John's Review of The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn (2017)
As usual, I’m late to the party, but I showed up, I’m finally here. The Devil Crept In is my first Ania Ahlborn book, and it sure as hell won't be my last. Something about this book has been calling me, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the simple, yet creepy cover. Everyone tells me I should read Brother. Like the stray animals fleeing to the woods of Deer Valley, I fled to The Devil Crept In.
Stevie, a boy troubled with mental illness, a father who walked out on him, an abusive stepfather and a mother complicit in the abuse must now also confront the disappearance of his best friend and cousin, Jude Brighton. Deer Valley is a weird place. Animals go missing, not one or two, but all animals not confined to a cage. Weirder still is the fact that nobody in town thinks it odd, people just don’t get pets in town anymore. Jude’s disappearance, while echoing a case from years past, is considered to be an isolated incident. The Devil Crept In is a slow burn novel. Ania Ahlborn takes her time building the characters and the setting, using her skill as a writer to slowly crank the tension. There is a general sense of creepiness and dread throughout this book that leaves you unsettled, even when there is nothing particularly horrific going on at that time.
Stevie is another plus in the narrative. His mental illness makes him an unreliable narrator, and although events in the book lead the reader to believe him, the people around him don’t. With nobody to lean on following Jude’s disappearance, Stevie must confront the problem himself. It speaks volumes to how well written Stevie is, that even though I KNOW what happened, at the end I still found myself questioning how much of it might have been in Stevie’s head. It’s clear what happened, Stevie is just written so well that I had a momentary pause. The narrative of The Devil Crept In is told from two different perspectives. The first, following Stevie, the 2nd following a woman named Rosamund. Rosamund’s portion of the narrative begins in the past, but Ahlborn effortlessly weaves back and forth between the two stories until eventually, they both converge in the present day. The last portion of the novel kicks the story into full throttle at which point the pace never lets up, hurtling to the brutal and bloody conclusion. The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn is about as perfect an introduction to an author's body of work as I could have asked for. This is a book that has no issue taking its time, leaving you unsettled and thoroughly creeped out. I won’t be going into the woods any time soon.
Kill Hill Carnage, by Tim Meyer, is retro goodness. It’s got the feel of a late ’80s, early ’90s, B horror movie. It feels like a summer camp slasher mixed with some 90’s flair. Meyer wasn’t afraid to go weird with this book, and thanks to that, it largely succeeds. A group of college friends takes an impromptu camping trip up to Kill Hill. Previously the site of a Christian summer camp, Kill Hill was shut down when a mass murder happened on the grounds in the ’90s, and borders an abandoned chemical plant that had no qualms forgoing environmental safety during its operation. While the kids are taking their trip, a hitman named Frank is hired by the corporation that ran the plant to take out a few targets in the area. They all arrive and it doesn’t take long for hell to break loose.
Kill Hill Carnage was exactly what I was looking for. Meyer writes a book that is weird, gory, and campy. The characters are cheesy in the best kind of B movie way. The character development here is mostly done through dialogue and character interactions, setting up just enough knowledge of them before the blood starts flying. I mentioned earlier that this book is gory, and I just want to reiterate that. Heads fly, bones crack, appendages sever. It’s all here, described with enough detail to clearly visualize what’s going on in the scenes. The creatures in the book shine. They are brutal, disgusting things that lust for blood and won’t stop until long after it’s spilled. Meyer does an exceptional job detailing what they look like, and it's not pretty. If you’re a visual person, prepare to see these things in your sleep.
The overall story of Kill Hill Carnage was along the lines of what you’d expect from a book of this nature. The kids are given just enough reason to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and the hitman is every bit the scumbag he appears to be. Mix that in with crazy scientists and an evil corporation, and you’ve got a classic B-movie in literary form. I enjoyed my time with Kill Hill Carnage. Fans of B-Movies, creature features, and weirdness in their horror will find a lot to love here.
Chandra's Review of Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix (2014)
I remember seeing this EONS ago when Horror sections were still prevalent in bookstores (PLEASE BRING THEM BACK) and always wondered why this Home Improvement/IKEA catalog book was among the masses. Little did I know, and it took me way longer than I'm willing to admit *cough*, that is actually a horror fiction novel by someone who is quickly becoming a favorite. (Ok, ok, I admit, I own three books by Hendrix and finally have read my first - better late than dead right?) First, let's discuss the formatting - while deceiving (shakes fist), it's delightful and genius. I would actually hang the picture frames on the cover in my apartment - but check out the back page and eerie goodness awaits! Also, each chapter beginning being an add for a piece of furniture that gets more and more horrific made this all the more enjoyable.
Second, let's talk about the storyline. I (because I'm terrible about reading synopsis/blurbs and reveal that this was a total cover buy once my brain kicked into gear) thought this was going to a "when furniture attacks" kind of read. Boy, oh boy, did I get that wrong. (It's ok - it's a place I'm used to being.) Instead, we get Amy's story as she works for Orsk and decides to work an extra shift overnight because she needs the cash and her boss, Basil, gives her an offer she can't really refuse. Poor thing - I feel for her poor decision making, but she really didn't know what was going to happen. No one did.
I love the parody of Ikea - I've actually never been into an Ikea store or have ever owned a piece of their furniture but if they're anything like Orsk, it seems I dodged a bullet there. (PHEW) But I have worked in retail so I understand the pain these employees go through. I also love torture machines so as we progressed, my morbid fascination switch turned to on and... Oh, I just loved this ride. **big toothy smile** This is 248 pages of fun. I can't wait to read the rest of his books - highly recommend.