Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Moxie's Top 20 Scary Books And You Should Read Them Too!

In keeping with the theme of Banned Books Week, and as yet another shout out to my gal pal, here's 20 Book Reviews in One Post! All of course center on my scary theme for this month! I'm pretty sure most of these have been banned at one time or another. If not, pretend?

These are my Top 20 Books that Scared Me and You Should Read Them Too List. It's heavy on the Stephen King. I know this, but I don't care. I've read almost everything that man has ever written and I shall unabashedly claim him as one of my favorite authors of all time. So, here goes, let me know if I didn't read something that I should.

These are in no particular order because I don't choose specific favorites. It's like choosing between children and I don't want to be in a "Sophie's Choice" sitch. (A really great book, but not all that scary, except the whole Holocaust thing.)

Just to let you know, I'm cheating and getting the synopses from the authors' own website when available...It will save me time.

1.“It” Stephen King
The Gist: "A promise made twenty-eight years ago calls seven adults to reunite in Derry, Maine, where as teenagers they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city's children. Unsure that their Losers Club had vanquished the creature all those years ago, the seven had vowed to return to Derry if IT should ever reappear. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that summer return as they prepare to do battle with the monster lurking in Derry's sewers once more."

Why this scared me: 6 words...Fucking Evil Clowns In Storm Drains. Screw the movie. Like every single SK movie, with the exception of "The Shining" (original) this movie sucked. This book is probably the scariest thing related to storm drains, innocence and unfinished business that I have ever read. It's the reason I avoid walking near storm drains to this day. That and the fact that Handsome does a scarily accurate rendition of Tim Curry's "We all float down here..." which he says anytime we are anywhere near a storm drain.


2.“Pet Semetery” Stephen King
The Gist: The road in front of Dr. Louis Creed's rural Maine home frequently claims the lives of neighborhood pets. Louis has recently moved from Chicago to Ludlow with his wife Rachel, their children and pet cat. Near their house, local children have created a cemetery for the dogs and cats killed by the steady stream of transports on the busy highway. Deeper in the woods lies another graveyard, an ancient Indian burial ground whose sinister properties Louis discovers when the family cat is killed.

Why this scared me: It was the very first Stephen King book I ever read. When I was about 12 I snuck it out of my parents' collection and literally read it with a flashlight under the covers. My youngest brother was the age of Gage Creed at the time and I had ~just~ gotten my first pet, a black cat named Midnight. As a parent now, no way am I reading this book until Darling's at least 16.

3.“Silence of the Lambs” Thomas Harris
The Gist: Clarice Starling, a precociously self-disciplined FBI trainee, is dispatched by her boss, Section Chief Jack Crawford, the FBI's most successful tracker of serial killers, to see whether she can learn anything useful from Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Lecter's a gifted psychopath whose nickname is "The Cannibal" because he likes to eat parts of his victims. Isolated by his crimes from all physical contact with the human race, he plays an enigmatic game of "Clue" with Starling, providing her with snippets of data that, if she is smart enough, will lead her to the criminal. Undaunted, she goes where the data takes her. As the tension mounts and the bureaucracy thwarts Starling at every turn, Crawford tells her, "Keep the information and freeze the feelings." Insulted, betrayed, and humiliated, Starling struggles to focus. If she can understand Lecter's final, ambiguous scrawl, she can find the killer. But can she figure it out in time?

Why this scared me: There are so many reasons. I've never seen the movie all the way thru, but the book really freaked me out. (Oh, stop gasping!) I guess I can sum up my fear in the fact that all white women fear serial killers.

4.“Dracula” Bram Stoker
The Gist: Um, duh!

Why this scared me: Um duh, it's a classic and I was really curious to read the book after seeing the movie. He wrote it in 1897 and it still scares people today. 111 years and it's still scary. If you haven't read it, you should.

5.“The Historian” Elizabeth Kostova
The Gist: "The Historian" eschews the extravagant gore and even more extravagant pose-striking of the modern vampire novel. It's a multi generational mystery about the search for the tomb of the medieval Wallachian (not Transylvanian!) tyrant Vlad Tepes (the real-life Dracula), conducted by a handful of historians who become convinced he is still alive -- or, rather, undead. The main narrator is an unnamed 16-year-old girl, whose father initiates her into the cause when she discovers a mysterious book -- blank save for a woodcut of a rampant dragon, hidden in their library.

Why this scared me: Ok, you won't pee your pants over this one, but it's one of my favorite books of all time. If you liked the style of "The DaVinci Code" this might suit you. I agree with the Salon reviewer, "it's a fine Bordeaux to Dan Brown's overcaffeinated Diet Coke." This book is meant to be intellectually savored. It's smart and it's a wild Communist ride thru the 1950's and 1970's. Just read it. Please? It's awesome. I'm almost scared to go to the library just in case one of Vlad's books show up and I'm chosen.

6.“The Witching Hour” Anne Rice
The Gist: The first in the Mayfair Witches series, The Witching Hour introduces the fictional Mayfair family of New Orleans, generations of male and female witches. This tight-knit and deeply connected family, where a death of one strengthens the others with his/her knowledge. One Mayfair witch per generation is also designated to receive the powers of "the man," known as Lasher. Lasher gives the witches gifts, excites them, and protects them. Unsure as to exactly what this spirit is, the Mayfair clan knows him variously as a protector, a god-like figure, a sexual being, and the image of death. Lasher's current witch is Deirdre, who lies catatonic from psychological shock treatments.

Why this scared me: I picked up this book randomly at a Kansas City Public Library booksale 3 or 4 years ago. I had no idea what I had done until I started reading. This is truly one of my favorite books that I have ever read. It's the best in the series (sorry "Lasher" and "Taltos") and it wisks you away to Scotland, Haiti and New Orleans. If you are a fan of historical fiction as well, you will particularly love this book.

7. Harry Potter series
The Gist: Um, seriously, what rock have you been hiding under. I won't even look it up for you. Sorry.

Why this scared me: I routinely reject pop culture and all things trendy. Plus, I thought juvenile fiction was beneath me. Then I read the first few chapters to a girl I was baby sitting in 2001. I was hooked, Handsome (NOT a reader) was hooked. If you didn't weep at the end of books 6 AND 7, well, you're heartless. Rowling gives me faith in 21st century literature.

8.“Phantoms” Dean Koontz
The Gist: CLOSER…
They found the town silent, apparently abandoned. Then they found the first body strangely swollen and still warm. One hundred fifty were dead, 350 missing. But the terror had only begun in the tiny mountain town of Snowfield, California.
AND CLOSER…
At first they thought it was the work of a maniac. Or terrorists. Or toxic contamination. Or a bizarre new disease.
AND CLOSER…
But then they found the truth. And they saw it in the flesh. And it was worse than anything any of them had ever imagined…


Why this scared me: I broke my Koontz cherry on this one. Just read it. There are no words...just chills...

9.“The Exorcist” - Wm. Peter Blatty
The Gist: Again, um...duh. You've seen the movie, just read the book. MUCH scarier to me.

Why this scared me: Handsome actually knew one of the priests that performed the real exorcism from when he was in the seminary. He was a priest at SLU. The "real" story differs from the book which differs from the movie which...well, just read it as a fictitious story and you're fine.

10.“The Monster at the End of This Book” Jon Stone
The Gist: Lovable, furry old Grover is distressed to learn that there's a monster at the end of this book! He begs readers not to turn the pages, but of course kids feel they just have to see this monster for themselves. Grover is astonished--and kids are delighted--to discover who is really the monster at the end of the book!

Why it scared me:
Um, I was like 4 when my parents and I first read this book. To this day, I have found no other book that was more thrilling or suspenseful. You know how it's going to end, but the suspense is still palpable. Handsome and I bought it before Darling was even born so we could read it to her. A true childhood classic.

11. The Vampire LeStat series Anne Rice
The Gist: A journey thru time and reality in order to capture the "essence of vampires". I hated the movie and didn't want to read the book, but because Anne Rice sucked me into "The Witching Hour" and "Blood Canticle" was a cross over book, I gave it a whirl and it was so much better than the film...

Why it scared me: I'll admit...I was heavy into the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" series when I was introduced to these books. I also have a fear of veins. I panic when I have to give blood. My veins, bleeding...it scares me. So people/things that survive on it, double scary. Anne Rice is a master story-teller. Even if you aren't a "horror/sci-fi" reader, pick it up any way and enjoy something historical and intriguing.


12.“The Dollhouse Murders” Betty Ren Wright
The Gist: Discovering an old-fashioned dollhouse in a dusty attic, Amy is unaware that the dollhouse holds a deadly, forgotten secret about a past, and the dolls decide that Amy must learn the truth.

Why it scared me: I was 12. This book is the reason I stole "Pet Semetery" from my parents. It's thrills, chills, and everything a 12 year old would love in a haunted story. Still one my favorite books. An American classic.

13.“Bag of Bones” Stephen King

The Gist: Several years after his wife's death, novelist Mike Noonan still suffers writers block. A dream inspires him to return to the couple's summer retreat in western Maine, a lakeside house called Sara Laughs. Shortly after arriving, Noonan is caught in the middle of a custody battle involving the daughter of an attractive young widow and the child's enormously wealthy grandfather. He also discovers that Sara Laughs is haunted and that his late wife, Joanna, still has something to tell him.

Why this scared me: A classic, truly real ghost story of true love. I read this book at least once a year. The love Mike feels for his wife/girlfriend, the connection beyond what her life was...sigh...this is a must read. PLEASE! It's got great stuff in it. I grew up living on a lake. Water attracts intrigue.

14.“Heart of Darkness” Joseph Conrad

The Gist: Heart of Darkness has been considered for most of this century not only as a literary classic, but as a powerful indictment of the evils of imperialism. It reflects the savage repressions carried out in the Congo by the Belgians in one of the largest acts of genocide committed up to that time. Conrad's narrator encounters at the end of the story a man named Kurtz, dying, insane, and guilty of unspeakable atrocities. More recently, African critics like Chinua Achebe have pointed out that the story can be read as a racist or colonialist parable in which Africans are depicted as innately irrational and violent, and in which Africa itself is reduced to a metaphor for that which white Europeans fear within themselves. The people of Africa and the land they live in remain inscrutably alien, other. The title, they argue, implies that Africa is the "heart of darkness," where whites who "go native" risk releasing the "savage" within themselves. Defenders of Conrad sometimes argue that the narrator does not speak in Conrad's own voice, and that a layer of irony conceals his true views.

Why this scares me: The humanity of man. Not a classic horror story in the true sense of the word, but nevertheless...it scared me to walk down the street next to other people I don't know.

15.“The Talisman”/”Black House” Stephen King/Peter Straub
The Gist:
"The Talisman": Twelve-year-old Jack Sawyer wants to save his mother's life. To do so, he must revisit unanswered questions from early childhood and face the truths his late father understood. Jack's quest takes him into parallel worlds, one of which provides the answers he needs. Frank Muller enters the fantasy with abandon. His performance shifts invisibly between the childish visions of a young Jack to the self-serving evil of his antagonist's inner thoughts. As always, Muller's characterizations steal the show. Werewolves, boys, rotten evangelists, and Jack's mom come alive far beyond the level at which the text gives them soul. Ancient black jazz musician Speedy Parker drops in and out of the story as another performer entirely, or so it would seem. Our level of disbelief is not only suspended, it flies right out the window on Muller's capable wings.

The Gist: "Black House": In the seemingly paradisaical Wisconsin town of French Landing, small distortions disturb the beauty: a talking crow, an old man obeying strange internal marching orders, a house that is both there and not quite there. And roaming the town is a terrible fiend nicknamed the Fisherman, who is abducting and murdering small children and eating their flesh. The sheriff desperately wants the help of a retired Los Angeles cop, who once collared another serial killer in a neighboring town.
Of course, this is no ordinary policeman, but Jack Sawyer, hero of Stephen King and Peter Straub's 1984 fantasy The Talisman. At the end of that book, the 13-year-old Jack had completed a grueling journey through an alternate realm called the Territories, found a mysterious talisman, killed a terrible enemy, and saved the life of his mother and her counterpart in the Territories. Now in his 30s, Jack remembers nothing of the Talisman, but he also hasn't entirely forgotten


Why this scared me: Umm...'cause it did. Not a true "horror story" but, little kids, that grow up and are still haunted, that's scary. It's intriguing for even non-horror fans, if they can suspend "belief".

16.“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” Washington Irving
The Gist: ''The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'' takes place in Sleepy Hollow, New York, a snug rural valley near Tarry town in the Catskill Mountains. Constructed from German tales but set in America, it is a classic tale of the conflict between city and country, and between brains and brawn. Ichabod Crane courts Katrina Van Tassel, but is frightened away by his rival, Brom Bones, masquerading as the headless horseman. The story demonstrates the two qualities for which Irving is best known: his humor, and his ability to create vivid descriptive imagery.

Why this scares me: My first introduction into the genre. The story of Ichabod Crane is well written, suspenseful and scary. If you haven't read the words of this American Classic, do it. It's a lot more scary than you'd think.

17.“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” Robert Louis Stevenson
The Gist: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde[1] is a novella written by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and first published in 1886. It is about a London lawyer who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll[2], and the misanthropic Edward Hyde. The work is known for its vivid portrayal of a split personality, split in the sense that within the same person there is both an apparently good and an evil personality each being quite distinct from each other; in mainstream culture the very phrase "Jekyll and Hyde" has come to mean a person who is vastly different in moral character from one situation to the next. This is different from multiple personality disorder where the different personalities do not necessarily differ in any moral sense. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was an immediate success and one of Stevenson's best-selling works.

Why this scares me: I lived it. If you have never listened to "Jekyll & Hyde" the incredible score/musical by Leslie Bricusse and the illustrious Frank Wildhorn, listen to this and then go read the book.


18.“MacBeth” William Shakespeare
The Gist: Ummm...DUH! Banquo...MacBeth Senior...uhh...

Why this scares me: Ok, it's a play. Granted. It's still haunted. The summer before Handsome was to perform this play, their theatre caught fire. We had a friend who didn't believe in the MacBeth myth in theatre and, I fucking swear, right after he said the words:"MacBeth, MacBeth, Macbeth, what a bunch of bullshit!" the fly system let go, fell on his head and he got 14 stiches. I saw it. Coincidence, maybe...if you're oblivious...

19.“Midnight Voices” John Saul
The Gist: At the heart of this spooky tale are the children, Laurie and Ryan Evans, who are unwittingly exposed to danger when their recently widowed mother marries widower Anthony Fleming. The too-good-to-be-anything-but-evil Fleming lives in the Rockwell, a building rumored to be inhabited by witches and vampires, that has the children in the neighborhood terrified

Why this scared me: A true haunting. It appealled to my helpless mother, holy shit, there's a malevolent spirit attacking my child instinct. I stayed up until 3 in the morning reading this. I pictured some of the hotels gone apartments in KC history and shuddered.

20.“Creepers” David Morrell
The Gist: Morrell takes a creative kind of breaking-and-entering as the premise for his latest thriller (after Nightscape), a gripping story that demands to be read in a single sitting. Disguising himself as a journalist, Frank Balenger, ex-U.S. Army Ranger and Iraqi war veteran, joins a group of "Creepers," also known as infiltrators, urban explorers or city speleologists—men and women who outfit themselves with caving gear to break into and explore buildings that have long been closed up and abandoned. Though what they're doing is technically illegal, participants pride themselves on never stealing or destroying anything they find at these sites. They take only photographs and aim to leave no footprints. Balenger joins a group of four: the leader, Professor Robert Conklin, high school teacher Vincent Vanelli and graduate students Rick and Cora Magill. This gang infiltrates the Paragon Hotel, an abandoned, seven-story, pyramidal Asbury Park, N.J., structure built in 1901 by eccentric, hemophiliac Morgan Carlisle. Balenger and the professor have a special agenda, but the others are there simply for the thrills. Things quickly begin to unravel in life-threatening ways once the intrepid infiltrators penetrate the building—they aren't the only ones creeping around the spooky hotel. Morrell delivers first-rate, suspenseful storytelling once again.

Why this scared me: I'm a closet claustrophobe. I hate small, confined places. Especially if they are underground. This book is Thriller Extraordinaire!!!! I loved it! Just go get it...Read it and enjoy. If you're a rebel against the conformatities of society (where you should and shouldn't be)....you'll love it!

21. BONUS!!!!! “The Time Traveler's Wife” Audrey Niffenegger
The Gist: THIS IS A BONUS RANKING....It's not horror, it's not Sci-Fi, it's not a Romance Novel...it's somewhere in between. Just read it...This clever and inventive tale works on three levels: as an intriguing science fiction concept, a realistic character study and a touching love story. Henry De Tamble is a Chicago librarian with "Chrono Displacement" disorder; at random times, he suddenly disappears without warning and finds himself in the past or future, usually at a time or place of importance in his life. This leads to some wonderful paradoxes. From his point of view, he first met his wife, Clare, when he was 28 and she was 20. She ran up to him exclaiming that she'd known him all her life. He, however, had never seen her before. But when he reaches his 40s, already married to Clare, he suddenly finds himself time travelling to Clare's childhood and meeting her as a 6-year-old. The book alternates between Henry and Clare's points of view, and so does the narration.

Why this scared me: A life partner that spontaneously time travels and doesn't know where he'll end up? Scary. A spouse that is only semi-available to his twin soul? Horrible, yet he loves her. And she loves him. And it's a beautiful, yet sometimes confusing book. Read it anyway. Please!

6 comments:

Heather J. said...

Here are my thoughts ...

First, I'm absolutely NOT going to read Stephen King - I don't like scary movies let alone scary books, so he's out for me (plus I was scarred for life by watching The Silver Bullet when I was about 7 - I had nightmares for YEARS!)

But on to the books I HAVE read ...
#4 - Dracula - This is a FANTASTIC book. I never thought I'd like it, but actually I LOVED it. Its just creeeeeepy.

#5 - The Historian - I put in on my TBR list after reading Dracula.

#7 - Harry Potter - I even got my husband into reading them, and he's NOT a reader. My 6 yr old is listening to the cds now.

#10 - The Monster At The End Of The Book - this is a classic, and my son has my old copy

#11 - Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles - I listened to (most) of these books on CD whenever hubby was driving, but they were deliciously creepy.

#14 - Heart of Darkness - really?! I can't stand this book. :(

#16 - Sleepy Hollow - I must read this one I think.

#17 - Jekyll/Hyde - is it as good as Dracula?

#18 - MacBeth - never got around to reading this one

#21 - Time Traveller - I did the audio version and couldn't really get into the story ...

Thanks for sharing such fun and creepy list!

Nuke said...

Great list, I can say that I have read most of them (OK there area few I've missed). I was really impressed by the range of authors and styles, you obviously are one of those people who enjoys creepy.

Daphne said...

Um, did you raid my Favorite Books secret stash or something? There are only 4 books on your list that I haven't read. And I LOVE "The Monster At The End Of This Book!!!" That is one of my all-time favorites, I was so pleased to see it on your list!!

I just got The Witching Hour from the library, I read it probably 17 years ago or something awful like that (is that even possible) and am looking forward to reading it again... I loved The Historian...Etc.

Fabulous list. I'll put the 4 stragglers on my list.

I'm not even sure what I would add. Except Contact by Whitley Striber. That freaked me out.

Anonymous said...

I have to say I love your taste in books! Midnight voices was great and I actually read many John Saul and have not been disapointed yet!

One Stephen King you failed to metion was Salems Lot!! So scary and erie all at the same time!!

and I will never forget my teacher in 5th grade read us The Doll House Murders and has been one of my favorites since!

Katrina said...

Nice list. I know it is 2 years old, but still good. I agree with the books I have read. Steven King: Classic. I read Bag of Bones when I was 21, I was alone at my apartment, and I got so scared, I had to call my grandma, just to chit chat.

I am going to the library today to get the Witching Hour. Can't wait. I love witches.

Anonymous said...

I love your list, thanks.
"1984" by George Orwell would be my addition. This book disturbed me more than any other.