Here are three separate novels that fit the horror or suspense genre!
The Only Good Indians: 4 stars
Just Like Mother: 3 stars
Spontaneous Human Combustion: Unrated (not my thing but not bad)
The Only Good Indians
This book feels like it is a story told in two parts. The first being a very gripping and effective psychological horror and the second being well – a little bit different and in my opinion, a little less effective.
The novel follows a band of four Native American Black Feet men who turn out to be haunted by a past action. This ends up catching up with them in various horrifying ways.
I do think horror novels are best to go into pretty blind so honestly if any of this sounds intriguing to you, stop reading this now and go read the book instead! But if you are curious or already read it then lets continue.
I will say the first half is a completely five star novel. We follow one specific man as he believes he is haunted and slowly loses his grip on reality and takes more and more drastic actions. We as readers don’t know at this point for sure whether it a real haunting or just in his head. I had my mouth literally hanging open during some parts of this. It was scary and worked.
However, at the end of his part it becomes clear that he is literally physically haunted and the spirit becomes a solid thing instead of psychological. I’m sure there is something to be said about it being a metaphor but really it’s a monster slasher at this point. I feel like this part was a little less effective because while the tone and setting were scary it just didn’t hit the same as the man losing his mind to unknowable causes and the metaphor wasn’t literally about to bash you over the head with a rock.
If I was smarter I could probably analyze the book covering things like escaping your past and how you can’t really escape your culture and the violence done against it. There are interesting concepts that basically show no matter how far ‘removed’ you are from the society, that the hurt is just too deep to escape. I’m sure people could write whole essays on this topic and honestly if this was a school assignment I would happily do so for a grade because its so interesting. But this is for fun and I don’t want to be here for five hours.
There is also commentary on police violence, generational traumas, violence against women, alcoholism/drug abuse and even word choice of Indian/Indigenous/Native American. It really does have so much to say. Also, like a lot of basketball which was a little weird.
I listened to this on audiobook through my library, narrated by Shaun Taylor-Corbett. The audiobook was amazing and I highly recommend it.
Overall, a gripping horror novel with an outstanding first half and slightly detracted but still worth while second half that has a deeper meaning if you only just scratch the surface!
Just Like Mother
A horror novel where the conversations were my real life nightmare!
Just Like Mother follows our main character Maeve who when she was a child grew up in a matriarchal cult. She was separated from her cousin when the cult was broken up and reunites with her after years of being apart. Things get weird.
Heltzel does a great job at building tension and will have you yelling ‘get out, get out, get out’ like any good horror novel will do. There are scenes of genuine creepiness but there are also several that fall flat. The flashbacks to the cult are actually pretty interesting and even her flashbacks to a childhood where her normal behaviors are mutated by being raised around it are rather interesting but in my opinion not explored enough to be completely effective. I think she wanted to focus more on the modern day creepiness but I think it would have added to character building to be more aware of what it was like.
I do not know why in my brain I thought there wouldn’t be creepy dolls in this book with a doll on the cover but I didn’t and please insert Jason Bateman Arrested Development gif of him opening that bag saying “Well, I don’t know what I was expecting.”
I think the book mostly suffered when it expanded its scope a little too wide. If you read this you can understand what I mean. It was most effective as a smaller entity of horror and more of a locked door scenario. The expansion caused more questions and disbelief then I think was really necessary for the story.
If you are a childless by choice person you will want to throw some people out the window and will probably have flashbacks to every single conversation you have ever had about having kids and the “you’ll change your mind!” attitude.
Overall though, it was an easy read (well when you are aiming for anxiety in horror!) with some genuine terror. I liked the concept even if it broke apart a little around the end. 3.5/5 rounded up.
Thank you to Netgalley for my ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Spontaneous Human Combustion
|This is hard to review because I knew I was in trouble almost immediately. This is not my style for reading which is absolutely no fault of the story and author themselves. Most of these stories are conceptual horror, where the terror is seeping and slowly filling the story and things are not really explained at all.
I know its common to complain about showing and not telling but this was all showing and very little telling in most of these stories. Which is fine! Its the better end of the spectrum but I think it would have worked better for me for most of these stories in print instead of audio. Because I got lost in what happened exactly for several of the stories.
In the audio format there is actually author commentary which is super cool to hear about the writing process and the editing and anthology process that is involved in short story horror. I had no idea! After one story, the author commented that he was worried that people wouldn’t get what happened in a particular story and I hate to say that I totally didn’t get what happened. Again, this is on me for not being a particularly analytical reader (or listener in this case) so I think I just lost some threads or got lost in the visuals.
I don’t want to summarize or review stories individually because I think horror is best gone into as blind as possible. Since they are short, there isn’t really a good way to talk about them without giving at least a bit away.
My favorite stories in the anthology were ones that he said did not fit his regular style. So there ya go. Its not you, its me. If you like conceptual horror, want to think, and can definitely deal with some gore than this might be more for you!
Thank you to Netgalley and Dreamscape Audio for the copy of this audiobook!
(idk why that is in an editing box on my screen so hope it shows up ok)