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Book reviews Books Fiction

Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay review – a truly unsettling brand of horror

Growing Things is a short story collection by Paul Tremblay, the 2018 recipient of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a Novel for his Cabin at the End of the World. Each of the nineteen stories within this collection provides the reader with a gripping picture of terror, each unique and separate from the other pieces within its horrifying menagerie. That being said, one story, “Notes from the Dog Walkers” works well to tether each of the stories together through its construction of the Tremblay Universe.

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Book reviews Books Fiction

Sefira and Other Betrayals by John Langan review – a masterful collection of the weird and eerie

We readers of what’s broadly labelled horror fiction have seen it all. We know a creak on the stair means trouble, that a glint of metal in a darkened doorway isn’t going to end well. To keep us on our toes, to have us constantly guessing at what’s about to happen, whether we are even being told the truth, is a skill, and one John Langan has in spades. Sefira and Other Betrayals is a masterful collection of the weird and eerie; seven visions of personal hells, peppered with some perfectly crafted killer lines. 

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Book reviews Books Fiction

Her Kind by Niamh Boyce review – a powerful reimagining of the Kilkenny Witch Trial

In 1324 in Kilkenny, Petronilla de Meath was the first person to be burned at the stake for sorcery and heresy. She was the maidservant of moneylender Dame Alice Kytler, one of the earliest recorded women accused of witchcraft. This pivotal yet neglected witch trial is reimagined in Niamh Boyce’s second novel Her Kind, following her 2013 debut The Herbalist.

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Book reviews Books Fiction

The Library Window by Margaret Oliphant (Broadview Anthology of British Literature Editions)

It is hard not to begin an article about Margaret Oliphant (1828-1897) without referring to her famous prolificacy, as she produced over 120 works of fiction and non-fiction in her lifetime, making even Anthony Trollope look like a layabout. Oliphant was amongst those early British women writers who managed to make a living from their writing, although in Oliphant’s case, following the death of her husband in 1859, it was more a matter of survival for her and her children. There was a revival of interest in Oliphant’s work, which had fallen into obscurity, towards the end of the 20th century, seeing the republication of a number of her books – OUP’s Oxford World Classics edition of her 1883 novel, Hester, describes Oliphant as “one of the great Victorian novelists.”

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Book reviews Books Fiction

All My Colors by David Quantick review – a whirlwind of hilarity and horror

All My Colors follows Todd Milstead, a wannabe writer who loves nothing more than to use his eidetic memory to quote from literature in vain showings-off to anyone willing to listen (and listen they will, as he throws parties with a lot of free booze). During one such gathering, he obnoxiously begins to quote from a book entitled All My Colors, written by Jake Turner, only no one has heard of it. Confused, as he knows every line cover-to-cover, Todd goes to his local bookstore and turns his own personal library inside-out to find this book. But he can’t. Because it doesn’t exist.

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Book reviews Books Fiction

Ghost Stories (script) by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman review – all just a trick of the mind?

Parapsychology professor Philip Goodman doesn’t believe in the paranormal – do you? From the very beginning, Ghost Stories tells you the supernatural is a trick of the mind but then presents a three-part fable that pushes rationality to its limits.

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Book reviews Books Fiction

The Furies by Katie Lowe review – a hauntingly dark tale of adolescent female fury

It’s 1998 and the start of the school summer holidays. Pupils of Elm Hollow Academy are shocked when a sixteen-year-old classmate is found dead in the grounds, sitting on a swing set with absolutely no trace of violence on her body. There is no known cause of death, but someone knows what happened, and she is about to tell.

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Book reviews Books Fiction

Will Haunt You by Brian Kirk review – ‘the most unlikable protagonist I’ve ever read’

I read a book much like the one you’re holding now. And this is what happened to me. Don’t make the same mistake. Please, put it down. Or better yet, throw it away. This is your last warning. Turn the page, and you’re on your own. Actually, that’s not true. Turn the page and he’ll be there, watching you. (Will Haunt You, p. 1)

The opening of Will Haunt You is an instant hook. A horror book saying that something bad will happen to me if I read it? Count me in. Although the concept of read-this-book-then-you-die is hardly new, with titles such as The Book With No Name on the market, I was excited at the prospect of seeing how Brian Kirk would break the fourth wall.

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Book reviews Books Non-fiction

The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara review – the beauty who created the beasts

For years, I have been telling people about the legacy of Milicent Patrick to anyone who would listen, so you can imagine my delight when I came across this biography. As author Mallory O’Meara explains, there’s a dearth of female role models in monster movie production. Sure, there are plenty of women in front of the camera, but all they seem to offer is what Carol Clover identifies as “tits and a scream.” Therefore, when I first learned about Patrick’s design of the Gill Man for Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Metaluna Mutant for This Island Earth, you cannot imagine how overjoyed I was that some of my favourite movie monsters had been designed by a woman. But, as is the case with many talented women in Hollywood who threaten the egos of their male counterparts, she slipped into relative obscurity after she was unceremoniously fired from Universal Studios. Therefore, this biography shares a dual purpose: to tell an important piece of cinematic history that had been previously left out by sexism and Hollywood, and to share the inspiring journey of a woman who lived according to what she loved, including her monsters. 

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Book reviews Books Non-fiction

Born to be Posthumous review – living according to one’s tastes, Mark Dery on Edward Gorey

In Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey, Mark Dery attempts to respond to the challenge of how to write a biography about someone who, in their own words, lived a “featureless” life. A known recluse and creature of habit, Edward Gorey wasn’t the sort of person who indulged in grand love affairs or travelled the world. In fact, he seemed to be against that sort of thing entirely. When pressed about his sexuality he would scoff or dodge the question, and when asked to leave his little world of Cape Cod, Massachusetts for a touring production of his play, he would just stay home. In fact, Dery makes Gorey out to be a frustrating character: just when you think you have something pinned down about his identity or feelings on a particular subject, they change entirely. Perhaps the best way of describing Edward Gorey, Dery suggests, is either very indirectly or not at all.