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2022 last quarter book review catchups

Holy shit it's the end of 2022, and I haven't posted my thoughts on the past few books I've read. So here is a quick sprint through my final reads of the year.


Below by Laurel Hightower

A really tight and creepy creature feature in book form with some genuine surprises. I could see a great 90-minute movie being made from this book. Hightower has a knack for blending chilling scenarios and damaged characters seeking some sort of redemption. I can’t wait to read some longer works from her.


 

Lessons In Demoralization by Nikki R Leigh

This debut collection has some really strong stories filled with imagination and a strong voice, but there were also a number of stories that didn’t work for me. I’m interested to see what the author does with a longer work. A promising debut.

 

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

I read half of this book 30+ years ago and remember being drawn into this fantastical world and the touching relationship between a boy and a werewolf.

Finally re-reading / finishing it now, I was still drawn in by the characters, the imagination and the storytelling but the journey was far better than the destination. The Talisman itself and the outcome feels undernourished and rather perfunctory in a fantasy / chosen one sort of way. And the book loses a lot of heart when it replaces Wolf with the whiny Richard. I'm still glad I finally got around to it and excited for Black House.


 

Your Mind Is A Terrible Thing by Hailey Piper

This is the second novella I have read from Piper (after The Worm and His Kings), and once again, I was blown away by the author's formidable imagination (here working in a hard sci-fi / cosmic realm) and her empathy for her characters. But like the previous book, the narrative feels a little short-changed at the beginning as if the first act has been cut out entirely. While this does create a heightened pace, the characters and inciting incidents are dropped rather suddenly. I still enjoyed this tale and need to read some of Piper's longer works.


 

Camp Silver Oaks by Leeroy Cross James

Leeroy Cross James' debut is a summer camp horror written by someone who has clearly lived and breathed the '80s slashers from Friday the 13th to The Burning and everything in between. His characters are well fleshed out, and the dialogue pops off the page. A pleasingly diverse and queer-focused cast navigates a correctional summer camp with a sordid history and something that may be lurking in the lake. The only strike against it is that it ends just when things are heating up. Taken as a first act in a larger story, it is ace but left me wanting more in a narrative sense. Here's hoping Vol. 2 isn't far away.


 

Maggots Screaming! by Max Booth III

This bizarro undead romp was a hell of a lot of fun but possibly overlong by a hundred pages or so. Little happens for the first 2/3, and as fun as it is hanging out with these bickering, decaying idiots, it does get a little repetitive. The monster mash climax is truly great though, but I wish it had kicked in a little sooner. But Booth is a fantastic writer with a twisted view of the world and a prodigious imagination. Heartfelt and horrible in the best way.


 

Coffin Dodger by Damien Casey

Another bizarro comic horror romp, this time courtesy of Damien Casey. This is the first book of Casey's I've read, and like Leeroy Cross James, I was taken with his obvious affinity for '80s horror movies and how he recontextualises his influences into something fresh and new. The cast of a series of supernatural slasher films reconvene for a convention and are drawn into an increasingly odd fight for survival. After a nicely staged buildup that jumps between time periods to set the scene and introduce the characters, the book almost lost me with the abrupt switch to surreal and almost nonsensical horror shenanigans. But Casey's wit and imagination and, again, those well fleshed-out characters, kept me going on this wild ride. ,

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