At Horizon’s End by Chris Sarantopoulos

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The reason that this is posted on Sunday is the fact that the story has just been released! If you do not feel like reading the review, it is a 5/5 and I strongly recommend that you buy it. You will not regret it. 

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Kindle: $1.21

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The Man Who Fed On Tears always knows whose time it is to pluck from the world of the living. His existence is one of a symbiosis between his need for the tears and woe he causes to those closest to the deceased, and the natural order of life and death to which he is bound. He never questions himself or his actions and has never made a mistake. Until now.

Stella is a four-year-old girl who misses her mommy and wants to see her again. She doesn’t yet understand the concept of loss, so when she sees close family members crying, she tries to stay cheerful and optimistic. After all, Mommy said they’d see each other again when the time comes At Horizon’s End. So if they’ll meet again, why is everyone crying?

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Chris Sarantopoulos once again shows us that he is an absolute master of short stories. I will try my best to keep it spoiler free, as I really do not want to ruin it for anyone.

We are placed in the story right when everyone is gathering at Stella’s house, due to her mother passing away. Stella, being only 4 years old, is already a hint that this story will explore the darkest places in our hearts and minds. And it does. There is sadness that Stella does not understand, she is too young to grasp the fact that her mother will not return, and although she was told by her mother that they will meet again, she does not fully understand that either. She takes it for granted, but does not know that she too would have to die, for that to happen. She tries to explain to her father that they will see her again, At Horizon’s End (an expression her mother used), but as you would imagine, he is way too sad and way too disconnected and, just like everyone else, only manages a smile and a hug for Stella.

The story actually switches between Stella and The Man Who Fed On Tears. Let us talk about him, as he is the main reason for the story that is unfolding. The author gave him that name because, I believe, he did not want to influence your thoughts, and did not want to put religion into the story. I will do it, however, as I will be able to present him better with something you are all very familiar with. The Man Who Fed On Tears in religious sense would be described as a demon. Everyone knows that demons are known to feed on one’s negative thoughts and preferably get them stuck in a loop of negative emotions. That gives them the energy to “exist”, and that is exactly the reason that he is described as the man who feeds on tears, or rather, negative emotions, which sadness definitely is. There is a catch. If you do not let them feed on your negative emotions, as you only display positive ones, then there is no reason for them to exist. And this is when Stella comes into action. Everyone in the house is feeding The Man, but not Stella. She does not have any negativity around her, as she is, in her pure child’s mind, completely sure that she will be able to see her mother again one day. This leaves The Man dumbfounded, as he is not used to that kind of energy, especially on such occasion. Now let me just say this, The Man also plays the role of a Grim Reaper, but not the cartoonish idea or whatever. He is the reason for her mother’s death, he is the one that took her away, so he could feed himself. Now, again, if we follow it through spiritual explanation, we know that evil entities are not dumb. We know that they show great capabilities of thought. And this is also what happens in the story. The Man, amazed that Stella is handling the situation like she is, gets into a moral struggle, whether he did the right thing by taking her mother away from her or not.

And this is the point where I stop. What arrives after this point is the conclusion to the story that would spoil it for everyone, so I will not go any further.

As you can see, you cannot explain this story or take anything from it word for word, because it is not meant to be read like that. It is meant to make you think and incorporate your own knowledge and your own beliefs into the story, and the story suddenly becomes unique to you. I could go on and on, and explain every single paragraph, but I do not want to write an essay and bore you guys to death. With that said…

Book recommendation: 5/5

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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Took my own photo for this one. I might do this from time to time, if I deem them bearable to look at.

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Paperback: $9.88 (Free shipping)
Hardback: $16.40 (Free shipping)

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The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

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First of all, let me say that it took me months to read this book. I started reading it as soon as I bought it, but finished it almost half a year later, but that does not mean that it is a bad book. Or does it?

The reason for it to take me so long to read it is the fact that I thought the first few chapters were quite a drag. Nothing happens, just folks running around, examining the house and whatnot. After that, stuff does start happening, but still nothing in a sense that you would feel horrified or scared for your life, or the life of the characters. Nothing like that. At this point I was starting to wonder, how in the world is this book considered a classic. A horror classic. I had enough of reading only a few pages per week, so I sat down and finished it. And I am glad I did, because I got my answer.

After a while the occurrences that do start happening, do seem a bit odd like I said, but nothing special. The book does hit off when our main protagonist, Eleanor, starts acting strange. We are there to follow her thoughts and actions through the whole book, so when we are, for example, presented a sweet dialog between her and the other people who are researching the house, we get stunned. We, and the other characters, see nothing wrong in what is going on, but we see the wrong in the mind of Eleanor. She is starting to lose it, and we can see that clear as day, and later on, the other characters start picking up on it too. Now, this is where things start getting complicated. This is the point where you have to ask yourself, who is losing his or her mind?

The answer to that question is found by reading on. What I started noticing, was that on certain pages, I had no idea what was going on. I read through these pages over and over again, but I just could not grasp them in a sense, to figure out what it all means. I was starting to lose touch with the reality portrayed in the book. I myself started to wander off. And this is the point when I figured it out – this is how it is mean to be. The book itself is written in a way that not only the character, but you yourself, start losing it. Just like her, you are confused and not sure what is going on. There are no words to describe this type of feeling, so I suggest that you pick the book up and read it. If nothing else, you have to pick it up for the climax. It is absolutely phenomenal, and the second greatest and brightest point in the book.

In the end, we figure out that we do not need monsters to scare us. We all have our own monsters, and if we pair them up with confusion and misunderstanding, we get the real horror. This book proves its point by inducing you into that state, and you are able to see just how easy it is for you to think that you are out of your mind.

Now, because I always rate honestly and the fact that it took me so long to finish it, I cannot just cross it out and state that the first quarter of the book was not a drag. It was. At least for me. So all in all, I am giving it….

Book recommendation: 9/10

Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth by James Dorr

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Paperback: $16.46 (free shipping)

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It had been a time when the world needed legends, those years so long past now. Because there was something else legends could offer, or so the Poet believed. He didn’t know quite what—ghouls were not skilled at imagination. Their world was a concrete one, one of stone and flesh. Struggle and survival. Survival predicated on others’ deaths. Far in the future, when our sun grows ever larger, scorching the earth. When seas become poisonous and men are needed to guard the crypts from the scavengers of the dead. A ghoul-poet will share stories of love and loss, death and resurrection. Tombs is a beautifully written examination of the human condition of life, love, and death, through the prism of a dystopian apocalypse.

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The book is compiled of what we could say are short stories, which are divided into chapter like form. The stories are set in a postapocalyptic time where humanity as we know it does not exist anymore and the few humans that did manage to get this far are either ill or mutated.

The beginning of the book did not do a good job of describing of what we are heading into. Yes, we learn about how this all started in as few details as possible, but then at the start of the first story, we, again, receive little details on the scenery. We do not get long descriptive paragraphs of where the story is unfolding and we do not get any descriptions of how the creatures that now roam the Earth actually look like. This is an important thing that we should know, especially in a postapocalyptic dystopian universe. And we need to know it right off the bat. Not to mention that it is supposed to be a horror story too. If we are to fear the creatures we need a reason to fear them, not because the book tells us so.

Some of the characters are too plain. We do not learn any solid background about them and, for example, while we do get a sneak peek in Towli’s head (I am using him as an example, there are many more other characters, not just him), there is basically no real thought processes going on. He does not have any capacity of real thoughts and whether or not it was meant to be this way, it does not appeal to me as a reader, to be excluded from that also, apart from the descriptions I have already mentioned.

The stories are okay, but then again, some are just very plain. There is just no depth to some of them, no bigger meaning. One could argue that they have questionable content or are rather graphic, but that does not cut it for me. I believe that is what is expected in horror genre. And some do not even have that. Reading through some of them just made me regret it as I felt like I am wasting my time. Some characters come and go, some of them die, and even though I have read a 50 page long story with that character included, I do not feel any grief regarding their death.

What I consider the best thing about the book is the structure. We get a certain view in one of the stories and then in the next one it switches the view, in order for us to view it from the other perspective. I believe that is done really well and at the end, makes us think about how it the world looks like from the eyes of another.

I believe these stories need to be featured in a bigger world that is greatly described. So that it actually makes us think about this kind of future, if it were to happen. And makes us fear it. A dystopian fiction should also offer a fresh perspective on the issue at hand (in this case, the sun expanding), but apart from the aftermath, I was not offered any of that.

Book recommendation: 6/10

At the Mountains of Madness – H.P. Lovecraft (OLD REVIEW)

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This is going to be a very short review. There is nothing much to say here, sadly. I would like to state that I have and will defend H.P. Lovecraft as one of the best writers ever, but this book is definitely not up to his standard. I went into this book expecting to experience some real horror and mystery that would not let me put down the book. I got everything other than that.
There is just so much describing going on that you would think, in the first few pages, you are reading a geography book about the history of different kinds of rocks. You would think that he is just trying to set the scene so you can imagine the place better, but this just goes on throughout the whole book. Descriptions after descriptions, even the monsters could not escape the real horror here. It just ruined the whole story, because the story itself was really not that bad, but the realization was awful.
It is awfully tiring to read this book. If you are a fan of long descriptions of things that you do or do not care about, then this is most certainly a book for you. If not, stay away.

Book recommendation: 3/10