Sublime Horror

Celebrating the best in horror

Category: Book reviews (page 2 of 6)

A Sick Gray Laugh by Nicole Cushing review – Tristram Shandy had the last laugh

Reviewing a book as erudite and as confident as this is in many ways a challenge, as Nicole Cushing’s ambitious work demands to be judged by the highest standards. A Sick Gray Laugh is very firmly in one of the oldest of the traditions of the novel. Playful, clever, at times spellbinding and always brave, the narrative is in the style mastered by Lawrence Sterne in the eighteenth century in his astonishing work The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. We are, very early on, introduced to the character of “the writer”, Noelle Cashman. We are posed various questions and challenges from the very start, and we are firmly patronised, though always with wit and charm, when our frustration or fascination are anticipated: “These are entirely reasonable questions,” writes “Cashman”, “Be patient. All shall be revealed.”

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Into Bones like Oil by Kaaron Warren review – doctored sleep

Into Bones like Oil is the new novella by Australian Shirley Jackson Award-winner Kaaron Warren, and it warns of the danger of wishing ill on others (lest you wear your curse as a garment, as the psalm goes) and your guilt will haunt you like ghosts.

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Women’s Weird: Strange Stories by Women review – filling a gap in the weird fiction bookshelf

Weird fiction, a literary mode defined by Lovecraft as possessing “a certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces”, is usually spoken about in the same sentence as names such as Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, William Hope Hodgson, M.R. James, and, of course, H.P. Lovecraft. Unlike the earlier and related genre, the gothic, the names of women very rarely turn up in discussions of weird fiction, unless when referring to writers who came later in its development, from the 1950s onward. And even then, far too little. It’s high time, therefore, for the release of this new collection of short stories from Handheld Press, edited by expert on women’s supernatural fiction, Melissa Edmundson, whom Sublime Horror readers might remember from Avenging Angels and her reading list of ghost stories by Victorian women.

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Japanese Ghost Stories by Lafcadio Hearn (Penguin Classics) review – fears reborn, nightmares reincarnated

Born in Greece, raised in Ireland, educated in England, and a writing career forged in America – perhaps it is Lafcadio Hearn’s lack of a permanent home that resulted in his openness towards and interest in other cultures. If we look back on Hearn’s career and works, it is a recording of folklore and local customs that stands out most clearly.

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Cursed Britain by Thomas Waters review – dallying with the devil

Cursed Britain opens by posing the question: if your misfortunes gradually escalated and piled on top of one another, would you – could you – believe yourself cursed? If you came to that conclusion, one a younger you would have found preposterous, what would you do about it?

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Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley review – digging up grief in another superb folk horror

Ask a horror reader which book of 2019 they’re most excited about and one might reasonably answer with King’s The Institue or Tremblay’s Growing Things, to give two notable examples. In other words, new books from mainstays of the horror genre. I would answer with Andrew Michael Hurley’s Starve Acre. I would say this not only for the simple reason that Hurley is one of my favourite contemporary novelists writing horror fiction but for what Hurley represents.

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Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky review – the voice of God

I’ve been a fan of Stephen Chobsky ever since The Perks of Being a Wallflower came out when I was in college. Needless to say, I was excited to hear that he was dipping his feet into the horror genre with Imaginary Friend. The book centres around a young boy named Christopher Reese who goes missing in the woods after following a disembodied voice. Upon returning, Christopher realises he has something akin to superpowers: he’s no longer dyslexic, he wins the lottery, and he can somehow hear people’s thoughts. But there’s a catch. He keeps having reoccurring nightmares about a “hissing lady” who wants to tear down the wall between the “imaginary world” and the real one, which has something to do with another little boy who went missing fifty years ago.

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Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger & Melanie R. Anderson review – the women who pioneered horror

Because I’m a woman who loves horror, people always ask me who my favourite women horror writers are, and I’m a little ashamed to admit I don’t always have the best response. Beyond the obvious choices like Mary Shelley or Shirley Jackson, sometimes it’s hard to come up with a comprehensive list when your bookshelf is made up of 90% white men.

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Full Throttle by Joe Hill review – less full throttle and more third gear

I liken short story anthologies to a supermarket trip – you go in for what you want, see things you don’t like and often come away with something extra you didn’t know you liked in the first place. An odd analogy perhaps, but you get my drift I’m sure. In other words, in Full Throttle by Joe Hill, there were some stories I liked, some I didn’t like at all and a couple of nice surprises.

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Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan review – savour the nightmares of Logan’s first overt foray into horror

I was already a fan of Kirsty Logan’s work, which explores the dark and fantastical, through her previous novels, as well as hearing her perform at events, such as when she read her wonderfully titled short story “Girls are Always Hungry When all the Men are Bite-Size” which also features in Things We Say in the Dark. Since then, I have been excited to hear more of Logan’s horror – her new collection does not disappoint.

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