Book Reviews: September 2021 (Spooky) Reads

It’s never too early (or late) for horror reads. While I’d wish to revisit the genre in film too, my October schedule unfortunately doesn’t permit a special series of movie reviews this year. Life, uh, gets in the way.

And so I have to take a brief hiatus from here to focus on work, a fiction writing project, and hopefully, a few stories for Brimstone Tales. That said, I’ll return near Samhain, hopefully with a list dedicated to the spooky season if nothing else. Till then!

Near the Bone (Christina Henry, 2021)

Near the Bone Novel

A strange cry shattered the still air. It wasn’t quite a bear’s roar, or a mountain lion’s call, or an eagle’s screech, but a nerve-shattering combination of all three, mixed with another sound—something almost, but not quite, human. Only then did Mattie realize that they’d heard no sounds since the call of the crows William had shooed away from the dead fox—that is nothing, except their own voices.

For as long as Mattie could remember, she had lived with William on the mountains together. He got angry at her often and everything was her fault, even the fearsome creature in the woods and the hunters that had come after it.

Near the Bone takes on a familiar narrative that is nevertheless well told with depth. The horror/thriller is essentially a story about monsters, though there’s more than a kind. One terrorises in plain sight and the other, lurks in the shadows. Known and unknown, both prove horrifying.

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Book Reviews: August 2021 Reads

Finally finishing up some to-reads on my long list before we approach my favourite month of all-time. Have a spooky read to recommend? Please let me know and I’ll be eternally grateful. x

Senlin Ascends (Josiah Bancroft, 2013)

Senlin Ascends Novel

The blackboard rattled and rocked on its feet, shaken by Senlin’s emphatic jots. “Instinct is the fuel that fires the engine of civilization. Generations have labored to build and perfect the engine. Each of you, I hope, will spend your life working to preserve it. Because without it, we would be dangerous beasts.”

During their honeymoon to the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife Marya to the crowds. His only hope of finding her may just be to ascend the Tower, but the mild-mannered headmaster soon learns that the climb will take every inch of wit and mettle he can gather.

From the first moment he steps in the playhouse, it becomes clear that the Tower is the star of Senlin Ascends. The novel shines in its inventive world building, introducing a fascinating universe that not only stretches skywards, but is anchored by bizarre sets of rules.

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Book Reviews: July 2021 Reads

Speculative fiction — fascinating sci-fi anthology Exhalation and the timey-wimey literary novel Before the Coffee Gets Cold — make up this month’s reads, warping reality as we know it. But before then, I’ll be starting off with two light reads that I am happy to recommend for YA fantasy fans.

The Aeriel Chronicles: A Flight of Broken Wings / A Call for Brighter Days (Nupur Chowdhury, 2019 – 2021)

Aerial Chronicles Novels

Book 1 is available for free on Amazon and Kobo. Book 2’s review is based on an ARC, kindly provided by the author.

Six centuries after a lost war against humanity, the Aeriels are back on Ragah to steal a powerful weapon that could prove deadly to their own race. Their return to Earth stirs painful memories for Aerial hunter Ruban Kinoh, who ​arms himself not just to protect his city but avenge his family.

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Book Reviews: June 2021 Reads

Can you believe half of the year is almost over? Hope you are close to your reading goals, or at least found a new favourite book along the way. From perturbing horror to high fantasy, here are two vastly different choices I’ve made this month.

The Consumer (Michael Gira, 1996)

The Consumer

There’s a point when you wake up from a drunk, in perfect clarity. The synapses in your brain feel greased, and the distinction between your subconscious and conscious mind evaporates . A point where everything is hyper-vivid, your intelligence humming at maximum capacity, like a meditating Buddhist acolyte overwhelmed with sudden white light attainment.

Vile, disturbing, and unnerving. Michael Gira’s most prominent work has certainly earned its notoriety. The Consumer is the darkest collection of mad short stories that you may ever read, taking the worst things you can imagine and multiply it sevenfold.

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Book Reviews: May 2021 Reads

What better way to escape the semi-lockdown than into fiction? All that free time means 6 books on last month’s list, so let’s just jump into it.

Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein, 2012)

Code Name Verity

With her words in my mind while I’m reading, she is as real as I am. Gloriously daft, drop-dead charming, full of bookish nonsense and foul language, brave and generous. She’s right here. Afraid and exhausted, alone, but fighting.

Code Name Verity is a fictional war story told in 2 voices – of Julie, an agent under arrest and interrogation by the Gestapo, and of Maddie, her pilot best friend trying desperately to find and rescue her.

Julie’s account is a tense read with every event inked under watchful, prying eyes. In her supposed confession, her breakdowns reveal cruelty in her unseen predicament. In her recounting of their past, we also see her unexpected friendship with Maddie and feel the emotions of loss, now that they have been separated.

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Book Reviews: April 2021 Reads

Cheers to the bibliophiles out there as April marked the premiere of Shadow and Bone. Based on Leigh Bardugo’s enjoyable trilogy of the same name and her outstanding duology Six of Crows, the Netflix series brought the two worlds together to fans’ delight. It is rare that a series would one-up its source, but that was certainly what’d happened here.

April was incidentally also a great time for good reads off-screen. These are my books of the month, starting with one that I’d love to see adapted on film, somehow.

The Library at Mount Char (Scott Hawkins, 2016)

The Library at Mount Char Novel

“When he disappeared he was working on something called regression completeness,” Peter said. “It’s the notion that the universe is structured in such a way that no matter how many mysteries you solve, there is always a deeper mystery behind it.”

The Library at Mount Char is an extraordinary place that exists outside the rules of the known universe and harbours all the knowledge of our world. It has been built by a God-like figure, who had adopted 12 orphaned children to inherit his life’s work.

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