What’s Horror?

I’ve been having this problem lately with the horror that I’m reading: I don’t feel like it’s horror.

Three of the last books I’ve read (Severance by Ling Ma, Bunny by Mona Awad, and The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson) are classified as horror. I discussed this a little bit in my review of Bunny, but when something is listed as horror, I want it to be horrifying. I want dread and high stakes and some kind of impending doom. In these last three books, I didn’t get that. Each of them had a slow feeling which was almost dream-like. In all three books I didn’t feel like there was enough happening to really make me feel like there was no way out, or that the main character was trapped in their circumstances and situation.

This led me to post on the horror lit subreddit, one of my new favorite places to go for horror recommendations, and to see what horror other people are reading. I mentioned the problem I was having, and asked if anyone had recommendations for what specific types of horror I should look for in order to avoid these sleepy stories.

The main recommendation was a book that I had been looking into reading for about a year now. Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix is a non-fiction book which covers the horror trends of the 70’s and 80’s. I’ll be diving more into my thoughts about the book in my review, but this definitely helped me look into new genres. Did I like animal or monster based horror? Creepy children, or dipping into the satanic panic which ravaged this time? A lot of these books, are cheesy and a bit over-the-top. Don’t get me wrong, I love that type of horror, but it doesn’t scare me as much as make me laugh.

I received other recommendations for horror too, some of which I’m really looking forward to checking out. These include:

The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp
Tales from the Gas Station by Jack Townsend
Haunted by Chuck Palanhiuk
Skullcrack City by Robert Johnson
Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
Christine by Stephen King

All of these novels are said to combine horror with a bit of comedy, like most of my favorites (John Dies at the End, We Sold Our Souls, and My Best Friend’s Exorcism) do so well. I’m excited to dive into these quirky and horror-filled worlds, but I also want to know if this genre has a name, and what it would be.

I’m excited to keep looking for horror that I love, and to continue on defining my weird comedy/horror preferences.

-Siobhan

Currently Anticipated & Pre-Ordered Titles | 2020

I have a lot of anticipated books this year! I try to keep my TBR somewhat low and realistic to the books that I really want to read. Most of what’s currently on there are books which are announced, but have no release date outside of 2020, or books which are definitely coming out this year, and which I’ve preordered.

Firstly, we have V.E. Schwab. Author of the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy, as well as Vicious and Vengeful (two of my favorites), she has two books which are currently announced. One, is titled The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, and follows a French girl and the devil over the span of 300 years. The book is slated for release in October 2020, but does not yet have a cover. The other is currently untitled, but is a sequel to Vicious and Vengeful. This book does not have a year anywhere attached to it, but whenever it comes out I’ll be rushing to read it.

Next on my list is Grady Hendrix. He’s quickly become my favorite horror author. I have one of his prior works left, but his new release, titled The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is coming out on April 7th of this year. Described as “Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meets Dracula” this book is about a women’s book club which is trying to protect its suburban community from a vampire. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this book from Quirk Books, so I’m hoping to read this right before it comes out.

Riley Sager is an author who was new to me last year. I read his three previous titles, and his most recent book called Home Before Dark comes out this July. This follows a woman returning to the house that was made famous by her father, a horror writer. The description is ominous, and is vague about whether or not there are paranormal aspects to this book, or if it’s grounded in reality. Either way I’m excited to see what Riley Sager does this time around.

The next one on my list is Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power. I really liked her debut novel, Wilder Girls, last year and I’m excited to see what she continues to do. This is one of the few young adult books that I have on this list. It’s described as horror, but if it’s anything like her previous book, it’ll be more in the vein of Annihilation. This book is also expected to come out in July

Though this book doesn’t have any title, cover, or release information, I’m probably the most excited about it. Sylvain Neuvel, author of Sleeping Giants, Waking Gods, and Only Human is writing a new novel under the series title Take Them to the Stars. It looks like this is going to be science fiction, and I’m very excited to see what his next series brings. I’m really hoping that we do get more information about this book soon, and that it comes out in 2020.

Next I have an author who’s new to me, and I’m excited to see what their second novel brings! The Devil and the Dark Water is the newest book by Stuart Turton, author of The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I enjoyed his first book a lot, and I’m excited to see what he continues to do in the mystery genre. Though we don’t have a cover yet, if it’s anything like the design of his first book I’m really excited about it.

My most anticipated fantasy is the spin-off series to the Book of the Ancestor series, titled Book of the Ice. The first book is going to be coming out on April 30th, and is titled The Girl and the Stars. This book brings us back to the planet Abeth from the previous series, but follows a character named Yaz who lives as part of the ice tribes in the book. It’s unclear from the synopsis if this takes place before, during, or after the events of Book of the Ancestor, so I’m really excited to dive into this when it releases.

The final book on this list is from Emily St. John Mandel, who wrote Station Eleven that I read last year. This is her first book since 2014, and is titled The Glass Hotel. The story follows Vincent, a bartender at the Hotel Caiette. Taking place on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. There’s crime, and crisis, and survival, the book is already getting rave reviews. This book just came out two days ago and I’m really excited to start reading it.

These are all of my most anticipated reads for 2020. I’ve got a lot of great authors and reads on this list, and I know that this will also continue to grow as the year goes on.

-Siobhan

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence | Book Review

★★★★☆
January 18th – 20th

I put off reading the finale to this series for a very long time. Most of that was because I didn’t want the series to end, but I was also very apprehensive about how I would feel about the ending. From a few reviews I read, people felt just okay, and that concerned me. The first book was such an unexpected surprise, and after feeling like the second book was building up to something large, I couldn’t help but be scared that it would all be for nothing.

I liked this ending a lot. Mark Lawrence set up a lot of questions to be answered, most of which I won’t go into here for spoiler reasons. Seventy pages from the end, I was concerned about the ending. I was afraid of my favorite characters not making it, my favorite plot points going unanswered, and my favorite locations getting burned to the ground. Only some of those things happened.

I have to commend Lawrence for his attention to detail in this series. This is one of the rare cases where I couldn’t find myself wondering why a character didn’t do x thing which seemed slightly more obvious to me. I was constantly surprised by the setup and payoff that he was able to produce, and he’s a master at hinting at things in the beginning which will be needed at the end.

Following the events of the second book, as well as the novella, Nona Grey is back at Sweet Mercy, finishing up her training. This book bounces between present day and three years earlier, when Nona and Zole were escaping from the final events of the previous book. I liked the chance in pace between the two, and the time jumps were crafted so that the lessons learned in each were relevant to the other without it feeling forced.

My favorite part of all three books has always been the combination of the setting and the relationships, and this book was no different. The world building in this series is some of my favorite that I’ve ever read, and I loved seeing Nona’s friendships and what they mean to her grow and continue to expand over the course of the three books. I think that Mark Lawrence did a great job writing a character who grows and changes and becomes an adult from a young kid. It’s also great to see that type of growth in a very dark setting.

I think that for people who were invested in the romantic side of the relationships, this book may have been a slight letdown. Romance is always my least favorite part of books, so I was more than okay with the way the book ended on that front. I honestly wish more books would have hints of romance in the background without feeling the need to pull it into the main plot of the story.

That’s a whole other topic that I won’t get into though.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this series to anyone who likes fantasy and science fiction, and who likes combat and a bit of magic.

I was really excited to learn that Abeth, the planet that the Book of the Ancestor series takes place on, is being returned to in Mark Lawrence’s next series, Book of the Ice. the first book comes out in April. I’m excited to see where that series takes place, and what else Mark Lawrence has in store for me. There are three other series of his which I can also check out in the meantime.

-Siobhan

2019 Reading Stats

Alright, so here it is. A recap of everything that I read in all of 2019. These stats are coming from a mix of Goodreads, which is where I track everything I read, and my personal stat spreadsheet. There’s a link to my Goodreads profile in the sidebar.

I read 13,086 pages across 48 books.

The shortest book I read was Bound by Mark Lawrence at 49 pages. The longest, also by Mark Lawrence, was Red Sister.

The most popular book I read was Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, which 970,697 other people read.

My highest read genre was Graphic Novel this year at 12, and second highest was Fantasy at 7.

Most of the books I read (18) had an average page length between 300-399 pages.

36 of the books I read were in the adult age range, 11 were young adult, and I read 1 children’s book.

My average rating for 2019 was 4 stars. This doesn’t surprise me at all, because I felt like I read some really great books this year.

Most of the books I read this year were digital. 41 of them I read on my iPad. I read 4 hardcovers, and listened to 2 audiobooks. This is a huge change from last year, and all prior years, where I’d been primarily reading physical hardcover books. This stat really surprised me in how much I’m moving toward ebooks.

For some author stats, I read a pretty even split of male vs female authors. 23 were male, 25 were female. I also read from 40 authors which were new to me this year, and only 8 were authors I had read from before.

Finally, here’s my top 5 books of the year, in no particular order:

  1. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
  2. Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens
  3. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  4. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  5. Normal People by Sally Rooney

At the beginning of the year, I also set some goals for myself. I wanted to
– Read 52 books
– Read more non-fiction
– Only purchase books that I knew I’d love

I was four books shy of reading 52 books this year. I read one non-fiction book, so I don’t know that I can mark that one complete, but I was really good about only purchasing books I knew I’d love! What this meant was I really dialed in to purchasing books from authors who I loved, or series that I really enjoyed. I used the library a lot more this year. This strategy really worked for me, and I think the Red Sister series is a good example. I read the first two books from the library, right before the third one was set to come out. I decided that I loved the series enough to buy it, and bought all three books at once. I’m definitely going to continue using this strategy for physical books, as I’m just out of space on my bookshelves.

This year, I want to:
– Read 52 books
– Read the 5 oldest books on my Goodreads TBR
– Read from 10 different countries

The individual goals I set for myself were to read specific books. Those books were ones I’m really looking forward to, but unfortunately didn’t get to read.
– Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
– Shades of Magic (Series) by V.E. Schwab
– Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
– Circe by Madeline Miller

Though these are all books I do want to complete, I’m going to choose a different batch this year for my goals. This year those are:
– The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty
– Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence
– Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia
– Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
– The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

I’m excited for this year of reading. I have a lot of content planned for posts, and I’m excited to see where this year takes us.

Happy New Year!
-Siobhan

Wilder Girls by Rory Power | Book Review

★★★★☆
October 31st – November 8th

I’ve heard about this book a lot. I’ve heard it described as a female Lord of the Flies, but spookier and weird. I guess if you aren’t super familiar with a more speculative horror genre, and you’re in the YA demographic that this book is aimed at, that’s a fair comparison. To me, a more apt comparison is Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, a book which I was not a huge fan of.

This book was different enough from that in ways that I liked, but also still had the atmosphere and descriptions which were my favorite part of Annihilation. I think Rory Power did a great job bringing a different type of horror genre to a young adult audience, and I hope that this introduces a lot of YA readers to horror books as something they can continue to enjoy.

This book takes place on Raxter, an island off the coast of Maine and home to an all girls boarding school by the same name. The island has always been slightly strange, with blue crabs and flowers that turn black after being picked. Now, there’s the Tox, a sickness which changes the girls and makes them wild. Hetty has her eye sealed shut and blooms over it. Byatt has a second spine. Reese has a hand with silver scales.

There are others, girls with two hearts, silver hair that glows, each one unique and slightly stranger than the last. The island is twisted too, with trees that grow too fast, and animals that are far more feral than they used to be.

This book reads almost as a slice of life into the strange world that these girls live in. It takes place a year and a half after the Tox began, as their numbers continue to dwindle and a cure seems less and less likely. Secrets are uncovered and things begin to change again. This book is about friendship and more than friendship. It’s about relationships with parents, and closing people out, and letting people in. It’s a slow burn, a slow story, and a slow progression.

I liked this book a lot. It was weird, and cool, and ominous, and gory. It’s a book that I would recommend to people who like horror and not having all the answers to all the questions, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

Rory Power has another book coming out next year, and if it’s anything like this I think I’ll really enjoy it.

-Siobhan

December Recap | 2019

A blog post? On a Monday?

As I mentioned on Friday, this is something new that I’m trying this year. The aim is to have recap, stat, and other types of content on Mondays, as well as having weekly reviews on Fridays. There are a lot of books that I’m really excited to read in 2020.

As for December, I didn’t get to complete any books during the month, and took the time for the holidays to spend time with my family and focus on work. I’m excited to jump back into reading in January, and my January TBR will be posted in a few weeks!

-Siobhan