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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.

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”.

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.

So if I was a lazy blogger I would probably just link to Raych’s post here and sit back because everything she says is absolutely right. But I do have stuff to say about this book and so will ignore my laziness and do the blogging thing.

Alexia Tarabotti has no soul (hence the title), which only a few select people know (and that doesn’t include anyone in her family). This lack of soul makes her unusual even in a Victorian society which accepts the existence of vampires, werewolves and ghosts. It also means that she can neutralise the supernatural abilities of others simply by touching them, which comes in pretty handy (pun unintentional).

The great fun of this book is its tone, which is very arch (to use an old-fashioned phrase). Actually, I could go further than that and say quite honestly that the novel is basically hugely enjoyable tosh. It has all the necessary elements:

  • feisty heroine who knows more than everyone suspects but whose talents aren’t recognised;
  • the handsome hero with whom she spends the whole story fighting but you just know she’s going to end up with him in huge romantic moment at some point;
  • sidekicks with varying levels of acceptability;
  • a nefarious plot which could represent the end of civilisation as it is known; and of course
  • the obligatory evil, twisted genius who must be stopped at all costs.

Oh, and because of the period in which this is set, an appearance by Queen Victoria herself.

I just loved it; not great art by any means but an indulgent, steampunkish romp which passes the time very pleasantly. I already have (and fully intend to read) the sequels.

OK, so before I start talking about Barking, which has as its central character (and quite a few of its secondary characters as well) a lawyer (specialising in winding up the estates of deceased persons) I feel I need to point out (given how disparagingly they are referred to throughout the novel) that some of my best friends are lawyers.

Seriously.

Well, two of my best friends, including Silvery Dude who actually got this for me as a birthday present to show that he has a sense of humour (which he has) as well as a reasonable taste in fantasy novels (which he also has). The other lawyer friend has no nickname for the purposes of this blog, but does also have sense of humour as well as a taste for light opera, but that can’t be helped.

In order to put this into a wider context, the rest of my best friends are either accountants or civil servants or (in more than one case) both. Now you can see why I don’t blog here every day, my life is just one giant whirlwind of excitement and really wild things.

Or something like that.

But nothing as wild as what happens to Duncan Hughes in Barking.

So here we have a man who is in a dead-end job doing OK, not yet a partner, divorced and kind of just muddling along, when an old friend from school comes back into his life, teases him away from his current firm (with the help of Duncan’s boss who decides to fire him) and  makes him a partner in a rather unusual way. He bites him and turns him into a werewolf.

This is not the weirdest thing that happens in the novel. There are vampires (also a firm of lawyers). There are reanimated people (not exactly zombies). There is a unicorn. And there is the estate of Bowden Allshapes, whose file follows Duncan to his new firm and which has been a constant in his working life for some time. If only he could get the accounts to balance….

This is huge fun, very amusing, well-written with a great story at the heart of it. I’m always a bit wary of comic fantasy; for every great author (Pratchett, Adams) there are lots of misses so I tend to take a cautious approach but I’m glad the Dude of Silver introduced me to this and I enjoyed the whole reading experience very much.

And it’s not giving too much away to say that it has a happy ending.

And the best thing of all is I’ve found a new author to binge on.

Bride of the Book God

Follow brideofthebook on Twitter

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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