Genre: Horror

Benchmark Title: Joe Hill’s Heart Shaped Box

Readers Advisory Round Table – November 23, 2010, Horror Notes Attending: Tatjana Saccio (Methuen), Colleen Hayes (Sandwich), Eileen Barrett (Reading), Tricia Arrington (Danvers), Michelle Deschene-Warren (Danvers), Sarah Wue (Danvers), Shelley Quezada (MBLC), Ellen Paine (Methuen,), Nanci Milone Hill (Methuen), Cheryl Bryan (MLS), Leane Ellis (Wakefield), Jan Resnick (South Hadley)- Note taker.

The Round Table opened with a brief discussion of our ability (or not) to be comfortable reading the horror genre. Remember, you don’t need to read every word.

Two libraries have completed their genre study grants in fantasy and historical fiction. In addition to the benefit of learning more about the genre and how to relate to readers who enjoy it, there is the additional growth of relationships with fellow staff and especially with patrons.

Next Session: Adventure. Think about how plot and pace work together in this genre as you read the benchmark and your second title. Benchmark: Clive Cussler – Sahara. Next meeting: January 25, 2011, 9:45-12, Wakefield, Lucius Beebe Memorial Library

Reactions to the horror genre: nightmares. There are two general categories of horror – visceral and non-corporeal. Both utilize vivid language, imagery. They share the appeal of atmospherics. For YA’s there is the facet of what it is like to be different in the world – the danger of finding your way, your different personalities.

The irregular rhythm of music can make you feel off balance and uncomfortable; the rhythm of prose can do the same.

The emotions genres (particularly horror and romance) are not adequately or well-reviewed which shows a disrespect for readers of those genres. Psychological suspense always involves isolation. Smells, temperatures are often part of the frame – using senses to affect/involve emotions.

Second Title Notes: Leane ~ Sarah Waters – The Little StrangerThe house in the story is a character. Story is really well done: very spooky. The language is beautiful, evocative. A British setting illustrating class differences. Slow paced. One of the Best Horror Books of 2009.

Nanci ~ no second novel. She loves the genre. Secrets are a device in horror – in alienation of character.

Shelley ~ H.P. Lovecraft – At the Mountains of MadnessEvil lies under the Antarctic. There is a sense of evil and foreboding. Lovecraft has a cult following; was a New Englander. We need to know him as a major horror writer.

Sarah ~ Sarah Rees Brennan – The Demon’s CovenantPart of a trilogy; YA novel set in London. Mae is trying to protect her brother. Sense of evil – some humor, romance; shades of Twilight. Appeal: Mood, unexpected, some descriptive language, scary.

Michelle ~ Cherie Priest – Dreadful SkinStory begins 5 times with 5 different characters. Eileen, a former Irish nun, is the protagonist. 1st part of the story is on a boat, the 2nd in a revivalist camp, 3rd repercussions at the camp. Appeal: atmospheric language, building tension, lovely writing. Three connected stories.

Tricia ~ John Marks – FanglandDracula meets 60 Minutes. Appeal: tone, multiple points of view, Romania – organized crime. The news building is next to the hold of Ground Zero; creepy.

Colleen ~ Stephen King – Gerald’s Game Husband and wife go to their cottage in the woods. He handcuffs his wife to the bed…and then he dies. What are her choices?

Tatjana ~ Anne Rice – Interview with a VampireAn angst-ridden vampire tells his story to a reporter. It’s richly written, slow paced, provocative, evil. He is tormented. The novel deals with the moral complexity of having to kill to live. Atmospheric.

Jan ~ Dean Koontz – The Taking The Taking begins with a heavy deluge, luminescent raindrops smelling of corruption and instilling dread among humans and animals. Horror and parable are blended. Koontz begins a story of creepy, chilling dread and finishes somewhere else. An odd story with chills and vivid images. Appeal: Tone, pace, language. Cheryl ~ Michael Koryta – So Cold the River Engaging; down on his luck film-maker is hired to make a documentary of a wealthy woman’s father’s childhood. The story has a nightmare quality. It is very well written. Appeal: living nightmare; flashbacks
When a reader asks for a horror story, we need to ask questions to help us determine if they prefer to be scared or like visceral description. Do they want crime or the supernatural? “Tell me about a horror novel you read and enjoyed.” If you cannot refer them to other choices, refer them to another staff member who is more comfortable with the horror genre or ask if you can get back to them.

LJ has now taken on appeal factors as a review mission.

Second Titles

ellis@noblenet.org

Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger (2009)
After being summoned to treat a patient at dilapidated Hundreds Hall, Dr. Faraday finds himself becoming entangled in the lives of the owners, the Ayres family, and the supernatural presences in the decaying mansion in postwar England. Dr. Faraday (narrates) first visited as a child when his mother was a servant there and returns professionally as a Dr. and grows closer to the family. He is an unreliable narrator and yet you are compelled to believe him and never really know the truth. An eerie ghost story mixed with piercing class commentary. Reminded me of the horrifying tale told by Shirley Jackson in The Haunting of Hill House . The author expertly teases us with suggestive allusions to the classics of supernatural fiction and is literary quality. This is a ghost story and could be considered good psychological suspense. The book is character-drive, intricately plotted and atmospheric–downright creepy–dread curls around you like the fog around the house. APPEAL: CH/TONE/PLOT Second Title Notes: Leane ~ Sarah Waters – The Little Stranger The house in the story is a character. Story is really well done: very spooky. The language is beautiful, evocative. A British setting illustrating class differences. Slow paced. One of the Best Horror Books of 2009

arringto@noblenet.org

Fangland ~ John Marks
You might think of Fangland as Dracula meets 60 minutes. It’s told from the point of view of several employees at the television show The Hour. Evangeline Harker is sent to Romania to meet with a contact for the head of organized crime in the area, Ion Torgu to set up a possible interview. But, to her surprise she is met by Torgu himself. He takes her to a rundown hotel in the heart of Transylvania. No-nonsense New Yorker that she is, Evangeline realizes to late, that Torgu is a vampire. The story then shifts to the employees back in New York who are upset over Harker’s disappearance. When a mysterious set of tapes arrives from Romania strange things begin to happen. Several staff members begin to hear a voice in their heads repeating a sequence place names over and over – all places where massacres occurred. There are suicides and several employees who watched the tapes suffer from a wasting sickness. A few of the affected employees begin to piece together what’s happening and make a plan to fight back.

Appeal: Setting, Tone, Character

Appeal Factors: Character, Setting, Tone. Character: Evangeline’s narrative is the scariest and having it in first person makes it even more frightening. But having parts of the story told from different points of view really adds to the suspense, because you already know certain things and you can see them coming. For example, Evangeline’s friend Stimson Beavers, a lowly production assistant begins to receive emails from Evangeline in secret, but the reader knows that they are actually coming from Torgu.

Setting: From the attack by wild dogs on the way to Transylvania to Ion Torgu’s rundown hotel (think Dracula’s castle) every place Evangeline visits in Romania is creepy. The 20th floor where The Hour has its offices is much more realistic, but equally sinister. The staff there are jaded and they work in the shadow of the former Twin Towers. Having the story revolve around a disgruntled workplace helps the reader identify with the characters.
John Marks – Fangland Dracula meets 60 Minutes. Appeal: tone, multiple points of view, Romania – organized crime. The news building is next to the hold of Ground Zero; creepy.

tsaccio@mvlc.org

Tatjana ~ Anne Rice – Interview with a Vampire An angst-ridden vampire tells his story to a reporter. It’s richly written, slow paced, provocative, evil. He is tormented. The novel deals with the moral complexity of having to kill to live. Atmospheric.

deschene@noblenet.org

Cherie Priest – Dreadful Skin Story begins 5 times with 5 different characters. Eileen, a former Irish nun, is the protagonist. 1st part of the story is on a boat, the 2nd in a revivalist camp, 3rd repercussions at the camp. Appeal: atmospheric language, building tension, lovely writing. Three connected stories.

quezada@noblenet.org

Shelley ~ H.P. Lovecraft – At the Mountains of Madness Evil lies under the Antarctic. There is a sense of evil and foreboding. Lovecraft has a cult following; was a New Englander. We need to know him as a major horror writer.

njrezz@comcast.net

The Taking by Dean Koontz The Taking begins with a heavy deluge, luminescent raindrops smelling of corruption and instilling dread among humans and animals. In hours, ‘civilization’ is dismantled, survivors are isolated, and odd plants begin overtaking earth’s life forms – adults, not children – are taken into the air, some laughing, some screaming. The remaining adults are tormented by their worst fears. Horrific visions haunt them; reality is unreliable; only the dogs seem dependable as protectors and guides. As Molly and Neil search for children to protect, they are challenged at every step. From a town of 2000, fewer than 200 remain. After an impenetrable fog, horrifying creatures and things that skulk in the trees, a new rain begins smelling of cleanliness and purity. All the evil is washed away. Horror and parable are blended. Koontz begins a story of creepy, chilling dread and finishes somewhere else. An odd story with chills and vivid images.

Appeal Factors: FRAME & TONE, PACING, LANGUAGE

sarahwoo@danvers.org

The Demon’s Covenant by ‘Sarah Rees Brennan’ (YA) A YA story of demons and magicians and spells in which magicians get ahead – or obtain power – by delivering human bodies, and souls, to horrific demons. This volume two in a trilogy stands alone, but not terribly well. Not having read the first volume, I thought it took too long to get to know the characters and figure out the world. At the same time, I imagine that, for the reader who had read the first in the series, too much time was spent reiterating what happened previously. The novel takes place in modern-day London. The main character is 17-year-old, feisty and thoroughly human Mae, whose self-imposed task is to save her brother from being taken into the fold of evil magicians who evidently tried to kill him in the previous novel. To protect her brother, Mae enlists the help of two very differently attractive and frightening brothers, one demon and one human. There’s definitely a sense of evil lurking around every corner, along with an ominous feeling throughout that things are about to get worse, but this sense is somewhat relieved by humor and romance. The reader never gives up hope that the demon Nick will learn to be human, but is forcibly and repeatedly disappointed, as is Mae herself. Appeal: mood; characters including supernatural monsters, “vulnerable and haunted”; some descriptive language; to a lesser extent, pacing

cheryl@masslibsystem.org

Michael Koryta – So Cold the River Engaging; down on his luck film-maker is hired to make a documentary of a wealthy woman’s father’s childhood. The story has a nightmare quality. It is very well written. Appeal: living nightmare; flashbacks