Dark Reads of the Month: May


This is a series that I started on Goth Amino in December and decided to add to my proper blog. It isn’t really a wrap up, I just read a pile of books (9 this month) and then pick out 3 of the darkest and most interesting. It gives me the chance to discuss and recommend classics or older books which might not get full reviews.

This month I had an accidental reading theme. I read a lot of books about people being kept locked up against their will or in situations they can’t escape. I don’t know what caused that theme, my to read pile just lined up that way. It was an intense month of reading.

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

This is a fiction novel based on the real life torture and murder of Sylvia Likens. A young girl and her sister are left in the care of a woman who locks her in the basement, beats her and tells neighbourhood children to abuse her.

This book was so upsetting that I had to take a break from reading for two days, and that is impressive because I’m not normally bothered by things I read. It was just so intense. It is hard to say you enjoyed a book about someone being tortured to death but this is a great book. Well written and atmospheric. I will warn you though, this book has ALL of the trigger warnings. Rape, torture, abuse, general very adult content, it is all there. So if you are easily upset maybe this isn’t the book for you. Maybe read the wiki page on the real crime so you know what you are in for.

Read my full review here

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

If you don’t know what this book is about I am going to do you a favour and not tell you. Rosemary’s Baby is pretty famous so I already knew everything about it when I started reading and  I feel like it ruined the ending for me, so that is why I am not telling you anything. Don’t even read the blurb because that contains spoilers too. If you know what this book is about please don’t be a twat and write spoilers in the comments.
I have read a few of Levin’s books now and  I think this one is my favourite. Since I refuse to give out spoilers I can’t say why. Levin just does a brilliant job with writing horror that takes place in a normal every day situation. It makes you wonder if things are real or not. This is the worst review because I refuse to spoil things. Just read Rosemary’s Baby and enjoy it. A bit of a warning, this book is very much a product of its time so some of the attitudes to things like marital rape are a bit worrying by today’s standards.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C Andrews


This is an American gothic horror novel about 4 children who are told to stay in the attic of a grand mansion for a few days so their mother can claim an inheritance, but 3 years later they are still there.

I discovered this book through Tea with Mermaids blog. She has great taste, go check her out. We disagree on this book though because I enjoyed it and she didn’t. I read a lot of upsetting literature so I was a bit more immune to this novel and its upsetting plot twists.

This is a book that has been banned in several places due to its content, and banned books are always fun to read. I have read a few books about people in this situation but this book stands out because I have never seen one set in a large mansion where the captives get nice clothes and gifts when they are not being horribly abused. It also packs plenty of plot twists and mystery which is just the cherry on top of an already great novel. This book contains incest, abuse and sexual themes. The incest is the reason why it has been banned.

Waiting for Wednesday: Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Book Synopsis:

Mapping the Interior is a horrifying, inward-looking novella from Stephen Graham Jones that Paul Tremblay calls “emotionally raw, disturbing, creepy, and brilliant.”

Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew.

The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you’d rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost.”

Why I need it:

Firstly: This book probably has the prettiest cover I have seen on a new horror novel this year. (And I look at a lot of horror novel covers)

Secondly: Diversity is hard to find in horror fiction. When I read the premise I was interested. It reminded me of Coraline with all of the talk of doors, and I love Coraline, but when I found out it is written by a Native American and contains Native American characters it automatically went into my to-read list. I have never read a novel written by a Native American or containing Native American characters. (Unless you count Piper in the Rick Riordan books)

The problem with mainly reviewing horror and thriller novels is that you dont get to see a lot of diversity. Modern horror novels tend to focus on straight, suburban or small town, white Americans. I am normally not social justice preachy on here but I am not American or straight and I like reading varied narrations. The usual American stuff gets very same-y. This book seems like it might be different. Not only does the story sound decently creepy (because I hate the idea of undiscovered doors in my house) but also it adds some variety in a genre that is usually very set in its ways.

Waiting for Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Break the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases, and continued by Wishful Endings

Do you know any diverse dark books? Feel free to leave any suggestions because I am always looking to expand my to-read list.

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 childhood reads

Two things made up my childhood: Animals and books. There were dozens of other things but those two are the most consistent and defined. I started learning to read when I was three years old. My mother was a stay at home parent who grew bored and decided to make teaching her toddler to read a pet project. We couldn’t afford books so we would walk to the library once a week to pick out things we wanted to read. It was a grand Victorian building that still stands to this day, though now it has been rebuilt since parts of it were blown up during my childhood. Good old, Northern Irish Troubles, not even libraries were immune on bad days. The library was split in two, adults to the left and the children’s section to the right, so when my mother and I walked through the doors we would part ways. I would find her again when I found the three books I wanted to borrow, because 3 year old me had her own library card. I was like Matilda, except I had a mother who loved me. Maybe I will revisit that library and write about it some day. I have always wanted to.

Starting school brought along more books and bigger words. Due to my head start in reading my teachers had to bring in books from the classrooms of older students to keep me entertained. Nothing in the classroom library was challenging enough so my mother complained to the school and that started the importing in of books from the years above to keep me happy. I didn’t have many friends in primary school, and the few I had were dyslexic and spent their lunch times in special extra lessons. So I spent my lunch time play times sitting on a wall with my back against a cherry blossom tree reading while the rest of my small school played around me. I was never lonely or bored, I had fictional characters for company.

So these are my top 5 childhood reads.

All Dr Suess Books

The beginning is always a good place to start. My mother taught me to read using Dr Seuss. I still remember walking into the children’s section of the library and seeing the shelf with every Dr Suess book lined up on it. They had a magnificent collection. I would always lift one and gradually I read my way through the entire series by the time I was five. Of course I dont remember the first book I ever read, but according to my mother it was Fox in Socks. Green Eggs and Ham is always one of my favourites though, and I quote it quite often.

 

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl

This was one of the first two novels I ever read, and the reason why I picked out this one over the first novel is that I enjoyed this book more. I read Fantastic Mr Fox DOZENS of times. I read it so often that I could fly through it in a single bedtime sitting. I adored the main character and his cleverness, how disgusting the villains were and the morbidness of Mr Fox getting his tail shot off. This book made my childhood and it was one of the few books I actually owned. I used to keep it under my pillow for regular nightly rereads, at least until my parents bought me Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to give me something new to read.

Tailypo by Joanna Galdone

I lost a month’s worth of sleep because this book. A source of nightmares isn’t something you expect from someones Top Childhood Books, but this book marked my childhood so much that I just had to put it on this list. This book was so scary that children in my school were daring each other to read it. You might remember me mentioning a similar thing about Welcome to Dead House but I actually read this one at the time. I have reread this picture book since and I didn’t loose any sleep over it but it still creeped me out, though that could be my inner child telling me to burn the bloody thing and throw the ashes into the sea. For a month I just kept picturing the Tailypo monster sitting at the foot of my bed waiting to rip my insides out.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My first Sherlock Holmes novel. I first read this book when I was 9. I found a battered old copy of it in a charity shop and begged my mother to buy it for me. Before I got my hands on the book I was OBSESSED with Basil of Baker Street and the Granada series of Sherlock Holmes. (Look up Jeremy Brett if you want a brilliant adaptation to watch) Do you know how small children make their parents watch the Little Mermaid or Frozen over and over until everyone hates it? Well, for little me that was Basil of Baker Street. I was odd. Screw princesses I wanted to be a Sherlockian mouse. It started a lifetime Sherlock Holmes addiction and naturally once I was old enough to read at that level I picked up The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I still have my original copy of this book and it is even more battered than it was when I first bought it due to its many trips in my school bag. It even has childish scribbles inside where I ticked off the stories I had read as I progressed through the book multiple times. This is one of those books you can look back on and say formed who you are as a person.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban by JK Rowling

I think Harry Potter is going to be on most people’s lists.

I read this book after all of the books listed above. The Prisoner of Askaban was the first Harry Potter book I read. The series wasn’t popular yet and I didn’t know that the other books existed, or that I had to read them in order. I still remember the day it was bought for me. My grandmother decided I had earned a treat and told me to go into a nearby bookshop and pick out anything I wanted. I stood in children’s novel section reading the backs of various books. This one had wizards and murderers in it and a big scary dog on the back, I was sold. I flew through it multiple times before finally getting my hands on the first and second books. The fourth didn’t exist yet and I had to wait a year or two before it did.

I dont think I can say that Harry Potter was my childhood like some people claim because I already had other books that did that job before Harry showed up in my life. I can say that it has formed my social life though because all of my friends now and my partner are Harry Potter fans. We all know our Hogwarts houses, wizarding careers (since we are all too old for Hogwarts), buy each other wands as gifts and even travelled to America together to visit Harry Potter Universal Studios. It has given me so many memories and lifetime experiences.

And to answer any house and career questions: I am a Slytherin, and I work for the Mystery of Magic dealing with abused and illegally traded magical creatures.

This was a bit of a rambling post but I hope you enjoyed it. What were your favourite childhood reads? Or even better, what would your Harry Potter wizarding career be?

Top 5 Tuesdays are hosted by Bionic Book Worm

My Top 5 Gothic Novels

I wrote my last “Top Classic Novels” post 2 years ago so I thought I was due to write a new one. I have read a grand total of 32 classic novels since the beginning of last year so I am going to separate my favourites by genre so this will probably end up being a series.

I am going to kick it all off with my favourite literary genre: Gothic Literature.

I love gothic literature. It is dark, atmospheric, morbid and sometimes just a tad over the top. Most of my favourite novels fall into this genre so it a bit difficult to pick out my favourites. These are in no practically order because doing that would be like placing your children in order of favouritism.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

If you dont know what Dracula is about you have been living under a rock for your entire life. Vampires, that is all you need to know.

I first read this book when I was 10 and after a reread of this novel last year I reminded myself how amazing it is. The best part of rereading it was that I forgot some of the best scenes and how action packed it was, so it was like reading it from fresh all over again. One of the perks of waiting 18 years to reread a novel. Dracula himself doesn’t appear very often but instead acts as a constant lingering source of horror and mystery for the rest of the characters. If you are new to Victorian literature I would say that this book is the perfect gateway novel. It is very modern in storytelling and language, and certainly isn’t dull and stuffy.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Again, if you don’t know what this book is about you have lead a very sheltered existence, but this is more forgivable than not knowing what Dracula is about. Dorian Gray is a young man who sells his soul to remain young and pretty forever so his picture ages instead.

This is another reread I have had in the past year. I first read this novel when I was 11 and I remember the day I bought it because my father wasnt happy when I came home with it. He thought I would “catch the gay” by reading an Oscar Wilde novel. Don’t worry, that was a very long time ago and my father is very pro-LGBT rights now-a-days. I ended up not being entirely straight so maybe I did “catch the gay” from Oscar Wilde after all. Even if it is bad in the novel I rather like Lord Henry’s philosophy to keep seeking new experiences. I find it works if you keep your morality intact. Maybe this book is a bit corrupting. So…read Oscar Wilde and become an absinthe drinking pansexual who once orchestrated a hickey orgy in a gay bar. (True story)

Seriously though, this book is brilliant. Dorian will always be one of my favourite literary characters. Beautifully written and full of that famous Wilde wit.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

One of the orginal haunted house stories, The Haunting of Hill House is about a group of people who are brought together to investigate a haunting in a large manor house. You have probably seen a thousand horror films with the same premise, but this is where it all started.

This book almost didn’t make it to the list but then I remembered the brilliance that is the ending. I am not going to spoil it because you need to go read it yourself.

I think my favourite thing about this novel is that you are not entirely sure if the house is actually haunted or if it is all in the main character’s head. Is the haunting caused by ghosts or is she just loosing her mind? You can never be entirely sure. I hadn’t heard of this novel until a friend handed me a copy of it and demanded that I read it. Introducing you to amazing books is what friends are for.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

I am not going to tell you what this book is about. This is a very famous novel and film so you might already know what it is about, but if you don’t, just go into the book blind. Don’t read the blurb, dont ask anyone about it, just read it. Every blurb written for this novel it determined to spoil the big reveal at the end. I knew what this book was about when I started it and personally I feel like it ruined it, so I am doing you a favour by warning you not to learn anything about it before you read it.

Even though this is a great horror novel it does have its negative aspects. It is very much a product of its time. Attitudes to marital rape and motherhood have changed since this book was written so there are a few questionable character decisions and view points at times. There is also a rape scene that is not very graphic. If you are sensitive to that sort of thing maybe give this one a miss.

The Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

I am going to end this list the way I started it, with vampires. If you dont know what it is about already, The Interview with the Vampire is a novel documenting the life of an American vampire. It is the first in a series but you can just read the first one as a standalone if you feel like it.

Two male vampires who share a coffin, refer to each other as “lover” and adopt a vampire child together. What more could you want?

This was the vampire novel of my teenage years, and like most of the other books in this list I have reread it recently. This novel was the vampire trend before Twilight existed. The main character Louis talks of the struggles of becoming a vampire and drinking blood, and dealing with the constant vampire drama that is thrown his way. I think Lestat is up there with Dorian Gay on my “Favourite fictional characters of all time” list. I like egotistical brats, I wonder what that says about me. It probably doesn’t help that Lestat was my nickname in school…

There is talk of a tv show or film in the works for this series so if you haven’t read it yet pick it up and get on the bandwagon before it starts up again.

So what did you think of my list? Have you read any of these novels? What is your favourite gothic novel? Tell me!

Waiting for Wednesday: Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Book Synopsis:

“When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in the past, her heart nearly stops.

Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.

Maria Weston has been missing for over twenty-five years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers’ party, and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life with a terrible secret.

As Maria’s messages start to escalate, Louise forces herself to reconnect with the old friends she once tried so hard to impress. Trying to piece together exactly what happened that night, she soon discovers there’s much she didn’t know. The only certainty is that Maria Weston disappeared that night, never to be heard from again – until now…”

Why I need it:

These internet horror and thriller novels have to keep coming. I love this trend. I know I said it in my Waiting for Wednesday for Dark Net, but I will say it again, I love internet themed horror and thriller fiction. I want to see more of them because I think the internet is an untapped source for thriller material.

I think the concept of this novel is very relatable. We all have that moment when an old acquaintance from school adds us on Facebook or follows us on Instagram. It fills us with curiosity. Why did they add you? What made you pop into their mind? Maybe they want to talk to you about something. We all think those things when we get that sort of friend request. Well, imagine the added element of knowing that the person has been missing for years. Now that sounds like a potentially brilliant novel.

Friend Request is scheduled for release on the 25th July 2017

Waiting for Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Break the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases, and continued by Wishful Endings

A King Hater Reads King: ‘Salem’s Lot

If you are unfamiliar with ‘Salem’s Lot, this book is about a writer who returns to his home town to write a book and the locals start turning into vampires.

This is going to be a very mixed review. I know a lot of people love this novel and say it is their favourite Stephen King book, but it isn’t mine. I will admit it is a pretty decent vampire novel. I like my vampires evil and behaving like actual monsters, which this book certainly delivers on. I know that King was inspired by Dracula when he wrote this novel and that certainly shows in the plot and the writing. He wanted to show what would happen if Dracula came to small town America, and the book did just that. It even reminded me of zombie survival fiction at points. The problem is, Stephen King wrote it.

Now, I know I am not a fan a King. That is the point of this whole series, and I will admit to enjoying  some of his other books like Carrie or It, but ‘Salem’s Lot is let down by its overall King-ness. This is one of his first novels so his tropes are not as obvious and silly, but it is the birth of them all. Parts of the book are cartoonish, like the dead baby scene. They are scenes that are trying so hard to be scary that they just end up just being silly and overdramatic. No one acts like that in real life.

I also had an issue with the sexual thought tracks in the novel. I am in no way a prude, but again, this was just over the top and ridiculous. A question for parents, when your kid brings home a boyfriend/girlfriend do you think about their genitals every time you see them? Well, that is apparently normal in Stephen King world. There was also several grown men who have sexual thoughts about the same teenage girl. I understand one creep having those thoughts, but most male characters? That is just creepy.

I did enjoy that this book didn’t have the King trope of pointless scenes. Everything tied together very well and scenes that seemed mundane actually added to future plot points. The narration changed character perspective which added to the story because it showed you the vampire outbreak throughout the town. It let you get to know everyone and it allowed for plenty of creepy scenes. It even had more than one likeable character, which is nice for King novel. I wonder when he started making all of his characters awful people, I will let you know when I find out.

Will I be reading this book again? Probably not. Was it terrible? No. I can see why people enjoy it but personally it was the writing style and the scenes that tried too hard that let it down. If you want a vampire novel where your monsters are actual monsters maybe give this book a read.

If you have read ‘Salem’s Lot tell me what you liked or disliked about it. What King book will I read next?

The Ultimate Book Tag

I saw this tag floating around the book blogging world and decided that it looked like fun. I won’t be tagging anyone specific in it so feel free to do it yourself if you fancy it.

1. Do you get sick while reading in a car?
No! I read daily on public transport and it has never bothered me. I normally don’t read in regular cars because I am busy pointing out random dogs in passing to my partner. I might be a bit of an annoying passenger.

2. Which author’s writing style is completely unique to you and why?
I am going to pick my favourite author of all time for this one: Neil Gaiman. His writing style is so fun. It is clever, witty and doesn’t take itself too seriously while also being dark at times.

3. Harry Potter Series or the Twilight Saga? Give 3 points to defend your answer.
Harry Potter. I dont think I could limit my reasons for hating Twilight to 3 points. It is a waste of paper, always has been and always will be.

4. Do you carry a book bag? If so, what is in it (besides books)?
Always. I usually carry a book on me at all times, especially for work on weekdays. I also carry: My makeup bag, phone, a note book, my keys, iPod, fountain pens (because I refuse to write with any other type of pen), and wipes and tissues for emergencies.

5. Do you smell your books?
Openly and often. I even wear perfume that smells like an old book.

6. Books with or without little illustrations?
Both. I love proper novels but I am also a HUGE graphic novel fan. Bring on the comics!

7. What book did you love while reading but discovered later it wasn’t quality writing?
Anything by Cassandra Clare. Some people will hate me for this but I dont care. She stole all of the ideas for her work and now keeps writing the same thing over and over, probably because she hasn’t found another writer to steal from.

8. Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood? Please share!
Tons of them because I am a bit of an idiot.

When I was in primary school I carried around a very heavy hardback classics collection, Sherlock Holmes and a ghost stories collection at the same time in my bag. I tripped and the weight of my bag made me topple over so I landed face down on the street. …Long story short, one of my front teeth is fake because I carried around too many heavy books.

9. What is the tiniest book on your shelf?
Green Eggs and Ham.

10. What is the thickest book on your shelf?
I have no idea. Probably a non fiction book because I have a lot of encyclopedias.

11. Do you write as well as read? Do you see yourself in the future as being an author?
I am a published short story writer and journalist. So maybe some day. I think I just need a big enough idea to make a full novel of rather than a short story.

12. When did you get into reading?
I started learning to read when I was 3 years old, and I haven’t stopped since.

13. What is your favourite classic book?
The entire Sherlock Holmes series.

14. In school what was your best subject?
Biology. I liked taking things apart. Also history and English literature.

15. If you were given a book as a present that you had read before and hated, what would you do?
I would put it on “The Borrow Shelf”. It is a shelf in my library where I keep copies of books that I have doubles of or dont care much about. I loan those to people rather than risking lending my pretty copies to people.

16. What is a lesser known series that you know of that is similar to Harry Potter or the Hunger Games?
No idea. This is a dumb question.

17. What is a bad habit you always do while blogging?
Lowkey blogging at work on my breaks, or getting distracted.

18. What is your favorite word?
Hodgepodge. It means a messy mixture of things. It is fun to say.

19. Are you a nerd, dork, or dweeb? Or all of the above?
Nerd. I read comics, cosplay, work in technology and love science fiction. So I am definitely a nerd.

20. Vampires or Fairies? Why?
FAIRIES! I am Irish! Never mess with Fairies.

21. Shapeshifters or Angels? Why?
Shapeshifters. Angles are a bit boring.

22. Spirits or Werewolves? Why?
Spirits. I love ghost stories. I haven’t read a werewolf story that wasnt some sort of romantic Twi-shite inspired nonsense.

23. Zombies or Vampires? Why?
Vampires. Zombies dont have personalities, but I suppose that is their point.

24. Love Triangle or Forbidden Love?
None of the above.

25. And finally: Full on romance books or action-packed with a few love scenes mixed in?
Action! I hate romance novels. They are usually unhealthy, boring and very unrealistic. I would rather have explosions.