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Friday, 18 October 2019

Book Review: Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

The fifth book in the Dark Tower series finds Roland and his ka-tet in Calla Bryn Sturgis, where they must help the residents overcome a formidable enemy.

"Now I think that all of us are born with a hole in our hearts, and we go around looking for the person who can fill it. You...Eddie, you fill me up."

Even though this book took me what felt like a million years to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed pretty much every page (well... I’m not the biggest fan of the New York plot in this one, I’d rather have just stayed in the Calla!)

King is well-known for his depiction of small towns and bringing all the residents to life, and this one is no different! Lots of new characters to meet, as well as the reintroduction of an old one. I LOVED catching up with this character, quite a lot of time is spent filling in the gaps of his story and I was not complaining in the slightest!

The Dark Tower is such an epic tale where our ka-tet are mostly travelling around and on the move, so I liked just staying still for a while (apart from going todash) and allowing for more character development. Also a huge fan of the story behind the wolves and the roont children - I find it creepily fascinating!

I fangirl so hard over all the little references to pop culture and connections to other King books etc so I was in my element here! I guess not everyone enjoys that kind of stuff, but this gal does! And if you haven’t read the series before, this one ends in a way where you just NEED to know what happens next. But luckily I have so I’m okay waiting to read Song of Susannah - however, not for too long, because the Tower is beckoning...

An underrated DT novel, in my opinion. 5 stars.

Johann
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Book Review: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

A desperate and distraught gunman takes a women’s health centre hostage.

“Laws are black and white. The lives of women are a thousand shades of gray.”

This was the first pick for my book club in work and I must say, it was an excellent suggestion! Incredibly thought-provoking and uniquely written, A Spark of Light really leaves an impression.

It doesn’t need saying that abortion is a hot topic now - although it’s pretty much always relevant - so it was fitting to read this at a time when there is a lot of talk surrounding criminalisation of abortion. We all have our own thoughts and views, and so does Jodi Picoult, but at no point did I feel like she was preaching about her own view. Both sides of the argument are eloquently and rationally put forward, with a range of characters who have had different experiences.

The story is told in reverse- so we start close to the end of the hostage situation in the health centre, and Picoult works backwards hour by hour. I wasn’t a huge fan of this. It removed some of the tension and suspense, and it got confusing at times trying to recall how each character ended up. However, in terms of the execution of the big reveals and how storylines fitted together, it worked well! So I can perhaps see her reasoning for deciding to tell the story in this way.

I learnt a number of things I didn’t previously know about the abortion procedure. Having a medical background, I thought I pretty much knew it all, but it turns out that I didn’t! Picoult clearly did her research for this novel - speaking to loads of different professionals and people from both sides of the argument.

This is not necessarily a book about abortion. It’s about the fact that we all have our own opinions and stances on certain topics due to our differing backgrounds and experiences. And Picoult does what she always does and makes you consider both sides.

I found this to be an excellent conversation starter, I could talk about it until the cows come home, but mostly it reminded me why I have always been a fan of Picoult’s bold and thought-provoking stories. 4 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 5 October 2019

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

A middle-aged man returns home to attend a funeral, where he finds previously forgotten memories beginning to return...

“Adults follow paths. Children explore.”
I went into this one thinking it would become an all-time favourite - and there is still the potential that it WILL become one - but it fell JUST short of the mark for me on this read. Everything was incredible - the writing, the themes, the imagery, the villain... my only issue was that I was left scratching my head every now and again? I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on at times and had to reread parts to try and follow the narrative.

Now maybe that was just a case of me stop-starting this one during a busy week, or maybe not everything is meant to be clear, but it did affect my enjoyment a little. This is why I feel like I might end up simply adoring it on a subsequent reread, therefore achieving that all-time fave status.

The main character himself is also one that a lot of bookworms will be able to relate to - “I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.” Then you have the fascinatingly intriguing family that live in the farmhouse down the lane. And the villain is TERRIFYING! Especially when you consider the fact our protagonist doesn’t have his parents to turn to :(

One can never fault Gaiman’s writing - books where you want to highlight nearly every sentence because the writing is so bloody beautiful are precious to me! As for the commentary on memory and childhood, I will always savour the exploration of those themes.

All in all, a wonderful book that is worthy of a future reread. 4 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 28 September 2019

Book Review: The Case Against Satan by Ray Russell

Susan Garth is a sweet little girl of high school age who suddenly develops an aversion to churches and a newfound fondness for vulgarity (as well as attacking the parish priest). If madness can’t explain her behaviour, the answer must be demonic possession.

“Capture the dragon, the ancient serpent who is Satan, and send him in chains into the Abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations.”
If you go into this one looking for a terrifying demonic possession story, then you’re gonna have a bad time. Or you’ll just be really disappointed. BUT if you go in with an open mind, you’ll find a really thought-provoking story about one priest’s struggle with his faith.

Set in 1962, The Case Against Satan came before The Exorcist, before Rosemary’s Baby, and you can definitely see how subsequent books have been inspired by this tale. It was probably ahead of its time in terms of looking at demonic possession through a lens of “is this a possession or could it be explained by science or psychology?” It brings up lots of interesting points.

I’ve also found I really enjoy reading books that explore the Catholic church and have priests as main characters, probably due to my own upbringing and experiences, but I find them quite relatable. So this one ticked a lot of boxes in that regard!

Also, a little fun observation! I am wondering if King has read this before, as a few character names he used in his own early novels showed up (Barlow and Halloran!) But perhaps I am just reading into things too much...

Overall I would recommend this if discussion surrounding exorcisms and the potential causes is something you find interesting. Also given its subsequent influence on the horror genre, I feel like this one deserves a little more attention. There are a few creepy parts, but it won’t keep you up at night! 4 stars.

Johann
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Friday, 27 September 2019

Book Review: Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

If you’re a fan of the My Favorite Murder podcast, then there’s a good chance of you enjoying this part memoir/part self-help book. Lacking in true crime itself (which totally works!), it shines a light on the other topics and discussions that come up regularly on the show, such as mental health issues, self-care and addiction.

“The epitome of ‘fucking politeness’ is learning how to act in the moment, instead of wishing you had later.”

For each of the catchphrases or slogans that the show has created, eg Fuck Politeness or Stay Out of the Forest, there’s essays from Karen and Georgia discussing their own life experiences or what that slogan truly means to them. I have heard the audiobook is fantastic as it is just like listening to the podcast, so I’ll have to check that out at some point too!

I laughed, I cried and I fangirled immensely over Georgia’s chapter on how Ray Bradbury’s writing effectively saved her life. One of the hardest essays to read was one where Karen writes about her late mother and her battle with Alzheimer’s. She describes a moment where their mother “came back” to tell her sister that she truly loved the two of them and I actually thought my heart was going to split in two.

But amongst all the tears and emotion, there’s so much humour, as to be expected from these two! Karen’s guide on how to be a latchkey kid is hilarious, as is her analogy that being an alcoholic is like shitting in a hot tub ie killing the buzz of everyone around you! LOL. And there were quite a few Stephen King references as well, which I particularly enjoyed... I feel like the story of how Georgia got into true crime is something that a lot of us murderinos can relate to.

This is everything I thought it would be - empowering, uplifting and honest. However, I would mostly recommend this to those who listen to the podcast, otherwise you’d be left scratching your head as to how the title fits and where all the gruesome, gory details are! Unless of course, you just like reading the memoirs of strong, funny women... then it could be right up your street! 5 stars!

Johann
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Book Review: White Teeth by Zadie Smith

White Teeth focuses on the later lives of two wartime friends - the Bangladeshi Samad Iqbal and the Englishman Archie Jones - and their families in London.

”Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.”

Well. This was disappointing. Luckily I was a huge fan of Zadie’s writing itself, and so I’m not ruling out trying her other books... which means @ab_reads has not disowned me.

In reality, this should have worked for me. I enjoy stories that span decades, that follow multiple people and families. But this narrative just felt a bit TOO all over the place, with too many characters and a number of different storylines that felt completely unrelated until too late in the book. Like yeah, everything ties together eventually, but it just felt ridiculous to me.

None of the characters were particularly likeable either. I don’t need to like the characters in order to enjoy a book, but in this instance it was really off-putting. Samad, in particular, I just could not stand. The only one who I was rooting for was Irie, and she just didn’t get enough page time!

On the upside, I learnt a LOT about Jehovah’s Witnesses! I found those parts incredibly interesting, as well as the mixture of all the different cultures and religions. Smith’s writing and commentary is so witty and clever, I laughed out loud on a few occasions. So hey, it wasn’t all bad?

Overall, just not for me. I felt like it tried too hard! 2.5 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 14 September 2019

Book Review: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

A maintenance man called Eddie dies and is sent to heaven, where he encounters five people - some known to him and some not - who each teach him a lesson.

“All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.”

If heaven truly exists, I sure hope it’s exactly like this! What sounds better than meeting up with loved ones who have gone before and have them explain to you the meaning of your life?

Religion and whether or not you believe in heaven or the afterlife is obviously a very personal thing and therefore I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to everyone. The book wasn’t overly religious nor was it preachy either, and I do think non-religious people could still enjoy the story, but that’s up to each reader to decide!

I do believe in God and I do believe in the afterlife - and I feel like that’s a difficult thing to openly admit on here, but I feel like it’s necessary to explain why I loved this book. It was a total comfort blanket for me - my beliefs are a way of coping with my dad’s death.

This is really a very touching story about the impact we have on those around us. The style and writing is simplistic, but it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and once again I was grateful to read a weepy book like this by the pool with sunglasses to hide my tears.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, but if it sounds like something you’d enjoy or if you’re dealing with the death of a loved one, then give it a chance! 4 stars.

Johann
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Sunday, 8 September 2019

Book Review: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

An impoverished ex-student in St Petersburg, Rodion Raskolnikov, formulates a plan to kill a pawnbroker for her money.


“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”

I’m still in shock over how much I enjoyed Crime and Punishment. SHOCK. I feared it would take me WEEKS and that I’d be begging for it to just end... but I flew through it in less than a week and quickly found myself looking at which Russian classic I wanted to tackle next!

All I can say is, if this one has interested or intrigued you, but it has intimidated you... do not be afraid!! It is incredibly accessible and bingeable. The perfect introduction to the Russian classics.

There is so much going on that it’s almost impossible to cover it all in a review. There’s a crime... and there’s punishment. And so much in between! The idea of temporary insanity, the effects a guilty conscience can have, questions about morality... and so on and so forth.

In terms of the characters, they were all so complex and well-fleshed out, and not always likeable, but my favourites were the ladies! Dunya, Raskolnikov’s sister, was the standout for me. She is so intelligent and strong-willed, with oodles of compassion for others. I also really liked Sonya, the love interest of Raskolnikov, and her dedication to her family, and found her mother Katerina to be an absolute hoot at times! Porfiry, however... god, some of his monologues were PAINFUL. I wanted to scream at him to get on with whatever he was saying!!

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, something I struggled with at the start was all the names and interchangeable nicknames etc. Thankfully my edition had a handy character list at the beginning, with each of their alternative names. But once I got into it, it was fine! Just be prepared to struggle with that at first.

Overall, a fantastic read that leaves you with a lot to think about. I’m glad that I tackled it and even more glad that I loved it! 5 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 24 August 2019

Book Review: White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Ingrid Magnusson is sent to jail for the murder of her ex-boyfriend, leaving her daughter, Astrid, to enter the foster care system.

“If you expect to find people who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment. The best you'll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle stand in your way.”
White Oleander is pure poetry. The writing is absolutely exquisite - it’s one of those books where you keep pausing just to inhale really moving and poignant prose. I would happily read anything else Janet Fitch has written/will write, as she has blown me away!

The mother/daughter relationship between Ingrid and Astrid is complex, flawed and difficult. The influence that one person can hold over you is quite scary - even though Ingrid is in prison, she still exerts this weird control over Astrid from afar. Her relationship with her mother is something that Astrid struggles with, as well as the lack of a father during her youth. Fitch handles these themes and topics with a deft hand, I really didn’t want this one to end.

Following Astrid through a sequence of different foster homes is really heartbreaking, but each new home brings vibrant and strong characters, each with their own issues. Claire in particular was a standout for me, I loved the relationship that formed between her and Astrid, even though Claire herself was also a fragile soul.

I would 100% recommend this to anyone who loves reading about complicated family dynamics, in particular the frayed relationship that can exist between mothers and daughters. This book was fantastic!

I’m also still fangirling over the fact that Fitch messaged me personally on goodreads to say she enjoyed reading my reviews and was looking forward to reading more! I’ll mark that down as one of my greatest bookish moments! 4.5 stars.

Johann
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Friday, 23 August 2019

Book Review: Inferno by Dante

The Inferno tells the journey of Dante through Hell, accompanied by the ancient Roman poet, Virgil.


”They yearn for what they fear for.”

Dante’s Inferno presents one of those incredibly frustrating scenarios where the plot, imagery, themes etc are all fucking insane, but the prose made me want to claw my eyeballs out. I looked at how long the actual poem was and thought “that’ll take me about 2 days?” WRONG. Over a week. This may have been due to the fact that I was also reading the accompanying notes at the back alongside each canto, but I needed to read those or I would have been utterly clueless the majority of the time.

In terms of the nine circles of Hell, all of that stuff was INCREDIBLE. There was actual POOP on one level! It was all so dark and visceral and BADASS, but I couldn’t help but wish that I was reading a graphic novel of this instead, or even an illustrated edition, as I’d love to have experienced this alongside some epic illustrations.

It’s not often that a book makes me feel dumb, but this one did. It was just a LOT of hard work, and I don’t necessarily like to feel like that when I’m reading for pleasure. So I’m not sure if I’ll ever pick up Purgatorio and Paradiso... I don’t know if I could put myself through that again.

However, I’m glad I read it and I was a huge fan of the imagery and ideas, which is why my rating isn’t a lot more savage - 3 stars.

Book Review: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

A fictionalised retelling of the story of Grace Marks and the part that she may or may not have played in the murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. Grace was only 16 when she accused of murdering her employer and his housekeeper.

”If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged.”
This is a fantastic mix of true crime and historical fiction! Atwood blends the two wonderfully, even including actual excerpts from reports and books, as well as pictures of the two charged with the murders. Atwood’s research and attention to detail is very apparent, although I held off on reading about the true crime case that inspired the novel until after I had finished.

The story kicks off with Grace in Kingston Penitentiary, serving her sentence for these murders. That is until Doctor Simon Jordan becomes involved in her case and tries to unlock some of the memories that she claims are hidden away. What unravels is a slow-paced yet addictive read, brimming with sex, violence and commentaries on both class and gender. And I could not get enough!

My overwhelming reaction to this book was to simply be in awe of Atwood’s writing and wit. She provides such sharp astute observations that are equally intelligent and droll - I definitely sniggered on more than a few occasions.

To summarise, Atwood is a goddamn queen. Alias Grace surpasses The Handmaid’s Tale as my favourite Atwood to date and is up there in my top 10 books of the year so far! I loved every single page! 5 stars.

Johann
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Sunday, 18 August 2019

Book Review: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five is about Billy Pilgrim’s survival of the firebombing of Dresden as a prisoner-of-war during World War II and is often cited as one of the most enduring anti-war novels of all time.

“How nice — to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.”
Let me be real here - it’s times like these that I am so thankful for bookstagram. Never in my life would I have picked up this book if it wasn’t for this platform... and I am so incredibly glad I did as it surprised me in the BEST way possible.

You think this book is about one thing... and then it kinda goes down a different path that I did NOT see coming and all of a sudden there’s science fiction thrown into the mix?! Whaaaat! Yet it works SO WELL. These may even have been my favourite parts of the book!

The narrative is non-linear as we jump back and forth in time and yet it doesn’t feel disjointed in the slightest. There’s a lot of repetition as well, which again, doesn’t bother me, because Vonnegut just executes it all so seamlessly and effectively. A lot of it is just downright absurd and crazy, but if I’ve said it once I’ll say it a million times... it just works!!

I simply adored so many of the messages in this book, whether it was the anti-war stance, the commentaries on life and death, or just the fact it makes you stop and think. And it’s so goddamn funny.

There are so many books that I’ve read during my 30 before 30 challenge that I’ve thought “well, once was enough! I shan’t see you again...” but I will definitely revisit this at some point. It’s got a hold on me.

So it goes...

4.5 stars.

Johann
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Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Book Review: The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Forced to flee from her hometown, Catherine Goggin finds herself pregnant and alone at just sixteen. Having settled in Dublin, she gives her newborn baby over to a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun. And so begins the story of Cyril Avery...


"...life had manifested the heart’s invisible furies on his face."

Reasons why you NEED this book:
- it is incredibly engrossing. Once you start you won’t want to put it down!
- it is laugh-out-loud funny. That Irish sense of humour!
- it would be a fantastic read for #pridemonth
- it tackles so many heavy issues from the oppression of the Catholic Church in Ireland to the violence and terrorism inflicted by the IRA to the HIV/AIDS crisis... it covers it all!!
- the story spans for decades from Cyril’s birth to when he reaches old age and every single stage of his life is depicted in such a heartfelt and real way
- it will crush your heart in the best way possible; books like this are the reason why we read in the first place.

This is truly one of those books where it’s hard to convey in a limited number of characters how brilliant it really is. Such memorable and well-written characters who are not without their flaws. They are all painfully human.

I love my country, but also recognise how backwards it can be in some regards - we’ve come a long way but there is still plenty that needs to change. Reading about the history of Ireland and the attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community in the 1960s is hard, there’s very little to be proud of - yet Boyne balances it perfectly with the right amount of humour so that it doesn’t become TOO depressing.

In a nutshell, if you haven’t read this one, you must! It’s a beautifully written epic saga laced with emotion that I will be shouting about from the rooftops for a very long time. I’m quite literally recommending it to everyone in my personal life.

And I got to buddy read it with one of my favourite people, Gemma!

ALL THE STARS.

Johann
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Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The story of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman, and his struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.

”Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with that there is.”
My first experience with Ernest Hemingway and it wasn’t terrible... nor was it amazing. It just felt very middle of the road for me.

I’ll start with what I did like. Hemingway’s writing is so simple and to the point, yet he can convey quite a lot with so few words. I also greatly admired the old man himself (Santiago, not Hemingway lol) - his perseverance and strength is truly something to behold!

I had been doing some research after I finished and was a bit dismayed to find that Hemingway had said this story isn’t an allegory for anything. The old man is just an old man. The sea is just the sea... and so forth. However I find that I like it more when I interpret it a little deeper. So I’ll just pretend it means something...

In terms of the negatives... fishing isn’t really my forte. (Is that obvious?!) Terms were being used that I didn’t understand, and I find the act of fishing itself very boring. So it wasn’t always the most invigorating read - in this case, I was thankful it was short.

Overall, I’d say I liked it slightly more than I disliked it? But in no way does it put me off reading more Hemingway. I’ll definitely give him another chance! 3 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 27 July 2019

Book Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America.

“You have my whole heart. You always did.”
Some books are an experience. This is one of them. Exhausting, bleak, brutal, heartbreaking... certain parts will just stay with me forever.

This was my first encounter with Cormac McCarthy and the beautifully poetic prose prompted me to buy yet another one of his books (I already have Blood Meridian on my shelf). His writing is GORGEOUS. The short, blunt sentences and the minimal use of dialogue would normally frustrate me, but McCarthy just makes it work. It perfectly reflects the stark, cold world that this man and his son find themselves living in. It’s stunning.

I love the relationship between the father and son. You can really feel how much they need each other, in a world where they have nothing else. My main overriding thought during a lot of this was that I just could NOT survive this. I don’t think I would have the same hope or perseverance that these characters did! And my heart was simply breaking by the end...

It doesn’t get the full five stars from me because the repetitiveness got a little tiring at times... and I honestly am just greedy and want to know more about what actually happened etc.

By far the most bleak and depressing post-apocalyptic book I’ve ever read, yet it will remain one of my favourites. 4.5 stars.

Johann
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Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Book Review: Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

The fourth book in the Dark Tower series finds Roland telling his ka-tet the story of the first time he encountered a thinny, and also his first love, Susan Delgado.

“If it’s ka it’ll come like a wind, and your plans will stand before it no more than a barn before a cyclone.”
Sadie and Jake of 11/22/63 have been my favourite King love story since forever, but I’ve got a new favourite - Roland and Susan. “If you love me, then love me.” Okay, yes. They’re teenagers and it might get a bit icky if you think about it for too long. But I think King perfectly portrays the intensity and naivety of first love. I love Susan as a character, I find her incredibly relatable, and I’ve cried with her as she mourns the loss of her father.

It honestly crushes my heart to see Roland laugh and smile with such carefree abandon. I feel like this book is CRUCIAL to understanding Roland’s past and his obsession with the tower - we finally get to see the more human side of Roland, and appreciate why he is so haunted.

Outside of the love story, I absolutely adore Alain and Cuthbert. I love the bond between the three of them, it gives me warm fuzzy feelings... and SHEEMIE. What an unsung hero. Even the villains are fucking badass. Jonas and the Big Coffin Hunters are a formidable force and that scene in the bar is just epic. And the showdown in Eyebolt Canon!! I LOVE IT. Rhea the Coös is another character that I should hate, but she steals the show anytime she pops up - although she makes my skin crawl *shudders*

I just noticed I haven’t even acknowledged the parts that bookend Roland’s tale. They’re great too, and the tie-ins to The Stand will have any Constant Reader flailing!! And the writing. My god. Some of King’s best work in here. So many parts I just reread over and over. I truly feel like this is one of King’s best pieces of work.

My fangirling is over. For the time being. 5 stars.

Johann
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Sunday, 21 July 2019

Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert. A chance meeting between the two in New York in 1899 leads to an unlikely friendship.

“All of us are lonely at some point or another, no matter how many people surround us. And then, we meet someone who seems to understand. She smiles, and for a moment the loneliness disappears.”

The Golem and the Jinni is a dazzling blend of magical realism and historical fiction - it also beautifully incorporates two different cultures as a means to explore the immigrant experience in a really effective and unique way. Both of our main characters face the struggles of coming to a new country, having to learn this new way of life and trying to fit in. As well as the additional difficulty of trying to act human! And it’s all set in a beautifully vibrant time and place.

I was truly fascinated by the golem, Chava. For me, she was a much stronger and more interesting character than the jinni. She exists to serve a master and please others, whereas the jinni is slightly more self-absorbed. To make things even better, the supporting cast is also wonderfully rich with well-drawn out backstories - special shout-out to Saleh, who I loved most of all!

It’s a bit of a slow-burner, which I personally don’t mind, as the pay-off is more than worth it, and who can complain when you’re reading such beautifully descriptive prose? It’s incredibly well-written and I’m so impressed that this is Wecker’s debut novel, as she effortlessly weaves together all the strands that make up this novel. Perfection.

I’d recommend this to those who enjoy descriptive and atmospheric books such as The Night Circus!

Thank you so much to Tes @paperbackbones for gifting me this book, and to Brendan @brendanslibrary for the buddy read! It was a delight! 5 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 6 July 2019

Book Review: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Set during World War II, Catch-22 details the experiences of Captain Yossarian and the other airmen in his camp as they try to maintain their sanity while fulfilling their service requirements so that they can return home.

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”

I did it! I conquered the book I was dreading most and I made it all the way to the end..... and it actually surprised me? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not head over heels for it, but I took a lot from this one and I’m very much glad I read it.

Catch-22 is often hilarious at times, but beneath all the satire and humour, there is a very bleak and harrowing depiction of war. And towards the end I actually found that I was emotionally attached to some of the characters?! Completely unexpected!

I really appreciated some of the techniques that Heller used, one of which was using the current number of missions the military personnel needed to complete in order to go home, as a way of marking exactly where we are in the timeline of events. Another was the use of each chapter to introduce a new character (or a place), but inevitably the story always veered back towards Yossarian and the other core characters.

This book is just so CLEVER. All the little contradictions at play and the commentary on how nonsensical war can really be. I really am in awe of how well-constructed and impactful it is.

Now why didn’t I give it 5 stars? The repetition, whilst effective at times, also became irritating. Some of the characters were hard to distinguish from others. And some parts just plain bored the life outta me...

BUT for me, it was more good than bad and I wouldn’t put anyone off reading it. It might just surprise you too! 3 stars.

Johann
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Sunday, 30 June 2019

Book Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Anne Elliot broke her engagement to Frederick Wentworth at the age of 19 following pressure from her family. Now 27, Anne’s father rents their family home to the Admiral and his wife (the sister of Wentworth), meaning that Wentworth now re-enters her life all these years later...

"Let us never underestimate the power of a well-written letter."

Persuasion is a really lovely book about second chances. It’s about overcoming obstacles through maturity, and how although people can change in some ways, they stay just the same in others.

Anne Elliot is such an enchanting protagonist, she’s quiet and demure, a sensitive soul, and is almost considered to be over the hill at the ripe old age of 27(!)-  how I’m glad times have changed!! LOL. Anne’s sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, were also great characters that seemingly always brought some drama or eye-rolling moments!

This is only my second Austen after having read Pride and Prejudice back in school, and I do really enjoy her social commentary on the topic of marriage in the early 1800s and how women pursued it as a means to gain economic stability as well as social standing. Sometimes I do struggle with the writing and I’m positive some parts simply go right over my head, but for the most part I have a good time.

Persuasion is quite romantic, although my complaint would be that we really don’t get to know a lot about Wentworth. I wish we could have seen why Anne had fallen in love with him in the first place, as this would have made me root for the couple more. But the letter (if you’ve read the book, you know the one I’m referring to!) is just so beautifully written and touching that you can’t help but be moved by it.

All in all, a heartwarming book about the persistence of true love. I’m glad Jen @bluestockingbookshelf pushed me to read it! 3.5 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 29 June 2019

Book Review: Blindness by Jose Saramago

An unexplained mass epidemic of blindness spreads throughout a city, afflicting almost everyone, as civilisation begins to fall apart.


“Perhaps only in a world of the blind will things be what they truly are.”
First things first, this book has an incredible premise and story but you gotta be prepared to put in a little elbow grease to get it! Unless, of course, you are used to reading walls of text with no speech marks and long-ass sentences that go on for half a page.

That is honestly my only real complaint about this book - once you got into the swing of it and you can sit and read for an extended period of time, it becomes second nature! But if you’re picking it up here and there it felt like hard work to get back into it each time.

The premise is TERRIFYING and so disturbingly realistic. As civilisation breaks down and succumbs to chaos and destruction, the blindness amplifies what was already there in the first place - hate, greed, selfishness, theft, rape, murder. Sewage fills the streets, there’s no electricity, food is in short supply, dogs feed on corpses... Everything is stripped back as we are left to wonder what really makes us human? *Trigger warning for rape, by the way*

Blindness is a pretty powerful dystopian novel with an incredibly harrowing message. We might be able to physically see, but what else are we blind to?

I’d recommend this one for sure if the writing style doesn’t put you off - the audiobook might be a great way around that! 3.5 stars.


Johann
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Friday, 28 June 2019

Book Review: Night Shoot by David Sodergren

Desperate student filmmakers break into Crawford Manor for an unauthorised night shoot.

“He realised how trivial onscreen deaths were. They never got it right, couldn’t replicate the true gut-churning horror of real life.”

The best damn horror book I’ve read in a while! I devoured it in 24 hours and even stayed up until 2am cos I just. couldn’t. stop. And I never do that!!

This is only Sodergren’s second novel and yet his writing reads like that of an esteemed author. He just hits all the right notes and the pace is consistent, yet exciting (until the last 50 pages when I just couldn’t put it down!) I adore how he so effortlessly combines humour with horror, I had to restrain myself from laughing out loud in a coffee shop!

A creepy manor screams out for all the cliches we have experienced so many times, yet this novel felt so FRESH and unique. The kills are incredibly original and inventive and had me grimacing on more than one occasion. AND Sodergren now has a track record of writing spunky female characters in his novels, which I am HERE FOR and there’s also great LGBTQ+ inclusion!

Honestly, if you’re a fan of slasher movies from the 1980s, you NEED this one on your tbr! It’s the perfect homage. I can not recommend it enough, I loved it even more than Sodergren’s debut The Forgotten Island.

5 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 22 June 2019

Book Review: The Oscar Wilde Collection by Oscar Wilde

After being such a huge fan of The Picture of Dorian Gray, I knew I needed to explore more of Wilde’s writing. Unfortunately this was a bit of a mixed bag for me!

“Yet each man kills the thing he loves.”
Dorian Gray is at the very beginning and I decided not to reread it - I’ll do that another day. After this we had Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime, wherein Lord Arthur is told by a palm reader that it is in his destiny to be a murderer... however, he wants to get married but decides he has no right to do so until he has committed the murder. Hilarity ensues...

Then there was The Canterville Ghost which was an absolute blast! It’s about the Otis family who move into a haunted house, but no matter what the ghost does, the family refuse to be frightened. It was so incredibly funny at times with Mr Otis advising the ghost that maybe he should oil his chains and Mrs Otis delivering lines like “I don’t at all care for blood-stains in a sitting room.” LOL. The combination of the macabre with some comedy was just perfect!

Following this we have a number of stories for children that Wilde has written. These were hit and miss for me personally. Certain themes and messages became a bit repetitive - there was always a lovely message at the end, but sometimes the message made me roll my eyes... have I become cynical in my old age?!

Next up was A House of Pomegranates which is a collection of his fairy tales. Again, all beautifully written - I can never fault that - but I am not a huge fairy tale person? So again, up and down!

The collection closes with The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which Tes @paperbackbones had told me about before, which is a poem that Wilde had written in exile following his release from the same prison. The inclusion of this poem at the very end left quite a different tone from the stories that preceded it. It narrates the execution of a fellow inmate, highlighting the punishments that all convicts share. I don’t read much poetry but thought this one was well-written and impactful.

So whilst this collection was hit and miss, I will continue to love this man’s voice.

3.5 stars.

Johann
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Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Book Review: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

A magical, timeless summer in the life of a twelve-year-old boy named Douglas Spaulding.

“Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.”

Forewarning: this review might just be a series of fangirling comments with no real structure or order.

Halfway between being a novel and a series of vignettes, Dandelion Wine is Bradbury’s ode to summer - and if you know me at all, I kinda hate that season. And yet somehow Bradbury had me brimming with nostalgia for childhood summers when it seemed like anything was possible and that summer might just last forever. *wipes tear away*

In some ways I would compare this to Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life, there are a lot of similar themes and it gave me that same feeling of magic - that magical realism where you can’t tell what is real and what is simply a young boy’s imagination. The descriptions and prose are mesmerising, you can almost smell, hear and see summer. And any book that evokes nostalgia for childhood memories is a winner in my eyes.

Surprisingly, one of the creepiest and most unsettling passages I’ve ever read was in here too! It really played on one of my biggest fears - a murderer following you home or trying to get into your house. I got goosebumps as Bradbury turned up the tension and really set me on edge.

It’s a book that reminds you that you’re ALIVE - right here, right now- and yes, people will die, friends move away, seasons end, but there’s always magic to be discovered in little everyday things. Does this also sound like another one of my favourite books?? The Thief of Always perhaps?? I think this type of story is really my favourite.

Already marking this one as one of my favourite books of the year. How I would love to spend my summer in Green Town.

5/5. (Because I can’t give five thousand!)

This book is so amazing that it made a summer-hater actually start to appreciate summer... and it also made her nostalgic for childhood summers. Bradbury just has this insane ability to convey emotions and settings. Will certainly be one of my fave books of the year!

Johann
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Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Book Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Orphaned Jane emerges from her cold and hostile upbringing to become a governess at Thornfield, where she meets the dark and brooding, Mr Rochester.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me.”

Jane Eyre is the literary heroine I never knew I needed. It’s refreshing to come across a female protagonist in classic literature that is so feminist (even though sexism still surrounds her - looking at you, St John... and at times... Mr Rochester), as women can often be portrayed as the weaker sex, forced to adhere to the gender roles and expectations of the time. But Jane ain’t having any of that.

Perhaps there are some question marks over whether certain parts could be considered feminist, but for me, it all comes down to choice. And Jane CHOOSES her path. She is always true to herself and acts with such integrity and strength, and I could honestly write an entire review on why I love Jane so much... but I’m reviewing the BOOK, not Jane.

The gothic atmosphere had me absolutely swooning - the writing is gorgeous, the setting is just right. And it’s pretty damn creepy at times!

Another surprise for me was how absolutely hilarious some parts were. I was cackling away to myself when Jane throws water over Mr Rochester during a fire and he says “are we in a flood?” LOL and just the entire sequence with the fortune-teller was so ridiculous that it became endearingly funny.

If I had to get nit-picky, I’d say that some parts maybe dragged on a bit, and I would be feeling quite eager for the story to move along... but that was quite rare. And I LOATHED St John. Usually I keep notes in my phone as I’m reading a book and jot down little thoughts, and lets just say... there were a lot of expletives and capital letters when I was expressing my feelings on St John!!

It was a joy to become lost in this book, and the love story of Jane and Mr Rochester. I may have even shed a tear at the end. Jane Eyre has certainly became one of my favourite classics. 5 stars.

Johann
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Friday, 7 June 2019

Book Review: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankstein by Kiersten White

The story of an orphan, Elizabeth Lavenza, who is taken in by the Frankenstein family and forms a close relationship with Victor.

“I sought to puncture Heaven and instead discovered Hell.”

I’m gonna be honest here... I’ve never understood the point of retellings. Why would I want to read the retelling of a story that is already pretty damn good? It just always seemed kinda pointless to me. Well, I’m here to tell you I was WRONG. (I also feel like I should mention that another reason I stay away from retellings is because I don’t always know the original story and it would be lost on me anyways!)

But I thought this was so much fun!! I loved noticing the similarities between this and Frankenstein, as well as embracing the differences. If done well, a retelling is basically like reading an homage to a story you love! I have now seen the error of my ways and I am open to reading more retellings.

Another reason why I really loved this one - strong *clap* female *clap* characters! *clap*  And strong female friendships too! I hardcore loved Elizabeth and how manipulative and deceptive she could be (also got a lot of love for Mary and Justine), and I really enjoyed how the author wove Elizabeth and Victor’s stories together. Victor be fucked-up.

It wasn’t until I started reading this that I was told it was YA, and to be honest, if I hadn’t been told, I probably would never have categorised it as that - it’s so dark and creepy, and the writing is so exquisite at times, I really was incredibly impressed! I definitely recommend this one if you’re a fan of Frankenstein!

Thanks so much to the lovely @margaritathedrink for recommending this to me! It was a delight! 4.5 stars.

Johann
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Sunday, 2 June 2019

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A blind French girl and a German boy’s paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

“Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.”

This is gonna be one of those reviews where I struggle to put into words how incredible this book is - I always feel like I can’t do such books justice and I’m better off just giving a 5 star rating and moving onto the next one!

So obviously I loved this one. We have two main characters that we follow as well as two different timelines, and we just constantly jump back and forth between all of them, which is executed so wonderfully and beautifully that I have zero complaints about it.

The short chapters also really helped me just burn through sections in one sitting. However, an instagram buddy had told me he felt that the short chapters meant he didn’t form a close connection with either character, and I can kinda relate to that. I mean, I did have a connection, especially with one of the side characters Frederick (sad face), but it wasn’t particularly intense and I didn’t cry whatsoever, which, for being such a huge crier, is unlike me! But that’s really just a minor grievance because the story itself is spectacular.

And the writing. Ooooh, the writing - it was just out of this world!! It’s one of those books that really awakens all the senses with its beautifully descriptive prose and reading it can be quite an immersive experience. The story moves along slowly at times, which doesn’t bother me as I enjoy a slow-burner, but if that puts you off, just know that it all comes together so perfectly and your efforts will have been worth it,

There’s just something incredibly fascinating and heartbreaking about books set during WWII, it’s such a bleak part of history. Yet that somehow makes the good people and their actions shine even brighter. 5 stars.

Johann
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Friday, 24 May 2019

Book Review: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

The first book in Maya Angelou’s series of autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings depicts Angelou’s childhood in the American south in the 1930s.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Reading and reviewing memoirs is something I find quite difficult. These are real life events described by the people who went through them, and judging them just seems incredibly harsh. Of course it’s great when you love the memoir and you can happily give it 5 stars and all the praise... but when you don’t love it, it feels mean to start picking at the reasons why you didn’t.

There is absolutely no doubt that Angelou was an incredibly inspiring woman, however I didn’t always connect with this one as much as I had hoped to. Some parts are terribly upsetting and hard to read because of the horrific abuse and racial prejudices that Angelou faced, whereas other parts moved quite slowly and became kind of boring... I don’t feel like there is much joy in this book, so although it’s a very impactful read, it’s not necessarily the most enjoyable. The most joyful parts for me were those that depicted the beautiful relationship between Maya and her brother, Bailey.

This is an important book that covers topics and issues that should be discussed, and Angelou does this in such a heartbreakingly honest and truthful way using her beautifully poetic prose. I just found it a chore at times and it makes me feel bad to even admit that :(

As it’s part of a series of autobiographies, it just abruptly ends at a point where you feel like you need to know more as something quite major has just occurred... but I’m honestly not sure if I’ll read the next book. Maybe someday! But I’m still glad I read this one.

3 stars out of 5. (To clarify, this rating is based on my personal enjoyment as I don’t really believe in rating memoirs)

Johann
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Saturday, 18 May 2019

Book Review: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies is now one of those books I WISH I had studied in school, I’d have loved to have delved deeper into the symbolic meanings and themes, instead of just having my basic reader experience! There’s probably so much I’m missing... it almost makes me want to read through the spark notes for the novel!

“What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?”

It really provides a fascinating insight into how quickly chaos can ensue once civilisation ceases to exist. And it’s somehow even more terrifying once you consider the fact that these are young boys. In a way it made me think of Under the Dome - it’s definitely possible that this was its inspiration given how much King loves this one!

Speaking of King, I was MAJORLY geeking out at the stone formation being called Castle Rock - I quickly darted to google to confirm that yes, King named his town after the fictional mountain fort in Lord of the Flies. Somehow I didn’t know this - but it does make complete sense given the glowing introduction King has provided in this edition.

Unfortunately I found the writing a little dry at times and I also got quite frustrated as well as it wasn’t always clear who was speaking? This is one of my major pet peeves in books - GIVE ME SOME INDICATION. A few of the characters felt interchangeable which didn’t help - even now I can only really distinguish Jack, Ralph and Piggy.

But otherwise I really enjoyed this and some of the imagery will stay with me forever - particularly when it came to the beast and their “gift” for it!

Really glad I finally read it! 4 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 11 May 2019

Book Review: Kill, My Darlings by Christy Aldridge

I’ve been reading so many classics lately for my 30 before 30 challenge and my horror itch hasn’t really been scratched for a while... so as soon as I received this copy of Kill, My Darlings from @christy_aldridge I pretty much started the minute I got it out of the package!

“That’s where they live. They can’t eat in the light. They can’t have their Tommy-feast unless the lights are out.”

Aldridge covers quite a broad range of different horror stories - there’s cannibalism, a terrifying clown, erotica, boogeymen and demons, so there’s really something that appeals to every horror fan’s taste!

Favourites for me were Lizzy Clearly Had A Bad Day, Billy and The Tommy-Feast. Billy in particular was hilarious - it’s about a guy who’s hand becomes kinda jealous when he finally gets a girlfriend... I just love stories that are so off the wall and original. Especially when they’re delivered in such a humorous way. I also feel like I need to mention Insatiable here as well - I’m not a prude in the slightest but even this story had me blushing!

A minor complaint would be that sometimes things are over-explained, especially in the first story The Mistress, which is about a female serial killer. It’s told entirely from her point of view and some points are maybe hammered home a bit too much?

But otherwise this collection is quite fun! It’s funny at times, with plenty of gore and body fluids, yet there are also more psychological stories that are quite effective as well. All in all, a nice mixture of different horror stories and I would definitely read more from Alridge! 3.5 stars!

Johann
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Sunday, 5 May 2019

50 Horror Books You Must Read!

Behold! A blog post I've been working on for a few weeks now. I often get asked which horror books I would recommend, so I thought I'd make my life a little easier and create a mammoth list. So as of this minute, here are 50 books that I've read and enjoyed. I have included some that I personally wasn't overly enamoured with, but reading is such a personal experience that I thought I'd give you the chance to make up your own mind! In a year or so I might post an update with great horror books that I've discovered since this list was made. In the list you'll find novels, some short stories and a few novellas thrown in too... Enjoy!



1. Pet Sematary - Stephen King
It’s me. Of course this book is at the top of the pile! (Even though the rest are in no way ranked…). An incredible horror novel providing heartbreaking insight into death, loss and grief. The horror is not found in huge tense, scary moments, but in those quiet and soul-crushing moments of grief.

2. Summer of Night – Dan Simmons
If you love IT, you’ll love Summer of Night. One of the few books to give me restless nights and one of the most unsettling and unforgettable death scenes. Think kids on bikes coming together to battle the evil that lurks beneath their town.

3. The Hellbound Heart – Clive Barker
Do you like a little bit of blood in your horror? Or copious amounts of it? LOOK NO FURTHER. If you’ve never read the novella that inspired Hellraiser, get to it!

4. Books of Blood Vol 1-6 – Clive Barker
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Barker’s combination of imagination and incredible writing is unparalled. The range of stories and sub-genres within the Books of Blood are staggering.

5. IT – Stephen King
I mean… this is a given. King’s masterpiece on the horror genre. And yet it is so much more than this. He tackles abuse, growing up, the loss of innocence, childhood friendships… it’s worth every damn page.

6. The Devil Crept in – Ania Ahlborn
Quite possibly the modern queen of horror, Ahlborn is both an incredibly talented writer and a great storyteller. In this one, a young boy goes missing in a small town where another had gone missing a few years previous. Weird shit is happening, okay?! And Ahlborn is not afraid to go to dark places… so check it out.

7. Seed – Ania Ahlborn
Demonic possession is one of my favourite types of horror stories, and Seed would rank highly in the ones I have read. Unsettling and creepy, and really worth your time.

8. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
With one of the most iconic opening paragraphs in history, Jackson shows that you don’t need guts and gore and disturbing scenes in order to write a great horror novel. Old school horror where the tension and dread is slowly turned up can be just as effective.

9. A Winter Haunting – Dan Simmons
A really tight, well-written follow-up for fans of Summer of Night. There’s just something about creepy occurrences in a house that will always work for me – because I too live in a house!! This could happen to ME. 

10. Carrion Comfort – Dan Simmons
Oh, boy. This one is an undertaking. It is HUGE and pretty heavy and depressing. It is unlikely that you will ever encounter more hateful characters than the “mind vampires” in this book. And by mind vampires I mean people that have the ability to take over your mind and control your actions from a distance – HOW terrifying. This one also had sex and gore galore! Not for the faint of heart.

11. Cabal – Clive Barker
A thrilling combination of fantasy and horror that demonstrates how sometimes humans can be more evil and destructive than the actual monsters themselves. And I vividly recall some raunchy scenes…

12. NOS4A2 – Joe Hill
A bona-fide top 5 book of all-time for me! We have one of the greatest villain tag-teams in Charlie Manx and Bing AND the setting is the most wonderfully dark and festive Christmasland. NOS4A2 is so original and inventive and unique - it doesn’t even FEEL like it’s 700+ pages, and that’s when you know it’s a fantastic book.

13. Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill
I read this one before I even knew Hill was King’s son. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree though, and this is a really solid rock n’ roll ghost story.

14. Hell Hound – Ken Greenhall
This one sticks with you, especially if you have your own furry friend. Is your dog secretly plotting to kill you? WHO KNOWS. Disturbing with a dark sense of humour, I really enjoyed this one.

15. The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum
The Girl Next Door should come with a warning – it is NOT for everyone. It is not a book to be enjoyed, but a book to be experienced. Based on the real life torture and murder of Sylvia Livens, it’s a brutal read and you’ll feel every emotion under the sun. You’ve been warned.

16. KIN – Kealan Patrick Burke
Imagine Texas Chainsaw Massacre but with really well-developed characters that you form an attachment to. It’s got blood and gore in abundance, but it’s got heart as well. Believe me, you won’t ever forget about Momma-in-Bed…. 

17. Blanky – Kealan Patrick Burke
If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you’ll notice that I have a special place in my heart for stories that focus on loss and grief. Add in a dash of horror and there’s a 99% chance I will love the book in question. Blanky is sad and heavy, but horrifying too.

18. Duma Key – Stephen King
I wouldn’t classify this as a straight-up horror novel, but it has horror aspects. AND it has one of the greatest friendships ever in the form of Edgar Freemantle and Wireman. Such an underrated King!

19. Sour Candy – Kealan Patrick Burke
A friendly reminder of why some people don’t want kids… they can be pretty frickin’ scary. This is like a weird, fucked-up episode of the Twilight Zone. You need it.

20. Bleed – Ed Kurtz
For those who are already big fans of Hellraiser/The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. This title promises blood and oh boy, does it deliver. This made my top books of 2018 list, however it is not for the faint of heart. But I am one sick puppy.

21. Night Shift – Stephen King
In my opinion, the greatest short story collection by King. From The Boogeyman to Children of the Corn to I Am the Doorway… the quality does not let up. And the majority are straight-up horror tales. The Last Rung on the Ladder is my favourite King short ever and always makes me cry – this collection is worth it for this story alone. 

22. Carter and Lovecraft – Jonathan L Howard
Lovecraftian horror is another one of my JAMS. And this one is basically written as an ode to Lovecraft and his fiction. Definitely check this one out if you’re into Lovecraft’s mythology.

23. Penpal – Dathan Auerbach
One of the more strange reading experiences I’ve had, where I wasn’t sure how much I was enjoying it until I finished and thought “HEY, that was actually fucking disturbing”. It played on my mind for about a week after reading, so it certainly left its mark.

24. December Park – Ronald Malfi
Coming-of-age horror stories are the BEST. Especially when the protagonist is a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen – what can I say, perhaps I am biased. Malfi is a fantastic writer and I would also recommend this one for fans of IT/Summer of Night.

25. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Just to reiterate this one more time – how the hell was Mary Shelley only 18 when she wrote this?? The writing is so beautiful and the story so multi-layered and complex. It really wasn’t what I was expecting. Hollywood Frankenstein couldn’t be any further from the original story!

26. Kill Creek – Scott Thomas
An interesting premise where four horror authors agree to spend the night in a haunted house together. Perhaps not as scary as I was personally hoping for, but still very enjoyable – the conversations about the horror genre and the publishing world were a particular highlight for me.

27. Bag of Bones – Stephen King
Oh hey, it’s Johann’s favourite combination again – horror and GRIEF/LOSS. I’m a sucker for it! An author coming to terms with the sudden loss of his wife (and resultant writers block) retreats to their lakeside home to face the nightmares he has been having. Bag of Bones does bring the chill factor at times, although it didn’t hold up as well when I reread it. But still – pretty good!!

28. Something Wicked this Way Comes – Ray Bradbury
I could wax lyrical about this book until I turn blue in the face. A coming-of-age tale that includes a carousel that will either age the rider or turn back the clock depending on the direction it rotates. This idea alone should be enough to sell you, nevermind the autumnal imagery and the stunning prose… I LOVE THIS BOOK.

29. The Forgotten Island – David Sodergren
A perfect homage to old-school horror with plenty of humour and skin-crawling scares. Oh, and did I mention there are also Lovecraftian monsters?! So so good!!

30. American Psycho – Brett Easton Ellis
First of all, a trigger warning for everything ever. This was equally the most disturbing book I’ve ever read and also the funniest. I have quite a dark sense of humour, so I would hazard a guess that not everyone would find it as hilarious as I did. What an incredible piece of social commentary. 

31. The Wicked – James Newman
This is basically a throwback to 80s horror, but the only difference is that it’s well-written *shots fired*. Lots of gore, blood and body fluid. AND A DEMON. So you know I’m on board.

32. Salem’s Lot – Stephen King
King’s depiction of the quiet death of a small town will never cease to captivate me. Sure, it has King’s most dull and under-developed protagonist, but the supporting characters help carry it (but not you, Susan). And it has epic villains too. King’s take on the vampire genre is a must-read!

33. Naomi’s Room – Jonathan Aycliffe
The first half send chills down my spine, and the second half just went completely off the rails in terms of how fucking disturbing it was. But both halves equate to one great ghost story. Again, one of the few books that led to me looking at photos of Barney to try and calm me down before trying to go to sleep. 

34. The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty
One of the best. This needs no introduction or selling point.

35. Legion – William Peter Blatty
Blatty is a huge fan of exploring the themes of good vs evil, and loves to ask questions such as “how can God exist when such evil occurs in the world?” Legion is a serial killer mystery book with a difference, and there are an abundance of links and connections to The Exorcist itself (The Exorcist 3 is actually based on Legion!). Huge fan of this one!

36. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
Ah, Dorian Gray… *heart eyes for days* Quite possibly my favourite classic on account of how wonderfully written and deliciously dark it is. The price one must pay for prolonged youth and vitality! We are not worthy of Oscar Wilde.

37. The Troop – Nick Cutter
A warning to all those who deem themselves to have a weak stomach - if you don’t like your books to be gory or overly descriptive, then this isn’t the book for you. However, if you’re a sick, twisted individual like myself… read on. I’d almost describe this book as Lord of the Flies on steroids. Children on an island, a sickness spreading… you get the gist. 

38. The Rats – James Herbert
Old-school horror that focuses on big ass RATS. The pace is relentless as the mutant rats start knocking off civilians in London - it’s all killer, no filler! Don’t go into this one looking for incredible character development… go into looking for huge terrifying rats, cos that’s what you’ll get.

39. The Shining – Stephen King
Again, this doesn’t really need an introduction. We know the score. 

40. Doctor Sleep – Stephen King
A very worthy sequel to The Shining, in my opinion, and the book that I would personally prefer out of the two! We get an adult Danny Torrance and Abra Stone, a kickass kid who team together to take on the True Knot, a group of quasi-immortals who feed on the “steam” produced by people who have the “shine”. A must-read before Mike Flanagan’s adaptation comes out this year!

41. Little Heaven – Nick Cutter
This one ticks a lot of boxes for me: well-developed and likeable characters, gore and blood, a religious cult with a creepy AF leader, and fucked-up illustrations. AND I even got a bit of a Lovecraftian vibe, which is obviously music to my ears…or eyes.

42. My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix
I always describe this book as a demon possession story, but with heart. SO many throwbacks to the 80s as well, which makes this read an absolute blast! It makes you nostalgic for those childhood friendships that you thought would last forever – I really did not expect to be crying by the end of it.

43. Dracula – Bram Stoker
The classic vampire tale of Count Dracula, forming the foundation for all the vampire mythology that was to follow. Are you even a horror fan if you haven’t read about the OG vampire?

44. I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
I associate this book with me reaching peak geek levels as I nerded out over all the SCIENCE. An incurable plague has mutated every human but Robert Neville into bloodthirsty, nocturnal creatures. Richard conducts his own research into what caused the plague and it is basically an accurate portrayal of the majority of my experiences in the lab – disappointment after disappointment. Thankfully this book was not one – it was SO GOOD.

45. The Making of Gabriel Davenport – Beverley Lee
Deliciously creepy, with a constant underlying feeling of dread, The Making of Gabriel Davenport does NOT read like a debut book. The writing is simply stunning and it’s a real page-turner. If you enjoy vampires and demons (who doesn’t?), this one is worth adding to your TBR!

46. The Call of Cthulhu – HP Lovecraft
I’m not even going to waste my breath (or typing capabilities) trying to persuade you to read this. Just do it!

47. At the Mountains of Madness – HP Lovecraft
If Antarctic expeditions appeal to you, then this Lovecraft novella would be right up your street! I found it chilling… get it? Cos of the Antarctic?? … as Lovecraft slowly ramps up the tension and dread to an incredibly satisfying and horrifying ending. 

48. The Shadow over Innsmouth – HP Lovecraft
I am 99% certain that this is my favourite Lovecraft story. There’s something about strange mutated fish people that captures my imagination and gives me major heebie jeebies.

49. Night Shoot – David Sodergren
If you buy one horror release in 2019, let it be this one. This is only Sodergren’s second novel and yet his work reads like that of an esteemed author who’s been at it for years. Desperate student filmmakers break into Crawford Manor for an unauthorised night shoot. And shit. kicks. off. It is equally disturbing and hilarious, and I recommend the hell out of it. 

50. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White
A re-telling of Frankenstein that is dark and creepy with exquisite writing. And strong female characters. This one impressed the pants of me and it needs to be on the tbr of every Frankenstein fanatic.

Johann
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