Creepy Reads for Dark, Winter Nights

November 1st, 2011

I’d give almost anything to see the original Nightmare on Elm Street again for the first time. Not just for that first glimpse of a very young Johnny Depp, but for the opportunity to squeal like only a scared teenage girl can. These days, seeing Freddy Krueger’s tongue popping out of a phone makes me lunge for the Mercurochrome rather than my neighbor’s arm.  Glimpses out of the corner of your eye, déjà vu, coincidence, and fate all tingle my now adult spine with dark possibilities far more than a bloody knife. With my son’s football practices lasting well past sunset, I’ve been working to rediscover my timid inner self through the undercurrents of a subtle ghost story.  Here are a few titles I probably shouldn’t have read sitting in the car by myself:




Those Across the River—Christopher Buehlman
The residents of Whitbrow, Georgia refuse to cross the river. Only a monthly sacrifice of two garlanded pigs sets foot on the other side, never to be seen again.  Researching his great-grandfather’s local plantation, WWI vet Frank Nichols votes to end this tradition, igniting the unquenchable revenge of those across the river.

Black Light—Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan
Buck can pull the most evil of spirits out of the air, trapping them deep in his core. The danger of madness is worth the glimpse of the Black Light and the chance to connect with his lost parents.  From the creators of the Saw movies, Buck’s search for the Something Horrible feels as deadly as it sounds.

The Man in the Picture—Susan Hill
Hanging on the wall of a Cambridge professor is a rather dark painting of an 18th century Venetian carnival scene. Looking closely, a visiting student spots a man in the picture dressed in modern clothes being propelled down a dark alley by two captors. Mesmerized by his pleading stare, the student tempts fate to uncover the man’s identity.

Property of a Lady—Sarah Rayne
Insanity, disappearances, and death follow the Dead Man’s Knock heard by visitors to Shropshire’s Charect House.  The knocking figure with no eyes is looking for Elvira.  Who is she and what will happen if her hiding place is found?

Floating Staircase—Ronald Malfi
The Glasgow’s new house in western Maryland comes complete with both a small lake and the ghost of the young boy drowned in its waters.  Or is the ghost the brother of homeowner Travis who also tragically drowned many years ago? Plagued by ghosts seen and unseen, Travis’ sanity begins to float just like the wooden staircase rising from the lake.

What are your favorite reads now that the days are growing shorter?

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I Blame Educational Television…

July 6th, 2011

Subterfuge, as a character trait, appears early. Guilt always won when my older son spilled or broke something, so I was unprepared for my second son’s imaginative streak.  At the age of four, he informed my in-laws that his brother was in the hospital to get rid of his “extra” fingers.  Seven years later, I still find forbidden candy bar wrappers behind the TV cabinet.  I joke that he will grow up to be either a lawyer or a used car salesman, but to appease my worries I started reading “prodigy fiction”. In these books featuring brilliant child narrators, depth of imagination and cunning lead to mysteries being solved or family issues resolved, not juvenile delinquency.  Straight forward and quick moving, they provide a surprising perspective. Here are a few to try:Belinda-Bauer-Blacklands

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn
Playing Harriet the Spy has dire consequences for a lonely ten-year-old girl. Twenty years later, the girl’s stuffed monkey is found in the employee area of the mall where she disappeared. Did she ever leave?

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer
When digging on the moor fails to turn up his uncle’s body, twelve-year-old Steven starts writing letters to the serial killer believed to have killed him. In looking for closure for his family, Steven manages to give the killer a new lease on life.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley
An 11-year-old expert in poisons and the art of sibling revenge, Flavia outwits the local constabulary in determining how the dead man in the cucumber patch came to be there and why.ts_spivet

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
Having won an award for his meticulous scientific drawings, T.S. explores both his journey East to accept his prize and the history of his adventurous family.  The margins of the book overflow with samples of the narrator’s maps and illustrations, adding another level to the story.

Room by Emma Donoghue
Five-year-old Jack lives with his mother in a shed in the yard of her kidnapper. Their life, escape and reentry into the world are revealed through his simple, but painfully real observations.

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz JensenNinth-Life-of-Louis-Drax-B
Having suffered a near fatal accident each year for his entire life, Louis narrates from the coma clinic he rests in after a fall from a cliff on his ninth birthday. Suspicion falls on his father who has disappeared, but will Louis’ subconscious reveal the truth?

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Disturbed by the killing of a neighbor’s dog, a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome sets out to solve the murder. Unable to process the emotion and chaos of daily life, the narrator still manages to reveal more than just a killer.

Now in middle school, my son’s subterfuge has lost the magical inventiveness of his early years, focusing instead on avoiding unpleasant situations, like health class homework.  Still, I’ll continue looking for a better place to hide the candy bars…

Is there a book or movie that lets you see the world through a child’s eyes once again?  What are your favorites?

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