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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Well, that was weird: a short book list

Dumas, Luke- A History of Fear

Bartz, Julia- The Writing Retreat

Pinsker, Sarah- Lost Places: Stories

Turnbull, Cadwell- No Gods, No Monsters

These are newer than lots of the books I write about. One is really new, and another from this year! Wow.

Each of these books has something weird in it, except Lost Places, which is a story collection, and each story has something weird. The weird elements include (possibly) the devil, (possibly) a haunted house, a character in an unsettling story telling the other characters an unsettling story about themselves, and monsters.

A History of Fear

I started skimming this about halfway through, but I count it as read because I felt like I'd put alot of work into it. The set-up sounded so good: an American grad student in Scotland is accused of murder, and his defense is that the devil made him do it. You wouldn't expect a book about the devil to be pleasant, but, I don't know, it was kind of gross sometimes and not very scary. I kind of liked the mystery element, although, as I've written before, if most of the mystery is just that the protagonist is missing time because of getting black-out drunk and having an undiagnosed mental disorder, it's not as interesting to me. Did he do it or not? Is his boss the devil, just some guy, or imagined? It's a miserable book about an abusive childhood, largely.

The Writing Retreat

This is set in winter, but it would probably make a good summer read. Usually, I pick up a book that I think will have some thing scarily supernatural in it and am disappointed when it doesn't, but this time I thought it was just a mystery/thriller and was surprised to find a scarily supernatural element. This book requires considerable suspension of disbelief. Firstly, there's an author of out-there feminist fiction who is wildly successful instead of being a cult favorite. Well, OK. Then the main character gets chosen out of nowhere to attend this author's writing retreat in her historic mansion. The main character has had a falling out with her best friend and won't tell the reader what happened until about 2/3 of the way in, which I found annoying. I kept thinking, it's like if Pretty Little Liars had kept talking about "the Jenna thing" but never told you what it was until season 2. Yuck. But it was interesting and I got through it pretty fast. It's pretty weird all the way through and then goes off the rails for the last quarter, but I bet some readers will like that.

Lost Places: Stories

Twilight Zone vibes. These stories start out slow, and the creep factor ramps up a little at a time. There were a couple of times in the last story when I was not motivated to finish, but then I remembered that I'd thought that in an earlier story right before it got good. I don't think that they're too slow; I like a slow burn. This is the kind of scary that I like: spooky without being gory. I think that the first story was my favorite, but they're all good.

No Gods, No Monsters

I found this on the library shelf when I was looking for something else and remembered being intrigued by it when it was new. Plus, it has a cool cover. I liked it alot, but I will say that the first thirty pages or so are a slog. The main character is grieving, and it's not the kind of thing that ought to be glossed over, but I was starting to dread picking the book up before the weird stuff started happening. So, just stick with it. There are a couple of gross deaths, but it wasn't scary to me. I never got creeped out. The premise is that monsters are real and they've been in hiding, but Something Bad has happened to push them out into the open. The ending was not very conclusive, so I'm wondering if we'll see these characters again. I checked the author's page and there's no new book news so far.

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