Reviews - Books

Reviews: The Ballad of Black Tom

Lovecraft Inspired

Today I am writing to talk to you about The Ballad of Black Tom, which was written by Victor LaValle and published in 2016.

Being a Lovecraftian fan when I heard about this novella, I was all in there and it is safe to say that I was not disappointed. It is a reworking of Lovecraft’s “The horror of Red Hook.” But it builds on the original story and themes to explore racism, prejudice and isolation.

The novella won a slew of awards including but not limited to the Nebula and Hugo Awards.

Summary

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The novel follows Charles “Tommy” Tester who lives with his sick father and runs schemes as a street hustler in Harlem in 1924. The first part of the novella is told from Charles perspective and the second is seen through the eyes of Detective Malone.  

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Review: The Turn of the Screw

A classic remade

Today I am writing to talk to you about a story that’s been adapted many times, I know that doesn’t narrow it down all that much lol. But this was recently adapted by Netflix, into the series The Haunting of Bly Manor (fantastic series, go watch it). At least it was partly adapted by Netflix in this series as the series was more an amalgamation of two of Henry James’ stories.

The story I want to talk to you about today is The Turn of the Screw.

This novella was released in Colliers Weekly in a serialised format in 1898, it was later collected in the same year by Macmillian and Heinemann.

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Stories that hold a place in my heart

Story’s affect us all.

Stories can affect us emotionally; most good stories make us feel something. But they can also affect how we see the world, and help us form our opinions on ‘real world’ issues and problems. They can help us relate to people or situations we might not otherwise have ever experienced.  As a 30-something year old, white, English woman there are certain things I will never experience myself and absorbing a wide range of stories, told from different viewpoints and by a diverse range of people can help me understand those experiences better. I often find voracious story consumers to have higher levels of empathy.

Stories can also help us get through difficult times via escapism or by giving us the tools to handle our own challenges. As a massive fan of horror, I sometimes get confused looks when I explain to friends and family that I can take real comfort from stories they might find frightening. But any genre can do all of the above.

Stories come in many mediums, that’s why this website looks at books, films, videogames, online mediums etc. Today I want to talk to you about books. In particular my top five books.

There are some spoilers in today’s letter so make sure you are careful if you don’t want certain stories spoiled for you. I have done my very best to keep spoilers to a minimum though and have put warnings throughout.

So, without further delay and in no particular order…

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Reviews - Books

Guardian Article: Chapter and curse: is the horror novel entering a golden age?

Shiny times

I know I don’t normally do this in our correspondence, but today I wanted to share an article from the Guardian that made me happy.

Horror fiction, says author Stephen Graham Jones, is booming right now. “It’s blooming, it’s blossoming. I mean, night blooms, of course, with a bloody centre. Probably some flies crawling over those petals.”

Jones, a Blackfeet Native American, should know: his terrifying tale about a spirit out for reveng, The Only Good Indians, swept the boards at last year’s horror fiction awards, taking both the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson awards for best horror novel. Opening as Ricky is beaten to death by white drinkers at a bar, the novel moves back in time to show how he and his friends slaughtered part of an elk herd on their reservation as teenagers, including one pregnant elk. Now they are dying, brutally, as adults, while asking if their past is catching up with them.

Keep reading on theGuardian.com

Reviews - Books

Review: Watchers by Dean Koontz

Talking animals are awesome

Today I am writing to talk to you about Watcher by Dean Koontz, while this is not typically thought of as a horror novel, rather it is listed as suspense, I feel it works well enough as a horror to look at it here.

The book was published in 1987 and is credited as being on of the books that raised Koontz’s status to that of a best-selling author.

Summary

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Our main character Travis is a former solider and retired real estate salesman, who has become depressed due to his previous life experiences and now feels that his life is pointless. While on a hike, he encounters a golden retriever which follows him, and they take an instant liking to each other. Travis takes the doggo home and calls him Einstein due to the pooch’s high intelligence levels. The dog does not speak but clearly understands English and can respond in such a way that his intelligence in unmistakable.

We also meet Nora, who is being stalked by a creepy asshole, Arthur. Eventually Travis and Nora meet when Travis rescues Nora from Arthur, with Einstein’s help. Travis, Einstein, and Nora become a family and Travis and Nora keep working to find better ways to communicate with Einstein.

However, through the story it is apparent that Einstein is afraid of something. That something is the outsider. Einstein and the Outsider are both genetically modified creatures, hence Einstein’s intelligence. However, where Einstein only had his intelligence modified the Outsider is an amalgamation of various animals with the soul drive to kill Einstein.

Federal agents are also in pursuit of Einstein, and finally they are also pursued by an assassin who was hired to kill those who know how to kill the Outsider but also wants Einstein to sell.

I don’t want to spoil the ending here, it’s best experienced first-hand. There’s a reason this book is credited with being on of the ones that made Koontz a best seller.

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Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked indeed

Today I am writing to talk to you about a novel by Ray Bradbury, it was published in 1962 and tells the story about two 13 year old friends who have a terrifying encounter with a passing carnival. I am of course, talking about Something Wicked This Way Comes.

For those of you up on your Shakespeare you’ll recognise the title as a line from Macbeth, spoken by the witches.

This book has an interesting backstory, as it was not written as a book initially, it started out life as a short story, which Bradbury turned into a film treatment for Gene Kelly, but when no studio would purchase the treatment Bradbury (over a five year period) turned it into a novel. A transformative past if ever there was one.

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Review: Dr Sleep

Shinning sequal

Today I am writing to you about Dr Sleep, which is the sequel to Stephen Kings 1977 novel The Shining. Dr Sleep was published in 2013 and one the 2013 Bram Stoker award for best novel.

Summary

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The book opens with Danny being educated by Dick Hallorann, who is now a benevolent spirit, on how to control the ghosts from the now destroyed Overlook hotel who are pursuing him. Danny is taught to lock the ghosts in imaginary boxes in his mind, which is enough to protect him. We are also introduced to a cult, led by Rose the Hat, this cult effectively feed on people who have the shining ability is this extend their lives.

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Review: Island of Dr Moreau

Ever wanted to be an animal?

Today I am writing to you about the island of Dr Moreau, was written by HG Wells and published in 1896. This remains one of Well’s best-known books and is considered a science-fiction classic.

The novel is been adapted multiple times, in various mediums. There are several direct adaptations via film, as well as several films taking inspiration from it. Lets also not forget the Simpsons treehouse of horror parody. Several books claim inspiration from the Island of Dr Moreau such as Heart of a Dog, and perhaps the more recent and well-known Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr Moreau.

However today we will be looking at the original book.

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Review: Salem’s Lot

Vampires in America

Today I am writing to discuss one of my all-time favourite King novels, it also happens to be one of his favourites as well. I am, of course, talking about Salem’s Lot.

King’s take on vampires was published in October 1975 by Doubleday and has since been made into an illustrated book, an audio book, a radio drama, and a film/ two-part television miniseries. There was a sequel film, Return to Salem’s Lot, the town was mentioned in the Castle Rock series and lastly, after the success of IT, the two-part miniseries has also been earmarked for a remake, though no release date has been announced, it only got its director in April 2020.

All that aside, this review will focus on the book, released in 1975. Spoilers ahead!

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