Monday, 27 October 2014

Top Five Scary Reads

The imagination is a wonderful thing, and in horror terms, is the perfect tool for spine tingling scares. A well-worded scary story can be enough to give you shivers, bring you out in goosebumps and have you turning on all the lights in the house. Below is a countdown of my top five scary reads that I wholeheartedly recommend for reading alone, in the dark for brave bookworm thrills!

5. The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft

I was introduced to the original story in the inspired anthology Shadows over Innsmouth. It tells of the strange coastal town of Innsmouth that hides a supernatural secret in the form of its fishy inhabitants. Late night creeping and otherworldly creatures coming out the sea are the focus of this atmospheric tale that gave birth to Cthulhu mythology.

4. Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin
Yes, you read that correctly. The man that gave us Game of Thrones also wrote a creepy vampire tale set in New Orleans. A steamboat on the Missisippi river is the venue for vampires versus hunters after a spate of murders become attributed to the bloodsucking creatures. Bloody, eerie and dark, this is a tale to satisfy any vampire fan.

3. Banquet for the Damned by Adam Nevill 

In Scotland’s oldest University town, a professor that claims to commune with spirits plays with a power far beyond his means. With hauntings in the night and sinister disappearances, this occult thriller genuinely gave me nightmares. I was at University at the time and got way too engrossed, but that’s not to say that the moody setting and dark mix of ghosts and witchcraft didn’t play their wicked part!

2. The Beast House Trilogy by Richard Laymon
Richard Laymon is a master of horror for me and I have been scared by many of his books but this one really got to me. This saga tells of a horrendous creature whose legacy lives through its monstrous acts and its hybrid offspring. This bloody, disturbing book had me dreaming of monster sex and seeing grotesque faces in the dark. Horrifically brilliant this is an epic tale for hardcore horror readers.

1. The Rats by James Herbert 

This is my ultimate scary read. I’m not the biggest fan of rats anyway but the cleverly crafted storyline of The Rats genuinely terrified me. Written in 1974, this book has scared generations, with its simple premise and graphic depictions of giant rat attacks. Gory and creepy, this book takes a seemingly ordinary creature and gives it a horrifying thirst for blood.

So there you have it. Five books that thrilled and scared me and ones that I will never read alone again. Did of any of these have the same effect on you? Or have you read something else so scary it left you wanting to sleep with the lights on? A good scary novel can stay with you for years so I would love to hear more experiences of books that go bump in the night!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

I've had human heroes and heroines, gifted military soldiers and gadget-laden vigilantes grace some of my blog posts but never full blown superheroes... until now! However Steelheart puts a twist on the standard superhero theme.  

An unforeseen phenomenon known as Calamity came and gave some ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. You would think that would be a good thing, but with these powers, the newly named Epics raised themselves above mere humans and created a society built on dominance and the desire to be all powerful. At the top of this supernatural hierarchy is the seemingly invincible Epic named Steelheart. 

When the Epics first appeared, young David witnessed his father’s murder at the hands of the tyrant Steelheart. Now, ten years later, he joins a covert force of rebels known as the Reckoners, who work out the Epics’ weaknesses in order to assassinate them. David has his eyes set on Steelheart, but how do you kill a superhuman being that appears to have no downfalls? 

This was such a thrilling read for me. I loved the whole premise of the humans and the Epics, where in most stories; those that are gifted often fight for the side of good. This idea was turned on its head which I loved. I kind of liken it to a cross between X-Men and Watchmen, although if anyone has a better comparison, please let me know! 

David was a loveable lead character, funny and so full of heart; I really warmed to him from the beginning which made the story all the more powerful. The way they author describes each Epic, and their unique power and weakness was so fascinating; it would be great if there was a spin off book in the style of David’s meticulous notes detailing each Epic and their information! I also think this would make an awesome TV series or film with lots of scope for special effects and compelling storyline! 

With these sorts of stories, I always think solid world-building is important. In Steelheart, the way the new civilisation with the dawn of Epics is depicted incredibly well. There is lots of unique imagery such as the steel city which is a great setting for all the characters to experience their trials and tribulations. 

There is plenty of cleverly crafted humour and also buckets of action which together made a fun and exciting novel. It's easy to see why this is an international bestseller. I raced through this book and I can’t wait for the next instalment. Steelheart is an action packed and fun novel that is definitely a must read for superhero, action and sci-fi fans! 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

I was very lucky to win a copy of all the books in The Southern Reach Trilogy. Jeff VanderMeer is not an author I have come across before and there was a bit of a buzz about these stories, so I entered a Twitter competition and won! 

I put off reading them for a time as other books were grabbing my attention but recently decided to start them, not really knowing what to expect. Well, from the moment I started I was hooked. Hooked is probably an understatement actually! 

For a number of years, an abundance of wilderness where a supposed environmental disaster occurred known as Area X has been monitored by a secret agency known as the Southern Reach. 

What lies over the border of Area X is mostly unknown and of eleven expeditions that have been sent in to investigate, not everyone comes back alive. Those that do return are never the same again. 

Annihilation is the first in the trilogy, and is the story of the twelfth expedition. It is the journal of a nameless biologist; one of four brave, intelligent souls who have volunteered to enter Area X to hopefully bring back intel of the mysterious Area X. The more the team uncovers about the fated area, the more dangers they face, from each other and from the unknown. 

Told in the form of the biologist’s journal, it’s a brilliant combination of reading a personal diary crossed with secret government documents. The story slowly builds and you experience Area X as the expedition party does. You are exposed to half truths as they are and more mysteries present themselves, than questions are answered...I loved it! 

At times it was genuinely chilling and so cleverly described I even had gasp-out-loud moments! I devoured this in one night, I literally couldn’t out it down, I had to see it through to the end, almost as if the elusive Area X might cease to exist if I didn’t! It’s quite hard to pinpoint a genre for this book; sci-fi, horror, mystery, thriller or all of the above. 

Please read the book and let me know your thoughts. This was like nothing I have ever read before and I feel excited and privileged to already have books 2 and 3 ready to read. Ridiculously compelling and hugely original, The Southern Reach Trilogy is something to be very excited about!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Spare Brides by Adele Parks

My fascination with the roaring twenties continues this week with my thoughts on Spare Brides by Adele Parks. I was a bit late to the party in discovering Adele Parks, but after meeting her last year at the first Glamour book club, I quickly played catch up and have found for myself what a brilliant author she is. When I heard she had written a hist-fic novel, it was on the top of my shopping list! 

Spare Brides is the intertwined stories of four very different women in the aftermath of World War One. Sarah sadly lost her husband in the war and was left with her two children as well as the care of a disabled brother, while her sister Beatrice has the lonely loss of never having had a man to love in the first place. 

Their friend Lydia seemingly has it all with a secure status in society and a husband whose desk job kept him safe, although this is an unrelenting source of shame for her. 

And then there is the beautiful Ava; single by choice, with new family money to keep in her fashion, champagne and male attention to her heart’s content, even if she does have bigger plans to save the world, one woman at a time. 

I loved each and every story line in this book; each character illustrates a different facet of the war and it was so fascinating to see how each of their individual situations also affected each other. In a time of such dramatic social change, I loved the themes that the novel explored, including women in the workplace, marriage and adultery, high society and post-war poverty. 

As well as the absorbing historical and social subtexts, there is plenty of drama and romance. The lavishness of the society that the women are stationed in is lusciously described; from the stately homes and swanky nightclubs, to the glittering fashions and exclusive soirées. 

I cwouldn'teven choose a favourite of the women; each of them had a characteristic that I was drawn to and I cared for all of them. Every character was well written and played their part in the novel as whole. Good strong characters, with interesting stories to tell in a fascinating and changeable period in time, really made this a fantastic read for me. I was addicted to this stunning read and I hope that there is more in the way of historical fiction to come from the fabulous Adele Parks. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Ghosts of Manhattan by George Mann

I was so excited to read this book, as the premise is set in the twenties, but with a twist! A lover of almost all periods of history, but the twenties is one that I find particularly fascinating. Especially after reading Flappers last year, I seem to be veering towards more stories set in this time of social change. 

Ghosts of Manhattan is set in a steampunk version of 20s America. Jazz and parties entertain the upper class, but the city is ruled by a seedy underworld of suited gangsters. 

Detective Donovan is tired and under pressure. In a town where crime seems to triumph over justice, his workload is increased when a series of gruesome murders of seemingly upstanding citizens start taking place. And to add to his problems, there is the elusive, red-eyed vigilante on the loose, known as The Ghost. 

It seems like it falls to honest, law-abiding men like Donovan to protect the city, so that people like the wealthy playboy Gabriel Cross can throw his lavish parties in peace. But as the the danger for Donovan escalates, it seems that who may have once been perceived as the enemy, may actually be the answer to the city’s problems. 

I really enjoyed how the story played out, from the different perspectives of the main characters; Donovan, The Ghost, Gabriel Cross and his glamorous squeeze Celeste; a jazz singer with a dark secret linked to her past. This novel was an interesting mix of many sorts of genres; steampunk, hist-fic, action, mythology and more. 

It kind of read like a comic book, and was reminiscent of Batman in Gotham City, or Watchmen, with the theme of vigilantism and heroes vs. villains. I think this would be excellent made for the screen, as even with all the different elements, it flowed and worked well together. 

For me, some parts were a little short. By that I mean I wanted more of a back story of each character, although this is just my personal taste. I really wanted to learn more about The Ghost and his motives, as well as more about Celeste and her past. We get snatches but I think I would have liked more elaboration. Maybe in future books this may be possible...hint hint! 

An exciting and original read for fans of any of the aforementioned genres, and I hope to read more Ghost adventures soon!