Book review – The World of Lore, Volume 1: Monstrous Creatures

The World of Lore, Volume 1: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke

Why I read:  Monsters and folklore – fascinating.

Book blurb: “A fascinating, beautifully illustrated guide to the monsters that are part of our collective psyche, from the host of the hit podcast Lore, soon to be an online streaming series.

They live in shadows–deep in the forest, late in the night, in the dark recesses of our minds. They’re spoken of in stories and superstitions, relics of an unenlightened age, old wives’ tales, passed down through generations. Yet no matter how wary and jaded we have become, as individuals or as a society, a part of us remains vulnerable to them: werewolves and wendigos, poltergeists and vampires, angry elves and vengeful spirits.

In this beautifully illustrated volume, the host of the hit podcast Lore serves as a guide on a fascinating journey through the history of these terrifying creatures, exploring not only the legends but what they tell us about ourselves. Aaron Mahnke invites us to the desolate Pine Barrens of New Jersey, where the notorious winged, red-eyed Jersey Devil dwells. He delves into harrowing accounts of cannibalism–some officially documented, others the stuff of speculation . . . perhaps. He visits the dimly lit rooms where seances take place, the European villages where gremlins make mischief, even Key West, Florida, home of a haunted doll named Robert.

In a world of “emotional vampires” and “zombie malls,” the monsters of folklore have become both a part of our language and a part of our collective psyche. Whether these beasts and bogeymen are real or just a reflection of our primal fears, we know, on some level, that not every mystery has been explained and that the unknown still holds the power to strike fear deep in our hearts and souls. As Aaron Mahnke reminds us, sometimes the truth is even scarier than the lore.”

My review

A nicely written guide to the areas of folklore that surround each type of monster.   Chapters are filled with  legends and history on each creature type.  Vampires, werewolves,  sea monsters and  ghosts are just a few of the monsters encountered within.  Cute illustrated prints that enhance the text are scattered throughout.  Its a great introduction to monster legends with a biography at the back for if you want to explore even more folklore.

I’ve always been fascinated by the history behind supernatural beings and monsters and this book didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed some sections more than others, but mostly to do with where my interests lay with monster types.  The book seems geared towards an American audience with focus on American folklore but there are still plenty of background and tales from other areas of the world creating a rich tapestry of supernatural encounters.   Mahnke injects his own views and humour throughout the book making it engaging and easy to read.   A perfect Halloween book that will leave you wondering if there is more to the world than meets the eye.
I’d recommend to people interested in:    monster myths and legends,  monster folklore, supernatural history
 ***

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Hardcover, 320 pages  (I read a pdf version)
Published October 10th 2017 by Del Rey
ISBN 1524797960
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Book Review: The Graveyard Book – ghosty spookiness

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

Why I read: Ghosts and graveyards and everything spooky.

Book blurb: “After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages” 

Select quote ” “It’s like the people who believe they’ll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn’t work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. If you see what I mean.” ― Neil GaimanThe Graveyard Book

My review

What a fun and captivating read.  I don’t usually reading children’s books but this one intrigued me with the cast of graveyard characters.  A toddler is the sole survivor  after his family is murdered.  He wanders into a graveyard where he is promptly adopted by the ghostly inhabitants.  He is named Nobody Owens, “Bod” for short and spends his childhood playing amongst the graveyard and meeting its inhabitants.  We follow Bod as he grows up and ventures into the world outside the graveyard.  All under the threat of Jack who slaughtered his family and is still out there looking for Bod so he can finish the job.

The story is beautifully crafted, filled with sadness, hope and charm.  Neil Gaiman has a way with words that you can only admire.  He creates the spooky atmospheric world with real skill, it draws you in so you believe you are living there too.  The book really appealed to the side of me that believes in magic and fantasy.  Bod is a brilliant character.  It was pure joy reading about him growing up and interacting with the world.  He has a balance of inquisitiveness, humour, loyalty and bravery.   His life in the graveyard is fascinating as he learns magical lore from the dead.   The cast of graveyard characters were unique and memorable.  I felt the story a bit predictable and simple.  But this is in keeping with it being a tale for children.

The illustrations in this book were gorgeous.  I loved coming across them at the start of chapters.  My favourite was the witch.   Chris Riddell has done an awesome job of capturing the creepy spookiness of the book with the artwork.

This is a book I’d give to children, teenagers and adults to read. There’s something within the pages for all.  There are potent quotes within the book, real insights into life scatted throughout that warm the soul.   A wonderfully entertaining book that captivates from start to finish.

“You’re alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change. Potential. ” ― Neil GaimanThe Graveyard Book

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: ghosts, graveyards, spooky tales, children’s horror

****

Paperback, 289 pages

Published December 2008 by Bloomsbury (first published September 30th 2008)

ISBN 0747598843

Book Review : I Am Behind You : Surreal atmospheric horror

I Am Behind You – by John Ajvide Lindqvist

5 star read

Why I read:   New horror by the author of Let the Right One In – how could I resist.

Book blurb: “A new heart-breaking and terrifying novel from John Ajvide Lindqvist, the author of international bestseller Let the Right One In

Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear. And for just one of them, their homecoming.

This gripping conceptual horror takes you deep into one of the most macabre and unique imaginations writing in the genre. On family, on children, Lindqvist writes in a way that tears the heart and twists the soul. I Am Behind You turns the world upside down and, disturbing, terrifying and shattering by turns, it will suck you in. ”

 My review

What did I just read?  It’s surreal, confusing, horrific, disturbing, filled with unpleasant people, with horrific things happening to everyone.  Its a totally original horror story.  One that will stay with me.  Hauntingly grotesque.  I want to make everyone read it.  Then tell me their interpretation of what the hell just happened.

The true beauty of the book is how well written all the characters are.  The dark side of people’s nature is thoroughly explored.  All the characters were fleshed out humans, people who made mistakes, had dark thoughts and deeds.  They were flawed and Lindqvist takes you right to their darkest secrets and their shame.  Most were unpleasant people but a child Emil and dog and cat were quite innocent.  Within there is also the warmth of friendship, parenthood, kindness and consideration for others.   I did find I was still able to emphasise with most of the characters because of the solid backstories Lindqvist paints for them all, you saw how they were driven to dark deeds and got a deep insight into their heads.  You might not like the characters but you can get them and this makes the horrors that happen all the more terrifying and fascinating.   Its a book about people, about society, supernatural and darkness.

The first half of the book is mainly spent exploring the characters.  However I don’t want to speak too much of the second half of the book for fear of spoiling it for anyone.  There are many unpleasant incidents, acid rain, tortured beings, fears brought to life.  You never find out why or what is really happening.  Why are they even there and how did they get there?  I loved the mystery of this but if you like horror neatly tied up with explanations then this is not the book for you.   It’s all very surreal and the 2nd half of the book especially is darkly unsettling and scary.  I’d really love to see this book turned into a horror film.  A seriously creepy horror film that gets under your skin and stays there.

I gave it a solid 5 stars because I enjoyed it so much.  I read it slowly as I wanted to enjoy the descriptive writing and fully experience the surreal atmospheric horror.  Its a book to put away and read again in the future.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: horror, surreal atmosphere, weird happenings, exploring the dark-side of people’s nature.

*****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Pub Date 07 Sep 2017  by riverrun (first published August 1st 2014)

ISBN 9781786480392

Original Title: Himmelstrand

Book review – The Travelling Bag – And Other Ghostly Stories

The Travelling Bag And Other Ghostly Stories by Susan Hill

Why I read:  I’ve previously enjoyed spooky ghost stories by Susan Hill.

Book blurb: “From the foggy streets of Victorian London to the eerie perfection of 1950s suburbia, the everyday is invaded by the otherworldly in this unforgettable collection of new ghost stories from the bestselling author of The Woman in Black.

In the title story, on a murky evening in a club off St James, a paranormal detective recounts his most memorable case, one whose horrifying denouement took place in that very building.

A lonely boy makes a friend in ‘Boy Number 21’, but years later is forced to question the very nature of that friendship.

‘Alice Baker’ tells the story of a mysterious new office worker who is accompanied by a lingering smell of decay.

And in ‘The Front Room’, a devoutly Christian mother tries to protect her children from the evil influence of their grandmother, both when she is alive and afterwards.

This paperback edition includes the chilling ‘Printer’s Devil Court’ in which three medical students make an unholy pact whose consequences will pursue one of them to the grave – and perhaps beyond.

This is Susan Hill at her best, telling characteristically creepy and surprising tales of thwarted ambition, terrifying revenge and supernatural stirrings that will leave you wide-awake long into the night.”

 

 

My review

The Travelling Bag and other Ghostly Stories contains 4 short  tales all eloquently written in Susan Hill’s gothic style.    They are all spooky stories that slowly creep up on you rather than gory horror.   As the atmosphere within each one slowly builds up like a  crescendo of eeriness to  their creepy finale.  Most are in the traditional Gothic style but a couple have a more contemporary setting.  These are all beautifully crafted to leave a chill down your spine.     You do have to  let your imagination run wild from the subtle suggestions contained but this just adds to the traditional style.

If you’ve loved previous books by Susan Hill definitely give these tales a spin.  They are not her best  stories however  fit beautifully into her collection of work.  I enjoyed all the tales.   Each one was different enough to keep my attention.  There is nothing groundbreaking in them but all are fine examples of gothic spookiness.   They are a quick and easy read I think the total page count for all is less than 200 pages. Perfect to read tucked up in bed on a dark stormy night.

Recommended for fans of: traditional ghost stories, spooky tales

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

***

EDITION
ISBN

Book Review: Stillhouse Lake = Psychological Thriller

Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1) by Rachel Caine

Why I read: Wife of a Serial Killer, Psychological Thriller.  Kindle First Choice.

Book blurb: “Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.”

My review

A fast-paced psychological thriller that had many twists and turns.  It has a gory plot as Gina is the wife of a serial killer, on the run from her past and the people that would hurt her family.

Gina is a brilliantly written character, a true warrior.   I enjoyed the self-analysis that Gina does as to how she did not spot her husband Melvin’s crimes.  What she realised looking back afterwards was not “normal” which would ring a bell with anyone who has been in a controlling relationship before.  But from her past she grows strength, she fights to protect her family and to outsmart those who wish them harm.  Although the book lacked some realism I totally enjoyed seeing how she tackled every obstacle.

One downside was the cliffhanger ending.  It felt far too much like an attempt to get me to read the next book which really wasn’t needed.   The main story however was nicely tied up, with many twists to keep you guessing along the way.

I’d recommend to: fans of serial killer thrillers, psychological thrillers,  strong female characters

****

Kindle Edition, 302 pages
Published July 1st 2017 by Thomas & Mercer
Original Title
Stillhouse Lake
ASIN
B01MFGX5GI

 

Book Review – Wylding Hall – Spooky Acid-Folk Tale

Wylding Hall – by Elizabeth Hand

Why I read:  Book club pick

Select Quote “ But there was a feeling we all had that we were in a magic place, and we wanted to make the most of it. And we were young, so our powers of recovery were remarkable. We could drink all night, smoke till the house was spinning, do the odd bit of windowpane or blotter, busk at the pub if we needed a bit of ready cash for groceries, and still pop up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and hop down to the living room, strap on our mighty axes, and get to work. ”

Book blurb: “When the young members of a British acid-folk band are compelled by their manager to record their unique music, they hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with dark secrets. There they create the album that will make their reputation, but at a terrifying cost: Julian Blake, the group’s lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen or heard from again.

Now, years later, the surviving musicians, along with their friends and lovers—including a psychic, a photographer, and the band’s manager—meet with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of what happened that summer. But whose story is true? And what really happened to Julian Blake??”

My review

A haunting story about the disappearance of Julian Blake, lead singer of an Acid-folk band.   “When he was young, Julian was almost unearthly; he was so handsome, it was difficult for me at first to keep my eyes from him. Spooky beautiful.”  Jon.  The band are sent by their manager to Wylding Hall, an old gothic house which is remote and in disrepair in order to create their album without distractions but strange events unfold.  Some years later the people involved meet with a film maker to tell what happened at Wylding Hall.

The story has an interesting structure and is set out in the form of interviews with the various people who were present at the time including the musicians, manager a psychic and a photographer.  This tells the tale from many different points of view with each person giving their own thoughts and opinions of what happened in Wylding Hall.  However sometimes you couldn’t distinguish which character you were reading as some were similar.

It beautifully entwines music, spookiness and  subcultures as the main tale is set in the 70s folk scene.  I loved the British feel and references that speckled the book.   There is a sprinkle of folktales that add to the creepiness.  The atmosphere of the book is more of a mild subtle spookiness, than horror. Personally I would have preferred more creepiness and some more explanation and horror at the end as it is quite ambiguous.  Although I found the end a bit disappointing it was still a wonderfully written tale.

I really wanted to listen to this bands music – especially their haunting folk sounds played out in the garden. So I wish there was an audio-file to accompany the book to further set the atmosphere.

Its a nice quick easy read at under 200 pages, giving a  70s twist on the traditional gothic ghost story.

Id recommend to fans of band bibliographies, gothic ghost stories and mystery.

****

 ebook, 176 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by Open Road Integrated