October 2023 book blog

I was reading the print version of Interzone 295 at the beginning of the month, but I can’t find it anywhere – I must have decluttered it. I do remember a stand out story titled ‘Hollywood Animals’ that deserves to be in a year’s best anthology. Definitely worth buying the issue for.
From the last print issue of Interzone for the forseeable future to a rare foray into non-fiction for me, with ‘Entangled Life – How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures’. This is a fascinating tour of the biology, ecology and cultural history of fungus. We start off by looking at truffles, head off to visit lichens, take a nice long look at mycelia, then finish off with yeast. I learned a lot, and was hugely entertained in the process. I’ll never look at a mushroom the same way again.
After that, I was in the mood for an old friend, so I went to my Stephen King shelf and chose ‘The Dark Half’. A re-read, of course. Probably the third or fourth for this one, it’s never been one of my favourite King stories, but I think I appreciate Thad Beaumont as a flawed protagonist much more this time round. His flirtation with his dark half seems much more understandable now, and adds a bit of spice to the story. So, for those who haven’t read it yet, this is a story of a writer (not Stephen King) who outs his alter ego pen name (not Richard Bachman) who has been the public name of the gorier stories that weren’t quite what he wanted to be associated with. Said pen name turns out to be a bit annoyed at being killed off, even though he was never alive in the first place, and embarks on a journey of bloody havoc.
So, a magazine, a non fiction hardback, and a revisited King – by now I’m in the mood for some new horror, and luckily I had Rachel Halsall’s gorgeous anthology ‘The Grave Bell’ on my tbr pile. This is a very readable selection of gothic goodies from my anthology sister (Hauntings). It is a very pretty book, beautifully and carefully produced, and the stories are a choice and delicious collection of very, very gothic tales. There’s a familiarity to them, as if they’re stories that you always knew, but just needed reminding of. Take one a day and digest carefully.
I moved from Halsall’s full on gothic tales to a closely related anthology of folk horror. ‘The Fiends in the Furrows’ is another beautifully presented paperback, this time a themed anthology rather than a single author one, but with Hallowe’en coming up, what better time to get stuck in? This had been on my tbr pile for months now, and was unusually ‘nicked’ from my pile by my husband, who also enjoyed it.
I was out fundraising, and the customers were few and far between, so I got the chance to read the whole book in one go. I have to say that there were a few confusing moments in some of the stories, where some sentences seemed to be a little jumbled, but on the whole these stories were really satisfyingly creepy. A couple were already familiar to me from Datlow’s ‘Best New Horror’ anthologies, but that made them more fun to read the second time around, if anything.
I started the second book in the series on Hallowe’en, but will review it in November.

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