summer

Wicked Wednesday: More summer horror/thriller reads

There’s heatwave in London this week. Being a born-and-bred Wisconsinite, I can handle -30 but melt at anything above “warm-ish”. And there’s no heat quite like city heat. Plus a lot less lakes and rivers to sit by in London than in ‘sconsin.

And that’s excuse number 108 why it’s way too hot to turn on the TV and watch a movie. Our PlayStation creates a bonfire’s worth of heat just by looking at it, so sitting next to it with pen in hand is just not happening this week.

But do you know what doesn’t create heat? Books!

This week is the annual Reading Rush reading challenge (formerly BookTube-a-thon). As per the definition of a read-a-thon, I’m going to try and read as much as possible this week. I’ve lined up a selection of graphic novels, shorter books and audiobooks (which by the way, if you’re still not using Scribd you’re behind on life) to indulge in.

But the summer has always been about reading a lot. We don’t need a reading challenge for that. And now that summer is reaching the halfway point, it’s time to talk about some recent (and future) horror reads.

1. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Cailtin Doughty

So this non-fiction entry isn’t “horror” per se. But I guess that depends on how much you enjoy talking about cremation, corpses and death plans.

I’m late to the game when it comes to Doughty. This YouTuber/Mortician/death enthusiast/all-around-goddess first came to my attention only a few months ago. And it’s safe to say that in that short amount of time I’ve become thoroughly obsessed.

Doughty’s debut novel Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells the story of Doughty’s first job working in a crematorium. The stories can be sweet, funny, heart-breaking and informative. She certainly gets you thinking about your own mortality and about what really happens to your fats when you burn.

I particularly recommend listening to the audiobook, which Doughty reads herself. Her voice is fantastic. Filled with great inflection and humour.

2. Shadowland by Peter Straub

For years now I’ve wanted to read something by Straub, but his work is pretty intimidating. Poor Ghost Story has been sitting unloved on my shelf for ages now. But when I was in Wisconsin this summer, I was in the mood for something a bit scary. And who better to reach for than a fellow creepy Wisconsinite?

Well, turns out Shadowland isn’t a straight-forward horror story. In fact, there’s a lot of fantasy in the pages. But if anything, this story is unsettling as all hell. Straub creates vivid dream-like scenes that (to me) are simultaneously terrifying and confusing. It’s heavy with metaphors and imagery – and not at all in a bad way.

Shadowland follows two boys over the course a year. We’re introduced to them at the beginning of their school year before they are whisked away to New England where they spend a summer with a magician. As the boys learn more magic, the power they see becomes more dangerous and surreal.

I’ve never read anything like Shadowland before. And I doubt I will ever again. But I’m so glad I took the risk.

3. We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

Last summer, I read my first Grady Hendrix novel, My Best Friend’s Exorcism. That book ticked all the boxes for me: 80s references, female friendships, demons. So when he released a new novel about a heavy metal band, I knew this one would be for me too.

We Sold Our Souls is about one woman’s desire to recollect her past. Having been thrown out of her semi-famous metal band decades earlier, Kris Pulaski is washed-up. The frontman of her band is immensely famous, but Kris hasn’t seen any royalties. She starts to suspect that he didn’t get his fame and power on his own. Kris decides traverse the country to put the band (and the puzzle pieces) back together. Though it’s a far more dangerous road than she things, there’s more than one demon along the way.

This is another horror novel that isn’t so straight-forward with its thrills. Really, it’s about how horrible humans can really be to each other in selfish pursuits. It’s about our fears and paranoias, and that’s very scary indeed.

Also, bonus for great music references.

4. Jughead: The Hunger vol. 1 by Frank Tieri

When Archie Comics released a one-shot about Jughead as a werewolf, all was magnificent. Only it wasn’t. There wasn’t enough.

Thankfully the people at Archie heard our lycanthropic prayers and made Jughead: The Hunger an ongoing series. I’m only halfway through the first volume, and it hasn’t really lived up to expectations thus far. But I do love how much fun Archie Comics have been having with their characters in recent years. This is a brand to always love.

5. Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

This book, much like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, transfixed me as a young girl. Particularly that wonderful cover by Alan Daniel. Never have bunnies been more terrifying. Beware, Anya!

I sneaked this book out of my parents’ house to England wanting to reread this obvious masterpiece. And that reread is happening 100% soon…as in probably tonight.

6. The audiobook mystery thrillers

Upon discovering the Scribd app, I’ve gone a bit audiobook mad. Thankfully, because it’s easy to discard a book after starting it, I’ve been able to dabble in many different books I wouldn’t normally read. This has made create both good and bad outcomes.

I went into Riley Sager’s The Last Time I Lied with really high expectations. I’d heard great things about his other books. Unsolved murders at a summer camp? Yes please. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t care about the story. There was a fun little twist at the end, but it certainly was a lot to slog through for little reward.

Speaking of high expectations… From the summary for Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey, I thought this would be literally everything I wanted: magic school, murders, detective noir. But this was one seriously not-for-me book. I have never not finished a murder mystery. Even if I don’t like the story, I always finish. This was one solid exception to the rule. Yikes.

On a brighter note, I listened to two YA mysteries that I enjoyed: Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson and Little Monsters by Kara Thomas. I highly, highly recommend Little Monsters, even if you aren’t into YA that much. Plus it’s set in Wisconsin, so…


What will you be reading for the rest of the summer? Are you taking part in the Reading Rush read-a-thon? Hopefully you read some winners this year. I know I certainly have.

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Hot town, summer in the city

AgentOrangeNow I’ve got less than a month until I take my first trip State-side since September. That means I haven’t stopped thinking about my visit for weeks. Unfortunately, Wisconsin still seems to be clinging onto that terrible weather, but I’m praying for blue skies and warm weather for my journey in early June. Here in London we’ve had quite a mix, but there have already been a few lovely hot days out. Summer has pretty much arrived in Britain.

Since we can deem this weeks as ‘summer’ (especially since I haven’t had a class since early April now that I’m working independently), it’s time to put away those somber tunes of Winter and dust off the jackets of Summer listening. For more than five years, I have carried the same three albums in my old Ford. These are the albums I swear by as usually I don’t listen to much else when the scorching sun keeps me hidden away inside.

1. The Smiths ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’

Although usually ranked as the least favourite of many Smiths fans, ‘Strangeways’ is still magic in its own right (and a personal best, stated by both Mozzer and Marr). The fourth album by the Manchester band is filled with some of their most popular singles like ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ and ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Head This One Before.’ But I think it’s tracks like the sweet closer ‘I Won’t Share You’ that make this album sound special. It’s the breathiness and light that makes this album the most listenable in the summer. Save your cemetery gates and poets for days more rainy.

2. Agent Orange ‘Living in Darkness’

Call it cliche, but summers, beaches and surf music go hand in hand. Surf punk if we want to even do things better. Orange County punkers Agent Orange made the perfect album with ‘Living in Darkness’ in 1981 (although I keep the reissue on hand just because there’s more to love). There’s a clever mix of punk gold like the title track and the furious ‘Bloodstains’ with the So Cal flavour of covers of ‘Miserlou,’ ‘Pipeline’ and ‘Mr. Moto.’ It’s a crowd favourite when you’re blasting this in a furious summer traffic jam.

And mostly I am such a fan of drummer Scott Miller’s sweater.

3. Roxy Music ‘Avalon’

The non-funky stuff of Roxy Music makes up what is possibly my favourite album ever. It’s dreamy, airy, sexy and every bit of my ideal perfection. I find words difficult when it comes to why and how I love it. The reasons are probably something similar to why people love summer: there’s a lightness to the atmosphere and it soars giving a sense of effortlessness. Max Brooks even uses ‘Avalon’ in one of my favourite books, World War Z. A student sings the title track before the battle of the five colleges to bring hope to the defenders. I couldn’t think of a better use for it.

The album also includes two of my favourite instrumentals on any pop album, ‘India’ and ‘Tara’. I often just listen to them both on repeat. Short bursts of gold.

So as summer draws near, what will you be listening to?