dreams with flashbacks of a serial killer from nearly three decades ago, eerily similar to a serial killer now terrorizing the bay city.  Delia’s return to San Francisco isn’t an easy one; she is haunted by those who died in the great earthquake of 1906.  Delia, like so many others, lost her family in that quake, a disaster that forever altered the great city.

Delia’s return to San Francisco is timely; her best friend, Sadie,  is due to be wed in six weeks.  Her fiance, Jack, and his partner, Gabe, are the lead investigators on this new rash of killings. Delia lends her “talent” to the case, soon learning that the spirit that haunts her can provide valuable information to aid in the investigation.  When the killer gets personal, threatening both Delia and Gabe, it becomes even more imperative to uncover his identity.

Delia’s Shadow is an intensely captivating novel, capturing the essence of San Francisco at the turn of the century.  Moyer draws out her characters well, unveiling them as strong, yet also emotionally damaged, individuals.  The great quake destroyed so many families in the city, not a single person left untouched by its decimation.  This sense of loss adds a bit of humanity to each of the characters. Despite their loss, they continue to live in the city they love, living their lives despite their great loss.  Perhaps it is this loss that powers them through the investigation, desperate to prevent the deaths of others.

Moyer does something unique with this novel.  It is told in dual narration, alternating between Delia’s and Gabe’s perspective.  Additionally, Delia’s perspective is told in first person while Gabe’s is in third.  Initially, this took me off guard but ultimately I understood that it is Moyer’s intent that it is Delia’s character we must truly understand, and her first person perspective allows the reader to do so.

It’s hard to categorize this novel into one genre.  While Delia’s gift, and the pervasiveness of spirits, adds a supernatural feel to the novel, I feel the mystery aspect is the one that stands out the most.  Adding the historical aspect to it, Delia’s Shadow is a novel destined to be appreciated by a wide range of readers.  Moyer is an author new to me and I am looking forward to more from her. A true talent, one that obviously takes a great deal of care and commitment to her novel. Highly, highly recommended.

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