Book Review: The Grip Of It by Jac Jemc

Book: The Grip Of It by Jac Jemc

Published August 2017 by FSG Originals|273 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: None

Genre: Adult Literary/Horror

A chilling literary horror novel about a young couple who purchase and live in a haunted house. Jac Jemc’s The Grip of Ittells the eerie story of a young couple haunted by their new home. 

Julie and James settle into a house in a small town outside the city where they met. The move—prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check—is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But this house, which sits between ocean and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple. As Julie and James try to settle into their home and their relationship, the house and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The architecture—claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms—becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall—contracting, expanding—and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mold spores taint the water that James pours from the sink. Together the couple embark on a panicked search for the source of their mutual torment, a journey that mires them in the history of their peculiar neighbors and the mysterious residents who lived in the house before Julia and James.

Written in creepy, potent prose, The Grip of It is an enthralling, psychologically intense novel that deals in questions of home: how we make it and how it in turn makes us, mapping itself onto bodies and the relationships we cherish.

I did not like this book as much as I thought I would.  It had a lot of potential, and I like the idea of a couple moving into a house only to get caught up in what had happened in the house before they bought it, and the history of the neighborhood.

I was bored when reading it, and I didn’t feel any terror or claustrophobia.  I think that’s what the author was going for, but I didn’t particularly feel that while reading the book.  It wasn’t as creepy as I thought it would be, and I didn’t particularly care about what they were going through.

There were a couple of things that didn’t work for me: the chapter length and the POV.  So, both Julia and James narrate the book, but their voices sounded exactly the same, and it was hard to tell who was narrating.  It was hard to tell them apart, especially when each chapter maxed out at about 4 pages.  The chapters weren’t long enough to really get into each character’s head.

Not only that, but switching back and forth every 2-4 pages took me out of what was going on.  Not that the chapters had to be labeled with who was narrating that particular chapter, but it would have been helpful to know who was supposed to be narrating.  At least to have a reference point, since both voices sounded the same to me.

Obviously, this book wasn’t for me, and I don’t think I would have picked it up if it weren’t part of a subscription box I was getting.  I get why people might like.  I mean, who wouldn’t go for a haunted house story?  I just wish it were for me.

1 star.  I didn’t like this book, and it was hard to tell the two narrators apart.  Plus, it wasn’t as creepy or haunting or claustrophobic as I thought it would be.

Book Review: The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford

Book: The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford

Published September 2017 by St. Martin’s Press|176 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperbook

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction/Horror

Three friends go looking for treasure and find horror in Jeffrey Ford’s The Twilight Pariah.

All Maggie, Russell, and Henry wanted out of their last college vacation was to get drunk and play archaeologist in an old house in the woods outside of town. When they excavate the mansion’s outhouse they find way more than they bargained for: a sealed bottle filled with a red liquid, along with the bizarre skeleton of a horned child

Disturbing the skeleton throws each of their lives into a living hell. They feel followed wherever they go, their homes are ransacked by unknown intruders, and people they care about are brutally, horribly dismembered. The three friends awakened something, a creature that will stop at nothing to retrieve its child.

The Twilight Pariah was another one from the PageHabit horror box that I’m just now getting to.  This one, like The Murders Of Molly Southbourne, was also okay, and didn’t really work for me.

The Twilight Pariah is your typical story where people disturb a skeleton and get haunted.  Obviously, characters in stories like these don’t know that you don’t disturb skeletons and graveyards, because bad things happen when you do.

It wasn’t as eerie and creepy as I thought it would be and there were times when the book was funny…but unintentionally.  It’s more comedy-horror than true horror or ghost story.  For some reason bizarre reason, Horrorstor is coming to mind, but maybe it’s the sometimes intentionally funny moments, sometimes unintentionally moments that is bringing the two together.

It was definitely too short, and I felt like there could have been more in terms of what was going on, and how disturbing the skeleton really upset the balance of things.  I like the idea behind it, and I could picture everything really well, but it just needed more to it.  It could be an entertaining tv or straight to DVD movie, especially around Halloween.  It’s short enough that it felt rushed and lacking in detail, so it could be interesting if the author decided to expand on it, and write a full-length novel, instead of a novella.

2 stars.  The Twilight Pariah was okay, and not as scary or creepy as I thought it would be.  I wish I had more to say about it, but I don’t.

Book Review: The Murders Of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson

Book: The Murders Of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson

Published October 2017 by St Martin’s Press|117 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: Molly Southbourne #1

Genre: Adult Fiction/Horror

Every time she bleeds a murderer is born. Experience the horror of Tade Thompson’s The Murders of Molly Southbourne.

The rule is simple: don’t bleed.

For as long as Molly Southbourne can remember, she’s been watching herself die. Whenever she bleeds, another molly is born, identical to her in every way and intent on her destruction.

Molly knows every way to kill herself, but she also knows that as long as she survives she’ll be hunted. No matter how well she follows the rules, eventually the mollys will find her. Can Molly find a way to stop the tide of blood, or will she meet her end at the hand of a girl who looks just like her? 

I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did.  This isn’t a book I normally would have picked up, but it was the pick for one of the PageHabit horror boxes, back when I was getting it.

It’s a cool idea though- I mean, can you imagine trying not to bleed because it means that another one of you is created?  And can you imagine the doppelgangers running around when you’re on your period?  I have to admit, that was one thing I was really curious about.  Is it constant doppelgangers running around for a week straight?  Does it depend on the flow too, or is it the same no matter what?  I’m not sure why this particular thing is standing out, but I am really curious.

Overall, I think it could have been expanded a lot more.  It was really short, and I wanted more from it.  I mean, we do get an explanation of what’s going on with her, but it didn’t do anything for me.  I also couldn’t connect with Molly, and I didn’t feel anything- there wasn’t any emotion to it, and it wasn’t creepy or scary or terrifying the way I thought it would be.

It’s a shame, because the idea is really cool, and it had a lot of potential to be absolutely terrifying but that wasn’t something I felt when I was reading it.  Obviously, it wasn’t the right fit for me, and while I don’t really get what the author was going for with this story, it could be a better fit for someone else.  It has been a really long time since I read horror so maybe it’s not really my thing anymore.

2 stars.  It was okay, and obviously, this book and I were not meant to be.  It is a really cool idea, even though I wish there had been more to it.

Book Review: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix, Illustrated by Michael Rogalski

Book: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix, Illustrated by Michael Rogalski

Published September 2014 by Quirk|248 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Horror/Humor

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör comes packaged in the form of a glossy mail order catalog, complete with product illustrations, a home delivery order form, and a map of Orsk’s labyrinthine showroom.

This was a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and I finally got around to reading it!  I didn’t love it, but it is an interesting take on the haunted house story.

It is set in an Ikea-type store, and throughout the book, we see references to the store itself and the products that the store has.  Each chapter has an interesting header- different products that Orsk has, and they get more interesting as the book goes on.

I did like the format of the book- we get a map of the showroom floor, there’s an order form, coupons for Planet Baby, and other cool catalog type stuff.  I did think the format would be more catalog-like, but at the same time, it did have a story to tell, so it makes sense that we’d see more story, and less…interesting formatting.

I was a little disappointed by that, because while there was some interesting stuff throughout the book, it wasn’t like that for the whole book.  Maybe I just made a lot of assumptions about the formatting itself.

Sometimes, things like letters and emails and any other variation on the typical paragraphs don’t work- not that I read a lot of books where we see that sort of thing- but I think Horrorstor could have used a little bit more of that.

It’s definitely a cool take on the haunted house story- obviously, it’s a haunted store, and I liked the story behind it. There is a point where the police can’t find the exit for the store, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they were ghosts or if there were other forces at work.  I did like the setting, and a fictional Ikea-type store is a really good setting for a haunted house story.

The characters where what I expected for the story.  While I’ve forgotten names already (and the book has since been returned to the library, so I unfortunately can’t reference it), the characters are pretty typical.  There’s the management type who drinks the company Kool-Aid because the store saved him, there’s the long-time retail worker who is beloved by employees and customers alike, and there’s the disgruntled retail worker struggling to survive, and hating every minute of her job.  We see a few other characters as well, but the three mentioned above are the ones we see the most.

I think, of the three, disgruntled retail worker is the one the book follows.  It is more her story than anyone else we see in the book, and she is the one I could relate to the most.  Not completely, but I definitely see where she is coming from.

I will say that the book is an interesting mix of horror and humor.  I thought it worked, but I don’t know that the humor is necessarily for everyone.  It’s not laugh out loud funny, and it seemed more horror and parody than horror and funny.  But overall, it’s an interesting combination.

3 stars.  I liked it, and it’s a cool concept.  I didn’t love it, and the characters were pretty typical, but worked for this story.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part Two

In an effort to talk about a lot of the books I’ve read, I’ve decided that it was a good idea for me to do some sort of post where I briefly talk about some of what I’ve been reading.  All links to Goodreads if you want to check out the book!

  • Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert.  I honestly don’t know if her books are for me, because  this book was okay, and I wasn’t a big fan of Pointe when I read that.  Suzette was a frustrating character, and she seemed really self-absorbed. She cared more about herself than her brother and what he was going through.  I get that she needed to have her own life, and considering everything that her brother had going on, it makes sense she’d try to have her own life and do her own thing.  But…it just bothered me that she didn’t really seem to care about anyone but herself and what she wanted.  There’s a lot going on in this book, and it was a little unclear what direction Colbert wanted to take.  Everything felt messy and unresolved, and while it’s really cool that the story is about a Jewish black bi girl, it felt like there was too much going on for anything to really have an impact.  It was very surface level (at least for me), and nothing got the attention it really deserved.  Little & Lion gets 2 stars.
  • The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi.  I really liked this one!  If you liked Jumanji, you will definitely like this book.  Picture Jumanji, but with a steampunk, Middle Eastern twist to it, and you have The Gauntlet.  It’s definitely fun and cool and it’s perfect for all ages, not just middle grade readers.  I loved seeing the relationship Farah had with her friends and her brother, and how willing she was to go get her brother out of this game.  It’s fast-paced and you really feel like you’re playing the game with Farah and her friends.  The Gauntlet gets 4 stars.
  • The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz.  This is another book I really liked.  I really liked Sal and the relationship he had with his dad and his grandma.  This book really is about family and belonging and how we all fit together.  In particular, Sal has his friend Sam, and they are better off as friends than as a couple.  I’m definitely glad that there was no (romantic) relationship between Sam and Sal, because it wouldn’t have fit with everything going on.  And the more we see them, the more you realize they are stronger as friends.  I didn’t understand Sal’s anger issues.  It seemed a little out of place, and it didn’t seem like Sal.  Sal, Sam, and Sal’s other friend were remarkably similar in that their mothers died, and their biological fathers weren’t around.  Sal’s adoptive father was great, though, and Sal (and his friends) were really lucky to have him in their lives.  It does make me want to read Aristotle And Dante Discover The Universe but I’m nervous to read it because I know everyone really likes it, and what if I don’t like it as much as this book?  I did really like it, and I’d rate The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life gets 4 stars.
  • By Your Side by Kasie West.  This book was really cute!  I wish I liked it more, because it seems like the type of book I’d absolutely love.  I did like the trapped in the library aspect of the book, and I was slightly disappointed that the entire book wasn’t set in the library, because that would have been awesome.  But at the same time, I liked seeing how her weekend in the library changed her.  My big question is, how did the library staff not double check the bathrooms before closing?  I mean, maybe they closed the bathrooms early- I know my local library closes the bathroom 10 minutes before closing, but still, why not double check.  I know it would ruin the whole book, but it is a little strange to me.  I liked seeing Autumn and Dax’s relationship after their library lock-in, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about Autumn’s anxiety.  She seemed pretty calm throughout the whole thing.  I don’t doubt that’s a real thing for her, and anxiety is one of those things that seems to be different for everyone.  Or maybe what we saw is different than what she was really experiencing?  At any rate, I did really like By Your Side, and it gets 4 stars. 
  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman.  This book was a weird one, but like most of the other books I’ve talked about, I really liked it.  I heard about it on the Book Riot podcast, and it was creepy as hell.  There were a couple of moments that were truly terrifying.  I am curious about what it is that drives people to violence, and how it even came to be.  On the one hand, growing up in the world could be a good thing, because it’s the only world you’ve ever known, and you’re better able to handle it because you don’t know what it was like before.  But on the other hand, you’ll never know what the world was like before it happened.  I can’t imagine having to go outside blindfolded.  At least with the zombie apocalypse, you can see.  Not with this one.  I ended up getting the audio book (which I haven’t listened to yet), because in a world narrated by someone who’s blindfolded, and trying to get to a safe community, you wonder what the book would be liked if you listened to it.  I’m assuming you’d really be immersed in the world, and one of these days, I’ll have to listen it.  I really don’t want to give it away, so it’s probably good this review is really short.  Bird Box gets 4 stars.