What is up, my reading friends in the GoH community? Gosh, it’s been a minute, hasn’t it? Oh, well, you know how it is. You never know where the ennui of your life will take you sometimes. For me, it took me on a long journey where I thought, “Am I going to be a movies guy now? I mean I love movies but I love books and I love talking about them. What happened? And then it was, “Am I a sci-fi guy now?” until I wasn’t. Somewhere along the way, I got back to reading and I thought I’d share with y’all the books I’ve read and wrote about in my backlog, for I would be remiss if I didn’t let my praises for these books be heard and chucked into the void of the internet.

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Author Catriona Ward’s 2021 mystery horror-thriller The Last House on Needless Street gripped me from the opening pages and continued to put me in a chokehold as the narrative went on. It is a novel that had me eagerly turning the page, wanting to see what happens next.

But first, let’s start with what it’s about. This is a book that works best when you go in as blind as possible. In my attempt to not give too much away, I can tell you that this book is about several key players in the disappearance of a little girl that happened years ago. The book takes us to the most recent anniversary where the wheels start turning for our characters. What ensues is a series of events that uncover a dark past. Another thing I will tell you is that you have to check your content warnings for this book. Though it is not of the gore-fest variety, several events in the book can prove to be disturbing.

Okay, on to the next point. Unreliable narrators all around. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that as we do follow the perspectives of these characters in the first person, save for one, who we follow in the third person. Needless Street is interesting in that you could figure out the twist almost right away but it wouldn’t take away from the experience. It is a character study as much as it is a mystery. 

Reading this novel, I find that this novel is populated by characters that I keep myself distant from because the book is careful not to spill the details too early, even though it seems I have already found out what happened. However, these characters’ experiences are interesting and in some cases, unsettling. When the twist was revealed, I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief because I was right. I am still under the book’s spell because even after the reveal, it keeps going, and then you find out more. 

I know that that most of what I wrote probably sounds vague but I just feel like readers should experience the book as freshly as possible. Lastly, I will also say that this book puts a fresh spin on what many have considered to be a problematic horror trope. Though I am not directly affected by this element introduced, I do think that the author is coming from a place of learning, understanding, and respect for people affected by this trope. This book, for me, offers a take on it that doesn’t seem like a trope to me but rather a way to survive.

Nightmare Yearnings by Eric Raglin

This book scratched I didn’t know I had. While reading the book went by like a breeze, rest assured, there’s no shortage of unsettling content in Nightmare Yearnings, a short story collection by Eric Raglin first published in 2021. 

I love that the book is effortlessly queer without trying. Like, you want horror stories with queer leads that are about their identities but also stories that go beyond that? It’s all here. It’s rare for me to find an anthology or a short story collection where all the stories come together to form a cohesive mood or spirit but this one does that. Eric Raglin takes the struggles that we people go through such as inconsiderate bosses, uncaring landlords, dementia, and what have you, and puts an otherworldly spin on it. Most if not all of the stories in this set gave me knots in my stomach. I was nervous about what horrors would be unleashed with each new tale.

And like I said, each story goes by so fast. I had to pace myself a bit at times because I wanted the last story to really sink in before moving on to the next one. That’s kind of my struggle, really, with short story collections. The last story lingers as I get to the next one, and with each story in this book being so great, I had to leave some simmering room and just absorb what I just read. 

In the end, sure, I still liked some stories more than others but there wasn’t one where I didn’t like it. Considering the whole package, I’d say this is a near-perfect short story collection for me.

Brother by Ania Ahlborn

Good golly, what a soul-sucker this book is. As I type this, I have just finished reading the book and I just feel lost. This was such a tragic tale. It was all the more tragic that such horrendous events could have befallen our young protagonist.

Brother is a drama horror novel written by Ania Ahlborn, first published in 2015. A young man on the cusp of adulthood begins to free his mind from the grasp of his cannibalistic, serial-killer family. 

I found it intriguing that the author could write so beautifully about grim and grimy subject matter. This is all disturbing in that much focus is on the emotional damage left to our characters, and not just the main one. I found that all the characters here are pretty interesting. For a hillbilly family of cannibals, I got the sense that these are fleshed-out (pun intended) people with backstories as to why they are the way that they are. We are informed as to the causes of their decision-making. At the same time, I never forgot that they were villains. Perhaps most complex of all is the main character in that he’s definitely complicit in the acts that his family commits but he did not enter this kind of life through his choosing. 

Brother introduces many ways to hurt its characters physically and emotionally, and in turn, this reader is hurt too.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

I have always wanted to get into this book from the moment its release has been announced. Sadly, your boy has limited funds so it took a near stroke of a miracle to find someone selling this baby secondhand online at a price that’s reasonable to my current financial situation. But, hey, nothing a book collector isn’t familiar with, right? And with that being said, is Nothing But Blackened Teeth worth the hype? Overall, I’d say yes.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw is a horror novella first published in 2021. A gathering of five friends shows up at a decrepit house in Japan to celebrate a wedding. Unfortunately for them, some spirits do not know any rest. The group’s presence has stirred them to life.

I have heard many things said about the prose being used in the book, but not all praise. For me, I’d say this is one of the best aspects of the book. It gives the book a touch of elevation of sorts. I think it also jives well with the atmosphere that the book is going for. The story is set at an old mansion. The way it is described feels like it is damp, grimy, smelly, and ancient with a rich history to it. I think the prose reflects that. 

Speaking of atmosphere, the book also does a great job of that for me. It felt like I was there with the characters at that house, and it felt so soul-sucking. I didn’t necessarily become immersed in the characters’ development, save for the lead. I did get engrossed in the group drama, though, and this aspect makes the ending effective. That said, it did feel a bit abrupt to me, the way things ended. 

An aspect that I thought was interesting is, from what I understand, the monsters painted on the walls — well, something happens with them that only our main protagonist experiences, and I like that this doesn’t get addressed. Was it something that actually happened or was it just hallucinations? 

Putting together my final thoughts, I’d say the book exceeded my expectations, which is both good and bad. The book has some pretty unique elements to it that I don’t think I’ve seen elsewhere but at the same time, I think it needed a more fleshed-out novel for it.


That’s it for this edition of Recent Reads. ‘Till next time!

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