The Donner party (sometimes known as the Donner-Reed party) was a group of American pioneers who attempted to migrate from California to the Midwest in 1847 but were caught in snow throughout a whole winter and had to resort to cannibalism to stay alive. This reimagining of that dark and mysterious part of American history takes the horror to a new level by introducing the question: 'What if they were being hunted?'
As is typical in proper Gothic fiction, the environment in which the story is set is as important as the story itself. The plot itself is rather simple - our young protagonist, Catalina, goes to stay with her cousin who has sent a number of worrying letters, claiming her husband, Virgil Doyle, is trying to kill her. Catalina travels to ‘High House’, their mansion in the mountains, and finds the Doyle family to be uptight, weird and at times, disturbing.
In this novel, Awad tries to find a new way of exploring this kind of female experience, pulling it from reality and turning it into something truly unique and fantastical. This is Mean Girls if Tina Fey had been on acid while she wrote it, mixed with a Stepford-Wife-colored version of The Craft. It includes a spritz of animal sacrifice, a dash of spontaneous body explosions and a pepper of reanimation.
‘The Lottery’ focuses on the community of a small unidentified American town who come together annually to select a member by chance to be stoned to death. The story addresses a number of different themes in its short text; that of violence, of mob mentality, of conscription, of meaningless sacrifice and scapegoats, of men and women carrying out their ‘duty’ unquestioningly no matter the human cost.
Alright, alright - so I’m a huge fan of Chuck Palahniuk and I’ve never read Fight Club. This book was only written 5 years after I was born (brace yourself - these book reviews might become even LESS timely because I read what I want, damnit.) What in the Tyler-Durden-lickin-Marla-repenting-spitting-in-rich-peoples-food-Sam-hell-is-this?
Damned is a visceral, pungent rollercoaster of a story that plunges Madison, the 13 year old daughter of a self-obsessed film star and billionaire couple, into the depths of Hell after her untimely demise.
I absolutely loved the style and wittiness of this book and its myriad of conversations regarding human nature, and a lot of dialogue I found excellent and fun. There are definitely issues regarding the portrayal of women, and LGBTQ+ issues, but I have scoured pre-existing reviews of this book and it appears that no-one else has felt quite as strongly as I have about it.
The Whitby Witches is a book about courage, history and magic. Two orphans are suddenly re-routed to Whitby to stay with Miss Boston - a spritely 90-something year old who walks up the famous 199 steps every day to keep her mind and body active. She needs this sharpness in spades as her friends start to die mysteriously, and the town that she knows and loves starts to crumble under a dark force.