Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Reading list: 2013

As I've mentioned previous, reading is something I slacked off on a lot in the years prior to this one. It's not that I don't like to read or anything like that, I just found I didn't really want to make time for it, preferring video games and the internet over such pursuits.

This past year though, I've started to make up for it. Reading more books in 10 months than I did the entire 10 years previously. I've already talked about some of the best of them. With the end of the year creeping up, though, and people starting to do their "best of 2013" lists, I thought I would go ahead and share the full list, along with which ones I recommend, and which ones I don't.

Now, before I start, there are two books which I will admit that I started, but never finished. Pines by Blake Crouch, and Crogian by John Leahy. Personally speaking, I would not recommend either one, but my main issues with these books are the story-lines and the way they are presented. People that can look beyond such concerns may enjoy these. Still, I suggest paying for either one at your own risk.

  • I started the year with Afraid by Jack Kilborn, AKA J.A. Konrath. Now, I will never stop singing the praises of Mr. Konrath and the advice and information he puts up on his blog. I don't think this was really one of his strongest works though. It is good, no doubt, but in the realm of horror, it falls more on the side of the gore and slasher sub-genre than being truly suspenseful. It also lost a point from me for disbelief at one event. If gore, human-on-human violence and torture-porn is your thing, you'll probably love this. Three stars. 

  • After being a little disappointed by Afraid, I still wasn't ready to give up on Konrath so I picked up his book Origin. This was a much stronger work. More along the lines of suspense, while still giving you a healthy dose of gore. It's sci-fi/horror, but easily one of the most original stories I've seen in a long time. A few parts felt like filler, but they didn't detract from the main story and the twists and turns keep coming right up to an ending which begs for more. Four stars out of five.

  • Next was The Jigsaw Man by Gord Rollo. This is a modern take the the tale of Frankenstein and is a medical suspense horror. This was a hard book for me to get through. Medical issues aren't really interesting to me in just words. I also felt like far too much time was spent trying to build up and explain what was going on, leading to a surprisingly short action sequence and a final ending which was less than satisfying. If you like medical-intensive stories though, you'll probably enjoy this more than I did. Two stars. 

  • Taking a little break from fiction, I picked up a book I'd eyed before. Wisdom from the Batcave by Cary Friedman. This is basically Chicken Soup for the Soul, but every story is lifted from the fictional life of Bruce Wayne/Batman, with explanations of how we can take lessons from such events and apply them to our real lives. As a huge fan of Batman and having enjoyed some of the Chicken Soup books in the past, I probably enjoyed this a bit more than I should have, still, I would definitely recommend it for those curious. Five stars.

  • Turner by Karl Drinkwater. This book currently has 4.16 stars out of 5 on Goodreads with 37 ratings, and it absolutely deserves it. This has a bit of everything, from suspense, to gore, to medical, supernatural, and psychological horrors. Many parts of the book will make you think of such greats as Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and even Poe. It pays homage to the many horror stories which have come before it, while presenting itself as an original work, expertly told. Another book I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in horror. Five stars. 

  • The Haunted Halls: Volume One by Glenn Rolfe. I must admit I've only read volume one and we're currently up to four. Volume one is a very good start, though, reminiscent of James Herbert's The Fog and a slight reminder of Stephen King's The Shining. If I kept up on the volumes, I would probably rate this higher, but as a stand-alone work, this is merely setting the scene for what is to come later and while it stands alright on its own, you do have to wonder why the author is taking the serial route with this work. Three stars.

  • A Plague of Dreams by John Gregory Hancock. The main problem with short story collections is that, by their nature, you'll get some hits and some misses. This is no exception, with some stories that I loved, some I didn't care for, and the majority that I liked, but I didn't think were anything special. Still, as far as collections go, this is a good one, most stories are just right for the ride along to work or while you're waiting in line somewhere. You could certainly do worse than this, that's for sure. Three stars. 

  • The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. There's a reason this book has stood the test of time. It is legitimately one of the best horror books ever written. That being said, I had a few issues with it. You can tell it was written in a different time, as the pace is much slower than most books you'll find these days. In addition, a lot of the scenes, while they remain unnerving and frightening, are almost tame by today's standards. The Exorcist will always remain a classic, joining the ranks of Frankenstein and Dracula as THE book of demonic possession. Three stars.

  • Storm Front by Jim Butcher. The first book in the Dresden Files series is just about everything you would want the first book in a series to be. It establishes the characters, the setting, and the rules they live by. That being said, there is nothing really remarkable here. While I think Butcher can claim to be at the forefront of the modern fantasy movement with this series, I've never been particularly drawn in by the sub-genre. This was an entertaining read, but not much else. Three stars.

  • The Fog by James Herbert. James Herbert passed away earlier this year and a group I joined chose this book to read in honor of him. The Fog is supposed to be one of his best works, and it is a good horror novel. My only issue with the novel is that the main story itself is only between 50-60% of the book. The rest is visceral action scenes of violence, blood, and gore as its namesake travels the countryside. There are several truly disturbing episodes in it that would probably make less squeamish people close the book and walk away, but this is a good read nonetheless. Three stars.

  • The Wildman by Rick Hautala. This book was not what I expected. Another book chosen to honor an author who recently passed, it was picked in a group focused on horror and this novel is an action/mystery/thriller. Even with that in mind, it is poorly written and very loosely plotted. Several questions, including the one that you start the story with are never answered at all, and a lot of the book is overly-detailed and redundant. You feel like one of the group, a bunch of people just trying to reconnect after years of silence, occasionally bringing people up to date on your life, and occasionally reminiscing over the past in an almost random pattern. The rest of the time, it's just awkward. One star.

  • Worm by Tim Curran. This book is just fun. Not an intricate plot to follow. No worries about explaining where things come from or why. Just a nice little action/horror story with several vignettes showing how some people eat it. Or get eaten. Both, actually. Don't come here looking for something deep, suspenseful or that's going to keep you awake. This is just good entertainment. Three stars. 

  • Hell House by Richard Matheson. As The Exorcist is to possession stories, Hell House is for haunted houses. One of the oldest books on the subject, it brings you right in with the characters as they figure out, explain, and experience what the house has been used for. You can't help be feel the trepidation as they enter it and explore. This is another classic, which I should feel ashamed for not having read sooner. If you have a house older than twenty years, this book will probably reach in and keep you up at night. Four stars.

  • That Which Should Not Be by Brett Talley. This is his first novel, and it's already been offered up for a Bram Stoker Award. It is very well deserved. As a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, it is very difficult to find people who can properly continue the Lovecraft mythos with the proper ability and respect. Mr. Talley does it all in a way that I think even Lovecraft himself would have appreciated. This is one of the books that reiterates and gets stuck in your head the idea that there are more things in Heaven and on Earth than are dreamt of in philosophy. If you're not already a fan, this may not be as good for you, but if you're a fan of Cthulhu, you'll love this. Five stars.

  • A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson. Most people will know this based on the movie starring Kevin Bacon. Honestly, I haven't seen it. For most of the book, I really didn't know what was going to happen. It was slow and boring until the last 30% or so, when an actually story-line appears. To a degree, this book is similar to Carrie, in that it looks more at living with psychic powers than following a set plot and the horror only occurs when other people make problems of themselves. Two stars. 

  • Below by Ryan Lockwood. I guessed what this book was about just by the cover, and that may be why it didn't have much of an effect on me. A lot of what this book explains were things I'm already aware of and taking the predator's point of view when they're really just animals doesn't add a lot to the story. As a book that was touted as the next Jaws, it falls woefully short to me. I would say it's closer to Sharknado than Jaws. Two stars.

  • Fool Moon by Jim Butcher. Book two of the Dresden Files. The further adventures builds on what was laid down in the first book. This book is a good example of a writer that knows how to do research, how to use that research, and how to impart that information to the reader without a boring information dump. Again, though, there is nothing really here to elevate this into anything more than an entertaining read. Three stars.

  • Pavlov's Dogs by D.L. Snell and Thom Brannan. Werewolves vs. Zombies. A great idea, but I felt it was rather sub-par execution. I was confused for a fair bit of the book about who exactly was supposed to be the main characters. I also found the writing fairly simple and a few spots in the book occur without any real explanation as to why. The grand finale also included a sudden twist of character which seemed completely out of place given what we had previously been told. It still manages to be entertaining, but given the premise, I was hoping for better. Two stars. 

  • The Descent by Jeff Long. I've heard this touted as one of the best "hollow Earth" stories ever written. I may avoid similar works in the future if this is true. To be fair, it is a good book, which keeps you interested through most of the work. My only real complaint is that the book takes place over a year, and at times it really feels like it. I found myself not being very willing to pick it back up close to the end, despite being interested in the story. Three stars. 

  • The Shining by Stephen King . Yeah, I know, how dare I call myself a horror fan and author without having this read by the time I was ten. This is THE haunted house book. A haunted hotel, a man's decent into madness and possession until he finally turns on those closest to him, and a young boy with a special gift all combine to make this a book which will keep you up at night and leave images in your mind for months and even years afterward. If you're a horror fan, you read this book eventually. Period. Five stars. 

There you have it. 20 books over the course of the year. I could probably have managed more, but the last few months it's been hard to find anymore interest in reading among the other draws on my time. Are there any books I rated that you disagree with? Or agree with? Or maybe you just want to throw a shoe at me. Do so in the comments. 

Also, if you've enjoyed my posts over the year, hit the top right corner and leave your email. I promise, it's easier to get an email when I do a new post than to search my blog up every week. 

Thanks for stopping by and keeping up over the year. Happy Holidays! 

~ Shaun


  1. Thanks for saying lovely things about my book! I really appreciate it.

    The Shining is fantastic. I had seen the (Kubrick) film a few times, so when I read the book I was amazed at all the scary scenes which were new to me. Possibly the children's playground + snowdrift was the one that stuck in my mind the most. There's a few books here that sound just up my alley, I'll add them to my wishlist!

    Oh, and you're right about Blatty's work - I've read a few of those novels and they're slow but full of character, there's something riveting about them and the feeling that evil is out there.

  2. I must admit, I've never actually seen Kubrick's The Shining all the way through, I know most of it just through references from other places. Still, there were scenes in the movie that the book didn't have and I kept expecting them to pop up as I read and I found myself very surprised when they didn't.

  3. Shaun, thanks for reading my work. I pulled down the rest of the volumes. I'm having the full novel professionally edited. The Haunted Halls will be published this spring by James Ward Kirk Publishing.

    1. You're certainly welcome. I'll definitely be interested in reading the finished work, and if you would like to stop in for an interview or something, just let me know. :-)