Past Features

Turning Off The TV #26: Horror October Special Edition

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes. This is a special Horror October edition of the feature, with lots more recommendations under a general theme. Obviously, the theme is horror (surprise, surprise!), but I’ve separated the books out by the main element of the story and suggested a film for each one. Each cover leads to the Goodreads page for the book.

Haunted houses e.g. Poltergeist

The Haunting of Hill House Amityville Horror The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

Experimentation e.g. Splice

The Madman's Daughter Broken The Heavens Rise

Ghosts e.g. Paranormal Activity

Anna Dressed In Blood The Turn Of The Screw The Graveyard Book

Werewolves e.g. The Howling

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy Shiver Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar

Terrifying beasts e.g. Trollhunter

The Terror The Ruins Snowblind

Vampires e.g. Nosferatu

Carmilla Interview with the Vampire The Historian

Do you have any recommendations to add? What are some of your favourite elements or tropes of the horror genre?

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Misc.

Horror October: Horror Books Read This Year

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For today’s Horror October post, I wanted to share the books I’ve read this year that fit the theme – some are horror, others more thrillers, others just plain creepy!

Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2) by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep is definitely one of my highlights of the year! I’d been anticipating this sequel to The Shining ever since I first read about it, before the cover was even released. Hodder sent me a review copy earlier in the year, and it was definitely worth the wait. If you’ve already read The Shining then hurry up and read this!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is not so much a traditional horror, it is really a thriller, but it shows just how horrific humans can be to each other. It’s hard to say much about this book without giving anything away, so I won’t! I’m looking forward to seeing the film of this one too.

  • My rating for Gone Girl: [simple-rating stars=”four-stars”]

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three by Sarah Lotz was an interesting read. It was told entirely from interviews, newspaper articles and other sources of media. Unfortunately its format meant I had no connection whatsoever to any of the characters, and the ending was just incredibly frustrating.

The Quick (The Quick #1) by Lauren Owen

The Quick by Lauren Owen

The Quick was also another unique novel: wonderfully Gothic and rather slow paced. I took a while to read this one for various reasons so I think it might need a re-read at some point, but I enjoyed it a lot. I also had the privilege of meeting the author, Lauren Owen, in April, and definitely made a fool of myself. Oops.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy had me super excited – it was a werewolf novel with a twist and had such wonderful reviews. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t agree with them. The writing was wonderful but the story just felt… lacking. Also it promised me a good scare and just didn’t deliver!

Midnight Crossroad (Midnight #1) by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris was another disappointment. I really love her Southern Vampire Mysteries series (or the True Blood books if you prefer), even if the last few just felt like a chance to make some easy money. So I was hoping a new series would be a new start, and whilst Midnight Crossroad wasn’t bad, there was nothing special about it.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is another one that’s had great reviews, but I just didn’t get along with. Too many vampires and falling for the bad boy, ugh… The concept of the Coldtowns was original, but vampires? So overdone right now… It does have one of the most horrific opening scenes I’ve ever read though.

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey is hard to explain in terms of the horror genre without giving away some big plot points. I definitely wasn’t expecting the horror element when I started reading it, and it’s definitely a memorable part… I read it with my Goodreads book group and it was pretty well received!

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud is one of my stand-out books of the year. I wasn’t expecting to love it so much, but it pulled me right in. It may be aimed at younger readers but it is SO amazing. Think a mix of Sherlock and Supernatural, with teenage protaganists.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Do you have any horror recommendations based on what you’ve read this year?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #22: Scariest Creatures in Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post! This post is a special edition as part of Horror October!

Today I want to talk about: the scariest creatures in fantasy.

The Nazgul/Ringwraiths

Nazgul

From: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Why? They never tire, they are relentless and they will keep going until they get what they desire – the One Ring. Their terrifying shriek can be heard from a long way away and only serves to put fear in the hearts of their victims. Not only can they catch up to you on horseback, but they also have Fell Beasts which means you’re pretty much always within their reach. Not to mention the fact that they carry Morgul blades, and you REALLY don’t want to be stabbed by one of those – or you might become Ringwraith #10. Stay near running water though, and you might be okay…

Dementors

Dementor

From: the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Why? They look terrifying, and they literally suck the happiness out of everything. So not only would you be faced with this horrific looking creature, but you’d also feel utterly full of despair and pretty much helpless. And then once you’ve given up, the Dementor will try to SUCK OUT YOUR SOUL. Ugh. Not a nice way to go. Better start learning that Patronus charm.

The Dead

Sabriel by Garth Nix

From: The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix

Why? Unless you’re a Necromancer, or happen to be the Abhorsen, you’re pretty much powerless against the Dead of the Old Kingdom. Seeing as the Old Kingdom is almost uninhabited I’m not sure what you’d be doing in there in the first place, but it’s a bad idea. Even the Abhorsen’s Bells, one of the few things that can send the Dead back to the Final Gate, can turn against him or her.

White Walkers

White Walker

From: the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin

Why? Do you happen to have any handy Dragonglass/obsidian lying around? No? Well then you’re probably dead, because that’s the only way you can defeat a White Walker. They’re brutal, strong and bloodthirsty – and not particularly picky about their prey. I would advise staying south of the Wall…

What are some of the scariest creatures in fantasy that you’ve come across?

Top Lists

Horror October: Top Ten Horror Books On My TBR List

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Today’s Horror October post features the top ten books on my ‘to be read’ list that I want to read most urgently. I’d love to know if any of you have read them, and what you thought! I’ve linked to each book on Goodreads underneath the picture. These are a mix of books from Netgalley and Edelweiss that I still haven’t gotten round to, as well as my own purchases.

TBR Horror

This House Is Haunted by John Boyne, Amity by Micol Ostow and The Haunting Season by Michelle Muto

TBR Horror

The Furies by Mark Alpert

TBR Horror

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

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The Troop by Nick Cutter

TBR Horror

A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley

TBR Horror

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes and The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

TBR Horror

Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Review

Review: The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co #2) by Jonathan Stroud

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I first encountered this series at the beginning of the year, the first book being The Screaming Staircase and absolutely loved it. There was no question about whether to request the second book from Netgalley or not, regardless of my ridiculous pile of books to review! And luckily, The Whispering Skull definitely lived up to my expectations.

Set six months after the previous book, The Whispering Skull leaps straight into the action: Lockwood & Co have had a run of successful jobs and things are looking up. More and more clients are approaching them for help and for once they don’t feel like they have to compete with other agencies. That’s until a strange and powerful Source is stolen, and Lockwood, Lucy and George are back in competition with the other agencies, as well as in a race against time, to retrieve it. As before, some scenes were actually genuinely creepy and gave me the chills – but combined with the wonderful sense of humour that I’ve come to expect.

A fast-paced read, the writing just flows off the page – although that may be something to do with the intended younger audience – and the exciting moments just keep coming. I felt that the story was perhaps less atmospheric than The Screaming Staircase, but much of the atmosphere of the first book was created by setting up the story and the changes from the world as we know it.

The publisher describes this book as aimed at ‘middle grade’ readers, but as someone in my twenties I have to say I absolutely LOVE this series. It’s a fabulous mix of ghost novel and detective story, with characters you’ll just love. Lockwood is still an enigma, very much a Sherlock type character, and I can imagine him being a bit of a heart-breaker when he gets older. Lucy is the witty and occasionally sarcastic narrator, with George as the brains but also the comic relief. Were I actually within the age range for this book, I can definitely say that the idea of these teens running their own agencies and living alone, without adults, would be a high point!

If you’re looking for something a little bit creepy, but don’t feel quite ready to delve into some serious horror novels, I would definitely recommend giving Lockwood & Co a try.

Misc.

Horror October: Introduction Post

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I’m taking part in Horror October 2014, hosted by Oh, the Books!, so the next two weeks will be dedicated to all things creepy and spooky for the build up to Halloween! Today I’m taking part in the introduction posts.

Why have you joined Horror October?

I took part last year and it was a lot of fun, plus it’s always great to join in blogger events like this. You can meet new people, get some wonderful recommendations and find new blogs. Plus this way I can throw myself into one genre I don’t think I pay enough attention to, even though I enjoy it.

What experiences do you have with the genre?

Well um… I’m a bit of a wimp. I’m not a big one for horror films, or rather I don’t like gorey horror stuff. Psychological horror and thrillers are pretty cool. I’m more than happy reading horror books though! I can’t say I’ve had masses of experience with the genre, unlike our lovely hostess, but it’s definitely something I’m up for exploring! I was looking forward to taking a ride through the awesome haunted house at Leidens Ontzet at the beginning of the month, but I never got a chance. I mean, just look at it! I don’t think they could get many more cliches on the front, right??

ONE DAY MY FRIEND, ONE DAY.
ONE DAY MY FRIEND, ONE DAY.

What will you be posting during the fortnight?

My plans consist of:

  • reviews
  • a top ten
  • horror editions of Fantasy Friday (yes!), Museum of Literary Wonders, Turning Off The TV and possibly Prose & Pixels
  • my ‘to read’ list within the horror genre
SEARCHING FOR SCARED GIF TO FIND THIS WAS A BAD IDEA. BAD. IDEA.
SEARCHING FOR SCARED GIF TO FIND THIS WAS A BAD IDEA. BAD. IDEA.

Are you taking part in Horror October? Are you a big fan of the genre?

Misc.

Horror October: Representations of Vampires

vampire (noun), pronunciation: /ˈvampʌɪə/
(in European folklore) a corpse supposed to leave its grave at night to drink the blood of the living by biting their necks with long pointed canine teeth. — from the Oxford English Dictionary.

As part of today’s Horror October post, I plan on discussing the different representations of vampires in media. Vampires throughout history share many common features and habits, but some books, films or TV shows portray them in slightly different ways. I’d love to hear your views, or input on any other representations of vampires.
 
The very first vampire of literature appeared in eighteenth century poetry, and was soon followed by various works of gothic fiction, such as The Vampyre by John William Polidori  (1819), Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1872) and of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897).
 
Whilst vampire literature has always been a popular genre, it has gone through a bit of boom recently with series like Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Novels and the Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer – not to mention the countless films, TV shows and video games.
 
I’ve picked out five different books/series that feature vampires in various ways – of course this is not a definitive list, and some have been chosen purely because they go against the norm.

 

  • Dracula is very much the ‘traditional’ vampire – although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he created the ‘modern’ vampire that we know today.
  • The book was published in 1897 and is mostly set in England, particularly around Whitby (in Yorkshire) and London.
  • Count Dracula was inspired by Vlad the Impaler, a fifteenth century prince of Wallachia. He was known as Vlad Dracula, or ‘Vlad, son of Dracul’. However, Stoker was inspired more by his name than his nature.
  • Dracula is a nocturnal creature, with an insatiable thirst for blood. He preys on innocents, particularly young women. He cannot go out in the daylight, and has a weakness for garlic – he can also be killed by being staked in the heart and beheaded. Dracula is able to turn into a dog, which is how he sneaks aboard the boat bound for Whitby.
  • Female vampires are featured in the book, referred to as ‘the sisters’ (or Brides of Dracula) and are shown as very seductive creatures.
  • It has since inspired a whole genre – the vampire novel. Some favourites of mine inspired by Dracula include Incarnation by Emma Cornwall and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.
  • As well as books, Dracula has inspired many a film adaptation – some of the most famous being the 1958 version featuring Christopher Lee, the 1992 version featuring Gary Oldman and many, many Hammer horror films.
  • And don’t forget the TV shows – like Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

  • A lesser known vampire story, Carmilla was actually published in 1872, twenty-five years before Dracula.
  • It is about a young woman who finds herself attracted to a female vampire named Carmilla. Although the text never specifically refers to the sexual attraction between the young woman, Laura, and Carmilla – as you would expect in a book of that period – it is obvious to the modern reader.
  • Carmilla only selects female victims, and whilst mostly nocturnal can actually go out in daylight, unlike Dracula. Like Dracula, however, she can change her shape and chooses the appearance of a black cat.
  • There have been many adaptations of Carmilla, including a 1964 version featuring Christopher Lee (again!). It is also supposedly the influence for Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.
  • True Blood references Carmilla – the vampire hotel in Dallas where Sookie and co stay is called Hotel Carmilla. The main antagonist in the 2009 film Lesbian Vampire Killers, starring Mat Horne and James Corden, is named Carmilla.

  • The Sookie Stackhouse Novels are a series of novels set in a fictional town in Louisiana, and featuring vampires, werewolves and a whole host of other supernatural beings. I wrote a guide to the series as part of Horror October two weeks ago.
  • The vampires in the books are very traditional: they can’t enter a house without an invitation from the owner, they have a thirst for blood, daylight burns them, they sleep in holes in the ground/dark spaces/coffins.
  • However, none of the vampires can transform into other creatures. Some do have extra powers e.g. Eric Northman can fly.
  • With the invention of synthetic blood by Japanese scientists, vampires ‘came out of the coffin’ – meaning they could live alongside humans and drink the synthetic blood, instead of feeding off of humans. However, some still do – mostly with the human’s consent.
  • The whole idea of the vampire in this series is very sexual – vampires themselves seem to have an insatiable sexual appetite, plus biting during sex heightens the pleasure for both vampires and humans.
  • Some see the series as a commentary on gay rights: vampires are denied many of the rights that humans have. A commonly used slogan by the anti-vampire Christian groups is ‘God hates fangs’, a play on the derogatory term for a homosexual person.

  • A huge teen hit sensation, The Twilight Saga tells the story of a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire.
  • The vampires in Twilight are a rather radical change from the more ‘traditional’ vampires. They can go out in sunlight, but have to avoid direct sunlight because their skin sparkles. This means that some have integrated into society, but they have to choose more temperate climates in which to live, and must also move on from these places when it is obvious that they are not aging.
  • The vampires that have chosen to live within human society try to avoid feeding off of humans, and instead feed from animals. Vampires that eat humans have red eyes, whilst ‘vegetarian’ vampires have bronze eyes.
  • The series is responsible for a recent boom in the paranormal romance market, particularly series featuring vampires and werewolves. The books have also been adapted into films, starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

  • I Am Legend is a post-apocalyptic novel written by Richard Matheson, about a virus that affects the human race. It causes symptoms that look like vampirism, and follows Robert Neville, the last man left unaffected in Los Angeles.
  • The ‘vampires’ are created by a disease, for which there is no cure – but Neville is immune. He keeps himself alive by barricading himself in his house at night, and uses garlic, crucifixes and mirrors – but it is never shown whether these have any effect on the vampires, or whether Neville is just playing along with the legends.
  • The vampires can be killed by a stake to the heart, by exposure to direct sunlight or inflicting deep wounds on their bodies – the bacteria become parasites and consume the vampires.
  • Whilst the infected show many vampiric tendencies, it could be argued that they are zombies.
  • The book has been adapted four times, the most recent being the 2007 film I Am Legend, featuring Will Smith as Robert Neville.
  • Another novel that plays on this idea is The Passage by Justin Cronin, where vampirism is also spread by a virus.

Of course I don’t have the time or space to discuss every series or book I can think of – are there any that really stood out to you with their portrayal of vampires?