Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Hellbound Heart [review]

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
Published in 1986
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
4.06 (as of 2022-10-11)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

This was… bizarre. This is one of those books that makes me think I need to read some essays and interviews before I can understand it. I buddy read this with Destiny in preparation for the Hellraiser remake because (surprise to me!) this was the novella that Hellraiser was based on! Having never seen the film and going into this pretty cold (I knew what Pinhead looked like and that was it), I was definitely… surprised. My first read by Clive Barker was a middle grade horror novel, so this adult erotic horror novella was a bit of a turn.

Unfortunately, I just don’t feel like I got this. The writing was excellent – Barker certainly has that going for him – but the story itself was too bizarre for me to follow. I somehow only learned Barker was gay after reading this and I think having that lens would have been helpful for me to get more out of it.

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Carrie [review]

Carrie by Stephen King
Published in 1974
my rating: 4 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.98 (as of 2022-09-20)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

No one was there—or if there was, He/It was cowering from her. God had turned His face away, and why not? This horror was as much His doing as hers.

I’ve read this at least once before, but it’s been years so I figured I’d pick it up before Kayla’s community reads The Weight of Blood (inspired by Carrie). I’m happy to say this is probably one of my favorite books by King. There’s no unnecessary length (King does tend to be overly wordy) and while there is still some offensive content, it’s not as front-and-center as it is in some of his other works. Overall, the story and characterization were wildly compelling. I hadn’t remembered the epistolary aspect, which really added to the book. There were a few moments that had me rolling my eyes at King, but as a whole I do recommend this and I’m glad I reread it. I will be excited to pick up a retelling written by a woman, though.

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Just Like Home [review]

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey
Published by Tor Books on July 19, 2022
my rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.53 (as of 2022-09-14)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

This book is dedicated to anyone who has ever loved a monster.

I can’t seem to stop reading divisive books! This was my fourth Gailey read and I have to say that I am so impressed by their range. From historical fiction to thriller to horror, it seems like they can do it all. Just Like Home is about a woman named Vera who returns to her childhood home at the behest of her estranged dying mother. Vera’s father was a serial killer and her memories in this house are slowly revealed to us over the course of the book. There is also a horror element that readers seem to either love or hate — I loved it. There were just a handful of things I wish Gailey had done differently, but I found this so atmospheric. I had to tear myself away from the book at night because even though I was getting so spooked, I didn’t want to put it down. I found both the characters and the story itself incredibly compelling and really can’t wait to see what Gailey comes out with next.

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Thief of Always [review]

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker
Published by HarperCollins on January 30, 2014 (originally 1992)
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
4.20 (as of 2022-08-30)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

Harvey had climbed the porch steps by now, and stopped in front of the open door. This was a moment of decision, he knew, though he wasn’t quite certain why.

This was a quick little MG/YA fantasy read with a pinch of horror. Harvey Swick is a kid dealing with the dreariness of mid-winter who wants some excitement in his life. And he gets exactly what he wishes for — kind of. Harvey is whisked away to a magical house, where he can play with other children and where all his wants are met. But, of course, things aren’t quite what they seem. This wasn’t a new favorite, but it was a fun little novel to zip through. I definitely recommend it to those looking for some lighter horror


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Sorrowland [review]

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
Published by MCD Books on May 4, 2021
my rating: 2 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.83 (as of 2022-08-21)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and may differ from the final publication.

The forest didn’t mind illiterates and mad girls. Didn’t mind that screaming was sometimes a person’s only language.

This was my first Rivers Solomon and I hate to say it but I was definitely disappointed. I went into this pretty cold and wasn’t really expecting the extreme fantastical elements — which I’ll admit is on me. It’s definitely a book that some people will love, but it was a little too out there for me. I had difficulty following some things and just didn’t get along with the writing in general. I did appreciate how queer this was, though, as well as the messages Solomon was conveying. I have a copy of The Deep which I’ll definitely also be trying out.


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20th Century Ghosts [review]

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on September 16, 2008 (originally 2005)
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.94 (as of 2022-08-03)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

She is saying something about home. She is saying something everyone knows.

This has been on my TBR for years so I’m disappointed that I wasn’t a huge fan of it. Joe Hill is one of my favorite authors, but this was his first book and it just didn’t hit like I had hoped it would. The fatphobia in this is absolutely rampant and really destroyed my interest in a few of the stories. The f-slur and the n-word were also both used at some points. As for the stories themselves, a lot of them didn’t do much for me. I’ll include my full ratings here:

Best New Horror – ⭐⭐⭐
20th Century Ghost – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Pop Art – ⭐⭐⭐
You Will hear the Locus Sing – ⭐⭐
Abraham’s Boys – ⭐⭐
Better Than Home – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Black Phone – ⭐⭐
In the Rundown – ⭐⭐⭐
The Cape – ⭐⭐
Last Breath – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Dead-wood – ⭐⭐⭐
The Widow’s Breakfast – ⭐⭐⭐.5
Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
My Father’s Mask – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Voluntary Committal – ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
Scheherazade’s Typewriter – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A few of them were hard-hitting in the best of ways, but overall I found the collection somewhat forgettable. I do think My Father’s Mask and Voluntary Committal both could be expanded into novels or series and make for a good time. I’m also very intrigued to see how they adapted The Black Phone because it didn’t feel to me like something that could be expanded into a full-length film. Overall, probably wouldn’t recommend this collection highly, but it’s probably worth reading if you want to see Hill’s earlier works.


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Near the Bone [review]

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Near the Bone by Christina Henry
Published by Berkley on April 13, 2021
my rating: 5 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.77 (as of 2022-03-11)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop

This book was scary as hell. I felt like I didn’t breathe for the three hours it took me to read it — in one sitting, since I literally could not bring myself to put it down. I found Mattie to be an incredibly compelling main character and loved rooting for her. I will say that at times William felt almost cartoonish in his evil and I wish he were a bit more three dimensional, but that’s really my only complaint. The tension in this was so thick, and I truly didn’t know what would befall any of the characters. I’m really excited to pick up more by Christina Henry and think this is going to end up being one of my top books of the year.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Dead Silence [review]

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Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes
Published by Tor Nightfire on February 8, 2022
my rating: 4 stars
Goodreads avg:
4.12 (as of 2022-02-16)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop

Okay yes, this did fit the ‘Ghost Ship in space’ bill everyone was assigning it, and did a great job at it. Dead Space follows Claire Kovalik and her crew as they find a seemingly abandoned luxury spacecraft that had gone missing two decades prior. As expected, spookiness ensues. Sidenote, do not read this if you have an issue with body horror or gore. It’s not on every page but it’s certainly prominent enough.

I did really enjoy this, the vibes were immaculate and I found myself putting it down for a minute every couple chapters to breathe. But then I would pick it right back up again and keep chugging along. Barnes really succeeded in creating a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere and an intriguing mystery. I fully did not see that plot twist coming!

It did have a couple weaknesses, though. Claire is supposed to be in her mid-thirties, but I found her somewhat juvenile. I know that’s probably because of her PTSD, but that’s another thing that bothered me. I felt like her backstory was pushed a little too hard. This might just be me, but I get really bored with books where the MC has a ~tragic backstory~ that is CONSTANTLY alluded to. I found her really frustrating to read at times because of this.

The romance subplot also seemed completely unnecessary to me. I did like Kane, but I was just like [shrug] we’re in a ghost ship in space! Why are we talking about romance! I think if this had been removed, the book could have leaned in a little farther with developing the creep factor.

All in all, though, I really enjoyed this and found it to be a unique reading experience. If anyone has recs for books similar to this, I am ALL ears. I am definitely going to be recommending this to horror fans and hope to see more from Barnes in this genre!


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Stand [review]

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The Stand by Stephen King
Published by Anchor on June 24, 2008 (originally 1978)
my rating: DNF
Goodreads avg:
4.34 (as of 2022-02-04)
Spoiler-free review

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DNF @ 69% (~930 pages)

I really tried with this one, y’all. I found it really compelling to start! The first third or so was interesting but had me wondering ‘where is this going?’ The next third kind of answered that question, but I just didn’t find the answer something I cared about. I did intentionally read the ‘uncut’ version and I found it way too long for its own good. In addition to being bloated, it also contained some really disturbing imagery that I didn’t find worth it. I know this is SK and I know this is horror, but there was some animal cruelty that made me downright nauseous and haunted me throughout my day even when I wasn’t reading. I think this interested me so much at the start because it felt similar to Covid in a lot of ways, which I wasn’t expecting! But I just could not bring myself to finish it and definitely won’t be going out of my way to recommend it. I’m really glad I looked up a thorough summary of the last third because it truly wasn’t going to be worth it.

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Nothing But Blackened Teeth [review]

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Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
Published by Tor Nightfire on October 19, 2021
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
2.89 (as of 2022-01-12)
Spoiler-free review

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One girl each year. Two hundred and six bones times a thousand years. More than enough calcium to keep this house standing until the stars ate themselves clean, picked the sinew from their own shining bones.

Okay, I was genuinely shocked when I came on here to give my rating and saw the average goodreads rating. I can see how this wouldn’t work for some people — most of the characters are insufferable and the clarity is a bit lacking at times. But I found the writing so lyrical and the main character, Cat, so immensely relatable. As a queer person with depression, yeah I felt very seen. The atmosphere was truly immersive and I felt like I was standing right there with Cat as we watched our bad friends make bad decisions. It also had a little bit of a The Cabin in the Woods feel with its self-awareness, the characters knowing they were essentially living through a horror movie and making their decisions accordingly. I found that the dread built so well, even if it lost itself a bit in the climax. I was impressed by this and look forward to reading more of Khaw’s work!

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