Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

“Keep a fire burning; a fire is what saves you.”

Such is the number one rule in Margot’s household, set by her mother before she could even walk. 17-year-old Margot lives with her emotionally distant mother in a small town where it is difficult to find peace and solitude. They constantly struggle to get along, butting heads at the smallest of issues while ignoring the largest insecurities plaguing them. However, nothing compares to the biggest secret held from Margot; the girl has no idea where she came from, and her mother gives no clues or mention to any extended family. Eventually, several discoveries lead her down a new path, leaving home to gain independence and seek out the truth behind her mysterious origins.

Burn Our Bodies Down depicts the journey Margot takes to discover that hidden side of her history, to a town called Phalene. As the story develops, we are introduced to characters within the town, each reacting to Margot’s appearance in an unexpected way. One of my favorite elements of this book is the characterization of Margot and her new friend Tess, foils in ideas and influences. Margot sees the world through the eyes of someone living a tragedy, unable to get a firm grasp on a stable and happy life. Tess, on the other hand, is privileged enough to see the world as a written tragedy, experiencing the horrifying events that unfold as if they were a story and not someone’s real life. She treats her new friend’s dilemma as a mystery to be theorized about, not realizing that her life can too become tragic until it’s too late.

As the story unfolds, tension builds to the point where we can only throw blind guesses at the page, with a final reveal that sent chills down my spine. Themes of responsibility, love, and empathy reign supreme throughout the novel, creating a beautiful coming-of-age story (if you consider horrifying supernatural occurrences to be typical in a teenage experience). Unlike Power’s previous book “Wilder Girls”, I found this book difficult to get into. However, knowing the author’s potential, I luckily stuck with the story as it picked up steam. The final chapters are a whirlwind of shock and excitement that I was grateful to experience, and wholeheartedly recommend the book to any fan of mysteries, thrillers, and emotional dramas.

Bailey L.

Game Review: Eyes

The game eyes is a horror game that has the player navigate through a mansion in hopes to find twenty money bags. If you get the twenty money bags through the door your free, but there is a catch. The house consists of one spirit that wanders around trying to ensure that you do not leave.

There are three floors and to find the money bags you must search in cupboards, drawers, and shelves. 

This game is different from every other game because around the house there are symbols of eyes drawn on the walls and when you collect them they show you what the spirit sees. This can help you tell what floor the spirit is on and if it is safe to leave the room or not. 

When the spirit is within ten feet of you everything around you will start to rattle, you will start to hear heavy breathing, and rats will start coming out of the floorboards. 

Overall the CGI in the game is very well done and looks realistic. The plot and goal of the game are very intriguing. The game is very fun to play especially in the dark and I would recommend this game to anyone who likes jumpscares. 

-Sanjana S.

Book vs. Movie: “The Shining”

I have spent the last couple weeks making my way through Stephen King’s The Shining a horror literature classic that my dad gave me for Christmas. As I was reading the book, my parents asked me about some familiar and iconic movie scenes and how I enjoyed reading them. After finishing the book and not coming across those scenes, I realized that there were some stark contrasts between the novel and Stanley Kubrick’s re-imagined classic. Thus, I decided to do research and have conversations with my dad about the differences between the two entertainment sources, and analyze their impact on their respective audiences.

Several subtle differences to the atmosphere have occurred to properly terrify audiences according to the type of media consumed. For instance, Danny’s interaction with the “wolf-man” is replaced with Wendy’s vision of a man in a bear suit in the movie. While both concepts are frightening in description and convey similar themes, the “wolf-man” is more cartoonish and sudden, showing the experience as one would expect from a terrified child’s mind. However, the movie interpretation is more unnerving than a typical jumpscare, showcased in a quick zoom shot that cannot be as successfully accomplished in a literary style. These differences in interpretation thus offer a similar effect using entirely different scare techniques, both appropriate for the interpretation and entertainment style it’s present in. Additional scenes, such as Danny turning a corner to find himself faced with the twins and the blood-filled elevator, are not present in the book due to their unnerving and sudden appearances, something that cannot be done through King’s detailed descriptive writing. The strongest and most important setting difference between the book and the movie is the animal-shaped hedges, replaced in the move by a maze. This has a profound effect on the plot, and is known as one of the most memorable features of the film’s Overlook hotel.

Concept and character differences make up an even more influential part of the contrast between the two versions. In King’s book, it is made abundantly clear that while Jack has his demons to deal with regardless of his position, the hotel is genuinely haunted and a large factor in his eventual descent into madness. This is shown through his son Danny, and the kid’s ability to sense the ghosts of the Overlook through what the cook Halloran calls “The Shine”. In the movie, however, Danny’s power is less intense, and we are forced to question if Jack is truly seeing things and going crazy due to his own guilt and violent tendencies. One of my least favorite aspects of Kubrick’s adaptation is his treatment of Wendy Torrance, the leading lady of the story. In the novel, Wendy is much more powerful and independent, able to defend herself and her son from Jack. She even goes as far as to use a tiny shaving razor to defend herself, showing her resourcefulness when faced with impossible odds.

Because a story is always most well known for its plot, it is important to take note of the plot differences between the two media forms. In the book, the story ends with Halloran trudging through the snow to rescue Danny, taking the mother and son away on a snowmobile as the Overlook explodes with Jack inside. However, the movie takes a more eerie and suspenseful approach, all while killing off Halloran once he steps inside the hotel. Jack chases Danny through the hedge maze, and he eventually escapes, leaving Jack to freeze to death in his madness. The movie closes with an image from a 1920’s scrapbook picture, Jack being seen at the center of the party, symbolizing how Jack has become one of the eternal ghosts of the Overlook. Due to plot differences, this haunting final image does not present itself in the novel. Additional plot differences such as Jack’s weapon (an axe in the movie and a mallet in the novel) and the fate of Jack’s play are changed for the sake of forwarding the plot, allowing for characters to meet certain fates or build up to truly terrifying moments.

The Shining as a whole is a brilliant story filled with terrors, dread, and undeniably interesting characters. Both materials have stood the test of time and lived up to their reputation. As a literature fan, I am impartial to King’s original story due to its fascinating writing style and descriptions of themes and slow dread building to the plot’s climax. However, I also give credit to Kubrick’s film for its ability to terrify audiences in its own way. While not exactly holding true to the source material and thus an inadequate adaptation, it carves its own path in horror media as a phenomenally crafted film with its own story to tell.

-Bailey L.

The Shining by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was, and still is, a well-renowned author known for his science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories and novels.

Born in Waukegan, Illinois, Bradbury’s start as a writer began very early on at the age of 12. He had a fateful encounter with a carnival magician by the name of Mr. Electrico who proclaimed “Live forever!” to which Bradbury decided to never stop writing.

Soon after this encounter at age 14, the Bradbury family moved to Los Angeles. When the Great Depression hit, Bradbury couldn’t afford to attend college so he instead attended the local library three days a week for ten whole years to acquire his education.

Over the course of his career, Bradbury published thousands of literary works including 400 short stories and 50 novels. In addition to this, Bradbury has also earned dozens of awards including the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award, and the Pulitzer Prize Citation.

I was first introduced to Ray Bradbury in the 6th grade with one of his short stories titled All Summer in a Day. The story is about a group of students who live on the never-ending rainy planet of Venus that have never seen the sun with the exception of a young girl named Margot who only moved to Venus five years prior. As our class read through in monotone uninterested voices (as most children do), I remember sitting there in awe at his simple yet elaborate descriptions of simple things such as the sun or the rain, the fantastical world he created on Venus, and the development of the characters in only a couple of pages. I remember that being the first time a short story truly made me feel something, like a deep pit in my chest.

The second short story I ready from Ray Bradbury was A Sound of Thunder, a story about time travelers who have something in drastic in store when they arrive in the past and return to the present. It was in this short story that I was truly enamored by his descriptions of the dinosaurs which were so incredibly elaborate that I felt like I was standing right there in front of them. It was when I read this short story that I set my own goal of creating scenes of such immaculate sensory description.

Ray Bradbury was not only a spectacular author but a person with an incredibly inspiring story and a true passion for something he loved to do. If you’re looking for a good long read or a good quick read, this is an author that will give you something interesting to read for years and years on end.

-Elia T.

The works of Ray Bradbury are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They may also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

GTFO Game Review

GTFO, an action-packed horror game filled with twists and turns. As you drop through levels and levels of zombie-filled rooms, players team up in groups of fours to try and survive. Choosing different weapons, strategies, and equipment, each team member must think hard about what they can contribute to the group’s survival. This game was extremely fun, and my friends had a blast screaming, shooting, and laughing together while playing GTFO.

I want to talk about the graphics and gameplay of GTFO. This game was insane. It had amazing graphics and was extremely realistic. When my friends and I were dropped down into the hot zone filled with zombies, the music and ambiance of our surroundings were amazing. The heavy breathing and rain sound effects really made me feel like I was the person being dropped down. The zombies and guns both looked very realistic and were very scary. When a player killed a zombie, there was blood that splattered onto the screen, and I really liked that small detail.

GTFO was both extremely fun and difficult. It took me a long time to get past the first couple of levels with my friends, but I enjoyed the challenge. I don’t think this is one of the games that should be easy, and I personally liked the tense situations that you were put in. Because of these difficult situations, our squad had to make very accurate callouts and we had to make sure our positioning was very accurate. I found playing GTFO with only 3 people was very difficult. You need to have a full squad of players in order to complete the levels. Luckily, you can go onto the GTFO discord and search for games to join. This allows players to get into games with other people, so they can have full squads to complete the levels with.

There were only a couple of problems I had with GTFO. I think the bad thing about GTFO was the difficulty. If someone did not have a full squad to play with and wanted to play with themselves or another friend, it would be very difficult to complete even the first level. Even though GTFO has a discord, a lot of the people on that server are very high level and do not help low levels. When they do, it is hard to follow along with the experienced players, and they tend to get mad at you. GTFO should try to add matchmaking with people of your skill level, so you could get through the levels much faster. Overall, GTFO was an amazing game. With amazing graphics, gameplay, etc, this game definitely deserves the hype it is receiving. Adding a matchmaking function would only improve this game. I rate it a nine out of ten.

-Daniel C.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Although the name of this book originally had me skeptical, as soon as I read the first page I couldn’t stop. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a novel by Holly Black that was published in 2013. Its genres include Drama, Horror fiction, and Young Adult Fiction.

This novel is about a girl named Tana and her journey to a Coldtown, where she is always one step away from death, or even worse, a vampire. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it was a heart-wrenching novel that was one of the most difficult to put down.

Tana’s world is centered around vampires, who are the apex predators. Without vampires, the news would be ‘boring’ and America, the only place where the spread of the vampires is somewhat contained, would have little to none to pride itself on. Coldtowns are where vampires or humans that are in the process of turning are sent. With boarded-up homes and bloodthirsty vampires rampant, the only way to describe the towns spread across the United States is… cold.

Although our current worries are far from turning into vampires, I find the characters in this book relatable. While trying to contain the virus known to them as vampires, today’s society works hard to contain Covid-19. Tara worries for her sister’s safety more than almost anything else, the same reason why I yell at my sister to put on shoes instead of flip-flops when going outside in the hopes that she doesn’t trip and fall.

As Tara is forced to journey into the deep center of a Coldtown, she makes friends, gets stabbed in the back, loses her sanity, and finds it again through the power of love and the undeniable fact that you are only as strong as you believe yourself to be.

-Apoorvi S.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Return to Fear Street: You May Now Kill The Bride by R. L. Stine

Return to Fear Street: You May Now Kill The Bride is the perfect balance of mystery and horror. Two sisters separated by decades, will they all come to the same terrible fate or will the curse be lifted?

I am not an avid reader when it comes to thriller/horror mystery, but this was an exceptional case. The different pockets of time threw me off from time to time, but there was always a plot twist that would grab me back in. This book oddly shows extreme forms of family problems and toxic relationships, which sadly seems to apply more now than ever in a society.
As you venture further into the story, you realize how much sorrow and anger there is in the world, and how the stories between the sisters paint an ugly picture. This story made me think about if such a horrid tale happened in my family, it gave me chills and a reality check. The tragic truth is jealous and acrimony weaved throughout this tale is what some people experience every day. The poor decisions we make based on an unjust prejudice make me gag.
Aside from that, I highly recommend this book. It was a thrilling adventure that taught me a small lesson along the way. Reading some parts of the book aloud assisted my understanding of the character’s thoughts and emotions throughout the book.
There is no true main character because the baton is passed off between two similar girls almost a hundred years apart. However, the issues and emotions they faced were extremely related, and it relates to most of us today. Even though the extremity is not on the same level, we all have had our shares of lethal relationships and moments of inflamed passion, that lead to disastrous events.
Long story short, an electrifying drama that will keep you up late reading it.
-Coralie D.
You May Now Kill The Bride by R. L. Stine is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

This chilling horror novel, set in the small town of Ludlow, Maine, captured my attention from the first sentence and kept it until the very end. It tells the story of Dr. Louis Creed and his family when they move from Boston to Maine. Louis, Louis’ wife Rachel, the Creed children, Ellie and Gage, and Ellie’s cat Church, settle into this new environment with mixed feelings.

From the first day they’re there, they experience strange occurrences and frightening events; on Louis’ first week at his new job as director of campus health services at the University of Maine, a student named Victor Pascow is brought in, severely injured. He says his last words to Louis specifically, warning him about the “pet sematary” that the story revolves around. 

Louis’ awareness of the pet cemetery prompts chilling dreams of Victor Pascow and the cemetery. This, combined with Rachel’s severe anxiety about death due to the traumatizing death of her sister as well as the family’s overall discomfort with moving, makes the family dynamic strained, quick to argue. 

The Creed’s neighbor, Jud Crandall, explains, after much prodding, the pet cemetery is known throughout the town to raise pets from the dead. In fact, when Church is hit by a truck speeding on the highway near their home, Jud takes Louis to the cemetery, showing him how to bring the cat back. However, the cat comes back different than he was before; he acts differently, and even his fur is coarser to the touch. 

Months later, when Gage suffers the same fate as Church did, the pet cemetery comes up as an option for Louis to get his son back, despite the horrifying consequences that his actions would bring. Louis comes back again and again to the thought of the cemetery, and he eventually makes a decision that destroys his life forever. 

Stephen King is a master at creating an aura of unease with his storytelling. The “pet sematary’s” involvement in the story builds with every chapter, making the book impossible to put down but also frightening to the core. The depiction of real human relationships and interactions between Louis, Jud, and the other characters are interwoven beautifully with the underlying horror, making it seem like this story could happen to anyone of us, wherever we are. 

Understandably, this book might not be for everyone; it has a tendency to spark nightmares and frightening thoughts for those unaccustomed to thriller novels, and even for those who are. Due to the amount of gore and unforgiving description of the worst parts of life, this book is likely not suitable for younger readers. However, for fans of horror like me, or those readers who are just in the mood to be scared, this novel is, in my opinion, one of the best written novels in the horror genre. 

-Adelle W.

Pet Semetary by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft

Aside from the horror classics of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and “The Call of Cthulhu” among one of Lovecraft’s most famous and known stories is “The Dunwich Horror”. The story is often criticized by scholars for being somewhat “formulaic” and for being the exception in Lovecraft’s ideas of an indifferent cosmos and humans being infinitely insignificant in the eyes of the universe.

Rather, the story is a classic battle between good and evil and is one of the few stories in which a hero is seen defeating the villain, although the triumph is ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Without spoiling too much, since I heavily encourage people, especially horror fans, to read the story, the tale is of the terror that is Wilbur Whateley and his family.

Born to the deformed albino Lavinia Whateley, they lived in Dunwich. Mainly isolating themselves from the rest of the world, Wilbur was obviously something else. Reaching maturity by the age of ten and being an eight foot, misshapen being who caused dogs around him to go into frenzies, Wilbur was being groomed by his grandfather, Old Whateley, in what many townsfolk presumed to be dark magic.

Progressively, their house increases in size as Old Whateley and Wilbur add more floors and enlarge it, to accommodate for… something. They shy away from people but routinely go to the top of Sentinel Hill to chant in odd hours before hiding away. It all goes downhill when Old Whateley dies, and Lavinia mysteriously disappears.

Overall, while the story is very in line with further rounding the Cthulhu Mythos as a whole, it is quite different from Lovecraft’s typical stories. This is more focused on humans and despite how little the great cosmos thinks of them, they were able to vanquish the horrible monstrosity, although the true threat still lurks in the dark periphery that humans are not allowed to glimpse into.

It feels real, Dunwich feels real, the terror of what characters go through feels real. It is the unspeakable terror that desecrates a small town. It lurks in the night but is preceding something far, far worse.

Nevertheless, humans prevented what would have been a global disaster, even if it may inevitably be temporary. While the story may not necessarily be about this triumph, but rather that we will never truly know the extent and power to which beings beyond us possess, and how many people are willing to give their devotion and whole life to it.

This is one of Lovecraft’s more accessible stories if you will. It is weird, yet grounded in his unconventional reality, and is an interesting mix of science fiction and horror. He gives vivid descriptions of the area and surroundings, immersing you into it, allowing you to visualize what types of horrors will befall this tiny outskirt village.

It is not like his typical stories, it has appeal for larger audiences, is weirder and almost surreal than his bone-chilling horror and is among his more popular works. He makes many exceptions to his rules and theories on this universe and mythos he has created, and although “The Dunwich Horror” bends that, it is done so to a great effect. A wonderful tale is created in the process, and his pantheon of horrors is expanded.

-Farrah M.

Th Dunwich Horror and other tales from H.P. Lovecraft are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Authors We Love: H.P. Lovecraft

Although many people do not know Howard Philips Lovecraft, what many people do know is his works. His stories precede him and are a staple in pop culture.

Born on August 20, 1890, in Providence, Rhode Island, Lovecraft was born the only child to Winfield Scott Lovecraft and Sarah Susie Philips Lovecraft. Throughout his childhood Lovecraft was shown to be remarkable and intelligent, being able to read and write at the age of 3.

Lovecraft did not begin to write actual stories until the early 1900s, with his first short story “The Alchemist” being published in 1916. Soon after, “The Tomb” and “Dagon” were published. “Dagon” is considered to be the first of Lovecraft’s works that would eventually be grouped in a collection called The Cthulhu Mythos, coined by a close friend, August Derleth.

This mythos, meant to encompass Lovecraft’s stories which focused on the terrifying unknown and the capricious nature of the universe, includes a pantheon of terrible god-like beings called The Great Old Ones. This is partially inspired by the Greek pantheon, albeit a twisted, nightmarish vision of gods that watch over the universe and earth.

Stories such as “The Call of Cthulhu”, “At The Mountains of Madness”, “The Dunwich Horror”, and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” are the most popular of Lovecraft’s. He is also considered the pioneer of cosmic horror, a subgenre which emphasizes the insignificance of human’s actions because in the grand scheme of the universe we are nothing but playthings to horrors that lurk just beyond our solar system.

Other items from Lovecraft’s stories, such as the fictional city of Arkham, the nefarious Necronomicon, and even the great Cthulhu himself have been referenced in pop culture despite many people not knowing the true origins from which these staples come from.

Lovecraft’s stories as a whole are extremely well written and do a good job of sucking the reader in and keeping hold of them until they finish the story. Although the dialogue occasionally comes off as somewhat stilted and unnatural they are nonetheless excellent, terrifying stories. They are unsettling and they leave the reader with a looming sense of dread unlike any other.

The idea of an uncaring universe, with beings that we cannot even begin to comprehend existing just outside of our peripheral vision, brings out that instinctual, deep fear of the unknown, and the fear of being all alone.

The works of H. P. Lovecraft are available at the Mission Viejo Library.