Category Archives: reading list

Are You More Likely to Read a Stoker Award Winning Book?

Last weekend marked the 2010 Bram Stoker Awards ceremony. I only started paying attention to literary awards a few years ago. Since then, I’ve had pretty good luck using the lists of nominees as recommended reading. Heck, it was how I discovered Lisa Mannetti’s The Gentling Box, the 2008 winner for Superior Acheivement in a First Novel, which I consider an amazing piece of writing.

So what about you? Do these kinds of awards encourage you to seek out winning books, or do you dismiss the whole notion as arbitrary, rigged, or plain uninteresting? Me, I look at them as good reference material when searching out new authors and prospective book purchases.

Let’s have a gander at this year’s winners:

Superior Achievement in a Novel
Rot and Run by Jonathan Maberry
Dead Love by Linda Watanabe McFerrin
Apocalypse of the Dead by Joe McKinney
Dweller by Jeff Strand
A Dark Matter by Peter Straub (WINNER)

Straub’s novel is sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. Thoroughly entertained by Ghost Story and Shadowland, I figured it was about time I took a crack at one of his recent works. Funny though, as I’ve read some contentious blogger comments about how the novel is over-rated and Straub only won because of name recognition. Perhaps, or perhaps it was the best of the bunch. Maybe this year I should read all five and judge for myself.

Superior Achievement in a First Novel
Black and Orange by Benjamin Kane Ethridge (WINNER)

A Books of Tongues by Gemma Files
Castle of Los Angeles by Lisa Morton (WINNER)
Spellbent by Lucy Snyder

A tie, wouldn’t you know? And here’s the funniest bit for me: Of the four nominated books, those are the two I don’t own. Go figure. Well, I have Ethridge’s Black and Orange on my wish list, so I guess I’ll just have to add Lisa Morton’s novel as well.

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction
Invisible Fences by Norman Prentiss
The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman
Dissolution by Lisa Mannetti
Monsters Among Us by Kirstyn McDermott
The Samhanach
by Lisa Morton

Of the novellas listed here, I’ve only read The Painted Darkness and Dissolution. I was rooting for Mannetti’s Dissolution, but it was not to be. Oh well. I get the feeling the other three novellas, winner included, are stories to watch out for.

Some of the other winners of the night include: Haunted Legends by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas for Superior Achievement in an Anthology; Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King for Superior Achievement in a Collection; and “The Falling Man” by Joe R. Lansdale for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction.

Random Thoughts:

I’m actually reading Ellen Datlow’s anthology, Supernatural Noir, right now and wouldn’t be surprised to see that wind up on next year’s short list.

I periodically hear people bemon the state of the horror genre, but I gotta say that 2010 turned out to be a pretty great year for finding some entertaining and rivoting stuff, and 2011 is shaping up to be just as good.

What I find interesting is how the self-publishing craze is offering quite a few gems as well. And you simply will not see any self-published work getting a nomination.

While I keep an eye on the short lists for several awards, I am very much behind in reading those books–especially outside the horror genre.

Anyway, congratulations to all of the Stoker Award winners, and kudos to all the authors fortunate enough to be shortlisted. Keep up the good works.



Filed under Bram Stoker Awards, Ellen Datlow, Lisa Mannetti, Peter Straub, reading list, stephen king, winners

My Reading List for the Winter

As winter fast approaches, my narrow-mindedness starts to bubble up about global warming. It usually sounds like, “What’s taking so long?” Mind you, since I’m built like a polar bear, I’m more suited for cold weather than hot. So, I keep my kvetching to a minimum about the ice and snow. The silver lining to all that cold weather is the fact that I get an excuse to curl up under a blanket at night with a book. And with a to-be-read pile that is obscene in length, I have no shortage in reading material. I thought I’d share six titles that I’m looking forward to reading while I rekindle my addiction to hot chocolate and marshmallows–Mmm … marshmallows.

World War Z by Max Brooks – This “Oral History of the Zombie War” was given to me by Celia of Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia, and I’m looking very much forward to sitting down and finally reading it. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of journal entry style fiction, I’m more than willing to make an exception for this title that seems to be one of the preeminent titles in zombie fiction. Some people are gaga over the walking dead, while I’m lukewarm. I enjoy zombie tales when they bring something new to the table, rather than imitating what George Romero has already done, and this book sounds like it fits the bill.

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare – It was about a year ago when I read the first book in Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones. I really liked it, and I’m finally making time to read the second installment in the series. The way the first book left off with a cliffhanger after a major swerve irked me, and I’m hopeful the second book doesn’t treat me the same way. The third book, City of Glass, is out on shelves now–I hope it doesn’t take me another year for me to get around to reading that one.

Spook Country by William Gibson – I don’t read enough science-fiction. So, if I’m going to then I should read some of the best. William Gibson gets enough praise, so I think he’s a great writer to start with in 2010. A story set in a near-future America, about a journalist out to find a secret agent who is nearly impossible to track down unless he wants to find you. I have another of Gibson’s books, Count Zero, sitting on my to-be-read pile, but Spook Country sounds too good to pass up.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill – This might be the one novel among the six that I’m most looking forward to reading. An aging rock star with a penchant for collecting macabre items purchases the suit of a dead man because it’s reputed to be haunted. After it arrives in a black heart-shaped box, that’s when the rock star realizes that this is one piece of memorabilia that ain’t just a conversation piece. I’ve read nothing but good things about this novel since I first heard about it. It’s also one of three Stoker Award winning novels on this reading list. I have a feeling this will become part of my permanent collection.

Duma Key by Stephen King – I’m a mark for King’s writing. Sue me. This one sounds like a potential classic among all of his works, so I will be reading it before I get around to finishing the amazing Dark Tower series. It deals with a divorced man still dealing with the aftermath of losing his right arm, his job, and his wife. After moving from Minnesota for the Florida keys, he befriends an old woman as he discovers the catharsis of painting. But his creations hold a dark power with a connection to the old woman’s past. Oh yeah, this is gonna be good.

Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry – Aside from digging the cover for this novel, I really dig the premise. Thirty years after a serial killer wreaked bloody havoc on the otherwise mild Pennsylvania town of Pine Deep, “The Spookiest Town in America” is gearing up for a huge Halloween extravaganza … but something even more evil than that one killer is gearing up for an extravaganza of its own. This is the first novel of a trilogy, and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that this will be a very rewarding series.


Filed under reading list, winter

The Mondays: Canada Reads … or Does It?

December 1st marked the announcement of the five books included in 2010’s Canada Reads event on CBC Radio’s Q, hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. For those unfamiliar, it’s an annual event on Q where five guests from varied fields chose a book that they consider indelibly Canadian and a must-read for all Canadians. They then hammer it out on the show, voting out one book each day, until there is one book left standing.

The five books and their advocates for 2010 are: Wayson Choy’s The Jade Peony, defended by Samantha Nutt; Douglas Coupland’s Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, defended by Roland Pemberton; Nicolas Dickner’s Nikolski, defended by Michel Vézina; Marina Endicott’s Good to a Fault, defended by Simi Sara; and Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees, defended by Perdita Felicien.

Of all five titles, I think the one I’m most likely to read by the time Canada Reads gets under way in late winter is Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott. As I recall, it was making the rounds last year with Canada’s literary awards, though I think it fell short of claiming any of the three major awards. Still, the premise of a woman’s struggle to go out of her way to be altruistic at her own expense is intriguing. The other titles, I am as yet wholly unfamiliar with, but that may be remedied thanks to Canada Reads.

It’s one of the more entertaining book debates on radio, and I’ve managed to listen to it live or download the podcasts for the past couple of years. However, I’ve only read a couple of the books bandied about on the airwaves. Timothy Findley’s Not Welcome on the Voyage was a candidate a couple of years ago, and so I read it and quite enjoyed it.

The thing I wonder about is the effect this event has on sales for any of the titles. I think last year’s winner, The Book of Negroes, had a resurgence in sales, but that book was already selling respectably prior to its inclusion in Canada Reads. I can’t say, personally, if I’ll be rushing out to find a copy of any of these titles beyond Endicott’s after the winner has been announced. I guess time will tell if the five advocates will be able to effectively sway me, with their back-and-forth on radio during that week, and cause me to seek out the other titles.

Are any of you, my fellow Canadians, paying attention to this year’s Canada Reads? Have you by any chance read and enjoyed one or more of the titles named? Should I be searching for one in particular right now?


Filed under canada reads, cbc, Q, reading list, the Mondays

What’s Your Fall Reading List Look Like?

Well, summer is just about gone. Only a couple of weeks left, really, and they’re the least summery of the bunch. So, it’s time to look to fall. The kids are back in school, the grounds are reaping a morning frost (for us northerners, anyway), and I can’t believe I’m seeing ads for Christmas shopping–it’s September!

Everyone, during summer, shares their reading lists. But, does anyone do that in autumn? If so, it’s met with far less fanfare. I thought I’d share mine, though.

This fall, I’m going to try and concentrate on some of the essential novels in dark literature. If you’re going to read, read the best. There are so many iconic books I have yet to read, and some I’ve been putting off in inexcusable fashion. Well, the season for turning leaves and final harvests is as good a time as any.

The Books of Blood by Clive Barker – He’s one of my favorite horror authors, thanks to reads like The Great & Secret Show and The Inhuman Condition. Yet, I’ve never read one of his most notorious works. Four volumes of some truly gruesome tales that will enthrall me to no end, I’m sure. I’m especially curious to see how good The Midnight Meat Train really is.

Psycho by Robert Bloch – I wonder if this book would be as well received had it not been for Alfred Hitchcock’s brilliant adaptation. At any rate, it’s received enough praise and stood the test of time. I need to read this to see how visceral the Bates Motel is through the written word.

October Country by Ray Bradbury – I’m hoping to sit down with this gem during the Halloween weekend. Bradbury is responsible for one of my all-time favorite novels, and a few of my favorite short stories. I can’t help but think I’m in for yet another treat when I open the pages of this short story collection.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris – It’s about time for me to get started on the Hannibal Lecter trilogy–or is it a quartette with that Hannibal Rising?–so off I go to read the first book. It’s pretty hard not to picture Anthony Hopkins when thinking of Hannibal, so I’m curious to see how that distorts my reaction to the novels.

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum – I’ve heard people call this Ketchum’s best novel, so why has it taken me this long to get around to reading it? It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for nearly a year now. My sister read this a while back and didn’t care for it at all, I guess. Something to do with the depravity and utterly depressing setting. Yikes. She’s not much of a horror fan, though, so I take her opinion with a grain of salt–we’re much more in tune when it comes to comedies, anyway.

The Shining by Stephen King – I found a copy at a used-bookstore last month. I figure I’m more likely to read this classic if it’s staring me each day, berating me for having not read it yet. I liked the television mini-series that aired in the ’90s, and loved the Kubrick film from the ’80s. I hear the mini-series was more “loyal” to the novel, but it’s hard to rank it higher than the movie. Jack Nicholson is much more fun to watch on screen than the guy from Wings.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy – I saw a teaser trailer for the movie based on this book a couple of months ago. I’m sold. So, before I ever see the film, I need to read the book. A lot of people have already and seem to like it a lot. It’s not a book some would regard as a classic novel, but I have a feeling it could grow into one. I’ll know for sure after I’ve read it.

The Ideal, Genuine Man by Don Robertson – I chose this one for the reading list because I’m a fan of Stephen King, and Stephen King is a fan of Don Robertson. His is a name I had never heard of until late last year when a shop owner recommended him to me after seeing me grab two Stephen King titles from the shelves. The story of a serial killer may not be unique territory, but I’m optimistic that this one will stand out.

Well, that’s my reading list for this fall. I suspect I’ll get even more reading done this fall with fewer and fewer television shows worth watching at night. Flash Forward looks promising, and I hope it impresses better than Defying Gravity, which has been a real disappointment. Not much else I see coming back in the fall worth tuning into besides Supernatural, Fringe and–fingers crossed–Heroes.

So, what do you have on your reading list for the fall? Anything special? Anything you’d recommend to a boor like me?


Filed under autumn, fall, reading list

Chasing Tale: John Marco, John Farris, Richard Laymon, and more

Another segment I hope to continue is a recap of my monthly excursions to my local bookstores, new and used, and always independent. I had a fair haul this month thanks to weeding out some of the paperbacks I’d been hording. After exchanging them for some more in-store credit, I’ve increased my to-be-read list even more. So, here’s a list of all the books I bought, received as gifts, and even won.

Phantom Nights by John Farris – I spied this name author’s name either at Ty Schwamberger’s blog or Brian Keene’s. Either way, it was the first time I came across one of his novels while shopping, so I scooped it up. I’ve since read it and will likely add a review sometime in June. I wasn’t overwhelmed by this novel (spoiler alert?), but I’m at least interested to read more of his work in hopes of better fare.

Bite by Richard Laymon – Ty Schwamberger held a giveaway contest for a Richard Laymon two-in-one book, which I won, so to get better acquainted with Laymon’s work I picked up this quirky tale of a young man’s encounter with one of the strangest “vampires” I’ve come across in literature. Another book I’ll probably review this month.

Nightshade: 20th Century Ghost Stories (a collection of short stories) edited by Robert Phillips – I’m a guy who enjoys a good short story, and I’ve managed to collect or at least read some good anthologies. After reading Bill Jessome’s Maritime Mysteries, I was in the mood for some spine-tingling ghost stories, and I’m willing to bet this fits the bill.

The Sea and the Supernatural by Edith Mosher – This is another collection of regional ghost stories. These kinds of books are fantastic when you want to be better acquainted with the myths and legends of a specific setting. There’s a book about some of the folklore from Quebec, but I forget the title, which I’d like to get my hands on as well. All in good time.

Starfinder by John Marco – In mid-May, I won a signed copy of this gem of “steampunk” (a term I’m still getting used to using). I barely had it home from the post office before I tore it free from it’s packing and read it in record time. I’ve since written a review for it, and the book’s received even higher praise from other blogs and critics. It’s a keeper.

The 5th Witch and The Chosen Child by Graham Masterton – I recently listened to a podcast interview with J.A. Konrath, and he cited Masterton as one of his favorite horror writers. That’s one of the immediate blessings to getting involved with the blogosphere: I’m always picking up more and more names to add to my wish list. I haven’t read a Masterton novel yet, but by the end of the summer I’ll have remedied that.

Cold Blue Midnight by Ed Gorman – I enjoy Gorman’s blog; his novel, Rituals, not so much. Never one to dismiss an author outright by a single reading experience, I spied another of his books in May and figured it was about time I read his work again. He’s got a diverse bibliography, so it’s not unreasonable to expect I’m going to love some piece of work he’s written. Rituals wasn’t bad, mind you, but it didn’t really hook me.

Ellison Wonderland by Harlan Ellison – Here’s a guy I’ve heard about for years and years, but I’ve never come across his books. He’s one of those authors who, unless you can buy books online or have access to a bigger selection of bookstores, is very hard to find on shelves. Well, I finally scoped out this collection of some of his short stories. I believe this is the first short story collection he had published, but even if it’s not it’s still Ellison. I became an instant fan when I saw the documentary, Dreams with Sharp Teeth. Watch it if you get a chance.

Books of Blood: Volumes 1, 2, & 3 by Clive Barker – Finally. A hardcover of all three volumes together. I have only seen a little paperback of the second volume in my searches, and I wanted to hold off until I could find them all together in a single book. I lucked out and grabbed it. Barker is one of my favorite authors, and I suspect I will not be disappointed at all with this find.

Psycho by Robert Bloch – I’ll see the twist coming a mile away, but I think I owe it to myself to read another classic tale of terror. If it’s good enough for Hitchcock, it’s good enough for me.

A very good haul in a single month for me. I have an even bigger pile of books ready to go to another used-book store this month, so I’ll see what I can find. Plus, there’s another library sale happening this weekend. I’ve got some coin squirreled away for that day, as I intend to be the first one in line that morning. It’s tight quarters every time, and I’m a big guy. The sooner I can get in there, find what I can, and get out, the better it is for everyone—I nearly crushed an elderly lady under my boots back in February during the last sale.

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Filed under book shopping, Chasing Tale, reading list

What’s Your Summer Reading List?

Summer is getting close and it seems to be the time of year when reading lists come out of the woodwork. I’m unsure why that is, as I don’t pay much attention to them. If I had scads of cash to buy the new releases coming out this season, which are popping up on many a list, I would be more inclined to seek out recommendations from critics, authors, and readers alike. As it stands, I am content to look at the plethora of less-than-new releases on my own bookshelf to find what titles I’ll be reading this summer.

At present, I have about a hundred books in my collection waiting to be read for the very first time—thank you, used-book stores. I’ve got westerns, thrillers, young-adult fantasy, horror, literary classics, sci-fi, non-fiction, and more. And before the summer is through, I’m sure I’ll have added even more titles to my shelf. So, I’m not starving for stories. But, which eight will I set aside as absolute must-reads for when I’m sweltering under a muggy Maritime sun?

1) The Dark Tower VI: Song for Susannah by Stephen King – I’ve pledged to myself that I will finish this incredible saga before the end of summer. There are only two books left for me to read, and the next one on deck will hopefully hold up to the cliffhanger ending King tortured readers with in Wolves of the Calla.

2) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling – It took me quite a while to bother to watch the first Harry Potter film. I was one of those movie fans who turned his nose up at it and watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy instead. It took even longer to convince myself—after admitting that I really do enjoy the movies—to at least give the first novel a chance. I did last August, really liked it, and will finally read the second book in the series.

3) Frankenstein: Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson – I found this in a shop after I’d read Mary Shelley’s classic, and decided I’d give it a go. However, it, and the second book in the trilogy, have done nothing but collect dust since I got them. I was waiting to find the third before starting into it, and now that I hear Koontz is finally releasing the third Frankenstein novel this summer, after an eternity of anticipation, it’s about time I read book number one.

4) The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein – For a non-fiction title, I’ll go with this one. I scooped it up at a library fire-sale last year. I’d seen interviews with Klein and thought the subject matter was really fascinating. I’m not heavy on reading non-fiction, so I’ve let it sit on the back burner ever since. Well, this summer I’m going to see if the book’s content can renew my subdued outrage towards the Bush Administration.

5) The Chosen Child by Graham Masterton – J.A. Konrath credits Masterton as one of his favorites. I’ve read neither a Konrath novel, nor a work by Masterton, but I do enjoy Konrath’s blog and the advice/rants he posts. And with the notoriety of Masterton, I thought it only fitting I should read one of his more heralded works this summer to see what all the hype is about. After all, as an aspiring horror author, I should read as much quality horror as I can.

6) Afraid by Jack Kilborn – J.A. Konrath’s new “nom de guerre” has a new horror novel this year. And I won a copy. I’ve read reviews and interviews concerning this novel, and I like the sounds of it. I’ve got my hopes up for it, and will likely write a review on my own blog once I have read it.

7) The Richard Laymon Collection: Volume 18 – This is a double book I won through a contest on Ty Schwamberger’s blog. I’m a sucker for a good contest and lucked out here. I recently read Laymon’s Bite and liked it, so I have my fingers crossed on the two stories included with this collection—The Glory Bus and Friday Night in Beast House.

8) Out of Sight by Elmore Leonard – I absolutely loved this movie. After realizing I’ve really enjoyed more than one movie based on Elmore Leonard’s novels, I figured I should read some of them. I’ve read a few that were not adapted into films, and I enjoyed them. So, this summer I’m going to read one based on my favorite film adaptation of his work.

Well, that’s what my summer reading list looks like. How is yours shaping up for this season?

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Filed under reading list, summer