In a full disclosure moment, I’m still eating down the Easter candy that I bought too much of. Not as much as last year, but my son doesn’t care about jellybeans in enough proportion to the amount that I buy.
I’m going to justify this with the amount of darkness that I seem to have read since finishing my sweet two little cozies. Yeah, people died and disappeared, etc but it wasn’t like, carnage.
I decided to read some of Ania Ahlborn’s backlist for that.
I thought she was self-published. I swear that Seed, her first book, was self published before Amazon picked her up. I didn’t realize the remainder of her books were Amazon’s presses, that dance low priced delicious books before our eyes.
Self-published can be difficult to determine, especially with all the author services nowadays that you can pay for yourself rather than a publishing house. I’ve had some bad experiences with some self published stuff, but that’s not the norm for me anymore. I discovered her through Amazon’s marketing and I’ve loved her since.
I’m currently reading the actual self-published books that qualify for the BookRiot category. Also not disappointing so far, but decidedly lighter than my decision to spend a week reading/listening to two of her horror stories back to back, as well as sneaking in a line jumper that hurtled itself into my arms at the library which is also depressing.
See? I need all the jellybeans. All of them.
The Shuddering, Ania Ahlborn
A bunch of friends get together for a last hurrah weekend in a family chateau before the chateau officially changes hands. Before the brother of a twin pair is taking off on a new adventure that will pull him away from his sweet, do the right thing second grade teacher sister in the throes of a divorce. Before his best friend and her ex boyfriend moves forward into a new life, sealing their long ago but still raw breakup against a reunion. And the forest is full of intelligent, never before seen, people eating nightmare monsters.
I don’t know how I forgot that she never has happy endings. I won’t spoil it more than that, but it’s not that much of a spoiler when it’s a hallmark of her books. This is gory and gruesome, grosser I think than the other four of her books I have read (although I read The Bird Eater and Seed quite a time ago), I can’t be sure. I liked the rhythm. It moved right along between horror and the story, the characters making close calls against the monsters before actually coming in contact with them, but she already described other people’s encounters with them so you knew what they did before the characters you truly came to care about came in contact with them. I found myself sitting in the parking lot at work, listening when I should have been going in, bingeing because I wanted to know how it was going to turn out.
I just took an online course in looking at horror in more depth, (I’ve been learning about all genres in internet course I have been buying lately, but that can’t be a bad thing) and I was looking at how the motives of the characters intertwined with the monsters. And how the monsters devastated the characters. Her horror (good horror) sets up achingly vulnerable people against scary and impossible odds and yet you root for them the whole time. I definitely enjoyed this. Even though it wrecked me. Because I have not read a single book of hers that resolves the horror. Not a one.
The Neighbors, Ania Ahlborn
A man moves in with a roommate to escape the oppressive and dead end life he was living with his alcoholic, agoraphobic mother, and finds a much scarier secret in the neighbors next door, who fix to entrap him in their nefarious ends.
This is the only one of hers I have read without a supernatural element. Through the beginning I was waiting to see what these neighbors truly were. Nefarious neighbors scheming under the veil of perfection made me think they were probably the devil, as he tends to show up dressed as everything you could ever wish for, and these people were certainly that. But they are human. They became dark from the disappointments/hurts/traumas in their own lives.
This is not the entire reason why I felt this one missed the mark. Not as spot on as her others. I thought the character’s motivations could be a little stronger, but I know that’s a hard element to hammer out. It’s not as gory, not as visceral (meant both ways there haha) as her other books. It even resolved more, to me at least, than her other books tended to, and that didn’t even make up for it. It didn’t grab me and hang on the same way. Maybe a more supernatural element would have helped up the ante. I don’t know.
I am also starting to notice she’s a real music lover. That part of her personality is seeping into her books. She writes intelligently about music and what it means to her characters. Very cool.
I still need to read Brother, The Pretty Ones, The Devil Crept In, I Call Upon Thee, and Apart in the Dark. And the one she has coming out in the fall. She’s talented and she knows how to sink her story talons into my brain.
I’ll make sure I have an abundance of some kind of comfort food if I do this to myself again.