Book Review : Monsters Exist – horror shorts

Monsters Exist – Edited by Jesse Deadman & Theresa Braun

Why I read:  Monsters, urban tales, spooky shorts.

Book blurb: “From the time we are young, we fear the monster under the bed or in the closet, making it impossible to sleep without a nightlight. Then, we hear stories of Bigfoot, and maybe even the Mothman around campfires. When we are adults, we wonder if there might actually be supernatural creatures lurking in the shadows. Are these tall tales and urban legends only metaphors for what horrific things humanity is capable of—or do monsters exist?

Go to some terrifying places with this cast of authors. You will be dragged into mystifying realities where demonic fairies hide, where devil monkeys lure carnival-goers to their demise, where Goatmen seek to destroy their prey, and where the goddess of death puts out a hit on victims of her choice. These shocking tales will have you biting your nails and locating that childhood nightlight. Because, in the end, we all know monsters do exist.”

My review

A creepy mixture of 14 short horror stories featuring monsters.  Packed into these short tales are twists and mutations of the typical creature stories.  Really quick reads, loaded with monsters to haunt your nightmares. Mythological and cryptozoological critters.  Stories that bring urban legends to life. That play on your fears.  These are the monsters that lurk within your imagination, and the ones that live next door, or down the well in the woods.  There’s demonic sacrificing fairies, The Goatman, devil monkeys, dog sized rats, seductive mer-woman, predatory spiders, blood-thirsty Chupacabras and The Mothman  to name a few.

It was hard to pick a favourite from the mix but The Voice from the Bottom of the Well by Philip W. Kleaver just clipped it with this memorable and well written tale.  A 10 year old girl Johanna discovers a thing at the bottom of the well that is especially hungry. Johanna must feed it and yeah she did.  Awesome.

There’s something here for every horror fan with a diverse range of writing styles and tones.  There’s creepy, atmospheric  and gore filled tales.   The monster theme pulls it all together as one anthology which makes all the stories gel as they explore this from different angles.  I loved that after each short story you got a bio of the author and other work they had published.  I’ve found a few that I will check out.   Its a great way to sample an authors writing style before going on to read a longer story. Its a mixed bag and I enjoyed some stories more than others.   This made it hard to rate but I settled on a 4 for overall enjoyment.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: horror, urban legends, monsters, quick spooky reads, short stories.

****

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

Published July 1st 2017 by Deadman’s Tome
ISBN 9781521468
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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: Nights of Blood wine – Exquisite dark vampire shorts

Nights of Blood Wine – Freda Warrington

5 star read

Why I read: Vampires! Vampire tales written by one of my favourite authors. I knew I was in for a treat.

Book blurb: “”Enter the spellbinding worlds of Freda Warrington. Fifteen tales of horror and darkness, taking the reader deeper into the vampiric and the unknown.

Warrington’s vampires haunt the borderlands of excess, and you can find them here in ten stories set in her popular Blood Wine series of novels. Then there are five further tales of fantasy and horror as Warrington takes you further into the worlds of imagination. Step gently, as you may not leave untouched!”?”

Select passage: “They split women in half, good and bad, virgin and whore, submissive and disobedient, Eve and Lilith, Odette and Odile. But we are all one. Lilith’s crime was her refusal to be dominated. She is rage and freedom and sexuality, all the things women are not meant to be, even today because men fear those things so greatly. Yes, she is dark, but darkness is only the essential complement of light. It is mystery, not evil. How people fear mystery!” My Name is Not Juliette, Freda Warrington

 

My review

Reading this book was pure indulgence for me. I loved the Blood Wine series as a teenager and this took me right back there into the addiction. Beautiful yet dark vampires, complex stories filled with emotion and depth, a touch of eroticism, all wrapped up in lavish prose.

Nights of Blood Wine consists of 15 short stories. These are dark tales of vampires, fantasy and horror that weave mythology into a breathtaking new vision. They can be read as stand alone tales so no previous knowledge is needed of her previous works. All my old favourites are back, Karl and Charlotte, the vampire twins Stefan and Niklas and Violette. 5 other tales not inspired by the Blood Wine novels make up the rest of the shorts including an intriguing story featuring Dracula.

Freda Warrington’s vampires are far away from sparkly “Twilight” teen romance vampires. Her “romance” is a sprinkling of adult eroticism, dark and disturbing visions of blood and cravings. Her vampires are complex, multi-layed beings some capable of both pure evil and others spellbinding empathy towards humans. She writes women beautifully, mixing good and bad, strength and vulnerability into complex, realistic and compelling characters. This work has an element of feminism but its there in the background and the richness of all her characters, male and female rather than pushed at you. Each story gives an exquisite glimpse into the characters lives and takes you into a wonderful fantasy world of vampires. I only wish some of the vampire stories were longer as I loved re-visiting that world.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Strong female characters, vampires, horror, fantasy, dark tales

*****

Paperback, 228 pages
Published March 31st 2017 by Telos
About the author:   Freda Warrington is an award-winning British author, known for her epic fantasy, vampire and supernatural novels.

 More about Freda Warrington and her other books can be found on her website: http://www.fredawarrington.com/

Book Review: A Man of Shadows – Noir sci-fi mystery

A Man of Shadows – Jeff Noon

Why I read:   I was intrigued by the mix of sci-fi and detective story with a serial killer thrown into the mix.

Book blurb: “”The brilliant, mind-bending return to science fiction by one of its most acclaimed visionaries.

Below the neon skies of Dayzone – where the lights never go out, and night has been banished – lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna.

As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.”

My review

Five star read:

A wonderful blend of sci-fi and mystery with a noir feel. Jeff Noon is a master of descriptive prose. Intricate writing and vivid depictions bring the complex world to life. Its dark, disturbing with plenty of bizareness thrown into the mix. Amazing world building in a city where time is a commodity and citizens move from one time to another adjusting their wristwatches to match one of the different timelines on offer. The city is split into 3 zones: Dayzone where darkness has been banished by billions of light sources and it is always bright. Nocturna where darkness lives. And the area in between which people refer to as Dusk where it is rumoured ghosts, shadows and dark shapes live within the mist.

Nyquist’s latest job is to track down a runaway girl Eleanor. But the case turns out much more complex as it appears Eleanor may hold the key to the city’s future. Whilst a vicious serial killer known as Quicksilver stalks the streets of Dayzone adding another dimension of horror to the tale. The writing is deeply layered as we follow Nyquist on his quest more and more complexity is revealed. There were plot twists I didn’t see coming which I love in a good mystery. Because it was a complex book this one took me a while to read but I still really enjoyed it.

John Nyquist is an interesting many-layered protagonist, a noir detective, a tough looking man with raw edges and a sharp mind. Eleanor Bale is another complex character an 18 year old girl, combining beauty and fragility with amazing strength. There are a multitude of other interesting and varied characters all well fleshed out.

I loved the book so much its going in my must read again pile. I can’t wait for a sequel. Its certainly changed the way I think of time.

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys, sci-fi, urban fantasy, mystery, detective noir, wierd fiction and likes complex and layered stories.

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

*****

Expected publication: August 1st 2017 by Angry Robot

Paperback: 384 pages   (I read an advanced copy on pdf)

ISBN: 9780857666703

Agents of Dreamland – Weird Fiction Novella

Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Select Sentence “Their language works its way into your brain, digging in and lodging in the convolutions of the cerebrum, burying into the fine groves of the cerebellum, threatening to hijack all reason and even the basest animal instincts.”

Book blurb: “A government special agent known only as the Signalman gets off a train on a stunningly hot morning in Winslow, Arizona. Later that day he meets a woman in a diner to exchange information about an event that happened a week earlier for which neither has an explanation, but which haunts the Signalman.

In a ranch house near the shore of the Salton Sea a cult leader gathers up the weak and susceptible — the Children of the Next Level — and offers them something to believe in and a chance for transcendence. The future is coming and they will help to usher it in.

A day after the events at the ranch house which disturbed the Signalman so deeply that he and his government sought out help from ‘other’ sources, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory abruptly loses contact with NASA’s interplanetary probe New Horizons. Something out beyond the orbit of Pluto has made contact.

And a woman floating outside of time looks to the future and the past for answers to what can save humanity”

My review

I was so excited when I saw this book that I purchased and read it straight away.  And I was not disappointed one bit.  This is a short book only 120 pages but it packs a punch, filled with imagination, darkness and conspiracy theories.

Agents of Dreamland is a weird-fiction novella. A dark twisted Lovecraft tale of alien invasion and zombie fungus. The Signalman, a government agent is tracking down a cult leader but instead discovers a horrific crime scene. Immacolata looks through time and observes these events and through her? eyes we glimpse the madness and horror of the future as she searches for a way to save humanity. Caitlín R. Kiernan’s beautiful prose gives us glimpses of an apocalyptic future ripped straight from a nightmare.

This is not a linear story but rather twists and turns, weaving through time and back. You have to piece together the story as you go. But this just adds to the mystery and horror of the book. The characters are interesting especially Immacolata, who appears outside of time.  The book had a X-files vibe about it with sci-fi and government intermixed into the dreamland.   I only wish the book had been longer so i could read more of the weird fascinating prose.

A must read for horror fans.

*****  5 star-read

112 pages Published February 28th 2017 by Tor.com

31372244

An excerpt of the first few pages can be read on Tor.com: http://www.tor.com/2017/01/27/excerpts-agents-of-dreamland-caitlin-kiernan/