Grey Gravestone RIP

Fantasticland  by Mike Bockoven

well first, i'd like to thank my friends randie and sav for suggesting that i read this book and also for letting me borrow their copy.

clicking on the book cover will lead you to the goodreads page where you can read a full synopsis. tldr; teens working at a huge amusement park get flooded in during a hurricane. the situation quickly devolves into violence and bloodshed. the story is told through a series of interviews of those involved, attempting to answer the question of why so many kids died despite having an adequate amount of food, water, and shelter to keep everyone safe.

my *spoiler-free* thoughts.   .   .   .

there could not have been a better time for me to read this book, considering i finished it around the same time i was buying my season pass for kennywood park. i think the fact that i was getting ready for the park reopening helped me get more absorbed in the book, visualizing the description of the fictional fantasticland park more vividly than i might with other books. when areas of the park came into play, in my mind i likened them to similar areas in kennywood, silly as that sounds. kennywood is definitely far smaller than fantasticland is depicted (rivaling disney), but of course i used a little imagination as well.

fantasticland is a wonderful mix of genres: thriller, disaster, psychological, and a gorefest with some social commentary sprinkled in. my friends warned me that it was brutal, but as a desensitized horror movie junkie, i didn't think it would have much more of an impact than anything i've seen. well, i was dead wrong. reading this book gave me some intense gutteral reactions and forced a gasp of shock from my lips several times. something about reading about such atrocities for some reason hits harder than watching something on the screen, in my opinion. i should also give props to the author, who brought each character alive enough for me to feel genuinely heartbroken if/when they died.

⊳ would i recommend it?     yes, absolutely

⊳ rating?       4/5 stabs

⊳ trigger warning(s):   child death, rape (mentioned, not described)

Ring  by Koji Suzuki

i'd like to thank my friends again because they gifted me this book and i really enjoyed it! as soon as i finished it, i bought the next two books.

you can click on the book cover to read the full synopsis, though most horror fans are pretty familiar with the premise. tldr; a journalist, while investigating the death of his niece, finds a sinister, haunting VHS tape that warns viewers they will die in 7 days unless they fulfill an unknown charm. he spends the next week trying to uncover the mystery behind the tape in order to save his life.

my *spoiler-free* thoughts.   .   .   .

i definitely couldn't read this book without having the American movies in the back of my head. i've actually not watched the Japanese movie adaptation, so the 2002 film was my only reference point. some of the major differences between the book and that movie (that i can talk about without spoiling plot) are that the book takes place in Japan, the protagonist is a man, and the tone of the book leans more toward mystery/psychological than it does toward pure horror.

although i did enjoy the book and see why it inspired so many interpretations, there were some things i didn't love. the pacing wasn't bad, but i also wasn't at the edge of my seat either. this could totally be due to the fact that i ultimately already knew what the charm was, though. i also didn't like the two main protagonists, they both just seemed douchey and misogynistic and i couldn't really root for them. despite this, the ending still left me wanting more and i really liked the writing style.

⊳ would i recommend it?     if you like mysteries, yes

⊳ rating?       3.5/5 stabs

⊳ trigger warning(s):   suicide, rape

Exquisite Corpse  by Billy Martin, a.k.a. Poppy Z. Brite

funny story: one day i was watching the lovely youtuber may leitz (who i have a totally weird parasocial crush on) discuss the most disturbing books she has ever read when she mentioned this one. i saw the book cover and said to myself, "wait... you bought that for your roommate a few years ago at a used book store." so i walked to his bookshelf and picked it up, deciding to read it since he still hadn't. after reading it, i can definitely say it is the most disturbing book that i have ever read.

click the cover for a full synopsis. tldr; a perverse British serial killer escapes from prison and comes to Louisiana, where he meets and falls in love with a rich, cannibalistic killer in New Orleans who has yet to be caught. their chance meeting emboldens them to go after their 'perfect victim' together, no matter the cost. (fiction)

my *spoiler-free* thoughts.   .   .   .

i started to read this book about a week after the dahmer series on netflix starring evan peters came out - i had started to watch it but did not like the direction it was taking and how he was being portrayed in such a sympathetic light. although dahmer is never mentioned in the book, both of the main characters are obviously heavily influenced by him and his crimes. the book did not take a sympathetic look at these murderous characters, though - they weren't depicted as products of some sad upbringing and the author doesn't make any lengthy attempts at explaining how they became killers. they just simply are that way, and although the reader may find them clever at times, they are never really likable.

as for horror, the author spares no gory detail when it comes to the killings and the sexual acts (including those with corpses). because of the subject matter, opinions seem to differ on this book but i personally loved it. i think it's a really terrifying southern gothic story depicting the horrors of being a gay man in post-HIV, serial killer era America. if you can handle excessive gore in movies and books then i definitely think you should give it a read. it grossed me out, it made me mad, and it upset me.. so of course, i plan on reading more books by billy martin in the future!

⊳ would i recommend it?     yes, but it's definitely not for everyone

⊳ rating?       4/5 stabs

⊳ trigger warning(s): suicide, rape, drug use, cannibalism, necrophilia, incest, prostitution

Spiral  by Koji Suzuki

i decided to read the second book in the ring series while the first one was fresh in my mind, but that wasn't actually necessary because suzuki wrote this sequel in a way that it could be read as a stand-alone novel. he spent several pages going over the entire plot of the first book to catch new readers up to speed, but it made sense with the plot, as the protagonist had to catch up on what took place in the first installment and what happened directly after.

click the cover for a full synopsis. tldr; a pathology doctor who is mourning the loss of his young son is tasked with the autopsy of an old friend, an unpredictable philosophy professor who died of unusual causes. what the doctor finds leads him to do his own investigation into the ring curse, which has taken on a sinister new form.

my *spoiler-free* thoughts.   .   .   .

this book is where it fully divulges from whatever i remember from the american film series. i personally enjoyed it more than the first book because i found the protagonist to be more likeable and i really couldn't tell what would happen next. it did have the same issue as the first where it started off really slow (with a lot of talk about DNA) but then it amped up toward the last 1/3 of the book, but i didn't really mind. i can't really get into a lot of it without discussing spoilers but i will say that i'm definitely excited to read the third book in the ring installment!

⊳ would i recommend it?     yes, especially if you read the first

⊳ rating?       3.5/5 stabs

⊳ trigger warning(s): child death, rape (mentioned)

Jurassic Park  by Michael Crichton

i bought this book early in 2022 because i think i read something on tumblr about the book being a lot more brutal/gory than the movie, so i was interested to see the differences. coincidentally, around thanksgiving i found out that my 7 year old cousin was reading it. i asked his dad if he thought that the book might be a little intense for a kid that age, but he kind of just shrugged it off. so i decided then that i would read it next and finish it in time for christmas so i could talk to my little cousin about it. i also got him jurassic world (which i plan to read as well) as a gift.

click the cover for a full synopsis. the premise is very similar to the movie: a billionaire hires scientist to re-create dinosaurs with DNA samples on an island off of costa rica with plans to open a "nature preserve" park. issues with the park's systems continue to cause delays and strange animal bites are occuring on the mainland. several people are invited to spend a weekend on the island, but things go wrong very quickly.

my *spoiler-free* thoughts.   .   .   .

i was surprised to find that i actually liked the book better than the movie, despite the movie definitely being iconic. it certainly was more brutal than the movie and spares no gory detail. i thought grant was a more likeable character and malcolm, although his frequent monologuing was sometimes annoying, provided really good commentary on human hubris and how capitalism impacts the motives behind scientific innovations. unfortunately, ellie's character seemed a little under-utilized. i know this book is technically a sci-fi thriller, i think it definitely earns it's spot as horror lit as well.

⊳ would i recommend it?     absolutely

⊳ rating?       4/5 stabs

⊳ trigger warning(s): infant death, animal death