Autumn has finally arrived and that means it's time to delve back into one of my favorite genres. Without further ado....
Jack & Jill by Kealan Patrick Burke
As a big fan of Burke's work, I was psyched for the chance to get my hands on an early read of his latest novella, JACK & JILL. Having read four of his novellas (and way past due on the rest) I can say that Burke has mastered this short form - providing tight pacing and plots that pack an emotional punch, along with his style of scares and dread that has become so well known.
The novella follows Gillian, one half of 'Jack and Jill,' as an adult, and deals with her struggle with recurring nightmares/dreams from events of her childhood.
JACK & JILL is one of my favorite reads of the year. The beautifully odd - and sometimes ugly - dream sequences took me back to the opening pages of Burke's novel, KIN, and one of the best scenes I've ever had the pleasure of reading. The images of Gillian's 'dream version' of her father are truly frightening, especially when...well I won't spoil that. Likewise, near the end of the novella (no spoilers) there is a pivotal moment that hangs on one phrase, and just when you might think there isn't enough space to pull it off, you realize Burke had already set the foundation and it makes perfect sense.
JACK & JILL hits the stands (e-book) in November 2013.
Brew by Bill Braddock
Holy smokes... you know when you read, "His eyes focused on her abdomen, just below the floating rib, where several inches of plump, externally herniated intestine shone in the light. He licked his lips. What would it taste like?", in the first few pages, that you are in for a ride. It's the Hell Yeah kind of ride that took me back to what I love about horror, and reminded me why I was so taken by the genre many years ago.
One minute the city of College Heights is party central and the next...well, green ooze dripping psychos are going to town on each other. BREW nails survival horror - tight pacing, blistering action, and well-developed characters (spread throughout the city/campus, natch) who are real and whose decisions throughout the course of the novel make sense (crucial). When done poorly, survival horror boils down to a handful of paragraphs detailing whatever creative deaths the author could conjure up. When done well, or as in the case with BREW, very well, you hang on every word.
Every House is Haunted by Ian Rogers
Some of the best dark/horror fiction these days can be found in short story collections. Ian Roger's EVERY HOUSE IS HAUNTED is no exception.
EVERY HOUSE IS HAUNTED lands smack in the middle of some of my favorite kinds of horror. It's haunting (as the title suggests) but more than that, it carries a ghostly vibe throughout. The stories are moody and thought provoking, odd and sometimes bizarre. The story "The House on Ashley Avenue" was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award this year. My other favorites were "Autumnology," "The Currents," "Leaves Brown," "The Rifts Between Us," "Hunger," "Inheritor," and "Twillingate."
Rogers has also pulled together a little commentary on the collection. While it didn't make the book, I recommend you check it out HERE after you've read the stories. I'm a junkie for that kind of 'behind the scenes' look - there is always something fascinating behind excellent short fiction, especially when you veer into dark/odd/haunting tales.
Sacrifice Island by Kristin Dearborn
SACRIFICE ISLAND is a novella about a pair of paranormal investigators who head to the Philippines in search of material for their latest book. It's difficult to delve into more of the plot without getting into serious spoiler territory, but suffice it to say, Dearborn does an excellent job of reinvigorating what may seem like an old story and worn tropes. She doesn't waste time with pieces of the mystery that you can put together early on, instead focusing on the characters and their unique traits which are cleverly revealed along the way. Overall, what appeared at first to be an easy trek through the jungle, turned out to be much more and a fun read. Another great example of why I love the novella. Looking forward to Dearborn's novel, TRINITY.
Candy House by Kate Jonez
Roland, a brilliant young scientist, loses his prestigious job and is forced to move back home with his parents. If that weren't bad enough, his neighbors are a family of witches, imps and demons.
It has been quite a while since I read any Dark Fantasy, but I'll be seeking out more after reading CANDY HOUSE. I found Jonez's writing to be very engaging, especially the scenes at the neighbors. The vibe of CANDY HOUSE reminded me of Brother's Grimm and Alice and Wonderland - full of odd/bizarre moments, unreliable characters, and dream-like sequences. It took me a little bit to get into the book, but once the full extent/agenda of the neighbors is revealed, I was hooked.
So...what's next? My TBR pile is ever-changing, but with the end of the year fast approaching, these are the five I have my sights on: