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IMG_0213What’s it all about?

North American Lake Monsters is a collection of horror stories set in the modern USA. I described it in my reading notes as

horror at the periphery of everyday lives of working people, mostly men

The description I’ve seen elsewhere (and not until after I’d finished the book) is

In this striking, bleak yet luminous debut collection, Nathan Ballingrud, winner of the inaugural Shirley Jackson Award, uses the trappings of the Gothic and the uncanny to investigate a distinctly American landscape: the loneliest and darkest corners of contemporary life.

So better put but fairly similar *phew*

Why did I want to read it?

I had come across a couple of Ballingrud’s stories in other collections and want to give his wider work a try. I hadn’t realised how many awards he had been nominated for until I got my hands on the volume (though nominations or award wins don’t always affect whether I want to read something).

What did I think of it?

Hmm. This was really a bit of a mixed bag. It contained the two stories I had read elsewhere, one of which didn’t stand up to a second read; the other, The Crevasse, was wonderfully Lovecraftian in its Antarctic setting and I enjoyed it just as much this time around. As for the others, I could appreciate the skill but they just didn’t connect with me; perhaps they were just too bleak (not that I mind bleak usually, but there was no relief at all here that I could see), and *whispers* too masculine for me. That’s not something I think I would have noticed if I’d come across any of these stories mixed in with the work of others, but it just leapt out at me reading them in a single volume.

Glad I gave it a shot but I don’t think I’ll be actively seeking out any more of his work.

I read this as part of the 2015 Horror Reading Challenge.

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IMG_0209Whats it all about?

The Wide Carnivorous Sky (subtitle and Other Monstrous Geographies) is a collection of nine modern horror stories.

Why did I want to read it?

I came across the work of John Langan through the annual best of horror anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow where his stories stuck out as something exceptional. I wanted to read more and got a hold of this collection as a good starting point. He is clearly highly regarded by his peers.

What did I think about it?

I really enjoyed this collection which nicely covers the full range of horror themes. Cannibalistic children? Check. Zombie apocalypse in the style of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town? Check. Werewolf-type things? Check. Unspeakable Lovecraftian entities breaking into our world and creating havoc? Why yes. Reasons why you shouldn’t hitch-hike? Indeed.

Particular favourites were

  • Technicolor – what was Poe up to in his lost week, what’s the Masque of the Red Death about, why you should really pay attention in your English Lit class
  • The Wide Carnivorous Sky – space vampires meet USA’s finest but not in a good way; assuming there is in fact a good way….

and my absolute favourite in the collection

  • Mother of Stone – the story of an academic investigating what appears to be an urban legend of about the events that follow the digging up and installation in a local hotel of a statue of headless pregnant woman, taking in myths, ancient religions, all manner of Fortean stuff and turning it into a disturbing tale of what happens when you don’t leave something well enough alone.

The collection also includes an introduction by Jeffery Ford and an afterword by Laird Barron, as well as notes on the stories by the author himself (I love author’s notes and aways read them where they are included) which give some insight into the genesis of the stories and what he was trying to achieve.

I’m pleased that my initial feelings about Langan’s work have been reinforced by the stories in this book, and I’ll definitely be looking out for more.

I read this as part of the 2015 Horror Reading Challenge. I also learned that I have real problems typing the word “carnivorous”.

IMG_0166Let the Old Dreams Die is a book of horror short stories by the Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, first published in 2006 but only relatively recently available in an English language translation. I was very keen to read some of his shorter work having been very impressed by the three of his four novels that I’ve read so far:

I really enjoyed this collection which I read over several days while on holiday, staying in a former stately home in Cumbria. I like Lindqvist’s take on horror, which doesn’t ignore gory unpleasantness (as anyone who knows what happens at the end of Let the Right One In will confirm) but is overwhelmingly, to my mind at any rate, one of creepiness tinged with melancholy, which means they aren’t the sort of stories you can binge on. As an aside, I once heard an author being interviewed on the radio (I think it was Anne Enright but I’m not sure) who said something along the lines that people tend to approach anthologies the way they do a box of chocolates – they either eat them singly over time and savour each one, or they devour the lot in one go – I have done both in my time. This is definitely a one sweetie at a time thing.

I’m not going to pick out any individual stories to mention (except perhaps Village on the Hill which led me to consider drains more carefully than I had before) but will say that for many readers the two titles of most interest  will be the title story which is sort of but not quite a sequel to Let the Right One In (Lindqvist himself says in his afterword that it deals with a problem of interpretation that he hadn’t identified until he saw the movie version) and The Final Processing, the longest story in the collection, which is basically a sequel to Handling the Undead. There is also Eternal/Love where I think you can see Lindqvist exploring some of the themes that pop up in Harbour.

I really enjoyed this selection; it was a perfect autumn holiday read and it has made me want to pick up the most recent novel, Little Star. Recommended.

This was my second read for RIP IX.

Scan 11By Blood We Live is the third volume in Glen Duncan’s very successful Last Werewolf trilogy; so new readers really should not start here  – read this and this first otherwise the current volume will make very little sense.

On that note – what’s it all about?

*Spoilers* for the earlier books, maybe, though can they be spoilers if they’re on the back cover for all to see?

Remshi is the oldest vampire in existence. He is searching for the werewolf named Talulla, whom he believes is the reincarnation of his long lost – and only – love. But he is not the only one seeking Talulla. Hunted by the Militi Christi, a religious order hell-bent on wiping out werewolves and vampires alike, Remshi and Talulla must join forces to protect their families, fulfil an ancient prophesy and save both their lives.

Nicely put, though I won’t comment on how accurate and /or misleading the blurb actually is.

Why did I want to read it?

I really enjoyed the first two books in the series and wanted to see how the story played out. It’s also a series that I was reading in parallel with my good friend Silvery Dude and when he got his copy (which may just have been a belated birthday present from me) we started an uncoordinated readalong which rapidly turned into a competition to see who could get to the end first. We even had our own hashtag on Twitter, though actually that was mostly me as the Dudester rarely tweets (#iwillprevail if you’re interested, probably only a couple of tweets but).

I of course won, but only because I have no children and therefore unlimited time to slump on the sofa and read my way solidly through 400 pages of sex and violence and horror and equal opportunity religious fanatics.

What did I think?

I absolutely loved it, couldn’t put it down. I thought Remshi was going to be incredibly annoying after the first few pages but hey, he’s 20,000 years old or thereabouts, he’s earned the right to be a bit pretentious having, you know, basically seen it all. But I came to really like him, possibly even more than Talulla who is quite an astonishing character.

The story is fast-moving without sacrificing any of the character development stuff. There were a couple of “oh no not captured again” moments which served largely to move the plot forward but they were offset by the sheer inventive violence involved in rescuing/freeing those who were caught.

There is a lot of sex and a lot of gore and a lot of philosophical musing and world-weariness and an awful lot of violence but if you’ve read the first two you will be expecting that. Not to everyone’s taste I guess, but not something that has ever really bothered me. Vampires and werewolves are monsters after all, and do what they have to do to survive, often involving monstrous behaviour; what can you do?.

I liked the ending a great deal; finishes off the trilogy nicely but not so that future books couldn’t be produced although I hope there aren’t any more as this reached a satisfying conclusion (to my mind anyway).

I’m sure he won’t mind me saying, but Silvery Dude really enjoyed it too, so a double endorsement there.

Another read for the 2014 Horror Reading Challenge horrorbutton2014

Scan 43What’s it all about?

This is a tiny wee bit spoilery but I’m not going to say anything that you can’t pick up from the inside flap of the hardback cover, and that will have to do. So at the end of The Last Werewolf we find ourselves with Talulla Demetriou not only being said last werewolf but also very pregnant. Talulla Rising opens with her about to give birth, which she does very messily and under unusually stressful circumstances even for a werewolf. It ends badly. Baby boy werewolf snatched from her arms and spirited away. Desire for revenge and getting the lad back fuels the rest of the book.

Why did I want to read it?

I bought this as soon as I finished The Last Werewolf (which I enjoyed immensely) as I really wanted to know what happened next, but as is often the case with me it had been sitting on the shelf ever since. Until Silvery Dude requested that I extract my digit and read so that I could explain the ending to him. I (almost) always do what the Silvery One tells me so off I went on a lupine adventure.

What did I think of it?

This is an absolute hoot, a real joyride full of violence and sex and blood and revenge and werewolves and vampires and mythology and weapons and secret societies and global conspiracies and did I mention the violence and the sex? I loved it so much I have pre-ordered the final volume even though it isn’t published for absolutely ages. AND I was able to explain the end to Silvery Dude’s satisfaction, so a good thing all round.

Conclusion

Clever and fun and highly recommended. Led me to say out loud in public that perhaps I just relate better to lady werewolves. It is definitely not Twilight.

RIP8main200So it’s September tomorrow and that means the start of one of my favourite blogging event’s, Carl’s RIP VIII and the opportunity to read scary and thrilling stuff along with lots of other members of the book blogging community.

As is traditional I have pulled together a book list out of which I hope to be able to meet Peril the Second, where I need to read four books that fit the description of perilous. I’d love to be able to read them all, but we’ll see how that goes.

My list is (in no particular order):rip8peril2nd

A pretty good selection I think, and I’m looking forward to all of them.

rip8perilonscreenI may also take part in Peril on the Screen but no real plans on what that might involve, though it is really about time I re-watched one of my Desert Island Films, Son of Frankenstein with *sigh* Basil Rathbone.

The TwelveFear the Dark says the front cover of Justin Cronin’s The Twelve, the sequel to his really quite popular The Passage which I read and reviewed last year. Reading that old review it was pretty clear that I expected to plunge into the newer novel quite soon but after Christmas but I got diverted as I often do by new bright and shiny things so here we are in August and I’m only getting around to writing about it now having read it a few weeks ago.

I also notice from that older review that I had picked up some mixed vibes about The Twelve, and perhaps that’s why I put off reading it, but never fear I have got there in the end and there is something to be said for reading dark horror on very warm and sunny summer days.

So The Twelve is  bit timey-wimey in as much as it takes as back to the events of the original novel as seen by a different group of characters all so that a rather nasty villain can receive a proper set-up before h forges on to create havoc in world fully of vampirey things. Most of the (not exactly) flashbacks are designed to give us a more detailed back story for characters old and new so that the big climax (and it is really quite a big one) will have the appropriate amount of oomph. There was at least one person i didn’t expect to be there at all and although i was pleased to see that person (despite what they were going through) it did kind of undercut the “what just happened there?!) last couple of paragraphs of The Passage.

It’s not as compelling as the first novel but I still enjoyed it a great deal, reading it in huge page-turning chunks. There’s a nice set up for the last book in the trilogy although I’ve no idea when that’s coming out.

So pretty cool all in all.

Scan 6The world (including me) mostly knows George RR Martin for the Song of Ice and Fire sequence that is the basis of the Game of Thrones TV series. I will admit to  being a fan of the series but I’ve never read any of the cycle that underpins it, though the Book God and a couple of friends keep on telling me that I should. And I may very well do in the future but for now, and as my last read for Once Upon a Time VII, I decided to pick up an earlier volume that the Book God also recommended.

Fevre Dream is fairly high concept: vampires on riverboats. It tells the story of Abner Marsh, a steamboat captain who has fallen on hard times and is approached my a very distinctive person in the form of Joshua York who funds the building of the boat that will be known as the Fevre Dream, one of the finest of its kind ever to be built. But it becomes clear that Joshua is not only not what he appears but that he has a mission which brings them both face to face with others of Joshua’s kind who do not share his views, and a mighty struggle is inevitable.

I enjoyed this very much, and not just because vampires are my supernatural monster of choice. There is a verve and swagger and romance in the telling of the story which makes this more than vampires on a boat. A love of the ships and the lifestyle and the river really shines through, and the growing respect and friendship between two men who couldn’t be further apart adds a great deal to what could have been, in other hands, a bit of a potboiler. It also has a quite wonderfully aristocratic villain who makes a worthy opponent.

This would have been a brilliant Hammer film.

The conclusion was rather lovely and very satisfying, and I’m glad that my participation in this year’s challenge ended on such a high note.

The PassageJustin Cronin’s The Passage is another one of those books that has been on my TBR list for what seems like forever, though thinking back I remember exactly when and where I bought it. It was in January 2011 in the Waterstones at Ludgate Circus and I was with Silvery Dude who was kindly getting me a copy of Rivers of London for my birthday and I saw this and had to have it. I was suffering from a really nasty cold and ended up off work for a few days medicating myself with Stephen King.

And its taken me this long to get to it, but I was just in the mood for some pre-soon-to-be-post-apocalyptic horror; this definitely fits the bill.

So there’s this scientist who goes to South America to follow up on information about strange goings on which may lead to a cure for cancer or everlasting life or something of that sort and despite (or because of perhaps) the involvement of the military it all goes horribly wrong. We leap to some time later and death row inmates are being signed up by the guy I thought was going to be our hero, FBI agent Brad Wolgast, to take part in something which will basically mean they are erased from the record. And we have Amy Harper Bellafonte, a six-year old girl who will turn out to be something pretty special (again not a spoiler, you can get this from the back cover).

So much for the set up, and the book does start of as a conventional but well written and extremely creepy horribleness takes over the world and we are all doomed horror. Not giving anything away to say we’re talking vampires, Jim, but not as we know them.

Then something happens and we are plunged into the post-apocalyptic stuff I mentioned, with a whole bunch of other characters set in the future where the world is significantly changed and people are doing what they can to survive. Then it turns into a road trip slash quest novel as a band of intrepid souls go off for various and quite plausible reasons to find out just what the heck happened and is there, you know, anyone else out there.

I thought this was great, a real page turner. The end of the first section and the leap into the future I’ve described above was a bit of a surprise as I thought we would be with the same set of characters for this book at least (given that I think its part one of a projected trilogy). But I soon got used to that and came to love another set of characters which makes the last page a real WTF moment (I won’t say more than that but I read the last paragraph a couple of times to make sure I was really understanding what was going on).

I think this is a really well written story about characters I really came to care for and it has an internal logic to it which makes the world it describes work for me.

And I really, really want to know what happens next, so Santa has been asked to provide the sequel.

Definitely recommended.

About ‘Salem’s Lot:

‘Salem’s Lot is a small New England town. Like so many others it contains the usual quota of gossips, drinkers, weirdos and respectable folk. Of course, there are tales of strange happenings – but not more than in any other town its size.

Ben Mears, a moderately successful writer, returns to the Lot to write a novel based on his early years, and to exorcise the terrors that have haunted him since childhood. The event he witnessed in the house now rented by a new resident. A newcomer with a strange allure. A man who causes Ben some unease as things start to happen…

When did I first read this? 1976 or thereabouts (Genesis had just released Wind and Wuthering which was being advertised on the radio almost constantly as I was reading this so I think the date is about right)

What age was I? An impressionable 14

How may times since then? I can’t believe this is only the fourth time I’ve read this but the stats don’t lie (at least not in this case)

Thoughts about the book:

This wasn’t the first Stephen King book I had read; I had devoured Carrie earlier the same year, enjoying the thrill of unhappy teenager getting her own back and loving the style of the book with its mix of traditional narrative alongside eyewitness reports and newspaper clippings and so on. But ‘Salem’s Lot was the big one for me, setting two things in stone for the future (1) vampires are my monster of choice (even sparkly ones a la Twilight) and (2) I would read anything by Stephen King – and I’ve pretty much stuck to that in the (gulp) 36 years since then  though I sometimes come to his stuff a while after publication.

I wish I had been able to keep the paperback version of this that I read as a teenager; if memory serves it was completely black with an embossed (?) head, and the only colour was a drop of blood – who could resist that? Sadly I lent it to someone and never got it back, but I indulged a few years ago in the rather lovely illustrated edition pictured above, with wonderful photographs, a glorious design and loads of additional material (like deleted scenes etc); a real pleasure to read.

I just love this story – a wonderful cast of characters dealing with the supernatural in a realistic setting, a cliché now perhaps but to someone my age at the time a real revelation. Love, horror, bravery, evil – all there in spades. And I can confirm that the feeling of dread about characters you have come to care about is still there even after several re-reads.

Interesting how much of my view of the book was affected by the TV version starring David Soul, for which I have a real soft spot; some of the scenes are still very vivid. Not a bad adaptation though I was still surprised to be reminded in the book that Ben was dark-haired.

This is a real treat for anyone who hasn’t read it before and worth revisiting for those who have, one of my absolute all time favourites.

This is the third book in my Big Re-Read project.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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