Posts Tagged ‘suspense’

About a year or two ago, this one title became kind of a sensation in one of Facebook groups. Everyone was talking about it, raving that it was the next best thing in indie horror. Combined with a striking cover and name, I couldn’t help but grow curious. Sadly, my TBR list is already a mile high, so I had trouble getting around to reading it. Thankfully, I get plenty of reading done thanks to audio books, so when I found out the audio book for this novel was finally released, I scooped it up for my October read.

So, after all that hype and fanfare, is Stolen Tongues worth the wait?

Set mostly in California and Colorado, Stolen Tongues follows a fictionalized version of the author himself, Felix Blackwell, as he and his fiancée Faye go up to her parents’ cabin in the mountains as a little engagement present. However, the lovers’ weekend is interrupted when they find a strange object hanging from the trees, and later that night start to hear odd voices coming from the surrounding woods. Soon, Faye starts to walk and talk in her sleep, and it becomes clear that something is influencing her in her dreams. And it will stop at nothing to have her.

So, the suspense throughout this novel is phenomenal. The prologue itself would make a terrifying short story on its own, and the early scenes, where we have no idea what sort of monster we’re dealing with or how it’s doing what it’s doing, are some of the tensest, most heart-pounding scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. It’s also quite unsettling to see Faye undergoing changes due to the influence of the creature. Her personality warps at times, as do her memories, and you feel the narrator’s anguish and concern as she becomes someone he doesn’t recognize.

I also like the reverence and respect shown to Native American beliefs, both the beliefs themselves and indigenous people’s attitudes towards their beliefs and sharing them with outsiders. As the novel’s monster draws heavily from Native American culture, it’s refreshing to see so much respect. Often, horror that draws on Native American folklore and ideas doesn’t always include the very peoples from whom the folklore and ideas derive from, and when they do, not always in the most respectful manner, so it’s a welcome change to see said folklore, as well as Native characters, portrayed with such care.

Actually, the author includes at the end of the book an essay he wrote on writing Native American characters and horror based on their folklore, which I would read after you’re done with the novel.

Sadly, the novel isn’t perfect. After the reveal of what the creature is, some of the tension and mystery is sacrificed. The author does try to keep things creepy, especially after the narrator has a close-up encounter with the monster, but it’s not always successful. I also thought the ending was rushed and a letdown, with far too much telling, not enough showing, and not a finale epic or scary enough to match the rest of the novel.

I know me griping about showing vs. telling when I only just got better at that this year is rich, but it’s still a legitimate problem.

Overall, while it’s not the terrifying ride of suspense and creepy atmosphere that I was led to believe I was going to get, Stolen Tongues by Felix Blackwell is still a decent and chilling novel. Those sections where the tensions really works make it worth the read all on its own. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m going to give it a straight 4. If you’re still looking for something spooky to read this October, this book might be a good choice. I’m certainly glad I finally got around to reading it.

Another summer, and another Riley Sager novel has released. Not surprisingly, they’re kind of best when they’re a once-a-year treat. Still, leading up to getting his latest novel, Survive the Night, I heard a lot of mixed reviews on this one. Some loved the novel, other thought it wasn’t as good as his previous novels. When I got the novel, I started as soon as I could, eager to see what my own opinion was.

Taking on the horror trope of driving with a serial killer this time around, Survive the Night follows Charlie, a college student who loses her best friend in the worst way imaginable. Wanting to get away from school and all the reminders, Charlie signs up to share a ride with someone heading to her hometown in Ohio (woo-hoo!). However, she starts to wonder if her driver might not be all he says he is. If he might be a notorious serial killer. And if she might be his next target.

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed Sager’s previous works.

The opening third is quite good. There’s great setup for Charlie and her situation, as well as some great tension. When Charlie’s mental health is brought into the equation, it adds to the tension (though not in a negative way). And there’s a strong sense of unreality here. What’s real and what isn’t?

Plus there are the usual Riley Sager twists and reveals that we don’t see coming, and some of those are quite good. And the final fifty pages has some great scenes that kept me from putting the book down. Especially the second-to-last reveal.

However, the second and third halves really faltered. Some of the twists and reveals came too early or just felt silly, ruining the tension of the story and making me roll my eyes. One of the early reveals made me say out loud, “Really? Really? Way to ruin the mood!”

Other stuff just undid my suspension of disbelief, especially near the end. And in the early chapters, I felt like there were abrupt changes from past to present tense, which distracted me.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Survive the Night by Riley Sager a 3.1 out of 5. Not the best of his work by any means (that goes to Lock Every Door, and I hope the adaption of that book comes sooner rather than later). Still, it’s not terrible. Some of the choices Sager makes in the book that didn’t work for me might work for other readers. And he definitely kept the novel from becoming a cliched story given what trope the story is based on.

And it got me interested in checking out the movie Shadow of a Doubt, which is where Charlie’s name comes from. Can’t complain about that.

It just didn’t work for me as a novel. And while that’s not a bad thing, it is what I’m reporting.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll surely have two more blog posts out by the end of this week. Hopefully you’re not sick of me crowding your inbox by then.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares and be careful when driving with strangers.


Again, a reminder: I’ll be celebrating my ten-year blogging anniversary next month. To celebrate, I’ll be doing an Ask Me Anything, or AMA, on my blog. And one lucky participant will win a prize for participating! Just submit your question to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com by 11:59 PM on July 28th, 2021. Looking forward to reading yoru questions!