‘From Twisted Roots’ by S.H. Cooper
Finished on May 14, 2018
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From twisted roots comes poisoned fruit, and even the most wholesome families have their dark secrets.
Inside you’ll experience intimate first hand accounts of modern day murders, kidnappings, and violent revenge. Other stories are heartwarming with whimsical mysteries, gothic fairy tales, and supernatural monstrosities. Nothing is as it seems, nothing is safe, and anything is possible as you embark upon these thrilling tales to uncover the truth.
Aptly titled, this book is a delightfully twisted collection of short horror stories. Right from the start, Cooper draws you into her world and keeps you there. You never know what you’re going to get from one story to the next, but you know you’re going to enjoy the ride.
This collection includes the stories:
“Fran and Jock”
As a young girl, Sadie is gifted a talking teddy bear from each of her grandfathers. Each bear plays a recording of her grandfather saying, “I love you, Sadie”. They became treasured items in her household, especially after her grandfather’s passed away. But, as all kids do, Sadie grew up and lost interest in the toys. When she moves out, she leaves them at home with her parents.
Eventually, Sadie’s parents ask her to house-sit while they go on a trip. Glad to do it, she returns home and settles into her old bedroom full of memories. And her talking bears.
— This is a fun story with a charming, unexpected ending.
“The Signs Were All There”
A doctor who has a family history of experiencing death omens gets one about her daughter from a young patient. Not one to take something like that lightly, she frantically scrambles to get home to her daughter with terrible consequences.
— I really liked the atmosphere of this story. Cooper does a great job of making the reader feel her panic and fear. The pacing is perfect and not a word is wasted.
“As Long As There Are Children”
There’s rumored to be a carnival exclusively for children deep in the woods. Of course, this proves irresistible to Bill and his friends. Bill reluctantly brings his little brother, Noah, along unknowing they are both about to get the fright of their lives.
— I don’t know what it is, but I have always been a fan of creepy carnival/amusement park stories. This one has a very Stephen King feel to it, and I enjoyed it very much.
“Her Last Call”
Catarina is the cousin everyone loves to hate. She’s snotty and mean and just generally a not-great person, so when the main character’s mom insists Catarina come to stay for a week, she knows she’s in for the weekend from hell. When Catarina receives a phone call from a girl she’s bullied at school, things quickly spiral out of control.
— Who doesn’t like a story in which the bullied get revenge on their tormentor? This one is downright creepy.
“The December Tapes”
Libby Helmer gets abducted on her way home from school, and for the next several years, her family receives a package containing an audiotape of Libby speaking to them. Eventually, the tapes break Libby’s mother, and she refuses to listen.
— The plot of this story is original and gripping. Child abduction alone is a terrifying scenario, but to be tortured over and over again by the captor adds a whole new level of horror.
Audrey and Connor discover food missing from their house and realize their son, Jamie, has been stealing it. He says he’s been feeding “Smidge” beneath the house, and Smidge has a growing appetite.
— This story is so fun! If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I absolutely love a good monster story, and this is one of the good ones. I particularly like how vague Cooper leaves Smidge. I hate when we are “shown” the monster in too much detail. It’s so much creepier to me when we are able to imagine it on our own.
“The Ringing in My Ears”
An anesthesiologist suddenly starts hearing a ringing in his ears after his daughter is attacked.
— This is one of those stories in which the ending makes the story. It’s unexpected and bizarrely satisfying.
“Through the Peephole”
Elaine and Reg move into a new home, and Reg decides to install one of those doorbell cameras to keep Elaine safe. Especially while he’s away on business trips. One night, after he’s left for one of these trips, someone rings Elaine’s doorbell. Using the camera, she sees her husband on the porch demanding to be let in, but something is very, very off.
— There’s something inherently creepy about surveillance cameras, baby monitor cameras, etc. You never know what you’re going to see on the other end. This story does a lovely job conveying that scenario.
What would you do if you had to choose whose life is more important? More worth living? That’s the situation the man in this story is faced with.
— This wasn’t my favorite story in the collection, but it was still a good read.
“The Quiet Neighbor”
When a brother and sister move into a new house, they were warned about their weird, mean neighbor. At first, they avoid him and his anger, but after the brother’s fun new birthday present is snatched by the neighbor after it flies into his yard, the siblings decide to retrieve it. What they find in his house is beyond their wildest dreams.
— Oooh, I really enjoyed this story. It’s scary but strangely heartwarming in what the neighbor is willing to do for his wife.
“Going to Grandma’s”
Sheila’s grandma lives in a big, beautiful, Victorian home. But Sheila refuses to ever go there again after she spent a night in it after her own home burned down. Family secrets can be haunting.
— Dang, I love a good ghost story! I especially liked how what’s in the house seems to have changed over time. You don’t often see that in a ghost tale.
“The Aftermath of Murder”
What would you do if you discovered there’s a murderer in your family? That’s what happens to the Graham family in this story, and it changes thing forever.
— This is an interesting, compelling take on a terrible situation.
“The Gift That Keeps On Giving”
Sisters Jackie and Leah are best friends, despite Leah’s often bizarre behavior. She has always been fascinated by blood. That fascination turns frightening when Jackie buys Leah a gift cursed by blood.
— I liked this story. There are a lot of tales out there about cursed items, but Cooper adds her own, unique, spin with this.
Home alone, a teenage girl is frightened when the telephone keeps ringing a single time over and over again. When her parents come home, the truth of the situation is revealed.
— This is an absolutely lovely story. It hit me right in the feels, as the kids say.
When dozens of women go missing, everyone wants to know who’s taken them, but the truth is stranger than they expected.
— All I’ll say is Cooper does creature tales well.
A four-year-old girl’s affinity for spiders results in tragedy.
— This was not the story I expected it to be, and I’m so glad it wasn’t. This was my favorite story in the collection, I think. It’s got spiders, adults who don’t believe children, and something really nasty. What more could you want?
As an international pilot, Dad always brings his kids home exotic souvenirs. But the secrets they hold are life-destroying.
— This story is a continuation of another tale, “The Skeleton Key” in another of Cooper’s works, ‘The Corpse Garden’. It was a pleasant surprise to delve back into that world. Sometimes, the most monstrous things are humans themselves.
“The Lesson of the Tiger”
Sunny learned about patience through a story about a tiger. She learned that sometimes, it’s better to let keep the tiger calm than it is to run or to fight. This lesson comes in handy when a college boy thinks he is entitled to more than he is.
— I liked everything about this story, but I especially liked how to lesson gets twisted on its head.
“Daddy’s Little Princess”
After Fiona’s mother dies, her father vows to never let her feel bad again. But this is not the sort of parenting that’s good for a child. Or those in their life.
— The dad tries to do the right thing by his little girl but, sometimes, too much of a good thing can be really, really bad.
A father passes on his childhood “monster fighter” to his daughter to help her sleep through the night and gets more than they bargained for.
— Cooper really knows how to capture both what it’s like to be a child — the innocence and the fear — and what it’s like to be an adult. All of these stories show that, but perhaps none more than this one.
“From the Basement”
Cassie, sixteen, is asked to house-sit for her aunt when she goes on vacation. Cassie absolutely does not want to do it, but her parents force her. Her desire to get out of the house grows exponentially when strange sounds start coming from the basement.
— Oh, man. This story is scary because it could actually happen.
“Little Old Lady Magic”
When a teenage girl’s father dies, she discovers just the sort of person her mother really is. With the help of an unexpected friend, the score is evened.
— This is one of those stories that had me inwardly cheering by the end. It’s a real gem.
“My Brother’s Voice”
Kerri while on her way home from work gets abducted. During her ordeal, she holds onto a conversation she had with her cop-brother in which he told her, if anything ever happened to her, he would find her.
— The connection of family, of love, is tested in this story, and I loved it.
“The Little People”
Grandma always told the kids not to talk to the “little people”, but the surest way to make a kid do what you don’t want is to tell them what not to do.
— This story is a perfect example of childish innocence and grown-up mistakes.
Brad learns that his grandmother’s words just might be more powerful than anyone realizes.
— I love the idea of simple curses being bigger than they’re meant to be. I’m from the south, and people use the sorts of sayings Meemaw does all the time. They don’t really mean anything, but what if they *did*?
“The Past Repeats”
Sage’s birthday is approaching, and she’s worried she’ll never have another. Again.
— I am a fan of time-twisting tales, and this one is well-done.
Cooper’s work never disappoints. She has a way of telling a concise and vivid tale that leaves you satisfied yet somehow still wanting more. She’s a jewel of the horror genre.