Favourite Reads of 2018
You know, the end of year lists this month have pointed readers to a great many title, many of them deserving of the accolades and media attention. I have read over 30 books this year, only half of them shared with this website- ranging from horror to sci-fi/fantasy and even a non-fiction piece here and there.
So I asked myself- how do I make this list different than the usual gang of suspects (the handful of twelve authors or so) that keep creeping up on most of these lists? Now, that is not to say that these authors and/or works aren’t deserving… trust me, they definitely are… but while I will touch on a few of them myself- I am going to sprinkle some older works or lesser known books into the mix.
Not necessarily the best written (that’s subjective anyway) or most original (nothing new under the sun, as they say)… but simply the ones I found myself reading with that silly grin on my face or nervousness in my veins with each flip of the page. Some are old, some are new, some even tried and true. Maybe even a debut.
Here, in no particular order… are my “favorite reads” that I read this year:
MIRROR (Graham Masterton Omnibus)
Honestly, all the tales in this collection are worth a read to the right readers, but Charnel House (which I read years before) and Mirror are my two faves here.
Keep in mind while reading, that some of the characterization and dialogue can seem a bit aged or even racist/sexist to a degree, but that really shouldn’t hinder your enjoyment. After all, this was published way back in 1988… it shouldn’t bother you any more than reading any other book from the seventies or eighties.
Masterton has a way of being creepy and descriptive throughout, even if the ending doesn’t land perfectly after all the crazy comes to a head. If you don’t mind some interesting nods to Alice in Wonderland and a bit of fantasy among your gruesome horror… this is a Masterton classic that I FINALLY was able to read, at last. So glad I did.
It is said that a mirror can trap a person’s soul…Martin Williams is a broke, two-bit screenwriter living in Hollywood, but when he finds the very mirror that once hung in the house of a murdered 1930s child star, he happily spends all he has on it. He has long obsessed over the tragic story of Boofuls, a beautiful and successful actor who was slaughtered and dismembered by his grandmother. However, he soon discovers that this dream buy is in fact a living nightmare; the mirror was not only in Boofuls house, but witness to the death of this blond-haired and angelic child, which in turn has created a horrific and devastating portal to a hellish parallel universe. So when Martin’s landlord loses his grandson it is soon apparent that the mirror is responsible. But if a little boy has gone into the mirror, what on earth is going to come out?
Let’s see… oh! Here’s a few that I haven’t officially reviewed yet, but I did read them over the last few months. Reviews coming throughout January/February of 2019. What? That’s cheating, you say? Nope, not at all. This is my list for favorite reads this year, not reviewed this year. You say semantics, I say reading comprehension. “These are a few of my favoriiiite thiiiingsss…” Sarcasm aside, in the words of a certain Italian plumber with an obsession for mushrooms… “Here-a we-go!”
Mongrel by Sean O’Connor.
This novella gets a mention on this list because it’s a highly readable debut and once you get towards the center of the story, the writing kicks into another gear. If you like female protagonists who seem weak at first and then are forced into situations to find their strength- this is a good read. A warning due to scenes of violence against a pregnant woman and abuse… and while the creatures may take too much of a backseat for some- there is definitely some great, suspenseful writing here. And one scene in particular… damn. A survival tale with a small dash of creature feature. Very nice debut.
Welcome To The Show (Anthology) Compiled by Matt Hayward. Edited by Doug Murano.
We all know the old cliché: Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Now, add demons, other dimensions, monsters, revenge, human sacrifice, and a dash of the truly inexplicable. This is the story of the (fictional) San Francisco music venue, The Shantyman.
In Welcome to the Show, seventeen of today’s hottest writers of horror and dark fiction come together in devilish harmony to trace The Shantyman’s history from its disturbing birth through its apocalyptic encore.
Featuring stories by Brian Keene, John Skipp, Mary SanGiovanni, Robert Ford, Max Booth III, Glenn Rolfe, Matt Hayward, Bryan Smith, Matt Serafini, Kelli Owen, Jonathan Janz, Patrick Lacey, Adam Cesare, Alan M Clark, Somer Canon, Rachel Autumn Deering and Jeff Strand.
Okay. Look at that list…. Just look at it. It’s a thing of beauty. Horrible, horror-fueled beauty.
A future review coming during the new year, but I can tell you this much: there is a reason why this book has been on Amazon’s Top Ten for anthologies so long. Seventeen reasons, in fact….
Night Moves: A Collection of the Bizarre, the Tragic, and the Horrifying by Mary SanGiovanni
NIGHT MOVES is a frightening journey through the shadowed and often deadly lands that overlap our world…and others. Love and loss, self-respect and self-image, obsession and compulsion, and the things that drive people slowly insane carve a path through the darkness:
• An ancient, silent evil from beneath an abandoned theater hunts those who invaded its sanctuary.
• A mother’s grief opens a door to a realm of shadows.
• The death of a woman’s fiancee initiates a fate worse than death.
• An apartment in a run-down building contains the darkest secrets of known and unknown universes.
• A wellness retreat in the woods becomes ground zero for a horrible otherworldly discovery.
• A grown woman’s loss of her teeth, one by one, is only the beginning of the unthinkable changes in her life.
• A traumatic memory comes back to haunt a woman who had run all the way to Japan to try to escape from her own guilt and loneliness.
• Ancient gods and monsters abound in small towns of Americana past and of the not-too-distant future.
It is indeed funny how the night moves, and in it, the monsters are closing in….
This is another collection that I will be reviewing next year. It’s a great introduction to (Professor) SanGiovanni to those unlucky enough to have never read her work. And if you haven’t, you are missing out! Plenty of great short fiction between the covers from the “Queen of Cosmic Horror”.
Speaking of anthologies…
I have spoke highly of these three…. And I will be honest: I was only going to pick one for this list. Then, I started rereading them. Hell, they are all going on this list, damn it! Reviews to each are linked below.
Lost Highways – Dark Fictions From The Road: Edited by D. Alexander Ward
Little Black Spots: John FD Taff
Suspended In Dusk II: Edited by Simon Dewar
Crazy, seems I’ve been drowning in short stories this year. Ah, well. There are worse deaths. A perfectly odd segue that leads us to…
Body of Christ by Mark Matthews
After his first Holy Communion, a boy secretly builds his own Jesus out of communion wafers and the flesh of his dead father.
On Halloween night, his Jesus shall rise.
After a tragic death, a girl tends to the Cemetery of the Innocents, a memorial to the holocaust of abortion and children killed before their time.
On Halloween night, the children shall live, and they need to be fed.
The Holy Spirit comes to life in this shocking, transgressive story of Christian Horror…
The shattered psyches of two neighboring children collide on Halloween night. Read the above description. Now, read it again.
This is a beautifully dark piece of craziness. 96 pages of gruesome and thought-provoking writing, with just enough compassion sprinkled throughout. It is hard to describe accurately, in my opinion. Not at all what I was expecting, in the best way possible. Surreal, sentimental and morbid, read in one sitting. One of a kind.
How ironic would it be, he mused, if David were to go missing and the only record of his stay here was a breathless recording of his weird experience upstairs? He would become an even truer successor to John Weir: another skeptic claimed by the spirits he was attempting to debunk.
Janz’s writing shines, illuminating the shadows and dragging us through the doors of Alexander House… willingly or not. A hell of a read, even if I think that there may have been too many threads going on with all the layers beneath the story (I seem to be in the minority here)… but it honestly still works. A good read, despite that personal quibble.
Hunter Shea, with Creature, brings us a raw and character-driven tale of chronic pain and a creature lurking and biding its time.
“The meds made her imagine things that would send Stephen King running for his blankie and his momma’s breast.”
This is not Hunter’s usual creature fest, though there are moments of monster goodness. It is a personal tale of guilt, suffering and love. A few may be surprised at how effective this story is- it is brutal, with harsh and repetitious strokes. Just like constant pain itself.
So, another year is in the books. Plenty more to read.
Until then… here’s wishing you a bloody and bountiful, horror-fueled New Year.
I’ll keep reading AND writing.
Brian Bogart is an American author of dark fiction and horror/fantasy. He has written stories most of his life and has been a fan of the genre since the age of seven. His approach to storytelling is a tad macabre at times but tries to capture the nuances of the humanity and sometimes, inhumanity, beneath the surface. He supports the horror community with bloodied open arms and demonic vigor.
Dream Darkly and Keep Writing.
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