April 2020 Reading Wrap-up

While March seemed to drag on forever, April passed by in a blur. Due to all of the chaos we’ve been dealing with since mid-March, my blog posts suffered, and I failed to post a March wrap-up as well as an April TBR Talk. Things are still crazy, and I feel like I’ve been working even more now despite doing all of my appointments from home. My reading time has suffered a bit, but I managed to squeeze in a decent number of books for the month of April, so I’m not too disappointed in the outcome.

Here’s my April reading wrap-up:

Title Author Rating Recap
Bad People Craig Wallwork 5 One of the best thrillers I’ve read in a while—can’t wait for the sequel!
Husk Rachel Autumn Deering 5 I adored this novella and am patiently waiting for the author to release something new.
Monsters and Animals J.F. Gonzalez and Wrath James White 4 I think this counts as my first true extreme horror experience, and I won’t forget it. Ever.
Dead Daughters Tim Meyer 5 Meyer’s work moved higher up on my TBR list after another stellar read.
Saint Sadist Lucas Mangum 5 This novella was a binge read. I ordered 4 more of the author’s books immediately after I finished reading it.
Normal People Sally Rooney 5 The only read on my list with no elements of horror this month. I binged this in less than 24 hours. It’s one of my favorite books. Currently watching the new adaptation on Hulu and I’m obsessed.
Broken Angels Graham Masterton 4 Another thriller in the Katie Maguire series from this author. I’ve always loved stories set in Ireland, and that’s what originally drew me in to this series. I’ve grown attached to some characters and will continue to make my way through these.
Shock Rock Volume 1 Various; edited by Jeff Gelb 3.5 An early 90’s anthology of rock-themed horror fiction. There were several standouts in this collection, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more of those authors’ work.
Jedi Summer with the Magnetic Kid John Boden 5 I treasure John Boden’s words. Everyone should be reading his work. I’d been saving this, but once I saw that there’d be a new edition coming from Poltergeist Press this summer, I knew I had to read it. Loved it, as expected. I’ll write a proper review for it soon!
Vampyrrhic Simon Clark 4 This is what I’d call a creeptastic vampire novel. There are a couple of scenes in particular that I’ll never forget. Between this one and BLOOD CRAZY, I’ve been convinced to read more from this author.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s May TBR Talk post…

Book Review: SAINT SADIST by Lucas Mangum

Are you a horror junkie like me? Do you like books that make your jaw drop and give you a book hangover? If so, you might want to add this one to your list. When it comes to obtaining a true adrenaline fix, good horror does it for me. Well-written horror fiction is what gets me jazzed. Whether I’m scared, or just left stunned and speechless, it’s a serious rush. These type of reads make me want to get to work promoting horror and singing the author’s praises, and SAINT SADIST was that type of book for me.

If you read the synopsis, you’ll know that this story contains some heavy stuff. Right from the first page, I could sense it was going to be a difficult read at times. It was, but I simply could not pull myself away from this one. I was immediately drawn into the story, and propelled along by both the short chapters and the style of the prose. The author has a great ability to tackle some heartbreaking topics while injecting the story with stunning language and hints of hope for the characters’ redemption.

I really enjoyed the insight given into the main character’s mental state. The look into her thoughts and motivation behind her actions made the reading experience more immersive for me. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of her ambivalence about where she belonged, and the visions that she experiences throughout her journey. These scenes were visceral and they intensify as the story progresses. I’ve always been fascinated by cults, so I enjoyed that aspect of this tale, as well as the exploration of other themes, including religion and the effects of abuse. I’m also a fan of well-done figurative language, and this book contains some gorgeous and emotionally effective phrases that I found myself reading more than once.

I feel like giving any more detail would spoil the story, so I’ll end by saying this: I totally understand why this book was nominated for a Splatterpunk award. It pushes the envelope and takes the reader to uncomfortable places, while providing an exploration of some touchy subjects. This read truly packs a punch. Mangum’s writing explores some of the worst horrors of humanity with a touch of grace, and I’m excited to experience more of his work.

5/5 Stars

Book Review: DEAD DAUGHTERS by Tim Meyer

I’ve been on a roll with reading some solid 5-star thrillers lately, and DEAD DAUGHTERS is no exception. This is only my second read from Tim Meyer, and while I never had doubts I’d be seeking out more, reading this novel just confirmed that fact and bumped his other books higher on my TBR pile.

It’s always great to discover authors who can write across genres, and I’ve definitely noticed that is one of Meyer’s strengths. His novel THE SWITCH HOUSE was a heart-pounding story with my favorite triple threat—horror, humor, and heart. I was pleased to discover that DEAD DAUGHTERS offers up the same experience in a slightly different package. It’s a dark thriller with elements of horror, full of disturbing images that I won’t forget any time soon.

I was gripped by this story from the beginning, fully invested as I learned more about the characters and watched their experience unfold. This author does an excellent job creating characters that the reader comes to care about. The empathy came easy for me—it never felt like I was searching for relatable or redeemable elements about these characters. I even found myself conflicted about my feelings for the antagonists later on in the story. The dialogue, details, and insight into the characters’ experience all work together to gain investment from the reader.

I mentioned that this story had a hold on me from its early pages, and this only intensified as I moved further into the book. I felt a slow, creeping dread from the moment things begin to go south for Drew and his family, and this continued to build throughout the novel. By the time I reached the last 100 pages or so, I had to force myself to put the book down. Once I picked it back up, I couldn’t flip through fast enough—I just had to know what was coming next. There are many twists and turns in this story—I thought the mystery and the anticipation of what was coming were so well done. Meyer kept me on my toes the whole time I was reading this, and just when I thought I had it figured out, I was wrong.

It’s tough to say more about this one for fear of giving away too much—no spoilers here! I’ll just sum this up by sharing that I am excited to see what Tim Meyer writes next, and to catch up on his previous work that’s on my shelf. I’m starting to see a pattern here. Not only does Meyer’s work contain the elements I’ve listed above, but it also exudes authenticity, and that’s something I’ll always show up for as a reader.

5/5 Stars

Publisher: Poltergeist Press

Release Date: April 16, 2020

Book Review: HUSK by Rachel Autumn Deering

“She reminded him of no one, and he loved her for it.”

That’s just one of many quotable lines from this book, and it sums up how I feel about this story. It’s unique and the author has a gift with words. I caught myself re-reading many of the lines and I could easily make a list of my favorites here. I won’t do that, because it would give away too much, and this story needs to be experienced individually by each reader. Instead, I’ll just sum up some general thoughts while doing my best to avoid spoilers.

I recently picked up a copy of HUSK for a buddy read, and I’m sorry that I didn’t get to this novella sooner. Prior to this, I’d only read one of the author’s short stories, which I enjoyed. I absolutely adored the writing in this novella. It starts off rather intense, and I (not surprisingly to most of you) teared up a couple of times within the first two chapters.

I immediately felt empathy for the protagonist, Kevin, and this carried on throughout the entire story. I’ve never been to war and experienced the related trauma, and my family experience was different than that of this character, but I was still able to connect with the story. This was mostly due to the author’s excellent character development and descriptions of Kevin’s relationships and his inner thoughts and feelings. My favorite parts were the descriptions of his love of Halloween—this really struck a chord with me and was so relatable.

There’s a bit of everything I enjoy about a good story within these pages—most of all, it feels authentic and has a lot of heart. There are moments of heart-pounding terror, both human and supernatural in origin. It’s a fast-paced read and was a real page-turner for me. Yes, I had some questions that went unanswered, and in some stories this doesn’t work for me. However, with this one I felt ok that I was left to wonder about some aspects. I thought it worked well as a shorter story with a bit of mystery lingering by the end.

I went to bed shortly after reading this in one sitting, and I could not turn off my brain. The story swirled around in my mind for days, and left its mark on me. At this point I’ve read enough from this author to know that I’m a fan. I’ll be on the lookout for any of her previously published work that I haven’t read, and I hope that there are more stories to come in the near future.

5/5 Stars

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: BAD PEOPLE by Craig Wallwork

I’m fairly certain I can count on one hand how many thrillers I’ve read in the past year or so. I’ve been so caught up in the world of horror fiction that I haven’t strayed much with my reading choices for a while, but I do enjoy a good crime thriller here and there, especially when the story contains elements of horror. Recently I discovered such a book, when I began reading BAD PEOPLE.

First off, I have to say that while I “see” most stories in my mind as I’m reading, there are certain books that just beg to be adapted to film or television, and this is one of them. Reading this story was like watching a great movie—there are certain scenes burned onto my brain because the descriptions were so vivid. The story starts out rather calm as we’re introduced to some key characters, and I’d say that the first half is a slow burn, but in the best way possible. The author did a great job laying the groundwork with the main character’s background, and the setting itself played a strong role in the dark and moody atmosphere. For the first half of the book, it felt like there were storm clouds hanging overhead, slowly brewing something ominous—and then the downpour was unleashed in the second half. At this point I felt the tension and terror intensify, and I couldn’t put it down.

The character development in this story is well-done. I felt like I had a good sense of who the main players were (despite some surprises), and I got to know them without ever feeling like there was too much information. I grew attached to a couple of the characters and felt a lot of empathy for them. In my opinion, this is one of those books in which there are no wasted words. There were moments in which I actually felt frightened (which doesn’t happen to me often), and just some very cinematic and gruesome scenes that I won’t ever forget. I’d like to keep this spoiler free, so I’ll limit myself to a few other thoughts.

When I thought I knew what was happening earlier on in the story, this one kept me guessing. I loved that it kept me on my toes as a reader, and I appreciated the dark and moody vibe that I felt throughout this book. It’s very much a unique story, but as I watched it play out in my mind, it reminded me of how I felt watching some favorite crime thrillers on television (Season One of True Detective came to mind, as did The Killing). There are some supernatural and religious/cultish themes in this story, and I really enjoyed that aspect as well.

Like I mentioned before, it’s been awhile since I’ve read a thriller, and this one was a perfect selection. I did have a few questions at the end, and I just found out today that there will be a sequel coming in the near future. I’ll be on the lookout for the continuation of this story, while also keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll someday see a screen adaptation. This one ranks fairly high for me—I’d gladly place a hard copy on my shelf next to the likes of some other favorite thrillers, by authors such as Gillian Flynn, Dennis Lehane, and Graham Masterton. While I await the sequel, I’ll be seeking out more of Craig Wallwork’s stories to add to my shelf.

5/5 Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: COLERIDGE by Tom Deady

COLERIDGE is my second read from Tom Deady, and like the first novella I read from this author (WEEKEND GETAWAY), this was another solid story that I enjoyed. I loved the gothic feel of this tale, and it brought something to my attention that I’ve somehow missed—I really love a good haunted house story. This one is a modern-day tale with ties to the past, and I’d definitely recommend it.

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This novella is another that I would’ve finished in one sitting, had I not been preoccupied and anxious about the state of the world right now. I hope in the days to come that I can say I devoured a book without letting my mind drift, but I’m not there yet. However, while I was reading this, I was fully engrossed in the story. I liked the characters, and also enjoyed how the chapters alternate between the recent past and present. We’re given different perspectives from the two main characters, which I thought added to the depth of the story.

Overall, a fast-paced read, with nice quick chapters (I love that). It has some heartwarming moments showcasing the main characters’ relationship, as well as tension and creepiness. I loved the atmosphere that the author created, and now that I’ve got two short fiction reads under my belt from Tom Deady, it’s probably time that I tackle his novel, HAVEN. Yet another book that’s been on my shelf for too long. COLERIDGE is also the first of many titles on my shelf published by Silver Shamrock. They are putting out some amazing books, and I can’t wait to dig into more.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Publisher: Silver Shamrock

Release Date: March 24, 2020

Book Review: THE MONGREL by Seán O’ Connor

THE MONGREL was a fast-paced read that drew me in rather quickly. Once I started reading it, I found myself flipping the pages continuously to find out what came next. (Had I not been interrupted by the anxiety and stress surrounding current events, it’s likely I’d have finished this book in one sitting). Prior to this novella, I’d only read one of Seán’s short stories. After reading two pieces now, I can tell you that I enjoy his storytelling style and look forward to reading more.

There were several aspects of this tale that stood out for me as I was reading. Like I said, I was drawn into the story rather fast, which is always a good thing, especially when there’s a smaller amount of words to work with. I thought that the character development was strong, and while I didn’t find a personal connection to the characters or their experiences, I felt empathy for Erin. The descriptions of her anxiety and inner turmoil over her situation were well done. I liked that there was a bit of background and deeper look at Phil and Erin’s relationship instead of just what was on the surface of the story. This provided more insight into Erin’s mental state and her motivations for staying with him.

There was a slow but steady build of tension throughout the story that kept me interested along the way, and a couple of times I thought I had things figured out, but I was wrong. I thought this was a unique spin on a werewolf tale—different from others I’ve read. There are some unforgettable scenes in this story, and I imagine I might have flashbacks of those the next time I’m caught up in some heavy snowfall. I struggled a bit during the third section of the book. I felt like I needed a bit more story or background on some of the characters before reaching the end point—it felt a bit rushed to me.

I have a copy of the author’s novel, WEEPING SEASON, on my shelf, and I’m looking forward to that one. I’ve heard great things about that one, and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of his work so far. I will definitely be interested in reading more from Seán O’ Connor in the future.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

 

 

 

Recommendations from My Favorites Shelf: For the Horror “Newbies”

I’ve recently had some friends who are new to horror ask me where to start. This thrills me to no end, because I’ve been telling people that the horror genre is more than what it seems for some time. Many people assume that horror is one-dimensional, and nothing but blood and gore. Some people tell me it’s all “too scary”. While there are stories that do contain these elements, those of us who love the genre know that there’s so much more. I believe that there’s a horror story out there for everyone and that people just need to find the right fit.

My excitement at being asked this question led me to writing this post. I’m sure it’s been done before, but my list is likely to be different from others. I decided to go to my “Favorites” shelf to get started, which leads me to this disclaimer: This list is only based on books that I have read. It’s mostly books from my favorite authors, so this is not an all-inclusive list showcasing the full range of diverse authors and topics across the genre. It’s just a start. What I’ve done here is to try and showcase a range of horror among books that I personally love– books that I think would be a good introduction to horror. Whether you’re looking for horror with heart, or something a bit more intense, I hope you find it here and develop a new love for the genre.

Without further ado, here are 20 novels/collections/anthologies and 5 novellas (in no particular order) that I highly recommend:

  1. THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER by Jonathan Janz
  2. BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman
  3. CLICKERS by J.F. Gonzalez & Mark Williams
  4. A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay
  5. WALK THE DARKNESS DOWN by John Boden (technically a novella, but I’m leaving it on this list)
  6. INNER DEMONS by Robert Ford *
  7. BRAIN DEAD BLUES by Matt Hayward *
  8. REMAINS by Andrew Cull
  9. A VOICE SO SOFT by Patrick Lacey
  10. KIN by Kealan Patrick Burke
  11. CHILDREN OF THE DARK by Jonathan Janz
  12. THE GOD BENEATH MY GARDEN by Robert Ford *
  13. THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty
  14. WHAT DO MONSTERS FEAR? by Matt Hayward
  15. THE DEMONOLOGIST by Andrew Pyper
  16. CONSEQUENCES by John Quick
  17. BLOOD CRAZY by Simon Clark
  18. WELCOME TO THE SHOW (Various Authors) Edited by Matt Hayward and Doug Murano *
  19. LULLABIES FOR SUFFERING (Various Authors) Edited by Mark Matthews *
  20. AND HER SMILE WILL UNTETHER THE UNIVERSE by Gwendolyn Kiste *

*indicates an anthology or collection of short fiction

 

 

Looking for a quick read to get your feet wet? Try these:

  1. A HOUSE AT THE BOTTOM OF A LAKE by Josh Malerman
  2. OUT BEHIND THE BARN by John Boden and Chad Lutzke
  3. SOUR CANDY by Kealan Patrick Burke
  4. IN THE SCRAPE by James Newman and Mark Steensland
  5. STIRRING THE SHEETS by Chad Lutzke

If you’re new to the genre, I hope that you find something you enjoy from this list, and I’d love to hear your thoughts once you’re done reading.