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Born and raised in Tempe, Jason is an avid reader and an aspiring writer who dreams of one day getting his own stories published. Whether he's reading a story or writing one, he enjoys fiction of many varieties, but his favorite genres are fantasy, mystery, and especially horror — whether it's a supernatural bogeyman or an all-too-real serial killer, he loves the childlike sense of fear and suspense that a good horror novel can evoke in him. He's not picky, though; he'll read just about anything as long as it's written well. When he's not busy with words and books, he might be found playing video games, browsing the internet, or diving into a swimming pool. He also spends as much time as possible listening to music, and is always on the lookout for his next favorite band.
This might very well be my favorite short story collection of all time. More than that, Aerialists is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and emotionally resonant books I have ever read, a poignant collection full of stories that are at once heartbreaking and life-affirming, and always profoundly human. Debut author Mark Mayer is a genuine revelation. He writes with dizzying insight and uncanny grace, his prose sparkling brilliantly in the light. Like a great ringmaster, he captivates the attention of his audience and shows us the rich weirdness hiding beneath the surface of everyday life. This is a truly remarkable debut, one that subverts expectations, pushes boundaries, and dares to be different, all while whispering of more wonders to come. So come one, come all, and join me in the big top. And be sure to keep your eyes open: you won’t want to miss a thing.
Just when I start to think maybe I’ve read so much horror that scary stories can no longer get under my skin, along comes Zoje Stage to take off the kid gloves–or put them on, as it were. Hannah, the seven-year-old psychopath at the heart of this chilling thriller, is one of the most unsettling characters I have ever come across. As Stage examines the relationship between this troubled child and the mother who is increasingly frightened of her own daughter, the debut author pulls no punches and holds nothing sacred. Every innocence is defiled. Every pleasant family evening throbs with unbearable tension. And every sweet smile hides a mouthful of sharp and hungry teeth. Intense, emotional, and deeply, viscerally disturbing, Baby Teeth hit me like a tidal wave and left me gasping for air. I intend to read it again as soon as I can work up the nerve.
A Lucky Man marks the arrival of a brilliant new voice in contemporary fiction. In quiet, elegant prose, debut author Jamel Brinkley renders characters who are universally relatable yet entirely unique, with all the complexities and subtleties of living breathing people. As I read their stories, I was swept up into the lives of these characters, so much so that at times I forgot I was reading fiction and felt instead that I was reading letters from old friends. This is an important and powerful collection. Its slice-of-life stories glow with soft light, and by their gentle radiance, we can see rich details and vibrant beauty in the dark corners of human experience. Every moment held me in silent awe.
I find myself at a bit of a loss for words here. On the one hand, I absolutely adore this book, and I want to recommend it as strongly as possible. On the other hand, it is so morbidly twisted and absurd that you might be better off staying as far away from it as possible. Then again, maybe you’re like me and you enjoy twisted and absurd things – if so, then look no further, because you have a real gem in front of you! This oddball collection reads like a series of Edward Gorey comic strips, every page a funereal punchline, each death bizarre and hilarious. I have lost count of how many times I’ve read this book at this point, and I don’t see myself stopping any time soon.
Haunting, poignant, and evocative, Her Body and Other Parties is a treasure chest full of dark marvels, a Pandora’s Box you’ll want to open again and again. Inside, you’ll find stories as surreal as nightmares and as intimately personal as diary entries, disturbing you with their horrors even as they seduce you with their passion. If you let them, they will show you what it means to be human. Carmen Maria Machado is a genuine wonder, a radically original storyteller with staggering insight and astonishing emotive power. Her prose seems to have a heartbeat of its own, its veins pulsing with vital energy, its nerves throbbing with intense feeling. Even the most jaded readers will be moved by the music of Machado’s exquisite voice. Whether she is singing sweet melodies or screaming her throat raw, the sound never wavers in its resonant beauty. I never wanted to stop listening.
When I first picked this book up, I’ll admit I was skeptical. If you’re anything like me, you might not think a book about ballet sounds particularly interesting. But take my word for it: this wonderful little hybrid is utterly mesmerizing. John Haskell’s hypnotic voice and stream-of-consciousness style had me entranced from the first page, and every word I read brought me deeper under his spell, sweeping me away into the breathtaking and heartbreaking worlds of the romantic era ballets. Haskell retells the stories of these classic dances with grace and reverence, and through them, he weaves a narrative of his own, a story as compelling as it is devastating. Artful, vivid, and ethereal, The Complete Ballet is a transcendent experience. Like the best kind of dreams, it transported me – and I didn’t want to wake up.
When the grownup members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club return to their childhood haunt to reopen their last case, all hell breaks loose – and this time, it isn’t just a man in a mask. A loving tribute to both Scooby Doo and H.P. Lovecraft, Meddling Kids performs an impressive juggling act, balancing zany cartoon antics, video game carnage, and seething, turn-on-the-lights-and-check-under-the-bed terror. Edgar Cantero conducts this glorious cacophony with a playful pen and a mischievous grin, uncovering wit and charm even in the darkest corners. His voice was a delight to read, clever and chaotic and wonderfully weird. I couldn’t get enough. Even when I checked the clock and discovered that it was suddenly 2:00 in the morning, I had trouble putting the book down. So hop in the Mystery Machine and be sure to buckle up – you’re in for a wild ride.
I am in awe of J. Robert Lennon. Bold, piercing, and powerful, he writes like lightning in the night, illuminating even as he obliterates. With an explosive flash, he burns away conventions and facades, and in the glow we can see a picture of human nature that is at once startling and undeniably real. The depth and precision of his insight is staggering. Right from the beginning, he took my breath away, never really letting me have it back until I turned the last page. As a thriller, Broken River is intense, compelling, and disturbingly ominous. But it is also more than a thriller. Strange and experimental, this is a brilliant work of fiction, one that casually ignores genre and defies expectations. I could write entire essays about how much I enjoyed this book, but I don’t want to take up that much of your attention. Trust me: your time would be much better spent picking up a copy and reading it for yourself.
Every once in a while I meet a character who I just want to hold on to and never part ways with. Vivian Lawlor is such a character, and I am deeply grateful to debut novelist Caitriona Lally for introducing me to her. Vivian leaps off the page like a child playing ballerina, her voice quirky and whimsical. It was a bittersweet delight to look at the world through her eyes, seeing everything sideways and upside down, finding personality and charm in every detail. Fanciful, endearing, and, okay, maybe a little bit crazy, Vivian lets us follow along behind her as she daydreams her way around Dublin, looking for magic and perhaps a place to belong. From the first sentence, I was captivated by the oddball logic of her wandering words. I don’t think I ever got through more than a page without having to stop for a moment just to smile. With lyrical prose, clever wordplay, and surprising emotional depth, Eggshells is a touching novel and an absolute joy to read.
As I try to figure out how to describe this book, I find that all of my words feel very small. What I want to do more than anything is just stand up and applaud Antoine Leiris for having the courage and strength to find such wonderful and devastating beauty within the crippling darkness of his own loss. After the death of his wife in the Paris terrorist attacks, Leiris offers us a profoundly intimate look at the shattering heartache of his grief and the quiet marvel of the life he keeps living. I think we all have lessons to learn from his example – his caring tenderness, his love in the face of hatred, his hope in the depths of despair. The world sorely needs more of this kind of light. With artful writing and searing honesty, this is a deeply moving and overwhelmingly emotional memoir, one that warmed my heart and broke it all at once.
It’s not often that I come across a horror novel that feels truly unique. When I do discover one, it feels like I’ve happened upon a rare and valuable gemstone, and I can only sit back and marvel. This book is such a jewel. It trapped me like a bad dream, luring me to sleep and then drawing me helplessly into its surreal little world to assault my sanity. Reading it, I was haunted by the subtle yet pervading sense that everything was just a little bit wrong, like a sweet nightmare voice whispering that nothing would be okay. No matter how hard I tried to figure it out, it confounded my expectations every step of the way, until the ending twisted my mind in ways that minds probably aren’t built to be twisted. The one thing I understand clearly is that Iain Reid is demented and brilliant, and I can’t wait to read more from him in the future.
When I finished reading this book, I legitimately had trouble getting to sleep, which is just about the highest praise I can offer a horror novel. But it wasn’t fear alone that kept me awake – it was a maelstrom of emotions, storming in my mind. I was frightened, yes, but I was also delighted, disturbed, depressed, amused, and absolutely giddy with excitement, all at the same time. My Best Friend’s Exorcism packs a hell of a punch. Grady Hendrix takes classic horror themes and adds his own flair to them, twisting them around until they defy all expectations and become something entirely new. The result is bold, quirky, sometimes cheesy, and always deliciously creepy. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me hide under the covers, peeking out only to double check that I had locked my bedroom door. You’ve never seen an exorcism like this one before, and you don’t want to miss it.
My parents are probably lucky this book didn’t exist when I was a child – if it had, I would have been constantly pestering them to read it to me ‘just one more time.’ Even as an adult, I felt the need to start over and read it again immediately after finishing it. Harold the fox is a wonderful character, an adorable detective with the courage to follow his own path and treat others with compassion. I couldn’t help but smile at his adventure. Sweet, clever, silly, charming, and hilarious, Outfoxed is a joy for all ages.
All is not well at Manderley Resort. The day before the grand opening, a killer is loose, and despite the façade of high-tech security, no one is safe and nothing is private. Reading this book, I couldn’t look away. I could only watch helplessly, seeing every grisly detail through the eyes of a mysterious narrator whose presence was at times even more unsettling than that of the killer. Debut author Gina Wohlsdorf writes with a keen eye for detail and a cold, almost clinical detachment that feels disturbingly inhuman. Yet there are undertones which hint at urgency, passion, and even rage. The overall effect is utterly chilling. Paying tribute to classic horror stories like The Shining and Psycho, Security is a uniquely compelling thriller, uncomfortably intimate and shockingly brutal. There’s a new voice in horror, and I, for one, will be listening carefully.
Brace yourself: you’re in for a fun ride. With wildly inventive ideas, compelling suspense, and surprising emotional depth, The Insides captured my attention and imagination right from the start and never let go. Jeremy P. Bushnell is a playful and adventurous writer, coloring outside the lines of genre, breaking the real world open and building his own between the cracks. In a feat of literary street magic, he blends the ordinary and the surreal together into a harmony that feels perfectly right and true even as it disorients the senses. He makes his characters and their stories feel important and authentic without ever taking them too seriously. The result is a quirky paradox of a novel: fierce yet tender, lighthearted yet severe, weird yet natural. This is a book I won’t soon forget.
I did not merely read this book – I inhaled it. Like oxygen, it sustained me, each breath refreshing and sweet. Jesse Ball’s writing is quirky, intensely personal, and blazingly intelligent. Time and time again I was struck by the subtle brilliance of his prose, and I frequently found myself having to stop and reread an entire page just because I enjoyed it so much. Every sentence sparkles with the wit and energy of Lucia Stanton, a narrator who feels less like a character and more like a living breathing person, very real and very human. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t peel my attention away from her. Incandescent and incendiary, How to Set a Fire and Why is a truly outstanding novel, a work of rare insight and captivating charm. You won’t want it to end.
Once you let this sweet little fox into your life, you will never want to let him go. He is one of the most endearing characters I have come across in a long time, and the author truly brings him to life, treating him like a genuine friend. Sara Pennypacker is a wonderful storyteller, a voice of wisdom, empathy, and hope. With Pax, she broke my heart and then mended it, stitching the torn pieces back together with tender care and soothing grace. Though the journey was harrowing, when I reached the end of it, I felt a renewed sense of peace with the world around me. Sincere, poignant, and stunningly beautiful, this is the kind of book that made me fall in love with reading in the first place. I can’t wait to share it with you.
It seems almost redundant to be writing a recommendation for a Gillian Flynn book; after all, we all know her by now, and we all love her. Still, The Grownup is definitely worth talking about. Part ghost story and part psychological thriller, this may be the author’s most insidious work to date – and for Gillian Flynn, that is saying something. I have been a fan of hers since Sharp Objects was first published, yet I am continually amazed by her ability to surprise and disturb me. This time around, it only takes her 62 pages to chill me to the bone. With paralyzing suspense, razor sharp writing, and some of her most twisted characters yet, The Grownup solidifies her place as one of my favorite living authors.
It’s been quite a while since a book captured my attention as much as this one did. Part history, biography, ghost story, and mystery, The Witch of Lime Street is an elusive riddle of a story, blurring the lines that separate fact from fiction and truth from trickery. Like the so-called witch herself, it is enchanting, enigmatic, puzzling, elegant, and seductive, beckoning us into a dark and smoky séance room with a sly smile and a charming twinkle in the eye. Inside, debut author David Jaher takes us back to a time when science was flirting with the paranormal and the world was watching with bated breath. His account of the modern Spiritualist movement is impeccably researched and utterly spellbinding, and I can hardly wait to read it again.
I picked this book up because I was looking for a quick read, something I could spend an hour with and then never look back. What I got instead was a startlingly potent injection of unease that seeped its way into my veins like a living presence, threading its tendrils throughout my body and haunting me from within. I don’t even know how it managed to affect me so strongly; there is an indefinable malaise in these pages, as if the book itself is plagued by some insidious disease. Nathan Ballingrud is a wonderful author, with beautiful prose, a hypnotic voice, and devastating ideas. I don’t know when I will be able to shake the feeling of dread he has planted in me. Visceral, grotesque, and deeply disturbing, The Visible Filth may be the best horror novella I have ever read.
Horror doesn’t get much more fun than this. A twisted madcap joyride of a novel, this book has it all: sex, drugs, rock and roll, violence, profanity, blood, gore, more sex, and a bunch of evil tar monsters that melt people, all wrapped up in a chaotic riot of punk rock attitude. It is freaky, frantic, and very, very funny. It is also deceptively intelligent; when I wasn’t too busy being tickled by its black humor and sickened by its fiendish imagery, I found myself marveling at its fascinating concepts. Robert Brockway is one of the freshest voices I have come across in a long time. He writes with anarchic glee and reckless abandon, yet there is a certain calculating brilliance behind it all, holding everything together even as he tears it all apart. The Unnoticeables is like nothing I’ve ever read before.
Heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and ultimately soul-soothing, this is one of the most profoundly emotional books I have ever read. Part fairy tale and part historical fiction, Echo follows an enchanted harmonica across three dovetailing stories whose troubled young characters are separated by time and space but connected by the mystical power of music. As I was reading about these characters, I felt like author Pam Muñoz Ryan was introducing me to new friends – I laughed with them, I cried with them, I danced with them, and I embraced them. Their lives affected me deeply, and their stories will live with me forever. Handling heavy issues and upsetting themes with grace and optimism, Echo is harmony among discord, a modern classic that deserves to be passed down through the ages for generations to come. Read it and be enriched.
I’ve never read a book quite like this before. It’s a unique take on the horror genre, not so much a "scary story" as it is a dark and unsettling exploration of mysteries, secrets, and personal tragedies. Lauren Oliver has taken the classic theme of the haunted house and rejuvenated it with uncommon emotion and tenderness, creating a refreshingly original ghost story. With shifting perspectives, we see the house through the eyes of each of its inhabitants, some of them living and some of them dead, all of them searching for peace in their own ways. These characters are very real and very human, and their stories are as touching as they are chilling. This is horror with heart and soul.
Very few books have ever inspired my imagination quite like this one. One of my very favorite fantasy novels ever written, this is the classic story of Bastian Balthazar Bux, a troubled young boy who reads The Neverending Story and is transported through it to the world of Fantastica, a world of wonder where wishes come true. Any reader who follows in his footsteps will journey to incredible places, meet delightful characters, and discover marvelous creatures. It is a grand and thrilling adventure, and one I will always hold dear. There is real magic in these pages: the magic of reading, the sorcery of stories, the power of creativity and imagination. No other book has ever captured that magic so beautifully.
If you’re prone to nightmares, this book is not for you. This is the kind of horror that gets under your skin and lives there, pumping dread and shadows into your bloodstream, conjuring demons in your psyche. If you’re easily frightened, find something else to read. Unless you’re like me, and you enjoy being frightened. In that case, dive right in, because you’re in for a treat. In this twisted tale of desperation and madness, humanity searches the depths of the ocean for a cure to a confounding and deadly plague. What they find might be worse than the disease they are trying to escape. The Deep is full of torturous ideas and terrifying imagery, a cornucopia of dark wonders to satisfy even the most jaded of horror fans. I cringed. I recoiled. I held my breath. And I loved it.
Science fiction and religion collide when the viewers of a popular Christian television program are threatened by the sinister plot of the giant purple alien lobsters from Planet Qualimosa, whose secular sensibilities are offended by the program’s superstitious content. Sound ridiculous? Good, because it is – in the best way possible. The Madonna and the Starship is unpredictable, delightful, and hilarious, and on more than one occasion it reduced me to a giggling mess. But don’t underestimate it: James Morrow’s playful and lighthearted romp through philosophy has a lot more depth than you might expect. In the tradition of great satire, this charming little oddball of a novel made me think almost as much as it made me laugh. When I wasn’t too caught up in my uncontrollable fits of hysteria, I was struck by surprisingly potent ideas and unexpectedly touching morals that genuinely made me feel better about the world I live in. Also, have I mentioned that it features giant purple alien lobsters?
As a general rule, I don’t spend much time reading nonfiction, but something about Smartcuts caught my attention, and I had to see what it was about. I’m glad I did, because it ended up being one of the most interesting and thought provoking books I’ve read in a very long time. In order to demonstrate his principles for success – not shortcuts, but smartcuts – Shane Snow examines the success stories of prominent figures in various fields ranging from fashion to rocket science. The conclusions he draws are relevant to all of us, relating not only to business strategy but to problem solving and lateral thinking in general. This book is full of fascinating ideas, inspiring true stories, entertaining tidbits, and compelling insight, all presented in an engaging style that kept my attention riveted. I couldn’t put it down.
This experimental, genre-bending paradox of a novel messed with my head in more ways than I can count. Between the bizarre formatting of the text, the convoluted and layered nature of the narrative, and the twisted nightmare maze of the plot itself, every element conspires to unbalance you, and it is dazzlingly effective. Before long, you’ll feel like you’re trapped in the House of Leaves yourself, lost in the chaos of its labyrinthine darkness, gasping for air. This is one of the most challenging books I have ever read, but also one of the most rewarding. No other book has ever affected me so profoundly; when I finished it, I felt transformed and enlightened. Along the way, I was dizzied by its madness, disturbed by its horrors, amazed by its power, intrigued by its ideas, and enchanted by its exquisite beauty, sometimes all at once. I was, quite simply, obsessed – and I loved every minute of it. I found a home for myself in this grand palace of demented imagination, and I never want to leave. Join me inside, won’t you?