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?

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?

Review

Review: Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

From the blurb alone, you wouldn’t necessarily know this was a book featuring werewolves. You may be able to guess from the title, but it’s not immediately obvious. And the reason that I say a book featuring werewolves, rather than a werewolf book, is because there is so much more to the story than the fact that werewolves exist in this world. It’s less about the paranormal elements, and more of a commentary on the state of the world, how judgmental people can be when they find out someone is a little ‘different’, even if they treated that person with kindness and respect before.

To begin with, the reader is made aware that lycans are common knowledge. Everyone knows they exist, and in a Big Brother style move, the government decrees that they must all be listed on a register, for anyone to look up. Registered lycans must also undergo regular blood tests to make sure they are taking ‘Volpexx’, the drug that controls the change. So whilst at first it may seem that it’s not all that bad – many people are tolerant if not accepting – it soon becomes clear that lycans are second-rate citizens, not considered human despite the fact that they could be your friends, parents, siblings, grand-parents, anyone you know.

Only a few pages in, I had already come to the conclusion that I really loved Benjamin Percy’s writing style. It flows so smoothly and is wonderfully descriptive – but unfortunately, the story really slowed down about halfway through and almost seemed to drag in places. This is where the descriptive writing became more of a hindrance; I just wanted things to progress. However, in some places the slow pace worked really well where it was interspersed with sudden shocking moments and jumps, but I was never really scared. From a lot of the quotes on the inside cover, I expected the book to be pretty terrifying and was fully prepared to have to sleep with the lights on. However, but for a few eerie moments, it just didn’t do it for me in terms of a good scare.

There are three main characters within the story, although the book does skip around and follow a couple more, and I think it was the sudden changes as well as the fact that even the main characters didn’t feel massively fleshed out that meant I didn’t particularly care for them. Claire probably had the most interesting story, although I don’t think she developed much as a character.

Despite the fact that the conclusion was rather unsatisfying, I did enjoy this book – just not as much as I expected. Whilst it’s beautifully written and clever, it was just far too slow for my liking. And not at all scary – surprising, considering that Stephen King found it terrifying!

Misc.

Horror October: Rinn’s Guide to True Blood (or the Sookie Stackhouse novels)

Hello lovely readers. Many a time in the past, I’ve spoken about the True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse series of novels, written by Charlaine Harris, so I thought I’d do a guide for those of you out there who don’t know much about it. I will clearly label all spoilers (which will be separate from the main part of the text) and sometimes things may be more subjective than factual… like how I feel about Eric’s face. And body. But I will try to enlighten you about this great series, and why it blows all those other vampire-based books out of the water (only partly through the medium of gifs…). There are some large differences between the later books and TV series, and I’ll try to make these clear!

First things first. The series comprises of thirteen books all set in the fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps, with occasional excursions to Baton Rouge, Monroe and other states such as Mississippi and Texas. The books are told from the point of view of one Miss Sookie Stackhouse, waitress and telepath.

Yep, she’s a telepath. Poor ol’ Sookie has the misfortune of being able to hear the thoughts of others – which may sound pretty cool, but when you do the sort of job she does, you hear many not entirely sober thoughts that you maybe didn’t want to know. As you can imagine, this is quite distracting, and as a result she’s gained a bit of a reputation for being crazy. She also hasn’t had much experience with guys – being able to hear their every thought does not a romantic setting make.

Delicious. (image source)


But there are certain types of people that Sookie can’t hear the thoughts of. Vampires, not at all; shapeshifters, weres and other supernatural beings, barely. In the True Blood world, supernatural beings walk among us, vampires having recently ‘come out of the coffin’ when Japanese scientists successfully created synthetic blood, allowing them to live alongside humans without having to drink from them. Not that it stops some…


Oh, and there’s a lot of violence and gore. And sex.

The series pretty much follows the life of Sookie and her supernatural acquaintances, whom I shall now introduce. Sit down, grab a hot beverage (or a glass of True Blood perhaps) and buckle in… it’s going to be a long post.


The main protagonist of the series, Sookie Stackhouse is strong-willed and fiercely independent. A telepath, she can hear the thoughts of others and as a result finds it difficult to make friends – her only true human friends at the beginning of the series are Arlene Fowler and Tara Thornton. She works as a waitress at Merlotte’s Bar and Grill, owned by her friend Sam Merlotte.

In the very first book, shortly after vampires are revealed as real, Sookie saves the life of a vampire named Bill, who later goes on to become her boyfriend. Bill is her first love – but it doesn’t last. She dates several ‘supes’, including Eric Northman (vampire), Alcide Herveaux (werewolf) and Quinn (weretiger).


She has a witty narrative voice, and is an intelligent young woman, determined to make a good future for herself. When she was just a small child, her parents were killed in a flood and she has lived with her grandmother ever since, in a ramshackle old farmhouse that has been passed down the family for generations.

[spoiler]It is revealed in the later books that Sookie is in fact part fairy, which explains why vampires find her particularly delectable – fairy blood is like vampire crack.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: Sookie is badass. Well, until the ninth or tenth book – then she gets kind of boring. But honestly, she is a female protagonist that knows she doesn’t need a male in her life to make her happy, and sometimes she gives into her more primal instincts. So basically, she’s human (… or is she? *laughs evilly*)

Sookie is portrayed by Anna Paquin in the TV series.

A true Southern gentleman, Bill Compton is the first vampire Sookie meets – and her first love. Born in 1840, he fought for the South in the Civil War and was made a vampire twenty-eight years later. He returned to Bon Temps after vampires became public, to trace his descendants.

Bill is very caring of Sookie when they are in a relationship, but she gets frustrated by all the time he spends working on a project – a catalogue of all the vampires in North America. He later reveals something to Sookie that truly ends their relationship, but clearly still harbours feelings for her throughout the books. Bill is the official investigator for the local area – vampires have a strict hierarchy in this series, with various sheriffs across a state, and a king or queen of each state on top of them.

[spoiler]Bill betrays Sookie by giving information about her to the Queen of Louisiana, his boss. Their relationship was originally a way for Bill to learn about her, but he soon fell in love with her anyway. In the TV series, Bill becomes King of Louisiana and takes a very dark turn.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: Eh, I’m not a big Bill fan. Especially TV-Bill. I find him kind of boring and a bit of jerk later on. I do like his accent though…

Bill is portrayed by Stephen Moyer in the TV series.

Eric Northman, at over 1000 years old, is one of the most powerful vampires in the Bon Temps area. He was originally from Sweden, the son of a Jarl, and is commonly referred to as a ‘blonde viking’ by Sookie. He is the sheriff of Area 5 in Louisiana, which includes Bon Temps and Shreveport, where Eric runs his very own vampire bar, Fangtasia.

His progeny is Pam, a dry-witted and sultry vampire lady, who helps him run Fangtasia. Eric and Pam have a very close relationship, and it is often around Pam that Eric shows a more tender side.


In the fourth book, Eric suffers from amnesia as part of a witches’ curse, and Sookie ends up looking after him. He is reduced to a defenceless child, nothing like his former self – he is sweet and caring, and during this time he has a brief romance with Sookie.


Eric is also officially the hottest vampire in the entire state of Louisiana. Fact.

[spoiler] Eric doesn’t remember his romance with Sookie, but memories eventually come back to him. He still loves her, in fact he had been harbouring feelings for her since book three, and the two eventually get ‘married’ (vampire style!), although it is more for Sookie’s protection than an urge to be a married couple.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: No, the above was not my opinion. It’s fact. Very factual. I gladly accept that it is fact. Eric is my favourite. Yum yum. I like his cheeky sense of humour, how he always seems to say something deadly serious and then you see this little glint in his eye and know he’s joking. Plus it amuses me that despite the fact that he is one thousand years old, and has lived (questionable… un… lived?) through so much, sometimes things like technology and modern inventions baffle him.

Eric is portrayed by Alexander Skarsgard in the TV series.

Pam Swynford de Beaufort is the vampire progeny and business partner of Eric Northman. She was born in London, and met Eric there in 1905, when he turned her. However, in the TV series she is shown as the madam of a Chicago brothel.

Incredibly loyal to Eric, and willing to die for him, she often covers up her true feelings with dry wit and sarcasm. Initially she looks down on Sookie, but eventually they grow close, Sookie even referring to Pam as the closest thing to a vampire friend she has (apart from her vampire lovers of course). 

In contrast to her demeanour, she often dresses like a surburban housewife in pastel colours – when she’s not wearing her ‘vampire’ gear for her shifts at Fangtastia.

[spoiler]These spoilers are for the show, not the book – Pam is the vampire that turns Tara Thornton, Sookie’s best friend, after Tara dies. It is also shown that she meets Eric in her brothel as he is hunting Bill and his maker, Lorena, who are killing off prostitutes as ‘easy pickings’ for sustenance.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: I love Pam, she’s so wonderfully sarky and has a really dark sense of humour. Plus in the book she has a sort of admiration/liking for Sookie, and tries hard to hide it – it’s pretty cute.

Pam is portrayed by Kristin Bauer van Straten in the TV series. Swynford de Beaufort is actually her surname in the TV series – in the books it is in fact ‘Ravenscroft’. I remembered too late!

Alcide Herveaux is a werewolf from Shreveport, who owns a surveying company with his father, Jackson Herveaux. When Sookie first meets him, he is Sookie’s ‘protection’ during a mission. He has also just recently gone through a breakup with a woman named Debbie Pelt, who has it out for Sookie…

There is definite chemistry between Alcide and Sookie, but the presence of his on-off girlfriend makes things difficult. However, Sookie and Alcide help each other out many times throughout the series, including Alcide’s run for packleader.

Physically he is a very large man: muscly and well over six foot. He also has a habit of growling, even in human form.

[spoiler]Sookie kills Alcide’s ex-girlfriend in self defense. When Debbie goes missing, Alcide tries to discover what happened to her, and using his super-wolfie senses, can smell her scent in Sookie’s kitchen. He knows that Sookie killed her, and this makes it impossible for the two of them to ever have a relationship – but he never turns Sookie in.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: I think I prefer TV-Alcide to book-Alcide. Although we get some of his back story through Sookie in the book, we actually get to see a lot more in the TV series.

Alcide is portrayed by Joe Manganiello in the TV series.

Jason Stackhouse is Sookie’s older brother, a well-known womaniser in the town of Bon Temps, and not particularly blessed in intelligence. However he more than makes up for this in the kindness of his ways, and is always looking out for his younger sister.

He works on the parish road crew in Bon Temps, and lives in his parents old house.

[spoiler]Like Sookie, Jason is part fairy which explains why many women find him so irresistible despite his infamous ways. Later on in the series he also becomes a part were-panther – he was bitten and made that way, rather than born were-panther, so he becomes a half-man, half-panther hybrid on the full moon. However, in the TV series he is bitten, but nothing becomes of it.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: Totally the kind of guy I would avoid, but when you see him with Sookie he’s really a sweetie at heart. And in the TV series he turns into a bit of a badass. But just a little bit.

Jason is portrayed by Ryan Kwanten in the TV series.

Sookie’s best friend since childhood, Tara Thornton has had a hard life. Abused by her parents, she often ran to Sookie’s house to get away, so sees Sookie almost as a sister.

Book-Tara and TV-Tara differ quite a bit. Although both have had a traumatic childhood, book-Tara runs her own shop called Tara’s Togs, whereas TV-Tara has trouble keeping down a job and ends up doing occasional bar work at Merlotte’s.


Tara has several troubled relationships throughout the series, including one with a controlling vampire, but finally ends up in a happy one, as she deserves, later on.


TV-Tara is a much more interesting character than book-Tara – we get to learn so much more about her. Lafayette, the cook at Merlotte’s and her cousin in the TV series,  is very close with Tara.

[spoiler]In the TV series, Tara is killed and made vampire by Pam after Sookie and Lafayette beg her to turn Tara. As Tara hates vampires after her previous relationship with one, she is a very unstable new vampire and seems resentful towards Sookie and Lafayette, both previously her closest friends.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: TV-Tara is way more fun! I’m glad they developed her character and I love the dynamic between her and Lafayette.

Tara is portrayed by Rutina Wesley in the TV series.

Sam Merlotte is the owner of Merlotte’s, a popular bar and grill located in the town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. He is Sookie’s boss, and there is some chemistry between them, but neither really act on it.

Sam also happens to be a shapeshifter, meaning he can take on the form of any animal, but his favourite is the border collie. He uses his heightened senses as a dog to track down several people, including murderers.

In the TV show, he has a brief relationship with Tara.

[spoiler]In the TV series, we glimpse some of Sam’s past. He used his shifting abilities to steal money and expensive goods, and eventually used the funds to start his business. [/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: Sam is such a sweetie and I often end up feeling sorry for him; he’s rather downtrodden. I just want a happy ending for him (I haven’t read the last book yet).

Sam is portrayed by Sam Trammell in the TV series.


The fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, is home to nearly 3,000 people – including a host of vampires, werewolves and other supernatural beings. It is not too far from Shreveport, and comes under vampire Area 5 – Eric Northman being the Sheriff of the area. Notable Bon Temps families include the Stackhouses, the Fortenberrys, the Comptons and the Bellefleurs.


Merlotte’s Bar and Grill is a popular establishment located in Bon Temps, Louisiana. Owned by Sam Merlotte, it is a frequent destination for locals and visitors to the area. Employees include Sookie Stackhouse, Arlene Fowler, Tara Thornton (TV series) and Lafeyette Reynolds.

Fangtasia – ‘Life Begins At Night‘ – is the popular vampire nightclub owned by Eric Northman. It is located in Shreveport, and there is a strict no biting policy enforced. The local vampires take it in turns to make appearances, to draw in humans. Pam Swynford de Beaufort/Ravenscroft is also a business partner.

Sookie Stackhouse’s ramshackle farmhouse, passed down through generations of Stackhouses, is located a little ways out of Bon Temps, along the Hummingbird Road. She lives beside the local cemetery, and her closest neighbour is Bill Compton.

I hope that I have at least piqued your interest in the series – or if you’ve already read/watched it, that this was a fun read! And would you look at that, I managed to almost completely avoid using gifs!

Damnit Sam!
Here are the books available in the series:
There are also a lot of other short story compilations containing stories featuring Sookie – but here I’ve just listed the books where Charlaine Harris was the only/main author.
 
And what about the TV series?
There are currently six seasons (the sixth is airing now), and there will be a seventh and final  series. The first three or four series use main plotlines from the book – in fact series one is very loyal – but it really changes things after that. Several characters are pretty different: for example Tara has a much larger part, Lafayette is Tara’s cousin in the TV series but not the books (he’s also a more frequently recurring character), characters are added or omitted. One of Sookie’s love interests, Quinn the weretiger, has not yet appeared in the TV series. It also has the most amazing soundtrack ever, plus some of my favourite TV opening credits.
 

So that’s all for this post! Let me know if you’ve read the books, watched the show and what you think – or perhaps I’ve persuaded you to try it out? I’ve still got to read book thirteen, and watch series six myself.

 
Eric (and Rinn) out.