The HMS Terror and HMS Erebus left port in England in 1845, crewed by sailors and explorers fully expecting to find the fabled Northwest Passage. They sailed west, making stops in Greenland and Baffin Bay, until they reached northern Canada. Then, somewhere around Devon Island, all trace of them was lost. The ships vanished into the pack ice; no one has ever known the truth of what became of them. In The Terror, Dan Simmons retells the factual voyage and surmises the terrifying last leg of the journey. The explorers had an experienced commander, two strong ships, the hopes of their countrymen on their shoulders, and fabulously promising food stores made possible by the recent invention of canning.

But everything went wrong almost immediately. Captain Franklin meets a grisly end early on. The ships quickly become useless when pack ice surrounds them and threatens to crush them into splinters. The grip of scurvy, starvation, and madness sink into almost all the crew. As if these natural terrors weren’t enough, a faceless, hungry, menacing terror is stalking them as they flee south across the ice.

This is a beefy book but definitely worth the effort. Simmons does a fantastic job of weaving truth with fiction; he makes the historical facts of the trip exciting and the conjecture completely compelling and believable. The science fiction-y elements of this book are subtle and scary, but the real terror comes from the natural world: an Arctic winter so frigid and unforgiving that it makes a Midwestern winter look tropical by comparison! This thrilling book is an excellent choice for anyone who likes adventure or historical fiction.

April 10-16 is National Library Week!  What a perfect time to check out some materials featuring libraries and/or librarians.

Here are a few of my favorites, and even though technically the main characters aren’t librarians, they definitely do spend a lot of time in libraries.  First off is The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason.  When they wrote this, they were fresh out of college, so their descriptions of academic life at Princeton really hit the nail on the head.  Also, the book’s plot reminded me of The Da Vinci Code, as the two main characters are close to solving the mysteries of an ancient Renaissance text that has confused scholars for centuries.  It’s fast-paced and there’s lots of code-breaking going on.

Another favorite is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  This is a lengthy Draculian tome, so it’s catalogued in the Horror section.  The book begins with a young woman exploring her father’s library when she discovers an ancient book with letters all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor.”  Generations of researchers have risked their lives and their reputations trying to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler, and to uncover this source of darkness and rid the world of it powers.  Now this young woman must decide whether to take up her father’s quest; her journey takes her from  Ivy League libraries to archives in Istanbul and Eastern Europe.  I don’t usually read Horror, but I couldn’t put it down.

Just think about it.  Celebrate National Library Week! And find the answers to your quest at your Davenport Public Library!

If you are a big fan of  scary movies, you should definitely check out  Paranormal Activity.   I saw the commercials, which were especially creepy and scary, and when a copy was available at the library I hesitated at first, but then decided to watch it.  I am glad that I didn’t watch it alone! 

A young couple, Katie and Micah, move into a new home near San Diego and are wary of strange sounds and activity in the middle of the night.  Trying to  figure out what is exactly happening when they are asleep, Micah sets up a video camera to capture what goes bump in the night.  Much of what the viewer sees is through the eyes of the camera.  The events start out small – unexplained footsteps and doors closing themselves.  But, as time goes on more ominus things start to happen to the couple.  By the end of the movie the paranormal happenings escalate so much, you have no idea what is next and the ending is definitely shocking.  The DVD contains an alternative ending which is worth watching too.  

I am normally not a fan of horror films, but Paranormal Activity was a fun watch and scary movie.  I checked out Paranormal Activity 2 which is a prequel to this movie that was just released and I will blog about it soon!

January 4

Dinner for Schmucks –  Steve Carell, Paul Rudd

Tim is a guy on the verge of having it all. The only thing standing between him and total career success is finding the perfect guest to bring to his boss’ annual Dinner for Extraordinary People, an event where the winner of the evening brings the most eccentric character as his guest. Enter Barry, a guy with a passion for dressing mice up in tiny outfits to recreate great works of art. When the duo shows up to dine, the lunacy kicks into high gear.

Catfish– Henry Joost

In late 2007, filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost sensed a story unfolding as they began to film the life of Ariel’s brother, Nev. They had no idea that their project would lead to the most exhilarating and unsettling months of their lives. A reality thriller that is a shocking product of our times, Catfish is a riveting story of love, deception, and grace within a labyrinth of online intrigue.

Big Love – Season 4 – Bill Paxton, Jeanne Triplehorn

For years, Bill Henrickson wished for a world free from the corrupt ‘Prophet’ of Juniper Creek, Roman Grant. Now that Roman appears to be out of the picture, Bill and his family can breathe easily, or can they? Season 4 continues the Henricksons’ story, as Bill launches another business venture: a Mormon-friendly casino. At the same time, Bill eschews a chance to seize the Prophet mantle at Juniper Creek in favor of an even more high-profile calling: running for State Senate in Utah.

January 11

Piranha – Jerry O’Connell, Elisabeth Shue

A group of strangers on Lake Victoria must band together to survive after a sudden underwater tremor sets free prehistoric man-eating fish

January 18

Justified – Season 1 – Timothy Olyphant

Due to his old-school style, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is reassigned from Miami to his childhood home in the poor, rural coal-mining towns in Eastern Kentucky. Lawman Givens is a tough, soft-spoken gentleman who never gives an inch. Contained are thirteen episodes, such as: Fire in the Hole; Riverbrook; Fixer; Long in the Tooth; and more.

January 25

The Girl that Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Swedish) – Noomi Rapace

The final installment of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. Lisbeth Salander is fighting for her life in more ways than one. In an intensive care unit and charged with three murders, she will have to not only prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce the same corruptgovernment institutions that nearly destroyed her life. Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now, Lisbeth Salander is fighting back.

Secretariat –  Diane Lane, John Malkovich

Behind every legend lies an impossible dream. Witness the spectacular journey of an incredible horse named Secretariat and the moving story of his unlikely owner, a housewife who risked everything to make him a champion.

October 5

Karate Kid – Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan

Dre Parker finds himself in China after his mother’s latest career move. He and classmate Mei Ying immediately fall for each other, but cultural differences make this friendship impossible. Even worse, his feelings make an enemy of class bully Cheng, who is quite adept at kung fu. Dre turns to maintenance man Mr. Han, who is secretly a kung fu master, and learns that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm. However, Dre realizes that this may be the fight of his life.

Splice – Adrien Brody

Two young scientists become superstars by splicing different animal DNA to create fantastical new creatures. Ignoring legal and ethical boundaries, the scientists, who are romantically involved, introduce human DNA into their experiment and risk the dawn of a terrifying new era.

Nightmare on Elm Street – Jackie Earle Haley

Five teenage friends living on one street all dream of a sinister man with a disfigured face, a frightening voice, and a gardener’s glove with knives for fingers. One by one, he terrorizes them within their dreams, where the rules are his and the only way out is to wake up. But when one among them dies, they soon realize that what happens in their dreams happens for real and the only way to stay alive is to stay awake.

October 12

Jonah Hex – Josh Brolin, John Malkovich

Having survived death, Jonah’s violent history is steeped in myth and legend and has left him with one foot in the natural world and one on the ‘other side.’ His one human connection is with Lilah, whose life in a brothel has left her with scars of her own. But Jonah’s past catches up with him when the U.S. military makes him an offer he can’t refuse: to wipe out the warrants on his head, he must hunt and stop dangerous terrorist Quentin Turnbul.

October 15

How to Train your Dragon

Hiccup is a Viking teenager who aspires to hunt dragons, but doesn’t exactly fit in with his tribe’s longstanding tradition of heroic dragon slayers. His world gets turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that challenges him and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely different point of view.

October 19

Please Give – Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt,

Kate has a lot on her mind. There’s the ethics problem of buying furniture at estate sales and marking it up at her Manhattan store. There’s the materialism problem of not wanting her teenage daughter to want the expensive things that she wants. There’s the marriage problem of sharing a partnership in parenting, business, and life with husband Alex but sensing doubt nibbling at the foundations. And worst of all are the neighbors: cranky, old Andra and the two granddaughters who look after her.

Predators – Adrien Brody, Topher Grace

Royce is a mercenary who reluctantly leads a group of elite warriors mysteriously brought together on a jungle planet. But when these cold-blooded human ‘predators’ find themselves in all-out war against a new breed of alien Predators, it’s the ultimate showdown between hunter and prey. Explore the Predator universe like never before with exclusive Motion Comics that take you beyond the movie.

The Girl Who Played with Fire ( Swedish) – Noomi Repace

Lisbeth Salander is a wanted woman. A researcher and a Millennium journalist about to expose the truth about the sex trade in Sweden are brutally murdered, and Salander’s prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and violent behavior makes her an official danger to society. Digging deeper, Blomkvist unearths evidence implicating highly placed members of Swedish society, as well as shocking details about Salander’s past.

Sex and City 2 – Sarah Jessica Parker

The fun, the fashion, the friendship: this hilarious sequel brings it all back and more as Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda come together to take another bite out of the Big Apple and beyond. What happens after you say ‘I do’? Life is everything the ladies ever wished it would be, but it wouldn’t be Sex and the City if life didn’t hold a few more surprises. After all, sometimes you just have to get away with the girls.

Horror Week at Davenport Library wraps up today with this terrifying suggestion from Lynn. Read at your own risk!

Handcarved coffins“Handcarved Coffins” (in the book Music for Chameleons) is a piece of novelistic journalism; Capote’s spare and economical style makes the ever-increasing  suspense immediate.

A state cop relates the stories of a series of horrific murders to Capote. The first are killed by rabid rattlesnakes that attack a couple as they open their car doors. The next die in a fire, trapped in their basement. The victims are sent a small, balsa coffin with a candid photograph of themselves. As the murders mount up, the recipients  are more aware of their fate and suffer unique torture as they wonder how and when they will die.

The murders are impossible to anticipate and guard against, and, seemingly, have no connection to each other. Their very randomness and the generic small midwestern town setting  give the murders a sense of universality – (this could happen to ME).  The fact that the victims seem entirely innocent makes the evil more purely heinous. Because this is supposed to be a piece of reportage, Capote never switches perspective to the psychopath, as is so common now. This is a piece of simple, classic horror. And it may be true.

Now it’s your turn – what’s your favorite scary book or movie? Leave a comment!

Here’s Tana’s gruesome entry for Horror Week at Davenport Library. Read it if you dare!

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The Washington Post describes The Gargoyle “as engrossing as it is gruesome, the kind of horror you watch with one eye closed.”  Truly, the opening scene is horrifying — we witness the unnamed narrator being burned alive.  Perhaps even worse, we then watch him endure seemingly endless and excruciating treatments for these burns, treatments so painful that he anxiously awaits his  release from the hospital just so he can finally commit suicide.   It should be noted that the narrator is no angel — he’s a coke-addicted pornographer, a cynical character most would consider undeserving of redemption.  Yet redemption he receives.  It comes in the form of visits from a beautiful sculptor, Marianne Engel, who specializes in sculpting gargoyles.  The only problem is that Marianne is a fellow patient, a schizophrenic from the pysch ward.   She regales him with stories of their love affair — an affair that supposedly took place over 700 years ago in Germany, when she was serving as a scribe in the monastery of Engelthal and he was a wounded mercenary.

As Marianne continues to visit, she shares other tales of deathless love from other countries (Japan, Iceland, Italy) and she earns the trust of both the patient and the hospital staff.  It is into her care that he is released. Still, all is not well.  Marianne begins a frenzy of work on her final 27 sculptures and the narrator deepens his dependence on morphine.  To break his addiction, he literally goes to Hell — here the author leans heavily on allegories from Dante’s Inferno.

Fantastic fiction?  Perhaps.  Still, a definite page-turner — as long as you can keep one eye open.

Rita brings us this terrifying recommendation for Horror Week at Davenport Library.

This movie is the reason I NEVER go to scary movies. Wait until Dark was produced in 1967. It starred Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin and Richard Crenna. It was being shown at the Capitol theater in downtown Davenport. A fellow worker and I went to see it as we both enjoyed the work of Audrey Hepburn. It scared the beejebees out of me. The scarest for me was you thought Audrey Hepburn had finally killed Alan Arkin, and the only light on the screen was from the refrigerator  door. All of the sudden Alan Arkin leaps out of the dark into the light of the refrigerator door. I remember everyone in the Capitol theater gasped!!!!It took me weeks to sleep at night, as every time I closed my eyes I saw this scence.

Wait Until Dark is an innovative, highly entertaining and suspenseful thriller about a blind housewife, Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn). Independent and resourceful, Susy is learning to cope with her blindness, which resulted from a recent accident. Susy is terrorized by a group of criminals who believe she has hidden a baby doll used by them to smuggle heroin into the country. Unknown to Susy, her photographer husband Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) took the doll as a favor for a woman he met on an international plane flight. Alone in her apartment and cut-off from the outside world, Susy must fight for her life against a gang of ruthless criminals, led by the violent, psychotic Roat (Alan Arkin). The tension builds as Roat, aided by his gang, impersonates police officers and friends of her husband in order to win Susy’s confidence, gaining access to her apartment to look for the doll. The climax of the film, a violent physical confrontation between Susie and Roat in her dark kitchen, is one of the most memorable and frightening scenes in screen history. All performances are outstanding, particularly those of Audrey Hepburn who plays a vulnerable, but self-reliant woman, and Alan Arkin, in perhaps his best role, as the ruthless, manipulative Roat. Allmovie.com

Horror Week at Davenport Library continues with Bill’s bone-chilling suggestion.

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I generally don’t seek out media that scares the hell out of me. I’m highly suggestible and it seems a little too masochistic.

But, if you’re a glutton for punishment, any of The Exorcist trilogy will mess with your mind when the lights are out.

There’s something about the unnatural voices, inhuman body movements, haunting use of classical music, and periodic interruption of calm with the occasional terrifying act.

The Exorcist line will have you groping for the lamp and checking the doors after every creak.

To help get you in the mood for a deliciously frightening Halloween, the librarians at Davenport Public Library are going to share some of the favorite blood-chilling books and movies. Read on if you dare!

GentlemenI’ll get things started with an episode from the late, lamented tv series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “Hush”, from the 4th season, has almost no dialogue, but it’s this very silence that adds to the horror. One night while everyone is asleep, The Gentlemen – tall, spectral figures dressed like funeral directors – magically steal the voice of everyone in Sunnydale. The people panic and chaos reins. The next night The Gentlemen, accompanied by their gruesome, Igor-like henchmen, go in search of their first victim. The trapped man is unable to scream for help and The Gentlemen cut out his heart.  Of course, Buffy, Xander, Willow, Giles and company soon find a solution, but not before everyone is thoroughly terrified.

There are two things that completely freaked me out about this show – the fact that no one could speak (and therefore were unable to call for help) and the fact that The Gentlemen, their skeletel faces grinning widely, floated above the ground as they wandered through the silent town searching for victims, their terrifying helpers limping along at their sides. I couldn’t look out the window after dark for months after seeing the show.

Written and directed by series creator Joss Whedon, this episode was nominated for an Emmy for Best Writing and is often included in lists of 10 best Buffy episodes.