You click on HauntedMTL because you’re into horror. You scroll through the feed, wondering which review to read. You find one about a book that a lot of people are talking about and it catches your eye. You click on it, and now you’re here, reading what I wrote. Hello, you.
What is This Book Even About?
In case you haven’t come upon any memes about it on Twitter, You is a 2014 thriller from Caroline Kepnes. The main character is Joe Goldberg, a bookstore employee who quickly becomes obsessed with one of his customers, named Beck. Joe goes on to stalk Beck, escalating from obsessively checking her social media feeds to killing any of his competition. Eventually, they start dating, but Beck soon discovers Joe’s obsession with her and tries to break it off. Joe ends up murdering Beck, in a twist that everyone saw coming.
Not really. For a thriller, the book was a slog. The middle 200 pages of this book are just Joe lusting after Beck and Beck bragging about how she’s good at writing. Joe commits increasingly absurd crimes, but never faces any consequences for them, so there are no stakes. It honestly made me not want to pick up the book because it just felt like the same thing over and over.
I did like some things about it, though. The slow reveal that this isn’t the first time Joe has stalked and murdered a woman was very creepy. The writing style in general was very natural and unique. And the side characters, especially Peach, Karen, and Blythe, were great. Honestly, I wished this book was about them.
My biggest problems with You, though, were Joe and Beck. My absolute least favorite character was Beck. All she did in the book was complain about her immensely privileged life and treat her friends like garbage. To me, she was insufferable. Joe is obviously a psychotic killer, but his monologues are almost entirely made up of him describing how he wants to have sex with Beck, watching her have sex,or watching her masturbate (seriously, Beck, just buy some damn curtains). 300 pages of that were not worth reading.
I went into this book with low expectations, so I won’t call it a disappointment. But I definitely did not enjoy You. For me, the scariest thing about it was how many times Beck name-dropped Brown University. (2 / 5)
Published in September of this year, Holly is the latest novel from the undisputed king of horror, Stephen King.
I was excited when I heard that Holly was getting her own book. If you’re not familiar with the larger body of King’s work, she was a secondary character in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy. She was also a secondary character in The Outsider, though that was called Holly Gibney #1. Holly Gibney #2 was If It Bleeds, part of a short story collection by the same name.
While you don’t have to read any of this before you read Holly, it will help you get some of the references.
When our story begins, Holly is mourning the death of her mother. Her partner Pete is in the hospital with Covid, and she is not supposed to be working.
But when a woman named Penny Dahl calls, asking for Holly’s help finding her missing daughter, she can’t ignore the plea.
As Holly searches the last place Bonnie Dahl was seen, she starts to learn of other missing persons cases. The cases don’t have anything in common, and neither do the victims. Except that they all had an interaction, however small, with a married couple named Rodney and Emily Harris.
Retired, Rodney and Emily are suffering from the usual but heartbreaking ailments that come along with age. Arthritis, sciatica, failing memories. But they believe they just might have found a miracle cure. One that most people would refuse. At least, we hope they would.
While Holly digs deeper, her friend Barbara Robinson is seeking a poetry mentor. This search brings her dangerously close to the two killer professors.
The reason I was excited about this book was to spend more time with Holly. She was easily the best part of The Outsider and inspired me to read the Mr. Mercedes trilogy.
And she was just as wonderful in this book. She was clever, insightful, and kind. Holly manages to be innocent and very aware of how the world works at the same time. She’s fiercely loyal to her friends and has a strong grasp of right from wrong. I sincerely hope that there’s a Holly #4 in the works.
I also loved the way this story was told. Through the course of the book, we see the story from different points of view. We see flashbacks to each victim and their terrible ends. We see Holly hunting a poor lost woman. And we see Barbara circling dangerously close to the true killers. The tension this built was incredible. It was hard not to shriek, watching all the pieces come so close to being together, only to be blown away and come together again.
What didn’t work
That being said, this was not a perfect novel. For one thing, there was an inordinate amount of attention to Covid 19.
Honestly, there were three killers in this book.
And I get it. Covid continues to be a terrible thing. It’s just one of many horrific world events we’ve suffered through, and yet another that is going to leave a scar on everyone who experienced it.
I don’t need to tell you about the fear, and supply chain issues. The deaths and medical professionals stretched to their limits. The mass graves. The horrific reality that there were people who just did not care to take it seriously, even as people were dying.
I don’t need to tell you, and neither did King on almost every page. And it was on almost every page.
Yes, Covid took over every part of our lives. It didn’t need to take over every part of this story.
My other irritation with this book is one more difficult to explain without giving away the ending. Forgive me if I ruin anything for you, it’s not my intention.
I wanted something terrible to happen to the antagonists. I wanted them to suffer. And they didn’t suffer nearly enough.
Finally, I wish we’d gotten some sort of closure for Holly over her mother stealing all of her inheritance from her. I understand that sometimes in life people die and we don’t get answers that we’d like from them. But this is fiction. We, and the characters, are supposed to get some sort of closure.
Is Holly my new favorite Stephen King novel? No, not really. It isn’t as good as The Stand, or From a Buick 8. But it was a good story. It was suspenseful, exciting, and a little sad. It was everything you’d want from a thriller.
Holly appears to be King’s new Castle Rock. He keeps coming back to her, over and over. And I couldn’t be happier about that.
(3.5 / 5)
Monastery Series 3: a Book Review
The time has come for another installment of our resident mystery novel Monastery. We continue to follow our set of characters trying to uncover the secrets of their grandfather’s murder. Too bad members of their family are going to great lengths to stomp their efforts. Anyway, enough rambling, let’s begin!
We start this part of Monastery with our crew coming to a simple conclusion – they must seek answers wherever possible. What better place to find them than visiting Albert’s sister? It’s a shame they’re not going to the Old Farm, there would definitely be some answers there. Francis’s character development is quite intriguing to me. He’s clearly uninvolved in the cover-up and yet there seems to be a lot of understated trauma. One can only wonder if it will all boil to the surface.
While I know some people don’t enjoy flashback sequences, Albert’s trip down memory lane provided some nice characterization for me. It’s his story after all, and even though his and Cassandra’s relationship is far from #goals, it’s complex and interesting. I also enjoyed his commentary on selective memory, I feel like that applies a lot to our daily lives.
David and Nicole’s dynamic is also explored more. The pairing bond over their taste in music and share a kiss after he helps her recover from a werewolf attack (yes, you heard that right, and I want to know more immediately). Tensions between them rise further to the point where she actually considers breaking up with Fred. That is, until he pulls a grand gesture (something David was advised to do). While I don’t condone cheating or flirting with someone to make your partner jealous, those are all love triangle tropes and this one is in full swing.
Things escalate further at the town’s raffle draw party when Aunt Doris shows up and gets paid off by Cassandra. While I’m not certain how I feel about her character, she does provide the group with valuable information – Albert’s cause of death was faked. Of course.
We end this installment of Monastery on a bit of a harrowing note. Cassandra abuses her own son in front of Henry, who is left completely traumatized. This stuck out to me as a change in tone and I wonder how much darker it will get. We’ll find out soon…
This part of Monastery focuses a lot on Albert’s youth and the love triangle between David, Nicole, and Fred. While some people would say it’s unnecessary, I think the additions, especially the romance, both keep the pacing so we don’t fly through the mystery too quickly and lighten the mood a bit. Not to mention there is some interesting characterisation brought to light because of this. The questions are still piling up and I can just feel we’re on the cusp of things hitting the fan. I can’t wait for more.
(5 / 5)
Read further for some insight from the author himself:
- 1. Last time I asked you how you integrate comedy into your writing. How about romance? How do you pick the moment that feels right to sprinkle some spice into the story without turning it into a full-blown chick flick? Do you have a personal preference of who you would like Nicole to end up with (if you can share)?
Funny you should ask about picking the right moment because David originally kissed Nicole in episode 1, but it felt rushed then, so I ultimately moved it to this third episode. I always knew there would be a romantic triangle, trite though it may seem, because at its heart this story is very soapy. As for when the right moment is, the story itself always tells me that, but have no fear, the murder mystery will always be at the center of everything.
Also, who do I think Nicole should end up with? I think she needs to work on loving herself a bit more. It may seem she loves herself a bit too much, at surface level, but do read on.
2. There is no doubt Cassandra is a bitch and a murder accomplice (if not the murderer). However, you are showing the readers layers of her character (such as her being abused as a young woman). Is this something that will be relevant in the story later on or just a device to provide her character with some humanity?
Relevant. So, so relevant. There are many glimpses of Albert’s past throughout the series, but the events surrounding St. John’s Party in 1976 compose the main flashback thread. I want to believe there is great re-read value to my story, as there are so many clues and little elements spread throughout, things you might only catch on to when you have the full picture. I mean, the werewolf’s identity is revealed in every episode they feature in – it’s just a matter of knowing where to look for it! As for Cassandra, in my opinion, she is the best character, and I am so excited for people to dive into her story.
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein
Frankenstein is a story that we’re all familiar with. It’s been part of the public zeitgeist for generations, almost since it was published in 1818. It’s been made into movies, ripped off for TV shows, and parodied to hell and back. Frankenstein’s monster had met the Three Stooges and the Chipmunks and sang in front of a Christmas Tree to sell iPhones.
In the original story, though, our tale is told to a narrator by our main character, Victor Frankenstein. He tells a horrific tale of creating a monster in a moment of hubris, and then of being hunted by that monster.
Reading the story as a child, it never occurred to me that Victor might have been full of shit.
This thought occurred to Kirsten White, author of The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein.
We begin our story with Elizabeth. She and her best friend Justine are going to search for Victor, who hasn’t been in contact with his family in months. Elizabeth worries that if Victor’s gone too long, his father will stop seeing Elizabeth as useful and throw her out.
As they search for Victor, Elizabeth remembers important moments in their past. She was a poor girl, abused and neglected by her caregivers. But she charms Victor, and so his mother takes her in.
As we go back and forth between the past and present, a dark and morbid picture is painted. Victor has some issues with anger. With seeing other people as human beings and not playthings. Most of us might call him a sociopath.
As Elizabeth recalls his bloody past and searches for him, ser realizes that he’s gotten into something much darker than he ever has before. And she is bound and determined to make sure no one ever finds out what that is.
No matter what that is.
While I’ve read countless retellings and reimagining in my life, I’ve rarely found one that compliments the original work so well. This story feels like it could very well be the actual truth, while Frankenstein is nothing more than the lies told by a rich white boy who now has to face the consequences of his actions for once. They make sense together.
I also adored Elizabeth. Not at first, though, which I think is the point. At first, she’s a selfish person who would do anything to anyone if it meant that she was safe. And we see this over and over in the ways that she covers up for young Victor’s madness. I don’t think we should have expected anything less from the author of Hide. White seems to have a talent for creating characters who are their stories being self-serving for very understandable reasons, before rising to the calling of heroism.
What didn’t work
This was a tightly written story, and it’s hard to pinpoint anything that stood out as not working. However, I will say this. There is a moment in the story when the tables turn between Victor and Elizabeth. Elizabeth claims to just then realize how many people Victor has killed. I kind of think she probably knew before then. She just didn’t want to.
While this makes sense, as we’re looking at a flawed main character, I would argue that it doesn’t make sense for Elizabeth’s character that she would remain with the Frankensteins. As soon as she had a chance to get in good with Henry, why didn’t she take it?
Again, this is a fairly small flaw in an otherwise fantastic story.
At its core, Frankenstein is the story of a man who creates a monster and must kill him before he can cause more pain. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is the same story. Elizabeth has created a monster in Victor by covering up his madness and helping to shield him from consequences. In the end, she must face the monster she created.(5 / 5)