Parlor of Horror’s Book Reviews
From Classic to Modern, Gothic to Pulp, here’s some book reviews so you can choose your winter reading enjoyment.
Click on a book cover to read a review:
parlor of horror – book reviews
Directed by Stephen Sommers
I’m not a huge fan of PG-rated horror. I’ll often criticize a film when I think it was purposely tamed and diluted to reach the widest audience possible. But for whatever reason, I didn’t mind the PG-rated antics of Odd Thomas. Perhaps it was because the film made it clear from the first minute, this is a pg-rated horror comedy. Don’t get me wrong, there is some serious subject matter in this film-a child predator, satanic themes, and a planned mass killing-but it is told in a way that is not too gritty. It’s been over ten years since I read the Odd Thomas trilogy by Dean Koontz, but I seem to recall a much darker presentation of the story in the books. Or maybe that was just how I interpreted it.
Part of the acceptance of the film was the charm of the two main characters, Odd and his girlfriend, Stormy (Anton Yelchin and Addison Timlin). Odd does quite a bit of narration in this film. His acceptance of his place in the world, combined with his no-nonsense, flippant attitude toward life was likable. The film cut sideways to little vignettes often and it moved at a fast pace keeping my interest. Willem Dafoe’s talents are mostly wasted here as the police chief with few lines and limited screen time. The story has some nice plot twists and a high concept climax. It wasn’t really scary at any point and it was comical but not laugh-out-loud funny. However It was a good story with some good characters.
This is a film for a wide audience, from YA to old coots like me. It’s a shame this didn’t get a proper release here in the US because this could have been a big film for Koontz, provided it found the right audience. I’m sure Harry Potter fans, those into paranormal-light with a bit of fantasy, would have liked this.
Odd can see paranormal entities. When his small town is overrun by demons that feed on tragedy, Odd knows some major bad event is about to go down. It’s up to him to hunt down the paranormal clues and prevent this catastrophe from hurting the people he loves.
The Frighteners with a dose of John Dies at the End and a sprinkle of The Sixth Sense, if that kid Haley grew up and had a sense of humor. Good for a casual viewing.
I give it 3.0 dastardly demons on the scale of sinister satanic plots to steal souls!
Secrets to Successful Fiction Writing – a reader’s point of view
Great fiction authors have a knack for getting us, the readers, quickly interested in the story, invested in the characters, and keeping us ready to turn each page and continue upon a journey they have set up for us. I spent some time taking a closer look at how they do this, methods for immediate involvement in the tale, and have found a few helpful devices and techniques to use in my own story-telling. Some aspects seemed incidental, until I noticed these same parameters used in almost every book and story the particular author had written.
– When I began reading What the Night Knows, I noticed on my first night of reading I had easily progressed to the 5th chapter. Once I am that far in, there is no turning back – I will read the whole book and not stop until I am finished with it. But it did make me curious. How had I advanced so far into the book with, what seemed like, so little effort? I will tell you how: In the first chapter of the book, there was barely a paragraph over three sentences. In fact, a majority of the paragraphs in the whole book are short, 3-10 sentences. That is streamline – that is succinct. It makes for easy reading. Secondly: Many of the chapters are between three and eight pages, with many being only four or five pages long. Before you know it, you’re at chapter ten and well engaged with the story.
– Crichton keeps his chapters short, also. One thing I noticed about Crichton when reading Jurassic Park, which differs from Koontz, every chapter ends in a cliff-hanger. I mean real cliffhangers; a girl dangling from the ceiling as raptors jump at her feet, or, a worker saying, “What are those alarms?” and John Hammond turning to him with alarm in his face and saying “This can not be good.” Now, you are compelled to turn the page and start the next chapter to see what those alarms are, or, if the girl is going to have her foot chomped off by a hungry raptor. This is probably the exact opposite of what you or I would tend to do at the end of a chapter. We like to close our thoughts to a segment, make it well rounded and resolved before starting a new chapter.
– Dan Brown uses these same two methods, short chapters and cliffhangers to keep the reader turning pages.
– King always works on immediate empathy. He will start a story with a character doing something very common, some mundane task for which we can all relate; the morning jog, trying to get reception on a cell phone, getting chewed out by the boss, waiting for a bus, walking the dog, or just watching a thunderstorm forming on the horizon as the character sips a cup of tea – things we have all done in our lives’ that make us feel instantly associated with the character. This puts us in the character’s shoes, ready to feel and experience what they do.
– Mr. Barker will often start his stories with a character on a quest. Quite often they will be on the verge of finding the prized item, perhaps in the next few pages. Whether it’s a quest for a puzzle box, a quest for the perfect photo, a quest for a fabled creature or hidden land of wonder, your curiosity is peaked, usually in the very first chapter. You want to know if the character will find this treasured item, don’t you? Keep reading and you will find out.
These are some of my observations. These are some of the devices, techniques and styles that have kept me reading. All of these methods will lure the reader deeper into the story and into the depths of danger. Use these ideas in your own writing.
Perhaps you have noticed some other methods that keep readers turning pages in a book. Or perhaps you use an approach or two in your own writing to captivate your readers. If you would like to share these ideas, post them here in the comments and point us to a story of yours that uses the idea. (***please do not post a whole story in the comments). I would like to hear your thoughts, feedback and ideas.
Dean Koontz – ‘What the Night Knows’
This latest novel by the prolific Koontz is a classic page-turner of supernatural horror. In streamline fashion, Koontz delivers just what you need to progress quickly into and through the story. Many years ago, Koontz locked into a writing formula and although his novels never stray too far from his blockbuster-maker plots and techniques, they are nevertheless, enjoyable.
The brief; John Calvino had been a fourteen year old boy when his family was killed by brutal serial killer, Alton Blackwood. He only survived by killing the murderer in self defense. Many years later Calvino is a homicide detective with a family of his own. When he begins to investigate a new rash of ritual family slayings, Calvino is convinced that Blackwood has somehow managed to escape the clutches of death and that his own family is in grave danger.
The story is interspersed with readings from Alton Blackwood’s journal, which unveil an interesting back story, while helping to build the suspense in the present time. The book makes for some quick and intense reading in the first half but then gets sluggish as the story moves away from the Calvino family to other families threatened by the Blackwood entity. Eventually, it does come back to the Calvino’s story. The intensity is ratcheted up until it leads to a not-surprising yet epic finale, a battle of wills, and good vs. evil.