Books Read in April

Like in previous months, here’s the books I read in April and what I thought about them.

John Hornor Jacobs — A Lush and Seething Hell
Shaun Hamill — A Cosmology of Monsters
Norman Partridge — Dark Harvest
David Peak — The River Through the Trees
Kij Johnson — The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe
CommonPlace Books — The Untold Stories of H.P. Lovecraft
Thomas Ligotti — My Work Is Not Yet Done
Adrian Tchaikovsky — Children of Time
Michael Griffin — Armageddon House

John Hornor Jacobs — A Lush and Seething Hell

A Lush and Seething Hell is a highly praised book containing two novellas, “The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky” and “My Heart Struck Sorrow.” It was one of those books that everyone in the horror community read and loved. It’s extremely well written, very detailed and accurate for its settings.

However, I found myself not being able to be engrossed by either stories. While I enjoyed “The Sea Dreams It is the Sky” the most, I had a hard time submerging myself in “My Heart Struck Sorrow.” They are both masterfully crafted tales, but I was hoping for more horror involved. It’s advertised as cosmic horror, but I felt like it was closer to historical fiction with ghost/folk horror sprinkled in.

Honestly, I really wanted to fall in love with this book like everyone else but couldn’t. But, that’s not to say it’s bad or poor in any shape or form; just not a fit to me. I still highly recommend this to anyone looking for fantastic historical fiction with a twist of horror.

Shaun Hamill — A Cosmology of Monsters

A Cosmology of Monsters is a novel is written as a memoir by Noah, the third child of the family, and it follows his family from their beginning to their end. Throughout they run and manage The Wandering Dark, a haunted house, and like a monster hiding in the shadows of the haunt, a real monster lurks over the family, at points emerging from the shadows until they give way revealing its true, towering, bestial form.

Stephen King praised this book and it’s fitting, because it read like a Stephen King novel. I don’t mean this in a bad way. Hamill’s prose is simple yet provocative, and it’s clear he has a love for all things horror from films to books, especially Lovecraft and 80’s/90’s horror. And overall, I enjoyed it, though I believe it ran a little bit longer than I would’ve liked, and the first half of the book felt stronger than the latter half. Also the twists I was hoping for didn’t come to fruition and the ones that were given didn’t feel strong, like a satisfying a-hah! twist should.

However, it was still a solid read and I’m glad I did. I recommend this to anyone looking for a lighter horror novel, or a Stephen King fan who wants to read something King-like but not by King.

Norman Partridge — Dark Harvest

Dark Harvest is a fast-paced read focusing on a dystopian-like Midwestern town and its yearly October tradition of the Run, where all the sixteen-year-old or older, food deprived local boys attempt to capture and kill the October Boy, a scarecrow with a Jack-o-lantern for a head before it reaches the brick church in the center of town.

I enjoyed this book, even in April, though it would be perfect to read alongside Ray Bradbury’s The October Country and Something Wicked This Way Comes when fall rolls around. Speaking of Bradbury, Dark Harvest reminds me of his work a lot, it has his style of horror but with a tinge of thriller.

I definitely recommend this to any Bradbury fan or anyone looking for a quick, Halloween read.

David Peak — The River Through the Trees

The River Through the Trees is a fast-paced, thriller-like, weird fiction story about a gravekeeper who is picked up one day by three brothers, and brought to a corpse under false pretenses. He quickly learns as he covers the corpse with a tarp that the man hadn’t died from a heart-attack, but from a gun shot. The brothers grow uneasy with the gravekeeper’s newly obtained knowledge and abandon him in the brutal winter winds and ankle-deep snow. Now, he has to make his way back to his house he shares with his sick, bedridden mother.

The book doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t let up at any point. You are dumped into the protagonists bleak life with his sick mom, his druggy sister, and a murder investigation, but there’s something darker, grittier dwelling in the underbelly of the Midwest town that you soon discover.

I was a fan of Peak’s novel Corpsepaint, and although The River Through the Trees is shorter and quicker, I still really liked it. However, I think the last chapter didn’t serve much purpose to further the story, and the book might’ve been stronger without it. Either way, definitely pick this book up.

Kij Johnson — The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a quasi-sequel of Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath about a university student from Ulthar who falls in love with a dreamer and escapes the city, and a professor who leaves the school and travels across the dream world to find her.

It’s flowery prose is evocative and vivid, and easy to follow as the protagonist travels from one place to another. However, that’s makes up the bulk of the book. While each scene is soaked with details and beautiful, strange imagery; it does get a tad tedious about halfway through.

However, I really like what Johnson did with Lovecraft’s tale, flipping it on its head and telling a modern, new story from a female perspective, and I’d love to see her try her hand at another Lovecraft story down the line. If you’re a fan of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, then you’ll really enjoy The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.

CommonPlace Books — The Untold Stories of H.P. Lovecraft

The Untold Stories of H.P. Lovecraft is an anthology by authors who each received an unwritten story idea from Lovecraft’s notes. It’s an interesting idea, and it’s what lured me to the book.

However, some ideas are typically meant to remain as so. None of the stories were bad or poorly written, but most did seem flat. But, there were three that I enjoyed the most: “The Opposite Door” by Kathleen Akerley, “▇▇ ▇▇” by Kyle Levenick, and “Vacant at the Fenrick Inn” by F. Omar Telan (for this one in particular, I really wish Telan would’ve done more with his idea. I think it could’ve been easily expanded and worked well).

Anyone interested in the “what-if” stories of Lovecraft should pick this anthology up.

Thomas Ligotti — My Work Is Not Yet Done

My Work Is Not Yet Done is a collection of one novella and two short stories, all focused on corporations or being a corporate employee. In Ligotti fashion, all the stores are brimming with nihilism, misanthropy, and cosmic horror.

As someone who strongly dislikes big corporations and how they treat their employees and the world itself, and someone who loathes the inner workings of corporations, like meetings and politics found within, this book resonated a lot with me. Granted, not to the extremes the protagonists go to, of course, but Ligotti’s almost comical, bleak stories spoke to me.

I enjoyed this book a lot, almost more than Songs of a Dead Dreamer & Grimscribe, and highly recommend it to any fan of cosmic horror or weird fiction.

Adrian Tchaikovsky — Children of Time

Children of Time is a novel about the survival of humankind after they have left the ruins of decaying Earth as they explore space, in search of humanity’s new home. Which they do, but, unfortunately, someone or something is already there, veering the course of mankind and survival, and sets them upon a millennia-long hardship journey.

This is the kind of book you read and step back and say, “Wow…” It’s an emotional, information, epic sci-fi tale of what strides man will do to continue to survive, no matter what hindrances are thrown in their way. It touches on almost all aspects of man and cultural changes society goes through now and probably always will.

While I did enjoy this book, some of the beginning chapters were a bit slower than I’d like, but once the story gets going about midway through, it really flies.

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone looking for an epic science fiction story.

Michael Griffin — Armageddon House

Read my thoughts on Armageddon House here.


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