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Reviewletts: Two Books That Scared Me

I don’t generally read or watch “scary” things. I avoid scary movies (much to the chagrin of the boyfriend, who loves them), and don’t normally pick up thrillers or horror stories. That’s why it’s particularly strange I read two books in the last few months that I’d consider scary — although I’m not sure how many other people would think that!

The Preservationist by Justin Kramon

the preservationist by justin kramonTo Sam Blount, meeting Julia is the best thing that has ever happened to him. Working at the local college and unsuccessful in his previous relationships, he’d been feeling troubled about his approaching fortieth birthday, “a great beast of a birthday,” as he sees it, but being with Julia makes him feel young and hopeful. Julia Stilwell, a freshman trying to come to terms with a recent tragedy that has stripped her of her greatest talent, is flattered by Sam’s attention. But their relationship is tested by a shy young man with a secret, Marcus Broley, who is also infatuated with Julia.

The Preservationist is Justin Kramon’s second book, and a pretty big departure from his first novel, Finny, a lovely coming of age story. I’m always interested in authors who write across genres, so when Kramon e-mailed to ask if I’d like a copy of The Preservationist I was excited to accept. Like FinnyThe Preservationist‘s main character is a young woman, Julia, trying to find her place in the world when a relationship changes her plans.

Although I don’t read many thrillers, The Preservationist felt pretty typical of that genre. Julia is an appealing narrator, and the two men in her life become more and less suspicious as the plot rolls forward. Even though I knew from the beginning that something was amiss, I was still surprised by the twists the story took and the way the conflict resolved. I’m not sure if this book made me a fan of thrillers, but it was certainly a fun read!

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

night film by marisha pesslOn a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years. For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself. Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.

I think Night Film was one of the most anticipated reads of 2013. Author Marisha Pessl hadn’t published a book since her lauded debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, in 2006, and the buzz about the format of this one was pretty high. Even though I don’t love scary things, my appreciation for Pessl as an author also convinced me to read this one.

Three thoughts: First, Night Film is a truly gorgeous book — lovely paper, crisp images, careful formatting. This is a book worth reading in print rather than electronically. Second, Night Film kept me up way, way past my bedtime because I was so damn creeped out. The intricate backstory of Cordova and his followers, the extensive use of documents (letters, reports, news stories) and extra features through an interactive app really make the world feel full and set an atmosphere. Third, the characters and plot of this story are so great. It was hard for me to put down, no matter how nervous it was making me. I highly recommend this one.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Preservationist from the publisher for review consideration. I bought my copy of Night Film.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sandy December 3, 2013, 5:44 am

    I heard some negative feedback on The Preservationist, maybe because they had loved Finny so much? But I’m right there with you on Night Film. I LOVED that book. I like creepy things, and that story was creepy, in a trippy kind of way.

    • Kim December 4, 2013, 7:07 pm

      I think that definitely could be it. The Preservationist is a very different book than Finny, so if you went in looking for similarities they just wouldn’t be there.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) December 3, 2013, 7:00 am

    I generally don’t like scary books but do want to give Night Film a try because of all the buzz.

  • Jeanne December 3, 2013, 8:04 am

    Usually I don’t like scary movies or books either, but I’ve read so much good stuff about Pessl I may have to look for Night Film.

    • Kim December 4, 2013, 7:08 pm

      I thought Night Film was awesome. Definitely creepy, but absolutely worth it.

  • Kelly from Readlately.com December 3, 2013, 11:36 am

    I stayed away from these two books for that exact reason!!

  • Rebecca @ Love at First Book December 3, 2013, 4:17 pm

    I like how you differentiated that Night Film is better read physically! Good tip! Thanks!

    • Kim December 4, 2013, 7:10 pm

      It’s really a beautiful book, especially if you appreciate well-crafted books 🙂

  • Sheila (Book JOurney) December 3, 2013, 5:45 pm

    I liked to be creep-ed out occasionally! I want to look at these more closely…. with a light on of course 🙂

  • Jenny @ Reading the End December 3, 2013, 7:23 pm

    Mm, I’m with you, I like it a lot when writers cross genres. I didn’t read Finny but heard a ton about it. I’d love to try a creepy story by the same author.

    Glad you liked Night Film! I love what a beautiful object it is, as well as being a really fun book.

    • Kim December 4, 2013, 7:10 pm

      It’s similar to how I feel about J.K. Rowling. I love that she plays around in different genres and does so moderately successfully.

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey December 3, 2013, 9:44 pm

    I don’t really do scary movies or books either, so it makes me extra excited about Night Film that you liked it even though you’re the same way. Plus the interactive app sounds very cool! I’d love if more books took advantage of technology like that.

    • Kim December 4, 2013, 7:11 pm

      I read through the last 200 or so pages in a rush with all of the lights in my house on, but loved every minute of it.

  • Andi @ Estella's Revenge December 4, 2013, 4:30 pm

    I keep waffling about Night Film, but I need to just bite the bullet.

  • Kailana December 4, 2013, 11:12 pm

    I am not sure if I thought The Night Film was scary… More atmospheric! 🙂 But, I loved it and am so glad I bought it instead of getting it from the library or listening to the audio. It is a pretty book despite anything else you might think about it!

    • Kim December 9, 2013, 7:38 pm

      The first part was atmospheric, but I was genuinely scared when they got to the property and were snooping around!

  • susan December 8, 2013, 6:32 pm

    Wow! I heard a couple different things about Night Film so I wasn’t sure if I should read it. But now you got it back on my radar. thanks. cheers

  • Athira December 11, 2013, 11:58 am

    I cannot wait to read Preservationist. I loved Kramon’s Finny, and Preservationist sounds great to me.

    • Kim December 14, 2013, 3:32 pm

      It’s good! Different, but good. I hope you like it.