Top Ten Of The Year 2018

Here is my Top Ten Books Of 2018. These aren’t books that were released in 2018, they’re the ones that I read. Some of them I have reviewed and will link in those reviews with the respective books.

Going off my Goodreads challenge I read forty-nine books in 2018. I had a few moments during the year where I was finding it hard to read so hopefully this year I’ll hit and pass the fifty books I’ve set in my challenge for 2019.

Lets get stuck in to the list:

Number Ten: Off Season By Jack Ketchum

I brought this one on audio after Jack Ketchum sadly passed away. I’d heard about him and an interview with him on The Horror Show With Brian Keene podcast. It was a choice between Off Season and The Girl Next Door. I kinda tossed a coin and went with Off Season which I’m really happy with, although The Girl Next Door will be checked out this year. Off Season is a fantastic tale that isn’t scared to give gut punches and as a reader you take it because Ketchum writes the story beautifully and you just keep turning the pages, or listening in my case.

Number Nine: The Malignant Dead by CL Raven

The Malignant Dead brought tears to my eyes but it also made me laugh. That’s something CL Raven do, they flip that coin really well and The Malignant Dead does that very well. They also transport you into the city of Edinburgh beautifully, you feel you are there and can easily picture these characters in these locations. It is a heartbreaking story but thats because CL Raven bring these characters to life so thoroughly.

Number Eight: Forest Underground by Lydian Faust

This was one I went into without no real knowledge of it. I’d seen people speaking nothing but good things about it and I saw that Pippa Bailey was the narrator of the audio book. I’d met Pippa at the launch of the Sparks anthology that we both have stories in and I wanted to support her as well. The story itself is two that are woven together very well and gives a great outcome at the end of the book, but it still left me wanting more. The characters keep you guessing and there were a few moments where I wasn’t sure what one characters reality was.

Number Seven: White by Tim Lebbon

White was a fun and fast story to read. Tim Lebbon gives a very tight and well told story of an apocalypse that has left people stranded and how these people deal with their plight. The bleakness of this one struck me. If something is bleak it doesn’t tend to get my attention but Tim Lebbon puts in just enough hope to keep that bleakness at bay.

Number Six: The Log House by Baylea Hart

I first heard of The Log House while at Bristol Horror Con in 2017. Baylea Hart was on a panel and gave a brief description of her book and it sounded good. I wasn’t disappointed. This is a post-apocalyptic story which has a protagonist who I didn’t like as a person, but I was quickly hooked on the journey she was taking and the world she was part of and what happened in the characters past. Baylea Hart builds a world that is very seductive and easy to fall into.

The author who I read the most in 2018 was Brian Keene: City of the Dead, The Complex, Ghoul and Dark Hollow.

Number Five: Billy and the Cloneasaurus by Stephen Kozeniewski

Where do I start with Billy and the Cloneasaurus? In my review I said it was 1984 meets The Lego Movie, and I still stand by that. It’s got this optimism to it that masks the real problems. This book had me hooked from the first sentence. It’s got a great energy to it, and has left a lasting impression on me. Even if the ending was a kick in the gut!

Number Four: Dark Hollow by Brian Keene

There are so many reasons why Dark Hollow spoke to me. From how the story is structured and paced to the multiple conflicts of the protagonist. Brian Keene really does build this character beautifully and its also very raw in many places. I’d recommend reading this one and then listening to an episode of The Horror Show with Brian Keene were he talks about this story. The big bad of this story is something I’d not come across before and found it fascinating. This is another story where the ending was a blow to the gut. So far it’s my favourite Brian Keene story.

Number Three: What Good Girls Do by Jonathan Butcher

Okay, where do I start with What Good Girls Do? Like Forest Underground I went into this one blind. Part of it was I saw it was getting a lot of praise, another part is again I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the narrator, Tara Court, and wanted to show some support to her. Another part was it’s a The Sinister Horror Company book, like Forest Underground and I was impressed with that one. So I went in blind. This is the most brutal book, movie, tv show, that I’ve even consumed. It doesn’t hold back and deals with a topic that most people blatantly ignore. Those who do know about it don’t want to talk about it. Jonathan Butcher doesn’t baulk with this story, and in lesser hands I think it would have been a disaster. But Butcher handles such a delicate topic with a skill that I think few have. This is a fantastic book, but not one I’d say I enjoyed but. It is one I’m pleased I listened to because it is so beautifully written and deals with something I think we as a society need to be more aware of.

Number Two: The Human Santapede by Adam Millard

A big change of pace from What Good Girls Do, we have The Human Santapede by Adam Millard. This is a book I find myself reluctant to talk too much about because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. All I’ll say is Santa has a problem and sends an elf off to figure out the mystery. Adam Millard goes full speed with this one. It’s like he wanted to write the most out there Christmas book ever and had fun while doing it. I think I laughed at something on every page! This was definitely the funniest book I read in 2018, probably ever. If you want a giggle, buy this book!

Number One: The Silence By Tim Lebbon

Here we are, number one in my top ten of 2018. I brought The Silence on audiobook when I learnt there was going to be a movie of it and I wanted to check the book out first. This book rattled me. There was three distinct moments where I had to hit pause and stop listening to it for that day. I think part of the reason it struck me so hard was because it is set in the UK and peoples reaction to the threat in the story felt very real. It is strikingly well written with very real characters whose pain you feel as they make their journey. It’s written with a skill that I admire. Lebbon tears the lives of these characters apart with such a deft hand that it’s still brutal but the build up to the hardness of the story is as smooth as silk and this brings you into these moments without missing a beat. Its become an instant favourite of mine, I even brought a paperback which I’ve gotten signed.

There it is, my top ten books of 2018. 2018 was the first year I really started reading horror and it was quite a year. Lets see how 2019 compares.

Just to wrap up the post I wanted to give a few honourable mentions. If this had been the best fifteen books of 2018 these would have made the list.

In no particular order:

Bleeding Empire- CL Raven

Aliens:Bug Hunt- Edited by Jonathan Maberry

Fur- Matthew Cash

IT- Stephen King

Never Forget- Lisa Cutts

 

 

 

 

July 2nd 2018

I’ve written 1555 on two projects today, 1208 on WC2 and the rest was a little on PE3 this evening. The words this morning flew from my fingers impressively well despite it being early.

The words tonight were more of a couple of snippets to get scenes started. I’ll get more into them later on but even having just a day away from that story I don’t feel as stuck in the mud as I was.

Another short post tonight as I’m exhausted and planning an early night, after a couple of chapters though. Two of the books I’m reading at the moment are Soul Asylum by CL Raven and White by Tim Lebbon.

 

The Silence by Tim Lebbon

I wrote a post about The Silence as I was about halfway through it. I talked about how it was getting under my skin, and how uncomfortable it was making me feel. It made me realise that’s what horror should do. It should make you feel uncomfortable, to the point where you don’t want to carry on with the story. Don’t get me wrong, the gross out stuff is fun but this touched a nerve I’ve only just started accepting that I have.

I’m glad I stuck The Silence out. It is a book that struck at so many of the fears that I have. There are characters that remind me of people I love. I could get on board with some of their motivations as well and decisions as well

I said in the post I wrote the other day that it felt like this book was written for me, simply because so much of it struck me. I understood the fear the characters had, I felt it as they feared for their lives. I felt the conflict when hard decisions had to be made. I felt their grief, and confusion.

Each time the protagonists were pushed by the events around them it felt like a punch in the gut each time. A few years ago I would have stopped listening (I have the audiobook), but the characters kept me going. I needed to know what happened to them in the end. I was cheering for them, hoping they’d get to safety.

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The movie The Ritual (based on Adam Nevill’s book) taught me a lot about horror last year. It gave me a whole new perception of what horror meant. The Silence did ten times more than that. It got under my skin and into my bones.

There is a movie adaptation coming this year, if it’s half as good as this then it’ll be a great movie.

Horror That’s Getting Under My Skin

Up until recently I’ve rarely seen a horror movie that got under my skin. I say movie because I’ve only started delving into horror novels recently.

Aside from being grossed out by the odd scene here and there I’ve never really felt uncomfortable in a way that I now know horror should do. The first I noticed this was last year when I saw The Ritual. This is a film that was based on the novel by Adam Nevill. When I watched that film in the cinema I remember feeling a long way out of my comfort zone, but I still got through it and really enjoyed the movie (I’m looking forward to reading the book itself soon as well).

This week I’ve started listening to The Silence by Tim Lebbon. Tim Lebbon is a name I keep seeing pop up, and after meeting him at Bristol horror con last year and hearing him on a couple of podcasts (Three Guys With Beards & The Horror Show With Brian Keene) I knew I needed to check out some of his stuff. At the con I brought off him his book After The War, but knowing what a slow reader I was and that The Silence will be released as a movie sometime this year I believe, I wanted to read that one. So I got it on audiobook and although I’m only half way through it, it’s got under my skin. I thought The Ritual had an unsettling affect on me, but The Silence has gone deep. I almost stopped listening to it a quarter of the way through. It is so carefully crafted to trigger the readers own fears, even to the point where it feels like Lebbon’s written it just for me. Some of the elements here feel personal in a way I’ve not felt from a book before. That’s not to say books haven’t had an effect on me, because they have. Hell, a few have had me chocking up while others I’ve been punching them air in triumph and celebration.

As I was listening today I was thinking I’ll be finished it by the time I finished work at 3pm tomorrow, but I had to leave a day between the quarter way point of it and where I got to today, so I might resume it Monday and let the events in it sink in a little.

This book is really getting under my skin, and although it’s making me feel this way that’s what I feel is good horror. For horror to really work it has to make you feel how this is feeling. If I had to give this a rating right now it’ll easily be five stars.

I don’t have any ideas how this book will end, but I’ll be going in headfirst to find out.

Looking Back At 2017

This last year has been a tough one. As a family we’ve had a lot of crap thrown our way this year. We’ve lost loved ones, and had issues of health pepper us amongst other difficulties life has a habit of throwing in our paths.

It has been a hard year, it’s not been harder than anyone else’s year. It’s been what it is. We’ve taken each day as it comes and in my opinion that is the best way to take life at times.

These things I won’t go into detail on. They are things that affect my family as well as myself and I don’t think it’s my place to talk in-depth about these events on my public blog.

One moment this year that hit me harder than I thought something of its nature could was the death of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. Although now I am really out of date with most music, I was a huge fan of Linkin Park when they first hit the scene. Their first two albums are two of my favourite albums ever, I didn’t even listen to that type of music until they came along. It’s music that speaks to me, but I didn’t realise how important it is to me until Bennington’s death this year. I mourned his death in a way that I haven’t for other public figures. I read a lot of Tom Clancy when I was in my late teens. I was a huge fan of Alan Rickman as well, and although it saddened me when they died it wasn’t like when Chester Bennington died. I immediately binge listened to the Linkin Park albums I had, and blitz their YouTube channel. It was only a month or so ago that I’ve stopped getting a lump in my throat when I hear his vocals. I realised a few weeks after his death that I felt like this because it was the first death of one of my icons. Someone who not only did I look up to and admire, but someone who spoke to me. I didn’t know the death of someone I didn’t know would hit me as hard as Chester Bennington’s death did.

I’ve had highs and lows with writing this year. A few projects I put a lot of time into have crashed and burned pretty badly. In particular I was quite demoralised by a zombie story I thought was going to be something good but it just didn’t pan out how I was expecting it too and it kind of gave me a bit of a confidence hit. I had done a lot of outlining for it, characters had been thought out and developed, but it just didn’t go right. I tried to rewrite it for NaNo, and it’s not bad. I’m happier with it now than I was initially but it’s not how I was expecting it to go. I think I can roll with how it’s changing, I just need to do some re-thinking on it.

Something I have learned is that it doesn’t matter whether I write with a pen and paper or straight into a word processor the words are the same. I wrote a first draft of a story I’ve got a lot of hope for by hand but was writing something else at the same time digitally and realised quickly that it didn’t matter how I wrote something, if I was in the mood to write it all came out the same. With this story in particular I’ve got to change a lot for the second draft. Like the zombie story I mentioned it came out different to how I envisioned it. The biggest problem is I’ve written it from only one point of view, and to tell the story I want to I need to do it from multiple POVs. I don’t think it’ll be difficult, but I want to let it sit for another month or two before I return to it. I’d like to get some more planning done for it as well.

The work with Owen is a little up in the air at the moment but I’m expecting to find out what’s happening early in the new year.

The highest points of this year for me have been getting two stories published. Both through charity anthologies from Burdizzo Books. The first one, The Final Charge was in Sparks: An Electric Anthology in October. The second was my take on The Three French Hens in this years 12 Days of Christmas 2017 Anthology. I am incredibly proud of both of these stories. They were a lot of fun to write and knowing the proceeds from both books go to good causes makes it feel even better than it does. The folks at Burdizzo Books are fantastic people as well, along with the group of writers they have around them.

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It’s great to finally have my writing in print and has really fired me up and shown me that it’s not impossible. There is nothing stopping me except myself.

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The last item I really want to talk about are a few of the people I’ve met this year. I attended a book launch for Sparks up in Walsall and met the head honcho and editor Matthew Cash as well as a couple of the other contributors. We later had another launch in my home town as Burdizzo Books’ other editor, Em Dehaney, is from Gravesend as well. Both launch parties were fantastic, I did a reading at both, although with the Gravesend one I was hit with a severe cold a few hours before and was incredibly unwell. I thought I was going to pass out during my reading, but it was still an amazing experience.

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Myself with Pippa Bailey, Matthew Cash, and David Court.

I also went to a few cons this year. Unfortunately DemonCon down in Maidstone has now come to an end. I was pleased to be at the last one in February, but will miss it. It’s the con were I first me Dan Abnett and his wife Nik, who are lovely people. I went to Birmingham Horror Con around that time as well, that was incredibly fun and I got to see my friends Cat and Lynx Raven again as well as Dave from From The Shadows. I also went to EGX with my buddy Stefan from Stefan’s Daily Gaming. Although I’m not a huge gamer this was a lot of fun as well. It was good seeing some great games and a lot of people who were in their element. Bristol Horror Con was my favourite of the year though. Not only did I see CL Raven and Dave (From The Shadows) again but I also went to a couple of panels. I spent a little time talking to Adam Millard and his wife in the VIP room. Seriously lovely people who were very encouraging of my own work and just fun to talk to. I also got the chance to speak to Tim Lebbon as well. Again, another awesome and encouraging person. I just hope the more of these I go to the more at ease I get speaking to all these fantastic people.

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With Lynx and Cat Raven at Bristol Horror Con

The horror community is really welcoming and seems to have a lot of heart to it. It’s definitely a place I feel at home it.

One night in particular that was both fun and tiring was an all-night ghosts hunt I went on with Boleyn Paranormal down at a True Crime Museum in Hastings. It was a lot of fun, very interesting and I met more awesome people, but I’m not doing another all-nighter. I was shattered for a few days after that. Cat and Lynx Raven were there as well, and they popped back to my home to meet my animal army before they returned to Cardiff. En Route to my house we stopped at the site of the Battle of Hastings. Although not far from my home I can’t recall ever going there and it was quite a surreal experience that I’m glad we took the time to do.

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Lynx and Cat saying hello to two of our hens

A massive highlight of the year for me was meeting Scott Sigler and AB Kovacs. I’ve been a fan of Sigler’s work for a decade now and when he announced he was coming to Europe, including the UK, it would have taken the zombie apocalypse to have stopped me from getting there. It was a great evening in a pub in London just hanging out with Scott, A and other fans of Sigler’s work (AKA the Junkies). It was good chatting to them both and seeing the love they have for the fans of the work. Both Scott and A have a lot of charisma and energy and clearly love what they do, and it was one of the highlights of the year.

2017 has had a lot of downs, but its had a lot of ups as well. That’s what I’m focusing on, I’m not ignoring the low points, just choosing to look at the positives. Most importantly I appreciate those important people I have in my life. My friends and family mean the world to me and I’m very grateful having them all.

Roll on 2018…

 

Sunday 15th October 2017

I haven’t got my word counts close to hand so I can’t say what my numbers for the week are, but they aren’t great.

The last week has felt like it’s flown by; I can’t really recall much about Monday and Tuesday, but on Wednesday I was at a Write-In and got some good words written. Thursday I was at the cinema to see Blade Runner 2049. Friday evening most of it was getting bits and pieces done for going to Bristol Horror Con yesterday.

I’ve got a lot I’d like to get done today. Outside of writing I’ve got a chicken house to clean out, and I’d really like to swap my bookcase around with my movie library (the bookcase is closer to my TV stand), but I don’t think that’ll happen today. I do want to get a good 1000, 1500 words done today, and get stuck into the outlining for NaNo. I’ve changed my mind (again) and will be doing a second draft of my zombie piece I wrote a few months ago. I think that’s the right piece to be doing, and there will be less prep for it than one of the other options. That’ll give me more time to focus on the WIP and getting that done before NaNo starts.

I enjoyed Blade Runner 2049, but it was too long. If there was half an hour shaved off it then I think I would have enjoyed it more. I’ve never been a huge fan of the original Blade Runner but do have some moments in the film that I find really memorable. I’m not sure there’s much in Blade Runner 2049 that I’ll find iconic. The performances were good and it looked amazing. The sound didn’t work for me. I’ve also seen the storyline before, anyone who saw the Battlestar Galactica reboot has seen it. I will give a shoutout to Dave Bautista, he was really good and showed just how talented an actor he is. Mackenzie Cook was also very good. It was hard to take my eyes off of her when she was on screen. Ana de Armas as Joi was incredibly good as well. She put a lot of heart into the film.

Finally, just a quick few words on Bristol Horror Con. It was a lot of fun. Last year was good, but this one was better. It’s been expanded into a bigger hotel, and I caught a couple of panels and the readings which was so much fun. I caught up with my friends CL Raven, such awesome people. I had a chat with their friend David Davies (From The Shadows Ltd), again. He’s a great dude. I also had a chat with Adam Millard again, again another great fella. His wife is really nice as well. I got a couple of minutes chatting to Tim Lebbon as well, another really cool and nice dude. That’s something that has struck about the couple of Horror cons I’ve been to, everyone is just so nice. When I was younger, and more stupid, I’d be a little wary of people who did live their lives different from mine. But in listening to more metal and ‘alternate’ music and going to cons, and seeing people from the Horror community online I’ve realised that this community is not only amazing, but incredibly welcoming as well. I’ve been to three horror cons now, and each one I’ve felt at home at. Everyone is smiling and having a great time. Cat and Lynx Raven have said a couple of times how great this community is, and they’ve been in it a lot longer than I have. Come next year, I want to get to a few more horror cons next year.

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I’ve managed to get this edit pass on The Space Watch done and dusted. I’m now waiting on Owen as he wanted to re-write the ending. I’ve also got a list of details we need to clarify and we’re going to have to do a huge continuity check as well.

I didn’t do any outlining today though, now I’ve cleared this up on The Space Watch I can get stuck into that.

I did receive my copy of Dark Cities from Titan Books and edited by Christopher Golden. I primarily brought this because it’s got a Scott Sigler story in it, but when I saw the rest of the line-up it’ll be a no-brainier to buy whether Sigler is in it or not. Speaking or which, here’s the line-up: Nathan Ballingrud, Amber Benson, Kealan Patrick Burke, Ramsey Campbell, M.R. Carey, Nick Cutter, Tananarive Due, Christopher Golden, Simon R. Green, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Kasey Lansdale & Joe R. Lansdale, Tim Lebbon, Jonathan Maberry, Helen Marshall, Seanan McGuire, Cherie Priest, Scott Sigler, Scott Smith, and Paul Tremblay. Now that’s a damn impressive line-up and I’m looking forward to diving into it. Although I’m not sure where on my ‘to-read’ stick it’s going to slip into!

Right, I’m off to read for a while, but I’m back at it tomorrow, I want to get this outline done.