The Beauty (2014) by Aliya Whiteley

“Humanity […] reflects the very strangeness of the land that grows, spores, seeds, and then dies around us. […] Whether reading crime, fantasy, horror, literary or science fiction, the realisation that anything is possible belongs within the land, and therefore within ourselves.” –Aliya Whiteley, ‘The Lay of The Land: Weird Possibility in the English Countryside’

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The Beauty
is Aliya Whiteley’s second novella. It was published in 2014 by Unsung Stories, a small UK publishing house that has since published her 2016 novella, The Arrival of Missives. It is a story I had been meaning to read for over a year, ever since fromcouchtomoon raved about it on her blog. Living in Japan meant it was difficult for me to get hold of a copy, so I was delighted to finally buy one during a recent trip to England over the New Year.

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic England where something unspecified and deadly has happened to the women. A small group of male survivors are hanging on to existence as they attempt to come to terms with a world without women, and all that this entails. Nathan, the narrator, is a young storyteller whose nightly tales seem to be keeping “the Group” going. Until a walk in the forest leads to a shocking discovery for Nathan … Continue reading

Broken Monsters (2014) by Lauren Beukes

“Kids can’t cope with the darkness, supposedly, but how else are we supposed to wrestle with it? How else are we supposed to prepare for this moment when you have to open the door not knowing what’s behind it?” (p.250)

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Lauren Beukes is a South African writer who was recommended to me when I was compiling a list of essential books to read by female authors. Three of her works were suggested by blogger friends: Moxyland (2008), Zoo City (2010), and Broken Monsters (2014). She also wrote the 2013 time-travel thriller The Shining Girls, which I have heard very good things about. After reading Broken Monsters, I’m keen to read more of her writing.

Broken Monsters is a serial-killer thriller with supernatural undertones set in modern Detroit. Detective Gabi Versado leads the search for a killer after the mutilated body of a young boy is found on the street. On the wall beside the body is a simple chalk drawing of a door. As the hunt for the killer continues, the author takes us on a tour of some of the darker places of this struggling city, introducing a group of characters who initially seem unrelated. Continue reading

Halloween Reads 2016

What scares you?

Is it that BUMP in the middle of the night that only you hear?
Is it the walk home through the woods with only the moonlight to guide you?readings__1224527389_9277

How about that movie you watched that gave you nightmares for a week? Or the dream that felt so real that you fought to wake up and escape it, a cry on your lips?

What was the last book or short story that REALLY scared you? As I’ve got older, I find a scary movie affects me more than a ghost story. Is that because a visual shock is more immediate than a comparable scare in a story? The filmed image is there, right in front of you, without you having to do any work creating it in your head. Is it just me? Continue reading

The Shining (1977) by Stephen King

‘Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick.’

I chose this as my second ‘All Hallows Read‘ book after finishing Richard Matheson’s Hell House earlier in October. At over 650 pages it’s a big read, yet it rarely felt like a slog. I’m not a huge fan of King, but I’ve always found his work very readable. I went through a phase of reading his novels in my teens spanning from Misery (1987) to The Dark Half (1989). Unfortunately, this included The Tommyknockers which was a slog to finish.

The Shining is one of King’s most famous novels as well as being very highly rated. It’s basically a haunted-house story, but I also found it to be a fascinating look into alcoholism and self-control. The main character, Jack Torrance, is a recovering alcoholic with a fiery temper, so well portrayed by Jack Nicholson in Kubrick’s movie. In the book, the characters are a lot more fleshed out than in the film. This gives us a chance to feel more attached to them, making their eventual fates that bit more distressing. Continue reading

Hell House (1971) by Richard Matheson

All Hallow’s Read – Day 12

I finished reading this over the weekend. It didn’t really scare me but I enjoyed the story, despite its limitations. The characters aren’t particularly rounded but they each have their own voice. The house itself could have been more of a character, but perhaps the author left it in the background in order to focus on the four main characters and their reactions to the haunting.

The book is certainly a product of its time, (1970~71), with its titillating sexual scenes and treatment of the female characters. Some will find it too exploitive and it could easily offend. But I wanted to read a haunted house story that got me turning the pages, and that is what I got. Continue reading

All Hallow’s Read – Night 1

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October 1st 2015

I’m starting my All Hallow’s Read tonight. I’ve been looking forward to this since I ordered the book the other day. I’m not a big fan of horror any more. I want to see if it can still chill me like it did when I was a teenager. Back then, I went through a Lovecraft phase as well as enjoying some of the books by King, James Herbert and Shaun Hutson – anyone remember ‘Slugs’?…

‘Hell House’ by Richard Matheson arrived in the post today. It was published in 1971. It’s the book that kept popping up on the lists of best horror stories I was checking. That and King’s ‘The Shining’, which I haven’t read either. Maybe next year. Continue reading

‘All Hallow’s Read’

                

As October approaches, I am getting ready for this year’s ‘All Hallow’s Read’. Neil Gaiman’s original idea was to give a scary book as a present to someone for Halloween. I’m using it as a good excuse to read a horror story that I haven’t read before. The challenge is to start and finish the chosen book in the month of October. If the book does actually scare me, then that is a bonus. When I’ve finished the book, I will post a review. Continue reading