I’ve been devouring books recently, and since reading is one of the few things I can make myself do right now, I’m trying to put it to some use by finally getting into horror written by women. I’ve read the odd novel here and there, but the vast majority of my horror reading is by men. Until I undertake the enormously overwhelming task of getting my Goodreads up to date, here are a few mini reviews of what I’ve read so far. Hopefully, after this, I’ll be able to write full individual reviews when I finish things, but as always, we’ll see.
“As I descended” by Robin Talley
From the acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley, comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple–but one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child Delilah is a legend at exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. But Delilah doesn’t know that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything–absolutely anything–to unseat Delilah for the scholarship. After all, it would lock in Maria’s attendance at Stanford–and assure her and Lily four more years in a shared dorm room.Together, Maria and Lily harness the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school. But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what’s imagined, the girls must attempt to put a stop to the chilling series of events they’ve accidentally set in motion.
I loved this book and was also terrified by it. While reading it, I didn’t want to hang my hands or feet over the sides of my bed, even though nothing in it related to anything being under the bed. And after finishing it, I was very reluctant to leave my bed to brush my teeth and wash my face. I didn’t want to stand in front of the mirror. I had to turn on a comedy podcast for a while to convince myself to do it, and then I had to keep it playing while I fell asleep. I think what made it such a scary reading experience for me was that I wasn’t expecting it to be scary. The plot summary I read didn’t give much away, which is the right idea because my memories of “Macbeth” were very fuzzy and I didn’t bother to refresh them, so I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about what “As I Descended” would be like. All I knew was that it was gay and had spirits in it, which is really all I ever need to know. 5 stars. I want to read this again already.
“13 Minutes” by Sarah Pinborough
I was dead for 13 minutes. I don’t remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this – it wasn’t an accident and I wasn’t suicidal. They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I’m sure of it. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to kill me. Does it?
13 MINUTES by Sarah Pinborough is a gripping psychological thriller about people, fears, manipulation and the power of the truth. A stunning read, it questions our relationships – and what we really know about the people closest to us…
This was okay. I didn’t love it, but it was engaging enough to keep me reading and I finished it pretty quickly. I give Sarah Pinborough credit for the twist; I knew there must be one, because everything seemed to wrap up too neatly and easily, but I didn’t expect what it turned out to be. It did tension very well, and by the time I finished it, I was stressed. I’m not sure how realistic it is, but it doesn’t really matter, I guess.. There was also a weird little side romance that I found unnecessary, which is saying something because I’m a fiend for romance these days. 2 stars.
“Come Closer” by Sara Gran
From the author of Saturn’s Return to New York comes this dark psychological thriller. “‘What we think is impossible happens all the time.’ So claims the beguiling narrator of Come Closer, and after reading this spare and menacing tale, the reader has to agree. Sara Gran has created a sly, satisfying (fast!) novel of one young woman possessed not only by a demon but also by her own secret desires.”–Stewart O’Nan
I have no idea how I feel about this one. It’s a very quick read, so it has that going for it, and it subverts some common possession horror tropes in an interesting way. And it’s very funny. I liked the narrative voice a lot and will probably read more of Sara Gran’s work on that basis alone. It’s just … it feels so incomplete. I wanted it to be much more fleshed out than it is. More about the demon, more about the protagonist. I liked the ambiguity surrounding whether the possession is legitimate or whether the protagonist is just having a psychological breakdown, and the fact that it’s one of the only possession narratives I’ve read from the point of view of the possessed person. There are a couple of homophobic slurs that are not presented as bad and actually come from the protagonist herself, which is … not great. There are plenty of things I enjoyed, though, so. 3 stars.
“The Taken” by Sarah Pinborough
The ghost of a little girl who disappeared thirty years ago returns to the town where she met an early end. She has revenge on her mind, and she’s brought friends to help her carry it out.
This is one I would read again, but am not absolutely dying to read again immediately. We all know by now that children have an endless capacity to be creepy, but here, they’re downright sadistic. And so violent. There’s one death in particular that was at once very creative and also very gruesome and aggressively unpleasant, and the murderous antagonist takes so much pleasure in every murder she commits. I don’t want to spoil specifics, because I do think it’s worth reading, but I feel like it should be made more apparent how disturbing the malicious glee is. And speaking of things I wish were made more apparent, can books please stop surprising me with out of the blue graphic descriptions of child molestation? That would be great. I didn’t expect or need to read that. I don’t think it was necessary to the story at all. But if these warnings don’t put you off, I do recommend this. 3 stars.