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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-02-11 00:32
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
A Head Full of Ghosts - Paul G. Tremblay

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's something wrong with fourteen-year-old Marjorie Barrett - her mental health seems to be declining, yet treatment from medical professionals isn't helping her one bit. Desperate to pull through the tough time where money is dwindling and Marjorie's sanity is failing, the Barretts decide to sign up for a reality TV show, where the "possession" of their daughter can be documented every minute of every day.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

This was Horror Aficionados' January group read! Once again, a book that wasn't even on my radar, and I never expected to like it as much as I did. What I assumed to be a story of a typical, run-of-the-mill possession, turned out to be a very thought provoking tale about the hardship (and destruction) of one family. It also touched upon several controversial subjects relating to religion and the patriarchy that dominates the Catholic faith. There certainly was a narrative here that presented itself in the form of blog posts that were periodically included amongst the chapters, and whilst the posts themselves were rather long-winded, they added a contextual dissection of events, often including an abundance of pop culture references. I found that my appreciation of these interruptions varied - one moment I enjoyed Karen's rambling, the next I felt disinterested.

Back to the story itself - Merry's account of her younger self instantly pulled me in; I found how her eight-year-old mind worked to be endearing, despite at times seeming to have a great deal of maturity for her age. What she, as a child, had to go through was nothing short of appalling, but rather than some evil force being the obvious villain, it was a lot more close to home, or should I say, close to Merry.

The plot heavily relied upon the interpretation of the reader, as it's essentially up to you to make your own conclusion as to whether Marjorie was indeed inhabited by some demonic entity. As for me - I leaned toward the non-supernatural explanation. There was just nothing concrete; she didn't display anything remotely inhuman. Sure, she appeared to be knowledgeable, but as stated in the book, she owned a laptop and spent most of her time on it, and we all know that literally anything can be found on the internet if you know where to look. I believe that she was a very sick girl that was exploited for money. A blunt way of putting it, but it's the ugly truth - in the face of serious financial struggle, her parents made a decision to forgo conventional medicine, and instead used their own daughter's aliment to save their nice house. What thus followed was the moronic reliance upon a priest and the accommodation of a TV crew. If you haven't already guessed, I one hundred percent believed the parents to be at fault. They were the villain.

Of course, I could be completely wrong in my thinking and theory. Perhaps Tremblay's intention was indeed to tell a tale of a devilish presence residing within a teenager. I'd just have to question the lack of paranormal activity if that were the case; unlike The Exorcist, there was nothing that couldn't be rationally explained. It also crossed my mind how unreliable Merry was as a protagonist. She admitted to making things up, to embellishing the truth, and it struck me that she probably had some mental issues of her own. The very last twist only proved how inaccurate her initial account turned out to be.

In itself, fellow reviewers tend to either love or hate this one. In no shape or form would I describe it as poor, quite the contrary. I couldn't wait to pick it up and continue reading, despite little happening in the grand scheme of things. It's not full of blatant scares and gore, but a slow burn of the foolishness of humankind.

Also, reality shows are stupid.

In conclusion: A different sort of horror; one that made me think and question everything. My first experience of this author, and it won't be the last!

Notable Quote:

"On the last day, their father left the house to go find food. He told Merry not to open the front door no matter what and to stay out of the basement. Hours passed and Merry didn't know what to do because Marjorie was coughing and moaning and speaking gibberish. She needed food, water, something. Merry went down into the basement to look for some secret stash of food that they'd forgotten. Instead she found tips of the growing things poking out of the basement's dirt floor. She watched them grow and grow, and as they grew, they pushed up a large shape out of the dirt, and it hung off the growing things like a broken puppet. It was the body of their mother."

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/02/11/a-head-full-of-ghosts-by-paul-tremblay
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review 2018-02-04 15:28
October by Michael Rowe
October - Michael Rowe

Just look at that gorgeous cover! One would never guess the pain hiding behind it, but it's there. It's there in spades.

 

In a small Canadian town, two awkward teens are just trying to make it through high school. Mikey, a young gay man, and his best friend Wroxy, a loaner and a goth girl, try to support each other as best they can. But Wroxy can't protect Mikey from the jock bullies and it seems no one else can either. After witnessing something in the woods, and then soon after going through the worst experience of his life, Mikey decides he's had enough and takes matters into his own hands. Will he exact his revenge upon the jocks? Can he do it on his own? You'll have to read this novella to find out.

 

As in both ENTER, NIGHT and WILD FELL Michael Rowe's bewitching prose captured my attention and held it tight. His characters are so well developed it's easy to understand their motivations. They are also so human that the reader cannot help but to empathize with them. Then, once Rowe has you in his clutches, he puts those characters through hell and you're just along for the ride.

 

OCTOBER will join Rowe's last two books on my list of favorites. It's beautifully written, evocative, brutal and surprising all at once. I only wish it could have been a little longer.

 

Highly recommended to fans of LGBT and dark , dark fiction!

 

You can find a copy here: October

 

*I bought this e-book with my own hard earned money and this is my honest opinion.*

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review 2018-02-01 14:27
The Night Child by Anna Quinn
The Night Child: A Novel - Anna Quinn

THE NIGHT CHILD is the dark and moving debut novel from Anna Quinn. I feel like I should include a trigger warning, but on the other hand, a trigger warning gives you a heads up as to what is going to happen and I think it's best to let the author tell the story as she intended. Just be aware that there are very disturbing elements within.

 

I'm not going to run down the entire plot for you, but it begins with Nora, a high school English teacher, seeing an hallucination of a face with startling blue eyes. Here begins Nora's decline. Whose face is it and what does it mean? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

Being a seasoned reader of dark fiction, I pretty much knew where this story was going as soon as I began reading. Anna Quinn does a good job at depicting all the different psychological aspects of this situation, including the reactions of other family members and coworkers. My only problem was this: I didn't care for any of the characters. I felt pity for Nora and for her immediate family, but maybe that's what the author intended? Perhaps Nora's coldness was yet another symptom of her underlying issues and partially the result of her husband being such a jerk?

 

That said, this was a touching and disturbing story dealing with heartbreaking situations and I believe that it deals with mental illness, (or coming to terms with difficult, horrendous circumstances) in a stark, but believable way. For that reason, I recommend this book to those who think they can handle the worst of humanity.

 

*Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-01-30 18:45
Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand
Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand

2.1.18-I've been thinking about this book since I finished it and because of that I've decided to change my rating to the full 5 out of 5 stars!

 

WYLDING HALL is a fun novella that doesn't neatly fit into any single category other than, perhaps, dark fiction.

 

A thousand other people have already written reviews so I'll just say: this is a beautifully written example of a quiet horror story with building tension and dread.

 

WYLDING HALL is my second reading of Hand's work, the first being her collection SAFFRON AND BRIMSTONE, which I also enjoyed. I'm looking forward to reading more from her and I think I'll do that starting with BLACK LIGHT.

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can get a copy here: WYLDING HALL

 

*I bought this book with my hard earned money and this is my honest opinion.*

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review 2018-01-28 15:45
Dark Screams: Volume Nine
Dark Screams: Volume Nine - Kelley Armstrong,Richard Chizmar,Stewart O'Nan,Brian James Freeman,Peter Straub

DARK SCREAMS: VOLUME NINE was a ton of fun! I was most especially impressed with the last entry TORN by Lee Thomas.

 

I'm not even going to get into what TORN was about because I think it should be related exactly as the author intended. I will say that even though this is a longer story than I usually care for in an anthology, it kept me riveted, it was original and I LOVED it!

 

THE DEAD YEARS by Taylor Grant was another original entry and this one had a science fiction bent to it that I enjoyed. I would love to see this idea expanded to a full length novel.

 

SUMMER OF 07 by Stewart O'Nan. A super short story that reminded me of Ted Bundy.

 

THE BLACKOUT by Jonathan Moore was an unsettling tale mostly set at the morgue.

 

INVITATION TO THE GAME by Kelly Armstrong. This was another tale that had a science fiction bent to it, in my view. It's about a corporation that controls, (or attempts to control?) all aspects of its employees lives. When they send you an invitation, it is unwise to decline.

 

Lastly, there was a story from Peter Straub: VARIATIONS ON A THEME FROM SEINFELD. I admit that the reason I requested an ARC of this book was due to Straub. I have such love for him and for Seinfeld, for that matter, but this story didn't do much for me.

 

Overall, I had fun with this volume, (most especially the story TORN!), and I recommend it to dark fiction and science fiction lovers everywhere!

 

*Thanks to NetGalley and to Hydra for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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