Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Book Purchases June 2016

It's a sunny day, in fact, it's been really nice out the past few days. As it's also near the end of the month, I'm starting to update my Reading Group Challenges. But I'm still hoping to finish one more book before end June so I'll update my monthly book purchases instead. I know I won't be buying anymore books this month.. Promise..
Ahem! Feed us first!!
OK, Clyde!! Calm down!!

The dogs have been fed and Jeopardy is over so now I can settle down for a bit and update my purchases. I bought 20 books in June, mostly from the local book stores but I also ordered a few from Abe Books. Luckily my last order arrived today as we're being threatened with either a postal lockout or a postal strike. Fingers crossed that neither happens. Let's get right into this entry.

You bought all those books?? Mommy will be very mad!
Yes I did, Bonnie, and no she won't. There is a place for them all and I'm even reading one right now. So there! And let's start with that one as a matter of interest.

1. Istanbul Crossing by Joseph Kanon (Spy/ Thriller). Last month I bought another of Kanon's books. This month one of my Goodreads groups had chosen Spy as the genre. I did read another Spy book but I thought this one looked interesting as well. And, I was correct, it's a real page turner. I hope to finish it by end of day tomorrow. We'll see. This is the synopsis

"Istanbul survived the Second World War as a magnet for refugees and spies. Even expatriate American Leon Bauer was drawn into this shadow world, doing undercover odd jobs in support of the Allied war effort. Now as the espionage community begins to pack up and an apprehensive city prepares for the grim realities of postwar life, Leon is given one last routine assignment. But when the job goes fatally wrong - an exchange of gunfire, a body left in the street, and a potential war criminal on his hands - Leon is trapped in a tangle of shifting loyalties and moral uncertainty."

Indeed, it's fast paced and exciting so far. I can't wait to see how it finishes.

Canadian Thrillers

2. Ice Lake by John Farrow. This is the second book in the detective Emile Cinq-Mars series. I previously purchased the first, City of Ice, and I'm looking forward to reading it. This is the synopsis of Ice Lake.

"When a corpse is found floating in a fishing hole cut into a frozen lake, it appears at first to be straightforward murder, but then it is revealed that the victim had shadowy connections to the pharmaceutical industry. Delving deeper into Montreal's underworld, unorthodox detective Emile Cinq-Mars uncovers a web of intrigue that extends beyond ruthless scientists to the heart of the mob.

Meanwhile, Indian activist Lucy Gabriel discovers she has been the unwitting accomplice in illegal experiments on AIDS patients and in fear of her life takes refuge with the native Indians. Cinq-Mars must find her before it's too late - but time is running out. And can he solve the riddle of the death cocktails before more vulnerable and innocent men are sacrificed?"

3. The Accident by Linwood Barclay. In June I tried my first Linwood Barclay thriller and enjoyed it very much. I liked the characters, the story and the pacing. I'll provide my review for Never Saw It Coming in my next entry. So having enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd try another of his thrillers. This is the synopsis of The Accident.

"Glen Garber, a contractor, has seen his business shaken by the housing crisis, and his wife, Sheila, is taking a business course at night to increase her chances of landing a good-paying job. But she should have been home by now. With their eight-year-old daughter sleeping soundly, Glen soon finds his worst fears confirmed: Sheila and two others have been killed in a car accident. Grieving and in denial, Glen resolves to investigate the accident himself - and begins to uncover layers of lawlessness beneath the placid surface of his Connecticut suburb, secret after dangerous secret behind the closed doors. Propelled into a vortex of corruption and illegal activity, pursued by mysterious killers, and confronted by threats from neighbours he thought he knew, Glen must take his own desperate measures and go to terrifying new places in himself to avenge his wife and protect his child."


I'm starting to read more horror. I enjoyed Rosemary's Baby last month and have been checking out horror authors a bit more of late. The books below are a mix of older and newer books.

4. The Fog by James Herbert. I read Herbert's The Secret of Critchley Hall a couple of years ago and the missus and I also enjoyed the British mini-series based on the book very much. Herbert is one of Britain's bestselling chiller novelists and I've been looking for The Fog for awhile now. I finally ordered it online. This is the synopsis for The Fog.

"The peaceful life of a village in Wiltshire is suddenly shattered by a disaster which strikes without reason or explanation, leaving behind it a trail of misery and horror. A yawning, bottomless crack spreads through the earth out of which creeps a fog that resembles no other. Whatever it is, it must be controlled; for wherever it goes it leaves behind a trail of disaster as hideous as the tragedy that marked its entry into the world. The fog, quite simply, drives people insane."

5. The Bad Seed by William March. This book was originally published in 1954 and was also turned into a Broadway play and a movie. I think I saw its synopsis in another book so I've been looking for it ever since. This is the synopsis.

"With dimpled cheeks and braids in bows, eight-year-old Rhoda Penmark is the new darling at the exclusive Fern Grammar in lazy small-town Alabama. Impeccably turned out, she is a model pupil in every way and, perhaps, a serial-killer. William March's brooding tale of unfettered evil is gravely comic and a genuinely unnerving masterpiece of suspense."

6. Forever Odd by Dean Koontz. This is the third book in the Odd Thomas series. I will read at least the first book this year.

"I see dead people. But then, by God, I do something about it. Odd Thomas never asked for his special ability. He's just an ordinary guy trying to live a quiet life in the small desert town of Pico Mundo. Yet he feels an obligation to do right by his otherworldly confidants, and that's why he's won hearts on both sides of the divide between life and death. But when a childhood friend disappears, Odd discovers something worse than a dead body and embarks on a heart-stopping battle of will and wits with an enemy of exceptional cunning. In the hours to come there can be no innocent bystanders, and every sacrifice can tip the balance between despair and hope."

Eric Rickstad

Rickstad is another author I've been looking for. Until just the other day, I've seen none of his books in any of my local book stores. But, lo and behold, there were two at Nearly New Books just this past week. So now I've got them on my shelves awaiting my perusal. They do sound interesting.

7. Lie In Wait. (2014)

"In the remote pastoral hamlet of Canaan, Vermont, a high-profile legal case shatters the town's sense of peace and community. Anger simmers. Fear and prejudice awaken. Old friends turn on each other. Violence threatens.

So when a young teenage girl is savagely murdered while babysitting at the house of the lead attorney in the case, Detective Sonja Test believes the girl's murder and the divisive case must be linked.

However, as the young detective digs deeper into her first murder case, she discovers sordid acts hidden for decades, and learns that behind the town's idyllic façade of pristine snow lurks a capacity in some for great darkness and the betrayal of innocents. And Sonja Test, mother of two, will do anything to protect the innocent."

8. The Silent Girls. (2014)

"Frank Rath thought he was done with murder when he turned in his detective's badge to become a private investigator and raise his daughter alone. Then the police in his remote rural community of Canaan find an '89 Monte Carlo abandoned by the side of the road, and the beautiful teenage girl who owned the car seems to have disappeared without a trace.

Soon Rath's investigation brings him face-to-face with the darkest abominations of the human soul.

With the consequences of his violent and painful past plaguing him, and young women with secrets vanishing one by one, he discovers once again that even in the smallest towns on the map, evil lurks everywhere - and no one is safe."

American Cops and Spies

The next two are authors I've already tried and they present entertaining thrillers. Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series has been made into a successful TV Series.

9. The Black Ice by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #2).

"Narcotics officer Cal Moore's orders were to look into the city's latest drug killing. Instead, he ends up in a motel room with a fatal bullet wound to the head and a suicide note stuffed in his back pocket. Working the case, LAPD detective Harry Bosch is reminded of the primal police rule he learned long ago: Don't look for the facts, but the glue that holds them together. Soon Harry's making some very dangerous connections, starting with a dead cop and leading to a bloody string of murders that wind from Hollywood Boulevard to the back alleys south of the border. Now this battle-scarred veteran will find himself in the center of a complex and deadly game - one in which he may be the next and likeliest victim."

10. The Third Option by Vince Flynn (Mitch Rapp #2).

"CIA counterterrorism operative Mitch Rapp falls prey to government forces with an agenda of their own after Dr. Irene Kennedy is named the successor to dying CIA Director Thomas Stansfield - a choice that enrages many inside the world's most powerful intelligence agency. Her detractors will resort to extreme measures to prevent her from taking the reins - which makes Rapp an expendable asset. But Mitch Rapp is on one's pawn, and he will stop at nothing to find out who has set him up."

The Classics... sort of

The next books are from a couple of old spy/ thriller authors who have been oh so successful in the genre. Hence the classic label.

11. Bomber by Len Deighton. Deighton has written so many excellent spy and war thrillers. I've enjoyed The Ipcress File, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Spy and Funeral in Berlin. This book looked very interesting, along the line of Alistair MacLean's HMS Ulysses and C.S. Forester's The Ship, books that feature specific units during WWII and a specific snapshot in time of their missions.

"Bomber is a novel of war. There are no victors, no vanquished. There are simply those who remain alive, and those who die. Bomber recounts, in cool, merciless detail which denies the reader the protection of distance or ignorance, the horror unleashed by RAF bombers on a town in Germany during the summer of 1943."

12. Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré. John le Carré has been one of my favourite spy novelists for ages. His George Smiley books are true classics. He's been a bit hit and miss with some of his later books but overall, I've enjoyed everything I have read by him.

"At a time when Britain is in the depths of a recession, a left-leaning Oxford academic and his barrister girlfriend take an off-peak holiday on the Caribbean island of Antigua. By seeming chance they bump into a charismatic Russian millionaire called Dima who owns a peninsula and a diamond-encrusted gold watch. He also has a tattoo on his right thumb, and wants a game of tennis. What else he wants propels the young lovers on a perilous journey through Paris to a safe house in the Swiss Alps, leading them into the murky cloisters of the City of London and its dark dealings with rogue elements of Britain's Intelligence Establishment and the Russian mafia."

European Police Capers

The next two are books by new authors for me. The missus and I have seen the Inspector Zen mystery series and enjoyed them very much. I hope the books are as interesting.

13. Ratking by Michael Dibdin (Inspector Zen #1).

"A powerful industrialist, Ruggiero Miletti, is kidnapped. Inspector Zen is transferred to Perugia to take over the case - but finds that there are many obstacles in his way. The local authorities see him as an interloper, and the victim's family, one of the most powerful in Italy, seem content to let Miletti languish in the hands of his abductors. Zen has crossed swords with the establishment before - and lost. Can he succeed this time?"

14. Cop to Corpse by Peter Lovesey (Peter Diamond #12).

"Hero to zero. Cop to corpse. One minute PC Harry Tasker is strolling up Walcot Street, Bath, on foot patrol. The next he is shot through the head. He is picked off, felled, dead.

It's the third killing of an officer in Somerset in a matter of weeks. Ambitious to arrest the Somerset Sniper, the duty inspector seals the crime scene - but is himself attacked and left for dead. Enter Peter Diamond, Bath's CID chief. Throwing himself and his team into the most dangerous assignment of his career, he must outwit a twisted killer with a lust for police blood."

Historical Mysteries

This selection contains one author I've read previously, E.C. Bentley and a new one, Tom Bradby. I hope I enjoy the Bradby as much as I previously enjoyed the first book by Bentley. The locale and setting of The Master of Rain reminds me of a non-fiction book I read last month about a murder in Peking during the same time period. It makes it seem that much more interesting.

15. The Master of Rain by Tom Bradby (2002).

"Shanghai 1926: A sultry city lousy with opium, warlords, and corruption at the highest levels. Into this steamy morass walks Richard Field, an idealistic Brit haunted by his past and recently appointed to the international police. He's not there long before being called to that of a Russian prostitute, former daughter of privilege found sadistically murdered, handcuffed to her bed. When he discovers among her possessions a cryptic shipping log, he senses that this murder is more than a random crime of perverse passion. What unfolds is a searing story that propels Field into a confrontation with the city's most ruthless and powerful gangster; and a dangerous attraction to another salacious Russian whose sordid connections seem destined to make her the next victim."

16. Trent Intervenes by E.C. Bentley (1938).

"Philip Trent - artist, journalist and urbane man-about-town - is one of the most engaging amateur sleuths in crime fiction. Well-dressed, well-read and well-connected, he is the person to summon to your Mayfair flat, country house or Italian villa if you are faced with a little problem of fraud, theft or even murder. Here he intervenes in the tangled affairs of a host of varied characters, from an opera singer to a couple of gullible American tourists, solving each problem with formidable ingenuity and flair."


17. Darkside by Belinda Bauer. I read Belinda Bauer's first book, Blacklands last month and enjoyed her writing style and story - telling very much. Darkside is her second book set in the community of Exmoor.

"It is freezing mid-winter on Exmoor, and in a close-knit village where no stranger goes unnoticed, a local woman has been murdered in her bed.

This is local policeman Jonas Holly's first murder investigation. But he is distracted by an anonymous letter, accusing him of failing to do his job.

Taunted by the killer and sidelined by his abrasive senior detective, Jonas has no choice but to strike out alone on a terrifying hunt... The question is, who is hunting who?"

Archaeological Mystery

18. Jade Woman by Jonathan Gash. I used to watch the Lovejoy mystery series whenever I visited England. Lovejoy is an antique dealer always looking for a good deal and not caring too much if he can do a bit of a shifty. It was only recently that I realized that the series was also a book series. I hope it's as entertaining. This book finds Lovejoy in Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong - one of the world's most exciting and colourful cities.
The Triads - violent, secretive and totally ruthless, their Hong Kong is a city no tourist dare visit.

The Jade Women - famed for their beauty, they posses charms few men can resist...

Which proves to be a highly combustible mix for Lovejoy - East Anglia's hottest antique dealer - on the run from some sticky problems back home. But for someone with no money and no passport, Hong Kong can be an alarmingly dangerous place. Especially when the Triads get involved and Lovejoy finds himself up against murder - oriental style."

Final Mish Mash

19. The Colour of Law by Mark Gimenez (2005)

"A. Scott Fenney is a Dallas corporate lawyer in the prime of his life. Raking in $750,000 a year, with a beautiful house, a beautiful wife and an adored daughter, life could not be better. But when a rich senator's son dies in mysterious circumstances, Fenney is asked by the federal judge to put his air-conditioned lifestyle on hold to defend the accused: a black, heroin-addicted prostitute.

Scott believes in justice - but is his belief strong enough to withstand the loss of everything he holds dear - his salary, his lifestyle, his wife, his child?"

20. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013)

"When a troubled supermodel falls to her death from the balcony of her London home, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts and calls in private detective Cormoran Strike to investigate.

Strike is a war veteran - wounded both physically and psychologically - and his private life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model's world, the darker things get and the closer he comes to terrible danger."

So there you go, my June purchases. Do any tweak your interest or do you have any top ratings to give any? I'm always interested. Enjoy if you try them.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Short Story

Back in my university days, 1974 - 1978, when I decided to switch from Political Science to English Lit, one of the course I took was Introduction to the Short Story (something like that anyway). I don't remember very much about it, except that it wasn't my favourite course.

Since that time, while I haven't consciously avoided them, I really haven't explored the style very much. While at university, I read A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, a collection of lovely children's stories.

In later years, let's jump to the '80s now, while I was enjoying my exposure to Stephen King's early horror stories, I read a couple of his short story collections, Four Past Midnight, Skeleton Crew and maybe some others. It has been awhile. Al that to say, that when King is on, his short stories are some of his best works.

So what makes a great short story? Unlike a novel, which has time to create a mood, to introduce its characters and plot, the short story has to grab your attention from the 'get-go'. It can't go meandering along, adding a story line here or a character there, letting you come to grips with what is going on, until it slowly builds to the satisfactory conclusion. Ultimately, the short story can't take the time to develop its themes. It has to provide you with almost instant gratification. Here is the crux of the story in a nutshell, here are the key characters and it all builds and ends. Whew! I think it takes a unique writer to be able to achieve this successfully. I think a writer that can write both novels and short stories and be successful in both styles is quite unique.

Since I started tracking my reading more closely and that goes back to when I first joined Goodreads, I have made stabs at various short story writers. In 2007, Jo bought me Alice Munro's The View from Castle Rock. Munro is a Canadian writer and has made a career out of writing short stories. The View from Castle Rock is a collection which traces her family, in a variety of stories, through time from their origins in Scotland to their settling in Canada in the early 1800's. Each story reflects a different time, a different part of the family. It's a deeply personal voyage. Munro is well worth reading, if you are just starting to check out this writing style. The View from Castle Rock or Lives of Girls and Women are both excellent examples.

Son of the Morning and Other Short Stories
From 2011 to 2013, my short story collection attempts, were mainly in the Science Fiction genre. The books varied from William Gibson's Burning Chrome, my least favourite, to Phyllis Gotlieb's Son of the Morning and Other Stories (my favourite). I liked some of Gibson's stories, Red Star and Winter Orbit to name a couple, but as I mentioned in my review, I just didn't get it in the other cases. Gibson has written some excellent Science Fiction novels and presents a unique vision of the future. The stories do offer some insight into this vision. The other collections included Iain M. Banks' The State of the Culture, which offers an overview of his futuristic world, The Culture. Once again his stories were hit and miss, there was nice humour in them and the essay on the Culture was very interesting. But the final stories were a bit of a chore to get through. J.G. Ballard's Passport to Eternity was excellent, a 4-star read. Ballard also has a strange, unique perspective on the future. My favourite stories of this collection were The 99th Floor and The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista.

Now on to Canadian author, Phyllis Gotlieb. She is a writer who can successfully switch from the different styles. The first book of hers that I read was Sunburst, a fascinating story of a world destroyed by radiation and of a group of mutant children. It was excellent. I've since read 4 others of her stories, a mix of novels and short stories. Sons of the Morning and Other Stories is an excellent collection of entertaining stories. Gotlieb can grab your attention from the beginning and hold your attention throughout. This year I read A Judgment of Dragons,  a collection of 4 stories featuring some of her favourite characters, the giant red Cats from the planet Ungruwarkh. Once again, I enjoyed thoroughly. This was my review.

" Canadian writer/ poet, Phyllis Gotlieb has written some of my favourite SciFi stories, especially Sunburst. A Judgment of Dragons contains four short stories featuring the giant red cats from the planet Ungruwarkh, the male, Kreng and his telepathic mate, Prandra. Unfortunately, the first story, Son of Morning, was also contained in another book of short stories I'd already read, Son of Morning and Other Stories, but it was still nice to be reintroduced to Prandra and Kreng with that story and then to continue with three other stories featuring the irrepressible pair; The King's Dogs, Nebuchadnezzar and A Judgment of Dragons.

The four stories could just as easily have been one novel as the stories follow on one after the other as the two cats go to GalThree (AKA Earth) so Prandra can learn to use her esp powers better and they can obtain assistance from the Federation in helping the planet Ungruwarkh become more self sufficient. Prandra and Kreng are wonderful characters, grumpy, loving and just fun to read about. Each story is almost a mystery, as the two find themselves in situations that need resolution. The supporting cast; Espinoza, an esp brain who accompanies the in the first story, Kinnear, a blunt security official in the 2nd and 4th stories and others, are all excellent as well. The stories were very enjoyable and just added to my love of Gotlieb's writing. Check her out."

So let's move on to 2016. While I was preparing my challenge reads for 2016, I realised that over the past few years, I've purchased quite a few short story collections. I figured that was Fate telling me to try them out once and for all, so I decided to squeeze these stories into my other challenges. Since the beginning of January, I've always tried to have one collection of short stories on the go at any one time. I've got to say I've enjoyed them all immensely. Since January, I've completed 17 collections and I'm starting to run out.

They books are in a variety of genres, Science Fiction, Horror, Mystery and Fiction. There have been a few 3-star selections (3-stars doesn't mean I didn't enjoy, just simply that it was an average entertaining read):

1. Pieces of Modesty by Peter O'Donnell (Mystery / Adventure). A collection of six stories featuring larger than life heroine, Modesty Blaise. Pure entertainment and action. The best story was I Had a Date with Lady Janet, mainly because it centred more on Modesty's partner, Willie Garvin.

2. News from Elsewhere by Edmund Cooper (Science Fiction). This book contains a collection of stories dealing with space exploration, both away from Earth and towards. There was a mixture of darker stories and some with a nice bit of humour. My favourite was The Lizard of Woz, featuring an alien visit to Earth, very witty.

3. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, and a Selection of Entrées by Agatha Christie (Mystery). For the most part, except for one offering, this collection featured that irrepressible sleuth, Hercule Poirot. The other featured Christie's other favourite, Miss Marple. They were exactly what you would expect from Christie, except in a condensed format, intelligent, entertaining mysteries.

4. The Dark Side of the Earth by Alfred Bester (Science Fiction). This is the book that I just finished. The book contains six short stories and one novella. They were a bit hit and miss with me. The novella was witty and entertaining but it seemed as if he didn't really know how to end it. I think that was the main problem I had with some of the stories. They tended to leave me hanging, not sure where Bester wanted to go with the story. At the same time, there were some gems, The Men Who Killed Mohamed, about time travel and its consequences, Will You Wait, about the difficulties in trying to sell your soul to the Devil and They Don't Make Life Like They Used To, about the last man and woman on Earth with a creepy, unsettling ending.

4 - Star Selections - The  majority of the selections received 4 - star ratings, which was a nice surprise for me as I didn't expect to enjoy these collections quite so much. There were some authors I was already familiar with but many new authors. And they didn't disappoint. I'll try to break them down by genres.

Science Fiction

A Touch of Strange
1. Storeys from the Old Hotel by Gene Wolfe - Wolfe was a new writer for me. He has a way of telling a story that leaves you feeling there is always something you should be seeing just out of the corner of your eye. The stories varied from tales of robots, space exploration and fantasy. I liked his take on Holmes and Watson and I just enjoyed the stories, their different styles and how different they were.

2. A Touch of Strange by Theodore Sturgeon - This was a collection of nine stories from Sturgeon, once again, a new writer for me. The title says it all, his style takes a bit of getting used to but once you get into the flow, I'm sure you'd enjoy all of them. My favourite stories might be The Girl Had Guts, which was quite creepy, reminding me somewhat of Aliens. The title story was befitting of the title, it was strange.


Tales of Mystery and Suspense
1. Death Times Three by Rex Stout - This collection was my introduction to Stout's famous detective, Nero Wolfe. Even though this was his last published work, it suited me perfectly in getting to know about Wolfe and his partner, Archie Goodwin. The book features 3 stories; Bitter End, Frame-up for Murder and Assault on a Brownstone, all excellent. As I said, it was a suitable introduction to this famous detective, his way of life and his method of solving crime, which seems to be staying at home and letting Archie gather information which he uses to figure out what has happened. Interesting stuff.

2. Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L. Sayers. I've previously read a couple of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Sayers and I've come to enjoy her sleuth very much. He's got a nice attitude, generally light and carefree, but at the same time there is something harder below the surface. This collection of 12 stories was entertaining and each story was enjoyable in its own right. The stories grabbed your attention right from the very beginning and held you entertained until the satisfying resolution. As well, they helped develop Wimsey's character even more.

3. The Museum of Dr. Moses by Joyce Carol Oates. An often unsettling, interesting collection of stories from another new author for me. The stories were often very suspenseful. The Hunter was my favourite, reminded me of an episode of your favourite crime series. The main reason that I only gave it a 4 - star rating was that a couple of the stories left me somewhat confused by the endings. But that's a minor thing, Oates is an author I'll explore more because of this.

4. For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming. I enjoyed this collection of stories featuring Agent 007, James Bond, very much. They were all quite different, with one featuring Bond mainly as a listener to a tale of relationships, jealousy and how they can go sour. Bond acts as a spy really only once, in A View to a Kill, where Bond is sent to Paris to discover how a dispatch rider carrying government secrets is killed. In one, my favourite, For Your Eyes Only, Bond is asked by M to revenge M's old friends on a Cuban killer who had murdered M's friends. I really enjoyed that one. All in all, Fleming is able to develop the stories quickly and turn them into tense, excellent stories.

5 a/b. Mr. Campion: Criminologist and The Allingham Minibus by Margery Allingham. Two collections from Margery Allingham. I've read her novels as well, but, from my limited exposure to her work, I have preferred these two collections the most. The Minibus is a varied collection of stories, only two featuring her favourite detective, Albert Campion. A nice surprise was the few that were more of a ghost story mystery. I liked them a lot. My favourite was A Quarter of a Million, which was about a gang of ruthless robbers who are outsmarted by an intelligent police inspector. The story had a nice little twist in the end. Mr. Campion: Criminologist was all about Albert Campion, with 7 stories from his case book. Campion is like Peter Wimsey in many ways, a wealthy individual who likes to get involved solving crime. He is often asked by the police to use his deductive powers to help them out. Both of Allingham's collections were most entertaining.


1. The Blue Lenses and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier. I'd previously read du Maurier's novels, Rebecca and The House on the Strand, both fascinating and excellent novels. This collection was also quite excellent, strange in many ways but eminently readable. My favourite stories were The Alibi and the second The Blue Lenses. The Alibi is about a man trying to get some excitement in his life and finds it taking an unexpected turn. The Blue Lenses is almost science fiction/ horror, dealing with a person recovering from an operation to get new eye lenses, with unexpected results. Excellent stuff.

5 - Star Reads - Of my selections this year, 5 of my books were 5 - star reads, one humour, two fiction, one horror and one mystery. They were excellent collections and I've mentioned them over the course of the year. So here they are once again with my review of each.

1. The Man with Two Left Feet and Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse (Humour) -

"I have to say this is a perfect little book. As I wondered what to rate it, I thought, 'well, they're nice stories, they make me feel good, they are perfectly written.....' It has to be 5-stars.

I've read a few of Wodehouse's books, particularly enjoying the whimsy of his Jeeves and Wooster stories. This collection contains one story involving Bertie Wooster, in which Bertie is sent to New York to extricate his cousin from an impending marriage with a 'dance-hall' girl. For once Jeeves play almost no role and we see Bertie at his very best. It left me feeling very happy.

The stories, for the most part, deal with relationships and you tend to leave the stories with a positive view on life. I particularly enjoyed The Mixer, two stories told from the perspective of 'the dog', in which the dog moves through life happily affecting the people around him and, for all his mishaps, landing on all four feet. Just a joy to read and I highly recommend. (I even liked the cover of this Penguin edition, with illustration by Ionicus.)"

2. The Best of Saki by H.H. Munro (Fiction) -

"I heard about Saki (AKA H.H. Munro), a British short story writer from the early 1900's only by chance. I found this book while wandering through a used book store in Kingston, Ontario and bought it partly because I liked the binding. Now that I've read the collection of short stories, I can honestly say how glad that I was to have taken the chance on this book.

Saki's stories are funny, witty, sharp and to the point. Each story runs from 3 to 6 pages and each is concise and exact and so well-written. The foreword mentions that writers such as PG Wodehouse, of the Wooster and Jeeves stories, were influenced by Saki's works. I can see the similarities in humour, although Saki is more biting. I was not bored by any of the stories, and there are many in the collection, some made me laugh out loud, some chuckle and many had me thinking about the mind that created them. I don't know if you'll find a similar collection anywhere else. It was an excellent, most enjoyable read. (5 stars)"

3. The Necronomicon by H.P. Lovecraft (Horror) -

"An excellent collection of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, from Dagon, originally published in 1919 to The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, 1943. There are linking themes throughout, the Old Ones, the area of Arkham, Mass, the Miskatonic University, the Cthulu, etc. The stories are creepy, more so than outright terrifying, but still, they leave you feeling nervous and chilled. Some are excellent; the Mountains of Madness, The Dunwich Horror, the Haunter of the Dark, the Thing on the Doorstep. Excellent to be provided the opportunity to explore Lovecraft's worlds and stories under one book."

4. Petrella at Q by Michael Gilbert (Mystery) -

"This is the 2nd book by Michael Gilbert that I've attempted. It was excellent. The basic premise is that the book follows Detective Chief Inspector Patrick Petrella, of London's Patton Street Police Station over the course of a year.

It is a collection of short stories, each a different case, but, at the same time, some that follow one on the other. There are some mundane cases and as you get into the stories, some that create a great deal of tension. The last couple of stories, especially, where Petrella and his team are involved with the local heavy - hitter underworld, had me on the edge of my seat. I quite enjoyed the investigation process, how Petrella and his inspectors follow leads and sort through issues. It reminded me of the process that Law & Order followed as the police investigate the particular crimes.

I also liked the personalities of the various team members and the bursts of inspiration that come from Petrella. He knows his area and the people there and uses his smarts in sorting through the chaff to come up with solutions. Excellent, perfect little book. It turns out that Gilbert also wrote 4 other books featuring Petrella. I will have to check them out."

5. Four Short Stories by Elizabeth Gaskell (Classic Fiction). This might be my favourite book of short stories this year.

"This collection of short stories contains 4 stories by Elizabeth Gaskell; The Three Eras of Libbie Marsh (1847), Lizzie Leigh (1855), The Well of Pen-Morfa (1850) and The Manchester Marriage (1858). From the introduction by Anna Walters, they were unique not only because they were written by a woman but also for the subject matter. Popular at that time were stories of the upper classes, where women chiefly looked to get married to fulfil their lives.

Gaskell's stories featured women as the protagonists, women who were of the lower classes, who had to struggle to live, single mothers, seamstresses, prostitutes. The stories are hard looks at life, but at the same time, feature tenderness, love and even optimism. I loved how she crafted these tales, well-written, well-described and thoughtful. They were very much a pleasure to read as Gaskell creates such excellent pictures and characters and stories. This was my first experience with Gaskell's writing and I'm very happy that I was able to experience her talent. (5 stars)"

Still in the hopper

Unless I've labelled some of my books incorrectly, there remain two collections to read. I'm about  to start Helsinki Noir, a collection of mystery stories by Finnish writers, compiled by James Thompson. This is an ongoing series by Akashic Publishing, whereby they feature authors from various cities and countries from around the world to expose readers to the wonderful variety of writers in the mystery genre.

Finally I just recently received Trent Intervenes, the third book in the private detective, Philip Trent series. I have read one book featuring Trent and enjoyed very much. This is the last book featuring Trent, E.C. Bentley only wrote 3.

So there you go, my explorations in the world of short stories. I've enjoyed this year and won't hesitate to try more authors.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Horror Novel

It's a sunny Tuesday morning and the puppies are at the groomer, having a nice bath and getting their summer haircuts. They were very excited and I'm sure will find the warm temperatures much more comfortable. I could be outside mowing the lawn while it's still cool, but since I've only got an hour or so before I have to go pick them up again, I think I'll just work on this BLog entry.

I've read a few horror stories in my time, but it's never been a particular favourite genre. Of late, however, I've begun to read a few more and also to collect a few more authors. So maybe it's time to take a brief look at what I've read, mention a few author's I've enjoyed and also highlight some books I've got on my bookshelf awaiting my attention.

While I'm no expert on horror stories, I'll try to break them down in a few groupings; Gothic / classic horror, ghost stories, modern horror and maybe some other specific types if I've got any in that area, e.g. vampire, zombie, etc. So let's start with some of the Classics. This will probably be a relatively short category for me.

The Classics

I've read a few in this area, those authors that have established horror as a genre, but there are many, many more than I've sampled. One of the earliest written books that I've tried was Matthew Gregory Lewis' The Monk, more of a ghost story than anything; the story of a monk, overcome by his desires who finds himself haunted by the demonic spirits who goad him into breaking his holy vows. It wasn't terribly well-written, but then again it was published in 1796. I read it in Feb of this year and this was my review.

"A strange sort of story originally written in 1796. I'm not sure if it's indicative of the time. If you read the preface, it might lead you to believe that the book isn't worth reading. But ultimately, I found it an interesting story, a Gothic novel about forbidden love, rape, murder, incest and with some supernatural elements. It wanders a bit as each person's story is related but at the same time, it moves along quite nicely. I admit that I scrolled over the verses and songs. It definitely is a dark story. Am I glad that I read it? I'll say yes. Judge for yourself if you can find a copy. (3 stars)"

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the easily recognised classics. I found an excellent hard cover edition of this at a book store in Victoria, that unfortunately closed down a few years back. Grafton Books in Oak Bay had so many excellent books. Anyway, I got this in 2008 when I was stationed in Victoria and read it in 2011. I'd seen one or two of the different movie versions, or at least parts of them, so decided I should finally read the book. This was my review

"I'd never read this before and can't say that I actually have ever seen the movie from beginning to end. So I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the story and how smoothly it flowed. It was a very quick read and held my attention. I was surprised that the story was actually told for the most part from the perspective of Mr. Utterson, a friend of Dr Jekyll, and that Jekyll and Hyde, for that matter, for the most part are somewhat peripheral to the story. Until the end. On the whole, a very enjoyable story and I highly recommend if you've never read before. (4 stars)"

The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker. Stoker is probably better known for Dracula. At least he is by me. This book was published in 1903 and is probably the book that inspired the various Mummy movies. Now that I've read this, I'll have to try Dracula. This was my review.

"I bought this because one of my Goodreads club members had read it and not really being aware of any others of Bram Stoker's books, besides Dracula, I got a copy to try it out. I was a bit underwhelmed. The story is supposedly the inspiration for today's Mummy movies. Basically, it deals with the acquisition of a number of articles, including a sarcophagus, ancient jewels and many other items from a crypt in The Valley of the Sorcerers in Egypt.
The story starts in London with an attack on the man who possesses the articles, one Abel Trelawny, an attack that leaves him in a coma. A group of people, including Trelawny's daughter, her beau, Mr. Ross others gather to find the reason for the attack and to help if at all possible. The story is Gothic horror but at times the horror is so nebulous as to be unidentifiable.
There is a bit too much theorising and discussion for me at times, and the ending is a bit sudden. Still, to read a story from Bram Stoker that I was totally unaware of until a couple of years ago and to experience his style was worth the read. (3.5 stars)"

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. This was first published in 1890. The basic story is that Mr. Dorian Gray has painted his soul into a portrait, thereby making himself immortal. This immortality affects him, basically making his day-to-day life very boring. He therefore finds himself exploring the darker side of life, drugs, sex, murder, etc. The portrait is hidden in a locked room and while Gray doesn't age, the portrait does instead. I was a bit disappointed by the book, but was glad that I had finally read it, one of those classics that should be experienced.

The Necronomicon by H.P. Lovecraft - Lovecraft lived from 1890 to 1937 and was one of the most influential horror writers. Over the past few years, I'd searched in various book stores for some of his stories. At one of the local Rotary Club Book Sales, Jun 2013, I found 4 paperback books of his stories; The Lurking Fear and Other Stories, The Tomb and Other Tales, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. I read the first three over the next couple of years and, for the most part, enjoyed his work.

In 2015, while visiting Kingston, Ontario, I found the pictured edition, Necronomicon, a collection of Lovecraft's work. It was not only a lovely edition, but also a most entertaining read. Some of the stories from the other books were also contained within but there were many that I hadn't read yet, including The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. I enjoyed some stories more than others, but that's to be understood. This was my review of this edition, which I completed in Feb of this year.

"An excellent collection of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, from Dagon, originally published in 1919 to The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, 1943. There are themes throughout, the Old Ones, the area around Arkham, Mass, Miskatonic University, the Cthulu, etc. The stories are creepy, more so than outright terrifying, but they still leave you feeling nervous and chilled. Some are excellent; especially, the Mountains of Madness, The Dunwich Horror, the Haunter of the Dark and the Thing on the Doorstep. Excellent to be provided the opportunity to explore Lovecraft's worlds and stories under one book. (5 stars)"

Still To Be Read

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I found a copy of this at a local used book store in Cumberland back in February. I liked the copy and, having seen the stage musical and a modern rock adaptation of the book, that being Phantom of the Paradise (1974), I thought it might be a good time to actually read the book, originally published in 1911. If you're not sure what it is about, then this is the synopsis.

"The story of the Phantom of the Opera, a half-crazed musician hiding in the labyrinth of the famous Paris Opera House and creating a number of strange and mysterious events to further the career of a beautiful young singer, is today regarded as one of the most famous of all horror stories: widely mentioned in the same breath as Frankenstein and Dracula. Yet the fame of this novel, first written by the French journalist turned novelist Gaston Leroux, in 1911, is based almost entirely on the various film versions which have been made over the years. Remarkable performances by two actors, Lon Chaney and Claude Rains, helped to make the Phantom an immortal figure. The original book, however, has been largely ignored, rarely in print, and the first edition (in either French or English) is now a collector's item."

Ghost Stories

I've read a variety of ghost stories, from Kingsley Amis through Charlaine Harris. I think one of my favourites was Peter Straub's Ghost Story. You can't be more obvious than that about the subject matter of a story, eh? It's been many years since I last read it, but I recall it being one of the truly scary books and movies. It's basically about 4 elderly gentlemen, bound together by a past action that resulted in the death of a young woman. This woman is now back to haunt them to death. Yup, it was very creepy. Here are a few others you might enjoy.

The Green Man by Kingsley Amis. I read this back in 2010 and it was my first experience with Kingsley Amis. He wrote it in 1969. Amis isn't normally a horror writer, he writes mysteries, spy novels, fiction, etc. This was an interesting introduction to him. I've since read others by him and enjoyed his unique perspective on life. This is the synopsis of this story.

"Like all good coaching inns, The Green Man is said to boast a resident ghost: Dr Thomas Underhill, a notorious seventeenth-century practitioner of black arts and sexual deviancy. However, the landlord, Maurice Allington, is the sole witness to the renaissance of the malevolent Underhill. Led by an anxious desire to vindicate his sanity, Allington strives to uncover the key to Underhill's satanic powers. All while the skeletons in Allington's own cupboard rattle to get out.  (3 stars)"

The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan. Brautigan wrote this in 1974. It's a strange, weird horror story, classified as a Gothic Western. It was quirky enough that it held my attention and I quite enjoyed this story of two cowpokes who are hired to get rid of the ghost/ monster that haunts the Hawkline house. This may not actually fit into the ghost story category very clearly but it doesn't really fit into any other one either. Worth reading. This was my review.

"A book I bought by chance after seeing it in the display cabinet of one of my favourite used book stores. It happened that September was Western genre month so this being a 'gothic western' and liking the cover, I decided to give it a chance. A very easy, flowing read and a quirky interesting story. The gist being that two gunslingers are hired by a young woman to come to Oregon to kill a monster that resides in the ice caves below their house in Oregon. Many, many strange occurrences, which I'll let you discover until the face-to-face meeting with the monster. I liked the two gunslingers, Cameron and Greer, both straight-forward, easy going hitmen; hitmen with standards and ethics. I liked the Hawkline sisters. At times it's almost childish, the story, but it held my interest and I enjoyed it thoroughly. (A solid 3.5 stars)."

The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert. I bought this book in 2013 after the missus and I had watched a BBC adaptation of the book. The show was excellent, with just the right amount of spookiness and tension. The acting was also excellent, with Suranne Jones, Maisie Williams, Tom Ellis and Douglas Henshall, just to name a few. The story is about a family, Jones and Ellis, with their two daughters who move to the north of England to try and rebuild their marriage and recover from the disappearance of their son. It turns out that the house is haunted by the ghosts of the orphans who lived there during the War and by that of the school master, who ruled the house with a strong stick and terrorised the children. He now wants Jones and Ellis' daughters. It was excellent. The book was originally written in 2006. The book wasn't quite as good as the movie, but still a very entertaining read.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. This was another book that I bought because I saw the movie and enjoyed it. The movie starred Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame as a young lawyer who is assigned a job in a small village. It turns out the village, especially the children, are being terrorised by the ghost of a vengeful woman. It was an excellent movie in the Gothic horror style, moody, creepy and scary. I bought a copy of the book in Jan 2013 and read it shortly afterwards.  This was my review.

"I bought this because I had enjoyed the movie with Daniel Radcliffe. Taking account of the differences between the movie and the original book, I found this to be an intense, well-written horror story. It's a relatively short story but Susan Hill manages to pack an excellent, complete story into the space. She also manages to create a spooky atmosphere very quickly and had me holding my breath as I read it. Not terrifying, but a spooky story with an excellent feeling about it. Loved it. (4 stars)"

I've since begun acquiring other books by Susan Hill, from her mystery series featuring Simon Serrailler, and another ghost story, The Mist in the Mirror. I'm looking forward to that one. This is the synopsis.

"For the last twenty years Sir James Monmouth has journeyed all over the globe in the footsteps of his hero, the great pioneering traveller Conrad Vane. In an effort to learn more about Vane's early life--and his own--Sir James sets off for the remote Kittiscar Hall on a cold and rainy winter night. But he soon begins to feel as though something is warning him away at every turn; there are the intense feelings of being watched and the strange apparitions of a sad little boy.

And as he learns more about his hero's past, he discovers that they are only the beginning, for Kittiscar Hall is hiding terrible secret that will bind their lives together in ways he could never have imagined."

Susan Jackson. I've read three books by Susan Jackson, well, one short story and two stories. The Lottery, the short story, isn't a ghost story, but it was an excellent introduction to Jackson's style. The Haunting of Hill House was published in 1959 and has been made into at least two movies. A group of people are invited to Hill House to help a scientist find proof of the supernatural. It was a book I think I wanted more from. This was my review.

"I expected a bit more from this story, probably because of some of the write-ups that I read about it and that indicated how it influenced other writers, such as Stephen King, etc. However, having said that, I enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House. I've seen both movie adaptations and I tended to picture Theodora as Claire Bloom and Eleanor as Julie Harris. The book was suspenseful, not horrific at all. You could see the mental changes or the impact of the house on Eleanor as the story progresses. There was definitely tension and the story was well-paced. I'm glad I finally have read it, will definitely have to see the 1963 movie again to compare. A solid 3.5 stars for me."

We Have always Live in the Castle was written in 1962 and, while it doesn't fall into the category of ghost stories, it was still an excellent ghost story. I think I preferred it to Hill House, but in all fairness, I had no movie to compare it to.

Still to read from Shirley Jackson is her 1954 book, The Bird's Nest. This is the synopsis.

"Elizabeth is a demure twenty-three-year-old wiling her life away at a dull museum job, living with her neurotic aunt, and subsisting off her dead mother’s inheritance. When Elizabeth begins to suffer terrible migraines and backaches, her aunt takes her to the doctor, then to a psychiatrist. But slowly, and with Jackson’s characteristic chill, we learn that Elizabeth is not just one girl—but four separate, self-destructive personalities. The Bird’s Nest, Jackson’s third novel, develops hallmarks of the horror master’s most unsettling work: tormented heroines, riveting familial mysteries, and a disquieting vision inside the human mind."

Charlaine Harris' Harper Connelly books. Harris is better-known for her Sookie Stackhouse books which were made into the popular HBO series, True Blood. The Harper Connelly books, of which there are 4, features Harper Connelly, a young woman who has the ability to ascertain how people die. She possesses a special sight which allows her to see the individual and how they die. She and her stepbrother, Tolliver Lang, travel over the United States, being hired to try and find and then tell the local authorities how people have died, whether by natural causes or murder. This ability doesn't make Harper popular with the people of the towns where she works and the work itself is tremendously draining for her. Of course, each story turns into a mystery in itself, but the premise and the stories are excellent. Unfortunately, Harris stopped this series after only four books. If you're interested at all, they are:

1. Grave Sight (2005);
2. Grave Surprise (2006);
3. An Ice Cold Grave (2007); and
4. Grave Secret (2009)

I've read all but Grave Secret. I think I've been holding onto it because it's the last in the series.


Of all the horror sub-genres, I've probably read more vampire books than anything else. Of course, having said that, I still have not read Dracula by Bram Stoker. I guess that will have to go on my list. There have been so many movies, TV series (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, etc.) and books that I'm sure I'll miss many. I probably started my interest in this category with Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat books. I read them many years ago and enjoyed them well enough. I read the first three books and tried a couple more but after awhile I found her writing somewhat ponderous. There were others that I tried much later, Nancy Baker's A Terrible Beauty, Blood and Chrysanthemums and The Night Inside are all excellent and quite different. Jeanne Kalogridis also wrote an interesting trilogy on the family Dracul; Covenant with the Vampire, Children of the Vampire and Lord of the Vampires that follow the more traditional concept of vampires. Finally, Stephen King's Salem's Lot was one of his scarier books and even the TV movie based on the book was quite good. Below are some others of my favourites.

Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books. I discovered this series back when I was on my own in Ottawa, Ontario. I tried the first book, Guilty Pleasures (1993), just for a lark and it blew me away. The series is more than just a vampire series, but that's how it starts out. Anita Blake is a necromancer for hire. She works for a company that hires out necromancers to talk with newly buried people when there is a question about the will or other things. As a sideline, Anita is also a vampire hunter who works for the St Louis police. In this universe, vampires and other supernatural creatures are now recognised as legal citizens, but they still have to follow the law. Anita develops an ongoing relationship with the local vampire leader, Jean - Claude and the rest, as they say, is history. There is sex, violence, gore, excitement and so many other supernatural things going on in these stories that your head will explode. I read the first 12 books pretty well one after the other. I've kind of fallen away from this series since then, just got tired of waiting for the next book. However, the series is well worth trying out if you're a vampire story fan. You'll get vampires and more supernatural creatures than you can shake a stick at. At present there are 24 books in this series and if you like graphic novels, the first three have been translated into this format.

Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books. These are the books that became the HBO series, True Blood. I have to say that, from my recollections of the books I've read so far, I don't remember the books being as graphic as the TV series. I liked the books I've read so far, but this is one of those series that I haven't necessarily read in sequence. I always felt it was Anita Blake-lite. However, I still liked the stories immensely. Sookie is a fey who can hear what people are thinking. She's a waitress in a small town in Louisiana and, somewhat like the Anita Blake books, the fey are legal, especially vampires. There are many other types of fey living in Bon Temps, Sam the shape shifter, plus many others. But Sookie's first love is Bill the vampire, a Civil War veteran whose come back home 100+ years later. What Sookie especially likes about Bill is that she can't hear his thoughts. That's a vampire for you. The series moves around, with Sookie helping Bill and his boss, Eric sort out vampire - type issues. And of course, there are the other fey hanging around. It's another fun, entertaining series. Charlaine Harris wrote 15 books in this series and finished it in 2013.

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. In this version of the vampire saga, the vampires try to take over New York. Vampirism is kind of a virus which starts with an aeroplane that arrives at La Guardia and everybody on board appears to be dead. It's a creepy story, the first in a trilogy. It also became a popular TV miniseries on FX. I gave the first book 3 stars. Not the best ever story but thrilling and filled with action. The three books in the series are -

1. The Strain (2009);
2. The Fall (2010) (currently sitting on my bookshelf awaiting my attention); and
3. The Night Eternal (2011).

P.N. Elrod's Vampire Files books. The Vampire Files is a 13 book series, released from 1990 to 2009, that is a combination vampire story / hard-boiled detective story. The main character is a Private Eye and also a vampire. His partner does the day work and he does the night work. He uses his vampire strengths in battling mob characters as the stories are set in Chicago during the Roaring '20s. One of his desires is to own his own night club but he's got to do this without threatening the mob. Interesting series. I've read 3 so far and have Cold Streets on my bookshelf awaiting my perusal. This is another series that I've not read in sequence, partly because I don't often find them in the book stores.

Tanya Huff's Blood Books. The Blood Books were written by Canadian author, Tanya Huff and consist of the following books:

1. Blood Price (1991);
2. Blood Trail (1992);
3. Blood Lines (1992);
4. Blood Pact (1993);
5. Blood Debt (1997); and
6. Blood Bank, a short story collection.

I've read the first four books and enjoyed them very much. It features Toronto PI, Vicki Nelson, an ex cop with failing eyesight and her sometimes helpers, Police detective, Mike Celluci and a vampire, Henry Fitzroy. The cases involve supernatural beings and are entertaining and thrilling. The books were also turned into a TV show which was a bit different but also entertaining.

Still to Read

I recently purchased Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, a story that has been turned into movies at least twice, once starring Charlton Heston and more recently, starring Will Smith. This is the synopsis -

"Robert Neville has witnessed the end of the world. The entire population has been obliterated by a vampire virus. Somehow, Neville survived. He must now struggle to make sense of everything that has happened and learn to protect himself against the vampires who hunt him constantly. He must, because perhaps there is nothing else human left."

The Devil Made Me Do It (aka Demonic possession)

I haven't read too many books in this genre, probably because they tend to downright scare me. One of the classics is William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist. I read this when the movie came out. Both scared me silly. I could not read this book downstairs by myself because it gave me the creeps. I think part of the reason is that it's easier to believe in the devil than in zombies and vampires. I also remember the movie terrifying me. I was just finishing high school and went with a friend.. Lots of screaming and nervous laughter throughout. And you should have heard the rest of the audience. Blatty wrote a sequel as well, Legion, which was also excellent, even if not quite as scary as The Exorcist. It was made into a movie as well, becoming Exorcist III. It was more of a detective story with supernatural elements. A few other books that might fit in this category that I've enjoyed or hope to enjoy include some of the following. They may not necessarily be specifically be about demonic possession but they do feature battles between the devil and the forces of good.

The Stand by Stephen King.  This could also be classified as an end of the world saga but the main crux of the story is the battle between the forces of evil, led by Randall Flagg, and the forces of good, led by Mother Abagail. It ranks up in my Top Ten all-time books, just a fascinating story. It was also a reasonable TV mini-series.

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin. I only recently read this book and thought it was excellent. It was turned into a classic horror film starring Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes. This was my review.

"I've seen the movie a couple of times and I found it was very respectful to this book. The book seemed very familiar but it didn't make it any less interesting. Basically, Rosemary and her husband, Guy, a budding actor, move into the Bramford, an old apartment building in New York. An old friend tells them that the building has a bad history but they move in anyway. Shortly after their arrival, a new acquaintance of Rosemary commits suicide by jumping from her apartment. The young couple make friends with the Castevets, old neighbours on their floor and strange things begin to happen; Guy suddenly becoming successful, Rosemary becoming pregnant (having strange 'dreams' during the sex act), etc. The book has a eerie feel to it, even thought it is told very matter-of-factly and this feeling gets stronger as the book progresses. Excellent story, one you won't really want to put down. Even if you've seen the movie, it's worth reading ."

Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry. It's only recently that I've become aware of Jonathan Maberry's writing. He's a favourite of many of my Goodreads acquaintances. I've been looking for his books and last August I finally located one of his books, Ghost Road Blues, written in 2006 and the first book in the Pine Deep Trilogy. This series also includes; Dead Man's Song (2007) and Bad Moon Rising (2008). The story reminded me both of The Stand and It. Like The Stand, there is a battle between good and evil, represented by 'Bone Man' (good), the spirit of a wandering musician who is blamed for the murders of several Pine Deep children and Ubal Griswold, the actual killer, who Bone Man had fought and vanquished. Years later, the remaining children are now grown up and Ubal Griswold is haunting various townspeople and making them come to his side. This is the making of the battle, killings in the town and the local police and State police and various other people trying to catch and keep the town safe. I did like this story, it had lots of tension and action. Now to find the remaining books.

Werewolves (Where wolf? There wolf!... borrowed from Young Frankenstein)

I've read a few books in this genre. Various of the ones I mentioned previously; the Anita Blake books, Ghost Road Blues and the Sookie Stackhouse books also feature werewolves. I remember reading Gary Brandner's The Howling (1977) when it originally came out. However, it's not a sub-genre I specifically search out. One interesting series I've started recently is The Women of the Otherworld by Canadian writer, Kelley Armstrong. I've read the first two books in this series, both of which feature female werewolf, Elena Michaels, and which were the basis for the popular Bitten series. The two books are Bitten and Stolen. I believe that the follow-on books may feature other women of the Otherworld. There are 13 books in this fantasy series. Time will tell. This was my review of the first book, Bitten.

"I've read a few supernatural series; the Anita Blake books, the Blood Ties books, etc. I'd started watching the TV series that is based on Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series before I read this first book. It was interesting to compare the two. There are differences; different characters, some different story lines, but all in all, both are very interesting.
This story is told in the first person by the only female werewolf in the world, Elena, and she is a woman who has struggled to accept her werewolfiness. She tries to live a normal life in the city, Toronto, but is called back to the Pack's home in the country at Stonehaven when the Pack is threatened by a group of mutts, unpacked werewolves.
The story is slow at times, with Elena's time spent on her trying to discover what it is she actually wants to be. She can be frustrating at times, but the story moves along and the action picks up steadily. I did enjoy the story and I think part of the slowness can be attributed to the fact that I was comparing to the TV series. I enjoyed the story and will find the others in the series and continue to read up and see who the other women in the Otherworld might be. Looking forward to finding out. (3 stars)"


With the success of Night of the Living Dead (1968), a truly terrifying movie, and the follow-on movies and then more recently, the TV series, The Walking Dead, I guess it's not surprising that so many books have come out. There have been so many movies and TV Series featuring zombies, that if I try to name them, I'm sure I'll leave many out. Below are some of the books I've read so far, as well as a few others that I have on my bookshelves awaiting further examination.

World War Z, An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. I think this was the first zombie book that I read. I saw a copy at Munro's Books in Victoria, BC. The story is told from the perspectives of various people around the world who have survived a zombie apocalypse and what they are doing to continue to survive. It's almost factual, but at the same time quite intense. I thought it was a fantastic story, quite different from the movie that came out recently. He also wrote The Zombie Survival Guide which is exactly how it sounds, a self-help book in recognizing, killing and surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.

The remaining books on my list currently reside on my 'to-be-read' bookshelves. If you like this genre, here are a few more.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. This is the synopsis of this book, a combination of horror and classic fiction.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. Can Elizabeth vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read."

The Walking Dead Books by Robert Kirkman. I have books 1 and 2 of this series; The Rise of the Governor and The Road to Woodbury. These stories are based on the AMC TV series.

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry. Released in 2009, this is the first book in the Joe Ledger series, which currently consists of 9 books with one more anticipated in 2017. This is the synopsis of the book.

"Police officer Joe Ledger, martial arts expert, self-confessed brutal warrior is scared. The man he's just killed is the same man he killed a week ago. He never expected to see the man again, definitely not alive, and not as part of the recruitment process for the secret government agency the Department for Military Sciences."

Various others

It's possible that some of the other books listed below may fall into specific categories. I've listed them as 'other' just for my own laziness. So here you go, some other horror books and/ or authors that I've either read or still await my attention.

Stephen King - King is one of the grand-masters of horror fiction. I read his books voraciously when I first discovered him. I've enjoyed so many; Cujo, The Dead Zone, Salem's Lot, The Shining, Carrie, Christine, Pet Sematary, It, etc. I lost interest a bit when The Dark Half, Dolores Clairbourne, Gregory's Game came out. But, he's got an excellent track record. The Stand is one of my all-time favourite books. The Gunslinger series is excellent. I stopped reading when I stopped reading this last series. Currently I have one on my book shelf, Under the Dome, but I have to admit I'm somewhat intimidated by its size. Do I want to invest in a book that big? I probably will and it may get me back into King's writing.

The Troop and The Deep by Nick Cutter. I've read both of these books by Canadian writer, Nick Cutter. They are quite different and I think I preferred The Troop of the two. I think he's a bit like the David Cronenberg of books, especially with The Troop, where a troop of Boy Scouts accompany their scout master on the annual summer camping trip, this time to a remote island off the coast of Prince Edward Island. Unfortunately, at the same time, an escapee from a government facility, someone who's been experiment on by a virus, also comes to the island. The scout master is infected with the virus and the others must try to survive, not knowing that the military has quarantined the island. The Deep deals with a world-wide virus that is killing off the world's population. A possible antidote is available at a research facility deep in the Pacific Ocean. However the scientists there are slowly going crazy and may be infected with something strange!! Below is my review of The Troop.

"A good, solid horror story in the tradition of Stephen King's earlier books. 5 boys and their scout master leave their town on Prince Edward Island to spend the weekend on a smaller island off the coast. It's to be a scouting adventure weekend, hiking, map reading, etc. Unfortunately for them, another boat lands on the island, bringing an escapee from a lab who is infested with experimental worms. That is the gist of the story; the army and navy are involved in sealing off the island, the boys are isolated, trying to fend off the worms and a psychotic member of their troop. Interesting story, good solid horror. (4 stars)"

Nevermore by Neil Gaiman. This was my first exposure to Neil Gaiman. I have seen the movie version of Stardust, which I enjoyed very much. This book has both horror and fantasy elements. It's an excellent story, tense and interesting. My review is below. \

"My first attempt at reading a Neil Gaiman story. Loved it! My kind of fantasy/ horror story. An interesting quest, an interesting world (London Under) and an interesting concept, using the London Tube system to develop characters. I enjoyed the characters very much, Door, Richard, Hunter, even the villains. I want Gaiman to do a sequel! A strong 4.5 stars. Excellent and will make me read more of his books."

The Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko. This is the first book in Russian writer, Sergei Lukyanenko's Nightwatch hexology. I bought this on a whim in 2011 and enjoyed it very much. I haven't looked for the remaining five books yet, but in time I'm sure I'll check them out as well. This was my review.

"I took a chance on this book, saw it in one of my book stores and it looked interesting. It is about the ongoing battle between the Night Watch (Light magic) and the Day Watch (Dark magic). It turns out the book contained 3 individual stories, all featuring the same characters, Gesar (the leader), Anton (a new member of the Night Watch), Olga (an old sorceress with a past) and Sveta (newly discovered and Anton's love), plus the rest of the Watch. Interesting stories, interesting twists and turns. I do at times get frustrated with Anton's issues and concerns but they are used neatly to develop the plot. Very interesting stories and quite enjoyable. Different from others of the type I've read. I'll have to consider getting the remainder in the series. (4 stars)"

Still to Read

Metro 2033 by Dmitri Glukhovsky. I bought this book just a couple of weeks ago while exploring one of the local book stores. It sounded interesting. This is the synopsis and you can judge for yourself.

"Civilization's most northern outpost, a lonely metro station, is attacked by mysterious creatures that somehow have awoken in the recent war. The world lies in ruins, the surface is contaminated, and a prey to the sun's deadly rays. One last human remnant have sought protection in the Metro, the world's largest nuclear bomb secure bunker, where stations have been transformed into small city states with their own ideologies and governments.

Everywhere there is a constant struggle for living space, water filters, electric heaters and fungal cultures, all while darkness and terror reigns in the tunnels.

A young man is forced out on a dangerous journey through the subterranean maze of tunnels, shafts and sidings, where nobody knows what to expect around the next corner."

So there you go. This became a bigger BLog entry that I'd thought. Obviously it's not all-inclusive, just some thoughts on some of the books I've been exposed to in the Horror genre. Maybe it'll give you some ideas on books you'd like to try. I hope so. Good luck!
Related Posts with Thumbnails